I spend a fair amount of my time in Vancouver thinking about what I miss about the UK, but when I arrived back in the UK last month I was barely off the plane before I started thinking about what I missed about Vancouver. I’ve been living here for nearly two years now, and my second year has made all the difference in terms of settling in and making Canada my home. I obviously decided to move here, and stay here, for a reason, and here are some of the reasons why.
It seems like I’ve gotten very used to the Canadian accent, not only through people I know but also from TV, radio and just listening to Canadians all day every day. I didn’t realize quite how comfortable I’d gotten until I stopped off at the supermarket on the way home from the airport. The first English voice I heard (other than my brother, his girlfriend and the customs officials) was a high pitched scream which sounded something like ‘Oi, Chantelle, git back ‘ere naaaaah’. I shuddered, then shuddered again, then begged for the soothing, dulcet tones of the West Coast. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive, though this incident showed me how much I’ve come to appreciate the calming and inoffensive accent that is Canadian.
I’ve written about how much I love the mountains before, and it’s a love that will never die. The mountains are a navigational aid (where is North?), a barometer (can you see them?) and an important feature of the Vancouver landscape. Viewable from the city, the beaches and the parks, it was strange going 10 days without seeing them. East Anglia is a particularly flat part of the UK, so there wasn’t so much as a hill to meet my needs. The only consolation is that now I’ve returned to Vancouver there is only a matter of weeks before the snowboard season begins again. The countdown is well and truly on!
This blog post started with a dream I had earlier this week. It was a wonderful, beautiful, almost perfect dream; one of those ones that you’re genuinely disappointed to wake up from as you know it could never actually happen in real life. I dreamt that I found a Tesco supermarket in Vancouver. I was skipping gaily down the meat aisles, frolicking among the fruits and vegetables, and crying tears of pure joy in the cheese section. I couldn’t believe my luck that cheap groceries had finally landed in the City of Glass. Alas, just a dream it was; I woke up to a world where paying $2.29 for a tin of tomatoes is par for the course. And yes, I’m still going on about the tins of tomatoes. My week improved after I attended a BBQ organized by a lactose-intolerant host, and I left with a sizeable ziploc bag of cheese-based leftovers. Now that’s what I’m talking about. The final straw was when I spontaneously decided to visit Eat! Vancouver, Canada’s largest food and cooking show. Two hours after arriving I was unpleasantly full on samples of greek yoghurt, maple smoked salmon and grapeseed breads, weighed down with purchases of fudge, caramel apples and chocolate cake lollipops and determined to write this post about the diverse aspects of the cult of food in Vancouver.
I’ve already hinted at the amazingness of Eat! Vancouver, so I thought I’d start with this bit first. 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the three day festival, which was held in the newly renovated BC Place stadium. The best way I can describe it is the Canadian version of the BBC Good Food Show. It’s part convention, part cooking lesson, part TV show, part free samples, part beer garden and part dinner.
All of the above sounded great, but what I was really going for was the free samples. I was particularly excited to be given a plastic carrier bag on arrival which contained a chocolate bar, granola bar, sachet of coffee and a bottle of hot sauce. That’s four take-aways bagged before I even entered the arena. Some stands were handing out samples to coax guests into buying their products, whereas others were offering no-strings free tastes solely to raise awareness. My favourites included McDonalds fruit smoothies (who knew?), some beautiful fresh green pesto, and a delicious roasted pine nuts flavoured hummus. It wasn’t all freebies though, and I did succumb to purchasing some treats for the weekend. I simply couldn’t turn down the local fudge producer (who was also selling chocolate caramel apples) or the pretty pink boutique cake lollipop stand. I’m still not 100% sure that the $16 ticket price (at the door) was entirely worth it for me, but it was definitely an enjoyable afternoon. I obviously wasn’t the only one to think so, as an estimated 40,000 fellow foodies attended over the three-day weekend.
Here comes Part Two of my Price Match observations, and just for you I decided to save the good news until last. And there is good news. Although the cost of living is most definitely higher in Vancouver than the UK (yes, even London), there are a few saving graces in a city of soaring prices. See below for my list of five things that are cheaper in Vancouver than the UK:
The price of fuel is a much talked about topic in both the UK and Vancouver, though there is one clear winner in the cost-per-litre battle. The average price of regular petrol in the UK is currently £1.34 ($2.09), but you’ll only pay the same amount in dollars in Vancouver as the latest average is $1.34 (85p). The price is rising on an almost daily basis in Vancouver, but still – can you remember the last time petrol was 85p a litre in the UK?
Sushi and Starbucks are well known as Vancouver’s staples. Starbucks is comparable in price and hasn’t made it onto either of my Price Match lists (though we do have Wi-Fi in all stores over here), but I’m delighted that sushi is most definitely cheaper in Vancouver than the UK. A particularly great lunchtime deal on our local high street is 16 pieces of California Roll for $4.99 (£3.20), but elsewhere the average price per 6-8 piece roll usually weighs in at $5 (£3.20) compared to £7 ($10) in Southampton. With great quality, variety and original creations including my favourite prosciutto and cream cheese roll, Vancouver definitely wins the sushi battle.
Live Music Tickets
Tickets to gigs, concerts and live music in general is another surprising addition to the list, particularly as this seems to include both larger, mainstream concerts as well as smaller, local gigs. Tickets to Rhianna’s Loud Tour start at only $32 (£20.44) incl. fees at the Rogers Arena, Vancouver, with the cheapest tickets for the same show at The O2 in London costing £40 ($62.50). I could catch Ellie Goulding in Vancouver this month for $20 (£12), or in London in July for £28 ($43). Canadian Bryan Adams is at the Paramount Theatre in May for $46.50 (£30) and at the Manchester Evening News Arena in November for £45.50 ($70). The list goes on, suffice to say that going to gigs has gone up on my list of things to do this year after clocking the price.