The offer was on the table; fly in to Seattle, rent a car and head north to the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. I only had 24 hours to decide. It would mean wrapping up two days of business in half the time, but how could I let the opportunity go by?
I arrived early in Seattle at the SeaTac airport and met my husband at the curb; he a perfect chauffeur and me, the navigator, headed towards Vancouver. It was an easy 3 ½ hour traffic-free drive from the airport and we entered with no delay at the border into Canada. Our passports were required entering into Canada and returning back through the border to the United States.
We arrived at the Marriott Residence Inn Vancouver Downtown just before noon, to pouring rain. This hotel, located on the nicely situated Hornby Street, is a convenient walk of a few blocks to the Aquabus station, which shuttles to and from Granville Island, the shopping area of Yaletown, or the restaurants in the Gastown district.
Donning our walking shoes and armed with umbrellas, we headed toward Granville Island for lunch. The island is known as Vancouver’s Town Square, and is popular for any type of culinary desire, entertainment, art gallery, or retail shop that a visitor or resident may seeking.
Taking a cursory walk around the small island and window-shopping menus, we settled on the Sandbar Restaurant, a large waterfront multi-leveled fresh seafood and fish restaurant. The view from our rain-protected table perched on the second floor balcony overlooking the waterfront was simply, amazing. The high-rise residential areas, False Creek Harbor filled with gorgeous yachts, paddle-boarders and kayakers, and the city skyline were easily viewed.
After a leisurely lunch, we headed to the Granville Island Farmers Market. The daily market has been in the same location for over 25 years, and through most of the year, is where locals and visitors go to be exposed to fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood; all from local farmers and found under one roof.
There were several food vendors selling ethnic delights from their stands as well as delectable desserts; a treat for the eyes and the stomach! The careful attention of the fruit vegetable vendors arranging their unique and colorful products looked like art. Expect to be wowed at this market!
A quick trip on the Aquabus back to the mainland dropped us off on the thoroughfare to one of the must see locations in Vancouver; Yaletown. The neighborhood is one of many historical districts in Vancouver where window shopping, drinking and dining is the norm almost any time of day.
Where historically this town was once nothing but functional brick warehouses, today after years of transformation, the warehouses remain, but now as hip clothing boutiques, high-end galleries, furnishing boutiques, pubs and restaurants. It’s clear the streets of Yaletown come alive when the sun goes down, with a mix of all generations enjoying in harmony what the neighborhood has to offer.
For dinner, we decided on Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill, the sister restaurant to the equally acclaimed Enoteca, both of which are run wonderfully by chef/owner, Giuseppe Posteraro. The chef has been awarded Chef of the Year several times by local reviewers and it was evident with the creative menu and meal. We were fortunate to get a seat on the patio, enjoying the balmy Vancouver evening and watching the crowds.
The next day started very early with a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The hotel offered a free shuttle, but we opted to drive, and even in the downpour, it was an easy location to get to, with parking conveniently located across the street. The ticket station was prepared for the rain deluge and offered us free rain ponchos, so there was nothing holding us back from enjoying the many suspension and foot bridges in the park.
The original Capilano Suspension Bridge was completed in 1889, and still remains in use today. The bridge spans a beautiful river gorge and if you listen carefully, you can hear the hawks soaring beside you on the bridge.
The park’s Cliffwalk offered a thrill with extended platforms of clear walls and floors, exposing the gorge and river below. An adrenaline pumping experience. Definitely not for those who haven’t yet conquered their fear of heights!
The park also offers a fun treetop adventure with mini suspension bridges and steps suspended from the tops of the towering trees, affording a view across the park from the many platforms on the path. The scent of the tall Douglas fir trees was intoxicating.
The park was a highlight of our trip, and was definitely work visiting.
Heading back into the city we stopped for lunch in the historic and popular TeaHouse in Stanley Park. We were seated inside the main dining room of this charming restaurant; our window table overlooking the English Bay and with views of West Vancouver. We watched as a couple said their vows in the greenway across the street in the pouring rain.
Our plan after lunch was a to rent bikes from one of the many vendors who set up shop throughout the park, but with the relentless and torrential rain, we decided to see the rest of Stanley Park from the warm dry seats of our rental car!
This is a massive park, with an aquarium, seawall, walking and biking paths, west coast aboriginal totem poles, children’s water park, and beautifully planted rose and rhododendron gardens; almost all accessible from a sea wall pathway (weather permitting, that is…)
Given our quest to see as much of Vancouver as we could, we left Stanley Park and headed north on the highway towards Horseshoe Bay, a small picturesque town, less than a half hour drive from the city. The town’s marina serves as the ferry connection for the local islands dotting the waters off shore.
After a quick stop for a hot tea from the local coffeehouse, we were off to the Sea to Sky Highway heading towards Whistler. The highway winds around the gorgeous Howe Sound and runs through small towns throughout the two hour drive, before arriving at the village center.
Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics is comprised of two ski areas; Whistler and Blackcomb, making it the largest ski area in North America. The village offers restaurants, bars, music, bike rentals, hiking trailheads and access to the PEAK 2 PEAK 360 Experience, a gondola ride between then two resorts.
After a few hours exploring the town, doing a little window shopping and gathering information on the winter ski resort for a future return trip, we were ready to head back to Vancouver.
While the ride up to Whistler was rainy, the return trip was dry and offered a better view of the water and local islands, and as luck would have it, as we arrived back in Vancouver, the sunset offered a beautiful painted sky.
The day ended with a visit to the historic Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, which was designated in 2009 as a National Historical site. Similar to Yaletown, this neighborhood has shopping, galleries, antique stores, restaurants, coffee houses and wine bars, but it felt a bit more cosmopolitan, yet colorfully charming.
We chose Al Porto Ristorante, specializing in seafood and traditional Italian fare for dinner. It reminded us of the restaurants we have enjoyed in Italy, with its decor and authentic menu. Meals were served with the rich flavors of Italy and perfectly prepared fresh pasta and sauces.
The next day we sadly said goodbye to this beautiful city and headed south towards Seattle. There was no wait at the border crossing entering the U.S.
Vancouver is one of those cities that immediately makes an impression and begs you to return. My next trip will be less on a whim and well-planned with more time to explore all this city has to offer!