This was a blog post written for unclespikes.wordpress.com, and my inaugural (ha! I was just hoping to work this word in somewhere) invitation to be a guest writer on a fellow blogger’s site. You may also read it here.
I call Vancouver (49.2500° N, 123.1000° W), the host city of both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 1986 World Exposition, home. The latter left us with the legacy of the silver golf ball called Science World, and the reputation of being one of the most enviable places in the world to live. Downtown Vancouver, the core business district, sports a plethora of Manhattan-like skyscrapers (hence one of our nicknames, “City of Glass”)–and, at a height of 659 ft, the 6-year-old, 62-storey Living Shangri-La1 is currently the tallest tower in the province.
As the most temperate part of Canada (with winters that rarely see snowfall or sub-zero temperatures, and comfortably warm summers that average 22-26°C), Vancouver has a few more nicknames. Some of them are flattering, others less so. The “Hollywood North” nickname was earned decades ago when Vancouver became the place (thanks to a favourable currency exchange rate, financial incentives, and proximity) to film many an American TV series (X-Files, Smallville) or movie (X-Men, Fantastic Four). “The Wet Coast” moniker is a little play on our location on the West Coast, and a nod to our famed proclivity to precipitate — sometimes heavily, and for many days. I have experienced summers with 30 consecutive days of rain!
Being a coastal city, Vancouver possesses a geography and climate that’s perfect for outdoor activities all year long; if we’re not skiing or snowboarding, we’re skateboarding, sailing, waterskiing, biking, handgliding, ziplining, hitting the tennis courts, or fishing. I have biked in the dead of winter in Vancouver when other parts of Canada may be digging out from 5-10 feet of snow. We’ve got plenty of mountains, which offer scenic photo opportunities, and are great for cardio workouts, too. Grouse Mountain, in particular, is popular with hikers; the Grouse Grind (aka “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”) is a challenging 2.9 km trail2 with plenty of ups and downs to help you “feel the burn.” The fastest that any hiker has managed to make it to the top of the Grind is an insane 20 minutes; I have managed to get my time to just under an hour.
Starbucks coffeehouses (where drink sizes like ‘venti’ (20 oz), ‘grande’ (16 oz), and ‘tall’ (12 oz), are bandied about several thousand times a day) and Tim Hortons coffee-and-donut restos are fixtures in just about every major shopping mall (and we have no shortages of those, either). You’re likely to find a cup of joe (coffee) in the hand of many a commuter, and an iPhone or iPod in the other hand. My Starbucks poison? Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino (frappé + cappuccino) Blended Crème (a specialty drink made with matcha green tea syrup, milk, and ice, and garnished with whipped cream).
We’ve got a fully-automated, light rapid transit system called Skytrain (so called, because most of the rails that the lines run on are elevated) that connects large (but not all) portions of Vancouver together. With air conditioned trains arriving at 47 stations3 every 5 minutes, it beats taking a taxi or waiting for the bus–and I can personally attest to that, having taken all three modes of transportation.
With the Vancouver Seawall, Stanley Park is jogger/rollerblader/biker/hiker central (dogs are frequently in tow). Nestled in the heart of this 1,001-acre urban park4 is the Vancouver Aquarium (Vanaqua), which houses beluga whales, dolphins, otters, sea lions, sharks, eels, octopi, penguins, plus rainforest animals, tropical fish, and many other forms of marine life. I’ve made many trips to Vanaqua, and seen many changes to the aquarium–from the demographics of its aerial, terran, amphibious, and watery inhabitants, to the expansions of/changes to its buildings–over the years.
In addition to its picturesque natural wonders, Vancouver boasts many man-made attractions including The Vancouver Lookout, a tower which offers 360-degree views of the city from 430 feet above street level5 (a great way to spend the day and night, especially when the skies go black and the street lights go on); the Bloedel Floral Conservatory, a tropical arboretum located on top of an extinct volcano, with flowers and vegetation from all over the world, plus over 100 free flying birds of many exotic species6; and the Granville Island Public Market, with lots of fresh local produce (fruits, veggies, and seafood like salmon, shrimp, crab, and squid), local wines and beer, and handmade crafts for sale.
As an ice hockey-mad city, Vancouver is home to the much-beloved (and sometimes, much-maligned!) NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, as well as Canadian football (BC Lions), and soccer (Vancouver Whitecaps FC). About the only spectator sport that’s not represented professionally in Vancouver is a major league baseball team (well, that and curling). With all these attractions and many more, we certainly don’t live up to our nickname, “The City of No Fun.”
Statistics have been sourced from:
1 Living Shangri-La Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
2 Grouse Mountain Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
3 Skytrain Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
4 Stanley Park Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
5 The Vancouver Lookout Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
6 Bloedel Floral Conservatory Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)