Monday, July 14, 2008

6 days in Vancouver. And counting.

Man, how times flies, I just realized that it's almost been a week since I got into Vancouver. It's been an incredible week, especially thanks to my excellent hosts here in the city. Upon my arrival I was initially spoiled by Igor and John before moving into Mike's house mid-week. Here I was greeted by an high-end a/v setup (a real thing of beauty!), excellent Thai-steak-salad and freshly brewed beer:

Ahhh, gooooooood.

A lot of the past few days was spent just randomly exploring the city. I certainly have to say that I really love this city and now I understand why everyone told me just how great this place is. As ever so often it's not all that easy to say why exactly I'm so attracted to Vancouver but walking through it, sitting in cafés, enjoying the beach, having great Asian food and just watching the multi-cultural crowds of people on the streets somehow feels right. There's certainly a reason why Vancouver is consistently ranked among the top 5 cities when it comes to quality of living (in a 2008 report only topped by Zurich, Vienna and Geneva).

One of the things I realized when I walked along the beaches of Stanley Park just north of downtown Vancouver is that one of these days I'll have to spend at least some weeks or months living in a city located on the sea. This is not the first time I had this idea as I had similar thoughts a couple of years ago when I walked through the old-town of Split, Croatia and realized just how great it would be to live there for a month or two. When I was in Kenting in the south of Taiwan I also badly wanted to stay for a couple of weeks and enjoy the good life there. The last reminder was when my friend M., who had spent a half a year in Cadiz, Spain told me about having the good times at the beaches there. To me there's something deeply fascinating and relaxing about sitting on a beach and watching the sea. Combined with the proximity of an urban center such as Vancouver this is just an outstanding environment to be in and something I should definitely do in the years to come!

Anyway, back to the present... After watching Wanted on Thursday and with the iPhone 3G launch on the horizon the guys decided to get up early on Friday morning to get in line in front of a Rogers (a Canadian provider) store so they could be among the first people to get their hands on one of the phones. Not being the kinda guy to miss this sort of crazy action I crashed on their couch for a couple of hours so I could join them for the fun in the morning. We got up at 6 a.m. and initially joined a queue of 5 other people who had spent the night at the closest Rogers store before we moved to another one where only one person was in front of us. Unfortunately that store was only to open at 10 a.m. and without having a laptop on me I got bored pretty quickly. So I went home, got some e-mailing done and took a shower before heading back into the city. Somehow I got confused when getting off the bus so I had to walk the last 15min to the store. By the time I got there the guys had found out about the omnipresent activation-issues and therefore had to leave the store without their iPhones.

Boys and their toys.

Afterwards we split ways and I spent the rest of the day going through the city and ended up walking a total of just over 18km (according to Google Maps). Took a lot of photos, had some good southern-style lunch, a couple of wifi-fueled iced-coffee breaks and just generally thrived on being in the moment.

On Saturday I got up early (8 a.m.) in order to tackle the Grouse Grind. For those of you who are too lazy to click on that link: it's a 2.9km trail up Grouse Mountain with 850m of elevation gain. Apparently the record for the trail is like 26 minutes or something. Before we started going up the mountain Igor had mentioned the goal of getting up in under 60 minutes so we started out and pushed pretty hard. When I hit the 1/4 mark after 19 minutes I realized that doing it in under 60 minutes wouldn't be feasable. After the 1/2 mark things got really steep and I was somewhat reminded of insane hiking we did at Olchon, the island on Lake Baikal, during the TransSib journey last summer.

Grouse Grind

In the end me and John's girlfriend managed to get up to the top in 80 minutes and while I could have probably shaved off 5 minutes anything faster would have required significantly more efforts. The view from the top was incredible and definitely well worth all the blood, sweat and tears.

The gang at top of Grouse Mountain.

The afternoon was spent at a nice birthday-BBQ on the beach, water-baloon fights included. Afterwards I intended to walk home but somehow ended up spending 5 hours just enjoying the evening and getting some writing done in a Starbucks and bar in the Yaletown district. This is another one of those up and coming neighbourshoods with lots of cool (and expensive) restaurants, cafés and shops. Definitely a very nice and relaxing evening after an excellent day!

I still haven't figured out the details but I think for the remaining days here in Vancouver I'll probably pay a visit to one or two the islands close to the city and just generally make the best of my time with the people here. After all it's not every day that I get a chance to hang out with them...

P.S. I know I should really be uploading all those photos to Flickr instead of posting a limited selection here but I just haven't had the time to sort through them yet...

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