Vancouver: Two Favourite Spots

Thanks to CWB and his award winning pair of blog posts about South Korea, combined with the grey clouds and rain ruining Vancouver’s abbreviated summer it made me think back a few weeks to when the sun still shone, the skies sparkled azure and the cooling salt breeze off English Bay was welcomed, instead of something to hunch into a jumper and pushed against.

Vancouver enjoys a bounty of scenic options, and two of my absolute favourites are within five minutes walking distance of one another; Granville Island and Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf is self-explanatory, it’s a wharf where fishermen dock their boats and sell their day’s catch. I’ll return to it shortly.

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(Found the pics of my lunch at Go Fish on Fisherman’s Wharf!)

Granville Island’s history displays how a bit of foresight and vision can reinvent and reinvigorate an area. Granville Island started its (European) existence as Industrial Island. A place near the mouth of False Creek dedicated to the shipping industry; everything ship and sail related could be found on Industrial Island; sails, ropes, tar, planks, anchors, chains, rigging, semaphore flags and even figureheads. It existed this way until… Vancouver stopped being just a harbour and the rise of steam and then motorized ships meant that acres of timber, mountains of sailcloth and coils of rope lost their value and use. Indeed, all of False Creek slumped into a depression, a dirty, ugly area best avoided. The stories how the docks invite a seedier sort of character in stories and movies, well, this was a seedier dockside going derelict. Not a pretty sight.

Enter the 70s and the Federal Government, under the direction of Ron Basford, opted to redevelop the site. The factories gone (for the most part) to be redesigned as a destination shopping location. It could easily have failed miserably but somehow, it helped breath new life into the area. People living downtown and on the south side of False Creek flocked to the renamed Granville Island, the name taken from the Granville Street Bridge it resides under. The tourists followed.

The (original) showpiece remains the Public Market. Formerly a rope factory and some other seafaring sale’s room. Now it thrives with market stalls, a slew of individual fast food outlets, speciality foodstuffs, handmade jewelry and a bustling flower store. Around the Public Market boutique shops nestle beside chocolatiers next to trendy restaurants and yes, a shipyard and a few related shops. Nowadays these shops cater to million dollar yachts instead of working ships.

Granville Island Brewing got its start here, and maintains a show-brewery (the factory moved years ago), Emily Carr University houses a campus, the Granville Island Hotel looks east over False Creek and there are at least four separate theatres scattered about the 38-acre island. When the Fringe Fest hits Vancouver, Granville sprouts even more impromptu (and improv) theatres.

One of the highlights of Vancouver, enjoying a raucous outdoor meal creekside at the Public Market in the midst of a myriad of languages, squawking gulls, ocean sounds, scents from around the world whilst buskers hustle for attention and change. It encapsulates in one small area just how multicultural Vancouver has become in 40 years.

I was actually standing in line to get some Indian food one day when I was down there, but my enthusiasm waned. I needed to eat but something felt just… wrong. The food would be fine, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Only problem, I didn’t know what I wanted.

Until an English visitor walked by and commented how she “would just have some fish n’ chips, luv.”

THAT’S what I wanted! Fish n’ chips. Only, not from Granville Island.
Off to Fisherman’s Wharf.

It is still a functioning wharf were fresh seafood can be purchased from just-docked boats. I have zero intent of creating my own fish n’ chips, especially since the tantalizingly Go Fish restaurant is right there. I arrive around 1:30PM and the line up is still 20 people deep at least. It will be at least 45 minutes before I receive my fish n’ chips.

And that’s fine.

The only way the meal could have been improved upon would have been if Go Fish owned a liquor license because a pint of beer would have proved perfection. Instead I soak up the crowded atmosphere of the restaurant. Sitting outdoors on a deck, overlooking False Creek, tucked away from the frenzy of city life but enjoying the buzz and hum of the ships on the water. The rays of the sun drenching my skin, my fish, my fries. Stretching out the meal, lingering over the last drops of my soda. Hearing the tourist family beside me commenting in a mix English and German. Meeting the lovely local beside me who visits Go Fish at least once a week for the same reason I’m here. She savours a smoked salmon bagel, which looks better than my fish n’ chips but my craving demanded battered fish.

Go Fish shows how Vancouver it is, with much healthier options than most fish n’ chip stands. Scallop specials, smoked salmon, oyster or salmon tacones, . It’s a lot more than just fish n’ chips.

Behind the counter the staff remains in perpetual motion, I get the feeling things start to hop at 11AM and won’t quiet down until the sun starts to sink towards the west. And these people bounce. The wait time for my fish n’ chips was nearly 30 minutes and the line only dwindled by the time I was finishing up my late meal.

Meanwhile, the boats continued to return from fishing. Hauling the day’s catch up from their holds to sell from the wharf. Either to individuals, or, just as likely some of the restaurants from Granville Island.

Eventually, the final fry and the last drops of lemonade meant it was time to wipe my hands and head back towards my apartment. Happy I had taken the time to enjoy an over-long meal split between two of my favourite spots in all of Vancouver.

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