Wednesday, May 9, 2012

City Gets 'Jazzier' in 2012

The signs of summer are coming and what better way to start it off than with an exciting announcement from the city's biggest summer music festival.  The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is kicking off its 27th annual event in a new location at the heart of Vancouver - in the Robson Square and Vancouver Art Gallery district made famous by the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.  The move from its previous Gastown location to is unfortunate news for the historic district and local businesses, but wider spaces and a more central location will mean better accessibility and open space for the average festival-goer.

This is another great aspect of Vancouver; its able to host festivals that draw large crowds from all over the country to a central downtown location easy and convenient for both locals and tourists. The safe and efficient transportation system allows flows of people to easily come and go from the downtown core.  With access to hundreds of restaurants, shops and lounges that are lively on any given night, this city makes a perfect host for these types of events. Not to mention, a great backdrop of the mountains helps take in the smooth sounds of jazz just a little easier.

The 2012 event kicks off June 22nd and runs until July 1st at various venues throughout the city.  With artists like the sounds of George Benson and the Avett Brothers, this year is looking to be one of the festival's biggest yet.

For full schedules and line-ups, visit Vancouver International Jazz Festival's official website for details.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Signs of Summer

Endless days of overcast, rain and mist are what locals here call "winter" (something I have yet to comprehend having grown up with 8 months of annual bone-chilling -30'C Prairie winters).  So when a day of sunshine breaks out in Vancouver, the whole city comes to a halt as people pour out of their homes and offices to enjoy the signs of spring.

Vancouver is a rich city in that it offers an abundance of outdoor activities in every corner of every neighborhood.  I decided to break out the bocce ball set and enjoy the sunshine with friends at a local park at George Wainborn Park, a urban park at the edge of the Yaletown area of downtown Vancouver.  En route, I experienced city sidewalks full of lively, happy people and the Seawall was bursting at the seams with pedestrians and cyclists.  I spent the day like most others under the sun absorbing all the Vitamin D we'd missed out on during the winter months of overcast.  

Now that I have escaped the harsh Prairie winters and live in a city that experiences one of the country's mildest winters, the lack of sunshine makes me actually envious of those frigid Manitoban winters - but only for a moment, when I shiver myself back to my awesome new reality.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dance Here? Dance There? Dance... Anywhere.

Sometimes plans are meant to be broken.  From my past experiences, unplanned plans lead to a whole lot of random good times.

At a recent outing for a friend's birthday, plans were to attend one particular venue.  After arriving at the front doors and told to either wait for an hour in the rain or grease the bouncers, consensus was that this venue was not worth the time or money.  

As our party weaved the seedy and damp streets of the Gastown district, we ran into promoters offering passes to an underground club (literally in the basement) of a nearby building.  We were offered free passes and a no-wait-in-line guarantee, so we jumped at the chances. Vinyl is a somewhat new club that classifies itself as a retro dance lounge and on this random Saturday night, it did not disappoint. It had a great open space and many bars throughout the club that allowed for little-to-no wait time for a drink. But the highlight of the venue was the dance floor - literally, the floor.  It was a fun feature of tiled neon lights beating to the sounds of the music.  It intensified the dance experience, or at least that's what it felt like after a few drinks.

And so another random, somewhat unplanned evening goes by where it ends up being a blast.  Oh I forgot to mention - our party had a Western theme where everyone was dressed in cowboy/gal-inspired attire (in anticipation of original plans for hitting up a Western-themed bar).  Even so, our party of cowboys/girls proudly danced up a storm in a 'hip' and modern bar... 

But as time and time again has demonstrated in my life, it is not the destination that matters - it is the people you surround yourself with that help create the best memories and experiences. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter Blues No More

Clouds and rain = a typical winter day in Vancouver, and I absolutely love it! Though it brings down the typical Vancouverite, I embrace these mild winters consisting of daily overcast and misty rain.  The fact that the grass stays green, shrubs and plants continue to bloom and the waters don't solidify into rock-solid ice rinks- it just blows my mind!

Winnipeg winters force people to hibernate eight months out of the year and almost every shred of greenery disappear. Vancouver winters don't stop me from riding my bike and walking to the park,  Though I cannot build snowmen or make snow angels, this winter weather is one I can really get used to.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall Hits the City

Fall is my favorite season, and fall in Vancouver does not disappoint.  Bright and vibrant autumn colors drape the city as select trees shed their leaves.

What's amazing, and uncommon in Prairie fall seasons, is that the grass remains green and several trees, shrubs and plants don't actually disappear.  In fact, some flourish and continue to bloom, something that is unheard of in the Prairies.  This make my everyday walk about the city a new adventure as I encounter new flourishing "winter"plants come alive.

What winters obviously lack in Vancouver is snow.  It is rare, but snow does happen here....2-5 days out of the year!  Want more? Check out my other post dedicated to my thoughts on snow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Caribbean Flavors in the City

One of BC's largest cultural events, Caribbean Days Festival, takes places every summer on the shores of North Vancouver. It draws thousands of visitors from all over for the two-day event and is jam packed with fun activities, food, music and everything else in between.

This was my second time attending the free family-friendly event and I was still amazed at how fun and lively this festival is.  Unlike the cultural events back in Winnipeg which include the popular two-week long summer festival Folklorama, this North Vancouver event took my definition of the word "festival" to a whole new level.

Live entertainment flowed from the main stage area as well as from other folks playing spontaneously on their own drums and instruments throughout the festival grounds. Tents of local homemade jewelry, crafts and clothing were situated in one market area while another food area featured endless lineups for home made Caribbean treats and delights, which infused the air with aromas that brought me back down memory lane of Jamaican vacations.

It was a scorching hot weekend perfect for a Caribbean festival, leading people to come out in hoards.  Public transport Translink's Sea Bus, which connects downtown commuters to the north shore, experiences their year's highest traffic levels during this weekend because of this particular event, which I understand from my first-hand experience in a 30+ minute wait going both directions.  They prepare by increasing number of boats, departure times and staff to accommodate festival goers.

Caribbean Days Festival goes down in my books as an annual must-see event.  I cannot wait till next year where I can only hope for another sun-filled weekend listening to live reggae and devouring jerk chicken!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Conquering The Chief

A few co-workers invited me out for a hike one weekend and after I accepted, I quickly realized how different the term "hike" in the B.C. landscape compared to say - a Manitoban Prairie-land trail.  Nonetheless, after a few reassuring conversations with the co-workers, I was excited, curious and anxious about my first official west coast mountain-side hike on what's locally known as "The Chief".

 After a well-rested night and nutritious breakfast, I was up eager and ready to take on the fresh Pacific air. Situated near Squamish, a town 45 minutes north of Vancouver on the coast of the Sea-To-Sky highway (and the half-way point to Whistler Blackcomb from the city), The Chief is a dome-like granite mountain that is approximately 2000 feet of vertical rock to summit.  As daunting as this sky-high hunk of rock appeared, I knew there was no backing down at as we approached the foothill of the trail.

The first third of the 1.5hr hike up was the toughest as it was basically all incline up wooden steps.  But that was the toughest part; onward were simpler zigzag mountain trails that felt a bit easier to handle. The Chief has 3 different peak points you can visit, each with their own spectacular trail and view. The first peak was the closest and often most visited stop, so we decided to take on peak #2 and avoid crowding.  To my surprise, the very top was all on solid exposed rock where chains and ladders were installed to help hikers safely climb and scale to the top.  It was a bit scary with my slight fear of heights, but it was so much fun and my closest experience to "mountain climbing".  Tight squeezes between rock wedge and careful sliding and shimmying across ledges helped me overcome several questionable moments - but it felt amazing to say "screw it" and overcome them!

Once atop the peak, I soaked in breathtaking views that were well worth the pain and fear endured ascending the mountain.  After some refueling and playing with some new furry critter friends, the trek back down felt seemingly simple, so I thought.  One word of advice is to go early or during non-peak times; upward trail traffic noticeably picked up which was a challenge for the tighter-squeeze areas.  But my other, more stronger word of advice: do not underestimate the ease and simplicity of going downhill.  Though at the time it felt like a breeze, I felt the pains in the week afterwards all throughout my calves and hamstrings.  I felt muscle strains and pains whenever I tried to take a step downwards on stairs, a pain I'd never experienced before.

All in all, my first official hike as a Vancouverite was an eye-opener. Not only is this rugged B.C. trail significantly more intense than hiking trails out east, so are the post-hiking pains.

But unlike the Prairie trails, this hike up The Chief offered spectacular and memorable views that can only be found atop these coastal mountains.