Starting In Vancouver On West Coast Tour

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Adventure Will Be Starting In Vancouver On West Coast Tour

Starting In Vancouver on West Coast tour, thru Seattle and Portland and into California would take us 4 weeks. After San Diego we were planning to head into Las Vegas and finish up there for 4th of July fireworks. Unfortunately, a death in the family cut our vacation short by a week and we missed Las Vegas this time.

We are somewhat frequent visitors to Vancouver as one of our 3 children are going to school here. This means that we didn’t need to squeeze in all the tourist sites for our 3 day visit but we did have some new experiences to share.

After our short visit, starting in Vancouver on West Coast tour we headed to the train station to take the Amtrak train to our next stop.

Airport Limo

We always use Airport Limos to get to the airport for the guaranteed flat rate. At most times, travelling around Toronto on a taxi meter will put you way above the flat rate. I once benchmarked the fare for an early morning flight and it was the same with no traffic – certainly not the norm.
The Airport Limo guys are always early – so we have gotten cocky and factor that into our pickup time. Of course, this time the car was late. Luckily it was a 7am flight and we made it with enough time to grab a snack. I would comment on getting through Toronto Airport but that is probably a rant all on its own. Suffice to say that it is embarrassing to return to Toronto after seeing the quality of most other international airports we fly through. See the To Plan or Not To Plan blog entry for airline commentary.

Hotel – Coast Coal Harbour (Vancouver – Downtown)

The conference hotels were all expensive and filled early, so we booked a spot close to the harbour but a little ways out at the Coast Coal Harbor Hotel. The hotel was marketed as a “green” hotel and the first thing they offered us were restaurant vouchers if we did not take housekeeping for our stay. An interesting proposition for them – since they not only save on cleaning the linen (the “green” proposition) but they also save because they don’t have somebody cleaning the room.
We were able to check in very early when our WestJet flight arrived at 9 AM and we even
got a good room with a king size bed. We have found that early check-in is often a problem, as you get the rooms that were all left empty or rejected the previous day. We call these the “Expedia rooms”. But this time we lucked out and I didn’t have to send David back down to swap rooms two or three times.
The hotel has an outdoor pool area with a hot tub that was actually really hot. This was a welcome respite when we arrived back from a day of walking. One day we even got to relax for an hour by the pool and grab some sun.

Vancouver Transit

The first couple of times we visited Vancouver we got a car and then paid a fortune to keep it in a garage for most of our visit. We are now travelling in Vancouver much like we do in Europe – public transit first, with cabs for some trips and car rental if we want to go outside the main area.
The Skytrain Canada Line will take you from the airport right into downtown. From there you can connect onto other Skytrain lines to go out into other regions of Vancouver. On our last trip we were way out in New Westminister and we found the Skytrain system worked just fine.
It is 2 zones to get in from the airport so if you are going to be wandering around at all, it is probably cheaper to get a day pass. The day pass will get you on the Skytrains (all zones), buses and also on the ferry over to North Vancouver. On this trip we went over on the ferry to North Van to check out the Saturday market. We had a laugh when we saw a vending machine for umbrellas at the ferry terminal – only in Vancouver!

Things to Do When Starting in Vancouver on West Coast Tour

The market in North Van was a bit disappointing, having been totally spoiled by the St Lawrence Market in Toronto. The main market inside is open all the time but the outside artisan vendors are only there on Saturday. One vendor had a most interesting ginger beer that you could buy by the cup or by the gallon (if you brought your own gallon jug). The homemade chocolates and cookies were a big draw. Inside the market there were a wide mix of food and wares, with even a Shiatsu massage booth in one corner.
The ferry ride over and back was a nice adventure. We got a great view of North Van and the
mountains behind it. The harbor as usual was very busy, with commercial and pleasure boats churning the water and slowing down the ferry progress. The trip back offered a great view of the Vancouver Harbour vista, including a paddleboat tour boat.

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Stanley Park is a great destination, especially on a warm sunny day. You can rent bicycles in many places around town and follow the bike trail around the park. You can easily ride from downtown Vancouver, joining the bike path that runs parallel to the pedestrian path along the
seawall. We picked up the #19 bus on West Pender Street and got dropped off in the centre of the park right by the aquarium. It was a short walk from there to the seawall. We saw a small water park for younger kids, still sparsely attended at this early point in the summer. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine.

Places To Eat in Vancouver

Other than the food we brought from cleaning out the fridge at home, we ate out for the full 2 days we were in Vancouver. Much of the time, we grabbed quick food that held the hunger at bay but was not really noteworthy. As an inveterate contributor to TripAdvisor, David provided feedback on most of the spots but here are my key comments ….

Ludica Pizzeria:

The little pizza joint, set up like a games room with hundreds of board games, offered a real Italian treat. Our friends said that when they went there was a darts board set up, but I couldn’t see one myself. I wish there was though, as I would’ve loved to have had a game. Maybe I will just have to buy one when we get back after reading the reviews from one hattrick to ensure that we buy the best one. Regardless of this, everything else was perfect. The pizza reminded us of many we had eaten on our last trip to Italy. The prosciutto wrapped buffalo cheese with roma tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar was a great shared starter.
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Artigiano Coffee:

We passed on Starbucks and tried this coffee spot at a couple of spots around town. They have real barristas making capuccino’s complete with foam artwork ontop. David brought me my coffee in bed each morning and we spent a few hours under an umbrella with a coffee and no wifi one day (yes – we took a break from out iPads and computers).

Bellaggio Laziza Restaurant:

We had eaten on the outside patio at Bellaggio on our last visit, so it was an obvious choice when we wanted patio drinks down by the conference centre. We shared a pitcher of very good
Sangria as we watched the crowds go by. David got tempted by the chocolate panzerotti – half a dinner sized plate, stuffed with hazelnut chocolate and mascarpone crème and drizzled with chocolate and icing sugar. It was a good thing that we shared this amongst 3 people.

Urban Fare:

This market was located 2 blocks from our hotel and was David’s daily snack stop. It has a fully stocked market and a snack bar as well. The early morning chocolate croissants made it back to the hotel room for a pre-breakfast treat and their egg white omelet for breakfast started the day with just the right protein energy boost. The square watermelons in the market were just weird.

Cafe Il Nido:

I will admit that we are partial to Italian food unless we can find seafood and sometimes we are lucky to find both in one spot. The mussels, seafood risotto, garlic shrimp and carpaccio all were gobbled up in record time. We at so much we didn’t get to sample the home made tiramisu. Next time for sure.
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