Read just about any travel or lifestyles magazine’s lists of the top cities in the world and Vancouver is always mentioned. And, it took less than four days for us to realize why. It’s a great international city topped with a full dose of Canadian politeness — and all reachable in a short walk.
One can get from every side of Vancouver, B.C. — north-south, east-west, in a 25 minute walk (35 in high heels) — and that’s not counting if one takes buses or its fabulous metro system. Vancouver has it all literally within steps both from a physical standpoint — beaches, parks, mountains — but entertainment as well. Vancouver may be compact but it is busting with activity and new experiences at every turn.
Vancouver doesn’t have a pretentious bone in its body despite all its international accolades (again, Canadian modesty), but it has something for everyone. We stayed at the fabulous Sunset Inn and Suites on the Westside. A family-owned hotel, the Sunset is a converted apartment building on a quiet side street, which means that there is lots of space. The suite featured a full bedroom, with a comfortable bed with down comforter, full living room-dining room and kitchen. To top it off, there was a small balcony to watch the sunset while having cocktails. The Sunset Inn offers a continental breakfast in the morning, jelly beans all day and a staff devoted to making your stay perfect. It is so accommodating that it even offers complimentary umbrellas for Vancouver’s wet season (which is pretty much all year).
Another benefit of the Sunset Inn is that a block away is one of the city’s main corridors. Literally within two blocks of the hotel were two French patisseries, several Korean bar-b-que places, sushi, Greek, several variety of Asian, sandwich shops as well as a restaurant touting Himalayan cuisine — oh, and a Denny’s. Like we said, there is something for everyone as such an eclectic menu is echoed block after block in this wonderful city.
While we delighted in local all-you-can-eat sushi bars, we want to particularly highlight two top Canadian restaurants. CinCin is an exciting and delightful Italian trattoria, which has Andrew Richardson, one of the country’s finest chefs, at the helm.
We didn’t know what to expect as we found the restaurant on bustling Robson Street and then climbed up a winding stone staircase to a second floor expansive room that came seemingly out of Tuscany, complete with an antique Roman statue, fresh floral displays, tall pointed windows and a long marble bar proudly displaying its amble wine and spirits collection.
We started out meal with a Hannah Brooks salad, with edible blossoms, wild herbs and bitter leaves in a honey vinaigrette, accompanied by an Italian Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Bruit Valdobbiadene. CinCin is famed for its potato gnocchi with blue foot mushrooms, local asparagus with shaved summer truffle, which we toasted with a 2010 Zenato Lugana Trebbianco Veneto. The gnocchi were light and the wine perfectly balanced the sweet taste. The osso bucco (braised veal shin) served with risotto is another pleaser.
The other highly recommended restaurant is Raincity Grill, one of leaders in Vancouver’s farm-to-table movement. In fact, it has a 100-Mile Tasting Menu with everything serve coming from within the 100 mile radius — and either organic or sustainable. Owner and proprietor Harry Kambolis will gladly chat about the food and how he found the farmer who makes the perfect cheese. The menu changes frequently, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all fresh, local, simply prepared and delicious.
Of course the city has great nightlife, usually centered around Gastown and Granville Street, but for jazz, try Central Bistro and Republic Vancouver. Chinatown offers the Fortune Sound Club, a hip, cutting edge club, while nearby is the Keefer Bar, a local lounge that offers burlesque shows. Interestingly burlesque is very popular in this city.
In fact several places offered burlesque shows including the Electric Owl Social Club, Guilt & Co., Vogue Theatre, Ginger 62 and the Lamplighter Public House.
We have to admit that we really aren’t the outdoorsy type but our two favorite activities in Vancouver both were outside. The first was a trip to West Vancouver to Sewell’s Marina for a Howe Sound safari on a custom-designed, high-speed, 28-foot rigid hull inflatable boat. For two hours, your guide will show you the spectacular scenery and wildlife such as seals, whales, eagles as well as see the homes of celebrities who live along the coast. It truly is a fun, not-to-be-missed adventure.
The second is renting a bike and peddling around Stanley Park, Vancouver’s version of Central Park. You could spend the whole day at this 1,000-acre wonderland. It takes about 2 hours to bike the circumference and in those 120 minutes you will see beaches, urban bridges, mountains, ancient trees, totem poles and everything in between.
Stop at various spots in the park and you can visit the Bioedel Conservatory with more than 500 exotic plants, the Vancouver Aquarium as well as take advantage of a water park, miniature gold, restaurants and tennis courts.
But, as in touch as the city is with nature, there is so much more. One in four locals speak another language besides English, so check out the diversity of restaurants, museums and shopping and sports offerings. Explore the neighborhoods — Gastown, Granville, Davie Village (with a large LGBT community), Yaletown, Kitsilano, Granville Island or West End. You’ll be surprised, enlightened, thrilled and educated.
Everything you would need or want is found in Vancouver. In fact, it’s probably just around the corner.
For more information, visit tourismvancouver.com
Photos: Grady McGill