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Published: January 24th 2017
In the last week of June a work trip took me to Vancouver. We were going to present at the 10th International Test Commission Conference
, and of course I made sure we were going to fit some sightseeing in. So Achim and I arrived two days prior to the conference. The conference hotel that we were also staying in was not even a five minute walk from the marina. We arrived there on a Wednesday afternoon, and after checking in and having a cup of coffee we walked down to the waterfront.
I had already heard from quite a few people that the city is an amazing place, a metropolis located right between the mountains and the sea. So the inhabitants have it all, both city life and nature, both the mountains and the sea. The first thing that caught my eye was a huge Lego orca located right next to the convention centre just above the promenade, and the next thing were tiny water planes taking off and landing every few minutes. Later on I learned that they are being used like we use taxis. You live on the other side of the bay, so you take a plane to work. And even
Sea plane flight I
View towards the north, mountains and sea, just on the other side of the bay from the city centre.
though it costs about $ 100 out and return it might still be cheaper than living downtown Vancouver. Housing is extremely expensive in the city. Just for fun we looked up real estate prices in the window of an agency just by the marina. A two or three bedroom flat somewhere close to the marina is about two million dollars. Wow.
We walked along the beautiful marina, from the Convention Centre all the way to Coal Harbour. There are lots and lots of boats, mainly sailboats, but also motor yachts, and I got the feeling that everyone in the city must own a boat. Of course this is not true, the city has over 600,000 inhabitants (and over half of them are not originally Canadian, so a very diverse city!), with around 2.4 million in the Greater Vancouver Region.
The city sort of started with a tavern, believe it or not. There were a lot of sawmills in the area, and the proprietor of a makeshift tavern, Gassy Jack, persuaded millworkers to build him a tavern in the area of the city that is now Gastown. This was in 1867, and the area soon turned into a settlement
Sea plane flight II
View of the city centre with Coal Harbour and Stanley Park in the background.
called Granville. The area was later turned into the railhead of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was renamed “Vancouver”. This railway, by the way, was built mostly by Chinese workers under horrible circumstances. Many of them died. There is a great novel, “Gold Mountain Blues”, by Zhang Ling telling the story. The city became an important port between Eastern Canada, the Orient, and Europe. Nowadays the port is the third largest by tonnage in the Americas. Forestry is still its most important industry sector, but closely followed by tourism. In spite of the expensive housing, the city is repeatedly in the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life.
We had dinner in the patio of a super nice restaurant in Coal Harbour, with the view of the beautiful marina and Stanley Park on the other side of the marina and enjoyed the pleasant temperature and the view. Later in the evening I caught up with my colleague Mats from Sweden who had just arrived, and we had a drink together before going to bed.
The cliché has it that the inhabitants of Vancouver do all kinds of sports and spend a lot of time outside.
Sea plane flight III
Flying over Stanley Park, view towards the city centre, with the Convention Centre and the dock from which the planes depart on the left.
I experienced this during my morning runs. I ran along the marina and I hardly ever met so many other runners, and believe me, I go running in a lot of places.
The next morning Achim, Mats and I went for a hop on hop off bus ride through the city. It started off right in front of the hotel and first took us through Downtown and then into Stanley Park. The park is a huge green area located on a peninsula between Downtown and North Shore. From one side of it one has a beautiful view of the marina and its skyline, from the other side one can see North Shore. It has a stunningly beautiful rose garden. There is also a viewpoint that has a great view of Lion’s Gate Bridge that links the park to North Shore. The tour continued to False Creek on the other end of Downtown and then went over to Granville Island. From there it went on into Yaletown and we got off the bus on Library Square. The Public Library resembles the Colosseum in Rome and was designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in
Sea plane flight IV
Flying over Stanley Park, view towards the city centre and Coal Harbour.
Singapore, with the idea that you should be able to see the sky from each room of the building. There is an interesting TED Talk by him: How to reinvent the apartment building
We had a cup of coffee in an amazingly decorated coffee shop – there was a mobile made of white and red cups and saucers suspended from the ceiling – and then walked back to the marina because we had booked a flight on a water plane. Most of you know how much I love flying, and that is real flying, not sitting on a plane like on a bus. So there we were, just the three of us and the pilot, in this tiny one engine prop airplane. I was thrilled because I was allowed to sit in front, next to the pilot, and I was even allowed to listen to the conversation he had with tower. I had goosebumps all over when we floated from the pier into the open water and took off. Acceleration seemed to take forever, and for a moment I thought we would never gain enough speed to take off. But riding on the water was a lot smoother than I would have thought. Finally
Our boarding passes
Out of plastic so that they can be re-used.
we took off and turned left and flew over the bay, with Downtown Vancouver to our left and North Shore to our right. At first we could still see a lot of houses on both sides of the bay, but there were fewer and fewer buildings, and then the bay opened up to the north and we could see mountains, forest, and islands all the way to the horizon. Then we turned and flew back across Stanley Park and Downtown, with Granville Island to our far right. And after only 20 minutes we landed smoothly on the water again. I felt like in heaven. What a great job this pilot has! We continued our bus tour, took time to hop off at Prospect Point to enjoy the view of Lion’s Gate Bridge, and then rode back into town to have dinner. We did not hang out for too long since there was work left to do and I did not get much sleep.
The next morning Mats and I spent attending pre-conference workshops and setting up our booth for the conference. It was the first of July, Canada Day, so we decided to take the afternoon off to watch
The sea planes
... on the dock they depart from - like taxis!
the parade. I had already noticed the previous day that people were wearing all kinds of clothes with the Canadian flag on it, base caps, scarves, some runners had even wrapped the flag around their shoulders while running, and some people had painted the flag onto their cheeks. So they seemed to be very proud to be Canadian. It also seemed that people from really different origins were proud to be Canadian. It seems that the country is doing a great job integrating immigrants from all over the world. We watched a group of policemen on their motorbikes doing a kind of choreography, and they were obviously having a lot of fun. And so were people, they were clapping and shouting, the atmosphere was just great!
After the parade we went to a sushi place in Gastown with our colleagues from Sweden. The food was fantastic, and generally I have to say that the city is like paradise for a foodie like me. One night Achim and I went to a steak place with Lara who works with our cooperation partner, and a friend of hers. Of course I had a vegetarian dish, but that was very nice, and
Katha the co-pilot
I was allowed to sit in the front seat next to the pilot, extremely cool :-)
my colleagues loved their steaks. One night I went to an Indian place with my colleague Ilke. In case you want to find out about good coffee places around to globe go to her blog
, she tests coffee places and writes reviews – and sometimes she also shares some other travel experiences or comments on restaurants she has been to. The two of us also had a nice dessert: nitrogen ice-cream. I had tasted it in Australia for the first time, now I enjoyed it again. It tastes very different from “normal” ice-cream, it is creamier. Even burger places can be quite nice. We had burgers and chips in a place not far from the conference where we watched a game of the Football Worlds. I can’t even remember which one it was, which tells you how much I am into football…
Well, let’s not forget that I actually went to Vancouver for the conference. It now sounds as if we had just done touristy stuff, which is not true of course 😉. But I won’t bore you with the details of the conference, so let’s just say that it went from Saturday until Monday and we flew home
The design was, as one can see easily, inspired by the Colosseum in Rome.
on Monday night. I got back with two kinds of feelings: in terms of the conference it showed me how far ahead of the industry we are in many respects and that the conference will need some fresh ideas. And I loved Vancouver, I think the city will not leave you a lot of options, being a true metropolis, surrounded by amazing nature, super diverse, with incredibly friendly people.
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