What I love about Vancouver
I expected Vancouver to be great. It was even better than I thought it would be.
A few weeks ago, Deanna and I had the chance to visit Vancouver. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, I think we always took for granted how easy it would have been to drive up to Vancouver for a visit, and unfortunately never got around to it. As our anniversary came around, we started throwing around ideas for a trip and it didn’t take us much time at all to agree on Vancouver.
We went and we had ourselves a great time. We walked across the shaky suspension bridge at Capilano. We went to visit the birds at the Blodel Conservatory and we rented bikes to ride around Stanley Park. We ate our way up and down Gastown. That’s not an unflattering expression… Gastown is the neighborhood that coincidentally has the best restaurants.
What’s amazing about Vancouver is that I could easily do that whole trip again, do completely different things, and have just as great of a time. There’s that much to do.
Hopefully that return trip happens soon, because Vancouver nailed its first impression on us. Here are just five of the reasons I loved it so much:
Forests... mountains... AND beaches!
The First Nations who originally settled Vancouver were right on the money when it came to choosing a piece of land- the area is straight up gorgeous!
Whenever I think of my ideal place to live, it’s got to be a city in close proximity to rich natural areas. I need the career opportunities and culture of a city, but the chance to escape pretty easily and get out into the wild. This puts places like Seattle, Portland, or Denver pretty high up there.
Vancouver has a wide selection of natural wonders. Legit mountains to climb or ski. Beaches to run off to. Forests to hike. Even municipal areas like the Queen Elizabeth Garden or Stanley Park are impressive.
Oh, and that’s just Vancouver. I would’ve loved more time to go off into the even wilder parts of British Columbia.
So many things to do
I already mentioned the abundance of natural wonders, and with that comes a plethora of outdoor adventures! Biking, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, backpacking... it’s all there pretty much.
Eating in and of itself is an activity for me, and in the time we were there, we had amazing Chinese tapas at Bao Bei, vegan poutine at Meet in Gastown, maple fried chicken at Nightingale, and Spanish bites at Bodega to name a few. On top of all that, there was Granville Island- home to an endless amount of options at the food and craft market.
Vancouver’s the sort of city where you can just come with whatever interests you have and there’ll be a scene. Film? There’s a big film scene and everything’s shot over there. Sports? There’s hockey, soccer, minor league baseball, and nostalgia for the Grizzlies. Political improv sketches in Polish? You’ll find your tribe.
Solid public transport
What’s the point of having so many great things if it’s impossibly difficult to get to them? (Riddle me that, Los Angeles!) This is absolutely not the case in Vancouver where getting around was never complicated.
The Skytrain connects important hubs and runs extremely efficiently. All my rides were comfy and I wish I could have a subway-type system like that be a part of my daily commute. I’d read so much! Beyond that, the public buses work pretty well and got us everywhere we needed to be that wasn’t covered by a Skytrain stop.
Vancouver is totally liveable without a car, and I wish that were true of every large city. For the rare occasion where the Skytrain and buses were both unavailable, we turned to the Car2Go app. Vancouver is a service area and thus we were able to hop into a Mercedes to get to the next Skytrain stop in time for a mere four bucks.
Vancouver is fantastically diverse. Generally speaking, of course, Canada has made an effort to be a welcoming place for immigrants, refugees, and newer Canadians, and those efforts are rewarded by cities like Vancouver becoming a blend of world cultures.
Just in a half week, I overheard Tagalog, Mandarin, Arabic, Korean, Portuguese, Farsi, Vietnamese and probably many more languages. I love how much of a welcoming spirit there was towards the different populations that called Vancouver home. And in return, there are endless cuisines to be discovered around town.
I don’t want to get too romantic and suggest xenophobia doesn’t exist there like it does everywhere, unfortunately. But I will say that in a world where so many people believe they are are threatened by immigration, foreign languages, and different ways of thinking, Vancouver was a breath of fresh air.
A special kind of nice
Canadians are nice. That’s not a new idea, but it’s a reputation that seems to have been pretty well earned.
In each of my interactions, at restaurants, in public spaces, people were extremely courteous and thoughtful. Without making a big fuss about it, people seemed to operate off a general principle of respect.
Again, that isn’t to say there were exceptions. Having to chase a bus through the rougher area of Hastings St. at night introduced us to some homeless folks who were clearly struggling mentally get more aggressive than I typically see. But these were outliers.
Perhaps nothing sums up Vancouver better than a typical scene on one of its buses. When a passenger gets off, its usual for them to shout out ‘Thank you!’ to the bus driver. There’s something I can really appreciate about workers like a city bus driver being acknowledged instead of unnoticed.
As another passenger gets on, an older Korean woman, a younger girl offers up her seat. Simple common courtesy? Sure. But I also get excited by reading further into it, wondering if this is a special kind of kindness that comes about when cultures harmonize. When Canadian politeness meets an Asian reverence for elders.
With our bus going on to Stanley Park, I notice that the simple scene reflects some of the very best parts of Vancouver. In fact, it represents some of the very best parts of humanity.