Where do I begin with the Vancouver adventure…. due to my train delay I arrived later than planned, but was determined not to lose the whole day, so I checked in to my hotel and went out for a stroll. I walked down to Sunset Beach and got the ferry across False Creek to Granville Island. The market on the island was open and it was nice to have a look around, unfortunately hotel living does not support the buying of all the nice looking fresh veg as I had nowhere to cook it. I looked around some shops and I remember commenting in one shop how the shop assistant was so friendly – until this point everyone I had encountered in Vancouver (apart from the friendly Vancouverite on the train) was unfriendly. The hotel clerk seemed to be inconvenienced checking me in, shop assistants didn’t seem interested in helping me and I just had a generally unfriendly vibe. Anyway, I said to the girl in the shop how it was nice to feel welcomed and how so far people were not friendly like the Torontonians. She was actually from a Alberta. The unfriendly Vancouverite theme continued whenever I was downtown, but that’s okay, it didn’t impact my time, but does leave me with a future expectation from them.
After the market, I had a lovely walk along the seafront last Sunset Beach to English Bay and back to the hotel for a nice long bath.
My next day found me whale watching in Steveson. Steveson is a cute little seaside village with a few shops, fish and chips and lots of whale watching adventures to be had. Last week, Steveson hit the news because someone was pulled in to the water from the dock by a sea lion – hilarious clip here. When I arrived they were putting up new barriers and signs telling people not to feed them. My boat trip was 4 hours long and the company has a guarantee that if you don’t see whales, you can keep going back until you do. Apparently someone went back after 12 years having kept the ticket laminated on their fridge. Only 5% of their boats dont see whales. Of course, my boat was in that 5%! We saw lots of sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises and seals, but alas, no whales. The islands we passed looked appealingly deserted with sparse houses and some islands were not inhabited. I would love a house on an island. I got off the boat and rebooked for another try at seeing whales a few days later.
I drove North from Steveson heading for Squamish (via Stanley Park to look at the views and scenery) where I stayed for three nights. The drive along the Sea to Sky highway is lovely with constant nice views of the sea and the mountains. I stayed in the Hotel Squamish. It was great – nice restaurant downstairs, huge comfy bed with lots of pillows, hot and cold water machines in the hallway, a laundry room that was free to use and it was a great location. I had a drive around and just wanted to see what was around the area in the evening. Squamish is a very strange town. I really liked it, but the mix of people is bizarre and the town itself seems very unfinished. It has everything it needs, but the businesses looked empty most of the time. There was a cool looking little barber shop that was little more than a garden shed with a shop front on it, pubs, a community garden, a yacht club, but then lots of empty lots in the middle of it all, and one lot with a big camper van that appeared to be living there. As with Steveson, Squamish was also in the news last week for an animal encounter – there was a bear attack. When I asked about where I could see one from the safety of the car, I was informed that this wasn’t really an attack and was little more than a bear scratching the human and saying “bad human”, they said I was unlikely to see one. Despite this, there were signs around about bear safety and all the bins were the same as the ones in Jasper, special bear resistant bins. Squamish has a cute little Farmers Market that I went to on Saturday and all the locals seemed to use it as a social gathering, eating and drinking in the sunshine while a man played his guitar at the front by the seating. I could have stayed in Squamish for a week, there was so much stuff that was easy to get to nearby, trails and hiking, different mountains and activities.
My first full day in Squamish and I wanted to go up the Sea to Sky Gondola about ten minutes from where I was staying. I did want to hike up the mountain, it said it was around 3-5 hours, but it didn’t advise doing it alone due to risk of injury and wildlife, so I wasn’t sure. The lift was fun, it was little pods that seat around 8 people that travel up like a sky lift. The views were incredible. At the top is a gift shop, restaurant, bar and cafe. There are a number of hiking trails from 10 minute trails to 8 hour hikes. I did the Wonderland Lake Loop which was a little 1.6km scenic route. It was closed off halfway and said not advised to continue due to uncleared snow and uneven wet terrain. Not to be deterred, me and my flip flops continued. Luckily, the ankle deep snow at times provided a nice relief from the burning sun. There was also a suspension bridge at the top which had more fantastic views over the sea and surround around below the mountain. The whole Sea to Sky gondola was great and I would definitely do it again if I went back. I went back down the mountain and sought somewhere to lie in the sunshine – Alice Lake campground was my chosen spot and sunbathed and read my kindle for a few hours. I had a drive around looking for bears and had a lemon and mushroom risotto from the restaurant below the hotel.
Day two in Squamish and I pottered off to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge about 45 minutes south. I was very disappointed with this one. The bridge itself and the tree top bridges and walks were great, but they were so crowded with tourists, it was difficult to enjoy. The bridge itself was packed with people and I was unable to take more than 2 or 3 steps before stopping again. in the crowds. I left and went to Cleveland Dam around ten minutes up the road. It was lovely, bright blue sky, snow capped mountains behind the shimmering water and a huge lawn of bright green grass for me to lie in in the sunshine. The evening brought more risotto, and more looking for bears. The signs on the highway advertised bears, but they were not to be seen. I should have been sleeping early, but I was still awake at 12.15am and my alarm was set for 4.20am to go on a bear viewing tour in Whistler.