toggle navigation

Vancouver, How I Love Thee

June 16, 2009


In less than eight months, the world will know what I know – Vancouver is simply, spectacular. After visiting, I’m not all that surprised that it won the bid to host the 2010 winter Olympics. But, I am however, happy that I discovered it before the rest of the world is introduced, courtesy of NBC.

There’s a lot to adore about VC, BC. First off, it’s clean. Like tap water pouring straight in the glass clean and recycling bins sitting next to almost every trash can in the city clean. And just overall clean living – people running, hiking, kayaking, biking all around town, a nice welcome change from the hours of television and video gaming Americans rationalize as hobbies.

Second, you couldn’t meet nicer folks (bar the staff at Honey, more later). Vancouver’s hospitality held it’s own next to my personal barometer – the hospitality I experienced in Ireland – a country long known for its friendly faces and stories easily and readily shared over pints.

This week’s travel, the pop on Vancouver, British Columbia – my, how I love you! And my, how I could move to you!


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know, I didn’t stay in a hotel. My family rented a gorgeous home in the quaint area called Deep Cove, located in North Vancouver (also called the North Shore). I’d heard Deep Cove was where it was at, but little did I know how much so, and just how relaxing and breathtaking it actually is.

While I highly recommend staying on the North Shore and doing what we did – renting a house or condo, if a hotel is more your thing…two worth recommending are the Opus and the Wedgewood.

Opus is your “second mortgage” choice. That term comes from one of our favorite Atlanta restaurants, Rathbuns, where the chef has broken down the menu into categories that include “second mortgage” plates. A pretty funny way of saying, this one might cost you a bit more. And the Wedgewood isn’t far behind. Both are locally owned and operated boutique hotels in prime locations. You won’t be disappointed and I love the description of the Opus as practical luxury…really, it’s just seriously chic. If my word isn’t enough, Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure can’t seem to stop writing about how amazing they are.


One of the best shopping districts in the city is in Yaletown. This once rundown warehouse district is now home to hip shops, restaurants and businesses. Just off from Yaletown is the famed Stanley Park. No trip to Vancouver is complete without a ride around Stanley Park’s seawall. This 10 kilometer paved path circles the entire park with amazing views of the North Shore mountains and Lions Gate Bridge. My brother chose to run the path; my sister, her children, my mom, and brother-in-law biked…a fun afternoon.

Another area I fell in love with (and informed my husband that I could so live there) is Granville Island. The market and shops are killer. The island is also home to my artist’s boutiques, which always makes things interesting.


While in Deep Cove, kayaking is certainly on the agenda. Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak, as the name suggests, rents out kayaks, canoes and the recently added singles for rowing. And while we’re on the subject of being outdoors, you must climb the Grouse Grind, which is on Grouse Mountain. If you’re not feeling so ambitious to do the climb, you can take a gondola to the top to enjoy the stunning view of Downtown Vancouver.


The Northwest is known for its stunning public parks, but the gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park are beyond gorgeous. The gardens are filled with beautiful colors and flowers – an activity that the whole family could enjoy, or is just as nice solo. A visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge is another family friendly excursion.


If you have time for a one-day wander, head to Whistler. This fantastic ski village’s drive alone is a must-do daytrip. The day we were there, we were treated to the following – extreme bike trail watching, eating yucca fries at a restaurant situated on the side of a mountain, shopping galore and free views…Whistler, totally worth the daytrip.


Most people when traveling, sort of get into an extension of everyday life, where you get a routine – ours was all a routine based a little something like this – wake up, head to Honey Doughnuts & Goodies. These are a real treat; to say the least – amazing, cake doughnuts drizzled in chocolate or maple (the best) glaze. So good and are a nice compliment to all the hiking, kayaking, and vigorous outdoor time.

Now I hinted at this earlier, but I’ll just say it – while the doughnuts rock, the staff stinks. Honey is family-owned and operated, which generally, I am first on board to support, but, this writer could have done without the family drama that included chastising employees within earshot of customers.


I love seafood and sushi. Shiro was highly recommended to us by our friends at Whynatte as the best place in town to get our fix. Vancouver Shiro, (not to be confused with Seattle Shiro’s) oh my goodness, will leave you basking in the memory of the wonderful meal it was. It’s one of those spots, that had it not been recommended, I seriously doubt we would’ve stopped. As it’s located in what appears to be a strip mall (not generally high on my list of locales to pop in and try). At any rate, wow. So. Glad. We. Stopped. We went for lunch and the crew I was with (twin sister, her boyfriend, my husband) all are pretty versed in sushi consumption. But, Shiro left us blown away. We tried things we’d never eaten (octopus and clam sashimi, to name two) all served in cute little (err not so little) bento boxes. Still dreaming about Shiro.


I cannot write about Vancouver eats without mentioning a little place called Save on Meats. And not without first discussing a reminder we experienced throughout our week in Vancouver. Not to sound flippant, but this reminder is – don’t do drugs, kids. We saw it everyday on Hastings Street (which is where Save on Meats is situated). Now, we have a large homeless population in Atlanta, like out the wazzoo despite what politicos try to tell you…but, Hastings Street is something all together different than anything I’ve experienced in any major city I’ve visited or lived. It will be incredibly interesting to see what will become of this area (primarily the Hastings and Main intersection) the closer we get to the winter games. Let’s just say my 2-year-old nephew saw his first pimp/hooker encounter in broad daylight.


I’ve digressed a bit, back to Save on Meats Coffee Shop. Anthony Bourdain boasts about it, so we had to go…go hungry. Real hungry. The burgers and fries are done the old-fashioned way, all on the same flattop. Also, it provides people watching like no other, and really tasty, huge portions, which will leave you ready for a nap shortly thereafter.

Now, onto a restaurant in a completely different category than the one previously noted. Vancouver’s burgeoning culinary scene is nothing new. Numerous journalists before me have reported about the quality of food coming out of Vancouver and Seattle, but the one chef likely getting the most press is Vikram at Vij’s. As he should. This Indian restaurant’s spicy menu changes seasonally and Vikram uses incredible techniques.


One last recommendation is the Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, a quaint restaurant where we spent my mom’s birthday. It’s right on the water, so the view is magnificent, but the food is extraordinary too. I had an amazing chicken curry, which was lovely. They also have excellent cocktails – I tried one that combined two of my favorites – Prosecco and pomegranate.


As previously mentioned, I could not get enough of the Granville Island Market, so it’s not an enormous surprise that we fell in love with the Granville Island Brewery. Tour the brewery and taste this awesome local brew and don’t forget to take some home with you.

British Columbia is one of the few regions in the world that produces Ice Wine (sort of like dessert wine). The grapes have to frost on the vine before they are picked and BC’s cold climate is ideal. You can find Ice Wines in most liquor and spirits shops and it makes a good gift or souvenir.

Oh, and speaking of wine – Canada’s high taxes are most in evidence when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes (in a nutshell, tax revenues go largely to pay for their universal healthcare system).

You know, I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy a city so much. I could keep writing and going on and on about Vancouver, but this, I think, is a good start.