As long as I can remember, my parents would say; “it can rain 30 days in a row in Vancouver, but when the sun comes out, you forgive it everything!”
I believe this fact. This morning I had the honour of guiding a tour through the city of Vancouver on one of the most beautiful days this summer.
Over many year I have led somewhere around 100 tours through and around Vancouver and I have watched this fine community grow into literally (statistically) one of the world’s great cities.
Needless to say, I love Vancouver, but more importantly, I appreciate it. The rich physical diversity of the west coast environment is accented by the city’s creative architecture. Its open, healthy and extremely diverse population may be the region’s greatest strength.
Tourism is important to Vancouver’s economy and contributes to the city’s wonderful mix of people. The city is compact, beautiful and accessible. There is so much to offer visitors and most fortunately most tourism infrastructure has been designed for the pleasure of residents.
To be a little more specific; when the weather is good, simple walking – almost anywhere – along Vancouver’s 28 km Seawall provides some of the best urban / nature views anywhere.
One can eat almost any type of food from the world over and as long as alcohol is avoided, dining well can be very affordable. Refined cuisine is also abundant and whilst on the Pacific coast, salmon must be enjoyed.
Hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and skateboarding are all common activities.
Culturally, Vancouver has a good art gallery and an excellent anthropological museum at the university. There is also the nudest Wreck Beach by the university.
Vancouver does really try to ‘live and let live.’ More importantly the city and region is gradually attempting to address the (shockingly recent) historic crimes against Canada’s First Nations. As a step forward, indigenous art defines west coast style and enriches this culture.
As with everywhere, there are negatives and additional challenges. Traffic is not one of them. I often read about Vancouver’s traffic woes, but compared to the coastal cities to the south; Seattle, Portland and San Francisco, I never find Vancouver too challenging.
Moreover, the city centre is entirely walkable, so if you can afford to stay, traffic really is not an issue. But costs do matter.
Cost of living is Vancouver’s weakness. Housing costs are oppressive and apparently still rising. There is a notable homeless problem and the less attractive (dare I say un-Western Canadian) icons of wealth – pretentious cars and designer shops – are infiltrating once middle class neighbourhoods.
The Downtown East Side remains an area of poverty and misery and it is important those people are not simply forced out from politics or costs. They have rights too.
Along with these signs of extremes, the risk of a major earthquake is scary enough that governments are preparing. We are of course located along the mighty Cascadia Subduction Zone.
I regularly mention Vancouver in my submissions, but felt the city deserves a special comment on the beautiful summer day.
To Quote Shane Koyczan’s poem he read at the 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies; “we are an experiment going right for a change”
As we see political fear mongering and actual terror in many cities and countries, Vancouver (and Canada in general) reminds us to just relax, open our minds and celebrate diversity. We really are better when we go for a walk and share space with people from around the world.