10 Reasons to Love Vancouver
There are many reasons to love Vancouver and I suspect the longer one stays in Vancouver, the more there is to love but from an outsider who recently spent four days in a city that strikes me as a cross between Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Portland, Oregon, there are ten very strong reasons to love this west coast seaport in British Columbia:
1. The Chocolate Stores: Check out Thomas Haas Patisserie-Chocolate Cafe (2539 West Broadway Avenue in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver, www.thomashaas.com) where a wide selection of handcrafted chocolates, bars, and treats cover the walls and display cases. The silky dark ganaches (Lime, Passion Fruit & Tahitian Vanilla, Cassis, Raspberry, Dark, and more) melt in your mouth while the bars with varying degrees of intensity ranging from creamy (37%) to bold (83%) are simply scrumptious.ChocolaTas (1689 Johnston Street in the Granville Market; www.chocolatas.com) offers the best of two worlds: chocolate and fresh ingredients. The Belgian chocolate makers combine chocolate with fresh orange, mint, grapefruit, raspberry, passion fruit and more (a splash of vodka or a single malt whiskey) to spoil all your taste buds. Each one is better than the next.
2. The Granville Island Public Market: A destination point with hundreds of colorful stalls showcasing fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, pastries, spices, chocolate, pasta, and every type of gastronomic delight including prepared foods for your enjoyment.
Stop by Lee’s Donuts at Stall 122 for a freshly made donut covered in cinnamon sugar or Siegel’s Bagels at stall 134 for a fresh bagel, or Terra Breads at stall 107 for the most divine walnut bread rolls, artisan breads, and pastries.
3. Vegan and Vegetarian Dining Options: Vancouver offers a variety of vegan and dining options all over the city. Be sure to go to Heirloom Restaurant (www.heirloomrestaurant.ca) for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brunch (on Sunday). Located at 1509 West 12th Avenue in the heart of downtown in an area known as South Granville, Heirloom offers innovative, flavorful dishes that look as good as they taste in a light filled dining room with wait staff that have a tendency to curtsy. Try the Grilled Veggie Sandwich or Avocado Toast, served with a large side salad.
The Acorn (3995 Main Street in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood) is a small local eatery offering creative and delicious dishes for dinner. The menu changes often based on seasonality and no reservations are accepted so arrive early to avoid a wait. Try the Roasted Broccoli appetizer (served with mushrooms and scallions in a rich dark sauce), a salad, the Harvest plate where the current season’s favorites are showcased from local farms, and the Banana dessert (which is really a banana crumble made with coconut vanilla cream, local dark chocolate (Zimt), date caramel, bananas, maple pecan crumble and a chrysanthemum sauce. www.theacornrestaurant.ca
Other options include Bandidas Taqueria (www.bandidastaqueria.ca), The Wallflower Modern Diner (www.thewallflowermoderndiner.ca), Chau Veggie Express (www.chowatchau.ca), The Naam (www.thenaam.ca), Tao Organics (www.taoorganics.com), and Tera V Burger (www.terravburger.com).
4. The servers are kind: In a restaurant, the mother of a bride on her way to a “dry” groom’s dinner asked the server to provide a Mai Tai to go. The server explained that drinks to go were against the law. When someone piped in that the mother of the bride has to deal with two ex’s later in the evening, the server said “Oh, I completely understand” and proceeded to fill up a water bottle with the requested Mai Tai.
5. The bus drivers are amazing: While traveling in Vancouver for the first time, we found ourselves unable to find a taxi (we later found out the best way to get a taxi is to call for one as most don’t roam the city) so we hopped on a bus not knowing riders have to have exact change (no bills accepted). Not having much change and fumbling with what we did have, the bus driver told us not to worry about it and then proceeded to give us directions back to our hotel.
6. Restaurant owners make things right: The breakfast menu in a cafe on Granville Island had a dish called “Tortillas with a side of Salsa” which was thought to be baked or grilled whole tortillas but was, in fact tortilla chips with salsa. When called to pick up the dish at the front counter, I realized I misunderstood the menu because tortilla chips and salsa were presented to me. I politely declined the dish after explaining the misunderstanding, said it was ok and not to worry about it, and then returned to my seat. A few minutes later, the owner of the restaurant came over and I explained that I was trying to find a vegan option and didn’t know that tortillas meant tortilla chips. He asked if he could make me a breakfast bowl of greens, beans, salsa, and quinoa (hold the egg) at no extra charge, which was the nicest way to start the day.
7. Construction crews have polite traffic officers: Our hotel was on a street that had heavy construction so there were three women dressed in bright yellow vests with signs. They aggressively stopped cars and escorted jay walkers across the street all day long with a smile on their face for pedestrians and a scowl for any driver that dared to defy them.
8. Hotels provide great customer service: When a taxi was taking too long to get to the hotel, the manager of the hotel came outside where we were waiting and asked us if one of the hotel staff could drive us to our destination (about 5 miles away which is quite a distance within the confines of a city) in the hotel car. We made dinner on time, thanks to the staff at L’Hermitage.
9. The transportation system is efficient, clean, and easy to maneuver: Take the Sky Train from Vancouver Airport to any number of places downtown (and from City Centre Station located on Granville Street between West Georgia Street and Robson Street) and then catch a bus or taxi to virtually anywhere. To figure out how to get somewhere, use the on-line Trans Link Service (www.translink.ca). Simply enter your location, destination and desired departure time.
10. Stanley Park: A wide open 1,000 acre public park that borders the downtown Vancouver area. The options are endless in this park including a 9 kilometer (5.4 miles) seawall that is part of the 28 kilometer (16.8 miles) Seaside Greenery Waterfront Path where visitors can run, walk, or ride a bicycle. There are beaches, dog areas (leash and no leash), restaurants, a conservatory, botanical gardens, a train ride, and more. See the official website for more information: www.vancouver.ca.