things to do in vancouver

It’s Always Sunny in Seattle & Canada (At Least When We’re There): Spring Break Day 5&6

Day 5

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I’d like to consider me, Natalee and Mel pretty similar. For example, when we come across a highly recommended restaurant online and its menu includes things like “homemade biscuits” and “chocolate fudge waffles,” we’ll all agree it is a must taste. That being said, it wasn’t really a question whether we’d wait out the line in front of Jam Café on Wednesday morning.

It was our first stop of what was sure to be a full day, so after spending a solid 40 minutes waiting in the crisp Vancouver air, we sat down and ordered exactly what our hearts desired. For me, that included a chocolate milk and this masterpiece known as the “biscuit breakfast.”

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Animated GIF-downsized_largeFrom there we made our way up the highway to the Capilano Suspension Park, which was one of our most anticipated sights.

First order of business: crossing the bridge.

While none of us are afraid of heights, it is impossible not to wobble on this bridge, as the entire thing literally wobbles as you cross. To be honest, it kind of feels like standing up from a stool at a bar and realizing you’ve had too much to drink but are determined not to show it, so you try your best to walk straight, only to zig zag your way straight into a stranger.

Once we were in the middle of the bridge, we made sure to take a bunch of photos and videos, both to commemorate the experience, and to deviously show to my dad later who is terrified of heights. #sorrydad

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Awaiting us on the other side of the bridge was a series of paths that led us up amongst the trees and offered us views of the river down below. We walked slow, looking up and down and all around, trying to soak in as much as possible, knowing any pictures we took could never completely showcase the beauty of what we were seeing.

Back on the other side of the bridge, we took a final turn that looped us around on an even thinner path—again, sorry dad!—and then we made our way back to the car. Seeing as we’d soaked in a heavy dose of nature, we thought it was only fitting to head into…more nature!

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So, we drove back into town and rented a few bikes (we used Yes Cycle) to take a personal tour of Stanley Park. The loop around the park was about 5 miles, and we did it in an hour, which included stops to take pictures, say hello to Canadian geese, etc.

By the time we returned our bikes, it was about 3:30 p.m., and since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, we thought the perfect spot for dinner would be Granville Island. So, after dropping our car back at our hotel, we walked the whopping 5 blocks to the dock and took an Aquabus across the water.

OriginalPhoto-543368639.672033Once inside the market, we had a few things we wanted to accomplish. First, we did a quick lap, taking in all the options both for dinner, dessert, and everything in between. Our waiter at the Jam Café had told us to “follow our nose.” But with the amount of sugary, salty and sweet smells, blindly following that advice would have left us running in circles for the rest of the day. So, after eating everything we possibly could with our eyes, we sat down for dinner on the top floor. From there we did a second lap around the market, this time making stops for a honey dip donut from Lee’s Donuts (a personal recommendation from our waiter), some caramel corn (which I’m currently munching on as I write this), and some red velvet cake (which Mel said was DELICIOUS.)

On our ferry ride back, we were all beginning to fade, but after a solid hour-long veg session, we rallied and made our way to the Shameful Tiki Room, another recommendation from our waiter at Jam Café.

As he promised, the outside of the restaurant was completely blank and easily missable for the average passerby. Once we walked inside however, we were transported into a zombie-fied tiki haven that was as dark and foggy as it was vaguely Hawaiian. The three of us opted to split “the mystery bowl,” a drink served in a large shell that was lit on fire and delivered in precession with the ringing of a gong.

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Note: it was far less poisonous and far more delicious than this picture might suggest. These reactions were primarily provoked by the flash, which in the moment felt like a direct attack on our corneas.

After we finished our drink (which was approximately 4 minutes later) we talked about our favorite parts of the trip, each of us remembering different moments than the other. And as we made our way back to the hotel, there was again a bittersweet air that hung around us, except this time it was mostly bitter.


 

Day 6

On our last day in Vancouver, we were in a bit of a time crunch. Since we were all flying out around 3:00pm and wanted to have ample time to return our rental car, we knew that any last minute adventures had to be timely and organized.

So, with Mel fully loaded with Wi-Fi researched and copied down directions, we pulled away from our hotel for the last time and made our first (very Canadian) stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast.

Now, it should be noted that of the 5 days we’d been gone, this was the first and only day it rained. But when I say it rained, I mean it rained. Clearly Vancouver was as upset at our leaving as we were. Nevertheless, we proceeded with our sightseeing marathon, never hesitating to run out into the rain and take a picture.

First on the list: the Gastown Steam Clock.

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Next was the Olympic Village, though after following an address to a town square that had street names like “Athletes Way,” we didn’t find much else that memorialized the 2010 Olympics. (Note: we later found out the Olympic Rings are actually in Whistler)

IMG_3853Our final stop was the World’s Largest Tin Soldier. A delightfully tall and unexpected international WRLA! He stood overlooking the Fraser River, both welcoming us and wishing us well as we made our way back to airport.

Once we were on the plane—Natalee and I on one and Mel on another—I took my seat and looked out the window, wondering if I could see any of the sights one last time before we took off. A few minutes later, a family boarded and took a seat in front of us. It was a husband and wife and their three children. They were all on their way to Disneyland for the first time. The kids excitedly looked out the window, amazed at the prospect of flying and propelled by the promise of their first big adventure. It made the sting our adventure ending a little dimmer, as it reminded me of the promise that new adventures are always around the corner.

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It’s Always Sunny in Seattle & Canada (At Least When We’re There): Spring Break Day 4

Tuesday morning had a bittersweet taste to it. We were sad to leave Seattle, but we were excited for part 2 of our adventure: Vancouver!

Around 10:00 a.m. we made our way to the airport to return our rental car and rent a second one that would take us across the border. About two hours before we reached the border however, we made our first pit stop: The World’s Largest Paper Airplane!

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Similar to a few of the other WRLA’s we’ve found over the last couple years, this one was in quite an ordinary place. We spent a solid 10 minutes standing on the lawn in front of an office building, each of us taking a turn in posing with the airplane, until suddenly a woman from inside the office came out and offered to take a group shot.

“Do people come by often?” we asked, slightly embarrassed.

“All the time,” she said with a smile.

With another WRLA crossed off the list, we piled back into our car and headed for the border. Once successfully across—and only minorly traumatized by the border patrol agent—we headed to the Vancouver airport to return our rental car and rent, you guessed it, ANOTHER rental car. This would be our third and final one and would provide us with the perfect disguise (i.e. a BC license plate) to blend in with the locals.

Cut to a half hour later: we realized we didn’t have any service in Canada, meaning we couldn’t use Google maps, so we had to rely solely on the paper map we were given at the rental desk. Now, I understand this is how people have traveled for hundreds of years, thus it should not be terrifying, but it was. Thankfully Mel is a directionally gifted map whiz (a.k.a the ideal Amazing Race partner) and she was able to get us to our hotel (and around the city for our entire stay, thanks Mel!).

First order of business in Vancouver: dinner.

We were staying at the Holiday Inn-Downtown—which I’d highly recommend if you’re ever in the Vancouver area!—so we had access to a wide variety of shops and restaurants. Just a block down from us was Firecrust Neopolitan Pizzeria, which we all collectively agreed was the obvious choice.

From there we walked to our hotel to regroup—and to get Wi-Fi to figure out where everything else was. We skimmed the list of things we wanted to do in Vancouver and came across Lighthouse Park.

“Do you think we could make it there to see the sunset?” Mel asked.

We all looked at our watches: 6:45. Then looked up the time for sunset: 7:25. In unison, we stood from our beds.

“We could try!”

Grabbing our jackets, we ran downstairs to the car and immediately jumped on the road.

“Okay,” Mel said from the backseat holding the map in both hands. “You’re going to make a right and then a left to go over that bridge up there, then you’re going to take another left and that should eventually loop us around to the park.”

“Sounds good, let’s do it!”

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So, we oohed and ahh-ed our way through Stanley Park and across the Lions Gate Bridge, then we hung a left on Marine Drive and drove up the coast until we saw a sign for Lighthouse Park.

By the time we parked the car, it was 7:15.

Knowing we were short on time, we looked quickly at the information kiosk. Comparing her finger length to the distance scale at the bottom—I’m telling you, she’s an icon—Mel estimated we were about a half mile away from the point.

“I think we can make it!”

We started powerwalking, but when the road sloped downward, we took off running, desperate to catch the sunset in time. To fully immerse you in this moment, let me remind you that 1) we were all horrendously full of pizza and 2) we were not dressed for strenuous physical activity. For example, Natalee was in a jacket with a faux fur hood and I was in leather boots. Nevertheless, we made it! And as we stood looking out at the Strait of Georgia (panting) it began to sink in that we were actually in Vancouver!

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Walking back to the car—which was not nearly as fun, especially going up all the hills we ran down—we looked up at the trees and laughed at ourselves, wondering what we might have looked like to the people we ran past on our way in.

Spoiler alert, we looked like this:

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Worth it.

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Back in the city, we stopped at the Yaletown Distillery for a drink. Immediately after walking in, I thought about making it my permanent address, as it played classic movies on repeat and was directly adjacent to an ice cream shop. Mel and I ordered the Caipiroska, which neither of us could say correctly, even after the bartender repeated it to us, and Natalee ordered a Johnny Walker Red. As we sipped our drinks, we looked through the pictures from the first half of our trip and we laughed at all the inside jokes we’d already formed.

Once we were finished, we paid a visit to Mister, the ice cream shop next door (a.k.a my new neighbors) where Mel and I both ordered life-changing desserts. Mel ordered the S’mores bar, which is chocolate ice cream dipped in magic shell chocolate, rolled in graham crackers, coated in marshmallow fluff and then torched, and I ordered the “double Oreo” which is chocolate ice cream with Oreo chunks inside, stuffed into a chocolate waffle cone.

Yes, friends, these creations do exist right here on earth.

Observe:

 

It took me about three seconds to be transported to absolute bliss. While I know that sounds dramatic, it’s true. Case in point being that when we arrived back at our car and found a parking ticket on the dash, I practically laughed it off and threw it in the back seat.

“I can’t even be mad about the ticket,” I said as we pulled back into the driveway of our hotel. I rolled down the window to scan our room key and as I waited for the gate to the parking garage to open I turned to Mel and Natalee, ice cream in hand. “What can I say, life is just better when you have ice cream in your—”

It was at this point that my affection for the ice cream cone became so great that I squeezed it too hard and it cracked in my hand. In the seconds that followed, I was overcome with feelings of panic, protectiveness and sheer instinct. With my window down and our car a mere 20 feet from the lobby doors, I dropped a giant f’bomb and contorted my body into an ice cream catching shield. Having finished her s’mores bar, Mel handed me her empty cup and I scooped my ice cream pile inside just as the gate completely opened.

All in all, the death toll was low. And once we parked our car, three good things happened.

  1. Despite some minor cone loss, I was able to again reach peak bliss with my ice cream as we made our way back up to our hotel room.
  2. After doing some research into why we got our ticket, Mel was able to call and get us out of the ticket
  3. We laid out our plans for the next day, which was bound to be incredible.