Anyone that knows me knows how much I love Vancouver. Trav and I lived here for a short time back in 2009/2010 and I fell head over heels in love with this city. For what I look for in a city, Vancouver is perfect (except for the rain from October to June).
Within the Greater Vancouver area there is coastal rainforest, alpine mountains, ruggedly beautiful beaches, canyons with crystal clear waterholes, a city park with old growth trees and bald eagles, otters and seals in the Harbour, an amazing food scene with a big emphasis on vegetarian food and super cheap sushi and pizza, fantastic seafood, fishing villages, one of the largest Chinatowns in North America, super friendly people, the excellent Granville Island market, hot summers and mild winters (for Canada), funky neighbourhoods and a completely bike and pedestrian friendly waterfront. That’s not even mentioning the proximity to world class snowboarding and skiing (Whistler, Mount Baker and the three mountains in Vancouver itself) and the fact that it is within weekend tripping distance to Seattle, Okanagan Wine Country, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Cascade Mountains.
It is so important to me to live in a City that has easy access to the great outdoors and Vancouver is smack bang in the middle of Paradise.
We sub-letted a room in a student house for just under a month at a very cheap rate. The timing worked out perfectly and we were staying in upmarket Kitsilano, known as Kits, a beautiful neighbourhood with the best beaches in Vancouver and just south of the City Centre.
Our plan was to chill out a bit after 10 months on the road and to re-explore our beloved City. We were also hoping to get a bit of cash work as the reserves were getting pretty low by this stage.
I can’t tell you how great it felt to be able to unpack our stuff and have our own room. We got into a routine in the first week of checking Craigslist and Kijiji every morning for work then heading out after lunch to go to the beach, explore the city and meet up with friends.
Arriving at the end of July, the weather was incredible. Usually July is a mixture of rain and sun but by the time we arrived, it had been sunny every single day for nearly 1 month.
We spent the first few days walking everywhere.
We walked around the downtown, which hadn’t changed much from when we were here last except for the massive influx of food trucks. We watched the sea planes taking off near Canada Place and walked around the seawall, which was as breath-taking as ever – we even saw a family of otters playing.
The seawall is 8.8km long and is a spectacular place to bike or walk, with the sea on one side and beautiful Stanley Park on the other.
Stanley Park is a 1001 acre wilderness park right in the city. There are racoons, bald eagles and squirrels inhabiting the park and lots of hiking trails through the coastal rainforest. There are also a couple of beaches in the park, totem poles, a world class Aquarium and a couple of fantastic restaurants. Everything you could ask for really.
I was really keen to do some hiking while we are back in Van and we managed to do a few great hikes during our first couple of weeks there.
We went hiking on Cypress Mountain with an old school friend of mine and his Canadian girlfriend to Eagle Bluffs, a viewpoint with panoramic views over West Van and Bowen Island. There were some beautiful alpine lakes and cute chipmunks along the way and it was a great day, albeit tiring.
We re-visited the wonderful Lynn Canyon in North Van for a dip in the extremely clear and refreshing (cold!) waters of the river and we hiked through the peaceful forest.
Lighthouse Park in West Van has a few short hiking trails through some of BC’s oldest Coastal Rainforest with some gigantic Douglas Firs that are over 500 years old. We passed tiny squirrels and red-mohawked woodpeckers along quiet trails and sat cliffside, overlooking a rocky beach strewn with logs.
Whytecliff Park in West Van is also a great place to visit for hiking and swimming. I walked along a rocky trail through the water to a small island with great coastal views then we swam at the beach there. The water was so calm and clear, a lot different to the seaweed filled waters of the beaches in the City and Kits.
Vancouver isn’t well known for its beaches but there are a lot there, in and around the downtown. They can get pretty crowded on a summer’s day but nonetheless are a great place to cool off and escape the heat. My favourites are Third Beach along the seawall in Stanley Park and Jericho Beach in Kits, because they feel more untouched and less crowded than some of the more popular beaches that are easier to access like English Bay and Kits Beach.
Vancouver beaches are recognisable by their carefully placed logs along the beach that people use to lean up against, sit on and use as privacy barriers. Wild blackberries grow all over Vancouver and there are quite a few around Jericho and Third Beach so you can pick yourself a snack before relaxing on the sand.
The water isn’t the cleanest and can be quite cold but the view is almost always spectacular, especially so from Kitsilano. Looking over False Creek, filled with container ships and backed by emerald green mountains, to the gleaming high rises of the city, is quite breath-taking.
We had drinks with friends at Jericho one evening and the sunset from there was amazing. The mountains looked black against a vivid orange sky, almost like a cartoon.
One weekend we visited Steveston, a small fishing village that has been consumed by Richmond’s sprawl. Richmond is a City within Metro Vancouver and has the highest immigrant rate in Canada with 60% of the residents being immigrants, primarily Chinese.
Steveston was once home to one of the largest Canneries in British Columbia, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. It is now an excellent Museum with a recreated canning line that really gives you an idea of how hard it would have been to work there. As well as visiting the Museum, we had fish and chips at one of the many restaurants and wandered the tourist friendly pier, people watching. There was a fish market on one of the wharves and featured crab, dogfish, sea urchins and lots of salmon.
On the way back home, we stopped by the massive Richmond Night Market which is held Friday to Sunday evenings in summer. It is one of the largest Asian Markets in North America and has over 80 food vendors so there is a lot to choose from! It took us a while to decide what to have but I settled on Pork dumplings and a Slavik donut/pretzel filled with bavarian cream and apple – one of the few non-Asian foods on offer but amazingly delicious.
Granville Island is one of my favourite haunts in Vancouver. It is a small Island linked to the south side of False Creek. There are lots of Art Galleries with beautiful panoramas and First Nations art, tasteful Souvenir and Craft shops, Seafood restaurants and a Brewery, all centred around a giant covered Public Farmers Market. Located right on the water, the best thing to do is grab some lunch from the food court in the market then take it to a table or seat by the water to eat. If you are lucky you might see a seal or otters playing nearby.
I could spend hours on Granville Island, checking out the beautiful art and sampling the fresh local produce in the Public Market.
We met my Mum’s cousin Glenys and her husband Jim there for lunch one day. They had flown up for a week from their home in California and it was great to catch up with family.
We had dinner with them at a little Restaurant called Lily Mae’s in Gastown one night too. The food was delicious (NZ seared scallops with a berry and goats cheese salad mmmm) and when we came out of the Restaurant, fairy lights lined the street. Gastown is beautiful at night.
After noticing all of the food carts when we first arrived back, I wanted to try some of them out so when I found out that there was a Food Cart Festival every Sunday during summer, we very quickly decided to attend.
Twenty of the top Food Trucks in Vancouver come together for the day in an empty lot near Cambie bridge. Combined with some other stalls and live music, it makes for a great excursion.
We tried food from a couple of different trucks – I went safe with Vegetable Pakoras with mango chutney, mint lemonade and a fish taco while Trav was more adventurous, ordering a Chocolate donut burger. A chocolate iced donut served as the bun that was filled with a beef patty, lettuce, bacon, egg and cheese. It sounds unappetising but was surprisingly divine.
There is a tiny island right by where the Food Cart Fest is held and we met friends there for drinks one night. A great place to unwind and watch the sky change colour when the sun sets.
The food scene in Vancouver is so diverse and we have certainly been indulging! I do love my Tim Horton’s donuts but we found an amazing donut place on West 4th in Kits that does incredible creations such as Strawberry Shortcake donuts, Peanut Butter & Jelly donuts and Apple, Maple, Bacon fritters. Simply the best I have ever tasted.
Our friend Jasmine had her birthday while we were there at Chewy’s in Kits. It is a Southern style Restaurant and we gorged ourselves on Creole shrimp, Shrimp and Grits, Fried Buttermilk Chicken with mash and Pecan Pie.
Lunch back at the Dim sum place I celebrated my 27th Birthday in was still as good as ever, as was the Spaghetti Factory, a Canadian Chain Restaurant that does great Italian food at very reasonable prices. Last time we lived here I had heard a lot about an iconic Vegetarian Restaurant in Kits called The Naam. Their Baked sesame fries in Miso gravy are world famous in Vancouver so I had to try them. They lived up to their reputation and more. Trav had the Bean Chilli with bread and salad and raved about how amazing it was. You can definitely see why they have been open for over 30 years!
I found a short term job on Craigslist. It is a Business Promotion/Flyer Distribution position for a Company specialising in Point of Sales rolls (for tills and credit card machines). It involves walking around business to business, handing out flyers and telling people about the Company’s services. I get paid an hourly rate as well as commission for the rolls sold.
I don’t mind the work, it is physically tiring but easy and I have met some great people. A couple of people have given me free drinks because it is hot outside and I even got offered a job to sell snacks on the beach!
My first week I did the main shopping streets in Kits and Point Grey and the second week I focussed on South Granville, Granville Island and Fairview. I like exploring the different areas and I have come to the conclusion that Vancouverites hold their dogs and their nails most dear as there are so many Nail Bars, Dog Bakeries and Doggy Daycares.
We also did software testing which only took one hour and we received $30 for it, and a Focus Group where we received $85 each and didn’t even get picked to do the actual meeting, we just waited around for 20 minutes drinking coffee and eating biscuits: the easiest $85 we have ever made! It has been good to make a bit of extra cash to help fund the last couple of months of our travels.
Time has flown and I wish we had another couple of months back in Vancouver.
Being back has assured me that I still see a place for us here and that no other city I have been to has felt so like home to me.
I will live in Vancouver one day, somehow.