Getting ready to go out to celebrate our first anniversary. Damn, we look dashing.
(Not shown: New Zealand tummies from eating large amounts of New Zealand lamb and snapper and beef and bacon and venison and sheep cheese and mushrooms and apricots and meat pies and avocados and fish & chips and lamingtons and also large quantities of New Zealand wine and beer and flat whites.)
Melbourne is the first Australian city I’ve visited where I really thought I could live.
Lest that come off snobby, let me explain. Well, yes, I’m a snob but really? Sydney? Canberra? Sydney is too big and freeway-strewn and aggro, and Canberra is just kind of weird with all it’s government buildings and legal prostitution. I’m on the verge of graduating and considering my future career options, as is my lovely and Australian Janelle, and as much as I love Vancouver, I’ve been here a while. A change of scenery, well, it’s an option. However, I’m really not a person motivated solely by career. First and foremost, I want to live in a place I want to live. Melbourne seems like a place I could want to live.
As a city on the other side of the world where everybody has odd accents and roughly 90% of the architecture dates to the Victorian period, it’s different enough from Vancouver (or my last city, Toronto) that I feel like I would be getting a new experience. But it’s also not unfamiliar. It’s bustling and vibrant, with yuppies, hipsters, immigrants and middle-class families rubbing shoulders. The combination of broad streets and countless twisting laneways — an artifact of the 19th century gold rush and subsequent real estate bubble that made Melbourne the richest city in the world and second-biggest in the Empire — makes it walkable, colourful and gives rise to a truly impressive tram network. Tasty, cheap ethnic food abounds, even if the Vietnamese restaurants all call phở “noodle soup” and bánh mì “Vietnamese rolls”. It has a really strong art scene (and street art scene) and a lively pub culture, complete with dozens of trivia nights around the city (go Team “Throw Another Ken on the Barbie”! We would have totally kicked ass if it weren’t for the $12 jugs of beer!). The people seem to all be either friendly or entertainingly pretentious. In a way, it combines a lot of my favourite aspects of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, with a dash of junior-league London for good measure.
And it seem like a place where I could get a job. Maybe.
Anyway, after a couple of overnight flights broken up by a 17-hour layover in a Taiwanese airport, I’m back in Van now, and you know what that means! Pictures!
The view from my apartment. I actually live in a fairly nice neighbourhood, but it’s a nice neighbourhood that from certain angles (including my front window) looks charmingly dingy. As the weather gets warmer, and the immediate pressure of thesis and paper deadlines has temporarily waned a little, I’ve been doing a lot of walking around the side streets and alleyways of the east side. I like walking. You can see and hear and smell things you’d miss otherwise. Plus, it lets me catch up on my podcasts.
I’ve been an East Vancouverite for almost two years now, though I haven’t explored this side of the city nearly as much as I’d like. Vancouver is not remotely an old city, but wandering through the relatively older neighbourhoods around me is an interesting study. If you look close, you can see the marks left by successive ethnic and demographic waves — an old porno theater just out of sight of some new condo developments, a hidden decades-old sign for Japanese lessons on a clothing boutique, or the Jimi Hendrix shrine between Chinatown and the Skytrain station. It’s also given the neighbourhoods really distinct characters. As a Main Streeter, I’m only a ten-minute walk from Cambie and a ten-minute walk from Fraser, but there’s no mistaking the condos and slick Hong Kong cafes of one for the subdivided Edwardian three-storeys and cramped Vietnamese phở shops of the other.
I’ve managed to stay pretty disengaged from the olympics — I have a thesis to write, dammit! Plus, the olympics combine sport and crowds — two things I’m hardly a huge fan of. But hey, if people want to have their olympics, I’m cool with that. Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s resulted in some much-needed infrastructure, like building the new Canada Line, which finally makes it easier to take transit downtown than to walk (at least when the olympics aren’t on).
It *has* resulted in other changes to the city that I’m less happy about — like turning Granville over to the bridge-and-tunnel skanks and assholes — but I’m at least glad I live in a city that is dynamic, and that *is* changing. Vancouver still feels to me like a project that’s not quite done yet. It hasn’t become what it’s going to be. I don’t know, ultimately, what the impact of the olympics will be on the city, but it feels like part of that process.