Van­cou­ver a favourite des­ti­na­tion for trav­ellers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

THE weather guy on the ra­dio fore­casted a colder and more blus­tery day in Van­cou­ver with the tem­per­a­ture only go­ing up to 7 C.

I had just left a high of -20 C, with­out any dire warn­ing of tem­per­a­ture ex­tremes.

Even as most peo­ple were board­ing flights to more tem­per­ate lo­ca­tions, my three days in Van­cou­ver still felt like a com­par­a­tive trop­i­cal va­ca­tion.

My room at the Westin Bayshore Ho­tel over­looked a har­bour loaded with yachts and sail­boats; no ice on th­ese wa­ters.

Be­low me, jog­gers were run­ning along the sea­wall in shorts. As warm as it was, it still seemed to be a bit se­vere for sum­mer-like gar­ments. Per­haps they are a hardier bunch over the moun­tains. But ac­tiv­i­ties like this are re­flec­tive of an area that sel­dom ex­pe­ri­ences the worst of win­ter; where rain and clouds are the only de­pres­sants to take away from an oth­er­wise Shangri-La type lo­ca­tion.

With gaso­line prices ex­pected to stay low into the fore­see­able fu­ture, there are a num­ber of prog­nos­ti­ca­tors who are sug­gest­ing this year will see a dra­matic in­crease in au­to­mo­bile hol­i­days.

Cou­ple that with the re­cent built-in dis­in­cen­tive against go­ing south of the bor­der be­cause of our fall­ing dollar, and Canadian cities and prov­inces are likely to be big ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Van­cou­ver will surely be on the list for many. From my ex­pe­ri­ence in re­cent days, it is a des­ti­na­tion well worth ex­plor­ing.

Vis­it­ing Van­cou­ver out­side the prime sum­mer sea­son de­liv­ers a num­ber of benefits. Ho­tel rates are rea­son­able, the ma­jor at­trac­tions are not crowded, and the chances of find­ing sales at the best shop­ping out­lets are bet­ter.

Van­cou­ver is a big city with lots to see in and around it. While the core of the city’s west end is where the shops and restau­rants along Rob­son Street jus­ti­fi­ably gar­ner the most at­ten­tion, go­ing fur­ther afield will un­cover ex­cel­lent dis­cov­er­ies as well.

Take the SeaBus from down­town Van­cou­ver to Lons­dale Quay on the North Shore. It’s a 12-minute trip across the Bur­rard In­let, where you will find a sea of dining and ac­tiv­ity op­tions. The trip it­self is a sight­see­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of its own.

While a num­ber of shops on the North Shore spe­cial­ize in na­tive arts and crafts, there is a wider ar­ray of shop­ping, plus a good se­lec­tion of restau­rants from ca­sual to fine dining.

A trip up Grouse Moun­tain to the Ob­ser­va­tion Restau­rant will af­ford you more spec­tac­u­lar views of the city, along with a tast­ing menu of some of the best in west coast cui­sine.

Make reser­va­tions ahead of time and the Skyride to the top of Grouse Moun­tain will be com­pli­men­tary.

Van­cou­ver’s Chi­na­town, on the edge of some of the city’s rougher ar­eas, went through some dif­fi­cult times over the last few years. But a ded­i­cated ef­fort to try and clean up the area is bring­ing cus­tomers back.

Many Chi­nese busi­ness own­ers choose to move to the Rich­mond sub­urb, a con­ve­nient drive from down­town Van­cou­ver. Here, many of the street signs are in Chi­nese, and as you travel around, at times you can al­most feel like you have en­tered a dif­fer­ent coun­try.

The ser­vice im­per­a­tive in the busi­nesses that have set up in Rich­mond is de­cid­edly Canadian, and the qual­ity of Chi­nese and other eth­nic restau­rants is usu­ally of the high­est qual­ity.

Van­cou­ver’s down­town is one of the most densely pop­u­lated ar­eas in Canada. The high­rise apart­ment blocks viewed from the wa­ters bor­der­ing the west end have of­ten led to Van­cou­ver be­ing com­pared to the look of Hong Kong by those who have vis­ited both cities; so much so that the city is some­times re­ferred to as Van Kong.

How­ever, it is this den­sity of pop­u­la­tion that has en­sured the pres­ence of ser­vices of ev­ery kind in the down­town core, along with shop­ping and dining ex­pe­ri­ences that are as good as those any­where.

Even be­fore the Win­ter Olympics in 2010, Van­cou­ver was al­ready be­com­ing a favourite des­ti­na­tion for in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors.

With the bulge of pub­lic­ity that was seen world­wide and the pos­i­tive spin given by vis­it­ing jour­nal­ists about the hos­pi­tal­ity of Cana­di­ans, it has moved into the must-see cat­e­gory for those from many other coun­tries who now want to add a Canadian ex­pe­ri­ence to their trav­els.

For those who chose to travel by car to Van­cou­ver, my best ad­vice would be to leave it parked at your ho­tel dur­ing the time you spend in the down­town core.

Park­ing is very ex­pen­sive, when you can find it, and taxis are plen­ti­ful and avail­able most of the time.

You will have no prob­lem fill­ing your days in this fas­ci­nat­ing city.

One of my most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences was cross­ing the Capi­lano Sus­pen­sion Bridge. Sway with the winds as you tra­verse the 137 me­tres over a canyon and the Capi­lano River to the flora and fauna of a quiet and peace­ful world on the other side.

If you don’t feel like driv­ing, ex­plore Stan­ley Park on one of their old-fash­ioned horse-drawn wagon tours.

For more in­for­ma­tion on plan­ning your Van­cou­ver ex­pe­ri­ence, go to http://www.touris­m­van­cou­ver.com/. Win­ter, sum­mer, spring or fall, the weather, scenery and ex­plo­ration ex­pe­ri­ences will keep you there for days.

For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure Su­perCen­tre and can be heard Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found at jour­neystrav­el­gear.com or read Ron’s travel blog

at that­trav­el­guy.ca.

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