Vancouver Reflections

A little over a week ago, I got back from a great trip to Vancouver, where I was attending the Adaptive Path UX Intensive conference. It was a great conference that lived up to the ‘intensive’ title with all of the content we had to go over in just four days. I was lucky not only that I got to attend this conference but also that I was able to finagle a chance to see the city by adding an extra day to my trip. Unfortunately, a single day was not nearly enough – this was a fantastic city.

My first few days were mostly limited to the area right around my hotel as it was late when I got in and pretty dreary and damp on Monday. It looked like a nice area, but I really didn’t have much to go on. On Tuesday, I went down to the famed Stanley Park, where I got to see a ton of really cool birds which was one of my other intentions for my trip. Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday allowed me to see a little more of the town as we went to restaurants in various spots in the city (including Yaletown) for drinks and happies, and I got to walk around a bit as I searched for snacks and wandered at random. Friday was a birding day with Greg, a fellow Flickr-ite who was extremely welcoming and gracious,with the birding bracketed between a quick tour of the city and an excellent dinner downtown.

All in all, I didn’t get to see nearly all of the city or the many great features of the surrounding area, but what I did see made me want to go back as soon as I can, this time with my wife. I want to go back to Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, where I got to feed chickadees out of my hand and walk with Sandhill Cranes. I want to explore more of the great restaurants I found or wanted to try, and I want to see more of the many sights that can be found in the area. I just need to make my way back there. But in the meantime, here are some of the things I discovered in my short visit.

what I learned in VANCOUVER

  • People in Vancouver are incredibly niceEveryone I met from this city was extremely polite and friendly. Heck, even the drivers looked embarrassed when they came too close to the crosswalk – not like Philly where they’ll run over you for crossing with the light. Everyone was more than willing to help direct me places, giving me a smile and pointing me toward my destination. And in the restaurants, everyone was all smiles and looking to chat. None of the gruff faces sitting behind the counters that I’m used to.
  • Vancouver is a beautiful cityI’ve known that it was an impressive city for a while, but they have put it into overdrive. With the 2010 winter Olympics coming, there is a massive amount of construction going on, but what they are doing seems to be trying it’s best to fit in to the natural landscape. The architecture is pretty nice throughout and it was a lot cleaner than most cities I’ve visited in the U.S. The weather was a little bit of a downer, as it muted the colors and spectacle of the city a bit, but even with the rain I could see the shine.
  • The food in Vancouver is world-classI only got to eat out at a couple of places, but I was impressed with them just the same. Sala Thai offered up delicious Thai food that was presented brilliantly and served by a friendly waitress. The happy hours we attended were all manned by friendly, helpful people serving good food, including my first introduction to Milestones, which I was told to try on my flight up. Samba Brazilian Steakhouse was a delicious foray for Greg and I – I’d always wanted to try a South American steakhouse and this was a great introduction. Even the smaller take-out places were great, such as Tokyo Joe’s where I got some quick but delicious sushi. But I also heard of a lot more places that I want to try like Togos (sushi) and Vij’s (East Indian).
  • So are the parks and nature areasOne of my favorite aspects of the city, of course, were the natural environments. There were a lot of trees and small parks during my walks, but Stanley park was an obvious jewel of the peninsula. I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but even the little bit I saw was fantastic. They were still recovering from a storm earlier in the year which had downed 1,000’s of trees, but even where there was destruction, they had made it a testament to the power of nature rather than a hindrance to enjoying the park. Nearby Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary was fantastic, as were the many beaches and locations along the many rivers, harbors and bays that surround the city. And with amazing places like Banff nearby, there’s even more to see outside the city limits.
  • Vancouver does have some American city traitsOne thing that surprised me to learn was the extent of the drug problem in the province. Now, coming from Philly, drugs are not a strange thing to hear about in the city. But with Canada’s stronger gun-control laws, I was surprised to hear how drug gangs were becoming such a problem, particularly around Vancouver. And I did see some obvious evidence of the drug trade not too far from my hotel. I shouldn’t have been as surprised, I guess – after all, almost all U.S. cities have the same problems. It just seemed out of place with everything else I was seeing.
  • Lastly, TV in Canada is … differentI have to say that watching TV at night in Vancouver was an experience. First of all, there was a mixture of Canadian channels and U.S. channels from south of the border (mostly Seattle). But even the Canadian channels were carrying some familiar programming – including one channel which carried the best shows from Fox, CBS and NBC all in one place. Perhaps the most noticable difference with the TV stations was the way that they presented their news. Although Fox touts itself as ‘fair and balanced’ (cough, cough), the Canadian news shows were a lot more balanced than anything we have in the Philly area. They reported the news instead of sensationalizing it, and there was a gratifying lack of anything related to Britney, Paris or of the other trollop celebs. It was – in reality – what I would like to see from my local stations. And lastly, there were the commercials. It was interesting to see how national commercials and companies approached their marketing differently in the northern market from the U.S. market; it was also interesting to see how the same product in the U.S. could have a completely different name in Canada (mostly car names), and how there were obviously household name brands in Canada that I had never even heard of. Strange to think that ubiquitous names like Home Depot, Tide and AT&T are nowhere to be found there.

Overall, I had a great time and can’t wait to make it back. It might not happen in the near future, but I’ll be pushing to try to make it out for an early summer trip with Shari, if we can swing the time and money to do it. I have a ton of frequent flyer tickets, so they will help, but we’ll see. Until then, i have those memories – and of course, my pictures.


2 Responses to “Vancouver Reflections

  • yep, that’s what my impression of Vancouver was too.

    I hope i can visit there sometimee

  • it is amazing how those common things we see all the time are not in other areas! Regarding your trip, looks like a good time to me! I would have loved to experience the birds like you did!

Leave a Reply