Impressions from Vancouver

October 19th, 2007 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

I’m sitting in a room at Simon Fraser University, overlooking the Vancouver harbour. The rain, which had lifted over lunch, has returned, making the hills, of North Vancouver, on the far side appear ghostly, when they are visible at all. In a strange way, however, this rain seems so familiar, so like that of Galway (as opposed to the rainstorms of central Illinois) that there is something comforting about the dreary drizzle.

The trip here was largely uneventful, though a delayed train from Champaign did cause me to worry briefly that my recent travel woes (most recently, a non-existent Greyhound bus from Champaign, which caused me to miss a flight to Toronto) were going to continue. All was well, however, as the train actually made up much its time en route to Chicago.

I don’t think I’ve taken United for some time, so I was mildly amused when watching their on-board entertainment, that they actually interrupt TV shows with advertisements (primarily to promote BNC shows and some films); with at least 4 such interruptions during a single episode of The Office. On one level, it’s as if viewers wouldn’t be able to comprehend TV-like content without these interruptions. On another, of course, it’s clear that the primary goal of the content is not to entertain passengers, but rather to treat them as a captive audience to be marketed to. Maybe its my usual channel-surfing approach to TV, but I felt there were even more commercial interruptions than would be usual on US television – which, itself, is a shock to anyone coming from Ireland, where there are legal limits on the number and duration of interruptions in any time period.

Vancouver itself is an interesting and enjoyable town. So many of the reviews on sites like TripAdvisor stress the presence of social problems – a large homeless population, open drug use in certain areas – and while there is definitely some truth to that, I haven’t felt particularly nervous as I’ve been travelling around the city. Of course, I have avoided those areas (such as East Hastings street) which get the most flak from visitors, but areas like Robson street and Granville (both quite different from each other) have a good mixture of restaurants, shops, and nightlife.

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