The Helpful Vancouver Folk Let us Ride for Free

Bright and early, my friend Giselle and I boarded a bus to Vancouver. It would be my first time entering Canada! The drive wasn’t short, but it was beautiful. The Pacific Northwest is just stunning, I love it more and more each visit. As with most buses, I have a couple of good stories but I won’t start now or that’ll be the whole post. So long story short, we arrived in Vancouver, and got to walking.

After a coffee and sandwich in a little shop across from the bus station, we headed North and arrived in China Town. We wandered through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, located right before the hustle of downtown. It was small, but very lovely and lush. From there, we walked through the rest of China Town and made our way to the trendy area of Gastown. We got super lucky, because teir infamous steam clock started going off minutes after we arrived and we got a perfectly timed show.

We decided we didn’t really want to lug our bags around, so headed for the hostel. My first hostel stay! Giselle had stayed in some hostels before so she picked Samesun, which had a bar downstairs and an all-female option dorm for us.We checked in, dropped off the weight, and got to walking once more. We headed to the Port of Vancouver, passing some trendy (af) kids everywhere. Seriously, walking the streets of Vancouver reminded me a lot of Manhattan. Canada Place had the Olympic Cauldron in its center, so we checked that out and then bought our tickets to Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain had a free shuttle to it from there, which worked for us so we wouldn’t have to walk all the way up to North Vancouver and then hoof it to the top of the mountain as well. I was excited for Grouse for two reasons: one, for the epic views of the country atop a mountain, and two, for bears! I’d done a lot of research and there were two bears living on the mountain that we’d be able to visit the enclosure of. Being an avid hiker, I never want to see a bear – but being a animal enthusiast I was excited at a safe opportunity to see one.

Long story short, the bear I saw was more of a bear’s ear (and possibly a paw?) than a real view of a bear. Apparently, they were napping. A little let down that our long trek up the mountain didn’t give us a real bear sighting, I was pretty open to whatever else they might have going on. So Giselle and I ended up sitting down at the bird show. A show I would normally pass up on because I’m not that interested in looking at a bird on an arm. However! These birds were amazingly well trained. They swooped and soared across and over the crowd and the long hillside. It was actually pretty great.

After a scenic lunch break at the top of the mountain, we took the cable car back down and tried to board a bus. Except, well, there was no way to buy bus tickets online. We were kind of shocked by this because I assumed there’d be an app or something. And of course, we had no Canadian money, because everything had been so Americanized in the city we assumed we would be fine. But now for the bus we just needed a loonie or toonie to gain a ride. After explaining our (honestly, dumb) situation to the bus driver, he granted us a spot to Capillano because it was only a couple of spots down the mountain. We were sure we could get a bus pass or money there.

So we’d gotten a free ride to Capillano Suspension Bridge, which was a cool park that had lots of suspension bridges across rivers and at the tops of trees. It was a little bit like an insanely cool treehouse, but with only entryways and no actual houses. I’ll admit, it was a bit touristy and pretty packed. But walking among the tree-tops was so cool! We had a lot of fun, enjoying nature, and the man-made pathways through it.

And then it was time to get a bus to Stanley Park, an island between North Vancouver and Vancouver. Except there were no stops on this little island. We’d have to go all the way back downtown and then come back up a different way. After yet again explaining to a bus driver where we were trying to get to, he offered to drop us off right at Lion’s Gate Bridge. He warned us of the long walk ahead, but we weren’t deterred, only delighted by everyone’s generosity.

Stanley Park was beautiful. Probably my favorite part because of all the trails, the beautiful beaches, the viewpoint from Prospect Point, and the massive stone cliffs in the middle of the sea like Swiash Rock. We were having a great walk but knew sundown was soon approaching. We’d been on the lookout for bike rentals but couldn’t find them anywhere. We caught the beginning of a gorgeous sunset on Third Beach, and started to worry we wouldn’t make it back into Vancouver before dark. We spotted two lifeguards and flagged them down as they were leaving for the day to ask about the bikes. Only to discover there was not a single bike rental station on the island. Of course.

As we were debating what to do, and if we should ask for further help, one of the lifeguards half-heartedly offered us a ride back into town. His lukewarm offer sold me immediately because I figured it was the voice of someone hoping we’d say no, which meant it was someone not wanting to murder either of us. Good enough for me! And so, less than twenty-four hours in a new country, Giselle and I were hitchhiking back into Vancouver.

Spoiler alert! We (obviously) did not end up getting murdered. And James was nice enough to take us all the way back to our hostel. We offered to buy him a drink, but he had his own friends to get back to for drinks, so Giselle and I went on without him. Earlier, we’d seen a game night advertised for our hostel’s bar, but that turned out to be a bust. We drank a couple beers and got the courage to wander the city streets. Had another drink, and some themed flavor poutine (I got Mediterranean) and returned back to the hostel bar. It was a great night!

I didn’t even mind quietly (lie) stumbling up the rickety ladder of my hostel bunk bed.

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