Summer in Vancouver is beguiling. Despite the reports of rainy weather before we left Washington State, nary a raindrop has been spotted and the sun rules the sky. That means the entire city comes out to play.
We joined the frolicking city-dwellers yesterday in Vancouver’s favorite backyard – Stanley Park. This is a HUGE park of forest, gardens, trails and mountain and water views on the tip of downtown Vancouver. We rented bikes on nearby Denman Street in the West End and set off on our own outdoor adventure. Bike rentals are relatively affordable here – we paid only $7/hr per bike for a 2 hour ride.
The bike trail follows the seawall around the circumference of the park. Nothing is quite as freeing as seeing the world from a bike. A sense of effortless movement, like a bird soaring through the sea breeze. Along the way we spotted an abundance of wildlife: cranes standing still as statues as they fish, a raccoon, swans – so much life in the middle of the city! Numerous scenic viewpoints flew by with views of mist enveloped mountains, sailboats nestled against skyscrapers, and always the expansive sky and sea, the waves soothing you into a deep state of relaxation.
We stopped at a beach that hugs the seawall, a hidden oasis for locals in the know willing to bike a ways to lounge on the beach. While my niece scrambled over rocks and poked into watery crevasses, I savored the cacophony of sights and sounds, a symphony for the senses. Bikes whirr by, gulls scream and coo, waves slurp, the occasional floatplane buzzes overhead. Close my eyes and breathe in. THIS is vacation.
Vancouver is a diverse city with a tapestry of cultures. As the World Cup is in progress, this tapestry is constantly on show. People display flags on their cars or hang them from their balconies, a show of pride in their ancestral homes. I have seen flags from Brazil, Japan, Chile, Spain, Germany, Greece, Korea. Everyone knows the outcomes of the soccer matches. Yesterday we strolled by a pub packed with Japanese-Canadians. Like many West Coast cities, Vancouver hosts a large Japanese community. The match was Japan v. Denmark and the upset of all upsets was in progress. As Japan scored a goal, the pub went crazy – screaming, jumping on tables, hugging, and people crowded the sidewalks to peek into the pub and catch a glimpse of the game. This is a level of passion for soccer missing in much of the United States, but rampant throughout this city. I admit I am envious.
We spent the evening experiencing one of Vancouver’s beloved summer festivals, Bard on the Beach. This is a city that always has a festival somewhere. In this case, a summer-long Shakespeare festival in the park overlooking English Bay. We saw “Much Ado About Nothing”, my all-time favorite Shakespeare. Not a bad seat in the house. Fantastic acting. Truly first-rate. In the midst of communal side-splitting laughter at Benedick’s antics with the locals, I thought to myself, this is as good as travel gets.