Like many Vancouverites, I was born and raised on a different continent. I am asked, almost daily, why I choose to live here out of all the cities in the world - especially since I seem to have visited a heck of a lot of them. This post is a great excuse to reveal my personal discoveries behind Canada’s third largest, and easily most fetching, city.
The first thing that hits you is the air. It tastes pure. It smells like a glacier. It’s like toothpaste for your lungs. With all the pollution and traffic found in any major city (and the yellow fog that settles over the Fraser Valley is no exception), Vancouverites still get that wonderful fresh onshore breeze, and crisp mountain air. One day they might bottle it, along with our water, which is cleaner and tastier than bottled brands anyway.
A lifestyle city means, simply: one doesn't have to earn as much to do as much. By doing, I refer to the beaches in summer, the mountains in winter, and the sea and parks across all seasons. Meanwhile, Vancouver gets a lot of slack for its lack of culture, and yet every week there’s theatre and live music and exhibitions and galleries and festivals and all the things those people who complain about “lack of culture” don’t go see anyway. Yet culture, as anyone who lives in New York can testify, costs a great deal of money. A walk on Stanley Park’s seawall, in the expansive UBC Endowment Lands, on the mountain trails of the North Shore or the paths along the Fraser River, is free of charge. Whatever your age, whatever your budget, with a pair of walking shoes and a love of nature, there’s always something to do.
It’s not just the mere diversity of restaurants in Vancouver - where neighbourhood streets can resemble the world’s best Food Court - it’s the overall quality and affordability that makes dining in Vancouver world-class. The offers the world’s best sushi, period. Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Mexican, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Ethiopian, Jamaican, Korean, African, and of course Chinese cuisines are well represented, across budget ranges. West Coast fusion, fine dining - hipsters, yuppies, students and vegetarians are in foodie heaven. My favourite restaurant: Jambo Grill on Kingsway.
It might be mid-January, and I’ll be out with friends wearing a thin hoodie on a wet winter night. Some people prefer the freeze to rain. Some people live in the desert. We’re a wet city, but we’re not a cold city, certainly when compared to the rest of Canada. I like not wearing too many layers. I like feeling my nose, and not worrying about my eyes freezing over. I like taking a walk in a forest when it rains, like a Hobbit on a quest for adventure. Constant drizzle occasionally gets annoying, but it comes with warmer temperatures that locals very much appreciate. Our seasons are clearly defined with the passage of time, our sunsets mesmerizing.
Vancouverites themselves are like their weather: famously mild. Neither hot headed nor cool tempered, we seem to be very busy, although hardly in a rush. We won’t stop you in the street and ask you for tea, but maybe that’s because it’s raining and nobody wants to get wet. There’s a certain amount of reliability that comes with Vancouverites – their outrage at scandal, their upbeat humour on a sunny day, their time-bomb potential to riot if a rock concert is cancelled (or we lose Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Finals). This is a city that is called both No Fun City and Vansterdam, stuck in its Victorian ways yet wildly progressive. With these extremes, no wonder the city's temperament sits firmly in the middle.
I love the views. I love the way the sports teams almost seem to finally make it big before imploding in one way or another. I love the way people who visit me from out of town react when they experience Stanley Park's Seawall for the first time. I love the way everyone seems to come from somewhere else, and yet calls this city home. Come on in, and make yourself at home too.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.