Vancouver Tour with RTB

July 29, 2011

We joined a group from the RTB Alaska Tour at Canada Place in Vancouver for a tour led by Hugh and Kathy Ross. Hugh had grown up in Vancouver and this tour included some of his favorite places in the area. We had already visited some of them on our Vancouver tour and our drive up to Whistler.

Our tour group gathered at about 8:30 at the Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place in Vancouver.

Brenda and I had gotten up early and had been down to the Pan Pacific Hotel to get this view of North Vancouver across the Narrows at about 7:30am. We had breakfast in a food court across from the Pan Pacific.

We strolled around the Pan Pacific Hotel complex right on the water and got the view above left of the Vancouver skyline. At right above is the continuation of the convention center from the left photo. That center and the Pan Pacific complex represent a tremendous modern investment in the Vancouver waterfront.

I was fascinated to see a float plane accelerate for takeoff in the harbor. The floating gas station was also interesting. Note the Lions Gate Bridge in the background.

It was neat to see him get airborne in the harbor, although to me as a rookie the degree of strain of the engine in the process was a bit alarming. We were beginning our education about this busy international harbor. There was a big freighter across from us and clearly some industrial type activity on the north side of the Narrows.

We walked around the corner where we had seen open harbor yesterday and found the space occupied by the stern of this huge cruise ship that had docked during the night. It was the Celebrity "Millennium" vessel docked right beside the Pan Pacific Hotel.

When we walked around to be beside it, it was even more impressive in size. This thing is a floating city! On the right is the Pan Pacific Hotel and Convention Center, but it looked small compared to the ship. Ahead is part of the skyline of Vancouver.

Brenda stands by a mirrored window of the Hotel and we can see the ship on the left and the reflection of its stern and the harbor. The floating city by the dock.

This ship even had a helipad on its bow!

Even the lifeboats on this ship were fancy covered craft.

I was fascinated by all the activity around this busy port. Every means of transportation was being used. This is a floating helipad near the cruise ship dock, and a big Navy helicopter had just taken off.

We could also see a large railyard from Canada Place, positioned to serve the port area. It's background is the famous Gastown part of Vancouver. All available types of transportation were used here!

In an hour's time, we had learned a lot about Canada Place and the cruise ship port.

About this time another cruise ship, the Crystal Symphony, had arrived in port along with a Chinese freighter.

This was our tour before the tour, so we now got on the bus with about 2 dozen friendly folks from RTB and started our formal tour.

The above map of the greater Vancouver area covers most of the stops of our tour. We went first to Queen Elizabeth Park, then to Lynn Canyon Park. We visited a lookout to the north of Vancouver and then proceeded to Horseshoe Bay where we had lunch. We then went north of the map area to Shannon Falls and Chief. We returned to Stanley Park at sunset and then took the lift to the top of Grouse Mountain for dinner.

Our first stop on the tour was Queen Elizabeth Park, a formal garden. Brenda stands with sculpture overlooking the city of Vancouver and the harbor in the distance.

This is the skyline of Vancouver in the morning mist over the lush trees of the park. In between is a large residential area of Vancouver and it southern suburbs.

Kathy and Hugh Ross were our tour guides. Hugh grew up in Vancouver, and this tour was described as visiting some of his favorite places.

Brenda was fascinated with this type of tree, whose limbs all appeared to be growing downward! There's one like it in the garden at right.

Besides Brenda's upside-down tree, this section of the garden had a collection of the large-leafed plants we had seen at Volcan Irazu in Costa Rica. It was believable that this cool, rainy climate would support the same plants as the high altitudes of Costa Rica. We understood that his particular garden was planted on the location of an old quarry. It was certainly a beautiful makeover for the quarry.

Another plant we found fascinating was this one, which looked like a tree version of columbine.

The two dozen of us got back on the tour bus and got tantalizing views of the downtown Vancouver skyline. We saw the modern overhead transit system zipping around.

We drove through residential areas and into the industrial area and across what locals call the second Narrows Bridge to North Vancouver. On the maps this bridge is called the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

We got this view of Vancouver from the east when we crossed the Narrows Bridge. A wide band of residential area surrounds the downtown high-rise section and the busy international port.

Our next visit was to Lynn Canyon on the north side of the Narrows.

We got this great view of the Twin Falls from the suspension bridge across the canyon. The valley was lush green and the water sparkling and clean.

We continued past the swinging bridge on a nice loop trail through the woods. This was another nice cascade along the way, which we saw from bridges over the canyon.

We drove to a high overlook which would have given us great views of Vancouver except that the fog had rolled in. You can see the Lions Gate Bridge in the fog, and with enough imagination can see the five flags top of Canada Place across the bay.

We got an interesting view of the big freighters out on English Bay west of Vancouver.

We enjoyed our foggy view of Vancouver and the fellowship among the lush green trees.

This is a quick snap out the bus window of a house on a tidal island near Horseshoe Bay. At least at low tide they could walk to their house. The coast here was very densely developed.

We drove along the coast road westward through very dense residential neighborhoods until we reached Horseshoe Bay. Over the marina we watch one of the large ferries leave. We enjoyed the return to the place we had been on our first Vancouver excursion two days ago.

We had lunch at the Boathouse restaurant overlooking the marina at Horseshoe Bay. Hugh and Kathy Ross in conversation with a table full of our tour folks.

I was fascinated with watching this flock of sea birds that came cruising into the marina and darted in all directions in shallow dives to catch fish around the boats. I never saw any of them take wing - they just cruised in on the water, and then swam back out. I was amazed at their swimming speed and their diving. I haven't been able to identify the birds - they don't seem to be ordinary ducks, but sort of duck or small goose shaped.

After lunch we headed about 35 miles north to Shannon Falls and

Hwy 99 is called the Sea-to-Sky highway. It hugs the coastline along

We read that this road had been greatly upgraded in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. We had found it to be very nice yesterday on our trip up to Whistler.

We started getting views of snowcaps as we approached the north end of the bay.

We drove to the Squamish Valley, which is the portal to lots of wilderness areas, including Shannon Falls.

We again enjoyed magnificent Shannon Falls. We had been delighted to find them yesterday on our free exploration of this area, but at that time had never heard of them. We were interested to find that they made the list of Hugh Ross's boyhood favorites as he grew up in this area.

On board the Zuiderdam

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