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Vancouver, British Columbia: A Western Gem

By Christine J. Cowern

From its snow-capped mountain peaks to its rows of perfectly constructed steel-and-glass condominiums, Vancouver is a city full of contrasts. Its inhabitants – close to 2,000,000 – are just as comfortable rollerblading along the city’s 6-mile seawall as they are holding “power meetings” in the bustling downtown core. At once cosmopolitan and breathtaking, Vancouver, Canada may be British Columbia’s largest city, but it’s also its most welcoming.

Nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Strait of Georgia, Vancouver is a city with unlimited appeal. If you’re searching for the perfect espresso, look no further. Vancouver boasts more coffee shops per capita than its java-loving neighbor, Seattle. If you want to watch the sunset with the sand in your toes, head to one of Vancouver’s many beaches. If you’re lucky you’ll be serenaded by a guitar-toting hippie with some time on his hands and a smile on his face. It’s no surprise that Greenpeace got its start in this nature-filled haven.

For an even more unique perspective, just look up. Totem poles – which are scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest – form a patchwork quilt around the city and tell tales of tribes long since forgotten. Many are the work of the local Kwagiulth, Haida and Gitskan tribes. Just make sure you look closely – the figures on each pole serve as a visual testament to each tribe’s compelling history.

Can you keep a secret? Vancouver may have spectacular scenery but it also has an air of mystery. And nothing is more mysterious than the hundreds of feet of secret tunnels that zigzag underneath the city. Originally meant for everything from the high-speed transfer of train mail to a way to transport supplies out of downtown department stores, the tunnel’s show there’s more to Vancouver than meets the eye.

The sights – above and below ground – may be in a class all their own, but it’s the people that make Vancouver truly shine. Whether it’s a friendly hello or an invitation to join them for a pint at one of the city’s many outdoor patios, Vancouverites make you feel so at home you’ll never want to leave. Just add an “eh?” to the end of your sentence and you’ll fit right in. Include a six-pack of Granville Island Pale Ale – the local brew – and you’ll have made fast friends for life. Vancouver – it may be a young city. But it’s going places.

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