Canada and USA 2016: Vancouver

We had two days in Vancouver between skiing in Whistler and taking the train on to Seattle. We booked Urban Hideaway guesthouse through hostelbookers on a whim because hotels were pretty expensive and I fancied a couple if nights somewhere with a bit of personality. It was a great decision, Patrick (the owner) listened to what we’re into and gave us recommendations on what to do without being overly intrusive. He really helped us make the best of our time.

Day one: cycling Stanley park

On Patrick’s advice we walked down Robson to Denman street and picked up a couple of bikes. You’re spoiled for choice when you get there, it’s just a case of scoping out the best rates. Don’t do what we did and forget your credit card – most places want you to leave it as a guarantee so we were limited to the place that would take our driving licenses instead. The bikes seemed a similar standard in all the shops and we paid $5/hour per person capped at $20/day. The cheapest we saw was $3.75/day and $15 cap which we couldn’t take advantage of because of the credit card situation. The bikes…… weren’t great. 3 gears on mine, 8 on Ben’s and zero suspension. Fine for a couple if hours round the park, bone shaking on anything gravelly and a nightmare up hills. They’re fine for the park though so don’t let that put you off.

We spent the next couple of hours cycling. We started off riding the perimeter of Stanley park enjoying the scenery. Expect slow cyclists on the path but don’t worry, going fast would be a total waste of the scenery.

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On Patrick’s advice we took a left off the sea wall onto Tatlow walk which took us through the forest. Due to the aforementioned limitations of the bikes this involved pushing them up a steep gravelly hill at first, however we were rewarded with a nice downhill and complete tranquility among the trees. With noone else around we could fully appreciate the beauty of the forest and the quirks of individual trees.

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We finished our route by cycling all the way up round False Creek then back to the rental shop. It was a great way to get a feel for the city and the cycle lane was unbroken the whole way. Amazing coming from the traumas I’d cycling in London!

We ended by walking up to English bay to watch the sunset which was pretty spectacular.

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Day 2: hiking Lynn canyon

After filling up in the make your own breakfast at the guesthouse we again took Patrick’s advice and took the sea bus from waterfront station just a couple if blocks away to North Vancouver. The sea bus itself was a cool thing to do, giving a great view if the city. On the other side we took a quick look around the food market by the port and picked up baked goods to eat for lunch on our hike. We then hopped on the 229 bus which took us almost all the way to the canyon (we could have taken the 228 the whole way but got impatient) and walked the last 15 minutes to the visitor centre. The canyon itself is a huge network of trails that take you around rivers and lakes with spectacular views. As we were meeting my friend for coffee mid afternoon we only had time for the relatively short (about 4km) trail to Rice Lake. It was definitely worth while, we hardly saw anyone and the surface of the lake was totally still. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

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After that we headed to the Vancouver branch of Purebread for the aforementioned coffee then headed back to pack ahead of our early wake up for the train to Seattle the next morning.

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The rest of Toronto

Sunday was originally going to be CN tower day but the weather was grey and being a Sunday, queues seemed likely. Instead I decided to go to a yin/yang yoga class at the Yoga Sanctuary in the morning. This was a great class! The first half was an up tempo flow and I got into an arm balance I’ve been failing at for ages for the first time, yay! The second half was yin poses so we did one back bend, held for several minutes then a bunch of back bends which was perfect got a Sunday morning. Afterwards I headed back to the hostel to have lunch then went for a walk.

The walk led me to Queen Street East which is home to lots of high street chains. Sort of like a slightly more pleasant version of London’s Oxford Street. My eyes drew me straight to French Connection which had 40% off everything in store. My purse definitely felt it! After that I called it a day in the interests of preserving my credit card.

Monday was again going to be CN tower day but when I arrived it looked like this.

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I retreated to Starbucks and ended up staying for a couple of hours. Things didn’t improve so I headed back to the hostel picking up lunch and the latest Marie Claire on the way. It’s amazing being able to buy magazines here! I hung at the hostel for a while then headed to another yoga class. Sadly when I arrived I was told the class I wanted to go to wasn’t on because it was Monday and that class was on Tuesday (I blame all the snorers I’ve been sharing my dorm with for making me tired!). Luckily there was another class in an hour so I hung around for that. It was good!

I was determined that I was going to get a good night’s sleep in spite of the snorers last night so I stocked up on nytol, ear plugs and prepped the white noise app on my phone. Sadly the snorer was still audible over the white noise and had joined forces with some annoying other room mates who thought packing at 11pm and chatting at full volume was a good idea. Eventually it fell quiet but I’d got into such a rage with the snorer that there was no way I was going to sleep! Eventually I remembered something I read in an article about sleeping through noise – “it’s not the noise that keeps you awake, it’s your own anxiety” so I decided that rather than try to ignore the snoring I was going to embrace it and make it a kind of study (the rest of this is going to sound a bit odd, bear with me!). I relaxed as much as I could and listened to the snores, noting how the sound changed from snore to snore, when they stopped and so on. When I got extra agitated rather than giving up I brought my focus back to the snoring and tried to relax again. Kind of like a snoring meditation! Anyway, I’m not sure if it was my  new approach or the sleeping pill finally kicking in but the next time I woke up it was 6am at someone’s alarm going off. Mission semi-accomplished. 6 hours is better than none!

Today is my last day in Toronto and I started it with a sad farewell to the Planet Traveller breakfast. With 6 types of bagel, bread and 16 types of cereal plus peanut butter and jam it has been good to me. I think I might turn into a bagel before I leave Canada.

Next was another yoga class which was unexpectedly great. The teacher gave a good little talk at the start about non-violence to yourself being the start of being non-violent to others. Non-violent meaning in the sense of not bearing ill will to others, loving everyone and all that. He also asked everyone why they started practicing yoga then had us share our answers with the class. This never happens in yoga, and I mean never! I’m only to happy to remain silent from the time I walk in the studio to the time I walk out but actually I enjoyed this part. His point was that you can practice for many reasons but really we’re all there to break down our ego and learn to stop doing things because we think they impress others, to stop bearing ourselves up when we think we’ve made mistakes and generally to stop indulging the ego. When we can do that we can really learn to love ourselves and everyone else. When we find that the other stuff like flexibility and crazes comes naturally when the body and mind are ready. I love it when yoga teachers make me think! He also told me I should do Chaturanga on my knees for the next 30 days until I can get my arms fully to 90 degrees. At the moment I can’t get my arms fully to 90 and I haven’t made progress in a long time. Noone has ever picked me up on it before and I feel like this could help me make progress yay.

Afterwards I headed to St Lawrence market and the Distillery district for a walk around.  The market was a little disappointing. My lunch was a sad burrito, a cheese blintz that I threw away because it wasn’t nice and a raw and vegan nanaimo bar that was just average. The Distillery district was pretty and worth an hour or two to walk around if you have a spare afternoon.

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For the rest of the day I’m going to be killing time until my 12.30am bus to Montreal which means I’ll be in my last city and only a night away from seeing Ben. Not long to go now!