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.


G said...

Just a correction: Oyama Sausage Company no longer sells foie gras. They stopped using foie gras in their products early last year.

Robyn said...

Thanks for the correction - that's good to know. That explains all the "faux gras" I saw.

Candice said...

next time you go - stop at Chocolatas ( i could see part of the sign in the Siegel's bagel's pic. We know the owners - and they made the most amazing chocolate - there is quite the store behind that family - now that i know where their new location is (they only just recently got a perm. spot in the market) i am bound to make a lot more trips - as their other location is in their home in Abbotsford!