Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise: Vancouver BC

Gosh. Lucky for me, when I road-tripped to Vancouver BC earlier this month, I hit three days of 80-degree-plus weather and not a cloud in the sky. So, knowing what lies just around the corner in the Pacific Northwest, I took full advantage of the California-comes-to-Canada climate and spent most of my time outside. Let’s just say visiting museums will have to wait for a rainy day. 

Stanley Park Seawall bike path

What I did do was rent a bike, and took a leisurely spin around Stanley Park. Yes, a tourist activity, but one that actually allowed me to connect like a local with the city's wonderful natural beauty. Conveniently located near Stanley Park are several bike-rental shops. I wound up at Spokes Bicycle Rentals – which is quite a large operation, manned by lots of friendly international twenty-somethings from places like the Czech Republic and Australia. At Spokes, you can choose from several types of bikes – including one-speed cruisers, city cruisers, mountain bikes and full-on road bikes. I opted for the city cruiser, which is kind of an urban comfort bike with several gears. A lock and a helmet is part of the deal, and if you bring our own bike shoes, they’ll even hook you up so you can clip in. 

Totem poles in Stanley Park

I must confess, I really didn’t explore much of the park’s interior, mainly because I was so enamored with the 5.5 mile scenic seawall bike path. It circles the entire park, and for long stretches it hugs the water’s edge. In fact, riding along this seawall is pretty much the next best thing to being on a boat. I did make a couple of stops; one to check out the totem poles (a very popular destination), and another to watch freighters loaded with colorful containers cruise by. 

A freighter floats by on English Bay

Cycling around the park just left me wanting more. So I continued on and rode past several beaches including Second Beach – which on that particular day looked like the Canadian version of the French Riviera. It was hot and sunny, and visibly happy folks in bathing suits dotted the sand, soaking up the last rays of summer. I also admired the use of logs as Nature’s answer to the chaise lounge  very much in keeping with the tone of the city, which has an international Northwest-chic vibe. 

Second Beach on a sunny September afternoon

Vancouver BC is as beautiful as San Francisco and appears to be as bike-friendly as Portland, which is a killer combination. The city’s bridges seemed to have as many bike commuters as our Broadway Bridge on a summer weekday afternoon. Green bike boxes and wide bike lanes are everywhere, and nifty miniature bike maps are free in most bike shops. 

One of the city's many bike lines

Next time, I plan on taking my own bike and exploring the city on two wheels. Seems like an ideal way to either stay on or get off the beaten path.

Stanley Park
2000 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC  V6G 2V7

Spokes Bicycle Rentals
1798 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC  V6G 2V7
Ph. (604) 688-5141