Our experience at Niagara Falls was still vividly etched in our minds. After managing to catch a few hours of sleep, we have to continue our journey. Our friends dropped us at Toronto Pearson International Airport for our 6:45 am flight to Vancouver. Here’s a recap of what we did during our first 24 hours in Vancouver, Canada.
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Toronto was starting to wake up but we’re already thousands of feet above it. When the first light broke in, we can see down that our route was covered in snow. It was beautiful and magical. Canada was one massive winter wonderland.
This time the flight was smooth with no air turbulence whatsoever unlike our flight from London to Toronto. With Swiss-clock precision, the plane arrived at Vancouver International Airport at the scheduled arrival time of 9:10 am. We purchased Skytrain tickets at one of the machines in the airport for Surrey.
Surrey is the third largest city by area and the second largest city by population after the city of Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC, for short). A friend who will host us lives in Surrey.
We boarded a Canada Line train bound for Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver. Travel time is about 25 minutes. The train started to move and here’s a couple of our first glimpses of Vancouver.
Since the late 1950’s, Vancouver’s city planners encouraged the construction of high-rise residential towers. Alongside the redevelopment of urban industrial sites which started in the mid-1980s resulted in Vancouver as one of the world’s most livable cities for a number of years.
We can see scores of high rise buildings under construction during our visit. As a coastal seaport city, Vancouver is a lovely place but even lovelier with those snowy mountains around it. It is a growing metropolis set amidst a plethora of outstanding nature which adds to its beauty.
On the Way to Surrey, BC
We changed trains at Waterfront Station. A friendly staff offered to help with our journey. Thanks but we’re already on the right platform for the Expo Line train that will take us to Surrey. Back home, London Underground is more complicated.
It’s good to arrive in a well-organised country where one can easily and efficiently travel from the airport to your destination. It’s hassle-free to travel to and from Vancouver and enjoyable too!
Across False Creek, a short inlet which separates the downtown area from the rest of Vancouver is the BC Place Stadium. The largest multipurpose venue in British Columbia and has a retractable roof, it hosts sport, exhibitions, concerts, entertainment and other events.
Nearby, is the Science World museum which looks like a giant egg nested in winter trees. The museum is a great place to visit and learn about science and technology. It is ideal for budding scientists and engineers of the province and for visitors, too. The museum is topped with a circular-shaped structure which is one of my favourites in Vancouver.
Vancouver has one of the warmest climates during winters in Canada. However, our visit in December 2016 was an exception. It has been ages since it snowed heavily in the province.
Local friends would later inform us that it rarely snows in BC. We were informed that it was the first time in many years that the West Coast had that much snow. They assured us that we’re in for a treat as the winter conditions are amazing that time of the year.
We didn’t get bored with the ride as we took photos all throughout the journey. Whenever we’re in a new place, we don’t think we’ll ever get tired. Maybe, because we don’t want to miss out on the great views!
We enjoyed our sight-seeing along the route. Before we knew it, the train reached our destination – King George, the last Expo Line station.
Our friend and gracious host picked us up at the station and drove us to her place, Odyssey Towers where my family will stay for the next five nights.
Surrey is less than 30 kms north of the US-Canadian border. The cities of Blaine and Bellingham in the US state of Washington can be seen from our friend’s place.
Our host was another childhood friend whom I have not seen for almost forty years. We found each other on Facebook and she invited us to stay in her place in case we travel to Vancouver. Thanks, Facebook – what will life be like without you?
We’re physically in Canada but our body clock is still in the UK (British Columbia is 8 hours behind London). We decided to rest and catch some precious hours of sleep.
Later in the afternoon and to the missus’ delight, we went to nearby Central City Shopping Centre to buy some groceries and other stuff.
The following day will be a busy one for us. Our plan is to go back to downtown Vancouver to check Waterfront, meet another friend over lunch, visit Stanley Park and squeeze other things to do and see if we still have time.
Back to Vancouver
We had a good night’s rest and shaken off a bit of our jet lag. It was a bright and sunny morning, surprisingly not that cold at -6°C (I wonder why 6°C in the UK is even colder).
After a quick shower and breakfast, we readied ourselves for our planned activities for the day. We have to travel again by train to get to Vancouver. Snow was all around us as we made our way to the station.
Skytrain’s Expo Line from King George Station in Surrey to Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver passes through 18 stations and takes under an hour of travel time. Travel from station to station varies from a minute to three.
A DayPass costing CAD9.75 (in Dec. 2016) an adult can be used for unlimited journeys on all buses, SkyTrain and SeaBus (to North Vancouver) for a whole day. The pass is available for travel through all zones. It saves money when taking multiple trips in the same day over purchasing single fares.
Expo Line connects two other neighbouring cities – Burnaby and New Westminster to Vancouver. The route has one of the most amazing views we have seen and experienced so far, especially in winter.
Aboard the train, we can see residential houses interspersed with commercial and industrial structures. A background of snow-capped mountain range partially hidden in low fog looks lovely on a sunny day. Pine trees and leafless trees which will look fabulous come spring time dotted the landscape.
As the train passes through Sky Train Bridge, the concrete and steel arched Pattullo Bridge comes into full view. Both bridges which connect the cities of Surrey and New Westminster cross Fraser River, which at 1,375 kilometres (854 miles) is the longest within British Columbia. Cars, vans and trucks run in both directions in the morning rush hour atop Pattullo.
The bridge was named after Thomas Dufferin Pattullo, who was British Columbia’s Premier from 1933 to 1941. Below, the river docked with cargo boats appears serene as the sky and seems oblivious to the moving traffic above it.
A little over half an hour to the journey, the train reached Main Street-Science World Station in Vancouver.
On the right is the Pacific Central Station, which is both a railway station and a bus depot. It acts as the western terminal of the train’s cross-country run to Toronto in the East Coast. The station also serves as the northern terminal of Amtrak’s train journeys coming from Seattle and Portland in the US.
The head office and bus depot of Pacific Coach Lines which provides coach services within the city is located in the station. Also, it is the main Vancouver terminal for the Greyhound bus company serving the northern town and cities down to Seattle in the American state of Washington.
On the left, we saw the Science World museum and the BC Place Stadium once again. I would like to check these places out should I have the chance to visit again in the future.
This is one of my favourite parts of travelling via train – the opportunity to enjoy great views. This isn’t something that you get to enjoy as much on the plane.
We love watching the landscape change as the train glided past on its tracks. The Pattullo Bridge, Science World museum and the BC Place Stadium are some of the highlights of this journey.
A train ride is the best – a hassle-free and economical way of seeing sceneries at your comfort. This inter-city train ride was one of the best we had with all that amazing views.
The day pass offers us unlimited access to all public transport which is a cool way to wander around in a new destination. Train journeys are a great way to explore and this one offered great value for money too which is awesome.
I think we sometimes take train journeys for granted while enjoying the scenery but since it goes by so fast we never actually see it. However, our journey is an inter-city one so the train’s speed is just about right for the passengers to enjoy the views.
After going through a tunnel and 40 minutes later, our train journey ended at Waterfront Station located in West Cordova Street.
Such a beautiful view of the West Coast! We managed to enjoy a mini tour on the SkyTrain since the previous day.
About 24 hours after we set foot in Vancouver, we’re back again in this lovely Western Canadian city. It’s winter so there were not many people and tourists when we arrived. I’m sure when the weather gets warmer, people will come down in droves.
As a whole, Vancouver is a great place to discover and one which promises amazing experiences. Just outside of the station are some of the best attractions Vancouver has to offer. A sneak peek of the city looks impressive. We can’t wait to explore.
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