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Vancouver is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But it’s more than just a pretty face. “Van-groovy,” the locals call it, a cheeky little nod to its laidback lifestyle and a counterculture vibe that lingers even as real estate prices soar and yummy mummies insist on sporting the local uniform of yoga pants and designer handbags. Sure, there’s still plenty of well-intentioned, granola-fed earnestness to go around—after all, Greenpeace and the 100 Mile Diet were created here. Then again, so was the cosmetic application of Botox.

The climate is mild. The attitudes are tolerant. The economy is surprisingly stable. The populace is fit, obsessed with running, cycling, and climbing those big mountains to the north. It’s green here year round, even when the rest of Canada is buried in snow or withered with summer drought. These days, Vancouver’s very English heritage rubs along peaceably with its vibrant multicultural present, much as the shiny glass towers of Coal Harbour complement the red-brick Victorian low-rises of Gastown and the West End. The Edwardian manors of Shaughnessy, the soaring modernist homes of West Vancouver, the slice of modern Hong Kong that is Richmond’s Golden Village, the spices and saris that are Little India—they all coexist in a magnificent natural landscape of parks and gardens surrounded by ocean, mountains, and wilderness.

Vancouver is routinely named one of the world’s most livable cities. Which isn’t bad at all for a place that not so long ago was just a big, rough, rainy mill town on the edge of nowhere.

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