A first visit to Canada to spend time with family, I was smitten from the get-go.

POSTED BY PINKY

I’d heard that life in Canada was generally more laid back than most places – and I’m basically a city girl at heart – so I was curious to find out what kind of city Vancouver was and what it had to offer.

I arrived on a direct flight from Manila one Sunday morning in early November (you can read how I got here in this) and was welcomed not only by my dear sister and brother-in-law, but also by the sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee from Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons right by the arrivals meeting area. So we grabbed our coffee and some muffins to take home to my nieces and nephew. Top of the morning!

The weather was cool, just as I like it, and slightly rainy, just as my sister warned. But on the drive to their home in Surrey, seeing such beautiful landscapes and the changing colours of the leaves – I was like a kid in Disneyland!

For a short stay in Vancouver, British Columbia, here are some ideas of where to go, all easily reached by car or public transport.

Canada Place

An iconic landmark right by the waterfront in Downtown Vancouver, it was a good starting point to explore the city. Offering magnificent views of the water and mountains on one side, and the heart of the central business district on the other, I’d ditch the gym in a heartbeat and instead join the countless runners I saw out there!

A venue for cultural events and trade shows, visit http://www.canadaplace.ca for the latest news.

• My sister and I took the Skytrain end-to-end, from King George Station in Surrey to Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver.

Fly Over Canada

Located in Canada Place, this is an amazing introduction to the country. It’s an 8-minute virtual flight ride that simulates what it’s like to fly over and see the breathtaking views of Canada.

If you have a fear of heights, don’t worry, you’re absolutely secure in your seat. Sure, your feet will be dangling – and maybe I shrieked a little here and there, but I was more amazed than afraid.

Check it out here: https://www.flyovercanada.com

Gastown

Gastown’s musical steam clock, one of the few in the world still working

A 10 to 15-minute walk from Canada Place is the city’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown. A National Historic Site, here you’ll also find some of the trendiest shops, bars, and restaurants in the city. Walking along its cobbled streets gives one a sense of Vancouver’s Victorian past and provides a pleasant balance to this otherwise modern city.

See the latest happenings in Gastown here: http://www.gastown.org

Stanley Park 

The park’s Prospect Point lookout offers views of the bay and Lion’s Gate Bridge, which connects central Vancouver to the North Shore.

 

Slightly larger than Central Park, this urban oasis offers an 8.8-km path along its seawall for hikers, runners, cyclists, and skaters to enjoy. This trail actually extends further west and east of Stanley Park, totalling 22 kms. Here you’ll also find a few restaurants (though we didn’t try any and reviews are mixed) and the park is home to the Vancouver Aquarium.

An interesting drive to take from Stanley Park towards either downtown or Granville Island would be along Beach Avenue at the West End. Here you’ll see upscale residential building communities overlooking – what else – the beach.

Granville Island

Some of the freshly-made, ready-to-eat deliciousness available at Granville Island’s Public Market

 

A mere 15-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, this place is a shopping area like no other. Formerly home to factories, plants, and sawmills, many of these structures have now been re-purposed to house art galleries and artisan studios, design and culinary schools, souvenir shops, theaters, cafés, distilleries and breweries, an extensive public market, and many others.

Even this cement batching plant at the edge of the island happily goes along with the area’s creative spirit

Discover more about Granville Island here: http://granvilleisland.com

Lonsdale Quay Market

If you’re in the mood for more artisanal products, and unique shops and restaurants, board a Seabus from downtown Vancouver and head up north to Lonsdale Quay Market.

There’s a Farmers’ Market that runs every Saturday 10am-3pm, from May to October, but since I was there in November, I had just missed it. Oh well, maybe next time.

Check what’s latest here: http://www.lonsdalequay.com

• From Surrey, we took the Skytrain from King George Station all the way to Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver. Then from Waterfront Station, we caught a Seabus to Lonsdale Quay.

So far, we’ve seen different facets of Vancouver – from the old to the quirky – and we haven’t even left the city center yet.

Next time, read how we ventured out into the mountains. 

Top Travel Tip:

It’s rainy in B.C. from fall to spring, so my sister warned me to bring a rain jacket and a light umbrella to keep in my bag. “You never know”, she says. “Here, we can get all 4 seasons in one day!”