DAY 74: Vancouver, Canada
Miles traveled: 9,145
States visited: 22 (Countries visited: 3)
Weather: 20°C, overcast
Since I stayed longer in Seattle than I’d originally planned and then spent a day whale watching, I had to cut my Vancouver stay from 3 days to 2.
Crossing the border was fairly quick, although here’s something odd – Canada requires that you have a job in order to visit their country, so that if you break down and have no money, you won’t have to work illegally to get back home. Since I don’t have a job, this created additional scrutiny upon my entrance. I had to convince the guy that I had enough money in the bank that I wouldn’t go bankrupt while visiting Vancouver.
Gas is barely a dollar in Canada!
But it’s in Canadian dollars, and it’s per liter, not per gallon. After you do the conversion, it’s actually more expensive than in the States.
Vancouver has some fun neighborhoods, but one of my enduring memories of the city will be how miserable it was trying to find parking. It’s worse than in San Francisco! At least there, every space is up for grabs, even if they’re just 1 or 2-hour spots. Here, huge sections of street are labeled “Permit parking only.” Sometimes you have to drive for blocks just to find a place where you can park for 2 hours. And then you have to repeat the process again.
I’m sure they do this to encourage people to use public transportation, and if I lived here and used the bus and light rail, I wouldn’t mind. But as a visitor with a large van, I found commuting and parking to be one massive headache.
I read a lot of reviews online that said if you visit Vancouver, you have to visit Granville Island, but I wasn’t buying it. The description made it sound like Pike Market in Seattle or the Strip District in Pittsburgh… just an outdoor market, some expensive restaurants, and a bit of nature. Sorry, there’s nothing too amazing about that. Plus, it’s not even an island! It’s connected to land on one side. Meh.
Downtown Vancouver is attractive, though, strangely, all of the buildings look exactly the same.
Because of the parking headaches and because I was alone since I didn’t have a couchsurfing host, I actually started to get bored on my first day in town. Day two was a different story. I started off by heading to Stanley Park, a huge park on the water. Parking here was $2/hour, so I grudgingly paid for one hour and went on my way. In my limited time I was a model of efficiency, driving on the road that follows the perimeter of the park, stopping at all the important spots to take pictures, and then moving on. I saw the whole park and even snuck in a short hike during my hour.
They have a big display of totem poles, to honor the Indians (Native Canadians?) who once inhabited the area.
The park offers a great view of the town and mountains on the other side of the bay.
After Stanley Park I grabbed lunch at Hamburger Mary’s in Davie Village, then checked out the Commercial Drive area, which is the gritty indie neighborhood of Vancouver. There were a lot of restaurants and coffee shops here, but no thrift stores. In fact, there wasn’t a Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads to be found in the entire city. There was, however, a Ravoli Shop.
Just like in Seattle, I discovered a band giving a free in-store performance at a local record shop. This time it was party king Andrew W.K. and the Evaporators at Neptoon Records. They rocked the overpacked store with a bunch of 2-minute punk songs. What else could you do at 4 pm that would be more fun than this?
I’m glad I visited Vancouver but I don’t think I’d wanna live here. If they ever restore the draft and I have to leave the U.S., I’m still heading to Toronto. (Unless a worldwide nuclear war breaks out, in which case I’m going to hide in the Yukon.)