Amanda’s Vancouver

Hello, city-lovers! Today’s city is Vancouver, British Columbia, and it comes to us courtesy of Amanda Ryan.

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Vancouver is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Granville Island. The Public Market is always a bustling place to check out foods and ingredients from around the world, exotic florists, fresh seafood, West Coast artwork in all forms, and lots more. There’s always something going on outside as well; no matter how bitterly cold or stifling hot it is, you’ll find at least a handful of buskers playing lively music, juggling knives, performing magic tricks or simply entertaining a crowd. From Granville Island I like to take a foot ferry across False Creek to downtown, a much more leisurely and picturesque mode of transportation than the bus.

When I crave sushi I always go to Shin Ju on Broadway. We Vancouverites love our sushi. In fact, there are more sushi restaurants per block here than in Japan! Shin Ju’s unpretentious atmosphere, excellent service, and affordable and consistently great food is what brings me back every week.

To escape after a busy week I head to the seawall. Winding along the coastline of the city, the seawall offers the best view of ocean, mountains, beach and great blue herons you’ll get on this side of the country. It’s also the best place to get lost in a crowd, and benches throughout offer top-notch people watching. Strolling the seawall with a coffee and a good friend is one of the most relaxing and refreshing things you can do here.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the Steam Clock in historical Gastown. It’s kind of cliché, but the clock is truly unique in that it was the first steam clock to be made by Canadian horologist Raymond Saunders, who went on to build the clocks for cities around the world. Ours is fully functioning with the telltale plumes of steam, and whistles the Westminster Quarters every quarter of an hour.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the Vancouver Public Library. Probably the most controversial piece of architecture in the city (either you love it or you hate it), it’s seven stories high and filled with 180-degree views of the downtown core. I love to sit and flip through magazines, wander the levels and shelves picking up books at random, shuffle through jazz CDs or check out whichever free lecture is being given in the conference room. VPL also holds a twice-yearly used book sale, an elbow-to-elbow affair where book rats like me can walk out with an armload of discarded treasures for a meager amount of money.

Photo ops in my city include a view of English Bay, the False Creek Olympic Village, Chinatown in the summer at night, Celebration of Light fireworks in the summer, looking across the water at the downtown skyline, Stanley Park Lagoon and the best vantage points are any high-rise apartment along Beach Avenue, the Shangri-La Hotel, anywhere along the seawall, Granville Island, Charleson Park, and (my favourite) a foot ferry across False Creek.

My city has the most polite men. It really is true what people say about Canadians, and Vancouver is the most cordial of all the provinces, in my opinion.

My city has the most physically fit women. We turn heads all the time!

In my city, an active day outdoors involves kayaking, canoeing, running the seawall, pitch-n-put in Stanley Park.

My favorite jogging/walking route is the seawall.

For live music, check out The Commodore Ballroom.

The club with the trampoline floor has been recently renovated to embrace a more posh interior, but any performer worth seeing plays the Commodore when they’re in town.

Fritz Fries is the spot for late-night eats. Expect a line-up that winds around the block at 2 a.m. for a cone of french fries and your choice of dip.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read The Georgia Straight.

You can tell a lot about my city from our rainboots.

Being situated in a rain forest brings lots and lots of rain, which in turn makes for a great selection of boots and trenchcoats.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re fiending for Starbucks.

If you run across a visiting Vancouverite in your city, you can be sure they’ll ask where the nearest one is.

In the spring you should check out Van Dusen Garden to see spring in all its green glory.

In the summer you should rent a kayak and experience the cityscape from nature’s point of view.

In the fall you should go shopping. South Granville offers unique boutique shopping, Gastown harbors the best vintage finds, Yaletown and Robson Street are the spots for trendsetters, and our biggest shopping mall, Pacific Centre, has enough shops to keep you busy for days.

In the winter you should go to a Vancouver Canucks game and witness team spirit at its most fanatical.

Don’t miss the TD Canada Trust International Jazz Festival in the summer.

While you can purchase a ticket to see the more famous artists, stages are set up throughout the city for your free viewing pleasure.

Just outside my city, you can visit Whistler for world-class skiing and snowboarding, Capilano Suspension Bridge (not for the faint of heart!), or head to the North Shore for hiking, sunbathing and taking in a natural setting.

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The best way to see my city is via your own steam. The downtown is small in size and very walkable; even the bridges out of the city centre are equipped with sidewalks that are often filled with cyclists and pedestrians.

If my city were a pet it would be a Labrador: loyal, patient, active and always hungry.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in sprawling countryside.

The best book about my city is City of Glass by our own Douglas Coupland.

It answers all those niggling questions about Vancouver, like why the number eight is everywhere, why all the buildings are made of glass, and why the beer bottles are shaped funny.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Easy Like Sunday Morning, by The Commodores.

420 could only happen in my city. An officially unofficial event, hordes of people surround the Vancouver Art Gallery annually on April 20th to, er, demonstrate their love of B.C.’s most profitable industry, marijuana.

Horrified tourists need not apply.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s soon going to be splashed all over the place once the 2010 Winter Games hits. While it consistently rates as one of the best cities to live in, Vancouver, being a very new city, doesn’t get the world-class status it deserves. A modern day city-by-the-sea, Vancouver’s natural beauty injects a laid-back vibe into a pulsing urban landscape.

Photos: Amanda Ryan

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