Vancouver, Totem of the Northwest

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9th Dec 2008




Vancouver

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Vancouver skyline: the best of both worlds

Snow's a comin', and that means Vancouver is on the radar for the globally minded outdoorsman.

The essence of Vancouver cannot be grouped by the city’s nightlife, the wild outdoor action or the sheer beauty which lends its backdrop as the Canadian Rockies. Vancouver is whole, natural, wild, yet somehow manages to be extremely modern, quaint and business-minded at the same time. In a word - divine.

Arrivals

Who says Canucks are boringly clean and efficient? These qualities create a welcome experience arriving at YVR – Vancouver International Airport. A taxi to town will hardly cost you a maple leaf, but the bus or train are so efficient, the short distance would hardly be a nuisance. If you are headed just beyond Vancouver to play, getting to Whistler-Blackcomb couldn’t be easier or faster straight from YVR, but you'll need a car or 4x4.

 

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Zip-Trekking!
Head for the Hills

 

 

Pack 'rugged chic' and make your statement in Vancouver’s best sport attraction: Whistler-Blackcomb. The hottest resort north-side of Sun Valley is a short hour and a half drive (72 miles or 115 km) north of the city. The Fjord-like landscape will take you along the water, through gorges and maybe past a whale or two before you head up the canyon. 

Winter offers the obvious, and might we add, the best of! …skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, spa, dining and for the wild child in all of us, radical inner-tubing.  (A smashing choice for the whole group on a white-out day).  The large and lovely Fairmont is an obvious place to stay at the foot of Whistler mountain, but serious luxury is to be experienced at the Four Seasons Resort. For the perfect hot chocolate, head downstairs to the restaurant Fifty Two 80 Bistro and on your way, discover a secret fireplace spot good for canoodling. Or book private chalets.

British Columbia is sensational in winter, but, summer is also a winner. An ultimate experience in this neck of the woods: Zip-Trekking. The popular adventure whisks you along treetops, zooming across canyon ravines and tempting the rapids of the streams below. For the nature lover, adrenaline rusher and experience seeker, Zip-trekking Whistler is a must. You can go in winter too.

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Whistler's Main Street at Christmas
Closer to Vancouver, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are two resorts to check out if you can’t make the three hour round-trip to Whistler. The slopes are open late. With unparalleled terrain and the largest vertical rise on the North Shore, Cypress Mountain is Vancouver's winter playground...conveniently open into late April. If you like hiking, pay a visit to “The Grouse Grind” at Grouse Mountain, a demanding hike to the top of the mountain. For fatties, the Grouse Mountain gondola is worth the trip for the beautiful vista of Vancouver bay and the snow-capped mountains beyond.

 

 

Hospitality

In town, try a stay at the Fairmont Waterfront. Close to downtown where city life meets the wild Pacific northwest, it offers stunning views over the water. There is a certain light in Vancouver at dusk: snowcapped mountains and sky turn an indescribable pink and this is one of the best places in town to enjoy such a view.

 

For a more intimate experience, the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa is a leading luxurious Vancouver boutique hotel, and member of the Relais & Chateaux hotels of the world.  Located in the gardens and waterfalls of Robson Square in the heart of Vancouver's downtown core, the Wedgewood has become a landmark. The hotel has received numerous awards over the years, both for its Bacchus Bar & Restaurant, along with the hotel being rated one of the best hotels in North America by Condé Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure.

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Snowshoeing in Stanley Park
The Opus Hotel is a boutique hotel for the smart modernist, and features a Great Dane licking you on arrival.  It is located in trendy Yaletown and features the popular Opus Bar, and Elixir. It's easy to see why Opus runs the highest occupancy rate of any hotel in the city: experience + luxury = Opus.

Activities

Stanley Park is a favourite - globally. Vancouver's first park and one of the city's main tourist attractions, Stanley Park is an evergreen oasis of 400 hectares (1,000 acres) close to the downtown core. Its natural west coast atmosphere fosters a back drop of majestic cedar, hemlock and fir trees, transporting visitors to an environment rich in tranquility. In summer go biking, in winter try snowshoeing! The park abounds in wildlife, but leave the guns at home, stopping instead to admire the towering native North American totem poles on offer.

A visit to Vancouver would not be complete without hitting one of many native North American Indian art galleries. An excellent gallery is Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, which just opened for winter 2008 an exhibition on the Inuit, Maori, and tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Popular art themes are bronze totems and other symbolic art native art forms shown on canvas, in carved wood, bringing together the cultures and customs of these Pacific peoples.

Vancouver’s main tourist attraction, if you will, is Gastown’s steam clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Streets. Still working and still working on steam, this is an old world charmer. The more adventurous may try the whale watching via zodiac. Journey to Steveston, a charming fishing village located just south of the city at the mouth of the Fraser River. Whale-watching tours travel through the Fraser River Delta, Strait of Georgia and/or Gulf Islands. 

Stanley Park’s Capilano suspension bridge and treetop walk have become a quintessential Vancouver activity. Breathe in the cedar-scented rainforest as you make your way across Vancouver's famous landmark. Only minutes away from downtown Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge takes you to rainforest trails through magnificent evergreens. 

Working up an appetite

After all that adventure, let's eat! Two words: Asian and fish.

The Sequoia Grill at the Teahouse is a culinary treat.. With towering trees in its backyard and the ocean at its front door, Sequoia Grill sits cosily at water's edge at Ferguson Point. A true-Vancouver style of fresh local ingredients and cross-cultural cuisine influences, resulting in comfortable, contemporary dining with a difference: the best and longest sunset view, check in, especially in summer!  

The Eatery on West Broadway is not a traditional sushi restaurant, as it is known to be the funkiest place for Japanese food. Offering a 16 page menu with over 100 items to choose from, so that there's something for everyone, no matter how diverse or conservative your taste may be. For sushi from an old Vancouver institution don't miss Tojos on Main Street, its well know for having the best Japanese around and a large lofty modern setting. Their new organic restaurant Motomachi Shokudo is also worth a visit. 

Trafalgar's Bistro is a warm & welcoming French bistro intimate, yet energetic. It’s a perfect place for a romantic evening out, or just to get together with family and friends, with an unpretentious feeling. The menu is considered true bistro fare, but with eclectic international influences. The portion sizes are not disappointing and the prices are reasonable for an upscale/casual-style restaurant. Their wine list is equally impressive, with a focus on BC wines.  

Vancouver boasts some of the best Asian food outside of Asia itself. Dream up the freshest fish, sushi and outstanding Chinese food and you'll find it here. For Dim Sum to die for and the best seafood restaurant in Vancouver rock up to Sun Sui Wah on Main Street. For happening sophisticated casual dining with a great atmosphere check out Nu. Sunday Jazz, beautiful flavours in a great setting right on Granville: you can't really beat that.

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Vancouver's famous Gastown steam clock
Tipple at:

 

Ginger Sixty Two. Its intimate and sexy. This Granville lounge club is for a chic upper-crust Vancouver crowd, offering indulgent 60s decor with plush furnishings. The dinner and drinks menu is just as indulgent and the music should keep you shaking your thang late into the night. Even sexier is Bacchus Lounge in the Wedgewood Hotel. The lounge of this boutique hotel transports you to a Venetian era with cherry wood paneling, a carved limestone fireplace, and gold silk & burgundy velvet fabrics and sultry Venetian ceiling lighting. We call it cozy-glam. The lounge is home to the liveliest cocktail hour in the city. Tea is also served. 


Cru, meaning raw in French, is a smallish lounge cum restaurant. So stop in for a drink and pick from their delicious tapas style menu of light dishes from seafood to carpaccio. For beers, its the Cascade Room. This part of Main Street was once Vancouver's Brewery Creek, their finest of which was the flagship: 'Cascade' named 'The Beer without Peer'. Black chalkboard menus show off dare we say typical bar food, but with a twist (not far off from the English gastro-pub fare).
 
With the Olympics right around the corner, now is the time to see Vancouver, before the crowds rush in for winter 2009/2010. Cosy people and an intimate feeling make the city fun, and you can't beat the ordered cleanliness of the city.