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! :)