Our trip to Vancouver marked the second time that we've made our way north of the border into Canada. Our previous trip found us exploring the vibrant French-Canadian city of Montreal. We absolutely loved Montreal and we were expecting much of the same when we visited Vancouver. Not surprisingly, that's what happened. Vancouver is a very different city from Montreal, it definitely has more in common with Seattle and Portland than it does with Montreal, but it still has the laid back feeling of Montreal. It's also a very beautiful city. "Green" is the only word that comes to mind when I think of Vancouver. The city is surrounded by mountain ranges and lush forest areas. Stanley Park, which sits between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver is one of, if not, my favorite public parks that I've ever visited. That's not an exaggeration either. Vancouver turned out to be a city that was a joy to explore. It's always interesting to explore a new city, but there's usually a fatigue that sets in at some point. I can't speak for Courtney, but I never felt that I was tired from seeking out areas of the city. With that in mind, let's go over some of what Vancouver has to offer.
We flew into Seattle and picked up our rental car to head into Vancouver. The drive was a little over three hours (including a quick stop at the border for customs) straight to our AirBnb in Gastown. Our AirBnb host warned us that traffic might be pretty bad, but luckily we seemed to catch a break in the traffic. We didn't really hit traffic until we arrived in the city, and even then it wasn't that bad. Gastown is a vibrant and colorful neighborhood. It's a quickly changing neighborhood that offers great restaurants, shops, and cafes. The area is also fairly close to the waterfront, allowing you to easily get to Coal Harbour, The Convention Centre, and Canada Place. The only complaint we had about staying in Gastown was the parking. "Frustrating" is the only way I can describe it. Not only was it difficult to find a spot, but it was crazy expensive (even after factoring in the currency exchange). I can't say that it was a complete surprise though, it is a major city after all, but that doesn't mean it isn't any less aggravating. Despite the parking situation, not only in Gastown, but throughout the entire city, we got around to seeing everything we wanted. Overall, no big deal, but if you're visiting and renting a car expect to fork over some cash on parking.
The first night we arrived in Vancouver, we only got the opportunity to go and explore a tiny bit of Gastown and grab a bite to eat. We ended up enjoying a meal at Steamworks Brew Pub, which was just a short walk from our loft. I enjoyed a delicious lobster ravioli and some excellent draught beer, specifically the pilsner and oatmeal stout. We were a little tired from travel at that point, so we decided to get to bed so we could get an early start the next morning. The jet lag actually helped us accomplish that goal for our first full day in Vancouver. We began the day exploring Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Before doing some research I thought this was simply a public park, but it's actually more like a natural museum area. Once you enter the park there are several areas you can choose to explore. There is the suspension bridge, of course, but there is also the Cliffwalk and Treetop Adventure areas that provide some beautiful overlooks of the river below. This is only a portion of the Capilano River Regional Park area. If you step outside of the suspension bridge park, there is a lot of area you can cover. Going back to my opening for this entry, this area, like much of Vancouver is beautifully green. Tall, lush trees populate the entire area. You could spend an entire day in this area if you wished. Unfortunately, many times when you find a spot you love while traveling, there is only a limited amount of time you can spend there. Earlier in the day it was fairly rainy, but it began to clear and i was able to get a lot of great shots with mist rolling across the tree line.
After our time in the Capilano Regional Park area, we made our way to another one of Vancouver's gems, Stanley Park. I already briefly mentioned Stanley Park and how amazing it is. We actually visited the area twice during our stay. I think it might be my favorite city park that I have ever visited. There's a lot to do and see in this park. I think what I appreciated most about the park was how dynamic its setup is. You can be walking along the harbor with gorgeous skyline views and then in a few minutes be deep in the middle of a wooded area that makes you feel like you're miles from a city. To me, that's impressive. Not to mention the many walking and biking paths available to visitors. This is a definite stop to make in Vancouver, even if you're a frequent visitor to the area. For me Stanley Park has the same feel of Central Park, no matter how many times you visit the city, you just have to stop by, even if it's only for a short amount of time. When we came back for a second visit around sun down, I was able to get some beautiful shots of the Lions Gate Bridge using long exposure. There's also a great vantage point in the northern part of the park that offers great views of the city and Northern Vancouver.
Our day spent out exploring Capilano and Stanley park got off to a rainy start, of course that wasn't much of a a surprise to us considering we were visiting in early spring. Luckily, the weather most of the time in Vancouver was pretty nice. Comfortable temperatures and some scattered showers. The following day was one of the best weather days on our trip. It gave us the perfect opportunity to spend some time out at Granville Island. They have an interesting public market there, that is very similar to the public market in Seattle. You'll find a bustling market full of fresh food options. Everything from seafood to produce to specialty items, it's all there. We visited on a Saturday so that probably could explain the huge crowds, but I'm assuming it's typically a crowded area anyway. There's also plenty of options for dining. We also explored the area around the island, which included some interesting boat homes that were setup in the harbor. After Granville Island we went across the bridge to George Wainborn Park to get some views of Granville Island from the opposite shoreline.
We also took some time to explore some cafes and coffee shops in the city. Probably the best place we ate at (between Seattle and Vancouver) was this place called Medina Cafe. It's located in the Library District, which makes it a convenient location to the beautiful Vancouver Public Library and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Anyway, Medina Cafe is known for its Belgium waffles, so of course I had to try one. All I'll say is that I ordered a second. They are served with your choice of dipping sauces, which are just as amazing. In addition to the waffles I ordered a breakfast paella. The dish had a note of "spicy" attached to it which usually doesn't mean much to me. Most "spicy" dishes at restaurants are not really spicy at all. This paella wasn't off the scale spicy, but it definitely had a good kick to it. Even then, the spiciness didn't overwhelm the rest of the flavors of the dish. Like I said, this was easily my favorite place that we ate at. If we go back to Vancouver I definitely want to check this place out again. We also had the pleasure of trying out Lemonade, a gluten free bakery. Courtney has Celiac's disease, so anytime we find a specialty bakery like this we have to try it. I tried the mango cheesecake, and I couldn't even tell that it was gluten free. Even if you're not gluten free I'm sure you can find some tasty treats here. Much like Seattle, Vancouver is pretty big on its coffee. We were able to stop by Revolver in Gastown since it was literally around the corner from our place. When we arrived there was a line out the door and after trying one of their brews I understood why. I also paired the coffee with a piece of their chocolate cake, which was extremely light and flavorful.
I keep saying this, but Vancouver was a truly beautiful city. There are so many public parks and spaces you can visit. We didn't even see half of the public parks in the city. I'm hoping next time we can stop by Cypress Provincial Park, which is supposed to offer stunning views of Vancouver from the peak of Cypress Mountain. Unfortunately, the mountain was still a little snow covered during our visit which would have made it a little uncomfortable for us in our wind breaker and t-shirt apparel. We were lucky enough on this trip to eat at some great places, but as I stated earlier, Medina Cafe was by far my favorite. It had amazing food, a great atmosphere, great interior design, and reasonable prices. I would like to visit the city when it's a little less rainy. i understand that the rain is a part of this region and even if we were to visit in the summer time we'd probably still encounter some showers. Another great trip to Canada in the books. Hopefully we'll add Toronto soon to complete the major cities of Canada trio.