Last weekend I finally decided to make the trip to Canada for the first time. I had gotten my passport several months ago and realized that I hadn’t been out of the country since 2005, so I knew it was time! After the painfully slow 4 hour Bolt Bus trip, the Canadian Border Patrol asked lots of (rude) questions “Are you single?” “Why are you by yourself?” “Why will you just be here for one day?” What I wanted to say? “Well officer, I’m recently single and taking this trip because my boyfriend kept making excuses not to go. Also, I’m poor and can’t stay overnight.” When we arrived, the bus pulled up to a pretty shady looking part of Vancouver and a drabby bus station. I decided to walk to Chinatown first, because I’d heard that it was one of the largest international neighborhoods in North America and I read in all the guide books that the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park would be pretty. I was surprised when I got to the park and found that it was small and run down (this is a really flattering photo) and the Chinatown was like a ghost town with bars over almost all the windows and trash blowing through the streets. I quickly decided to move onto the more popular neighborhood, Gastown. The look of Gastown was really pretty, a lot like Pioneer Square in Seattle (I LOVED the look of the building above) with lots of old brick buildings, cobblestone streets and pretty street lamps. HOWEVER, the walk to Gastown was absolutely frightening, dirty and smelled like pee. I couldn’t believe the number of people on the streets who looked strung out on drugs. I was even chased by two homeless people down the street. I was thinking, “Geez, when did homeless people become so energetic?” I’m a pretty street smart person, but I legitimately felt scared of my surroundings and when I would’ve normally explored, I decided to just move onto the next neighborhood.
I didn’t arrive that early, but around 11:30 I was starting to get seriously hungry for lunch and no restaurants were open. I kept walking along, trying to find something and realized that I had bypassed downtown all together and was on the West End. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was so hangry at that point that I finally settled for Starbucks! I doubled back to downtown (still not finding any good restaurants that I had heard so much about were open) and paid a visit to the library. I know that might sound weird, but I have a thing for libraries. I LOVE them. This one was beautiful on the outside, almost as if the Roman Coliseum was unraveled, but the inside was pretty unimpressive. After going to downtown, I decided to walk to Granville Island, where I had read that you could pay for a little ferry ride, or walk over the 99 bridge. Walking was the free option, so I decided an extra mile wouldn’t hurt me… how wrong I was! The bridge actually took me at least a mile out of the way and when I had finally arrived at the island and their famous public market, it was already 2:30 and I still hadn’t eaten. I was so famished and tired (I’d walked about 7 miles at this point) that I saw a sign for Vancouver Fish Company and I plopped down in the closest seat in the pretty fancy patio area. I decided to splurge on some red wine and a steak to ease my troubles and sat there comfortably alone, reading my book and looking out on the water.
Even though I’d splurged on the nice meal out, I had started to feel really sick and after walking around the market for about a half an hour, I was ready to just give up on the day and go home. I accepted defeat and walked about 2 1/2 miles to the bus station where I read a magazine waited for my bus to arrive for an hour. On the way home, American Customs took an hour to pass our bus through and I ended up getting home on time, but utterly exhausted and disappointed.
Right now I say I’d never go back to Vancouver, but I know that if I had a car, the experience would’ve been better. And maybe if I had arrived later, I could’ve found more restaurants and things to do. Someone also mentioned that if I it hadn’t been raining and so overcast, the city might’ve been a lot prettier in my eyes. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend the trip to anyone, but I may give Canada another try… someday! For now, I’m at least proud of myself for going, especially going alone, and essentially walking the most of the city in one trip!