Hopping off the train this morning in downtown Vancouver we were full of optimism and eager to explore a city that is frequently dubbed as one of the best cities in the world to live in. As with most major cities, accommodation isn’t cheap so our hotel was, as usual, out of the popular downtown areas. It was about a 30 minute walk East but with the sun shining we didn’t mind and set off on the most direct route.
The first few blocks of walking were great, full of beautiful high rise buildings and the natural buzz that’s present in fast paced cities. Within just a few more blocks off walking my impression of Vancouver dropped like a lead balloon, gone were the pristine streets, sharply dressed people and sports cars. Gradually the street felt rougher and rougher, the nice shops and high rise buildings disappeared and everything to our left and right was protected with metal bars. This usually means we’re near our hotel but this time we wasn’t, we still had another 10 minutes to go! Could it get any worse?
Yes, it could. The closer we got to our hotel the more homeless people there were, I even saw my first ‘supervisory injecting clinic’. People were literally just laying all over the floor, we saw a lot of this in America but these really were the most ill looking people I’d ever seen. Nick mentioned it looked like a scene out of Walking Dead and it really did! People walked around like zombies, half of them talking to themselves and the other half looking aimlessly into the sky. It really wouldn’t have looked out of place if Michonne came round the corner with her samurai swords and started swinging for everyone!
As with all the other homeless people we’ve encountered, they were harmless (on this occasion at least!) and we arrived at our hotel in one piece. The guy on reception confirmed that the road we walked up (East Hastings) was the worst in Vancouver and the homeless gather there as it’s where free food is distributed. He advised us on a safer way to walk downtown so we’ll bear that in mind next time. Our room as expected was far from special, as with all non smoking rooms we book, it stank of smoke. But after 10 days sleeping on the floor in a tent I’m just grateful for a bed! It was certainly a room with a view, a view of drunk homeless people sprawled all over the car park that is.
After offloading our luggage we set off out again, this time taking a different route downtown. This felt a bit safer but we still had to pass a number of zombies. Our destination was Granville Island, a small island to the south that’s highly rated on Trip Advisor. On the way we passed through Chinatown and went into the Sun Yat-Sen. This was a free Chinese Garden and worth a visit if you’re passing, it’s small but very pretty.
Granville Island is worth a visit, it had lots of parks, activities for kids, restaurants and a theatre. There is a huge fresh farmers market there selling fruit, veg and lots of unique local organic produce. There is also a big food court with stands selling every type of cuisine you could think of. We decided to get dinner there and ended up buying from 3 different stands, 4 boxes cost us under a tenner, bargain!
The walk back from Granville Island, over Granville bridge, was nice. It gave us a great view across the marina and I particularly liked how the concrete mixing plant had been painted to make it less of an eyesore in an otherwise idillic setting:
Our route home took us through Gastown, this was a nice upmarket area of restaurants and bars. The streets were lined with large trees, lit up at night to give a cosy feel. It may be summer but something about the setting of Gastown makes it feel like a winters night. Despite being a nicer area it wasn’t without it’s crazy people, one guy in particular had us both laughing. He was either mental or looking to get arrested, we saw him at the traffic lights darting around anxiously and talking to himself. 5 minutes later we heard a man screaming above everything else in earshot. We turned around and he was only standing on top of a police car, punching his chest with his fists and ranting about something. When he finished he jumped down and calmly carried on down the street, like you do.
It’s about another 5 minutes (3 blocks I think) further from Gastown to the area are hotel is in. On approach we were greeted with the sites of a prostitute in what must have been the worlds shortest dress, seriously I have never seen anything so short! This followed by two women sprawled on the floor sharing a bottle of whisky, to be fair they looked like they were having a great time, they were in hysterics. After tucking up in bed, I tried to get to sleep whilst listening to various arguments outside. My favourite was between two women, who must have been friends as they were happily chatting away at first. This was until one found out the other didn’t like hip hop music! She lost it with her friend and they had a full on argument for about 10 minutes. Crazy.
So if you take one thing from this blog, it’s probably a good idea to avoid staying in Eastside Downtown if you ever visit Vancouver 🙂 But if you do, bring Michonne and Rick with you.