Recently, I went back out on the road – but this time, for a holiday getaway from it all! I set sail on an Alaskan cruise, and along the way stopped off in Canada, for the first time ever. Almost two weeks later, I returned home rested, recharged, and ready to hit the ground running, with amazing memories of the incredible time I had from start to finish.
We started off our journey in Vancouver, British Columbia. It’s a beautiful city! Every street features unique architecture, friendly people (always a helpful component), and an exemplification of the distinct fusion of East and West that you can only find in Vancouver. In fact, many of the signs are written in Asian languages such as Mandarin, so that many of the Chinese and other foreign nationals can understand what they have to say.
Vancouver, which is located on the Pacific coast of Canada, is located on a remarkable perch, both in terms of its history and its geography. In fact, they are inherently intertwined — the story of Vancouver has been actively shaped by nature, and its proximity to water. For decades in the nineteenth century, “loggers,” a/k/a lumberjacks, cut down trees for wood in some of Canada’s lushest forests. In this case, they happened to be rainforests, but not the type that you might think if you envisioned the Amazon in Latin America.
The Gastown neighborhood of Vancouver, a national historic site, was the thriving city’s original downtown district. Today, it is a relic of a bygone era, full of eclectic art boutiques and stores selling a diverse array of fun souvenirs — everything from trendy postcards to hand-carved totem polls.
Juxtaposed against Gastown is the staggering Vancouver skyline, an urban concentration of dazzling skyscrapers that rivals the cityscapes of New York, Miami, or Hong Kong. It reminds visitors of the unique crossroads at which the city finds itself, and how it balances its dual identities — as a haven for those seeking nature, adventure, and the Gold Rush; and those who flock to the hustling-and-bustling metropolis to experience its urban and sophisticated lifestyle.
Here are some of the highlights you can’t miss the next time you’re in Vancouver:
Stanley Park — Larger than Central Park by an impressive 157 meters (nearly 20% bigger!), Stanley Park offers you remarkable views of English Bay, delivered while you sightsee via the comfort of a trolley tour or a tandem bike for two. As you pedal by, don’t miss the collection of totem polls and breathtaking gardening that you’ll stumble upon throughout.
- Grouse Mountain — As you cruise up to the summit of Grouse Mountain on a moving gondola that soars a whopping 4,1000 feet above sea level, pause for a moment to take in the beautiful, sweeping views of the city below, and countless evergreen trees that protrude proudly from the mountainside. When you get to the top, don’t miss the Lumberjack Show (it’s a spectacle for the eyes that you won’t find anywhere else — a blast!), or the grizzly bear exhibit (you can get up close with the bears and even have a one-on-one chat if you want — but, don’t worry… you’re safe, since they’re separated from you by a tall fence!).
And, as a major food lover, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample some of the city’s most venerated dining establishments, helmed by some of the most innovative chefs in the world. Vancouver has really emerged as a fine dining destination, and holds its own against any other major global capital. The secret ingredient? The creativity and passion that these inspired chefs have for local produce, the flavors of the region, and reinventing the definition and presentation of their favorite dishes.
Here are some of the restaurants you can’t skip:
- YEW Seafood at the Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver: YEW Seafood Restaurant, as the name suggests, combines woodsy, rustic flair with an upscale vibe. Chef Ned Bell brings the taste of the ocean to life, featuring the bounty of Vancouver’s local waters. Seafood is the star at YEW Seafood, and the extraordinary Chef and his team are some of the most talented anywhere! Chef Bell’s philosophy is all about showcasing the best of the farm-to-table movement, using locally grown ingredients and supporting the community. He and his team regularly conceptualize menus where everything on offer is irresistible, and you are sure to be wowed with every bite. I started off my culinary adventure at YEW with the larger-than-life Seafood Tower, home to a medley of lobster, shrimp, oysters, and much more — it’s perfect to share — and then transited to an entrée of Grilled Trout with Gnocchi, Chanterelle mushrooms, and Green Peas. Every bite was beyond stellar — in the end, I left satisfied in the conclusion that this was one of the best meals ever!
Learn more at: www.yewrestaurant.com
YEW Seafood Restaurant
The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
791 West Georgia Street
British Columbia V6C 2T4
- Black + Blue Steakhouse: This authentic Chicago-style steakhouse is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the senses. The Chef was generous enough to prepare a special sampler of all of the most unique and memorable dishes on offer for us, including such highlights as Australia Wagyu beef (yum!) and Lyonnaise Potatoes with caramelized onions. One of my favorite parts of Black + Blue is that it is a true visual masterpiece. Spread out amongst three floors — the first being a very cosmopolitan ground-floor lounge, the second being the main dining area, and the third being an outdoor rooftop bar that’s ultra trendy and edgy and comes to life as the sun goes down over Vancouver — it’s an entertaining and upbeat space that encompasses its own fast-paced vibe. Don’t miss the giant wall composed of tiles of pink Himalayan sea salt slabs, which is housed inside of an indoor meat locker in the heart of the ground floor… So kewl!
Learn more at: http://www.glowbalgroup.com/blackblue/#home_section
1032 Alberni Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 1A3
- Hawksworth: This upscale haven, located in the nucleus of Vancouver’s most exclusive district, is the brainchild of forward-thinking chef David Hawksworth. Chef Hawksworth is one of the major stars of Vancouver’s food scene right now, and for good reason. Here, food becomes a masterpiece, a magnum opus of Hawksworth’s out-of-the-box style of cooking. He uses garnishes like mini vegetables to create gardens that live on your plate! The presentation is astounding, as are the tastes. Plus, you’ll find yourself relaxing and settling in in some of the city’s most impressive dining rooms — temples of modernity blended with high-end touches that create a luxurious yet inviting feel. I indulged in the Angus Bone-In Ribeye (for sharing!), and we also ordered the Hamachi Sashimi appetizer which is ideal for a sushi lover looking for a satisfying starter to open the floodgates on a stimulating meal that will awaken the palate and the senses. Five stars all around!
Hawksworth is located at the legendary Rosewood Hotel Georgia, as is the Café Bel, another of Chef David Hawksworth’s creations. Check out the Café Bel if you’d like a street-side view of the city while sipping exotic coffees and teas sourced from around the world, while diving into decadent pastries and sweet treats. The perfect spot for breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up!
Learn more at: www.hawksworthrestaurant.com
801 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
***Located at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, corner of Howe & Georgia
Telephone: 604/673.7000 ext. 1