Saturday, May 19, 2007

Life in Canada, Pt. 1 - Vancouver and Victoria

Rumbling through the Canadian Rockies earlier this month, its easy to orient with the easy paced life in Western Canada -- the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta -- for ethnic groups, Canadians and French-Canadians.

Between Victoria and Calgary, life changes with the blink of an eye -- from the social confines of Vancouver, to the remote openness of Jasper in Alberta, to sights of Punjabis walking around Calgary, Alberta's capital.

The trip started in Vancouver, a day stopover before heading to the Canadian Rockies. Vancouverites are proud of everything from restaurants closing at 9PM, the everyday rain, to the run-down Husky gas stations with World War 2 equipment.

That may seem egotistical, but Vancouverites are in clean denial about these issues. They'll counter back with stuff like "The Winter Olympics coming to Vancouver in 2010 (correct?). What does San Francisco have?"

Well, San Francisco residents are atleast honest about the city's shortcomings.

Beyond the ego clash, Vancouver offers a vibrant culture, fancy cars, and if I were to believe the hotel attendant, a strong marijuana culture. (He was a bit tipsy and almost broke my bag.) Vancouver downtown's got something of an Indiatown -- blocks filled with Indian restaurants and stores -- and further down that street, an even bigger Chinatown.

Canada also has so much greenery that Vancouver's natural beauty is underestimated. I fell in love with the dirt-cheap coffee at Tim Horton's, a donut chain you'll find at every block.

Go further west, to Victoria in the island of Vancouver, a tamed city smacked with beauty. It's like a quaint English town, with a stunning lakefront, gardens and historical buildings dotting the streets. Looking beyond it as a tourist, it seems like an artists' haven, many of whom have drawn inspiration from the city's beauty and all-year round good weather.

Victoria's biggest draw, Bushart Gardens, is a tourist trap; the city's creative culture is so compelling that it seems overwhelming. There were musicians all over the road, and a local newspaper's classifieds has dozens of writer and artist workshops.

Seeking an answer behind this creative haven in the middle of nowhere, I approached a tourist official. Emily Carr, one of Canada's greatest artists, was a Victoria resident, she said. She's a national icon and has inspired a whole new generation of artists in the region, she said. That's not the end.

The city is so remote it feels like being in wilderness, she said, and people are comfortable with the slow speed of life. As somewhat of an artist myself who really needs a year off, that felt palatable. With the fleeting thought of establishing residence there, I asked her about public transport in the area: the vast city is broken up by the lake and rivers, and residents can bike everywhere, she said. There is an airport too.

Nelly Furtado and Steve Nash are Victoria's other high-profile past residents, Wikipedia mentions. But behind Victoria's stark beauty is a conclave of artists, who remain anonymous and prefer to keep their city a secret.

(In the next entry, I'll move deeper into remote British Columbia, where warm and tasty Samosas are sold in the most remote confines.)


Anonymous Your faraway friend Downunder said...

Your B.Day is approaching, yes? What date is it again?

4:23 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

sometime when you're visiting...need more of a hint?

5:18 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home