Wednesday, 30 July 2014

City of Vancouver

The 11 day Denali discovery cruisetour ended in Vancouver city on the morning of 7/7/14. We disembarked, collected our luggage that has been brought to the Customs hall by the cruise lines, cleared the Customs and took a taxi to the Hotel. The hotel was Century Plaza Hotel & Spa, which we have booked earlier through   The hotel was in downtown, close to the market, shops and restaurants.  As the check in was at 3 pm only, we left the luggage in hotel care and went about exploring the city of Vancouver. Vancouver city is called officially as city of Vancouver to distinguish it from the Vancouver Island and incidentally the Vancouver city is not located in the Vancouver Island. We went first to the Lookout, which was only at a walking distance from the hotel, to have a bird’s eye-view of the city. It is located on the top of the office buildings of Harbour centre and the viewing platform is only 551 ft, above street level, but it gives a good 3600 view of the city and surrounding landscape.  The revolving restaurant on its top is another tourist attraction.  Close to the harbour centre is the waterfront mall, which has a nice food-court.  From there we came down to Hastings Street and took the bus to Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is a sprawling urban park spread over 1000 acres and there is a rose garden, rock garden, aquarium, totem pole corner besides the sea walk along the seawall which runs round the park and is 9 km long.  There is a hop-on hop-off shuttle service covering important points of interest besides horse drawn carriage tours.  Our interest was in totem poles and so we made a bee line to that corner called Brockton point.  It has a number of poles of different heights, with different animal figure carvings. Totem poles are carved out of the trunks of trees by indigenous people of pacific region of North America and the designs and figures stand for cultural beliefs, clan lineage, notable legends etc.  But they were not symbols of worship.  The animals represent the belief that one is associated with one of nine different types of animals in one’s life.  It was good walk from the bus stop to this point and after we walked back to catch the bus and walk again to the hotel to check in, we had all the exercise to compensate for the lack of it in the last few days.  Our room was in the 27th floor.  It was spacious and had a kitchenette, with all the gadgets, but there was no plates or bowls and so could not be made use of. But there was a good conveniences room in the 5th floor of the hotel, with a coin operated laundrette, free internet facilities, free Wi-Fi hotspot. We made good use of it as in the ship there was no laundry and internet connection was quite slow and costly. 

We had pre-booked on-line tours for two days with West Coast Sightseeing. The first one was to Whistler and Shannon falls. We left on this tour next morning. Whistler is a popular resort town in Whistler Mountain.  Whistler with Vancouver hosted the winter Olympic games and Para Olympic games of 2010.  A platform with Olympic rings is in Whistler Mountain top and in Whistler Plaza in commemoration of the event.  The route from Vancouver to Whistler is a scenic route which is called Sea-to-Sky Highway. It is a winding mountain road with spectacular ocean, mountain and rain forest views and roaring falls.  On the way to Whistler there were halts at Horseshoe Bay Park, Porteau Cove and Squamish village centre. In the first two we enjoyed wonderful views of sea and mountain, while in the third of forest and mountain, a foretaste of things to come at Whistler.

Whistler and the adjoining Blackcomb mountains are popular ski resorts in winter.  We did not spend much time in the Whistler village.  We had our lunch in the Subway restaurant and made a bee-line to Gondola station. First we went up to the  Whistler Mountain-top in a gondola. You have the option of reaching the peak through Gondola or through a chair-lift or else by bike or walk in the respective trails.  After a visit to the Roundhouse Lodge at the top, we made to the Olympic platform for a photo session.  As we were taking in the magnificent scenery all around at the height of 6000 ft. above sea- level, we were joined by another South Indian family, settled in Seattle U.S. and holidaying in Canada. In their company we took the peak to peak gondola service between peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This Gondola journey is the longest and highest of its kind as it spans a distance of 4.4 kilometres at a height of 1430 feet.  We travelled in a glass bottomed gondola, which is run at half-hour intervals.  The view of the rain forests below and the view of the towering volcanic peaks on the sides made it a memorable experience. In the Blackcomb Mountain we could walk up to the edge of a glacier and even in that summer there was skiing activity going on in an adjacent glacier. We left Blackcomb peak with its stunning scenery rather reluctantly as we had to catch the tour coach. 

On the way back there was a halt at Shannon falls. With water falling from a height of 1105 ft. from the ground, it is the third highest fall in British Columbia. As we were tired, we were content to rest near the base and watch the falls from a distance. We returned to the hotel at around 6 pm and had our dinner in a nearby Indian restaurant where the Indian chef, Mani, who is from Tamilnadu, obliged Rajam with a glass of hot water with pepper and crushed ginger as Rajam had developed mild dry cough. We had a good rest and carried on so leisurely next morning that we missed the booked tour to Grouse Mountain and Capilano Bridge and the company was good enough to offer an alternative tour i.e. Vancouver City and Capilano Bridge, which started late.

In this tour we had time to explore Stanley Park and its seawall and sea walk as the coach stopped there for a time before proceeding to the Bridge.  The Capilano Suspension Bridge is 460 ft. long and 230 ft. above the Capilano River.  The walk across shaky bridge is fun but a bit scary as we swing sideways, sometimes a little violently, when people rush for a view or a photo.  After going to the other end of the bridge we went on tree-top adventure walk where we wander through chain of seven suspension bridges 100 ft. above the ground. At the end of each bridge there is viewing platform around the trunks of the big Douglas fir trees from where we can view below and around, the sprawling rain forest. After this walk, we crossed the bridge to take the Cliff walk.  This is described as “heart-stopping cliff side journey” as we walk over suspended walkways jutting out of the granite cliff above the Capilano River.  It is high and narrow and in some places only the thick glass at our feet alone separates us from the canyon far below. These two walks, cliff walk and treetop adventure walk we took as a challenge to test our fitness and as we did them slowly admiring the view all around, we did not have time to visit the Raptor’s ridge.  There is a totem park and also a cafeteria, which was selling hot samosas besides sandwiches etc. in the bridge park.

After leaving Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, the coach went round the Chinatown and made a final stop at Granville Island.  Granville Island is not an island but a peninsula separated by a creek from downtown Vancouver.  It is a busy shopping district and has a big market.  It is also an art centre with a few galleries. As tour ended by 5’oclock, we took time to walk around the busy Robson Street.  To our surprise we found a section of the street closed to traffic to help people watch a street performance.  The next day we left for Sydney by United Airlines, bringing to an end a memorable tour. I have uploaded photos of Vancouver in the Flickr album “Vancouver”:  


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