Vancouver is a city where even a first-time visitor can land on two feet. When I arrived, I walked off my plane, onto a train, which carried me downtown. I hadn’t been on the ground for two hours before I was munching on a tandoori chicken wrap at Rasoee Indian Kitchen and contemplating my next move, as though I’d lived there all my life.
I liked Vancouver’s immediate embrace, the scent of the ocean, the fact that if I wanted to, I could have spent that first afternoon walking the path on the seawall that lines much of the city with all the fit Vancouverites who look like they never let a little rain slow them down. I liked that the city’s position on the Strait of Georgia gives it both mountains and water. I liked the public art, the rainbow painted boat taxis, the lupines that grow at the water’s edge. I liked that everyone grumbles about the weather (which, for the record, was gorgeous for most of my stay). I liked that one of the first things I passed on the street was a truck selling Korean tacos.
That first afternoon of my visit I wandered over to Granville Island – which is not really an island, but more of a peninsula – and strolling through an area called Creekside chanced upon a community garden that runs along an old railroad track. A woman tending the flowers pointed me toward some spectacular poppies, not wanting me to miss them, there among the lettuces.
Granville Island itself is something of an enchanted place full of artists making things in public view. You can wander its alleys and see in one window the hull of a boat being carefully sanded, in another a blowtorch shaping scrap metal into sleek curves. The air smells of burning wood and salt and something undefinable but sweet – Flowers? Cookies baking?
The Kids Only Market looks from the outside like a cool toy store but is in fact not one toy store but a kind of Shangri-La: Twenty-five toy vendors selling everything from kites to dolls to fudge. Amidst it all, Jack climbs his beanstalk (I’ve also hear rumors that there are jugglers and live turtles to see). There’s a small water park next door and an old caboose. If you can ever get your children to leave, they can do so through their very own exit that’s just their size.
When it’s time to go, you might bribe the children with ice cream. Near the water taxi stand where you can catch one of the small boats that carry passengers from the island along False Creek back to downtown Vancouver you’ll find GI Gelato and Coffee House. I recommend the coconut.
On my second day in Vancouver I only had a few hours before the social exigencies of the conference I was there to attend would kick in and at first I was worried that I wouldn’t have time to pick up a bike and circle Stanley Park as my friend and roommate for the weekend Amy Whitley and I had planned. But I needn’t have worried – Vancouver is accommodating and manageable on foot. Within no time it seemed we had walked from downtown to the edge of the city, picked up bikes at Spokes Bicycle Rentals and were following the shoreline past ships and totem poles, rocky beaches, and pine trees (had I been there with the boys, I would have been able to rent a children’s bike, a tandem, or a bike trailer). The Lions Gate Bridge teased us from the distance. We started snapping photos too soon, before we realized that we would actually get to ride underneath it.
The shore offers many places to throw rocks and muck around and Third Beach looks like a perfect spot to watch the sun set. We passed both a water play area (complete with its own dryer – do you think kids play in the water when it’s cold here?) and a large swimming pool which overlooks the bay and is bordered by a large playground. The ride is smooth and flat and continuously interesting – everything that children enjoy.
When I return with the boys, I’d like to once again stay at the Four Seasons Vancouver, which graciously hosted me and Amy for three nights of my stay. As with everything else in Vancouver, there’s a list of reasons why this is so. Let’s start with the main one: Its indoor/outdoor pool (would I even get the children out of here to see the rest of the city? Your guess is as good as mine).
I stayed in a large and comfortable suite with a king-sized bed, fold out sleeper sofa, and two bathrooms that would be perfect for our family, although my favorite thing about it wasn’t inside the room but was this view from its windows:
Smoothies and a gorgeous breakfast buffet, to say nothing of rice-krispie-treat “sushi” (the wrapper is fruit leather) also top my list of reasons to return. The hotel is right in the middle of the downtown area, a block from the train that comes from the airport and an easy walk to the seawall path and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
I think you can see why today I am dreaming of a return to this most human (and therefore by definition family-friendly) of cities. Especially since I was only able to sample a few of the pleasures that Vancouver has to offer. What did I miss?
- Snacking my way through the Granville Island Public Market.
- Exploring the interior of Stanley Park where a miniature train, the Vancouver Aquarium, and a lake complete with its own beavers await.
- Strolling through the treetops at the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
- Learning about the Northwest Coast First Nations at the Museum of Anthropology.
Oh, and did I mention there are lots of opportunities for kayaking, hiking, and cycling throughout the city and its environs?
So what are you dreaming of this Monday? Please feel free to share your link.
Many thanks to the Four Seasons Vancouver for hosting me and Amy in our gorgeous suite, to Spokes Bicycle Rentals for generously giving us bikes to ride, and to Tourism Vancouver for the Media Experience Pass (even if I wasn’t able to take advantage of many of the attractions on it). For more information about our stay at the Four Seasons, be sure to check out Amy’s post. And see what she has to say about biking in Stanley Park too.