Beer Across Vancouver

Travel Stories: Jeff Kaczmarczyk got a little lost in the British Columbia city. But maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

02.23.10 | 2:19 PM ET

VancouverVancouver from the Granville Street Bridge (iStockPhoto)

I’m a terrible judge of distance. When I say “Julia’s Empanadas is right by the Metro,” it often translates to, “We’re going to walk half a mile.” Granted, I can navigate a city I’ve never been to fairly well, but I have no concept of how long it will take to get somewhere. This became apparent in Vancouver, where I got to know my way around downtown with ease. At least I thought I did.

On the last day of my trip, I decided to treat myself to a sampler of local brews at the Granville Island Brewery. The beers were nothing short of spectacular—the seasonal Lions Winter Ale with a vanilla finish, the English Bay Pale Ale with delightful notes of caramel. I picked up a sampler six-pack for a friend back home. The cashier at the brewery put my six beers in a custom case decorated with the labels of each beer, and placed that in a large plastic bag.

I wasn’t going back to the U.S. immediately though. I had dinner reservations at one of Vancouver’s best restaurants, Raincity Grill. I had it in my head that the restaurant was just across False Creek, over the Granville Bridge. Since the restaurant was apparently so close, I decided I would just take my six-pack to the restaurant and forget about heading back to the hotel to drop it off. I hopped on the AquaBus and headed back downtown to the beginning of Beach Avenue. I walked around a few of the buildings, but for the life of me I could not find the restaurant.

I stopped a woman who was walking her dog.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know where Raincity Grill is?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “You have to go past the public toilets that are just down the road there, and then take a right when you get to Denman.”

“Thank you! That isn’t too far out of the way, is it?”

“Nope. It’s just down there a little ways.”

Needless to say, this woman didn’t have good judgment of distance either. I walked along Sunset Beach with my bagged six-pack. I passed marinas with dozens of boats that were covered up for the winter months. I passed some apartment and office buildings, with the blue and green tinted windows reflecting the flag of the city. I passed a basketball court that was being used for street hockey.

The more I carried on, the more the palm of my hand began to redden. The beer was making my arm very tired. How much farther did I have to go?

After about 15 minutes, I made it to the public toilets mentioned by the dog-walking woman. I looked around. I saw no sign for Denman Avenue.

I stopped another woman walking her dog.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you happen to know where Raincity Grill is?”

“Yes. You have to walk a little ways to Denman and take a right.”

The sun was setting, coloring the sky with a deep purple; lights from passing boats also lit up the sky. I had to stop for a moment to take in the sight. 

I switched the hand I carried my beer with a couple of times; I was really starting to get tired. As I continued walking along the beach, I noticed a sign warning of coyotes. At that point, if I had been attacked by a coyote, I probably would have offered it a beer to take the pressure off my arms.

Then I saw something that I had been looking for since I’d arrived in Vancouver. For the longest time before my trip, I couldn’t figure out where the stone-slabbed symbol for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics came from, or what it meant. On a small inlet on the English Bay Beach, stood a large inukshuk made of stone, about twice as tall as a basketball hoop. This landmark that’s found in arctic regions is the basis for the Games’ logo, and I was glad I got to finally see where the inspiration came from.

I made my way off English Bay Beach and walked a couple of blocks until, finally, I found the restaurant. My arms were just about ready to fall off. I must have lugged this six-pack for miles.

Looking back, could I have easily hopped in a taxi? Sure. But I wouldn’t have ended up exploring this part of the city; I would have just blown past it. I wouldn’t have discovered that coyotes roam around Vancouver, and I wouldn’t have seen the inukshuk. I also wouldn’t have been able to view the incredible sunset over English Bay.

I guess it isn’t so bad to have a terrible gauge of distance. Sometimes not knowing your way around can lead to some amazing discoveries.

I just hope my friend really enjoyed those beers.

Jeff Kaczmarczyk is a marketing coordinator for Travel Channel. He first caught the travel bug in Scotland after braving haggis. Twice.

4 Comments for Beer Across Vancouver

Christine Myers 02.24.10 | 10:43 AM ET

Every time I have asked directions in Spanish, my destination is “muy cerca.” In New Zealand it’s always “teen minutes” away, though Americans usually say it’s five. It’s not directions so much as encouragement along the way. 02.24.10 | 11:11 AM ET

“Sometimes not knowing your way around can lead to some amazing discoveries.”  This is so true.  You may end up walking a wee bit more, but the people you meet along the way are worth it.  Not to mention the fact all of the little “gems” you may not have discovered if you stayed in your area.

Darcy McGee 02.26.10 | 11:43 AM ET

Vancouver is a walking city, to be sure. We don’t really do cabs. I’ve never really understood why, but it’s different.

Can huggers 03.01.10 | 9:38 PM ET

I just visited Vancouver one time , And I try beer here, It give me alot of memory,Indeed beer in Vancouver is so great!

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.