‘I first saw the Queen when I was 6,’ says Angus Praught, my exclusive gay guide in Vancouver.
This is British Columbia: a piece of Europe in North America, where ‘Lizzie’ says ‘hello’ from every coin or every banknote.
I meet Angus in Vancouver’s gay area, Davie Village, where one can find most of LGBT bars, clubs, restaurants and venues. Angus, a renowned publisher in Vancouver, loves this area and that’s why he lives here with his Japanese partner.
Vancouver is the biggest city in British Columbia, where at least the 40% of its inhabitants come from Asia or claim Asian origins. ‘Van’ is home to the biggest Chinatown in Canada and a real gem, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese garden.
Angus is so proud of this city he spends at least half of his time posting on Facebook wonderful pictures of his magnificent home-town. He spends the other half working for his business, Gayvan.com, a travel marketing company that publishes Gay Friendly Vancouver and other guides on gay Canada as well.
A former hotelier, Angus is a big believer in Canadian hospitality. So he shows me Davie’s Village, greeting everybody in the street, and he finds some time to take me to English Bay, where last August at least 650,000 people paraded for the local gay pride.
‘It was great,’ Angus says. And I’m sure it was.
Of course, Canadian men are worth the trip. Men, men and more men. Davie Village is crowded day and night, resembling London’s Soho but cleaner and brighter.
But Vancouver, of course, is something more. Cuisine is great, attractions are stunning and its skyscrapers remind me of New York, but with a lot of nature. The city is set against a picture-perfect backdrop of mountains, lush green forests and sparkling blue ocean.
In Vancouver you can ski, you can take a boat and do some whale watching, you can look for squirrels and coyotes in Stanley Park or you can experience some proper fear at the Capilano Suspension Brisge, north of the city.
And forget fast-food restaurants. After five days in ‘wonderful Van’ I saw only one McDonald’s. Environment is everything for a true Canadian and Vancouver is where Greenpeace was founded – and so food is ‘proper’ food.
You can find it at the Granville Market in Granville Island, that is something unique. Salmon, cheese and freshly baked sourdough bread. Chinese and Japanese food and fruits and vegetables (the biggest raspberries I’ve ever seen!). Come by boat, take an Aquabus, and it will be fun.
But Vancouver is now famous for its restaurants as well. Dozens of Chinese restaurants crowd Chinatown, this is the city where you can also find some stalls with Japanese hot dogs (Japadogs): seaweeds, pork sausage, wasabi and teriyaki sauce.
The Raincity Grill, close to English Bay Beach is, according to its owners, ‘local, sustainable and organic.’ I try the ‘100-mile tasting menu,’ everything comes from the local area. Chef Nicolas Hipperson, 26 and proudly gay, makes me try the best food I’ve ever had in the Americas.
Nice food and of course wonderful hotels abound. I tried the Shangri-la Hotel and the Opus Hotel (I’ll share more about in an upcoming story), where I encounter first-hand the best of Canadian hospitality.
This was my first trip to Canada, and it will not be the last one.
SEE AND DO
- The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art: it features work by acclaimed Haida (Native) artist Bill Reid and changing exhibits of contemporary Northwest Coast art.
- Vancouver Aquarium: it’s home to over 70,000 animals, including beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters and more!
- Vancouver Art Gallery: Canadian painter Emily Carr is at her best in this nice, European-style museum.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden: step back in time to the 15th-century China. Wonderful shop with Chinese memorabilia.
- UBC Museum of Anthropology: the best museum in town. Extraordinary arts from BC’s First Nations and other world cultures. Wonderful statues and carved woods.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park: a scaring suspension bridge, treetops adventures, luxuriously green!
- FlyOver Canada: Vancouver’s newest attraction. Soar from coast to coast on a breathtaking immersive audiovisual journey across Canada.
- Fountainhead pub: it’s a gay bar and it’s a sports bar as well. You can watch some hockey and you can smile to handsome guys. It’s very central, in Davie Village, it has a heated patio and It’s great to watch people.
- Celebrities: voted as one of the best clubs in Vancouver, it hosts visiting international Djs. Check the website for its feature nights.
- Numbers: the oldest still operating Van’s gay club. Music, dance, karaoke nights.
- PumpJack Pub: leather and fetish nights, but not only
- The Junction
- 1181 Bar+Lounge
- Banana Tans.com, tanning studios, on Davie Street
- Chicas party (for girls), organized by Flygirl Productions
- Little Sisters book and art emporium, celebrating 30 years in 2013
- The Raincity Grill
- MARKET by Jean-Georges, by internationally acclaimed three-star Michelin chef and entrepreneur Jean-Georges Vongerichten
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