I was landing about thirty minutes before Linda would be arriving. I went through customs, located my luggage and then patiently waited for Linda. She got there right on time. She got through customs and we gathered our luggage and headed out into the waiting area to find Jackie.
Just imagine three women who hadn't seen each other in a while and everybody was talking at once.
As we left the airport, we headed for Stanley Park to drive through the park and then to have lunch at the Teahouse. Stanley Park makes up 1,000 acres and it borders the downtown of Vancouver and is almost entirely surrounded by waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. Much of the park is very dense with about a half million trees, some of which stand as tall as 249 feet/76 metres and are hundred of years old.
We pulled up to this adorable house which was the "Teahouse Restaurant". It was originally built as a garrison and officer's mess during WWII when Ferguson Point was a military installation. After the war, the house was used as a residence for the military and then in the 1950's it was opened as the Ferguson Point Tea Room in the summer. It was closed in 1976 and then in 1978, the present owner renovated it, and opened it as the "Teahouse Restaurant". We had a great lunch and I got salmon, which was fabulous.
As we left the restaurant, we drove towards the bridge that would take us to Jackie's home. Passing through the downtown area, we saw some spectacular sculptures. One was very unique. It was titled "A-maze-ing Laughter" by Yue Minjum. It was composed of fourteen statues, which portrayed the artists own image and all fourteen statues were hysterically laughing.
Due to the traffic, we finally made it to "Lions Gate". The bridge refers to the Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver. A pair of cast concrete lions, designed by sculptor Charles Marega, were placed on either side of the south approach to the bridge in January 1939. It opened in 1938 and it is a suspension bridge. Since this bridge does connect north and west Vancouver to downtown, the traffic volume on the bridge is 60,000 - 70,000 vehicles per day. That is a lot of cars!
The drive to Jackie's home in West Vancouver was spectacular. The view of the bay and the dense forests that surrounded us were pretty amazing.
Jackie's husband, Jim, was at the house when we got there. He was such a gentleman, as he carried our luggage upstairs. I was a little embarrassed with my 45 pound luggage. I quickly took off my converse and allowed my toes to breathe. We enjoyed the evening by laughing, eating, drinking and playing with Sadie, the blue heeler.
Vancouver is so far north that sunrise is at 5 am. My bedroom window faced east, so I was waking up by 5:15 am each morning. At about 7 am, I headed down downstairs to fix myself a cup of coffee. Sadie was ready to get going for the day. Jackie fixed a hearty breakfast and then we were out the door headed to one of the trails that Jackie and Sadie love to hike on.
The fresh air at Cypress Falls was so refreshing. As we walked along, we saw the signs stating "black bears" and what to do if you ran into one. The signs tell you to stop, be still and start walking backyards, etc....... Fortunately, we did not run into a black bear and if we had, I don't know what I would have done. There were many people walking the trails. Especially dog walkers with 4 to 5 dogs each.
Cypress Falls was the perfect hike. Our walk took us through a dense forest full of old Cedar and Douglas Fir trees while we followed the Cypress Creek. We were able to see 300 year old trees and various birds throughout the forest. Sadie loved running from one rock to the next.
After our 2 mile hike, we headed to Granville Island. This island is a thriving market and entertainment destination. There is a marina, hotel, public market, performing arts theatres, great shopping and fine art galleries. Back in 1915, Vancouver was growing and needed more room. So two sandbars underneath the original Granville Street Bridge were reclaimed by dredging the surrounding waters of False Creek to create Industrial Island. Granville Island is known for one of the original tenants, Ocean. This company started selling cement, aggregate and coal back in 1917. As Vancouver grew, the need for an inner city industrial area diminished and many of the industries on the island declined, except for Ocean. In the late 1970's, Granville Island began to transform into the island that it is today.
The evening was spent at Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver. Jim had purchased some tickets to attend this cute community of about 1,000 residents. We were each given a brochure of all the merchants that were promoting the evening. There were several live bands that were performing. One of the stores had an artist painting and promoting her art pieces. There were 32 merchants that participated in this event. You had to go to each store and get your card stamped. As you went into the stores, they would give you a gift. Some of the gifts were a bottle of water, a bag of candy, the dentist gave a toothbrush/toothpaste, ice cream, coffee, etc. This activity went from 5 pm to 8 pm. If you got all of your merchants stamped, you would turn in your sheet with your name and there was a drawing for some great baskets filled with goodies. No one on our team won anything, but it was a great way to see what the various stores were within the community.
The next morning, we enjoyed another hike on another trail. Even with it being overcast and drizzling, the waterfalls were nice and it was a great way to get some exercise before we drove up to Whistler, which was about 1 1/2 hours north on Highway 99.
The drive to Whistler was pleasant. The scenery was beautiful and the conversation was delightful. As we drove, we did spot a baby bear that was right up against the guardrail. He was snooping around looking for something. Needless to say we didn't stop. We kept on driving.
As we approached Whistler, a 24 feet sign "Welcome to Whistler" greeted us. Of course, we had to stop and take pictures with us in front of the sign.
Whistler is one of the largest North America's ski resort. Winter Olympics 2010 was held in Whistler. There is snow skiing, snow boarding, snowshoeing, tobogganing and ski jumping. The hub of Whistler is at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain.
By the time we got to Whistler, it was time for lunch. We walked around the village and then located a place to eat. After lunch, we did some grocery shopping and then drove to Jim and Jackie's condo. The condo was very comfortable and cozy. We got the groceries and luggage in and then headed to the trails to do some exploring.
Saturday morning, it was raining and chilly outside. Before we headed back to Vancouver, we enjoyed breakfast at the cutest diner, Southside Diner and then went to the Audain Art Museum. The displays at this museum ranged from works of Michael Audains personal art collection which traces a visual record of British Columbia from the late 18th century to the present day. It also includes one of the worlds finest collections of old First Nation masks, a collection of Emily Carr paintings and works by other well-known Canadian artists.
Driving back, we took a break and stopped at the Provincial Marine Park, Porteau Cove. There were other cars that had stopped and were having a picnic and enjoying the beautiful views. This Cove is a very popular area for scuba diving, with a series of artificial reefs including two sunken vessels. There are also areas to camp, swim and windsurf.
Our evening ended with a great dinner and a spectacular sunset.
Sunday morning, we were up early, as we needed to be at the ferry at Horseshoe Bay by around 8 a.m., so that we could head over to Vancouver Island. This island is off Canada's Pacific Coast. It is known for its mild climate and thriving arts community. On the southern tip of the island is Victoria, British Columbia's capital, the Inner Harbour, neo-baroque Parliament Buildings, grand Fairmont Empress Hotel and English style gardens.
The ferry ride would take about two hours for us to get to the island. We passed the time by eating breakfast and I did some walking around the ferry. I needed to get in my 10,000+ steps for the day.
As we unloaded the ferry, Jackie wanted to take Linda and I to the town of Chemainus. This is a quaint community of about 3,100 residents. It was founded as a logging town in 1858. In the early 1980s, the large sawmills closed. The town did not want to die so they began to paint murals on the outside walls to remember their history. The town started out with five murals and now it is known for its thirty-nine outdoor murals. The murals, the theatre, antique dealers and restaurants have brought Chemainus back to life.
After enjoying some ice cream and photographing the murals, we drove to Victoria, known as "The Garden City". This cities population is 86,000, while the metro area is 368,000. The city is named after Queen Victoria. The city's Chinatown is the 2nd oldest in North America. San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown.
There is a lot to do in this area, such as: visit the Parliament Buildings Royal BC Museum; Craigdarroch Castle; Empress Hotel, Butchart Gardens and so much more.
Jackie had found a great place for us to stay. It was an AirBnB and it was located right around the corner from Chinatown. After unloading and freshening up, we were starved. The owner of the AirBnB told us about this great seafood restaurant close to the water. We walked to "FishHook" and got there just in time for happy hour. The fish and chips were great!
After our meal, we walked about 8 blocks to the Empress Hotel. This is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria and is considered one of Canada's grand railway hotels. It opened on January 20, 1908. The Empress is well known for serving England's most beloved ritual of afternoon tea.
After touring the Empress and seeing the Parliament Buildings, we headed back to our room. It was such a pleasant evening with the cooler temperatures. As we walked through the downtown area, it was nice to see that the older buildings have been kept up and that merchants are using them.
We began our morning by eating breakfast at the Mole. This is a restaurant enjoyed by the locals. They are known for their vegan and organic dishes. I began the day with a smoked salmon omelette and a delicious latte.
The forty minute trip to "The Butchart Gardens" was a nice drive. As we pulled into the gardens, we were in awe of the beauty. A little history about this spectacular garden. Robert Butchart was the pioneer manufacturer of Portland cement in Canada. In 1904, Robert, his wife(Jennie) and their two daughters settled on Vancouver Island. For the next five years, limestone was quarried from a massive excavation to supply the cement factory. This barren pit became the inspiration for Jennie's "sunken garden". She was so happy with the results that she began to plant rose bushes and other types of flowers.
In 2004, The Butchart Gardens celebrated "100 Years In Bloom".
There are 55 acres of gardens on the 130 acre estate. As you walk through the gardens, you will visit the "sunken garden"; "rose garden"; "Japanese Garden"; "Italian Garden"; the various fountains and Butchart Cove. This beautiful garden is still family owned.
For about two hours, Linda, Jackie and I enjoyed walking through all the different gardens and taking beautiful photos of all the unique flowers.
After our tour through the estate, we drove back to the dock to catch the ferry. Before arriving at the dock, we stopped in Duncan to have lunch and to see the "Totems". The tourism slogan is "The City of Totems". The city has 80 totem poles around the entire town. These totem poles were erected beginning in 1980.
Some more history about Duncan. The city is named after William Chalmers Duncan. Duncan has a large First Nations community and is the traditional home of the Cowichan Tribes, who are the largest band among the Coast Salish people. They are the makers of the world famous Cowichan sweaters.
The ferry ride back to West Vancouver was nice. The sun was out and the pacific was calm.
We enjoyed being back at Jackie/Jim's home. Sadie was definitely happy to see that her friends were back.
Tuesday morning began with another walk along a different trail that was closer to the bay area. We discovered some new flowers and beautiful views of the bay. After our walk, we drove to the Museum of Anthropology. This museum was established in 1948 and it promotes awareness and understanding of the different cultures.
After leaving the museum, Jackie drove us to the Seymour Golf & Country Club, where we enjoyed our lunch sitting out on the patio and watching the golfers.
Back at the house, we waited for Jim to arrive home. We were going into downtown Vancouver to take part in "The Lost Souls of Gastown". Jackie and Jim's house sitter is an actress and one of her gigs is playing the part of a fictional character as they tell you the story of Gastown. It is a walking tour through the cobblestone streets that you step into the time period of the late 1800s and you discover the documentary history of Vancouver. During this wild frontier time there was a devastating fire, smallpox outbreaks, the Yukon gold rush and unsolved murders.
As you walked through the Gastown area, you feel as though you were walking back in time. Some of the places that we visited were the Hotel Victorian(Vancouver's oldest hotel); Holy Rosary Cathedral; Hudson's Bay(company warehouse); the iconic Gastown Steamclock; sites of the city's first jailhouse and many more sites.
If you have never have done one of these tours, you need to. It was an enjoyable evening of walking and obtaining history of Vancouver.
Our last full day in Vancouver, we attended Jackie's Qi Gong class. Qi gong is holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality and martial arts training. Linda and I enjoyed the class and especially enjoyed meeting the instructor and the others who attended this class.
The afternoon was spent on top of Grouse Mountain-The Peak of Vancouver. We rode the aerial teamway(Red Skyline) to the top of the mountain. This mountain overlooks Vancouver and is 4,100 feet at is peak. It gets its name from the sooty grouse(a game bird of the area), and it was named in October 1894 by the first hikers to reach its peak.
Due to the smoke in the area and the clouds/fog, visibility was low. Even with low visibility, we enjoyed the Lumberjack Show and seeing the two orphaned grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. This has been their home since 2001.
For our last evening in Vancouver, Jackie, Jim, Linda and I enjoyed a delicious meal at the
"Salmon House on the Hill". Even with the smoke in the air, we were able to capture the stunning view of Vancouver and Burrard Inlet.
Thursday morning, I was up early to finish packing and to enjoy a latte from the Breville Barista Pro Espresso Machine. It was such a treat to have a latte each morning.
It was quiet in the car as Jackie drove Linda and I to the Vancouver Airport. It was hard to believe that our week was over and we were headed back home. We packed a lot into those eight days.
This trip reminded us how important friendships are. We are already looking at "France 2020"!