‘They sell a lot of bagels here’, I remember thinking five days into my three-week stay in Vancouver, Canada. It was the start of my first ever solo trip and my British brain tuned in quickly to oddly specific observations about my new surroundings on a scarily frequent basis; I was over saturated by fresh experiences, like a biscuit being repeatedly dipped into tea, my mind was turning to mush with each new thing I was noticing and having to process.
The most striking and recognisable feature of Vancouver is its architecture: huge glass buildings reach up like spears into the sky, the neoteric angular architecture made more prominent through the contrast with the asymmetric curves of the surrounding mountains. It felt as though the mass of sharp lines crudely cutting up the scenery should be grotesque to look at, ugly in comparison to the natural beauty that is so abundant, however this was not the case. The juxtaposition of the glaringly obvious feats of human effort with the effortless elegance of the scenery was alluringly symbiotic.
In many ways, Vancouver reminded me of London. It draws parallels with the English city in many ways – glass buildings, the bustle of smart casual attire, an air of business – however I would describe Vancouver as a hub of activity, rather than the push and shove of London. The Canadian counterpart has a pretty chilled out vibe, although I’d be careful not to equate this to laziness.
On the contrary, its an active place, with an equal number of people walking around wearing sports gear as there are wearing suits. I feel as if people can’t help being enticed into keeping fit by the impressive way nature seamlessly entwines with city life; green spaces grow out of the city like grass between paving stones. Running, cycling and hiking were the activities I noticed the most, often accompanied by a spirit of ‘everyone’s welcome’.
Welcoming was the general mood that met me in all situations in Vancouver, people who served me in shops and cafes seemed upbeat, friendly and authentic, but not overbearingly so, like the standard procedure in neighbouring America. A generic interaction in Vancouver was like talking to American customer service on sedatives.
I relished in this relaxed vibe, which was definitely facilitated by the lack of tourists crowding the sights. Wandering around the most recommended hotspots, I was often able to count the amount of other foreigners on one hand.
Another thing possible to count on one hand (well, nearly) was a week’s worth of fruit and veg shopping. I commonly saw avocados on sale for the equivalent of 50p for two, which at home costs me upwards of £2.50.
Now that we’re onto food, a couple of other observations come to mind. There’s a Starbucks on nearly every street corner, bagels are sold everywhere (and they’re always desperate to smother cream cheese on it) and they love their gravy, particularly when it comes in a dish called poutine (cheese curds and gravy on fries).
So five days into my stay in Vancouver, I absorbed many things, but the one that’s stuck with me the most is the bagels. Oh and the fact they have black squirrels.