Perched on the far Western corner of Canada, Vancouver is an abstract of everything one would normally expect of the country. I have it on a semi reliable authority that up to half of the entire province of British Columbia smokes weed regularly and have to admit that the smell of stoners getting their fix was quite common during our time in the city.
Ranking highly, and regularly as one of the best cities on earth to live in I had high expectations of what to expect. Split geographically into several pieces, the parts we became accustomed to were Delta, Vancouver, Richmond (where Lisa lived) and North/West Vancouver. Though relatively small, and home to just a couple of a million people, the metropolis sprawls across islands, mainland and all spans out from downtown Vancouver, which is a collection of art décor stores, global brands and possibly the most overpriced art gallery on earth.
Lisa lives in Steveston, a small, quaint fishing village on the corner of Richmond. With just a small high street, miles of riverside cycling and a view out over the Pacific I had no hesitation in answering Lisa positively when she asked if I could live there. It is easily one of the most attractive and livable places I have ever seen.
Our time in Vancouver was spent relaxing around the city, such is the vibe that it is difficult to muster energy to do much else. For example, we cycled for 12 miles along the delta, with stunning views and water along the route it was so relaxing. We stumbled upon a million dollar children’s park which was huge. We cycled quite a lot in Steveston, even having a drunken cycle back one night where we saw a movie being filmed. The streets were closed off and we just sat and watch the cameras roll. It was all quite surreal.
In Vancouver itself we spent a lot of time, both with Lisa and alone when she had to work. We visited Granville Island, which is essentially a local run market and collection of artisan stalls and stores all selling world class, locally sourced and crafted goods. Run by the local government, it offers enticing rates (based on profit) for local businesses and encourages startups. Lisa loved the place and couldn’t speak highly enough of it. Everyone loved the fact that whilst sat out on the pier, eating my homemade Chinese food I was attacked by a seagull of epic proportions. It swooped out of nowhere and stole my lunch. I am still not over it.
Downtown Vancouver is a rip off. Prices were extortionate in pretty much everywhere that we went, beggars roamed the streets, crack addicts sang songs and raved at road crossings and it all seemed a world away from where we had come from. But the character was still there, every corner offered up something different, but all the while a relaxed vibe rang true. We walked for miles in the city, which is unlike where we had ever been. The city straddles a delta meaning on 3 sides there is ocean, and considering the islands that city is spread across it is like modern Venice on steroids. Synonymous of everything we had come to expect with Canada, when we got lost a guy come out of nowhere and asked if we needed help. I explained that we were looking for the sky train (a metro system which runs throughout the city and suburbs), he walked said he would walk with us, taking 20 minutes out of his time to escort us to the rail station. And this really is nothing unique. From day one we had experienced nothing but hospitality, and a level of welcome unseen outside of SE Asia. People would say hi as we walked, stop us and talk, and show nothing but friendliness at every opportunity.
When Lisa wasn’t working she chaperoned us around Vancouver’s main sights including the gorgeous Stanley park, which is one of the largest urban parks in the whole of North America, and various other hidden gems such as beaches, neighborhoods, and wintertime ski villages. It was with sadness that our time in Vancouver had to come to an end, we could’ve stayed for weeks and though Lisa tried to convince us to stay another week, future plans meant we had to move on.
It was genuinely with reluctance that when Lisa dropped us off for our bus to Seattle in the States we had to leave. From arriving in Canada we had been met with nothing but a level of friendliness higher than anything we had ever seen outside of SE Asia. Without doubt, Canada is a country we could easily live in, and when Lisa offered we return and spend as long as we wanted with her in Vancouver it was very enticing and is certainly something I will consider. Canada far exceeded my expectations, and served up an agreed, highly ranked, one of our favourite countries on earth.
To Lisa, Jaad and Mahara we extend our thanks for your hospitality, welcome and warmth. I should point out that Lisa drove hundreds of miles to provide us with an amazing experience in Canada, she took time out of work and extended her welcome far beyond anything we could’ve ever hopped for. To her family who welcomed us with open arms and treated us like we were family ourselves, to friends who hosted us, and to being shown an amazing country, by amazing people is something we will never forget. Thank you so much x