Starting off my round-the-world journey of a lifetime in Vancouver, I have fallen in love with this city this time round and I can tell you how 5 days in this Beautiful British Columbia city, you too can fall in love. I have moved to Canada as part of a working holiday, and spent 5 days exploring the city, and 1 day doing the serious working holiday prep – more of that to come for anyone considering moving to Canada on a working holiday.
Arriving in Vancouver:
We arrive into YVR at 3:55 pm on a bug smasher flight run by United, it never ceases to amaze me the as an airline ‘we really don’t give a flying firetruck about your luggage’ attitude of the hosties, but they have improved since my last experience flying them. It’s a Saturday and the airport is empty just like my visit in 2013. The atmosphere of the terminal is up there with my favourites worldwide. Waterfalls, native decorations, and a well designed border control. We spend the next 30 minutes in line with what looks like a plane load of Filipinos applying for residency. After a discussion about vegemite and stamp here and there we are welcomed to the country in less than 5 minutes. It is 5 PM and pitch black. I left Australia with the sun setting after 8 PM. This will take some getting used to. The air is fresh, crisp and has a chilly bite to it, the forecast for the week with highs below zero. I left Australia with 30° highs. This will take some getting used to.
We’re staying at the Comfort Inn, right in the middle of Downtown. With a little message on booking we are upgraded to the top floor spa suite- jackpot! (Let’s just hope there is no repeater of last Vancouver’s top floor menage a trois like last time). To adjust and avoid jetlag we unload, dine at the Irish Pub downstairs, hear a few Aussie voices, have a local brew ($6.20 a pint), head upstairs and collapse after a non-stop 33 hour journey. Asleep at 8:30 PM. Awake at 10:30 PM. Awake at 2:00 AM. Awake at 7:30 AM.
It’s a Sunday, just a note Vancouver is a late starter on Sundays so don’t bother getting out and about ’til after 11:00 AM as most things will be closed.
Visited one of the premier malls in Vancouver, Pacific Centre. Stocked up on some cute Winter gear you usually see on Pinterest. Shopping can take up some time, but we needed some extra layers to prepare for working the Winter Season. A stroll down the road, past the Art Gallery of Vancouver and down Burrard St, you will find the famous food truck – Japadog! Combining the all-time favourite hot dog with the everyday tastes of Japan, what a match made in heaven! This is in my Top 5 Food Places in Vancouver.
To walk off the Japadog we saw clouds weaving their way in and out of the mountains in the distance and had to get a piece of the action. Down at Canada Place you will find the most incredible scenic views of the mountains that surround the city. A great place at Canada Place to test out the brand new GoPro.
With sore feet and tired minds laying out our first trails around Vancouver city we head to the local Irish Pub to watch the local hockey team, the Canucks. When in Vancouver right? No, this is part of my daily life, even in Australia as my husband is a mad Canucks fan day in day out. I live with this.
If you’re in town for a special occasion, or have a bit of money to spare you don’t want to miss out on dining at The Top of Vancouver. I was surprised with an anniversary lunch in this 360° panoramic restaurant, that does all the moving for you. This was where I first laid eyes on Mt Baker towering over from the US border, this mountain is something ferocious looking. Seriously.
From a bird’s eye view, you can look down on Gastown district, a famous part of town which is known for it’s range of bars, food trucks and dining options for all types of travellers. From here I could see the next spot we were heading for our anniversary later that night. With the romance part of our anniversary aside, we headed into Gastown later that night to enjoy the specials at La Casita. By specials I’m talking specials, $3.00 Margarita’s and $4.00 Burritos, on a Monday and this Monday happened to be our anniversary where my hubby’s favourite combination is this Mexican fiesta. Sitting by the bar in this highly decorated restaurant, the Tequila and Mezcal were flowing along with free tortilla chips and salsa, and so were the conversations with another Canadian couple across the bar.
Can I just say right here and right now… Canadians are the fucking friendliest people! It might be the camaraderie between the nations of Australia and Canada that flow onto to the citizens, but the bond I have made with Canadians since I have been here is full of mutual respect and regard, with an added bonus of taking the piss out of each other.
To finish off the night with my new-made Canadian friends, we head to a local AND backpacker bar The Cambie. Where the two combine. This is what most backpacking bars that cater to travellers should be trying to achieve. Let’s not flood the venue with more Aussies than you can find outside of the country, you travel halfway across the world to meet people from within the country right? Anyway, jugs of beer here start at $10.00. Be there.
After a night out, what better way to stretch the legs and open the lungs than with a walk through Stanley Park, and you can hire bikes an hour at a time in case you want to track the park quicker on wheels. Walking along the foreshore you will take in another unique view of the city skyline nestled above a collection of yachts, until you make your way to the Totem Poles of the First Nations. After discovering what each carving represents head across the park to take in the West side and the Lion’s Gate Bridge, for yet again another picturesque view. I swear you could collect views like this, just as long as you remember to put the camera down for a moment and take it all in.
After walking multiple kilometres through the park and the seabed you could finish off at the Teahouse within the park if you are willing to spend a little more coin. But for the purposes of the backpacker in me, head up Denman Ave just at the entrance to the park and you will have a selection of places to eat. From lines hugging the Ramen cafes, to dining in an authentic Vietnamese cafe, or All You Can Eat Sushi there are plenty of picks here. We went with Vietnamese. Outside of Asia, Vancouver is well known as a hub for Asian cuisine, so when we eat Asian in a Canadian city, we eat it well. Hence the Japadog!
Now to make you stay in Vancouver authentic, and bring those evenings to life, I cannot suggest more than anything to buy a ticket to Rogers Arena to watch the Canucks while you and the team are in town. Hopefully at the same time. We were lucky we got two games in – Shaun was pretty impressed! This night they versed the team from the nations capital, the Ottawa Senators, and won during overtime. This meant the atmosphere was intense! The crowd, the lighting and music effects and the game, you will totally get into it. If you can’t get tickets, just get to a local bar, they are sure to be playing the game. They are crazy for it.
While so far we have gotten around Vancouver completely by foot, to get to the other side of Lion’s Gate Bridge and visit Capilano you can take a free shuttle. Who doesn’t love free transportation? There and back!
My visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was both exhilarating, refreshing and to be honest life changing. This might sound cliche but up until this point I was tracking the city suburb by suburb without pushing the limits. This journey itself has been a test for me to face my fears and get the fuck out of my comfort zone, and how better than to do that then by venturing across a swinging suspension bridge 230 feet above a flowing river. Not to mention cliff walks extending metres off the edge of sheer rainforest rock where you can feel every shake and vibration of the person in front or behind you. All the while you are trying to take in the beautiful nature surrounding you. The bonus point with this is the amount of rainforest you are able to breathe clearer, and the air has a certain taste to it. A wetness even. I walked this park first shaking in my boots, and the first time I crossed the bridge I didn’t let go of the cable or even stop to take a photo. But I managed laughed the WHOLE way (mainly because Shaun, my older wiser and stronger husband was absolutely shitting himself HAHA). I made a vow to myself not to hold onto the cable walking on the way back. And I did it, except to take a photo or let people pass.
From here you can catch a $2.50 public bus to Grouse Mountain and then back to hop on the free shuttle back into town. We stayed a little longer at Capilano so didn’t make it up the mountain so track your time if you want to do both in a day. Beware though Grouse charge $49 for entry so track your money too.
Heading into town we took out cameras and walked to Cambie Bridge to take some incredible photos of another view of the city skyline. See we are collecting them. Best at sunset if you do it yourself, on a clear day you will be joined by other photographers as well as the local worker on their commute home or on their evening jog. Makes you feel apart of it.
After a day of exploring, and well past sunset are tummies are rumbling and I heard of a cool place that is one of the best spots to eat Poutine out of French Canada. And whoever I heard this off, was right. La Belle Patate has a collection of all types and flavours of French Canadian Poutine. I’m more of a traditional girl, so what does traditional poutine contain? Hand-cut hot chips, mixed with cheese curd all smothered in gravy. Oh baby are you salivating? Or you might be screwing your nose up? This is a meal to keep you warm during the cold months, and keep you warm and fuzzy every other month.
With nearly every part of Vancouver city covered, we have a visit to one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, Granville Island. Just under the Granville Bridge you will find a public market like no other with selections of seafood, fresh organic vegetables and fruit, deli and cheese, as well as local creations including some of the best North American baked goodies! You can taste, you can sample and you can buy what you fancy.
If you want to be like a local who works on the docks, I can suggest something a little more tempting just outside of these markets. Hidden near the loading docks, so you would hardly believe it existed, is a place called Go Fish. Go There! Here is where I had the most scrumptious fish and chips I have ever tasted. This is a statement, I know. But the flavours from within this little food hut that arrive in your fishing basket and into your mouth, it is like you are eating the plenty of fish in the sea when all you were searching for was one. And that one should be the Halibut anyway. If you go, please get back to me and let me know what you think.
A stroll further around and you will land at Vanier Park and Kitsilano Beach for yet another view of the Vancouver city skyline. If you are a photographer/taker Vancouver on a clear or overcast day is truly a sensational city to work your shutter magic.
To finish off our last day in Vancouver before starting our working holiday, we discovered a little place where the meals on the menu were ALL $4.95 by a friend living in the city. This place is on Granville St, and before arriving I thought it was a local spot for the panhandlers cashing in the money on the street to get a feed. This is an unfortunate, but well-known part of Vancouver, there is a serious issue with homelessness. Not just in pockets of the town, like the main strip of Granville, but you will come across many people with no fixed address all over. Don’t be discouraged, they will open doors for you, help you find where you need to go and sing for you in designated areas. They add to the charm of what is known as Hollywood of the North. We were surprised by The Famous Warehouse, the meals were really all $4.95 and were incredibly delicious, but just a spot for the local student, backpacker or Australian it seems.
I have to say with this being my second visit to BC’s largest city, this time round I fell in love, maybe because I reached all four corners of this metropolis, or maybe the weather really turned it on and showed me the beauty of this place. I discovered wonderful places to eat, and saw the beauty of where nature meets man which somehow blend so well together in this city. With businessmen taking off their suit and tie to don their running gear, or kayak the rivers and embrace all that is in their own city. A city I felt like was my own. Thank you Vancouver, for allowing me to experience your beauty, but starting off the beginning of my journey with a mixture of experiences and emotions. See you on the other side.
Top 5 Places to Eat without breaking budget:
Top 5 Activities not to miss:
- Canada Place
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
- Canucks hockey game
- Granville Island
- Stanley Park
Top 5 Best Views:
- Top of Vancouver (Restaurant or viewing deck)
- Canada Place
- Cambie Bridge
- Vanier Park
- Stanley Park Foreshore