I used to love living in Kits. My husband and I had a great one bedroom and den condo that had a huge south facing patio. We literally invited our friends over at least once a week for a BBQ (Wednesdays became known for our “humpaques” - our mid week BBQ on “hump day”).
We both enjoyed walking, running or cycling to the beach. We felt spoiled to be able to walk to all the great produce markets, restaurants and stores along West Broadway and 4th.
But then we had a baby and suddenly our totally kick-ass-condo-for-a-couple, began to feel too small. It’s not that the actual baby took up a lot of space, but their accessories do! Our former den which had held a bookshelf, desk and swivel chair just fine, could now barely accommodate a crib, a dresser/change table combo and a rocking chair. Our living room decor now featured a play mat with dangly toys, a jumparoo type contraption and a baby swing. Forget about my former minimalist, modern look that featured a white L shaped leather couch and a turquoise accent wall. The accent colors now were green, red, yellow and blue all over making it look more like an explosion in the kid section of Ikea and nothing like a Restoration Hardware catalogue.
It was time for a house.
We couldn’t afford a detached house in our current neighbourhood so started looking East of Main street. We spent a lot of time driving around, checking out the different neighbourhoods. I wanted to be able to walk to a grocery store as well as other amenities, something that seems simple but once you have it, you take it for granted. We found a house that suited our needs close to Commercial Drive.
I have to admit that the first couple of times we walked down The Drive, I felt completely out of my element! Instead of the Lululemon clad crowd, it was an eclectic mix of people. Within the first few minutes, I walked by some guys with mohawks, some bra-less tank topped lesbians, a group of people covered in piercings and tattoos, and families pushing strollers. I definitely wasn’t in Kitsilano anymore.
I admit that I suffered from Westside snobbery, which I think really just stemmed from the unknown. I hadn’t spent any time on the East side, other than an occasional Saturday afternoon on the patio at Havana. It’s human nature to be wary of the unknown.
After having lived in the Grandview-Woodlands (Commercial Drive) area for over 4 years now, I have come to love it more than I ever imagined. It has a true neighbourhood feel, from the old Italian men playing bocci ball at Victoria park to the preschool moms playing with their kids on the playground at Trout Lake. You can find live music on the Drive almost any night of the week as well as fantastic cafes, restaurants and shops. With the skytrain you can be downtown in 10 minutes and as a parent, Science World is only one stop away which is a bonus!
We can walk to at least 7 different parks from our house and the new Trout Lake community centre and ice rink are awesome. From Italian Days to the Lantern Festival to the Parade of Lost Souls, there is always something family friendly happening in East Van.
Don’t be afraid to go East all of you Westsiders. Especially if you’re looking for a detached house to raise your family in. After all, probably half of us out East used to be just like you!