Exploring Vancouver, BC…A city that I love.

In October, I ventured north across the US/Canada border to race in the Inaugural Rock N Roll Vancouver Half Marathon, which ultimately means “MINI VACATION”. (You can read about the race here).

I’ve been planning on running this race since mid June just shortly after accepting a new position. Thankfully, I was able to get several days off to take a long 5 day weekend. Like the times before, I selected to stay at the Samesun Hostel right on Granville Street, located in the heart of downtown. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”why on earth would you stay at a hostel if you’re there to run a race?” Well, that’s simple. It’s great for solo individuals on a budget. You get to meet so many people from all over the world (new friends), you have a bed (sleep) with roommates (new friends), and you are close to the action (fun). How does that not sound like a win-win. I know it does tend to get noisy in hostels but that’s what headphones and earplugs are use for.

Vancouver can be tricky to get to if you don’t know where you are going, and since I’ve been before once I entered downtown I was able to locate the parking garage immediately. Once checked into the hostel, I immediately connected with one of my hostel mates who I noticed getting ready and asked to tag along (which you can’t be afraid to do at hostels). She said yes and I’m glad she did. We ended up enjoying a great night out on the town with several other hostel mates (and we may have stayed out too late and drank a few beers). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go out very much during my first few nights here and I don’t do well just sitting at the hostel, so I’m glad I started on such a high.

The next day was a day I was looking forward to for sometime. There had always been one tourist attraction that I felt I was missing every time I’d come to Vancouver and since it was only Friday (2 days till the half), I knew I had the perfect opportunity to go there. Where’s there? I’m taking about Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (CSBP) is located approximately 30 minutes outside of the city center and can be accessed easily by car or bus. In fact, CSBP offers free shuttle services (times vary depending on season) that pick up and drop off at several locations around downtown, providing easy access to/from the park. Utilizing this service, I didn’t have to stress much on transportation and could spend a little extra time researching about the park. Here’s a quick summary taken from Capilano Suspension Bridge‘s homepage:

“Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 100 feet above the forest floor. The new Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure!”

The suspension bridge itself was built in 1898 and is Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction. It stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the forest floor and Capilano River. The park is 27 acres large  and new attractions being added since it’s opening. Other attractions around the park include the Treetop Adventures, Cliffwalk, Kia’palano (BC’s first nation people history), and the park even offers live guided nature tours. During the winter months, don’t forget to stop by the nighttime Canyon Lights attraction. This is a MUST DO activity when visiting…and it’s fun for all ages.

I ended up spending several hours around the park and was in complete “ahhh” walking over the suspension bridge multiple times. The weather was perfect so speed wasn’t a factor. I have this thing with nature; whether it’s simply just walking around the wilderness or exploring a park, nature has this way of bringing me back to my center. This park has much to offer someone who enjoys experiencing new adventures.

After exploring for hours, I made my way back to the hostel where I met up with my roommates for an exciting night out on the town. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to go out because I was there for a race, so I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to spend a night out in Vancouver.

The next day, Saturday, I was able to meet up with a friend I met during my first trip to Seattle nearly three years ago. She has been living in Vancouver for about a year. Today was a bit rainy but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a delicious brunch, and venturing around downtown and to Granville Island. Of course, we decided to do a little Granville Island Brewery tasting, which I haven’t been to Vancouver without drinking there.

I decided to take it easy this night because the next morning, Sunday, was my big race. The evening included getting dinner with Adrienne and enjoying some hilarious time with all my hostel mates, who were all drinking and getting ready for the big night out. There was quite a bit of alcohol consumed and many drinking games, which from a bystanders opinion was entertaining and quite enjoyable. I hit the sack early and was blessed with amazing roommates, who were kind enough to be very quiet when they arrived home in the early morning hours (2 AM) to allow me to get a good night’s sleep. Talk about support.

The next morning was the race. You can read all about it here on another blog post.  After the race, feeling exhausted and finally having a shower, a fellow hostel runner Donnie and myself ventured out for some food. I always feel like a massive burger after exercising and that’s exactly what we ate. We ventured down Granville Street to a local restaurant called Stackhouse Burger Bar and enjoyed a very juicy and meaty burger and fries.

Following lunch, we headed back to the hostel to relax and enjoy many beverages (as well as icing several body parts). The night continued with some entertaining moments and resulted in a semi-early bedtime as dehydration kicked in.

I knew my time in Vancouver would be short and sweet, but I couldn’t have imagined the weekend I had experienced. The amount of fun, laughter, memories, and friendships I made was more than I could have asked. The race, although injured, was still an amazing experience and I am happy that I was able to be apart of the Inaugural year for the Vancouver RnR Half Marathon.

Stay tuned for the next Mapless Adventure…

Day Trip to Vancouver, Canada

Christmas came and went this year and although I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, it still was very heartbreaking being so far away. Because of this, my friend Krista and I decided that we needed to get away and what better way than to road trip north to Vancouver, BC, Canada! If you recall I visited Canada for the first time back in February (first canadian adventure) and ever since then I have been DYING to back. When I realized I’d have a free weekend (the last of 2013), I knew exactly where I needed to go. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is as crazy as me for a ROAD TRIP!

We left really early Saturday morning and made it from Seattle to Vancouver, BC in under 3.5 hours and that included the 30+ minute wait at the border. Once we crossed the border, both Krista and I felt like children at Disney Land. There is something euphoric about entering another country and going off the grid even if it’s only a few hour drive.

We made it to Vancouver, found a location to park Misty for the day and headed out towards the city with a stop for some caffeine. Yes, the first thing we did in Vancouver was make a pit stop at a coffee shop! Can you blame us, we did just sit 3.5 hours in a car jamming to music! Now give you a little over view of the events to come next…the night before Krista and I watched the movie Elf and Krista has always wanted to pull an ELF adventure day. So what came next was the start of an ELF IN VANCOUVER. As we were walking towards the main downtown street, my crazy friend walked into a coffee shop and said the exact same lines from Elf and a few people stared, some clapped, but mostly people didn’t really know how to react. Then we found a round-a-bout door, which she proceeded to go round and round as I laugh with her. It was quite awesome.

After that, we had to make a decision > to go to the suspension bridge to see the lights/biggest Christmas tree or head to Granville Island for some mischievous adventure. Can you guess which one we choose? If you guessed taking the aquabus to Granville Island, you’d be correct. I have been to the island before and knew of some fun places that we could visit. We started with lunch at the market and did some wandering around trying some new fruits and mostly people watching! After the market, we started our tour de Granville at Artisan Saki Maker for some delicious saki. Then off to The Liberty Distillery for a bit of vodka tasting (my favorite and a first for me) before ending our tour our the Granville Brewery!

One of Krista’s “must do” for our road trip, was meeting ‘true’ Canadians and leave it to this girl to make friends with one of the servers at the brewery, who bravely joined us for a bit of nighttime fun. Unfortunately, our trip didn’t end on a high note as Krista lost her phone, however this trip was still one to remember for years to come.  I’m glad I was able to spend my spontaneous international day trip/road trip with someone so dear to my heart. I sometimes forget how lucky I am and how wonderful of people I have in my life. This trip was the perfect way to end 2013! Check out our day in pictures HERE!

First Time to Canada

The New Year came and went, along with my attitude towards work. I don’t know what changed, but things started to get tensed and my team began to notice my change in attitude. I was requested (told) to take a mini vacation, re-group/re-center and I jumped at it (without hesitation). It was a much needed vacation and with so much free time, I knew EXACTLY where I needed to go.

Vancouver, BC, Canada was on my radar since I decided to move up to the PNW. I was, however, unaware of ALL the things Vancouver had to offer, but that didn’t matter. I was up for the challenge and learning experience. I haven’t done a fully spontaneous, book the night before, just leave, type of an adventure since I lived and traveled throughout Italy. Gosh, did it feel amazing. Have you ever had that heart pumping, feel like a kid in a candy story, giddiness rush of happiness, feeling upon doing something? If you haven’t, I highly suggest going out and doing something wild and crazy, and that doesn’t have satan’s grasp over you.  As the border began to appear in my line of site and as I inched closer and closer until finally crossing over, those feelings (plus more) hit me like the hurricane wind. All the stress in my heart, my soul and my head, dissipated into thin air.

Forty-five minutes later, I arrived. Downtown Vancouver became my home for the next three days and the unknown slowly unraveled into reality.

I did have one thing planned before leaving- sleeping arrangements. I decided on a popular hostel, Samesun Backpacker Lodges, located in the heart of downtown that not only offered decently priced accommodations, they offered daily excursions or events, and a bar/restaurant easily located on the first floor of the building. Hostels are quite entertaining and wonderful places to meet people from all over the world; reason I love staying at them.

Once I found the hostel, parked my car, and got settled, I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. What better way to explore the unknown then by simply walking; no map in had, no final destination. That night, I managed to wonder downtown, strolling alongside the art museum, and ending up at the waterfront; home to the Olympic Torch from the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Convention Center, and Canada Place (Canada’s Icon and hub for activity). The weather was a bit chilly, but it was a crystal clear evening and just the peaceful environment I needed to de-stress and unwind.

Saturday wasn’t as unplanned as Friday night. The hostel hosted an excursion to 1 of the 2 suspension bridges located within Vancouver that afternoon, and I wasn’t going to pass up that adventure. Before the trip, I wanted to venture back to the waterfront for a daylight view of the water and mountains to the north. Unfortunately, mother nature had another plan- clouds. It wasn’t the rain clouds I’ve gotten accustomed too here in Washington, but those light-weight, low level, perfect to block a view type clouds. I wasn’t too heart-broken, however. The clouds ended up creating picturesque, majestic view of the Vancouver Skyline. A perfect setting for a morning stroll. By afternoon, I was eager to travel to Lynn Canyon Park with 10 of my fellow hostel goers and experience my first ever suspension bridge. It took approximately 1 hour from the hostel to reach our final destination, and included walking, a water taxi, a bus, and a little bit of hiking.

The bridge itself is not very long (compared to the other one), but once you’re standing in the middle looking strait down onto a canyon, you realize the power a bridge like this holds. Connecting one side to the other, without the bridge parts of the park would be a mystery to the human eye. I might not have seen the green water hole, a location of a lost plane that crashed, or a semi-frozen lake with a mountain skyline. Granted it helped that the group of travelers I was with, were all up for the adventure of hiking (and getting a little lost in the process).

By Sunday morning, I had a list of “Must See” places within Vancouver. I knew that this was going to be my last full day of exploration and wanted to check off as much as I could (regardless of the Superbowl or not). The hostel hosted another adventure that included exploring Granville Island public market and brewery. In the AM, before joining other hostel goers, I ventured to the other waterfront (southside of downtown) for a stroll with views of Granville Island, English Bay, and second and third beaches. By that afternoon, I was wandering around an amazing market place filled with fresh fruit, homemade bakery items, and LOTS of MAPLE SYRUP (yes, I did buy some). Shortly following, I was tasting delicious island brewed beer, including a maple ale, and organic saki. Talk about living life to the fullest! As nighttime came around, I was exhausted and decided to find a quite bar to enjoy some good food and good beer (it was easier than it sounds).

Monday was more of a bittersweet day as it was time for me to rejoin the real world. I may not have done everything I would have liked to up in Vancouver, BC, Canada, I can give you with 100% certainty, I will be back (hopefully sooner rather than later)!  Click here for pictures