Vancouver City is listed as one of the “World’s Top Three Most Livable Cities”. A bustling and increasingly ethnically diverse city, Vancouver boasts stunning natural beauty and has a vibrant Chinese community. Its economy long ago diversified away from natural-resource trade in British Columbia, and the Port of Vancouver is the business seaport in Canada. The city has been dubbed Hollywood North, since it has emerged as the third largest film-production center after Los Angeles and New York. The 2010 Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver and nearby Whistler. Vancouver is framed by the mighty elements of sea and mountains. Located in what was once one of the most isolated regions on the planet, the city has, over the last century, developed close ties with the nations surrounding the largest ocean on Earth, and is fast becoming the multicultural metropolis of the Pacific Rim. Although its history is tied to the development of British Columbia’s natural resources, most residents were lured here by the magnificent setting and the climate, which is remarkably mild in a country known for its bitter winters and stifling summers. Vancouver, where Asia meets America, is a city well worth discovering.
Just a few steps from downtown, Gastown is best discovered on foot. The area dates back to 1867, when John Deighton, known as Gassy Jack, opened a saloon for the employees of a neighbouring sawmill. Gastown was destroyed by fire in 1886. However, this catastrophe did not deter the city’s pioneers, who rebuilt from the ashes and started anew the development of their city, which was incorporated several months later.
It is well worth stopping in at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden (578 Carrall St., 689-7133), behind the traditional portal of the Chinese Cultural Centre at 50 East Pender St. Built in 1986 by Chinese artists from Suzhou, this garden is the only example of landscape architecture from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) outside Asia. The 1.2ha green space is surrounded by high walls that create an oasis of peace in the middle of bustling Chinatown.
The next part of town you’ll pass through is known as Little Italy, but is also home to Vancouverites of Portuguese, Spanish, Jamaican and South American descent. In the early 20th century, the Commercial Drive area became the city’s first suburb, and middle-class residents built small, single-family homes with wooden siding here. The first Chinese and Slavic immigrants moved into the neighbourhood during World War I, and another wave of immigrants, chiefly Italian, arrived at the end of World War II.
Lord Stanley, the same person for whom ice hockey’s Stanley Cup was named, founded Stanley Park on a romantic impulse back in the 19th century, when he was Canada’s governor general (1888-1893). Stanley Park lies on an elevated peninsula stretching into the Georgia Strait, and encompasses 405ha of flowering gardens, dense woodlands and lookouts offering views of the sea and the mountains. Obviously Vancouver’s many skyscrapers have not prevented the city from maintaining close ties with the nearby wilderness. Some species are held in captivity, but many others roam free – sometimes even venturing into the West End.
A 10km waterfront promenade known as the Seawall runs around the park, enabling pedestrians to soak in every bit of the stunning scenery here. The Stanley Park Scenic Drive is the equivalent of the Seawall for motorists. The best way to explore Stanley Park, however, is by bicycle.
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