This May I had a wonderful opportunity to help my friend Sarah drive across Canada with her 2 daughters (both under 4). Sarah needed a hand moving from PEI to Red Deer Alberta and offered to pick me up on her way through New Brunswick. How could I pass up the special opportunity to help a friend and see our big and beautiful Canadian provinces. So since this was my first time seeing west of Ontario, I thought why not continue the journey past Alberta and make plans to travel solo to Vancouver.
We left the Maritimes at the end of April, during a very unseasonably chilly spring. We will soon find out that Canada in general had an unusually late start to spring, even Alberta still had hints of snow! This is my epic 20 day roadtrip across Canada, from east coast to west!
Vancouver BC, May 14-18, 2014
An old friend Mike, who I grew up with, picked me up from the train station and welcomed me to British Columbia. I arrived to Vancouver by train and was greeted at the station by my friend Mike. After a quick breakfast we were off on a scenic drive to Whistler Mountain. The stretch of the highway is called the Sea-to-Sky Highway and has to be one of the most spectacular scenic drives in Canada. Beautiful water and mountain views could be seen around every turn! We stopped in Squamish and took the newly opened, ‘Sea to Sky Gondola’ up the coastal alpine mountain for a breathtaking view! The facility was still undergoing last minute renos before their grand opening but one would hardly notice as the views from the look out platforms were stunning! Whistler was a beautiful ski resort area even in the warm 28 degree weather. We were a little disappointed the Peak to Peak Gondola were closed for renovations but we still enjoyed the afternoon window shopping and grabbing a delicious lunch.
I found my accommodation through AirBnB, a small and cozy room in the vibrant neighborhood of North Vancouver. My host was very welcoming and friendly and her place couldnt have been in a better location. I was only a 5 min walk to the waterfront and the Lonsdale Quay Market. To get to downtown Vancouver I could hope on the Seabus/Ferry from the Lonsdale Market and be at Canada Place within minutes! Such a nice and scenic way to start my days of exploring. Everyone I met was so friendly and helpful, at no time was I uncomfortable walking around by myself even after dark.
My first solo day in the city I made it downtown and grabbed a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The West Coast rainforest was beautiful, surrounded by 1300-year-old douglas-firs and cedar trees. Not only did they have a long suspension bridge over a canyon, but they also have walkways all through treetops, a cliff walk and other things to see and do as well as live music. To my surprise, I ran into some of the ladies from the train trip through the Rockies…. talk about small world! They were on a bus tour of Vancouver so their time in the park was limited, but I stuck around all afternoon enjoying the hikes and an informative guided tour. Once back in the city I wandered down Robie Street and enjoyed the Foodie side of Vancouver. I capped off my long day of sightseeing with some unbelievably fresh Sushi…. divine Belgium waffles and even a scoop of Gelato.
On my second solo day I explored the Lonsdale Quay Market and picked some local art, jewelry and some local wine to bring home to my family. Once I made it down town I took one of those Big Bus Tours around the city and had a fun time wandering around Granville Island’s public markets and the Gastown area. I stopped into the Spaghetti Factory and enjoyed a great meal at a table set for one. During my day’s adventure, one of the jewelry makers at the market suggested I check out the North Vancouver Night Market that was going on later that evening. I made my way to the open air night market later that evening. It definitely had more of a festival vibe. Lots of people were out dancing to the live band and checking out all the local vendors. It was such a nice night to spend outdoors. I wish I still had room in stomach as all the downtown gourmet food trucks were lined up on the street and the food looked AMAZING!
On the final day of my trip, I took a bus around Stanley Park and visited the Vancouver Aquarium. I had the full afternoon to myself and enjoyed an informative and entertaining time visiting the Dolphins, beluga whales, Penguins, and my favorite the pacific harbor porpoise. This is where I met Jack, he is one of the only two harbor porpoise living in an aquarium in North America. He was found & rescued on a beach in BC when he was just five weeks old! He has a pretty fantastic story that you can read more about Here. Jack really seemed to love my camera lens, he was so curious and friendly. He would swim right up to the glass beside me and just watch. I captured some pretty awesome shots with him. He was such a fun character full of personality!
I had missed the last shuttle from the aquarium back downtown so I decided to walk back through Stanley Park. Although it took me much longer than expected, I really enjoyed the scenery along the way. Vancouver really is a beautiful city… a perfect blend of nature and urban lifestyle. Before catching the ferry back to North Vancouver, I made a detour to find some gelato. Ever since my trip to Italy last summer, I have been craving some authentic delicious gelato. So when I heard that Vancouver was the home of the 2012 Florence International Gelato Festival, Italy winner… I knew I had to check it out. The visit to Bella Gelateria Handcrafted Gelato was quite the experience. It turns out they have a huge list of awards including 2014 North American Gelato World Tour Championship!!! The line was long but it moved quite fast. Once inside I was overwhelmed by all the different original and exotic flavors.. Flavors I’ve never heard of like Akbar Mashti (Persian apparently) with Saffron, pistachio, rose water. When in doubt.. I always ask the server for their favorite. She picked out the Akbar Mashti with a scoop of Salted Hazelnut. It was absolutely amazing, well worth the pricey $9. In fact if I was not flying home later that evening, I would have loved to return and try some more of the flavors like Earl Grey, Tahitian Vanilla and Torrincino!
My host Kathy offered to give me a drive to the airport which was very helpful as my backpack was now unbearably heavy. We took a very scenic route which was a great way to cap off a fantastic journey. My overnight flight went smoothly and in Montreal during my connection, I came across the contestants and the film crew of the Amazing Race Canada!
I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to finally see and discover our big and beautiful country from coast to coast. I am pretty grateful for having such wonderful friends in my life who helped make it all happen! I am not sure of my next travel adventure yet.. but I’m sure it’ll be another great time!