It is, once again, a beautiful day in Vancouver. The sun is shining, it’s about 10 degrees, and at midday, this city of glass glistens. Despite my unbelievably sore feet and legs, I went for a stroll into what I consider to be the heart of Vancouver, the blocks of Robson and Georgia between Howe and Burrard. In other words, the space that is the Vancouver Art Gallery. It seems, to me at least, that the soul of Vancouver proper is within and around this square of land. I find myself magnetized to it: whenever I go for a walk in Vancouver, I invariably head there first, or upon my way back. It is a beautiful section of downtown, with the Hotel Vancouver gracing one side, a hint of the busy commercial avenue of Robson street on another, and construction and the bizarre Sears building rounding it out. Caffe Artigiano faces the gallery from the west side. This little coffee shop was introduced to me by my boss back in November. It’s a wonderful artisan coffee boutique, attracting constant business from Vancouverites thirsting for something better and more trendy than the now ubiquitous Starbucks.
Though I go for coffee at least a couple of times a week, I only ever get hot chocolates. It is more a practice of going for coffee than going for coffee per se, kind of like going for a drive, when you, in fact, are not the driver. I am not a coffee drinker, and never have been, despite working for Starbucks for 3 years coming out of university. Of course I’ve sampled coffees. I’ve tasted dozens, probably more than a hundred, ounces in my life – you kind of have to if you’re going to be successfully employed by one of the world’s biggest coffee chains. I know my roasts, my milds from my darks; my earth from my mocha flavors, and I’ll get an espresso after dinner every once in a while, especially after multiple course dinners involving 2 or more glasses of wine. Being able to distinguish coffees has helped me learn to taste wine, but wine is tricker, for me at least, because while there are apparently fewer phenolic compounds, there are more obvious complexities and distractions, such as tannin and alcohol.
I had a really interesting night last night: upon finishing our public tasting at the wine festival, colleague-friends of mine and I had a beer at a hospitality suite put on by Heineken, and then walked to dinner in Gastown. While the dinner was indeed a lot of fun, and my friendly associates were great to hang out with, our pedestrian adventure through Vancouver’s now famous lower east side, was truly shocking and saddening. We walked through what is nothing less than the most unbelievable and likely the very worst street corner I have ever encountered, and I am still decompressing from the experience. Nothing happened to us or anything like that, but sauntering through there, on full mental alert at 1:00am was something that I both never wanted to see, and yet seems so important to have seen. It had an impact on me – an impact which I am still trying to figure out.
I leave for home tomorrow morning. It will be wonderful to be with my wife and dog again, and to enjoy at least a little bit of the weekend.