Friday, October 1, 2021

[VANCOUVER] A Perfect Mix of the Urban and the Natural

“Your flight is canceled because of the typhoon in Japan.” Great, first I get denied a visa, now the flight is canceled, and it’s not even because of the pandemic. Before launching a full panic attack, the ground staff gave me a look as if warning me not to go Karen on him because he was simply bumping me off to another flight later that afternoon. And so the Manila – Narita – Vancouver became Manila – Haneda – Vancouver, with both flights now via ANA instead of the Canadian leg being split with Air Canada.

The plan for Vancouver is just walk around downtown, like I always do, but I did reserve a ticket for Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Vancouver is not devoid of green areas, in fact there are a lot to choose from and they aren’t even far away from the urban jungle that is downtown. Good thing I was able to reschedule the Capilano ticket for Sunday instead. After all, I already paid for that! Capilano is one of the many green parks but this one has a suspension bridge and is probably the most commercialized of the lot.

And so we go non-linear in this blog entry. Fancy. After catching up on sleep brought about by the lack thereof no thanks to jetlag, Sunday, my last day in Vancouver, started late at 1 PM. Hopping on the Canada Line, the terminus to the north called Waterfront is where you want to be if you are visiting Canada Place (an expo center by the bay) as well as a walking tour of Gastown. I was already in this part of the city arriving late on a Friday. The Canada Line snakes all the way down to Richmond where my Airbnb is.

It’s our rip-off of the Sydney Opera House, sort of, said Vancouver Friend after we watched Venom at Scotiabank Theater downtown. Rumor has it that it’s an expo center but also has shops and restaurants for tourists. Its location by the bay gives it splendid views of North Vancouver where Capilano is as well as the mountains behind them. Two bridges are visible to the far left and the far right linking Downtown to North Vancouver. The white façade of the building is complemented by the very maple leaves you see on the Canadian flag, now blazing red in all their autumn glory.

Oh yes, the maple trees. I thought Canadians were just obsessed with the syrup for some reason. Now I know how ubiquitous this tree is here. No wonder it's leaf ended up on their flag as a national symbol. It’s everywhere! Anyway, I went to Gastown first before Canada Place to see the Steam Clock, which proved to be popular to tourists. After Canada Place, I took a stroll heading south en route to Scotiabank, getting a good feel of how downtown Vancouver is as well as seeing some prominent buildings on the way such as the UBC Campus, the Gothic Fairmont Vancouver, and some anti-vaxxers holding a rally. Hey, it’s a free country. I wonder if the participants got the virus as a souvenir after that super spreader event.

Friday night ended at a dark Stanley Park. That park is huge, way bigger then NYC’s Central Park. It’s dark and cold at night but it is when the shimmering lights of downtown are at their brightest from across the bay. Driving is recommended so you can visit several viewing decks. The white Golden Gate Bridge-inspired Lions Gate Bridge is prettier under sunlight, but well-illuminated with lights that resemble twinkling stars in the dark. I’d say go for a visit both day and night to see the bridge differently.

And then we reach the part where this blog entry is now >600 words long and there is still a lot left to discuss, such as Capilano itself. Let’s just make a separate entry for Capilano, shall we? Let this entry focus on downtown. Sunday night post-Capilano ended on Granville Island, a peninsula and shopping district south of Vancouver along False Creek, which flows all the way out to the English Bay. The place was not as crowded on a late Sunday afternoon and the shops closed early at 6 PM. Shopping aside, the place is also a hotspot for boat and yacht sightings for enthusiasts and curious passersby alike.

I don’t know why but Granville Island gave me a lot of San Fo vibes, perhaps because of similarities in location by the water, the presence of diverse fauna from big herons to playful seals, as well as that all too familiar ocean stink. It’s a nice place to just sit on the grass and chat or just watch the interplay between nature and modernity.

And this is what I love about Vancouver, ladies and gentlemen. It can be New York-ish with its skyscrapers. In fact, a lot of Hollywood films and TV series pretend this is NY and just film here because of tax breaks. But it also has a lot to offer for nature lovers. There’s no beating a good combo of two jungles, the natural and the urban. Vancouver wins in both regards!

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