Vancouver: Canada’s San Francisco

The agents at the border grilled me as I was about to cross into Canada. Where was I headed? What was I doing there? How long for? Where was I staying? Did I know anyone there? I methodically answered, trying hard to stay patient and genial despite the building annoyance.

But I couldn’t blame them for trying to keep Vancouver to themselves. I drove into the smart, beautiful, clean city and worked my way towards downtown. The core of condo towers in the heart of downtown gleamed, green spaces open and inviting among them. The miles and miles of waterfront were accessible and tame – no crashing waves this far into Burrard Inlet, not many hulking ships. The green, lush, snow-crowned mountains to the north framed the views and watched over the town. Stunning canyons and mountains and parks are just minutes from the urban center.

I didn’t come close to trying all the food options I wanted to try in Vancouver. I managed to goad my parents into trying some clam soup at a very good sushi place, one of the several in town. A classic bagel with cream cheese and lox and capers came on a decent cinnamon raisin bagel (great bagels apparently don’t make it past New York). I had Vietnamese, gyoza with a Sapporo to wash it down, a bunch of ruby red sweet cherries. One taco had fried oysters and Pacific Rim cole slaw, the other had wild salmon in a bed of similarly tasty stuff.

Vancouver is chill. People hang out along a vibrant waterfront by the entrance to Stanley Park, dogs swim, a soccer game goes on. Vancouver is in many ways the Canadian San Francisco, both in scenery and in attitude.

But Vancouver is a much younger city, and one that seems still to be figuring out what exactly it wants to be. Granville Street has a tacky night scene, Gastown is a bit touristy. The glimmering condos of Yaletown would seem to feature a buzzing scene below but many of the streets and open spaces are empty (some are actually buzzing). Kitsilano is part San Diego and part Meatpacking District.

Vancouver glitters in the sunny summer, and in my few days there I got a taste of a modern and beautiful yet simple example of what a city can be.

View pictures of Vancouver.

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