While almost everyone I know was suffering through Hurricane Irene, I was on a business trip in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was there to run a few engine tests, which went well. To all those who have had a rough week or two: I do feel very guilty that I missed Irene. As I write this, I am sitting on the plane back to Boston.
My two most recent exposures to Vancouver were the wonderful 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the more recent Stanley Cup riots. I had heard nothing but good things, and looked forward to the trip.
After spending time in Vancouver (actually I spent most of the week in nearby Richmond where the airport and the company I was working with are located), I came to realize that the people who rioted could not have been Vancouver residents. It had to have been avid Canucks fans from out of town. There is simply no way that many Vancouverites (yes that is what they are called) could be that upset over anything. They live in a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and just gorgeous scenery all around. Then again, maybe they’re spoiled.
I did some research before the trip to figure out where I’d go sightseeing. When I got there, I scrapped most of my plans and went with the suggestions of Colin, my primary point of contact at the Canadian company I was visiting. Colin, who grew up in Calgary, has been living in the Vancouver area for several years. He recommended I see Granville Island and rent a bike to pedal around Stanley Park.
So, during the weekend, that is what I did. And boy, was it something.
Granville Island is a neat little neighborhood in False Creek that sits under a bridge. It has the usual touristy shops, many of them owned and operated by local crafts artists, Emily Carr University (for artists) and a couple very good microbreweries: Granville Island Brewing Company and the Dockside Brewery. I stopped there for lunch on Saturday after taking the Canada Line Sky Train from Richmond, where I was staying, to Vancouver City Centre for a morning walking around downtown. Though I wasn’t too keen on the touristy knick-knack shops, overall I enjoyed Granville Island and would certainly pay it a visit again if possible.
On Sunday, I rented a bike from Reckless Bikes in Yaletown, near Roundhouse Community Centre, for a ride along the seawall and around Stanley Park. Let me just say this: if you are in Vancouver for a fully day, and it’s nice out (which it was), rent a bike. It’s a very bicycle-friendly city in general, but the seawall is marvelous. I made my way around the whole peninsula, under the Lions Gate Bridge that connects Downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver, and back around. It’s flat, easy, and flat-out awesome. Going at a leisurely pace, and stopping for pictures several times, I was able to make it back to Reckless Bikes in just under two hours. Total rental cost: $20 CAD.
There are certain foods in Vancouver that are great, and some that aren’t. In general, the seafood, especially the sushi, is excellent. Also great is the vast assortment of Asian delicacies, especially in nearby Richmond. Not so great: burgers and pizza. If you like seafood, don’t bother with the burgers in Vancouver. The beef was OK, but the few burgers I had were cooked the same, medium well because I wasn’t asked, and were nothing special. The pizza: mediocre even at the best spots. My favorite sushi spot was a place called Zero One Sushi on West Pender Street near Gastown. It’s small, but the Japanese owners do a great job making very fresh and tasty sushi dishes.
Richmond itself is quite a place. My guide Colin recommended that, before I leave, I should try the fish and chips at Pajo’s in Steveston, a neighborhood in the south of Richmond. I went there the last night, bought the large fish and chips (made with halibut) and sat on a bench to watch the waves. A fitting last meal to a great, great trip. Oh, and I did work while there, too.
I could go on all day about Vancouver, but I won’t. You really must see it for yourself.