Over a Far-Away Hill

Published: May 27th 2015
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False Creek ReflectionsFalse Creek ReflectionsFalse Creek Reflections

Science World and BC Place
When we left our jobs to travel the world in 2011, we hesitated to refer to what we were doing as retiring. Retiring sounded like something very planned and thought out and perhaps even a little boring. We knew that it would be a challenging task to live non-stop as vagabonds, nomads, transients and maybe in the best of times simply travelers. To start off our journey with the mindset that we would be constantly relaxing and living carefree lives didn’t seem like a good idea.

However, we did entertain thoughts of one day driving over some far-away hill and discovering a place where we could settle down once and for all. Of course we would have to permanently put the travel bug to rest first. Or at least quench the desire for daily life changes of people and place. At times it didn’t seem possible that the wanderlust would ever go away, but we knew that eventually the time would come. Locating the perfect place to end our travels became an intermittent but ongoing quest.

Like most people, we originally thought of palm-lined beaches in some rum-soaked third world country. Friendly locals and a slow pace of life in a white sand paradise sounded perfect. Some warm place south of the border seemed like the ideal. Mexico and Central America appeared to be likely places to begin our search for our retirement dream.

Later, travels in Europe caused us to consider a metropolitan, high rise, coffee fueled, gourmet food and corner stored existence in some sophisticated old world capital. Thoughts of high rise apartments in art filled cities with over abundant culture around each corner and in every secret courtyard motivated our continuing search for the ultimate final destination.

Our time spent in Asia gave us an appreciation for a new component of our perfect retirement. We would certainly wish that our coveted wonderland had interesting cultures and the exoticness that comes from the mix of all types of people in one small area. The unique tastes, smells and sounds of Asia are something that once experienced becomes desired and perhaps even necessary.

Lastly our travels around the Southwestern United States reminded us of the need for open spaces. The seemingly endless vistas, whether covered by vast forest or multi-hued rock, invigorate your senses and
Vancouver SkylineVancouver SkylineVancouver Skyline

From Stanley Park
touch your conscience in a way no urban area ever could. Access to rivers, valleys, mountains and lakes would be high on our list of priorities when picking our perfect location to end our travels.

The more we travelled, the longer our list of desired attributes grew. Would we find a setting that contained beaches and access to the ocean, sophisticated city life filled with arts, food and culture, an interesting mix of people, cultures and traditions all living together in one place and all surrounded by miles of untouched nature at its most grand.

Could there possibly be such a place?

Our 3 month stay in Europe had been grand and seemed much longer than it actually was. On our last morning we awoke at 3:30 AM in Prague, Czech Republic to catch our very early flight back to San Francisco. The flight had a very short layover in Amsterdam and actually got us to California in early afternoon. Overall it was a good flight and if nothing else, allowed us to catch up on many of the movies we missed over the last year.

We stayed in California for only one day before getting on our way again. We had decided to head north this time. Each year of our recent travels we have been to 8 countries and this year we have only been to seven. We only had a month left before our 4th anniversary and after 3 months in Europe, didn’t feel like going too far. We have been to Canada in the past and while we remembered it fondly, we hadn’t really thought to visit on this trip. Summer was approaching rapidly and perhaps this would be a great time to see a beautiful place.

After a long first day of driving, we overnighted near Portland, Oregon. From Portland we continued north. The countryside was green and trees and fields looked full. We passed vineyards, forests, farms and huge snow covered mountains.

We reached the border at noon on our second day. The line to cross was short and the border agent was friendly and efficient. More conversational than confrontational, she found out what she needed to know without making you feel intimidated in the process. Her accent was nice, perhaps touches of England mixed with a bit of frontier spirit. We had to admit it was nice to be in a country where we didn’t have to struggle to be understood.

We enjoyed the gentle reminder that the speed limit signs were in kilometers now and not miles per hour. We pictured heavy footed Americans thinking they had reached the promised land and thinking they could finally air out all 8 cylinders of their SUV’s.

The weather was cool and clear. The skies were sunny with just a few wisps of clouds on the horizon. The mountains were beautiful and evergreen covered. Some even still had snow on top. Giant Mt. Baker was visible in the distance. We could see the ocean to our left and you could smell it in the air. We hadn’t crossed over a far-away hill, but we had an immediately good feeling as we rolled in to Vancouver, British Columbia.

We easily found our new apartment. It is in a modern 3 story apartment building in an up and coming neighborhood called Mt. Pleasant. The neighborhood seemed young and hip. Lots of dog walkers and baby strollers. Coffee shops on every
Burrard Street BridgeBurrard Street BridgeBurrard Street Bridge

From Granville Island
corner and small galleries and restaurants on the main streets. It gave off a very hip vibe immediately reminiscent of a cool California beach town. Organic food, mountain bikes and marijuana dispensaries.

Overgrown trees lined the nearby streets and we passed a few parks near the house. A park called “Dude Chilling” Park set the mood. Named for a modern art statue of a guy lying down on the grass, the park was filled with kids and picnickers. The apartment itself was small but modern with a beautiful view of downtown’s majestic skyline. The skyline seemed to be all glass and steel mixed with just the right amount of futuristic architecture. The multi-layered mountains were visible to the north and east. We spotted the snow-capped peaks in the distance immediately. We could hardly wait to explore.

We spent our first couple of weeks getting a general feel for what the city had to offer. The days generally started cloudy but usually cleared by afternoon. It was great weather for hiking some of the abundant trails in the hills that surround the town. We crossed narrow suspension bridges at Lynn Canyon Park and took semi-steep

Used by Native Americans as a navigation aid. Symbol for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
trails to view spots at Lighthouse Park and Juniper Point. We drove to nearby Cypress Point to get an elevated view over the entire city. The views from the mountains to the north of town gave us a good feel for the immenseness of the city. Despite having 650,000 people and a metropolitan area of 2.5 million you really only get a feel for the large size when you are looking down on it from above.

We took time to visit some of the large parks in town. Landscaped areas and manicured lawns can be found in Queen Elizabeth and Hastings Parks. The best park of all is called Stanley Park which is located just off the West End of the downtown area. It is made up of manicured sections carefully sculpted by master gardeners surrounded by rough strands of giant trees that could only be formed by nature itself. The entire park sits on a peninsula surrounded by the water of Burrard Inlet and English Bay and is protected by a large seawall that separates it from the waters. Along the seawall a path is constructed that provides access to unbelievable views of skyscrapers on one
Spanish Banks SunsetSpanish Banks SunsetSpanish Banks Sunset

Spanish Banks look out on English Harbor
side and huge mountains on the other. The path is restricted to bicycles, skaters and walkers and is used by all to find nature just minutes from the busy downtown. An afternoon can be spent watching seabirds searching for their lunch, fisherman returning from the ocean or the frequent seaplanes taking passengers and packages from the downtown harbor they use as a runway.

At one time most of the downtown Vancouver was taken up by warehouses, fishing docks and railway services. During the World Exposition in 1986 and the Winter Olympics in 2010 much of Downtown was rebuilt or repurposed into a modern urban landscape. Stadiums were built for football and hockey. A cruise ship terminal and convention center were built. Elevated trains were built to connect downtown with the suburbs. Around these additions grew new hotels and apartment buildings that stretch toward the sky. A new 60 story apartment building is being built. At night the brightly lit skyline is absolutely stunning.

If modern skyscrapers are not your cup of tea, Vancouver also restored its historic center called Gastown. Multiple tree lined streets bordered with historic brick buildings filled with state of the art restaurants, art galleries and brew pubs fill the area. The entire area of the Olympic Village is the definition of sustainability and the repurposed warehouses of Granville Island contain a public market, craft shops, theater buildings and an art college that rank with any we have seen in our travels.

The main avenues of town seemed to be lined with every type of ethnic food imaginable. We spent a day walking on Commercial Street which is reminiscent of Haight/Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Ethiopian, Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese and Malaysian were just a few of the varieties that we saw. Everything from brew pubs to barbecue seemed to be everywhere.

I don’t think that we are ready to settle down quite yet but Vancouver may be the best fit for our extensive list of desires. Real Estate is very expensive here and there is a noticeable homeless problem here that needs to be addressed. However, I don’t think that we have been to a nicer place on our travels so far. To be honest we didn’t put a lot of thought in to coming here, but we are now very happy we did. Each place we have visited has added something to our list of desires that would make up our perfect place to live. Vancouver might be the first one that has every requirement

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Gastown- Maple Tree SquareGastown- Maple Tree Square
Gastown- Maple Tree Square

Statue of Gassy Jack, the first saloon owner in Vancouver.
The Marine BuildingThe Marine Building
The Marine Building

Classic Art Deco Building located in Downtown Vancouver.
Lions Gate Bridge Lions Gate Bridge
Lions Gate Bridge

Crosses Burrard Inlet and connects Vancouver to North Vancouver
Atkinson LighthouseAtkinson Lighthouse
Atkinson Lighthouse

In West Vancouver

27th May 2015
Atkinson Lighthouse

A lighthouse, pointing the way home!
I must admit I had a grin on my face as I read your blog. Even before the end, I had the feeling you were describing your ideal place. Perfection upon perfection seemed to mount. Vancouver is indeed lovely, as your photos attest, and there are all the mountains/forests/islands around it to explore. Plus, if you settle in this most-desired place, you could do month-long house exchanges with others from all over the world, and thus continue your travels. How fun--and best wishes deciding!
28th May 2015
Atkinson Lighthouse

Maybe we should add lighthouses to our list of necessities also! We aren't quite done travelling yet. When we were in California we renewed the lease to rent our house for another year, so we have at least one more year left!
29th May 2015

Love this (research) game
We've been playing it for about a decade now; wherever we travel there are always those wheels turning in the back of our minds, which sometimes merit active discussion. But I think you're finding what we have - the more information you receive the harder the decision gets...and you'll likely end up back where it all started on a "palm-lined beach in some rum-soaked third world country." However, if you do manage to crack the code be sure to let us know!
29th May 2015

The Game....
The more we travel the more things we add to our list. Probably there is no perfect place, which is why we started travelling in the first place. We are still enjoying the search, so for now we'll continue on. If we figure it out, we'll definitely share it. Thanks for reading.
30th May 2015

Your joy and surprised excitement about this city is evident in your words. We've done some of the same research you have and pondered where is the right place for us? What will match our needs, desires and still allow us to travel. We've just bought a beachfront condo on the Atlantic Ocean in Florida for our home base. We will continue to travel, visit wonderful places and will be able to come back home to a quiet ocean retreat. We are not ready to stop traveling, exploring and meeting new people. Open minds and hearts find the way.
31st May 2015

Glad you guys found the spot you've been looking for. I know you guys like the beach so Florida sounds like a good choice. Vancouver is very nice and checks all the boxes for us but we haven't been here for a winter. We're going to stay out for at least another year and hope we find more places along the way. Glad you found your place!

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