Vancouver: the One with the Seawall

So this post will be quite lengthy as I actually lived in Vancouver for 3 months. Fortunately, I lived there in the summer – June to Sept 2017. So it only rained a total of maybe 6-7 days out of 3 entire months! It was my last bit of freedom before starting my full-time job in Toronto, so I wanted to use it to try starting a life in a completely new place. Vancouver was a great choice because it was still part of Canada, but also part of the West Coast.. and it was during summer – where there were more sunny days than there probably were in Toronto.

I’m not going to have enough photos to do justice to the places and the deliciousness of the food, so … just take my word for it. I promise you won’t be disappointed. And if you are, it’s you, not me.

WHERE I STAYED

I was lucky enough to have a friend who let me crash for the entire summer, and all I had to do was pay utilities + internet.

I stayed near Richmond-Brighouse station, which is the end of the Canada Line (one of the subway lines). I recommend that you find a place to stay near the Canada Line because the Skytrains (Vancouver’s subways) are pretty frequent and fast. They also take you to the most wonderful place (Waterfront) which I shall talk about later 😛

Just to provide some background about the areas of Vancouver.. Richmond and Burnaby are suburban areas a little off from the city. They’re probably cheaper and pretty safe to stay in 🙂

WHAT I DID

  • Waterfront: get off at Waterfront station, walk toward the water and along the water, toward the Convention Centre. See the weird teardrop statue. Walk to the Olympic Torch near Cactus Club. I spent most of my free time sitting on the lampposts in front of Cactus Club and tanning my legs while reading a book or watching Netflix on my phone. 😛
  • Bike the Seawall: rent a bike from Club 16 or from Spokes, and bike along the seawall. It takes 1-2 hours depending on speed and how often you stop for breaks/photos/awe-absorbing. It’s affordable (~ $20). I prefer Club 16 since it’s cheaper, more conveniently located (near Tap & Barrel),  AND they only charge you for the 1st hour and let you pay the difference afterwards (which actually never happened lol).  This is my favourite activity in Vancouver. I barely know how to ride a bike, and I did this several times throughout the summer. If you’re scared like me, start off with a tandem bike and make your friend sit at the front LOL. Then, one day when tandem bikes aren’t available, you’ll maybe muster up the courage to bike on your own!
  • Bloedel Conservatory: this is a really cool indoor bird conservatory. I went here with a friend who was in town for a while 🙂 It was nice to explore, and I think admission was under $10. It’s also near a really scenic view outside 🙂
  • High View Point: a view point you can drive to if you’re in north/west Van. We did this on the same day as eating at DVLB and going to Lighthouse Park and Deep Cove!
  • Granville island: a cool area to check out. Similar vibe to Kensington market in Toronto but a little more upscale. There are sometimes special events here. There are also some markets and cute little stores with stationary and whatnot.
  • Deep Cove: this is a beautiful, quaint little area where you can rent kayaks and water boards with friends and go out into the lake. There’s also a lovely Donut shop called Honey’s that has really good/unique donuts. It’s easiest to get to by driving, so try to rent a car. It’s worth it though! There’s grassy areas where you can have a picnic, lots of cute little restaurants, etc. It IS, however, one of those places where things are just overpriced due to the location.
  • Quarry Rock: a very short hike at Deep Cove, takes about 40 minutes (one way) and you don’t even have to be in shape. I highly recommend it 🙂
  • Grouse Grind: ugh. UGH. I honestly did this for the sake of doing it. It was nice, and I’m happy to say “I DID IT!” but honestly, not worth the view. Most of the view is just.. what you see when you’re on a plane – the city. I guess I’m someone who prefers more scenic views, like nature or mountains. If you’re an avid hiker and want a challenge, then by all means.. be my guest. It’s a STEEP hike, probably the quickest I’ve ever gone so high (i.e. a very high altitude-to-time ratio). I’ve hiked higher mountains in Yosemite and in Bali, but Grouse Grind was the first hike that created nausea. People hike this in 45 minutes – 1.5 hours one-way (I was 1.5 hours LOL). It’s one of those hikes that Vancouverites buy a season’s pass to just to do it every weekend and beat their previous time. You take a gondola down, it’s like $10, and this is the ONLY way down! You are not allowed to hike down the mountain as it is very steep and dangerous for you and those around you.
  • Lighthouse Park: there’s a trail here. It’s the kind of hike where it’s unpaved and through forests and rocks. It’s not really uphill. I did this trail in heels, so you have no excuse. It’s something nice to do with your friends/family/dog when you want to do something naturey but aren’t in shape haha.
  • Lynn Canyon: so if you didn’t feel like doing the famous Capilano bridge, Lynn Canyon has an alternative suspension bridge. It’s still quite touristy with a huge line for the bridge. Pretty much impossible to get a photo alone on the bridge if that’s your goal. Maybe try going on a weekday during work hours? The plus side of Lynn Canyon is that it’s quite easy to get to by public transport, and there are some nice trails around the bridge as well 🙂
  • Lonsdale Quay: as soon as you get off the ferry-bus in North Vancouver, you’re in Lonsdale Quay. It’s a nice area with a market. If you walk north/uphill through the main road, there are some nice restaurants too.

THINGS I DID NOT DO (BUT WILL NEXT TIME)

  • Capilano Suspension Bridge: I did Lynn Canyon instead, because I hate tourists.
  • Celebs: a club that “everyone must go to”. It’s a gay club on every day except Tuesdays I believe. Or maybe it was the other way around? It’s near a bunch of other clubs in the downtown area of Vancouver, so it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.
  • The Chief: a super intense hike a bit north of Vancouver. I’ve been told by several people that it is THE most beautiful hike you could do. It overlooks a beautiful lake as well.
  • Lake Garibaldi: if you’re not into intense hikes, this is a place you can check out where the water has that bright aquatic blue going on.
  • Squamish: between Vancouver and Whistler. Apparently gorgeous hikes around.
  • Sea to Sky highway drive: I think this is either IN Squamish or on the way there. It’s supposedly a very scenic drive with breathtaking views.
  • Vancouver Island: LOL. I know, right? When I say I lived in Vancouver for 3 months.. I really mean I did not leave the city of Vancouver. Legit did not go past North Vancouver.
  • Steveston’s Wharf: a quaint area a bit south of Richmond. There’s apparently a place with BOMB fish and chips here. Apparently where Riverdale is filmed!

Recommendation is to map the above things out before going, since a lot of it can be done in a weekend if planned properly. (E.g. Capilano + Chief + Squamish + Sea to Sky)

WHAT I ATE

Okay, can I just say… I never ate anything bad in Vancouver. Like.. the food quality there is next level fresh and delicious. I think almost every restaurant I went to had some sort of a line. I probably can’t name every restaurant, but here are the ones that (I think) you wouldn’t regret. They’re all delicious, but I’ll put a star * beside the ones that hold a special place in my heart.

  • **Phnom Penh: this Cambodian restaurant gets 2 stars because I think about it honestly at least once a week, and it’s been like 8 months since I left Vancouver. Their butter beef thing is so good, and the dish with the rare beef in a circle. And their fried chicken. I don’t know what they do to their chicken wings but they’re just so good. I got these same 3 dishes literally every time I went there. If you go to Vancouver and don’t eat here, I can’t talk to you.
  • *Green Leaf Sushi: bomb sushi between UBC and downtown Vancouver. It’s a very small place, but their aburi is to die for.
  • *DVLB: amazing brunch place in North/West Van. Quite difficult to get to without a car, but it’s worth it if you can make it there. I had their avo-toast and delicious pancakes.
  • *Gami Sushi: this is actually in Richmond. They have a one page menu with “aburi” at the bottom of that menu. Get that platter. I usually went with one other person, ordered the Aburi platter (larger one) and 2 rolls on the side. My go-to rolls were the Magma Roll and the Popcorn Attack Roll. DELICIOUS. I went sooo many times. Ugh. So good.
  • Yamato Sushi: it’s a hole in the wall closer to downtown, near the clubbing areas. It was open late and I was starving. They have giant rolls and they’re pretty good! Affordable too.
  • *GyuKaku: best Japanese BBQ I’ve ever had. It’s good to go for lunch because they have good deals (see back of the menu, which I totally missed the first time I went).
  • Cactus Club: Okay, I know it’s nothing special for you west-coasters.. but to me, it was a great go-to restaurant. It’s a chain that’s on every block, so it’s very available when you just want to go somewhere that “feels” sort of upscale but still affordable. I absolutely could not get enough of their fish tacos with YAM FRIES which come with BOMB TZATZIKI. Please eat the yam fries.
  • Sushi Garden: I went to both the locations. Long line each time. 30 minute wait at least. Pretty good, but I would not put this above Gami Sushi or Green Leaf Sushi.
  • Rain or Shine: delicious ice cream. One of those hype places. It was good, I have no complaints except that I went when I was really full so I probably did not get the optimal level of satisfaction from the ice cream as I should have.
  • Bella Gelateria: I think they actually got rid of this beside Canada Place… but I went here all the time for some really good gelato. Their dark chocolate gelato is pretty good.
  • *Earnest ice cream: it was honestly… so smooth. Again, there was a line. But what’s new?
  • *Sorella: mmmm such a delicious Italian place. I had one of their pastas. It’s fine dining in a quiet, small place. Upscale but affordable.
  • Les Faux Bourgeois: fancy-ish French restaurant. I had their duck confit. It was quite delicious.
  • *Sal Y Limon: super cheap tacos. One of those super casual places with a long line and always buzzing with people. Bomb fish tacos.
  • *Bridges: OMG so good. This restaurant is in Granville Island and so so so good. They had a special lobster menu on Canada Day for the 150th anniversary. It was $50 for a small lobster, corn on the cob, and some other things all to yourself. Hands down best meal I had in Vancouver aside from sushi. We sat outside by the water. It was a bit chilly, so check the weather!
  • Tacofino: one of those hyped up taco places. I can’t complain. It was pretty darn good. I had their fish tacos.
  • Chewies: Great oysters and other foods. Went about 3 times over the summer! Near the Waterfront. Nice to sit outside in the patio and have delicious food with friends! Attractive waiters.
  • The Parlour: in the same area as Tacofino. It’s hard to get spots, so you can expect to be put on a waiting list. They have good pizza and good poke bowls! Noisy inside though.
  • Richmond Night Market: check the hours before you go! There is an entrance fee (and entrance line lol). The fee goes up, so I can’t really tell you how much it is. Probably around $5. Once you get in, there are tons of food stalls. They’re overpriced, so expect to spend about $40-50 here if you’re eating/drinking whatever you want. My recommendation is to go with 2-3 friends who will share EVERYTHING with you so you can try more things.
  • Santouka ramen: soooooo good. Always a lineup but just.. so good.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Honestly, Vancouver is a beautiful place. I would say definitely go during the summer if you can, because it’s a drastically different experience from the rainy seasons. You can do everything in core Vancouver in 2-3 days if you wanted to. Dedicate another 1-2 days for North Vancouver, then 2-3 days for Squamish/Whistler stuff. Maybe add 3 more days if you like to do things slowly. And then another 5 days for Banff, which I also never got to do.

Getting their transportation card is also a good idea to take the Skytrain and the busses. 🙂 If you’re a small group of like 3-4 people, I’d say it’s worth renting a car. There are some car borrowing services in Vancouver too, such as Modo, Evo, and Car2Go. Check them out! I’ve been told that Modo is better for day trips (return it back to where you got the car) while Evo and Car2Go are better for shorter drives where you don’t need to keep the car for the entire day.

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