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'X-Files' star uncovers Vancouver gems

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gillian Anderson spent five years in Vancouver, B.C., while filming "The X Files"
  • She marvels at natural diversity of the city, which offers beaches and mountains
  • Anderson enjoyed visiting Stanley Park, Granville Island and Grouse Mountain
  • Actress still visits the city a couple times a year and keeps a property there
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(CNN) -- You may best know her as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully on "The X-Files," but the hit television series transformed Gillian Anderson into something else: a Vancouverite.

The show was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, from 1993 to 1998, both as a cost-saving measure and because the city has a moody feel that was perfect for the dark series, Anderson said.

She lived in the city during that time, spending intense 16-hour days bringing Scully to life and enjoying Vancouver in her free time.

Anderson resided in the Caulfeild neighborhood of West Vancouver, her favorite part of the city, she said. The actress now lives in London, England, but she has a property on one of the islands in Vancouver and visits a couple of times a year.

Anderson talked with CNN about her favorite experiences in Vancouver as thousands of people prepare to descend on the city for the Winter Olympics. The following is an edited version of that interview.

CNN: What was your first impression of Vancouver?

Gillian Anderson: It felt very small at the time after living in Chicago and New York and having moved to Los Angeles ... but I grew to appreciate the smallness, because it feels very much like a big diverse neighborhood.

If you look on the map, bits of Vancouver are partitioned by waterways, so it feels like different neighborhoods but all part of the same place. It's got a very unique feel to it.

CNN: Various publications have picked Vancouver as one of the best cities in the world to live in. Do you agree with that?

Anderson: Yes, it appeals to a lot of people. It's so diverse: You have at your disposal beaches and snow-topped mountains and water and forests; there are great restaurants; it's safe to bring kids up. I think it checks a lot of the boxes of what families feel are important qualities.

It always felt very safe. For me, it was always a nice escape from the rest of the world, because it felt very much like I was going away to a private retreat.

CNN: When friends visited you in Vancouver, what were your favorite places to take them to?

Anderson: The first place that a lot of people start is Robson Street, which is a very popular, contemporary [shopping district].

What's beautiful about it is that you see the mountains on one side and the water on the other side of this long strip of shops and coffee shops and boutiques. They've got everything on that street, so that's kind of a fun thing to do.

There's a place called Granville Island, which is an island off of one of the inlets right in the middle of Vancouver. You can rent kayaks from there. There are lots of restaurants. You can walk around; there are shops, food markets; there's a lot of stores that sell Canadian and Native Canadian wares.

There's a seawall that you can ride bikes around in Stanley Park. It's a beautiful park that has a teahouse and walks and trails.

You can take a gondola up to Grouse Mountain, which is really beautiful up in the clouds. You can sit at the top and have hot chocolate or a stiff drink and enjoy the view of the city.

CNN: Are you an outdoors person? Do you like hiking and biking?

Anderson: Not generally. I'm a bit of a hermit, but I have friends who used to enjoy doing that stuff while I was working. [Laughs]

CNN: What are some of your favorite restaurants in Vancouver?

Anderson: There's a wonderful restaurant on Robson Street called Cin Cin. It's Italian and very good.

There's another fantastic restaurant that's Indian, called Vij's.

There's also a sushi restaurant called Tojo's, which is exceptional.

CNN: Do you miss Vancouver?

Anderson: I do. I miss spending time there. When I started thinking about talking to you about it, I started to get melancholy. It's a really lovely place.

CNN: Are you going to the Olympics?

Anderson: No. ... We're actually going to be in a very, very warm country at that time.

CNN: What are your favorite Winter Olympics events?

Anderson: My 3-year-old really likes ski jump, so we'll probably be watching some of that. I enjoy [less dangerous events] like ice skating rather than the things that can get you killed.