I dislike being labelled a tourist. I’ve always preferred the term “traveller” or – if I’m feeling especially smug – “explorer”. I enjoy drifting off the main guide book pages and wandering down a backstreet to finding out where the locals go.
So it’s somewhat disturbing to find myself buying a ticket for the Vancouver Trolleybus, a fleet of faux streetcars which allow visitors to hop on and off at a series of notable points around town. However, it’s possibly one of the best ways of seeing a lot in a little time, and saving on the time spent negotiating local bus maps.
First stop is Vancouver’s biggest green space, Stanley Park. Sitting to the north of the downtown area it boasts hundreds of acres of forest surrounded by a picturesque shoreline. And in a nod to more traditional times, a bunch of totem poles.
A walk along the sea wall is a great way to understand Vancouver’s stunning position. In the background of that picture is Grouse Mountain, one of numerous resorts within easy reach of downtown. Just a few miles away is Whistler, the home of the Winter Olympics. And with dozens of waterfront parks and walks, it’s easy to see why Vancouver has been regularly named as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
The good weather certainly helps to add to the bonhomie. Included in my bus ticket is a ferry ride to Granville Island. In many other cities, this would be a no go industrial district. Steel bridges and corrugated warehouses mix with narrow streets. It could look daunting and univiting. But independent traders and artists have made this place their own, with the centre of attraction being the Public Market. It’s a foodie’s paradise, with fresh produce and tastes from all over the world – be they sour or sweet.
The Trolley drivers are all enthusiastic characters – to a point. But they’re essentially reeling off the same script day in, day out. “This is Science World, so if you want to check out some science, this is is the stop for you.” However, they do also have a list of more impressive statistics as we roll through Chinatown (“the biggest in North America outside San Francisco”) and onto Gastown.
This is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton. He essentially founded what became this city in 1867. Realising there was no local refreshment for the shipping workers, he built the first pub and the rest is history. Along with a statue of the man himself, the main monument here is the Steam Clock, powered mainly by electricity. But don’t tell the tourists that.