Today was another bright and early start. By 8am we had had breakfast and were walking the 800m from the Hotel to take the Skytrain up to City Central. We bought a day pass as we were not sure how many journeys we were going to make.
The train was full of commuters and we soon made it to our destination. We were booked on a 10am free walking tour of Downtown and the waterfront. We have now done these in a number of Cities and really enjoy them. Basically at the end you give a 'tip' of what you think the tour was worth. Therefore the tour guide has to really be on their game to earn any money. We have never been on one where we have 'tipped' less than the going rate for commercial tours and often more. These tours are consistently top of the Trip advisor lists as they areusually so good and have much better people than the commercial ones.
As we had arrived early we settled in a nearby Starbucks to wait and sent a few messages to the boys.
At 10am we went and met Erik our tour guide. He is/was an award winning film producer (I confirmed his claims through Google afterwards). He was a great story teller who loved Vancouver and especially the History of the City. The start of the tour was however like being back at work as we all had to introduce ourselves. Far from being embarrassing it was really interesting to hear where the other 14 people were from and why they were in Vancouver. We had people from Mexico, Brazil, Germany and USA. There were two couples that were on their honeymoon and a single girl from San Diego who had quit her job and this was her first day of a planned 9 months travelling. The weirdest thing was that there was a couple from New Zealand who had stopped off in Vancouver for 4 days en route to staying with friends in Poringland of all places.
Anyhow the tour was so fascinating. We learnt so much and were taken into and past places we would not have known anything about. We gave Erik a big fat tip as he was one of the best guides we have ever had. The tour was paced well and every fact and story and anecdote had us hanging on every word. Really cannot recommend highly enough.
After this we faffed around trying to decide what Karen fancied for lunch. I was not fussed what we had. In the end I settled for a slice of Pizza from a little shop and despite saying she didn't really fancy Pizza, Karen enjoyed her piece so much that we both ended up having another piece.
We then wandered around GasTown. This is the old district of Vancouver. It reminded us a little of San Diego but was not as nice. There were a few nice shops and bars but the area was let down by the number of tacky gift shops along the street. The best thing was the steam whistle clock that played a tune on the hour. Needless to say that after managing to pass a number of Starbucks along the street, the allure finally proved too much for Karen and we were drawn in to have a cup of tea this time.
The sun was now giving some real heat through the smoke haze so we wandered back to have another look around the waterfront. There was a large cruise ship (MS Voldendam) berthed and as we walked alongside it we realised it was about to depart. Before it could do so, we heard the captain announce they had to practice the Lifeboat drill. So it was with great amusement we heard the alarm sound and all the passengers getting to the muster stations and having their names ticked off. All this reminded us why cruising is not for us. A few minutes later we stood on the dock as the massive ship pulled out and set off on a 7 day tour to Alaska.
We then walked back to Skytrain station and caught the train to the Olympic Village. We went there on a whim after Karen had seen an item on the news about 2 giants birds (which I thought were real when she first mentioned them) that had been placed back in a park. It was a good walk from the nearest station and we then found the birds in a square in the middle of the village. The village had been constructed to house the Olympic athletes and had since been sold off for housing. The whole area was actually rather nice and a real 'Brucie' bonus place for us to find and visit.
We found a lovely pub/restaurant that overlooked the water and sports stadiums opposite called The Tap & Barrel. It was happy hour so we felt it improper not to take advantage. The food was good and it was lovely sitting in the warm air as the sun went down. We took the long way back to the station alongside the river watching teams training in the dragon boats and generally lots of Vancouvians (I may have made up that word) out enjoying a walk/cycle/run or bizarrely Yoga wherever they could.
So, has Vancouver improved from my first impressions. The answer is Yes. It is a nice City. However it is still nowhere near as nice as either of us had imagined. We both had a good time today. We walked over 8.5 miles and were out for 13 hours. There is still other places to explore in and around Vancouver, but I expected it to be in my top 5 cities of the world and it isn't (Sydney is still my number one by a long way, followed by Barcelona). Still theres always tomorrow and that involves an even earlier start.