In a city still basking in the warm glow of worldwide adulation, the Olympic village positively gleams; a conglomerate of condos looking impossibly cool in the noon sun. Amid the maze of buildings seemingly conjured by a genie with a penchant for glass and steel, brand-new streets have been carved out of landfill and on the bones of old industrial warehouses. Everything is clean and shiny and platinum LEED - there are self-monitoring buttons inside the condos that turn red when you have used too much energy and green when you have kept to your limit. Southeast False Creek is a heady neighbourhood-in-waiting: From the glory of international sport, it is evolving into a destination that will attract more than curious tourists wandering along the seawall.
Since it opened to the public on May 15 - after several months as a forbidden Olympic site - 26,000 visitors have come for a look. It's not yet bustling, but those who come congregate on the waterfront. Here lithe locals bicycle, walk and rollerblade to their heart's content along the seawall that connects them to Yaletown across the water and Granville Island and Kitsilano to the West. They can explore this one-time Olympic village, then drift out to its urban edges for a whole new experience.
And perhaps that's the thing that makes the area so intriguing. The boundaries, indeed the very identities, are fluid and ever changing. Vancouver - the Terminal city on the edge of the Pacific - is the ultimate New World town.
ICE CREAM SOCIAL
The closest thing the Olympic village has to a neighbourhood hangout is Amato Gelato - where a cross-section of locals and ice-cream lovers from other 'hoods come to savour dozens of mouth-watering flavours. As an odd aside, the upstairs area is a popular spot for wedding party rentals. 78 East 1st Ave.; 604-879-9011; www.amatogelato.com
Speaking of rentals, the Party Bazaar on West 2nd Avenue, a holdover from an earlier era, is the best place to find a clown suit or a Nixon mask (or say, a Pride costume) on short notice. 15 West 2nd Ave.; 604-873-5241; www.thepartybazaar.com
If you're worried this Olympian mini-city has no soul, head east and then north a bit to the stretch of Main that encompasses the Pacific Railway building (check out the Wednesday-afternoon farmers' market that has slowly replaced more narcotic recreations - a true sign of a neighbourhood sea change), as well as the Ivanhoe (a classic gin joint newly refurbished), the next-door Campagnolo's (a chic new eatery designed by Marc Bricault), and across the street the old Cobalt hotel where a former strip club has transformed into an edgy new live-music venue called the 917. Ivanhoe hotel: 1038 Main St.; 604-681-9118. Campagnolo's: 1020 Main St.; 604-484-6018; www.campagnolorestaurant.ca. 917 Main: 917 Main St.; 778-918-3671; www.thecobalt.ca
STURDY SHE GOES
If you go south up to 5th Avenue - you can find furniture, jewellery and various stylish objects of desire by local designer Martha Sturdy in this showroom and gallery. The burnished-metal exterior riffs on the warehouse/industrial vibe that still prevails here. 16 West 5th Ave.; 604-872-5205; www.marthasturdy.com
Should all that New World architecture inspire some Levantine longings, head to the newest Nuba on East 3rd. A recent addition to its Yaletown and downtown siblings, this Nuba serves the same lovely Lebanese cuisine and features an adjoining deli. Its exotic seventies roadside-café-inspired interior was designed by Scott Cohen. 146 East 3rd Ave.; 604-568-6727; nuba.ca/third.html
As this is a neighbourhood in transition, don't be surprised to see cool places to shop and eat popping up next to industrial-supply stores. If you want a taste of the original truck-driving aesthetic of the place, check out the Argo café - complete with lowbrow comics-inspired murals and haute greasy-spoon fare. Don't miss the fabulously retro Pepsi sign at Laura's Coffee Shop on the other corner. 1836 Ontario St.; 604-876-3620; www.argocafe.ca
WHIP IT GOOD
If you head slightly southeast to East 6th and Main, you can wet your whistle at the Whip - a bar, restaurant and gallery with a great variety of local beers and ales, and a rotating wall of local art (some by artists living in nearby warehouse that are yet to be gentrified). 209 East 6th Ave.; 604-874-4687; www.thewhiprestaurant.com
FEATHER YOUR NEST
Future Southeast False Creek/Olympic Village residents may want to feather their luxury eco-pads with mid-century chic inspired furnishings from Metropolitan Furniture. 2116 Main St.; 604-875-8815; www.metropolitanfurniture.ca
Adhesif offers some intriguing locally designed and produced sustainable garments (made from recycled and vintage fabrics) for those seeking fashion beyond the faux Tour de France cycling getups so popular down at the village seawall. 2202 Main St.; 604-568-4905; www.adhesifclothing.com
Special to The Globe and Mail
WHERE TO STAY
The Granville Island Hotel This charming boutique hotel is only a five-minute bike ride from the Olympic Village. The real attraction here is the location - it's the only hotel on the island and offers access to a potpourri of foodie and artisanal shops around the public market - and a two-minute ferry ride takes you across the water to the West End or Yaletown. Rates from $169. 1253 Johnston St.; 604-683-7373; www.granvilleislandhotel.com
The Keefer This Gair Williamson-designed heritage conversion is like a high-end, Chinatown-cool hotel for aesthetically inclined jet setters. Each of the four storeys has a two-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot loft. A ground-floor bar reveals existing old-growth fir beams. Adding to its allure is art work by Douglas Coupland, a roof deck with a gorgeous city view and a voyeuristic swimming pool that dips into the top floor loft. Weekly rates from $3,000. 133 Keefer St.; 604-688-1983; www.thekeefer.com