Sunday, February 1, 2009

Vancouver Pleasures

I have just spent a week in Vancouver with family. Walks by the ocean, good food and wine, birds and flowers, and history were highlights of my trip.

Ocean Views
Vancouver residents take advantage of the parks and walks by the ocean. You can follow the sea wall along English Bay and around Stanley Park – there are always joggers and people walking dogs. Or you can stroll along False Creek, meander through Granville Island and onwards to Jericho Beach. You can also take the ferry across False Creek or catch a Seabus to North Vancouver.

Out of the Rain
The Bloedel Conservatory is a wonderful place to visit on a grey, rainy day. Over 100 birds of various species fly freely within the dome, and there is a fragrant assortment of tropical plants and flowers. The Conservatory is located in Queen Elizabeth Park, the highest point in Vancouver, and offers panorama views of the downtown core, the harbour and the mountains of North Vancouver.

The Vancouver Aquarium is fascinating. There are fish of every size, shape and colour. The sea otters are a delight to watch as they float on their back and clean their fur. You can watch the dolphins leap through the air or admire Tiqa, the baby beluga.
I had the opportunity to watch a play at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. The Stanley is one of Vancouver’s heritage buildings; it originally opened as a movie theatre in 1930. It is now the main stage for the Arts Club Theatre Company. The Constant Wife by Somerset Maugham was a delight – clever, funny dialogue and excellent acting.

Roedde House is a restored, middle-class home of the 1890s. The house was designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the Provincial Legislature buildings in Victoria, for the Roedde family. Gustav and Matilda Roedde were German immigrants who owned a bookbinding and printing business in early Vancouver. There is an octagonal parlour/music room, a sewing room nestled behind the girls’ bedrooms, a windowed turret where the children slept in the summer, and a large pantry and kitchen.

Food and Wine
I ate extremely well. The Fish House in Stanley Park has an extensive weekend brunch menu and live jazz on Thursday evenings. The students at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts prepare and serve an excellent three-course meal in pleasant surroundings at the entrance to Granville Island. You can take the Granville Island Ferry to Nu restaurant. The circular restaurant is surrounded by windows overlooking False Creek and serves a wonderful truffle-flavoured mushroom risotto and a melt-in-the-mouth chocolate mousse. (All of these restaurants had good vegetarian options.)
You can get great vegetarian Indian food in cozy surroundings at the Annapurna restaurant on West Fourth. The Mumbai Masala restaurant in North Vancouver serves an excellent lunchtime meal with samples of six different dishes (either vegetarian or non-vegetarian) and naan bread. I have eaten at both these restaurants several times, and the food and service are consistently good.

For a quick breakfast or snack, you can’t beat the fresh baked goods at Terra Breads and the deli at Capers or the fresh fruit at Granville Island Market.

One of my favourite hotels is the Granville Island Hotel. You can watch kayaks, tugs and sailboats from your balcony and step out the door to browse in the market or the artists’ studios.
The Sylvia Hotel is a heritage building constructed in 1912, and its ivy-clad walls are a well-loved city landmark. There are great views of English Bay from the restaurant and many of the rooms. It’s an older hotel with fewer amenities and the walls are paper-thin, but you just can’t beat the location, and the price is very reasonable.

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