Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vancouver - A-Boot Time for Fun!

Recovery Pride Cruise with my new friends!
How about an extremely livable destination – with beautiful, sunny summers? Vancouver offers a lot – from its breathtaking mountain and harbor views to close-knit gay life. This extension north from the “left-coast” strikes an even better balance than its hippie, environmentally-friendly, brother cities to the south (Seattle, Portland, San Fran). Combining both a very artsy feel with a “business professional” sense; it’s home to one of Canada’s (and the worlds) best schools, UBC (for example). Somehow, in the span of two weeks, Vancouver won out San Francisco – and became my favorite west coast city, because of its (summer) weather – along with all the great things that San Fran offers, only smaller, cleaner and warmer. You can have a smaller-town feel inside a big city in a gorgeous location – And you like sushi right? Outdoorsy rice-queens, eat-up!

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The gay center is Davie Street – and the gayborhood that surrounds, Davie Village – where shops, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs all share pink bus stops and trash bins. Plus, there's a rainbow-painted intersection at Davie and Bute Street and permanent rainbow LED lights line the sidewalks! This street alone is adequate for your city/urban entertainment needs, but you’ll want to get out and enjoy the mountains in North Vancouver (and beyond) as well as the beaches of English Bay. You would think the water is ice-cold – but it’s more refreshing (of course, in the summer only). Despite the fact that during winter months – October to April – it is cloudy 70% of the time, outside of winter (and especially July and August) you can expect sun almost always; in 2013 it did not rain all of July.
Davie & Bute Street

Not only did I get out in the bay by boat – but friends and I did the Grouse Grind – a 2,800 foot climb over 2 miles; a hike nearly straight up for 90 minutes! One handsome new friend introduced me to nature as well as (fittingly) to anime - seen Princess Mononoke? It’ll blow your mind. Studying to become a movie make-up artist, he took some time out to show me North Vancouver and picturesque Lynn Valley, including the rocky swimming areas and a precarious suspension bridge, before heading home to complete the “creature" for his production. He’s originally from Kelowna, a smaller town but even warmer summertime climate – another well-kept Canadian secret – there’s even desert there!

While the diversity of people here leans Asian and Caucasian – fun & friendly Latinos have also discovered it; the only way to find a friendlier Canadian is a Latino-Canadian! While it still has a big city feel – that doesn’t come across in person – although perhaps from drivers on the road (possible Asian influence?). Given the all-inclusive nature of the place – its no wonder that this year an anti-gay crackpot snuck his way into the pride parade to give away fake condoms with an anti-gay message. Canadians sometimes can be too friendly!

Pride Parade -
with Beautiful mountain views down the streets!
One of the best ways to represent the degree of friendly is the ritualistic (and a touch awkward) “Thank You” mandatory for bus drivers. Even if you leave from the back door – you’re (practically) required to shout out your gratitude. I’m really curious about whether depression sets in when Vancouver bus drivers move to Seattle. Bus drivers also seem to be Latino influenced – because taking off on the bus is never gradual. These buses move - just like in Mexico City!

It’s a blessing the extensive metro line – the “sky train” (both above & underground) is automated – so no required thanks here; there are only 2 wagons per car – but they run practically every 3 minutes during rush hour. However, it’s quite scary when your train stops and (after a few suspenseful moments) a live voice echoes from above: “we’re aware your train has stopped, due to a delay on the station ahead.” I’d rather a pre-recorded “your train will be moving shortly." What you don’t know sometimes is best!
The Volleyball league - just one way to make new friends!

Still, the hip way to move around the city is either by bike (bike share is coming too) or Car-2-Go (Zip Cars are also around, but you can leave these smart cars anywhere!) and the electric (tram-line) and natural gas buses keep your options wide open! Just one more reason this place is so livable.

Meeting people is relatively easy – and if you live here you can even join the gay volleyball league! But do be warned – nobody thought this might be important when I came: I walked out late to meet a "new friend" (did you guess Tinder date? - yes, Grindr is here too, but I’m expanding) when I saw a crawling black thing with a white stripe. Some strange cat, I thought? Nope, skunk! – in the middle of downtown! Apparently they don’t spray unless you really put them in a corner; they are used to people. But I’m certain I did smell skunk at times around town…


Canadian Bar Association "Legally Proud" Float
Culminating on the first weekend of August, Pride makes Davie Street even more gay. Rainbow flags flap along in every storefront and beyond – even grocery stores in the downtown area! On Friday, Davie is closed and advertisers hold give-aways at the street festival followed by (a more straight) street-party at night. Pride coincides with the last “Celebration of Light” – fireworks over the bay on Saturday. They close Davie Street yet again to make way for the masses – and you can even listen to music timed to the showers of light!

For the evening, purchase tickets to a wide range of parties and drag shows all over the city. I attended to the Commodore Saturday – where a fab drag show and great poppy music held a cute crowd until the wee hours. Another big event is the Rapture - Heatwave pool party at the Westin on Saturday, but there are other private pool events too. It’s best to find local friends and get to the best house parties and events since the typical bars will all be slammed.

Dance floor at Junction - it's still early!
On Sunday, the pride parade semi-circles the downtown area, though doesn’t flow down the gay street – a smart move, I think – gays should be expanding their reach, but that’s not important in Vancouver – nor in Canada – (granting marriage equality ’03 and ’05, respectively). Clean Bandit’s Rather Be will always remind me of dancing my ass off for thousands as I paraded with the Canadian Bar Association’s “Legally Proud” group. While the route isn’t too long – after a party-hearty (ok, I admit: sleepless) Saturday night out, it was adequate! Thankfully, Pride weekend in Vancouver also coincides with British Columbia Day (always the first Monday of August), a great day to recover from the weekend – or get your second (or fifth) wind.

How often do you see that many butts at once?!
Each day there are also Harbour Crusies run by Cruisey T – I enjoyed the “Recovery Cruise” on Monday, traveling into the harbor, up the Indian Arm to see Silver Falls. Because what’s a better way to recover than to keep dancing with Drag Queens! You buy tickets at the tucked-away Little Sisters gay shop & bookstore. Gay boys (with their own boats) also love to follow the cruise (and flirt from afar). Days before I had a preview with friends of friends who took a couple boats out to enjoy the water, sights and each other! We swam and skinny dipped in the cool water – a touch salty – but welcomed in the 80+ temps.

National dish - Poutine

The Scene

The weekend after the rush and crowds of Pride, I finally made it into the gay clubs and bars. Junction remained the standby event (and young) – Numbers seemed like the dive spot, with its own private (though a bit stuffy!) karaoke room – Pump Jack’s door-man tries to attract a crowd with a hint of a line, always; this is definitely the older spot. For a hip cocktail lounge hit up 1181, a spot where new friends held a surprise “2nd” 30th birthday the evening I arrived! Showing the full array of employment here, this gay birthday guy served in the Canadian military – which has allowed LGBT soldiers since 1992. Celebrity used to be an exclusive gay bar – but Tuesday nights it’s now a very trashy straight one. Score on Davie gives you both a bar, fun brunches & pub food.

Gorgeous sunsets!
Check out the boys at beautiful Stanley Park or hang out at one of the beaches. Apparently 3rd Beach is best around downtown. However, there is a clothing-optional beach (and thus gay as well) alongside the UBC campus, called Wreck Beach. I did explore with a local (who went to UBC, though the weather during the school year doesn't cooperate). Just don't down a carton of Poutine before you go (like I did).

At least for 3-5 months of the year, Vancouver proves to be one of the best locations for food, fun, and friends. Though the winters are mild – they are not sunny – so get-ways down to San Fran or LA are a must for gays here. Yet, sitting out on (one of the thousands of) balconies over-looking the bay and beautiful mountains on a perfect evening sets Vancouver apart! If you want a friendly gay place, with outdoor adventures near, Vancouver tops my list!

The "Recovery Cruise" - more of a "Resume" drinking event

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