Tag Archives: Vancouver

A day and a half to fall in love with Vancouver all over again

Sometimes good deeds are rewarded. Last year I volunteered for the Victoria Marathon; while at the orientation event I entered a draw sponsored by Diggit Victoria and I won a one-night stay in a downtown condo and a $100 gift certificate to the Glowbal restaurant of my choice.

I was finally able to take advantage of my prize on May 16-17. I took the day off work and booked a Harbour Air flight. Then I promptly fell in love with Vancouver all over again during my 36 hours there.

My first order of business was to visit my tenants at my Marpole condo to check things out and help with a minor repair. I realized, as I took the Canada Line, that it had been almost two years since I’d been in Vancouver for personal reasons. Every other time has been a business trip.

It was a sunny, dry day, and in the middle of the day the train was not full. When I lived there, I began to resent the crowded train ride twice a day, but I did get a lot of audiobooks read …

Rather than take the train back downtown after my visit, I took the bus back up Granville Street. Marpole has changed quite a bit in two years. The Safeway on Granville is completely rebuilt with a condo tower above it. I think it can only enhance the neighbourhood by bringing new residents, new businesses. I was glad to see Mirchi (my favourite little East Indian restaurant) is still there.

I walked from the bus stop downtown to the Lions building where I was staying, in the West End. The condo is a privately-held property – I had originally thought it was a vacation rental property, but it doesn’t seem like it – my guess is it’s for frequent business travellers. It’s a cute, small, completely self-contained “junior” suite, which means it has a tiny bedroom with a single bed, and really psychedelic wallpaper! Good thing I didn’t come here with someone else as I had originally planned, back in January-February; this is not a romantic get-away-type place.

False_Creek_May_2014I promised Connie from Diggit that I would document my stay. Unfortunately, I had issues with my phone battery and was unable to take a lot of pictures, but the apartment is super-clean and modern, with a lot of windows, a huge-screen TV, wifi, a kitchenette with stainless steel appliances, and a full bath. There is a concierge at the front desk and parking available (including locked bike parking). I contacted the owners afterwards to see if they’re in the market for new short-term renters and they said no, so I won’t advertise any more than that. Suffice it to say this tiny apartment is adorable.

I stashed my bag and went off in search of a bike rental place. I ended up at English Bay Bike rentals where the friendly and helpful staff fitted me with a cruiser bike with balloon tires, a helmet and U-lock. They’re located right on Vancouver’s waterfront bike path and rates are quite reasonable – almost a third less than another place I checked out in the West End. I took advantage of the glorious weather to cruise the path all the way around False Creek to Granville Island – a route I ran many times when I lived in Vancouver.

At Granville Island I ambled, and shopped, and had tea, and ambled some more, until I realized I had to meet a friend at 6. I made my way back via the Burrard Street Bridge, which is a great bridge for cyclists – but they’re making it even better – WTG Vancouver! Realizing a) I was exhausted and b) I still needed to shower and get ready for dinner, I postponed pre-dinner drinks and took a cab met my friends at the restaurant.

dessert platter

Yum

Trattoria in Kitsilano is part of the Glowbal group, which has several Vancouver restaurants. If they’re all as good as this, I’d like to get to them all eventually. I rounded up two Vancouver friends to accompany me and, in short, that was one of the most delicious, enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. I had the special of the day: a vegetarian risotto which was the best I’ve ever tasted (and I dated an Italian guy for a while who was an amazing cook, so I know my risotto). My friends loved their meals too: K had a steak which, according to him, was very good, and I honestly can’t remember what B had, but I know she loved hers as well. We shared a dessert platter afterwards. I couldn’t eat a lot of it because of the preponderance of dairy, but what I did taste was nothing short of exquisite. Our waiter, Faraz, was funny and personable and was a big reason why our meal was so great.

From there, the evening turned into an impromptu rooftop party in Gastown. You’ve all had those evenings, right? Not a rooftop in Gastown per se: but an evening that just turns out to be more fun and interesting than you had planned; where you meet new people and have great conversations, and realize life is just amazing and the world is right here, right now and nothing needs to change. Where you get home incredibly late and wake up only slightly hungover, and think: “Well, that was fun! I couldn’t have organized anything better if I’d tried.”

I did wake up too early the next day – which was OK because I had more exploring to do before I left for home. I took the cruiser and headed around the Stanley Park Seawall: another running route I used to do nearly every weekend. Seawall_Stanley_Park_May2014The day was perfect for it.
I will note at this time the weather forecast had called for rain both days I was there. I was prepared with my rain gear, and bought a nifty rain hat at the Hat Shop on Granville Island, but there was nary a drop. It was like the weekend was made for my enjoyment. Hah.

I ended the bike ride by returning the cruiser to the bike shop, then wandered down Denman and eventually met up with B for brunch. Then I headed to the condo, packed up, took the garbage out (as instructed), handed the key to the concierge, and caught my flight home.

Thanks Connie at Diggit Victoria for the great prize – I had a blast and I am looking forward to more personal (not just business) trips back to Vancouver in the future.

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The five reasons I left Vancouver

Addendum (June 30, 2015) — Since I wrote this post I have moved back to the beautiful city of Vancouver, and I wrote about the reasons why.

Vancouver is nice to visit, but I don’t want to live there.

I’m not going to slam Vancouver. It’s no one’s fault but my own that I didn’t like living there, it has nothing to do with the city itself, not that I can tell. I quite like it and, given other circumstances, I’m sure I could happily live there. In fact, ever since I moved to Victoria over six years ago, I really wanted to be in Vancouver. For years before that I had set my sights on the west coast, and it was always Vancouver I wanted to land. To me it seemed big, exciting, diverse. Things happen there.

Then last summer, and I got a promotion in my job, which made it impractical for me to keep commuting from Victoria for meetings. My daughter graduated from high school and entered post-secondary education. I set her up in a home stay situation and bought a lovely condo in Marpole.

So why would I want to leave? Here, in ascending order of importance, are my reasons:

1. It’s a pain in the ass to commute to work

  • 35 minutes by air from Victoria harbour to Vancouver harbour
  • 35 minutes by bus/Canada Line from my Marpole condo to the downtown office

Marine Drive Canada Line Station, VancouverBoth are equally unpleasant, but I had to do the latter every day. Now that I’m back in Victoria I can keep it to once every month or six weeks. Of note, however, is that the reason I can keep travel down now is because I was actually in Vancouver for eight months. There’s nothing like establishing face-to-face relationships in order to make it easier to carry on with web conferencing, Skype, conference calls, instant messaging, etc.

I admit, public transit is good and compared to many places in the world it’s fantastically clean and efficient and cheap. Ask anyone from Los Angeles or Mexico City or even Toronto. However after six months of being crammed into a bus or skytrain for at least an hour a day to get to and from work, I’d had enough. I don’t know how people do it. I asked my colleague who lives in White Rock how he does it and, from what he said, I gather a one-and-a-half-hour ride each way (more than 2x as long as my commute) is the “price of admission” for living in a home and a community he loves.

Me? I lived in Marpole. A conservative enclave in south Vancouver. I have a nice condo and I made a point of getting to know my neighbours, but it’s not a neighbourhood I saw myself getting attached to. I walked everywhere when I lived in Fairfield in Victoria: to the gym, to work, to get groceries and fresh organic produce, coffee shops, Cook Street Village. My best friends lived not far from me. I was a bike ride away from Skeptic in the Pub nights in James Bay.

2. No running routes near my place in Marpole

It was all streets, all the time on my mid-week runs. I could run the bridges over the Fraser River, or out to Fraser River Park and back (5k) but it’s all pavement. I felt claustrophobic in Vancouver. I missed Beacon Hill Park, and Dallas Road, and the “Seven Sisters” hills in Fairfield.

Running in Stanley ParkI thought I’d be getting to the North Shore more often to explore the trails. Nope. Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike driving. To get to those enticing trails on the north shore I’d have to drive through downtown, across the Lion’s Gate Bridge and up to the mountains, which are packed with snow in the higher elevations much of the year. Great for skiers, not so great for trail runners. In Victoria, I jump in my car to be at Elk/Beaver Lake, Finlayson or Gowland Tod park within 20 minutes; a little longer for East Sooke Park, and it’s mostly countryside, not urban traffic.

3. Incessant gloom

Victoria gets twice as much sun as Vancouver. I didn’t realize how much that would affect me until I experienced it. It sucks, and that’s all there is to say about it. You live in Vancouver? You know exactly what I’m talking about.

4. Proximity to friends

Although I make friends easily, in Vancouver it was a PITA (see #1 above) to get anywhere to meet people. I realized I have a great life in Victoria, I have a network of friends and acquaintances built up over the years. I can walk downtown and meet people I know. I don’t feel like a stranger here, whereas I felt isolated in Vancouver.

5. I want to be there for my daughter, and my son

MaryI saved the most important reason for last. Even though she is a grown-up now, I missed my youngest child like crazy. She has no plans to leave Victoria. She’s found a place she loves, a young man she loves, and she’s staying here to get her education, work, raise a family eventually. She’s more grounded, she takes after her father that way. Her older brother, my son, is moving to Victoria this summer.

Given that my older daughter and her family, including my grandson, are probably stuck in Regina, I want to keep in contact with as much of my family as possible. They’re all I have. I lost touch with my own parents from an early age and after just a few months in Vancouver I had some soul-searching to do, and realized I can’t let that happen to my relationship with my own children. If two of them are in Victoria, then that’s where I’ll be. I can’t be much help with my daughter and grandson in Regina, but I can be for my two children who are on the west coast.

A note about real estate prices, which was not in a factor:

  • Selling price of my Regina 2-bedroom condo in 2006: $87,000
  • Asking price* of my 1-bedroom condo in Vancouver: $315,000

Let me tell you, my income is considerably more than it was in Saskatchewan, but not THAT much more. I am lucky to have good tenants and the ability to ride out the dip in real estate values that’s coming, but it still causes me a bit of anxiety. So even though housing is usually the first thing about Vancouver people complain about, it’s not my biggest complaint. It is a beautiful city, a desireable place to live and it’s hemmed in by mountains. You can expect it’s going to have world-class real estate prices. And yes, I realize I’m a little older and a little more financially stable than younger people who complain about the cost of housing.

Vancouver just is not my kind of place.

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*Note: I didn’t get that price, that’s why I rented it out.

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