Our 7-day cruise on board the Island Princess through Alaska's Inside Passage ended early Monday morning at 7:30 am on the 16th of June 2008 upon our arrival in Vancouver, British Columbia. After disembarking from the cruise ship I was thinking of getting a taxi cab to take us to our hotel where we could drop off our luggage then start exploring the beautiful city of Vancouver. However, just as we were about to leave the pier we were offered to go on a city tour on a mini bus. The small bus had enough storage space for our luggage at its rear and we were also told that we would be taken to our hotel right after the tour. The offer appeared to be very convenient on our part since check in time at the hotel would still be hours away and the charge for the tour was quite reasonable too that Nena and I decided to join two other couples who were also cruise passengers.

The itinerary for the city tour included stops at the following landmarks and attractions: Downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, Chinatown, Gastown, Granville Island, and Queen Elizabeth Park. The driver told us that it would be past mid-afternoon by the time the tour would be over and that he would then take each of us to our respective hotels. For the beginning part of the tour, the driver took us on a drive through downtown Vancouver which covers the southeastern portion of the peninsula in the north-central part of Vancouver proper. It is the business, commercial, cultural, financial, government, and entertainment center of the city. The downtown area is generally considered to be bounded by Burrard Inlet to the north, Stanley Park and the West End to the west, False Creek to the south, and the Downtown Eastside to the east.

Vancouver is a coastal city and major seaport located in the Lower Mainland of southwestern British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest city in British Columbia and in the Pacific Northwest region. Vancouver is named after Captain George Vancouver, a British explorer. The population of the city of Vancouver is 611,869 and the population of Metro Vancouver is 2,249,725 (2007 estimate). This makes it the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada and the third largest in the country. Vancouver is ethnically diverse, with 52% of city residents and 43% of Metro residents having a first language other than English.

After our drive around the downtown area, we were taken to Stanley Park. The park is located in a 404.9 hectare (1,000 acre) area bordering downtown Vancouver. It was opened in 1888 by the British Lord Stanley of Preston. It is the largest city-owned park in Canada and the third largest in North America. It is more than 10% larger than New York City's Central Park and almost half the size of London's Richmond Park. The park attracts an estimated eight million visitors every year, including locals and tourists, who come for its recreational facilities and its natural attributes. An 8.8 kilometre (5.5 mile) seawall path circles the park, which is used by 2.5 million pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters every year. Much of the park remains forested with an estimated half million trees that can be as tall as 76 metres (250 ft) and hundreds of years old. There are approximately 200 km (125 miles) of trails and roads in the park, which are patrolled by the Vancouver Police Department's equine mounted squad. Stanley Park is ranked as the sixteenth best park in the world and sixth best in North America.

After our tour of Stanley Park we were taken for a drive through Chinatown which is the Western Hemisphere's second largest Chinatown in area size(after San Francisco). Its location is centered on Pender Street. The approximate street borders of Chinatown's commercial area are Hastings, Georgia, Gore, and Taylor Streets, although its boundaries extend well into the residential area south of the Downtown Eastside. Main, Pender, and Keefer Streets are the principal areas of commercial activity.

We then proceeded to Gastown which is located at the northeast end of Downtown adjacent to the Downtown Eastside. Gastown is a mix of "hip" contemporary fashion and interior furnishing boutiques, tourist-oriented businesses, restaurants, nightclubs, poverty and newly-upscale housing. In addition, there are law firms, architects and other professional offices, as well as computer and internet businesses, art galleries, music and art studios, and acting and film schools. Gastown's most famous landmark is its steam-powered clock, located on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. An intriguing clock, driven by a steam mechanism, draws the crowds here. Every hour the steam, from an underground system, sets of a series of whistles while a music box inside the clock plays the chimes of Big Ben every quarter of an hour.

It was almost noontime when we made it to Granville Island which is a small island and shopping district in Vancouver. It is located in False Creek directly across from Downtown Vancouver's peninsula, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Nena and I had a quick lunch at the market where we found a number of fastfood stalls. We did look around the the market and the nearby marina and took some pictures of people who were also having lunch. Granville Island was once an industrial manufacturing area, but is now a major tourist destination, providing amenities such as a public market, a large marina, a hotel, and various shopping areas clustered around the one industrial outpost remaining, a cement plant. The island is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Passenger ferry service from Granville Island to Downtown Vancouver is provided by two ferry companies, False Creek Ferries and Aquabus.

Our next stop right after lunch was the Queen Elizabeth Park, a municipal park located on Little Mountain. Queen Elizabeth Park is the second most visited park in Vancouver and holds within its perimeters some of the most beautiful public gardens anywhere. Its recreational offerings are diverse ranging from sporty to horticultural and include golf, tennis, lawn bowling, disc golf, an extensive outdoor arboretum and the indoor Bloedel Floral Conservatory. The 130 acre (52 hectare) park is one of the most beautifully maintained public parks in the world. Second only to Stanley Park in annual visitations, it receives nearly 6 million people a year who marvel at its superior standard of garden plantings. The park was originally quarried for its rock which served to build Vancouver's first roadways. In 1929 the Board proceeded to acquire the property which had become an abandoned eyesore but still served as the site for two holding reservoirs for the City's drinking water. Dedicated as a park by King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth on their much lauded visit to Vancouver in 1939.

It was already way past 3:00 pm when our tour was over and when we arrived at the Day's Inn in downtown Vancouver our room was ready for us. Nena and I were really tired after the city tour that we were just looking forward to a late afternoon nap. I took a number of photographs during our city tour and these can be accessed by clicking on the link shown below:

Vancouver City Tour

Hopefully, the photographs will give you a good idea as to what we saw during our first day in Vancouver.