Snow, Christmas, and Other Things

Any trip to Vancouver isn’t complete without a trek to the top of Grouse Mountain. And that’s just what I did on my recent visit to one of the most beautiful places on this planet.

Taking the Seabus to North Vancouver to start the journey to the mountain is a bonus. Navigating the ticket system was relatively painless – and like many places now, the human element is missing – a vending machine takes care of the process – you just select the destination, insert the appropriate coins/notes and collect the ticket. Done!

Entry to the Seabus is very organised as there are designated lines for embarkation, allowing for easy disembarkation of North Vancouverites. I was lucky to be travelling just after lunch and before the afternoon rush, so there weren’t many others on the same journey, which guaranteed a seat with a view, once I worked out which end was the front. My skewed thinking was that the ferry would reverse out of the terminal, then turn around and head over to North Vancouver, so my seat in front of the rear window would actually be the front. The fact that I was the only one at that end should have alerted me to the error of that line of thinking. Once we were out of the terminal, we just kept right on going in the direction of original manoeuvre, meaning I was sitting at the back, by myself. A casual wander to the actual front secured me a seat in the front row – rather than squeeze into the window seat next to some very excited junior visitors. A case of ‘been there – done that’ many times before in my other life of spending almost a year in that beautiful city, so I didn’t need to sit right at the front for this trip.

From the Seabus the walk to the land-bus is through a short, covered walkway to the bus bays. Bus 18 was ready and waiting with only a couple of passengers on board, so sitting near the front was not a problem. Not that it ever is now that I am a qualified senior, as the front of the bus is reserved especially for us – one of the better perks of seniority (I prefer that label over ‘old-age’).

The bus wound its way around the streets of North Vancouver while gradually making its way gently up the hill to the Skyride Station where we disembarked – some obviously going up the mountain to ski, while others, like me – were just going up to enjoy the view. Unlike the Seabus ticket experience, there were humans in the Skyride Station to discuss the finer points of the journey. The ticket, while being a bit pricey, did include access to Santa’s Workshop and other Christmassy events.

And the Skyride? Fantastic! Our capable driver was Angie, who looked way too young to be in charge of getting the riders to the summit but did the job exceptionally well, including an endearing conversation with a three-year-old who loved the idea of cleaning the windows with the squeegee as we ascended the mountain. It certainly kept her busy and entertained for the relatively short ride, leaving Angie free to concentrate on the driving – and the windows stayed mist-free in the process – well, the lower half of the windows, anyway.

The trees covered in snow made it feel like we were on the way to Santa-land, something we don’t experience in November in our part of the world. It was spectacularly beautiful – and if the upgrade to the operating system on my iPhone the day before hadn’t rendered my Olympus Air software (and hence, my Olympus Air camera) unusable, I would have had some spectacular photos to match. But the iPhone camera did a reasonable job, considering.

At the top, I walked around in the lightly falling snow; had a meeting with the Big Man in Red (no harm in mentioning what I want for Christmas); had a selfie with the Big Man as well; nodded to Santa’s Christmas Eve transport team (the reindeer) – then headed into the Chalet for soup and a hot chocolate to warm me up.

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After that, I headed back to the Skyride to start the journey home. Angie provided another excellent service and got us all to the base of the mountain safely and very comfortably. And then it was just a short walk back to the bus. I thought about buying a coffee from the Starbucks as I left the Skyride station, but decided I’d wait until I got back to Vancouver.

From the Seabus Station, it was just a reasonably short walk back up the hill to Robson Street. As I reached the front of the Pacific Centre I was flabbergasted to see that the hot-dog vendor that used to be there years ago was still operating from a van on the other side of the street. I didn’t have to think too hard about crossing over and ordering our old favourite – a vegetarian hot dog with cheese, onions, and mustard. So, that was dinner taken care of. Back to the Listel Hotel to enjoy my nostalgic hot-dog, and then see what the evening held in store.

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