It’s quiet and rather cold here in Auckland today, so I thought I’d take this chance to talk about the final leg of my journey to New Zealand. I only spent a few days in Vancouver, staying in an extremely bare-bones hostel on the outskirts near the train station, but what I saw of the city left me somewhat stunned that such a place actually exists in the world. Vancouver, from a visual standpoint at least, was amazing.
I don’t believe there are many cities in the world that can offer such impressive visuals. A highly developed, modern looking CBD surrounded by pristine water on three sides with a huge range of mountains running along the horizon as far as the eye can see in either direction. A city that was clean and varied, that had electric buses rather than streetcars and so don’t suck in every way imaginable, that has various other districts than the CBD that are equally as wide and diverse and dammit we didn’t have enough time again!
The one negative I can draw on the city is that a lot of it smelt of piss. That is quite the negative. Canada really needs to do something about its hobo problem.
Anyway, the first day we got there was of course at the end of our three days of ball numbing, mind destroying hell. Oddly enough even though we’d barely slept at all during this time period the sheer excitement and invigoration of not being trapped in a steel cage of terror anymore meant that we were feeling surprisingly active, and so we set off straight into the city after dropping off our bags at the hostel.
As is becoming our standard pattern upon being greeted with a new city we basically just picked a direction and walked. Within five minutes we found ourselves in the heart of the CBD, huge tower blocks in all directions, but unlike Toronto’s rather drab 60’s decor Vancouver positively gleamed. I can only assume they either had utterly different architectural ideas or Vancouver is just a newer city or something, but if you were to argue aesthetics between the two Vancouver would win hands down. The city also represented our first set of ‘hills’ since we’d left England, Ontario largely being utterly flat until you go far to the north, and we were reminded of how utterly unfit we were as we trudged up the main thoroughfare.
We found ourselves in Stanley Park, which is basically a case of “City, more city, more city SUDDENLY JUNGLE!” It speaks volumes of the Canadians appreciation of the environment that Vancouver seemed to be almost built around the nature. I’m not foolish enough to think they didn’t knock anything down, apparently Vancouver’s entire area used to be some sort of tropical rainforest, but they’ve held onto the aesthetics of keeping y’know, trees and stuff actually there. Unlike a lot of England’s urban areas, which until recently seem to have been designed on the “If it’s green, kill it” philosophy of development planning.
We got lost in the park. It’s a thing you do.
The next day we were there I heard on the grapevine that there was due to be a huge fireworks display in the city as part of a series of firework ‘competitions’ actually done by other countries. I find the fact that I keep getting fireworks displays wherever I go some sort of grand Canadian apology, as if they are trying to say to me “We know Rob Fords a dick, but hey we really do know how to party!” So after exploring a never-ending wave of enormous and expensive looking houses and shopping districts across from the CBD we set up camp and watched the fireworks.
Holy. Motherlovin’. Shite.
I’ve seen quite a few fireworks displays. I was even in London on Millennium Eve, and that was pretty special. But nothing, nothing, compares to this. I guess it was a combination of things. The atmosphere was electric, we were surrounded by people. The whole ‘fireworks over the Ocean’ thing was cool, and all the different boats out there added to it. There was even some sort of novelty Viking Longboat out there, because even the Nords need to get their firework freak-on apparently. There was also music accompanying it being played back over at the edge of the City, which was loud enough we could even hear it where we were.
Also we kept noticing a little device that was hovering around the fireworks then landing down periodically on a small jetty behind us. Turned out it was a home-made Remote Controlled Drone, like the ones the military use, but this one was being used to catch awesome aerial shots of the city. For some reason they haven’t uploaded them yet, but the Pandora Benevolent Society are worth a look anyway just for all the wacky shit they’re up to.
Then the next day the city was covered in the deep booming slams of epically loud music that echoed a thousand times across the skyscrapers because the Gay Pride Parade was in town. I have fantastic timing in all things I do. We desperately needed to get to a net cafe since our shitfest of a hostel didn’t have a printer and we needed to get our boarding passes sorted for the flight (you can’t print them until three days in advance before you nag) but of course it was a bank holiday weekend wasn’t it, meaning most things were closed between that and the parade! Dammit Canada unify your statutory holidays already! Also net cafes don’t seem to be a popular thing in Vancouver because we could only find two, and one of them the internet wasn’t working. This seems to me to be a pretty major fault for a net cafe, but who am I to judge.
So Vancouver. City of wonder, City of Mountains, City of Intermittent Hobo Piss. If I were to arbitrarily rank the three Canadian cities I’ve visited I’d have to say that Montreal had class, Toronto had energy, but Vancouver…Vancouver had it all. If I were to suddenly become a millionaire, I’d retire to Vancouver. You’d pretty much have to be a millionaire too because Damn those natives pay through the nose for their fantastic city.