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|Written by Sara Hanson|
|Monday, 09 July 2012 00:00|
Growing up in Vancouver, my extended backyard consisted of the Fraser River, Pacific Ocean, a rainforest and the beautiful Coast Mountains, all of which sparked my love for exploring at an early age. My adventures started small, in the jungle of over-grown vegetation that surrounded my home where I spent many summer days creating my own version of Survivor long before the reality show debuted. It wasn't until I entered my teens and shopping on Robson Street became the coolest thing to do on a Saturday that my adventures really turned urban. However, attending high school on the city's west side meant that my teenage years were largely confined to hanging out in neighbourhoods such as Kerrisdale, Dunbar, and Kitsilano, with a limited number of visits to downtown shopping destinations. It wasn't until much later in high school when I dared to venture east of Main Street that I discovered how much of Vancouver I had been missing out on. From that point on, I swore to experience more of my city and discover all that its many neighbourhoods had to offer.
After living in Calgary for five years, I returned home as a boomerang child and decided to re-discover my city as a young twenty something. Getting lost in the city served as an appropriate metaphor for where I was in life and also led me to appreciate aspects of the city that I had previously taken for granted. Here is a taste of some of my favourite Vancouver adventures. While some are from my high school days, others are more recent discoveries. However, each adventure is meaningful for the role it has played in shaping my own narrative as a Vancouverite.
Where East Meets West
Main Street is where the two sides of the city converge, and where I like to think that the historical tensions between the west side and east van are somewhat relaxed. I usually start my ventures down Main around King Edward (25th Avenue) and work my way to Broadway (9th Ave.) stopping at a number of vintage and boutique clothing stores along the way. My long-time favourite is Front and Co. (at East 22nd Ave.), where I can spend hours sorting through their massive collection of second-hand clothing and unique jewellery. If you decide to go for the Main Street shopping experience, in between shops, stop into Liberty Bakery (on the corner of East 21st Ave.), for a grilled Panini and some of their delightful homemade cookies. After lunch keep working your way through the shops on Main, until you reach 15th Ave., when you will likely be ready for a drink and can take your pick from one of the many bars that line the street until Broadway. If you need some snacks for the evening, drop into Yek O Yek, a Lebanese grocery store just south of 14th Ave., where you'll find a fresh array of food including hummous, baba ganouj, dolmades, and falafel, all made in-house.
Skip the Seawall, Ride the Ridgeway
The seawall around Stanley Park is one of Vancouver's most scenic destinations, which also means that it is notoriously crowded with tourists who appear to be riding a bike for the first time in 25 years. For cycling enthusiasts who want to avoid the crowds, the city's extensive network of bike paths offers a welcome alternative. Stretching all the way from Yew Street in the west to Nanaimo Street in the east, the Ridgeway Bike Route, which follows 37th Avenue for most of its length, is an especially good choice for those who don't want to compromise the view of the Coast Mountains. Whether you're riding west or east, pack a picnic lunch for a stop in Queen Elizabeth Park atop Little Mountain, which is the highest point in the city. You'll likely need a break after riding to the top of this "hill," which is surprisingly steep. However, once you catch a glimpse of the views you'll realize those few minutes of gruelling pain were well worth the effort.
Take a stroll over a bridge
You don't realize how unique it is to walk over a bridge that crosses the ocean until you find yourself living in a land-locked city. Before I moved to Calgary, I had never walked over either the Granville or Burrard Street bridges. Since returning home, a trek over the Burrard Bridge is now part of my routine adventures after walking around Vanier Point, which connects Kits Beach to Granville Island. I prefer the Burrard Bridge because the barrier separating the bike lane keeps you at a safe distance from the speeding cars. While it's easy to get distracted by the constant flow of joggers and cyclists, be sure to stop at the half-way point to appreciate the breathtaking view of the North Shore. The journey also deserves a moment to pause and acknowledge the awesome feeling of standing high above False Creek on a steel structure created by humans. Wow.
Enter the forest
While its rare to find a city that contains old growth forest, Vancouverites are blessed with both Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. I prefer the latter for its extensive network of walking trails, where depending on the time of day, you can often find yourself walking solo with only the whispers of the wind rushing through the hundred year old trees to keep you company. Situated on the western edge of the city next to the University of British Columbia and what is traditional Musqueam territory, Pacific Spirit is a densely populated forest that includes over 70km of walking and biking trails. If you're someone who prefers a planned adventure, then it's a good idea to study the park's map before entering. Once you're inside the dense thicket, it's easy to get disoriented and lose your way. If you're up for a real adventure and have some time, then it's often more fun to enter the forest without a plan (or a compass) and follow the path wherever it leads.
Sew something (or at least plan to)
Whether or not you consider yourself to be an aspiring fashion designer, a visit to Dressew on West Hastings Street is a worthwhile trip. With a massive collection of discount fabrics, this fabric outlet store is an adventure in itself that leaves even the least crafty individuals feeling inspired to design an entire collection. The fabrics alone can take hours to browse, but the real adventure lies in the basement where you will find hundreds of notions including buttons from every colour in the rainbow, lace trim, ribbons, jewels and feathers. My personal favourite is the collection of sequin appliqués, which I have used over the years to jazz up plain t-shirts, or more recently to make a New Year's Eve head-piece. If you are easily overwhelmed, then you might want to do a preliminary sweep of the store and make a game plan for your purchases. My closet is still full of unused fabric waiting to be fashioned into designs from my teenage sketchbook.
These are just some of my favourite Vancouver adventures, and surely thousands more await the keen explorer. This city is an amazing place to call home, and I encourage visitors and the Vancouver-born alike to take some time to explore all that this true Canadian gem has to offer.
Sara Hanson recently completed her first year of law school at Osgoode Hall where she was a regular contributor to theCourt.ca, a legal blog written by students. Originally from Vancouver, she recently returned home where her parents are letting her live rent free for the summer. In her spare time, Sara enjoys reading and eavesdropping on conversations while riding public transit.
Tags: adventure, burrard bridge, culture, culture is in vancouver now, dressew, for real, kits, liberty bakery, little mountain, main street, pacific spirit regional park, ridgeway bike route, shopping, vancouver, vancouvers awesome biking infrastructure, vintage stores, yek o yek