Taking time out in bustling Vancouver

Vancouver is a city with an outside edge.

Vancouver is a city with an outside edge.

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Soaking up the sun on the quayside of False Creek, savouring some freshly-made doughnuts bought from nearby Granville Market, I drift off to a far away place.

Only the skyline of skyscrapers on the other side of the bay reminds me we’re in a bustling city.

Chilled-out urbanites with take-out lattes, bagels and mouth-watering pastries spread out on the wooden benches in a wide, decked area, to take in the relaxed atmosphere and listen to a sweet-sounding busker before heading back to work.

But tourists like me have the luxury of not having a deadline to meet, so I stay a while longer to spend time browsing artisan stores, the kids’ market and a foodies’ Mecca at the indoor market.

While some cities are inevitably concrete and glass environments housing a plethora of shops, impressive museums and other indoor attractions, Vancouver in British Columbia is much more; in fact it’s an open air playground where, despite the sometimes inclement weather, there are opportunities for outdoor recreation everywhere.

I walk everywhere, exploring the downtown hub of the dim sum cafes and noodle bars of Chinatown, window-gazing at designer stores on Burrard Street and buying souvenirs in Robson, Vancouver’s downtown shopping district.

I’m enamoured by Water Street in Gastown, an historical area which has undergone a facelift and restored many of its late 19th century buildings to house curio and vintage shops, imaginative restaurants and First Nations indigenous art.

But today the weather’s too sunny for shopping, my teenage boys nag. Taking the brightly coloured Aquabus across the water from Granville Island to the heart of the city, I head for the cycle hire shop to go for a bike ride around Stanley Park.

I’ve never encountered a park that juts out into the sea, but the 5.5-mile paved route along the sea wall, originally built to stave off erosion, takes me right around it.

They have built separate paths for pedestrians and

cyclists because over the years the human traffic has become so dense, I’m told by Alvin, our quirky, amiable unicyclist guide.

You can stop at various beaches en route, but as the sky by now looks ominous, we plough on with Alvin, catching the amazing views of the Lions Gate Bridge over Burrard Inlet and the imposing North Shore mountains.

On another sunny day, we venture 20 minutes by car to open air hilly playground Grouse Mountain.

In winter, people come here to ski, zipwire and snowshoe. In warmer months, it’s possible to take grizzly bear trails with eco-friendly tour guides.

A five-minute drive from Grouse, I opt for a chance to balance my outdoor yin and yang at the cooling forest which houses the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 450ft length of wobbling planks connecting sky-scraping Douglas firs and hovering far above the canyon floor.

The swaying bridge offers amazing views of the canyon below. When we cross to the other side there’s a fascinating rainforest to explore.

It’s an eco-friendly perfect place for youngsters to let off steam among the trees, while I sit by a pond and contemplate life, nature and the great outdoors that is Vancouver.

TRAVEL FACTS

Hannah Stephenson travelled to Vancouver as a guest of Destination British Columbia (BritishColumbia.travel), staying at the five-star Fairmont Waterfront Hotel (fairmont.com/waterfront-vancouver). A standard room starts at 279 dollars.

Return flights in economy from London Heathrow to Vancouver start from £694.35, including taxes.

Find out more at aircanada.com or call 0871 220 1111.

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