Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fall in Love With Vancouver Again... By Bike

Going over the basics with Josh before our Cycle City Tour.
Playing "tourist in your own town" isn't a new thing. The portmanteau "staycation" has been around a while now. But have you actually ever done it? Taken a tour of Vancouver, like a guided tour, with factoids about local history & points of interest? I got the opportunity to do that on Monday with Cycle City Tours, who put together a sampler tour for journalists & bloggers to see first hand what they do.

I admit when we set out, I wasn't expecting to learn too much--I've lived in Vancouver for over 25 years now & I'm a bit of a local history buff. I was in it for the beer tasting at the end. During the tour, however, I really enjoyed myself & learned a thing or two about our city.

We rode from Cycle City at 1344 Burrard Street, down to the waterfront path at the foot of Hornby Street to get a great view of Granville Island across False Creek. Our knowledgeable guide Josh, refreshed our memories about Granville Island's origins & industrial history. He also mentioned a project he was involved in implementing right in the waters of False Creek, wrapping the creosote-soaked pilings in a plastic layer to provide a better egg-laying habitat for herring. This project actually started in Squamish about a decade ago & may be the reason that large marine mammals like dolphins, porpoises, whales are returning to the waters of Howe Sound & around Vancouver.

Palm trees, 1960s architecture, & public art.
Our next stop was at First Beach on English Bay. I ride through here several times a year, but rarely stop at the beach. Standing there facing the palm trees & the vintage high rises, I was reminded of some of the reasons I love this city. Josh told us a little about the hidden political meaning to the public art piece across the street from us, & spoke about public art in general here. Public art is a natural fit with biking, as so many of Vancouver's pieces are along the seawall & bike paths of the city. Cycle City Tours is planning to lead regular public art tours in conjunction with Vancouver Biennale this year--contact them for further details.

Onward we rode in the hot sun toward Stanley Park. But instead of riding around the seawall, we turned into the trails that criss-cross the centre of the park. In the shade of the towering trees, the temperature dropped to a manageable warm summer afternoon & we soon stopped at the base of a gigantic old-growth Douglas fir.

An old timer fir that escaped the saw in the 1900s.
Josh painted a picture of Vancouver in the last decades of the 19th century, pointing out the cuts in the tree where the loggers likely installed a springboard in an attempt to cut this behemoth down. For unknown reasons, they didn't fell the massive fir, so it remains more than a hundred years later, scarred now with animal burrows & laced with spiderwebs between its gnarled skin.

Riding through the trails of Stanley Park, I realized that this might have been my first time there on a bike. I walked them in the past, but have never ridden through. I resolved to bring the kids there soon to escape the sounds & heat of the summer city.

Next stop involved two firsts for me: 1. I'd never actually been to CRAB Park, which we accessed via the Coal Harbour section of the seawall. 2. We took a 'secret' tunnel that runs under the new convention centre. We emerged back into the sunshine between the helijet port & the train tracks--another sight I think the kids would like to see. Our guide told us of the local activists who fought for access to the waterfront on the East Side, resulting in the official city park that nestles in between Seabus berths & the giant gantries of the port.

Postmark beer bat, awaiting my taste buds.
We biked another few blocks into Railtown to Postmark Brewing, our final stop. After a brief tour of the facility & a primer on brewing in between the mash tuns, fermentation tanks & bright tanks, we returned to the tasting room for a flight of Postmark beers & a snack of some truly beautiful pizza from Belgard Kitchen. I will definitely be returning to Postmark to get a growler of their dry Irish stout & their India session ale soon.

If you want to play tourist in your home town, or maybe you have family & friends visiting, you should definitely try a Cycle City Tour. Bike tours are an eco-friendly way to get around, but also allow you to really experience the city through your senses all along the way. Even on a stinking hot day like Monday, we made our own breeze as we rode along.

Cycle City offers in depth tours of Stanley Park, Vancouver's Craft Beer scene, or the whole city, ranging from three to five hours, $39-90, depending on the tour, & if you have your own bike or wish to rent one of theirs. More information on Cycle City Tours here. By the way, Cycle City rents youth size bikes, child seats, trailers, & trailabikes as well.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned tour & beer tasting to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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