BRITISH COLUMBIA

What to see - part 2

Part 1 Tsawwassen Vancouver Island - the Vancouver Island Ferry
  Vancouver Island Craigdarroch Castle - Victoria City - the Butchart Gardens
     
Part 2 Vancouver City City Tour - Stanley Park - Christ Church Cathedral - Sun Yat Sen Garden
  Rocky Mountains Vancouver - Revelstoke - Alberta
     
  other pages British Columbia : overview and history | other provinces | articles

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Vancouver City

City tour

The ride to the heart of the city runs along Hastings Street, where a European view can be enjoyed, with small houses and small shops. However, this area is also part of Chinatown, and all the shops are soundly protected with strong iron bars in front of the windows...

The overall impression, however, is a rather sad story, and many homeless can be seen on the sidewalks, garbed in dreadful clothes.

A little ahead we saw an electric trolley bus ! Vancouver still uses these somewhat old-fashioned but very energy-efficient vehicles for its public transport system.

The award-winning attraction Storyeum was located in downtown's pedestrian Water Street. Storyeum was a brand-new attraction, in which every half hour a 70-minute movie was shown about British Columbia's history, in different halls of course... The building also included various exhibitions and shops. Imagine our surprise, however, when we discovered that Storyeum was closed until further notice...

Vancouver 1 Vancouver 2
   
Vancouver 3 Vancouver 4

On a street corner in Water Street, an ancient gas-clock can be found, and it even plays music ! After all, Vancouver is not called Gastown for nothing ! It refers to its rich mineral past, when the whole city was switched to gas...

Vancouver 5 Vancouver 6

The whole downtown area is actually one big contrast. The many skyscrapers indicate expensive investments, even though they are mostly located in a somewhat poor environment. But abject poverty is also very evident, and several vagrants and beggars roam the streets and check the trash cans, in search of food or anything of value...

Vancouver is, architecturally speaking, not exactly a pleasant city. Everywhere there are high rise apartment buildings, overlooking the bay, but their architecture is not particularly pretty or even pleasant, and they rather focus on efficiency and revenue. And many more are in the pipeline.

Stanley park

Stanley Park is the largest city park. The highest point in this park is Prospect Point, from which one has a panoramic view over the bay and the sea route to the Pacific Ocean. And over the many villas that have been built in the opposite hills...

Stanley Park 1 Stanley Park 2
   
Stanley Park 3 Stanley Park 4
   

The park itself had apparently recently been severely battered by a storm or a hurricane. Literally hundreds of trees had been uprooted and they were scattered everywhere, as if thrown down by a giant hand... Though the road had been cleared, the rubble and the mess hadn't been cleaned up yet.

The Lions Gate Bridge connects majestically high one island with the other. It is technically certainly a high quality work of art, albeit that traffic only trickles over it...

Vancouver : Lions Gate Bridge

 

Christ Church cathedral

The Christ Church cathedral is located in the center of the city. Unfortunately, it is utterly impossible to find a parking space anywhere, and the church seems somewhat lost among the many skyscrapers. The center of Vancouver City consists entirely of towering skyscrapers, to the point that even a GPS completely loses track !

Christ Church Cathedral 1 Christ Church Cathedral 2

 

Sun Yat Sen Chinese garden

Chinatown is home to the Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden. Unfortunately, this neighborhood is so poor, desolate and downright oppressive, with such an army of beggars, vagrants and tramps, that it isn't particularly inviting to tourists... We learned that many Canadian "homeless" come to Vancouver, because of the better climate in this province. Nevertheless, for political and financial considerations, no relief is provided for these poor souls.

Given the prospect of the Winter Olympics in February 2010, this posed a delicate "aesthetic" problem, because every tourist could see their desperate situation with his own eyes. However, the city came up with a "humanitarian solution"... During the games the homeless would be accepted in special homes, but only until the Olympic games were over. Afterwards, they could once more "take care of themselves"...

The Rocky Mountains

From Vancouver to Revelstoke

The Trans-Canada Highway runs from Vancouver to Alberta, right through the Rocky Mountains. In the city of Hope begins Highway 5, which is a recent Toll Way. This new section is quite a bit shorter than the very winding course of the TC-1, but it also happens to be quite steep. In fact, as early as in 1898, Hope was already the way toward the Gold Rush in the mountains...

The entire road through the Rockies, from Jasper in British Columbia to Lloydminster in Alberta, is a part of the Yellowhead Trail. This trail was named after the blonde trapper and Métis Pierre Bostonais, who guided the fur traders through the mountains along this path.

The trip begins with a steep descent of 8%, followed by an equally steep climb, so that ten minutes later the altitude is already 300 meters higher... The slope of the next pass is again so steep, that one soon has to downshift into a lower gear. Next comes a short breather on a more horizontal area, but not for long, because several large road signs warn truck drivers that they have to chain up. Which means that the next climb can be expected...

And yes, the next climb goes to the Coquihalla Summit, at an elevation of 1,244 meters, and the following descent is equally steep. The city of Merritt is the end of the toll section on Highway 5. The highway does continue, but it is toll-free and runs through a series of hills.

The Trans-Canada Highway the Rocky Mountains 1

The next pass is Surrey Summit, with a peak of 1,444 m. The panorama of the mountains is simply gorgeous, with mountains, forests and trees ! Unfortunately, only the passenger will be able to admire it fully, because throughout the entire passage the driver doesn't encounter a flat or straight section of more than 200 meters in length...

After a mile-long descent of 6%, the city of Kamloops is reached. It is located in a narrow and deep valley between the mountains, almost like a rabbit pipe... Amazingly, the many houses seem to be stuck on the mountain slopes ! Once past Kamloops, the Trans Canada Highway is demoted to a tortuous and small two-lane road, although it is quite busy with traffic from cars and trucks. Regularly there are special "overtaking zones", about every fifteen kilometers. The speed on this "highway" is therefore limited to 90 kilometers per hour.

Around the cities of Salmon Arm and Sicamous, once again beautiful panorama's of mountains and lakes can be admired. Revelstoke is famous as a beautiful and snow-rich area, with some five feet of snow in the winter, and temperatures from zero to -20° Celsius... Winter hikers, skiers and snowmobile enthusiasts consider it to be the true winter paradise !

the Rocky Mountains 2 Glacier National Park

The Revelstoke surroundings are truly magnificent. The landscape, against the backdrop of the immense snowy mountain peaks, quite well resembles Switzerland. Some large investors therefore have come up with an ambitious touristic project for this region. A ski lift (Gondola) was built on the mountain, and a large series of apartment buildings (condos) were projected. At the project's Grand Opening, in three hours time more than one hundred apartments were sold, ranging from 300,000 to 1,500,000 cad ! And the project was yet to start...

However, for more down-to-earth things no funds seem to be available in British Columbia. The road markings certainly aren't overwhelming, and often there are no markings at all. Road signs are scarce, and steep slopes are often not even mentioned. All road markings and signs are usually indicated in two languages (English and French).

From Revelstoke to Alberta

The next climb leads from Revelstoke to the summit of Glacier Park. The road surface that had previously been bumpy, now becomes downright awful, with large potholes and fissures. Several signs with "Chain Up Area Ahead" warn you for the next climb, and fifteen minutes later you'll climb up the Rogers Pass, at 1,330 m of altitude.

In the following long descent we saw a sign with "Fin de la zone d 'Avalanche" (end of the Avalanche Zone). That would have been a reassuring note, were it not for the fact that ten kilometers ahead a mud slide had blocked the road... Next you'll cross over into the Mountain Time Zone, which suddenly makes it one hour later.

From Revelstoke to Alberta 1 From Revelstoke to Alberta 2

Past the city of Golden, the next climbing party starts to the following pass, and this one was very appropriately named "The Kicking Horse". A large traffic sign presented a somewhat sarcastic warning : "Next 14 kilometerNarrow and Winding Road". You wouldn't believe it, but this road actually twists even more than before ! As a matter of fact, the speed limit is lowered to 60 km, and later even to a mere crawl of 40 kilometers per hour. And this is the Trans-Canada Highway 1 ! It takes an hour to finally pass "the Kicking Horse", and one can only imagine that this Indian name is probably more related to the poor quality of the road surface than any historical background...

The highway continues along the Yoho National Park, which is the forerunner to the next pass. The city of Field lies on a plateau, and by now the driver is ecstatic to drive again on a "normal" road. But it is too soon to claim victory, because just ahead comes the following sign with "Chain Up Area"... After another very steep climb, the top of Lake Louise or Lake O'Hara Pass is reached, some twenty kilometers from the border with Alberta. No elevation was specified, but our altimeter indicated 5,600 feet or some 1,700 meters of altitude.

From Revelstoke to Alberta 3 Sunshine Village : ski area

The region encompasses the most famous Canadian ski areas, namely Banff Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise. Lake Louise is by far the largest ski area, with about 10 meters of snow per year, and unforgettable views.

The scenery in British Columbia is without a doubt simply stupendous and truly magnificent. A sore point is that the road conditions are such that, although driving a heavy fifth wheel through the Canadian Rocky Mountains might appeal to some as a challenge, it is not particularly recommended for people with a weak heart...

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