Vancouver Day 1 & 2 – Vancouver, Canada

Our flight from Napier to Auckland was supposed to depart at 5.35pm but due to various weather issues most flights ran late that day.  We ended up departing about 6pm, arriving into Auckland at 7pm.  Our flight to Vancouver was departing at 8.05pm and all the Air NZ staff were telling us we had plenty of time – our bags were already checked through and all we had to do was to get ourselves through customs. Steve enjoying his first corona in 6 weeks : 0

When we got across to the International Terminal and upstairs to Customs and Security there was a queue out the door – it has been a long time since we have seen that. They have reduced the E-Passport readers to 2? By now it was 7.20pm and the queue was snaking it’s way round and round at quite a old pace. At 7.40pm my phone beeped to say our plane was boarding – we still had a way to go. The security staff said that the airline staff will come and find you if they need to – apparently the security staff don’t have the authority to expedite you up the queue. We eventually got through Security and ran to our gate and they were still boarding!  

We were lucky enough to get our One Up upgrade so were in Business Class – sooo good!  The staff were amazing, the food exceptional and the lie flat beds spectacular.  Normally you can’t wait for a long haul flight to be over – I was very happy for this flight to go on as long as it liked : )
  We arrived into Vancouver at 2pm on Saturday afternoon – I love gaining time. It took a while to get our bags and then we had to queue for a taxi. The taxi queue is very well managed and moved quickly. Our taxi driver was so friendly and was happy to have his brain picked on various things. They have set fares for different sectors in the city which is great as it gives you certainty regarding what you will pay. We had booked an AirBNB which the taxi driver found easily.  

Our accomodation is a self contained unit on the bottom level of a house – it has everything we need and will be a great base for the next 5 nights.

We took a walk down to the local neighbourhood for dinner – there were lots of little restaurants that looked good and were busy which is always a good sign.  We decided on Meet on Main – the food and service were great.  They had some very healthy and delicious salad options which I couldn’t resist.  After dinner we wandered home – it stays light until about 9.30pm so it’s a bit deceiving as to what time it really is.  We were feeling a bit tired but thought we should stay up a little later so we didn’t wake up at some ridiculous hour.  Fail – we were awake on and off through the night and then wide awake at 5.30am.  Just as well the Wimbledon Men’s Final was on.  Unfortunately we then went back to sleep so had a late start to the day!

We decided to take the bus downtown which is about 20 minutes away. The fare is CAD2.75 each and you have to have exact change which I managed. When we hopped on the bus and went to handover our CAD5 note and two quarters we discovered they don’t take notes. We didn’t have enough coins so the bus driver let us off entirely – result : )

We got off the bus in an area that looked to have lots going on.  This area was called Gastown.  Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and is named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. The town soon prospered as the site of Hastings Mill sawmill, seaport, and quickly became a general centre of trade and commerce on Burrard Inlet as well as a rough-and-rowdy resort for off-work loggers and fishermen as well as the crews and captains of the many sailing ships which came to Gastown or Moodyville, on the north side of the inlet (which was a dry town) to load logs and timber. The Canadian Pacific Railway terminated on piles on the shore parallel to Water Street in 1886. 

Today Gastown is a mix of “hip” contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist-oriented businesses, restaurants, nightclubs, poverty and newly upscale housing. In addition, there are law firms, architects and other professional offices, as well as computer and internet businesses, art galleries, music and art studios, and acting and film schools.

In the heart of Gastown on Water Street is Gastown’s most famous (though nowhere near oldest) landmark – the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver’s distributed steam heating system, as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.  We happened to be passing at 1pm when the clock started chiming and letting off steam.

We decided that a good way to get a feel for the city was to take a Hop On Hop Off tour. We were quite keen on checking out Granville Island which was about the fourth stop on the tour. We got off and had a wander around. There was a free tour departing at 3pm which I was keen on – Steve went and did his own tour.

  I met up with Erik our tour guide and the rest of the group – two Russians living in LA, a couple from Ohio and another couple from Kent in the UK. Erik was actually a historian and film maker who does freelance work – he had just completed a series of educational documentaries now being used in the schools. He was originally from Toronto but moved to Vancouver to pursue his film making career and never left. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about the city.

Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver.  It is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. The peninsula was once an industrial manufacturing area, but today it is now a hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment. The area has received much acclaim in recent years for its buildings and shopping experience. The area was named after Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville.

The island is home to 275 businesses and facilities that employ more than 2,500 people and generates more than $215-million in economic activity each year.  The island is managed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) which is a Government organisation.  The tenants don’t pay rent as such but a percentage of their profits – this calculation is overseen by the CMHC and independently audited.  All the tenants are local and no corporate chains are allowed on the island.

In 1915, with the port of Vancouver growing, the newly formed Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a reclamation project in False Creek for an industrial area. A 14-hectare (35-acre) island, connected to the mainland by a combined road and rail bridge at its south end, was to be built. Almost 760,000 cubic metres of fill was dredged largely by a man named Alvin Kingston, from the surrounding waters of False Creek to create the island under the Granville Street Bridge. The total cost for the reclamation was $342,000. It was originally called Industrial Island, but Granville Island, named after the bridge that ran directly overhead, was the name that stuck.

The very first tenant, B.C. Equipment Ltd., set the standard by building a wood-framed machine shop, clad on all sides in corrugated tin, at the Island’s western end. (Today the same structure houses part of the Granville Island Public Market.) The company repaired and assembled heavy equipment for mining and forestry industries and used barges for shipping.
By 1923 virtually every lot on the Island was occupied, mostly by similar corrugated-tin factories.

During the Great Depression, one of Vancouver’s several hobo jungles sprang up on the False Creek flats opposite Granville Island’s north shore.  “Shackers” lived on the island, in town, or in floathouses, and survived by fishing and beachcombing and sold salmon, smelt, and wood door to door or at the public market on Main Street.  They were basically self-sufficient and were left alone.

During the Second World War, Wright’s Canadian Ropes on the island was Canada’s biggest manufacturer of heaven-duty wire rope. Their Green Heart product was supplied to forestry and mining industries. A fire in 1953 gutted their Granville Island factory so they moved to south Vancouver in 1956.

In 1972, a federal order-in-council assigned management of the 14-hectare site to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).  The federal government invested $24.7 million there between 1973 and 1982.  In 1979, the federal and provincial governments converted a 50,000 square foot building to the Public Market. In 1980, the Emily Carr University of Art & Design was added to the island.

Emily Carr (December 13, 1871 – March 2, 1945) was a Canadian artist and writer heavily inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. One of the first painters in Canada to adopt a Modernist and Post-Impressionist painting style, Carr did not receive widespread recognition for her work until late in her life. As she matured, the subject matter of her painting shifted from aboriginal themes to landscapes—forest scenes in particular. As a writer, Carr was one of the earliest chroniclers of life in British Columbia. The Canadian Encyclopedia describes her as a “Canadian icon”.

Ron Basford, the Minister responsible for CMHC, was referred to as Mr. Granville and was later recognized with the naming of Ron Basford Park on Granville Island.  Ron Basford Park was formed where they dumped all the old equipment and rubbish when they cleaned up the island – they weren’t sure what to do with it so they covered it in dirt and planted grass.  The hill has created a good vantage point looking back to the city.

Granville Island provides amenities such as a large public market, an extensive marina, a boutique hotel, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (named in honour of the artist), Arts Umbrella, False Creek Community Centre, various performing arts theatres including Vancouver’s only professional improvisational theatre company Vancouver Theatresports League, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Carousel Theatre, fine arts galleries, and variety of shopping areas.

The Granville Island Public Market features a farmers’ market, day vendors, and artists offering local Vancouver goods. There are 50 permanent retailers and over one-hundred day vendors in stalls throughout the market selling a variety of artisan cottage-industry foods and handmade crafts on a rotating schedule.
Granville Island Brewing Co. is also the name of a beer company which originated on Granville Island in 1984, but whose main base of operations was moved to Kelowna, British Columbia some time later. In 2009 it was purchased by Molson’s Brewery and continues to brew small batches of its varieties at the Granville Island brewing original site, and offers beer tasting and tours of their brewing facilities. They were chosen as the official brewer for Expo 1986 – they outmanoeuvred the two largest Brewers in Canada – Molson and Labatt. All three Brewers, however, are now owned by foreign companies. 

Ocean Concrete is the longest-established tenant on the island, having set up shop there in 1917. There were complaints about their concrete silo’s being an eyesore so they had them painted to fit in with the arty theme of the island. They went a step further and have also painted there concrete trucks.

There is also a Sea Village which is effectively a group of houses floating on pontoons.  These houses are among some of the cheaper homes in Vancouver valued at between CAD400,000 and CAD1 million.  They were on the downtown side of False Creek but got evicted so relocated to the Granville Island side.  They don’t pay property taxes (rates) as they don’t have any land but they pay about CAD1,000 per month for utilities and sewerage services.  Vancouver’s property prices have been increasing like Auckland’s.  The average house price in February 2016 was CAD1.83 million – up 40% on a year ago.  The average salary is CAS55,000.  Erik says he lives in a mansion on an acre section with 5 of his friends – it costs them about CAD1,000 each per month.  He says a lot of foreign investors have bought property and rent it out.  He said this is a cheaper alternative to renting a condo.

After the tour we hopped back on the Trolley Bus to head back to Gastown where we had a bite to eat before catching the bus back to our AirBNB. We had enjoyed our introduction to Vancouver and were looking forward to more exploring over the next few days.


This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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1 Response to Vancouver Day 1 & 2 – Vancouver, Canada

  1. Catherine Lamb says:

    Interesting start….

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