A Nice Place to Live, but You Wouldn't Want to Buy Wine There

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).