Thursday, January 29, 2009

Battlestar Gallactica

Vancouver! It's sci-filicious!

Science fiction has an undeniable love affair with Vancouver.

It seems that the many popular sci-fi TV series like to take advantage of the pseudo anonymity of the city - its postmodern skyline, its lush and moody atmosphere, and the diverse topography that encircles it.

We've seen it in the X-Files.
We've seen it in Smallville.
We've seen it in Dark Angel.
We've seen it in Stargate.
We've even seen it in Spielberg's miniseries, Taken.

That doesn't even begin to cover the full feature sci-fi movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, On the Sixth Day, or The Fantastic Four. And this doesn't even include the the oldie but goody non sci-fi series of yesteryear like Danger Bay, MacGyver, or 21 Jump Street.

But all of the above were filmed in Vancouver.

It's by no means the complete list of titles filmed in this city - there are literally thousands - but it just shows you that there's something about Vancouver that's very fitting for bringing out that sci-fi vibe.

Well, last night we rented the entire first series of Battlestar Gallactica and it was my first time watching it. Something in the back of my mind made me think that it was filmed in Vancouver. Hmmm... perhaps it was the fact that it was yet another sci-fi TV series! After a quick look up on IMDB, I confirmed that fact. Of course, it wouldn't have taken long for me to figure this out on my own. If you're even quasi familiar with Vancouver geography, you instantly begin to recognize landmarks and film locations when you're watching such shows - it almost becomes a game!

It's funny, as you're sitting there trying to make believe that you're on planet Caprica, and then all of a sudden "that's not Caprica, that's the Vancouver Public Library!" or "that's Chan Centre and the UBC Rose Garden! And that's not the Delphi base, that's UBC Koerner Library!" (where I studied for many an exam) - it can be rather amusing, especially when you're trying to immerse yourself in the fantasy of the story, but you recognize the temperate rainforest or the arbutus trees and Bowen Island in the background, and you instictively think "Horseshoe Bay"... or when the bad buys, the cylons, are retreating to their base, and you recognize the structure as an old parking garage next door to the pub you used to frequent after work, it can certainly be entertaining.

Although the strangest discovery was watching this cute character in the show named Cally. She almost reminds me of my sister. She seemed so incredibly familiar to me that I felt compelled to look her up as I just assumed I had seen her in another TV show recently. I looked up her character on the Battlestar Gallactica page and discovered her real name is Nicki Clyne. I looked up her bio which revealed that she's from my home town (Richmond), she's exactly 2 days older than my sister, and that throughout her acting career she pursued a degree at UBC. A-ha! So it's not that I saw her in another show, I swear I took a class with her at UBC. That must be why she seems so familiar.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow, again...

A snowy day back in December

This past weekend, after almost 2 weeks of perpetual fog, the sky finally cleared up. Yesterday, though sunny without a cloud in the sky, was cooooold! Okay, it was maybe only 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, but it felt much colder. I was standing at the bus stop out in Richmond and my feet were aching and my ears were burning. Despite wearing gloves, scarf, and a wool coat, I couldn't stop shivering.

This morning at 9am I woke up to snow! It covered the buildings, the rooftops and the parks, but the roads and sidewalks remained clear. Right now at quarter to 4, almost all of it has melted and it looks like your typical cloud-covered Vancouver winter day. Surprisingly, we really haven't had much of the famous rain this month - maybe a few days, tops.

While I didn't take any photos of today's light snowfall, I never did post the photos I took when I walked around downtown on December 17, 2008. These photos were taken at the beginning of many subsequent snowfalls which collectively became the largest snowfall ever recorded in Vancouver history. I mean, it just doesn't snow once and then melt like it normally does. It started to snow on and off in mid-December and didn't stop until January 4!

Even still, today, especially in higher altitude residential neighbourhoods (like around Shaughnessy or Point Grey), you can still see remnant snow piles on the side streets and in people's front yards. Even in low altitude Richmond (where the average altitude is below sea level!) there are piles of crusty snow lingering around in parking lots. It's pretty crazy. In all my 28 years, I've never seen snow last on the ground for this long, ever.

On that note, here's a glimpse of downtown Vancouver when the snow fell on December 17:

Homer Street

Looking down Davie Street

Davie Street

Power lines and business signs

Footprints outside the Vancouver Public Library

Walking down Richards

Seymour & Georgia

Walking along Dunsmuir

Robson & Hornby

Vancouver Art Gallery lion

The art gallery steps

Robson Street

Granville Street

Yaletown's Mainland Street

Yaletown's loading bay sidewalks

The Opus Hotel

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gorilla Food

Lorra at Gorilla Food

The other day my friend Lorra joined me on an afternoon outing. Lorra's been following a predominantly raw food diet since last year. While Vancouver's an extremely vegetarian-friendly city, the raw food lifestyle is still particularly niche and you have to go out of your way to find the few restaurants that specifically cater to it. Since she was coming downtown, she wanted to drop by Gorilla Food.

Gorilla Food appears to play a major role in Vancouver's raw food community. They're located downtown at #101-436 Richards Street (between Pender and Hastings), open daily from 11am until 5pm, and it should be noted that they only take cash. But when you walk down the steps and through their front door, it feels as if you should be in the Gulf Islands or in Tofino, not bordering Gastown!

Inside Gorilla Food

I probably would have never visited Gorilla Food if it wasn't for Lorra. I'm sure like most people, when they imagine raw food diets, they might think little beyond salads and carrot sticks, but it tends to be a lot more complex than that. The secret to having interesting raw food, aside from fresh ingredients, is having access to a good food processor and a food dehydrator. That's when you can really be creative and make a diversity of uncooked recipes you would have never thought possible. As a result, Gorilla Food's menu is creative and satisfyingly delicious.

Now this wasn't my first time to Gorilla Food - my first visit was with Lorra back in October. We visited for lunch and sat down to a full meal. Lorra had their Veggie Burger ($7.50) - two veggie burger patties made from walnuts, sunflower seeds, hempseeds and veggies served on a lettuce leaf "bun" with guacamole, ginger tomato sauce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and shredded seasonal veggies.

I had their Cashew Alfredo Zucchini Linguine ($10) - raw zucchini carved into thin noodles smothered in a rich creamy cashew garlic sauce, served with a green leaf salad (with ginger dressing). For dessert, we both had their dark raw chocolate fudge ($2.50 a bar) made simply with raw cocoa and dates.

The food was incredibly refreshing and, contrary to what one might believe, it was very filling. So to all the skeptics, don't necessarily write off a full raw food meal before trying one!

This time during our visit, Lorra quickly popped in and picked up a snack of fresh guacamole and tomato herb flax crackers ($7.50) which she ordered to go, and then we were off to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

6:30am this morning

I was just sent this photo (if you know the photographer, please let me know). It was taken at 6:30am this morning from Cypress Mountain overlooking downtown Vancouver. Pretty amazing stuff.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kits in the fog

It was yet another foggy day in Vancouver. I snapped this photo while passing by Kitsilano Beach Park. The water is right behind the trees, but of course, it's been obscured.


Well, well, well... just heard my first foghorn echoing around downtown!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Granville Island

Last Friday my friend Heather called me up spontaneously and asked if I'd like to join her on a quick grocery run to Granville Island. Why, yes, of course!

Granville Island has always been one of my favourite places ever since I was little. I've always considered it one of Vancouver's must-see attractions and I'll always have it on my list of "things to see if you only have one day in Vancouver". It's an area that's unique to Vancouver - a formerly industrial site where all the warehouses have been converted into commercial buildings. It's also one of the few major attractions in the city that doesn't actually rely on the natural scenery to make it interesting - ha! And yet, Granville Island equally caters to locals as it does to tourists, and that's precisely why I like it.

Granville Island's not technically an island - it's a tiny peninsula underneath the south end of the Granville Street Bridge, across False Creek from downtown. It's really close to downtown - I can actually see it across the water from outside my apartment if I look down the road. I can take a water taxi there in 2 minutes, which is really fun. We didn't do that on Friday though - we drove. It took us 5 minutes to get there.

Granville Island's most famous for the Granville Island Public Market. Under one roof, the market is where local vendors sell all kinds of culinary delights like organic produce, gourmet meats and cheeses, fresh seafood, fresh pasta, artisan breads, imported teas, free trade coffee, fresh flowers, bulk foods, fresh Montreal-style bagels, gourmet chocolates, European pastries, and more. For a food-lover, the market cannot be missed.

Shopping for food at the market makes grocery shopping a special event. That's how I see it. I'd go broke if I did all my shopping at the market mind you, but for special items or special occasions, it really can't be beat. What I particularly enjoy are the delis. We first visited Zara's, an Italian deli, as Heather wanted to buy some fresh pasta:

While Heather was buying ingredients for dinner, I visited Oyama Sausage Co. - my favourite place in the city for fresh gourmet sausages. But they also have their own cured meats, dozens of imported and local gourmet cheeses, and all different kinds of pate: faux gras, terrine, you name it. And at Christmas time, they even make their own cassoulet - this fact alone made our French friend, Julien, take notice! I decided to try something I've never had before, so I bought some venison & blueberry sausages. I also bought some duck terrine (cooked in red wine with pistachio and orange). Their sign below doesn't lie!

Across from Oyama is Duso's, one of my favourite Italian delis in the market. They always have an impressive display of olives, spreads, and antipasto. I browsed over their fresh pasta and opted for some butternut squash mesalunas.

We then went over to Lee's Donuts and picked up some honey dip donuts. I'm actually embarrassed to mention, but that was my first time trying Lee's Donuts - they're somewhat of a Granville Island institution amongst locals! But I will certainly be back! :)

We then wandered over to the Granville Island Tea Company for a cup of tea to have with our donuts. In the past I used to walk right by this shop as it's merely a counterspace. They have tins of loose leaf tea stacked against the walls in a tiny space where there's only enough room for the two employees to stand. They have a counter to which people walk up to and order their tea from, but they also have some chairs set aside by the counter. What amuses me is that every time I've been there, there have always people sitting at the counter drinking tea and socializing with the staff. I always wonder if these people are friends with the shop owners, if they're simply regulars, or whether they're some sort of secret tea society! Either way, I like the community vibe!

But Granville Island is more than just the market. There are many different buildings along this 40 acre peninsula which are home to a variety of little one-of-a-kind boutiques. For example, there's the self-described Artisan Sake Maker. There's a shop that only sells hats and a store that only sells cookbooks. There's a boutique that features beautiful exotic South Asian fabrics and another store that sells beautiful paper products - I'm sure you get the idea.

Granville Island's also home to some popular restaurants, like The Sandbar and Bridges, which are known for their patios. For the beer fanatics, there's Granville Island Brewery and Dockside Brewery.

Aside from culinary attractions, Granville Island's known for its collection of locally-run independent theatres, including the popular Arts Club Theatre. While Vancouver lacks the large-scale theatre scene of London or New York, Granville Island's the heart and soul of the city's local small-scale theatre productions.

Then there's Vancouver's prestigious art college, the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, which makes its campus home on Granville Island. Not surprisingly, there are many art studios and galleries open to the public on Granville Island, including metalworking, pottery, printmaking, and woodworking studios. You can find one of my favourite art supply shops, Opus, there.

There's the Granville Island Hotel, a children's market devoted entirely to toy shops called Kid's Market, working boatyards and boat rental shops, a dock full of residential houseboats, False Creek Community Centre, surf shops, kayak shops, and who can forget The Lobster Man - a seafood store that sells live crustaceans and shellfish in massive tanks?

Needless to say, Granville Island's my favourite place for a day of nonchalant browsing.


This past week, literally for days on end, we've been encased in a perpetual thick fog... very unusual. But it's not just Vancouver, it's the entire Lower Mainland and many parts of the province, such as Kamloops and the Okanagan Valley - we're all hiding beneath this great big carpet of low-lying cloud. You'd think we were trying to emulate San Francisco or something!

I quite like the fog, mind you, so I'm not complaining. It makes everything atmospheric, moody, if not ethereal. And there's a certain quality it adds to the air, making it almost earthy and lush.

I visited my parents and sister out in Steveston last night. As I sat at the kitchen table eating a late dinner, I could hear the fog horns from the boat traffic on the nearby Fraser River, and I realized that it had been at least 5 years since I had last heard fog horns. They're a deep, resonating, and timeless sound. I forgot how much I missed the comfort of listening to distant fog horns at night as I lay in bed falling asleep.

I also quite like my weather widget's terminology when it comes to our foggy days:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Map of Downtown Vancouver

The other night I made an "enhanced" map of Downtown Vancouver's neighbourhoods and districts, just for fun. (Yes, I make maps for fun)!

Map of Downtown Vancouver
(Click to zoom in)

So why did I bother?

Downtown Vancouver has a variety of neighbourhoods and districts, but their boundaries are fluid and non-defined.

Visitors often inquire about the best places to stay in Vancouver, where they should visit, where they should avoid, etc. The responses vary of course, but my typical reply is something akin to this:

Best places to stay (in my opinion) are around Robson Street, by English Bay in the West End, in Yaletown, by Coal Harbour, or along False Creek.

While the cruise ship terminal is located at Canada Place, it tends to be more of a business district and pretty much a dead zone after 5pm, which is why I rarely recommend staying there. Plus, the hotels there tend to be overpriced.

Gastown and Chinatown are fine to visit during the morning or afternoon, but due to the proximity of the Downtown Eastside, it can be rather gritty and especially uninspiring at night. Chinatown especially closes down at night (with exception to its Night Market in the summer months). Definitely avoid that stretch of Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside - it's not so much dangerous, but it's home to the city's drug addicts, homeless, and desolute.

If you can stay closer to the West End or Stanley Park as much as possible, you'll experience more of the local community/leisurely experience. Not only that, but there are beaches nearby and the seawall. The best sunset can be experienced from English Bay.

Robson Street (between Seymour and Bute) is home to the mainstream retail shopping and dining experience. Davie Village is the heart of the city's gay community in the West End and has many restaurants, shops, and services for the locals. Denman Street is great for hole-in-the-wall ethnic eateries. Granville Street (between Drake and Robson) is home to the city's generic nightclubs/cheap pizza joints/tattoo parlours/hostels/alternative shops... and tends to be a bit seedy, especially around Helmcken. Nightlife tends to cater to college kids. Don't stay there unless you want to be awake until 2am. Yaletown is great if you're after a more trendy, yuppy, upscale boutique shopping/dining experience - the nightlife there caters to 25+ age range.

But often these neighbourhoods aren't often depicted on maps, so people know where they should visit and where they should avoid, but they don't know what streets and intersections these neighbourhoods encompass.

So as a former geography student, I figure there was a need for a map that truly outlined these areas. Using Google Maps, I took the map into Photoshop and roughly outlined the core of these neighbourhoods.

Perhaps somebody out there will find it useful. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I love living downtown

A spontaneous journal entry I originally wrote on July 23, 2007:

Josh and I went for a long 5+ hour walk today in the rain. We had no umbrellas, no hoods, nothing. We just slowly walked in the rain and we left our place at 5:30pm.

We walked down Davie Street to Denman, had a shwarma and bought some peaches, then walked down Comox street eating peaches and lauging at the absurdity of it all. We walked to the very end until we entered a forest. The smell of the air was just magical. We were practically the only ones in the park.

We walked under the nesting herons by the Fish House restaurant. We walked down towards Lost Lagoon and saw 2 raccoons who walked right up to us, hoping for food. Then a swan came up and just sat at the edge of the murky green pond, hoping we too would give it food. Wow - those animals as so conditioned! The rain still fell and there was no one else around and it was just awesome - us, the rain, the swan, and the raccoons.

We walked across the bridge to the other side of the pond and I crouched down to the edge of the water, where the raindrops were piercing the lime green algae floating at the top. There were swirls in the algae making it look like the surface of Jupiter, or marble. And the swan popped around the corner and glided into the middle of the pond, posing for us. Unfortunately, I left my camera at home. The swan was motionless for one or two minutes until I said hello, and it swam right over. It looked at me and I said I had no food, but it still opened its beak, hoping for some. The swan realized we had nothing, so it swam away slowly.

Then, behind me, 4 Canada geese appear and surrounded Josh and I. The rain was still falling and the smell of the forest was intoxicating. And nobody else was around except the raccoons on the other size of the pond, the swan, and the 4 geese. They were just chilling out. One goose was moaning a little something and Josh mimicked it. They were communicating back and forth for 5 minutes. "Mmwm-mww-mmm" "Mmwm-mww-mmm" "Mmwm-mww-mmm"

The geese then disappeared behind a trail, so we followed it. It took us back to the main Lost Lagoon trail. Around the next corner we saw mommy and daddy goose, and 4 tiny goslings feeding at the pond's edge. This is where the pond opens up to Lost Lagoon. And in Lost Lagoon along the shores of the island there was mommy duck and 4 baby ducklings feeding. Very cute. Very cute until some dude and his dog came by and freaked all the wildlife - they came running with wings flapping in a panic and jumped into the pond and away they went.

Josh and I continued to walk along the shore of Lost Lagoon, and then walked into Stanley Park along the Lees Trail. The trails were deserted. The forest had been thinned but was still evidently an old temperate rainforest. Banana slugs feasted on marshmallow-like fungus. Skunk cabbage and nurse logs and sword ferns and salal. One single man with a full-body raincoat appeared out of nowhere, walking partially up the trail we were on, and then backed up and walked down another trail instead. More banana slugs, more fungus.

Knocked down old growth trees produced a wall of exposed roots 10 feet high. The roots were staggeringly shallow. Salal. Cedar. Douglas fir. The layers of the forest were more apparent from the winter storm thinning, the rain created a dream-like fog across the sky. One cedar looked like an Emily Carr painting, with vibrantly contrasting strips of bark, bold in the sky.

Another man walks by, slowly, with a black umbrella. He peers over at me from the corner of his eyes, and when I look back at him, he looks ahead. I know why he's there.

We walk in the rain down the deserted forest past more skunk cabbage, overturned trees, flowing streams, salal and sword ferns. Another person with a black umbrella appears at the end of the trail and he's walking our way. I think I know why he's there, and he steps closer and I see he's a she. We are within a few steps of eachother and the girl in black walks up to us and in her Aussie accent says, "Just up ahead, where the trail narrows on the left, by the large tree..."

... and I expect her to say, "there is an orgy of gay men".

But she says, "there's an owl!"

We excitedly thank her and venture forward. Two minutes later we get to the trail that forks to the left. We step a few feet into the trail and look for the big tree. I turn right around and look back at where we were standing, and there it was. A tawny spotted owl on a branch at eye-level, looking down at the ground. He moves his head one way, and then back at the ground, as if he's watching over something. I stare in awe. We are maybe 30 feet away from it, but I want to get a bit closer. We walk up a tiny bit closer and it looks like a postcard moment. The falling rain on the canopy of the forest creating a mist. Lush greenery and this tawny owl. He stares right at us and I look right back in his eyes. I take a few steps back and wish I had my camera.

We watch the owl for a good 10 minutes. The man in the black umbrella comes back, taking the fork in the road. He doesn't look to see what we're looking at. Perhaps he's looking for other men in black umbrellas. We leave the owl and continue down the trail until we get to a detour to Third Beach. The detour takes us through some devastated forest, and I feel like I'm in that old photo of "Granville Street" circa 1886, where they're at Granville and W 33rd and all you see is a thinned temperate rainforest and a team of oxen carrying logs down a muddy road.

We arrive at Third Beach and it is completely vacant. Not a soul. We take off our shoes and run into the ocean. It feels warm. The sand is soft and warm. The air is warm and the rain has stopped... temporarily. I wish I had my camera.

After 20 minutes the rain starts up and we put back on our shoes. We continue our walk back home. It'll take over one hour to get back, but we don't mind. We take the seawall back the entire way. We'll pass a few couples under umbrellas along the way who'll look at us, sopping wet. We're loving it. When we get to Sunset Beach, one man is out with a djembe playing solo to False Creek, singing.

At 10:30pm, we arrive home.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dine Out Vancouver 2009: January 14-February 1

Mmmm... Kentucky burgoo at Burgoo Bistro - one such participating restaurant.

Today was the first day of "Dine Out Vancouver" - an annual culinary event happening in 192 restaurants across Greater Vancouver. It initially started as a way to get customers into restaurants during what's normally a slow period, but now it's probably the biggest restaurant event in the city, if not the most anticipated event by locals.

Restaurants that choose to participate in Dine Out Vancouver will have a separate Dine Out Vancouver menu in which they offer a three course meal for a set price. In the past the prices have been $15, $25, or $35, although this year they've increased the prices by $3. Although Vancouverites dine out in restaurants more frequently than other Canadians (according to some news report I overheard months ago), the prices make many of the participating restaurants much more affordable. Many will use Dine Out Vancouver as their opportunity to eat at the more pricier establishments they'd never otherwise visit. I mean, when else can you experience a three course meal at the self-proclaimed "jewel in Vancouver's culinary crown" West for only $38?

Making reservations as soon as possible is highly recommended, especially for the more sought-after foodie establishments. There are already some restaurants, such as Cru, which are already sold out. Participating restaurants and their Dine Out Vancouver menus can be seen by visiting Tourism Vancouver's Dine Out Vancouver 2009 page, here.

I didn't participate in Dine Out Vancouver last year, but this year I think I will. I haven't made any reservations yet, but I'm having too much fun looking at the menus! The only potential downside to Dine Out Vancouver is that it might not necessarily showcase the true experience of dining at that particular restaurant outside of the event.

Oh, and I almost forgot. If you want to research these restaurants a little bit further, is a fantastic resource. It's essentially a local website devoted to restaurant reviews as written by the paying customers. Practically every restaurant in Greater Vancouver (and Victoria and Whistler) are listed. The restaurants are also organized by category, so you can see what the highest rated restaurants are (again, based on by the paying customers), or you can see what restaurants are the most popular based on frequency of reviews, etc. While some use it as a Speaker's Corner of sorts, if you skim through the reviews, you can usually piece together enough ideas to get a sense of whether the restaurant in question is worth your time. The Dine Out Vancouver reviews, I can see, are already starting to pour in.

Vancouver timelapse

I'm sitting here in my Yaletown shoebox apartment over 20 floors above the city below, and it's so foggy that I can't even see the buildings across the street! On a clear day, however, the view is something else. I think that's a quintessential part of the downtown Vancouver tower living experience: the view. Scrap that - whether you live downtown or not, or in a tower or not, Vancouver is all about the view. And I don't mean the TV show.

One of my neighbours - whom I have never met, but must live nearby as I can clearly spot my apartment building in his video (!) - took this fantastic timelapse of the view:

Music: Silverfish Eyelashes by KC Accidental (who would go on to form Broken Social Scene)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vancouver-related travel forums

If you're planning to visit Vancouver and want to do some preliminary research, travel forums are generally a good starting point. My reasons?

a) Travel forums offer a variety of different perspectives.

b) They offer less bias than official tourism sites.

c) They provide you with an opportunity to participate in the discourse: you can ask specific questions relevant to your situation. Likewise, you can choose to respond to questions written by others.

In no real order, here are the travel forums that I find credible and relevant to Vancouver:

Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Travel Forum - Canada branch

Just like their books, Lonely Planet's forums tend to cater to the more alternative, budget-oriented travellers. It's a great forum to consult if you're planning to visit Vancouver on a working holiday visa, you want some advice on hostels, on public transit options, the cool off-the-beaten-path sites, and so on.

Fodor's Travel Talk - Canada forum

Fodor's tends to attract a more mature crowd which has a bit more money to throw around. If you're looking for itinerary ideas, hotel ideas, home exchange suggestions, resort information, and general information on spending time in Vancouver, there's a lot of great info here.

TripAdvisor Vancouver Forums
TripAdvisor British Columbia Forums
TripAdvisor Canada Forums

TripAdvisor is one of my favourite travel forums in existence today. It tends to attract a very diverse audience, many of whom are frequent posters, so there's always a lot of relevant info being posted daily. What makes this forum particularly helpful is that it's broken down geographically by province and city, so you can really focus on Vancouver-specific posts. While it's a useful site for obtaining travel info (like hotels, activities, itineraries, restaurants, etc.), they are very strict if you post about non-travel topics, so if you're hoping to find info or ask questions about immigration, finding a job in Vancouver, or living in Vancouver as a resident, it's not recommended.

City Data - Canada forum

This forum tends to be more amusing than useful in my experience. City Data is geared towards people wanting to gain information about American cities. City Data's forum's are therefore used almost entirely by Americans and it's virtually unknown to Canadians. While they do have a general Canada forum, it almost feels like an afterthought. The Canada forum's rather quiet and, not surprisingly, tends to feature its fair share of Canada vs. the USA comparison questions. However, every now and then you'll find some relevant gems.

Frommer's Community - British Columbia Forum

I'll give them brownie points for having broken down the Canada forum geographically into separate provinces, however, there is such little activity on Frommer's British Columbia forum (as of right now, the most recent posting is dated 12 days ago) I rarely ever use it.

VirtualTourist - Vancouver Travel Forum
VirtualTourist - British Columbia Travel Forum
VirtualTourist - Canada Travel Forum

VirtualTourist is a great site for seeking unbiased travel information, but its travel forums are definitely not its strength. VirtualTourist's Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver forums are not frequently used, and responses will not bring the topic back up to the top, so many postings simply get lost in the shuffle. However, there are few limits to the topics one can post about, and those who take the time to ask good questions are often rewarded with thoughtful responses.

BritishExpats - Canada Discussion Forum

Despite the fact that I'm not British, I find this forum completely fascinating in an anthropological kind of way. The forum is for people who are planning to live and work in Canada. While you have to search around a bit to find the Vancouver-related topics, there's a lot of great information and first-hand advice on immigration, finding jobs, finding homes, finding a support network, understanding the local culture, etc. Although it (understandably) offers an overwhelmingly British perspective on life in Canada, you don't have to be British to participate in the forum.

SkyscraperPage Forum - Local Vancouver
SkyscraperPage - My City Photos N-Z

SkyscraperPage is not so much a travel forum than it is an online community nurtured by architecture and urban geography geeks. However, for those looking to move to Vancouver, its Local Vancouver forum offers detailed insight about all aspects of life in Vancouver. But what overshadows SkyscraperPage's city forums, in my opinion, are its photo forums. My City Photos is a forum devoted to photodocumentaries of cityscapes. If you want to get a better sense of Vancouver visually, this forum often features people's photo submissions of Vancouver's different neighburhoods. Interesting discussions can often result from the photos, especially when they feature the not-so-squeaky-clean aspects of Vancouver.

Chowhound - Western Canada forum

This is my favourite forum if you're seeking specific restaurant recommendations. Chowhound is essentially a forum for foodies. While you can get some excellent restaurant recommendations on other travel forums, Chowhound takes the cake for the food-obsessed.

Livejournal Vancouver Community

This is Vancouver's great hidden forum which is heavily used by Vancouver-based Livejournal account holders. While it's typically frequented by university students, you get all kinds of perspectives (especially from many subcultures) about all aspects of Vancouver life. This is a great forum if you're seeking specific recommendations, whether it be about schools, neighbourhoods to live in, special events, shopping, or even where you can purchase a random product that no other store seems to carry. Chances are somebody on the Livejournal Vancouver Community will have an answer.