Many Ontario folk have cottages in Muskoka, Haliburton, the Kawarthas or the Frontenac and Rideau areas north of Kingston. Others have secondary farm properties. My husband and I have a “cottage” in Vancouver. On retirement, my dream was to return to “the coast” as often as possible. Vancouver real estate prices being what they are, purchasing a condo was beyond our means and seemed a bad economic choice at this stage of our lives. Our alternative was to rent an apartment. As a lifestyle choice, renting has huge advantages.
The question then was where to locate. I was raised in East Burnaby, near New Westminster, in the suburbs east of Vancouver city and north of the Fraser River. My perceptions of where I would like to live focused on False Creek, Kitsilano or the downtown West End. An old friend, however, told us about his apartment in Ambleside West Vancouver and suggested we look there.
It had never occurred to us to consider living over the Lions Gate bridge in West Vancouver. Living “over the bridge” meant long lineups to and from downtown, and who wanted that? What we hadn’t realized was that there is a priority lane for buses going over the bridge. Riding public transit, it only takes 25 minutes to get downtown to the corner of Georgia and Granville. The view of the harbour from the bridge and the drive through the verdant green Stanley Park forest always gives a lift to the spirit. And, retired as we are, there is never any need to take a car over the bridge during rush hour. Access to the Upper Levels highway, five minutes up the hill from our Ambleside apartment, gives us a huge head start driving to Whistler, the eastern Vancouver suburbs and the Fraser Valley. Not to mention almost immediate access to the ferry at Horseshoe Bay should we want to hop over to Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast.
Our Ambleside apartment has given us the greatest possible pleasure. Our house is Toronto is a hundred-year-old three-storey Victorian semi on a narrow lot in downtown/Little Italy. Natural light is at a premium. Our Ambleside apartment, by contrast, is on the seventh floor, a block from the West Vancouver Seawalk, with an expansive view of the Vancouver harbour. On a clear day (which does happen surprisingly often in Vancouver), we can see Mount Baker in the United States to the east, the Lions Gate Bridge and Stanley Park directly across the water, Kitsilano and the University of British Columbia across the bay, and as far as the mountains of Vancouver Island in the west. Equally important, we can see the sky, the constant play of the clouds, and the sunsets.
The apartment allows us to enjoy the amenities of this world-class city, and to explore the endless trails and parks which are so readily accessible. It also serves as a base for touring around the province. Stored in our apartment is an extensive collection of camping equipment which we use every summer when we go to “the interior,” just as we did as kids. Ontario folk like to return to their family cottage in the summer, we like to “go camping.” Our cottage in Vancouver facilitates this.
The apartment has also become a locus for entertaining our old west coast friends and family, and a place to stay for family and friends from elsewhere in British Columbia and from “back east.” Our visitors have brought their talents, their passions and interests, and shared them with us: everything from politics to computers, yoga to cooking, from running to travel, hunting and fishing, art and music. Just as the apartment has allowed us to reconnect with those we love on the west coast, our lives have become richer because of our interactions with our visitors. Cottage life is relative and has its benefits, even if the “cottage” is an urban apartment in the middle of Canada’s west coast metropolis.