Read an Excerpt
The Unique Guidebook to Vancouver's Hidden Sites, Sounds, & Tastes
By Alison Appelbe, Linda Rutenberg
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2009 Alison Appelbe
All rights reserved.
Secret Aboriginal Art
Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery (1024 Mainland Street, Yaletown, 604-685-9298) represents First Nations artists from the Queen Charlotte Islands, Alert Bay, and other communities along the coast. In a gallery-like store, it shows and sells bentwood boxes, ceremonial masks, totem poles, argillite carvings, and jewelry, as well as Inuit carvings, cards, and books.
In 1946, Lloyd and Frances Hill acquired a general store and post office at Koksilah on central Vancouver Island and began selling the work of local natives there. Today, they claim to represent more than 1,000 Northwest artists at five locations in the province. Hill's Native Art (165 Water Street, Gastown, 604-685-4249, www.hillsnativeart. com) carries genuine Cowichan sweaters, each numbered and associated with a particular knitter, and similarly certified masks, baskets, jewelry, and argillite by coastal natives. As well, Hill's has a fine collection of Inuit carvings in bone and soapstone. And in a third-floor gallery, you'll find totem poles, bentwood boxes, button blankets, and ceremonial masks of extraordinary complexity and drama. Leona Lattimer (1590 West 2nd Avenue, Kitsilano, 603-732-4556) has long shown and sold fine native Indian pieces. A long-time dealer and collector in Inuit and regional native art is Ron Appleton of Appleton Galleries (1451 Hornby Street, Downtown South, 604-685-1715).
The spacious Inuit Gallery (206 Cambie Street, Gastown, 604- 688-7323, www.inuit.com) also handles Northwest Coast native art, specializing in sculpture, bone, prints, drawings, and tapestries from the Far North. It's here you'll see the works of some of the most celebrated Inuit carvers.
North Vancouver remains home to Squamish people, some of whom live on the Capilano reserve. Among them is the Baker family, which operates the Khot-La Cha Art Gallery and Gift Shop (270 Whonoak Street, North Vancouver, 604-987-3339). The shop is located in traditional Capilano territory, just southeast of Marine Drive and Capilano Road.
This is an opportunity to talk with the people who have used and made these products for generations. While they sell cedar poles, prints, jewelry, and Cowichan sweaters, their specialty is hand-tanned moosehide crafts and porcupine quill and bone jewelry.
A somewhat out-of-the-way surprise is the collection of carvings and jewelry at a store best known for its camping supplies, the Three Vets (2200 Yukon Street, Central Vancouver, 604-872-5475).
Secret Aboriginal Attractions
In a just few years, native-operated tourism has become a force in B.C., and the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia (www.aboriginalbc.com, 604-921-1070, 1-877-266-2822) is an excellent source. Businesses run by indigenous peoples province-wide embrace opportunities to visit their ancestral terrain, interact, and watch them at work. Natives make award-winning wines, and run championship golf courses. They oversee world-class galleries and, of course, operate adventure tours and wildlife viewing into unimaginably remote regions. Numerous native-owned lodges, casinos, RV parks and heritage villages are listed on the website.
There's no ethnic community in the world unrepresented in Vancouver, and Somalis and Ethiopians are here in fair numbers. Somalis run small businesses in the Broadway and Fraser Street area, and on a short stretch of Commercial Drive north of the new SkyTrain mega-station on Broadway. Eateries include the Addis Café (2017 Commercial Drive, East Vancouver, 604-254-1929) and Harambe Ethiopian Cuisine (2149 Commercial Drive, East Vancouver, 604-216-1060). Both prepare a stir-fry called Awaze tibs — beef, lamb, or chicken enlivened with spices and eaten with a flatbread called injera. Interestingly, injera is made with an indigenous Ethiopian grain. Both restaurants also serve vegetarian and bean dishes.
Nyala African Cuisine is a long-time restaurant with a warm atmosphere and "pan-African" menu of tapas and entrées that runs from boerewors kabobs (skewered sausages) to Yedoro Infille (poultry, with a serious hot sauce) (4148 Main Street, East Vancouver, 604-876-9919).
Vancouver International Airport (Richmond, 604-207-7077, www.yvr.ca) is a destination in its own right: it routinely makes top-ten lists of world airports compiled by air-related organizations and by major magazines such as Condé Nast Traveler. Little wonder. Close to one billion dollars has been spent over the past decade in creating an outdoorsy, if Modernist, environment that suggests the province's lush coastal habitat while highlighting its indigenous native culture. For the most part it works — spectacularly (but then again, a major US airline executive told me that behind the good looks, there are lingering problems).
The International Terminal collection of First Nations art is first rate. Coming into the arrivals hall, you encounter two giant Welcome Figures and a Spindle Whorl of red cedar, both by Salish artist Susan Point. In fact, the sculpture appears in regular waves, complemented by colorful hanging weavings by members of the Vancouver-based Musqueam band.
But the airport's pièce de résistance is Bill Reid's Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe, located in the International Terminal's departures lounge. This shimmering bronze sculpture is a 20-by-13-by-11.5-foot paean to a cast of rogues who paddled the coast — and fantastic enough, in every sense of the word, to keep this airport on the mental map of many of the 17.5 million passengers who pass through annually.
On the windows behind The Jade Canoe extends The Great Wave Wall by Lutz Haufschild. Inspired by the Great Wave of Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hokusai, this massive piece of light and glass suggests a "lyrical ocean realm."
With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and opening of the Canada Line rapid transit system (www.canadaline.ca) between downtown Vancouver and the airport, the number of passengers will reach 19 million.
As to the many stores (lots of smoked salmon and outdoor wear), restaurants, and bars, management demands street pricing — meaning you shouldn't pay more than you would on (expensive) Robson Street.
Absolute Spa has locations in both the international (604-270-4772) and domestic (604-273-4772) departures halls, and the airport's Fairmont Hotel (604-248-2772). Here, you can find relief for those fear-tense shoulders or revel in a full body treatment, if time allows.
Outside the International Terminal, you'll find Chester Johnson Park — with benches, totems, and walking path — in which to relax and regain your composure after losing your luggage, missing your flight, leaving your spouse, etc.
Secret Al Fresco
After a long winter of rolling black clouds, if not steady rain, any slight sign of that big yellow ball in the sky does funny things to people here.
(Actually, a lot of Vancouverites wear shorts and sandals year-round — whether as a demonstration of their hardiness or connection with the wild, or as a perennial act of wishful thinking, I can't say. This type also tends to eat outside, year-round, in their woolly sweaters and Gore-Tex jackets.)
But back to the general population. When a wan April sun appears, worshippers head for the beach, doffing their clothes in temperatures they wouldn't tolerate in their own homes. Come May, everyone wants to dine outside. Suddenly, you can't find a seat on the southwest-facing patio at Kits Coffee, and the waterfront deck at Bridges on Granville Island begins to look crowded. Why? In part, because Vancouverites like to think of themselves as slightly European. Bottom line: summer is short. Al fresco dining is very big.
There is outside, and then there is outside. Any food business that can claw from the city a little bit of rented sidewalk space will put out some tables and chairs and call it a patio.
This is fine if you don't mind ingesting diesel fumes with your meal, and putting up with barking dogs chained to the lamppost. Conditions are better on side roads like Yew Street in Kitsilano, where, though patios are usually small, there is less traffic.
But the best al fresco dining happens where a true patio or courtyard exists. A favorite is Brix (1138 Homer Street, Yaletown, 604-915-9463). This funky space with an interior courtyard serves some heady entrées, but simpler tapas as well. There are also sixty or so wines by the glass.
If you climb the open staircase inside Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House (777 Thurlow Street, Downtown, 604-669-1940), you'll arrive at a spacious patio where the fashionable and flush hang out.
Some of the best outdoor dining is found along the concrete loading docks that once served the railway — at the warehouses-turned-restaurants and bars of Yaletown. Dine in peace, even splendor (food- and ambiance-wise), at the Blue Water Café and Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton Street, 604-688-8078);Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill (1133 Hamilton Street, 604-688-7466); and Simply Thai Restaurant (1211 Hamilton Street, 604-642-0123).
The second-storey modernist Watermark "on kits beach" is arguably the ultimate outdoor location, with a 180-seat patio (enclosed when the weather acts up) and stunning views up Burrard Inlet. Serving contemporary West Coast cuisine, and with a good wine list, it's open daily for lunch and dinner, and for weekend brunches (1305 Arbutus Street, in Kitsilano Beach Park, Kitsilano, 604-738-5487). A good (unrelated) take-out operates at the sidewalk level.
Less hip, but as visually sensational, are the patios at Sequoia Grill at the Teahouse Restaurant at Ferguson Point (7501 Stanley Park Drive, Stanley Park, 604-669-3281) and the well-regarded Fish House in Stanley Park (8901 Stanley Park Drive, near the tennis courts, 604-681-7275). Another gorgeous patio space (with interesting food) is located in a Modernist building overlooking Howe Sound that once served as the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty Club — Sage Bistro (6331 Crescent Road, UBC, 604-822-0968).
Great views of False Creek can be had from Monk McQueen's Oyster and Seafood Bar (601 Stamps Landing, Central Vancouver, 604-877-1351) and Sandbar — a multi-faceted restaurant complex with separate sushi bar and heated patio dining (1535 Johnston Street, Granville Island, 604-669-9030). North False Creek also boasts some exceptional patios (and restaurants), including upper-register C Restaurant (1600 Howe Street, Downtown South, 604-681-1164). However, city ordinances demanded by nearby residents require some mid-evening patio closures here, I'm told.
Alternatively, observe the passing madness along The Drive (where life pulsates into the wee hours) from the patio of the youngish and trendy Havana (1212 Commercial Drive, East Vancouver, 604-253-9119). The Cannery Seafood House (2205 Commissioner Street, East Vancouver, 604-254-9606) provides picture-window views of marine activity on inner Burrard Inlet, along with excellent seafood. Note: the Cannery (www.canneryseafood.com) will relocate in 2010 to make way for Port of Vancouver expansion.
Further afield, there's the comfy Beach House at Dundarave Pier (150 25th Street, West Vancouver, 604-922-1414), located right on the wave-battered shorline. Or travel by gondola up Grouse Mountain to the heady Observatory (North Vancouver, 604-984-0661), housed in a rustic, comfy chalet. South of the city, and popular with the burger and beer crowd, is the Flying Beaver Bar on the Fraser River (4760 Inglis Drive, Richmond, 604-273-0278).
One of the best al fresco sites in the city is the Galley Patio and Grill (1300 Discovery Street, Westside, 604-222-1331) in the Jericho Sailing Centre. Food-wise, it's mostly paddler-size breakfasts, burgers, and fish 'n' chips. In its own words, it's "perched directly over the sand of Locarno Beach ... with views across English Bay to the majestic North Shore mountains and east to Vancouver's magnificent skyline" — a pretty accurate pitch for the setting. On the downside, the Galley is only open on weekends from fall to spring, though daily from May through mid-September.
A superb place for a leisurely and peaceful lunch is the terrace of the Gallery Café , above the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street, Downtown, 604-688-2233).
Secret Alternative Media
The Georgia Straight (604-730-7000, www.straight.com), a longtime free-distribution weekly paper, remains at the top of the heap of Vancouver's so-called community or urban papers. If holding a paper so well endowed with advertising doesn't tire your arms, you'll find much of interest. The abundance of advertising, coupled with respect for editorial, means the paper pays decently enough to attract good freelancers.
The Straight leans heavily to entertainment. It is particularly strong on the alternative music, club, film, and theater scenes, although even the so-called serious arts get decent treatment. Eating and cooking (in and out), clothing and related vanities, books, the outdoors, travel — and distinctly left-leaning politics — are all here. The paper hits business foyers, public facilities such as libraries, and sidewalk boxes on Thursdays.
The thrice-weekly Vancouver Courier (604-738-1411, www.canada .com/vanouvercourier) has been around for eons, delivering in-depth coverage of civic politics and neighborhood disputes. The West Ender, another long-timer, delivers news and entertainment to the West End.
Broadcasting from the depths of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Cooperative Radio (better known as Co-op Radio), at 102.7 FM, remains a strong non-commercial voice and well-loved source of off-the-map music and comment — social, political, and otherwise.
Unbeknownst to many people, Vancouver has no fewer than three Chinese-language daily newspapers — all owned in Asia, but printed here, with some overseas wire copy. Sing Tao and Ming Pao are read by Cantonese- and Mandarin-speaking Chinese, and have large, local editorial staffs. The World Journal is published for the local Taiwanese population.
Vancouver's upscale South Granville neighborhood between the north end of the Granville bridge and West 16th Avenue is sprinkled with antique shops (and art galleries). Among them is Panache Antiques , specializing in 17th to 19th century antique furniture (2229 Granville Street, Central Vancouver, 604-732-1206). As well, a stretch of Granville Street in the south of the city (the Marpole area) has antique stores, as does Main Street, between 12th and 30th avenues.
Generic country stuff is the perennial rage, and one of the better outlets is Farmhouse Collections (2915 Granville Street, Central Vancouver, 604-738-0167). Here, alongside the furniture, you'll find the usual wrought-iron roosters, but also rust-mesh hanging cone baskets and a great selection of rustic pails, bins, and vases.
You're into a totally other realm at Architectural Antiques (2403 Main Street, East Vancouver, 604-872-3131). Its grandiose pieces appear in movies; the movie stars occasionally shop here for costly eccentricities. The store ceiling drips with antique lamps, the walls with sconces. The large premises also carries over-the-top period furniture, mantelpieces, and larger-than-life stained glass.
Actually, antiques and Main Street are synonymous all the way south to East 33rd Avenue. Baker's Dozen Antiques (3520 Main Street, East Vancouver, 604-879- 3348) carries Western Canadian pioneer and native collectibles, crafts, artwork, and knickknacks. But most of the practical furniture is found in an uneven mixture of ever- evolving stores on Main Street south of King Edward Avenue (technically East 25th Avenue). Vintage pinball machines and jukeboxes are refurbished and sold at John's Jukes (2343 Main Street, East Vancouver, 604-872-5757).
Unsurprisingly, Vancouver has proved fertile ground for this approach to soothing and healing, and a B.C.–based business, Escents Aromatherapy , operates across Canada to Taiwan (including, in Vancouver, 2579 West Broadway, Kitsilano, 604-736-7761 and 1744 Commercial Drive East Vancouver, 604-639-9494 — the latter with a basic spa). The defining service of these and similar aromatherapy outlets is the blending of "essential oils" to fit your personality and desires. For example, a blend of lavender and geranium is said to relax, while oils of Asiatic trees, such as ylang-ylang and patchouli, are associated with sensuality. Massage oils, such as a "rejuvenating" blend of rind of grapefruit and bergamot, are also available.
Saje (Nature's Remedies and Aromatherapy) also has a number of outlets. There's a particularly warm atmosphere at the Saje I'm familiar with (2252 West 4th Avenue, Kitsilano, 604-738-7253, www.saje.ca). As well as all the essential oils, this outlet stocks books and playful gift items. It also does something called Sit-Taj or "seated aromatherapy massage."
Excerpted from Secret Vancouver by Alison Appelbe, Linda Rutenberg. Copyright © 2009 Alison Appelbe. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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