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Vancouver, Vancouver… how to describe Vancouver without looking like a tool. Brilliant? no, too British. Fabulous? no, too Queer Eye. Splendid? no, too British again. Superlative? no, too… strange. Bah, screw it, you’re used to it by now; the crass approach is often the best approach:

Vancouver is fucking awesome.

Vancouver is, as I’ve been told, like any major Australian city. Things cost roughly the same amount, there’s some similar architecture, friendly people, availability of kebabs (or ‘gyros’ as they’re called here), strange affections for the Queen… I could go on. Plus, since it averaged 10ºC over the days that we stayed there, it was almost exactly like an Australian city in winter (disregarding the part where 10ºC is a warm winter’s day for Canada and an incredibly cold winter’s day for Australia). So why, aside from my obvious desire to be home at times, do I think Vancouver is so fantastic?

The women folk.

Remember how I kept complaining about the lack of T&A in the states? Well, after Bush got reelected they clearly all hiked up to the border and started shagging your neighbors to the north, because this city is chock full of hotties. Staying downtown, we were also in a very good position to check out the nightlife (there were probably fourteen pubs on our strip) and catch a movie (three or four cinemas, too), which we did whenever the desire arose. Blade Trinity is precisely as Tama put it —the world’s longest iPod advertisement— but otherwise a fun little show. Ryan Reynolds’ badass beard encourages me to grow one of my own, since there’s the whole “insulated from the winter chill” thing to consider, so don’t be too surprised if there’s a period in the photolog where I age ten years or so. Beards make me look old.

Vancouver aquarium was a decent way to spend the day, and frankly a much better investment of twelve bucks than the Space Needle. Plenty of shows involving steller sea lions (not a typo: although they were quite stellar), dolphins, belugas and the like… and plenty to explore. The park surrounding the aquarium, better known as Stanley Park, is also quite pretty… but without a compass and with an overcast day blocking our view of the sun, our ability to navigate was severely hampered. Long story short: we got lost looking for Beaver Lake, then found ourselves again on the way to the Lost Lagoon.

If there’s one thing I must say about Vancouver (or at least downtown Vancouver, Granville street in particular) is that there is a surfeit of porno stores here. You can’t walk fifty feet without passing some kind of adult book store or video store, most with their own 25¢ peep shows (not live girls, we checked), but in the same breath you can’t find a liquor store without crossing six blocks. Every corner deli in the states seems to sell liquor, but here a sixer of beer is an ask–the–concierge–for–directions away; and expensive.

Staying at the first truly laptop–friendly hostel we’ve seen thus far, I took the opportunity to plug my Airport Express into the wall and roam free in the (comfortably appointed) common room. We laughed, we loved, we blogged. Throw in a four–hour videoconference we’d organized with our families (thank you iChat AV) and you’ve made probably our best hostel experience to date; even if spending a few hours talking to everybody made me homesick as hell.

All in all, Vancouver == good. And that’s all I care to say about that.