Bustling, busy, bursting with good cheer, Vancouver, B.C., does the season right

Steven R. Lorton

Vancouver is already growing dark by 4:30 this Decemberafternoon, and the lights in the city's forest of skyscrapers beginto twinkle. Outlined in festive multicolored lights, a smallflotilla of pleasure boats―the city's much-loved "carolships"―forms up out on Burrard Inlet. Through a break in theclouds, the setting winter sun makes the snow on the North ShoreMountains gleam. And everything―skyscrapers, boats, lights,snow-clad mountains―is reflected on the seawater thatsurrounds the city and in the rainwater that clings to itssidewalks and streets. The holidays are here. Vancouversparkles.

A cultural anthropologist could tell you why the holiday seasonis so cherished in northern latitudes―especially in thePacific Northwest. Days are short. Weather is cold and often gloomyand wet. Nothing green is growing. No wonder there's a need to makemerry.

And in Vancouver in particular, the "'tis the season to bejolly" spirit has more specific roots that reach back to the city'smore-English- than-the-English heritage. Just ask London-born ChrisNeep, who has lived and worked in downtown Vancouver for 20 years."I adore the season," Neep says. "The streets are absolutelymobbed. Shops bustle. People are terribly cheerful. The restaurantsare buzzing with people. It's as close as I can get to Chelseawithout going home."

In short, Vancouver may just do the holidays better than anyother city in North America. Don't believe us? Pay a December visitand see.

The only-in-Vancouver experience

One secret to making the most of a Vancouver Christmas is tostay on foot and stay downtown. With its shops and gloriouslydecorated hotels, downtown Vancouver offers visitors a big-cityholiday par excellence. Much of the action is centered on RobsonStreet―a fine place to stock up on Christmas items to bringback home.

While shopping opportunities are countless, we'll focus on someonly-in-Vancouver stops. Looking for a tea cozy or a special GoldenJubilee blend in honor of Her Majesty? Go to Murchie's Tea &Coffee. Got a mum with a sweet tooth? Pop into Purdy's Chocolatesfor a raspberry or maple-walnut cream confection. For an experiencethat is off-limits in the States, visit La Casa del Habano for itswonderful Cuban cigars. Pick one up, go sit on a park bench, puffup a cloud, and watch the holiday shoppers scurry by. Finally, stopin at Lush and pick up a bar of its handmade lemon or lavender soapto take back to the hotel for a long soak in the tub.

You May Like