Vancouver. Vancouver. Vancouver. Why is that one of the words that once you say it a few times… it starts to sound really weird? Van-COO-ver.
Okay, so what I am going to write about Vancouver? About the Olympic Games happening there right now? About my wonderful trip there? Nah. You may recall I haven’t been yet as it is on my ‘where next’ list. But since it is so much in the news right now, I figured I’d take this opportunity to get to know the city a little bit more. Researching and learning about any new place always gets me excited to visit and I am hoping to get up there this summer.
This Canadian city in the Pacific Northwest routinely tops the Economist’s survey as the “World’s Most Liveable City.” Each city is given points for these top factors:
- Health care
- Culture and environment
Vancouver is a young, vibrant urban center surrounded on three sides by water. You can go to the beach or ski on the same day as it is surrounded by amazing nature and the natural beauty of the sea and the mountains. Some reasons to go:
Stanley Park: The views, the activities, and the natural wilderness beauty here are quintessential Vancouver. One of the largest urban parks in the world, Stanley Park is nothing short of magnificent. Wander through the forest, along Burrard Inlet, past cricket fields, rose gardens, and the park’s superlative collection of First Nations totem poles.
Yaletown was the former meatpacking and warehouse district and is now one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Vancouver. It has been converted to an area of apartment lofts, nightclubs, restaurants, and boutique shops.
The West End is chock full of great cafes, good nightclubs, varied bookshops, and some of the city’s best restaurants. That’s part of what makes it such a sought-after address, but it’s also the little things, like the big, stately tree-lined streets, the mix of high-rise condos and sturdy old Edwardians, and the way that, in the middle of such an urban setting, you now and again stumble on a view of the ocean or the mountains.
Shaughnessy is a great place to drive or bike, especially in the spring when trees and gardens are blossoming. Designed in the 1920s as an enclave for Vancouver’s budding elite, this is the hoity-toity address to have. It’s worth a look even if only to see the stately homes and monstrous mansions, many of which are now featured in film shoots or rented by Hollywood movie stars while they’re in town filming.
Besides touristy Chinatown, Richmond is something to experience. Twenty years ago, this area was mostly farmland with a bit of sleepy suburb. Now it’s ‘Asia West,’ an agglomeration of shopping malls geared to the new (read: rich, educated, and successful) Chinese immigrant. It’s like getting into your car in Vancouver and getting out in Hong Kong.
Granville Island: Locals and visitors love the mini-ferry ride across False Creek to the Granville Island Public Market where you can shop for delicious lunch fixings; it’s brimming with farmers, butchers and fishmongers.
Kitsilano beaches: Follow the coastline road to the University of British Columbia and you’ll travel past a magnificent array of beaches, from grass-edged shores to windswept stretches of sand, to cliff-side coves so private that clothing is optional.
Kayaking into Indian Arm: Vancouver is one of the few cities on the edge of a great wilderness, and one of the best ways to appreciate its splendor is by kayaking on the gorgeous Indian Arm. Barely 30 minutes from downtown, the fjordic landscape is stunning.
Crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge: Stretched across a deep forested canyon, high above trees and a rushing river, this pedestrian-only suspension bridge has been daring visitors to look down for more than 100 years. Now you can explore the giant trees, too, on a series of artfully constructed treewalks.
Urban sprawl is kept in check naturally thanks to the city’s geography of surrounding mountains and waters. So neighborhoods overlap and apartments rise. That seems to heighten the city’s international mix, and not just when the Olympic Games are in town.