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What I learned about Vancouver

February 24th, 2005 · 3 Comments


  • There are a number of German-speaking Canadians as we discovered over dinner Saturday night while eating Kraken with some Bryght folks.
  • The city blocks are short and easy to walk; it feels pedestrian friendly (Thanks to Richard’s post, I noticed the excellent audible traffic signals, not common in the United States.) It’s pretty and shiny with plenty of public parking lots marked and no sore thumbs or abandoned dinosaurs obvious in the architecture. However I did notice people begging and sleeping beneath blankets, as is common in any large city.
  • Plenty of excellent restaurants. Ted and I would be happy to eat there every day. Sushi Capital of the Galaxy indeed.
  • The proximity of skating rinks for Canadians. In a discussion with Julie Szabo, skating coach and Northern Voice volunteer, we learned that rinks are much more abundant over the border. This is hard for Americans to imagine, especially Americans who live an hour away from any rink and can count the opportunities to ice skate in Puget Sound on one hand. I noticed that the back of the Canadian five dollar bill features a picture of skaters with this excerpt describing childhood winters:….but our real life was on the skating rink.
  • The Hampton Inn one bedroom-suite worked well for our family. The staff was attentive to our needs. However, the parking garage was a bit tight for maneuvering a van. Canadians drive smaller cars, I suspect. (Don’t bring a Suburban to Vancouver!)
  • Canadians aren’t crazy about skirts. I wear skirts to conferences because I can, because I know I won’t be climbing playgrounds or pouring fingerpaints for a day. I think I might have been the only one at Northern Voice wearing a skirt. Not a big deal but an interesting observation. At the other blogging conferences I have attended I was not the only skirt-wearer. A blogging conference in Seattle would probably have attendees in skirts, both female and male
  • The Northern Voice crew aren’t hiding their blogs from their parents. For example, Darren Barefoot, Boris Mann and Tim Bray all brought relatives to the conference with them. I thought that was great (and certainly appropriate for my session). It would be rare in America, I think, to see parents and their grown children together at blogging conferences. The range of ages in the audience was rich. Perhaps family connections are stronger? Another aspect of Canandian culture I admire.

    Many reasons to consider returning to Vancouver…

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    3 responses so far ↓

    • 1 Derek // Feb 24, 2005 at 1:22 pm

      Greater Vancouver is unusual in that we not only have thousands of restaurants, we have a lot of good ones, and many of them are quite cheap to eat at. Even the high-end establishments, such as recent Iron Chef winner Rob Feenie’s Lumiere, cost far less to eat at (and are also usually rather less pretentious) than similar restaurants in other cities. And you can get fabulous sushi almost anywhere.

    • 2 Darren // Feb 24, 2005 at 3:17 pm

      The quote on the back of the $5 bill is from what is perhaps Canada’s most popular and favourite children’s story, “Le chandail de hockey” or “The Hockey Sweater”. From Wikipedia:

      “The story, about a young boy who orders a Montreal Canadiens sweater from the Eaton’s catalogue, but receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey instead, is considered by many to be a literary allegory for the linguistic and cultural tensions between English and French Canadians, and is thus considered one of the most important works of Canadian literature ever written, essential reading for anybody who seeks to understand the complex realities of linguistic and cultural identity in Canada.”

      You can hear Carrier reciting the story here:


      There’s also a wonderful animated short, but I couldn’t find it on the Web.

    • 3 Neil K // Feb 24, 2005 at 11:34 pm

      > Canadians aren’t crazy about skirts.

      That’s a Vancouver thing. The style is very casual, influenced by athletic and yoga togs. Worlds apart from Toronto or Montreal.

      > rinks are much more abundant over the border

      When I’m flying, I can always tell when the plane has crossed the border into America. You look down and suddenly there are baseball diamonds in every park.

      > [no] abandoned dinosaurs

      Unfortunately, this is not quite true.

      A giant department store that’s been empty for a decade…

      because all around it, heroin and crack addicts are fixing in the streets.

      This is just a twenty minute walk from where Northern Voice was held. Vancouver is a contradiction — one of the most livable places on earth, with the exception of this one district that was allowed to fester.

      > Perhaps family connections are stronger?

      I doubt that was Canada per se. For a tech conference, NV was surprisingly gender-balanced and family-oriented. Perhaps the organizers did something different?

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