Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

One Of The World’s Most Likable & Livable Cities Is Maybe Just Too Nice, Too modern, Too clean, & Too Expensive. It’s Just Too Damn Canadian

Burrard Civic Marina, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 23, 2013

Vancouver was a mixed bag. After 5 nights in the city, the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada and third largest in Canada, the jury is still out as to whether I actually liked the young city or not. With a hefty reputation as a great place to relocated to – topped off by mammoth levels of international immigration – in many ways Vancouver is like city meets rugged outdoor adventure park. You won’t find much in the way of historic sights here – this is a modern city that began it’s journey only a touch over a century and a half ago – but will find craggy, distant mountains; pebbled beaches; numerous gardens, recreation areas & parks, including one of North America’s largest urban parks; modern, interactive (& expensive) museums; forested waterfronts; and a sense that the outdoors is every bit as important as the modern, glassy city interior. In a way it’s too nice, too modern, too clean, & too expensive. It’s just too damn Canadian.

Vanier Bike Park by the edge of English Bay with the North Shore Mountains in the background. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 23rd 2013.

Vanier Bike Park by the edge of English Bay with the North Shore Mountains in the background. Vancouver (map-pointer-icon), British Columbia, Canada. March 23, 2013.

Maybe I was unlucky. It rained a lot when I was here, par for the course in this damp Pacific northwest. I was granted only a few hours of clear skies on my first full day in the city having arrived from Alaska, thus swapping abundant snow for abundant rain – given the choice I’d much rather snow. I spent that day traipsing around the city & by the end of it I was nicely damp. Being wet, cold & miserable when you try to explore a city isn’t all that enjoyable – a day of exploring a wet, damp, truly miserable Stockholm, Sweden, last November immediately springs to mind. But the rain aside, Vancouver proved itself a nice place; there’s no denying it’s a visually impressive place, hail, rain or shine.

A picture of North Vancouver taken from the waters edge across Burrard Inlet in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 20th 2013.

Vancouver is well known for its majestic natural beauty. Mountains dominate the city, specifically the Coastal Mountains rising dramatically beyond North Vancouver, the area of the city I’m calling home. This is a picture of North Vancouver taken from the waters edge in downtown shortly after disembarking the Seabus ferry which takes about 10 minutes to cross the Burrard Inlet, seen here, separating downtown & North Vancouver. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 20, 2013.

No shortage of tat in the tourist orientated shops on Water Street, Gastown, Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada. March 20th 2013. (iPod)

Tourist detritus in one of the many tourist tat shops found on Water Street in the Gastown district of downtown, the original townsite of Vancouver. This region boasts a number of restored buildings and a somewhat bemusing Steam Clock that for some reason unknown to me attracts the hordes. This is definitely the best place to find Made-in-China tourist kitsch; it’s everywhere. Gastown, Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada. March 20, 2013

Running in the rain in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada. March 20th 2013. (iPod)

Runners in a wet Stanley Park. Vancouver is a city that consistently tops the list of the world’s most livable / likable cities. The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout, the most famous of which is Stanley Park, the city’s most popular attraction with both locals and tourists. Located in Vancouver’s West End at the tip of the downtown peninsula, the 1000 acre park is one of the largest urban parks in North America. Home to the Vancouver Aquarium, the park also boasts beaches, magnificent views & kilometre after kilometre of trails for walking and cycling, the most popular of which is the 22 kilometre paved Seawall trail. I got royally soaked in here so I didn’t get to explore the park it as much as I’d have liked. I took this picture (with my iPod; my main camera was staying dry in my bag) on the way back to downtown – via the waters edge & past expensive yachts & the white sails of a section of the roof of the Vancouver Convention Centre – having visited the park to get a closer look at the city’s iconic Lions Gate Bridge, a National Historic Site of Canada designated bridge that spans the Burrard Inlet and connects the downtown area of the city to the North Shore district. Vancouver, Canada. March 20, 2013

Telus World of Science, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 21st 2013.

Having spent the previous day out in the rain, I decided to spend my second day in the city indoors, choosing Vancouver’s interactive science museum as shelter, shelter from the glorious sunshine as it turned out (worst traveller ever). Located on the east side of the city’s False Creek, the shiny geodesic dome of the (expensive) Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), houses a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids. Kids. I guess I should have expected the place to resemble a crèche it did resemble. But at least I stayed dry. Telus World of Science, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 21, 2013

Not to rip on the city itself, but Vancouver’s highlights are in the mountains that overlook it & the islands that surround it. I didn’t make it into the hills on this visit (I didn’t make it up Grouse Mountain for a panoramic overview of the city or to clamber over the dizzy heights of the quivering Capilano Suspension Bridge, two of the city’s must-dos… next time) but I did spend a day getting to and from & hanging out in Victoria on Vancouver Island, the British Columbia capital.

Burrard Civic Marina near Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 23rd 2013.

Burrard Civic Marina near Granville Island. I captured this image walking down by the Vancouver waterfront en route from a day-long photography seminar in the city’s HR McMillian Space Centre to Granville Island, a peninsula located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver. Granville Island was once an industrial manufacturing area but today is a hotspot for Vancouver entertainment. I spent last night there, drinking beer, having dinner & enjoying a Theatresports show at The Improv Centre, famous as the location where the likes of Ryan Stiles & Colin Mochrie from Whose Line Is It Anyway fame were discovered. It was fun. Obviously. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. March 23, 2013.

To Like Or Not To Like
I’m tired leaving Vancouver. It’s 11 a.m. on March 24, 2013, and I’m sitting in Vancouver Greyhound station waiting on the 11:45 a.m. bus to Seattle. I had a late night last night, my last of 5 in the city. But that’s not the sole cause of my exhaustion. That would be the unexpectedly hectic last 5 days, days on which I kept busy and days on which I grew something of a love-hate relationship with Vancouver. Maybe ‘love’ & ‘hate’ are too strong of words. Maybe, maybe not, but after 5 days I still don’t really know how I feel about Vancouver.

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