For the past 5 days I have been in Vancouver, BC. I return home tomorrow.
I am here to attend wireless standards meetings, so I have been working during most of my stay. Today, Friday, the present session ended at mid-morning and since I do not return home till tomorrow I was free for the remainder of the day. Also I arrived at 1PM last Sunday and was free that afternoon and evening. I am staying at the Haytt Hotel, on Burrard Street just above Dunsmuir Street, which is in the heart of the downtown section of the city. I had no car so my mobility was quite limited. With all the previous as qualifier to my observations, here they are.
Vancouver is a lovely, vibrant city with remarkable diversity. In fact, I'd have to say it is one of the most vibrant cities I have had the pleasure to spend time in (and I've spent time in many cities throughout North America). Here is what I mean by vibrant. I remind you that it is January, that Vancouver's latitude is getting up there, certainly higher than most of the United States - excluding Alaska. So during my stay, the sun has set at around 4:30PM. The temperature most of the week has been within several degrees above and below freezing. Happily there has been essentially no rain. Given all of that, in all my walking around the city, daytimes and evenings, and I've walked every evening sometime between 6 and 9PM, everyplace I have happened to walk has always been full of people out and about! I find this very remarkable, but also for a visitor in a strange city, comforting. I don't know what everyone is out doing, but out they are. The people are of all sorts, all ages, both sexes, and appear to be of all social classes. Shops and restaurants all seem active and thriving as the evening wears on, regardless of the day of week.
Yes, there are panhandlers. There's something about the cities on the Pacific Ocean, I guess since it's a sort of "land's end" for people coming from the east, but, they have so many more panhandlers than cities further east. Vancouver is no exception in that regard. I was particularly saddened and distressed by several young women who weren't actually panhandling, but were sitting/lying down on the cold pavement outside the Hyatt and behind a crude cardboard sign that said "To Proud to Prostitute, to Honest to Beg". An inverted hat for donations was next to the sign. What has led these young 20-somethings to this state? These women could be my daughters.
Water surrounds Vancouver. The downtown is on a little thumb that sticks out from a fist which forms the body of the city. I was pretty much restricted to the thumb. A major port and cargo terminal is on the waterfront, just along the north side of downtown. The large orange cranes and acres of containers are within close view from downtown and a short walk gets one a direct view of the activity of large cargo ships being loaded and unloaded. A hotel and convention center are on a permanent pier that extends out into the water. Part of the city's public transportation system includes a "water bus" taking one across the harbor from downtown to North Vancouver, a large thriving city in its own rite. I took the water bus today to North Vancouver. At the landing on the north side is a farmer's market, called the "Lonsdale Quay Market". In the Market were many fine looking places to eat. I selected a booth called the "Soup Meister" that daily makes soups. I had a great bowl of one of the today's specials, Mulagawtany. I highly recommend the "soup meister". Just north of North Vancouver are large, snow covered mountains with skiing in sight. Some riders on the water bus were carrying snow boards and boots, suggesting they were on their way, via public transportation, to the slopes. Walk from bustling city to water bus to other public transportation to arrive at ski slopes on rugged snow laced mountains, that's diversity! Also it should be noted that Vancouver was the host city of the 2010 Winter Olympics and the major ski area of Whistler is only a car drive away.
This evening (Friday), completing a pleasant afternoon of walking and photographing, I chanced to walk into MacLeod's Books on Pender Street. What a serendipitous event! Given the state of book publishing and sales today, thanks to that marvel of technology you and I cannot do without called the internet (we are both using it in our respective 'now's'), this store is a step back in time in a very good way. I wish there were more such places. The proprietor (this title is an unverified assumption on my part) had no problem with my taking photographs. The results are in a gallery on this site, MacLeod's Books. Oh, and they have a great photography book section. I purchased a 1909 book, "The Sinclair Handbook of Photography." They don't have a coffee bar, but if I lived in Vancouver, I'd be a regular at this place (and probably poorer as a result but that's OK, I'd be less caffinated).
The downtown Vancouver waterfront itself, to the northwest beyond the cargo terminal has a beautiful waterfront promenade. In addition to the large convention center/hotel pier, there is a distinct pier called "Canada Place", that celebrates the country that is Canada. Beyond these two fixed piers heading along the promenade are luxury boat docks and restaurants. At the tip of the thumb is a nature park and preserve called Stanley Park. It is well worth a visit.
From my travel experience in the States, I'd say Vancouver is a combination of Salt Lake City with the nearby mountains and ski areas, and the San Francisco Bay area with the water in all directions, marine terminals, and upscale high rises and business district. If you have an opportunity, visit Vancouver!