Vancouver is a nice place – I could imagine living there. The city looks like a cleaner version of San Francisco, but is quite different. Many of the high rises near downtown are actually residential buildings, and not offices. This means that the streets are populated by actual people during most hours of the day, not by cars as in LA or San Jose, and not by just homeless people as you would sometimes think while walking around in San Francisco at night. Homelessness is complicated; it seems Vancouver chose the New York route: providing affordable housing in parts of the town to keep a large amount of the chronically homeless off the streets – which saves on emergency room and jail costs (a night in hospital or jail costs much more to the community than the basic housing which is offered, and so the latter may pay for itself) – a journalist in the Vancouver Sun claims that this was mainly responsible for the clean-up of New York since the mid-nineties (rather than Rudy Giuliani’s zero tolerance policies). Nevertheless, there are still a lot of panhandlers doing the streets of downtown Vancouver, which is annoying as usual.

Getting around town is easy, at least to Bay Area or European standards. The West End is really cute. Strong Asian influences, but overall highly multicultural, like the Bay Area – I saw hundreds of cuisines represented, there’s even a Belgian fries place, that does make fries the Right Way. And of course, the ocean and the coastal mountain ranges rising high in the backdrop create a most spectacular setting. Perfect for all outdoor pursuits: skiiing, hiking, aquatic sports, mountain biking (the legendary North Shore is right here) and so forth. There’s rain though, and lots of it; in winter the perfect escape is of course going high up the mountains, into the white stuff. Check the pics of all this ...

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