Everybody knows where Vancouver is located, right? It is located on the western mainland of North America, between Washington State and Alaska. British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada’s ten provinces. Twenty four miles south of Vancouver lies the U.S. Canada border. However, Vancouver is not the capital of British Columbia, rather Victoria serves as the capital. Another secret is their Chinese food, reputed to be the very best in the world.
As recently as February, Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. The 2010 Games were immensely popular. When Bob Costas and Al Michaels did that scene with the plane over False Creek, it brought back great memories of this area. If that alone does not bring you to Vancouver, I am at a loss as to what might make you do it. But the city’s best known pioneer was “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who started the first saloon back in 1867. That part of town became known as Gastown, contrary to what you might think about Jack.
Vancouver has a population of only 600,000 people. Most people speak English rather than French. Vancouver is in the Pacific Time Zone, making travel easier. In addition, there are two Chinatowns, one in the city and one in Richmond. Chinese and Korean food are good, plentiful, and very inexpensive. Most restaurants here pride themselves on using local farm raised products.
My fondness for Vancouver is based on several factors: safe streets, vibrant night life, good value shopping, friendly people, and good food. I would call it a cleaner and safer version of San Francisco, Sydney, Seattle or Paris. And one of its best features is that it feels like Europe, but only two hours away by plane!
The outdoor coffee joints and cafes are bustling all day long. French style bakeries and candy shoppes are ubiquitous. Its northerly location makes for longer days, and a substantial period of twilight rather than darkness. The bars, clubs, and restaurants are busy into the wee hours of the morning. It is a young person’s town, full of night life, music, and street action. Don’t visit if you want to relax!
The large influx of Asians, primarily from Hong Kong before Y2K, has changed the racial mix and cultural scene dramatically. It has also infused the area with abundant cash or cash equivalents. High rise apartments, commercial office buildings, fancy hotels, and stylish boutiques reflect this cash infusion.
Each Olympic city always puts their best foot forward, so to speak. It makes us want to visit. It first hit me when I was watching the summer Olympics in Montreal on TV. And the visit certainly confirmed its charm and uniqueness. The same can be said for many other cities, like Munich, Mexico City, Tokyo, Sydney, and Athens. We can skip places like Moscow, Salt Lake City, LA, and Beijing. Little did George Vancouver know, back in 1792, realize his exploration of the Burard Inlet would lead to one of the world’s finest cities.
Vancouver is an excellent place to visit, with or without an Olympics pedigree. Already a clean and safe city, the Olympics brought attention to their friendly people, and nearby recreational pursuits. It is a vibrant and active city in every respect. If I had to live in Canada, this or Montreal would be the place. Conde’ Nast named it the “Top City of the Americas”. And Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) named it the world’s most livable city! It is a very dog friendly city. And they love to eat and shop!!!
For those of you new to Canada, Granville Island is in the middle of the city of Vancouver. The web site calls it an oasis of fine waterfront restaurants, theaters, galleries, studios, boutiques, cafes, and the most spectacular fresh food market (this side of the Pacific Ocean). The real dilemma is deciding where and what to eat. It is also an escape from the urban noise and bustle. The food only enhances the escape from the city. Almost a hundred places are here, vying for the right to serve you Vancouver’s freshest, local fare.
Walking around is equally fulfilling, with a mix of arts and crafts, retail and walk up service, street performers and theater, festivals and street vendors. It is impossible to walk away from here and not buy something. Prior to 1970, it was a 37 acre industrial wasteland in Vancouver’s False Creek. It is not really an island, in my interpretation of things. It is one of North America’s finest and most successful urban redevelopments.
We walk around without any notion to buy or eat. We know we will come upon something good, either to buy or eat. Some years it is a small piece of art, other times it is some French pastry or chocolates. In the very center of the square is a bakery. The smell permeates the air, becoming a magnet for anyone walking around in the area. We have succumbed many times to this carbohydrate and sugar laden seduction.
Among the many neighborhoods here, this along with Robson Street attract the most tourists. This is followed by Gastown, Richmond, and Yaletown. Another big attraction is Wreck Beach and its 31st annual Wreck Beach Day. It coincides with Body Acceptance Day, shown below. I can only hope it is a replay of the beaches on the Costa del Sol in Spain.
Canadians are a friendly lot, offering a mix of cultures and languages, much like Americans. We met the nicest young lady last night at Coast. She is from Victoria, and starting a carrer in media. She has done several voice overs already. And everyone up here is crazy for the World Cup, as the bars and pubs are full today at lunch time.
But observing the Canadians, they seem to have more joy, a little more lilt in their voices, and hop in their giddy-up. Do they worry less? Are they healthier due to their National Health Insurance? Is their food fresher and safer? I will try my best to find out why, and emulate it for as long as I can.
It almost does not matter what I decide to eat in between oysters and dessert. My only worry now is whether I can handle the 10 minute walk to and from Coast! No sweat, and we met the nicest people at the wine reception here at the Listel Hotel. A German couple, originally from New York, now living and working outside of Frankfurt. They ended up at Coast also, and enjoyed it as much as we did. Perhaps it was the lobster mashed potatoes! However, the champagne needed some work, as I tried all four of their “by the glass” offerings, none suitable, even for me! The fish was excellent, as the menu provides the name of the boat and angler or captain who skippered the boat for the day’s catch.
The list of famous British Columbians is quite impressive. These include: Sir James Douglas (the father of Breitish Columbia), John Ireland, Raymond Burr (Perry Mason), Yvonne De Carlo, Diana Krall, Michael J. Fox, Seth Rogan, Nllie Furtado, Barbara Parkins, Pamela Anderson, David Foster, Bryan Adams, Art Linkletter, Michael Ontkin, and Jason Priestly. And of course, the delightful songstress, Sarah MacLauchlan was a torch bearer for the recent Winter Olympic Games here.
We are also on a side mission to find the Rocky Mountain raspberry ice cream that we found several years ago in the Okanagan Valley with Ken and Debbie. Ken says it is the BEST ice cream he has ever had. If I find it, I should express a gallon of it to him! We had no such luck, however.
When traveling the world, I have discovered that it is best to call oneself a Canadian. I think, even more than Switzerland, it is the world’s best neutral. It seems no one has a grudge against these fine folks. I know I don’t. I have only envy, as they seem to stay on the right side of almost every issue known to man or womankind.