Canada

Vancouver is a busy city full of active people who don’t seem to get swayed by bad weather. There are lots of fit, outdoors people who have the luxuries of the city in their front yard and the serenity of the mountains in their back yard.  If San Francisco had a sister city, Vancouver would be it.  San Francisco has the Marin headlands and the coast which provide great hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing and camping as well as many other outdoor activities.  Vancouver is on the same playing field with all it has to offer inside and outside the city limits.

Although we were only there for a couple of days, we ventured out in search of some local eats.  Just around the corner from our hotel, we located a fantastic vegetarian Chinese restaurant called Panz with the help of Yelp.  Until the cement truck pulled up across the street at a construction site, this place was relaxing and smelled wonderful.  The food was amazing and so were the prices.  We ordered off the lunch special menu and got a three course meal for eight bucks a person!  There were even leftovers for a snack later that day.  Panz is without a doubt a diamond in the rough that is a locals hot spot.

 

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One of our dishes at Panz restaurant

Once Jays parents arrived we settled in for the night chatting and contemplating the next days events.  We decided to hit the aquarium in the morning and are glad we did.  After hearing some mixed reviews we decided to go with our gut and check it out.  We were all excited to see the Beluga Whales, a first for all of us.  We arrived just a short time after the Aquarium opened and are glad we did, after a couple of hours exploring, the place filled up with summer camps, families, locals and tourists!  The Belugas were great to watch and although we didn’t catch the show, we did see a dolphin training session and a sea otter information session.  The inside of the aquarium was like many others, but they were featuring a large jellyfish exhibit with all sorts of jellies and information about them.  The aquarium is located in Stanley park and although we just drove through it in the taxi it looked like a great place to spend some time.

 

One of the resident Beluga whales at the aquarium.

One of the resident Beluga whales at the aquarium.

After the excitement of the aquarium we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit.  We took a walk to the local camera shop over the bridge to see about a lens for Jays camera and on the way back stopped by the Granville Island Public Market.  This market was unlike any that we had ever seen!  Filled with local produce stands, fish markets, meat stands and more, the market was almost the size of a football field.  We were awestruck!  It was amazing and we decided instead of eating out we would get some goodies to bring back and eat in.  After walking up and down each aisle and taking it all in we decided on Meat Lasagna (for the meat eaters), 3 different cheeses plus fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, fresh bread, roasted garlic and bruschetta.  We rode the Aqua Bus (water taxi)  back over the channel and carried our goodies back to the hotel.  After our feast and a game of Phase Ten we called it a night in hopes of a good nights rest before leaving on the cruise in the morning.

 

Inside the Granville Island Public Market.

Inside the Granville Island Public Market.

All in all our first impression softened a bit and Vancouver, Canada is definitely a place we’ll return to explore.

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Jason’s First Impression:

When you leave the comfort of your home for an adventure like traveling around the world, you expect to see new and exciting things.  From the moment we got into the cab and began driving through Vancouver, it was as if we had never left home.  I felt like we were just driving through downtown San Francisco.  Maybe it felt like that because we had arrived just days before the gay pride celebration was to begin and there were decorations lining the streets.  Or maybe it was the similar look and feel with the small markets, waterways, boats, and parks.  It could have been the traffic, one way streets, cabs, buses and limited parking.  Either way, it felt like I hadn’t left S.F., but I was eager to explore what was in front of me.

 

Simone’s First Impression:

My opinion may be a little jaded due to a hotel mishap when we arrived in Vancouver.  After a smooth plane ride and fairly easy customs entry we took a taxi into downtown.  Originally we were going to take public transit into town, but after traveling all morning we wanted to quickly get to the hotel and get some lunch! The taxi ride was interesting and seemed to be prepping us for rides we may encounter in other countries.  The driver was talking on his cell phone almost the entire 30 minute ride in a language we never quite figured out while constantly hitting the brake then the gas, causing me to feel as though I was on a mechanical bull!  I was very thankful when we finally reached our hotel, the Landis.  We entered the hotel only to be greeted with, “we have moved you to another hotel.”  Unsure as to what this meant I was not happy!  Since we were meeting Jays parents who were arriving several hours later and since we didn’t have cell phones to communicate with them this had the potential to be a disaster.  The man at the desk assured us the next place was even better and that we would be well taken care of.  We waited for a courtesy shuttle to take us a couple blocks over.  The new place ended up being a corporate apartment building not a hotel, it was large and had 3 balconies overlooking the city and 2 bridges.  It also ended up being right in the middle of 2 high-rise construction projects!  So far first impressions not great…stay tuned to see if 2 days in Vancouver changes my impression!  First impression 1.5 stars