Ever since passports were required of most U.S. citizens arriving in Canada by plane (that edict went into full effect in 2009), the experience of getting there has seemed more "foreign" than ever before. And when you fly there on Air Canada, listening to loudspeaker announcements that are always made both in English and French, the "foreign" nature of our neighbor to the north seems more pronounced still.
The experience is even more different when you pay a visit to Vancouver, whose population--enhanced by a massive influx of Chinese residents of Hong Kong when it was handed over by Britain to China in the late 1990s--is one of the most gracious anywhere. That large number (perhaps a third of the city's residents) of gentle Asian people has made Vancouver into an especially pleasant touristic setting. I don't think I have ever met a more delightful range of people--from desk clerks of Asian descent at the hotels to female customs officials at the airport to sales clerks and waitresses at the many impressive commercial establishments. Vancouver is a tribute to immigration policies that encouraged the growth of a multi-ethnic population.
Many Vancouver-ites are even hoping for a fresh addition of Chinese residents from Hong Kong as a result of the current political turmoil in that giant city. The residents that you most frequently encounter today are young people in their early twenties, the children of that wave of well-educated, respectable "Chinese-British" who began coming here twenty and more years ago, several years before the actual handover of Hong Kong to China. .
Your enjoyment of Vancouver today will be heavily influenced by the timing of your visit. The weather is delightful from April through most of October, but a time of frequent rainfalls from November through March. During that latter off-season period, though, the competition among hotels is fierce, and use of any of the popular hotel search engines will often get you off-season discounts of nearly 50% off normal hotel rates, During a short visit just concluded, I obtained a $200 hotel room for only $100 (by using a hotel search engine), and ate well for similarly-moderate prices.
In a subsequent blog, I'll be discussing the specific attractions of Vancouver. Please know, for now, that this is a modern, prosperous city of giant parks, beaches, aquariums and museums, superb restaurants (including many outstanding Chinese ones), theaters, cruise docks, concert halls, and more, that is bound to bring you a rewarding stay. It is also within striking distance of one of the world's best ski areas at Whistler, British Columbia, and near (a two-hour ferry ride) the charming, older city of Victoria, capital of British Columbia.
Vancouver, Canada, is almost always found today in the lists of "most livable cities" published in the media, and it is also one of the world's fastest growing cities, for reasons you'll discover on your trip here. Be sure to bring your passport.