Autumn’s cooler temperatures and some much needed rain (to help fight wildfires and clear the smoky air) are due to hit the Vancouver area in the next couple of days, so Ted and I decided to take advantage of the sunny day today and venture into the city.
It’s about 90 minutes by transit, using a combination of bus and SkyTrain from Coquitlam to the Vancouver Waterfront Station. I ran errands in the morning while Ted set up day-passes on our transit cards, so we didn’t head out until after noon, which meant only a few hours of wandering around.
I specifically wanted to reconnoitre around the cruise ship terminal, right at the downtown Port of Vancouver on the Burrard Inlet. Since we recently booked a cruise to Alaska for next August, I was curious about the terminal’s layout. It turns out it’s really easy to access from the Waterfront SkyTrain station, so there’s no reason for me to be at all anxious about how we’ll get there when the time comes.
The port is located at Canada Place (or vice versa), an absolutely stunning centre which incorporates not only the cruise ship terminal, but the convention centre, a series of attractions, restaurants, and outdoor displays featuring interesting facts about Canada and British Columbia.
The architecture, with its huge “sails”, is somewhat reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House in the way that it seems to soar over the water.
Walking around Canada Place, occasionally on walkways inset with blue and green sea glass, we crossed “borders” between each of the Canadian provinces and territories. The areas between the provinces’ names were inlaid with granite bearing the names of the major cities in each province. It’s a geography lesson underfoot!
From Canada Place we strolled into the Gastown District, where we grabbed a couple of delicious Peruvian empanadas and coffees.
We were right next door to Gastown’s most famous landmark: its steam-powered clock, located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. According to the official British Columbia website, the clock was built to cover a steam grate that was 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. A plant adjacent to the Georgia Viaduct generates the low-pressure steam that powers a miniature steam engine in the base of the clock, which drives a chain lift that moves steel balls upward, where they are unloaded and roll to a descending chain. The weight of the balls on the descending chain drives a conventional pendulum clock escapement, geared to the hands on the four faces. The steam also powers the clock’s sound production, which uses whistles to signal the time and produce the Westminster chime. Each 1/4 hour the clock sounds the chimes on 5 brass steam whistlers.
Wanting to stretch our time in the city a bit longer, we wandered back to the waterfront via Harbour Green Park, where Ted said he was relieved to see that someone was ensuring that there would be a next generation of obelisks, since the park really did look like an obelisk garden.
We continued along the seawall water walk to Coal Harbour and the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, from where float planes can take folks to Victoria, Whistler, Seattle, Tofino, Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island, Sechelt, and Comox. I got quite excited about the idea of taking my German cousins to Whistler via seaplane next summer! They really want to visit the Rockies, so…
Much too soon there was a chill in the air and a darkening sky, so we re-boarded the SkyTrain for the ride home.
There’s a ton to see and do in Vancouver, but we’ll have all of next summer and fall to explore. Today was just to whet our appetites.
Postscript: My favourite picture of the day. The Sinclair Wellness Centre (once upon a time the Government Building, built in 1937 in the art deco style) on West Hastings Street in Vancouver, near Canada Place. Absolutely zero editing of Ted’s photo. The air in Vancouver was smoky today due to forest fires south and east of the city, resulting in this strange “paint” effect. The building’s roof is oxidized copper. The brickwork is red, but looked coppery through the haze.