Being a person who is not satisfied with the standard fare of the mall world I have found that somehow I’ve managed to accumulate a great deal of knowledge on the smaller areas of Vancouver. So I believe that it would be best to start by talking about my most visited area: Kitsilano. Kitsilano (or Kits) is located just across the Burrard Street bridge minutes from the downtown core.
During the summer months I find that my friends and I are inevitably drawn to Kitsilano’s sandy beach. The beach offers refreshments, public washrooms, and a stunning view of the ocean. While this is standard for most beaches Kits beach does not have the same touristy feel of English Bay. One of my best memories from the summer is seeing the Volleyball championships at Kits beach.
Another reason that Kits is one of my all time favourite areas is the street West 4th Avenue. This long street is located just four blocks from the beach and offers a wide range of shops, restaurants and cafes. Predominantly the shops are geared towards young fashionable mothers (4th is the home of the first Lulu lemon store). But apart from the yoga wear there is a good range of independent and not so independent stores. Gravity Pope in particular is a must visit for any shoe lover. Also interesting designers can always be found at Spank and Moulé.
If you happen to find your stomach growling whilst on West 4th you are in luck. As you move further towards Burrard Street you will notice an increasing number of restaurants. One of the most buzzed about restaurants is Trattoria Italian Kitchen, which has already been hailed as placing Vancouver on the map in terms of culinary excellence. Kitsilano also offers a wide range of restaurants, which is guaranteed to satisfy any palate and budget
One aspect of Kits I find keeps me coming back – 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters located on West 4th between Yew and Arbutus. If you enjoy descent coffee (which I do) this café is a must visit. A lot about the café can be surmised from their description of their coffee “Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love”. Vancouverites appreciate a well-crafted espresso and so 49th parallel is consistently alive with the eclectic mix of the Kitsilano community.
Sue and I were in Kits yesterday. Getting out of my car, we saw one of those sights that confirms you are in Kits. A young woman, crossing the street carrying her cycle helmet and her back pack, with her yoga mat sticking out. Very Kits.
This area has the hippy, bohemian thing going on still. We were on Broadway, close to MacDonald. This area has high end restaurants (Lumiere) but also the small cafe’s and coffee bars that give Kits it’s particular character. We ate a Greens and Gourmet which had a vegetarian buffet. Load your plate, get it weighed and tuck in. We got some friendly advice from the server: don’t load your plate with potatoes! They’re heavy and your meal will be expensive. It was good and included a variety of curries as well as greens, veggies and tofu.
And of course, to be totally Kits, the restaurant has a yoga studio attached.
Every year, Mercer looks at the cost of living in a number of cities around the world. The report has just come out for 2008 and might put Vancouver into context for people. We sometimes forget that Vancouver, on the international scale, is pretty affordable.
Here are some of the findings:
Top most expensive cities in the Americas. Their rankings are in brackets.
- New York City, US (22nd)
- São Paulo, Brazil (25th)
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (31st)
- Toronto, Canada (54th)
- Los Angeles, US (55th)
- Vancouver, Canada (64th)
It is probably not a surprise to find that European cities feature prominently in the top 10 list of the most expensive cities in the world:
- Moscow, Russia (1st)
- Tokyo, Japan (2nd)
- London, UK (3rd)
- Oslo, Norway (4th)
- Seoul, South Korea (5th)
- Hong Kong, China (6th)
- Copenhagen, Denmark (7th)
- Geneva, Switzerland (8th)
- Zurich, Switzerland (9th)
- Milan, Italy (10th)
This reinforces to me that Vancouver and BC’s other major cities are under-valued. We can be thankful of that even as we see our cost of living rising.
QUALITY OF LIFE
It is worth noting that Mercer also has a quality of life survey and the results from that give Vancouver yet more kudos.
The top 5 cities for quality of living worldwide according to Mercer:
- Zurich, Switzerland (1st)
- Vienna, Austria (tied for 2nd)
- Geneva, Switzerland (tied for 2nd )
- Vancouver, Canada (4th)
- Auckland, New Zealand (5th)
And while we’re looking at this, why not see where Vancouver stacks up against other cities in North America in that same index.
- Vancouver, Canada (4th)
- Toronto, Canada (15th)
- Ottawa, Canada (19th)
- Montreal, Canada (22nd)
- Calgary, Canada (25th)
Hope you find this interesting.
We were recently asked for our top things to do in Vancouver. I thought it would be a good thing to share. You’re invited to add your own list too.
- Ski and snowboard at Cypress Bowl where the 2010 Olympics will be.
- Bike or roller blade around Stanley Park.
- Visit the aquarium and see the whales.
- See a show at Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park
- Get some cultural kudos and see Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park in Kits.
- Catch a Canucks game or concert at GM Place.
- Take a sea taxi to Granville Island to visit the market and see an improv show or theatre in the evening, then have a cocktail overlooking False Creek and watch the boats go by.
- Go whale watching or hire a boat from Horseshoe Bay.
- Watch the International Firework Competition at English bay.
- Go up Grouse Mountain to see the lumberjack show and visit the Grizzlies (summer), snowshoe or ski (winter). Admire the view from the Observatory restaurant afterwards.
- Take a dog sled ride on Seymour mountain, especially if you have visitors from the UK they will be blown away by the Canadian Experience.
- Zip line down Grouse Mountain (new attraction this year).
- Visit Naam on W 4th for brunch and shop at the trendy boutiques afterwards.
- Meet friends for brunch at Teresa’s pancake house (West end) or Juliets Café (Kits) or The Boathouse in Horseshoe Bay and watch the ferries arrive.
- Meet friends for a drink at a favourite pub – Wolf and Hound (Kits), The Mill (Coal Harbour) or the Raven in Deep Cove.
- Window shop at the expensive shops in South Granville and have lunch at Rangolis afterwards.
- Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, followed by tea or cocktails on the terrace.
- Splurge on a fine dining experience – Sandbar on Granville Island, Water Street Café in Gas town or Vijs in South Granville.
- Watch dragon boat racing on False Creek or the Cruise ships arriving at Canada Place.
- Wear red and adorn your face with Maple Leaves on Canada Day and join in the parades and festivals.
- Watch the veterans parade on Remembrance Day and wear your poppy as everyone else is!
- Hike up to Eagle Lake and admire the view or attempt the Grouse Grind (you get a free ride down again)
- Dog walk in Lynn Valley canyon and visit the ecology centre and walk over the suspension bridge.
- Dog walk at Spanish Banks and watch kids wakeboarding on Jericho beach and play volleyball afterwards.
- Take the ferry over to Bowen Island for the day.
- Want some European food – eat your way up Commercial Drive and take the skytrain back afterwards.
- Catch the seabus over to North Vancouver and have lunch at Burgoos in Lower Lonsdale.
- Shop for vintage clothing on Granville or Davie St.
- People watch at your favourite coffee shop, after admiring the latte art! Favourite coffee shops – Café Artigiano (Downtown) Crema at Ambleside, Delaneys at Lynn Valley, 49th Parallel (Kits) or Blenz at HorseshoeBay.
- Go to the Richmond night market and soak up the asian sights, sounds and smells.
It struck me this week, that I was having a very Vancouver conversation. I was in a coffee bar in Kitsilano, talking with a couple who are fairly new to Vancouver. The conversation came round to coffee. Here we were comparing notes on the quality of the coffee we were drinking, and swapping tales of good and bad coffee we’ve found.
I could not have imagined a few years ago that I would even know what latte art was. In case you don’t know, it is something to see. The barista draws in your coffee by carefully pouring the milk into the coffee. It is magical to see the design appearing with a few flicks of a practiced wrist.
I personally recommend going to caffe artigiano and watching them pour your coffee. It is quite the production line there and they make it look easy.
One barista pours the shots of coffee into your cup. The coffee itself must have a creamy top on it (called a crema) as the backdrop for the design.
Someone else steams the milk. This too has to be just right – a light foam, with no large bubbles. Finally the latte artist, pours the steamed milk into the coffee. This is the artistic bit because as they pour it they waggle (technical term) the milk around in some mystic way that ends up with a design appearing in the coffee. This is usually a leaf, or heart, but I have seen some really weird designs too.
You may not think that coffee is a big reason for considering coming to Vancouver, but when you’ve been here a while you may find it hard to imagine what life was like without a good cup of coffee – with or without the art. Now where shall I go for my next fix?
And for those who want to make their own latte art, have a look at the wonderful coffee geek site for guidance.