It’s true what they say, Canadians are some of the nicest people on the planet. I’ve commuted in different countries around the world, but this is the first time I’ve experienced hearing each and every person say “thank you” to the driver once they get off. They see you taking turns with a touristy shot, and they’re the first to offer to take it so everyone is in the shot. Once, mom and I got lost on the way home from a day of exploring the city, and a lady tried her best to explain where to go, even if her English was broken. The list goes on, but what really stuck with me was the day I went out by myself.
I was expecting it to be a quiet day in the park, alone with my thoughts, but a better surprise awaited. The moment I got off the bus, this girl and I were heading towards the same direction. She asked if I knew the way to Queen Elizabeth Park, to which I said I was going there too so we could find it together. Her name, I learned, is Karina, from Mexico. Things aren’t going well back home, she says. “The country is divided and the streets are no longer safe. You could be walking down the street and suddenly get kidnapped by men in a car.” So here she is in Canada, looking for a job and eventually study English.
I think, she couldn’t have chosen a better country. A big factor to that opinion is free health care when you become a citizen- even free education for kids below college! Sure, the taxes may be high but you definitely see where they’re going. Other factors in the eyes of this Manileña are the convenient commute, minimal traffic and the very space we were standing on- parks! Oh to be surrounded by such beautiful blooms!
The afternoon was spent strolling through the park, exchanging bits and pieces about ourselves, and stopping for picture-perfect moments. I love how honest she was at the start by saying “don’t just smile! Here, let’s look for a picture we can copy,” and whips out her phone to look for pegs. We even did each others’ hair and swapped clothes for some shots!
I did have my solitary day in Stanley Park though, since I really wanted to bike around, something I rarely do back home. The bike rental was good for about 4-6 hours, so I took my time, stopping to appreciate the view every few kilometers. There were totempoles in the park that told stories of the First Nations (original settlers in Canada). And there were even a few beaches along the way!
Before I knew it, I was cycling the whole 8-km perimeter of the park. Worrying about safety was not an issue at all, since bikes have their own lane and cyclists would always warn the person in front of them if they’re overtaking “to your left!”
Other days in Vancouver were spent with mom. We visited Granville Island, a pier with a marketplace and cute little shops. We also went to Lonsdale Quay using a ferry, where a random dude asked us, “Isn’t it such a beautiful day?” and proceeded with small talk (another case in point of how friendly Canadians are).
My personal favorite would be the oldest part of the city, Gastown since it reminds me of New York. Gastown is named after John Dayton or “Gassy Jack,” as people liked to call him due to his talkative nature. After becoming a sailor during the California gold rush, he settled into this area, put up a saloon and spoke to curious bar-goers of his adventures, whiskey in hand.
Lastly, as if a prelude to what was yet to come, we visited Grousse Mountain, just a 30-minute drive and 10-minute cable car away. The tip of the mountain was still capped with remaining snow from the winter, but the texture was too powdery for beginners like me to try their hand at snowboarding.
There also lived a pair of grizzly bears, Koola and Grinder, who had just gotten out of months-long hibernation. We didn’t get to see them in person but watched a documentary on these free-roaming, salmon & berry-eating bears.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cold weather and amazing views. More of that awaiting at my next Canadian destination, Calgary 🙂