Vancopalypse: Travel to Vancouver Without Leaving Your Couch (Couch Wanderings 1)

Ships viewed from the Stanley Park seawall, Vancouver, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2019

Stay at home! Words that have been shouted at us through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and now even by our governments. The COVID-19 virus seems to be skyrocketing in most countries (though slowly tilting in others, so good job, you few!) and most of us are all whining about not being able to leave our houses. I have to say, for a society where life seems to exist only online for most people, I’m surprised at how many people want to get the hell out. It’s interesting. All the same, considering at what point we are at now, STAY AT HOME.

Anyway, I’ve decided to get into the spirit of things and join this madness. Not in the physical spirit of it where I hang Christmas lights on my balcony (I heard people in the US and Canada are pretending it’s Christmas – which is awesome! Christmas without the spending of money!), though I do spend a moment listening to the claps and cheers that sound around my neighbourhood at 7pm each night. The cheers are for those who are forced to still work during this time – like the healthcare workers and doctors, but also grocery store workers and cashiers and gas station attendants. I don’t have much I can truly contribute with, but I do have a ridiculous number of pictures from past wanderings around Vancouver, BC, and various places around the world. So! If you’ve ever wanted to tour Vancouver, we might as well start with that.

I’ve compiled some parts of Vancouver and area that you can visit from your couch (and maybe one day, for real) and, naturally, with photos. I used to be really into photography. Nowadays I’m less persistent about it, though my eyes are still drawn to anything visual. My brain automatically puts an image in place if I don’t have a camera, or adjusts the image within the rule of thirds confines if I do see something that is immediately drawing my eyes. What that means is that I have a lot of photos. I’ve isolated a few Vancouver photos I’ve collected over the years (and you can probably guess which ones are the ancient ones) for ideas.

Since I seem to drag things on I’ve decided to do it in parts, considering no one is going anywhere, anyway. This first part goes on about two areas of Vancouver downtown (and sort of near downtown) but I’ll branch out in other posts. Vancouver downtown, of course, isn’t the only part of Vancouver to see. So! Here we go.

The Seawall around Stanley Park and the Lost Lagoon
Seawall around Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2011

This is probably one of the most popular things to do when one wanders around Vancouver city: visit Stanley Park. Stanley Park is easily noticeable on any map (be it Google or a tourist map), since it’s a big green mass that hangs off of the separated clump that is downtown, and it hangs off sideways. Or straightways, considering that downtown itself is somewhat crooked.

Stanley Park offers all sorts of options for visitors and locals alike. There is the seawall which surrounds it (and keeps going, so you can technically seawall it all over the place, barring a bridge or two). There are trails between the tall trees (composed of western red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas fir, and Sitka spruce, if you love trees) which transport you from the city into a temperate rainforest. These trails criss-cross in a way that I still don’t know and I’ve grown up here (yes, I still get turned around). There is the Aquarium (great for rainy days), the Totem Poles (some very old ones), and a couple of restaurants (if you find them, ha), some pretty views (Prospect Point), and of course, The Hollow Tree (speaks for self). There are also beaches. Yes, it has everything.

Stanley Park also harbours my favourite smell in the world, which is a delicate mix of that salty sea air mixed with the smell of cedar. It’s rare to get a whiff of it when you switch from walking the seawall to heading into the trails (we are still in a city so this is all downplayed), but when you do, it’s just about the best thing in the world.

I’ve walked the seawall in just about every situation you could possibly think of: when it’s been sunny and nice, when it’s been raining, in snowy conditions and windy ones, even at night (I do not suggest you do this, and definitely not alone, but it’s pretty). There is a part of me that will always have this part of Vancouver imprinted in my memory. This is what I thought of when I was away from home. The waves crashing on the wall or rocks, the ships waiting in the distance, the herons perching on one leg (they’re quite good at that). It will take you about 2-3 hours of walking to make your way fully around the perimeter of Stanley Park via this seawall. If not, there are other options.

Most people start the seawall walk either at English Bay (a beach from the city side) or from the Coal harbour end (where you can see float planes take off and where there is a harbour for yachts and boats). English Bay is great to start from since you can buy a coffee to go (there are bins on the way to throw away garbage, in case you’re wondering), but it’s also great to end at because there are more restaurant options. From both ends, however, you can rent bikes! I’ve tried riding a tandem bike once and I don’t recommend it. My muscles hated me after that. If you ever do end up on the float plane side, however, and it’s getting later in the day, you might be presented with an amazing view (spot the heron).

Heron in water and view of Vancouver downtown from the end of the Seawall walk around Stanley Park (on harbour side), Vancouver, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2019

Closer to this end of Stanley Park (so, the harbour side), it’s also easier to get to the Lost Lagoon. The Lost Lagoon is a very small sort of lake/pond thing (I don’t know what category it falls under), where you can see many ducks, geese, a variety of small birds, and the usual herons, as well as raccoons and skunks. If you’re not from here, run away (gently) if you see a skunk because they will spray you if you scare them, and they’re scared of everything. Stanley Park also has four eagles’ nests within its confines, so if you are very lucky you might see some of them. Look up at the tips of the tall trees and focus, as they tend to be ridiculously still.

If you’re interested in bird-watching, contact the Stanley Park Nature House (or rather, the Stanley Park Ecology Society), which is located at the edge of the Lost Lagoon. It’s a small, almost inconsequential building, but they do bird watches I think about once a month or so. I went along once and I was horrible at spotting anything (some people were ridiculously good at it), but you learn a lot about the birds and the area. The bird counts are actually used by the people working for the Stanley Park Ecology Society since they keep an eye, I suppose, on the wildlife in the area. They also provide other forms of learning and volunteering options (they’re on the website, and some are family friendly – but at the moment everything is cancelled due to the coronavirus).

If you’re unsure if you’ve reached the Lost Lagoon (you really should be, everyone has phones these days), you’ll know it when you see the willow tree. This tree has been at the edge of the Lost Lagoon for as long as I can remember it.

It’s a walkable area since the Lagoon is not so big at all, so if you’re not much of a walker but want to see some of the Park, it’s an option. It also has benches here and there if you need to sit down and it’s relatively quiet, considering that it’s close to the center of the city. I like the area immensely.

Granville Island
Granville Island, Vancouver, BC | Treensbert Churchmouse, 2016

On the completely opposite end of where Stanley Park is, lies Granville Island, which is a small area beneath the Burrard Bridge, right across from downtown Vancouver. Its main attraction is the Granville Island Public Market, of which I have no pictures whatsoever because I spent my time sampling the stands. They sell normal things (fruits, veggies, meats, etc), but they also sell really good versions of these things, on top of other stands (macaroons, for example, of which I sampled many).

If I were to suggest something to try, I would suggest locating a stand that sells smoked or candied salmon. We have five kinds of salmon here, but I will not delve into that topic this time because it’s more complicated than this post would allow and goes off on a tangent. But anyway, try the salmon. It’s amazing. There are also other restaurants around here, and the Granville Island Brewery (a local brewery, naturally), with some little shops. Some of them are a bit weird. I saw a broom shop once (with actual brooms, like the kind a witch might fly on).

There are also a number of small theaters which come into use during Vancouver’s Fringe festival. Our Fringe festival is nothing like the absolute madness that occurs for Edinburgh’s Fringe festival in the summer. Here it happens sometime in the fall and is fairly lax, comparing the two. For those who haven’t heard of either Fringe festival, it’s a theater festival, so there are number of plays and shows put on. You can go to the Fringe Festival website to see about more information regarding it.

Another kinda neat thing are the ferries in False Creek. There are a couple of companies running these little boats across False Creek and they’re easily recognizable, as they are positively adorable. One company is the Aquabus and the other is the False Creek Ferry They aren’t a part of our transit system (that’s the Seabus) and you can only pay them in cash, but it’s a fun way of crossing False Creek. Granville Island is one of the stops, but they also stop on the other side of the Burrard Bridge, for example (great if you’re into following the seawall and want to feed afterwards). They can take you as far as Science World (in one direction) or Vanier Park (in the other).

Crazily enough, these little ferry routes are even showing up on Google maps now, which I didn’t realize before. If you want to know their schedules, I have a feeling they have none. They sort of radio one another and either take you and drop you off where you want to go, or tell you to wait for the next little ferry (but it’s never a long wait). There is information at each ferry dock if you need it. It’s a fun way of getting around there, though.

The seawall naturally goes on to Granville Island and away from it (while Granville Island itself is beneath the Granville bridge). If you walk northwards from the market, you will eventually get to Go Fish, which is no more than a stand by the harbour there. It has amazing fish and chips and the line-ups were horrible when I went there (which is telling enough). The following are a picture of the seawall heading on from Granville Island market (I was on my bike, which is why there is a black blob in the corner) and of the Burrard Bridge, visible from the Granville Island market side.

If you haven’t noticed by now, both of the Stanley Park and Granville Island areas are technically (or at least, physically) outside downtown Vancouver. Downtown Vancouver itself, as far as I’ve heard, sits on a sort of bedrock which is good for when there are earthquakes (we feel them less). This is what I heard and read, though maybe it’s not fully true. All the same, I’ll go a little further from downtown next time, since you can’t really get the feel of a place unless you go further out.

I’ll leave it here for now. If you have comments or thoughts, please share them! Also, stay home 🙂

Sources & Links:

|| Ferries – small ferries that travel across False Creek: Aquabus | False Creek Ferry || Go Fish – stand near the harbour (near Granville Island) with great Fish and Chips | Fringe Festival – festival for plays and shows held at Granville Island in the fall | Granville Island – an area below the Granville Island bridge with a public market, restaurants, and other amenities | Stanley Park – park beside downtown Vancouver | Stanley Park Hollow Tree – popular attraction | Stanley Park Tours | Stanley Park Prospect Point – great view and restaurant | Stanley Park Totem Poles – old historical Totem Poles | Stanley Park Ecology Society Nature House – small building on Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, available for information and volunteer opportunities | Vancouver Aquarium

Tell me when there’s more!

Published by Treensbert Churchmouse

I'm a European-born individual, raised on the west coast of Canada in beautiful BC, and a Vancouverite at heart. I love the world of city, sea, and mountain we are lucky to have, thanks to many years of some proper tectonic plate action. Vancouver is a vast, thriving west coast city, balanced perfectly with the peace of the wild surrounding it. That said, I love to explore, but also to escape! I'm a writing and travel enthusiast and have a good foot wedged into the tourism industry (it only follows, if one is a travel junkie). I hope to share what I see and learn about my experiences with those who might like to try the same.

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