We’re on the last long flight of this trip, heading from Vancouver to Auckland. Nacy and I spent a brief three days in Canada as the last stop on this whirlwind trip around the globe.

Vancouver is a lovely city, one of my favorite places to come and visit, both for the people I know there as well as the city and its surrounds. Surrounded by water and mountains Vancouver always feels friendly and welcoming to me.

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, picked up a hire car and made our way to the Holiday Inn Downtown on Howe St. It’s a comfortable, slightly aging hotel, conveniently located in the city and nowhere near as expensive as those on the waterfront. Tuesday evening we relaxed and recovered from the days’s travel.

Wednesday we drove around and explored the city – along the waterfront, then spending most of the day in Stanley Park. This is a thousand acre parkland on a peninsula right next to the city centre, a great place for the community.

Our first stop in the park was the Totem Pole Garden, which contains ?? Totem poles from various First Nation peoples in British Columbia. It’s an interesting and impressive sight, they really are magnificent.

From there we moved around the Park , stopping to admire the views and environment until we found the Vancouver Aquarium, our primary destination for the day. We’ve visited aquaria around the world, from Kelly Tarlton’s in Auckland to Walvisbaai in Namibia, as we have a fascination with sealife. This one is impressive – not the largest we’ve seen (that’s probably Monterey Bay) but definitely one of the most diverse,

They have the usual fish exhibitions, with sea life from a wide variety of habitats, a particular focus of their research is jellyfish and they have some fascinating exhibits of different species. Then there’s an Amazon exhibit where they’ve created a small tropical rainforest area, complete with River, tress, birds, butterflies and a sloth. The design allows visitors to see both above and below the water with a representative sampling of the wildlife which includes both an anaconda and a cayman, neither of which you want to get closely aquatinted with.

From the Amazon exhibit we went to their outdoor/marine mammal area. They look after a small number of marine mammals, all of who. Have been rescued and classified as “recovered, non-releasable” as they will not survive in the wild. Most of their recovered animals were recovered from fishing nets and they bear the scars.

There are two Pacific white-sided dolphins who put on a great show for the crowd, a pair of beluga whales at look like ghosts as they swim around their enclosure and a small group of sea otter, one of whom is blind from injuries sustained in a fishing net.

From the aquarium we continued around the park, taking a late lunch a t a restaurant overlooking Lion’s Bridge, then we drove Round the city and back to the hotel to freshen up.

For dinner we joined Steve and the team from Development Knowledge (we’ve been working together on building elearning content) at the Observatory restaurant on Grouse Mountain – the first time we’ve needed to take a cable car for a meal. It was great to catch up with a group of people who have become good friends. The food is good, the views magnificent.

Thursday had us up early, we were collected from the hotel at 07:00 for a day trip to Whistler – heading up by train and back on a seaplane (a first for both of us). We were collected from the hotel and delivered to the train in the rail yards in North Vancouver. This train trip has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the great train journeys to take and I can certainly see why.

At 08:00 we departed, sitting in comfortable seats in a 1950’s vintage train carriage. The trip follows the coastline then hearts inland following a river until the train gets to Whistler. The views along the way are tremendous, the scenery changing from expensive housing (North Vancouver is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy property) to coastal beaches and riverine forest. Each car has a guide/conductor who serves the meal (a chilled breakfast of fruit, yoghurt, muesli with a ham&cheese croissant) and provides running commentary about the areas you pass through.

The trip was relatively short, only 3.5 hours, and we arrived in Whistler around 11:30. On the train we had booked a tour of the Squamish Lilwat cultural centre. The train company are really well organized and they delivered us to the centre after a brief pass through the village.

The cultural centre is very interesting. The area surrounding Whistler is in the overlap of two First Nation tribes, and rather than bickering over it they decided to collaborate, and this centre is one examples that collaboration in action. The tour included lunch which was very tasty – “Indian Tacos” with venison mince. After lunch we were greeted with a song and shown an interesting film about the two tribes, then guided around the exhibits before being tasked to make some cedar rope which we got to keep. (Hopefully MAF will allow us to keep it when we go through customs in Auckland – they did 🙂 ).

After the cultural centre we walked around the village before taking a taxi to the gondola transfer station where would be picked up for our flight home,

Whistler’s a tourist village, it was founded to be a destination for events (they bid to host the Winter Olympics 4 times before finally hosting them in 2010) and has an impressive network of ski trails and mountain bike tracks. For the sedentary traveller Whistler’s not got a lot to keep you occupied (although we were told the museum is rgood, but couldn’t find it).

We called the floatplane operator at 14:00 to check on the status of our flight – they don’t confirm the seaplane flights until the weather for the day is known, and they could be cancelled at any time if the weather changes, and no night flights on seaplanes (no runway lights in the water).

Our flight was on so we were collected and taken out to the lake where the seaplanes fly from. There were only four of us taking the trip to Vancouver that afternoon (seating capacity is 6 in the plane).

In the plane the safety announcement is a video played on an iPad, covering all the usual elements, it was interesting to see the emergency exit hatch (above your heads) shown as part of the safety briefing. The plane is equipped with headsets for each passenger so the pilot can talk to you (without the headset the noise makes conversation impossible) and ours gave a running commentary as we flew down the river towards Vancouver.

The seaplane trip was fun, and amazingly turbulence-free, especially given the weather was rain and clouds that afternoon – he could point out to us where things were but many of the landmarks were shrouded in clouds. Despite this the trip was wonderfully scenic and the commentary interesting. Many more photographs were taken 🙂 We definitely recommend it.

We landed back in Vancouver at about 18:15, and took the Harbour Air shuttle to our hotel, and crashed – it had been a long and tiring day.

Friday morning we caught up with Steve for breakfast, spent the morning relaxing in the hotel, found a great Northern Chinese style restaurant for lunch (dumplings!) then took a drive through the suburbs of Vancouver before dropping off the hire car and getting to the airport. It was a somewhat lazy day, which we needed after a frantic but great fun three weeks.

Hopefully the pictures below give you a feel for our stopover in Vancouver.