Category: lifestyle

Vancouver’s birthday party in the park

Vancouver celebrating its 125th birthday
The main stage at Vancouver's birthday celebration

Last weekend Vancouver had a birthday celebration in Stanley Park. Well a major milestone like your city reaching the ripe old age of 125 needs to be marked.

Vancouver put on three days of family oriented events, featuring a lot of local musicians. This is one of those events that Vancouver does so well.

Stanley Park is a perfect location too. You can look across the water at the glass towers of Vancouver’s skyline and the sails of Canada Place, while sitting on the grass and listening to the music.

Some elements were typical of Vancouver. We were encouraged to use public transit, or bikes. There was a free shuttle bus from Canada Place to and from Stanley Park. The wait for this was quite long, so many people ended up walking or getting a cab. Those who did drive were rewarded by spending a lot of time in the resulting traffic jams.

Another Vancouver element was the recycling bins set up all around the stages. These were there to encourage, and educate you, into sorting your recycling appropriately. There were volunteers on hand to help you dispose of your trash in the right bin. They were needed as it was pretty confusing!

The food concessions and giveaways were there to make sure that there was a lot of material available for later disposal in the recycling centres. We ate at the mexican concession, drawn to it by its popularity as much as anything.

There were beer gardens set up. These are fenced off and patrolled by security guards. You needed two pieces of ID to get in and were only permitted two drinks each. Vancouver obviously wanted to ensure drinking was done responsibly.

The overall feel of the event, from our visit on the Friday evening, was of a summer festival. People were chatting, listening to the music, checking out the concession stands and scoring as much free stuff as they could.

Walking back to the Seabus along the seawall, we were reminded of how easy life is in this beautiful city.

Preparing for a trip “home”

Deep Cove
Downtown Deep Cove in North Vancouver gets very busy

Next week we are off to the UK to run our Welcome to Canada Seminars so I am starting to think about going back. I have been back before, and have written about my impressions of the UK.  This time I wanted to look at how impressions of the old country change with time away.

We have been living in Canada now for 8 years, and have put our kids through secondary school, and some through university too. They are Canadians. They speak like Canadians, and think like them too in many ways.

Sue and I don’t speak like Canadians. Our accents are resolutely British. And probably will always be. (My mother was Canadian and in 25 years living outside Canada never entirely lost her accent).

Our heritage is still English, and so a trip back is tinged with nostalgia. Some of it is rose tinted for sure. English village life, with the village green, picturesque pub with welcoming landlord and great beer may exist, but we’ll probably not see it. (I do intend to research this while we’re in England – and Guinness in Dublin too!)

What am I looking forward to on our trip?

Friends and family are the main reasons people have for returning “home”. For some this can be the only reason. And it may even be why they decide to return for good. For us, we know that we’re staying in Canada, so this trip will be a chance to catch up with people we have not seen for a long time. We will not even have time to meet everyone so it will be rather bittersweet – time is too short to pack years of socializing into a few days.

Immigrants, like me, tend to miss the food and drink from their old countries. Some we can get in Vancouver (at a price) and some just don’t travel well. So we will be reminiscing about familiar foods, over dinner with friends – or just grabbing a sarnie (sandwich) from Marks and Sparks.

You know, as I write this now, I cannot think of anything more that I want except perhaps to see old familiar places and marvel at how they’ve changed, or not. Again this can be bittersweet, when somewhere you remember fondly has changed for the worse.

And that brings me to the things I know that I will not enjoy.

Crowds. It is easy to forget that even a big city like Vancouver is small by comparison to many in the UK. The sheer numbers of people on the tube in London, piling onto the bus or just walking down the sidewalk will be more than we’re used to. (Except during the Olympics or Stanley Cup Playoffs when good natured crowds fill the streets)

Rudeness or worse. Canadians are polite. And chatty too. I know from past trips that this can be one of the hardest things to get used to. You get to expect to engage anyone in conversation and it can be a shock when your conversation starter is ignored.

Small cars being driven very fast (and on the wrong side of the narrow roads). Canadian cars tend to be large SUV’s, trucks and vans that fill our wide roads. The standard of driving is not very high, but it tends to be genteel and usually pretty courteous. Driving in London is both aggressive and dangerous to my Canadian eyes!

One of our friends has also recently been back to the UK and her post on that is worth reading too. Perhaps when you too have been in Canada for a while, your views of the old country will be ones you’d like to share with us all.

Canadian cities do well on quality of life rankings

Yacht sailing in the Burrard Inlet
The Good Life
The Financial Times has a specialist division – fDi Intelligence magazine – which has recently published a report which ranked North American cities on a whole bunch of factors. The one that caught my eye was the category for Quality of Life in Micro Cities. (I said there were a bunch of factors!).

BC’s own North Vancouver came out top and Delta (4), Nanaimo (5), Langley (6).

  1. North Vancouver British Columbia Canada
  2. Meridian Idaho US
  3. Waterloo Ontario Canada
  4. Delta British Columbia Canada
  5. Nanaimo British Columbia Canada
  6. Fredericton New Brunswick Canada
  7. Langley British Columbia Canada
  8. Red Deer Alberta Canada
  9. Repentigny Quebec Canada
  10. Pickering Ontario Canada
I also looked at the Quality of Life category for Major Cities and BC scored there too as Vancouver came in 4th, with four other Canadian cities ranking in the top ten.

  1. Washington District of Columbia US
  2. San Francisco California US
  3. Calgary Alberta Canada
  4. Vancouver British Columbia Canada
  5. Ottawa Ontario Canada
  6. Austin Texas US
  7. Boston Massachusetts US
  8. Toronto Ontario Canada
  9. Edmonton Alberta Canada
  10. San Jose California US
It is good to know that Canada still ranks highly on quality of life!

The match everyone is talking about

Go Canucks
Go Canucks
This week all of BC has been talking about a match, or more precisely a hockey game. If you are in the UK, you probably thought I was talking about a wedding.

Here in Vancouver hockey has been on almost everyone’s mind. The local team – correction the only team – is the Canucks. And they have been battling against their arch rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

The drama has been pretty intense. Each round consists of seven games, with the two teams battling to gain supremacy. The Canucks started out very well, with three straight wins. At 3-0 it seemed nothing could stop us (we all identify with the Canucks, right?) from winning the series.

Not so. The Blackhawks won the next three games to tie the series at 3-3. We had a horrible sense of deja vu – would the Hawks beat Vancouver for the third year in a row?

So the game could not have been more tense, especially when the Canucks lost their 1-0 lead right at the end of the third period. This meant overtime (OT) and the first to score takes the prize. (Memories of the gold medal game from the Olympics).

Long story short – we did it. With Alex Burrows scoring the winning goal, Vancouver could finally breathe again! And celebrate!

Which is what I hear may be happening in England as the royal wedding kicks off. In BC, we have to get up at 2am to join in. Those of British extraction may just do that (I have heard of a few parties being planned). Most Vancouverites are probably simply looking forward to the Canucks beating the Predators in the next round of our trip to the Stanley Cup.

Run Fat Boy, Run

Vancouver Sun Run
Sun Run crossing Burrard Bridge

One of our new hobbies is now running.  If you know us and have been following our running training on Facebook, you will know that Frank and I have got off the couch and are going to compete in the  10k Vancouver Sun Run on April 17th, 2011.

Now going from couch potato to runners has been a bit of a journey.  And yes, we are both now hooked! Both of us like the training, the feeling of being able to run (without calling for an ambulance and oxygen mask) and most of all that feeling of feeling super fit.

It started at a New Year’s party, when the Sun Run came up in conversation, the host and hostess suddenly announced that they used to be Sun Run clinic leaders and the Sun Run clinics were the only way to learn to run. So, when we sobered up, it seemed rude not to check out our local clinic and sign up for the “learn to run” programme.

In retrospect, it was the best thing we could have done, when we turned up for the first Saturday clinic, we were wearing old trainers, M&S trackie bottoms and anoraks.  Everyone else looked like they had stepped out of an advert for the Running Room and had definitely done a marathon or two in their time. Luckily a couple of our friends were also there and one or two others who looked like they also had just got off the couch and were equally bewildered.

The clinic leaders were very encouraging and we did start off very gently at first, a one minute run and two minute walk repeated 8 times.  They also showed us how to warm up and stretch and cool down and avoid injuries.

We were given our training schedules and told to do our 2 runs during the week. So far so good, though at this point we were convinced we couldn’t run for the bus let alone around Vancouver.

We also got encouraging emails every week with tips and links and a selection of helpful people coming in each Saturday to advise us on shoes, equipment, diet, exercise and injuries.  Little by little we got our running gear, wind, confidence and ran a bit further and faster. We have the distinct advantage of running around our neighbourhood, amongst the fantastic scenery where the folks of Eagle Harbour, Gleneagles and Whytecliff are nice enough to cheer us on as we jog sweatily by.

“if you follow the programme, you will succeed” everyone told us.  This was good advice, as the only runners we know are either 20 years younger or ex-marathon runners! The leaders apart from being super encouraging, all looked super fit, slim and healthy – an added incentive!

Now we are at week 10 with 3 weeks to go and have gone from running eight minutes to running for over an hour! Sometimes the going gets tough like last week, going up that last hill with another new runner with whom I had been sharing tissues (were we the only people who’s noses run in the cold?) We were trailing at the back when half way up the hill I gasped to here “I dont think I can do this last hill!” She wheezed back “Well just put your big girl panties on and get on with it.” I laughed my way up.

I would have said “knickers” but I loved her sentiments!

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