Wacky Vancouver

Welcome to Vancouver!

This city can boast of 120 Starbucks, reaching 300 within the entire metropolitan area. According to trustworthy sources there are only 2 Second Cups. Instead of Second Cup Vancouver’s Canadian competition here is Blenz. And then off course there are the unavoidable and ever popular Tim Hortons.

Also, as a little piece of useless information, the Starbucks at Waterfront Station was the first Starbucks outside of the US.

source: Jessica from Tourguys.ca

It seems that once again I have come to a city that is wholly and completely different from what I imagined. I had an idea that Vancouver was just a Downtown of tall glass skyscrapers. And well it is. But it is so much more. With only 120 years worth of history, Vancouver has a surprisingly rich and quirky history and several beautiful old buildings and areas to prove it.

Yes Vancouver is special, no doubt about it. One of the first things that strikes you when arriving in Vancouver is access to the Downtown. Driving you might curse that there is no direct freeway Downtown, while as a pedestrian you will enjoy the fact that you can walk everywhere without the ugliness of a big dominating freeway. Unlike in any other West Coast North American city, there is no direct major freeway going to Vancouver centre. But how come Vancouver can’t boast with a polluting and ugly freeway? Well it was supposed to. The Project 200 was a 1960’s plan to construct a freeway through central parts of Vancouver, building concrete skyscrapers along the way. For the projects realisation it was planned that several areas of the city, including Gastown, Chinatown and parts of Strathcona should be demolished, and replaced by concrete-monsters of the Soviet-style. However, within weeks of the planned demolition of the beautiful Waterfront Station activist started to ring bells in all affected neighbourhoods, telling people what would be the effect of these grotesque plans. Moreover, students living in the areas began offering free tours to citizens who previously had never been in the ‘dirty’ neighbourhoods of Gastown and Chinatown. In the end, the protest grew so huge that the plans were stopped and the government of Vancouver decided to revitalise the central and historical area of Gastown instead of tearing it down. And thanks for that, because this is truly a charming and historically fascinating neighbourhood. Today fortunately all that is left of this disaster of a plan is Granville Square. Yet, before activist groups began developing throughout the city both the black and Punjabi neighbourhoods were torn down.

Gastown

But what exactly was it that was so important about Gastown? In my ears Gastown sounds like the name of an industrial part of the city. Smoke-filled, dirty and far from human. Perhaps Gastown was build on natural resources such as natural gas, or coal or something like that. No. Far from it in fact.

The name derives from the nickname of the first settler/bar owner in the area, John ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton. Gassy Jack was something of a personality and the first to ever settle in the area. It is told that after noticing how the men working up at Hastings Mill had to walk for miles to get a pint of beer or whiskey on their evenings off, he decided to open up a saloon near the mill. He came down with his native wife, her mother and two barrels of beer and offered the men at Hastings Mill all the whiskey they could drink in one sitting if they helped erect the saloon. It was build within 24 hours on what today are the corners of Waters and Carrall.

To be gassy in those days meant to talk a lot, to led out a lot of gas, a lot of tales. So Gastown is named after a bar owner who were known for talking a lot. As a contemporary of Gassy Jack wrote to The Vancouver News Advertiser in 1888:

At some future day when Vancouver becomes the emporium of the Pacific shores, the name of the first permanent settler will be sought out by historians and given a name as great as that for which many thousands have ventured limbs, lives and fortunes. Yet the already-locally famous Gassy Jack never sought for fame, nor had he the least atom of hero about him.

Vancouver is full of history and the wonderful and free tourguys.ca are surely to provide the more quirky stories. After a guided tour with them through one of Vancouver’s many rich neighbourhoods, the city truly comes to feel alive.

Zofka

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