The other week, I headed out to the Whistler in Canada for my work’s annual all company get together, which I’ve written about here.
We had gone to the same spot last year, and on the way up to Whistler we drove through Vancouver. I realised that it was likely that I wouldn’t be up this way again for a while, so decided to head out a few days early to explore the city.
First impressions are that this is a big city, with lots of shiny new skyscraper buildings.
Vancouver feels slick and modern, and reminded me of somewhere like Sydney. The buildings downtown felt large and impressive, and gave the impression of a much larger city population wise than it actually is. As it turns out, Glasgow and Vancouver have similar populations, it’s just that their makeup and sprawl give very different impressions.
I took the chance to meet up with local Bryan aka Bryface from the chipmusic scene, at my pal Caoimhe’s suggestion, and we hung out a bit as he showed me some sights.
We headed down to Granville Island, a peninsula just south of downtown which sits under a main bridge, and which plays host to a whole bunch of small shops, pubs, and a big indoor market.
One of the advantages that Vancouver has is its geography – perched right on the coast, with lots of access to the sea, and with plenty of nature all around. The location adds a lot to the character of the city, and the harbour areas in particular are nice to sit and spend some time at.
Driven by jet lag, I woke up at 7am the following day, and decided to head up through Chinatown to find some breakfast. There wasn’t a soul about at first, which seemed pretty strange for a city, but it was nice.
I found a place called Klauss Kaffee Haus, which was a cafe with a mixture of Austrian, Chinese, and Canadian. I grabbed an iced coffee and some breakfast thing, and watched as the shops began to open up at 8am… and the streets start to fill up with people.
Afterwards, I planned to walk along the East coast of the city, through the popular area known as ‘Gastown’. As I came from Chinatown, down W Harding Street, I suddenly found myself surrounded by homeless people on all sides, in a way that reminded me of certain parts of San Francisco. Apparently there is a sizable homeless population here partially because of the relatively mild climate. It seemed like a sudden and strange jump to end up in a very different atmosphere, but as I walked further towards Gastown, the shops gradually began to turn into hipster cafes and expensive furniture places, rather than boarded up old buildings. It was quite an extreme gentrification gradient.
The centre of Gastown is marked by this ‘steam powered’ clock. If you look closely you can see the steam coming out the top. Apparently it does still rely on electrics for the timing though… as steam isn’t reliable enough.
The harbour area on the east is pretty impressive. I passed by a docked cruise ship, and was kind of blown away by the size of it. Seeing the ship so close to the city just emphasised how giant these things are… it would easily be taller than most of the buildings if stood on end.
The sea planes are a nice touch. I had debated getting one to take me up to Whistler for the company meetup, but the price was a tad out of my budget for this trip sadly.
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing was this ‘digital orca’ sculpture. I don’t really tend to have ‘favourites’ of anything, but one of the writers that I have resonated with has been Douglas Coupland – author of Generation X. He happens to be from Vancouver, and is also a visual artist, and so it was pretty awesome to be able to see one of his pieces in person.
There were some interesting wee boats in the harbour.
I don’t understand why this structure is like this, but I liked it.
As I walked up towards Stanley Park – an area at the north of the city that is pretty much surrounded by water, I ended up caught in the middle of a charity dog walk, with hundreds of dogs and their owners walking around the park to raise awareness (and cash, presumably) about animal cruelty.
I grabbed a pictures of a couple of the dogs.
I rounded out the trip by meeting some folk from work at a rather bizarre and eccentric Japanese place for sushi. If I could go back here every week I would.