Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hanging High in Vancouver. Again.

Later this evening, I will be going to Shannon, Ireland. It will take me over 14 hours of overnight flying to get there. I will be exhausted. But I will reach into the reserve tank and find the energy to go to Durty Nelly's for at least one pint. Why? Because Durty Nelly's is a 15th century pub attached to a castle and is everything that I imagine an authentic (albeit touristy) Irish pub to be. It doesn't matter that I have been there before. It is one of those places that I will go to every time I have the chance.

And it is not alone. There are plenty of museums, squares, pubs, etc that I don't tire of visiting. Of course, there are others that take a bit more deliberation. How much did I enjoy it the first time? Am I going to get something new out of it? How easy is it to get to? How much does it cost? Am I enjoying the present company of those around me or would I rather ditch them?
These are some of the questions I was tossing around during a recent four day stay in Vancouver, BC. I was considering going to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in the northern part of the city. I had been there many many many years ago and remembered that 1) it was very scenic and 2) if you jump up and down on the bridge, you can make it sway and freak out anyone who's not entirely comfortable with heights. That's a plus. I was traveling with two good friends (with varying degrees of comfort re: heights). Another plus. From the website, it appeared that they had built a new series of elevated walkways that take you through the park at the level of the treetops. I'm intrigued. But it was not within walking distance. Uh oh. And it was $32 CAD to get in. Well.....

I searched for groupon vouchers, promo codes, seasonal specials and nothing. Then on the website's page where you can purchase tickets, there was a space provided for a "travel industry code". I work in travel, yet I had no code.  I emailed the park asking where I could acquire this magical code. Within ten minutes, I had a response.  Bring your id and you can get in free.  Deliberations over.

We quickly found a local bus that would get us within a couple of blocks of the park.  Had we researched a bit more, we would have discovered that there is also a free shuttle that takes you right to the entrance, but we were swept up in the excitement that comes along with a plan coming together.

When you first enter the park, there is an educational exhibit which explains the history of the 460 ft long suspension bridge, originally built in 1889.  I recall hearing that it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and this may have been true at some point.  Google says that honor now belongs to Sochi, Russia.

But I'm guessing the Russians do not have an excellent collection of totem poles donated by local natives.

The bridge itself is suspended 230 feet above the Capilano River and is way sturdier than it feels. Although it is still possible to make the bridge sway, there is now a buzzkill lifeguard (bridgeguard?) instructing you not to jump or run on the bridge.

This bridge managed to withstand a 46 ton Douglas Fir tree falling on it during a particularly brutal winter snow storm.  I'm sure my little dance on it is not going to have any lasting effects. I imagine the prohibition against displays of over-exuberance have more to do with the folks like the white knuckled group of Japanese tourists we encountered frozen mid-bridge.  Ok, so I may have managed to find a bit of extra bounce to my step around that point, but they were fine... really.

Once on the other side, we came upon the new treetop walkways I had seen online, only the site did not do them justice.  They wound in and out of this Pacific rain forest, with informational signs posted all along the way and extended for way longer than I had imagined.

The perspective they provided was somewhere between that of a nomadic primate or a low-flying bird, but without all that pesky swinging and flapping.

Back across the bridge is the park's newest attraction, the Cliff Walk.  This is another series of elevated walkways, this time attached, appropriately enough, to the side of a cliff.  Nothing I say and no picture I post will capture how cool these are.

At one point, there is a platform that extends over the river, which would have been pretty sweet all on its own.  The fact that they made it so that you could look straight down at the ground below only made it that much cooler.

Photo by Matt "the Tingler" Goodbody

I had returned to the park, lured by complimentary admission, but having seen the new additions, I would have happily paid the entrance fee. (Please don't tell them that.) I mentioned earlier that one of the factors I looked at when deciding whether to return to a place I'd been before was whether I was going to get anything new out of it.  In this case, the answer is not a "Yes" but a "Hell Yes!"

To celebrate a very successful outing, we bussed over to Granville Island, home to many restaurants and the original Granville Island Brewery.

The island was cute, the drinks were good and the food was everywhere.

Even the industrial silos were happening, featuring the work of the Brazilian street artists OsGemeos.

But that's not where my mind is right now.  I'm already thinking of a Broccoli and Blue Cheese tart, a pint of Guinness and my third (or is it fourth?) visit to a certain 15th century pub.

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