We had the local shuttle service take us to Logan International Airport in Boston. We flew Air Canada to Toronto's Pearson International Airport (an Embraer 175), cleared customs and then flew to Vancouver's International Airport (an Airbus 321). We were met at the airport by the chauffeur and driven into Vancouver to the hotel. Our room was on the 20th floor and faced what for some would be a disappointing vista -- railroad yards and station (with multiple types of commuter services as well as classification for the adjacent container terminal and port), helipad, ferry terminal and container port. As we're some form of transportation nuts (after all this WAS a coast-to-coast RAIL trip), this more a source of fascination than a disappointment. We ate in the Five Sails Restaurant in the hotel, great food in a spectacular setting and a fine ending to our first day.
The Pan Pacific Hotel above one of the 200 cruise ship visits
a year. There were two in port at the same time while we were
there. Our room was on the opposite side of the hotel.
Vancouver is highly walkable and probably even better traversed
by bicycle. Like every other Canadian city we encountered, it
convulsed with construction. Canada did not experience the
depths of the recent financial crisis to the extent of the US,
the UK or Europe and it was plain to see.
Our first full day turned out to be a damp one. Vancouver is
wedged between the Strait of Georgia to the west and the Coastal
Range to the immediate east -- perfect conditions to wring
Pacific Ocean moisture out of the atmosphere. We were scheduled
to take a city tour of Vancouver which took place in conditions
ranging from watery sun to downpours.
As with most city tours, this one intended to give a flavor or
orientation to the city. Here as everywhere else, we
particularly enjoyed the stops, not the seemingly endless
drive-bys of one neighborhood after another. Thus, for us the
places that stood out were Stanley Park, the Lion's Gate Bridge,
and Granville Island. We also ascended to the Harbour Centre
Observation Tower (a glass elevator, first of John's minor
Stanley Park is about a mile from our hotel and would have been
a nice walk on a good day. It is widely used for jogging and
biking as well as being a major green space for the downtown. It
famously contains totem poles created by the local First Nations
This doesn't really convey just how wet it was at this point. Here's a view the other way toward the city. At the left is the convention center and cruise ship pier with our hotel projecting above it. Slightly to the right of it you can see the observation tower.
Raincoats and umbrellas were definitely not needed as we took an all-day trip by bus and ferry to Victoria the capital of British Columbia and on Vancouver Island not the mainland. In fact Victoria is south of the 49th parallel, the straight line border between the US and Canada from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean. The ferry terminal is south of Vancouver across the delta of the Fraser River (which will reappear in discussions about the Rocky Mountaineer tomorrow). The ferry terminal is no more than a mile north of the US border (that point of land on the horizon). The border projects to mid-channel of the Strait of Georgia then zigzags among the islands, around the tip of Vancouver Island and out to sea through the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating Victoria from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
Although Victoria is spread out the downtown/harbor area is
easily walkable. We walked on Store Street and Wharf Street,
stopping for lunch at a cafe. We did not have afternoon tea at
the Fairmount Empress Hotel, opting instead for the tour to
Butchart Gardens, but of the women on the bus who did opt for
the tea said, "It was regal."
We've known about Butchart Gardens for more than 30 years and had seen television features on them. It was great to see them for ourselves. They were built by a concrete magnate and his wife, primarily in a limestone quarry after the stone had been removed. This is perhaps the iconic view.
But there are many other gardens and features, here are