Vancouver, Canada 2022

When visiting Vancouver, BC, the question is not what to do but what to do first. I’m excited to share our recent adventure and then you can take it from there. It’s glorious to get out and travel again!

GETTING AROUND

To/From the airport: It’s a breeze to take the Canada Line Skytrain from Vancouver airport to downtown. Built originally to handle visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics, it will take about 25 minutes and cost under $10 per person to ride to downtown. Purchase tickets on the platform-signs in the airport will lead you to the platform. An Uber will cost you about $50 at least for that trip and take at least an hour in the heavy traffic that Vancouver has most of the time.

Vancouver is a walking town but, if your legs wear out, we had no problem getting an Uber or Lyft within 5 minutes. If you don’t use those apps, my advice is to find the nearest hotel when you are out and about and ask their doorman to get you a taxi.

WHERE TO STAY

As a former frequent business traveler, I’m still local to the Marriott brand, which includes the Westin Bayshore. It is right on the water next to Stanley Park and has both an inside and outdoor pool. I’ve also stayed at the other Marriott hotels in downtown Vancouver, and they were fine as well.

If you want more of a boutique hotel, I walked by the Sylvia Hotel, which is on the opposite side of Vancouver from the Westin Bayshore but it is across from a beach and close to lots of cafes including their own outdoor patio with a lovely view. I could imagine myself sitting there with a cocktail watching the waves roll in. Next trip!

EATING OUT

I am not a foodie but there is one restaurant that I always go to when I am in Vancouver, and it never disappoints. Water Street Cafe has a variety of delicious menu items but I had the salmon on this trip, and it was SO good. On past visits, I’ve had the risotto and wanted to lick the plate clean. Seriously.

We also enjoyed a nice happy hour with a view of the water at Cactus Club Cafe Restaurant | Casual Fine Dining at their Coal Harbor location. Again, I had delicious fresh seafood.

Try some dim sum at New Town Bakery/Restaurant at 148 Pender Street in Chinatown. Check out the hours before you go-everything closes early in this neighborhood and bring some cash-no credit cards accepted. Don’t miss taking some bakery items (egg tarts!) back to the hotel for dessert.

I read an Anthony Bourdain book recently, “World Travel”, and he recommended Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca | Vancouver (cioppinosyaletown.com) and Home – JAPADOG for a more casual meal. Next time!

ENTERTAINMENT

I love to see concerts, theater, and sporting events when I’m travelling. I usually go to Ticketmaster and check out what’s happening in a town when I will be there. You never know!

Queen Elizabeth Theatre | Vancouver, Canada | Latest Events and Tickets is a great venue in downtown Vancouver-no bad seats. We saw Hamilton there on our trip. Fabulous, of course.

SHOPPING

Local brands abound to check out in downtown Vancouver. Walk down Robson Street and check out all the cool stores. They even have Muji, a favorite Japanese chain store we shopped at in China. Here are some other favorites:

Fluevog Shoes in Gastown showcases their handmade unique shoes-I have several pair and can attest to their quality and design. I get so many compliments on them!

Roots chain for true Canada clothing-heavy duty sweats and flannel!

Lululemon for exercise wear primarily but I have a pair of Lululemon black travel pants that I wear on every flight. Comfy, tailored, and non-wrinkle, they are perfect in every way, and I love them.

TO DO

Our hotel was near Stanley Park, so we took advantage of the proximity to really enjoy this urban oasis. Walking/running/biking around Stanley Park should definitely be on your list! Our hotel graciously supplied bikes free to guests, which we took advantage of! There are also many bike rental places close to the entrance of Stanley Park. The paths are nice and flat. Get a map from the hotel concierge and take off. If you get hungry, stop off at Stanley Park Brewpub in the park. Yummy food and local brews to try out. Just don’t try too many brews-the bike paths are one way and you have a healthy ride to get out of the park from there.

Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tour 2022 – Vancouver (viator.com) was a fun way to learn about the history of the park and get the lay of the land. You can book in advance or just show up to the kiosk that is near the front of the park as you enter from downtown Vancouver. We went on a rainy day and our group had almost the entire carriage to ourselves. We snuggled under blankets and had a great time!

If you have time, get out of town and take in the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s still on my “to do” list but I swear next time I will carve out time to go there. I’ve heard it’s fabulous. To get there, you can take the free shuttle from the waterfront. There is a fee to enter the park.

Plan for a shopping/eating trip to Granville Island.  Take the tiny tugboat over from downtown Vancouver. Check out the farmer’s market with gorgeous fruits and vegetables as well as handmade merchandise of all kinds. It’s a great place for everyone to get a different item from the many food stalls and grab a table outside on the water. We love the broom store (they’ll ship your brooms home for you!) and there are many other artisans selling their beautiful items. If you have kids, they have a whole building annex with children’s shops, food, games, etc. to keep everyone busy. Lots of seafood restaurants and brewpubs on the island for the adults. You can easily spend a whole day there.

Raining on your trip as it does often in the Northwest? No problem because Vancouver has a lovely art museum you can walk around for hours in the heart of downtown and it’s conveniently located right across the street from the sprawling Nordstrom store. Win-win! Have kids and it’s raining? Check out the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. It is lovely or so I heard from my sister who attended a private party there for her conference that she was attending. She shared lots of pictures and it definitely looks like a winner, especially if it’s raining outside.

Since we lived in China, we have longed for a great foot massage. We used to go every week for 90-minute foot massages in Shanghai-heaven! I booked our group of six for foot massages at Toe to Soul in downtown Vancouver, an easy walk from our hotel. I had pretty high expectations, but they exceeded them, treating us all to a thoroughly wonderful experience. Some of us got 75 minutes and others, who had never had a foot massage and couldn’t fathom having their feet rubbed for 75 minutes, opted for the 55 minutes. Later, those doubters wished they had gotten 75 minutes because it was just that good. Book in advance. Next door is a fancy gelato shop, making for an end to a perfect evening!

I didn’t get time to do these tours, but they are on my list for the next visit to Vancouver:

Vancouver Lost Souls of Gastown Walking Tour 2022 (viator.com)

Vancouver Harbor Sightseeing Cruise 2022 (viator.com)

Tripadvisor | Whale-Watching Tour from Vancouver provided by Vancouver Whale Watch | Richmond, British Columbia

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g154943-d184433-Reviews-VanDusen_Botanical_Garden-Vancouver_British_Columbia.html

Enjoy Vancouver-a true gem of a city!

Walking ALL over Vancouver, BC

Now, I’ve been to Vancouver many times but mostly for business reasons.  BORING!  This past weekend, I got to go for fun with Thom and my best friend Patti and her husband Larry.  Got to hand it to Patti and Larry-they have faithfully visited us everywhere from NYC to China to Seattle.  So now it was time to add Canada to our list!  After enjoying the Amtrak up to Vancouver, we had a blast, though I did walk too fast and too far for my friends.  Sorry Patti!!!  I actually got up early Saturday to walk 3 miles by myself around the waterfront (sunrise!) and burn off some energy so I would walk slower the rest of the day.  I don’t realize how fast I walk because Thom is just as bad until I get around folks who don’t get a chance to walk as much as I do.  Let’s face it, most people drive everywhere they need to go especially if they live in the country.  I’m an urban chick and my idea of a good day is being able to walk 10 miles.  Crazy!!!

Enjoying the free garden in Chinatown
Enjoying the free garden in Chinatown

Gorgeous Vancouver waterfront!
Gorgeous Vancouver waterfront!

Now, I have never dug into the history of Vancouver but now I can say with authority that this is a city built-in a very similar manner as Seattle and San Francisco-natural resources and a wild, wild west attitude.  After seeing great reviews on TripAdvisor, I signed us up for two free walking tours-one each day-for Gastown and Chinatown.  Now, you may say that you get what you pay for so why go on a free tour???  I thought the same but so glad we went because Ali and Leni, our guides, were both enthusiastic and knew their stuff.  They entertained us with stories and a well thought out walking tour designed to make the history of Vancouver come to life.  This is their job (or at least one of them-they are not getting rich working for tips) but they ask that, if you liked the tour, you give them something for their delightful storytelling and expertise.  Check them out if you are in Vancouver:  http://www.tourguys.ca.

Patti and Larry enjoying Leni's stories on the walking tour of Gastown
Patti and Larry enjoying Leni’s stories on the walking tour of Gastown

After our Chinatown tour, we headed straight to the best rated (Yelp!) restaurant in the transitioning Chinatown area.  Now, the Chinese residents are moving out as they can afford to so this Chinatown is not a vibrant area but with it’s seafood and produce markets, it did remind me of our home in Shanghai.  I miss it so much!  Lots of raw fish, baskets of dried seafood and veggies.  So pungent smelling!

New Town Bakery feast in Chinatown
New Town Bakery feast in Chinatown

We went to the New Town Bakery and indulged in egg tarts, potstickers and yummy dishes galore.  We met a lovely lady from Perth, Australia on our tour who was in town on a grant from her city job to tour the world and study best practices in urban planning and invited her along to lunch.  Of course, now Thom is hooking her up with his contacts in NYC to help her out.  So nice to help other world travelers!

The Gastown tour ended thankfully right next to my favorite place to eat in Vancouver-the Water St. Café.  Seriously, every time I go there I eat the salmon risotto and this trip was no exception.  Patti tried it too and literally licked the plate.  So creamy, so delicious!

Water Street Café--salmon risotto so good Patti licked the plate!
Water Street Café–salmon risotto so good Patti licked the plate!

The whole Yaletown and Gastown areas are filled with restaurants and interesting shops as well as being historic.  Of course, Thom found a few vinyl stores and had to shop for his ever-expanding collection.  With a new Nordstrom’s and their local chain, Roots, everywhere, it was hard NOT to spend money.  With a good exchange rate, I wish I had brought more luggage more to carry home Canadian treasures.  Oh well, next time!  Only a few hours drive from Seattle, I’ll be back soon!

The markets in Chinatown reminded me of home in Shanghai
The markets in Chinatown reminded me of home in Shanghai

Thom found LOTS of vinyl stores in Vancouver
Thom found LOTS of vinyl stores in Vancouver

The Cocktail Quest Continues…

Ask a bartender for their appletini recipe and you will quickly find out that everyone has their very own special way to make it.  What the hell???  You’d think a simple cocktail like that would be pretty standard from place to place.  After intensive research (someone has to do it!) I got quite the list of varied ingredients and suggestions on how to make the perfect appletini.  Please let me share.

On our first stop, the Templeton diner that was recommended on Yelp as having “character” certainly did as it was in the rough section of Vancouver next to a TripleXXX peep show establishment.  Most tourists would run the opposite way if they found themselves in this type of neighborhood in a foreign country.  Not us-we embraced it and took photos!  Now, a diner known for burgers and milkshakes might not be the best place to try out appletini’s but, you betcha, we did just that.  Nothing goes better with a plate of poutine than an appletini!

Our lovely waitress shared her unique recipe—vodka, peach schnapps and apple juice.  Crazy tasty!  Paired with plates of poutine and salads/burgers plus milkshakes for the boys, we had quite the feast and laughed ourselves silly over our choice of fine dining experiences the first night in Vancouver.  We know how to have a good time-pick a shabby diner next to a peep show with a jukebox and liquor.

After our walking tour of Gastown the next day, we were starving and conveniently close by my favorite restaurant in Vancouver-the Water Street Café.  Quite the opposite atmosphere from the prior night’s diner, this café had the white table cloth vibe going on and was in a historic gorgeous building.  I had been there multiple times when in town on business and always get the same thing-salmon risotto.  So delicious but how would their appletini’s taste???

Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!
Water Street Café-Sour Puss is the key to an appletini!

Another lovely waitress shared her bartender’s ingredients—vodka, apple sour puss liquor, simple syrup and a drop of lime juice.  Now, I’ve never made simple syrup but she suggested a 1/3 raw sugar to 2/3 hot water formula.  Even with the syrup, the appletini’s we were tasting were still not as sweet as the ones in Shanghai.  The quest for the perfect appletini continued later that day at our hotel because having an appletini at lunch just wasn’t enough.

Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown
Patti enjoying the appletini at Water St. Café in Gastown

The bartender at the Marriott Pinnacle was most accommodating to talk us through his appletini creation that included vodka, pineapple juice and fresh lime topped with a slice of apple.  Now, he very quietly told us that he prefers apple juice to pineapple juice but the Marriott chain forces him to use pineapple-how dare they stifle his cocktail creativity!  He also suggested we could use agave to sweeten it up if we preferred.  When I asked him why the appletinis in Shanghai were so very green instead of the light green we were seeing at his bar, he suggested that perhaps they used a tamarin syrup with agave muddled together to “green it up” a little.  I appreciated his honesty and sharing of tips.

Now, all appletinis are good (just as there is no bad wine or pie) but the quest must now continue in Seattle.  I hear that Canon on Capitol Hill was named the 6th best bar in the world.  Who knew???  I MUST check it out.  Also dying to run to the liquor store in the U.S. to see if they have Sour Puss in stock or if that is just a Canadian odd liquor….l’ll be looking for that black mean ass kitty on the bottle and then I’ll know I have the right stuff!

2 Days, 20,000 steps and 1 Cougar

Holy. Crap.  Yep, I just noticed I am totally and utterly alone in a forest in Canada with not a soul in sight and this sign comes into view, like someone quickly attached it to a post and ran away… Wildcat spotted in area.  Love the pictures to show you the differences between cougars, bobcats and kitties–duh!  If you are that stupid and need a pictorial of the differences between a cougar and a cat, you deserve to get f&*king chewed on like a kibble.  Just saying….

See Cougar Sign..See Melinda Run...Fast
See Cougar Sign..See Melinda Run…Fast

Looking around and, again, seeing nothing but trees, trees and more underbrush where that damn cougar could be hiding, I channeled my inner Hunger Games heroine and picked up an insubstantial branch to defend myself with and took off as fast as possible.  Deep in the forest by a lake in Burnaby, this was my “peaceful” stroll to get in my 10,000 needed steps to make my new Fitbit animate, aka it rattles on my wrist when I hit my goal.  Happy times staying fit and alive.  Eventually, I ran out of the forest into suburbia and found my way back to the hotel in one piece, feeling fit to live another day and vowing to stick to the urban jungle from now on instead of the actual jungle.  The kicker was that my Fitbit wasn’t working right so it didn’t even record my steps including the long climb back up the hill to home.  DAMN!  My calves are aching and telling me I hit that 10,000 step goal so we’ll just go with that unofficial count and charge it up for tomorrow.

Lost in the forest and never finding the lake, running away from a possible cougar...that was my peaceful walk
Lost in the forest and never finding the lake, running away from a possible cougar…that was my peaceful walk

I got my Fitbit for Mother’s Day and am enjoying challenging myself to get out and get walking even more than usual.  Especially when I’m on the road working, it will get me out of the hotel in the evening and onto the streets.  Last night when I got into Vancouver, BC, I immediately took off on the skytrain from Burnaby where I’m staying to downtown Vancouver.  Only taking 20 minutes, it beat driving in traffic.  After a lengthy wait to get through customs due to Victoria Day traffic, I was done with driving.  I wandered through Gastown and enjoyed people watching.  Lots of buskers playing their songs and people eating outside enjoying the warm weather.  I finally settled in at the Water St. café and enjoyed amazing salmon risotto.  Seriously, I almost licked the plate–crazy American that I am.

Salmon risotto rand BC local wine...how Canadian of me
Salmon risotto and BC local wine…how Canadian of me

Washed down with local wine, I was happy, happy to walk back to the skytrain and join the crowds returning home.  Arriving back at the hotel with the Fitbit working, it synced and told me I had about 100 steps left to goal.  Did I run in place and rack up those last few steps???  Oh yeah-BAM!  2 days and 20,000 steps and feeling good… my Type A personality likes hitting goals and my body likes the workout.  Win-Win!

Lucky Day 13 of Fashion Challenge-Back in the U.S.A.

Back in the USA!  After a few days in snowy and ridiculously cold weather in Canada, I’m wondering why ANYONE lives there… really???  Parkas and big thermal boots would have to be your fashion statement for months on end…. OH.  HELL. NO.  If there is ever another trip to Canada in my future in the winter (which I certainly will try to avoid) then, note to self, pack some F*@king Boots.  I packed my one of a kind, expensive, handmade boots not my ugly Uggs.  Mistake, big time!  They had smooth leather soles that didn’t work too well on the ice and snow.  My only other packing choice of shoes were heels.  I’m an idiot.  So, I walked carefully and looked forward to getting back to warm Seattle.  At 50 degrees, it is like summer down here vs. Edmonton’s North Pole-like experience.  Brrrrrr…….

Of course, Izaak is the best part of this picture not the outfit.  He is a big hunk of cuddle muffin who likes nothing better than laying his head on my neck so he can feel my pulse and get cozy.  I do miss all my guys when I travel.  It sounds glamorous to those that don’t have to do it very often but life on the road is challenging at best.  Last night as we raced to Vancouver’s security and then customs to get back to the U.S. only to stand in line fretting if we would make our flight (we did by 2 minutes) I kept my co-worker calm when the TSA dude let through a whole group ahead of us because there flight was leaving 5 minutes before ours–these days if you complain too loudly, they will just ban you from the flight for being contrary.  Watch your words and action and always be polite… you get more with honey than vinegar!

Izaak missed me!
Izaak missed me!

So, first day back in Seattle, I brought out the stripes with animal print accents in the form of a warm Banana Republic sweater with a classic black skirt and tights.  Best part of the outfit was the chunky and clunky necklace that turned the outfit into interesting vs. boring.   It makes crazy noises when I walk but I like it.  Sometimes, you just have to walk loud and proud!

I have a standing desk at work now so the Rockport stiletto booties only lasted part of the day and then I had to change into flats to finish it out.  Always be prepared with flats just in case.   I am hoping that standing most of the day will be healthier for me in the long run vs. sitting…. can’t be worse, right?

Just got back from the gym and now settling in to watch American Idol (yes, I’m one of THOSE!) and get more work done.  I know I shouldn’t work so hard but I always feel I need to work harder than anyone else to be successful.  Probably not true, but I have a family to support, so off I go!