DAYS 3 – 6
My remaining days in Vancouver were filled with more gorgeous scenery and delightful new food experiences. My friend and I went out for a girls night at The Keefer Bar, a place known for some of the best cocktails in Vancouver – and it definitely lives up to its reputation. If you find yourself here on a Thursday, your 6th, 7th, and 8th scientific concoctions of booze and fruity goodness will be accompanied by a classic burlesque show. This was my first experience with burlesque and it was fabulously fun. The creative cocktails, fun shaped glasses and 1920’s music create a boardwalk empire era mood minus the threat of prohibition-era police closing down the joint and carting everyone off to jail.
To get to this restaurant, there is a strip of sidewalk worth mentioning. Along Carrall Street, somewhere between East Hastings and West Pender, lies, what I endearingly termed ‘crack-head alley’. Never in my life have I encountered a block on an otherwise usual street where the general population can be described as shaky, bleary eyed and leering. I would caution a jaunt down this particular block unaccompanied. I will leave it at that!
The days that followed included an evening out to one of the loveliest Italian restaurants I’ve been to, called Tavola. We were treated to hand-made pastas, burratta cheese, which I think we can all universally agree is the Beyonce of the cheese world – fabulous, luscious, and you definitely fantasize about it sometimes. When we declined desert, the waiter was kind enough to bring us the lightest, creamiest panna cotta either of us has ever tasted. Clearly he didn’t buy our ‘we couldn’t possibly’ act.
This was followed by liquid chocolate courtesy of Thierry Chocolates, which tastes more like someone melted high quality chocolate into a cup than anything called hot chocolate. You will literally spit you Starbucks hot chocolate out in disgust after you’ve tasted this.
The following day was my favourite day and one I won’t easily forget. We awoke early and took the stunning drive to Whistler. This is easily one of the most beautiful parts of Canada I have ever seen. Imposing mountains, lush greenery and endless ocean, studded here and there with white sails. Like a vision from a postcard.
We purchased Peak2Peak gondola passes, a bit steep at $45.95 each, but completely worth it. I don’t tend to think of myself as someone with a fear of heights, but the rickety ride to the top in what can only be called a hot box was somewhat unnerving, at least for me. My friend was fine. Once atop Whistler Mountain the view is breathtaking and the mountain air fresh and cool.
We walked down to the man-made lake (my favourite photo!) which is, somewhat disappointingly, surrounded by an electric fence – they aren’t kidding around! However, the view is remarkable and not like anything I’ve ever seen.
After some sightseeing, we climbed onto the larger, much more comfortable peak2peak gondola (with windows at the top, thankfully!) The view as we glided from Whistler over to Blackcomb was amazing. Endless green with glimpses of turquoise blue water. I left privileged that I had the opportunity to go somewhere and see something that many people, with exception of avid skiers, don’t ever get the chance to see. Despite sharing our gondolla with two other couples and a family, it felt like a unique, personal experience – a little bit of magic.
We arrived on Blackcomb and made our way to Yelp’s highest rates restaurant in Whistler, Christine’s. A modern patio overlooking the whole mountain below. Sitting on that patio, sipping wine and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face (which would later manifest into an unwelcome sunburn – TIP: Bring sunscreen!) was the highlight of my holiday. That’s the moment I’ll remember on those minus 20 winter nights back home.
I’d also like to note that we chose to go up Whistler Mountain and down Blackcomb because we were told this was the most beautiful way to do the Peak2Peak, and I would absolutely agree.
Descending Blackcomb, we took an open-air gondolla (a.k.a. regular chairlift), a thrilling and only slightly terrifying experience. And, so much easier to take photos without all of the glare from the glass! I highly recommend the experience.
A couple of other activities I filled my time with in between included a trolley tour through Gastown and incredible Stanley Park, Vancouver’s own smog filter I’m told – how clever!
I highly recommend a trolley tour in a new city. I know what you’re thinking. “I laugh at those people hanging off the side of a tour bus snapping photos of everything passing by, I’d much rather explore the city on foot.” Well, I used to be just like you, until I did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Paris and it completely changed my attitude towards the whole thing.
It is an excellent way to get to know your way around the whole city, you can hop off and back on at any of the numerous check-points and explore, and you learn along the way with either an in-person or audio tour guide. For example, did you know that Vancouver is home to Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhood? (at least according to my tour guide) Then again, this is the same man who yanked the trolley horn and slammed on the brakes, yelling “WILDLIFE!” every time a squirrell appeared. I take it with a grain of salt.
I also learned that in it’s downtown core, Vancouver is laid out specifically to ensure the city remains beautiful. Certain streets are protected from buildings blocking the skyline to maintain the picturesque views of the mountains. How incredible is that?
On my last night we made our way to Calabash, a Carribbean restaurant also known for some of the best cocktails in the city – hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here…
We split a series of appetizers, as I was told by the friends I dined with that the appetizers are spectacular, but the mains underwhelming. By far, my favourite new culinary discovery happened when I encountered the Fried Coconut Dumplings (something this fantastic deserves capitalization). They are essentially crunchy round biscuits, warm and fluffy on the inside and served with guava and mango butter – I preferred the guava. Such a unique and beautiful discovery – must find these in Toronto! Clearly they disappeared too quickly for me to snap a photo, but I encourage you to visit Calabash and order them. You will not be disappointed.
The morning of my last day we ventured to Deep Cove, a gorgeous Vancouver community right on the water with a view that includes mountains, ocean and everything green. I can’t imagine the residents here feel the need to venture too far too often.
I should also mention that my friend introduced me to the best doughnut of my life in Deep Cove. I’m not a huge doughnut fan in general, but these could not be compared to anything I’ve had called a doughnut before. If you find yourself in Deep Cove, or even if you don’t, you must go to Honey Doughnuts and Goodies and order a honey doughnut all to yourself – trust me, you won’t want to share this baby.
I hope to go back to British Columbia again soon. There are still so many places I’d love to explore: Tofino, the Okanagan, Salt Spring Island, Victoria Island…and so many places left to eat! I didn’t even manage to hit half the multitude of food trucks the city has to offer. For now though, I am content with the memories of the week behind me and looking forward to my next food adventure…
A few other places I visited worth checking out: Aphrodite’s Cafe and Pie Shop (picture featured as the top header image in this post), Sandbar (heated patio year round with fire places – rather romantic and great mojitos), and some not so worth visiting: Water Street Cafe (amazing location, but unimpressive food – possible tourist trap)