Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day Weekend Quickie: Vancouver, BC

It is difficult for my mind to grasp that by crossing an invisible line drawn by cartographers, I have leaped countries.  Neither the topography nor the weather changed and spare for the long queue at the Peace Arch and Canadian border patrol checking passports, I would not have realized that I am departing the United States and into Canada.  A long weekend at the tail end of summer, virtually free flights on Southwest Airlines to Seattle, and relatively inexpensive car rental all make for a perfect excursion to a city I’ve always been curious about in North America after Denver, CO – Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vancouver feels compact and unlike major US cities, there is none of that huge throng of tourists you would find in San Francisco or New York City.  I’m not sure if it’s the time of the year or if all the tourists keep to the Robson Street shopping district.  Or it may be possible that Vancouver just doesn’t get that big of a slice in the Northern America tourism pie. 


In any case, if you’re of the epicurious sort, you would definitely love this metropolis.  The Yaletown neighborhood has a lot of local, gourmet cuisine and it’s brimming with al fresco dining.  A favorite travel philosophy of mine is to dine where locals dine.  A series of (fortunate) events led us to Glowbal.  The dinner was so phenomenal and sensational (think paella risotto with fresh seafood, fabulous tartare, kobe meatballs and spaghetti coated with truffle oil sauce, crème brulee trio.. I could go on and on..).  Outside seating is open until 11PM and it really is not any hassle to get moved later on inside since their house music is rocking.

The 16 block walk north on Robson Street from Burrard to Ramen Santouka, plus the half hour wait queue with a hungry Japanese-looking crowd is the perfect buildup for the ramen-deprived.  It just occurred to me that the wait at the border crossing is just as long as this one.  Once seated though, the wait for a bowl of piping hot ramen is not long at all.  The shoyu broth was so savory and hearty that my little old Asian soul did somersaults.  Ordering it with an extra soft boiled egg was a wise decision.  Conversation is not necessary in this hole in the wall.  Everyone had a meditative and complentative moment with their Japanese soup bowls.  Oh, what I would do to relive this moment over and over. 

The historic Gaslight District has more casual dining options, and unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try any of them.  Like locals though, we've secured our favorite cafe. We had our daily cappuccino fix at The Coffee Bar on 10 Water Street that serve outstanding lattes and scrumptious pastries and play great house music.  It had a modern rustic interior with a small curated gallery on the hallway.  Eat your heart out, Starbucks. 

We didn't have time for it, but next time, I'm definitely not going to pass up on Vancouver's famed Japadogs and dimsum.


Another indulgence of both myself and the Dutch are the great outdoors and we got Vancouver-envy when we discovered that Vancouverites not only eat well, they also get to play outside.  A lot.  There’s an abundance of opportunities for play in the city, including the ten-or-so mile loop around Stanley Park, which is at the northern tip of this attractive island.  From what I have read, a Bike Share program has just been approved by the City but yet to be implemented.  In the meantime, it’s easy to spot bike rental shops around the park.  

A short drive from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is also an excellent place to explore the outdoors.  It is amazing how this place could make you feel like you’re somewhere remote when in fact, you’ve only driven a mere twenty minutes north of downtown.   A ski resort in the winter, this place offers a (touristy) take on the outdoor scene in Vancouver.  If you don’t have much time to explore, take the gondola up Grouse Mountain and enjoy fresh mountain air, astonishing views, and an encounter with grizzly bears kept in a semi-wild environment. A fair warning: the views from up here are quite captivating.  

On our last day in Vancouver, I woke up from a very restful sleep with the sun streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows of our 21st floor hotel room.  I peered down to see Vancouver is having another beautiful sunny morning, albeit a sleepy one, it being Labor Day, after all.  I cannot help but feel gratitude that I am able to indulge my fascination and curiosity about the world, about other cultures.  Growing up middle-class in Manila, I could never have afforded trips abroad.  They only existed in my dreams.  But these dreams were persistent.  Not even a decade since I left Motherland, I am already living the life I have always wanted.  To be seeing the world with the Dutch who is also just as grateful (despite his white man background) and who is equally and easily fascinated is the cherry on top of the freshly whipped cream on that sublime pie.  Traveling on a whim is a wonderful perk that came along with the choices I have made, not all of them painless.  I thought about my mother, my siblings, my best friends and although I know their hearts’ desires could be different from my own, at that moment, I made silent wish that they too could live out their dreams.  


P.S. Copyright of all photos here belong to the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment