Going for the SCAA 2012 gave me a chance to also fulfill an old dream of mine. Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to visit Vancouver, BC, and I’ve had this idea of going on an Amtrak train. So given the chance, I jumped the opportunity. A friend of the family lives in Seattle, and she tagged along for the ride. I should say this right away, that my experience in travelling in America is very limited, so the whole border tension was kinda new to me and felt slightly backwards.
Arriving into Canada, I’m let in to the country, but my travelling companion got stuck behind two guys busted for drug smuggling. Good start to the trip. Then walking through China Town, laughing a little bit about friends describing it as “rough” and then turning the corner on Hastings and realize people are actually standing around smoking crack or with a needle in their arm right there on the street, made me feel slightly awkward. However, finding Revolver Café changed that!
Owned by the Giannokos Brothers, it’s up to this point in time my favorite café of all time. It might sound hyperbole, but the layout, the design, the hospitality, and the coffees naturally, was just there and then hands down the best café experience I might have had! Coming from a few days of drinking the Da Matteo Rwandan CoE, I ordered a flight of Rwandan coffees (Revolver is a multi roaster outlet) from Heart, Ritual and Sightglass roasters, sipping it while eating a pastry from their own bakery (Crema, on the other side of Vancouver). To me, Revolver is the quintessential Speciality Coffee outlet. It holds all the marks of what a café is all about. This place alone was worth the effort!
We made our way to the Hotel and then took a trip out to the Museum of Anthropology in the Campus area. This little escapade made me realize the size of the city. It took forever to go on the bus, and even though the museum was closed when we got there, the view was stunning. Bad timing to forget the camera in the Hotel room! On the way back we stopped at a random bar, and ordered an Acme IPA on tap and had some fries, watching the hockey on the big screen. Hockey is very Canadian. Too bad I’m not a sports person. Still, an amazing feeling to sit and enjoy a brew I’ve only had at a boutique bar in Stockholm on bottle for a small fortune.
Still jet lagged, dinner at Vij’s, regardless how nice it was, was a bit of a fail on my behalf since I couldn’t eat enough of the goodies they offered. To my defense though, they placed us outside in waiting for a table, and while doing so, they kept feeding us nibbles such as pakoras and fries (funny combo, I know). Very interesting Indian fusion food!
Sunday saw us chase some more coffee. We opted for brunch at Crema, owned by the same guys as owns Revolver, which gave us an opportunity to travel by bus through Stanley Park and over Lions Gate bridge. This was more the Vancouver I had seen and dreamt of. Eggs on toast was a dream, espresso great! However, the site was not quite what I had expected. It was tucked away on a strip on the water front, and seemed more catering for the latte moms and fit old men in the neighbourhood. Not that it’s a bad thing, just different from my expectations.
We had a coffee date with Shawn, originally from Vancouver but nowadays based in Europe. My connection with Shawn was through our mutual friends at The Barn in Berlin, where he worked. We decided to meet at Matchstick Roasters, which is not only coffee focused offering coffees from Canadian roasters Phil&Sebastian (of which I opted for the Kieni which increased as it cooled in a beautiful way), but also a design feast. A very Scandinavian feel, and if I am not misinformed, the carpentry is done by the same people that worked on the Revolver too. Either way, it’s a treat! As Shawn was talking to various people from around, I saw the barista from Revolver enter for his Sunday coffee, and also WBC-judge Saxon Wright with entourage enter. Small world!
Our last stop in Vancouver, before running to the train, was the coffee shop/roaster that probably most people still associate with Vancouver; 49th Parallell. Though very slick design, it was almost anonymously tucked away on the strip. We managed to walk past it several times before finding it, mistaking it for a chain, something they compensated with not having wi-fi for some reason. It was very interesting to watch the work flow here, which I think was a little bit odd to be honest. To walk all the way into the store, and pick up your order at the very end where it’s very narrow and noone sits, pushing your way back basically, to sit in the shop front. But after all, the espresso was great which is all that matters.
Vancouver was nothing I had thought it would be. It’s interesting to challenge these preconceptions of places. Canadians however, were super friendly and accomodating. The climate somewhat reminded me of Scandinavia, however the layout of the city, as well as the hospitality, reminded me a lot of Perth actually. To me Vancouver will always be about Douglas Coupland and Revolver Coffee. Ironically, I went all the way here to buy the City of Glass book.
NP: Bryan Adams Heat Of The Night
*I’ve previously written a few notes on the Vancouver stay here.