Grouse Mountain

Vancouver in 3 Days… Ready, Steady, Go!

Running Race

Our friends are coming to visit in July, just staying for 3 days before they take the train over the mountains to Calgary and on to Toronto.  It’s their first trip across The Pond, so the whole family got together to produce our list of What You Need To See In Vancouver In 3 Days.  Here is the email we sent them:

“I chatted with the girls about what they think is essential to get a flavour of Vancouver in 3.5 days, and we all agree that Mountains, Sea, Stanley Park and Granville Market need to be on the list. One thing you need to know about Vancouver is the city centre itself is very small (you can walk across the main part in half an hour).  The areas to the east (anything east of Gastown) are pretty run down, and not the best for visitors if you want to see the pretty parts.  The city is very young, and most people live here because it’s a good place to reach the sea and the mountains.  So, compared to Europe, art galleries, history, architecture (except modern) and shopping are not what you come for.  Vancouver is all about amazing views, friendly (and occasionally high) people, wonderful food, multicultural harmony and incredible wildlife.

The tour bus is a great idea for your first afternoon, and the hop-on, hop-off buses and trolley buses have stops near most downtown hotels.  I checked the route map for the trolley bus to see what it covers, and we’d suggest you hop off at Canada Place and walk to the end for the view, then if you still need to stretch your legs, walk along the sea wall past the Olympic Cauldron to the Westin Bayshore, then hop on and hop off again at the Aquarium which is stunning and has Beluga Whales.  The rest of the tour takes you round Stanley Park, across to Granville Island and into the Eastside (see previous comments – stay on the bus), but we love the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, and you can walk back through the city if your hotel is near enough, after the obligatory picture of the Gastown Steam Clock.

On your first full day, try Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain, if you feel up to it and if the weather is OK (the views on a clear day are amazing).  Come back via Lonsdale Market for dinner and catch the Seabus back to Waterfront.  Most people find the jet lag means you are up way too early, and exhausted by 3pm, so plan early starts and it’s best to keep the afternoon flexible for the first few days.  Next day, try Granville Island market which means going to Science World and taking the little water ferry down to the market, then across to English Bay for some beach time, or walk from the market round Vanier Park.  You can even continue round to Kitsilano for dinner on the beach.  Then, we recommend a whale-watching tour – Prince of Whales (ouch, bad pun) leaves from the Vancouver waterfront but we went with Seabreeze and they have a shuttle to pick you up from the hotel.  It’s not cheap, but the islands are so beautiful and you are pretty much guaranteed to see killer whales, sea lions and maybe humpback whales and porpoises.  If not that, then a shorter harbour cruise or a kayak tour, or even a stand up paddleboarding lesson.

The Aquarium, tour bus, Grouse Mountain, Capilano and whale tours are all pricey, and if your budget is limited, we know free alternatives to all of them.”

So that is our best option for the Tourist 3-Day Package.  But how about the Potential Immigrant 3-Day Package? Or the Doing Vancouver On A Budget 3-Day Package?  What are your best suggestions?  What did we miss out?

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When You Get Right Down To It….

Grouse Mountain - The Peak of Vancouver

Apparently blogging about blogging is really not on.  Totally off, in fact.  Utterly not cricket in the blogosphere, wherever that is.  I learn these things from my  husband, who has been blogging longer than me and hates the fact that I get more readers.  I keep telling him that I will not sink to his level, I will not play these sick little games of whose blog is better, then I find myself obsessively comparing our stats and laughing to myself (more Mwah-ha-ha, than hee-hee-hee).

The thing he finds most difficult is that the top search, the main reason, the path that leads my readers to me is, in fact, Sushi.  Last week I wrote about the women’s locker room – surely naked women would be a more frequent search subject than sushi, yes?  It was a post I wanted to write, but I will admit that I felt pretty smug including “women’s locker room” in the tags list.  But no.  Top Search again is, of course, Sushi.  And “knitted Marmite” (if you are the knitted Marmite person, let me know if you find a pattern – I quite fancy a cuddly jar of Marmite.)

I have been writing for my own creative outlet, and for the benefit of those who might be considering taking this giant leap of faith to another country, or who have recently done so and are asking the inevitable questions (“Will I ever feel comfortable saying pants instead of trousers?”, “Will the roadworks on Highway 1 ever be finished?”, “What the heck is Poutine, and should I be innoculated against it?”*)  I’d like to feel I’m doing a small public service, but apparently I am helping those who are confused about sushi (and want knitted Marmite).

So today, I’m just going to tell you what I have been up to this week and include the word Sushi in the tags for the fun of it.  If you arrived here searching for Sushi, there’s a blog post here.

It is Spring Break this week in British Columbia, or at least in School District 41 (Burnaby).  School holidays are not standardized across the Province, so many schools have started taking a 2-week Spring Break.  Without half-term holidays, the long drag from January to July is very, very long and this is a much needed break; 2 weeks would be nice.  I decided to take the week off and, as we could not afford a real ski holiday staying at a real ski resort, I designed our own.  Every day this week we have loaded the car and driven 30 minutes to Grouse Mountain, where we have had a lesson and spent an hour or two skiing, skating or hiking the trails, followed by hot chocolate in the cafe.  The whole week has cost about $1000, which includes a private instructor for the 2 eldest children, lessons for me and Tiny Weasel, rentals and some ski passes (we bought annual passes for the girls at the end of last year, for $60 each).  Not bad, really.

Dim and I also visited our local Garden Centre on Saturday to buy a blueberry bush for the hamster’s grave (have we really been here as long as a hamster’s life cycle?).  The Garden Centre was hosting a whole weekend of speakers and free workshops on all subjects – planning your garden, arranging plants in planters, composting, and our favourite, the Forest Grove School Garden with guest speaker, our friend, the wonderful and inspirational Barb McMahon, of Sprouting Chefs.

Barb McMahon at the Sprouting Chefs stand

Barb’s passion is food – growing it, cooking it, introducing others to it in all its infinite variety, which is why she is such a key part of The McTraslerRomeroMahon Dining Club.  Three families, one English, one Canadian (with Japanese in the mix), one Mexican, with 8 children ranging from 4 years old to 16 years old, meeting monthly to experience new cuisine wherever we find it.  My children are shamed into trying new food by their adventurous and confident friends.  Any day soon we’ll be trying the Chinese Dim Sum at Yan’s Garden on North Road.  February was Korean Barbeque at Insadong, also North Road, and January at Fuji... can you guess?  Yup, Sushi!

*the answers are yes, no and don’t ask, don’t touch, avoid at all costs.