The Canadian dollar being a bit weak lately, it’s a sane decision to stay in Canada for our vacations. Our country is big and is worth being discovered. From one city to another, cultures are different, the scenery always has a local touch and Canadians are friendly, so might as well enjoy. So I enjoyed a long weekend exploring the West to see the sun rise three hours earlier than usual.
Flying across Canada is expensive, unfortunately. However, with a little planning, you can find cheap tickets. We’ve already talked about KAYAK on this blog, and it’s still a nice tool to shop for tickets. In my case, I started to look 45 days before the departure date and it was conclusive. I bought my tickets 34 days before departure and I had a wicked good price. I don’t know if the fact that I traveled at night helped the price, but my round-trip Montreal-Vancouver (1 stop) ticket cost me $ 680 tax included. Speaking with others, everyone confirmed that I had gotten the deal of the century! One can easily spend $ 1,000 to go to Vancouver by plane, from Montreal.
Once arrived at YVR in the middle of the night, we didn’t feel the need to go to a hotel in the city center to sleep a few hours. Unnecessary expense. The train connecting to the city center stops at 1 pm and starts again at 5 am. The option to sleep at the airport on benches was the thriftiest, but also the least comfortable. We were up early to take advantage of the day!
Discovering downtown Vancouver early in the morning was a great experience. We had luggage (a convenient Venque Duffle bag) that allowed us to move easily without having to go to the hotel. The Port of Vancouver is amazing. It’s free and there is plenty to see. Must-sees include Canada Place, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron and the surrounding restaurants with their terrace. It was amazing to see the large cruise ships dock at the port. Vancouver welcomes the most tourists in Canada, with many coming from Asia. Within 60 minutes, we saw 3 massive ships arrive downtown!
Another must-do is a tour of the huge Stanley Park. We love to discover by bicycle so we rented bikes for the day. A cheap and well worth investment that you get to keep for the day! Spectacles include animals, insects, plants, water, islands, forest observatories, restaurants, cafes. A good all-inclusive that includes breathing in fresh western Canadian air, for free! One of the most popular restaurants is the Teahouse in Stanley Park which is perfect for brunch. The view of the water with encroaching trees, heated terrace, delicious dishes, and cocktails make for a perfect mid-morning activity. Being a big Bloody Caesar fan, I could not resist to taste the house’s version. Besides, all the restaurants in Vancouver and Victoria have a special Caesar recipe, they certainly are promoting Canada’s favorite cocktail! There are also plenty of gin and vodka distilleries around making it easy to get great ingredients to prepare tasty drinks.
For accommodations, we stayed for a night at a Marriott Residence Inn. It was a nice hotel with pool, spa and gym. Look good, feel goof right? Our room included a kitchen and breakfast was included. We only stayed one night; we have friends in Victoria who were willing to house us.
An afternoon at Granville Island Public Market is a great attraction. The food, people, boats, shops, street performers make this a nice visit. I strongly advise you to tour by bike as there is ongoing traffic! Crossing the bridge is more enjoyable that way as well.
Further west with the view of the English Bay, sunset can be observed at The Boathouse. This magnificent restaurant is located directly on Kitsilano beach. You can eat seafood with some reinvented American classics. It’s an amazing location and a nice way to get a taste of everything is to order the Social Plates.
I would say that 36 hours was enough to view the main attractions of VanCity. We toured the flowery Queen Elizabeth Park, walked by the Rogers Arena at BC Place and toured Vancouver‘s scary Chinatown. Chinatown wasn’t as clean as I thought. It felt lifeless, ghostly. This is one of the Chinatowns I saw that was the least welcoming. A positive point; lots of seafood in grocery stores but that’s all. Many unusual products I had never heard of!
Regarding Victoria, the ferry is a spectacle in itself. Taking the BC Ferries is awesome. A 90-minute boat ride with all the amenities on board (not to mention the perfect landscape), makes for perfect leisurely transportation. In Victoria, nature is ever present with an abundance of trees, water and fresh air.
Restaurants and bars are also numerous and delicious! Here are my favorites:
- The Mint restaurant and bar, awesome for its great variety of mint-based cocktails (the Cardamom Mojito is amazing);
- OLO restaurant, for its rich flavours! Good, fresh food to share, inviting decor and fine wines from the Okanagan Valley;
- Jam Cafe, for its tasty brunches and the yesteryear atmosphere.
As for the activities to do while in Victoria, here’s what I suggest. Check out the Parliament buildings. It’s beautiful and a good place to take a touristy photo. Stop by the Fisherman’s Wharf, on the waterfront; A mini city of small houses (float homes) surrounded by restaurants and shops and some aquatic animals such as seals. Head to Dallas Road for an incredibly soothing walk on the edge of the ocean! Mountains along with the ocean and vegetation are ubiquitous on Dallas Road and the Holland Point Park. There are two paths, one very close to the water and another on top of the mountain with a view of the water. On this path, you will also see the Holland Point shoreline trail, with the Mile Zero Monument in honor of Terry Fox. Finally, you’ll arrive at Beacon Hill Park. A park with beautiful vegetation, animals, playgrounds, ponds and several bike paths. You can easily spend an afternoon there. There is even a petting zoo.
Last but not least, the Cordova Bay golf course. This is a golf course with an incredible location with amazing views of the water and mountains. There are two courses; The Bay course (18-hole) and The Ridge course (9-hole Par 3). We went for the 9-hole course. A spectacular land to spend a great moment, without staying for too long. In 90 minutes, I had spent enough time in the sand for one day. You can rent the necessary equipment without breaking the bank. The ground is well maintained and wasn’t too busy when we went, so we played without being rushed.
Western Canada is worth discovering and is much like a peaceful oasis in the middle of a busy city. Next time, we’ll have to travel to Whistler and go on an adventure on the wine route of the Okanagan Valley.
A big city without pollution, you’ll sure love your stay in VanVic!