My family decided to take an Alaskan cruise leaving out of Vancouver, and I couldn't just blow through Vancouver on a few hour layover as I had done once before, so I came in two days earlier for a little exploring, and of course a lot of eating.
There's so much to love about Vancouver. They had me at the water views on nearly every corner. They even throw in snow capped mountains in the distance. Along with the water views are also views of highrises every few feet, to see said landscape. Windows and water. It doesn't look like there's a bad seat in the house.
Then they tack on a very pedestrian friendly city with walking paths everywhere and green space in the middle of the downtown area. I really got the feeling that they want people to be outdoors and I was told that people are - rain or shine.
I felt like I was back in LA where everyone is walking, running, biking or playing sports. Everyone seems to be really happy. It reminded me of Stockholm a bit - beautiful water, nice people, high taxes and fresh fish sans the pickling.
I met a guy from Bulgaria who's made Vancouver his home for nearly 20 years. He's lived all over the world, but nothing compares to Vancouver for him.
Vancouver boasts the third largest urban park in North America with Stanely Park sprawled across one end of the city. It was created in 1886 and has it all - beach, park, ocean, gardens.
Then there's Granville Island which is a short and beautiful ferry ride across False Creek, and yes, you would correctly assume that this is not actually a creek, but rather a saltwater inlet. A sea captain in the 1850's sailed through here looking for Fraser River, and when he couldn't find it, the spoilsport dubbed it False Creek. I suppose it could have been worse.
Artists studios and craft shops fill former warehouses for great shopping opportunities.
The Public Market is one of the centerpieces of the island and is chock
'o block with local farmers selling their produce, as well as every
ethnic vendor you can think of in the food court.
Vancouver has a very diverse population that you can not only see by looking and listening to the people walking next to you on the street, but you also see it in the diverse range of ethnic restaurants available. On one block alone, I saw individual restaurants for Japanese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Thai and Indian cuisines. I barely knew what to do with myself.
And of course they're known for their fresh fish and salmon and they were on proud display at the market. You could get salmon just out of nearby waters, or have it smoked, candied, cubed or vacuum packed to take home.
There's also been a clean up
of Vancouver over the years. The Gastown area along the water and near
the cruise ship terminal used to be a tough mill town, before Royal
Caribbean sailed in. There's been several revivals with the latest
in the 70's doing a lot to improve its image. Cobblestone streets now
sit under large, green trees with upgraded shops, though you'll still see many places to buy souvenirs. It's pretty happening at night with funky bars and eclectic people to match.
You can also find the
world's largest steam clock here that randomly goes off every 15
Yaleville has also experienced a revival as recent as the 1990's. The former railway works yards and warehouses have now been transformed into trendy boutiques, lofts and restaurants. I found some great oysters here and friendly people, but more on the wonderful food next.
Vancouver is a very likeable city. It's beautiful with its water views around every turn, mountains in the distance and parks and trees between the many highrises. It's quite clean and people are really friendly. I was told a few times to stay away from this one corner near Chinatown where I wouldn't necessarily get hurt, but I could get a decent drug deal. I couldn't help but walk by during the day and just found a lot of homeless people and men standing around. There's no old churches or flying buttresses in town, and while they do have a few museums, you're not making the trip to Vancouver for the art. You are going to relax, or be as active as you want in a lovely setting with a diverse range of food and people.
Next up, I try and figure out how to eat all the cuisines in Vancouver in 2 days.