Apparently, Mother Nature got the memo that I was going to be in Vancouver as she put on her best weather for me – for a day and a half. Then apparently she got tired of showing off and assumed her normal rainy self. But for that day and a half I soaked up the sun and outdoor sights of Vancouver thanks to advice and tips from you, the hotel staff, locals, and even a very friendly volunteer at the information booth at the airport!
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My Sweet Maple Suite
As I got off the Skytrain (Vancouver’s subway) and walked towards my hotel I went past Vietnamese, Malaysian, Sushi, and Indian restaurants. A great ethnic variety – I knew right away that I liked the neighborhood my hotel was in! I also passed noodle shops, coffee cafes, and a smoked meat deli – my stomach rumbled in delight and anticipation after my long flight.
I checked into the Park Inn Hotel & Suites and walked into my Maple Suite (Oh how I love Canada) complete with a fireplace and picture-perfect view of the city. I stood out on my balcony taking in the view and blue skies, when I looked down and saw that across from my hotel was an organic tea and pie shop – that was just too tempting. I couldn’t pass up the maple tea and strawberry rhubarb pie – I needed some comfort food after my long morning of travel!
The Park Inn Hotel & Suites was a perfect location for not only a variety of ethnic restaurants and cute cafes, but it also was perfect for getting around the city, close to the Skytrain, a bus stop right outside the door, and you could easily walk along the seawall to popular Granville Island. I love a hotel that is connected well to local transport and running routes – I always find that to be a huge plus.
The staff was more than welcoming and even gave me an umbrella for the pending weather forecast the next day! I quizzed them on what the best restaurants were, how to get around on the bus, and what to do on rainy days – they were a lifeline for me – the professional traveler who doesn’t travel with a guidebook!
What can you do in 48 Hours in Vancouver?
I had a short time, but I packed in a ton of outdoor activities, lots of eating, and even managed to see a number of friends!
The sun was shining so I was determined to be outdoors. What better place to start than the outdoor farmer’s market and Public Market on Granville Island? It was a short and lovely walk from my hotel along the sea wall with spectacular views of downtown. I actually caught myself fantasizing about living here in Vancouver it was so picture-perfect. Granville Island – which is not really an island but apparently has an identity crisis – is a little community of artists and marketeers that is situated under the Granville Bridge.
I arrived at tables of pumpkins, gourds, maple syrup, giant mushrooms, fresh flowers, and pie…yes pie. I had luckily showed up just in time for the 4th Annual Granville Island Pie contest. The pies were all beautifully on display taunting me while the judges poked, prodded, sniffed, and tasted each pie. I of course stuck around for the ceremonies since after the winners were announced the public was able to have pie tastings too! The winner was a delicious raisin pie, but it was the third-place pie that captured my heart – the maple whiskey apple pie.
I walked through the market and was surprised to find more than just regular market food. There was prepared food, jewelry, ice cream, bakeries, and crafts – a busy and fun setting. The day was so nice I bought a bowl of lentil soup from the Stock Market (love that name) and sat outside on the waterfront and ate while listening to live music on the pier. Can a day get much better – pie, soup, and sunshine?
Why yes it can.
I took the aqua bus across the water to ‘downtown’ and then walked the impeccably groomed seawall path looking at outdoor art and enjoying the views. But I had enough meandering – I needed some speed. I rented a bike, got a little map, and decided to go through the ‘green’ jewel of Vancouver – Stanely Park.
I followed the 10k loop around the perimeter of the park which was filled with evergreen trees, rolling hills, and tons of people! The walking and biking pathway was well designed and maintained – making biking the perimeter a breeze – and luckily it was all flat! You’ll get some of the best views of the city on this pathway as well as see a few totem poles and cool rock formations.
The best part is that I could go at my own pace and take photos or simply find a little remote bench and lay down and soak up the sun for a bit. I have seldom seen a park and a city with so much to offer in the way of outdoor variety – and that’s how Vancouver won me over.
I only had time for one tour, but it was a memorable one. I took the Forbidden Vancouver Gastown tour which was more like a moving theatrical play rather than a tour – a true historical ‘experience’! An actor basically shared the history of this tumultuous area via storytelling of his character’s biography. There was laughter, tears, yelling, action, and even murder as the whole story unfolded on dimly lit street corners and back alleys. In fact – the tour takes you through many alleys that I probably would never walk through on my own – but it really added to the whole setting.
We learned of the Yukon gold rush (1898), Klondike Kate, the fire of Vancouver (1886), smallpox/dead man’s island, and the early Gastown community. Gastown is now home to hip shops and restaurants and a steam clock – but it was fun to see the photos of the settlement it used to be. I loved the tour as a new take on ‘touring’– but you have to come in with an open mind and an imagination. More Info – Forbidden Vancouver.
Let’s just say that I did a lot of eating in Vancouver…
Pekoe Tea – Tea & Pie – that’s what was on the window that drew me in – actually – they had me at pie. A great little place on Broadway that is super chill, but serves up warm pie and a variety of teas.
Shaolin Noodle House – Noodles pulled me into this little Chinese restaurant on the street that my hotel was on. There were a dizzying array of noodle choices so I just relied on the experience of the server and had her bring me the most popular dish – cut noodles fried with vegetables. I watched the chefs as they sliced my noodles from pieces of dough directly into boiling water. They made it look like they were shaving wood on a tree – smooth and effortless. The noodles were all irregular, thick, and amazing – I was in noodle heaven.
Salt Tasting Room – I’m not really sure why it’s called Salt – because all they primarily serve is meat, cheese, and wine! Order off the chalkboard and let the servers help you choose wine pairings – more filling than you can imagine.
JAPADOG – started as a little food cart run by a Japanese couple who had arrived in Vancouver – and now they have 5 locations in Vancouver and 1 in NYC! I had the Terimayo, their signature hot dog made with pork, teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed. Yum?
BaoBei – based on advice from my Vancouver friends – I ended up in Chinatown at BaoBei – a hip dumpling brasserie – see – even the explanation sounds hip! But through all of the hip-ness – there was yumminess! We had a variety of small plates to share of dumplings, tofu, spicy cucumber, and pickled eggplant.
Mamie Taylor’s – also located in Chinatown but definitely more Nebraska hunter than China Orient – this cool bar served up some great décor and some fun cocktails. Go here for the kitsch, stare at the walls, and order the signature drink namesake.
I was there a short time but of course, managed to take a ton of pictures. Here’s my best of Vancouver in 48 Hours!
A Wonderful Piece of Life Advice
One of the most memorable moments for me in Vancouver was right when we landed and the lovely lady sitting next to me on the plane started talking to me all of a sudden. She said she didn’t like to talk on the flight – but now that we landed she all of a sudden liked to chat. She was a spry 87 years old and was traveling with her 92-year-old husband. I had noticed her husband using an iPad earlier and all I can say is that when I’m 92 I hope to be using the latest technology! We talked about her family and life and she offered me the secret to happiness and getting old. Are you ready for this…
Her advice was to always have something to look forward to.
So in that vein – I’m looking forward to the rest of my journey – next stop – Minneapolis!
And if you have any sights, food, photography, or tour advice for my next upcoming stops (Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Orlando, and Aruba) – please share them in the comments!