(Pictured above is a view looking North from Kitsilano Beach showing the heated, salt-water Kits pool with the back drop of English Bay and mountains)
Vancouver, B.C. We headed back to the U.S. on December 10th, 2009 after having been away for nearly 8.5 months. Our round the globe tour took us through Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand (again), Mongolia, China, Tibet, Japan, Australia, Fiji, Los Angeles and back to N.Y. We got so caught up in our travelling that we hardly found the time to upload daily or weekly posts to our blog. Still there were times when Vadim sat down to write but after losing a lot of work either to P.C. malfunctions or power outages, maintaining a consistent travel log became our biggest challenge. Then again we had hoped that upon our return home, we would find the time to organize over 5,000 photos and update our blog retroactively, but life has a way of catching up and blogging always ended up on the back burner. Between trying to tie up loose ends, completing some projects around the house, applying for jobs, and catching up with friends and family that we hadn't seen in months, time flew right by. And finally, Vadim lost all his travel notes after he updated the Apple OS on his Ipod Touch.
Almost 9 months have passed since our return to the U.S. After taking care of our obligations in Albany it was time to head out to Vancouver, where we had hoped to make our new home. Searching through Craigslist, we were able to find a sublet in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and bought one way plane tickets to Vancouver from Newark Airport. After celebrating some significant birthdays with our friends in NYC, we stuffed about one bag each with some suits for interviews and everyday clothes, and shipped our bicycles via FedEx ground. The plan is to move the contents of our Brooklyn apartment that has been in storage since March 2009 once we find work and settle into a neighborhood that we like the best. In the meanwhile, we continue to sublet in a new neighborhood every month for the experience. We hope this homework will expedite our decision of where is most fun and convenient place to live.
Vancouver is a city of many contrasts. Nearly everywhere you look, you see a cityscape that is worth photographing and yet some portions of the city suffer from a growing homeless population. The sun shines beautifully in the summer like it is a permanent fixture here, yet the Pacific Northwest is better known for its long, wet and dreary winters. A homicide in the shadow of the City Hall goes unreported like it never happened, yet the seagull whose wing got stuck on a spike and had to be rescued by a Fireman makes the 5 o'clock news.
Both young and old enjoy the picturesque outdoors and devote much of their free time to outdoor activities. Some people don't own a TV, as has been the case at both apartments we have sublet so far. While the streets are filled with plenty of fancy new cars on a warm night, the city dwellers also love their classic cars and retain them with pride. A walk down any block keeps your senses engaged. The architecture is neat and eclectic-- hardly two buildings on the same block look the same, yet the city has modern feel overall.
Is August the best month of the year to move here? As Vadim would say (PG-13 version), "Does a rabbit have fur?" The temperature is mild and people are relaxed riding up and down the streets on their bicycles. While a major relocation like this can feel awkward at first, this city easily appeals to our senses. It is bike and pedestrian friendly and the metro area can easily be navigated without a car. The city just committed $25M to constructing bike lanes:
Our bikes from Albany turned up via Fedex on Monday. It cost us about $130 to transport them via FedEx ground. (NOTE: You need to have an account with FedEx.com to be able to fill out your own FedEx Ground shipping labels and prepay for shipping before bringing it to a FedEx location for drop off). We hope that the money we will save by peddling will more than cover the cost of transporting our bikes. Since these were used bikes, we were allowed to import them into Canada without any customs duty :)
To date we have walked around several neighborhoods in Vancouver's downtown. Walking the streets we have heard different languages spoken and seen a good mix of nationalities living and working side by side. Restaurants representing nearly all regions of the world offer a variety of tasty treats at all price levels. The downtown core is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. The furthest west end of downtown lies Stanley Park - a lovely park slightly larger than Central Park in NYC. The core of the downtown is a mix of office buildings, hotels and residential high rises. This creates some vibrant and lively spaces. Southwest of downtown is English Bay Beach and the Gay scene of West End, where many shops and restaurants display the rainbow colored flag of pride and multiculturalism. The vibe is similar to New York City's West Village. There are tree lined residential streets and high rise buildings that boast magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Coastal Mountains of the Frasier Valley on the other side. To the Northwest is the neighborhood of Coal Harbor where newer construction overlooks the marina. This area offers some great restaurants choices too.
Further North East, you pass through the Financial District of Downtown Vancouver as you make your way across to Gastown - a neighborhood named after the gas lamps of the yesteryear (not after the flatulent patrons of today). Just to the Southeast of Gastown is Vancouver's Chinatown - one of the oldest Chinatowns in North America. A walk here almost takes us back to our trip through China. There are authentic restaurants and tea houses and stores selling anything Chinese that your heart may desire. Except here it's a little easier to shop because everyone speaks English :) From Chinatown, a further walk south west brings you to Yaletown--- another residential area with new glass skyscrapers coupled with older industrial buildings converted to lofts. The restaurants are set up along cobbled streets that remind me of Tribeca or the Meatpacking district. Nearly everywhere you go in this city, there are reminders of the Big Apple.
Our mornings are spent at the home/office following up on career opportunities. By late afternoons the view from of our apartment window (shown below) tugs at us to head outside and go explore the city.
On average, we end up walking 5-10 Km, between 3-5 hours. We have been able to cram a lot of sightseeing and neighborhood exploring in two weeks .
We have a sublet for the month of September in the trendy neighborhood of Kits Beach. This is a hip, yuppie-jock neighborhood stretching west across the bridge from downtown. Our apartment is one block from Kits Beach which also boasts one of world's largest outdoor, heated, salt water pools This is a public facility accessible via a monthly flex pass ($46 per month per adult) or around $5 per visit. For a better picture of the pool, see below:
We are excited to be here and look forward to making British Columbia our new home.