Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Pre-Cruise Excursion at Vancouver

Our cruise ship, MS Ryndam would take us via inside passage from Vancouver, Canada to Seaward, Alaska, USA. We arrived by air at the beautiful port city Vancouver the day before Ryndam's departure from there. After we checked into our hotel, the kids were tired already so we scrapped our plan to tour downtown that evening. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant 2 blocks away from the hotel, and went to sleep.

The next day was a sunny day. Our first stop was Vancouver Lookout - the tallest building in Vancouver, at 167 meters (~ 500feet), which provides excellent panorama view of the city. It is right at the shoreline. The ticket to the viewing platform is $14 for one adult and can be used for multiple entries for the same day. On the viewing platform, the whole city was under our feet. The sun was rising in the east. To the north, is the harbor, Canada Place (see insert) and the bay area. To the northwest, a green suspension bridge, lions gate bridge was in sight. The south is residential and commercial area, just like many big metropolitan areas in the states, the buildings are just packed against each other. We saw several buildings having trees or plants on their rooftops - a recent National Geographic article highlighted such practice in New York and some European cities.

We walked to Canada Place afterwards to have a close up look of it and to check out the route for check in to the cruise ship. Canada Place, the sail like white architecture, which is claimed to be the most photographed landmark in Vancouver, is mesmerizing. We walked around it slowly, looked at it from different angles in different backgrounds - it fits in every background, be it the blue sky, the bay, the north shore mountains across water or the downtown skyscrapers. We lingered there a bit too long and had to rush to parking lot to avoid an expired parking permit.
A short drive from Canada Place, we arrived at Stanley Park, an urban oasis. There is a loop road encircle the park, as well as a separate biking/hiking trail. The entrance to the park is free, however parking is $2 per hour, max $8 per day. Driving along the one way shoreline loop, we had a perfect view of downtown skyscrapers, the white Canada Place and tall Vancouver lookout prominently in the picture.

Travel tip: Vancouver parking is expensive, parking time is checked by parking patrol frequently and fine is heavy if you are over limit. So either purchase extra time or don't go over your purchased parking time.

After a short stop at the totem pole area, we went to a beach at north side of the park. The sky was blue with white clouds, the sand was fine, the sun was warm, the water was cold and clear. This record hot day at Vancouver, 90F, was a beautifully pleasant day for us -Texans. My two boys took off their sneakers, walked in water, searched small shells on the beach, looked at Canadian goose, took some pictures and then went to dry their feet in hot sands. After a while, they went back to water ...... seemingly doing nothing they enjoyed the beach . Afterwards, we went to a cafe. Before having ice cream and lunch, we took a short hike to Lions Gate Bridge, which has sidewalks for bikes and pedestrians, and walked to the first suspension tower to enjoy the unique vista it provided.

We left Stanley park right after lunch, around 1pm, for Canada Place. I dropped the luggage and the rest of the family at the pier and went on to return the rental car. It was good that we gave ourselves plenty of time since the two block away rental drop-off can only be reached through a long drive around and traffic was extremely heavy. Fortunately luggage was handled by the Cruise, custom and check-in was smooth. By 5pm, MS Ryndam left Canada Place, sailed toward sea. Our journey to Alaska had begun.

Travel tip: Many rental car companies allow customers to pick up cars at airport and return them near harbor. Renting a car is much cheaper than taking taxi.

Travel tip: it is best to have two days at Vancouver. Then one can have plenty of time to vist the "natural wonder of Vancouver - Cpilano Suspension Bridge" in addition to downtown area.

1 comment:

  1. Vancouver is a great Destination, it was my last vacation spot. In 2011 I visited Limon Costa Rica, A friend Told me about Vancouver. I really love your pictures, thanks for sharing.