Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Hiking the Chief

Photo of the day: The view from the Stawamus Chief.

Coming back to hike the Stawamus Chief made me very nostalgic, as it reminded me of my high school days when we would start off our camping trips with this hike. It is classified as an “intermediate” hike, but it can definitely feel challenging for beginners. The only route that I’ve ever taken is up to the first or the south peak, which is only 500m in elevation but the trail is quite steep so it will definitely get your heart rate up to get you huffing and puffing. The hike takes around 3 hours to complete round-trip at a good pace. On our drive to Squamish, it was pouring, which made me really worried since we will be hiking up a large granite dome, which can get quite slippery when wet. Luckily, the ground was dry when we arrived.

You can find free parking right at the trailhead. Just follow the signs to “Stawamus Chief”. Here you there are simple toilet facilities to use as well as a campsite. The first part of the hike is probably the most difficult. It consists of many steep wooden steps to really give you a good cardio exercise. The rest of the path is less manicured, mostly consisting of dirt paths and large rocks.

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The terrain of most of the trail.

There was only one true lookout point along the way, looking at Shannon Falls, so it can get a little monotonous. As soon as you see the ladders and chains to help you up the smooth granite surfaces, you are near the summit!

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Climbing up the chains near the top.

The unbelievable view at the top is definitely worth the climb. There are no facilities at the top. It’s just you, the view and some friendly chipmunks. There are also no lifts or gondolas here, so once you go up, you are committed to hiking down. Because the hike is quite steep, you need to be very careful.

 

Overall, I found this to be a nice challenging hike. Those who would like even more of a challenge can try to hike up the second or third peak as well.

Vancouver, BC, Canada: Top 5 Tourist Attractions

I recently came back to my hometown, Vancouver, BC, for a visit and coincidently, my relatives from out-of-town were visiting at the same time. While showing them around, I was able to be a tourist in my hometown for a few days, which allowed me to compile a list of top tourist attractions in Vancouver, BC.

1. Queen Elizabeth Park

If you like beautiful gardens and views of the city and want to make good use of your newly-purchased camera, this is the place to go. It is so picturesque that many people decide to hold their wedding ceremonies and snap their wedding photos here. If you enjoy tropical plants and birds, you should pay the Bloedel Conversatory a visit. Feeling hungry after all the walking around the park? Want to indulge in a nice meal while further embracing the view? Check out Seasons in the Park.

2. Stanley Park

This park is truly versatile and meant to be enjoyed by people of all ages. For those with children, there are waterparks, outdoor pools, and the Stanley Park Train. Those who love the outdoors and staying active can jog/skate/bike around the seawall while enjoying the beautiful coastline of Vancouver. Those who prefer to relax can lounge on the several beaches in the park. The park is situated right beside downtown so finding good food nearby is never a problem.

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The totem poles in Stanley Park.
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The view from Prospect Point in Stanley Park.

3. Downtown and surroundings

First time Vancouver visitors can probably spend a few days here. The waterfront is one of my favourite parts of Vancouver. Here, you can enjoy views of the water with the mountains as a backdrop. You can also see the huge cruise ships docking and the seaplanes taking off. It is also where our Olympic Cauldron is from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.  For my shopaholics, there is plenty of shopping either at Pacific Centre or along Robson Street. For those who like gorgeous architecture, you should head over to the Central Library, again a hot spot for wedding photos. For my hipster friends out there, you must check out Gastown with its various local coffee joints and eateries. For those looking for a more snazzy dining experience, head over to Yaletown. Mister is a hip liquid nitrogen ice-cream place to check out here. We were lucky enough to be here on their first year anniversary where all of their ice-cream are ONLY $5. You can deduce what their regular prices are.

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Central Public Library in downtown Vancouver.

4. Granville Island

Another popular tourist spot for first time Vancouver visitors, Granville Island is a great place for everyone to visit – especial lovers of local arts, crafts and food. There is a kids market for those with little ones. There is a local brewery on the island as well as a boutique Japanese Sake winery for some 19+ fun. Take a stroll along the public market to try some fresh produce and goods. Don’t forget to stop by Lee’s Donuts for some deliciously fresh donuts. I personally really enjoyed the honey-dipped one. If you get tired, there are plenty of benches on the island for you to sit and enjoy the street performances. Just watch your heads in case the seagulls decide to give you a little present.

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Enjoying a honey-dipped Lee’s Donut in Granville Island.

6. North Vancouver/Squamish

If you venture to this part of Greater Vancouver, you can visit the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you want to opt for a similar experience without paying the exuberant prices, you can go to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead. By heading further north, you can also visit Squamish. Depending on your preference, you can either hike up the Stawamus Chief or pay $40 to take the new Sea to Sky Gondola up and then do some light trails at the top while soaking in gorgeous views from the viewing platforms. The views from both are surreal but I would highly recommend the hike for a more rewarding experience. Check out my next post for more details about the hike itself.

These places are nice to visit at least once as important landmarks to check out but there are definitely other neighbourhoods that I frequent for food. Stay tuned for the food posts to come!

 

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – Food and Drinks Reviews

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – Food and Drinks Reviews

Featured Image: Beer flight @ Quidi Vidi Brewing Company.

You know I wouldn’t visit a place without reviewing its food, so here is the post you were looking for. St. John’s has a surprising number of fine dining restaurants, as well as more laid back pubs and microbreweries.

Raymond’s

Last year I had the chance to visit Raymond’s, which was at some point rated the number one restaurant in Canada. We ordered the 5 course tasting menu along with the wine pairings and it definitely did not disappoint. Regretfully, I did not take any notes during my visit, so I really don’t have too many details for you. I just remember that there was a lot of thought put into each dish and the wine pairings were perfect.

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Starter @ Raymond’s.

Basho Restaurant and Lounge

Those who know me will know that I will not choose to eat Asian food randomly at a new place, unless I’ve heard really good things about it. Growing up in Vancouver and having just spent 2 months in Asia, I am quite spoiled in terms of good sushi. I’ve heard great things about Basho and I reasoned that the seafood in the maritimes should be amazing so I really should give it a try. The ambience was really nice and upscale for a Japanese restaurant. Looking at it’s menu, there was a variety of Japanese and non-Japanese dishes. Some dishes did have a fusion flare, such as using Yuzu as an ingredient. I decided to try their Nigiri and Sushi special but was advised that this was mainly tempura and cooked sushi rolls. As if the server could read my mind, he encouraged me to get the “exotic” special instead if I was looking for raw fish. I paired my sushi with a glass of pinot noir, in keeping with the loungey ambience. The sushi were nicely presented on a large plate, with the nigiri, wasabi and ginger on a banana leaf and the soy sauce on the side in a nice asymmetric bowl. The rolls were definitely on the smaller side. I didn’t catch the names of the rolls but I believe one was an avocado tuna roll and the other was a negi-hamachi roll. They both very tasty and did not require dipping of soy sauce as they had enough flavours as is. The nigiri were also very good, with pretty good quality fish, especially the butterfish. Overall, I would say it was above average sushi but with an incredibly over-inflated price tag.

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Sushi @ Basho Restaurant and Lounge

Rocket Bakery

This was a cute cafe and bakery great for getting some work done. I didn’t have too much time to blog during my trip but I did end up coming here to try their latte while listening to some locals perform at their open-mic. Apparently their bread is very good here but I did not get the chance to try. Their latte was definitely tasty, comparable to the ones I get at Bridgehead (who makes the best lattes in my opinion). I only caught the end of the open-mic but I was very impressed with the talent. Definitely come by to check this cafe/bakery out if you have the chance to visit St. John’s.

On my second trip I was actually more impressed by the beer scene than the actual food:

Quidi Vidi Brewing Company

We decided to stop by this brewery on our way back from our iceberg hunting adventures. One of us was very well-prepared and called ahead to find out they had tastings on Saturdays during the day only (when we had to work) but they invited us to come on a Friday night anyway to enjoy some of their beer. They opened at 6pm and ran out of food by the time we got there around 7pm but it was not a big deal because we were able to enjoy some flights of good local beer (see featured image). Usually with beer flights, I find I only enjoy 1 or 2 of them. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually quite liked all 4 of the beers I was presented with. And the price was very reasonable! They were all pretty light and easy to drink. I, of course, preferred the British IPA and ended up getting an extra pint of that. My advice would be to come here on a Saturday during the day to enjoy a beer tour with beer tasting!

Yellowbelly Brewery & Public House

We decided to visit another highly-rated brewery on our last night in St. John’s. For food, I decided to get the seafood chowder, again with my assumption that it’s a requirement to eat seafood when you’re in the Maritimes. To be honest, I was disappointed with this, as it was just too salty. My favourite seafood/clam chowder would still be either the one I’ve had in Boston or at Art-Is-In Bakery in Ottawa. More importantly, though I wanted to try their seasonal beer. They were very generous to give us both a sample of of their seasonal, which was apparently made from bread from Rocket Bakery. I quite liked the taste. It was flavourful but very easy to drink. My suggestion is to come here to try out their beer. As for food, they did have good reviews for that too, so perhaps don’t order the seafood chowder and go ahead and try something else on their menu.

And that ends my review of the food/beer scene in St. John’s! I heard other good food picks are Mallard Cottage, St. John’s Fish Exchange and Oliver’s. These will remain on my “go to” list to visit in the future.

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – What to See

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada – What to See

Featured Image: Lighthouse at Cape Spear.

This is my second time in St. John’s and both times, it was for business purposes. Unfortunately, for that reason, I am always here during the end of April, when the weather is not the most pleasant, especially compared to Ottawa, which is starting to warm up during this time of year. You can expect to possibly see some rain, freezing rain or snow during this time of year. It was definitely cold (hovering around 0 degrees celsius) and at times wet, but it was not enough to deter me from explore this nice gem on the east coast of Canada.

I’ve managed to hit a few of the main sights mostly during the evenings when I was free.

Signal Hill

If you enjoy nice walks or runs, you would appreciate this hill with a nice view of the city as well as the harbour. From downtown St. John’s, it is around a 45 minute walk. If you happen to come during the warmer months, it would probably be a lot more enjoyable as you appreciate the nice view while getting some steps in. While here, you may want to stop by the Geo Centre, especially if you are interested in geology. The exhibits here are great for people of all ages and are quite interactive. You could probably spend a couple of hours here if you wanted to read everything in detail. We had a tight schedule with a food stop for some infamous fish and chips, as well as a plane to catch so we only had an hour to spend here to quickly browse the exhibits.

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View from Signal Hill.

Cape Spear

This was probably my top attraction in St. John’s and a must-see for those who love beautiful scenery. Despite being very windy and cold, I had no regrets with stopping by here during my first trip to St. John’s. You will most likely requiring a car to get here as it was a 1 hour drive away from downtown but it was well worth it. As the most eastern point of North America, you will be able to catch the first sunrise here. We went during sunset and it was still very gorgeous. The view was almost surreal (see featured image).

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Sign @ Cape Spear.
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Sunset @ Cape Spear.

Iceberg Viewing

This was an impromptu trip but I’m so glad I went. Again, a car is required as it was another 1 hour drive away from downtown. There was apparently a huge iceberg off the coast of Ferryland (which I erroneously thought was named “Fairyland” feeling that was quite appropriate for the location of such a miraculous sight). This was a cute town with a population of around 500 people. As we entered the town, we saw sheets of ice as well as little blocks of ice. We feared that the once large iceberg has melted. We kept driving along the highway and finally found the iceberg seen in so many new articles! Unfortunately, it seemed terribly far away compared to the images online. We tried to find routes which led us closer for photos; however, we were only able to take a few shots from the distance. It did not help that it was raining at the time and visibility was affected. We later realized that the iceberg probably moved from its previous location closer to the coast, resulting in a less impressive sight. I’ve previously seen towering glaciers in Alaska, which also affected my impression. I still find it was a nice adventure and worth the drive. It’s interesting that it is not a stationary sight and will depend on your luck and when you choose to travel here.

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Icebergs in the distance off the coast of Ferryland.

If you enjoy nice drives, you could rent a car for a scenic drive along the coast, like Aaron did while I was at work one day. There are still many other sights here that can be explored, but due to my schedule, I have not yet had the chance to see everything St. John’s has to offer. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to return for more.