As I mentioned before, I spent this past weekend in Vancouver, and it turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant trip. I mean, I always have a great time hanging out with family and friends, but I normally have some shitty encounter with customer service or a snobby Vancouverite which sours my visit whenever I’m in town and reminds me why I was so glad to get out of that city.
But this time, everyone was so nice and chatty and friendly, and this – coupled with the aforementioned family time – allowed me to really appreciate how much I really do like Vancouver, despite our rocky relationship.
So, now overcome with a rekindled appreciation for my hometown, I’ve decided to jot down a few things I love/miss about the city, before the bitterness settles in again (j/k). It’s a short list, and I’m not going to name the cliché things that usually populate such lists – like the mountains and ocean (believe it or not, mountains and oceans exist outside of Vancouver too), or multiculturalism (growing up very visibly ethnic in the city as well as being married to a non-Canadian, I can tell you from hostile personal experience that Vancouver is not always the multicultural, open-minded, and racism-free paradise that Vancouverites like to think it is).
Main Street (Mount Pleasant/Riley Park)
Main Street is BOMB. Growing up on Main Street, my sister Andrea and I liked it before it was cool (as hipsters would say), before the rest of the city cottoned on to Main Street’s unique vibe and began to slowly fill it with expensive coffee shops. We liked it back when it was still kind of dirty and cheap. I admit, Main Street nowadays is pretty hipster and gentrified, but the essence of it is still preserved, and continues to thrive. It’s artsy and unique, yet wonderfully unpretentious. Some of my favourite spots in the city are on Main Street – a second-hand clothing shop with the most beautiful window displays I’ve ever seen, a dessert place that has the air of 19th century brothel, and yes, even those expensive coffee shops (e.g. 49th Parallel/Lucky’s Doughnuts, and Trilussa, where I used to spend hours at a time back when it was still Re-Entry) – and even now, I constantly find myself discovering new favourites as more establishments join the neighbourhood.
Ok, so this is a Canada thing, but Timmy’s is all over Vancouver, and nowhere in LA, so I say this should count. I had a breakfast sandwich from the airport Timmy’s the morning I left for LA, and it almost made me sad how good the damn thing was. Timmy’s was my saviour during those all-nighters in film school. I’m not even being sarcastic here.
This may sound lame, but stepping out of YVR and breathing in the cool, clean Vancouver air is one of the best feelings in the world. When I was brushing my teeth this weekend at my parents’ house, I had to will myself not to drink the tap water. Vancouver is very clean. It’s one of those little things that you don’t appreciate until you don’t have it anymore, and you’re forced to buy your drinking water in plastic jugs every couple of weeks.
Considering all the things that Vancouverites generally (and sometimes unjustifiably) brag about, I’m surprised that there isn’t more fanfare over Vancouver beer. Vancouver’s best kept secret is how amazing the local beer is. Canadian beer in general is pretty awesome, but the Vancouver craft beer scene in particular is top notch and sadly underrated. From Raven Cream Ale to the sadly retired Albino Rhino Pale Ale to pretty much anything out of Granville Island (especially their Winter Ale), Vancouver beer is fantastic, and it’s a shame it doesn’t receive more international recognition. Actually, come to think of it, even local recognition is sadly lacking. One of the things I was really looking forward to this past weekend was having a mug (or two) of my favourites, as well as trying out a couple new brews. I had really missed Vancouver beer, and so I was somewhat horrified to observe everyone else around me on Saturday night throw their money at Coronas and … Bud Lights? Really? I’ve had Belgian beers and have even drunk myself silly in Germany, and I still find myself craving beer from my hometown.
I love Stepho’s. Their so-tender-it-falls-off-the-bone roast lamb is still the best lamb I have ever had. I will gladly line up outside for an hour, in the pouring rain, in the middle of winter to get into Stepho’s, and I will be happy about it because Stepho’s is awesome, and I don’t care if you think it’s trendy or overhyped – the food is great, and plentiful, and miraculously cheap, and that earns full gold stars in my book.
Alright, so perhaps this falls under the cliché category. Nevertheless, Stanley Park is simply beautiful. It is perhaps the single best representation of the essence of Canada’s West Coast, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, rich in First Nations history, filled with Douglas firs and Pacific redcedars. It is almost spiritually refreshing in a way. It feels like home. I have yet to find another place in my travels quite like it.
So, that’s it, really, minus one omission; my family is missing from this list, even though they are obviously best thing about the city. One awesome thing about my family living in Vancouver is that it always gives me an excuse to visit. There are many reasons why I can’t see myself moving back, but despite the fact that I spend an awful lot of time complaining about my hometown, there are still many things about Vancouver that are wonderful and keep me coming back.