Vancouver, Canada – April 1999
Most people I’ve met in my travels around the globe have had some knowledge of Vancouver. I will assume you, dear reader, are the same.
I will not even attempt to describe all the things to see and do in Vancouver for the sheer variety is staggering. I will, somewhat selfishly, tell you what my friends and I do, where we do it, and, where applicable, how much it costs. I will also, perhaps misguidedly, attempt to list current goings-on in a Monday to Sunday format in an effort to make this as “user-friendly” as possible.
Mondays. Mondays. The word just hangs there like the credits at the end of a bad film. Universally despised and mistrusted, Mondays usually signify the official end to the weekend. Not so in Vancouver.
Not that we embrace them with open arms here on Canada’s west coast mind, but Vancouver should be commended for having fairly useful things to do to start the week.
For instance, Mars Nightclub on Richard’s Street has a busy, if laid-back club night on Mondays. With plenty of chilled out people about, it’s as good a place as any to mingle with locals, have a drink and people watch.
This time of year you can expect Vancouver’s weather to be making it’s leisurely transition from winter (rarely dips below 0 Celsius) to a more acceptable spring-like climate (soars up to 20 Celsius sometimes, rarely on Mondays).
With this in mind, Robson Street (Vancouver’s ” younger sibling ” version of London’s Oxford Street) is a hub of activity and demonstrates a direct correlation between good weather and school truancy levels.
All the big name brand shops are on Robson with smaller boutiques filling in the gaps between the likes of Virgin Records and, erm, The Gap.
Travelling north on Robson you can get to Stanley Park, in Vancouver’s West End, where you can walk the 10 kilometre sea-wall, go to the Aquarium, or play count the trees, an amusing local game I’ve just this minute invented.
A day when we begin to see the flicker of hope which is the weekend appear from out of Monday’s lingering fog. A good day for skiing.
Some of British Columbia’s best skiing is accessible from downtown Vancouver and only 20 minutes away by car or public bus. Grouse Mountain is one of the local hills and can be investigated at this site. The Hotel Dakota is offering package deals at the moment which include a couple of nights downtown at the Dakota as well as lift tickets to Grouse for, I believe around CDN$200.
Wednesdays also has good clubbing particularly at “Hump” at Mars where the $1 beer specials seem to be quite popular with the young folk.
One of Vancouver’s most popular and oldest tourist spots is Gastown, a twenty minute walk from Robson Street.
The site of many tacky shops, Gastown redeems itself by also being the location of Vancouver’s Irish pubs. The Irish Heather is my favourite and the closest Vancouver’s comes to having a traditional pub. Generally packed to the rafters on weekends Thursdays are a good day to go as there is still plenty going on.
Around the corner in Gastown is a club called Sonar which, I believe, is co-owned by Bryan Adams. Despite that, it’s a good club, with good music, drink specials, and friendly people.
If drinking and clubbing really aren’t for you then you could go to a Vancouver Canucks hockey game or a Vancouver Grizzlies basketball game at General Motors place. Sitting through a game played by either of Vancouver’s main sports teams could, however, drive you to drink as both clubs are consistent in their uselessness.
FRIDAY. Now we’re getting somewhere, Friday at last. Do not, for any reason, get caught driving in Vancouver on a Friday afternoon. Rush hour starts shortly after lunch and continues until well gone 7:00pm.
The best thing to do on a Friday is to have a walk into the West End and stroll around English Bay as the city’s workforce prepares itself for a weekend of hedonism. A local weekly, “The Georgia Strait”, is a good source for what’s on in Vancouver with a focus on The Arts as well as restaurants, clubs, movies, and anything else that has little or no bearing on work.
My mates and I usually convene at TGIFridays on the corner of Robson and Thurlow for drinks on Fridays. Not because, as they are so keen to point out, in there it’s always Friday, but because it’s on arguably the busiest intersection in Vancouver. Oh, and that I get a discount on drinks.
Downtown Vancouver becomes a madhouse with every suburbanite in the Lower Mainland staking their claim to a bit of beach or a spot in Stanley Park.
While terribly exciting from a sociological point of view, driving is still not the best method of transport with the words “grid” and “lock” springing immediately to mind. Hiring a bike, in-line skates, or the slightly more old- fashioned walking method are the best bets to enjoy a Saturday downtown.
Another popular local past-time is hanging out at a local coffee shop. “Starbucking”, as it is known, is a relaxing way to watch the world pass you by and there are thousands of coffee shops in the downtown core devoted to this nineties phenomenon.
Saturday nights are a wild time with tourists, locals, and suburbanites all mingling at pubs, then clubs. An unfortunate fall-out from Vancouver’s pioneer days is our archaic liquor laws which prevent the (legal) sale of alcohol after 2AM. The local answer to this, of course, is to start early therefore ensuring the optimum drink induced state by the time the clubs shut.
Sundays are again spent in Stanley Park or on the beach, depending, of course, on the weather. Vancouver’s professional soccer club, The Vancouver 86ers, play a lot of their games on Sundays in a Vancouver suburb called Burnaby.
Easily accessible by the Skytrain (our dubiously named metro system), the 86ers play at Swanguard Stadium. Their web site provides information on tickets, player moves, and speculation about recent links to Ajax of Amsterdam F.C.
Another enjoyable activity on a Sunday is to go for a leisurely drive, thus propagating the stereotype of “Sunday drivers” (ie: painfully slow). Many of Vancouver’s suburbs contain areas of ridiculous wealth and opulence and a Sunday drive around them is a good way to see how the other half live.
The British Properties in North Vancouver is one such suburb where many film stars have bought property as a result of Vancouver’s thriving film industry. I’m sure they’d like nothing more than for their homes to be scrutinized by Sunday drivers.
Vancouver has an awful lot to offer for casual tourists, backpackers, and for those looking for extreme adventures.