“Vancouver is not a friendly city”, this was surprisingly revealed during a chat with some locals in one of the great bars in Gastown. My informant expanded further upon this explaining that most people are in too much of a hurry to pass pleasantries in the street. Apparently they do not smile or greet each other enough as they pass each other, rushing to complete their daily routine.
This is common in many cities of course but many outsiders consider Canadian urbanisations even their mega-cities are slightly different. Vancouver is not filled with inanely smiling residents or the air-filled with the sound of hellos and goodbyes, people may rush around but there is space to move on the streets . There are still enough friendly residents around, welcoming and happy to aid a tourist asking for a little help on the bustling streets.
It is an active city, there are plenty of people engaged in exercise regimes or enjoying calorie burning activities, running, cycling, skateboarding, hiking, in-line skating and I even saw a group practicing their parkour skills. This adds to a perception of a city where the pace is more hectic than expected.
However there are still many places to chill out either along the seafront, in famous Stanley Park or in the centre of the city. Coffee shops, restaurants or bars in Gastown, Granville Island or Chinatown and the street food vendors are all plentiful. The landscape of the city is a modern one, the many towers of reflective glass stand tall, highly visible among the architecture of traditional buildings. One particularly interesting project is new buildings being built above existing sites. Agreement for construction includes a clause where the builders must complete repairs to the original building, usually a heritage site and continue with the maintenance for an agreed term.
A forward thinking project, which retains the heritage of this forward thinking city.
Some of the most impressive of the high-rise buildings belong to the Fairmont Hotels Group, the Pacific Rim and Waterfront are impressive towers of glass located close to the seafront. They command great views over the harbour as well as being an important part of the skyline. The Vancouver Hotel which is a more traditional style hotel dating back to 1939 but is just as impressive as its more modern relations.
I was fortunate enough to stay in all three, they all have their own charms and appeal. Extremely luxurious with cool restaurants and popular coffee shops but what impressed me most was the commitment to the environment. This includes bee-keeping in some hotels and an interesting tour exists around the hives on top of the Waterfront Hotel. It was the first to adopt beekeeping, producing its own honey to add to interesting recipes in both the restaurants and cocktail bar.
It provides an interesting conversation topic and an improved view from the terrace is an unexpected result. The management. chefs and housekeeping teams seem very proud of the project and along with caring for their own vegetable and herb gardens are happy to offer guided tours to guests explaining the challenges that have been overcome.
The skyline of the city is especially impressive when seen from Stanley Park. Standing among the huge skyscrapers is neck strainingly impressive but I preferred being able to soak it all in from across the harbour. The seawall is possibly the best way to get to the park. There are sea planes taking off from the harbour, huge yachts and even houseboats moored in the marina, sculptures and little plaques explaining important historical moments in the history of the city make sure the walk is never boring.
It possibly isn’t Canada’s friendliest city but I really enjoyed my stay there, the chilled out nightlife is quite sophisticated, making day and night was equally appealing. It has changed greatly since my last visit and a couple of days is insufficient time to really explore, so visiting again to discover more of its modern secrets is definitely on the cards for me.