Friday, June 3, 2011

Vancouver Redux

As a follow-up to last week’s missive about our travels in the American and Canadian Northwest, I will throw out a few points that I picked up regarding Victoria and Vancouver. We were in Vancouver last August (see this), and it is a treat to spend more than just a few nights in these delightful and very interesting cities.

Random thoughts:
Victoria, B.C. is connected to the rest of the world by either boat or plane, you can drive there but it requires a ferry at some point during the trip. Victoria is actually south of the primary latitude that splits the U.S. from Canada (Bellingham, Wa. is further north). It sits at the southern end of Vancouver Island, which is the world’s 43rd largest island. It was named for Queen Victoria, and, as North American cities go, is very young, founded soon after its settlement in 1841, and it is the capital city of British Columbia. There, the geography lesson is done!

This is a government town and a tourist center. You get both bureaucrats and visitors from around the world. Winter was long this year, and even the famous flower baskets that are hung on lamp standards throughout the town hadn’t been placed yet. Even at the world renowned Butchart Gardens, the tulips were still in bloom, maybe a month later than normal. A must visit.
Butchart Gardens
We stayed at the Fairmont Empress, a wonderful hotel and a jewel in the Fairmont Hotel chain that includes The Plaza in New York and the Savoy in London among many others; High Tea is a delight.

It is a comfortable and enjoyable town, there are the usual touristy things and shops, but it carries an international grace about itself. I recommend it and it’s the gateway to the rain forests of the western side of the island.
B.C. Parliament Building and Victoria Harbor
After our visit last August, we took the opportunity to spend four days in this world class city. I mentioned in last February’s blog that the future for American cities could be seen in Vancouver and I still believe it. It is a prosperous and dynamic city that rivals, and in most cases surpasses, anything below the 49th parallel. It is continually ranked as one of the best places to live, in the world. Its climate is mild (compared to Denver and Chicago and others in Canada), and even with its reputation as a rainy city, it does not dampen the outlook of the residents.

But it is also expensive. It has one of the highest housing costs to income ratios in the world. The HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) is 12%. Food and restaurant costs are not much different than Seattle or even San Francisco, but still expensive. It is a diverse and financially driven economy. It has one of the largest Chinese populations outside of China and is a gateway city into the Chinese market for Canada.

It has, for the last twenty years or so, pushed heavily into becoming a vertical city. These glass and steel residential towers dominate the southern and northern parts of the core of Vancouver. They add density (people) into what were formally low density neighborhoods. This city planning has had its fights and detractors but it has also allowed a growth in jobs and commercial uses that American cities would die for. One example is Yaletown, in the southeast corner of the urban core.
Yaletown, Vancouver
This former heavy industrial area with its warehouses and rail yards is now one of the densest neighborhoods in the city. It fronts on False Creek and includes marinas, converted warehouses (high end shops and restaurants), apartments and condominiums. There are few other cities in North America like it.
Yaletown, Vancouver
Little of the original housing stock remains, the new housing is exciting. Yaletown is well-connected regionally by a portion of the transit system that is underground through the main part of the city (yes a subway, but very different than what you might think of – they call it Sky Train). It goes above ground after it leaves the core and does reach the airport to the south and to ferries going north.

I will be back, if for nothing more than the seafood (I have to admit this is not a drinking town, they pour by the ounce. If you want to drink - go to Chicago!).

Stay tuned . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment