The sun filters through the leaves of trees unstunted by lack of space or sky, creating shifting patterns on the sidewalk as I march toward the beach. Birds chirp happily. I cross the rainbow beneath my feet, feeling a skip in my step. I can’t believe I live here.
The West End is the only neighbourhood I’ve lived in Vancouver (unless UBC counts as a neighbourhood – to be honest, it’s so huge it probably does), and I don’t plan on living anywhere else. Nestled in the heart of Vancouver, between downtown and Stanley Park, bordered by ocean, forest, and the business district, the West End is a calm oasis in the midst of all the hustle and bustle I love about this incredible, vibrant city.
My husband and I affectionately call our street, and neighbourhood, a bubble. We live one block south of the northern border of the West End, which is Robson Street. Known as Vancouver’s Runway, Robson Street is essentially an outdoor designer shopping mall, peppered with coffee shops, restaurants, and touristy stores. It is busy, noisy, and full of incredible sights and smells. However, as soon as you make the one-block trek South to our street, it’s like you’ve walked through the film of a bubble – the noises, smells, and sights of downtown are all blocked by an invisible wall. Mammoth trees, beautiful flowerbeds, and sunlit sidewalks greet you. Friendly people walk their dogs, and sit and chat in quiet parks.
I often complain about the very few negatives of the West End:
- parking (non-existent; there has actually recently been a huge survey project run by the city to engage residents in a conversation about how to improve the notably terrible parking situation in the future)
- how hard it is to get into (the two major perpendicular routes that border the West End, Burrard and West Georgia, have left turn restrictions; Davie has right turn restrictions; and many West End streets are one-way leading OUT)However, I have to admit that these things also make the West End what it is – quiet, traffic-calmed, and homey.
The West End also definitely contributes to the density problem in Vancouver, as its buildings are capped at a certain height (I believe 9 floors) due to bi-laws. I’m still not sure how I feel about this, but I do know that it contributes to the calmness and quietness of our neighbourhood (more floors = more people), which I love. It has begun to change – there are a few skyscrapers popping up around the Davie area. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.
Regardless of the West End’s faults, whenever I’m feeling a little negative about my neighbourhood, I look at this list I made of all the things we have and things we don’t, and I don’t even have to finish reading it before I’m back in love with the place.
Things the West End has:
- A name that reminds me of London’s theatre district
- An extremely diverse group of residents (mostly European, Middle Eastern, Eurasian, and Caucasian)
- A mall
- Cute old people
- Sunlit patches of sidewalk
- Friendly skunks
- Gnome homes (This one houses the Nelson Gnome, if you can’t read that)
- Annoying streets (some force you to turn right or left, or suddenly change to one-way)
- Friendly people
- Pokémon Gyms
- Actual gyms
- Neighbourhood houses
- An unbelievable array of both local and chain restaurants
- Places of worship
- Schools (2 elementary, 1 secondary)
- A lake
- Walking trails
- Davie Village
- Rainbow Crosswalks
- Community Centres
- Coffee Shops
- Tennis Courts
- Heritage buildings
- Bus Service
- Bike lanes
- Thrift shops
- Farmer’s Markets
- Community gardens
- Seniors’ homes
Things the West End doesn’t have:
- Tall buildings
- An amusement park
- A high crime rate (except for theft)
(Feel free to help me add to the list of things we don’t have, but I doubt you’ll change my mind about how awesome the West End is.)
Every day I have at least one of those meta-experiences where you realize how much you are enjoying something as you are experiencing it. Mine are almost all about the West End. I could be appreciating the view out my apartment window listening to the birds singing to each other, or walking to the beach under a canopy of the most beautiful trees’ leaves, or traversing the film of the bubble I so love and literally hearing the vacuum seal off the noise. Every day I marvel at the fact that this is my home. I can’t believe I live here.
The view from our apartment is city lights, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the sounds in the morning are of birds chirping, not cars whistling by. Police “woop woop” their sirens, instead of letting them wail,to keep the noise level down, and I feel safe walking alone at night. It’s a one of a kind place, and I’m thankful to have it.