Friday, 22 August 2014


Following a fairly uneventful flight in which I failed to sleep at all I arrived at Vancouver with an afternoon and evening to check out the city on my own before the trip started in earnest the next day.

I was staying at the holiday inn a 5-minute drive from the airport. Consider getting the hotel shuttle bus rather than a taxi, unless you want to hear your taxi driver moan about how he queued for an hour at the airport only to get a 5-minute drive. I think the drivers are keen to take people into the city rather than just along the road.

A short walk from the hotel was the Skytrain which runs from the airport direct to the city centre, which probably upsets the drivers some more. This certainly saved paying for a taxi to take me in. It costs around 10 Canadian dollars for a day pass. 

Like Chicago, Vancouver has a "Sears Tower" but it's not a record breaking structure. Being a UFO on a concrete stick design it is of course a revolving restaurant (website). Having been put off revolving restaurants by those in China so much that I now refer to them as "revolting restaurants" I decided to skip this but it does have an exterior elevator if you like your drop towers high, slow, unrestrained and completely without thrill. 

The harbour area is pretty cool. That white building is part of Canada Place, a harbour quayside with restaurants and entertainment things on it. With just a few hours to see the city I decided to jump one of the city tour buses. Incredibly touristy but a great way to see a city quickly. I often use these to get a quick overview of a city then explore the bits that interested me on foot later.

A nice day to explore downtown with beautiful weather. The city is a popular filming location as it's cheaper to film here than in the U.S. Some people refer to it as the Hollywood of the North, just without the cocaine culture, scary "entertainers" in bad costumes, and everyone wishing they were the next big thing. 

This is the Vancouver Art Gallery where they filmed Night at the Museum. The big head outside is a piece of art by renowned Canadian novelist Doug Coupland (Generation X) who currently has the main exhibition in both the gallery and around the city. 

"Gumhead" as it is titled an interactive piece in which you're encouraged to cover the piece in chewing gum. Clearly a few people had gotten to me beforehand. I wonder if this was where Nada ran out of gum. 

Love this film.

Apparently a popular place to propose, this is a wedding ring art piece on English Bay in the centre of the city on the bank of a large river that cuts the city into two.

The man-shaped statue in the background is an Inukshuk, a rock totem of the Inuit folk. There are a few of them around the city and thousands around the country. 

Being surrounded on 3 sides space in the city is at a premium and a form of architecture called Vancouverism grew here which finds different things all occupying the same space through being stacked on top of each other. A university can be found on top of a shopping mall for example. Here a tree is growing on top of an apartment, the apartment belonging to Leonard Nimoy. 

That is Vancouverism

The north-west tip of the city is home to Stanley Park, a huge forested area and a tranquil sanctuary away from the busy city next door. It has won several awards for best park, although I have no idea what the criteria for that is. 

Loving the architecture from the small... the large... the downright expensive. The average price of a single-family detached house has broken a million Canadian dollars.

An interesting piece of art woven into a fence. 

There are graffiti hot spots around the city with lots under bridges and underpasses. 

Some huge murals adorn the end of office blocks too.

This is the BC stadium which is home to Soccer and CFL teams. Strangely our tour guide told us it has sat empty for years - perhaps there being no hockey there means people don't really care what happens inside it. Previously to being dormant it was used in the Vancouver Winter Olympics and used to have an inflatable roof (the largest at the time) before it was replaced with a retractable one.

Part of a fairly long mural on Beatty street. It runs a full block length.

A random tank. Not many cities have these. This one looks a bit dated though. A Chieftain version would have encroached onto the pavement too much.

The entrance to the city's Chinatown.

Errr, I'm not quite sure what this is all about. Why no taxis for people?
The bus tour was actually pretty decent and gave me a nice introduction to the city. As I was on the penultimate bus of the day I didn't really have much chance to jump off everywhere I'd have liked and some of my photos were a bit wonky as I attempted to take them from the moving vehicle.

Back at the piers now. That building is a large exhibition space surrounded by a good selection of eating establishments.

Back at Canada Place and I thought I'd explore the pier. The Canadian Trail is a nice little walk explaining Canadian history via a series of plaques, certainly a good place to get up to speed on the country I was visiting.

Fly Over Canada is a large simulator ride similar to Soarin' over California at Disney with a series of seats suspended in front of a huge immersive screens that bank and swoop in time to the footage of various Canadian scenes. To add to the immersion scents are pumped into the room. If you liked the Soarin rides then you'll love this. The whole thing takes around 30 minutes to go through. Its website is here and if you're interested in the design of the ride and why it might just be a bit better than Disney's read this

Should you wish to have an even better flying experience then there are seaplanes here that you can pay to fly in. I imagine this would take more than 30 minutes and be a tad more expensive.

This Lego killer whale (or do we have to call them Orcas now?) is another Doug Copeland piece.

I really liked this water fountain, nice that it focused on the water going down not up.

Another Inukshuk, this time one I could get closer to and meddle with. I wonder if messing with these is treated as seriously as moving the stones at Stonehenge. 

Some funky Celtic stonework outside Christ Church Cathedral, which truth be told is probably the smallest cathedral I've ever seen.

I'm not a fan of pavement chalking as most of the time they're done elsewhere and sellotaped down to look like they've been done in situ, but this one was legit. 

Cute art to cover up the phone exchanges.

I was surprised to find a theme park within the city. It's just a shame it was a bit too miniature for me to enjoy properly...also the shop was shut :)

Wanting to find some more graffiti I enquired with one of the city's information stands for where best to go. I was recommended to visit the alley just a block away from the revolving restaurant between Richard and Homer streets. The alley was full of amazing pieces and it was great to be able to take photos whilst behind me two smackheads cleaned their spoons and lit up. They didn't seem to mind as long as I wasn't photographing them.

My favourite of the set - an interpretation of an Escher's "Hand with Reflecting Sphere". 

The original

Another nice mural

This is the Gastown Steam Powered Clock, which was built to use the steam that escapes through the pavements. Its supposed to go off on the hour so I thought I'd hang around to hear it. Only when I'd given up at around 10 past the hour did I hear it going off behind me.

This video shows it in a bit more detail.

and having grabbed some dinner I made my way back to the hotel, suitably tired and ready for the next day. If you like Scottish theming in your hotel then I strongly recommend this one. Best Western Plus Abercorn Inn.

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