Thoughts on Kitsilano

As I was reading through the Spring 2010 issue of British Columbia Magazine, I found an article on my home-community, Kitsilano in Vancouver. This article was well written, and amusing to say the least, but it brought up a few points in my head about truths about this neighbourhood. I’d like to explore three select topics that every tourist will be invested in: Food, Shopping and Things to Do.

The article shows a large colour picture of people lined up for the Naam restaurant, at 4th Ave. and Macdonald. While I have always really enjoyed the Naam, I would have to say that most meat-eaters I have taken there have not enjoyed the food. These are people that have grown up on meat, and it just doesn’t seem to be their thing. However, if you are familiar with vegetarianism, or have grown up with it, you will be fine! The article also pointed out the merits of Simpatico Restaurant on 4th Avenue, a Greek place. I have enjoyed their food immensely, especially their Avgolemono soup (lemon/chicken/cream based soup), but I actually found Maria’s Taverna to be the best all-round Greek restaurant, at the corner of 4th and Vine. They cater to meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and the quality of the food is excellent. Across the street, there is Capers, a whole foods organic supermarket, which is pricier than the Safeway across the street, but you’re paying for the “organic/natural” sticker on their merchandise. Capers also has a delicious deli, and a brand new buffet which is delicious. If you’re looking for Chinese, Connie’s Cookhouse on 4th and Yew is excellent. In terms of Sushi, the High-Nippon at 4th and Vine is one of my all-time favourites, but the best, although it is pricier, is the Octopus’ Garden, a small intimate sushi/fusion sushi place on Cornwall and Maple. It’s the best sushi I’ve ever had!

In terms of shopping, I entirely agree with the article in the sense that, every store on 4th Avenue, which essentially is the heart of Kits, is catered to a more elite crowd. The real estate prices in Vancouver are some of the most expensive in the Canada, especially in Kits, and the shopping on 4th is reflective. You will not find a t-shirt or a pair of jeans at Wal-Mart or Zellers prices, it’s just not going to happen. The only stores that I would say are not upscale are the Kitchen Corner (a huge, very useful dollar store type place with lots of merchandise), at 4th and Cypress, Zulu Records (cited in the article) at 4th and Arbutus, and Canterbury Tales, a used bookstore close to Zulu. As opposed to its Hippie roots, Kitsilano clothing has become, while still sporting the comfortable, west coast air, quite expensive. Most Kitsilano “urbanites” strive to be chic, which in this part of the world, usually means Lululemon gear, or skinny dark jeans with a fitted t-shirt with a colourful scarf tied at the neck, sunglasses on the head, and a Grande non-fat no whip Latte in the free hand. Lululemon is wonderful quality yoga-clothing. I happen to enjoy the clothes myself; I own two or three items. However, I like it for its quality and comfort, not the fact that I’m also buying into a fad. The fibres are very high quality, they wash well, and they last forever. You’re just going to pay in the $100 realm per item. Yoga-wear also happens to be the latest cool thing over the past five years. To finish the shopping discussion, I’d like to quote a little phrase from the article. It was particularly amusing to me, simply because I’ve seen this so often: “Along the roughly three-kilometre stretch of 4th Avenue between Burrard and Alma streets these days, Kitsilano’s wheezing remnant hippies risk being run down on the sidewalks by Lululemon-clad, Starbucks caffeinated mothers pushing $750 baby chariots.” Very true!

In terms of things to do, the Planetarium on Chestnut Avenue is a great resource for kids mainly, on the wonders of science and outer space. They have some good shows where you can sit back and watch a screen in a dome-like shape, to see all the various stars. However, that’s about all you can do there. They are currently building another museum section for kids, and that could very well be promising. The Maritime Museum across the street, again is great if your kids are interested in the ocean, or nautical science. There are many gadgets they can play with, and there is some great local history. However, it’s not as detailed or as impressive as it has the potential to be.

Granville Island is an excellent resource for finding fresh food/produce (its produce is cheaper than any grocery store!), fish, meat, cheeses, vegetarian, pastries, find teas or rare foods. It has everything, and a great food court. It also has lots of local artisans selling lovely west coast inspired gifts. Granville Island is one of my favourite places, and is a must for any visitor.
Bard on the Beach is also a great experience for any theatre-lover. It is a theatre company who presents four Shakespeare plays, running in succession from June to September, every summer in Vanier Park. I have always thought these plays were excellently produced, directed and acted, and being a performer myself, highly recommend this. They make it family-friendly, and have updated many of the works to keep it fresh for younger audiences, while still keeping the Shakespearan flare for traditionalists. A must-see!

While I agree with the article in the sense that consumerism has taken over much of what Kitsilano used to be, I feel our modern-day flare, and the Kits mentality harkens back to our Hippie past.  While most Kits personalities are driven, ambitious people, many of the Hippie mentalities tie in with modern day life. Ambition has somehow found a way to link itself with a west coast, relaxed, easygoing style. We manage to have both here. Some of the major Hippie concepts were: be good to the earth, respect others and yourself, discover spiritual enlightenment, meditate, eat natural home-grown food when possible, and choosing nihilism over idealism (loosely quoting the article). These concepts are all very much alive today, and connecting with the yoga insurgence and latest fad, Kitsilano is delving deeper into its spirituality and natural roots than ever before. It may be a new-age mentality, but the Hippies were doing the same thing in the 60’s right here in Kitsilano. While at times I find our modern day consumerism to be annoying, and the fashion fads (not to mention the people who bow down them) downright irritating, Kitsilano is a wonderful place to live (if you can afford it!). It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and the people are generally a very friendly bunch, trying their hardest to find their way and place, or have already found it. There is nothing mean-spirited about Kits, and I have enjoyed every moment of living here. I’d like to finish with one last quote from the article, which I thought was beautifully written:

“I often sit in the early evening above the marsh in Jericho Beach Park, just a few blocks from my Kitsilano house. In late April, wild irises bloom amid the reeds, red-winged blackbirds jazz, and passing beavers inscribe chevrons on the pond’s surface. Beyond the beach there, a dozen anchored freighters await orders to unload. Across English Bay, the setting sun illuminates the snowy summits above Vancouver’s downtown skyline. Though my work takes me all over the world, I have never had to question why I call Kitsilano my home.” — Daniel Wood.

References from:  British Columbia Magazine, Spring 2010 and Daniel Wood’s Article “Kitsilano Love-in.”

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