After gale-force winds ripped through Vancouver last night, the clouds parted and I set out on foot to do a walking tour of Gastown. I was invited along by Vancouver Urban Adventures to participate in their Gastown & Chinatown tour this afternoon.
Being a local history buff I was pretty curious to see if I would learn anything new during the walk and I’m pleased to say that I did. I won’t share too much (so I don’t spoil the tour for others) but I have a few history post ideas that were inspired by our walk today.
We started out at Waterfront Station and walked along Water Street, stopping into The Landing which used to be the home of Kelly, Douglas & Company (and their Nabob Coffee) at the turn of the last century. From there we continued down water to the infamous steamclock. I admit, I had my camera out for the entire trip but already looking like a tourist I wasn’t about to take any snaps of the timepiece (we have a bit of a history…).
The photos of faces above are sculpted up high on the front of a building along Water Street. It’s funny how we often forget to look up when walking down the street. Mind you, it’s probably not the best idea in the world to head down a bustling sidewalk with your chin up but there were some great building details that our guide pointed out that I had never noticed before.
We rounded the corner at Maple Tree Square (where you can find “Gassy Jack” Deighton) and stopped into the Irish Heather for a sampling of Blue Buck beer. Gastown is the birthplace of Vancouver as we know it. Called Granville before its incorporation as Vancouver, almost everything happened in the area we now know as Gastown.
Making our way over to Chinatown we explored the history of Shanghai Alley. If you have the chance to take a quick stroll down there you’ll find some information placards detailing some of the area’s history.
Looping up across Main Street we stopped for some Oolong and Jasmin tea samples before looping back down through Chinatown and into Dr Sun Yat Sen Gardens. The urban oasis balances water, earth, stones and plant-life against a skyscraper backdrop.
I find that getting out and walking around your City is a great way to rediscover it and explore places both familiar and new.
With regards to Urban Adventures, the walk was about 2 hours long but they broke it up nicely with the pit stop at the Irish Heather, the tea sample, and various other visits to galleries and shops along the way. The guides did supply useful information and I liked having the earpiece so I could hear their narration. They covered history, architecture, great places to catch a bite or lounge about, and the tour ran consistently on schedule.
The end of the stroll is at Tinseltown so you’ll be a bit displaced once it’s all over if you don’t know your way around the city or back to Waterfront. Otherwise, SkyTrain and bus are close-by. I would recommend the tour for friends or couples as the walking time (and alcohol) may not be suitable / comfortable for all ages.
The cost is $25, which is a good value taking into consideration the samples and the history lesson, however it may not be feasible for large families. As an afternoon activity for a group of friends, it’s well worth it and you’ll probably end up back at the Irish Heather or Salty Tongue for a full meal as you’ll work up an appetite.
Other walking tours I recommend would be…
The Sins of the City tour operated by the Vancouver Police Museum
The Miss Guides
The Gastown Business Improvement Society free walking tours of Gastown
The self-guided Silk Road walk
The self-guided Historic Mosaic Art Tile Tour (if it’s still around)
Disclosure: cmp.ly/1 – Unpaid. Admission was complimentary.