Tuesday, December 3, 2019

What to Do in BC and Vancouver (Driving in from Alberta)

Visiting Kitsilano Beach Vancouver
Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver 

This is part 2 of my recent trip to Canada's Rocky Mountains. See part 1 here!

A refresher on our rough itinerary: 

(Click to enlarge)
Banff, Jasper, Vancouver Itinerary



After spending 5 days in the woods, Joseph and I were itching to get back to big city life. We drove from Jasper to Kamloops, stopping to see some gorgeous waterfalls on the way.

Wells Gray Falls
Helmcken Falls

Wells Gray Provincial Park is filled with gorgeous waterfalls, all part of the Thompson Okanagan area in Clearwater, BC. We started at the information centre to get a map, then made our way up to Spahats Falls, Helmcken Falls and Dawson Falls. We drove around to each and did not hike since the weather was quite rainy. If it was a gorgeous sunny day, we would have considered hiking 2.5 hr to Moul Falls too.

Thompson Okanagan Clearwater BC
Spahat's Falls, and my cool, new Patagonia hiking pants ;)

We also crossed a time zone while driving into BC! I definitely looked a bit younger after that.



In order to break up the 10 hour drive from Jasper to Vancouver, we stayed in Kamloops for the night. We had dinner at The Noble Pig, and enjoyed a luxe stay at the Marriott hotel. The food at The Noble Pig was fine, and clearly not a bad choice since the folks sitting beside us were just off the Rocky Mountaineer train. Which costs an arm and a leg... then some.

Sea to Sky Highway Waterfall
Views from our hike around the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

After spending crazy amounts of $$ on Albertan hotels, I decided to book an Airbnb in Vancouver. Our building was really nice and new, located right beside the Matchstick Coffee Shop in Chinatown. This is a gentrified neighbourhood just steps away from the worst intersection in Vancouver. We accidentally walked through this part of the city (Hastings and Main) and won’t be doing that again. Drug addiction is a massive problem in Vancouver, so every morning the sidewalks, parks and bus shelters are littered with needles. I felt safe in the city, but this was very shocking to me since I’ve never seen anything that extreme (and so concentrated) in downtown Toronto.

Tacofino Taco Bar Vancouver

We settled into our accommodations in Vancouver, then ate dinner at Tacofino Taco Bar. We have grown quite an affinity to sharing a pitcher of margarita, which was a delightful way to wind down. Afterwards we went up to the Vancouver Observatory deck for a nice sweeping view of the city as the sun went down.

Vancouver Observatory deck

We made the most of our rental car by keeping it for one extra night in Vancouver (parking it overnight in a lot near our Airbnb) and driving up the Sea to Sky highway to visit Whistler for a day. We stopped at more waterfalls on our way.

Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

Make sure to type Brandywine Falls into your Google Maps during the Sea to Sky trek. This adventure includes a hike, but it’s pretty flat. The path will take you into the woods and over old railroad tracks until you come to an overlook of the waterfall.

Brandywine waterfall on the way to whistler
Brandywine Falls

At this point, it was the afternoon when we made it into Whistler. I was tired AF trying to get going that morning, hiking is NO JOKE PPL. But we got there, and were destined to head to the top of the mountains.

Sea to Sky

Taking multiple gondolas up the mountains was incredible. I was feeling a bit congested and it caused my ears to feel like they were going to crumple up and fall off. But the views are spectacular.

Peak to Peak Whistler Blackcomb Tickets

Spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the Guinness World Record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola provides "an unparalleled perspective of British Columbia's rooftop and incomparable views of towering volcanic peaks, coastal rainforests, and ancient glacier". 

I can't remember how much our Peak to Peak tickets were exactly, but they weren't cheap. Maybe $50? We also didn't know that the brand new Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge located at the Top of the World Summit closed PROMPTLY at 4:15 pm. So sad! We'll have to go back.

Top of the World Summit Whistler

In order to make it back down in time to catch the final gondola, we did a quick walk around Top of the World summit (no time for the 1hr hike) then we travelled back down to enjoy kangaroo meat pies at Peaked Pies in Whistler Village.

On our way back to Vancouver we drove through Squamish, eating dinner on a small restaurant patio. It was a bit uneventful in town, and would have been nicer if we had more time to hike around the area. We also stopped off at Shannon Falls - the third highest waterfall in British Columbia. You get a great view from the main parking lot, so no trekking needed. It was getting dark and cold, which added to the eerie feel as three vloggers had actually slipped into Shannon Waterfall in and died just days prior. Be very. very. careful around these areas of nature.

That night we dropped off the car at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver (recommendation: drop off at an airport instead to save $$) and made our way back to the Airbnb. We walked around the Gaslamp District and saw the incredible tooting Gastown Steam Clock! Check out my vlog for a clip.

We also ate all-you-can-eat sushi in downtown Van, then waddled it off while discovering the area. We even stumbled upon a Netflix filming set with actors dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos entering one of the old heritage buildings.

Stanley Park Totem Poles

The following morning we lived up to our vacation essential: biking around the biggest park we can find! We rented some wheels and headed to Stanley Park to see the Redwoods, Totem Poles and the gorgeous coast.

Lunch in Stanley Park

We had some yummy burgers for lunch, sat on a picnic bench soaking up the summer warmth. Stanley Park is a huge area filled with winding roads, so it's very easy to get lost. Give yourself lots of time and enjoy the ride. Also - bring mosquito repellent.

Fanny Bay Oysters

That evening we had dinner at Fanny Bay Oysters. Yuuuum! I had the daily special: a broth of mixed seafood with crispy tortillas. Our server had actually worked in Toronto before at the famous Rodney's Oyster House, and many oyster shuckers visit T.O. for annual shucking competitions.

Fanny Bay Vancouver
Here are the oysters we tried

Frosé Cactus Club

After dinner we walked down to the Fairmont Pacific Rim, took a lap of the *exquisite* lobby then stopped for a drink at Cactus Club Coal Harbour. This is located in a really hip area, just beside Canada Place. It is here where I fell in love with Frosé. Blended, frozen, fruity Rosé. I have since had many glasses of this summer essential and am forever grateful to Cactus Club for bringing it into my life.

Granville Island Silos
Giants on Granville Island Silos

The following day I was feeling a little impulsive and went to get a mani-pedi. We were in Chinatown, but I still managed to pay a lot! Ha ha, welcome to Vancouver. Joseph spent that extra hour and a half strolling around and stopping into a cafe for an espresso and croissant. At this point in the vacation (one week in) we needed a short break from each other's constant presence. this was a lovely way to separate for a bit.

Granville Island Public Market

We ventured to Granville Island for the afternoon and had sausages and pickles and donuts for lunch. Does life get any sweeter?

Lee's Doughnuts Granville Island
Enjoying some Lee's Doughnuts 

After Granville we went to Kitsilano. There was a cute fruit stand so we enjoyed a box of Okanagan cherries on Kits Beach. Yesssss.


A few notes where transportation is concerned...

1. There is no Uber in Vancouver, but they do have the “Yellow Cab” taxi app. It is generally terrible, but occasionally works! Use with caution, I’d recommend always paying in the taxi itself since it’s easy for someone to get into your ride without you knowing, and charging the card on file.

2. The public transit system in Van is OK – make sure to carry change for the bus and note that Sky Train tickets allow you to tap in and out multiple times during the 90 minutes your trip is active. Bus passes do not work for the train.

3. If you’re going to Granville Island I’d recommend the SeaBus. We took it one-way and it cost $7 for 2 people. You’ll save $1 if you buy a round-trip ticket, but we decided to take a taxi back to save our legs.

Museum of Anthropology

For our last full day in Vancouver, we went to the Museum of Anthropology. The museum is situated on UBC campus and is filled with awesome native art.

Vancouver Museums

We took advantage of the back-to-back free tours led by volunteers Arlee and Joyce. We adored this, since it was so much easier to learn and absorb all that the museum had to offer without having to read every little plaque. The leaders told us the most important parts, and also showed us how to use the museum's interactive computers to get added info in each of the exhibits.

Museum of Anthropology BC
How amazing is this mosaic sculpture? Reminds me of the handmade Grace Touchie beaded ring that I bought in the gift shop.
The photo on the right is Bill Reid's "creation" sculpture in the rotunda.

We stayed for around 4-5 hours and stopped for a quick lunch at the museum cafe. I enjoyed a kale salad and Joe had a wrap. We ended off by walking around UBC campus then took the city bus back to downtown. Looking out the window on the way in was nice.

Big House Native Vancouver
Our guide explaining the customs of the native Haida and Coast Salish peoples who lived in traditional Big Houses 

Museum of Anthropology Vancouver

Gain Wah Restaurant Vancouver

Even though we stayed in Chinatown, we sadly didn't make it into the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the neighbourhood. We did enjoy authentic Chinese food at Gain Wah resto on our last night though. Aside from some rowdy guests (it's expected in that area) the experience was lovely - and so affordable.
Vancouver was so incredible, and surely convinced me that it's a Canadian city that I could see myself living in some day. Next time I'm in BC, I want to visit Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Kelowna, Osoyoos and fit in a wine tour! And of course, return to the mountains in the winter for skiing.

Happy travels,
xx
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