A Diverse LandscapeYou're hiking along a wide, bark-mulched trail through an old-growth forest of towering Western red cedar, Douglas fir and Western hemlock trees. Salmonberry, huckleberry and Alaskan blueberries grow together in luxurious tangles. A raccoon ambles by, giving you an inquisitive look. A goose honks in the distance. You stop and ask, “Wait a minute—am I really in a city?” That question is answered a few minutes later when you emerge from Stanley Park to the hustle and bustle of Georgia Street.
There's no denying the beauty of Vancouver's natural setting. Vistas of green coastal mountains and the shimmering waters of the Strait of Georgia were tailor-made to grace a travel postcard. And downtown is a marvel: skyscrapers, human hubbub and quiet, tree-lined residential streets all coexisting harmoniously in one tightly packed urban cityscape. If that pocket description sounds a bit like San Francisco, it's an apt comparison, but there really is no place like Vancouver.
No doubt the southwestern British Columbia wilderness impressed Capt. George Vancouver. An officer in the British Royal Navy, he sailed into Burrard Inlet on June 13, 1792, while searching for the Northwest Passage, the sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Vancouver named the inlet after his friend Sir Harry Burrard, a member of Parliament, but lent his own moniker to the city and the large island that lies between the mainland and the Pacific.
Vancouver was incorporated in 1886, quite a young city given its present-day status. A Canadian Pacific Railway passenger train arrived the following year, showering spectators with soot and cinders. By the 1890s transpacific shipping inaugurated the city as a major world port, and the future was looking rosy indeed.
That era produced colorful characters like John Deighton, aka “Gassy Jack,” a saloon owner who set up shop in Gastown, the city's oldest section and a popular tourist hangout. The name is a reference to Deighton's reputation for storytelling and tall-tale bluster. A statue of his likeness stands at the circle where Water, Alexander, Powell and Carrall streets converge.
Mandarin and Cantonese are the mother tongues in almost a third of Vancouver's homes; only San Francisco's and New York's Chinatowns are bigger. The Millennium Gate at Pender and Taylor streets is a symbolic entryway that incorporates both eastern and western symbols. Between 1890 and 1920 Asian immigrants settled on back streets like Shanghai Alley off Pender Street; wall panels tell the story of their lives. Holding out your arms is almost enough to embrace the Sam Kee Building at 8 Pender St., which is only 6 feet wide.
Vancouverites represent a melting pot of nationalities. The original inhabitants of coastal British Columbia were the Northwestern peoples, and their descendants live in urban areas and in reserve communities within ancestral territories. Diversity is the keynote, whether preserved in street names like Barclay and Granville, or in neighborhoods like Little Italy or the East Indian community.
Not bad for a former lumber town, eh?
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
3 m/10 ft.
British Columbia has a 5 percent goods and services tax (GST) and a 7 percent provincial sales tax (PST).
Time and Temperature
Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, (604) 874-1141; St. Paul's Hospital, (604) 682-2344; Vancouver General Hospital, (604) 875-4111.
200 Burrard St. Vancouver, BC V6C 3L6. Phone:(604)682-2222
Vancouver International Airport
Hertz, with one location at Vancouver International Airport and three locations downtown at 1270 Granville St., 413 Seymour St. and 1150 Station St., offers discounts to AAA members; phone (604) 606-3700 for airport location or (800) 654-3080.
The Via Rail passenger train terminal is at 1150 Station St.; phone (888) 842-7245 in Canada or in the United States.
The Greyhound bus terminal is at 1150 Station St.; phone (604) 683-8133.
Taxi fares start at $3.20-$3.25 for the first kilometre (.6 mi.), plus $1.84-$1.88 for each additional kilometre. Companies include Black Top & Checker Cabs, (604) 731-1111; MacLure's, (604) 831-1111; Yellow Cab, (604) 681-1111; and Vancouver Taxi, (604) 871-1111.
TransLink offers bus service as well as SeaBus and SkyTrain service. See Public Transportation for details.