Tuesday evening I had dinner with Tamara who's been here for several years. She took me on a walk around City Hall which was a pretty nice area. It's near some big stores and also some smaller shops, plus an easy walk to the Canada Line which takes you downtown in 2 stops. The buildings are mostly what they call "strata" - either apartments or things that look like larage houses but are actually 3 to 6 living spaces packed into what looks like a house. This is a common arrangement in San Francisco, where large houses were subdivided into condos, but Tamara says here they'll actually demolish an old house down to its foundation and build a completely new 4-6 unit "strata" house from scratch. Seems like a nice sort of living arrangement in places where a house would be too expensive and an apartment would be too claustrophobic.
I asked Tamara what she misses and what I would miss about moving to Vancouver, and she said mostly it's the social and professional scene. Lots of art exhibits and bands tour San Francisco but never make it up to Vancouver. In the bay area particularly there's also a geeky social and professional environment that you don't get so much of here. Los Angeles is a movie town, with billboards for shows and production services everywhere, and random conversations usually end up talking about that. San Francisco is a geek town, with billboards for VLSI verification and IT infrastructure and the next big web thing, and conversations usually end up talking about that. Vancouver is just a town. A very beautiful, clean town full of friendly people, but some might miss no longer living somewhere that caters so specifically to that thing you do.
Wednesday evening I had dinner with Richard Sandoval, who I'd worked with at ESC on the Matrix sequels and Imageworks on Spider Man. He's over at Digital Domain Vancouver now, and had very good things to say about working there. While Pixar Canada seems to be concentrating on animated shorts and television specials, and Imageworks seems to be focused (at least initially) on animation, Digital Domain is jumping with both feet into full shot production. I'm acutely aware of how challenging it can be to transplant a studio's pipeline to a remote facility, but it seems like a good decision and admire their moxie. Richard had previously been working in London and said that while that location offered slightly better health care and a lot more drinking, Vancouver seemed like a very nice place for those of us approaching middle age to settle down and stay a while.
On Thursday evening K and I walked northwest on Davie, to Denman, to Robson, and southeast on Robson back to our hotel making a 4km circuit of downtown Vancouver. The southeast side of Davie is a gay friendly neighborhood - same sex couples eating dinner, rainbow flag stickers in business windows - but nothing to write home about for someone who's been living a few blocks from the Castro. Coming up Denman we walked through an outdoor set where they were filming "Fringe", with John Noble sitting at a sidewalk table talking to an assistant between takes. K and I are fans of the show and it kinda made our evening. We had dinner at Kintaro Ramen, possibly the best I've had outside of Japan. There were a ton of Japanese stores and izakayas in that corner of the island, putting to rest all of my earlier concerns about not being able to find what I enjoy from the Japantown back home.