Oh, Canada… I’d previously only visited Toronto on a flight stopover, but had always had my heart set on returning to Canada. When I realised I could fit in a trip to Vancouver without any complicated visas, I took the chance straight away and it was the best decision I made the whole trip. From the people I met, the food I ate to the places I visited, I’m counting down the days until I get to return to this city.
Monday 7th May
I got a crazily early bus from Portland up to Vancouver, with a short stop in Seattle on the way. When we reached the Canadian border we all had to leave the bus with our luggage whilst it was searched and we went through immigration. This was really easy and fast and it wasn’t long until we were on the move again. However, as I went to whatsapp my mum to tell her I’d made it to Canada a message popped up on my phone showing some pretty hefty charges… I’m with Three and take advantage of their ‘Feel at Home‘ plan which allows you to use your phone abroad like normal. This is AMAZING until you unexpectedly arrive in a country that isn’t covered (Andorra, I’m looking at you). I sent a quick text to my mum letting her know what was happening and asking for directions from the station to my hostel, lol.
When we arrived in Vancouver I navigated using the cash machine and paying for my train fare before I got the Sky Train to Granville Street and walking to my hostel. I was staying at Samesun Vancouver which is huge and very centrally located. After checking in and finding my dorm (first pod-bed experience!) and more importantly, connecting to the wifi, I did a Google search to see where I could get dinner and some food that evening. Before long I headed out again, to the nearby district of Yaletown. Again I was slightly stuck with no internet as I forgot to save the directions to the restaurant I found, however this turned out to be a blessing in disguise and forced me to wander the entire area which was lovely! Yaletown is known for its outdoor patios and on this sunny evening the streets were full of winers and diners. I ate at MeeT and had the sweet chilli cauliflower which was sooo good. After eating I sat and read my book in a small park for a while; already I was falling in love with Vancouver.
Tuesday 8th May
I’d noticed signs around the hostel advertising activities that they ran and had signed up for a ‘Hike to Lighthouse Point’ the evening before, deciding these would be a good way to see some of Vancouver in the short time I had. After a quick breakfast of porridge in the hostel kitchen, I met the rest of the group downstairs in the bar where we were told the plan for the day, paid our $10 and got on the bus. The bus was a private, school-type one which was great as it meant everyone on board was part of the trip, and also that we could stop wherever we wanted. The trip was led by some of the hostel staff who were so friendly and interesting, telling us all the history of the local area. We drove up through West Vancouver to the edge of Lighthouse Park, stopping for a view of Lions Gate Bridge and the Vancouver skyline and seeing some gorgeous property on the way. We then hiked through the park (soooo pretty) out to the lighthouse, and around to some little bays where you could see across the water to Vancouver. Whilst we were chilling on some rocks admiring the view, I got talking to another English girl called Eva. She had just finished a year abroad studying in Ontario and was travelling the West Coast before heading home. She introduced me to her friend Chrys who had also just done a year abroad at the same university!
After our hike back to the bus we drove back into Vancouver and stopped at the famous Stanley Park to admire the views. Our guide told us that it was an easy enough walk back to the hostel from here along the waterfront so me and Chrys set off (after getting slightly lost at the beginning). We got on so well, discussing our families, studying, travel and finding out we were both vegan! She invited me out for dinner with them that night, and I recommended we try the other MeeT restaurant in Gastown.
We met up in the evening and walked to Gastown (everywhere in downtown Vancouver is so accessible!) for dinner, where I had the chilli topped fries which were incredible. Afterwards we wandered through Gastown admiring the gorgeous streetlights and shopfronts, occasionally having to duck into shelter when it began drizzling! We made our way towards Chinatown to the Umaluma ice cream shop, which was entirely dairy free (mainly cashew based) and SO good. We carried on walking until we reached the waterfront at twilight, and could see all the high rise buildings lit up and reflecting in the harbour, including the iconic Science World globe and BC Place. This was one of those moments where I just felt so lucky to be alive and experiencing these amazing places with the coolest people.
Wednesday 9th May
I met up with Chrys and Eva again for the free breakfast in the hostel bar, which was a huge selection of bagels and toppings. My plan for the day was to check out the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, after research told me it was much cheaper and less touristy than Capilano. Chrys decided to come with me and after grabbing another bagel to take on the go, we walked down to the harbour area to get a water taxi across to North Vancouver. This was great fun to do as it is cheap, super fast and smooth and you get an incredible view of the snowy mountains ahead of you. From the other side we got a bus which took us to the entrance of Lynn Canyon Park. We’d been told by the hostel that the suspension bridge was currently under repairs so didn’t know if it would actually be open until we got there! Luckily the bridge was open, and as we were so early we had it entirely to ourselves for a photoshoot and could spend ages looking over the edge without getting in everyone’s way! We then hiked through the park to see more of the canyon and beautiful waterfalls, including the crystal clear (but icy cold) 30 Foot Pool.
After we had finished exploring we headed back to Downtown Vancouver. Chrys suggested that we spent the rest of the day exploring Granville Market so we walked across the bridge to find it. It took us AGES to get there as we kept getting lost, although it was nice to explore some more of the area. When we arrived we both got some lunch before browsing all the stalls there. After our fill of nicknack shopping, we walked out to Kitsilano Beach to watch the sunset. Yet again I felt so so so in love with life, and so lucky to be where I was. This was unfortunately spoilt by a very creepy man coming and talking to us; after he started getting physical we made a break for it and did some very fast panic walking! We were planning on eating at Turf that night but when we arrived there we found it shut super early and was already closed. Rather than bother to find something else we got on a bus back to the hostel and ate (once again) at MeeT in Yaletown (mac and cheese this time!)
Thursday 10th May
Another hostel activity today, with a hike out to the beautiful Whytecliff Bay. We took in the views, scrambled over the rocks, admired the very hairy caterpillars, played games and got nosy about some filming that was taking place! We had another stop at Stanley Park on the way back giving me the chance to get my picture taken with a Mountie Bear in the giftshop (yay Canada!!!)
After this Chrys and I got the bus out to the University of British Columbia campus to wander around. We saw the famous Totem Poles and visited a clothing optional beach (on a uni campus!) which was down the longest flight of stairs ever. On our way back up to the campus we even saw a snake basking in the sun! As we were trying to find our way around the site I saw something moving behind a hedge and stopped to watch it, expecting a cute cat. However when it emerged we were treated to seeing a racoon! I know people in the States and Canada normally hate racoons and treat them as pests, but it felt soooo cool to see one in real life, definitely different to British wildlife!
By this point we were pretty hungry and I suggested we find the Virtuous Pie store on the UBC campus. After some navigating we finally found it in a super cute residential area covered with trees and eco-friendly waterways (again, life goals). The pizza was a good shout and again was super nice, with the staff being so friendly and helpful when trying to decide on toppings! We also both got their vegan soft serve afterwards as well. We walked back to find the bus stop, walking past loads of greek frat houses on the way and a mountie station! We also took a quick detour into the student union building to use their very cool toilets.
Unfortunately this was my last evening with Chrys and when we returned to the hostel I packed up all my things and said my goodbyes. I then trudged across the city to a different hostel for the night which was right next to the station. This hostel was SUPER sketchy and I was glad to only be sleeping there for a few hours!
Friday 11th May
An early alarm saw me collecting my things together and crossing the green at sunrise to Pacific Central station. After a slightly strange customs experience (being quizzed for 10 minutes about being a student in the US?) I was onboard my Amtrak (can you tell by now I’m trying to collect methods of transport?) train back down south to Seattle.
As you can probably tell, I left a piece of my heart in Vancouver. I can’t wait to return but I know it won’t be the same as this time! Eva and Chrys, if you read this, thank you so much for making those days so special. It wouldn’t have been the same without you ❤