1st - 4th August 2017
Welcome to Canada where it all began...
Early morning on the 1st August 2017 we set off with my parents to Gatwick Airport after a very tearful goodbye with George's parents the night before! The drive was exciting but scary and sad all at the same time. We were so excited to finally be off on our dream adventure together, scared of the unexpected and sad to have to leave all of our family and friends behind. But once we hit the check in desk there was nothing stopping us and the excitement took over the mix of emotions as we waited for the 10hr plane journey to Vancouver with Jet Airways (not the best for a long haul flight with no in-flight meals and a basic aircraft but cheap and did the job).
Upon arrival into the 10hr time difference we started to feel the jet lag kick in as we made our way to our first home stay via Air BNB in a suburb of the city called Burnaby. Luckily our host picked us up but other options include public bus, sky train, Uber or taxi varying in price. Sky train would be the best bet as it goes straight from the airport, is cheap and quicker than the bus. Burnaby was a lovely residential area and the house was beautiful for a good price of $32 per night, per room (Air BNB Burnaby Highgate 204). Around a 10 minute walk to local shops and restaurants and a 15 minute walk to the sky train for a 20 minute ride into downtown Vancouver. Pizza and bed was the first thing we did! Waking up at 4am due to jet lag meant we headed out early to explore the city. We spent three days here exploring this unique city before picking up our car to start a road trip and then returning here for 2 more days at the end of the trip. We recommend 4-5 nights in Vancouver.
Vancouver is one of the most unique cities we have been to as it has so much to offer to suit the needs of anyone who wants to visit. You have the skyscrapers and business bunnies rushing round on their lunch breaks, the beach and the ocean, the green parks and the bike rides, the gorgeous mountain range scenery and much more. Most streets you walk down they will be filming the new series of Superwoman or the latest sportswear ad. We tried to experience as much of it as possible...
Things to do in Vancouver:
Stanley park - a great bustling park in the heart of the city. Full of families, holiday makers and even actors filming commercials. You can either bike or walk the perimeter of the park. Push bike here (area) costs $20pp for the afternoon and around $30 for the day. Each shop charges the same so don't worry about bargain hunting, we tried that. Cycling took us around 45 minutes as we leisurely stopped for photographs, to take in the views and of course ice-cream. Look out for some events in the park during your stay. We missed it by one day but while we were there they were setting up for a fitness festival which included stalls, yoga, a marathon and music on the evening. Entry cost was $25pp.
Outdoor swimming pool - located on the edge of Stanley park next to the beach is an outdoor swimming pool. Its heated so dont worry if it is on the chilly side, there aren't sun loungers for relaxing but there is a children's pool and an adults pool for swimming, $5.98pp.
Beach - ok it's not paradise but it's quite cool to sit on the beach with the mountains in one direction and the city in the other. People often chill here with a beer whilst catching some rays! Nice family atmosphere on the weekends.
Harbour walk - get off the sky train on the last stop (which stop) and you will be at the edge of the city next to the harbour. Facing the water and station you can walk left all along the harbour passing some coffee shops, restaurants and bars all the way to the beach. The mountain backdrop adds to the appeal of the walk. Walking to the beach will take around 1hr one way and around 40 minutes to Stanley park.
Gastown - the hipster area of town where you can enjoy a few beers over some taco's. This part of town come dark is full of bustling bars with the younger generation out enjoying themselves. We found a great bar called 'The Revel Room' in which we drank wine and watched a great old school rock and roll band, dancing the night away.
Venables Street - just out of the centre a lovely suburb with a good highstreet with bars, restaurants and cafes a little cheaper. A good Air BNB spot.
Grouse mountain - if you fancy escaping the city life for an afternoon and being at one with nature this is the perfect spot. Around a 30-45 minute drive from Vancouver. You can either hike the mountain which takes around 2hrs, bear in mind this is a steep strenuous hike or you can catch the gondola up which takes 2-5 minutes. Entry on to the mountain cost $30pp, we managed to get away with a child's tickets at $25pp! Once on top the mountain there is lot's to do (family friendly) you can see two brown bears in a sanctuary, watch a bird show, go up further on the gondola or relax with a picnic.
Swing bridges - On the way back from Grouse Mountain, 15 minutes out of the city stop at the famous Capilano Swing Bridge. It costs $40pp which we found quite expensive but once through the ticket office and over the bridge there are forest walks and other attractions to see.
An area to prepare yourself for which shocked us when we stumbled upon it was East Hastings Street. Driving through we thought we had come to a street market as the road was lined with people and sort of tent looking objects. It wasn't until we got closer we realised this was the biggest homeless community we have ever seen! Both of us speechless we drove through to see the young and old in a bad way. Some mentally ill, some distressed, some upset and in pain and some even shooting up in broad daylight. We then continued to drive into one of the wealthiest streets in Vancouver, the contrast was just breathtaking and like nothing we have ever seen before. After speaking with locals to find out more we realised this was Vancouvers most hidden secret and one of the countries biggest problems they struggle to fix. Homeless from all over Canada migrate here as its the only place they can survive the winter. There was also a breakdown in the mental health service not long ago which meant the hospitals got shutdown and the people had no where to go.
Places to stay:
Gastown - The Cambie Hostel (above a bar, quite noisy and busy but fun)
Central - St Clair Hostel (quiet and clean)
Avoid East Hastings Street at night
Compare Uber and Lyft prices
Do not trust hostels listed on Air BNB - International travellers home (dirty, unsafe, horrible people)
With love from The Globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in Australia.