– an in­sider’s guide to the Cana­dian city

Simply You - - Contents -

A14-hour flight is a long way to go for a dough­nut – but when it’s the world’s best dough­nut? When just the mem­ory of that one warm, fluffy, crispy, honey-glazed mar­vel is enough to make your mouth wa­ter months later and you know they also come with maple or choco­late ic­ing that you didn’t get to try? There are many ex­cel­lent rea­sons to visit Van­cou­ver, but the ir­re­sistibly named Honey Dough­nuts & Good­ies cafe at Deep Cove in the north of the city is now top of the list for me. And it’s wholly thanks to Van­cou­verite Lois that I went there: Lois, and Tours by Lo­cals. This is an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that brings to­gether tourists who want some­thing more per­sonal than an open-top bus ride around a city with lo­cals who are keen to share their knowl­edge of their home­town.

That’s how, on a sil­very June morn­ing (brochure speak for low cloud and im­mi­nent rain – al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity in the lush Pa­cific North West), I came to be driv­ing with Lois across the Li­ons Gate Bridge to­wards the hills that form the back­drop to the city’s busy har­bour. The weather had forced Plan B, so in­stead of tramp­ing to a dis­tant peak, we were go­ing deep into one of Van­cou­ver’s neat and af­flu­ent suburbs to walk in the shel­ter of the for­est to a lower look­out point. Lois was apolo­getic: “I’m sorry we can’t hike up to Cy­press Mountain – but you’ll en­joy Quarry Rock and after­wards we can go to Honey’s.”

I as­sured her I was fine with miss­ing out on climb­ing a mountain in favour of a wan­der through the woods and what promised to be a rather spe­cial morn­ing tea – I’m oblig­ing like that – and so we parked in the vil­lage and set off in the com­pany of jog­gers and dog walk­ers, fol­low­ing a path through the mixed conif­er­ous for­est that car­pets most of Bri­tish Columbia. In the dim light, the tips of the mountain hem­lock trees were lu­mi­nous green. “Good for pre­vent­ing scurvy,” said Lois, who was full of in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion. “Try some.” The pinky-or­ange berries glis­tened and looked just like salmon roe. They tasted of rasp­berry and are ap­par­ently loved by bears, some­thing I was happy not to see proved. For an hour we climbed steadily, at Lois’

mea­sured pace, up through the trees be­fore emerg­ing onto a huge, smooth gran­ite boul­der: Quarry Rock.

Be­low us the wa­ters of In­dian Arm looked like beaten pewter, tex­tured by the wakes of yachts and pad­dle­boards. All around the glacial fjord were deep green head­lands, and across the bay sat Deep Cove’s mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar houses clus­tered around its lit­tle ma­rina. Other hik­ers pic­nicked, a dog wal­lowed in a rain pud­dle, and I felt like one of the lo­cals, happy to be there.

Not as happy as I was to get to Honey’s after­wards, though, to fall upon that per­fect dough­nut with good ap­petite and a clear con­science, sit­ting at a pave­ment ta­ble as more lo­cals went about their busi­ness, and plea­sure, in this lovely sub­urb.

Get­ting off the tourist track and con­nect­ing with the city’s se­cret side made it a good idea to spend the af­ter­noon with an­other lo­cal, ped­alling around cen­tral Van­cou­ver on a Cycle City Tour. Fol­low­ing Dan’s lead also meant there was less chance of mak­ing a wrong turn and dis­ap­pear­ing un­der the wheels of a bus, which helped my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the won­der­ful va­ri­ety of art­works tucked into the streetscape.

Every­one who’s ever cy­cled in Van­cou­ver has ex­pe­ri­enced the buzz of skim­ming along the Sea Wall, the wide traf­fic-free path that fol­lows the har­bour edge past fer­ries and mari­nas on one side and parks and gar­dens on the other. But how many do more than glance at the art? Like LightShed, a half-size boathouse on stilts that looks as though it’s made of weath­ered wood, but is ac­tu­ally cast in alu­minium and per­fect in ev­ery de­tail, right down to the bar­na­cles on its pil­ings. Or the stone Inuk­suk, an Inuit sign of wel­come and sym­bol of the Win­ter Olympics. Or the lovely curve of rusted me­tal arches at English Bay.

These big pieces are un­miss­able, but there are oth­ers we vis­ited that even the lo­cals sit­ting on top of them don’t know about. Work­ing Landscape is a set of cir­cu­lar plat­forms fit­ted with benches and pot­ted trees, re­volv­ing so slowly that peo­ple seated there read­ing the pa­per fin­ish up slightly dis­com­bob­u­lated but none the wiser. There’s a per­gola that plays mu­sic if you know where to stand, a set of etched pho­tos drawn by

the sun, a brush that paints the state of the tide and wind – even the man­hole cov­ers are art, cast in a lovely na­tive tad­pole pat­tern.

The two-hour cycle tour only scratched the sur­face of Van­cou­ver’s many trea­sures, but it was an ideal in­tro­duc­tion and with more time I would have con­tin­ued pok­ing through the CBD to dis­cover many more quirky de­lights. I would have ex­plored the art and foodie charms of Granville Is­land, sam­pled the up­per-end of­fer­ings of the food trucks and craft brew­eries, looked into the city’s dark his­tory at the Po­lice Mu­seum, and buzzed around the wa­ter­ways on a cute lit­tle ferry.

What I did do, though, was to walk along the Sea Wall in the golden evening, past Lost La­goon and into the glory that is Stan­ley Park. I wasn’t alone, and that was the joy of it: shar­ing the path with me were other walk­ers, jog­gers, skate­board­ers, rollerbladers and cy­clists – all friendly, all lo­cals, all as de­lighted as me to be out en­joy­ing the trees and the har­bour, the birds and the beaches. Be­yond, sky­scrapers loomed above the moored boats, all of them re­flected in the still wa­ters of Coal Har­bour. Two splen­did draught horses clopped past on the last car­riage ride of the day. It was a per­fect mo­ment – al­most. All that was miss­ing was a maple-iced dough­nut from Honey’s.

Every­one who’s ever cy­cled in Van­cou­ver has ex­pe­ri­enced the buzz of skim­ming along the Sea Wall.

Clock­wise from left: a colour­ful totem pole; LightShed is one of the larger pieces of art that is tucked into Van­cou­ver’s streetscape; lo­cals’ favourite Honey Dough­nuts & Good­ies cafe; a horse-drawn car­riage in Stan­ley Park.

The sky­scrapers of downtown Van­cou­ver are sur­rounded by wa­ter and bor­dered to the north by Stan­ley Park.

Clock­wise from above: large me­tal arches frame the view in English Bay; Art Deco de­tail­ing on the Marine Build­ing sky­scraper in downtown Van­cou­ver; a cycle tour is one of the best ways to see the city.

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