Return to Vancouver

On my first morning back in Vancouver, I turn right out of the house in Kitsilano, look north and there they are -seemingly at the end of the street: Vancouver's three great mountains - from left to right - Cypress (or Hollyburn) Grouse and Seymour -all snow-covered on this rainy morning down in the city.

I've left the mayhem of London - of Ealing to be precise. I'm no longer one of the teeming crowd that stream out of Ealing Broadway station every minute of every day. I'm far from the smells of the falafel shop on the corner and the gloom of the shopping precinct where every week seem to bring another vacated premise. I've exchanged the possibility of a London day - a quick hop on the Central Line and in 25 minutes, there's the British Museum - for the green, peaceful streets of Kitsilano - once Vancouver's answer to the hippy Haight Ashbury in San Francisco.

Now the evening offers "Marley and Me" at the family-run Art Deco, Hollywood Cinema on Broadway - $6 on Monday for a double bill - Marley is followed by "The Day the Earth Stood Still." It's a far cry from trying for a ten quid standing place at the Royal Opera House but I'm relieved to be gone. Nobody here is braying about dead reality tv performers. Nobody cares about the bloated over-paid likes of Jonathan Ross or Fred Goodwin.

When I shop, I don't have to rely on Mr Sainsbury, Mr Waitrose, Mr Tesco or Mr Asda to feed me. Broadway, the main street round the corner boasts half a dozen excellent Chinese greengrocers - mangos at 50p and the owners all know me and ask how I am. Coffee at Whole Foods costs 90p. Add to that, a chocolate-raspberry tart and it's five minutes of paradise, Crab cakes at the Seven Seas fish store are as good as in any restaurant and cost less than £2. Terra Breads in the same block sells a walnut bread that surpasses any I've tasted in Paris.

And all the while the snow falls on those mountains and the forests of great cedars and pines, the Pacific laps at the end of the street and there's not a red-top tabloid newspaper in sight.