Vancouver a favourite destination for travellers
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 email@example.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