Hi everybody! Well, here goes my first post! Bear with us because we’re still figuring out our writing style and our goals so this post may look very different from future posts. Hopefully our format works, please let us know if you have any thoughts!
My boyfriends family and I went to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada just before Christmas. We went for 6 days, with plans to see the city and do some skiing/snowboarding in Whistler. It ended up being just my boyfriend and I who went to Whistler, but we had tons of fun none the less. Here are some highlights, from the trip.
Vancouver is the type of town that is fun to visit, but also seems like a great place to live. It’s really clean, pretty quiet but there’s lots to see and culture to keep you entertained. We ended up staying in Yaletown, an up and coming part of Vancouver, located on the island where downtown is. Our first day there, we crossed the bridge into Greater Vancouver and went to the Granville Island Public Market.
Granville Island has several things going on. It’s has an artists colony with many different workshops for glassblowers, woodworkers, welders, sculptors, painters and mechanics. It has many restaurants and shops, and it’s home to the prestigious Emily Carr School of Design. The main draw is the Public Market, which is a big, permanent farmers market located in an old warehouse. It’s definitely worth the trip to check out the island and it’s a great place to peruse for Canadian food gifts (I bought Maple Mustard) and get lunch since everyone you’re with can pick different food to eat. Our group had Udon, Schnitzel, Gyro and French style picnic lunch (grapes, goat cheese, bread and chocolate cherry panettone – guess who…)
After we checked out the rest of the Island, watching people be creative in their workshops and saw where the Emily Carr School of Design has a totem pole carving workspace, we hopped onto the Aquabus to take us back to downtown Vancouver.
This little candy colored toy boat picks you up at Granville and loops around the False Creek, making a few different stops to drop you off where you need. It’s only $4 for adults and it holds about 8 people. As my mother always says, the best way to see a city is from a boat, and this was a fun way to sight see the waterfront parts of Vancouver.
That night we met with some family friends who live in Vancouver (always nice to meet up with locals) and had Tapas at La Bodega. It was unbelievably good! Super fresh and tasty food, wonderful service, really attentive and they totally knew what they were talking about and made great recommendations! It was so good we went back twice during our stay. I can’t recommend this place enough, you know it’s fresh because when we inquired after the Paella, we were informed it would take 45 minutes since they have to make it from scratch! We followed our local guides Sam and Kevin to the world renowned “La Casa Gelato“.
This place will blow your mind. It has over 218 (yes, two hundred and eighteen) flavors on site at all times. They have every flavor imaginable and some you’d never expect. Some of the kookiest were concoctions like Apple Cheddar and Pear Gorgonzola with Fig and Almond. They had boozy ones like Lime Tequila and fruity ones like Lemon Ginger. I got Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Akbar Mashti which is Persian and made with Saffron, Pistachios and Rosewater. They let you sample as many flavors as you want, and you can prepay and get a token so you can walk around and take your time deciding on which flavor. It’s about as big as a small house with 3 out of four walls consisting of nothing but the coolers of Gelato. Our crew ended up driving there, although I’m sure you could get a bus pretty nearby. Here’s a photo that hopefully gives you some scale.
The next day we rented bikes and rode along the waterfront of English Bay all the way to Stanley Park. The ride was great because Vancouver is celebrating it’s Bienniale and so it had tons of sculptures everywhere. Some were permanent and some were temporary but there was art everywhere and it felt amazing.
We rode all over the park (in search of our restaurant at Prospect Point, quite the trek) and ended up at the top of a hill eating lunch over looking the Lions Gate Bridge. It was strangely familiar to us since we’re all from San Francisco.
Our next day was spent at the University of British Columbia’s Anthropology Museum. We took the very efficient bus all the way to UBC and walked through the campus to the Museum. It was a pretty amazing museum focusing on the First Nations of Vancouver. It had a LOT of totem poles, wood carvings and artifacts. They were in the process of turning their archives into viewable storage, which was really smart (basically not keeping everything locked away in a basement like some museums do, but instead creating a very efficient storage system). They even had several hand carved canoes, and had exhibitions detailing the process of making a canoe (did you know they steam them to stretch them?!!).
That night Eric and I went out for some ice skating and food adventures. We hear there was ice skating downtown that they had set up just for winter. We showed up and they had this rockin ice skating rink! Not only that, but that night it just happened to be free (even rentals)! They set up the rink to promote the Olympics I think. It was really nice, they even had these plastic things that looked like high chairs for people to lean on and learn to ice skate. No pictures unfortunately. Luckily I had my poor boyfriend (I’m terrible at ice skating, it was my second time ever).
We followed up ice skating with some burritos (we are from California after all, we were hankering). We yelped burritos in Vancouver and found this place called Bandidas, an all vegetarian mexican food restaurant. That was perfect because I happen to be vegetarian so off we went on the SkyTrain to the Commercial Drive district. If anyone reading is familiar with San Francisco, this district is equivalent to the Mission (think trendy, hipster, coffee shops and thrift stores).
This place did a great job of making mexican food original and tasty without the meat. I am a creature of weird combinations so I had the Estelle Burrito, which had beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese (no lettuce please!) and pineapple! Eric had the Leona Gayle which was similar but with chipotle tofu instead of pineapple. They had great chips and kept em comin’, so needless to say we were impressed. Here’s a photo of the place.
The following day we took off to explore the neighborhood of Kitsilano. We could really relate to this part of town. Our first stop was a local coffee shop (let’s be honest, a trip to Vancouver is more like a tour of British Columbia’s hot chocolate). This place, had a great feeling to it and looked like it had yummy food. If we lived in this neighborhood I know we’d spend a lot of time here.
We explored the main drag, West 4th Avenue. We loved the Comicshop, the Candy Aisle and the many stationary stores (ok, I loved the stationary stores). We ate lunch at this amazing Korean place, where they treated us wonderfully. It was kindof slow so they brought us free appetizers! It was a great spread and delicious food. I had the Veggie Bi Bim Bap.
After we met up with his family and rode the elevator at the Harbor Centre Tower to the lookout. The top of the tower has a 360 degree viewing platform, and the elevator has a glass front so you can see the city even on the way up!
We ate that night at Al Porto Ristorante in Gastown which was quite nice. Gastown is the area where there are a lot of Italian restaurants and bars to go to at night.
On our last day in Vancouver, we spent a fabulous day at Whistler. Since this post is pretty hefty I’ve decided to do a separate post about that. That should be coming in the next few days. There are a few last things I wanted to share about Vancouver though.
For those of you who live in a Metropolitan city, you’ll appreciate the fact that Vancouver has a beautiful SkyTrain (subway) system. I can’t express the joy of a metro system that is clean and efficient. It spreads out all over the city and is extremely quick. I even saw someone come through the train and pick up trash…while we were on it!!!! That is unheard of in San Francisco. You’re lucky if someone doesn’t throw trash on you on the Muni. The very best part? We never waited more than 3 minutes for a train. 3 minutes!!! May I say I’ve waited for Muni for 45 minutes before, not to mention when I waited for 2 hours on New Years Eve for a bus that never came? Here’s a picture of the glory.
And finally, as many of you know, the Olympics are coming to Vancouver in February! Everybody in Vancouver is acutely aware due to all the renovation and construction (but luckily they will have a nice shiny city afterward!) Olympics paraphernelia was everywhere. Understandable but also overwhelming. The very best part of all the products were by far the kids Olympics Mascots! They had a “Sea Bear”, which I believe to be like a seal, but I also think it’s made up. They had a spirit animal made up of many things. And my very favorite was the very noble, Quatchi – The Olympics Sasquatch of course. I love the use of “native animals”! Here is a photo of my favorite part of Canada.
So that’s it! Thanks for reading and keep coming back for upcoming posts! Still to come are posts on Sydney, Australia, Whistler, New Orleans, Hawaii and Greece!