Pemberton Festival

Last week was the first Pemberton music festival. I don’t know how well known this was outside of Canada, but here in Vancouver it was pretty big news.

Imagine, a sleepy little town like Pemberton. North of Whistler and with a population of around 4,000 people at most. This town is in the valley, overlooked by Mt Currie. Its main industry is farming.

Some 40,000 people came for the 3 day festival to see such acts as Coldplay, Tom Petty, Death Cab for Cutie, Nine Inch Nails, and Jay-Z amongst many others. So ten times the normal population? No wonder there were traffic problems. But that was actually the only major problem. Everything else seemed to go well.

Amazing really when you think of all those people camping in fields, lining up for food, drink and the loo. (Sorry washroom). The less hardy music lovers were able to stay in comfort in nearby Whistler – and pop in for the day. Whichever way you look at it, the event was well received and is likely to be an annual feature of our summer.

Ranking cities by cost of living and quality of life

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.


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.

Top things to do in Vancouver

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. 

  1. Ski and snowboard at Cypress Bowl where the 2010 Olympics will be.
  2. Bike or roller blade around Stanley Park.
  3. Visit the aquarium and see the whales.
  4. See a show at Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park
  5. Get some cultural kudos and see Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park in Kits.
  6. Catch a Canucks game or concert at GM Place.
  7. 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.
  8. Go whale watching or hire a boat from Horseshoe Bay.
  9. Watch the International Firework Competition at English bay.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Zip line down Grouse Mountain (new attraction this year).
  13. Visit Naam on W 4th for brunch and shop at the trendy boutiques afterwards.
  14. 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.
  15. Meet friends for a drink at a favourite pub – Wolf and Hound (Kits), The Mill (Coal Harbour) or the Raven in Deep Cove.
  16. Window shop at the expensive shops in South Granville and have lunch at Rangolis afterwards.
  17. Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery, followed by tea or cocktails on the terrace.
  18. Splurge on a fine dining experience – Sandbar on Granville Island, Water Street Café in Gas town or Vijs in South Granville.
  19. Watch dragon boat racing on False Creek or the Cruise ships arriving at Canada Place.
  20. Wear red and adorn your face with Maple Leaves on Canada Day and join in the parades and festivals.
  21. Watch the veterans parade on Remembrance Day and wear your poppy as everyone else is!
  22. Hike up to Eagle Lake and admire the view or attempt the Grouse Grind (you get a free ride down again)
  23. Dog walk in Lynn Valley canyon and visit the ecology centre and walk over the suspension bridge.
  24. Dog walk at Spanish Banks and watch kids wakeboarding on Jericho beach and play volleyball afterwards.
  25. Take the ferry over to Bowen Island for the day.
  26. Want some European food – eat your way up Commercial Drive and take the skytrain back afterwards.
  27. Catch the seabus over to North Vancouver and have lunch at Burgoos in Lower Lonsdale.
  28. Shop for vintage clothing on Granville or Davie St.
  29. 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.
  30. Go to the Richmond night market and soak up the asian sights, sounds and smells.

Very Vancouver

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.

Fruitful thoughts

Blueberries are in season. In the UK I used to look at those expensive and small containers of blueberries and wonder what the fuss was all about. And it took a while for me to get it when  we came here. But now, the start of blueberry season is something I really look forward to.

We are lucky enough to have a fruit stand that appears in the summer months. It is run by Brian, who is an actor as well. He brings his van in with whatever fruit and veg is in season that day. We have just come to the end of the first crop of strawberries. Raspberries, cherries and peaches are still coming. And now those large trays of luscious blueberries. What else is better on your breakfast cereal,  ice cream, fruit salad, in a smoothie or even in your peanut butter sandwich (trust me those pops of intense blueberry flavour along with peanut butter – yummy).

Brian also brings in nugget potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans and soon corn. That’s another one that may surprise new Canadians. Sweetcorn comes in different varieties and is a staple for every bbq and summer meal. And going to Brian’s Berries keeps you in touch with the seasons since he only has what has been picked the same day. That supports our farmers and best of all tastes wonderful.

So look out for Brian’s Berries (off Marine Drive at 31st in West Vancouver) or find your own local supply from a farmers market. I am sure you will enjoy the taste of summer.

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