The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #232

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 25 2014 @ 1:00pm

VFYWC-#-232

A reader scans the photo:

I have no idea where this week’s VFYW is taken and I am so glad I don’t live there.

Another heads down the yellow brick road:

I was lost on this one until I started watching The Wizard of Oz last night. It’s obviously “The Amethyst City” – the Emerald City’s less known, contrasting and under-appreciated rival.

Another seizes upon the right clue for the wrong city:

Sure looks like that street sign at the bottom of the picture says Grand. So I’ll say Chicago. But I realized I now need to delve deeply into the exact block of the exact street, and my OCD doesn’t work that way. So I’ll let somebody else figure that out.

Another reader flags Grant Street in Dallas. Or is it in Asia?

Millions of empty balconies … dumbfounded by searching Hong Kong high rises. Let’s go further south for better air and patio palm trees to guess … Singapore? I bet they have windows there.

Other incorrect locales with windows this week include Perth, Miami, Bangkok, New York and Panama City. But this reader wrongs his way to the right country, at least:

Toronto would be my best guess.

Our northern neighbor is right, but that’s the wrong side. Another reader just wants “a mention as an also-ran if I have the right city.” Done:

Every time I see the contest, I almost always think that it’s Montreal unless some feature makes that impossible. But today, I was certain that it was Toronto at first. The tall buildings look like the condo buildings that stand along Highway 401, but I’ve seen structures like these in images from Vancouver as well. Looking at the street sign at the bottom of the image, it seems to announce Granville and that made me think of Granville Island, which is across from Vancouver. Google says there’s a Granville Bridge in Vancouver, so that is likely what the sign is announcing. So my money is that we are looking at Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ok, I got a little excited and started looking at Google Maps and even downloaded Google Earth, but that’s when I decided to pull back on the crazy. I’ll let someone else go through the trouble of providing photo evidence and finding the right window if that is the correct city.

Another correct guesser seems pretty happy:

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Another reader lets us know how much they appreciate the contest “even when it’s boring”:

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I look forward to this contest every week. I love exploring new places (even virtually) and the VFYW has led me all over the planet on a quest for victory. It’s a great way to kill a few hours each weekend.

So it’s with that qualifier that I proclaim my disappointment in this week’s challenge. Is there a major city less architecturally interesting than Vancouver? It seems that every high-rise in the city is more boring than the next. Can you imagine coming home drunk to this complex of buildings? Would you even be able to figure out which was yours?

There’s a name for it, too:

I immediately recognized the buildings in my hometown, which are very typical of our city. There is even an architectural style that has been coined “vancouverism” based on the glass towers and urban design principles. Vancouver is a fantastic city and with a great downtown for a mid-size city. That is what makes it one of the of the most attractive places to live and unfortunately one of the most expensive.

Another reader floats another term: “One look at this photo and you can’t miss the Vancouveriness of it.” Another channels Lionel Richie to nail the hotel:

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We are looking out of a window of the Best Western, 718 Drake St, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  This side overlooks Granville Street.  I’m not going to bother the good employees at the hotel to find out the exact room number.  Leave those poor people alone.

I was tearing my hair out for a while on this one.  Looks like America, but not enough markers to identify.  Not big enough to be New York, too new to be other Northeastern cities, trees not tropical enough to be southern, but that patio to the left has some tropical-looking plants, and the satellite dish is pointed way flat.  The tiny bit of street sign taunted me – Gran___, Gram___, maybe even Grar___? Finally, like a thunderbolt, I thought “maybe Granville?” because it looks like there might be an I or L hiding behind those leaves. Thus Googling “granville street” gave me Vancouver, and following along Granville on street view brought me to the mansard roof of the old Yale Hotel, newly renovated.

The lesson?  When it kind of looks like America, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, try Canada.

This reader notes another helpful clue:

Tricksy Dish! You present us with a sunny, verdant urban scene and a slightly odd-looking (to American eyes) traffic light with a street sign beginning “Gran.” Southern Hemisphere? “Gran” could be Spanish or Portugese … maybe Sao Paulo? Buenos Aires? Or perhaps English, “Grand” or “Grant” or something. Melbourne? Johannesburg?

The light is the giveway. Only one bunch of weirdos puts up yellow traffic lights with yellow frames: Canadians! Assuming the photo is roughly current, the lack of winter hellscape tells you it must be Vancouver. Which happens to have a Granville Street – the original main street downtown, in fact – on which there is one building with a mansard roof, at the corner with Drake Street.

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Of course, we got a deeper explanation as well:

I’m sure there were a hundred ways to solve this, but my reasoning went like this:

1. It’s a cold weather, North American city during the summer, based on the new construction, street lights the fact that residents appear to actually enjoy opening windows.

2. Speaking of street lights, what idiot would put bright yellow on the traffic light backplate? Isn’t the whole point of those to provide a nice, dark background to give contrast to the signal?

A search took me to this thrilling read, “Making Intersections Safer: A Toolbox of Engineering Countermeasures to Reduce Red-Light Running: An Informational Report” (pdf):

In British Columbia, Canada, an evaluation was conducted of high-intensity yellow fig316retroreflective tape on the backplates of signals at six intersections on an arterial in Saanich (36). The authors hypothesized that the framed signal heads would be more visible to motorists at night and the safety of the intersection would improve. Figure 3-16 shows a daytime photograph of a signal head with the high intensity tape around the backboard.

A comparison of crash frequency for a three-year period after installation, compared to one year before, showed that the number of night crashes stayed the same the first year (14 crashes) but decreased significantly (five and three crashes) in the subsequent two years. Volume levels actually increased in each of the four years (36). The use of retroreflective tape on the backplate is contrary to the MUTCD standard requiring a dull black finish. Hence, its use in the United States would require experimentation approval from FHWA.

3. The only big city I know of in British Columbia is Vancouver.

A Vancouverian shares his team-up process:

Now, when you said that it was going to be an easy one this week, I didn’t expect it to be this easy … especially as it’s just down the street from my office.  The window this view this week is taken from the Best Western Plus Hotel at 718 Drake Street (at Granville Street) in Downtown Vancouver.   The “Granville” sign is barely visible in the left hand corner.  I’m going to guess the 9th floor, let’s say Room 904 – but I’m never very good at pinpointing the exact window:

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Anyway, when this week’s VFYW contest came out, I had to hurry over and text my friend, fairly recently relocated from Vancouver to Toronto to check it out.  You see, the contest has been part of a weekly ritual which inevitably sparks a round of texting before we either find the solution, give up in frustration, or otherwise go about our daily business.  Now, I think this might be the first one he’s actually written in with an answer (I’ve got maybe 4 or 5, with perhaps 3 or 4 where I’ve found the window but been too lazy to actually email).  He was going to write about the famous jazz bands (and Jeff Healey) at the Yale Hotel across the street, maybe the strippers at the Drake next door (now demolished and replaced by a rather forgettable condo building), maybe Yaletown and its yuppie denizens.

I said I was going to write in about the fact that the Best Western is located above a “White Spot”; he responded that he would have no way of describing why British Columbians seem to have an unnatural affinity for “O Sauce”.  For those not in the know, White Spot is a local chain of restaurants where people my age seem to bring their white-bread grandparents for burgers and fettucine alfredo in this town where Asian food dominates.  It’s also the place where you can get a Pirate Pak.  Every year, thousands of Vancouverites line up for Pirate Pak day, which is the one day when adults can get your hamburger in a cardboard boat (I believe some of the proceeds go to charity), reliving the times our parents would drive up to the White Spot and we’d wait for our Pirate Pak to sail into the waiting car on a long wooden plank (50’s drve-in style).  But sadly, my friend grew up in Toronto, where they do not have such Pirate Paks and therefore his gustatory senses are ill-developed and lacking.

In any case, we’ve been doing this VFYW thing on and off for a few months now, but the contest has been a nice little way of keeping in touch – even with 3,000 miles between us, it’s nice to know that we can still share the same view from our windows.

A history lesson from a reader:

Since many VFYW entrants tend to share some trivia about the current week’s city, I’ll assume that George Vancouver will be well covered, and will do some research on John Sebastian “Cross-street” Helmcken. A ship’s surgeon for the Hudson Bay Company, Helmcken settled in colonial British Columbia in the 1850’s, and rose to relative prominence as a businessman with a political savvy, eventually chosen to join a group of British Columbians to negotiate terms of confederation with Canada. At that time, the US and Canada were both suitors for British Columbia’s statehood/provincehood, but Canada offered to forgive the colony’s debt AND give them a railroad. I wouldn’t kick that offer out of bed, either, though as a Seattleite, I’d likely ask for more monorail.

Another invents his own game-show prize:

If I get close enough and win the contest this week, I hereby promise – on my motherLine-of-sight and fathers’ good names and reputations – that I will finally do that which I’ve wanted to do for a long time and visit Vancouver within six months of Tuesday’s reveal.  I will also don a Dish shirt while there and buy a beer for any self-identified Disheads I cross paths with when visiting the local pubs (two beers if they sport a beard). I will send photos to prove I made the journey.

Meanwhile, Vancouver is clearly a favorite city for many:

There are so many nice things about Vancouver that it’s hard to list them all here – Stanley Park, Gastown, the skyride up to Grouse Mountain, the Granville Island Farmers Market. What I love most about the city is its unparalleled setting among the inlets and bays of the Salish Sea with the dramatic backdrop of the mountains towering above the city just north across the harbor. My favorite memory of the city, though, is awakening on a boat sailing north just off the city’s west side and witnessing an escort of killer whales just off our beam. That is a sight you never forget.

Also:

I’ve been to Vancouver a million times (usually before and after a week of snowboarding at Whistler). It is one of the most beautiful, most livable cities in the world and among my favorite places to visit.

Another fan:

I’m no good at the Google Earth searches that your other readers like to do.  I wanted to respond, however, because of my love for Vancouver.  My husband and I visited the city in the summer of 2010 as part of our “baby-moon” (the trip you take before your first child arrives), and it immediately became the city where we would move in the event someone like Rick Santorum ever got elected president.

And another shares her shadier memory of the city:

The lovely street view of the Yale Hotel across the street reminds me of a story: When I lived in Seattle (mid 90s-mid 2000s), my friends and I used to drive up to Vancouver to go to this club that hosted a monthly goth/play party (light BDSM, if you must know). It was a ton of fun and one of the highlights of my misspent youth.

On one occasion, we decided to go up at the last minute – there must have been a convention or a Canucks game going on, because every. single. hotel. was booked. So we decided to chance it and stay at a hostel-type place in Gastown (mistakes #1 and #2). In the mid-late ’90s, this area was total crap – hookers, needles, the works. Yet we pulled up to the place and said, “to hell with it” and gave it a chance. We climbed the creaky staircase to our room: dirty blankets, dirty carpet, no towels, one light bulb, a couple of cots, and a smelly twin bed with a deep, deep impression in the center of the sagging mattress. I still can’t recall who drew the short straw for the twin bed, but the door locked securely so we stayed. The bathroom down the hall, however, was a different story: Trainspotting had nothing on this disgusting, feces-strewn hole. There was vomit everywhere and the floor was flooded from a backed-up toilet.

Needless to say, we held it. Later, when we returned during the early hours of the morning, we collapsed – fully dressed – on our crusty beds and listened while the sirens passed by. Fun times.

More on the neighborhood as it was:

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This is a real mix of the old and new cities. Until 30 years ago, the land all those condo towers are on was at the seedy end of Seymour Street. When I lived in Vancouver as a young adolescent, that was a noted part of the red light district. Next door to the Yale Hotel was the equally legendary Cecil, noted for its strip club. If memory serves the Best Western itself stands on the site of another hotel with another strip club. That one I remember hazily from my university days – I can’t recall the club’s name, but I do remember that it served one of the best – and cheapest – hamburgers in town.

Redevelopment started in the mid 1980s with the Expo 1986 project, and soon enough the neighbourhood filled with shiny new towers. But the old city is still there – the Yale Hotel survived despite the demolition of the Cecil for another condo tower, and when I lived a couple of blocks away at Seymour and Helmcken, the concierge at our condo would routinely shoo the sex workers away from the front doors.

And more on the hotel in the above photo:

The heritage building in the foreground is the old Yale Hotel, one of Vancouver’s oldest and most distinct buildings: “The historic building was built in 1888, when the City of Vancouver was just two years old. The Yale’s red brick façade, mansard roof and neon signs make it one of Vancouver’s most distinctive buildings.” For many years The Yale housed a famous, world-class blues club which is now closed, but the building just underwent an extensive historical renovation as part of a condo project (everything in Vancouver these days is a condo project).

Chini reveals that easy weeks like this one just give him time to pursue his white whales:

VFYW Vancouver Sim City View Marked - Copy

A confession; I’m not really annoyed when we get easy ones like this. Sure, you look forward all week to the contest and then on Saturday, wah-wah-wah waaaaaaaah, it’s a 60-second special. But rather than pout, I simply go back to old views that I’ve never found. In fact, for over a year now I’ve been looking for one view in particular and, based on this weekend’s results, that search is far from over. So congrats to the newbies who got their first win in Vancouver. I was elsewhere, Ahab-like, hunting for the view that got away.

If it makes anyone feel any better, Chini circled a window on the wrong side of the hotel this week, but clearly his mind was elsewhere. Speaking of which, a reader sent this in too:

A guy asked a gal to Best Western Hotel,
She eagerly joined the amorous rube.
By midnight his prospects were shot all to hell,
She’d come to see “Shane” and “High Noon” on the tube!

While we’re off topic:

As a side note to Andrew following his post on “lumbersexuals”, have you seen the logger and Coat_of_arms_of_Vancouverfisherman on the City of Vancouver Coat of Arms?  Would you initiate a campaign to persuade the City Council to restore proper beards on these hardy fellows?  They’ve been clean-shaven since 1969 and someone with your influence is needed to address this error in judgment.  I’d do it, but I’ve got to finish eating the tray of Nanaimo bars that I made last week.

Amazingly, one of the only readers to nail the right window just happened to be a long-winless veteran:

Well, going into this Saturday, I knew that if I wasn’t able to find this week’s window that the responsibility would be all mine. Two weeks in from surgery, I’m completely tied to my bed at home as I’m hooked up to IV and monitors, so I knew I’d have the time with nothing else to do. Seeing the photo, I was sure it would be a quick one, but sloppy searching meant it took a day longer than it should have.

My initial thoughts looking at it was that it was obviously a North American city that isn’t too temperate. My gut was that it was a Canadian city, or maybe one of the newer construction areas on the north side of my own city, Chicago. That little bit of the street sign that was showing told me it probably wasn’t Chicago — most streets in Chicago have information such as the block number and direction on the left of their signs — but I knew that some larger thoroughfares in New York had a similar layout. I had a distinct feeling that it was Vancouver, but the significant amount of new construction since my last visit and a sloppy Google Earth trip down the only street beginning with “Gran” meant I wrote it off and spent the next full image1day going down the list of every large major city in North America and their “Gran” streets. After striking out again and again, I went back to what my gut originally said and spent some serious time searching through Vancouver. It was ultimately finding the Grace Tower, which is seen in the background but wasn’t existing last time I was in the city, that confirmed Vancouver as the correct city. From there, I took a much more careful look at Granville St., and was able to find the location that I had so carelessly blown past 24 hours earlier.

The picture is taken from the Best Western Plus Downtown, located at 718 Drake St in Vancouver, BC, V6Z (note: that’s pronounced the correct way, “zed”!) 2W6 Canada. The window is on the southeast side of the building, looking over Granville St and facing out toward the Grace Tower. I was unable to find a map of the hotel, so I will circle where I think the picture was taken from. It’s truly a guess, as I estimate that the photo was taken between 65 and 80 feet above street level.

Awesome guess and a well-earned win. Meanwhile, the reader who sent us this week’s photo says she was was once an aggrieved player:

You used my photo of Vancouver for this week’s contest!  Thank you. I guess that means I must forgive you for mocking me for identifying Mexico City when the photo was taken in a city in China.  For that particular contest I was the only one who thought it was in the western hemisphere, having completely missed the Chinese writing on the wall.

The particulars on this photo:  I took it facing southeast (I believe) in the early morning from room 708 at the Best Western Downtown Hotel, 718 Drake Street, Vancouver, BC.  The street sign that is partially visible in Granville Street.  My son and I were in the city for the SIGGRAPH conference, an international gathering of folks in the animation industry.

I’ve been subscriber for over a year.  Thanks for the great blog.

And thanks for the great submission. Also, for the 150+ readers who entered this week, see if you can spot your guess in this week’s collage:

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See everyone on Saturday!

(Archive: Text|Gallery)