I won’t lie, Vancouver is the destination that I’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe it’s the sheer beauty and clean mountain air… or perhaps it’s the fact that Supernatural shoots there and I had wild dreams of bumping into the cast and becoming bezzie mates with them.
Either way, this Canadian gem was everything I’d wanted and so much more. We visited for ten days, and in that time packed in a whole bunch of stuff both in and around the city. Compared to London, it couldn’t be more different as an experience, and I would go as far as to say that I would seriously consider moving there if I had the opportunity to do so.
If you’re debating investing in a big hollybobs soon and are wondering where to pick, then here’s some reasons why you should consider Vancouver - and why it was perfect for this London Geek.
The glorious outdoors
London may have its royal parks, but Vancouver takes adventures to the next level.
I’m not kidding when I say that the city is literally surrounded by mountains. Nearly every direction you look on the high street, you’ll see them looming in the distance. Add on to the fact that this is an ocean-side city with a glorious port, and you’ve got one of the most picturesque cities in the world. We visited in Autumn to be out of the busy season, and catch some of those beautiful colours that Canada is known for.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver was the perfect antidote to our crippling jetlag. Endless forests and a rushing river left us with a feeling of stillness that I never quite manage to get in the big UK capital. Although admittedly, I’m pretty good with heights. If wobbly bridges aren’t your thing, then maybe this one isn’t for you.
Stanley Park is also a must-see if you’re ever here. Standing bigger than New York’s Central Park, this big green monster sits at the edge of the city, with so many paths that you could get lost for days. We walked along the famous seawell on the edge of the park, taking in the Vancouver skyline as we did. This whole walk gives you panoramic views - from downtown to Lionsgate Bridge.
Remember those mountains I talked about? We actually went up one of em. Grouse Mountain is a popular day trip for locals, and even a skiing haven in the winter. You can get the cable car up which takes a measly six minutes. But why do that when you can do the Grouse Grind?
That’s right, we hiked up a bloody mountain. 2.9 kilometres, 2,800 feet elevation gain and a peak of over 4,000 feat - and I originally thought we’d be home in time to go out for a fancy meal! Even though I nearly keeled over several times during this slog (the trigger that finally got me to restart my fitness membership), I’ll never forget climbing through a literal cloud, and the feeling we got at the top. Accomplished doesn’t even cover it.
The cultural flavours
If you’re not feeling up to some walkies, then the city still has plenty on offer. Every neighbourhood that we visited had a different personality. From the vintage streets of Gastown, to the glitz of downtown, to the edginess of Mount Pleasant - the neighbourhood where we stayed. I highly recommend this area, as it's a reasonable price, close to trendy coffee shops and eateries but still within reasonable distance to all the attractions.
Vancouver is also dubbed ‘The Hollywood of the North’ due to its vast array of filming locations for various geek shows like The Flash, The X-Files and new hit Batwomen, as well as blockbuster movies like Deadpool and 21 Jump Street. We actually passed an alleyway that was closed for filming and I got extremely giddy thinking that we might bump into Misha Collins, but alas no dice.
In terms of grub, we were completely spoilt for choice. Vancouver has an amazing culinary scene, with flavours from all over the world. However, when in Canada, devour as much maple syrup as you can, right? On that basis, we ended up loving our brunches. One of the most memorable was a plate of extremely decadent sausages that were deep fried in pancake batter - courtesy of Jam Cafe. Y’all either love it or hate it.
I also got to indulge the theatre kid inside me with a trip to the Vancouver Theatresports Improv Theatre on Granville Island. There we saw a side-splitting school-themed show, with a killer line-up of improvisers. The training school for improv gods Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles, this theatre has improv shows locked down to a real pro level. It was truly inspiring to see. Granville Island is also just a chill place to visit, with its bustling market and seaside vibes.
We continued the country stereotypes by visiting an ice hockey game at the rogers arena. Now, I’m not normally a big sports fan - I wouldn’t have time to fit it in my packed schedule of gaming and watching Netflix. However, chuck a bunch of angry maniacs on a rink and give them sticks to beat each other with? I’m sold. Go, Canucks, go!
If you want to level up your vacation to Vancouver a little, then that’s perfectly doable. We managed to do some great trips to some amazing places - all of which without a car (I refuse for the first time back behind the wheel to be on the wrong side of the road). The city is great for offering free shuttles, as well as paid ones for trips that are a little bit further out.
The biggest day of our trip by far was to Whistler. Known mainly for being a world-class ski resort - and setting for the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games - Whistler is also a fab spot in the warmer seasons for some exploring. Even the drive there on the sea to sky highway is completely picturesque, I had my eyes glued to the outside world and didn’t look at my phone once.
Once you’re there, you can find dozens of trails to venture on. We chose to seek out two of the most famous lakes; Lost Lake and Green Lake. Both were spectacular in their own right, shining colours unlike anything I’d seen before. Both me and Joe commented about how wandering around the forest felt like you’d stepped straight into something like Zelda or Skyrim - just endless natural beauty for miles. I half expected to be stopped by a traveller that would send me on a quest.
After tiring ourselves out, we chose to have an afternoon of pampering at the Scandinave Spa, a silent retreat tucked away in the mountains. The peace and serenity I felt at this place was so calming. I really do believe that going to a spa is like healing your soul a little bit - everyone should make time to pay one a visit. If you’re in Whistler (or anywhere else in Canada that has a Scandinave Spa), this is one of the best.
The other day trip we made time for was to Bowen Island. We got there via a bus to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, and then boarded a very short ferry across to the sleepy isle. It reminded us of a setting of a murder mystery - a small community where everyone knows everyone, until a mysterious stranger rocks up into town. With yummy food, ocean views and twee local shops for all your souvenirs.
Bowen Island is a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it's not the only place you can reach via ferry from Vancouver. If you want to go a bit further you can also go to Victoria, Vancouver Island and the sunshine coast. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some marine life on the way - including whales.
London is a city that I fell in love with when I visited for the first time, and I got the same exact feeling when visiting Vancouver. I’d highly recommend putting it on your travel bucket list. It may seem like a big investment, but the memories that you get will fulfill that price ten times over.