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Vancouver is often called “Lotusland,” which means “an idyllic realm of contentment and self-indulgence. That’s an apt description of this majestic city with much to offer visitors. In 2010, Vancouver will be showcased to the world as host city for the XXI Winter Games and Paralympics.

Vancouver may well be the only Winter Olympic city where it is possible to ski, golf, and fish for salmon all on the same day! Warmed by Pacific Ocean currents and protected by a range of mountains, Vancouver enjoys mild temperatures year-round. It is more apt to rain than snow in winters except at the higher elevations.

First time visitors are inundated with the variety of activities, and places to see. It may be best just to head to the Kitsilano beach to absorb the ever changing scenic view on the water. Alternatively, you can head to Granville Island and have a great time at the Public Market. Harbour Cruises are fun and you can easily get to the Lonsdale Market in North Vancouver via ferry. Seeing Vancouver from the water or from the top of Harbour Tower will help you get your bearings.

Fortunately, most Vancouver attractions are close to the city centre and easily accessible. The city is a maze of neighbourhoods, bridges, and viaducts further complicated by numerous ocean inlets, islets and river basins. Four of Vancouver’s most distinctive neighbourhoods are Gastown, Yaletown, Chinatown and Shaugnessy.

On the south side of the Burrard Inlet is historic Gastown. It is named for the salty seaman, Captain John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who opened a waterfront saloon there in 1867. Nearby Yaletown, Vancouver’s warehouse district at the turn of the century, it has evolved into a mosaic of art galleries, shops, restaurants, coffee houses, condos and offices. A few early rooming houses and late 19th century warehouses remain intact.

Shaughnessy, where you will find Vancouver’s grand old residences mostly hidden behind banks of trees and tall hedges, is a wonderful place to stroll. A more energetic walking tour takes you to Vancouver’s fantastic Chinatown, where families of Chinese descent have prospered for many generations. Especially worthwhile is a guided tour of the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden, one of the city’s most peaceful and quiet enclaves.

Not far away, on the UBC campus is the UBC Museum of Anthropology. It houses a collection of 535,000 ethnographic and archeological objects relating to indigenous people around the world. Massive totem poles, carved boxes, bowls, and feast dishes are featured in the Museum’s Great Hall.

For spectacular floral show, plan a trip to the Van Dusen Gardens and another afternoon at the Experiemental Garden of UBC. For those who are not overly squeamish about heights, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Hell\’s Gate Airtram are thrilling experiences.

Vancouver is known for its natural environment of beaches, mountains and sea, clean air and water, and the city boasts of more than 200 diverse parks and golf courses. To give you an idea of the massive numbers of trees which are maintained by the city, each spring more than 17,000 Japanese cherry trees blossom forth on city streets.

Originally home to Musqueam and Squamish First Nations people, Stanley Park is one of the world’s greenest, lushest and largest urban oasis’s. A seawall circles the park’s perimeter to enclose and protects a 150-year-old forest of cedar, hemlock and fir. It is Vancouver’s most popular destinations to walk, cycle, roller blade or skateboard. Several attractions exist within the park including a pitch and putt golf course and the Vancouver Aquarium, but these occupy only a small portion of the 400 hectare preserve.

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