If it’s been awhile since you dusted off your passport, why not choose an international destination right next door to ease back into international travel? In late 2019, I planned a weekend getaway to a city I had longed to visit but had always put off because it was “right there.” Never would I have guessed that Vancouver was a simple 2 ½ hour nonstop flight from San Diego. By 10 AM, we had landed in the middle of a heat wave sweeping through the Pacific Northwest on a hot September Friday.
A hotel in the residential neighborhood of the West End proved to be the ideal location for checking out the sights. Our adventure began with a scenic, gastro-inspired bike ride through famed Stanley Park and surrounding areas. Stanley Park lays claim to museums, pools, tree groves, recreational centers, the Brockton Point totem poles, the Vancouver Aquarium and much more. Plenty of local bike shops rent bikes by the hour or day, complete with baskets and locks. We followed the Seawall path that runs counter clockwise around the park, winding along the water with spectacular views of West and North Vancouver as well as the Burrard Inlet. Clear skies hung over jagged peaks while blankets of velvet green trees unfurled down the mountain slopes spilling into the indigo sea. Beaches along the park were packed with sunbathers, students and cyclists.
Through the maples and alders we spotted the Stanley Park Brewery, our first stop to quench our thirst. A Trail Hopper IPA and Windstorm Pale Ale later, we were off to the neighborhood of Kitsilano via English Bay and the Burrard St. Bridge. After a brief drive-by of the Maritime Museum we decided to cool off at the enormous Kitsilano salt water pool. It only took me twenty minutes to swim to the other end!
After our refreshing dip it was onward to Granville Island Public Market where food stalls and art galleries compete for pedestrian traffic. We stocked our baskets with a couple bottles of local Canadian wine from Okanagan Valley and made our way to the Aquabus Ferry terminal. These colorful little ferries transport you to eight different docks up and down False Creek and accommodate bikes and pets. We disembarked at Yaletown and popped into Rodney’s Oyster House for some well-earned raw treats. Choose from 9-20 types of oysters ranging in flavor from “Jolly Rancher green apple candy” to “cucumber undertones and a lingering seaweed finish.” Who needs a wine wheel anyway?
After a lazy ride through the harbor and a well-earned nap, we strolled up Robson street and into a culinary dream at Forage. Our charismatic waiter, Sebastian, catered to us as if we were in our own private dining room, recommending fabulous Canadian wines to match the carpaccio and gnocchi specials.
The chef adorns his locally sourced fish, meats and vegetables with a savory touch while offering a unique menu of British Columbia’s home cured libations
Saturday morning we bounced out of the cosmopolitan and into the bush thanks to Vancouver’s fantastic public transportation system. Crossing the Vancouver Harbor on the SeaBus to Lyonsdale Quay, it was then a short bus ride to Lynn Canyon Park. This is a less touristy alternative to the busy Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Lynn Canyon boasts its own suspension bridge above Lynn Creek in addition to mossy, fern covered hiking trails shrouded by 100-year-old Douglas firs.
Wandering along a creek right out of an Emily Carr painting, we felt a million miles away from the city center. Two hours later, a well-manicured trail with few fellow trekkers deposited us at another convenient bus stop. Making our way back to town, we re-fueled with a local craft beer and mouth-watering meat and cheese empanadas at the Lyonsdale Quay markets thanks to the culinary talent of a Peruvian vendor.
A trip to Vancouver wouldn’t be complete without sampling fresh seafood, so it was down to the harbor for dinner with friends at Cardero’s. I dined on Arctic char, a freshwater fish native to alpine lakes, Arctic and subarctic coastal waters that resides in the same house as salmon and trout. Grilled with melted butter and just the right amount of herbs, Arctic char now tops the list of my favorite fish!
Sunday arrived early with a light rain, but we rolled like locals and walked to the Vancouver Art Gallery, umbrellas in tow. Housed in the Provincial Court House built in 1912, the gallery’s rotating collection includes paintings, sculptures, and carvings from First Nations’ artists, several Emily Carr works, in addition to contemporary pieces and international exhibitions. After taking in some of the local culture, head around the corner to Robson Street and pick up your next yoga outfit at the Lululemon mothership (P.S. I had to exit swiftly before breaking the bank). Several other local chains can be found in the area such as Aritizia clothing, John Fleuvog Boots & Shoes, and Roots Canada.
Our next stop took us to the Vancouver Aquarium nestled in the southeast end of Stanley Park. A breath-taking facility displaying marine life ranging from several species of jellyfish and unique Artic ecosystems to frog exhibits and encounters with sea otters is a site not to be missed. Wander through the humid, temperature-controlled Graham Amazon Gallery packed with butterflies, birds, sloths and an aquarium occupied by the Brazilian, giant river fish, Pirarucu. Several other educational exhibits and hands-on learning kiosks provide ocean wildlife fun and education for all ages.
As the day waned, we scrambled to squeeze in one more meal and at the recommendation of locals, it had to be Chinese. A five-minute walk from our hotel landed us at Dinesty Dumplings where we brunched on green vegetable and egg dumplings, spicy shrimp with peppercorn, pork dumplings, Gongbao squid, Shanghai fried noodles and marinated mushrooms with bamboo shoots, just a small sample of the delectable menu.
After our feast, we rolled onto the bus, tumbled into the train, stepped on the plane, and just like that we were tucked in by 10 PM. So get ready for the curtain of quarantine to lift and pack your bags! Your neighbors will be welcoming you with open arms!