A place of politics, culture (!!) & random subjects from Airstrip One. Noel hopes it will be of interest and/or use to all sorts of voyagers in cyberspace!

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The Voice Of 40-Something Cynical Optimism!

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Vancouver

This is not in any real order & I will add links to places when I find them. However, enough ado.

This summer was the 5th time I've been to Vancouver. As you may have gathered, I really like the place. As long as you don't stay on the east side of downtown (the corner of Hastings & Main Streets is the poorest postcode in Canada), you should have a good time. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that if you don't like Vancouver there is something fundamentally wrong with you!

The last three times I've stayed in Vancouver I've stayed at the Sylvia Hotel which is on English Bay & a minute max from the beach. A very good hotel. Even if you don't stay there, please visit the bar which has magnificent views of the Bay (at dusk on a sunny day, bring a camera). It is reasonably cheap as well. Less than a C$100 per night for a room, which is very reasonable considering the location. People may want rooms with more features, but even the smallest has a bed & bathroom, and who stays in their room if the weather is fine on their hols? The Buchan Hotel a couple of minutes away is cheaper, but I can think of only one occasion when I've seen anyone eating/drinking in its very fine patio. The Buchan has no breakfast facilities, & it has a bar attached to it which is nothing to do with the hotel itself.

If it is a nice day it takes me some mental & physical effort to go further than English Bay beach. The only thing you should avoid on the main part of the beach (the various small coves with sand further up towards Stanley Park are a different matter) is eating. That is, unless you want to be harassed by large numbers of seagulls and crows. If you do want to eat your sandwiches in peace I suggest you try the tree protected area towards the tennis courts and bowls areas in Stanley Park, which has picnic tables and chairs.

English Bay is where Vancouver holds its firework competitions in late July/Aug. I'm really amazed that a city of 2 million people makes such a big deal about fireworks. However, a good half a million people make their around the Bay (and get there so early! Granted it was the BC Day holiday weekend, but on one Saturday I saw a family take up their spot at 1pm, and the show wasn't going to start until 10pm!). The only real problem is that gangs of horrible teenage rich kids from Vancouver's satellite cities ie Burnaby & Surrey come into central Vancouver to cause trouble. One of the evenings, some teenager got stabbed opposite the Sylvia. It sounds bad, but most of these obnoxious brats wouldn't last 5 mins at kicking out time in central London. If you go to the fireworks, please take your time getting there and be careful. By the way, if anyone knows any good reason to go to Burnaby and/or Surrey, please tell!

The only really out in the sticks part of the far flung Vancouver conurbation I've visited is New Westminster, as I have a friend (and husband to be) who lives & works there. Considering it is the oldest city in British Columbia there are very few historical bits to see. It has the world's biggest tin soldier and a floating casino but that's about it for taking touristy photos! It struck me as a very quiet laid back sort of place (although I didn't go short of food, drink, good conversation & company there!). There is also a lot of building going on (you notice that in Vancouver as a whole) in New West; mainly condominiums in a flood zone. Although one can easily forget, Vancouver is in the same volcano/earthquake zone as Mount Saint Helens, San Francisco & Los Angeles, and one day the Big One will come. I wouldn't like to be in one of those new condos in New West when a tsunami wings its way up the Fraser River. I also wonder to what extent all the new blocks of flats in downtown Vancouver would survive a big hit. At the very least there would be a lot of shattered glass. I noticed this time round that Burrard Bridge had notices on it saying that it was being upgraded to survive an earthquake. My guess (hopefully it won't happen for centuries yet) is that government owned properties & older buildings in the Vancouver conurbation will largely survive intact but the newer high rise stuff will suffer badly. As I say, hopefully no-one alive now will ever have to see it, fingers crossed (thankfully, my New West friends are living well up a hill in a made to last building!).

Going back to Vancouver itself, Stanley Park is well worth visiting. I just like walking around it and getting half-lost, knowing that I am only minutes away from downtown & civilisation. Walking/running/cycling/rollerblading the sea wall is always good exercise and makes one feel less guilty about how much food and drink one consumes during the rest of the day. It takes me about an hour & a half to stroll around the seawall. Sometimes 2nd & 3rd Beaches, up from English Bay, are too tempting when the sun is out and I dawdle there. However, something I will say about Vancouver is how relatively few overweight people there are. Vancouverites are generally a good advert for living well in terms of exercising without starving.

Commercial Drive is a good place to go (a couple more of my friends live just off the main drag there). It's mostly shops and ethnic restaurants- you won't starve there, that's for sure. In a way, the Drive is very similar to Broadway/4th Avenue down by Kitsilano Beach. As for Kitsilano beach: this place can be bad for the ego. Most of the time, going about Vancouver makes me feel about ten years younger. However, Kits beach, especially by the volleyball areas, has the opposite effect, making me feel ten years older. Unless you look (i) younger than 25; (ii) are musclebound or walked out of the pages of Playboy in a bikini; and (iii) know how to play volleyball you don't belong there!

Granville Island is well worth a visit, except it is not really an Island, more of a peninsula. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, bars & Granville Island Brewery. It is well worth visiting Granville Island by catching one of the ferries which hop around False Creek. If you try to get there from Downtown via the Granville Bridge, you may find it deceptively long.

I've still more to say about Vancouver, but I will leave it there for the moment. I will return.


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