Saturday, November 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
British Columbia is perhaps the most diverse Canadian Province in terms of ecosystems. BC has desert areas, mountains, old growth forests, calm beaches and rain forests and more. Apparently, BC has the world's strongest ocean currents, yet in the Parksville and Nanoose Bay area they have some of the mildest, along with mild ocean temperatures (I would never have guessed the water could get up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit here!).
Some other interesting facts I learned:
The west coast of Vancouver Island contains the rain forest area and very wet weather--almost 100 times that of the east coast, which actually sees mild rainfall (20-30 inches/year).
The west coast is prone to Tsunamis, though they have been mild and the country has an extensive warning system that works very well.
The world's greatest population of cougars lives on Vancouver Island.
There are many things to do to enjoy the natural beauty of the island:
- Watch bears chasing the running salmon.
- Visit old growth forests and walk amongst the 800 year old trees.
- Hike the rainforest.
- Tour the caves.
- Visit fish hatcheries.
- Go skiing.
- Walk some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
- Take in the views from the many golf courses.
- Go whale watching, bird watching, or shell collecting.
- Visit the waterfalls or take in the wide variety of beautiful scenery in the many parks.
In addition to the great outdoors, there are interesting shops, museums, places to explore the history of the island's native people, crafts and artisans, tours of the wineries, meaderies, and farmer's markets, and several quaint towns to enjoy. Then, there's the capital city of Victoria...but more on that later...
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
To me, the key for a great city trip is a convenient hotel/place to stay. Of course, most cities enjoy great public transportation, which opens up location options and enables you to avail yourself of a variety of neighborhoods.
Vancouver is no exception, with a wonderful train system and electric buses running throughout the city. It is also very walkable, even in cold weather (milder than many other northern cities and there are coffee shops on every corner to take off the chill). Bike lanes are taking priority as the city redesigns the roads. Vancouver's unique seawall path runs around the waterside of most of the city and is the perfect spot to take in the scenery and get some exercise.
As on my visits to most large cities, one of the best parts of the visit is walking around exploring the city's neighborhoods, people watching, window shopping and enjoying the convenience of "city living". Vancouver has many fun and diverse neighborhoods, from Yaletown to Granville Island to Chinatown (the 2nd largest in North America). Yaletown was our home base and had a number of shops, restaurants and bars and was central to many areas. Granville Street runs nearby and is home to a lot of the chain shops, cheap eats and the nightclub scene. Gastown, several blocks away, is an old area with new life. Check out Chill Winston for great food and creative cocktails, or head below to Guilt & Co. for a good beer selection in a cellar atmosphere. There are a number of restaurants and pubs to check out in the area, and most have great settings in the old buildings. I'd recommend Six Acres for the shoestring fries and a Belgian beer.
Granville Island has a wonderful array of shops and markets. The public market has every type of take away food you could want, plus all of the food groups and more in the food stalls. In the damp weather, the homemade hot chocolate hit the spot--I chose the Mayan with a bit of chili spice and vanilla-yum!
Another must-visit is Stanley Park. Like most great urban areas, the green spaces are vital to the city. Stanley Park is unique in all there is to do there and the views of the water, Vancouver Island/mountains. Visit the aquarium to take in the whale show and many native species. Check out the great restaurants, especially The Tea House for a traditional tea service or classic meal. Stop by the Totem pole area and native peoples center/gift shop to learn more about the first inhabitants of this area. And, of course, enjoy the nature of the park and all of the different beaches and garden areas.
There is plenty to see and do in Vancouver, without even venturing in to the rest of British Columbia, which has much more to offer. On my next visit, I hope to check out the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and explore more of the neighborhoods, as well as venture out to the Capilano Suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain.
View more photos here.