We are number one. After a couple of years of coming in third and fourth behind Geneva and Zurich, it looks like Vancouver has risen to the number one spot of 126-odd cities in terms of the best place to live, according to the Economist Magazine. While I’m thrilled at having picked the best place in the world to put down roots, I’m also mindful of the fact that the top US cities were Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Not that there’s anything wrong with those cities, but I’d hardly mention in the same breath as San Francisco, Chicago, or even my old stomping ground, Boston. Still, when I think of the things that matter to me: culture, public infrastructure (libraries, parks, mass transit), good food, etc. Vancouver definitely comes out on top. Where it tends to do not so well may not figure into the Economist’s calculations: cost of housing and cost of living. Oh, and cost of wine and difficulty in getting mail order anything. Huh? Read on:
Pam and I took another short walk at sunset by the False Creek South seawall. When we returned home, I made the Pasta al’ Amatriciano I wrote about last night. We had some trouble with our wine bottle opener (it broke), so we had to have the wine that Pam had gotten after dinner when our neighbor returned home. Tomorrow we’ll try and get a new bottle opener. Wine here is a bit of a problem. Many shops sell only British Columbia wine, which so far has not been very good at all. It’s expensive, too. A bottle of ‘cheap’ BC Cabernet Sauvignon is about $20, and it’s nowhere as good as anything I’ve had from California, Chile or Spain, much less France. Beer here is fine (in fact, I’d say exceptional), but wine is overpriced and not very good. At least until we can find a place that sells good stuff. As for the price, I fear the taxes on alcohol will keep that high, so I think the number one request we will make of visitors from the US will be ‘Bring Wine!’ (There’s a limit as to how much you can take over the border, too).
The only other unpleasant surprise about living here is ordering anything via mail. UPS shipments from the US to Canada are a customer service disaster (like our move was). Information about shipments seems to evaporate once it crosses the border. Every shipment I’ve ever ordered that came via UPS had problems, like the chair I won on an eBay auction, which is going on 2 weeks late for arrival due to UPS foul-ups.
The number one carrier here is Purolator. which is not well known in the US. Add to this the import duty that you have to pay on everything that comes. Sometimes there’s no alternative; you can only get some items via the US. The Canadian version of Amazon.com doesn’t sell anything but books and videos up here, so forget about ordering electronics or toys or anything else, for that matter. There’s no Netflix or J&B Soundworks, in Canada and most of the food companies like Pinsky’s spices, Harrington’s Smokehouse in Vermont, or even Omaha Steaks can’t ship up here, period (that’s understandable). I’ll have to find Canadian replacements for those. Thankfully, none of these are anything but minor headaches. Especially since I heard that Tivo is now going to be supported for Canadian users (Whoopie!).
Update: Thanks to my friend Cameron, I have some recommendations regarding where to get wine in Vancouver: For a better selection of BC Wines, the BC Liquor on Alberni and Thurlow, which is also known as the only liquor store downtown open late on Sundays is a good bet. The Marquis on Davie, close to Burrard (http://www.marquis-wines.com) has good staff, and it’s one of the few places in downtown you can get Beaujolais Nouveau. At the Park Royal Mall (the first shopping mall in Canada!) in North Vancouver, there is a wine store called “Liberty Wine Merchants” near the entrance by Super Valu, the big green supermarket in the South Mall. This store has a lot of higher end European wine, and judging what I know about the neighbourhood, it’s unlikely this will solve the pricing issue, but at least it’s a place to get those special occasion bottles. Since we are currently without a car, our visits to that one will probably be a little rare, for the time being, so we aren’t going to the break the bank on high-end wine any time soon.
Cameron also gave me a recommendation on a BC red, the Nk’Mip Merlot (that is the correct spelling, check out their web site: http://www.nkmipcellars.com).