Welcome back to the ‘bonus’ fourteenth (and final) installment of the Bucket List: Alaska series. If you are just joining us, you can go back to read the start of our Alaska adventure in Anchorage at this link. There will be links at the bottom of each post to take you to the next one.
Our land tour and cruise of Alaska began in Anchorage, and the cruise portion dropped us off in Vancouver, British Columbia. While planning the trip, we agreed with our friends Pam and Eric that we would like to spend a couple of days exploring Vancouver before flying home, since we were already going to be there, you know! Our itinerary worked in our favor: since we arrived on the ship around 9 AM, we had that whole day to explore, and since we were flying west to east, our red-eye flight home the next evening gave us two full days. We checked hotel prices and were deterred, then Pam started checking Airbnb and found a place that hit the jackpot. It was a two bedroom, one bath apartment in a private home, two blocks from the amazing SkyTrain light rail station in Nanaimo, and right on the linked bus route. The cruise port was also a block from SkyTrain in downtown Vancouver. Pam even arranged with the super-flexible host for us to access the apartment on the first morning to drop off our luggage. Score!
We really didn’t have an agenda for visiting, but a few items were on all of our lists: a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city, to get our bearings, some chilling, and a visit to Stanley Park. All four of us had been to Vancouver before, but it had been 15+ years.
We didn’t spend a lot of time digging into the history of this vibrant, multi-cultural, and scenic city, rather we just enjoyed the sights and activity. Our timing could not have been better as we were graced with spectacular fall weather during our two days in town. Here are some of the sights, notated for location.
The Historic Gastown neighborhood:
Above, the Gastown Vancouver Steam Clock, which is not really historic, but certainly an attraction. Built in 1977, this famous, antique-style clock is powered by steam & whistles to tell the time.
Above, Eric visits with Gassy Jack, reportedly the “Founding Father of Gastown”. The flatiron-style building on the right was built in 1908-09 as a hotel on a triangular shaped lot, and it really shines in black & white.
We hopped on the tour bus in Gastown and toured the city and a bit of Stanley Park, but didn’t take many photos from the bus. The photo below is of the famous and beautiful Lions Gate Bridge, which according to Wikipedia, “opened in 1938, is officially known as the First Narrows Bridge, a suspension bridge that crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet and connects the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the North Shore municipalities of the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.”
We decided to hop off our bus tour to explore Granville Island, because it looked interesting, and because the bus was going to be mired in traffic for the next hour or so on its route around town. Granville Island is a peninsula in False Creek known for the massive Granville Island Public Market, where you can buy produce, cooked food, spirits, coffee, and most anything you might desire. Waterside restaurants, galleries, artists’ studios, breweries, and a theater provide entertainment, as well as, several outlets for boating and other water sports. There are even a few quirky and unique floating homes that caught our attention.
We ended our day by catching the SkyTrain back to Nanaimo, then a linked bus route using our same transit pass to a local Chinese restaurant for takeout. The restaurant was in full swing for Saturday night, and we loved seeing multi-generational families gathered at huge tables for dinner, served course after course on giant platters, all the while chatting and laughing and having a super time. The day was an awesome re-introduction to Vancouver!
The next morning we walked a couple of blocks then rode the train to the tour bus (both had two-day passes) and hopped off at Stanley Park, where we planned to spend the bulk of our day.
The park is one one of Vancouver’s main tourist destinations, attracting approximately 8 million visitors each year, and it sits on a peninsula just off downtown, so it is super accessible. It is nearly surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbor and English Bay, so the water views are terrific. There are beaches, miles of trails, an aquarium, incredible gardens, a train ride, lots of interesting sculpture, and First Nations art and totem poles.
The Totem display was our first stop, and I will let the photos do the talking, especially since these totems had lovely descriptions of the art. Note the first totem honors the former residents of the land that became Stanley Park. Click to enlarge the photos.
Above, Jerry, yours truly, and Pam in front of a Thunderbird House Post.
I found the above interesting because our cruise ship passed Alert Bay, which is where the original pole was raised in front of a Chief’s house in the 1890s.
We walked along the seawall for a bit after visiting the totem park.
The Stanley Park Gardens were incredible, and the September timeframe was ideal for a profusion of every conceivable bloom! It was truly breathtaking!
A few more interesting sights in the park, and then we hopped back on the bus to downtown.
Lastly, a couple points of interest seen from the bus, and worth a live stop, next time. 😉
Again, we found ourselves on a bus that was stuck in traffic. So we did the smart thing, hopped off, found a grocery store nearby that served food, ate a relaxed meal and then hopped on the SkyTrain back to our Airbnb to pack and prepare for our airport shuttle that evening. It was so nice having a base to go back to and chill between activities. Later, as we waited for our red-eye flight back East, we shared festive beverages in a cozy restaurant at the airport while we reminisced about the amazing experiences we were lucky enough to have over the previous two weeks. We are incredibly grateful for our good fortune and especially the gift of travel!
Well, this post wraps up a truly epic trip, shared with dear friends, that checked off a major bucket list item for all of us. A genuine THANK YOU to those that traveled along with us virtually, and a sincere hope that all your bucket list wishes come true!