I spent my last few hours in Vancouver recently in Granville Island Market, one of the city’s greatest attractions, and I enjoyed every bit of it.
I’ve always been attracted to food markets. During my travels abroad, I’ve visited markets in Thailand, Laos, China, Vietnam, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, France, Morocco and Israel, among other countries. By comparison, Granville Island Market is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of exploring.
On an overcast Saturday afternoon last month, I walked to the market from my hotel in the downtown core, a distance of about six kilometers. I went up Granville Avenue, which is both trendy and sleazy, and began crossing the busy Granville bridge.
Having reached the middle of the bridge, I took in the panoramic vistas of the shed-like building that houses the market, the marina and apartment complexes of False Creek, the ocean-going freighters anchored on Burrard inlet and the forested mountains beyond.
I’m certain the views would have been even more spectacular had the sun been shining.
I reached the market area, a jumble of low buildings beneath the bridge, in about 40 minutes. I headed straight for the market, which is adjacent to a maze of cozy shops, cafes and restaurants.
It was not my first visit. I was here 10 years ago while celebrating my birthday in Vancouver with my family. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be back in a place that had left me with fond memories.
Being a Saturday, the market was crowded with shoppers and curiosity seekers like myself. I would have preferred a quieter day, but pressed on.
My first stop was at a produce stand. The sight of brightly-colored apples from the Okanagan Valley — which my wife and I once drove through — and mounds of luscious-looking strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries from the Lower Mainland was mesmerizing. Unable to resist, I bought two overflowing pints of strawberries (which I managed to bring to Toronto the following day).
As I wandered around, smitten by the rich bounty of British Columbia’s farms, I passed fishmongers whose wares were displayed on beds of chipped ice and vendors selling coffee and tea and enticing selections of local and imported cheeses and salamis.
I lined up at a bakery brimming with an array of breads, rolls, pastries and cakes, but left the queue because it was moving so glacially. I couldn’t complain. The wonderful baked goods I had already feasted my eyes on had reinforced my buoyant mood.
I paused at a bagel-and-lox takeout. The mountain of sesame bagels, fresh out of the oven, looked positively delicious. I wondered whether they could compare in quality to the unforgettable bagels I’ve bought at the Fairmount Bagel Bakery in Montreal, one of the finest in North America. I didn’t buy any bagels, since I had already had lunch.
After about an hour of wandering the aisles of the congested market, it was time to leave. As I waited for a ferry boat to take me back to the mainland, I sat on a bench and admired Vancouver’s sleek, ultra-modern skyline.
The ride across False Creek was surprisingly fast. Within a few moments, I was back in downtown Vancouver, far from the hustle and bustle of a great market I will surely visit again one day in the future.