Backyard Tourist began as a series of travel articles that featured local sites of interest in and around Vancouver, where I was living at the time. The idea was to provide an unconventional narrative instead of the glossy, airbrushed infomercials one reads in travel magazines. It was fun, but unpaid, and then I moved.

Backyard Tourist: Vancouver Maritime Museum

The first thing that strikes me about the Vancouver Maritime Museum is that it serves as an example to those who might wish to use our vast open waters for the purpose of smuggling: you’re more likely to be overlooked if you hide in plain sight. I’ve lived in this town for over fifteen years now and not once had I thought to venture into the pyramid-shaped building in Hadden Park, which, until this very moment, I erroneously thought was a part of neighbouring Vanier Park. See what I mean? Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Commercial Drive

The rare appearance of the sun in winter tends to bring Vancouverites out of their cramped cocoons, and today is no exception. Despite the crisp wind that serves as a reminder that spring has not yet arrived, Commercial Drive is abuzz and living up to its name — though here the commerce is artfully masked by an array of fair trade coffeehouses and gift shops; alternative music, movies and book stores; and enough organic offerings to satisfy even a vegan hypochondriac. At its heart the Drive belongs to the Italians, Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Vancouver Police Museum

Prior to taking the Sins of the City tour featured in my last post, I visited the Vancouver Police Museum, as entry is included in the price of admission to the tour. Housed in the heritage building that used to be home to the coroner’s court, forensics lab, morgue and autopsy facilities, the small museum is an intriguing mix of the benign and the morbid, the more gruesome displays prefaced by an ever-enticing “may not be not suitable for young children” warning sign. I entered the dimly lit foyer of Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Vancouver Police Museum Sins of the City Tour

It would prove fortuitous for the future Vancouver that John “Gassy Jack” Deighton and his The Globe pub got run out of New Westminster: recognizing his clientele came from what was then the lumber mills of Burrard Inlet, Jack set up shop at our very own Ground Zero, that odd intersection in Gastown where Carrall, Water, Alexander, and Powell streets converge. The whores were already there, and the police station and jail — the red brick building now known as Gaoler’s Mews, whose address is 000 — would soon follow, Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Capilano Watershed Tour

As I take my place on the mini-school bus in the parking lot at Grouse Mountain, the skies are grey and misty from a light rain, which makes the Capilano Watershed’s slogan “See where your water comes from” seem a tad uninspired, even borderline idiotic. The Watershed is located in the rainforest, after all, but why start the day bitching over rhetoric? I take my place at the back of the bus like the good peasant I strive to be, and am soon joined by a foreign exchange student from Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Vancouver Aquarium

After almost 14 years in Vancouver I have finally gotten around to visiting the aquarium, an oversight that can only be explained by an aversion to what I wrongly perceived as an attraction meant solely for tourists, and by the failure of visiting friends and family to request I take them there. This aversion has no logic, as it didn’t when I lived in London, attending the Tate only three years later when I decided to return to Canada. There is something about living in a city as opposed to Read More …

Backyard Tourist: Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Conservatory

In an attempt to get into shape I’ve joined a walking group, and today our meeting spot is Queen Elizabeth Park, a verdant oasis that runs along a section of the south Cambie corridor east to the more middle-class Ontario Street, the latter home to a recently demolished ramshackle social housing development, a victim of decay, toxic soil, and the revitalization of SoMa. That the park connects two economic classes is metaphorical, reflective of its paradoxical status as perhaps the most luxurious free attraction the city has to offer. It’s Read More …