Vancouver

Driverless light rail trains

As mentioned in my prior post, the weather over the weekend in Vancouver was excellent so we took advantage of it and spent the majority of our time walking and biking around the city.

We stayed at Coast Coal Harbour Hotel which is located a few steps from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Cauldron in the Canada Place/Coal Harbour neighborhood of downtown Vancouver.

2010 Olympic Caldron

Now that we know the lay of the land, we would not choose to stay in that neighborhood again. Simply put, it was too far from everywhere we wanted to go and felt like a soulless business district.

Not too far from Canada Place/Coal Harbour is the Gastown neighborhood which felt like Little Britain. The roads were narrow, the streets were crowded and it just was not our cuppa tea. We spent some time in Gastown during our food tour bouncing from restaurant to restaurant. Gastown is the original core of downtown Vancouver and is best known for its whistling steam clock.

The clock was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate as a way to trap the steam and prevent people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather. The steam powers the clock’s whistle to produce the “Westminster quarters” and signal the time.

Neighborhoods that are a better match for us are Yaletown and Granville Island/False Creek which was the site of the Athlete’s village during the Olympics because there are lots of restaurants, bars and cafes that take advantage of the waterfront.

We took the Creekside bike tour one afternoon with Vancouver Bike Tours (they also rent bikes). We lucked out once again and were the only two people on the tour so we were able to go at our own pace and ask lots of questions. We biked all around the city and hit a few major neighborhoods including:

  • Gastown
  • Chinatown
  • Granville Island
  • Strathcona

Vancouver is a bike friendly city and the city itself has a goal to become the greenest city by 2020. You can read all about that here.

Fun fact: The light rail trains in Vancouver are driverless.

One major stop on our bike tour was to “Trans am totem” by Marcus Bowcott. The installation is part of the Vancouver Biennale which is a non-profit charitable organization that works with artists to display art in public spaces as an Open Air Museum.

Per the plaque at the base of “Trans am totem”:

Composed of five real scrap cars stacked upon an old growth cedar, the artwork considers our consumer culture of “out with the old, in with the new”. The car holds a unique position in our culture, a manufactured want and a symbol of extremes; practicality and luxury, necessity and waste.

Another quick stop on our bike tour was to this building which I think used to be a train depot?? Anyway, it was neat because it was a curved building.

Another major stop on our tour was to the Farmers Market on Granville Island. This farmers market reminded me of Torvehallerne in Copenhagen and Peter and I returned to the market the following day for lunch.

The final major stop on our bike tour was to Strathcona which is Vancouver’s oldest residential neighborhood. It was only a few blocks from downtown (or city centre!) but it felt like a world away.

Strathcona is the only neighborhood in Vancouver where English is not the most commonly spoken language (Chinese takes the top spot). This neighborhood is home to the largest gelato shop I have ever visited in my life, La Casa Gelato. They serve 238 flavors at all times. The shop felt a bit carnival-y with florescent lights, bright colors and seemingly endless display cases of gelato, sorbet and yogurt.

I wasn’t sure where to start but for anyone planning on visiting, start at the cash register and purchase a cone or cup and stating the number of scoops. The cashier will give you a colored token and you give that token to the “scooper” after you’ve made your selection(s). In my opinion, La Casa Gelato is a must-visit in Vancouver.

In closing:

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