My time on this trip to Canada’s British Columbia was at a premium – after a pretty perfect day in Victoria, it was time to head to the big city: Vancouver.
Vancouver needs almost no introduction – and for me, it is one of those cities I had always wanted to visit. While my husband ‘conferenced’ in Seattle, I went to see my lovely friend Nancy (who was my official guide to both Victoria and Vancouver) and have a little taste of British Columbia. I say a taste, because I want to go back and explore it properly (and take some more empty suitcases).
From Victoria to Vancouver (and continuing my quest of trying as many means of transportation whilst in Canada, just because I could), we drove and took a ferry. We could have taken a seaplane or a regular scheduled flight, but as we were both driving back to the USA, this seemed to be a great option. I booked our one-way journey with BC Ferries a couple of weeks before travelling and everything was simple. The journey costs around $100 CAD (around £54/$75/EUR62 at the time of writing) for 2 adults and a car.
The journey was actually lovely and the scenery was pretty spectacular (if bitterly cold!). We paid an extra $12CAD to access the lounge where we had breakfast and a great selection of magazines. Oh, and it was super quiet.
The crossing isn’t exactly to Vancouver – it is to nearby Tsawwassen, which is around 30-40 mins drive to the city and on arrival you get a good glimpse of Vancouver’s skyline.
Where to stay on your stopover in Vancouver
Our home for the night was the Shangri-La Vancouver, which did not disappoint – on the contrary. There are quite a few luxury options in town now (which is good for everyone, of course) and this hotel was a good base for our short stay. Rates start at around $500CAD/£250 (but vary wildly depending on the time of the year).
My room was super spacious and comfortable – the photos do not do it justice. It was a corner room, meaning there was a lot of light. It even included a balcony which was a nice surprise. It had a walk-in dressing room, the standard Nespresso coffee machine and minibar and pretty much everything you could need. My welcome amenity was a fruit basket, a bottle of wine and a bottle of Badoit (which is my favourite sparkling water – who is making great strides on that side of the pond, which is great to see).
The highlight of the room was, for me, the bathroom. It was just gorgeous – one had to be careful of course with the curtains! The Shangri-La was the second hotel (the first being Nizuc in Mexico) using the new range of L’Occitane toiletries which are a bit step away from the ‘Provence’ type. The scent chosen in Vancouver was jasmine.
We ended our day in a very relaxed way – by indulging in a lovely 80 minute signature treatment (Chi aroma vitality massage, if you must know) at the Chi, The Spa, which was really really nice. It had private changing rooms (within the main treatment room, which is a big yes from me). The treatment cost $195CAD (approximately £105).
Where to eat on your stopover in Vancouver
During our 18 hours in Vancouver, we parked the car and only walked around. Our chosen place for lunch was Hawksworth, located at the Georgia Hotel (which is a Rosewood property), which is considered one of the best restaurants in Vancouver. Our meal was quite creative and lovely. Lunch for 2 was around £60 with a glass of wine.
For dinner (and breakfast the following morning), we ate at Market by Jean-Georges, which is located at the Shangri-La and was excellent – I loved the simplicity of the menu and how I could order a simply grilled piece of fish, which is something that does not happen so often, believe me.
May I also recommend the ginger margaritas? It was cold outside and these worked wonders – or so it seemed. Dinner for 2 with a round of cocktails and a glass of wine each was around £100.
Where to shop on your stopover in Vancouver
This ‘area’, I have to say, was a pretty excellent surprise. I learned a lot about Canadian brands – I did not know that Lululemon, Sorel (originally) and Kit & Ace were Canadian. Now I do.
You can find pretty much any brand you’d like in Vancouver – we spent a significant amount of time at Pacific Center, which besides hosting every brand you can think of, is also home to Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew (the latter being the best know Canadian department store).
We took advantage of being midweek and the stores not being so busy by having a proper makeover at Charlotte Tilbury (and a great explanation about the brand), something that would never happen in London. Ironically, buying the items in Canada did not make a difference really. Also worth noting that Nordstrom’s has a Dry Bar (which explains why our hair looks so good).
What to see on your stopover in Vancouver
With time at a premium (which is what defines a quick stopover!), on after our beauty regimes and a tad more shopping, we left our hotel and drove around town for a little bit. Obviously we couldn’t miss Stanley Park, which is located on a peninsula at the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver. It is one of the city’s main tourist destinations, attracting approximately 8 million visitors each year (blimey!).
I can only imagine how lovely it must be in the Summer – and how much one can do there. Our drive around took us a good 20 minutes, which gives you an idea of scale.
My first trip to Canada’s British Columbia was very short, but oh so very sweet. When we got back to Seattle, Mr. O took a good look at me and said ‘Darling, you look lovely’.
And I said, ‘Well, it was Canada’.
I had always wanted to go to Vancouver – and going for a day was like a tease. There is SO MUCH more to do and see, so I am for sure going back.
Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of the Canadian Tourism Organisation, who organised a great trip for us. Opinions are mine, but I think you may guess how much I really enjoyed it. I really really did.
Get there: a one-way ferry journey from Victoria to Vancouver with BC Ferries costs $100CAD, £54.
Sleep: a night at the Shangri-La Vancouver costs from $500CAD, £250.