I decided to turn my high school reunion trip into my big trip of the year, and that gave me three weekends in North America: one in Vegas, one in SF, and one to try out a new city. Somehow, despite growing up in the Southwest, living in San Francisco, visiting just about every other major Canadian city, and it being a gay hotspot, I never made it to Vancouver. So Russ and I decided to use that third weekend to finally see what this most liveable city is all about.
I am usually quite apprehensive about visiting "most liveable cities" as they tend to be really great on paper, but really dull in person. However, everyone raves about Vancouver. Turns out, it is a very pleasant, not-quite-dull-but-not-very-exciting-either city. It has the damp, verdant feel of the Pacific Northwest, which I love, and the setting is inspired: the city is nestled against water and mountains all around, and its downtown neatly occupies a peninsula at the heart of the city, giving it an island feel.
The city outside of downtown reminded me a lot of Portland, with grass-lined sidewalks and low-slung buildings that agree with their boreal setting. Downtown, however, is a dense forest of midrise, monolithic condominiums. This is the result of rapid development that started with an influx of Hong Kong immigrants and expat buyers into Vancouver as the handover of the territory from Britain to China in 1997, and was reinforced by the Winter Olympics in 2010. It's all very neat, orderly and agreeable. And that pretty much sums up Vancouver.
There is a respectable gay village, with about seven mainstay bars neatly, orderly and agreeably lining Davie Street, and frequented by a friendly, healthy-looking, cosmopolitan (well, Caucasian and Asian) mix of neat, orderly and agreeable patrons. We did wonders for the local swill economy, and had a good time barhopping from one end of the village to the other. One thing about geographically localised gay areas like this is you never have to worry that you are missing out on where's best to be, as every night, you will see everywhere again.
The second new thing in life is a new job - or at least a new employer. After six years at Morgan Stanley, I left the firm and made a lateral move to the same position at Barclays. Not a paradigm shift, and indeed it's even in the building right next door, but it's a good bump in pay, and potentially a dynamic environment in the next years, so I am pleased. My first day in the office was last Monday, and this coming Thursday I am taking my first holiday, to India. That? Is how to start off a new job.
Davie Village, the Castro of Vancouver.
Wherever you are in Vancouver, you're never far away from water or mountains.
Downtown is very ecologically dense, like a good Pacific Northwest city should be.
Vancouver has a climate and geography that sucks in fog like San Francisco's - sunny blue skies in one part of the city, damp, misty fog a couple streets over.
Some of the samey towers from the 90s/00s boom.
Outside downtown, there's more of a local, PNW flavour.
Russ and me after brunch on Granville Island, a once-industrial estate turned into a bohemian artist and boutique (what else?) neighbourhood.
My friend Matt, from my UAF days, came up from Seattle to join us for the weekend. This is us on the ferry back to Vancouver.
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