Having lived in Montreal for most of my life, it felt strange that I’d never actually visited Vancouver, or anywhere in British Columbia for that matter (I had visited Ottawa though). Well, it turns out that taking a flight from Montreal to Vancouver only takes around two hours less than flying from London to Montreal. Living in England, my definitions of words like ‘big’, or ‘far’ seemed to have been warped somewhat. Leeds seems far, and Scotland feels pretty big. By my relative standards, Canada’s off the scale – so much so that I can’t believe I didn’t start having claustrophobic panic attacks when I returned to England after my trip to British Columbia, Canada. Perhaps I should have checked out a travel guide like MyDestination British Columbia first…
The upside with travelling to a province easily bigger than England is that there’s loads to see. The downside is that you won’t have time to do much, because getting anywhere is such a trek. After careful consideration (glancing at a map), I decided to go to Victoria after checking out Vancouver, and from Victoria I would try to get to Strathcona Provincial park. Glancing at a map at the last second wasn’t the most efficient way of planning a trip, granted, but at least I was ensuring I wouldn’t spend half of my journey trudging from one location to the next.
From my arrival at Vancouver International Airport, my visit seemed like a whirlwind of activities. There’s easily enough to do here to have lasted me the whole trip, but my tight schedule meant I only had a few days to sample what Vancouver and its friendly Vancouverites had to offer. Luckily, the city’s public transport is brilliant, and a ride on the excitingly-named Skytrain allowed me to get around fairly quickly. The city centre was so packed with attractions, places to stay and food that I didn’t have time to explore beyond it. The Vancouver Art Gallery is definitely worth a visit on a Tuesday, when you can donate what you want to get in. If you want to eat out in British Columbia, Vancouver is the place to be, especially for Japanese food. Surprisingly enough, there seems to be a huge range of Japanese restaurants, from budget fast food to lavish restaurants. The look on my face must’ve been priceless when I was first introduced to Japadog – cheap hot dogs with a Japanese twist. I’d never seen anything so deliciously weird in my life (that being said, it’s probably because I haven’t been to Japan yet). I spent my time in Vancouver living off of Kobe beef hot dogs, though if you’re craving some typically Canadian junk food, I suggest you go with a Poutine (like a Burger King!).
I spent so much time in Vancouver that I didn’t really have time to give Victoria, B.C.’s capital, the time it deserved. The ferry ride to Vancouver Island was felt like an introduction to Vancouver Island’s rugged beauty – the sound of appreciative gasps clearly betrayed the tourists amongst the locals. Victoria is a beautiful place and a great city to stay in when exploring the rest of the island, and somehow felt more peaceful than the bustling Vancouver. A quick tour the Butchart Gardens was enough to satisfy me that Victoria’s nickname of ‘The Garden City’ is no mere boast.
After my urban adventures, however, I was craving the more rugged and isolated side of nature. The Strathcona Provincial Park, which I’d arbitrarily picked at a time which felt so long ago, did not disappoint. Over a quarter of a million hectares big, the park consists of clear lakes and rivers, sweeping meadows and ancient forests all overlooked by eternally snow-capped mountains lay before me, overwhelmingly untouched by man save for a few maps along its trails. A word of warning, however – get some mosquito repellent and wear long sleeves … don’t say I didn’t warn you!
But I can sit here and write about British Columbia for as long as I want, and I still won’t do it justice. As with any destination, you simply have to go out there and experience it yourself.
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Author Bio: Louis Jobin
Louis Jobin is an undergraduate studying English and Japanese Studies. His passions are European literature, Asian cuisine and Scandinavian music.
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Without a doubt Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. Have you been here and explored other areas in British Columbia? Do you think it is as livable as it’s said to be? What side trips would you highly recommend? Remember to share your thoughts below, and this post too if you liked it!