A few weeks ago I took my first trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, and it was, in a word:
Highlights were a stroll across the gentle enormity of Stanley Park and burrowing into a feather bed at a historic bed & breakfast — the West End Guest House.
Prior to this trip, I’d been around a fair bit of British Columbia — Victoria, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, the town of Golden, even a fair bit of the enormous Vancouver Island — but had previously approached it via Seattle, Banff National Park or Calgary.
This was my first experience with the lovely Vancouver Airport (YVR), and I can’t help but wonder: Why can’t every city airport have stunning artwork, a clean and cheery shopping mall, free wi-fi and an indoor waterfall and stream? Seriously, travel people — the bar is now set pretty damn high.
I was ostensibly in town for my annual travel bloggers’ conference, but decided to come a few days early to explore. It’s a city of changeable weather, so I brought along a big ol’ suitcase full of layers, ranging from mildly dressy to straight-up REI; even in June, I was thankful for all of them.
My stay began at the West End Guest House, a bed & breakfast set in one of West Vancouver’s last preserved Victorians. Set in a bonafide neighborhood with sidewalks and fluffy trees (in summer, anyway) it’s so welcoming from the street that you just have to stop and sigh for a minute. The house was refurbished by the meticulous Evan Penner and his husband, who’ve put together an impressively epic book on the renovation, their relationship, Vancouver, and more; the only thing that keep it from being a blog is a 3-ring binder. In their cozy version of the Guest House, you’ll find the requisite period antiques, cloud-soft beds trimmed with fine brocade, and in every bathroom, small murals of the neighborhood’s “lost” houses.
Windows are double-paned and cut down on street noise — like, say, from a Stanley Cup game riot — and there’s a second-story balcony at the back with cozy chairs and a leafy view. Downstairs in the velvet-draped public sitting room, you’ll find a fireplace and occasionally a couple of friendly (and hypo-allergenic) poodles. Baked goods, hot drinks and sodas are available all day in the kitchen, and a spot of sherry is served on the breakfront from 5-7pm. You could stay here all day, drifting from room to room, peacefully hydrating yourselves.
Breakfast is a gourmet yet suitably restrained affair (this is mild-mannered Canada, after all), and you’re likely to meet both regulars and first-timers ’round the table. For instance, the Brooklyn-based guy who was seated across from me finds himself in Vancouver every few weeks for work and treats the Guest House like his home; he’s never stayed anywhere else in the city. And for the record, he hopes to someday meet a nice girl here.
Within a 10-minute walk of the Guest House, you can sample skadillions of Asian restaurants along Robson Street, stroll the peaceful Coal Harbour Waterfront, or explore the enormous, woodsy sprawl of Stanley Park.
I’d intended to wend my way through the latter for only a brief snapshot, but two hours later, I was still wandering, entranced, through boggy groves of cedars, over stone-arch bridges, and into explosions of rhododendrons. Peeked into the the park’s Teahouse and said loud to myself, “Holy adorable, Batman!”
A raccoon crossed my path at one point, and I swear to you, it waved and smiled. I didn’t want the glow to end, but with dusk approaching, I also didn’t want to end up as a “have you seen this woman” story on the local news.
Tucked up safely back in my room at the West End, I only wished one thing — that I could have stayed longer.
The Metropolitan: The Sexy Side of Vancouver
Granville Island Market: Food Porn in Vancouver
Seasquatch and the Strait of Georgia: Out on the Water in Vancouver
See also, on Vancouver Island
To Victoria, Again
Touring Farms and Wineries on Vancouver Island
Amuse Bistro on Vancouver Island
Salt Spring Island
Sidney by the Sea
Driving to Port Renfrew and Botanical Beach
For Goodness Sooke