The start of the 50,000-strong Vancouver Sun Run – always a beautiful race!
The start of the 50,000-strong Vancouver Sun Run – always a beautiful race!
My friend Ed Salvato – the ultimate gay travel guru – has teamed up with Billy Kolber (also no slouch in the gay travel department, as founder of Out & About) to create ManAboutWorld magazine, a new travel publication for the iPad. I’m thrilled to be contributing to it occasionally; here’s a piece on Vancouver I wrote for the November edition. For the full effect be sure to download the App and see the magazine for yourself!
The beauty of Vancouver can drive a grown man to cry. With its forest of glass towers nestled where the mountains of the Canadian West rise and fall into the Pacific, Vancouver is one of the world’s most beautiful spots – but somehow still off the radar of most travelers.
An influx of money and Asian immigrants has changed the look of Vancouver over the past three decades from self-described backwater to cosmopolitan global city. At its heart, though, it remains a genuinely down-to-earth place (the recent debut of “Real Housewives of Vancouver” notwithstanding) rife for exploring.
Befitting the region’s progressive reputation, Vancouver is also home to a sizable gay population, which hoists its rainbow flag in the Davie Village section of the West End (not to be confused with West Vancouver, to the north, or the West Side, to the south).
Get your bearings at ground zero, near the corner of Thurlow and Davie Streets, but don’t be alarmed if the crowds happen to be thin: locals in this outdoorsy place are as likely to be found at the neighborhood’s many lively watering holes as they are doing what Vancouverites do best – being out and active in their slice of paradise.
Exercise is religion here, but so is good food. A pair of upcoming events is perfect excuse (as if you needed one) to plan a winter visit. January brings the two-week Dine Out Vancouver Festival, touted as the largest food festival in the country, with more than 200 restaurants offering up their diverse menus on the cheap. The huge Vancouver International Wine Festival follows in February and is a tippler’s time to try the surprising fruits of the Okanagan, the wine-producing area in the province’s interior, and a variety of other vintners from around the globe.
The new CB2 on Robson Street, part of the new PaPa development, formerly home to Kimpton’s Pacific Palisades hotel (and my own home in Vancouver for longer than I can remember).
The Shangri-La, Vancouver’s tallest tower (and best hotel, of course):
A little art outside the Shangri-La:
With my friend James for a leisurely afternoon of libations atop the Oasis:
I’ve been a slouch in the running department all winter, but that didn’t stop me from continuing my annual spring tradition of doing the Vancouver Sun Run. It was my slowest time in seven years – but I survived! The Sun Run has one of the best courses anywhere – winding through downtown streets, Stanley Park, across two bridges, and with the most amazing views of mountains and the sea. It’s a runner’s must-do.
Here’s the start, looking east down Georgia Street to the 50,000 runners!
It was another spectacular weekend in Vancouver, bidding farewell to summer with sun and soaring temps!
All that we do
Is touched with ocean, yet we remain
On the shore of what we know
I managed to survive my fifth – or sixth? – Vancouver Sun Run this weekend with 50,000 of my closest friends. The course for this 10K (Canada’s largest road race) is the best I’ve ever experienced: it loops from the office towers of Downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park and over the bridge to Kitsilano before ricocheting over the Cambie Street Bridge back into the downtown peninsula near Yaletown.
The race aside, it was a spectacular weekend. A few snaps from around the city:
A spectacular weekend in Vancouver…sunny and bright and beautiful:
The other night, as I was walking through Vancouver’s West End on my way to pack and get my things before a red-eye back to New York, I spotted an amazing sunset down the hill on English Bay. Not that every sunset in Vancouver isn’t spectacular, but this one seemed unusually so. I walked briskly down Comox Street to catch it before it disappeared behind Vancouver Island, a dozen miles offshore. During Vancouver winters, the sun would be gone in minutes, before I could make it all the way down to Sunset Beach. This time of year it lingers. And that night, so did I. I walked down to the beach, and simply looked out as the sun did its magic for 30, 40 minutes — maybe longer? — until those of us sun-gawkers were shrouded in complete darkness. I have complete ADHD and can’t ever stand still, but I was so moved by that night’s sunset and the emotions it conjured up — of a city I love beyond imagination, a place that is so breathtakingly beautiful — that I was frozen, transfixed.
Eventually I turned toward Denman Street, then paused and looked back one last time before walking up the hill to gather my things, a routine I’ve done dozens of times, but never really liked. In six hours I’d be back in New York, still thinking about that sunset.
The other day I had the pleasure of taking the last CruiseyT of the season with my friends Ray and Marty out of Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, under the Lions Gate Bridge, past the huge homes of West Vancouver (Canada’s richest town), and up Howe Sound to Horseshoe Bay. A truly spectacular day on the water.
Looking north up Howe Sound:
Passing under the Lions Gate Bridge:
Aboard WestJet, flying from San Francisco to Vancouver.
Sometimes in life you see something and just have to have it. Such was the case the other day in Vancouver. I popped into Holt Renfrew’s gorgeous Pacific Center store and as soon as I spotted this French drapeau-inspired K-Way creation, I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. I kept trying it on and walking away from it, thinking that it was a bit frivolous of a purchase. So off I went to roam Vancouver, but thoughts of this beauty kept swirling in my head. So two hours later I returned and snagged the only one on the rack! (Of course that night I was told by a local that they used to buy K-Way at Wal-Mart…and hear I was being duped into buying mine at Holt’s.)
Another year, another long night out with friends in Vancouver before the Sun Run! This week was my fifth Sun Run, and like I’ve done each of those years, I once again outdid myself on the Davie Street bar circuit before doing the race circuit a few hours later. But I survived, and that’s all that matters. The Sun Run is truly the best race around: a 10-km course that wends its way from West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park, along the beach, over the bridge to Kitsilano, and then over False Creek to a high-energy finish at BC Place. With nearly 60,000 runners and countless spectators lining every inch of the course it is a true community race that is simply awesome.
Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but this video montage of beautiful scenes from around British Columbia produced for the Olympics gives me chills. I love it! And having Kim Cattrall — who few Americans know is from BC, and who was once sleeping with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — is just the icing on the cake!
Going into Gym Bar last night to watch the Vancouver opening ceremonies, I warned my friends that I would be insufferable all evening, peppering the historic night with useless trivia about my favo(u)rite city on the continent. And I didn’t disappoint, although my friends did humo(u)r me and let me explain every nuance of the evening. I have to admit it was one of the greatest joys of my (sad, sad) life to see Vancouver shown off to the world. I’ve been going there religiously for years and have both enjoyed — and tired — of people knowing so little about it. My friend Steve didn’t believe me. (Click that damn link, Steve!)
First off, I am thrilled that on TV they keep showing where Vancouver is on the map. Maybe fewer people will think it’s near Anchorage (I often get that), when in fact, it’s closer to New York than San Francisco is.
I had frissons from the first second of the broadcast, as BC natives Kim Cattrall and Ryan Reynolds and then Vancouver’s gleaming skyline flickered onto the screen…and then I teared up (true!) when Georgia walked in just hours after the sad death of one of its own on Whistler’s slicker-than-slick luge run. (For the record, I want to die in a place as beautiful as British Columbia – the license plate isn’t lying.)
But it was when Romeo Dallaire marched in that I really flipped! So cool to see him included in the ranks of Canadian celebrity (too bad no one at the United Nations took note back in 1994, but I digress).
Two fashion observations: I’m still wondering whether Pucci or Lily Pulitzer provided Azerbaijan’s outrageous yet quite chic costumes. Entertainment Weekly gave them the distinction of having the night’s Worst Outfit. And on the flip side, I thought Michaelle Jean looked positively dazzling in her silvery bronzy suit. Someone definitely made a run into Holts before hitting BC Place. And she looked a helluva lot better than Laureen Harper, who was seated next to her and who resembled a ketchup bottle (the squeezable ones, not the svelte Heinz ones).
The bottom line?
I haven’t talked to anyone who liked the opening ceremonies. The New York Times kindly called it “tasteful.” Let’s face it: Beijing was a tough act to follow, and in 2008 China had a lot more to prove to the world than Canada does today (they also spent 10 times more than Vancouver did). The show was beautifully done — malfunctioning caldrons notwithstanding — but I think the main problem was simply the fact that it was very Canadian, and Americans don’t know much about Canada. Anything Canadian state-side requires subtitles for people to understand what’s happening. Everyone was puzzled at how indian-heavy (that’s First Nations, people!) it was. Never mind that British Columbia is basically one big native land claim. Don’t even get me started about the questions about Who the hell is Stephen Harper? and What the hell is a governor general?
(One minor post-script: Where on earth was NBC broadcasting from? In the pre-opening broadcast, one could only presume they were on a barge in Coal Harbour — perhaps at the float plane gas pumps? — if the backdrop of the Vancouver Convention Centre was to be believed. Clearly they were not.)
“Poised geographically and psychologically between Asia and Europe, running on reserves of Hong Kong cash and American corporate interests, on surpluses of immigration and dreams, Vancouver is what the novelist William Gibson, who lives here, calls ‘radically multicultural.’ That is excellent for food.”
But all is not perfect in Vancouver, that’s for sure. While The Times touts the merit of Vancouver’s dining scene, this week it also offered up a good piece on the blighted Downtown Eastside, Canada’s skid row. The DTES is the first place I ever saw someone shoot up and pass their needle to another person in broad daylight!
Every now and then you read something you simply can’t get out of your head. Earlier this summer, a group of Canadians was invited by The New York Times to write a few words about their homeland in celebration of Canada Day (that’s July 1 for those wondering).
My mind wandered back to that piece this week on the afternoon I swooped into Vancouver Island, the childhood home of Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall. Ms. Cattrall contributed her evocative, almost hauntingly simple recollections of youth on Vancouver Island to the paper, and it’s well worth a read, especially for those of us who’ve spent times sitting on British Columbia logs!
“In Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where I grew up, the beaches were strewn with thousands of fugitive logs that had escaped the water transporters bringing them down toward the prospering lumber sawmills and pulp and paper factories all around Vancouver Island.
“On our gray sand shores, those shaved logs became home to insects, birds and small rodents and made great hiding places or impromptu tents. A favorite childhood game was to see who could traverse the most beached logs without ever touching the sand.
“As teenagers, we’d drive out to the beaches with our sleeping bags in tow, stack up smaller moveable logs and build bonfires before bedding down to sleep protected by those fallen trees.”
When I grow up, I want a big house on Point Grey Road in Vancouver. Home to old money, rich professors at nearby UBC, and rich Canucks players, this place is hot!