I visited Canada in 2009 and stayed there until late 2012. It was a very long time ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I flew from Venice to Amsterdam and then had a very long flight to Vancouver, Canada. Now, back then I couldn’t decide should I move to Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver or Edmonton. After doing some research I realised that Vancouver was the best option for me. It had certain things I was looking for — the ocean, epic mountains, snow, nice summer and was a very advanced multicultural city.
Arriving in Vancouver
When I landed, the airport was very nice, clean and looked very safe. The first thing I did was try Starbucks coffee and after having my coffee, then figuring out what next, I got a ride downtown and booked a room at the Ramada hotel on the main street in the city — Granville St. The airport is about 30 min away so it wasn’t a very long drive. On the way downtown, you pass the Granville St bridge and have amazing views of the entire city. The Ramada hotel was in a great location, the room was very comfortable but unfortunately my room had no balcony, so to see any action I had to go out.
I decided to go out for dinner and a walk, it was about 8pm, dark, and I felt a bit intimidated as there were so many people outside, it was loud and full of action. I made my way to a greek restaurant on Robson Street. I had calamari and fries. The food was amazing, and I had an awesome location with a great view of all the action. It was called Kalypso Ouzeria, but I hear it shut down, if you’re in the area, have a look as they might have reopened. After that I went back to my hotel and had a long sleep in, as the next day I needed to find a new apartment and start a new life here. I won’t go into detail how I figured everything out as it is a very very long story, but I will explain to you different areas of interest in this amazing city. After settling in my new apartment on the famous Commercial Drive in East Vancouver where I spent 2 years, I slowly started exploring the rest of the city, this was a very long process, but at least I know the city inside out.
Exploring Commercial Drive
Commercial Drive is an awesome place, it is a bit of a hipster type of area that has lots of coffee shops, great people, cool stores, superb bars & restaurants and is very safe.
What to expect when visiting Commercial Drive
Commercial Drive is the main intersection for Skytrains, one takes you downtown to Waterfront, other takes you far south to Surry, the other takes you to New Westminster which is far East or you can take the bus and go far West to the Vancouver University campus. It’s a main transportation hub and it gets you everywhere. Busses are always on time, and so is the Skytrain. Skytra in is like a tram but it goes above the ground, like 10-15m above the ground. The views are stunning and I really enjoyed taking the skytrain. Buses are very quiet as they are actually run by electricity so watch out that you don’t get hit by one. If you don’t know how to get to your destination, just ask anyone, people are super polite and will always help you. Obviously don’t ask the dodgy looking ones as they will want a cigarette or some change haha
Coffee Shops on Commercial Drive
I really enjoyed coffee shops on Commercial Drive, the coffee is amazing and the baristas artistically decorate the coffee almost everywhere and it’s really cheap. The atmosphere is cool as there are a lot of people reading books, studying or just hanging out and enjoying chill music. Some places don’t have Wifi as they encourage you to meet people or just relax without any technology which I think is a great idea. Be sure to visit JJ Bean Coffee, Turks, Prado and my favourite — Bump & Grind. Restaurants in this area offer a great variety, you can find Jamaican, Greek, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, Italian, Japanese and Chinese restaurants here.
Restaurants on Commercial Drive
My favourite restaurants bars are: Biercraft,Havana, Zawa, Harambe & St Augustines. If you need to buy food, there is a large Safeway there and many fast food restaurants and other shops like 7/11. If you need medicine, hygiene products or similar, be sure to visit Robin’s Pharmacy – the customer service there is the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world + Robin is a really nice guy and he might give you some great tips on what to do. Place also has a great choice of clothing shops, a lot of shops make their own clothes, there’s outlet shops, unique furniture shops, record stores and more. It’s not a place where you will find Cartier, Gucci and such, as again, its more of a quirky/hipster environment. Visit these shops for some unique items: Sin & Sativa, Attic Treasures, Kali Trading, Spank, Tierra Del Sol. It also has a large number of parks where you can just go chill and enjoy the sun, visit Grandview Park, always lots of fun things there.
Commercial Drive Overview
The Drive is very safe, in 2 years I never got mugged or attacked or anything like that. Its a pretty busy place, and police supervision is constant. During summer you will find an Italian festival here, the entire street gets closed and you can find lots of street vendors selling pizza, cheese and other Italian products, its an amazing event. Halloween on the Drive is special as well as there is a ghost walk where you go through the streets that are totally decorated, its really cool and be sure to wear a mask. So you know, there is no need to go too far south or too far north as the main and best part of the Drive spreads from East Broadway St to Venables St, for maximum safety and pleasure, stay anywhere between those streets. Just a friendly reminder — the more south you go or more east you go, the weirder it gets. 🙂
What to expect next
In the next part of this blog, I will visit other places of the city and give you more insight on that. If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will reply to them. Thank you for reading.