Vancouver | Canada

Approaching my birthday in April, I had wanted to travel somewhere on the ‘hit list’ of places to travel to.
The hit list is a list me and fiance decided to create as an aspirational guide of places across the globe that we have read about, been recommended or just plain been intrigued by.
One place that I have seldom heard negative things about in any context is Canada.

Picture of British Colombia taken from the plane window

Having visited a chilly Toronto in 2014, I have always thought Canada to be a friendly, accommodating place that is hugely varied in what it offers; from the Rocky Mountains, to metropolises like Toronto, from English speaking to French.
Being part of the commonwealth too, there has always been that natural connection to the UK which makes it a popular ex-pat destination.

It actually falls on one of my other hit lists (there are a few) – Places that I would like to live/work in at some point in the future. Note the intentional vagueness of the timeframe there. With this, the first part of our trip was decided and having been to Toronto on the East coast, we opted for the beautiful British Colombia and Vancouver (#VanCity).

Annoyingly having experienced record temperatures for April, we arrived to a mild, somewhat cloudy Van City. The weather in Vancouver, like most of Canada, is clearly defined by seasons with exception to Winter which by default you would assume is harshly cold and laden with snow; yet Vancouver City does not experience this to the same level as other cities like Toronto and Montreal.

When reading ‘things to do’ in Vancouver, I found most recommendations were very ‘outdoorsy’, something which again I think is very quintessentially Canadian and is in line with how I like to spend my time.
Similarly with food too, being on the coast, Fish is the overarching specialist ingredient at most places. Being a lover of all things Sushi, this ticked the box for me.
Interestingly something like  25-30% of people who live in Vancouver City have a Chinese heritage, which is demonstrated by the abundance of Asian inspired (and presumably genuine) eateries.

One thing I hadn’t quite realised is the vast difference within Vancouver itself. This trip references the City and was purely focussed there.
However, there is a completely different side to Vancouver. One which I (wrongly) assumed could be seen with little to no preparation and tagged onto a trip to the City.
However, it seems Vancouver Island needs more thought behind it before visiting. From what I have seen, it looks amazing (a quick Google search yields images of untouched beaches, forests and clear waters inhabited by Killer Whales).
Whilst I thought that visiting Vancouver would tick it off the ‘hit list’ – its clear there is another part of this place that I need to explore.

Vancouver City on its own is still highly recommended. The surroundings, the vibe of the place and the people made it my favourite destination to date. That was until Part II of the Birthday trip which took us to California. Read more about Part II here.

Top Things To Do, See (and Eat) in Vancouver

  • Grouse Mountain – a place to ice skate, ski, play Ice Hockey, run, hike, snow walk. Despite mild weather below the cloud (on a cloudy day you will take a aerial tramway through the cloud to the top), deep snow covered the summit in April. My choice of Converse Chuck Taylors to hike wasn’t a good idea in hindsight. Snow shoes can be rented however.
  • Granville Island/Market – the market is a foodies dream. The indoor food market, has a vast array of fresh foods. I wont list them all, but you have fresh seafood, Chinese, Japanese, Indian etc etc all of which is served from market stalls. I went for the healthy option of a fresh salad followed up by a not so healthy Nutella inspired Crepe (Nutella being my kryptonite). Overall both left me happy.
    To access Granville Market you get a small ‘ferry’ from Downtown across the Island. If you had a strong arm you could probably throw a ball from one side to the other, but the little Ferry across adds to the charm of it all.
  • Stanley Park – man made park that is surrounded by the main Harbour and English Bay. You can hire bikes to ride around the sea wall (its about 15km from memory). You get awesome views of downtown Van City as well as surrounding mountains and ocean. Allow 3-4 hours to go round at a very leisurely pace. Stop, take a breather, sit and enjoy the scenery.
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge – To the north of Vancouver which can be accessed by a free shuttle bus from the main city (perfectly organised and not surprisingly all the drivers/guides are super helpful and polite). Great place to walk, and offers a ‘cliff walk’ which is not advisable if afraid of heights (I’m being over dramatic, it’s not that bad). The actual Bridge itself is a cool experience (fun fact: you could fit the statue of Liberty under the Bridge).
  • English Bay – you will notice a theme here…walk down from Granville market and you will find another picturesque walking spot that is to the south of Stanley Park (which stretches across to Kitsilano). I didn’t check out Kitsilano Beach due to weather/time constraints but I here it’s another great spot.
  • Food – given the local emphasis on Fish of the 3 nights I was there, I opted for Sushi for 2 of them (from different places) my favourite place being Minami. I’ve been fortunate to eat at a few high-end Japanese restaurants and I would rate this a solid 8/10 (10 being very high end). Good, fresh Sushi and a nice selection of happy hour cocktails. Price range – It was about $120 (ca) for two plus tip.
Date of Travel: 10-14th April 2016
Top of Grouse Mountain
Mini Ferry Across to Granville
Granville Island to Downtown
Treats galore at Granville Market
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Habour looking towards Stanley Park
Biking Stanley Park
Walking along English Bay


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