By Anita Draycott
My recent trip to Vancouver confirms that the city is as vibrant and stunning as my Vancouver buddies like to boast. It’s hard, no impossible, to compete with Stanley Park, the stunning waterfront and backdrop of mountains. I hope you’ll find these “splurge and save” tips to be useful when planning your trip to, amongst other kudos, Canada’s “greenest” city.
The “You Only Live Once” Splurge List
Tasting Menu at Hawksworth
Chef David Hawksworth serves brilliant contemporary Canadian cuisine in his eponymous restaurant located in the recently renovated Rosewood Hotel Georgia. Among a long list of awards, Hawksworth took second place in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants for 2015 and was awarded the AAA Four-Diamond Award.
I recently tucked into the maestro’s flawless tasting menu with wine pairings. We began with a tartar of Hamachi (tuna belly) perfectly accessorized with avocado, soy, lemon and puffed rice. Next came a prawn refreshed and spike with a tomato horseradish sorbet, zucchini tortellini filled with house-made ricotta, slow cooked wild salmon, bison strip loin with an earthy shaving of truffle, potato gnocchi, charred shallot and cauliflower. Dessert was a tantalizing mixture of strawberries, pistachio and vanilla. The service at Hawkwsorth is impeccable and knowledgeable but never pretentious or stuffy. You should also head to the Hawksworth Cocktail Bar, before dinner or for a nightcap because the bartenders have mastered a variety of pre-prohibition tipples.
Pampering at the Pacific Rim
Allow plenty of R &R time out when you book your treatment at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Willow Stream Spa. The huge patio overlooking Coal Harbour has the cocoon-like lounging beds, hot tubs and fireplaces where you can chill out in your bathrobe. I recommend the 90-minute Van Active Body treatment. It begins with a footbath after which your therapist applies an exfoliation mixture of geranium, pine and ylang-ylang. While you enjoy a private steam bath your bed is prepared for a detoxifying massage using organic juniper, fennel and lavender. Now you’ll be relaxed and ready to explore more of vibrant Vancouver.
What do movie director Robert Altman and entertainer Madonna have in common? Both have worn the funky shoe creations by Vancouver designer John Fluevog. Everything about his soles and heels have attitude—from pointy-toed pilgrim styles to sexy Mary Janes.
Night at the Aquarium
You’re sleeping with what? After the day crowd leaves and the Vancouver Aquarium has locked its door for the night, you can have a sleepover. Imagine lying in your sleeping bag beside the tank as a gleaming white beluga cruises by. There are educational tours, an evening snack and a chance to touch local invertebrates in the marine lab.
Presiding over the Raw Bar at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel’s contemporary lobby, master sushi chef, Taka, creates edible works of art meant to be savoured with sake or Champagne. For those who prefer their crustaceans cooked, consider the ginger/honey mussels or Cape Breton lobster.
The “Cheap Thrills” Save List
Make a DIY picnic at the Granville Island Public Market. Browse the wealth of stalls featuring artisan-made cheeses, meats, breads and sweets, then take your feast out onto the dock and enjoy the meal al fresco. www.granvilleisland.com
Hike the Grouse Grind
This steep 2.9-kilometre trail to the top of Grouse Mountain is commonly referred to by locals as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” Average completion time for the Grind is 1.5 hours, with the fastest time just over 26 minutes. Once you reach the summit, order a well-deserved beer, enjoy the stunning views, and then take the tram back down. www.grousemountain.com
Pick of the Park
Stanley Park's massive urban green space offers a multitude of athletic options. Play tennis or taka a shot at the Stanley Park Pitch & Putt, a par-three golf course that winds through mature trees along English Bay. Cyclists, joggers and walkers wanting to escape the crowds on the seawall can check out the park’s 64 kilometres of forested trails. Tip: Fairmont President’s Club members have free use of BMW bicycles for a cruise around the seawall.
A La Cart
Dine well and inexpensively at food carts all over Vancouver. From grilled cheese to Aussie pies to Mexican burritos to Thai noodles—there’s no lack of choice. Locals rave about Japadogs, a variety of wieners and sausages with unique toppings. The Kurobuta Terimayo dog was named as “one of thee must eat items in the world.” For dessert, consider the Ice Age—a deep fried bun filled with your choice of five flavours of ice cream.
It’s a Gas
Will Woods runs Forbidden Vancouver, a bunch of walking tours that give guests an animated inside look at the city in the bad old days. On the Lost Souls of Gastown your storyteller will regale you with gruesome tales back in the 1800s when Vancouver was a wild frontier town complete with gangsters, gold rushers, madams and a terrible plague and fire. www.forbiddenvancouver.ca