Flip Through

Monday, May 17, 2010

The best place on Earth

This is British Columbia's tagline. Though I am fond of hyperbole, I don't usually take it seriously; in this case, however, I find B.C.'s selling line more than apt. Vancouver is the second most-amazing city I have ever been to (London, of course, being the first).

As western Canada's largest metropolitan area, Vancouver is as bustling of a city as you could desire, full of interesting food, easily navigable streets, laid-back citizens, and right good public transportation (in many varieties, too! Want to take an aquabus across False Creek to Yaletown? No problem!)--and also contains stunning natural spaces, in-city oases, and parks galore. Stanley Park is obviously Vancouver's green selling point and easily lives up to its hype: acres of West Coast rainforest, thousands of bird species, cool streams, and That Seawall make spending a day there magical. But don't stop there, if you're into the great outdoors; Queen Elizabeth Park and its flower conservatory and amazing views, Vandusen Botanical Gardens and its Elizabethan maze and beautiful landscapes, UBC's Nitobe Memorial Garden and Chinatown's classical Chinese scholar's garden, the forested sprawl of the North Shore, the isolated calm of Pacific Spirit Regional Park and the University of British Columbia, Beach Avenue's stretch of jogging and bicycle paths along the water, the numerous small parks dotting every neighborhood...forgive if I run on, but Vancouver is the dream city for nature-lovers.

And that's not all! Oh, no; no no. Culture-freaks will find their happy here too. UBC houses the country's best collection of northwest coastal native artifacts, including dozens of Haida and Kwakiutl totems, masks, implements, art, and clothing, as well as other treasures from a variety of cultures (including some stunning samurai armor, Cantonese opera costumes, Yoruba figurines, and a beautiful collection of Buddhas). The Vancouver Art Gallery and Emily Carr University between them host (I think) Canada's largest collection of Emily Carr paintings. Chinatown's gorgeous Sun Yat-Sen Classical Garden and nearby Cultural Center provide history and information about the Chinese presence in British Columbia. Stanley Park contains a grand aquarium stuffed with amazing specimens and fascinating tidbits about British Columbia's ecosystems.

What about foodies, you say? Vancouver says, Come hungry. Between salmon fresh from the northern rivers, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and a vast array of ethnic cuisines, Vancouverites eat high on the hog. If in Granville Island (and have a few dollars to play with), try out the Sandbar for a wonderful view of False Creek coupled with fabulous West Coast eats. Cruise the West End near the harbor for an excellent variety of Japanese and Korean food, and don't miss a Gastown pub for local brews (Okanagan Springs Brewmaster is a great dark beer) and yummy comfort food--Irish Heather is a good stop. For the best view in the city combined with great dishes, head to Queen Elizabeth Park's Seasons in the Park restaurant and try the stuffed mushrooms.

If your belt's a bit tight after all that munching, no worries--Vancouver is one of the most pedestrian-friendly big cities I've been to. Hordes of walkers crowd every streetcorner and cars actually stop for them...amazing! Thanks to the city's grid system, Vancouver's downtown is extremely walkable and just about everything needed to sustain life is within strolling distance. If bicycling is more your ouvre, rental stores abound (such as Spokes on Denman near Stanley Park), and the uphill climbs throughout the city will make you feel less guilty about having another beer later on.

Oh friends, just go to there, as Liz Lemon says. It's amazing. It has something for everyone. The citizens are friendly, the city is beautiful and well-made and forward-thinking. You will never be bored. I can't wait to go back--permanently, someday.

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