When you live on the other coast, one has a tendency to say silly things like "Seattle doesn't really need a basketball team, Vancouver is practically a suburb." It turns out Vancouver isn't that close, but it's also not far. It was about time we hopped over the border for a visit.

Coming up onto the border crossing.

If traffic isn't bad, it's possible to get to the border in around 2 hours. Crossing the boarder isn't that bad either (providing you have your docs ready), it's just a lot of hurry up and wait. Which was okay, since putting the speedometer on the GTI to kmph was surprisingly difficult for car made in Germany.

Some of our friends advised us that we'd have a better time if we stayed in North Vancouver. On arriving within city limits, we started to understand why some of these friends were former residents of Vancouver. There was traffic everywhere. The entire city seemed to be going anywhere but where they were. There are many negatives to urban expressways, but at least when you are on them you can inch along without having to worry about hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist.

When we finally reached our hotel near the Lonsdale Quay Market everyone was exhausted. Though the staff was very nice about it, the room wasn't ready and a proper nap was delayed.

The Vancouver skyline from the Burrard Dry Dock Pier

The situation improved once we got our room, which was very nice. Exploring was in order after a little rest. The Lonsdale Quay fits into the pattern of industrial area turned into trendy residential. Some vestiges of the neighborhoods past remain, like the giant ship building crane. It's location right across the harbor from Vancouver proper confers two major advantages: a great view of the city and the Seabus.

The slats over the gaps in the pier make for some good stunting.

One thing we long thought was a bit of a myth were very friendly Canadians. Surely a city that has exploded and is in constant gridlock is going to feel like every other city, but no, that myth is totally true. From our first interaction to our last, there was that extra level of niceness that you aren't used to seeing in the big cities in the US. Even the tourists seemed extra nice.

We got a kick out of this marine only gas station.

The Seabus connects North Vancouver to the Coal Harbor area. As the name implies it was still pretty industrial, especially on the water front. We looked around a little and walked amongst the very fancy hotels. We were getting close to bedtime and the sushi restaurants in that area were far to spendy for our tastes, so we took the Seabus back and ate at a local chain sushi place near the hotel.

On the walk in Canada Place

After a good night's rest, we were ready to explore the natural side of North Vancouver. Our first stop was the Lynn Canyon Park. The highlight of the park is the suspension bridge, which is 160ft (50m) from the canyon floor and was first opened as a pay attraction in 1912. This was Mira's first ever outing on a real suspension bridge and she was initially taken back by how much it swayed. Though shortly she was ready to run back and forth even with the slippery surface.

Sonali and Mira on the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

The bridge leads into the majority of hiking trails within the park. We took one of the shorter ones that said it was easy. It probably would have been in the summer but at the time it was covered in ice. Having lived in the Southeast this our first real exposure to icy trail hiking.

On the icy trail through the park.

There were multiple slips and falls. Mira had one that required "medical attention" (emphasis on attention) from the very nice doctor behind us.

On the Twin Falls bridge

The view of the stream from the bridge

By the time we had got to the end of the trail, Mira had fully recovered and was advocating continuing down another icy path. The adults, however, opted for lunch. We found a tiny bistro (I think it actually was called that in French) with some great sandwiches. Then it was decision time, to the aquarium or back to Seattle?

In the main foyer of the Vancouver Aquarium

The aquarium was a dicey proposition after the hiking injury, doubly so since it required another trip across the Lions Gate Bridge. Post ham sandwich, Mira was back to her usual self and it worked out nicely.

Mira with the Jellyfish

The aquarium is one my standout memories of my last trip to Vancouver, though most of the memories involve the Orcas which are no longer there. One of the clear standouts for Mira was the science section that featured some interactive experiments. Her favorite was easily the microscope that allowed her to see the details of plastics. It became even more engrossing when she realized she could magnify her own fingers.

The favorite science experiment: seeing the plastics that end up in the ocean

Her other favorites were the sea lions and the otters. Not surprising since they were being every energetic.

The sea lions were making regular rounds of their tank

Another fun exhibit was the rainforest section which was refreshingly warm after brisk spring air outside.