Canada and Alaska 2013

Brisbane to Sydney

On Saturday 11 May, Katharine and Patrick took us out to the airport for our 3.25pm Qantas flight from Brisbane to Sydney, where we stayed overnight at the Stamford Plaza Hotel.  Our room was lovely and we had a nice relaxing meal in the hotel dining room.

Sydney to Vancouver

On Sunday 12 May two very excited people woke to find the airport shrouded in fog.  We left the Stamford Plaza in the shuttle bus, arrived at the International Airport, checked in, went through Customs/Immigration and Security and made our way to the Departure Lounge.  We realised that something wasn’t quite right when, at 10 minutes before our departure time, there was no sign of the Air Canada plane or any Air Canada staff at the gate.  Finally, 10 minutes after we were due to leave, an announcement was made telling us that our flight had been cancelled and was to be rescheduled for Monday and that we should make our way to another gate to be given hotel, meal and shuttle vouchers.  This process took some considerable time and there were many disgruntled passengers.  We were very disappointed that we would be missing our extra day in Vancouver as we had planned our own sightseeing for the day.  However, we were pleased that Air Canada provided accommodation and meals for us at no cost to us.

Determined to make the most of the situation, we caught a taxi into Circular Quay and spent the afternoon exploring the Opera House forecourt area, the Rocks area and some of the upmarket piers on the way to Darling Harbour.  When we arrived aback at the hotel for dinner, we found that our flight had been changed from 10.30am to 12.30pm.

On Monday 13 May, it was “Take 2” and two not quite as excited people headed to the airport to do it all again.  Apart from some confusion over which gate the flight was really leaving from, we finally left Sydney at 1.00pm and then it was time to allow ourselves to be excited!

Although the flight was a long 14 hours, the plane was reasonably comfortable, the food was good and the staff were lovely.

Vancouver

Our flight crossed the International Date Line, so we arrived in Vancouver at 10.00am on Monday 13 May (before we actually left Sydney!)

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia in Canada.  The original settlement, named Gastown, grew around the Hastings Mill logging sawmill and a nearby tavern, both established in 1867.

We were met at the airport by an APT rep and were taken to our beautiful hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront.  Our room was lovely and overlooked the harbour and the modern passenger ship terminal.  It had a big, very comfortable kind size bed and Richard was very impressed with the Electronic Mirror in our bathroom, which was a High Definition television screen in the mirror.

After getting settled into our room, we caught a free shuttle bus to Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is located in North Vancouver.   Just after we arrived, we got caught in a thunderstorm, but that didn’t deter us.  We wandered around and walked over the Suspension Bridge, which is 137 metres long and 70 metres high above the valley and river below and was very wobbly!  After that we went on the new Cliff walk, which is suspended walkways along sheer granite cliff faces and out over the canyon.  As it was then raining quite heavily we decided to head back to the hotel for a warm shower and a late afternoon tea (as we had totally missed lunch).

We met our Tour Director, Inge and the rest of our tour group at a Welcome Dinner held in one of the hotel’s function rooms.  Inge ran through some information regarding the tour with us and we enjoyed a nice dinner, chatting to the people at our table before heading off to bed at 9.00pm.  We were rather tired and realised that we had been awake for 30 hours!  We went off to sleep quite quickly, but very disappointed that we were not able to do any of the extra sightseeing that we had planned on the two days that we were supposed to have before the tour started.

Victoria, Vancouver Island

On Tuesday 14 May, we both woke up at about 1.00am and managed to fall asleep again at about 3.30am and slept soundly until the alarm woke us at 6.40am.

After breakfast, we all hopped on the coach where Steve, the driver, gave us a briefing about the coach and how everything works.  We headed off on our sightseeing tour of Vancouver, which included a visit to Stanley Park – 1000 acres set along the waterfront.  We saw some totem poles and enjoyed a lovely view looking back across the water to downtown Vancouver and the harbour.  From there we went to a great vantage point overlooking the Lion’s Gate Bridge and we were able to take some photos.  Then we did a tour of the city of Vancouver including historic Gastown, with its cobbled streets, Chinatown, Yaletown and spent some time wandering through the markets at Granville Island.

The coach took us to Tsawwassen and we boarded a very large vehicular ferry, which reminded us very much of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry that took us, and Janet and Adrian, from the Isle of Skye to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland in 2009.  The trip to Vancouver Island, which is a large island off the coast of Vancouver, took 90 minutes and the scenery was spectacular, especially because it was sunny and the skies were blue!   We stook out on the deck for awhile taking photos, but moved back inside because it was rather nippy.

Steve drove us to Victoria, which is the capital of British Columbia, and we did a brief tour of the city to get our bearings before arriving at the Hotel Grand Pacific, which overlooks the inner harbour.

After we checked in, we asked our two new Rockhampton friends, Melissa and Louise, to join us in a 45 minute Horse Drawn Carriage ride to Beacon Hill, which is a large botanical park that was signed over to the community in 1882.  We thoroughly enjoyed this slow-paced sightseeing tour in the sunshine, learning more about Victoria and having a laugh with Melissa, Louise and our carriage driver.

Then the two of us went for a walk along the inner harbour, stopping to take photos of the famous Empress Hotel with Virginia Creeper vine and Boston Ivy growing on the front of the building.  After a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, we returned to the hotel, got freshened up and went downstairs tor a pre-dinner drink and a nice meal in the hotel restaurant.  A nice end to a lovely day!


One Response to “Canada and Alaska 2013”

  1. Nicole says:

    Hi Richard & Sandy

    Glad you got there safe and sound if a little late, enjoying the pics and adventures already and looking forward to travelling around with you both via your site.

    Best Wishes
    Nicole

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