Vancouver is voted one of the best cities in the world to live in, year after year. In celebration of Vancouver’s 125th birthday, the Vancouver Sun’s Steve Whysall had an article in the Sun called What Makes Vancouver Special? Whysall revealed his pick of the ten brightest lights in Vancouver. As with all such lists, most people will agree with some and entirely disagree with others – and most will find some glaring omissions, depending on their own view of the meaning of life, the universe and everything.
I agree with Whysall’s choice of coffee – although I would not have ranked it as high as No. 1. (In particular, Sam and Lina’s Cafe Bella Napoli at Commercial and First is like a welcoming home-from-home – but with better coffee, and paninis to die for.) And I agree with Whysall that the Sun Run is extremely cool too – last year I did the Kid’s version with my daughter, and this year I plan to do the whole 10 K with my mother and my wife – at our own speed, which will not threaten the conquering Kenyans in the slightest.
For me it’s all about the fun of being out in the sun with a bunch of happy Vancouverites – and with the roads blocked to cars, so that one can stroll along enjoying the sights without any fear of sudden death.
As for some of Whysall’s other choices, I have to say we have vastly different lists. I tried sushi once and it wasn’t for me – actually, I threw up. Ditto for Wreck Beach. And I’ve never even been in a gym where anyone at all was wearing Lulemon (Commercial Drive’s rough but honest Spartacus being my gym of choice). Granville Island was sometimes fun when my kids were little, but now it reminds me of nothing so much as a giant parking lot.
I suspect one could actually commit suicide by standing outside the Kid’s Market and inhaling deeply for long enough, as the endless procession of motorists looking for parking crawls by.
So what would make my list? Well, the first thing that impressed me when I arrived in Vancouver 13 years ago were the futuristic Skytrains – I felt like I’d arrived in a city straight out of one of my favourite sci-fi movies (Vancouver’s skytrains and Granville station can be clearly seen in Paycheck). And I was blown away by having access to reliable, relatively safe and speedy transit. Today I am still impressed by Skytrain, as it enables my teenagers to get themselves all over the place. Pity about the restriction on bikes at rush hour, though.
The second thing that blew me away was the wonderful diversity of the Commercial Drive area. My somewhat “diverse” family was welcomed by all, and no one ever made us feel “diverse”.
Other than that, the magnificent Stanley Park Seawall bike route is right up there. I’ve spent countless happy hours enjoying the fresh air and spectacular views while pedaling along it. And then there’s that magnificent open air Second Beach Pool, which I loved with a passion when my kids were little. (And it has bike parking!)\
All kinds of cyclists showed up for the inaugural ride of the Central Valley Greenway,
on a sunny day in 2009
More recently, I would have to give a huge shout out to the Central Valley Greenway – an ambitious bike route which makes it reasonably safe (and fun!) to bike from New West to Burnaby to Vancouver. And last but not least, the wonderful new separated bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir.