Author Archives: Katarina Vanekova

Vancouver Film Locations: Chinatown

Chinatown in Vancouver is Canada's biggest Chinatown. It centres around Pender streets and spreads out towards financial and business districts. Once known for its neon signs, now it's more of a tourist attraction and the city of Vancouver is working on its restoration.

When it comes to TV and movies, it seems that comics characters love Chinatown the most. Here are all the ones shot in Chinatown:

The Flash

As we said in previous articles about filming locations, DC and CW tv loves Vancouver. Flash filmed in the vicinity of various Vancouver landmarks and the iconic Chinatown is no exception. Actually, it seems like The Flash is simply monopolizing the entire Downtown.

Legends of Tomorrow

Another CW's comics-inspired smash hit Legends of Tomorrow filmed in Vancouver's Chinatown. In fact, an iconic scene where Rip Hunter goes into sort-off a drunken vindictive rampage with Kid Flash filmed just outside Keefer street.


Supergirl

Supergirl has a long history of filming in Vancouver as well. If you look closely at the show, you can spot various Vancouver landmarks across the show.
In episode 21 of the second season, one of the most iconic scenes with Cat Grant, talking about our inner strength, being broadcasted across the sky of National City - the made-up home city of Supergirl- her face appears just above Vancouver's Chinatown. Cat delivered the inspirational speech that sparked the resistance movement and inspired the people even behind screens just near Shanghai Alley.

Another popular place is near Europa, where it's architecture works as outside of NCPD - a local task force in National City.

Arrow

To end the DC comics inspired streek, Arrow also shot a couple of scenes in Chinatown. As the first DC tv show, they've been filming in Vancouver since the pilot episodes and seems like the CW will not be leaving anytime soon. In fact, from most of the Arrow shots set in Vancouver, they just might think we have the best streets for action sequences. And they would be right.

Deadpool

Let's talk about Marvel for a change. The all popular movie about the favourite red and black anti-hero was almost exclusively shot at Vancouver. The home of the main hero is even in the movie set near the Chinatown. The real Vancouver Chinatown was for weeks of filming blessed by stars like Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin or T.J. Miller.

The emotional scene where Deadpool follows his girlfriend Vanessa down the street, about to reveal her that he's alive but has a disfigured face, is shot actually at Keefer Street and Gore Avenue.

iZombie

Zombie working in a morgue, solving murders? Yes, this show has it all.; Steady brain supply and a quirky plot. iZombie is another popular comic-inspired TV show that shoots in Vancouver.

You can recognise the streets of Chinatown in various exterior shots from the show. It seems that Seattle has officially moved to Vancouver for iZombie.

Vancouver Restaurants With the Longest Tradition: Anton’s Pasta Bar

Anton’s Pasta Bar is a Burnaby Heights landmark, famous for its enormous portions and the long lineups on the sidewalk outside.

The Italian restaurant was founded in 1989 by Antonio "Tony" Mauro. Hailing from Calabria, what would be the toe of the boot of Italy, Antonio spent his youth in the post-war era, selling wine. The east wall of Anton’s is decorated with framed pictures of young Antonio and his world, looking like stills from Bicycle Thieves and other Italian post-war films.

Antonio’s father emigrated to Canada before him. Antonio followed, taking the eleven-day boat trip from Naples to Halifax, followed by a six-day train ride to Vancouver. "I grew up in Chinatown, because Chinatown and Little Italy were side by side," he said in an interview recorded by UBC students. "I went to new Canadians class on Seymour street. I was learning Chinese instead of English, because in my class they were all Chinese boys, Cantonese. Nobody spoke English."


via Edward L. on Yelp

The west wall of Anton’s displays pictures of his early life in 1950s and 1960s Vancouver, running with his own "rat pack". While Vancouver’s Chinatown grew, the Italian immigrant community moved east. After working in various restaurants, Antonio started his own.

This was going to be called ‘Antonio’s’ because my name’s Antonio. But there was another restaurant called Antonio. We couldn’t use it. A lot of people used to call me Anton for short.

At the beginning, Anton’s had only a limited menu. "I did all my cooking, I did all my own fresh pasta, right from the start. I did the cleaning, I did everything. When I first started there was a very small menu, only three or four dishes," Antonio recalls. "I’d never taken cooking classes or anything. I knew how to cook, from my mama or my dad. We all knew how to cook in my family. But cooking is an art. You’ve got to be creative. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, but you have to like what you do."

Anton’s assistant general manager, Tony Obuck, says he views Antonio as a father figure. "I was teaching karate next door when the owner went by, and he introduced himself and said he was opening up a restaurant next door, and would I like a position in the restaurant?" he says. "I had just finished working at Expo 86 in the food department, so I thought this would be a stepping stone. It was all downhill, or uphill, from there." He became Anton’s first bartender.

After six years at Anton’s, Tony left to become a corrections officer, and worked in a variety of different security related jobs, including handling dogs for the RCMP. "The owner gave me a call about 11 years ago and asked me to give up my other two jobs, come back here and run the place." He says that his experiences in security, "prepared me for this."

While Anton’s menu has expanded greatly over the decades, growing to over a hundred dishes, it’s décor hasn’t changed. Tony says only this year do they plan to redecorate. "Nothing has changed here in thirty years. The paint, the tables, the cutlery. This year we’ve been able to make some changes for the very first time. We’re hoping in the summer to finish painting the restaurant."

The lack of change is because,

Restaurant owners are very, very superstitious people, one of the most superstitious in the world. To take down an award from Burnaby from last year and replace it with an identical new award dated this year, becomes very difficult for him to deal with. Some people just can’t deal with change.

The restaurant and hospitality business has changed in recent years, and Tony knows he has to manage Anton’s online presence. "We’re on page one, line one of Google. When you Google ‘Italian restaurants in Vancouver’ we come up instantly on the first couple of lines. It’s quite an honor. That’s why this place is always so busy."


Antonio "Tony" Mauro makes fresh pasta every day

The down side is that negative reviews, even posted with the customer is still at the table, can have a disproportionate impact. Tony is very proactive about responding to reviews.

I’ve got several alerts on my phone, like Trip Advisor and Yelp. Those actually beep me when a customer has just put up a review about Anton’s. We can have people sitting at their chair saying that they don’t like the service that they’re getting, while the server is right there. It can be kind of confrontational. Usually we just downplay it.

Anton’s is also active in the community. Every Christmas Eve, they do a free dinner for people from the Downtown Eastside, and during the spring Burnaby Heights Parade, they close down and serve chicken cacciatore outside, with the proceeds donated to Burnaby Family Life.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the massive portions served.

If they finish off the plate, they get a free pen. It’s quite a competition for a lot of people.

Tony’s recommended dish, the linguine con polpette, proved to be an intimidatingly large serving of linguine, red sauce and meatballs. The pasta had the light texture that comes from being made fresh, springy without being rubbery. The sauce was just on the edge of being tart, producing more subtle flavors, and the meatballs were a savory delight on their own. Unless you’re splitting the meal or carbo-loading before a marathon, you’ll probably take at least half the plate home with you.

On the way out, Tony provided helpful tips on how to serve the leftovers. "The pasta is too fresh to be microwaved without drying out," he said; "better to warm up some tomato sauce or juice on low heat and then heat up the pasta in that, which keeps it fresh."
 

Photo Essay: Vancouver Aquarium

Stanley Park has many popular places to lure in tourist and locals alike. Vancouver Aquarium, officially called also the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, is one of those places, where people can be sheltered from bad weather and also enjoy the marine life. It has has been opened in 1956 and was the first public Aquarium in Canada. Right now it's also the largest Aquarium in Canada and one of the largest ones in North America. It has amazing 97,000 sq ft and 9,500,000 litres of water housing the animals.

Marine Conservation and Rehabilitation

But the Aquarium isn't just a tourist trap. It's one of the leading centres for marine research, animal rehabilitation and conservation. They were one of the first to incorporate professional naturalists into the galleries to interpret animal behaviours. Right now they are focused on educating about marine plastic pollution and over-fishing. They also created Ocean Wise - the movement for a certified sustainably harvested seafood for the average consumer.

Despite extensive funds, that the Aquarium received from the state and the city of Vancouver, it remains a non-profit organization that has the main goal to help rehabilitate marine life. In a world troubled by pollution and global warming, we need more places like the Vancouver Aquarium in the world.

Animals and Exhibits

The Aquarium has many pavilions and parts that were built through the history of the Aquarium. Pacific Canada Pavilion is home to the animals from the coasts of Georgia. Canada's Arctic houses more cold-loving creatures.

There's an outdoor gallery called The Wild Coast, where you can spot Pacific white-sided dolphins and sea otters. It also houses a touch pool with some invertebrates that kids can make friends with and if you are lucky, you will be able to spot seals and sea lions in the exhibits too.
The Aquarium's only remaining dolphin Helen was rescued from tangling in a fishing net in Japan. She is distinctive enough due to her flipper, that was damaged while entangled in the net. If you've seen Nemo, you know what to imagine. She is currently about 30 years old and despite her damaged flipper, she lives a happy life.

This exhibit also homes 6 sea otter rescues; Tanu, that was abandoned as a pup, Katmai that was rescued near Alaska at only a few weeks old, Rialto, a male pup that was found near Rialto beach and Mak, Kunik and Hardy that were transferred to the Aquarium after their rescue and being deemed non-releasable back to the wildlife.

A viral Youtube video of two otters holding hands popularized the Vancouver Aquarium. These two otters at the video were Nyac and Milo. Nyac was saved during a big rescue mission and was one of the last surviving otters from 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spil. The virality of the video inspired the Aquarium to install an otter cam in their display. They added more animal cams through the years and you can watch them all on their website.

The Aquarium also participates in African Penguin breeding rescue called Species Survival Plan. You can meet these penguins at Penguin Point inside the Aquarium.
The Tropic Zone displays tropical fish, sharks and sea turtles. You can meet Schoona, a sea turtle that was found dying of a cold shock and rescued.

Amazon Rainforest part brings freshwater fish, snakes, caimans, birds and even sloths.
The Aquarium has around 300 species of fish, 30,000 invertebrates, 60 mammals and 56 species of amphibians and reptiles. Basically, if it swims in the water, you can probably find it in the Vancouver Aquarium.

Frogs forever?

Frogs Forever is an exhibit focused on problematic extinction of frogs, toads and salamanders in the wildlife. It displays endangered amphibian species and explains that it's possible we will lose half of the amphibian population in one lifetime if they keep dying out at current speed. They call it "the single largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs". If you want to learn how to protect the frogs and toads, head over to the Aquarium.

Shows and Events

The aquarium is hosting a numeral educational show, animal training, where visitors get to touch, play and even feed some of the animals. The daily programs usually last an hour or longer and are led by professional trainers.

You can listen to Rescue Stories, where rescue professionals explain how they help wildlife in distress, attend a Wet Lab exploration or watch a Sea Lion or Dolphin training, where they learn tricks and perform them for the public. You can also visit Imax 4D cinema and get an experience of watching some of the best animals documentaries with special effects.

The Vancouver Aquarium is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. The admission is $38 for an adult, $21 for a child up to 12 years and $30 for a student or senior. Children under 3 years have free entrance. You can also buy annual passes to the Aquarium or simply donate to their rescue organization.

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.

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Vancouver Film Locations: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden was the first "scholar" Chinese garden built outside of China. Designed by architects Joe Wai, Donald Vaughan and Wang Zu-Xin it was opened for public in 1986 and since then promoted the bridge between Chinese and Canadian culture.

No wonder many film-makers started using this garden build on principles of feng shui as a backdrop for their scenes. The exotic garden was often used for many outdoors scenes set in Asia, but also for some more fun and random scenes like a psychic's home. Here are some popular TV show that filmed on this spot:

Arrow

Arrow is the series that started off the DC popularity on the smaller screen. This dark superhero drama was the first experiment to transform the comics into a longer running format, that ultimately ended up suiting it better in case of DC's experimentation both with movies and TV shows.

There were two episodes of  Arrow where Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden took the main stage, both in season 3. First, it appeared as Master Jansen's Garden where the crew is looking for The Dark Archer played by nobody else than the iconic John Barrowman.

It made its second appearance as Botanical Garden in Hong Kong, where Oliver walked with young Akio Yamashiro talking about his parents, not being aware that they have been followed.

 

Legends of Tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow is one of those superhero groups that picks up all the rejected misfits from around the franchise and gives them at least a TV show to star in. Think of it as a Suicide Squad of the DC TV universe. Traveling in time, trying to right past wrongs, this group of questionable heroes is lead by Rip Hunter - a time soldier from the future, on a quest to save the Earth from the horrible fate he knows as his own timeline.

One of the most iconic scenes with the speedster Wally West happened exactly in Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden. The garden is set as Chinese monastery where Rip Hunter comes to recruit Wally West aka Kid Flash for his team of misfit superheroes. Wally is not keen on joining the group and the duo proceeds to get drunk and spill their secrets, steal a time courier and wake up with a raging hangover the next morning.

The Flash

The Flash began the new wave of DC shows not taking themselves too seriously. With a very healthy dose of humour to balance the dramatics of previously mentioned Arrow, but still showing an emotional connection to characters, Flash quickly becomes what's probably the most popular TV shows in the DC Universe. And of course almost all of it was filmed in Vancouver.

Big Sir, the falsely accused convict that Team Flash helps to escape from prison, gets his happy ending in the Chinese garden, which serves as a small Chinese village in this episode. Flash transports him here to hide him from the police and gives him a chance for a new life, leaving him an amusing note and a gift of freedom.

Lucifer 

From DC, let's move to the most charismatic TV devil of all times. The story of Lucifer who had enough of hell and decided to take vacation in L.A. became widely popular thanks to the performance of the handsome Tom Ellis.

Together with his ex-demon Maze and Detective Chloe Decker, they start solving cases. Because of course the Devil can't rest on the 7th day but has to punish the bad guys.

The show is mostly filmed in Vancouver. In the second season, Lucifer goes to question a suspect and Maze has to fight for them to get all the information they need. And it's quite hard to beat a demon, right?

Magicians

Magicians is a fantasy series telling a story about students at a magical university, trying to cope with the aftermath of magic and its complicated world. Dealing with heavy themes but still managing to maintain its fantasy feel, Magicians is a TV show for people that have no illusions about the college life but still loved Harry Potter when they were little.

In this case, the Garden is featured as streets of Shanghai, where one of the main characters, Penny, ends up lost, after some consequences of Advanced Spellcasting and discovers his new power.

Backstrom

We already wrote about the very unsympathetic detective Backstrom in the Marine Building Filming Location article. He is the modern Sherlock Holmes without the Cumberbatch charm who solves cases nobody else wants or can solve.

The Chinese Garden here plays a role of a psychic's den, where Backstrom comes to question her about a recent murder, discovering some gambling dens and somr definitely fake powers in the process.

Continuum

Continuum is one of those rare shows that are actually canonically set at the city they filmed it in. As the detective Kiera Cameron from the year 2077 is trapped in present-day Vancouver tracking very dangerous criminals from the future, she crosses paths with young Alec Sadler, a teenage genius, who aids her in her quest and adaptation to the world she knows only from history books.

As said, the show is set in Vancouver and filmed here as well. So there weren't really many changes they have done to the city in the scenes set in the present day. The Chinese Garden stays the same as we know it now, maybe with a slightly better lighting through the scenes.

 

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.

KVRVCR