venturing into Vancouver

The moment we touched back down in Canada we felt at home. We were still three days and 600 miles away from Calgary, but just knowing that soon we'd be back in good old YYC and moving into our new apartment was a huge comfort. Homesickness aside, we were so excited to have the chance to explore Vancouver. We'd heard from so many people that Vancouver was an incredible place to visit and we'd filled our head with things we wanted to see and do (and eat).

First things first, accommodation. The Hoxton was wonderful but we decided to round off our trip with another hostel, the Samesun Vancouver, which was centrally located with a bar on the ground floor, perfect for any budget traveller. As we were checking in we saw another traveller approach the reception desk asking about public transit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is where we had planned to spend the afternoon. We decided to ask if we could tag along, and so the three of us went on our way to find the bus stop (via Tim Horton's of course!)

As it turned out, Alice was also in Canada on the same working holiday visa, which meant we had a lot of common ground, and she had also recently arrived in Vancouver. The free shuttle bus to the Capilano Suspension Bridge has four bus stops around the city before it makes its way across Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore. The bridge was first built in 1889 to connect both sides of the gorge, and the area was named Capilano after Kia'palano, meaning beautiful river, who was a great Squamish chief living in the area. We were going to be visiting during Canyon Lights, a seasonal event in which the bridge and surrounding woods are lit up with thousands of lights, giving the whole area a festive and ethereal vibe. The bridge itself, while incredibly stable, is wobbly as heck, tilting from side to side whenever you take a heavy step.

Once we got to the other side, we walked along the Treetops Adventure route and got an amazing view of the lights from 110 feet above the forest floor. After doing the treacherous bridge crossing again (I'm kidding, it was actually so much fun) we decided to try out the new Cliffwalk, which follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms. Only 16 anchor points hold these platforms to the cliff face, so don't look down!

We finished off the trip with a couple of drinks in the Cliff House Restaurant before catching the bus back to the hostel. For the first time in our trip we were feeling pretty merry, and so we spent the rest of the evening playing cards and having more drinks in the hostel bar.

The next day we made our way to Granville Island for a nosy around the Public Market. It's an indoor market with a wide range of shops and food stalls as well a market hall for purchasing your fresh groceries. We browsed some souvenir shops before grabbing a slice of pizza from the market and taking in the views of False Creek and beyond. The market was such a quaint and peaceful place, and definitely one of our favourite places that we visited in Vancouver.

Now anyone who knows me, knows I am low-key obsessed with orcas. Unfortunately, having visited in January, it wasn't the right season for whale watching, so we caught the bus from Granville Island to the Waterfront on the other side of the city centre, to take a peek at Digital Orca. This sculpture by Douglas Copeland of a pixelated orca stands tall and proud against the background of Vancouver Harbour, and was the closest we were going to get to any whale watching for the time being. I took it upon myself to act like a total nerd and couldn't resist posing for a cheesy photo!

We'd been walking for hours and headed back to the hostel for some down time, while we looked for a place to eat dinner. We'd decided to have a date night and got dressed up (or as dressed up as we could with the limited clothing we'd stuffed in our rucksacks) and went to MeeT, a vegeterian resturant in the heart of Yaletown. This place was divine with real comfort food and one of the best lemon tarts we've ever tasted. In addition to the beautiful atmosphere and great cuisine, it was one of the cheapest dinners we'd had in a while.

On our final full day in Vancouver was a walk in the park - literally! We caught the bus down to Stanley Park and walked around the sea wall, taking in beautiful views of North Vancouver and the mountains beyond, watching sea planes take off and taking a look at the totem poles at Brockton Point. These totem poles are the most visited tourist attraction in British Columbia and are beautiful representations of the First Nations presence in a modern Canada. We were both blown away by the sculpture and artwork and this was our first experience learning more about First Nations culture.

My friend Emma, who I'd known for a number of years since going on a Girlguiding expedition to New Zealand, had moved to Vancouver six months prior and had invited us out for dinner during Dine Out Vancouver, a three week period of eateries coming together to encourage people to dine out across the city for set menus and cheaper prices. As Chinese New Year was fast approaching (and with the heavy Chinese influences in Vancouver), we opted for a meal at a Chinese restaurant in South Granville, which was......interesting. We enjoyed the food, but the woman in charge, who spoke little to no English, was more than happy to handle our food and roll our duck pancakes for us, before shouting down another table of patrons. It was equal parts awkward and entertaining, and we quickly made our escape to Cavo on Granville Street for cocktails, which went down a treat.

We only had a few hours to kill the next morning before catching our flight back to Calgary, so we walked down to Gastown to see the famous steam clock and grab a quick cup of coffee.

Our final stop in Vancouver was La Taqueria, which our friend Charlie had told us was the best place to get tacos and burritos, and they did not disappoint! It was a tiny place with small tables but made for big appetites and needless to say we enjoyed every bite, as made clear from the joy on my face.

Vancouver had been incredibly kind to us, and although we'd had a great time, there was no doubt in our minds that we had made the right choice in moving to Calgary. Just looking at rental prices in Vancouver was enough to scare us, so despite knowing we were heading back to below freezing temperatures, we were excited to hop back on the SkyTrain to take us back to the airport, where we enjoyed one last beer in a sunny airport bar before our flight.

This city-hopping tour of the Pacific Northwest has been incredible, and a great chance to see some places that have been on our travel list for a while. That being said, now the real adventure begins of settling into our new home and starting our lives in Calgary!


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