Gastown

“Gastown!!? Take a wrecking ball to this place!!” Hard to imagine that this rugged, raw, and real gem of Vancouver’s downtown was almost completely demolished in the 1960s. But the spirit of survival, rejuvenation, and perseverance presses on from its humble beginnings, throughout it’s 150 year history, and is still the calling card of today’s Gastown. That's what attracts so many people to this treasured 'hood, both tourists and locals alike, into a playground of packed pubs, delicious eateries and a unique street energy only felt in this cobblestone district.

What began as a simple lumber mill amongst wilderness, was injected with life when ‘Gassy Jack’ Deighton arrived in 1867 and built a tavern for the working loggers. Not only did he spark some liquid life into the area, but the logger citizens paid homage by insisting that the area formerly called Granville, forever be known as Gastown instead. Like Gassy Jack, the area has had some highs and lows over its history. But recently, it has thrived into a rejuvenated neighbourhood that still wears its scars proudly from years past, and these scars give it its soul.

What used to be the ‘rough part of town’ is now home to creative minds, eclectic spirits and residents proud to ‘keep it real’. But don’t worry, a mix of hipsters and street people interplay beautifully amongst the cobblestone streets and ancient lampposts. As you walk through the alleyways and streetscapes, there is a certain harmonious juxtaposition that continues to draw you. For instance, you can grab a morning coffee and decadent chocolate treat at the socially conscious East Van Roasters that provides training and employment for female residents of the Downtown Eastside’s Rainier Hotel. Or you can head to the wonderfully luxurious flagship store of Kit and Ace and purchase a new cashmere creation from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s wife and son duo that is expanding faster than a yoga master’s ligaments.

Alleyways create the entrances to many establishments, making it a bit of a mystery of whether you are about to discover something recklessly urban or the next great spot. Foodies will find heavenly eats along Blood Alley and Trounce Alley.

As the tourists surround the famous steam clock landmark, awaiting that photo opportunity, the locals are blowing off their own steam at many of the fantastic pubs with patios that give a European square motif with a West Coast flare. Doing a Gastown Pub Crawl may be the best way to experience it all, and feel free to stumble into neighbouring Chinatown while you are at it.

Integrate yourself within the spirit of Gastown and raise a glass – the appropriate way to honour Gassy Jack – the man who started it all.

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