I’ve always loved Gastown, even when it was seedy – maybe especially when it was seedy. My friends and I used to come downtown from Langley and sit for hours in the Talking Stick Cafe (now Cork &Fin) or La Luna (now Smart Mouth) with our sketchbooks and finish off the night at the Irish Heather (now l’Abattoir). We were always at the Heather, except when we were at the Cambie. In more recent years I have loved and frequenting the cocktail bars that go so perfectly with brick and cobblestone and ghostwriting and secret spaces and history in this town. Now we live here and we got married across the street because we love it so much. I wrote about it often on Smoky Sweet, my food blog (now defunct).
While it has changing and growing, I’ve realized that I am really starting to like it as a community. The fact that people live here is probably missed by most of the photographers in front of the Gassy Jack statue and that’s okay – I love hearing all the different languages in the street while I’m walking my dog and I even love catching snippets from the tour buses going by under our window in the summer. I could not give a Vancouver recommendation to a tourist that didn’t involve a stop in Gastown, but I also love the locals and the pace of the neighbourhood.
Since we got Riley we’ve spent a lot more time hanging out in alleys. I’d already seen all the gritty things that New York writers put in their books to be shocking, but now I know the names of some of the people and I leave jackets and toques out on days it isn’t raining.
Gastown was built on a bar so it’s only fitting that so many of the best ones are here and we’re not in them as often as we used to be but still love l’Abattoir, Wildebeest, Alibi Room, Pourhouse, Clough Club, Boneta, the Diamond, Bambuddha and Cuchillo. The Irish Heather is still here, thank goodness, it’s across the street now. We even have a David’s Tea and our own East Van Roasters coffee roaster now while we still frequent Milano and Revolver for coffee. I am in Opus way too often for art supplies and then in Salmagundi West and MacLeod’s Books for wandering and art inspiration. My One Yoga studio is only a block away, as is Gastown Tattoo and we have a dog park with a beautiful beach just on the other side of the tracks. It’s home.
As much as I love travelling, I also have a strong sense of home and place and community but I haven’t felt as tied to a neighbourhood as much as this one since I lived in Victoria. As we prepare to move to Seattle, there are many things to consider in a neighbourhood, and many things that we won’t even be able to know until we’re on the ground. The Ballard neighbourhood is reminds me a lot of Gastown so I look forward to exploring it regardless of where we end up, and I will also look forward to come back to visit.