Category Archives: entertainment

Adventure on the cheap – Vancouver and the Lower Mainland by public transit part I

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I’ve been lazy. I haven’t updated in ages. I’m back with pretty pictures, so I hope you’ll forgive me. ūüėČ

With the longer days and springier weather lately, I’ve spent more time exploring. I wanted to write a post about six of the most awesome places I’ve visited by bus in the last three and a half years. I’ll bring it to you in two parts.

1) Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay is in the far northwest corner of Metro Vancouver, but it only takes one bus to get there from downtown.¬†There is¬†a ferry terminal and a little town with ice cream, restaurants and tourist shops, as well as docks that are accessible to the public. It’s a serene place, and it has great views of the islands and mountains of Howe Sound.

The ferries take foot passengers, you can go as far as Nanaimo on Vancouver Island without needing a car.

2) Grouse Mountain

This one takes a lot of hiking, or something like $40 (or whatever they are charging these days) for a gondola ticket, but oh is it worth it. ¬†I’m still pretty ¬†blown away that I live in a place where you can take public transit to the base of a mountain, spend the day hiking, then catch the bus back home.

The bus goes to the base of Grouse Mountain, where there’s a Starbucks and the start of the gondola. There is also the option to hike the Grouse Grind. Since I’m so cheap, I choose the Grouse Grind because two and a half hours of physical torture is still more appealing to me than buying a ticket for the gondola. The sign at the base says that the average hiker will take an hour and a half, but I’m way above average apparently.

I’ve done the Grouse Grind three times, and I always spend the first half cursing myself. There is a point where it gets easier, or at least when my body has gotten into the rhythm and I feel so pleased with myself that I decide I don’t need to do any more exercise for the next month. After lots of climbing and stomping and heaving (over 3000 stairs), ¬†the trail ends at the foot of the restaurant and gift shop complex. This is when I get to turn around, look at Vancouver and the Island, and realize it was definitely worth it.

They’ve found a way to capitalize the heck out of that mountain, because along with the multiple gift shops and multiple restaurants, there is also a grizzly bear enclosure, wolf enclosure, lumberjack shows, windmill tour, helicopter tours and probably some other stuff that I’m missing. The bears, wolves and lumberjacks are free.

Hiking back down is actually not permitted. I’m not sure if that’s a way to capitalize off ¬†of the moochy hikers who took a free peek at the grizzlies, or if ‘s is a safety issue (the Grouse Grind can get pretty competitive). The ticket down was $10 last time I was there, but after the hike up I’m always more than eager to take the easy way down.

3. Burnaby Mountain

‘Another mountain,’ you say? That’s right, and this one is much less of a pain in the ass.

The eastern part of Burnaby Mountain is taken up by SFU, and the much smaller western part is a restaurant and park. Getting to the western part takes about 15 minutes from the nearest bus stop, but there is a fair amount of incline. You will probably be sweaty by the time you get to the top, so if you’re going to the restaurant it may be better to drive.

For a place that is so beautiful and relatively accessible, Burnaby Mountain is not too busy. The park on top has totem poles, flower beds and views facing west (towards Vancouver), north (towards Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver and Belcarra) and south (towards Burnaby and the ocean).

In case you’re a map nerd like me:

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Scavenging at the library

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Cost: Free
Success:¬†3/5 (the selection’s lame but the price is right!)

The other day after my boyfriend finished his volunteer shift, he showed me the carts of free books in the basement of the Bellingham library. There was a book by the author of Sex and the City, which was a book before it was a TV show. I took that one.

Sometimes libraries will give away old books, or sell them for low low prices. These books are not exactly the pick of the litter, but I’ve seen some decent ones.

The more obvious thing to do at the library would be to get a card and actually borrow books. It’s been on my list.

TV on the cheap

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Cost: $60 one-time investment
Success rating: 4/5

Cable would cost me around $50 a month. If I put that money towards my mortgage, I could pay it off 1.8 years faster. Just ask this mortgage calculator.

I still like the idea of TV, but cable costs too much, and satellite is excessive. At first the idea of choosing between five networks playing the same show is exciting ¬†(“I wonder what¬†Halifax’s¬†commercials are like!”), but the novelty wears off.

I didn’t realize this, and I think a lot of people don’t – it’s still totally possible to get the local channels for free.¬†I went to the store to get an amplified antenna. It cost me around $60 including taxes, but I’ve already saved more than that by not paying for TV services.

Setting it up was a bit finicky. A lot of things affect the reception, like placement of the antenna, and how much stuff is between it and the broadcast tower. I found my reception was twice as good once I set it upright like it showed on the box. I don’t know how it took me a month to figure that one out. Now I get most of the channels most of the time. That includes CBC, CTV, CityTV, Global, CTVtwo, Omni, a station that plays old shows, a music video station, a couple shopping stations, and some stuff in other languages.

To me, this is a great alternative to paying for TV. The biggest downside is the finicky reception.

Additional notes

I watch most of my favourites shows online – which you can do quite legally through streaming network sites, like watch.ctv.ca, or cbc.ca/video¬†in Canada. If you want to do things less legally, I can’t give ¬†any site names for the purpouse of this project. Free TV¬†is however available online.

There are other alternatives. Some friends hook their computers up to their TVs and watch shows that way.