Luxury Hotels, Fine Dining & Dior!
As The Canadian train pulled into Vancouver, BC, crossing over one its iconic railway bridges, the sun sparkled and danced off the blue waters…..I had finally arrived on the West Coast of Canada. After a short taxi journey to The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where I would be staying for the night, I made my way down towards the docks to catch a ferry across to one of Vancouver’s many islands, Granville Island. The sun shone and the whole day was mine to explore this uber cool and vibrant city which had stolen my heart already. Vancouver is a shiny city of luxury high-rise buildings, surrounded by water, it seems to hover above the shoreline and I loved the “feel” of it as soon as I stepped off the train.
However, hidden amongst the stainless steel, chrome and glass is a hidden part of old Vancouver with cobbled streets, Bo-Ho shops and indie restaurants, Gastown.….this quaint part of Victorian Vancouver claims to be the cities’ oldest neighbourhood, which grew from a tavern that was founded by John “Gassy Jack” Deighton in 1867; the famous Steam Clock can be found along Water Street along with a collection of old buildings and a statue to the aforementioned Gassy Jack Deighton, it’s a fascinating place and one that I would discover late on that night, when Niamh (Eat like a Girl) and I went out for dinner at the Salt Tasting Room, which is situated in the grisly sounding Blood Alley in old Gastown!
I spent three nights in Vancouver, and I’d like to share my luxury experiences of where I stayed, where I ate, what I did and saw; a rough itinerary is shared below with lots of images and my experience reviews…….but before I talk about high-end hotels and dine dining, I want to mention that out of all the Canadian Cities I have visited thus far, this one was by far the “coolest” and “chic”……it’s little wonder that so many people who visit Vancouver as tourists, end up staying there, and I met numerous people who fell into this category. There is an air of “West Coast” coolness about the place – it’s quirky, elegant, alternative and feels very independent, plus there is an absolute multitude of the most amazing eateries there, it seems that all “Vancouverites” take their grub extremely seriously, in a laid back and very casual way!
72 Hours in Vancouver
Day one: Arrive on The Canadian, check into The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver; day to explore the city using an Experience Pass; welcome cocktails and canapés at Notch8 in the Fairmont hotel; wine, meat and cheese tasting at the Salt Tasting Room in Gastown.
Day three: Return to Vancouver after five days in Penticton at Go Media); check into Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel; art and design tour of the hotel; cocktail and sushi making class in the hotel’s lobby Lounge and Raw Bar; dinner at Black + Blue; dessert, cocktails and live music at Fairmont Pacific Rim’s lobby lounge.
Day four: Breakfast in the hotel; Willow Stream Spa experience in the hotel; check out of hotel; helicopter tour of Vancouver; check into Shangri-La Hotel; lunch at the Market by Jean-Georges restaurant in the hotel; Walking tour of “Luxury Row” with Stephane Mouttet, chief consierge of the hotel; dinner at CinCin Italian Ristorante; dessert and cocktails at hotel’s Xi Shi Lounge with music.
Day five: Breakfast at hotel; Chi Spa experience; check out of hotel; depart Vancouver via the Sea to Sky Highway exotic driving experience with Scenic Rush to Whistler.
Three Luxury Hotels:
Let’s start where to lay your head of an evening – in style……I stayed in three luxury hotels during my stay in Vancouver; my first hotel was The Fairmont Vancouver on West Georgia Street – this old hotel is situated in the heart of the city which makes getting around by foot extremely easy. This “Grand Old Lady” is a historical building with links to film stars and royalty, who have all stayed here at one time or another. My room was large and extremely comfortable with fabulous views of the city – there were the usual high-end toiletries in the bathroom, as one expects in a hotel of this calibre and the staff in all areas of the hotel were friendly, helpful and attentive. My large room was traditionally furnished in keeping with the period and I had a very enjoyable 24 hours in the hotel, not just in my room, but in Notch8, the Restaurant and Bar and at Tea at the Top. The hotel has a beautiful lobby and is home to numerous top designer shops such as Dior, Louis Vuitton Gucci.
Breakfast was served in Notch8 Restaurant Bar next morning, and we were also welcomed to the hotel by Rebecca MacDonald with cocktails and canapés on the evening of our arrival. Breakfast was a FABULOUS buffet WITH a cooked to order option that offered everything from pastries, cereals, fresh fruit, pancakes, bacon, sausages, hash browns, cooked vegetables to eggs cooked to order at the Egg Station where omelettes were a speciality. There was also a Griddle Iron section where waffles, pancakes and French toast was served….I defy anyone to say that there wasn’t something that appealed to them as the range on offer was so diverse, including gluten-free and dairy-free options too. I opted for the COPPER TOP SKILLET which was chicken apple sausage, maple bacon, corned beef & potato hash, scrambled eggs and a selection of toast with sweet butter and preserves. Fresh coffee, tea and tisanes were all on offer too. The cocktails in the Lounge part of Notch8 and were served with small plates that included DUNGENESS CRAB CAKES, OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL and NOTCH “O’s” which was rotisserie pulled pork with Monterey jack, jalapeños, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole.
My next hotel was also part of the Fairmont Group and offered me a room with a view in a spectacular scale, I checked into the Fairmont Pacific Rim on Canada Place in Downtown Vancouver. This luxury hotel only opened its doors in 2010 and is so cool it almost hurts! But, what it boasts in modern architecture is NOT lost on customers comfort, as so often happens, and staying in this hotel offers a unique experience to be captivated by its stunning art installations wherever you are in the building, inside or outside.
The hotel has 377 rooms and has the most stunning views of the North Shore Mountains, Stanley Park and Coal Harbour – my room was overlooked this very cameo and I was enthralled by the marine traffic and changing light throughout the day and night. My room was the size of an average London apartment, with a HUGE window and a state-of-the-art laptop, mobile phone and charging station situated in my desk, which was very handy for all my electronic gadgets. The marble clad bath and shower room was enormous and had some pretty nice quality toiletries in there!
Whilst staying in this fabulous hotel, I also had the opportunity to eat there, as well as being treated to a spa session in the Willow Stream Spa; breakfast was in the stunningly modern ORU Cuisine restaurant, which is the hotel’s signature eatery; dessert and cocktails were taken in the hotel’s warm and cosy modern Lobby Lounge and Raw Bar where a huge centre-piece fire kept us all snug whilst we sipped on chilled libations and nibbled our cheeky sweet treats.
We, as I was now part of an International media group, were also treated to a fun cookery class in the Lobby Lounge and Raw Bar, where we created cocktails with head bartender Grant Sceney and learned the gentle art of making sushi with sushi chef Taka Omi. Lunch was also taken in the hotel in the amazing GIOVANE CAFÉ + EATERY + MARKET, an Italian-inspired café which celebrates la dolce vita from morning until night, whilst tucking into bellissimo breakfasts, signature sugar buns and house-baked pastries, along with authentic panini and pizzas, it was vibrant and bustling with a fabulous array of produce and baked goods on sale in the market part of the café.
The third hotel I stayed in was the exotic Asian inspired Shangri-La Hotel on West Georgia Street; we are talking top luxury again, with my room being very large, with an even bigger en-suite that was entirely in marble with L’Occitan toiletries, my favourite! My room had a balcony, which was nice, and a view of the centre of Vancouver. I was welcomed with a small platter of bread and cheese with fresh fruit, which was a lovely touch. I also had another spa treatment here, in the hotel’s Chi Spa, which was amazing – located on the top floor; it draws inspiration from the origins of the Shangri-La legend, which describes a place of personal peace, enchantment and well-being. CHI, The Spa is a sanctuary where holistic treatments that are based on time-honoured methods shared by many Asian cultures are practised, and I had the most amazing and relaxing experience there, with herbal tea and a choice of music as I chilled out in a seaweed wrap.
The food was excellent in the hotel, and on the day we arrived we dined with the hotel’s senior management and PR team for lunch in the very swanky MARKET BY JEAN-GEORGES; Market by Jean-Georges is a contemporary Downtown Vancouver restaurant that reflects Vancouver’s thriving restaurant scene, with a concept created by internationally acclaimed three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Leading the culinary team in Vancouver is Executive Chef, Ken Nakano, who created a lovely lunchtime menu for us all. Breakfast was also taken in the same restaurant the next day, and was delectable, with all the food being cooked to order. As well as enjoying some really delicious and innovative food in the Market, we were also treated to dessert and cocktails after dinner in one of the hotel’s bars.
Four FAB Places to Eat and Drink in Vancouver:
- The Salt Tasting Room, 45 Blood Alley, Gastown: An atmospheric deli style bar and bistro where you can choose flights of paired wines to match your cheese and charcuterie platters. This cosy and friendly eatery also specialises in sherry, and has over 15 sherries on offer to accompany your food platters. A “Tasting Plate” comprising 3 meats and/or cheeses with 3 matching condiments is $16 and a flight of 3 wines of your choice is $15; all the plates are designed to be shared. I loved this place, it was buzzing with atmosphere and the choice of cheeses, meats and wines was diverse and interesting. Tel: 604-633-1912 for reservations and info.
2. CinCin Italian Ristorante, 1154 robson street: A staircase leads you up from the busy street to a large and warm dining room with open kitchen, where the wood-fired ovens are the main cooking source for all the food that comes out of the kitchen; this is the charming Italian restaurant called CinCin. With acclaimed Chef Andrew Richardson at the helm, the menu at CinCin represents the clean and plentiful flavours of Italian gastronomy. Each dish is prepared with the freshest, thoughtfully selected ingredients sourced from the regions best suppliers and transformed into a parade of captivating aromas, tastes and textures. We all enjoyed an exemplary 4 course menu which comprised a salad starter with yellow beets, white truffle and hazelnut ravioli, filet mignon steaks and a café gourmand platter, which were all paired with delicious local Canadian wines. Prices between $14 and $45 for all courses. Tel: 604-688-7338 for reservations and info.
3. Black + Blue, 1032 Alberni Street: Do not eat all day if dining here in the evening! You have been warned! This warm and contemporary multi-storied restaurant specialises in dry aged meats that are all displayed in chiller cabinets with pale pink and orange walls made of Himalayan salt bricks that do more than just look good; the salt purifies the air & naturally removes moisture and results in prime full-flavoured steaks. We all enjoyed several tasting platters at this fabulous restaurant, all paired with superlative Canadian wines, and the meal was an unforgettable experience. We were treated to: A Bespoke Tasting Appetiser Platter; Meat & Seafood Platter ($58 per person) with usda prime strip loin, prawns, lobster tail, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and Brussels sprouts and a Taster Dessert Platter. The Roof, Black+Blue’s third floor outdoor restaurant and lounge, is Vancouver’s largest rooftop dining destination offering platinum seating to the city’s patio scene, and although we were dining in a private room downstairs, I popped upstairs to see this fabulous high-rise dining area, which was spectacular. Prices vary vastly according to the time of day and seasonal special offers. Tel: 604- 637-0777 for reservations and info.
4. Medina Café, 780 Richards Street: This bright and spacious restaurant/café is situated in the Library District of Vancouver; a MUST VISIT place for breakfast and weekend brunch, expect very long queues and a waiting list of over an hour when it’s very busy. But, the wait is definitely worth it, as the food and menu is inspired, with tasty Mediterranean and Maghreb cuisine, connoisseur-savvy coffee and sweet sustenance via the city’s best Belgian waffles from the esteemed Chef Deniz Tarakcioglu, it’s a Vancouver institution. The brunch menu suggests Le Thon Ras-El Hanout (rare Albacore Tuna, White Bean & Quinoa Salad, Tahini Dressing, Aleppo Butter, Oven dried Tomatoes & Fresh Herbs), Wolves Breakfast (In-House Cured Peameal Bacon, Double Smoked Medina Bacon, Andouille & Merguez Sausage), Cassoulet (Smoked Bacon, Andouille Sausage, Saucission Parisienne à l’ail with White Beans, Red Wine, Tomatoes, 2 Sunny Eggs), La Santé (1 Soft Boiled Egg, Marinated Tomato Salad, Olive Tapenade, Avocado, Oyama Charcuterie with Grilled Ciabatta) and Le Complet (Flatiron Steak, 2 Sunny Eggs, Caramelized Onion & Piquillo Goat Cheese Crostini, Romesco & Seasonal Greens). Prices start at $8 for granola and most meals are under $18. There is an interesting range of cocktails as well as the ubiquitous coffee and tea, I enjoyed a Moroccan Maria, Reposado Tequila, Fresh Tomato Juice, Celery Bitters, Fresh Lime Juice, House Spice Mix, Pickles, Smoked Salt with Paprika & Sumac Rim. Tel: 604-879-3114 for info, there is a no-booking policy, it’s first come, first served.
I hope you will find my notes and images inspirational and useful, if you are lucky enough to be in Vancouver for 2 or 3 days and have a luxury budget; there are lots of things to see and do in this fabulous city – I managed to walk about the city and take a ferry over to Granville Island, as well as visit the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. After leaving Vancouver, I took an exotic car ride in a Ferrari and a Lamborghini to Whistler, pop back in a week or so to read all about my adventures there, including a helicopter ride up to an ice cap where we landed to take photos! Karen
Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Destination Canada, Keep Exploring Canada, Tourism Vancouver and Destination British Columbia, as well as various hotels, provinces and restaurants that I will mention in my individual posts: all my flights, transfers, train journeys, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips, excursions and special cookery sessions with local chefs. With profound thanks to all the people and organisations that looked after me and made my trip so memorable and exciting.
This trip could not have been possible without the following people, as well as others already listed above:
Vancouver Fact File:
Named after Captain George Vancouver, the city has a population of just over a half a million people. It has been voted twice (in 2005 and 2006) as the best city for quality of life.
Where is Vancouver?
Vancouver is situated in South Western Canada in the province of British Columbia and lies on the coast of the Pacific Ocean where it is sheltered from any extreme weather by Vancouver Island.
What’s the weather like in Vancouver?
Vancouver is renowned as being quite a wet city, though in actual fact out of all the major Canadian cities, it is the second driest (after nearby Victoria)! Compared to the rest of Canada, Vancouver has a very mild climate, year round, and rarely drops below freezing. Snowfall is also quite a rare occurrence in the city. The typical daytime high temperature in the summer is a pleasant 25C (77F) and during the height of summer rain is uncommon, not really starting until around October.
The geography of Vancouver
Known for its amazing scenery, Vancouver is a city which certainly takes advantage of its great location. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Mountain range gives the city a stunning backdrop, whilst on the North Shore just minutes from Downtown Vancouver is the North Shore Mountain range with ski resorts and spectacular views back towards the city and beyond.
The North Shore also has areas of temperate rain forest, which years ago covered the whole of this area before Vancouver was developed into the city that it is today.
A short history of Vancouver
Vancouver was named after the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver, who sailed into the area in 1792. However, the region had been inhabited for thousands of year prior to that by Canada’s indigenous peoples (now commonly known as First Nations).
The city of Vancouver was officially incorporated in 1886 after it had become an important port for shipping lumber out around the world, particularly to China. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was called Granville, where today you’ll find the historic Gastown district. When the transcontinental railway arrived in the city a few years later, the population began to boom.
Because of Vancouver’s position on the Pacific Coast, the city has long been a magnet for immigrants, particularly from Asia, and the fact that Vancouver now has the second largest Chinatown in North America is testament to this.
Vancouver actually has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, which is constantly maintained by the thousands of immigrants who come here every year, attracted by the famous quality of life in this city, which is repeatedly voted one of the best in the world to live!
The population of Vancouver City is nearly 612,000, whilst the Metro area as a whole has a population of over 2 million, making this the third largest city in Canada after Toronto and Montreal.
Languages spoken in Vancouver
Vancouver is English-speaking on the whole, though as mentioned above it is a very ethnically rich city and therefore you’re bound to hear all different kinds of languages being spoken around you!
In fact, 52% of the city residents, and 43% of Vancouver Metro residents have a first language other than English!
Links to my other Canada posts: