Thursday, December 31, 2009

Free public transit tonight only

That's right - apparently Translink is making public transit free from 5pm onwards tonight for New Year's Eve. It's just after 7pm right now, so all buses, Skytrains, the Canada Line and the Seabus are free to ride!

Happy New Year!

Saying goodbye to my twenties....

I can't believe it's New Year's Eve!

It's the last day of 2009, of the 2000's decade.

Being a 1980 baby means that when decades come to a close, so does a significant chapter of my life. Tonight I say goodbye to the decade of my 20's, and I say hello to the decade of my 30's. Eep! But I'm so ready for this. I've been ready for my thirties for, well, a decade. Or so it feels that way.

Speaking of decades and New Year's and parties, last night myself, my significant other, and two of our friends had a really nice dinner at Bistro Sakana in Yaletown where we chowed down on some tasty sushi rolls. After 3 bottles of sake we closed the place down and popped into Opus Bar for a late night drink. (Sadly, no celebrity sightings this time at Opus.)

Not fully satisfied with calling it a night, we then brought everyone over to our apartment where it turned into a spontaneous jam session with guitars, a djembe and my old violin! We blasted music by the Pixies, the xx, the Frames, and Yo La Tengo, and even had our first ever noise complaint from a neighbour. Way to go, us. (Not really). My sister and her boyfriend ended up crashing on the couch, and when I woke up this morning to go to an unfortunately-timed hair appointment, I was astounded by the permeating smell of wine.

It's certainly a unique way to celebrate the last 24 hours of the decade that represents your twenties. And it's funny... when I look back on the decade, what are things that immediately come to mind?


Graduated from what was then-called CDIS (multimedia college)
First ever contract work doing multimedia and graphics
Started my first real full time job editing websites for an ISP
Turned 20 years old and subsequently hung out with 30+ year olds
Started my own personal website ( which I handcoded
Rang in the new year with friends at Jupiter Lounge


Waited all day to get into the heart-shaped catwalk of the U2 Elevation tour
Saw U2 outside and met Adam Clayton
Got laid off for the first time ( bubble burst)
Went to Luvafair for the first time (and subsequently got addicted to that place)
Attended many meets around town
Internship at special effects studio at Lions Gate Studios in North Van
Started working in retail part time
9-11, the eery silence by the airport and all the sight of dozens of flight attendants on Robson
Skied Whistler for the first time
Received my first-ever digital camera
Rang in the new year on a boat cruise


Travelled to Boston and NYC
Attended wedding at the Harvard Law Faculty Club
Started my undergrad degree at UBC
Saw Queen Elizabeth II at UBC
First legit photojournalist shoot (Neko Case at the Commodore)
Started a Livejournal account and blogged all my personal details to strangers
Rang in the new year in a condo around Jervis & Alberni with friends


Attended anti-war protests in the streets of Vancouver
Travelled to Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City
Got my first-ever cell phone (whee!)
Worked at Vancouver Whale Watch all summer
Radiohead/REM show at Thunderbird Stadium
Volunteered at the Vancouver Folk Fest
Joined a band and played the Arts Club Backstage Lounge
Joined Friendster = devoured (and exponentially expanded) my social circle
Reacquainted myself to video games via Morrowind
Quit retail job and started working at UBC's IT department
Rang in the new year at a crazy East Van house party


Played in a few joke bands
Befriended a good chunk of the Vancouver video game industry
Pixies at the Commodore + attended/photographed dozens of other concerts
Road trip from hell to Coachella (Pixies, The Cure, Kraftwerk, Radiohead)
Met Josh (my significant other) on the eve of my 24th birthday
Met Josh's family in Montreal (and experienced my first "Canadian" winter)
Rang in the new year at a party in Josh's old loft in Montreal's Old Port


Moved out of Steveston and into Yaletown
Spent my 25th birthday at the Empress Hotel in Victoria
My 20 year old cat, Curvette (which I received as a gift from my Nana on my 5th birthday) died on my 25th birthday
Travelled to Montreal for another taste of -25 Celsius
Rang in the new year quietly in Josh's old loft in Montreal's Old Port


Graduated from my undergrad at UBC (BA Major Geography, Minor Art History, woo!)
Worked at Tourism Vancouver for a summer
My old 91 Hyundai Scoupe died and I became officially carless
Volunteered as a student teacher at local high schools
Went back to UBC as an unclassified student to figure things out
Reluctantly joined Facebook
Rang in the new year in Steveston at sister's friend's boyfriend's parents' house (seriously) in the hot tub - my hair smelled like cedar.


Completed my extra year at UBC
Quit my job at UBC IT
Worked doing GIS for a mining startup company
Spoke at my first conference (international tourism conference)
Rang in the new year at my friends Pierre & Christine's silver & gold party in Strathcona


Quit job doing GIS
Started working as a tour coordinator for a budget tour company
Travelled to the Rockies, San Francisco, and Seattle for work purposes
Josh's parents visit Vancouver for the first time
Got laid off for the second time in my life (dying economy)
Travelled to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico
Reluctantly joined Twitter
Started this blog as a way to wean myself off travel forums (didn't work)
Spent 3 weeks in Montreal and the Laurentiens - first Christmas away from home
Rang in the new year with friends at Restaurant YoYo in Montreal's Plateau district


Started my current job at a software company
Got promoted at work
Bought my first ever new car (black Honda Civic EX-L sedan)
Spend epic summer nights with good friends
Started to seriously improve my photography

Looking back at this list, my 2000's or my 20's, however you look at it, represent self-discovery and adulthood... coming to grips with what I want to do with myself career-wise vs. passions I've wanted to pursue (university education, music, photography, etc). I still don't have all the answers, but I'm more sure of myself as a person.

So on New Year's Eve on December 31, 2009, goodbye twenties, you were fun. Hello thirties! It should be an interesting next decade, that's for sure.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Google Analytics

Being a geography geek means that I have an almost obsessive fascination with different countries, cultures, and locations around the world. It also means that I love maps. I love looking at maps. I love Google Maps. I love Google Earth. I love Google Street View. I also love checking up on my Google Analytics to see where my blog's visitors are coming from.

For those unaware, Google Analytics is a free tracking tool that you can embed in your site to track who's visiting your site. You can see what city or country they're from, how long they're staying on your site, what pages they're reading and for how long, what web browser they're using, their screen resolution, ISP, OS, etc. You can even see what search engine they used and what keywords they entered to get to your site.

Speaking of which, some of the more entertaining keywords that people have plugged in to get to my blog:

"25 cent peep shows granville vancouver are they real?"
"awesome inukshuks"
"バンクーバー 花火 グランビル" (I have no idea what this says)*
"дождь в ванкувере" (ditto)**
"can't stand the weather in vancouver"
"im sick of vancouvers weather"

Plus about a hundred variations of "what's the weather REALLY like in Vancouver?"

I guess I really do write a lot about weather on my blog. Ooops! Maybe that'll be my 2010 resolution: focus less on weather.


One of the most fascinating parts about having Google Analytics on my blog is seeing where all my visitors come from. In the year since my blog has been running until this date, I have had visitors from 99 different countries. That's incredible! That's really, really cool! Check out the map! Each country filled in with green means that I've had at least one visitor from that country. The darker the green, the more visitors I've had.

FYI, the top 10 countries are:

1. Canada
2. United States
3. Philippines
4. United Kingdom
5. Italy
6. Australia
7. Germany
8. Malaysia
9. India
10. Indonesia

But people have visited my blog from as far away as Bangladesh, Serbia, Belgium, Jordan, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Falkland Islands, Kazakhstan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Austria, Yemen, Singapore, Colombia, Israel, Greece, Egypt, Mauritius, El Salvador, Tunisia, Mexico, Macau, Peru, Sweden, Japan, Brazil, Portugal, Jamaica, and even Brunei!

And that's just a small sampling!

But if the world has 195 countries, that means that I still don't have visitors for 50.7% of the world's other countries. Come on people from Mongolia, Iceland, or Belarus! Where are you? Where are you Paraguay, Fiji, or Greenland? I don't see you Congo! Lesotho? Swaziland? Zambia? You're severely lacking representation. Same goes for you, Honduras and Nicaragua! And don't think I don't notice, Belize! That goes for you too Burma and Afghanistan. Don't hide from me Turkmenistan - I know you're out there. And while I'm at it, where are all my Cameroon bloggers? Or the Guinea and Equatorial Guinea bloggers? I mean, seriously! Where's the love?

Edit: An online translation of the Japanese writing brought up "the Vancouver fireworks Glan building". The Russian online translation is "rain in Vancouver". Ha!

Late night grocery shopping at Superstore

We're still in a post-Christmas chill-out mood, so we're not really socializing but we're hanging around at home tidying things up and doing a much-needed cleaning. Realizing our cupboards were absolutely bare, we decided to head out to Superstore at the foot of Main Street for a bit of grocery shopping. Being a Sunday at 9:30pm, I looked around online to see if it would still be open late, and sure enough, it would be open until 11pm. Sweet.

Superstore (aka: the Real Canadian Superstore) is a guilty pleasure of mine. I'll gladly go out of my way to shop there. It's not only because it's affordable, or that you're forced to bag your own groceries, but it's because of its international products and its President's Choice brand.

President's Choice is the store's own brand of products, but it's really top quality stuff. At least that's been my experience. I'm always tempted to pick up random items that I wouldn't otherwise need, like salsa verde, simply because I feel, "hey, it's President's Choice - it'll be good!"

And then I'll come across a mountainous display of potato chips, with flavours like like tandoori BBQ.

How can you resist tandoori BBQ chips? You can't! Well, they also had this flavour called "Greek" which I think was a blend of feta, oregano, and perhaps even olive. Well, that went into our shopping cart too. And then I saw their Portuguese peri peri sauce potato chips. Yup. Into the cart they went. And then a few moments later we passed by yet another mountain of potato chips. This time it was General Tao Chicken. This is why I love President's Choice! Needless to say, we bought a lot of potato chips tonight.

One of President's Choice most famous products is their "Memories of..." sauces. It's just a clever marketing gimmick for international marinade and dipping sauces, but it's been around as long as I can remember, since the 80's at least. Not that I really needed more bottles of sauce, but sometimes you just have to tell youself, "what the hell... why not?" And this is what happens:

But late night shopping at Superstore on Sunday is great if you're looking to have the entire warehouse of a store to yourself. There were more staff members than customers, and at times, I was visualizing scenes out of Dead Rising or Zombieland. No zombies, alas, but our cupboards are no longer bare.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas = Food

"Hey Robyn! What are you doing for Christmas? What are your Canadian Christmas traditions? Are you sticking around here, or are you going somewhere?"

"I'm staying here for Christmas as all my family's here, although we're alternating now. Last year I went to Montreal with my significant other (as his whole family lives there), but this year we're staying here."

"Cool! What do you do?"

"Well, on Christmas Eve we celebrate with my Mom's side of the family. My parents are hosting it this year. We have a big international potluck dinner featuring everything from smoked salmon to samosas, but since that side of the family's of Ukrainian heritage, we'll also have traditional Ukrainian food like kolbasa, perogies, and cabbage rolls.

When I was a kid, we'd even have a visit from Santa and he'd give out gifts to all the cousins. I think I was 7 when I figured out it was my Dad dressed up. I think Santa stopped visiting us in 1996. But we still manage to do a gift exchange with my grandparents, as they only celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. So they open their gifts from us and we open our gifts from them.

It's always a big crowd on Christmas Eve but we keep it super casual. There will be my grandparents, my 8 aunts and uncles, my 10 cousins, their boyfriends/girlfriends/kids/out-of-town friends, my parents, my sister, her boyfriend, my significant other, and myself. I think there are actually 38 people expected. Not only that, but that side of the family can be a little bit eccentric and usually we break out into a drum circle later in the night. Should be interesting!"

"No kidding! So if that's Christmas Eve, what happens on Christmas Day?"

"Oh Christmas morning (well, early afternoon) we'll go over to my parents where it'll just be my immediate family: my parents, my sister and I and our significant others. We'll all open our presents around the Christmas tree while drinking coffee (or in some cases, beer) while listening to Christmas music. My Dad will sometimes cook up a British style breakfast (bangers with HP sauce, back bacon, baked tomatoes, eggs) while my Mom fusses over how we have to keep an eye on the clock because we have to get ready for Christmas dinner."

"Ha! So there's Christmas dinner?"

"Yeah, Christmas dinner is with my Dad's side of the family - the English/Swedish side of my family. They're all foodies. This year my aunt is hosting the dinner in her new home, and we'll be there with my 4 aunts and uncles, 4 cousins, their significant others and kids, my parents, my sister, her significant other, and my significant other. Slightly smaller group than the night before, but we're still talking a big get together. We manage to get everyone around 1 or 2 giant tables, and it's a tad more formal than our Christmas Eve dinner. We always have a traditional turkey & ham dinner with Christmas crackers and silly hats, endless vegetables and British desserts: homemade trifle, yule log, plum pudding, ginger snaps, bakewell tarts, and a proper cheese platter with port."

"Wow, sounds like a busy time! And so much food!"

"Oh, for sure... it's Go! Go! Go! But in the end, I'm fortunate to have all of my family here in town and to be able to see them all at Christmas. Not to mention, we all get along really well, which not every family can claim. But this has been my Christmas tradition as long as I've been alive! It's busy but fun. Next year? Montreal!"

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a stat holiday in BC so most people have the day off. It's also the day when stores holds massive Boxing Day Sales which is actually one of the busiest shopping days of the year in Canada.

I grew up in a family that poo-poo'ed the idea of going shopping the day after being spoiled by Christmas loot, so I've never been one to go shopping on Boxing Day. And having once worked in retail on Boxing Day many moons ago, I can't think of any greater hell. I mean, the malls and stores are often crazier on Boxing Day than they are before Christmas - no thanks!

Today we just chilled out at home, eating tourtière and drinking eggnog coffee while playing around with our new toys. I received a new macro lens for Christmas, and so, with the eery fog taking over the city this late afternoon, I had to snap a few preliminary pics! Just testing the waters....

Foggy Boxing Day in Vancouver

Foggy Boxing Day in Vancouver

Foggy Boxing Day in Vancouver

Foggy Boxing Day in Vancouver

Foggy Boxing Day in Vancouver

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From a gorgeously sunny Vancouver, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vancouver under fog

Vancouver under fog, originally uploaded by John Biehler.

Oh blog, I've neglected you so! It's because it's December. It's because I'm working against the clock at work on some major projects (with tight deadlines) and when I get home I'm exhausted or I'm out at some Christmas function or roaming Robson Street or Richmond Centre Christmas shopping. Or I'm at Section 3 or at an all-nighter Guitar Hero party with friends. Usually it's a combination of all 6.

Regardless, I had to share John Biehler's photo of the fog over Vancouver this morning. It was taken from my favourite Vancouver lookout at Cypress Mountain. Just drive your car half way up along Cypress Bowl Rd...

... or live vicariously through Google Street View!

View Larger Map

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vancouver New Year's Eve 2010

Unlike Whistler, Vancouver doesn't really have any public festivities at NYE. No fireworks, sadly, and no public square to collectively celebrate. (Drunk on Granville Street doesn't count.) But it's often cold and rainy anyway - not so fun to be outside then.

Saying that, almost every restaurant has a special dinner promotion and most night clubs, lounges, and hotels host massive parties. You typically have to purchase tickets or make reservations well ahead of time.

Here's a good list of some of the New Year's Eve parties happening around Vancouver:

And here's a quick glance at what some of the city's restaurants are doing for NYE:

As I mentioned, it's hard to recommend an actual NYE party because every year the venues host something different, and many locals just go to house parties on NYE anyway. This year I'm heading to Chambar (fantastic Belgian restaurant) with a group of friends which I'm looking forward to.

What are you doing for NYE?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Vancouver Freeze"

... and no, I'm not talking about this deep freeze cold spell we've been having for the past few days. ;)

I just read on a Seattle forum about "Seattle Freeze".

Here's the article behind it all:

The Seattle Times: Pacific Northwest Magazine : Our Social Disease

In essense, how they've described Seattle is exactly how many have described Vancouver.

Those of you actually familiar with Vancouver, who have spent time here, what do you think? Is there a "Vancouver Freeze"? If so, why do you think that is? Do you think it's always been that way?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

8 days of sunshine and still counting!

It's what... December 8th (how did that happen?!) and it's still gloriously sunny and dry in Vancouver. Check out this screen capture from KatKam a few moments ago:

This has to be one of the sunniest Decembers so far on record, and it doesn't look like it's stopping any time soon! Check out the Google weather forecast for this week:

Saying that, it's absolutely frigid outside! Any time you have days on end of below zero Celsius (or high 20's Fahrenheit for those of you in the US), it translates into "Vancouver cold spell".

Sure, it's cold enough to snow, but hey... there's a local snow paradox. When it's cold enough to snow in Vancouver, there aren't any clouds. When the clouds come back, the temperatures warm up above freezing and it rains.

I wonder what the weather will be like during the Olympics?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy 1st Anniversary!

One year ago today I started with my blog! Happy Birthday Blog! Your birthday falls on the same day that Vancouver got its first frost of the season. Whee!

Well, the whole intention of my blog (if you never read my first-ever post) was to provide a local's perspective of life in Vancouver. Although to be honest, I initially wanted to provide info more for the travellers and tourists as opposed to locals. After all, there are plenty of blogs out there that cater to locals in Vancouver, but not many are designed for the tourists!

Having spent years participating in travel forums giving out Vancouver-related travel advice, and after a short stint working at Tourism Vancouver, I figure my blog would be a summary of FAQ's commonly asked by tourists... or a blog where I could point out what was worth seeing and what was worth missing.

Needless to say, I have a long way to go! In fact, I've often wondered if this would work better as a website as opposed to a blog, but so far the blog's been flexible and I can add to it whenever I'm motivated to do so.

The good news is that this blog is going to be undergoing some massive changes in the not too distant future. I may even change its name (Vancouver: A Local's Perspective is just too... unremarkable). Until then, I'll keep doing what I've been doing!

And for your own amusement, here was the scene out of my solarium this evening. Another beautiful clear (if not cold) December day! Who says it rains every day in Vancouver? Don't believe the hype! ;)

Homer & Davie

For more photos, check out my Flickr account!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hello December

Yaletown Full Moon

I can't believe it's December already. December marks the darkest month of the year here at the 49th parallel. Obviously this is the case anywhere north of the equator, but I think it's something that tourists (especially from the southern hemisphere) forget about when planning a December trip to Vancouver. I mean, the sun rises around 8am and it sets by 4:15pm, so that's always something to consider.

But the nice thing about December is, unlike November, there are Christmas lights brightening the mood. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, the spirit's festive. I noticed, just looking out my window, that today's the first day that Harbour Centre lit up the red Christmas lights on its roof. You can see them in the photo if you know where to look!

24 days and counting...

A full moon moonrise at sunset... with crows!

Crows at moonrise
I was admiring the moonrise over the mountains at sunset when thousands of crows flew by on their evening flight back to their roost.

Celebration of Photography

Tomorrow evening one of my favourite blogs, Vancouver Is Awesome, is hosting a party at the Fortune Sound Lounge (147 E Pender in Chinatown) to celebrate photography:

Some of my photos will be featured, as will the photography of 98 other local photographers. It's a great excuse to check out a new Vancouver nightlife venue, celebrate local artists, and have fun at the same time!

If the Fortune Sound Lounge doesn't sound familiar, some of you may remember it as its previous incarnation as the kitschy-hip Royal Unicorn Cabaret. Well, they've revamped the space quite a bit! Check out these photos which were posted on SkyScraperPage, here.

Or better yet, see you tomorrow! :)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Full moon & clear skies

After an entire month of rain, we end November with this:

International flags all over the sidewalks

Late on Friday night after many a glass of wine at Section 3, a group of us stumbled our way through Yaletown on our way to Fritz Fries - our favourite late night snack house for those times when you're really craving a smoked meat poutine.

As we were walking down Hamilton Street, I noticed a series of round international flag decals on the pavement. These were installed a few days prior in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. The idea was to connect the South Granville and Yaletown neighbourhoods to BC Place Stadium via a "flag walk".

Well, Friday night was my first encounter with the flags on the sidewalk. I was in such good spirits that with each step I took I would gleefully yelp out the country of whose flag I was passing. Some flags are obvious. Others? Not so much. But how I managed to correctly identify Kazakhstan's and Azerbaijan's flags that drunken Friday night, I'm not entirely sure.

For more information on the flag walk, check out the Vancouver Sun's story, here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunshine in November?

I know.

November + Vancouver = sunshine?

It doesn't make sense!

This morning I woke up to a beautiful blanket of fog downtown. Well, that fog has been clearing way for sun. Just looking at my favourite Vancouver webcam, KatKam, it appears that we're in for a beautiful treat today. Of course, it'll be cold out today (currently it's 4°C, or if you prefer, 39°F), but it'll be sunny!

Since KatKam is consistently updating its images, I figure I'd show you what a November morning looks like in Vancouver when it isn't socked in by clouds!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Learning to dance when you're 29: Harbour Dance

Today's Thursday.

Okay, it's American Thanksgiving for those of you in the US (and Happy Thanksgiving to you!), but here in Canada it's just a regular Thursday work day.

But for me, Thursday means dance class.

No, I don't have any dance experience.

No, I never danced as a kid. Not in a studio, anyway.

I danced as a toddler to my Mom's Michael Jackson records in 1982, but that was the extent of it. Even when Mom enrolled me in a 5 year old's jazz class, I withdrew on the first day as I refused to participate. I was too shy - too weirded out by all the other little girls in "funny looking" dance slippers and leotards. I was in my jogging suit. I didn't want to be one of them - a little girl in "funny looking" shoes.

And thus was beginning and the end of my dance career.

Even as I got older, I was too shy to dance. I pseudo-moshed at concerts and wall-flowered all my high school dances - preferring to express myself through guitar or artwork - but never through dance.

Not until my late teens I discovered that winning combination of alcohol and nightclubs. My self consciousness of dancing infront of strangers went out the window somehow. But even then, it had to be to the right song and with the right friends and after enough rum & cokes. And even then, my dancing was very limited.

But I was always told I had the body of a ballet dancer.
I just never pursued it.

And then when nightclubbing lost its luster, I started to sit in and watch TV. First it was So You Think You Can Dance? And then it was So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

And I was hooked!

And I thought, "hey, that looks like fun!"

Those shows exposed me to the whole world of dance beyond what I ever imagined. And all the genres: hip hop, jazz, modern, fox trot, ballroom, tango, contemporary, Broadway, salsa, ballet... just watching Mia Michaels choreography was awe-inspiring enough.

It was so inspiring that soon "Hey, that looks like fun" turned into "Hey, I want to do that!"

So I started to look around online to see where somebody like myself - an adult with zero dance experience - could find some basic intro dance classes. Classes which are tailored to adults who work full time, who might not want to commit long term or pay a small fortune.

And that's when I discovered Harbour Dance!

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver on Granville Street across from the Vogue Theatre, Harbour Dance appeared to offer everything an aspiring adult beginner would want:

- a variety of dance styles
- a flexible schedule 7 days a week
- a variety of levels (including absolute beginner)
- a choice between single drop-in classes or progressive classes

And it was relatively affordable for my budget! The bonus was that it was close - I could walk there in 10 minutes from where I lived!

So in summer of 2007 I paid for my Harbour Dance membership which gave me a slightly cheaper price on classes.

I immediately took a drop-in intro Broadway Jazz class just to see how it was. I realized I was slightly in over my head with the high kicks, but the jazz hands I could muster.

I took another drop-in, Intro Jazz, and realized that it was more in tune with my experience. But it became really evident that I really needed a primer to go over the basics that I never learned as a child. I decided it would probably make sense to conquer what most would consider the most challenging form of dance:


In September and October of 2007 I enrolled in an adult's beginner intro ballet class. I bought my first-ever ballet slippers and Ballet for Dummies (a great investment). And so it was on every Sunday that I joined a class of predominantly women on the third floor of the dance studio. A pianist would play music as we struggled with our turnout, posture and technique.

Despite the initial struggles, ballet was very relaxing!

It was an hour and a half of stretching, pliéing and balancing at the barre with the occasional movements across the floor. But does it ever prepare for you the basics of all other forms of dance!

(And no, you don't go en pointe until you've built about 3 years of strength and experience).

I soon decided to try other styles in addition to ballet. Because of Mia Michaels, I decided to attempt modern, so I'd join a Monday evening intro modern drop-in class for a while.

Intro Modern was something else, if not slightly new agey. It's a very free-form expressive dance where you'd spend a lot of intimate time on the floor, pushing yourself off the floor, rolling around on the floor, and so on. Sure, you might smell like feet at the end of the session, but we had our own drummer who'd beat in time to our dances and there was something so primal about it. A very satisfying feeling by the end of it.

Then somewhere along the line I got the bright idea to enroll myself in the Street Jazz course. After all, I figure if I could do Broadway Jazz and regular Jazz, why not Street Jazz?

What I didn't realize at the time that Street Jazz was essentially a fusion of Jazz and Hip Hop. My teenage self wouldn't have believed it. But while assuming I'd be out of my element, I actually felt more at home in this class than anywhere else. It was a workout: push-ups, sit-ups and extensive grooving. But did we ever move and build up a choreography repertoire!

Imagine an entire class of intro dancers learning the steps of a Janet Jackson video. Voila Street Jazz. And it's contagiously fun!

This month I'm enrolled in two progressive classes: intro Hip Hop and another intro Street Jazz. We're dancing to Pharell remixes and old school Tribe Called Quest. Needless to say, I'm having an absolute blast all while keeping fit and staying in shape.

So once again, today is Thursday.

Thursday is dance class.

Some people go to the gym.

I go to dance.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

3 Ways to Directly Support BC Arts

I typically stray from politics on my blog because there are countless other forums which are more engaging if you're seeking that kind of thing, and well, I won't even go into the politics that revolve around the 2010 Olympics - a can of worms unto itself.

But for the unaware, our provincial government, the BC Liberals (not to be mistaken for the federal Liberal party), have significantly cut arts funding in BC to the point where I don't think I've ever seen such a furious backlash before.

There are all kinds of graphs and articles which compare and contrast the amount of funding the Olympics are getting vs. the amount of funding cut from the arts this year.

But we won't go there.

Can of worms, remember? ;)

Instead, I'm putting my money where my mouth is, and I'm donating to the following 3 organizations:

My favourite Vancouver blog, Vancouver Is Awesome, describes itself as "a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to the study, promotion and preservation of Vancouver arts and culture, with a positive spin". I love it because it not only realistically showcases the diversity of what goes on in Vancouver, but it's inclusive to the entire community and their attitude is golden. It's really a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere.

Today is actually the last day of Vancouver is Awesome's Annual Donor Drive. I already donated, but it's not too late. If you donate, your name goes into a raffle where you can win some pretty impressive swag! Check it out!

Oh, BC Studies - how I love thee! BC Studies is an approachable scholarly journal showcasing the province's history, politics, and arts. I fell in love with BC Studies after discovering the collection in the Koerner Library during my years at UBC. It's really a one-stop shop for all things British Columbia and the content and contributors are pure quality. It's just a pleasure to read - even casually - and I do mean that. They really give justice to the depth and variety of BC culture.

Right now BC Studies is having its 6th Annual Online Auction where you can bid on a variety BC-related items: passes to local museums, the opera, Bard on the Beach, restaurants, dozens of BC-related books, and so on. Really, the items in their auction are as quality as the content they publish. Check it out! There are a few days left to bid. If you're looking for some early Christmas shopping deals, this is a great way to do it. I mean, there are $35 books currently bidding for $7! I'd love to be the recipient of any of these items. :) Check it out!

Ahh, CiTR. This is UBC's college radio station (101.9 CiTR). I used to be a member of CiTR during my days at UBC, and although I never had my own radio show, I used to volunteer as a concert photographer for their magazine Discorder.

I love CiTR for their diversity in programming (catering to all sorts of niche audiences musically or linguistically). They're also one of the few public radio stations in Vancouver.

Today's the second to last day to make a donation for their Annual Fundrive. Their goal is to raise $24,000 by tomorrow. Depending on how much you donate or when you call, you'll win some sweet prizes. And if you donate $101.09, they'll give you free airtime. Pretty sweet, no? Check it out!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flight times to Vancouver

Did you know that it takes about the same amount of time to fly from London directly to Toronto than it does to fly from London directly to Vancouver?

I know.

It doesn't look that way!

Map showing Vancouver, Toronto and London

On a map Vancouver looks like it's twice as far away from Europe than Toronto is, but it isn't when you take into consideration the curvature of the Earth.

Flights from London to Vancouver don't fly directly west over the Atlantic, as if you were drawing a straight line west out of London. They arc north up and over the Arctic (har har), over Greenland, Baffin Island, Nunavut before descending over northern Saskatchewan, Alberta, eventually ending in BC.

While it still looks like a further distance on a regular map, if you traced this route on a globe, it would make more sense. It's that Arctic route which explains why flying directly from Europe to Vancouver makes more sense than flying with a stopover in Eastern Canada.

London to Toronto = 8 hours
London to Vancouver = 9.5 hours
Toronto to Vancouver = 4 hours
London to Vancouver via Toronto = 12 hours

As for people flying into Vancouver from other destinations, Tourism Vancouver has created a fantasic PDF illustrating the average flight times from around the world:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eastside Cultural Crawl 2009

Today starts the beginning of one of my favourite art events in Vancouver:

That's right!

3 days to see 300 artists!

That's 300 artists opening up their studios around East Vancouver's Strathcona and Commercial Drive neighbourhoods to the public! It begins today on Friday, November 20th at 5pm (until 10pm) and then continues on to Saturday November 21st and Sunday November 22nd from 11am until 6pm.

I went last year with my sister and we had such an inspirtational eye-opening time exploring Strathcona on foot and seeing all these amazing little studios that we had no idea existed. It's really a unique yet misunderstood neighbourhood - one of the oldest residential communities in Vancouver proper, located on the edge of Chinatown and home to a thriving arts community.

Just take a stroll around Strathcona on Google Street View to get a sense of the place. It's really cool!

View Larger Map

I highly, highly encourage you to attend the Eastside Cultural Crawl if you're in town - umbrella in hand, of course.

Oh, and if you can fit in a Ukrainian perogy lunch at the Ukrainain Community Centre at 805 E. Pender, you're really in for a treat!

Check out the official website for the event's history, maps, and artist profiles:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free Moshe Safdie lecture @ UBC Nov 21, 8:15pm

Vancouver Public Library

This comes directly from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. For fans of Moshe Safdie's architecture such as the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch (as seen above), Vancouver's Centre for Performing Arts, Ottawa's National Gallery, or Montreal's Habitat, you may want to attend!

November 21 2009


Date: 21 Nov 2009, 8:15 PM

Location: UBC Woodward Instructional Resources Centre, Lecture Hall No. 2, 2194 Health Sciences Mall (map)

Arthur Erickson Memorial Lecture in Architectural Excellence

"Megascale, order and Complexity"

Mr. Moshe Safdie is an architect and urban designer who has won numerous awards including the Companion Order of Canada and the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Institute of Architects.

Admission to lecture is free.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November Rain

November + Vancouver = Rain

If you're looking for the bleakest, gloomiest, rainiest time to be in Vancouver, drop by for a visit in November. The stats don't lie!


While we've been having cold temperatures, rain, and overcast skies for the last few days now, this upcoming week is supposed to be particularly brutal in terms of wind and rainfall. Just talking to my Mom on the phone, she said the news is forecasting more rain this week than we've had in the entire month. And when November's the rainiest month out of the entire year, you know it's serious.

Here's the forecast according to Environment Canada:

Note the "rainfall warning" and "wind warning" - a clue that the weather's expected to be pretty hairy this week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

And the snow season begins!

View Larger Map

Just yesterday afternoon I was admiring the fresh snow on the local mountains, so it should be no surprise to me that two of Vancouver's North Shore mountains will open for the ski season today! It's only November 13th (a Friday the 13th at that), so it means early ski season conditions, but what fantastic news for winter sports fans!

Cypress Mountain's Easy-Rider Chair (accessing Runway) and their cross-country runs are open from 9am until 4pm.

From there you could head on to Grouse Mountain which opens at 4pm until night. Grouse currently has Paradise Bowl and Greenway Chair open, in addition to their outdoor skating pond.

Mount Seymour (my personal fav for snowshoeing) opens next week on November 20th.

For real-time stats on snow conditions, ski or skate rentals, admission fees, and hours of operation, visit the official websites of each mountain:

Cypress Mountain:
Grouse Mountain:
Mount Seymour:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fire @ Main & Broadway

Sad news for Vancouver today.

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A fire broke out this morning on the corner of Main & Broadway in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Apparently it started at Kishu Island Japanese restaurant but quickly spread to connecting businesses such as Slickity Jim's Chat & Chew, Zocalo, and Lugz Coffee.

These were key businesses in the Mount Pleasant community and they'll definitely be missed. Slickity Jim's in particular was a local favourite for brunch if not for its eccentric mish mash of kitsch.

I just looked at these photos posted on the Vancouver Sun website, and the whole block looks like one big charcoal mess.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Ironic names aside, one of my favourite places in Greater Vancouver is the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. Located on Westham Island in Delta, the Reifel Bird Sanctuary is a massive estuary on the Fraser River where you can find a large variety of birds in their natural environment.

I've been coming to the bird sanctuary ever since I was a little girl. My parents and grandparents used to take me here, and now I take my significant other and our friends. It's always super enjoyable and a great way to relax on a weekend. It's a must-see if you're into bird watching or nature in general.

The bird sanctuary's set up with a series of well-maintained gravel paths through the Fraser River estuary ecosystem. There's forest...

...freshwater ponds

Sandhill Cranes, Reifel Bird Sanctuary

...and saltwater marshes

And just to give you a better idea, here's the satellite view of the bird sanctuary. Zoom in or out or just pan around to get a better sense of how it's laid out and where it is in relation to Vancouver, the Fraser River, and the Strait of Georgia:

View Larger Map

Throughout the bird sanctuary there are benches, picnic tables, and bird blinds. There's a lookout tower at the north-east corner of the park which offers a fantastic view. As well, scattered throughout the park are many bird feeders and bird houses.

Chickadees, Reifel Bird Sanctuary

One of my favourite activities is simply feeding the ducks.

For 50 cents you can buy a bag of birdseed and feed the ducks (and Canada geese and other curious waterfowl) by hand.

Feeding ducks at the George C Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Or if you have some unshelled sunflower seeds, you can even feed Chickadees by hand if you stand still, offering the seeds in an open palm.

Right now - autumn - is actually one of the best times to visit. It's now when you'll see an abundance of birds because many of them spend their winters here at the sanctuary. But regardless of the season, one thing is certain - there will always be a lot of ducks.

But we were very fortunate to spot some Sandhill cranes during our last visit. Once in great abundance in Greater Vancouver, they are now very rare and can be sometimes spotted here at the bird sanctuary or in nearby places like Burns Bog. We actually managed to see some of them fly in - the first time I've ever seen cranes in flight. I wish the picture was in focus, but what a sight!

Of course, autumn's always a great time to visit simply because of all its associated sights and smells. The bird sanctuary makes for one of those fantastic autumn environments that you just can't replicate in the city. You have the leaves changing colour...

... the berries fermenting on the branches


Red berries

... and the cedar waxwings gobbling them up!

If you time your visit around Halloween, you'll be able to witness the snow geese migration. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of snow geese arrive on Westham Island from the Arctic. They rest and feed in the farmer's fields just outside of the bird sanctuary before making their way south for the winter. It's truly an incredible sight. In fact, it's almost comical!

Getting to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary is relatively straight forward. Simply take Oak Street south out of Vancouver until it turns into Hwy 99, and take the first exit after the George Massey tunnel to Ladner Village.

View Larger Map

Once in Ladner Village, there are signs pointing you toward the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island. You can also click on "View Larger Map" just above to see step-by-step directions (including that wonderful Google Street View functionality). All in all it takes approximately 40 minutes to drive there from downtown Vancouver.

There is no public transit to the bird sanctuary, so having a car is a necessity unless you don't mind taking your bike on the bus from Vancouver to Ladner and then cycling an easy 7km through flat farmland.

Note that the bird sanctuary closes at 4pm (although they'll let you stay until 5pm), so do plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get there.

Official website:

: 5191 Robertson Road, Delta BC

Hours of operation
: 9am until 4pm, 7 days a week

Admission: $4 adults, $2 children (2-14) & seniors (60+)