Granville Island in Vancouver is supposed to be the second biggest tourist attraction in Canada after the Niagara Falls. So my expectations were not very high when planning to visit the Public Market. I was taught a different lesson.
Granville Island is indeed a peninsula and we chose to walk from across the water along the Burrard Street Bridge, which was a mistake in the hot sun. The next time we took a water taxi a far more pleasant way to get there, faster as well.
The peninsula welcomes people with a friendly ambiance: not a lot of cars, everything colorful, yes businesses want to make money from visitors but do it in a non-obtrusive way. It is big enough to make discoveries but still small enough to manage the large cultural and market area by foot.
After entering the big red public market hall, I was surprised to see an ambiance which was not typical touristic. Every produce necessary for cooking at home was available: fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, not so much fish by the way. And for those who need to eat something on the spot, there are quite a few options, but the majority are still “regular” food stalls. The owners of the 50 or so stalls gave the impression that they had an interest in the high quality of their own products and making sure that it stays this way. It was a pleasure to look at all the stalls, not a single one left me behind with a feeling of being taken for a ride. The crowd was also quite mixed, no single dominant fashion statement, everybody can feel at ease.
I was deeply impressed on how a market, in such a touristic environment, is able sustain a very classic approach and not fall into the trap of making quick bucks from visitors and in consequence losing its charm. I think Pike Place Market in Seattle, the market halls in Chania and Rotterdam have not found or have lost this type of balance: staying true to itself and still being a tourist destination. The Granville market has a soul you can feel it in every single corner.
Who ever manages this market: congratulations!
I do not know what Canadian cuisine is, but here in the public market it was about diversity in terms of products as well as in terms of people.
Most of the fruit and vegetables seemed to come from the area and where nicely arranged by colors: the greens, yellows and reds had their own spaces in the booths giving an impression that they should form a flag of an unidentified country. It was berry season, and they were piled up in their little boxes reflecting somehow the nearby mountains with their peaks. One little mixed berry box came into my shopping bag and served the breakfasts of the following days.
The meat cuts were more North American style with lots of beef and the vendor I talked to was from Australia. The stall with English style hot pies produced on site had owners of Asian origins. At the “Kaisereck”, a stall with German sausages, perogies and sandwiches, I was served by a Mexican lady while I was chatting with her Swiss colleague at a booth owned by a German in Canada. What a small planet.
Bread and pastries were plentiful with strong French and Italian influence, still I lost track of all the variety. The salted caramel apple focaccia made us very happy, even a seagull – but this story is for later.
I am a cheese lover and one stall which caught my eyes as it had lots of raw milk cheeses, mainly from France and Italy. The ones from Canada, mainly from Quebec and a few from British Columbia were a bit hidden but found also their way into my bag. They definitely had character and made me happy.
The stock & soup stall left a lasting impression on me. Huge pots, like in a little archaic factory, were simmering along to produce broths & stocks from vegetables, mushrooms, veal, beef, chicken, lamb, bison & fish and gravy as well, plus the rich soups. I saw whole cooked chicken being teared apart in front of me, probably for a soup. I do not think having seen something similar at any market before, it was just great to watch the ongoing production while eating one of their soups with corn bread. A nose to tail approach in front of customers. Yes, they had also good vegetarian soups 🙂
While we were eating the salted caramel apple focaccia outside the market hall, a seagull came flying by and stole the piece on its way to the mouth of my daughter without injuring her. Great artistic performance but a bit annoying. And indeed pigeons and seagulls are waiting to find some food. But the market found the help of a falconer. Once per week he is there with a falcon on his palm, standing around and scaring seagulls and pigeons away. They keep distance while nervously watching the falcon and at times screaming to warn other birds. This keeps the place very peaceful during lunch hours. No bird is hurt as the falcon has been fed beforehand lacking appetite. Good idea, as I do not think that one would appreciate nature so close, meaning a falcon feeding on a seagull while you enjoy a sandwich.
And if you want to know something about habitat management ask the falconer, he is unbelievably patient answering questions.
All in all: The Granville Island Public Market In Vancouver / Canada is a great market for sure, full of quality & diversity and ambiance, serving daily needs as well as the hunger of tourists. A market with a soul.
A little link list:
- The official website of Granville Island Public Market, and some market tips
- The Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts of Granville Island
- The website of stock & soup producers “The Stock Market” which impressed me so much