Friday, September 16, 2011

Vancouver – what might have been…..?

In 1985, one of the four berelowitzii (as our tribe was affectionately known) was definitely going to leave Cincinnati for pastures anew. Many and varied were the reasons but suffice it to say academic contentment and advancement were definitely high on the priority list. Three of the tribe were less excited about the plan. Regardless, jobs were pursued and three viable opportunities presented themselves – one in New Haven (great prestige, no moola, voted down), one in Stony Brook, NY (great potential, good moola – the eventual choice) and the third in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia (probably the best job mix but a geographic step too far for the voting majority).
Looking at Vancouver now, as a visitor, I have to say it has an awful lot going for it. No regrets about the career decision (?) but I must say the Pacific Northwest is a lovely part of the world. Gorgeous geography – a beautiful waterfront city backed by majestic mountains – you can ski in the morning on Grouse Mountain and sail in the bay in the afternoon (I obviously can do neither so bah humbug to that).
Van City was also voted one of the best places to live in North America but is clearly not one of the most affordable – property is very expensive. Provincial and Federal Taxes (12%) are added to the cost of everything (even stamps) which compounds the livability issue. When I looked at housing in 1985 prices were high for someone from Cincinnati but not astronomical – it was around that time however that there was a major influx of Chinese from Hong Kong – to beat the transfer of the Island from British to Chinese rule. Since then there has been major property development with high-rise buildings ringing the waterfront.

Vancouver has a population of 2.3 million and is remarkably diverse. There is a major Asian influence and presence in the city.
The exploration (late 1700s) and settlement of the area follows a fairly standard Northwest pattern. Trading – in this case the North West Company; then logging and milling; the arrival of the railroad (the Canadian Pacific Railroad); Gold rush locally in the mid-1800s; in the Klondike in the late 1800s created the need for supplies, stores and merchants and of course the development of a large seaport.
We had the opportunity today to go on a tour of Victoria but elected instead to explore downtown Vancouver. We are staying at the Four Seasons Hotel (sounds swish but the Courtyard Marriott in Edmonton offered better facilities). Had breakfast at a Tim Hortons – don’t ask. Then took a circular path around downtown. Merle liked the manhole covers....

Walked from the hotel to the waterfront through the Heritage District stopping off at Canada Place and the Cruise terminal (from where we will be sailing tomorrow). Bought a couple of bottles of wine to stock up the cabin.
Then followed the waterfront to Gastown – the original settlement at the edge of the sawmills and named for a saloon owner “gassy” Jack Deighton. A fun area to wander and shop – also lots of lovely eating places.
Finally walked away from the water towards Chinatown. 

A different view of Vancouver here. Lots of  “street people,” folks panhandling and vagrant types. Came across a concert in a blocked off street where all these characters had congregated to listen to Rock and Roll and have a hot meal from a kitchen that had been set up for them. It was quite a scene!!

Chinatown itself was fascinating. Old buildings well-preserved, each with a societal purpose. Surname association headquarters for example – one for the Lee, one for Chin, Wing and Chun; The benevolent association and the freemasons buildings – groups that provided assistance and protection to Chinese workers;
There was also a lovely classical Chinese garden in honor of Sun Yat Sen the father of modern China. An amazing contrast between this area of tranquility and the big city just beyond.

The Chinese community have made an enormous contribution to Vancouver and there are multiple reminders ranging from this Monument to Canadian Chinese to a plaque memorializing those that served during WW II.

Finally, had to visit the Jimi Hendrix Shrine – though a bit sad and ramshackle – this was the building of Vies Fried Chicken where his Grandma Nora worked and where the late great Jimi grew up, played and busked. 

Tomorrow morning we board ship and off we go!!!


  1. Thank goodness you guys travel a lot...otherwise I would not get to go anyplace!!! And it's how I get to learn about new places that I'll probably never get to.

    Michael...your Mom is amazing!!! And she has a lot more hair then I do...

  2. Off and running (or should I say sailing?) again! Enjoy! G will be mighty envious of your Alaskan adventures. It's high on his list of places to go...sigh, one day. Who am I to sigh??? I'm off to Italy soon :) Back to the Beez...smooth sailing to you both!

  3. those pics are really something.... I didn't remember Vancouver was in the mix.

  4. Funny, how your three choices weaved their way through our lives. Met your lovely daughter at Stony Brook, honeymooned with her in Vancouver, and turned down a job opportunity in Cincinnati to settle in Providence. Wild