Last year we spent our summer holiday in Canada. The children are getting older and heading off to university and we (Rich and I) decided it was to be our last holiday as a family.
My Aunt and Cousins emigrated to Canada over 40years ago so we combined our holiday with catching up with relatives along the way.
We flew into Vancouver and spent a weekend there before beginning our road trip through BC and Alberta, flying home again from Calgary.
The Spanish settled in Vancouver in the 1500’s, but it wasn’t until 1792 that Captain George Vancouver of the British Royal Navy arrived there that Vancouver was named and became a British colony.
We stayed on Coal Harbour in Downtown Vancouver, lapped by ocean on 2 sides with Stanley Park at its tip.
We walked along the harbour wall to Canada Place, Vancouver’s version of Sidney Opera House. This iconic cruise ship terminal is shaped like a series of sails; it’s a cruise ship terminal and also a pier where there are fantastic vistas of the North Shore Mountains.
Canada Place also sets the stage for Fly over Canada.
Fly over Canada is a breath-taking movie simulation ride that has you swooping over the country, over pine scented mountains, across Niagara Falls where you can feel the mist in your face, following cowboys rounding up horses on the Alberta prairies where you can smell the cut wheat in the fields. The ride lasted around 25 minutes; it certainly gave us a preview of what was in store for the rest of our trip.
From Canada Place we walked north to Stanley Park, a 1000 acre public park almost entirely surrounded by water. Unlike most urban parks, it is not the creation of architects, but has evolved from urban and forested space over the last 200 years. Much of the park remains as densely forested woodland with approximately half a million trees.
A seawall and 5.5 miles of walkway surround the park; this is popular with walkers, runners, cyclists and inline skaters!
The park is home to one of the largest Great Blue Heron colonies in North America, they are categorised as a species at risk in BC and we were lucky enough to see one.
Following the seawall round the park we came to the Totem Poles, one of BC’s most visited tourist attraction. These towering monuments are one of the most recognised cultural symbols of western Canada. Totem Poles were the British Columbian First Nations’ “coat of arms” they are unique to the North West coast of BC. They are carved from Red Cedar and each carving tells of real or mythical events. The eagle represents the kingdom of the air, the whale, the lordship of the sea, the wolf, the genius of the land and the frog, the transition between land and sea.
Further round the seawall sitting out towards the ocean, is Girl in a Wetsuit,
And opposite, the figurehead of the RMS Empress of Japan. The ship was built in England in 1891 for the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company; it carries silk, tea and passengers between the west coast of Canada and the Far East. She saw active duty in WW1 and was decommissioned in 1922, arriving in Vancouver for the last time.
The ship was scrapped by the figurehead rescued and after restoration was displayed in Stanley Park. Today the masthead is a fibreglass replica from 1960 since the original was beginning to deteriorate, however it has been restored again in is now on display in the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Walking further round the seawall we found a path to the Aquarium which is where the girls wanted to be. We had our first encounter with wildlife round some bins. Emily and Jess were highly excited.
Vancouver Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Canada and houses a collection of marine life that includes dolphins, belugas, sea lions, harbour seals and sea otters. All the marine life there has been rescued and cared for rather than captured for display.
We arrived at the aquarium just in time for an introduction to the rays’ and children were encouraged to stroke them in the water. There was quite a queue of small children……….and my 17 and 19 year olds!
Jess decided she wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up.
That night we went to the Harbour Centre and took the external glass elevator up to the revolving Top of Vancouver restaurant. The food and service were excellent, but the views of Vancouver were even better. It was light when we arrived at our table, but soon it was dark and the night-time views were spectacular.
We left downtown Vancouver and headed south to Steveston village where we had booked onto Seabreeze whale watch. The 3-5 hour trip takes you into the water of the Gulf of Georgia to see orcas, humpback whales and porpoises. We were out on the water for about 5 hours in total. We saw bald eagles, harbour seals and sea-lions, but no whales. All the whale watch boats out that day were in contact with each other, but there were no whales to be seen.
We did however get a voucher for a free return trip. I’m sure we will be back again one day. Watch this space.
Looking for Whales.