Spring in Stanley Park

I know you want to believe that we only have rainy days in Vancouver. If you need to, I’ll let you believe so. But I have found our first winter here to be not only tolerable, but downright delightful. Sure, it rains sometimes. And I’ve been told that this was/has been an easy Vancouver winter. But I’d rather slip into my rain boats and toss the umbrella into my bag than wear leggings under my work pants, lace up my knee-high snow and slush boots, wrap a scarf, locate my mittens, pack my work shoes into my bag, force my hair into my stocking hat toque (this is Canada, after all), and sport a heavy coat just to be “sufficiently warm.”

During the last week, we have had some beautiful days. The sunshine peaks through the cherry blossoms and tall trees of the park to illuminate the trails, making for great springtime strolls.

vancouver cherry blossoms

vancouver cherry blossoms

stanley park trees

stanley park roots trees

trees stanley park

It’s crazy to see cherry blossoms, the imposing firs and cedars, and the beach all in one walk. I make my way to Stanley Park at least once every week, but it still hasn’t lost its charm. I really love the Western Red cedars, but as someone who grew up nearly smack dab in the middle of the continent, I geek out the most at the beach. Sure, I like the sun, but really, I’m after the sound of the waves, the barnacles, the driftwood, and the water birds.

vancouver seawall

seagull vancouver stanley park

vancouver stanley park beach

vancouver stanley park

driftwood beach

seaweed

stanley park

stanley park vancouver

It’s quite a park, isn’t it, folks? Especially on those sunny days.

Seal-Spotting | Our First Vancouver Visitor and Skipping Town for the Day

lighthouse park, north vanouver british columbia sunset

We had our first visitor here in Vancouver. Considering we only had one visit (but two visitors–yea for my parents!) during our stay in Montreal, we feel that having already taken our tally up to one visit after a mere couple months in Vancouver is pretty good.

Leah was here for four super quick days. The time seemed to go so quickly. Unfortunately, Jordan and I both had some submission deadlines to deal with during her stay and I had to work two of the days she was here. Jordan and Leah spent one day visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (a funny choice for people who have a fear of heights) and the 49th Parallel Cafe. I’m now forgetting, but am pretty sure they also made a trip to UBC’s campus, so the proud brother could show his sister were he runs his algorithms and codes. 🙂

Even despite having to work, I managed to get in my fair share of coffees, second breakfasts, craft beer exchanges, and chats with Leah. That said, I pretty much failed to document all of it. Towing the D-SLR around is not always my idea of convenient fun and my camera phone is quite laughable. Leah, on the other hand, has a fair share of nice photos from her time here.

We got to show her our favorite haunts in Gastown,* slurp down huge bowls of shoyu and garlic ramen on Denman,** eat one of the best brunches ever (let us ignore the fact that it’s really only my fourth official brunch ever),*** and shop the vendors at Granville Island’s Public Market.

Fortunately, I did have one day free during her stay. The three of us rented a car and drove north, stopping in Squamish, Whistler, and Lighthouse Park. We had no specific plans, but simply wanted to see what we could. None of us ski, so that wasn’t really a draw, but none of us are immune to the beauty of the islands along the way and snow-capped peaks. And certainly, none of us were immune to the childlike joy that sweeps over a crowd of people when they start to notice the seals just out in front of them.

vancouver from a distance sunset

Senior Pic:

park

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british columbia

Following photo courtesy of Leah:

in village

British Columbia

Oh, these two together. It really is like old college times. But better. Because we drink better coffee and eat better food now.

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Meant so much to us that you came, Leah! Can’t wait until we can meet up again.

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*Alibi Room and Six Acres are our favorite haunts at present.

**Went to Kintaro Ramen.

***After a way-too-long discussion about where to get second breakfast on Friday, we decided upon Cafe Medina, a place known for its Mediterranean-inspired brunches. It’s hyped, for sure, and you’ll most certainly have to wait in line with us if you come to visit, but it’s actually that good. And I say this as someone who doesn’t even support the brunch phenomenon.

My Blind Date with the City of Vancouver | My First Impressions

I don’t know what blind dates were like before the Internet. Now, they seem a little less scary. Certainly the guy has got a Facebook account with a mobile uploads album he forgot to make private, a LinkedIn profile, and a couple of news articles from his hometown paper following him around.

Actually, truth be told, I’ve never been on a blind date (One date could possibly classify as semi-blind–maybe. And I made my sister come along). I do, however, have a habit of going on blind dates with cities and then getting myself into volatile hot/cold relationships with them. I do some research prior to the first meet and try to learn enough about them to be able to carry on a conversation about local interests. My curiosity and nerves continue to build until the meet. When we finally see each other, the city plays it cool, acting as though it just barely notices my presence. That’s really all it takes to hook me.* Yeah, I’m that girl. I tend to compare the new guy with my exes, spending a couple months to really size them up. Eventually, after a couple months, we both admit that this isn’t a casual thing–we’ll both be in each other’s lives for a while. I commit, learn about its history, its emotional baggage, learn to love our inside jokes. We find a very nice routine. And then, as it has been so far in my life, the relationship come to an end. I leave. For a job opportunity, for another man (an actual man–in this case the husband), out of curiosity. Even though it’s always been my choice to end my relationships with my cities, I, upon leaving, act like a pining ex. I keep checking up on them, creeping them on the Internet, forcing myself to feel happy that they’re doing well without me. I wonder if they ever miss me.

But I digress. I’m still in the early stages of my relationship with Vancouver. For real, it was blind. I came without having visited. But now, we’ve definitely got our blind date stage over with. And I’m already starting to like the place. I can’t tell you anything about Vancouver that someone else doesn’t know. Others have more right to call the city theirs, but that doesn’t make my blind date experience and honeymoon stage any less mine.

vancouver harbor

Why am I writing this post? Oh, golly, I don’t know. To digest my first couple weeks in the city I will call my home. To update my friends and family on our life happenings. Mostly I think that I’m writing this because I think it’s going to be hilarious/helpful/interesting to look back at my first impressions after a couple years. I’m going to be as honest as I can and hopefully not insult anyone in the process. Without further ado: Here are the first impressions with which Vancouver has left me.

So freakin’ clean.

And I know, you like to consider yourself one of those people who like things a bit “scruffy.” I kind of thought I did, too. But I really like walking in a city park and seeing no garbage. It’s neat.

vancouver seawall

Customer service is intense.

Almost startlingly so. We just came back from three months of trying to catch the eye of our waiter, give the customary scribbling motion which means Please, kind sir, find time to bring me the bill because we have been trying to signal for half an hour. Here, the waitress stops by several times to make sure you don’t need something else. I find myself apologizing for not being ready fast enough. This is by no means meant to be construed as a complaint. On the contrary, I think that I’ll probably grow accustomed to this type of customer service and then miss it when traveling outside of the city.

Parts of it feel really suburban.

That’s okay, I guess. But I’m not a fan of the strip mall. I can, however, handle the parts that feel like the main street of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, except stretching on for a couple miles.

Air quality.

So nice. One of those ex-cities I lived in was always putting a damper on nice days with “air quality alerts.” Two of my ex-cities were known as allergy capitals in the US. I don’t miss that.

Fall lasts forever.

I felt like it was just for my benefit. Fall is my favorite season and I fretted that we’d missed it all while in the Southern Hemisphere.

fall leaves

It’s not as smelly as I expected.

BC’s got a reputation. Yes, I’ve seen neon green marijuana leaves in storefront windows and I’ve caught a couple whiffs while strolling those clean streets, but I don’t know, I guess I had foolishly expected to be more in my face than it feels.

Vancouver is stylish, too.

I’d also heard a great deal about how people in Vancouver, to put it lightly, are more interested in the outdoors than fashion. Yeah, okay, that could still hold true. Some might only wear North Face fleeces and hiking pants, but a couple days strolling downtown make it clear that trendy, fashion-forward people are most certainly allowed to live in Vancouver. Maybe someday I’ll be one of them.

It’s not overwhelmingly, OMG-I-Can-Never-Survive expensive.

If you throw out the elevated housing costs (which I grant you is a really big if), Vancouver prices don’t seem that much different than that Quebecois I broke up with in June. A pint of beer is 6 dollars, an espresso (from a place where the baristi participate in the Espresso World Championships) costs 2.75. Internet and toiletries seem comparable. Eating out actually appears to be affordable if you want it to be.

Oh, the restaurants.

My restaurant must try list is growing by the day. I’m beyond excited to become well-versed in eating Asian food. It goes so far beyond only sushi and the Chinese buffets of my adolescence.

ray fin japanese food vancouver

Eating in seems like it’s going to be awesome, too.

The grocery store options are plentiful. Every grocer is stocked with three varieties of fresh kale. Tempeh bacon and I have been missing one another.

There is sun. Sometimes.

Maybe the city was trying to put its sunny foot forward. When we arrived, we were graced with an entire week of sun. I actually found myself a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to wear my rain boots. If I’d been one of the girls willing/able to spend 160 dollars on my Hunter brand rain boots, I’d have been even more disappointed. This, I imagine, is a feeling that I’ll be embarrassed by when the end of January has come. For the time being, though, I’m still enjoying rainy Vancouver days. Without the challenge and fundraising of Dressember, I’d have tossed fashion aside for the sake of pragmatism. Boots and rain jackets are cool, right?

stanley park

I want to live in Stanley Park.

If they’d let me, I pretty much could. It’s beautiful. So beautiful. And huge. The jury is still out on whether I’m more of a seawall or wooded path person. I should Google to see if there’s a quiz to tell me.

My neighborhood crushes at this point are Gastown and Mount Pleasant.

I really like my neighborhood, too–I swear, but these two are great. They have things to teach me. They are emotionally accessible, cute, but not overwhelmingly so.  In all seriousness, I really enjoyed the time I have spent in these areas and intend to visit often.

Caffeine is king.

Coffee shops are ubiquitous and come in every shape, size, and pretension level. If you want to feel fancy and eat an overpriced macaron with your latte (oh, I’m not judging, there are days when I like this, too) or just have a humble and well-roasted cup of [gasp!] drip coffee, there’s a place for you.

Beer is Queen.

Have you heard of the word nanobrewery? I hadn’t. Microbreweries and nanobreweries abound in BC. The province produces some quality craft beer. My personal favorite at this point in the Pothole Filler Imperial Stout by Howe Sound. A close second is the Phillips Long Boat Chocolate Porter (from Vancouver Island). For more info on the craft beer scene in BC, check out www.beermebc.com.

granville island brewery tasting flight vancouver

Vancouver is going to be a great exploration base.

Within BC alone it’s going to be great. And then let’s think about its proximity to Canadian Rockies, the microbreweries of Oregon and Washington, Cascades National Park, and so much more. In the words of the husband, “we’ve been trying to move west for six years.” We will explore the city as much as we can, but we have plans to explore BC, Western Canada, and whatever else we get the [affordable] chance to.

The “lack of nightlife” hasn’t bothered me a bit.

DSC_0508 (3)I’m not the kind of person who normally closes down the bar or goes clubbing. Sure, I like to party. And by party, I mean knit, read, and watch Gilmore Girls while sipping a chocolate porter or having a peppermint tea. Okay, that’s not my every night, though fulfilling just the same. I like going out for a pint in a pub to chat with friends and occasionally dress up a bit to go out on the town in 20s garb. And Vancouver certainly has enough to offer me. Way more than I require, actually. I must admit, though, we’re having a little trouble adjusting to early restaurant and shop close times after months of Argentines laughing at us for eating “too early” at 8 PM.

It feels closer to family.

Technically, it’s not any closer to Wisconsin. But to the Great Plains, yes. And I have two amazing sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law-to-be on the West Coast. Whom I get to see in so few days!

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And these, dear folks, are my first impressions. I really have a good feeling about this place. I like it. I know we’ll get along just fine. And you never know, maybe (if the government of Canada lets us stay longer) we’ll get to have a real, serious, and long-term relationship.

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*Ask the husband who basically played it cool for two entire years of our relationship.