Day 12 MoTab Tour ❤ Friday 29 June 2018 – Vancouver, Canada
After a long day of travel, today is a full Rest & Recovery Day for the Choir and Orchestra. Since Mr. Mo and I have never been to Vancouver, we had pre-booked a 6.5 hour whirlwind tour of some of the popular sites. This was less expensive than trying to travel to each place and pay individual entrance fees on our own. Unfortunately, it was raining today (a common occurrence here) so we were going to brave the elements and hope for the best.
Our hotel actually provides an umbrella in each room, with a little note about how “it wouldn’t be a true Vancouver experience without a little rain”. 🙂
The green tour van picked us up (in the wrong place, but we found each other) and our tour guide Kevin cheerfully welcomed us to enjoy what the locals call “Liquid Sunshine”. After roaming around town picking up all 26 passengers we were finally on our way.
Swinging Through The Trees
No visit to Vancouver is complete without visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Built way back in 1889, this bridge has stood the test of time and stretches 450 feet (137m) across and is 230 feet (70m) above the Capilano River!!
This bridge is the centerpiece of a twenty-seven acre park which includes many beautiful nature walks among towering cedar trees, a cliff walk, a gift shop & cafe and a treetop adventure (with more suspension bridges). There’s also a nature preserve where you can meet some birds of prey, and a nice display of First Peoples Totems.
Disposable rain ponchos were blessedly provided free at the entrance – thank heaven or we would have been SOAKED to the skin an hour later.
Sadly our tour only allowed a one hour visit to this park, and it was not nearly enough time! You need at least two hours to see everything, and if it’s a weekend, preferably 2.5 hours to be able to take your time and enjoy the experience. As it was, we only had time to cross the bridge see a few of the sights on the other side.
On a busy day, crossing the bridge requires patience.
- There is a limit for how many people can be on the bridge at a time, and on a weekend a long queue can form. Luckily we had arrived in the morning so there wasn’t much of a line, but when we crossed back over there was a long wait.
- Although a speaker system mounted to the bridge continually reminds people to honor the “no stopping and no selfie sticks” rule, people continually stopped and pulled out their selfie sticks.
I felt like Donkey in the movie SHREK going over … “don’t look down, don’t look down … I’m LOOKING DOWN! Aaaaak!!!!” And there was one pure panic moment for me when the bridge tipped suddenly to the right because there were less people on the left side.
Good news – the return trip isn’t half as nerve wracking.
If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry, hang in there. Crossing this bridge is well worth it! On the other side, there is so much to see and enjoy. We made a beeline for the Treetop Adventure which I didn’t want to miss. This is a very beautiful and unique experience getting to walk high up in the treetops from tree to tree via small suspension bridges. It would have been much more enjoyable with less people – especially without the crowd stopping and pulling out their selfie sticks every few feet. The treetop walk is one way, single file, so if someone stops, everyone stops. *sigh*
It’s pretty hilarious that my photos show so few people. That’s because while I was stopped by a crowd in front of me I was shooting all the open space they were leaving up ahead…
We got to explore one of the many loops of trail on the beautiful wide cedar wood walkways. Luckily it was the one that led to the birds of prey, and their informative handlers. One of the things we noticed straight away is how clean and well preserved everything is. There was no graffiti here. The restrooms are spotless. The trails are well maintained. The birds seemed very well cared for.
This park is a treasure.
At one point, a squirrel ran straight at me on the walkway. It seemed he was on an attack mission! Another tourist thought this was the funniest thing ever and couldn’t stop laughing, as I stood there frozen in terror waiting for squirrel teeth to sink deep into my flesh. But, at the last minute he swerved and kept running. Apparently, he was as scared of me as I was of him. Whew!
Due to our time crunch, we had to miss the CliffWalk experience, and exploring many other trails, and visiting the cute gift shop. 😦
Despite not wanting to leave we diligently returned to our tour van at the designated time. Frustratingly, one family decided to make us all wait and they arrived 20 minutes late – which means everyone else missed out on an extra 20 minutes in the park, plus it put our tour a bit behind schedule. *sigh*
I began to wonder if taking this group tour was a mistake.
Side Note: We ran into several choir members in the park and found out there is a completely FREE shuttle from downtown Vancouver (near our hotel) to the Capilano Bridge Park. Your only expense is the entrance fee to the park, so this would be the best option if you only desire to leave the city for this experience. [As of this date Vancouver still does not have ride-share available such as LYFT and UBER].
Next stop was a large Salmon hatchery. It was very well maintained and had many informational displays. If it had been at the height of the Salmon migration (August/September) THAT would have been really exciting! Unfortunately, I am not much of a fish hatchery kind of person. So, other than the beautiful trees, fresh air and seeing the stages of fish growing in the tanks (which was dark, but fairly interesting), I found this part of the tour boring. The entire time I was wishing we had skipped the hatchery and just stayed a full two hours at the Capilano Park.
Our final stop was Grouse Mountain resort, a major local attraction. The resort is reached by taking the Skyride – a large red gondola – to the top of the mountain. It is exactly like the Snowbird Tram in Utah, so this was not a unique experience for us – but, on a clear day, I am certain the view of Vancouver and the mountain would have been spectacular..
.. as this brochure photo depicts.
Sadly, today was not a sunny nor a clear day. The mountain was shrouded in a thick blanket of mist (which got thicker, wetter and colder by the minute). As our tram car ascended the mountain we could barely see the tippy tops of the trees below.
Grouse Mountain is another beautifully maintained location. It is spotless clean and well organized. This is an excellent family friendly place to visit, and well worth spending time (especially in good weather). There are multiple live outdoor shows, a grizzly bear rescue habitat, a lodge with a large theater showing nature films, a cafe with an observatory deck, and a zip-line (side note: a lot of Choir & Orchestra members did the zip line experience, and loved it. They said the fog made it even more terrifying, and the wet cables (with no breaks) made their speed clock up to 50 mph … ugh… I think I may have peed my pants if I’d signed up for that, just saying).
We arrived at the top just in time to follow the (very wet) bear paw path, past some stunning totem carvings, to the Lumberjack Show.
We were all super grateful these actors were willing to perform for us in the cold rain and thick fog while we huddled on a wooden bench in our windblown Capilano rain ponchos to get our money’s worth. As you will see in my video the show was fun, and these guys got extra wet!
By the end of the Lumberjack Show it was significantly raining and we discovered our Capilano rain ponchos were not long enough to protect our rear ends.. Oops. There were two more shows to see, but we decided we were done. We headed to the lodge and joined a bunch of other folks trying to dry out.
We sat in the theater for a while and watched a fascinating 8 minute film about a remote area of Alaska that’s a protected grizzly habitat where only 400 permits are issued for people to enter each year. And, I just found it on YouTube! So, if you’re interested, here you go!
The next adventure movie was going to be all about climbing a dangerous and very cold mountain in Alaska, but we were already cold, and running out of time. We decided to check out the cafe. One of my favorite little moments of Grouse Mountain will always be enjoying a tasty little gingerbread bear with a tall hot cocoa smothered in extra whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Maybe it’s because I was hungry and cold, but I still think this was the best cookie and hot cocoa I’ve ever had.
We headed back down the mountain to our green van and joined all of our other tour guests… except 2.
Before we left the van for the gondola ride Kevin had told us that he would leave if everyone didn’t show up on time, but now he waited… and we all waited. The two ladies had missed the 4 PM tram down the mountain, so surely they would be on the next tram 15 minutes later, right? Nope. This is when we should have left. But, no. OK, how about the next tram another 15 minutes later? Surely they would appear. Nope.
Alright, now we should be going. But, no.
Everyone was cold, wet, tired and understandably starting to feel cranky. Even a group of jolly “no worries” Aussies in the back were becoming stressed. They had a flight home they needed to catch tonight – 16 full hours non-stop – ugh! – and their precious time was being wasted waiting for 2 really rude people. We had all arrived on time except these two. Our frustration was mounting because Kevin didn’t keep his word and leave on time like he had promised. Meanwhile, we had already watched two city buses arrive and depart, so we knew they had a way to get back to the city (note to future tourists – you can take a city bus to Grouse Mt.).
Fifteen additional minutes later – a full 45 minutes after our designated meet time – here come the two ladies wandering leisurely across the parking lot from the other direction. It turned out they HAD been on that second tram, but decided to go get some coffee while we all sat in the van. Seriously?!?! I think the final straw was that our guide didn’t even tell these women when they boarded that we had all been sitting in the van waiting for them for 45 minutes. At least make them apologize! *sigh*
This is when I resolved to avoid group tours forevermore. The next time we visit a new city, we will do more research, utilize free shuttles & public transportation (if Uber & Lyft aren’t available), and enjoy going at our own pace.
When we returned to our hotel I noticed my acrylic nails were completely falling apart. I thought I could stretch them until the end of tour, but they weren’t going to make it! It was the end of the workday on a Friday. I shouldn’t even try. But, I decided to take a chance and call the Concierge. This woman was a true miracle worker! Within 10 minutes she had convinced a place two blocks away to work me in if I could get there in 10 minutes. No problem!
A big shout out goes to the manager of Waterfront Nails. She took me in, and did a stellar job fixing my nails – all while I got to enjoy a stunning view of the harbor and have some very nice conversation. I asked lots of questions and she shared with me how difficult it was in her earlier life as a refugee to immigrate to Canada. She had left a steaming summer in Vietnam to arrive in Calgary during the peak of winter. Can you imagine? I asked her how she managed, where she lived and if she found work. She shared her journey of living in a room provided by a charity, and working long days cleaning while attending night school to learn English. Eventually, through years of struggle she attended collage to become a licensed aesthetician and today she manages this lovely salon in Vancouver. I have the highest respect for immigrants. They are truly some of the hardest working and most resilient souls on earth and the life blood of every nation. We all need many more of them.
Mr. Mo and I wanted to go to a nice restaurant tonight, so I casually asked her if she had any recommendations. She asked me if I liked Asian food, and of course I said yes. So, she immediately gets on her phone and in a few minutes had arranged an 8:00 PM reservation for us at a local Chinese restaurant, which she assured me we would like! How amazing is that? We learned later that this restaurant is one of the most popular in the entire city and it is very difficult to get reservations on a weekend!
Thanks to a random encounter with this very kind soul we were able to have the most elegant meal of our two week tour.
Fine Dining In Vancouver
From the street, the Kirin Restaurant looks deceptively small. But, once you enter you realize the store front is only for the reception desk, and an inviting modern hallway leads to a large dining hall. This restaurant has won multiple awards and honors, and we soon learned why. It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is filled with local Chinese people. In fact, we were among only a handful of Caucasians, and were probably the only Americans.
You know you are in a fancy restaurant when the menus arrive as large hardbound books with full color photos! This was such a classy place I felt embarrassed to pull out my phone and take any photos, but I still sneaked a few.
The food was SO GOOD. And the service was impeccable. They went out of their way. When the manager walked by and noticed we hadn’t eaten very much on one of our platters he inquired if we liked it. We admitted it was a beautiful white fish, but the sauce wasn’t a taste we had expected. He immediately replaced our dish with the same fish, but a more familiar sweet & sour sauce (delicious) – at no extra charge. A place like this is worth every penny. Plus, they had double-fortune (bilingual) fortune cookies! ♥
When we left the restaurant it had stopped raining so we took our time walking back to our hotel. The architecture in this city is absolutely stunning. Not one building is boring or perfectly square. Everything has interesting shapes and curves. There is a mix of old and new here. We noticed that everyone lives in high rise condos. And apparently, every new building must provide some housing. So a high rise office building includes condos with balconies on their top levels. Even our hotel has a separate elevator for residents. There are 31 hotel guest floors, and 8 residential floors at the tippy top (with stunning views, no doubt). We learned from our bus driver that there are very few single family homes remaining in all of Vancouver. The population is exploding and housing and land is at a premium. So, homes are being bought up, torn down and multi-story condos are being built. As you can imagine, the cost of living is also exorbitant.
But, it is sure a very pretty and modern city to visit. And it is so clean (especially after coming directly from San Francisco). Just like every large city, there are still some sketchy areas (we didn’t see them), and there are a few homeless people here and there on the streets (one of them was bedding down in front of the federal building with a good book as we passed by, another had resourcefully placed a construction cone and caution tape around his popup tent).
We walked down to the beautiful Waterfront and enjoyed looking at the 2010 Olympic Cauldron. It reminds me of a glass version of an old fashioned game from my childhood. Is it a jacks piece, or some pick-up stix? We also saw the gorgeous colored “sails” of the Canada Place building where cruise ships dock before heading for the Alaskan coast, and a mesmerizing spinning globe inside the convention center.
The sky was crystal clear now. It was a gorgeous romantic night. Perfect balmy temperature, stars shining, ocean sparkling, lights twinkling. There was no sign that it had ever been a cold wet rainy misty day.
I suspect we just had the true Vancouver experience. – MoSop