Vancouver Sights and Northern Lights (day 2)
A COLD, SALTY SPRAY PEBBLEDASHES MY FACE
A wind whips up white horses as the Zodiac picks up speed out of Horseshoe Bay. As we approach the first of the many islands dotted around Howe Sound, a bald eagle soars into the sky, magnificence personified. I am on a 28ft inflatable with Megan Sewell, general manager of Sewell’s Marina, and we are heading across the fjord to Britannia Beach. Megan raises the high-speed boat’s nose and it thrusts its neck out, soaring across across the bay. Myriads of birds nonchalantly go about their business, clearly oblivious to the noise. Megan nuggles the boat under steep cliffs, and we spy an eagle’s nest high in the treetops. Howe Sound is a major conservation zone, and I can see why. Apart from the birds, it is a major playground for many whales and dolphins. Once at Britannia Beach, I disembark and head for the Sea to Sky Gondola, where I meet up with my guide, Christie Allen. Nestled between Vancouver and Whistler, I have walked into a secret nature paradise. The gondola was opened in May 2014, and is bound to prove a major tourist attraction in the coming seasons. We take a ride to 885 metres above Howe Sound and the town of Squamish, with panoramic views of coastal forest and snowcapped peaks. People hereabouts are either wandering the interpretive trails or dining out at the Summit Lodge. Before lunch, I walk across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, and take in more absorbing views from the cantilevered viewing platforms. My next stop is at the Britannia Mine Museum, where I take a small train to the dark interior of the mine, which finally closed in 1974, having been the largest copper mine in the British Empire. It is easy to understand the hardships that the miners endured in the early 20th century. Back in Vancouver, I dine out at The Parker, a trendy restaurant run by Steve Da Cruz who works the floor and clealy knows his clientele well. Chef Felix Zhou showcases signature vegetarian dishes from an impressive, ever-evolving menu. Their passion and enthusiasm shines through, and this is a showstopper of an end to my evening.