This last weekend I traveled to the Vancouver area, location of the 2010 Winter Olympics, in hopes of seeing the majestic mountains to the north and the expansive open waters to the west and south. Other than a quick glimpse of both as the plane descended into the Vancouver airport, I was met with mountains of clouds and streams of rain.
This city of roughly 600,000 inhabitants chose one of nature’s most stunning backdrops to set down roots. If you can’t decide whether you want to live or vacation in the mountains or go to the sea – Vancouver provides both. You can ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon during certain times of the year. Generally the winter months often find Vancouver shrouded in clouds and rain. Or 8 inches of snow can be dropped one day and sunny and 70 the next day.
Vancouver is all about activity. Being on the move. Seeing the sights. Taking in the great eating experiences. When I lived in Regina, Saskatchewan between 2000-2010, a group of girlfriends and I would head west to Vancouver to escape the cold of the frozen tundra for an eating and shopping extravaganza. We stayed by the waterfront to be within walking distance to Robson Street, the place to shop and eat. Or put your ‘runners’ (Canadian for tennis shoes) and hoof it down to Stanley Park – a massive green space that is fronted almost entirely by water.
Or take some form of public transportation down to Granville Island – an island within the city with something for everyone. A destination spot for locals and tourists. Check out the Public Market, showcasing the city’s best selection of fresh seafood, other local produce, and unique often locally made products – from hand painted silk scarves to hand carved wooden boats to float in the waters surrounding Vancouver. I love walking through the meandering streets taking in the smells, sights and sounds.
My two main sports while I was growing up were skiing and golfing. The Vancouver area would have been a great place for me to visit during those developmental years. Ninety minutes to the north of Vancouver, along the appropriately named Sea to Sky Highway is Whistler – where the alpine and nordic events took place in the 2010 Olympics. Touted as some of the best skiing worldwide, it has been ranked as the #1 overall resort in North America by the readers of Ski magazine.
With golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones, Jr., your golf game can be as equally challenged as your skiing acumen is by the slopes. The natural setting of glacial mountains as a backdrop while the course winds along the banks of the River of Golden Dreams, may make it hard to focus on your game, but can also quickly melt away the frustration of a bad hole – as how could you not marvel in the glory of such beauty and just be happy to be alive and where you are.
But back to Vancouver and the surrounding areas. This last weekend found me winding my way eastward through the inland waterways, through Surrey, and on into the well-developed suburb of Langley, to watch my son play university level basketball at the Langley Events Center. I crossed the heavily sedimented Fraser River, the longest river in BC; trekked through North America’s largest peat bog in the aromatic Delta Nature Reserve-a/k/a Burns Bog; and on into Langley which sits a half hour drive from the U.S. Canada Border.
This border crossing is the home of the Peace Arch, erected in 1921 – which sits directly across the border line in the median between the entry and exit lanes to both countries. Within in the arch are open iron gates on either side with the inscription, “May these gates never be closed” – and to date they have never been closed, signifying the peaceful unity that lives between the two countries.
If you have time, take the 90-minute ride ferry over to Victoria on Vancouver Island – it’s worth the effort. With a population to rival Vancouver, most of the Island’s 750,000 inhabitants live in the greater Victoria area, which sits at the southern tip of the island and is actually south of the Canada/US border line, and the only part of Canada below the 49th parallel. Stay at the Empress Hotel which sits on the most prime piece of waterfront in Victoria. Or if you really have a lot of time, head up west coast of the Island. About half way up, sits the Wikaninnish Inn. I’ve yet to visit, but it’s on my bucket list to experience one of the most amazing spa settings and to watch a Pacific Ocean storm rage along this rugged coastline.
Needless to say there are a multitude of things to do in the greater Vancouver area. There would be no wasted time with a minimum of a week spent in corner of British Columbia, one of the most eye-popping natural beauties in the world.