1. It’s West Coast all the way
Vancouver bears many similarities to Seattle, Portland and its California cousin, San Francisco. Indeed, if you like “San Fran”—many Canadians use this shorthand term for the city, rather than the full name—you will probably like Vancouver. All four cities have cool, wet climates (except for drought-ridden San Fran these days), a cosmopolitan vibe, lots of good spots to eat and drink, and a mix of urban and natural pleasures. Vancouver, like its three American counterparts, is somewhat set apart from the rest of the country, which helps to form its own unique identity. Which makes for interesting travel.
2. Canadians are ridiculously nice people
After two days in British Columbia I tweeted that I was “still waiting to meet an unfriendly person.” A week later I was still waiting. There was the driver who brought me in from YVR who toured me around a historical neighborhood before dropping me off at my hotel downtown…the two off-duty RCMP guys I met in the whirlpool bath at the Hotel Van who advised me on how to avoid getting dinged for out-of-country roaming charges on my cell…. and the Banff Hot Springs taxi driver who, when asked what places I should visit in town, told me about the Indian Trading Post and its mysterious half-man, half mermaid creature known as “MerMan.” Such friendlies are all over the place.
3. Not every Canadian says ‘eh’
The cliché (among Americans) is that Canadians litter their conversations with the phrase “eh.” Well, it’s not true, at least not in British Columbia. In over a week not a single soul said “eh” to me, not once. It wasn’t until the end of the trip at the Calgary airport that I heard my first one. I mentioned to the clerk at a souvenir shop that I had just taken a two-day ride on the Rocky Mountaineer and she said, “Nice eh?” She explained she had done the same after moving from Montreal to the flatlands of Alberta province. She and her husband missed the mountains, so they treated themselves to a trip across the Rockies. “Have a nice flight eh,” she told me as I left.
(A reliable Canadian source says that people in Alberta tend to use “hey” in their conversation, rather than “eh.”)
4. Canadians are proud of their country, and justifiably so
The Rocky Mountaineer trip I was on begins in Vancouver and crosses western Canada over the coastal mountains and the Rockies, ending in the spectacular mountain resort of Banff Hot Springs. One Canadian journalist who was also on the trip was beaming with pride at trip’s end. “It made me feel proud to be a Canadian,” she told me. “I was sitting next to this little gal from Florida and when we pulled into Banff she said, ‘Good for you, Canada.’ That’s it, that’s how I felt too, that’s the end of my story. ‘Good for you, Canada.’”
5. They make good wine in Canada too
Californians—and Americans in general, would be my guess—don’t tend to drink much Canadian wine. We certainly don’t see it on sale at our local Costco or wine shop. But while I was there I heard good things about Lulu Island Wine, Black Cloud Wine and Whistler Brewing Company and its Whiskey Jack pale ale, to name but a few. Monte Creek Ranch, in the ranching and farming country of Kamloops in the interior of British Columbia, is opening a winery this summer. Although the Okanagan Valley is Canada’s leading wine producer, the enthusiastic people at Monte Creek think Kamloops is on its way to becoming a quality wine appellation too.
6. Now is a great time to go
The strong dollar has made this a boon time for Americans to visit Canada and other countries. The favorable exchange rate will make your travel budget stretch a little farther, which may in turn encourage you to spend more, thus increasing your enjoyment. Now that’s nice, eh?
Kevin Nelson is the editor of WineTravelAdventure, an international travel and lifestyle blog. To read more about the pleasures of Vancouver and a place to stay when you’re there, please click here.