Tuesday October 26th, 2010 20:27 Vancouver

Stepping off the bus, I walked through the streets of Vancouver on the way to my hostel. As I checked in, I was offered the chance to get a private room just for that night. It was an extra $30 but I found myself to have more of surplus of spending money this late in the trip, so I decided to splurge. After checking into my room, I tried to see if I could find some of the other hostelgoers to see if they were interested in getting a drink. I couldn’t find anyone and decided to head out alone. I’m not sure what all of Canada’s contributions to the culinary arts are, but there if theres one thing I love, it’s a good poutine. Grabbing a poutine to go, I walked up and down Davie street (the street my hostel was closest to) looking for a bar to hang out in for a couple drinks before calling it a night. I walked up and down the street for blocks upon blocks. Looking in the windows of bar after bar after bar, I had a stark realization. Davie street was the center, err.. centre of gay Vancouver. Without a cellphone data plan, I did what any tech savvy tourist would do, I headed to the first coffee shop I could find to leech their free wifi on my phone and find a place to go. After doing my research, It looked like all the hip bars were a few kilometers east of me and I wasn’t quite in the mood for another long walk. Defeated, I walked back to my hostel and got to bed early.

Up early the next morning, I entered the kitchen and to my amazement, there were a TON of people in there. I put a plate together and sat down at the only empty seat I could find at a table of three girls. Politely introducing myself, I inquired where they were from. Toronto! That’s close to home. I mentioned that I was from Detroit and they were like instantly disinterested. I finished my meal, grabbed a quick shower and checked out of my private room and into my dorm room. The dorm room in Vancouver was a thousand times better than the dorm room in Philly! Before I saw it, I wasn’t looking forward to staying there even for just one night. The dorm room featured only four people per room, nice big lockers and comfortable beds. After locking my stuff up, I headed downstairs and rented a bike. Rolling onto the street, I headed off to my first destination, the seawall path up to Stanley Park.

Even though the morning started out a grey and cloudy, I instantly realized that Vancouver is the most beautiful city that I’ve seen with my own eyes. The few pictures included in this post really don’t do the place justice. The streets (especially the seawall area) were filled with different works of art. There were so many runners, rollerbladers and cyclists all about. Riding on the bike path going counter-clockwise surrounded by water with sights like Grouse Mountain and the Lions Gate Bridge left me mesmerized. I rode down the opposite side of the seawall and made my way to Canada Place where some giant cruise ships were docked. I stopped to snap a few pictures by the Olympic Cauldron before heading back towards my hostel. My stomach rumbled and I knew that while I was in the great nation of Canada, I had to indulge in some more poutine. I ‘d tried a place the previous night that was alright. According to the fine people of the internet, the place to go in the neighborhood was La Belle Patate. The fine people of the internet did me no wrong there.

After a well deserved break at my hostel, I hopped back on my rented wheels and headed to Granville Island. It was a neat ride over there especially since part of the island tucked underneath the Granville street bridge. The highlight of this spot is the public market. The Granville Island Public Market was essentially a nicer, cleaner version of Pike Place with about 70% less tourist crap trash for sale. That isn’t counting the numerous souvenir shops located right outside, but I think you get the point. Catching the tail end of a street performer show, I watched as the performer contorted himself through a squash racket, while standing on board balancing on a cylinder on a platform. Granville Island is also famous for a microbrewery. Eager to try another microbrew, I stopped into small restaurant with a “Granville Island Brewing on tap” sign for fish (it was salmon!) and chips with a nice craft pale ale. With the evening just beginning and a time restriction on my bike (sundown), I knew I had to make the most of the hour or so I had left. Slowly riding south east along the seawall and back, I parked myself on a bench on the beach by my hostel and watched the sunset.

I headed back to the hostel for another break. This time around, I took a quick shower as I uploaded some pictures to my Flickr account. I also got to meet my three roommates. One of the dudes was from Montreal and I remember being blown away by the fact that he was speaking in english and I could barely understand what in the hell he was saying. My second roommate wasn’t memorable enough to mention. However, the third roommate, Til was very cool. Til was 18 years old and had recently graduated from high school in his home country of Germany. Instead of being college-bound, Til decided that wasn’t for him yet and instead was sitting in Vancouver awaiting to hear from a few farms to start a WWOOF program. Til had no plans for the night, so I insisted that he tag along with me on my adventure to one of Vancouver’s hip bars. Little did either of us know, but we were in for one hell of an adventure.

Hastily reading Google map directions to my bar of choice, we jumped on a bus headed east. After a handful of stops, the bus driver made an awkward stop in the middle of nowhere to let a passenger out and said “I’m going to let you out here, it’s just not safe up there”. At this point I snickered. Safe? We’re in Canada! What are they going to do threaten us with apologies? Eventually, we made it to the Main street stop when I had this striking realization. Main street was east of where we were headed. I immediately tugged on the string and Til and I exited the bus. I walked to the nearest street corner to find my bearings, but it was in vain for we were lost. In order to appear untouristy, I snuck my pocket bike map out to find out where the hell we were only to notice that street with bike lanes and chevrons were the only streets labeled on the map. Shit! I pulled my phone out of my pocket, regrettable enabled my data plan ($10 a meg in Canada!) pulled a map up with our GPS location and started heading north. We walked through old Chinatown and it was absolutely dead at this time of night. With the exception of the neon glow, It was like walking through a ghost town. Eventually we made it up to Hastings street. Hastings street! That sounds familiar! I think the bar is on that street! So Til and I headed down Hastings street, after a block we noticed a few homeless people and some private security guards outside a building. I thought nothing of it and proceeded to march down the street. The further we headed the more and more populated the street became with the homeless and junkies. I pulled my hood up over my head, told Til “pull you hood up, don’t look at anyone, don’t talk to anyone, just keep walking” and we did. It was like walking through the set of a zombie film. Eventually we made our way near Canada Place. I remembered a microbrewery near there so we headed in for a taste flight. Nine 6 ounce sample of microbrew for $15 Canadian? Yes please! Til and I drank and laughed about the strange encounter we had just experienced.

A little after midnight, we started headed back towards the hostel but there was a problem. I was hungry and still a little thirsty! Upon seeing a sign that read “Slice and a Pint – $8″ I knew I had to have it! Goldies was my hunger savior. Sitting down at the bar, we were greeted by Mike the owner who takes our orders and then asks me where I’m from. “The Motor City is in the house alright! Detroit Rock City!” he responded. Soon after taking my order a couple of Afro-Latino dudes showed up and sat next to us. Mike greeted them with big hugs then poured them a round on the house then turned and said “This guys from Detroit!” “Detroit?! I know some cats from Detroit and those muthafuckas got some character!” said the dude in the bowler hat. We chatted about my travels, my recent trip through zombieland and some other random topics. “You are a well traveled man and a well traveled man has perspective, since he sees the good and the bad sides of where he visits” said bowler hat guy. I’m sure he was out of his mind at the time, but it was still awesome. Before I knew it,  more pizza and drinks kept coming and they were all on the house! The owner and his friends were off so we said out goodbyes and the time had come to cash out… $8 was my tab. I stared up at the TV and noticed that “SportsCentre” was playing on TSN and chuckled. As I was paying, the other bartender (an Arab-Canadian) mentions to me that his entire family lives in Southfield. Small world.

I don’t remember much of the walk back with the exception of the following events:

* Til personally apologizing for the holocaust

* Telling some english chick that the only good thing to come from Manchester was Morrissey

* Til waking up our other 2 roommates by turning on the lights and yelling “HEY GUYS!”

However, I don’t remember who took this photo of Til and I.

I slept in the next morning till just about check-out time. Showered, checked my bags at the front desk, swang by La Belle Patate for brunch (one cant deny the tastiness of poutine!) and headed to do what every red-blooded American should do on a Sunday: watch football. I was surprised to find a sports bar on Davie street so close to my hostel. I was not surprised to see the many sirens, mirror balls and rainbow flags inside. Oh Canada, you sure know how to queer up a sports bar. Hours and a few black labels later, I reclaimed my luggage and headed towards the bus stop. Curiously eyeing a pizza place called “Megabite”, I figured I could use a snack and also needed to get rid of the last of my Canadian money. The woman in line seemed to not know what the hell she wanted, but it didn’t really bother me at all. It came my turn and I ordered a couple slices of (canadian) bacon pizza and a Cplus (Canadian Sunkist) then headed out the door. Outside the woman from the line stopped me and in a stereotypically Canadian fashion, apologized for taking so long with her order.  Part of me wanted to say “I’m American and I don’t give a shit!” but instead I just smiled and told her it was not a big deal. Oh and if you are in Vancouver and want pizza, skip Megabite. It was pretty awful.

The bus ride back was fairly quick with the exception of the border stop. The border agent was particularly rude and wanted to know “what I was doing out west” since I was from Michigan. I then had to run my luggage through an airline security style baggage scanner before re-entering the bus. Later, I was dropped off in downtown Seattle and took city bus back to Evan’s house. Evan dropped me off at the airport the next morning and I managed to entertain myself for 5 hours by watching Bruce Willis’s great performance in “Live Free or Die Hard” and a whole lot of SportCenter via JetBlue’s free in-flight TV. I was not looking forward to the time zone change. My flight departed at 12:30PM PST and we landed in Boston at 8:45PM EST.

Oh and on a side note, the reason Hastings street sounded so familiar was based on not one but two people telling me to avoid that area like the plague.

4 Comments on “Vancouver”

  • Rimas November 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Hi, I’m not sure if there’s a better way to ask you a question, this is the only form of contact I see on your page. How do you travel and, for lack of a better term, lodge? Did you get that “all you can eat” travel JetBlue was offering a couple months ago? Paying for all your flights individually seems like it’d be expensive. And where do you stay in all these places? Couchsurfing? Hostels? Friends in town? For me, lodging always seems like the most painful expense on longer trips. Too bad there aren’t “capsule hostels” where you could pay a few bucks a night for a coffin-sized sleep container. Thanks! -Rimas

  • Martin November 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I live in Vancouver!
    I hope you had a good trip!

  • Polo December 25, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve been to Vancouver once 2 years ago. What a great city. I’m from Tokyo and going to Vanc for the next 4 years (College) starting next jan. Man, this article just makes me even more eager to get there ! Great article. Arigato !


  • TripBY January 31, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Nice view, clean sky, bright photos! Good work!
    What’s the next city you’re aiming to?

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