Vancouver is a city in British Columbia, Canada. With its location near the mouth of the Fraser River and on the waterways of the Strait of Georgia, Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet and their tributaries, Vancouver has, for thousands of years, been a place of meeting, trade and settlement.
The presence of people in what is now called the Lower Mainland of British Columbia dates from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago when the glaciers of the last ice age began to disappear.
The first Europeans to explore the area were Spanish Captain José María Narváez in 1791, and British naval Captain George Vancouver in 1792. The area was not settled by Europeans until almost a century later, in 1862. The city grew rapidly following completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) transcontinental line from Eastern Canada, allowing for continuous rail service in the late 1880s. Chinese settlers were increasingly a presence in the area following completion of the CPR. Subsequent waves of immigration were initially of Europeans moving west, and later, with the advent of global air travel, from Asia and many other parts of the world.
A spectacular view of Vancouver’s imposing skyline. The two halves of the cityare well connected by the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Pretty beaches hug the coastof both halves of this trendy city.
Everything about the country is big and even bigger. From the imposing edifice of the Canadian Rockies to the vast expanse of the Columbia Icefields the pristine infinity of Banff and Jasper National Park, the world’s Longest gondola ride at Whistler and the sprawling skylines of Vancouver.
1. Vancouver – Rocky Mountains, Alberta
Our first stop in Western Canada is Alberta. A province rich in oil, Albertans like to claim that they have the best of everything the country has to offer, from the finest beef to the best national parks, the most beautiful towns to the oldest First Nation tribes, the largest malls to the prettiest lakes, Alberta has it all.
If nature was to win a prize for layout and design, it would most probably be awarded to the scenic topography of Banff and jasper national Parks. The picturesque beauty of these little hamlets in Alberta put the words ‘picture perfect’ to shame. Everywhere we looked there was something prettier and more stunning to see from the monolithic mountains, dabbed in shades of summery white and frosty grey, to the cloaks of green that shroud the landscape, everything about Banff and jasper is awe inspiring and scenically overwhelming. Bright turquoise lakes, fast flowing rivers and an abundance of wildlife-bears (both Black and Grizzly), mountain goats , big-horned sheep, elk, reindeer and caribou roam the terrain with ease and familiarity, often stopping to stare at the weirdntwo-legged aliens who have dared to invade their land.
2. Natural hot springs on Sulphur Mountain
Discovered way back in 1883 When three workers of the Canadian Pacific Railway stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs on Sulphur Mountain, Banff attained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada is located in the town of Banff, Alberta within the Canadian Rocky Mountains, at the site of natural thermal mineral springs around which Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park, was established.
The Cave and Basin is the lowest component of nine sulphurous hot springs clustered in three groups on the northeast flank of Sulphur Mountain. All are located along the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault below Devonian limestones. The water is heated geothermally from an estimated depth of three kilometres. The Cave and Basin is the only underground cavern large enough to comfortably accommodate groups of people.
The town with a permanent population of approximately 8,500 people is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Canadian Rockies with one main street called Banff Avenue and a few side streets named after resident wildlife, the Banff Springs Hotel and the Banff Gondola are possibly the most popular tourist attractions here.
3. Vancouver – Mountains Lake Louise
As we moved further into the mountains lake louise, one of the highest habitable elevations in the mountains, we realized why it was aptly titled the ‘Jewel of the Rockies’. The lake itself (named after princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria), is so blue, it defies words that try and pinpoint its exact blue. With the might Mount Victoria at one end and Temple Mountain and its off-shoots flanking its shores, Lake louise inspires feelings of overwhelming grandeur from even the most prosaic soul.
Compelled to drive up to the Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont’s luxury property, to get a glimpse of the heavenly lake. It could will be considered an artless man made intervention lumped unceremoniously into this region of stunning beauty, but for the effort they have taken to ensure as little destruction as possible to the natural surrounding. Every mornings and late evenings are probably the only time one can grab an uninterrupted peek of the lake’s surreal waters. At most other times its packed with tourists waiting for the right spot to snap pictures of this stunning natural wonder.
4. Jasper National park
Driving south towards Jasper, we came upon the Columbia Icefield. Set astride the Continental Divide of North America, this icefield feeds eight major glaciers including the Athabasca Glacier that is supposedly as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall. We did a touristy trek of this frigid white-space by boarding an Ice Explorer to drive up to the iconic glacier for a two cent tour.
Further south is the little down of Jasper, home to the stunning Jasper Park Lodge and the historic Lake Patricia where Prime Minister Winston Churchill pulled off his secret military experiment called ‘Operation Habakuk’. Having decided that building ice chips would be cheaper and more durable than regular chips, churchill commissioned a 1-to-50-scale model prototype aircraft carrier to be built out of ice blocks and sawdust. The prototype was tested on Lake Patricia, but the actual ships were never built considering their horrendous cost. The remains of the prototype lie at the bottom of this lake and it has become a popular destination for scuba divers interested in seeing the barge.
As the borders of Jasper National park give way to flat prairie lands, the city of Edmonton comes into view. The west Edmonton Mall, considered the world’s largest retail space before a rival in the Emirates rudely dethroned it from its numero uno position, is the city’s primary claim to fame. Housing more than 800 retail brands, 100 restaurants and nine theme parks, all under one roof, the sheer size and dimension of the mall are gargantuan.
5. Next stop British Colombia
As our plane touches down into Vancouver airport a startling change from the rural Albertan landscape I immediately noted. The first thing about british Columbia that strikes us is its nonrural atmosphere.
Arriving at Vancouver, successively rated as the most livable city in the world, we were pleasantly surprised by the change in scenery, temperature and demographics. Having spent the last six days in hamlets and town inhabited by mere thousands, the million-odd population of Canada’s second largest city brought forth a welcome change in the form of urban adventure.
From the organized hustle of Vancouver to the Swiss-like feel of whistler, everything about BC is different from its neighbouring province of Alberta.
A two-hour drive along the Sea-to-Sky Highway takes us to whistler, one of the most coveted alpine resorts. Named after the marmot that whistles like a deflating balloon, this pretty village is one of the world’s most popular ski and snow boarding venues. With tulips colouring its landscape in abundance and houses built like European chalets, the village takes on a very Swiss like feel. Home to the word’s longest gondola ride, the peak to peak experience is awe inspiring for every minute of its 4.4 kilometer long journey.
Adventure sport like skiing, snow boarding, luge, bob-sledging, mountain biking and zip trekking are much hankered after here. However, another popular thrill seeking experience at whistler is boarding the Rockey Mountaineer, one of the world’s most luxurious trains, to indulge in its patented afternoon tea service with some of the region’s most spectacular scenery served on the side. During the three-and-a-half hour train ride to Vancouver we were treated to an authentic English afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches, scones and chocolate dipped strawberries, peppered with interesting tidbits of information on the local flora and fauna.
Down Town of Vancouver
Surrounded by spectacular snow-capped mountains, city-hugging beaches and dence parklands, this hip and happening metropolis is multicultural and multilingual paradise. We loved the stark contrast between the re-vitalized werehouses of Gastown and the ultra-chic feel of Yale Town. While one boasts of the best pubs and bars with quaint names like Judas Goat and Salt, the other prides itself on housing the most number of chic, yet frivolous establishment like nail bars and blow drying bars. Like our guide kindly pointed out, the patented look o a yale Towner would be black dress, latte in one hand and dog in the other. While the average Gastowner would sport a hooded sweatshirt, loose jeans and swap the latte for a beer!
Balancing well between outdoor attractions and urban adventure, Vancouver has Stanley park, Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge for its thrill seeking tourists. Then there’s Robson street, the West End, Chinatown and eclectic Granville Island for the more urbane soul. with its tall building and ancient totem poles co-existing in perfect harmony, the kaleidoscopic hues of Chinatown and affable gay district cataloguing the pulse of the city,Vancouver is indubitably the noveau traveller’s new-age playground.
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