It’s no secret that I love Vancouver and feel extremely blessed to be living in one of the best cities in the world.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes Vancouver so great. It took me five days in 2016 to decide that I wanted to live here (actually, I think I made that decision after about two) and it strikes me that unlike most cities, it’s not full to the brim with attractions for visitors (and I’ve covered most of them now).
It doesn’t need any of that to be great because it’s got enough going for itself. In a lot of ways, Vancouver is kind of like a massive version of Brighton, which is my favourite city in England. Except Vancouver has mountains, and sand on the beaches.
So here I am, sat in the heart of Davie Village, next to the three rainbow-coloured zebra crossings, watching as the world goes by as the sun beats down onto the rollerbladers and quirky fashionistas and people from every background imaginable. People say enthusiastic hellos as they cross the road. Strangers strike up conversations on benches. Everyone is in a good mood. You wouldn’t think that we were in the centre of one of the world’s major cities; this is a community.
In the underbelly of Vancouver lies a reality that would render most people unhappy – the city is notoriously expensive and locals have been pushed out of the housing market, and, like every other city, some areas are infused with drug addicts – but Vancouverites sway in the balance and positivity reigns all in this city. Its heart is huge and that’s all that matters here.
Ten minutes later, I’m sat on a packed beach feeling at peace as the sun sets over us. Normally crowds are not synonymous with peace, but everyone here is laughing or smiling; groups are playing volleyball and frisbee; a football dances across the sun between the laughs; kids are building sandcastles. Music is blaring from a group of teenagers who look far too young to be drinking whatever they’re drinking, but they’re not causing any trouble and look grateful to be watching the sun together. Two girls have been doing a ridiculous photoshoot in the sunset for 20 minutes, and one of them just fell off a log.
The point is, everyone is happy and that’s why I love this city.
Everyone is happy to be here. They take pride in the fact that Vancouver is consistently rated one of the top cities to live in the world.
And I’ve been rapidly realising why that is – so I’d like to share some of my favourite things about the city.
Everyone is friendly
Perhaps it’s to do with the happy vibes, but I can count the number of rude people I’ve met on one hand (and I bet they weren’t even Vancouverites) in the couple of months I’ve been here. In a city with a population of over half a million, that’s not bad going. Like I said in my previous post and above, everyone thanks bus drivers, people quite happily talk to strangers, and it’s never a problem to find help when you need it.
Everywhere is safe
With the exception of a couple of streets (hello East Hastings), I have never seen anything that’s made me feel uneasy. I’ve walked home in the middle of the night, and I’ve been alone when the centre of the city is deserted and the side streets are dark. I’ve been to a few cities that have felt just as safe as Vancouver, but I think it feels surprisingly safe – which is perfect for a solo female, right?!
In fact, every Vancouverite I’ve spoken to about East Hastings Street has laughed and said, “yeah, but they’re totally harmless. They will never hurt you.” Still – it’s the only place I’ve taken a bus through at night and thought, “yeah… I’m never getting off around here.”
Not only that, but Vancouver is extremely open-minded and inclusive. From being one of the first places to make cannabis legal, to having one of the biggest Pride festivals in the world, Vancouver is somewhere that everyone can feel safe, and it’s bloody fantastic.
Everywhere is beautiful
I was walking to work yesterday with a colleague who moved here from Montreal. As we walked towards the hostel, the mountains came into view and he sighed. “I’ll never get used to those,” he said. I’m so glad someone else feels the same way!!
When I excitedly showed my photos of Squamish to my housemate, he laughed and was like, “yeah, that’s kinda normal to me now.” Imagine living in a city so beautiful that huge picturesque mountains become boring.
The more I think about it though, the more I realise that actually, Vancouver is the most beautiful damn city I have ever been to. Wellington in New Zealand is kind of like a miniature Vancouver, I guess. In fact, the only cities in the world that I can think could be more beautiful are Cape Town and Rio De Janeiro. Please let me know if there are any others, because I actually can’t think of any. So well done, Vancouver. You are so beautiful that you are fricking hard to beat.
The city is at one with nature
If you want the perfect combination of urban life and nature, then this is it, my friends. Not only does Vancouver have a park that’s about the same size as the entire downtown area, but you can see mountains from everywhere, and there are a ton of amazing beaches. My absolute favourite place in Vancouver is English Bay, and I work right next to another great beach that offers incredible views of the city and mountains.
I’ve seen raccoons, skunks, squirrels (BLACK squirrels!) and coyotes in the city – and on Jericho Beach, there are tons of wild rabbits!! (Except they look like pet bunnies, so they’re even MORE cute than the ones we get back home!) On the north shore and in the suburbs, you can find even more wildlife like bears. I’m STILL yet to see a bear!
It’s an eco-friendly city
Along with its affinity with nature, Vancouver is a green city. It’s extremely bike friendly, loads of restaurants are discouraging people from using straws – some have even started charging extra for them – and there are regular beach clean ups, though I rarely see much rubbish on the beaches. Generally, people seem to be great at cleaning up after themselves which I think goes to show they care about the city.
One thing I really love is the culture of deposits on bottles and drinks cartons, which is something we haven’t had back in the UK for as long as I can remember, or possibly since before I was born. The result is that a massive 90% of cartons and bottles are recycled, except like everywhere else, people are still lazy. So you’ll see homeless people dragging around huge bags of empty cans and bottles, and on beaches, they’ll do the rounds collecting everyone’s empties. They then return them and get all the money for them. I was on a beach one time (English Bay, of course) and my friend pointed to the huge bag someone had. “There’s at least $20 worth in there,” he said. What a fantastic incentive. It gives some money to homeless people AND keeps litter off the beaches and streets.
Another thing I love is that not only can you rent bikes from the roadside (like in London, Brisbane and lots of other cities), but you can micro-rent cars. You can literally download an app and find a car near you to rent for ten minutes or an hour or however long you like!! The two companies are Evo and Car2Go. Most people I know here don’t own a car, but if they need one then the option is there without increasing their carbon footprint by buying one. I think it’s such a cool idea!
Apart from that, public transport is pretty great. The SkyTrain is reliable and buses run a good system, making it easy to commute without needing a car.
It’s a huge melting pot of cultures
Vancouver is proof that society can and does co-exist, which sadly can seem hard to believe in today’s political climate. As above, Vancouver is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. But on an international level, I was surprised to learn that a whopping 52% of people in Vancouver speak English as a second language.
In turn, the streets are filled with every cuisine imaginable. As well as all the Asian food (Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean), you can find Italian, Greek, French, Cuban, Mexican, Jamaican, Spanish, Caribbean, Ethiopian, Lebanese, Salvadorean, Tunisian… and that’s just on the street I live on. In a suburb. I’ve seen a few others around the city, including Mongolian and Eritrean.
Now someone please tell me where I can find a pasteis de nata because I’m really craving one!! Anyone…?
Everyone is active
The amount of runners and cyclists I see here reminds me of Brisbane in Australia. Stanley Park is the absolute perfect place for both, and I know most people I know downtown haven’t taken public transport in months. They walk everywhere because they can, and because it’s a lovely city to walk around.
Even I’m feeling inspired to run (ME!!) because the scenery around my work is fantastic and there are lots of paths I could take.
Not only that, but hikes are right there. It took me half an hour to get to Grouse Mountain on the free bus, and I met people who do the Grouse Grind every week!! (Yeah, crack on, that is NOT for me!) You can get to Lynn Canyon on the bus and I think even Cypress and Seymour mountains are accessible by bus, too.
Tons of movies & TV shows are filmed here
It’s not called the Hollywood of the North for nothing! Loads of my favourite TV shows are filmed here, including Supernatural, The Flash and Once Upon A Time. My train into downtown goes under the bridge where Deadpool kills lots of people and two seconds later, it goes past Star Labs. According to the bus driver going up to Grouse Mountain, they’re currently filming 35 TV shows in Vancouver. That’s currently, actively, right now. They film Arrow, Supergirl, The 100, Legends Of Tomorrow, Riverdale, Altered Carbon and countless others here! So the chances of seeing some filming going on is pretty high, although sadly I’m yet to see Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki or Misha Collins on my journeys around town.
We saw a New York taxi the other day, not sure what that’s from or if it’s a general filming prop for lots of different shows!
The sunsets are out. Of. This. WORLD.
Wanna see the worst sunset photo I’ve got in Vancouver? Spoiler: it’s the one above, in which I went to put some recycling out and was greeted by a purple mountain. Yep, the worst.
Thing is, I’m not even being sarcastic because SERIOUSLY OH MY GOD. Vancouver pulls off some of the best sunsets I’ve EVER seen in my life! I mean, look at the photo near the top of this post. I even missed the goddamn sunset and LOOK at that photo!
There’s always something fun going on
Particularly in the summer, Vancouver has a plethora of fun activities and festivals going on. We had Italian Day on Commercial Drive and a street party on West 4th in Kitsilano, and there are tons more! And of course, Pride is just something else altogether!
One of my absolute favourites is the drum circle that happens every Tuesday evening on Third Beach in Stanley Park! I don’t have many photos that really encapsulate the feeling of it, but I got a video! It’s exactly how it sounds – loads of people turn up to drum the night away, and lots more people turn up to dance the night away. Soooo much fun!!
My other favourite one kicked off this month – I went to see an outdoor movie at Canada Place last week which started their series with The Greatest Showman!!! Amazing enough, right? Nope, Stanley Park’s outdoor cinema upped its game right away with THE LION KING! Both places are showing some INCREDIBLE movies this year, including Mean Girls, Wonder Woman and Black Panther!! I am gonna be going to so many!
Oh, and let’s not forget my closest theatre has a Spice World drag show coming up… followed by a Harry Potter burlesque show!! Hahaha. (update: the weirdest thing I did in Vancouver? Definitely the Nicolas Cage burlesque show. Yes, really!)
It’s got loads on its doorstep
While Vancouver is wonderful, its surroundings are out of this world. You probably know by now that I fell in love with Squamish, less than an hour north of Vancouver, and the road to it is absolutely stunning. The winter wonderland of Whistler is a hop, skip and a jump away. The nearby islands are popular getaways, like Bowen Island and of course, Vancouver Island. Seattle is a three hour drive away. And to the east, there are yet more mountains upon mountains.
And that’s not even including the parks and mountains in North Vancouver!
So I’m starting to think it’s pretty easy to see why I love Vancouver so much. It’s just wonderful. It has everything going for it (except the cost) and it’s definitely fighting Edinburgh for my favourite city in the world.
Check out my video of my 6 months in Vancouver in 6 minutes:
Is Vancouver somewhere you could see yourself falling in love with?
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