steel and glass, water and trees
18.09.2008 - 22.09.2008 15 °C
Vancouver is amazing. Three simple words, but so much behind them! Having spent 5 nights here, I can hardly claim to know the city, but I have tasted some of what it has to offer, and have enjoyed it a lot... It is a hugely diverse, interesting and cosmopolitan place; yet is entirely Canadian. Open, active, outdoorsy and relaxed.
The list of 'things to do' is fairly extensive, and I must admit that I have hardly given most of the items a second thought... My days here have been spent wandering around, exploring the city on foot. Vancouver is laid out on a grid system, and as such is very easy to navigate. The downtown portion is almost an island, with Stanley Park to the north, Kitslano and the 'mainland' (I suppose) to the south, and the entire thing is surrounded by the most amazing seawall cycle / rollerblading / walking track, right next to the sea.
Stanley Park is a huge piece of land, largely undeveloped. The seawall track surrounds the whole thing, with a number of tracks and vehicular roads cutting through it. In fact, the only way to get from the south Vancouver to north (and West) Van is right through the middle of the park, before streaming over the Lions Gate Bridge.
I am amazed at how many people cycle, jog and walk everywhere. Although I can completely understand why, and I think it is fantastic! It is common to see cyclists on the primary routes, jostling with busses, trucks and cars on dual lane highways! Not a sight I've seen in many places, I think I would be a little nervous...
Something else that amazes me (especially having lived in London for a while) is the almost blind determination that they live in a sunny climate. So many of the houses / flats and outdoor spaces have a very summery, sunny feel to them. It makes them really nice (especially as the temperature at the moment is that lovely clean, almost brisk, autumn mid-teens) and welcoming spaces, and I get the impression that they would be equally used during the colder winter months. Even in the rain....
So, enough of my Vancouver musings... I arrived in Van on Thursday, having left Victoria a day early. After one night at a hostel in Jericho Beach (really nice but a little far away from the downtown area to be convenient) I moved to the much more central HI Downtown. The hostel is right in the centre of the downtown area, but on a quiet residential street. During the 4 days or so that I have been here, the only time I have taken a bus anywhere has been to get across to North Vancouver to go and see some friends there.
I spent some time exploring Stanley Park on the first day here, which was really great. Sadly, we took a wrong turn during our return through the park, so after walking along lovely empty forested tracks (in the pouring rain!) we came out onto the 'Causeway' - which is actually the 3 lane major highway that cuts through the park to get to North Van! As it was absolutely bucketing, and we were walking along the pedestrian track right next to the road, I spent the 15 minutes it took to get off it literally jumping to avoid spray from cars zooming by... I was solidly soaked at the bottom, and managed to sweet talk a nice sightseeing-bus driver to give us a lift to somewhere closer to our next destination!
Granville Island is a really nice redeveloped piece of land in between the downtown area and Kits. It is filled with small shops and restaurants, as well as a really cool (but expensive) market. We happily spent a couple of hours wandering around; smelling, looking and tasting the food on offer. Getting back to the city involved a really great walk along another part of the extensive seawall system (which also happens to be part of the Trans-Canada trail for non-motorized vehicles! the longest of its kind in the world).
I spent a while yesterday evening wandering along the eastern seawall, and I think that that was the moment when I started to love this city. The sun was setting, sky slowly turning that fantastic deep luminous blue, reflecting off the glass and steel skyscrapers that fill the city. As it was dusk, the lights inside the buildings were on, and the overall effect was fantastic. During the day, the buildings don't really appeal to me, but at this moment they were beautiful. Glowing, shining and fantastic.