Trips to British Columbia
When the newspapers do surveys of the most “liveable” cities in the world Vancouver is normally near the top of any list.
I have never lived in Vancouver but I have visited it a few times.
I have a very good friend who lives in Vancouver and he always puts me up when I visit. This actually makes Vancouver the only town in the world where I have spent more than one night but never been in a hotel room.
So far I have visited 7 times –
- My wife had actually lived in Vancouver for a while before I met her. We first visited together in summer 1996 (using American Airlines from London via Dallas) and we spent time exploring the city and visiting Gun Lake near Lillooet to the east of the city.
- We returned to Vancouver in summer 2007 on road trip from San Francisco. We explored more of the city then and caught a ferry across to Bowen Island. By this time my friend was living in a lovely little flat close to the University of British Columbia.
- After I started working in the USA more often, my visits to Vancouver became more frequent. The first one was in April 2009 (on US Airways from Las Vegas) when I also met some customers in a bar near English Bay. I stayed over the weekend and we visited another friend in North Vancouver.
- In May 2010 I returned to the city (on West Jet from Las Vegas) and enjoyed another weekend there. My return flight on Sunday (United Airlines) was cancelled and I was forced to stay an extra night.
- I returned again in May 2012 (again on West Jet) and completed my first ever marathon. We celebrated after the marathon with great Japanese food and a night at a jazz club.
- My next visit was in July 2013 (using Allegiant via Bellingham). By this time my friend had moved to a more central location nearer the centre of the city. We returned to the jazz club on that visit.
- My most recent visit was in July 2017 (again on Allegiant via Bellingham). At this time my friend had moved out of the city and was living out in the suburb of New Westminster.
Even though I have been seven times most of my visits have involved just hanging around the place and I haven’t actually visited many of the top “tourist” attractions of the city.
Here are 13 things I like about Vancouver –
1 – It is in Canada.
I know this sounds a bit daft, but the fact is that I am normally visiting after a week or more being in the USA.
Canada always provides a great antidote to the USA and Vancouver is a terrific example of that.
2 – It looks great.
With its inlets, bays and mountain backdrop, the place is certainly beautiful.
3 – It is a nice size.
It is one of those places that is big enough to feel like a proper city with its own character, but is still small enough to be manageable and easy to walk around.
It shares this with Fukuoka and Berlin another two of my favourite places.
4 – I ran my first Marathon there.
Although I have run several marathons since, I still haven’t managed to match the finishing time or the experience of the first one. The course was varied and beautiful and finished with a trip around the sea wall on the edge of Stanley Park. The locals provided a lot of uplifting support too.
5 – It is a great place for wandering around.
There are great walks around the bay, along the beaches and through other areas of the town. It has some great shops to browse in too. I am a particular fan of the Mountain Equipment Co-op which sells hiking and cycling gear. It has stuff that is not cheaply or easily available in the UK.
6 – It has the “SkyTrain”
Good public transport is usually a big factor for me in deciding whether I like or place or not. Vancouver has the world’s largest automated (driverless) train system. It is cheap and, as you can sit at the front and get a great view of the track ahead, fun to use too.
Over the years I have been visiting I have watched the system grow to cover more of the city and to link the airport with the centre.
7 – It has a very cool food market.
Although many North American and European cities have gourmet food markets, Granville Island Market was one of the first and is still thought of as one of the best. My wife used to rave about it from her time in the city. The first time we visited in 1996 I was impressed too. It helps, of course, that knowing a local means you can actually buy the produce and take it back home to cook it.
8 – It has fabulous Chinese food.
The city’s Chinese population is significant and growing. One of the negative effects of this, people say, is the impact on house prices. Yet the big positive is the variety of Chinese food on offer. It is not even referred to as Chinese food but rather as the distinctive regional cuisines of China. One of my favourite things, and one I have struggled to find elsewhere, is the delicious beef roll.
9 – and also Japanese Food.
Although you can get good Japanese food in many places in the world, Vancouver has long had some of the most authentic. On our first visit back in 1997 we enjoyed stuff that we could not then get back in London. One of my favourite places is the Zakkushi pub and we have been several times over the years. There is also Japanese fusion food too including Japanese-style hot dogs and even locally brewed sake.
10 – and also Vietnamese Food
Vancouver was the first place I ever had Vietnamese food. It was back in 1996 and long before I discovered the Vietnamese area of London or went to Vietnam itself. Back in 2007 we had Vietnamese baguette sandwiches for the first time in the city too. They are now widely available in London, but they certainly weren’t back then.
11 – It has a great hinterland.
Although I have not yet explored a lot of the countryside surrounding Vancouver (something to do with the short length of my visits), the parts I have visited have been pretty good. The trip to Bowen Island was excellent.
12 – There is a big connection with Blackpool!
Vancouver’s Stanley Park is named after Lord Frederick Stanley (1841-1908) who was the 6th Governor General of Canada. Stanley was previously Blackpool’s first ever Member of Parliament and later the Lord Lieutenant of Liverpool. Both Blackpool and Liverpool have parks named after him, but the one in Vancouver is by far the most impressive.
13 – I have met some of the locals!
They say that going to a country and not meeting the people is like going to an art gallery and not looking at the paintings. I have been fortunate enough to know someone who lives in Vancouver. Through visiting him and meeting his own circle of friends I have had my visit to the city enriched.
Edited to Add-
Further Visits – October 2018 via LAS-YVR / AC/WJ