Vancouver is, perhaps the most beautiful city in all of Canada. We were fortunate enough to spend a week there for my husband’s work recently, and I plan to highlight some of my favourite experiences there in the next couple of posts.
Armchair travellers take note: as far as Canadian urban destinations go, with its food scene, its architecture, its active lifestyle, its incredible parklands, its hordes of coffee shops, and its fresh fish (did I mention the food scene!?), it’s right up there at the top of the heap of places to put on your bucket list!
Vancouver has ocean coastline and mountain vistas, temperate rainforested parks and salmon-running rivers, lots of indigenous culture and terrific museums and galleries. It is a relatively “new” city as it became a city in the late 1860s and the result is a fantastic, modern skyline with a scattering of iconic “historic” buildings.
Perched on the shore of the Pacific Ocean on the waters of the Inside Passage, protected from violent and raging storms in winter by the off-shore presence of massive Vancouver Island, it is a place with a warm (well, warm for Canada) and temperate climate.
Divided by English Bay and a large seaway passage called Burrard Inlet, it has the rather tony neighbourhoods of North Van and West Van rising up the mountain slopes on one side, while others, like the downtown core, Chinatown, and neighbourhoods with neat names like Gastown, Yaletown, Kitsilano and Coal Harbour extend out into the flatter areas to the south.
Being in a zone 7a-8b planting zone, and having milder winters than the rest of Canada, things grow there that can grow nowhere else in our country, and the Vancouverites and urban planners have certainly taken advantage of that with flowering trees scattered throughout the cities parks and boulevards, an abundance of roof top gardens and lush plantings in public parks and private gardens. Spring is my favourite time to visit when the cherry blossom petals rain like wedding confetti on parked cars, when the tulip trees are in full (giant mango-sized) bloom, and when the flower beds are bursting with tulips.
Vancouver has an incredibly high standard of living, and so it is a fantastic place to visit, but prohibitively expensive to live there. We noticed an interesting spin off from this: any home decor shops had small furniture in them with a tremendous attention to detail, and slim profiles… a result of the fact that homes in Vancouver are by & large quite small, with many people living in tiny condos.
The buildings of the downtown are spectacular. I remember a time when our son was just learning how to use my “big” camera. He was about 8 years old and he took about 100 shots of one modern building there, playing with its panoramic-macro lens.
Most construction is of the steel, glass and concrete variety in the downtown core, and urban planners have been sure to have all glass have a grey-green or grey-blue tint to them: the result is a spectacular city skyline that suits the light, and the often rainy dark days there perfectly with the buildings acting like gigantic mirrors, opening up the space, visually and reflecting the beauty all around.
It’s amazing just to walk its streets with a gaze directed upward, looking at all the mirrors… as that’s what many of the buildings are. And if you know anything about earthquake construction design, it is fascinating to take in those details too, as Vancouver is perched near the active edge of the massive North American plate and the smaller Juan de Fuca plate.
Here are a few images taken from our walks there that will give you a sneak preview of what is to come:
But Vancouver is not all about its architecture. It has other fantastic elements to explore too, like its incredible parks system. Step inside some of the larger park spaces and you would never know you were in the city!
In upcoming posts I will highlight a few of our experiences. I’ll touch on the unusual Prohibition Tour that we took, with its unique insights and fascinating historic stories. I’ll cover two “must do’s” for any tourist: visits to Granville Island and Stanley Park. And I’ll cover what was a new adventure for us: our hike up to the Cleveland Dam. Stay tuned….