Vancouver, High Rise and full of life, Canada: Sept 2011

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Flying into Vancouver we were surprised by the closeness of the mountains to the city and also by the masses of highrise buildings. For a population of 700,000 the city centre is very densely populated. When you get on the ground you get a clearer picture, you either live in the centre of the 3 hubs in highrise or in the suburbs in a house, there is not a lot of choice but it seems to work very well. 500 highrise buildings in Vancouver central surrounded by water and seawall walkways and of course the wonderful Stanley Park at one end.

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It is one of the most multicultural cities in the World and you can see the influence of the 1990’s exodus from Hong Kong in the style of living.

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This is a very outdoorsy city, with Marinas full of luxury boats, cycle ways everywhere, Skiing at your doorstep and even an abundance of beaches to enjoy in summer. Our first day was beautiful 25 deg sunny and no wind so we took a walk into the city along the waterfront , looking at loads of luxury cruisers and a few very cute houseboats,and lunched at Carderos Pub at Coal Harbour Marina , sitting outside and taking in the great weather and atmosphere, before walking out to the amazing new Convention Centre with its huge Blue Pinnacle at the tip, the whole building is covered in native grasses, and has to be seen to be believed. It’s right next to Canada Place the sail style building developed for the last World Expo in 1986 and now the cruise ship terminal.

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The walkway was filled with locals jogging and cycling enjoying the great outdoors, we came across a circle of yoga monkey sculptures that amused us and many other tourists. Everywhere you look you see high rise buildings and then the magnificent mountains to the North and the beautiful harbour surrounding the city is why everyone gets a magnificent view, you can’t miss it. The only thing that would drive me mad would be the constant sound of Sea Planes taking off and landing, it’s every 5 mins but I suppose that it has been that way for a very long time.

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A stroll at sunset up to English Beach joining the throng enjoying the balmy evening to stroll the paths of Stanley Park before dark. We were greeted by more amusing sculptures. This time they were laughing men and it was very entertaining watching how people interacted with them, we had fun also and thought of our Yoga class and how much Matthew, our teacher, would enjoy them.

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The second day dawned and the clouds were threatening so we went for a nice brisk walk out to the Totem Poles and enjoyed the views back to the City from Stanley Park. The stories in the Totem Poles were fascinating and we learnt a lot about the Native people’s of this region.

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Our apartment is a very good size so it is nice to be able to make your own breakfast and not worry about housekeeping so after breaky and a slow start we jumped on the bus having got our passes at Safeway when shopping last night and ended up Downtown. First stop was the old Law Courts now art Gallery and then the magnificent late1920’s Fairmont Hotel where having spotted a stunning Dining room we decided the buffet looked good enough to eat so we stayed to sample the delights. Full marks go to the sensational Clam Chowder and the delightful dessert bar which was given only a slight nudge thanks to the influence of Beth’s words of wisdom before we left.

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We then continued towards the harbour and the Stunning Art Deco “Marine Building” which has the most amazing foyer of Aztec inspired Art Deco designs we have ever seen, and it is in perfect original condition .

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Back on the bus the Chinatown and the beautifully created Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden where we had a very enlightening guided tour through a Ming Dynasty inspired Scholar’s Garden.We were so pleased that we did the tour as it gave a whole lot more meaning to the ways of the Chinese people and the tour guide was a young Chinese girl born in Vancouver whose parents left China in the 1970’s, so she gave a broad spectrum to the learning.

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On our way from Chinatown through to Gas Town we crossed over a couple of very seedy streets where open drug dealing and rough as guts characters, ruled the roost and then you crossed a street and they were gone, certainly would not like to wander around there at night! Gas Town starts and a lively restored old railway goods area has been transformed into a design and tourist centre with just one seedy hotel left in the middle to make you aware of what is just around the corner.

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We wandered through and up to the Old Railway Station which is now a funky bar and shopping area as well as the access to the Skytrain, sea bus and wharf area and had a drink before jumping onto a Sea bus over to North Vancouver. Unfortunately it was raining and the views were obscured so we popped in for a 30 min shiatsu massage before heading back. We got a bus to get more of a feel for the place for the next hour as the transport system here runs on time

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We woke to the sound of rain drops and could feel a bit more of a chill in the air so an extra layer was needed for our day down at Granville Island. The bus ticket got us to the little ferry wharf and within 5 mins we were on the ” Island” ,not much of an island as such, about 5% connected but close enough. They have created an amazing working Art Centre perfect for locals and tourists alike so wandering around for almost 5 hours was a breeze especially when a lovely gourmet Fish and Chips by the water broke up the day.

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There were some amazing house boats in two rows at one end unlike anything we have seen, instead of a garage each had their own boat parking space adjacent.

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There is something for everyone, masses of fresh seafood and general produce as well as every treat imaginable. The Artisan centre is adjacent to The Art and Design University so it provides a hands on learning experience for the students.

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We hoped on another little Noddy style Ferry and rode down to Yaletown another regenerated 19th century Warehouse area by the waterfront that has become the centre for the Film Industry and Creative types to work and play, some of the best bars and Restaurants can be found as well as hip design stores. Not a drugy in sight.

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We found another 30 min massage spot and jumped at the opportunity to chill and prepare for our 2 days on the Rocky Mountaineer starting tomorrow. Another quiet night in and a light Salad for dinner plus a bit of Blogging before packing and then off to bed.

Vancouver, you have been a surprise and pleasant package.

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