The stereotype is that Canadians overuse the word “eh” – you know, as in “We are all Canucks, eh?”
But while I don’t think I heard a single “eh” on my recent trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, I did hear plenty of “rights” – similar to my own overuse of the words, “you know” (see above).
In fact, on our first afternoon in Vancouver, our waiter tended to string the words together in a quick “right, right, right.”
Like so many of my observations about Vancouver, I found it charming. Without exception, the locals we dealt with in the restaurants, hotels, bars, and markets were friendly, pleasant, and straightforward.
Take our server at The Pint Public House and Sports Bar. Located in Vancouver’s popular Gastown, the restaurant was packed the night of our visit with fans of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team, which was playing nearby. (By the way, I really did see a billboard sign for the team, saying, “We are all Canucks”).
In light of the full house, our waitress told us, food was coming out kind of slowly; it would be about 45 minutes before we could expect to be served. But she didn’t say it in a mean way – just informatively, to let us know in advance. And when my daughter-in-law, who is from Taiwan, later confided that she doesn’t really understand hockey, our server responded, “I guess I just understand it from all of the years of watching it with my dad.” No judgment – just charming.
That extended beyond the people, and to the surroundings as well.
I had visited Vancouver once before, years ago, but I had never been to Granville Island – a peninsula and shopping district not far from downtown. I wanted to take in the island’s Saturday-morning public market, so we took the short ferry ride across.
I like farmers’ markets. I like to check them out wherever possible when I travel. I’ll have to say the Granville market is among the coolest I’ve visited. Dozens of booths were clustered throughout the rambling market building, offering an astounding variety: beautifully displayed fruits and produce, homemade mozzarella, roasted-vegetable salad, tomato bocconcini salad, scones of myriad flavors, savory sausage rolls, candied salmon, maple syrup – to name just a few.
Unlike some of the other popular markets in large cities, Granville Island seemed to attract locals along with tourists. Actually, it appeared to be a wonderful Saturday-morning brunch spot, with its fresh offerings, and its large communal seating area.
We walked around the island a bit after leaving the market, and the whole area gave off a hip vibe – packed with breweries, native-art shops, local-food restaurants, and one very awesome hammock shop!
After eating lunch on the island, we took the ferry back to downtown Vancouver, and embarked on our second adventure of the day – a bike ride on the 10K path that encircles Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park.
More a hiker than a cyclist, I wasn’t sure at first whether I was up for the whole loop, but it went by really quickly. We stopped a few times to take in the seriously panoramic views, and to get some photos of the “Girl in a Wetsuit” sculpture by Elek Imredy. (I mistakenly thought it was a mermaid sculpture, but read otherwise on Wikipedia).
I loved to see all of the families out in the park, riding bikes, walking, jogging, and rollerblading together. I learned later that it was Family Day weekend in British Columbia, which probably explained the multi-generational crowds. A government holiday dedicated to spending time with your family – how could that be anything but charming?
Even though the weather was clear and partly sunny that day, it wasn’t exactly warm (about 45 degrees), so we decided to stop after our bike ride for a hot drink at the Lobby Lounge in the Fairmont’s ultra-chic Pacific Rim Hotel. There, our bartender – a personable young Australian – created a hot toddy for us, using chai tea and brandy. All very cozy!
It was after our invigorating bike ride and fortifying warm drink that we decided to soak up some of the hockey ambiance in Gastown. We opted not to go to the game, but chose The Pint for its proximity and atmosphere. The multi-level restaurant was huge, with several bars, many, many tables and booths, and multiple TVs showing the game. We noticed that the buzz seemed to die down a bit as the start of the game approached. More a pre-game-drink than a watch-the-game spot.
With the Canucks down several goals, we decided to leave the restaurant to take in Gastown at night. With sparkling lights decorating the trees, the old-fashioned streetlights glowing, and the modern Vancouver Lookout Tower visible in the distance, the historic area was simply enchanting in the dark. We walked by the picturesque “steam clock,” which was set off perfectly by all of the colorful lights, and wandered along the cobblestone streets.
From Gastown, we strolled back toward downtown, and I marveled at all of the people milling about, going to bars, having dinner, attending the theater, and taking photos. It had a bit of a small-town feel, and yet, cosmopolitan at the same time.
The next morning, we headed back to Seattle after a full and fun weekend, and I really felt that I had just scratched the surface of charming Vancouver.