Last year we spent our summer holiday in Canada. The girls are getting older and heading off to university and we, Rich and I, decided it was to be our last holiday as a family.
My Aunt and Cousins emigrated to Canada over 40 years ago, so we combined our holiday with catching up with relatives along the way.
We flew to Vancouver and spent a weekend there, before beginning our road trip through BC to Alberta, flying home from Calgary.
The Spanish settled in Vancouver in the 1500’s, but it wasn’t until Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy that Vancouver was named and became a British colony.
We stayed in Coal Harbour, in Downtown Vancouver, lapped by the Ocean on 2 sides with Stanley Park at its tip.
We asked along the harbour wall to Canada Place, Vancouver’s version of Sidney Opera House. This iconic cruise ship terminal is shaped like a series of sails’, as well as a cruise ship terminal, it is also a pier giving fantastic views of the North Shore Mountains.
Canada Place also sets the stage for Fly Over Canada.
Fly over Canada, is a breathtaking 4D movie simulation ride, that has you swooping over the country, over pine scented forests, across Niagara Falls where you can feel the mist on your face, following cowboys rounding up horses on the Alberta prairies where you can smell the sun wheat in the fields. The ride lasted around 25 minutes; it certainly gave us a preview on what was in store for the rest of our trip.
From Canada Place we walked along the harbour wall to Stanley Park, a 1000 acre public park almost entirely surrounded by water. Unlike most urban parks, it is not a creation of architects, but has evolved from urban and forested space over the last 200 years. Much of the park remains as densely forested woodland with approximately half a million trees.
A seawall and 5.5 miles of walkways surround the park; this is popular with walkers, runners, cyclists and in-line skaters!
The park is home to one of the largest Great Blue Heron colonies in North America, they are categorised as a species at risk in BC and we were lucky enough to see some.
Following the seawall round the park we came to the Totem Poles, one of BC’s most visited tourist attractions. These towering monuments are one of the most recognised cultural symbols of western Canada. Totem Poles were the British Columbian First Nations’ ‘coat of arms’ they are unique to the Northwest coast of BC. They are carved from Red Cedar and each carving tells of real or mythical events. The eagle represents the kingdom of the air, the whale, the lordship of the sea, the wolf, the genius of land and the frog, the transition between land and sea.
Further round the seawall, sitting out towards the ocean, is Girl in a Wetsuit.
Opposite is the figurehead of the RMS Empress of Japan. The ship was built in England in 1891 for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company: it carried silk, tea and passengers between the west coast of Canada and the Far East. She saw active service in WW1 and was decommissioned in 1922, arriving in Vancouver for the last time.
The ship was scrapped but the figurehead rescued and after restoration was displayed in Stanley Park. Today the masthead is a fibreglass replica from 1960, since the original was beginning to deteriorate, however, it has been restored again and is now on display in the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Walking further round the seawall, we found a path to the aquarium which is where the girls wanted to go. We had our first encounter with wildlife round some bins. Emily and Jess were highly excited.
Vancouver Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Canada and houses a collection of marine life that includes dolphins, belugas, sea lions, harbour seals and sea otters. All the marine life there has been rescued and cared for rather than captured for display.
We arrived at the aquarium just in time for an introduction to the rays’ and children were encouraged to stroke them in the water. There was quite a queue of small children………………….and my 17 and 19 year old!
Emily made us look at the sleeping sea otters and thought they looked like teenagers.
Jess decided she wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up.
That night we went to the Harbour Centre and took the external glass elevator up the revolving Top of Vancouver restaurant. The food and service was excellent, but the views of Vancouver were breathtaking. It was light when we arrived at our table, but soon it was dark and the night-time views were spectacular.
We left Downtown Vancouver and headed to Steveston village where we had booked onto the Seabreeze whale watch. The 3.5 hour trip takes you out into the Gulf of Georgia to see orcas, humpback whales and porpoises. We were out on the water for 5 hours in total. We saw bald eagles, harbour seals and sea-lions, but no whales. All the whale watch boats out that day were in contact with each other, but there were no whales to be seen.
We did however get a voucher for a free trip. I’m sure we’ll be back again one day. Watch this space.
Previously published 3rd June 2017 on My Yorkshire Life