I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be able to go to a conference center again without comparing it to the most beautiful one in the world. Seriously. Vancouver definitely decided to knock their visitors back on their heels with the location of theirs… and I’m not quite sure one ever recovers. Our presentation (which was the occasion for my visit) was held in an ocean view room at the Pan Pacific hotel… so I could watch the seaplanes land while chatting it up with colleagues. It was absolutely lovely, and while next year’s trip to San Francisco will be lovely due to the lack of hassle and travel, it just won’t be the same.
As I had mentioned before, since Mr. M and Miss L couldn’t make the trek north, my mom decided to come along and provide me with an exploration buddy. I think she’s still cursing at me for the length of my stride (umm… isn’t this partly her genes to blame?) and my enthusiasm for walking, but altogether we had a great time!
We arrived on Saturday afternoon, and hit the ground running… or rather just started our touring early after dropping off our bags at the Four Seasons. We hopped on the Vancouver trolley for what we thought was a short 1 hour bus route around the city’s highlights… but it turned out to be an all-inclusive 3 hour tour that stretched a fairly small downtown area into something enormous! But… we got to see most of Stanley Park and the waterfront and pretty much every little part of the city, so without a car, it was a great option!
For dinner, we didn’t venture far from the hotel, and went to dinner at Culinaria. It’s the Art Institute of Vancouver’s student restaurant, and for $28, we got quite the ridiculous 3-course meal. It was the first restaurant that took pity on our hungry California stomachs and gave us 3 desserts. My mom was so impressed she told me to take a photo… so I did.
On Sunday, the Vancouver Sun Run started outside our hotel’s front entrance. My mom and I have a habit of travelling to random cities during major running events. Like the Chicago Marathon, the Disney World marathon… and now the Sun Run!
Luckily this 50,000+ person event didn’t start until 9am, so we weren’t woken up by the music and crowds, and look… the streets were nice and empty!
We walked to breakfast at The Templeton… then headed down to the water to take a ferry over to Granville Island.
Granville Island is essentially a former industrial area that has been turned into little haven for artistans in the city. They have a central market, with all sorts of wonderful food vendors as well.
Before lunch, we went and sampled some artisan sake (for the sole purpose of grabbing a bottle to take home to Mr. M), then walked over to Go Fish! for some freshly caught halibut fish and chips!
We caught a ride back to the hotel on the Trolley from Granville Island and ended our day wandering over to Robson Street to check out the shopping. I can sadly report that we didn’t leave Canada with any Lululemon or Roots clothing… I’m not sure I realized how Beverly Blvd. in Beverly Hills had all of the Canadian goods I needed before now.
Dinner was remarkable only in that we couldn’t find any sort of casual place that was open after 8pm… so we ended up at one of the Cactus Club Cafes watching the Canucks game… and still not being able to get food. I’m sort of thinking we should have opted for the $18 mac and cheese on the room service menu instead… but we got to watch a playoff hockey game among Canadians, so that was well worth it, despite the loss.
My presentation was at mid-day on Monday, so we ate a late breakfast at YEW (um… I’m going to try my best to perfect their croissant french toast ASAP!), suited up and went to the waterfront for my presentation.
[insert lovely structured poster session by yours truly and 7 others that went splendidly!]
When I got back, I switched into my casual clothes and convinced my mom to venture out to Queen Elizabeth park. While I told her it had panoramic views of the city, we both didn’t realize that it’d be quite an uphill walk from the skytrain station.
We took a brief stop inside the Bloedel Conservatory to pretend we had detoured our day with a stop in the tropics, and met some lovely little birdy friends.
We originally had plans to walk over to the nearby VanDusen botanical garden as well, but we decided that the day was getting by us too quickly, and headed back to the hotel to pack up and go to dinner.
We opted for one more night of seafood with dinner at Coast: I had thai mussels and mom had snapper fish & chips. This would notably be the location of the second night of 3 gratis desserts… which again warranted photographic evidence.
[sidenote: at this point I’m thinking my mom should be thanking me for all of those logged walking miles at this point, because just looking back on these dessert plates is making me gain weight…]
Before our afternoon departure, we decided to pack in one more tourist jaunt before we left. We grabbed some coffee and pastries and walked over to Stanley Park and visited the Vancouver Aquarium.
Seeing the Beluga whales and the pacific white-sided dolphins was definitely a treat… and we even got to see 2 sloths!!! (don’t ask why they’re at an aquarium, but just revel in the fact that they’re there in the first place)
We hiked back to our hotel, stopped on the way to pick up some unpronounceable BC wine to take home (Nk’Mip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay), grabbed our bags and a sandwich from the La Brasserie street cart, and hopped back on the Canada Line to the airport.
And just like that… we were no longer hanging out in Canada anymore, but on our way back to California.
I’ve got to say, I was impressed all around with Vancouver though. And I really want to go back again, probably in the summer to enjoy the outdoors a bit more. My paternal grandparents were both Canadian (British born but moved to BC as kids), and I’d really love to get a chance to see Vancouver Island and where he grew up… and share it with Mr. M and Miss L on another trip.
But for now… it’s back to work and reality… and not eating 3 desserts every night with dinner… sigh.