We continued our road trip up the West Coast and crossed the border back into Canada (with a short stop at the Boeing Factory). It didn’t take long to be caught in another flurry of snow, luckily we had a couple of beautiful days to enjoy in Vancouver.
About half an hours drive north of Seattle is the Boeing Everett Factory which is used to manufacture several types of Boeing planes. It is also home to the Future of Flight tour which took us through several parts of the factory and gave us a great insight into how these amazing machines are created. Unfortunately there is a very strict ‘no photography’ rule enforced on the tour, so no photos from inside the building.
We started off by getting on a bus which drove down to the factory building, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the biggest building in the world. It is overwhelming to stand next to, each of those doors in the photo below is the size of an American Football field. Once inside, it somehow feels even bigger. Seeing these enormous planes lined up next to each other in various states of construction was amazing. The process of building these planes involves a lot more manual labour than I expected, although there seems to be more automation coming in lately. The speed at which Boeing can build the planes is nothing short of mind blowing, they can finish a Boeing 787 every 3 and a half days (using the same production line which started out with a 28 day turnaround time).
Overall this was definitely one of the most interesting tours I’ve been on. Definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.
We spent a whole day in the downtown area of Vancouver, the weather was great so there were great views of the bay with the mountains in the distance. There is a mix of older brick buildings and newer glass ones all throughout the city, makes for some interesting contrasting sights. We wandered around a couple of malls, then along the waterfront watching the seaplanes take off.
The following day the weather was forecasted to turn bad in the afternoon so we drove down into Stanley Park in the morning. It’s consistently voted the best city park in the world, and even in the cold cloudy weather it was nice to walk around the seawall and through some of the forested areas. We did manage to spot some wildlife around the place, a couple of squirrels plus a blue heron trying to walk across a frozen pond. But the highlight was definitely seeing a barred owl sitting up in a tree right next to the trail, it didn’t seem bothered by us standing close to it at all.
We then drove south through the city to the Museum of Anthropology, which houses thousands of pieces from all sorts of cultures around the world. The main draw is the huge collection of articles from the First Nations situated around British Columbia. I learnt a lot about the culture of the First Nation peoples as well as the problems by the museum in regards to trying to find the balance between teaching younger generations about the culture and maintaining the important traditions.
And so our last day in Canada came around far too quickly, and with a fair amount of money to use up we set out to spend it. The forecast was for a day of sun, so we drove up the round and caught a cable car to the top of Grouse Mountain. Simply stunning views back over the city of Vancouver and the ocean. We spent a good few hours up here, walking a trail through the snowy woods and going skating on the ice rink (pretty sure I won that, seeing as I didn’t fall over….).
The weather closed in really quickly in the early afternoon, the great views disappeared and the temperature dropped. So after retreating into the chalet for a coffee, we watched a documentary in the theatre about the two grizzly bears who were rescued and now reside in the nature reserve up in the mountain.
Seeing as we had a bit of extra money still to spend, we decided to go just down the road from the gondola and visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The cost of entry is expensive but it’s clear once you are inside that there are a lot of construction costs, not just for the bridge itself but also for the several cliff walks and treetop canopy trails.
It’s a good thing I’m not scared of heights or anything, because this bridge is high (and swingy). At 140m long and 70m off the canyon floor, it’s really quite a feat of engineering. Apparently it can hold the weight of two Boeing 747s although I wouldn’t want to test that. The whole area of the park is quite neat to walk through, the cliffside walk in particular has several sections which will make your palms sweat.
Well it’s quite fitting that the weather would give us one last ‘present’ before we left Canada. We woke up on the morning we were leaving to a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground and a lot still falling. So a quick breakfast and then a long slow drive in the heavy snow to the airport (and we thought the traffic was bad when it wasn’t snowing). We arrived with plenty of time and proceeded to spend the rest of the day either sitting in the airport or sitting in a plane on the tarmac. The sudden snowfall had caused a lot of delays all over the airport, my plane didn’t end up leaving until half an hour after I was supposed to arrive in San Francisco. Luckily I didn’t fly out until later that night so all that meant is a shorter wait in that airport.
Well that’s pretty much it for my Canada trip, worked out that we’d driven 2,969km and walked 218km (according to my watch). I’ve had a great time exploring this coast of Canada and America, some truly breathtaking sights and tonnes of poutine. Thanks for following along, stay tuned for my next one!