Vancouver Day 3 – Vancouver, Canada

Erik my tour guide from Granville Island mentioned he was doing a walking tour in the city on Monday so I signed us both up.  The Tour Guys run various tours in the city and they are free- you just pay a tip to the guide at the end.  Check out We had 22 in our group today but Erik stopped in strategic points along the way and pointed out various things, told stories and discussed the history of what we were looking at.  It is such a cool way to see a city – it is amazing the things you don’t notice as you are wandering around on your own.

Our first stop was The Fairmont Vancouver Hotel.  Some of Canada’s most unique features are the majestic railway hotels that were built across the country by the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National Railways. For their time, these hotels were miracles of construction and engineering. Everything that went into them was the biggest and best of their time and they have become very much a part of Canada’s national heritage and identity. The Hotel Vancouver was constructed in the style of a 16th century French Chateau, heavily favoured by Canadian railway companies at the time. The hotel stands 111 metres high and was the tallest building in the city when finished in 1939.  It cost CAD12 million to build and took 11 years to build because construction was halted for five years during the Great Depression.

Though its name and heritage date back to 1888, the present Hotel Vancouver first opened its doors in 1939, on the eve of the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  The King and Queen took high tea in the Royal Suite but didn’t actually end up staying in the hotel.   

 We then stopped at a building that was home to the suffragette movement in years gone by. Much like today’s women’s movements, the suffrage cause drew great strength from a world-wide constituency. Helena Rose Gutteridge was just such a dedicated transplant from London to the far flung shores of the British Empire in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born to a working-class London family that disapproved of girls’ education, Helena proved an early rebel. As a young teenager and aspiring ‘New Woman’ of her age, she left home, supporting herself in studies of hygiene and sanitation that gained her a teaching certificate. She won the right to vote for white women in Canada in 1917 and was the first female elected as a city councillor in Vancouver. Erik said that Canada was the second country to achieve the vote for women after Australia. I had to correct him and tell him that NZ was actually the first country in the world to achieve this feat in 1893. Further research shows that South Australia which was a self governing colony at the time acheived this in 1894, one year later so he can proabably be forgiven for being confused. : )

We then continued down Burrard Street to the Christ Church Cathedral.  The Cathedral was started in 1889 and completed in 1895.  The church was built in the Gothic Style with ceiling made of cedar planking and ceiling beams and floor constructed out of old growth Douglas fir.  It has been expanded many times over the last century with the organ also being replaced a few times.  In 1971 the church membership voted to demolish the building and replace it with a hi-rise tower complex designed by Arthur Erickson. This redevelopment was opposed by the public and in 1976 after much lobbying; the cathedral was named a Class A Heritage building in the municipality of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia.

In 1995 an eleven-year program of restoration and renewal was begun. Christ Church Cathedral is the Regimental Church of the Seaforth Highlanders and is in the process of being designated Regimental Church of the BC Regiment, Duke of Connaught’s Own. It is also the church at which the British royal family worships when in Vancouver.

When we visited the inside of the cathedral was completely finished.  The outside is still covered in scaffolding with that work ongoing.   It is beautiful on the inside being restored to it’s original state.  The stained glass windows at the entrance to the church were designed by local artist Susan Point – he brief was to design something that represented BCs natural beauty.  The woman who donated the money for these windows did so on the proviso that her dog featured in them.  If you look carefully in the bottom left hand window you will see a dog’s face.Vancouver has a very strong and robust urban planning strategy.  Property developers wanting to build buildings have to do certain things like create parks and green spaces or contribute to the public artworks.  The minimum building height is 25 stories and the maximum is 40 although there are a few exceptions to this.  Vancouver has 27 protected view corridors which limit the construction of tall buildings which interfere with the line of sight to the North Shore Mountains, the downtown skyline, and the waters of English Bay and the Strait of Georgia.

  The dog’s face is in the right hand corner of the left hand panel – these windows were designed by Susan Point

An interesting billboard on the scaffolding outside the Cathedral

When the Park Place building that sits next to the Cathedral was being built it was restricted to 20 stories but wanted an extra 15 stories. The cathedral sits at about 10 stories high so the city did a deal with the developers – they could have another 15 stories if they effectively paid the cathedral for their space. This money has allowed the cathedral to be renovated and equated to approximately CAD12 million.

Vancouver has more high-rise buildings per capita than most North American metropolitan centres with populations exceeding 1,000,000.  Vancouver’s population density is the 4th-highest in North America and the city has more residential high-rises per capita than any other city on the continent.  There are roughly 650 high-rise buildings that equal or exceed 35 m (115 ft)., and roughly 50 buildings that equal or exceed 100 metres (328 ft). 

The tallest building in Vancouver is the 62-storey, 201 m (659 ft) Living Shangri-La and represents the city’s efforts to add visual interest into Vancouver’s skyline.   The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia completed in 2012 at 157 m (515 ft) and 48 stories is currently the second-tallest in the city.  One Wall Centre, at 150 m (492 ft) tall, with 48 storeys, is currently the city’s third tallest building.  One Wall Centre has the distinction of being the first building in the world to use a tuned liquid column damper to control wind vibrations.  One tower currently under construction, Trump Vancouver at 188 metres will become the city’s 2nd tallest building when completed in 2016.  It’s amazing Mr Trump didn’t go all out to become the tallest building!

The majority of the buildings have glass exteriors – apparently it rains a lot in Vancouver which means grey skies so the glass helps to create reflections to promote lightness.

Next stop was the Marine Buildng which I was particularly interested in seeing given it’s Art Deco theme – this building was built in 1929 so is of a similar era to the Art Deco buildings in Napier, NZ which were built after the 1931 earthquake.  The Art Deco detail on this building was definitely more elaborate and intricate than that seen on the buildings built in Napier.  I imagine it had something to do with the budget : ). 

The brainchild of Lt. Commander J.W. Hobbs of Toronto, it was opened on 7 October 1930, and at 97.8 metres (321 ft) (22 floors) it was the tallest skyscraper in the city until 1939.  According to the architects, McCarter & Nairne, the building was intended to evoke “some great crag rising from the sea, clinging with sea flora and fauna, tinted in sea-green, touched with gold.” The building cost $2.3 million to build – $1.1 million over budget—but due to the Great Depression it was sold to the Guinness family of Ireland for only $900,000. The 2004 property assessment is $22 million.

There was an observation deck, but during the depression in the 1930s the 25-cent admission price proved unaffordable for most. Currently, there are no public galleries in the building.Inside the massive brass-doored elevators the walls are inlaid with 12 varieties of local hardwoods. All over the walls and polished brass doors are depictions of sea snails, skate, crabs, turtles, carp, scallops, seaweed and sea horses, as well as the transportation means of the era. The floor presents the zodiac signs. The exterior is studded with flora and fauna, tinted in sea-green and touched with gold.

The building has often been used in filmmaking and television production. It was the setting for the final scene in the movie, Timecop and it was used as the headquarters of the Daily Planet in the popular television show Smallville which is based on Superman. The building was used in the movie Blade: Trinity. It stood in for the Baxter Building in New York City in 2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.


 We carried on downtown to Canada Wharf which is the rise ship terminal and also home to the Vancouver Convention Centre. A major expansion to the Vancouver Convention Centre opened in 2009, tripling the capacity of the original Canada Place venue in time for the hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2010. The region enthusiastically hosted the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February and March. More than 2.5 billion people around the world tuned in to watch 2,600 athletes from 82 nations compete. The highlight for Canadians? Winning the men’s hockey gold medal. They beat the USA, their fiercest rivals!

The new west building expansion is certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and is designated a PowerSmart Convention Centre by BC Hydro. It was awarded a “GO GREEN” certificate from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) for industry-approved, environmental best practices in building management. The living roof, seawater heating and cooling, on-site water treatment and fish habitat built into the foundation of the West Building make it one of the greenest convention centres in the world. The Centre recycles an average of 180,000 kilograms of materials annually, nearly half of the total volume of waste generated. It avoids canned goods, disposable utensils and dishes, and donates leftover food to local charities.

The 6-acre (24,000 m2) “living roof” is the largest in Canada and the largest non-industrial living roof in North America. The roof landscape is designed as a self-sustaining grassy habitat characteristic of coastal British Columbia, including 400,000 native plants and 4 colonies of 60,000 bees each which provide honey for the public plaza restaurant. No public access is allowed to the roof, which made it possible to create a fully functional ecosystem with natural drainage and seed migration patterns using the roof’s architectural topography. The landscape functionally connects to nearby Stanley Park via a corridor of waterfront parks. Irrigation to the roof is provided by the building’s wastewater treatment plant. In the event that the roof irrigation demands exceed the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant, make-up water can be provided by a reverse osmosis desalinization plant drawing and treating seawater pumped from the harbour as well as municipal water through an air gap connection to the storage tanks, as needed.  All wastewater generated in the building is treated and recycled for use in toilet and urinal flushing, as well as green roof irrigation. 

We saw various artwork in the Convention Centre including the Totem Pole.  Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved on poles, posts, or pillars with symbols or figures made from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America (northwestern United States and Canada’s western province, British Columbia).  The carvings may symbolize or commemorate cultural beliefs that recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. The poles may also serve as functional architectural features, welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for the remains of deceased ancestors, or as a means to publicly ridicule someone. Given the complexity and symbolic meanings of totem pole carvings, their placement and importance lies in the observer’s knowledge and connection to the meanings of the figures. We also saw some more Susan Point artwork. Susan Point is considered one of Canada’s most famous artists. She was born in Alert Bay, BC in 1952 and has lived on the Musqueam First Nation reservation in Vancouver since birth. She began her art career in 1981, choosing to concentrate on the traditional designs of her own people, and was particularly intrigued with the Spindle Whorl, an elaborately carved wooden disk used for spinning wool which inspires many of her works. A prolific artist, her large scale works grace public buildings on both sides of the Canadian and USA borders, paying tribute to the First People’s of these countries. She has received a National Aboriginal Award for her work as an artist and was recently awarded the Order of Canada.  We also saw a display of metal salmon. The salmon is a very important food source in this part of the world. Erik explained how salmon are born in fresh water and make there way down stream to the sea where they live their lives. When it is time for them to breed and subsequently die they swim upstream back to the place they were born. They then lay their eggs and die. Swimming upstream makes them a very strong fish with many health benefits for those that consume them. They have high levels of nitrogen so when the beers eat them and then defecate in the forest they return this nitrogen to the land which helps the trees prosper. It is a great story of the circle of life. The living roof on top of the convention centre 

We saw a number of food trucks around the city – these are a new addition and are proving very popular. They cover a wide range of ethnic foods. Steve had spotted the Japadog Truck which sold hots dogs using Kurobata Pork which comes from a rare breed of pigs called Berkshire. The Berkshire breed is well documented as having superior meat quality when compared to other commercial pig breeds. The most popular Japadog is served with Japanese Mayo and seaweed. The verdict – pretty good 🐷 👌🏼. 

After the tour we had a wander around the shopping district which is very good.  It was then time for some liquid refreshments and we managed to get the best seats in the house at the Tap & Barrel.  They have a verandah that overlooks Coal Harbour which is home to the Sea Plane terminal.  This Sea Plane terminal is the 17th busiest airport in Canada.  The capital of Vancouver, Victoria, is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.  It can take about 5 hours to get here by road and ferry so it is much more time efficient to take a seaplane – it takes about 2o minutes!  There are many islands out from Vancouver, hence the use of seaplanes.

You can also see Vancouver’s North Shore and watch all the water activity including oil tankers, ferries and cruise ships.  Vancouver welcomes 829,000 cruise ship passengers a year – they have at least one cruise ship in port everyday between May and September.  The cruise ships depart here for Alaska, Hawaii and Asia.

Vancouver ex Wikipedia

Vancouver, officially the City of Vancouver, is the most populous city in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The 2011 census recorded 603,502 people in the city, and the Greater Vancouver area has a population of around 2.4 million. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Vancouver is the most densely populated Canadian municipality with over 250,000 residents, and the fourth most densely populated such city in North America behind New York City, San Francisco and Mexico City.

The original settlement, named Gastown, grew up on clearcuts on the west edge of the Hastings Mill logging sawmill’s property, where a makeshift tavern had been set up on a plank between two stumps and the proprietor, Gassy Jack, persuaded the curious millworkers to build him a tavern, on 1 July 1867. From that first enterprise, other stores and some hotels quickly appeared along the waterfront to the west. Gastown became formally laid out as a registered townsite dubbed Granville, B.I. (“B.I” standing for “Burrard Inlet”). As part of the land and political deal whereby the area of the townsite was made the railhead of the CPR, it was renamed “Vancouver” and incorporated shortly thereafter as a city, in 1886. 

By 1887, the transcontinental railway was extended to the city to take advantage of its large natural seaport, which soon became a vital link in a trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and Europe.  As of 2014, Port Metro Vancouver is the third largest port by tonnage in the Americas (displacing New York), 27th in the world, the busiest and largest in Canada, and the most diversified port in North America.  While forestry remains its largest industry, Vancouver is well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, making tourism its second-largest industry.  Major film production studios in Vancouver and Burnaby have turned Greater Vancouver and nearby areas into one of the largest film production centres in North America, learning it the film industry nickname, Hollywood North.

Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life, and the Economist Intelligence Unit acknowledged it as the first city to rank among the top-ten of the world’s most liveable cities for five consecutive years.  Vancouver has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, UN Habitat I, Expo 86, the World Police and Fire Games in 1989 and 2009; and the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics which were held in Vancouver and Whistler, a resort community 125 km (78 mi) north of the city.

Indigenous People

Archaeological records indicate the presence of Aboriginal people in the Vancouver area from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The city is located in the traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tseil-Waututh (Burrard) peoples of the Coast Salish group.  They had villages in various parts of present-day Vancouver, such as Stanley Park, False Creek, Kitsilano, Point Grey and near the mouth of the Fraser River.

Europeans became acquainted with the area of the future Vancouver when José María Narváez of Spain explored the coast of present-day Point Grey and parts of Burrard Inlet in 1791 – although one author contends that Francis Drake may have visited the area in 1579.  The city takes its name from George Vancouver, who explored the inner harbour of Burrard Inlet in 1792 and gave various places British names.

Today the Chinese are the largest visible ethnic group in the city, with a diverse Chinese-speaking community, and several languages, including Cantonese and Mandarin.  Neighbourhoods with distinct ethnic commercial areas include the Chinatown, Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, and (formerly) Japantown.

In the 1980s, an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in anticipation of the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China, combined with an increase in immigrants from mainland China and previous immigrants from Taiwan, established in Vancouver one of the highest concentrations of ethnic Chinese residents in North America.


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.
This entry was posted in Canada, Vancouver. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Vancouver Day 3 – Vancouver, Canada

  1. Catherine Lamb says:

    Looks like nice weather over there

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s