Vancouver: West Coast Beauty

Part of the Vancouver skyline and anchorage for pleasure boats, as seen from Stanley Park’s seawall.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — I had never seen Vancouver, billed as one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, so any excuse to visit seemed like a good one.

I tacked two days of sightseeing in the West Coast city to the front end of a rail trip in western Canada and invited a friend to join me.

The exterior of the Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver.

We arrived in perfect weather, and our luck held. This was September.

Vancouver isn’t a terribly large city (population: 600,000; greater Vancouver: 2 million-plus), but it is big enough that a city-center hotel is very helpful. We selected the Shangri-La Hotel, which allowed us to walk to many of our preferred attractions and activities.

• Sometimes walks were longer than projected (we were new to town, after all!),

The market area on Vancouver’s Granville Island — which is really a peninsula.

such as the 45-minute jaunt to Granville Island Market.

The so-called island, accessible via Granville Street Bridge, sits in False Creek between two parts of greater Vancouver. However, it is really a tiny peninsula, and False Creek is an inlet — which may explain the name.

Granville Island is charming with theater, galleries and shops, often in repurposed factories, and home to lots of pleasure boats, some available for rent.

This place felt like a cross between a seafaring community and a resort town, plus, with the big market halls, it is a food-shopping destination for locals.

One shopper told us the colorful pipes seen meandering across the landscape have no function; they are decorative, meant to recall the area’s industrial past.

There was even a place to exchange currency, but then this place is very, very close to the U.S, border.

The colorful Aquabus, providing transportation across False Creek. Granville Island is in the background.

Eventually, we returned whence we had come, crossing False Creek on a colorful

Shops on Granville Island are often in refurbished former factories, and walkways are enlivened with colorful pipes such as the blue pipe seen here. The pipes celebrate the island’s history as an industrial area.

example of public transportation, the floating Aquabus.

• We booked an hourlong harbor cruise aboard a paddle wheeler called the Constitution, an effective way to get better acquainted with the city’s geography and appreciate its scenic setting.

Besides looking at an astonishing display of private boats, plus clubhouses, scullers, skyscrapers, cargo gear and even a floating Chevron gas station, we saw seals sunning themselves.

Our narrator pointed out the convention center and said it has the largest living roof in North America.

The paddle wheeler, Constitution, one of several vessels operated by Harbour Cruises for sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises.

The cruise was great fun. A tugboat captain showed off by turning his boat in circles for us, then our captain responded by making a circle with our boat. This was not typical, our narrator said.

• We walked straight from the cruise into Vancouver’s thousand-acre Stanley Park. Park visitors can sightsee from a horse-drawn carriage.

Some take the time to walk, jog or cycle the 5.5-mile length of the park’s seawall, for a green inner city experience and quality time gazing toward the ocean.

My goals were less grand. We walked the seawall long enough to spot the park’s display of totem poles, some brightly colored,

The display of totem poles seen in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

others not so much, but each with a story.

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