Feb 03 2010

Vancouver. City of Contrasts

As the world descends on Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, I’m feeling awfully proud of my adopted city. With all of the construction finally finished, our outpost on the Pacific Rim can truly lay claim to the title of the most beautiful cityscapes anywhere.

Of course, this is a city of contrasts. We’re not just a pretty place. It’s complicated. A few examples for our welcome visitors:

* Vancouver aims to be the greenest city on the planet by 2020 and we may just be able to pull it off. But if everyone on Earth lived like people here, we’d need four planets to sustain us.
vancouver granville island

* Vancouver is one of the most livable cities anywhere. It is also home to the poorest postal code in Canada, the Downtown Eastside, where “livable” is definitely a relative term for some of its most unfortunate residents (like Quatchi?). But there’s another side, too; the DTES, one of this city’s oldest neighborhoods, defies stereotypes with a community that is bursting with spirit and compassion.

* We’ve got a mayor who entered politics as a lefty New Democrat after first making it big as a successful entrepreneur and who has since become a… well, someone not quite defined by conventional partisan politics. Which seems to be a bit of a Vancouver tradition.

* Vancouverites (well, probably all Canadians) have a reputation not just for tolerance (which is sort of a pathetic goal, if you think about it), but for being awfully nice, polite-to-a-fault sort of folks. Yet apparently, we need to be reminded about how to smile properly for our guests.
Vancouver UBC Museum of Anthropology

* Our city is a nice, safe place. Except when the occasional maniac killer stalks our citizens. Or if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the cops show up.

* This is one of the only big cities in Canada where we don’t get ice that stays in the winter. It’s also home to one of the most beloved (and consistently sold-out at minimum $100 a ticket) hockey teams in NHL history.

* For some newcomers to Vancouver who haven’t yet discovered their clique, this place can be cold and unwelcoming. But if you are willing to take five minutes to set up a Twitter account, you can join a rambunctious and eclectic social circle over some locally-brewed pints in less than half an hour.

* Vancouver came on the scene fairly late in the game when it came to settling this continent (well, by people who weren’t already living here for 10,000 years, anyway). Yet we have amassed a unique heritage that is worth preserving; indeed, Vancouver’s late emergence in the modern age was perfectly timed to give us a leg up when it comes to planning and sustaining a city that works.

I hope that visitors to Vancouver will spend some time digging deeper. This is an awfully interesting place to be — even after the Olympics have come and gone.
Mount Pleasant Vancouver

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Vancouver. City of Contrasts”

  1. Fredon 03 Feb 2010 at 5:12 am

    Turn up the speakers, go Hi-Def and full screen


  2. Adrianon 03 Feb 2010 at 11:45 am

    I like the personal touch of the photographs. It’s certainly been warm enough to go walking about town snapping photos. Some February.

    I would like to mention one thing, however. A new report put Vancouver as the most expensive city of a multinational survey covering 272 municipalities.

    So “livable” is highly debatable if you’re not pulling down a sizable income.

  3. raincoasteron 04 Feb 2010 at 8:18 pm

    As a proud Vancouverite, I find myself compelled to add this footnote: the manic killer was from the SUBURBS! Just another reason to stay downtown.

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