Safely in Vancouver

Queen of New Westminster--our ferry
Queen of New Westminster–our ferry

Tofino to Vancouver

Our Tofino ocean-beach experience at a close, we left Tofino at 8:25 a.m. and traveled east on Highway 4–a simple reverse of our route there a few days previously.  The highway winds around curves that often require reducing engine speed to ten miles an hour.  This time, though, we traversed the route in daylight and were mesmerized by the beautiful tall fir trees and snowcapped mountains.  Our observation:  when the roads were built, only enough land  for the roads and shoulders must have been cleared.  This gives travelers a feeling of nature’s majesty with the huge trees growing so close to the highway.  After three hours of driving around hairpin curves (near Parksville), we merged onto Highway 19 South and headed for Duke Point to the British Columbia Ferry terminal.

Our return ferry was the Queen of New Westminster, named after the city of New Westminster, a suburb located just east of the city of Vancouver.  (The town was named by Queen Victoria herself). Our ferry is one of the oldest, fastest, reliable ferries in the BC ferry fleet and is stationed to run the Duke Point route (Nanaimo to Vancouver) and back.  The Queen makes four round trips daily on the “mid-island express route,” a scenic trip across the mostly open waters of Georgia Strait.  The ferry accommodates 347 vehicles and 1,306 passengers.  The ferry is serviced by 34 crew members.  We sat inside, in the forward well-heated lounge where we had a panoramic view of Georgia Strait.  We saw the strait’s rocky shores, coastal homes and businesses, and other sea traffic.  At the stern of the ferry is a cafeteria where we bought some Chai and English tea and shortbread cookies.

The ferry moves right along.  It is powered by four diesel engines which allow it to have a service speed of 20.3 knots.  In two hours (38 nautical miles), we arrived in Tsawwassen and after disembarking, we took Highway 17 North to Highway 99 to Vancouver where we gassed up our rental car at Petro Canada and returned it to Alamo.  A taxi driver dropped us off at the Manhattan Hotel—645 Howe Street–in downtown Vancouver.  Along the twenty-minute ride from the airport to the hotel, the driver explained that housing prices have risen exponentially in Vancouver with modest houses costing from one to two-million dollars.

The hotel’s accommodations are luxurious and we ate our “welcoming meal” at the hotel’s restaurant, Diva. Our spunky food hostess Veronica gave us excellent service and we indulged in the restaurant’s delicious entrees:  beef filet and chicken breast stuffed with figs and goat cheese.

The Metropolitan Hotel entrance
The Metropolitan Hotel entrance

Today we ate brunch at Joyeaux Vietnamese/English cafe, then spent the afternoon at the Vancouver Art Gallery which is located a few blocks from our hotel.  Snow showers fell gently on the sidewalks, most melting as they hit the ground.  We were impressed with the Vancouver Art Gallery, especially the featured exhibit, “Depth of Field” showcasing the photography of American photographer Walker Evans. Evans (1903-1975), is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.  “Depth of Field” includes more than 200 black and white and color prints from the 1920s through the 1970s,  The exhibit includes images Evans made in the American South during the Great Depression.  His black and white photographs of sharecroppers vividly portray the challenges faced by poor families in the South and these photos played a major role in forging “documentary photography.”  The exhibit focuses on Evans desire to showcase images of ordinary people and objects.  Evans wanted his photographs to be remembered as “literate, authoritative, and transcendent.”  We ate tasty snacks in the Art Gallery Cafe and shopped in the gift shop before touring the second floor show, “Ambivalent Pleasures” which includes the words of 40 contemporary Canadian artists.  Snow flurries were still falling when we completed our art gallery experience, and walked back to our hotel.

The Vancouver Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery

We finished up our first day in Vancouver with a trek through Vancouver’s Pacific Centre Mall, an underground shopping mall, and Vancouver’s largest downtown mall. The mall’s signature glass dome entrance welcomes shoppers into its one-hundred-plus stores.  Planners felt the underground concept would preserve the above-ground skyline and provide all-weather convenient shopping.