Author Archives: Jay Banks

Vancouver Restaurants With the Longest Tradition: The Northern Cafe

The Northern Cafe probably shouldn’t exist, but it does. Literally a few metres from the bank of the Fraser River in south Vancouver, you could easily walk past the sign outside Northern Building Supplies and not notice. Even if you follow the signs and walk through the cedar-scented parking lot, you’re likely to miss the small awning in one corner. Open the door beneath the awning, go up the narrow, slightly slanted wooden stairs (no wheelchair access here), turn right, and head down the hall. That’s when you finally get to the Northern Cafe, a small gem of a diner.

The black and white checkered tile floor is far from even, but establishment is clean and cheery, with vintage booths and tables. Half of the space is taken up by the open kitchen, serving breakfast and lunch. The fare is standard North American diner, but with an emphasis on quality ingredients and home cooking.

The establishment’s co-owner and manager is Jimmy Mah, who warmly greets visitors in Chinese-accented English. He and his wife are the Northern’s only staff. Born in Hong Kong, Jimmy arrived in the Prince Albert region of Saskatchewan at age 14, and his family kept moving west:

  My father and my grandfather were running restaurants already. I’ve worked in restaurants as a chef all my life. Sometimes twelve hour days, seven days a week. It’s a really, really hard life. Also, I’ve run franchise businesses too.

He came to Vancouver in 1984. "We started a franchise food court with seven or eight locations, selling fish and chips and chicken. That was a really hard time. I’ve worked hard all my life, and by the time I’m fifty-three years old, I sold everything and retired for three years. I did a lot of traveling on vacation."

After three years, Jimmy and his wife realized retirement wasn’t for them. "When we came back to Canada, me and my lady said, ‘What are we going to do the next day?’ Finally, my lady and I said, ‘Let’s look for something to do again.‘"

What they found was a diner called the LT Kitchen, dating back to the late 1940s. "The founder was Bert Thomas, but he passed away about ten years ago, age of 96. When he started this whole lumber yard, he was cutting the lumber at the river and selling the lumber to the builders. Then he started buying all the individual buildings, the shacks around here. This used to be a cow barn for a farm. After that, he started buying all the buildings and turned it into a lumber yard. This lumber yard is very unique, still family operated. Anything you ask for, you get the stuff on the next day. Very friendly service, just like family." Thomas’ portrait still hangs on the wall.

The previous owner was selling when we were looking at this place. The price was a little bit too high and there was no sale. Very dirty, filthy, and the price was not right. Me and my lady took another holiday. Five months later, we came back and he still had it. We negotiated the price down a little bit and we closed the deal. For the first two weeks, hardly any business. When customers did come, they were so happy with what I did, with all the personality and cooking.

Jimmy renamed the establishment as the Northern Cafe, and revamped the menu as well with an emphasis on freshness and quality:

Everything I make, I try not to bring the frozen stuff in. I do everything as home cooking. All hand made, hand skill. People know the way I do all the food prep is old school skill. Now all the new chefs in the restaurants, everything comes in frozen. Not like home cooking. My little place has quality cooking.

The Northern is promoted almost entirely by word of mouth and online reviews. Jimmy says he has never spent a cent on purchased advertising. Despite this, and the hole-in-the-wall location, the Northern has developed a loyal following in the last ten years. Only a year ago, Jimmy started collecting testimonials, and the walls of the Northern are covered with hand-written notes of appreciation from visitors from the US, Germany, the Philippines and even further away.

All of this is operated by just Jimmy and his wife. "No staff, no headache." Even with no employees, Jimmy keeps the Northern open six days a week. They take a break from mid-December to the end of January, and then it’s back to work. "I don’t get sick, because I like what I’m doing," says Jimmy. "When I retired, I missed what I do. And that’s why I came back with this little restaurant. And everybody said, ‘Hey Jimmy, you should open your own diner out in BC. You should explore the area. You can make a lot of money.’ And I told my customers, ‘That time already passed.’"

In four or five years, Jimmy says he might hand the Northern over to his son, Raymond, who is already an experienced chef and has worked at many high-level restaurants in Vancouver. "You never know."

As a sample dish, Jimmy served up a deluxe burger with cheese and bacon. The patty proved moist and meaty, with the bacon adding a little chewiness. Because of the current warning about tainted Romaine lettuce, Jimmy refused to serve a green salad, and instead provided a side of French fries and a small cup of homemade potato salad. "I can tell you, some supermarkets and four or five high end restaurants wanted me to provide them with this potato salad. I told them, it’s too much work. I’m happy with what I’m doing."

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.



Photo Essay: Vancouver Christmas Market

If there's one beloved holiday tradition, that officially starts the festivities around the town, it's the Vancouver Christmas Market. Inspired by European Christmas markets but with more North American flair, it includes almost 100 pop-up shops with authentic sweets, home-made toys and other treasures. It's a perfect place for enjoying your time with friends, grabbing a Christmas-inspired bite or hunting down unique presents.


Besides enjoying the atmosphere of the Old World Christmas, you can visit the Christmas Pyramid with the Flying Stage on the second storey, catch one of many performaces both during the day and the night, or visit the beautiful towering walk-in Christmas tree. Kids can catch a ride on the Christmas Carousel or meet Santa from 5 pm on the weekday and 3:30 pm on weekends.

Food & Drinks

When it comes to eating on Vancouver Christmas Market, you will find many German-inspired street vendors across the area and German lager being poured in the establishments. And if you feel like you need to just sit down and have some gourman drinks with your visit, you can book an hour-long visit into a Wunderbar. This new attraction for 2018 promises artisanal drinks or hot “Feuerzangenbowle” - a muled wine with rum-soaked sugarloaf.


If you love traditional gifts, like home-made soaps and wooden toys, Christmas market is the perfect place for your Holiday shopping. The 80+ huts in the market include everything from beautiful traditional ornaments for your Christmas tree, to home-made wool hats and mittens.

Perfect photo spots

To fill in your Instagram feed with a bit of festive cheer, there are many corners that will make for the perfect photo background. You can visit the Lover's Lane, with love lock around and snap that kiss under the mistletoe, find the Winter Deck and have a perfectly framed picture with the perfect view of the North Shore or simply focus on many of the amazing lights twinkling around.

Vancouver Christmas Market is located at Jack Poole Plata, 1055 Canada Place. Opened daily from November 21 to December 23, 11:30 am - 9:30 pm. On December 24 from 11:30 to 6 pm. Standard ticket on the spot is $12. More information can be found at

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Neighbourhood Photo Essays: Grandview-Woodland

Before the first house was built in 1891, the Coast Salish knew the stretch of land along the Burrard Inlet by the name "Khupkhahpay’ay", meaning "cedar tree". Although logged beyond recognition and still a home to industry, the legendary trees can be seen all over the area. It's thanks to the logging and brewing industries, the latter of which is still represented, that Grand View—later Grandview-Woodland—became a popular destination for Vancouverites seeking a nice neighbourhood to settle down on the east side of the city. 

Views of the mountains to the north, and downtown to the west, gave rise to the moniker around 1892 by some of the very first modern residents. Not long after, what was Park Drive became Commercial Drive to attract businesses to the area. Influenced strongly by developing rail and transit, Grandview continued to grow and in 1975 built the Britannia Community Services Centre which was one of the largest in North America, and it's still a staple of the community today.

Known currently and affectionately as "The Drive", one of Vancouver's oldest areas is a thriving residential neighbourhood with a bustling main road offering everything from delicious pizza to board game bars to independent bookshops. Commercial Drive is the main attraction, stretching almost all the way from the shores of Burrard Inlet and extending far past the borders of Grandview. Adjacent to the shops and eateries of all kinds, are long tree-lined streets boasting an impressive number of historical, single-family homes and cottages. Rarer are the condominium complexes of the downtown core, and you will find far more parks and schools scattered around than high-rise apartment buildings. 

Between the water and East Hastings Street, the neighbourhood is packed full of craft microbreweries serving up anything from beer to local moonshine, alongside coffee shops, artist studios, and the important services such as the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue, Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Society. Heading south, or "up", The Drive brings a spectrum of small, independent businesses, especially in what is known as Little Italy for the high number of pizza parlours, cafes, and pasta restaurants started by Italian immigrants after World War II. The area blends an old-world charm with its ever-growing population of trendier young professionals and new families which is reflected in hipster coffee shops, cocktail bars, and organic grocers. 

Now far more ethnically diverse and home to a range of communities, Grandview-Woodland represents a lot of what makes East Van the real hidden gem of greater Vancouver.


Best Off-Leash Dog Parks in Vancouver

Life is good if you are a dog in Vancouver! The city's outdoor lifestyle isn't designated only for humans. Canines are generally welcome in all of the city's parks when on leash - and there are loads of great spots where your four-legged friend can run free. Enjoy a selection of our favourite dog parks in this photo essay!

Kitsilano Dog Beach (Hadden Park)

Address: 1499 Arbutus Street

The iconic Kitsilano beach boasts scenic views of English Bay and downtown Vancouver, has sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts or the city's only saltwater swimming pool - and offers a perfect place to relax. 

Just a short stroll away, the shores of Hadden Park (this is the official name) are an ideal place to let your pet run, enjoy the water and socialise with other dogs. This is probably Vancouver's most picturesque dog beach - andi has a plenty of driftwood to relax on. Tip: there is a dog fountain at the Kits beach concession; a 10 minute on-leash walk away.

Nelson Park Off Leash Dog Park

Address: 1030 Bute Street

Located right in the middle of the city, Nelson Park welcomes West Enders looking for a peaceful, spacious and simple spot to relax. The park area, redeveloped in 2007, features seating areas, a pathway system, picnic places and a community garden. 

You can let your furry friends run on the park's west side. The off-leash dog area is enclosed with decorative metal fencing and open daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. This is a great little neighbourhood park with a sense of community - a place where dog owners are responsible and respectful. Please note that dogs are not allowed inside the school yard. 

Spanish Banks Dog Beach

Address: 4707 Northwest Marine Drive

One of Vancouver's most popular beaches is ideal for sunbathing, volleyball, barbeques, picnics or just enjoying the spectacular views. This unique place is loved by swimmers, sport-loving locals and photographers. 

The dog beach, located just west of the swimming area, will likely become your pet's favourite oasis. The sandy and rocky terrain, the low tide flats and kilometres of trail adjacent to the beach make this place perfect for running or a game of fetch. And when Fido (or you) needs some socialising, there are always many dogs and dog owners to play or chat with. Spanish Banks is sure to delight!

John Hendry Park (Trout Lake)

Address: 3300 Victoria Drive

Situated on the east side of Vancouver, Trout Lake is a tranquil spot where you almost forget that you are in a city. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of active and passive recreation possibilities, including play fields and a picnic area.

The north end of lake is reserved for your four-legged family members: this fresh water beach is a great place for dogs to cool off during hot summer days and is off-leash all day, from 5 am to 10 pm. Remember that this beach is usually busy with many dog friends around. Additionally, there is plenty of space on land for large dogs to enjoy. 

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Restaurants With the Longest Tradition: Sophie’s Cosmic Café

Though Jim Dikeakos speaks with a hint of a Greek accent, he is Vancouver-born, and a Kitsilano native.

I remember playing hockey on Arbutus Street in front of St. Augustine’s. We’d move the rocks because they were the goal posts for street hockey.

Thirty years ago, Jim, his brother and his sister-in-law bought a greasy spoon diner located on the corner of West Fourth Avenue and Arbutus Street in Kitsilano, and turned it into a neighbourhood institution. Sophie’s Cosmic Café has been a fixture for the past thirty years. A common sight on Fourth is the lineups outside the venue.

Jim comes from a family with an extensive background in the restaurant business. His brother pioneered Greek food in Vancouver in the 1970s with Kosmas, and then Japanese in the 1980s with Koji.

In 1988, Jim, his brother and his sister-in-law found a small greasy spoon with a lot of history in Kitsilano. "It was the Arbutus Café. That could go back, way into the Thirties. One day, an old lady came in as a customer about thirty years ago. She said, ‘This used to be my aunt’s grocery store. She put a soda fountain in, and the soda fountain was very popular, so she added hotdogs. She was so busy with selling food and sodas, she turned it into a café instead of a grocery store.’"

"It used be, in the 1960s, a little diner with a horseshoe-counter on this side, run by three Greek brothers, who ended up owning pizza places. The family owned Simpatico [another Kitsilano restaurant]. Their father was the owner in the 1960s. Their father, Marino’s father, owned this place. After that, it was owned by the Beratanos family, where one brother owned Helen’s Grill [a diner on Main Street]."

Some time in the 1970s, the corner diner merged with the storefront next door. When Jim and his partners found it, it hadn’t substantially changed since then.

His sister-in-law, Sophie, provided part of the name. The rest of the name came from a head shop next door.

There was a hippie store here in the 60s, that sold mobiles, and all sorts of paraphernalia for smoking, just like today’s style. Selling mod belts, all sorts of peace signs, whatever, called the Cosmic Shop or the Cosmic Store. And that’s how we came up with the name, Sophie’s Cosmic Café, thirty years ago.

"Back then it was a frozen patty and a frozen this and that. We threw all that out." Jim and his partners updated the menu, emphasising freshness. Nearly everything is still home-made, except for the bread and waffles. "We kept it as a diner, because we realised it had a future as a diner. We bought it for the location."

They also developed the eclectic style of decoration, with the walls covered with old advertisements, collectible lunch boxes, and vintage toys. "The whole theme was to make it fun and our budget was really small. All of these [decorations] were in the attic and fun stuff and we just put them up. Half of the stuff is just presents from customers that bring us something. Customers bring in memorabilia. Other people want them. I say, ‘No, I can’t give it to you because its a present.’ It’s actually little things Sophie would find in garage sales. Little tacky stuff."

Sophie’s was also a pioneer in having a no-smoking policy. "We actually stopped all that smoking stuff before the city had a bylaw. We were probably the first no smoking restaurant, easily five or six years before they brought in that bylaw."

Sophie and Jim’s brother retired recently, leaving Jim to manage the café.

I have the passion of running a restaurant. It’s what I’ve always done, what we’ve always done as a family. Just pride in my work, pride in my staff. Everybody’s happy here, from customers to staff. That’s the success. You’ve got to work really hard and that’s it.

"I had the restaurant with my brother and my sister in law for thirty years. They retired just now, a few months ago. Her children and my children hopefully will learn to take this over." All four of Jim’s daughters work at the café, including the one also named Sophie. "She’s the next Sophie. So there’s always a Sophie still." Will she take over? "I hope so, and she hopes so. We’re here to slowly do the transition for her."

Jim’s love of his neighbourhood is tinged with nostalgia for a bygone time. Standing outside Sophie’s on Fourth, he talks about not only the businesses that have closed and been replaced, but the changes in the residents. "It’s so hard because the city has gotten so big and expensive that all these younger people can’t afford to live in Vancouver. It’s hard to find staff because it’s become so expensive to live here. They make $2,000 but they pay over $2,000 just to live in a one bedroom suite."

Pointing across the street, he says, "These were all little heritage homes that got knocked down. And they built these ten-unit, fifteen-unit apartments and now I see them going down and being replaced by these four-storey buildings. The little guy’s getting pushed out. There used to be a lot of little stores. Now they’re all big corporate stores. It’s changed a lot. It’s still a beautiful neighbourhood."

The hamburger with sautéed mushrooms served at Sophie’s came with a generous patty and fresh onions, lettuce, tomato and pickle. The bun was insubstantial. The medium-rare burger as a whole provided a juicy, meaty flavour accentuated by the mushrooms. The side garden salad with oil and vinegar was fresh and well made. A welcome addition to the usual choices of salad, soup or French fries was the option of black beans as side dish.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Neighbourhood Photo Essays: Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale is located in Vancouver's west side. A primarily residential area, this quiet neighbourhood has an interesting mix of older and newer houses in a variety of architectural styles such as Beaux Art, English Arts and Crafts or Spanish Colonial Revival. It also features a shopping district running along West 41st Avenue between Larch and Maple Streets and West Boulevard between 37th and 47th Avenues.

The first settlers were the Irish McCleery brothers in 1867. The neighbourhood acquired its name in 1905 after Mrs. MacKinnon's, one of the area's earliest residents, old family home in Kerrydale, Scotland. Kerrydale means "little seat of the fairies". The area was part of the Municipality of Point Grey, which amalgamated with the City of Vancouver in 1929.

Kerrisdale remains one of Vancouver's most pleasant neighbourhoods and is home to many long term residents. With streets lined with old trees, a variety of small shops and coffee places, this is indeed a good place to live in. As long term resident and owner of "The Kerrisdale Bootery", a business which has been here for 30 years noted,  

Many families have lived here for many generations - but it still feels small and cozy.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Made in Vancouver: 3 Local Designers for Your Home

The architectural design community in Vancouver is changing the landscape of innovative real estate. The inspiration of internationalism has design firms focused on developing creations that are unique to a client’s personality. An appreciation of combining indoor and outdoor concepts has local homeowners changing the conventional ideal of comfort.

We are pleased to share reputable design firms in Vancouver that piqued our interest.

Sherwood Outdoor Kitchens

Sherwood Outdoor Kitchens is founded in 2014 and is a proud winner of the Designer of the Year from the National Kitchen and Bath Design Excellence awards. The firm's Bachelor Penthouse project is recognised for the Small Kitchen of the Year. The team finds inspiration in "designing contemporary outdoor spaces with attention to detail with an interior design theme."

Photo by Spencer Watson

A hot trend in Vancouver of outdoor designs is the concept of using an interior approach to create a presence of comfort.

We are currently working with a top graphic artist, Scott Sueme, to incorporate his artwork into outdoor designs,

says Matt Herbert, the firm's General Manager. Matt shared that the most common client requests for an indoor and outdoor appearance includes an outdoor design of functionality and colour is in high demand. Indoor designs include stainless steel high-end appliances, doors with vibrant colour and countertops.

The firm's goal is to expand its consumer-based territory in the future to the California market. Furthermore, the concept of signature modular designs shipped across North America is a way to share the Sherwood Outdoor Kitchens experience continent-wide.

Photo by Spencer Watson

Photo by Spencer Watson


Propellor is a studio-based company that started in 2000. It holds social and environmental aspects highly, crafting unique designed lighting with the use of furniture to spatial design and sculpture. In an interview with Propellor’s Partner and Designer Toby Barrett, he stated "everything we make is customised for the client. It allows us to lavish craft as an artisanal interior design model."

Lulu Lemon, The Museum of Vancouver and Architect Michael Green are just some of the reputable entities Propellor had the pleasure to work with. The team has also built beautiful single family residential homes and complexes working closely with Javier Campos at Campos Studio. Propellor’s creative interior design has been recognised with an award for the Applied Arts sponsored by the Government.

An innovative project of the company is hanging sculptures in residential homes. It has 15 years of light development experience, an exhibit of sculpture installations and a collection of 9 different lighting pieces with various models. Toby spoke about the importance of creating lasting pieces:

We continue to focus on sustainable designs with alternative options that tread lightly on the earth. Our goal is to create work that is meant to be passed down to the younger generation of the future.

Sustainability has fallen off the radar in the past 3 to 5 years.

Birdman the Welder

Shaun is the man behind Birdman the Welder with 15+ years using his imagination to build custom furniture, hot rods and choppers setting the business apart from competition:

I’ve always loved lowriders, hot rods, and choppers, so I got my welding tickets with big aspirations of having a hot rod shop.

The company offers customers an aesthetic experience with a Western Canadian style.

Photo by Jordan Aruthur

Birdman the Welder rose to popularity after renting a small space with his wife - and the rest is history. The team of welders and fabricators develop hand-crafted custom projects while working closely with clients. For 15 years the team has worked with local makers, and finishers using its family owned best practices. A secret to Birdman’s success is,

constantly learning new processes and surrounding myself with individuals who are better than me, which keeps me on my toes and reassures me there is much more to learn.

As a skilled trade creative, his most challenging project was a 17.5 feet staircase stringer for a new home build. The experience in building, finishing, and installation consisted of a new project scope. The team on site was supportive in working cohesively to complete a successful job for the client.

The industry embraces unique designs to your personality and overall home felt comfort. Be creative and let your imagination be the guide to what you desire.

Photo by Janis Nicolay and Tracey Ayton

Photo by Bright Photography


Photo Essay: Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

It's that time of the year: Vancouver wakes up from the winter hibernation with about 40,000 blooming cherry trees! Each spring, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the beauty of the pink and white petals with a month full of public art, culture and community events. The festival was founded in 2005 by Linda Poole, to commemorate the cherry trees given by Japan to the City of Vancouver. 

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival's aim is not only to bring together Vancouverites but also to educate through cherry-themed seasonal programs. According to the organisers, the series of the events wants "to actively engage diverse communities through accessible arts and culture, and too sustain and renew Vancouver’s cherry tree heritage". This is a great opportunity to reunite with your friends after the long, grey Vancouver winter! 

The 2018 annual festival is running until 29 April. Programme includes 'Tree Talks & Walks', a walking tour of the best locations where cultural features of interest meet the blossoms or 'Bike The Blossoms', a cycling tour underneath the blossoming Sakuras. For the full programme, visit the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Film Locations: Downtown

As we already demonstrated with documenting the TV history of the popular Marine Building and Robson Square, Vancouver is very popular among TV producers.

For this article, we took a look at Downtown and some of the iconic buildings that appeared across TV shows and movies.

Battlestar Galactica

Did you know new Battlestar Galactica used to shoot in Vancouver? One of the very prominent Downtown buildings featured in the series is the Vancouver Public Library. It's a portrayal of Caprica in all its glory.


Another great place is the roof of Pub 340, where the colourful graffiti mural become a great background for some of the very dramatic scenes. We wouldn't advise climbing on the roof just to check if we're telling the truth. Have a look at our photos instead!


Neverending Story

Who doesn't love 90's family movies and their naive vibe? Neverending Story is one of those movies you can watch on repeat and discover something new every time. The story of Bastian reading a fairytale book where he ends up being the hero became a cult favourite. But did you ever notice the parts of the movie taking place in real life were filmed in Vancouver? You can clearly see the Dominion Building in the wide shot.


A good example is the mysterious Library where Bastian ends up hiding after a group of bullies chases him through the city. In real life, it's the Local Public Eatery. So no, you can't go there and hide in the attic to read a book, hoping you get to ride your own Luck Dragon.


Speaking of Falcor, the scene in the alley where Bastian gets back at the kids that bullied him is just down the street. Remember that red trash can? Sadly, it's not there anymore, so no more throwing kids into the garbage.




You probably know that the American broadcaster The CW loves Vancouver, especially to use as their own personal DC universe. Arrow, Flash and Supergirl were all shot in Vancouver at some point and of course, they had to visit Downtown.


When Arrow was only taking its first steps to become the beloved TV show it is now, Oliver had a list of people he needs to eliminate. In the episode Salvation in the first season, this vigilante vengeance craze leads him to one of the buildings at 23rd & Myra only to find nothing. Oh yes, that's a friendly reminder that Mr Queen wasn't always the total superhero at the beginning. Such a throwback, right?

The Flash

Continuing with our exploration fo the DC universe, we have to mention The Flash. Back in the first season, when Iris decided she wants to be a reporter, the gang meats the lovely Linda Park, a reporter for Central City Picture News. Barry, being the dorky boy he is, falls for her and they end up dating briefly, which as we know more often than not results in a good chance of seeing double. Or rather seeing your double?


Yes, Linda is one of the few people in the Flash series that has an evil double. Actually as it seems, every girl Flash has ever dated has one. How convenient. Talk about revenge of the exes.


And since the charming person on Earth 2 nicknamed Dr. Light decides that the real Linda Parks is very inconvenient to her, she decides to get rid of her and storms Central City Picture News. Of course, Barry saves the day and everybody lives happily ever after until the next episode.


Conveniently, the Central City Picture News Building is located at Abbott Street here in Vancouver. Through the series, we get a few good shots of the building and we can see that they even left the original address 134 Abbott Street in the show.


21 Jump Street

This classic 80' procedural cop show aired on FOX and become a very popular piece of TV history. So much, that they decided to adapt and remake it into a (currently well-known) movie with the same name.


The story focused on a group of young-looking police officers posing as students in high schools and colleges to help investigate crimes happening on campuses. The name 21 Jump Street is also an address of their headquarters. One of the other addresses in the series is an apartment of one of the heroes - Officer Douglas "Doug" Penhall, with a Vancouver address 307 West Cordova Street.


In the episode The Dragon & The Angel, the whole team is seated in front of the familiar and very loved statue of John 'Gassy Jack' Deighton in Gastown. In the shot, you can clearly see only the pedestal and the oak barrel upon which the statue stands, but it's enough to recognize one of the most photographable landmarks in Gastown.


Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Guide: What to Do in Bad Weather

When the weather in Vancouver is good, it’s great; but when it is bad, it is grey, wet and chilly. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun places to go to pass a rainy day in Vancouver without staying on your couch. 

Visit one of the galleries

The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown just off Robson Street, usually has several different exhibits open. You can roam its otherworldly white halls and see fascinating artworks, both historical and contemporary, in traditional and modern media, and from around the world. Future shows in 2018 include a review of modern Japanese painter Takashi Murakami, and the Bombhead exhibition that explores the impact of the nuclear age on art and society. You can get a deal on admission by buying an individual or household annual membership, which includes free gallery admission and entry to many events. The gallery also has admission by donation on Tuesdays after 5pm. 

Vancouver Art Gallery by Timothy Neesam

Also downtown, the Contemporary Gallery is a non-profit space for contemporary visual art. There are regular tours of the gallery space with artists and curators (in multiple languages), and talks on anything from textile art to cultural accessibility and human rights. 

Tucked into a Chinatown storefront, Access Gallery is an artist-run, non-profits pace that aims to show more provocative visual art. One of their past shows was "Twenty-Three Days At Sea", showing the works created by artists in residence aboard a cargo container ship traveling from Shanghai to Vancouver. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday. 

Discover that science is fun - in Science World

Across the street from the Main Street Skytrain station, Telus World of Science is full of educational exhibits about many different sciences, for adults and kids. Bodyworks explores our bodies down to the cellular level. At Living Lab, you can work directly with UBC researchers who are studying cognitive development. You can do hands-on engineering experiments at Tinkering Space. The five-storey high screen in the OMNIMAX theatre makes documentaries, like Amazon Adventure and A Beautiful Planet into visually stunning, immersive experiences. 

Vancouver Science World by Franco Ng

Enjoy a concert or a play

Built in 1927, the Orpheum Theatre is a monument to design, with sweeping staircases, a domed auditorium with a ceiling mural and a giant crystal chandelier It hosts shows like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s New Music festival, stand up comedy stars, a Beatles tribute called Classical Mystery Tour, family-oriented explorations of classical music through legends and fairy tales, food tastings as part of Dine Out Vancouver, and orchestral and choir performances. 

Orpheum Theatre by Colin Knowles

Just a few doors from the Orpheum on downtown Granville, the Art Deco-style Commodore Ballroom is coming up on its own 90th anniversary. This Vancouver landmark has survived many musical eras, and shut down a few times, only to be revived a few years later. It’s hosted musical stars from all over the world, as well as local bands and fund-raiser events. The huge venue has a dance floor and concert stage, tiered seating, and a fully equipped commercial kitchen and service staff for food and beverage. 

Also downtown, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is a dramatic venue for everything from orchestral music to opera to stand up comedy to touring Broadway musicals. It’s home to Ballet BC, Vancouver Opera and Broadway Across Canada. 

Watch classic and new films 

When you’ve run out of things to watch online,you can go to an independent theatres such as the Pacific Cinematheque, the Rio Theatre, and the Vancouver International Film Centre which have diverse schedules of classic, foreign and cult films. Note that you have to pay a modest fee for a membership at the Pacific and the VIFC. The Rio also does live performances, like burlesque shows, The Gentlemen Hecklers, who do comedic commentary on bad movies, and The Critical Hit Show, which merges improv comedy with Dungeons and Dragons, with audience members invited on stage to play monsters. 

Rio Theatre by Kyle Pearce

The many branches of the Vancouver Public Library provide lectures, readings, workshops on coding and media, and screenings of features films and documentaries, some of them family-friendly. 

Shop local in one of the indoor markets

Greater Vancouver has a few indoor markets where you can browse a wide variety of shops and food venues while staying warm and dry.

Take a quick Seabus trip from downtown across Vancouver harbour and visit LonsdaleQuay Market in North Vancouver. Directly connected to the Seabus terminal, it’s more than 80 shops and services, including clothing, wine, accessories, leather goods,and a food court and two restaurants.

Vancouver Granville Island Market by IQRemix

Granville Island Public Market, beneath the Granville Street bridge and reached from the Kitsilano neighbourhood, is an old industrial space that has been converted into an open market. Most of it is devoted to gourmet foods, offering fresh local seafood, meats and poultry, sausages and deli meats, fresh local fruits and vegetables, cheeses, chocolates, and pastas. If you really want to know your way around, book with Vancouver Foodie Tours and enjoy more than twenty food tastings. For lunch and snacks, take your pick from bagels baked in a flame oven, fudge, pastries, muffins, and donuts. The rest of the area includes many other shops, restaurants and theatres. 

Relax in Vancouver's swimming pools

Funny how we hate cold water outdoors, but we immerse ourselves in warm water indoors. The best way to pay for visits to swimming pools, ice rinks and fitness centres is the Vancouver Park Board OneCard. You can get a card for free at any centre and load it with passes online. If you’re particularly extravagant, you can reserve a lane or an entire pool by the hour. 

Located near Queen Elizabeth Park, the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre is the largest aquatic facility in Vancouver, built for the 2010 Olympics. You can splash around in the leisure pool, swim lengths, or participate in an aquafit class. 

Swimming in Vancouver by Cara

Another city-run swimming pool is the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, locate in a bunker-like building near Sunset Beach. The huge, naturally-lit main pool has fifty-metre lap lanes and diving towers up to ten metres. You can also heat up in the sauna, cool down in the whirlpool, or exercise in the weight room. It’s wheelchair accessible and has universal change rooms. 

Downtown, you can go to the Robert Lee YMCA Pool. There are open swim times, and teen and adult swimming lessons are included in your membership. You can also check out many fitness activities such as yoga, pilates, cycling, and cardio dance. 

Recently rebuilt, the UBC Aquatic Centre can hold nearly 1,000 bathers, with a fifty-metre competition pool and a twenty-five-metre recreational pool, a steam room, a sauna and a hot tub. The facility is built to be as accessible as possible, with power-operated doors, Braille signage, male, female and universal change rooms, and access ramps in the pools. You can drop in to many different exercise and fitness classes. There are drop-in fees or membership passes. 

Cozy up at a café

If you don’t want to go home right after your day trip, Vancouver has many cozy places to pass a chilly, damp afternoon with a cup of something hot. 

Platform7 has two locations, one in East Vancouver and one in Kitsilano, modelled after 19th century British and French train stations. Each has three bars, one for espresso creations, one for single-origin coffees from around the world, and one for cold brews, plus locally-sourced baked goods and sandwiches.

Coffee in Vancouver by Kenny Louie

Aperture lies on West Broadway, three blocks from Cambie Street, and doubles as a gallery space. The gourmet cookies are hand made by the Cannele & Honeybun bakery. 

49thParallel, with locations on Thurlow Street downtown, Main Street and West 4th, is for the dedicated coffee lover. You can get your own coffee brewing kits, coffee machines, cups, branded apparel and other paraphernalia, so you can enjoy this kind of coffee at home. If you’re serious about your coffee, the website includes details about growing region, elevation, variety and harvest year for each type sold, and detailed instructions on proper brewing. The subscription plans will bring selected packages of filter coffee and espresso to your home on a regular schedule. They make Lucky’s doughnuts on site, and the Thurlow location also has a brunch and lunch menu. 

Experience beer tasting

Granville Island Brewing, located near the Public Market, does multiple tours and tastings each day of the week, and afterwards you can enjoy a drink with food pairings in the taproom. 

You can explore Vancouver’s brewing community in more depth with Vancouver Brewery Tours. They’ll take you and your group to three different breweries and distilleries in three different neighbourhoods, teaching you about craft spirits, beer brewing, and barrel aging. On dryer days during the summer, you can do the walking tour of three breweries in three hours. 

Granville Island Brewery Samples by Conrad Olson


Photo Essay: Vancouver’s Holiday Lights

Whether we have snow or not, there is one thing that can't be missing every holiday season besides the many ice-skating rinks and Markets to get you in the festive mood; the colourful decorations all over the city! Vancouver lights up its parks, the shopping centers certainly don't hold back and everyone living in Vancouver and its suburbs wants to have the nicest front yard of the street. Holiday lights are, however, not just about beautiful views and thousands of twinkling lights: they can also serve a good cause by supporting a charity. Where to see the City's most beautiful holiday lights? See a selection of our favourite places in this photo essay!

VanDusen Festival of Lights

Where: VanDusen Botanical Garden, 5151 Oak Street
When: December 1 - January 7

The VanDusen Botanical Garden is worth visiting every time of the year - but it is particularly magical in the winter season! In 1994, a small part of the garden was turned into a beacon of light. Since then, the VanDusen Festival of Lights became the City's most popular and longest running Christmas attraction.

The 15 acres area is decorated with more than one million lights - and not only literally. A group of volunteers check the bulbs each year and it takes months to create this beautiful winter wonderland. This is the perfect place to take beautiful photos, watch the dancing lights show on Livingstone Lake or simply enjoy a walk with a hot drink in your hands. You can also contribute to a good cause by supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which works to grant the wishes of kids with life-threatening illnesses by lighting a candle at the Candle Grotto.

The VanDusen Festival of Lights features several themed areas and runs from December 1 to January 7.

Stanley Park and the Bright Lights

Where: Pipeline Road in Stanley Park, via the West Georgia Street park entrance
When: November 30 - January 6

One of the biggest parks in Vancouver, Stanley Park, lights up with almost three million twinkling lights during the holiday season. Which is really nice, considering how early it gets dark this time of the year! When you enter the park, it feels like you're entering a fairy tale: this is the best place to take children in December to see holiday decorations and illuminations in the Lower Mainland. Some of the popular features are the miniature train with a ride full of breathtaking displays, and live performers along the route, Santa’s Workshop or the craft hut. 

Bright Nights has been running at Stanley Park since 1997 annually from the end of November until the beginning of January. Admission is by donation with proceeds benefiting the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund. $1.4 million has been raised to help burn survivors and their families since 1998.

Lights of Hope

Where: St. Paul’s Hospital, 1081 Burrard Street
When: November 16 - January 8

Every year, over 100,000 bulbs and hundreds of sponsored stars illuminate the St. Paul's Hospital as part of Light of Hope, St. Paul's Foundation's campaign raising funds for the hospital’s most immediate patient care and equipment needs. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the campaign that raised more than $31 million since its launch in 1998. The installation opens each year in mid-November with a festive, family friendly launch event featuring fireworks and live entertainment, taking place outdoors the hospital.

Lights of Hope brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to see the beautiful light tunnels and the building lit up with stars from top to bottom. The iconic installation, which is built by volunteers using donated materials, features over 10 kilometres of lights. The Lights of Hope is shining from dusk till dawn until January 8th.

Light a Life - Canuck Place 

Where: 1690 Matthews Avenue 
When: December 7 - December 31

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice annually lights the hospice and surrounding gardens. by 60,000 lights that are installed over a period of one month. These lights represent the spirit of care and support.

This event has been a wonderful tradition since the Canucks Place opened in 1995 and is a celebration of the donations given towards the hospice's care to children, however, this isn't the only way to get involved: during the holiday season, anyone can contribute to the hospice through the Light a Life campaign. 

While the Hospice is decorated to bring joy to the children and families and isn’t open to the public, you can enjoy the lights from outside the gates.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.


Vancouver Restaurants With the Longest Tradition: Roundel Cafe

The Roundel Cafe is a small storefront in the middle of the block in East Vancouver’s Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, an area that retains an old-neighbourhood feel. Inside, the décor is old-style diner with stools facing the counter and booths along the wall. Leonard Cohen sings on the speakers. There are no video screens anywhere. Dena Sananin is the Roundel's co-owner and co-manager:

Our cafe thrives on personality. It’s individual. It’s a cross-section of the neighbourhood of where we live, inside and out. We’ve never really tried to be any particular style,

Sananin and her partner Mick took over the management in 2006, but the the Roundel had existed in one form or another for decades.

Previously, the building was a kitchen even before that. The story is that apparently this building is quite old and was a kitchen for Jack Diamond.

Jack Diamond was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who came to Canada as a young man in the 1920s, and became a businessman and philanthropist. He bought the Pacific Meat Company in 1940 and expanded it into the largest meat packing house in the province. He raised money for the completion of the roof of Empire Stadium for the British Empire Games in 1954. He was involved in the Variety Club, the BC Heart Foundation, and other charitable organisations. His love of horse racing made him the owner and operator of the race track at Exhibition Park. Diamond’s efforts were recognised by the Order of Canada in 1979, and the Order of British Columbia in 1991.

This kitchen became the Roundel Cafe in 1964, owned by Bea Wong and her husband. Wong managed it for 15-20 years alone after her husband died.

In 2006, Dena and her partner Mick purchased it from Bea Wong. Neither of them had much experience in the restaurant business, but Dena realised that her job as a camera assistant was not compatible with raising children. She had worked in some cafes and restaurants before, and was familiar with the area and the establishment. This could be her new career.

My family has a lot of roots in this neighbourhood. As a child and pretty much my whole life, I have walked past this cafe, and have always had a connection with the space. I’d fantasised about having this space and running a cafe out of it. I took a chance and asked the owner if she was willing to sell. She was.

Dena freely admits she entered into this project not knowing what she was getting herself into. The extensive renovation proved to be a challenge.

We added some things to the kitchen. We put a new floor in. We took the drop ceiling out. We covered the wood paneling walls. We changed the lighting, which ended up being a disaster. Don’t ever install track lighting directly to a ceiling.

Under the new management, the Roundel Cafe’s menu offers what might be called "new diner": familiar North American dishes, but made with higher quality ingredients and with an eye to healthy choices.

Though it is no longer open in the evenings, the Roundel has a full range of breakfast and lunch dishes. Breakfast includes gluten-free organic corn pancakes and quinoa bowls and free-range egg dishes. For lunch, there are organic beef, free-range chicken, pork or tofu burgers. Instead of anything deep fried, there are side orders of salad, roast potatoes or brown rice.

The menu includes plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as what Dena calls "vegan-ish" dishes, as they don’t have separate kitchen facilities for true vegan cooking. The cafe also has a liquor license and offers beer, cocktails and spiked milkshakes.

Maintaining a policy of quality, local food has proven to be a challenge, but it means that the Roundel has deep ties to its neighbourhood. "We use a lot of West View bakery, a local bakery. We get all our sausage and ham from a friend across the street at a Polish sausage shop." This gives her strong control over the quality of her supplies, though her establishment was never explicitly all-organic. "That wasn’t anything that we advertised, just more of an inner experiment to see if you could do that."

Later, circumstances forced her to amend her policies on organic foods.

I wasn’t buying enough product to continue to be able to shop from the warehouse I was buying form. I would go and personal shop and buy small amounts. They changed how they operated and I couldn’t shop there anymore. In any case, we decided we could do organic consistently where we can. Coffee, tea, ground beef, all the grains, that kind of thing. It’s more the bulk, the structure of the meals, and not the extras.

The Roundel Cafe has served the neighbourhood clientele for several years with no particular high concept. For example, they serve drinks in mason jars.

We’ve been using mason jars as glasses for years. We started doing that because my glasses kept breaking, and I could buy mason jars down the road at the corner store. It was all about convenience. I found it kind of funny when I remembered hearing someone say, ‘Mason jars are really trendy these days.’

The sample meal was the Blue Goose 70 Mile House organic beef burger. The beef patty has a juicy, meaty flavour, and the lettuce, red onion and tomato are fresh and tasty. Unlike the hamburgers at many upgraded diners, the Roundel’s features a substantial whole wheat bun with sesame seeds, which greatly adds to the texture for a satisfying bite. No flimsy white-bread buns here. No French fries, either; the Roundel doesn’t have a deep fryer. Instead there’s a helping of roasted potatoes and yams, light and tasty, alongside a small green salad.

Dena recommends adding their home-made ketchup or hot sauce. The hot sauce in particular should satisfy those who like heat in their meals.

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.



Vancouver Film Locations: Robson Square

If you are a DC's superheroes aficionado, you are probably familiar with Robson Square and you don't even know about it. This Downtown plaza is very popular over at CW's production for shooting action sequences.

This Vancouver Plaza was a prominent part of the city ever since it was built in the 1980s. It houses the Provincial Law Courts, some of the government office buildings and partly the University of British Columbia. The plaza includes an outdoor skating ring with a modern glass ceiling in the lower level and three waterfalls that provide natural air-conditioning during hot months. With a marvelous space as this one, it's really no surprise film-makers love the place so much.

Here are the most popular TV show and movies that were filmed at Robson Square since its opening: 


Ladies first, so let's talk about the lady of CW'S DC family who found its home in Vancouver. Supergirl is a story of Kara - Superman's cousin, who was sent to Earth to guide him. By accident she lands way after he becomes a superhero. Not having any obligations to look after him anymore, she got adopted by a nice family, hid her identity and lived a happy life. Until now.


In episode 22 of the second season, Kara has to face a choice: to get rid of all the Daxamites terrorizing the Earth, but sacrifice her boyfriend Mon-El in the process, or let the Daxamites plunder her city while she comes up with a better solution. But it all gets a bit more complicated when Daxamites brainwash her cousin Superman and he tries to kill Kara. Fun, huh?


Their epic fight happens to take place on Robson Square, right in the middle of the fountain. So you have a water-drenched mad Kara Danvers winning over Superman in a blink of an eye because she has no time for distractions. The scene is packed with action to the fullest and Robson Square humbly takes the beating. 


The Flash

His name is Bary Allen and he is the fastest man alive. If you watched at least one episode of the series, you know the drill. He runs fast, his home is Central City and lightning gave him abs once. The Flash (played by Grant Gustin you may know from Glee) is another DC superhero who found his home on CW's network.


The Flash filming in Vancouver is a given by now. They love Vancouver so much, they feature various buildings as re-ocurring sets through the series. Robson Square plays an important part of Flash's home-town Central City as the Central City Square.


In the Christmas episode (2x09) Trickster (played by Star Wars very own Mark Hamill) dresses up as Santa Claus and hands Christmas presents to children at the Central City Square. But they don't call him Trickster for nothing. His neatly wrapped presents turn to be very special. Yes, they were bombs. Before all the happy kids and our beloved Robson Square have a chance to blow up, Flash shows up and saves the day with some help of our favorite anti-hero Lenny Snart. What a champ.


Legends of Tomorrow 

Take a bunch of misfits-turned-superhumans from DC's Flash, put them in a time-travelling spaceship piloted by Arthur Darvill (you may know him as the ever-dying Rory from Doctor Who, but he finally got his own TARDIS here) and you have a perfect group of people for a quirky show. After Avengers' huge success, superhero groups started popping all over the place as DC is trying so hard to have at least one hit in their portfolio of huge misses. But they have yet to succeed.


Legends of Tomorrow is a story about a time agent from the future called Rip Hunter who goes back in time to recruit a very colourful superhero/rogue group to help him save the future and his family. They are travelling back and forth in time while hunting the villain Vandal Savage who wants to take over the world. With a name like that, nobody's surprised. There's something seriously wrong with how they name kids in the future.


Robson Square is featured in the thirteenth episode of the first season. In this episode, the group travels to the future, just before Savage kills Rip's family, and they try to stop him. Needless to say, they don't succeed, since there are more episodes to come. They have a not-so-great time at Robson Square, where Savage is raising an army and giving a very alluring speech. Think 1944 Nazi Germany complete with rows of brain-washed soldiers and an evil man with funny accent screaming into the microphone.


The X-Files

Scully, you are not gonna believe this, but aliens did land in Vancouver! Ok, not quite, but David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson did walk the same path you might be walking on every day on your way to work. X-files is a cult classic about two FBI agents investigating paranormal cases and if you haven't seen any episodes, it's very likely you've been living under a rock.


The series introduced nine seasons running from 1993 to 2002 and later spawned two movies. In 2015 Fox decided to bring back the beloved characters with season 10 and revive the old filming locations in Vancouver which appeared in the early seasons of the show.


Scully meets her old colleague Monica Reyes in the last episode of season 10 at Robson Square which in this case represents the Washington Square for the purposes of the show. They chat about their "old friend" Cigarette Smoking Man who is -spoilers- alive after the debacle in New Mexico. The episode ends with a cliffhanger the size of New Mexico itself, so it's not that surprising they started filming in Vancouver again for a new season this April.



Staying in the sci-fi & FBI related Fox shows, Fringe is a bit like X-files meets science fair and Doctor Who. The plot tells a story of a fictional Fringe Division, which uses questionable science to investigate paranormal phenomenon & parallel universes. The whole plot revolves around the mad scientist Walter who was previously hospitalized for his dodgy experiments, his son Peter and FBI agent Olivia, who is in charge of the investigations and keeping the two guys sane.


In season four, Robson Square is used as Boston Plaza where the time-travelling Observers gather to discuss one of their own currently dying. It's a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, not a recurring set, but the style of the ice ring fits perfectly with the cold and futuristic theme of the series.


Shoot to Kill (Deadly Pursuit)

When a killer on the loose escapes to the mountains and infiltrates a group of hikers, cranky FBI agent is forced to team up with a mountain guide to catch him. Sidney Poitier as the city-dwelling FBI agent Warren Stantin and Tom Berenger as the wilderness guide Jonathan Knox are a great duo, providing a bit of comic relief in the otherwise action-packed movie.


The movie ends with the killer escaping through the mountains to Canada, namely to Vancouver. Stantin then stakes out at Robson Square to find him and this starts a very dramatically-sequenced gun chase through Downtown.



The Interview

The Interview is a crazy comedy telling a story of a tabloid talk-show host who wants more from his life. He wants to cover real news. He is in luck when Kim Jong-un reveals he is a big fan and invites him for an interview. It looks simple at first, but it soon becomes more complicated, when CIA agents show up at his door, asking him to assassinate Kim.


Robson Square plays the role of the Korean Presidential Palace in the movie. It undergoes heavy altering by the film crew. You'll be searching for that warm and welcoming feeling of this plaza for a long time after looking at the shots, but it's there. Unfortunately, the only thing that stayed the same are the stairs.


Tomorrowland is a sci-fi movie telling the story about the group of brilliant minds recruited by a mysterious pin summoning them to a strange futuristic place - Tomorrowland. A teen prodigy Casey and a former kid-genius Frank are together battling the odds and self-fulfilling prophecy which doomed the world to its end. Robson Square comes up at the end of the movie as Tokyo Square, where we are shown that more Tomorrowland pins are distributed through the world recruiting young talents from everywhere.


Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.



Things You Need to Know Before Buying an Old House in Vancouver

A West End home - City of Vancouver Archives

Though a fairly young city, Vancouver has its share of older houses. In 2011, out of 41,440 owner-occupied single detached homes, thirty per cent of them were built in 1946 or earlier.

Older houses present problems for the prospective buyer. Insurers may refuse to cover, or renew policies on, houses that have not been upgraded to modern standards. What follows is a list of known issues that a buyer should investigate.

Is your wiring up to date?

Modern lifestyles, full of appliances and entertainment devices, consume far more electricity than they used to, and the electrical systems of older houses, built when the cutting edge of domestic technology was a two-slice toaster, may be inadequate to the task.

Many old houses have knob and tube wiring, also known as K&T wiring or open wiring. Every house in North America built between 1880 and 1940 had K&T wiring, and "It is still present to some degree in the vast majority of occupied houses in B.C. that were built pre-1950." The copper wire was covered by a cloth and rubber insulation called "loom", and ran through porcelain knobs and tubes. K&T is ungrounded and can short out. Electrical service was often limited to 60 amps.

K&T wiring was not designed to handle modern demands, and can post a risk for fire hazards. If a system built for 15 amps is overtaxed and constantly blowing fuses, homeowners may install 25 or 30 amp fuses, which may cause the wiring to overheat. This makes the wire and insulation brittle and contributes to the risk of fires. Another problem comes from retrofitting modern outlets to older wiring systems.

Some insurance companies will increase their fees for houses with K&T wiring, or not cover them at all. Furthermore, unprofessional electricians may not know the requirements of this kind of wiring, and repair it with scotch or masking tape instead of professional electrical tape.

Homes built between 1965 and 1976 may have aluminum wiring instead of modern copper wiring. Aluminum wiring is susceptible to overheating and failure of terminals, indicated by discolouring near the wall receptacle, the smell of hot plastic, or flickering lights. Most of these problems occurred with 110 volt circuits for outlets and lights, not the 220 volt circuits for major appliances.

According to an essay by a master electrician, out of the 500 Vancouver houses more than forty years old he surveyed, 95 per cent of them had electrical fire hazards, which he attributed to "handyman tinkering" by non-professionals.

When selling houses, particularly old ones, realtors are obligated to educate the buyers and sellers about the kind of wiring. It requires a certified electrician’s inspection, and that finding will inevitably recommend replacing the wiring. Removal and replacement of the wiring for a 1500 square foot house can cost from $5,000 to $8,000, and take one week or more. Upgrading an existing electrical panel to 200 amps can cost about $1,200.

Beware of the UFFI

UFFI is urea formaldehyde foam insulation, a shaving cream-like foam that can be injected into and around electrical outlets, plumbing and other hard-to-reach spaces. During the energy crisis of the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Canadian homes were insulated with UFFI to reduce heating costs. However, homeowners afterwards reported respiratory problems, eye irritation, fatigue, and other symptoms, which Health Canada attributed to formaldehyde gas released from the UFFI. The insulation was banned in Canada in 1980, and later in the USA.

Whether UFFI actually releases enough formaldehyde to be harmful is debated, particularly cases in which the insulation was installed 30 or more years ago. The Canadian Cancer Association’s website says, "Homes that had UFFI installed many years ago probably do not have high formaldehyde levels now." A post on the website of Carson Dunlop home inspection services concludes, "urea formaldehyde foam insulation has not been shown to be a health concern." Health Canada also points out that UFFI can deteriorate when wet, and release increased formaldehyde if installed incorrectly.

Regardless, currently UFFI is banned in Canada. The presence of UFFI in a house can lower its price greatly, and prevent mortgage companies from financing it.

Always check for asbestos

Perhaps the best known dangerous house material, asbestos is an insulating agent known to be cause cancer and respiratory disease, and cannot be detected just by looking at it. Homes built before 1990 are more likely to have asbestos, in floor tiles, wrapped around furnace ducts or pipes, or in other areas.

Health Canada recommends that people reduce risk of exposure by hiring professional inspectors before altering their house. Often, the best response to pre-existing asbestos is to leave it be. WorkSafeBC recommends that asbestos should be identified and removed by trained professionals with protective gear, and that homeowners should contact their municipality to learn how to safely dispose of asbestos materials.

Homeowners should note that asbestos in a home may fall under the asbestos exclusion clause of an insurance policy.

The Professional Standards Manual of the Real Estate Council of British Columbia requires that sellers discloses the presence of UFFI and asbestos in properties. A hazardous materials survey can cost from $500 to $2000 or more, and removal of asbestos, depending on the type of material, can run from $400 to $15,000. Removal of UFFI can cost about $10,000 for an attic and between $15,000 and $20,000 for an entire house.

Vintage furnace is not always a win

Beginning in the 1930s, gas- and oil-powered furnaces were a major improvement over older, coal powered furnaces that had to be stoked. However, oil furnaces can be an environmental hazard and a fire risk, causing higher insurance costs. Forced-air gas furnaces and electric heat are much lower risks, and are more efficient too. A new furnace and re-routed ducts can cost about $8,000.

Another common feature of older houses is oil tanks for furnaces, whether indoors or outdoors, aboveground or belowground. Leaks from oil tanks can releases hundreds of litres of oil into the home or the ground, contaminating the soil and groundwater, or getting into the sump pump or floor drain. Many oil tanks corrode from the inside out, making their weakness invisible. As water in the tank sinks to the bottom, it may cause rust or corrosion where the legs attach. The only sign may be the odor of oil.

The presence of an old oil tank may cause the denial of homeowners insurance. According to a report from the Canadian Real Estate Association, "A home with an exterior oil tank older than 15 years, or an interior tank older than 25 years, usually will not be insured." British Columbia has standards for residential oil tanks in place, but voluntary guidelines for the maintenance and repair of installed tanks.

A paper from the environmental law clinic of the University of Victoria says that "B.C.’s Environmental Management Act and the common law can require the owner of a property that is a contamination source to pay for the cost of cleaning up that contamination and contamination of neighbouring properties." Insurance policies may have pollution exclusion clauses that keep them from having to pay for such spills. Removal of an oil tank from a basement costs between $350 and $500.

An older or heritage home may also be denied insurance if it has a roof has not been updated in the past 20 years, a wood-heating system, galvanized pipe or lead plumbing, lead-based paint, or problems with the septic or well installations.

Despite the issues with older houses, it is still almost always possible to get insurance, especially for people who already had insurance and are renewing policies. First-time buyers may need to turn to a specialty provider with higher premiums. Such houses also may take longer to insure, and buyers should start looking for coverage as soon as possible. Installing smoke alarms, sprinkler systems or monitored burglar alarms can also be rewarded with discounts.


Photo Essay: Best Vancouver Ice Cream Shops

It's summer, which means great ice cream shops have been popping all over the place in Vancouver. Every year, there are new and awesome artisanal gelato shops opening all over the city. But good ice cream is something that takes years to master and once you do, your patrons will be coming back no matter what new and exciting gelateria opened across the street. Here's how it looked in our personal favorite ice cream shops this summer.

A scoop from Rain or Shine

Rain or Shine

Location: 3382 Cambie Street or 1926 West 4th Ave

Ice Cream is a treat most people associate with happiness, childhood memories and summer. Rain or Shine is a company which wants to make you remember these happy days and relive them again, be it a sunny day or a truly rainy one. They specialize in making ice cream fun, while keeping the ingredients, fresh, local and natural, without added chemicals or flavours. They even have a list of local suppliers for you to read through, including Birchwood Dairy, Vancouver Olive Oil Company, Canadian Hazelnut Company, Campbell’s Honey and many more seasonal suppliers providing the freshest ingredients for your ice cream.

For those who can't choose just one or two from their variety of flavours, or those who are looking to stock their fridge for worse days, they have ice cream flights and whole pints on the menu.

Rain or Shine is a place that doesn't just sell the ice cream. They provide a place for people to enjoy each others company. This place became a true social hub for the neighbourhood. People from all over the place are coming in for a scoop. A big part of the charm is the friendly and always smiling staff working at the shop.

Rain or Shine is open every day from noon to 10 pm.

Earnest Ice Cream

Location: 3992 Fraser St or 1829 Quebec Street

What would make ice cream even better? Enjoying ice cream that comes from honest local sources in a place that cares for the environment. That's Earnest Ice Cream for you, a true environmentally-friendly ice cream shop in town, trying to become a first zero-waste ice cream shop in Vancouver.

They create their ice cream in small batches with the freshest of ingredients for you to enjoy in the shop or take home with you. They have a good selection of classic flavours like caramel, chocolate, and vanilla, but they also rotate a selection of seasonal flavours you really need to get before they are gone. With Flavours like Bourbon Peach or Blackberry Cheesecake, you can't go wrong. They even make innovative vegan options. At their shop, you can enjoy Vegan Chai, Vegan Strawberry Brownie or a vegan classic like Vegan Cookies and Cream.

They will also happily pack some ice cream for you to take home and make you feel good about caring for the environment. Their ice cream pints are packed into returnable and reusable jars that make them a true zero waste company. You can even find these pints all over the city, in your favourite coffee shops or restaurants. And every jar you bring back gives you a $1 store credit to use for your favourite ice cream flavour. Pleasure doing business with them, isn't it?

Both of their locations are open for you to enjoy Monday to Sunday from 12 pm to 10 pm. If you are not in the area, you can check all their pints distributor on their site.

La Casa Gelato

Location: 1033 Venables Street

When it comes to gelaterias, La Casa Gelato is the mother ship. Since 1994 these guys have been producing some of the finest gelato in town from their tucked away location in Strathcona. Now with more than 588 flavours (and counting), no one comes close to the variety and creativity of this elite creamery.

Forget about chocolate and vanilla. We're talking jalapeno blackberry gelato that is almost too hot to handle. We're talking aged balsamic vinegar gelato that tastes like balsamic vinegar. With 218 flavours available on site at all times, it would take hours just to sample all the options. Whether you're looking for something classic or for something completely off the wall, this place has got it. There's even apple wasabi gelato.

Usually packed with people and with dance-pop spreading around from the speakers, this is truly a unique ice cream experience and is worth visiting at any time of year. Funny moments, like the crowd taking a break from sampling the sweets to spontaneously dancing the Macarena is what happens here a lot.

Upon walking in the door, you buy a poker chip representing your desired serving size. You are then free to roam the store, sampling as many of the flavours as you like. When you find the one for you (or, if you're feeling lucky), you trade in your chip and get your scoop. When it comes down to it, making the final decision is nearly impossible. Thankfully, there isn't anything here which isn't worth having — even if only for the novelty of eating ice cream that tastes exactly like garlic. Yes, they have garlic flavoured gelato, and yes, you should try it.

You can test your taste buds and try all the flavours in La Casa Gelato 7 days a week, 365 days a year 11 am till 11 pm. Twelve hours should be enough to taste at least half of their flavours!

Meet The Photographer: Ricardo Vacas

Ricardo VacasRicardo Vacas

Ricardo Vacas, owner of the firm Kerp Photography, always showed intense interest in many forms of creative arts. His professional photography career started in his home country, Spain, where he was the official photographer of several music bands, models and clothing brands. He decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand in 2012, knowing his real interest was fashion photography more than any other field. Currently living in Vancouver, Canada, he now combines his fashion, editorial and commercial photography projects with regular trips to Europe and USA.