Vancouver: West Coast Beauty

Historic buildings in Vancouver’s Gastown where visitors find appealing shops and eateries.

• On our second morning, we walked from the Shangri-La to Gastown, Vancouver’s birthplace, located very near the city’s cruise terminal.

Its first business was an 1867 saloon, operated by “Gassy Jack” Deighton, a talkative fellow who gave the area its name.

Today, Gastown is an edgy neighborhood that has attracted restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and others who see a future here.

Our breakfast of bacon-and-cheese scone and coffee/hot chocolate was in a Soho-style eatery, meaning the space looked like a warehouse, was painted black, and pipes remained visible.

During this early morning visit, there were more panhandlers than tourists; in the late afternoon, the place was

Steam rolls out of Gastown’s renowned Steam Clock.

jumping with diners, shoppers and sightseeing vehicles full of passengers.

Every visitor stops for the steam clock, which sounds the time each quarter hour, by emitting steam from steam whistlers.

• We tried a hop-on, hop-off bus service, but found it cumbersome to plan around its schedule and pickup points. In addition, on one occasion, due to demand, the company had to add a bus quickly, and we got a guide-driver whose English was impenetrable.

The world’s narrowest building (six feet), in Vancouver’s Chinatown. where Jack Chow Insurance is on offer.

But he got us to Chinatown, where we were dropped right in front of the world’s narrowest building (six feet). A sign on the building says, “Responding to a wager, Chang Toy, owner of the Sam Kee Company, used bay windows and public baths under the sidewalk to maximize development on a site dramatically diminished by city road expropriation.” That was in 1913.

For relief from a surprisingly hot September day in Vancouver, we headed to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden, a relaxing place with traditional Chinese architectural features and gardening styles.

In Chinatown, we noticed tall rickety H-shaped wooden frames that supported a wild array of power lines. Up to 18 feet wide, the frames march down alleys that cut city blocks in half.

Later we realized that many city blocks are crossed by rows of wooden H frames.

It turns out these weathered wooden structures will disappear from 89 downtown blocks by end of 2015; the local power company is burying wires for a more reliable and easier-to-maintain system, plus a more attractive city.

The exception will be Chinatown and Gastown, where the frames will be retained to preserve a special ambience for filmmakers, but the wires will be fake.

Pleasure boats abound in Vancouver’s water. These boats, with Stanley Park visible in the background, are seen from Harbour Cruises’ dock.

The article and photos are by Nadine Godwin, the author of “Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia,” which was published by The Intrepid Traveler.

Planning a trip to Vancouver? Read about Stanley Park and Vij’s Indian Restaurant.

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