Todd & Erin Visit Vancouver! — Day 3

Day 3, Saturday, August 5 — We trekked to Granville Island (granvilleisland.com) and the locally renowned Granville Public Market. It’s a few miles south of city center and the Harbor area where we were staying, just 2 “Skytrain” (Vancouver’s subway) stops away.

Granville Island houses countless art galleries that are densely spaced, a college of art and design, several specialty shops, a big, open market of food offerings and small to-go restaurants, and a modest sized hotel with great outdoor dining and drink space.  What’s more, on its north end, it offers great views of the HARBOR and city of Vancouver across the Quay that separates it from the downtown/city center area.

HOUSING CRISIS. This is probably as good a time as any to bring up housing. From the first minute we got a good look at Vancouver, it appeared to be a city of highrises… all over the area, not just downtown. When I say highrises, I really mean dozens upon dozens of 15-20 story buildings. Most look to be luxury apartments or condos (see photo below of the buildings to the left of the Science Museaum). So, at first, second, and third glance, housing APPEARS to be abundant. We met a retired but very active gentleman, Chris, who joined us for lunch in a common/shared seating area. He was very kind, even booking us a real “hot spot” for dinner in Yaletown for later in the evening. We asked him about the housing issue, and he said there is a tremendous amount of foreign investment coming in from Asia. Rich folks from China and other points east are apparently paying over asking price for buildings all over town, and that is having an inflationary effect on the market.

In addition, when we asked some thirty-something locals about housing at the Lamplighter (where we returned for some refreshments after Granville [Had to patronize them after passing them up the night before]), they seemed far more pessimistic and even panicked that those of us in Southern California. Their housing crisis is apparently just as bad or even worse than that in what should most accurately be called “coastal California.” No detached single family home – however small, even say 800 square feet – will go for less than $1 Million (Canadian), and most for more. And my guess about the highrises seems to be correct. It’s mostly luxury and upscale apartments or condos. There doesn’t seem to be any VISIBLE evidence of efforts toward affordable housing. I sure hope that, were I paid for my time here at Todd Flora’s America and had time to research, I would find that the city is, in fact, making an effort on affordable housing. But that will have to be for another time.

Back to Granville Island!  It isn’t actually an island, but a peninsula. However, after spending a few hours in the area, we picked up some history. At one time, Granville was, in fact, an island. However, due to both changes in nature and some infrastructure and dredging projects, the island was turned into a peninsula and has definitely grown less remote and more popular as a result.

We really enjoyed the galleries, the sort of barn meets arthouse architecture, and the colors and liveliness of Granville Island. For Angelenos and specifically fellow Santa Monicans, it reminds you a bit of the pre-Expo line Bergamot Station, only much larger and with restaurants and shops. Just east of Granville is the University of British Columbia, which we’re sure is lovely given it’s a seaside campus. But we ran out of time!

Instead, following our Granville adventures we headed west along Vancouver’s famous sea wall walk. You can pretty much walk along the water in most of north/west Vancouver. This took us to Olympic Village, which continued the Vancouver tradition of modern housing (that was of course built for the Olympic Athletes) and some cool restaurants, bars, and public art. We took the Olympic Village Skytrain back to the waterfront (with a small detour to Gastown for some snacks at the Lamplighter Public House). We figured we would rest up, perhaps shower, and get ready for our night out in Yaletown. … We never made it. Instead, we ordered room service and enjoyed the escapist wonders of “Kong: Skull Island” in our hotel room. Don’t judge us!  We definitely made the most of our time in Vancouver with the 3 full days we had. But boy were we tired. Day 3 and Granville Island had, after all, earned me 18,577 pedometer steps. So what if I reward myself with a hotel movie I had already seen… Erin hadn’t! (and I neglected to mention that Day 2, our Stanley Park Day, earned me 21,742 steps! [enhanced, I’m sure, by cycling])

p.s. The steak and salad we shared from room service was surprisingly PERFECT. I’ve never seen anyone nail “medium rare” on the more medium side before and yet maintain a soft, succulent taste in the beef. It almost made me want to meet the hotel chef…. No, not really. I’m no foody. But I can appreciate perfection.

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