Vancouver is, just as the tourist blurb and word of mouth alike claim, a city blessed with a breathtakingly beautiful location between the mountains and the ocean, mild weather (though they complain about six months of rain) and wealthy, educated, multicultural population.
Driving into the city (we skipped the train, which I still regret a bit, and got a rideshare from a good humoured and intelligent maths' post-grad) I have an intense feeling that, for the first time since we left Toronto almost a month ago, we are entering a civilised area - civilised meaning developed, densely populated and with enough cultural variety and resilience to support a degree of sophistication that is not matched anywhere across Canada until you reach the eastern seaboard cities (and specifically and possibly only, Toronto and Montreal).
The city feels comfortable and content, even more than content. Smug is would not be a far off description here in fact. It's not a very overt smugness, but detectable in the general attitude, in the expressions, in the accent even.
But they have a reason for that: Vancouver is a pleasant city indeed, with an impressive but not too overwhelming downtown core (which reminds me of Montreal), wonderful location and some fantastic features that any city would be proud of, from the landscape around it to the cafe culture, great universities and cultural institutions, and Stanley Park in the middle of it all. Altogether, a place where anybody who would consider living in a big city would probably be fairly happy to live in.
Inhabitans of Vancouver never tire of telling you that it's one of the few cities in the world where you can ski in the morning and sail on the ocean in the afternoon (or the other way round), and this dynamic, typical for British Columbia as a whole, is concentrated in Vancouver's position.
It's a new place and it feels new in more ways than one: there is a cool urban edge to at least parts of the city, although large parts of the inevitable sprawl are as staidly suburban as anywhere.
The buzz of Vancouver is partially due to the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character of the city, with a large proportion of population having South-East Asian background, but with many other European, African and Asian influences producing a vibrant, open, but also pretty chilled out mix.
All in all, I enjoyed our time in Vancouver very much and it's not surprising the city is so popular among visitors to Canada. Vancouver is not all that's to urban Canada, as some tend to think, especially those who never went east, but it's a unique place of its own, and eminently worth at least a few days (and you might want to stay for life).