August 11: Swartz Bay to Vancouver, British Columbia - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

August 11: Swartz Bay to Vancouver, British Columbia

Highly recommended: the ferry ride from Swartz Bay to Tsawassen.

Recommended: the Budget Patricia Hotel in East Hastings Street, Vancouver

The ferry to Tsawassen is more than a journey: it's a cruise.
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THE FERRY crossing is more a cruise than a journey. It is an hour and a half of leisured, water-sparkling turns between wooded islands. A few houses on the shore have ramps down to pontoons but otherwise there is little sign of human life. The ferry holds down its speed to avoid drenching homes and wildlife.

The dark, cold water lay in mysterious patterns as I stood out on the deck in sunshine but chilling wind. Sometimes the sea was troubled and yet elsewhere it lay smooth and sinister, as though it held the secret to sailors' souls. The wash from our bow gurgled white and left trails of bubbles. We saw seals and gulls on our first sunny day in a week.

Tsawassen - the T is almost silent - is at the edge of an Indian reservation. The politically correct term in the USA is Native Americans; here is it is First Nation. The port is the access to Vancouver. All the traffic takes a long spit by Indian land before dispersing. Drivers take the nearest bridge but it and the road that crosses it are denied to cyclists. We therefore had to take a long way, two sides of a triangle, to cross the water further inland.

Chinatown, Vancouver: authentic rather than touristy.
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We are staying on the edge of Chinatown. It is much celebrated in Vancouver, with a large gate decked with dragons at one of its entrances, the street names given in Chinese as well as English. It's a curiosity of life that when there are a lot of Chinese people, they become a tourist attraction. An equally large number of Pakistanis or West Indians are seen quite differently.

We walked into town along Hastings Street, a 400m stretch in which unusual people sat on the pavement. They had their backs to walls of shops and of offices which offered replacement hypodermics and advice on addiction. Some squatted with people they knew, sparse belongings spread between their legs in the hope of a sale. They had used books, candlesticks, boxes of nothing in particular - anything that might raise a cent.

Not all Vancouver is like this. Our signed bike route is one of many that are well used and sensibly planned. We rode through clean, prosperous suburbs with single-storey houses and colourful, tailored gardens.

Our hotel, the Patricia at the top of Hastings Street, is clean, attractive and friendly. Our bikes are secure in the basement. Our room isn't large but only because we are cheapskates and we asked for a small one. We are a lot more comfortable than the street people. I'd recommend the Patricia to anyone.

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