It was an early start. Not because my alarm was set for any pressing meeting or appointment, but because my body (or brain) decided enough was enough and I was ready for my next adventure.
Another bright sunny day awaits. Clear blue skies cheerfully peeped through the trees outside the window, as the city was slowly coming to life. I was amazed at how quiet everything was. I could have been on a desert island as far as I knew, with not even a sound of passing cars, sirens or the general hustle and bustle of a large Western city breaking the crisp August morning. I was surrounded by perfect stillness. Having come from Devon, better known for sleepy rural affairs and cream teas, even mornings there were often disrupted by noisy sheep or passing tractors!
Vancouver must be the quietest city I’ve even woken up in. Even walking to get my morning caffeine fix (and muffin…guilty!), the streets were not only clean, but peaceful.
As a self-professed country bumpkin whose biggest nightmare would be to live in a city, and one who has spent hours debating the cons of city life, Vancouver was surely turning all of my arguments on their head. Even the underground was quiet – almost TOO quiet. No pushing and shoving to get the next train. No queues for tickets and irritable herds of cranky early morning commuters. I was so confused!
I’d done my research before heading to Vancouver, ticking off all of the places I wanted to visit in the short three days I was in the city – I was to be an unashamed tourist! Two places seemed to come up time and time again, and having had numerous discussions with various family members (and fellow Canada addicts – we should start some sort of self-help group?!) Grouse Mountain and The Capilano Suspension Bridge reigned triumphant in being the top activities for day one in Vancouver.
Grouse Mountain is all-too-often associated with the notorious ‘Grouse Grind’. I’d heard about the ‘Grind’, but I can’t say it was really sold to me, with the general consensus being that “You’ll probably feel like you’re going to die”- perhaps not the perfect activity to ease myself into the Canadian way of life. With that in mind and with the desire to enjoy my time at the top of the Mountain, rather than arriving hot, sweaty and in need of urgent medical attention, I decided the Skyride was the better option.
Upon seeing the ‘Grinders’ at the top, I was silently smug with my choice. That’s not to say I’d never take part in the challenge – it’s definitely on my bucket list – but for my first experience of the Mountain, I wanted to enjoy all it had to offer in perfect health. The Skyride, which boasts to be North America’s longest aerial tram system, was also great fun, soaring high above the towering Douglas Firs, giving a first glimpse into the stunning views across Vancouver, the Pacific Ocean and down to Washington State.
There is so much you can do on Grouse Mountain. From wildlife shows, a theatre, nature trails and zip-wiring – the list is endless. Having arrived just in time for the first Lumberjack show of the day, and with handsome men dressed in plaid grabbing my attention, I took my seat to watch the traditional craft of bygone eras so ingrained in North American folklore. As a lover of history and past cultures, I found the show both fascinating and fun, with comical staging and engagement with the audience, running alongside a brief account of this traditional Canadian practice, which played such a vital role in their way of life and trade.
After visiting the two resident bears – yes, there are bears living up there – it was time to ascend the mountain further. I opted for the ‘Ultimate Experience’, which allowed you to go to the summit via the Peak Chairlift, including the relatively new feature, the ‘Eye of the Wind’.
The Eye of the Wind – a wind turbine rising 86 metres above the summit – was an impressive and iconic symbol to Vancouver’s, if not Canada’s, love and passion for the environment and alternative energy. Standing in the turbine’s glass pod, I was left completely speechless by the view and overwhelmed by a feeling of complete insignificance. That sounds rather depressing…but, by insignificance I mean in comparison to the vastness that was set out before me. I was standing at the top of a mountain! Not only that, I was hovering 86 meters above the summit in a wind turbine, looking out on unbelievable panoramic views with a grand ancient mountain range to my left and the immense glittering Pacific Ocean to my right. There was only one word I found myself repeating– ‘wow’. It was all I could say.
It is moments like these, when surrounded by such vast natural beauty, that you realise day to day trivial thoughts and fears are, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant. This is what it’s all about – the earth, nature and the beauty it shares with us daily, all too often lost or neglected by the mundanities of working life. There is nothing like a good view to remedy any worries and restore you to your true self. Is this a primitive instinct? Or perhaps I’m thinking too much on a view? Who’s to say, but for once, it felt great to feel insignificant.