Haven’t been to Vancouver? Then you might not know what you are missing out on… Think sun, sea, sand, mountains, ski, adventure, cycling, fresh air, fresh seafood, live music, outdoor yoga, food markets, BBQs, paddle boarding, city pace with country style – people who live here often finish work at 4pm and head to the beach… And that’s just for starters. I’d recommend at least a week to ten days to really enjoy Vancouver’s great outdoors and the best of what living in this great city, and local area, has to offer – with everything from beach to mountain activities to get stuck into. The Pacific Rim Hotel, in downtown Vancouver, is the ideal base from which to start exploring.
Hotel: The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, Vancouver
Location: Downtown Vancouver, harbourside
Address: 1038 Canada Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6C 0B9
Phone: + 1 604 695 5300
Nearest airport: Vancouver International – you can pre organise a car to collect you, via the hotel concierge, around a 30 minute drive
Rates: Visit the website for the latest offers
Website: The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
Pool? Yes, plus jacuzzis at the in-hotel spa
Wi-Fi? Yes, throughout
Perfect for: A luxurious base from which to explore Vancouver, for everyone from couples, to groups of friends and it’s also fantastic for families
FashCatherine credentials: The sushi bar is a real draw, the breakfast menu is as filling as it is healthy (or naughty, depending on how much maple syrup you have…), the views of the harbour from the rooms must be unbeatable – truly breathtaking. Also, the Willow Stream Spa and it’s terrace, as well as the pool, bring a little ‘Miami spice’ feel to the otherwise natural surroundings.
Maple syrup, with everything…
I have distant family living in Vancouver, and my UK relations who have been over already have been trying to tempt me to visit beautiful British Columbia, the Canadian state regularly voted as one of the best places to live in the world, for years. My mum actually lived on Vancouver Island for around four months when she was a teenager, on her uncle’s farm. It was there that she had her first ever taste of a burger!
Although I have tasted many a burger, and have had no desire to work on a farm, I finally decided to make the trip with one of my best friends, Jo, and stay for a week in a downtown Vancouver hotel, and a week in the neighbourhood of Kitsilano to stay with our friends who had relocated there a year previous.
The view from our hotel’s bedroom window
We chose to stay at the fabulous Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, in downtown Vancouver. Its harbour side location, and being at the bottom of buzzing Burrard Street, makes it the perfect base for exploring the city. Having taken a morning flight from London, arriving in Vancouver in the evening, we awoke the next morning feeling not too jetlagged.
Our curtains could be controlled by iPad so we huddled on one of the two giant double beds for the grand reveal. The floor to ceiling windows looked out over the harbour towards North Vancouver. Needless to say, the view was absolutely breathtaking.
The view from our room, down to the hotel’s pool
We were keen to tuck into the feast of a breakfast buffet at the hotel’s ORU restaurant. The staff was keen to attend to our every need and accommodated Jo’s gluten intolerance. We then concentrated on making our way through the pancakes, waffles and healthy super juices…
The Willow Stream Spa deck
The 377-room hotel is built around a stylish swimming pool, (pictured a few paragraphs above) which we were keen to take full advantage of. While Jo found us some sun beds, I took a trip to the hotel’s fifth floor Willow Stream Spa: A 8,500 square-foot modern, elegant spa with a huge sunny patio area complete with Jacuzzis. My massage therapist was very attentive and followed my direction on particular problem areas for a relaxing treatment. The view from the spa was wonderful, and I soon called down for Jo to come join me in the sunny jacuzzi.
The rooftop jacuzzis at the hotel’s spa
One of the biggest draws for us to visit Vancouver was to be able to explore the city by bike, which is safe thanks to the introduction of extensive cycle lanes. Also, the scenic 22km Seawall, which travels around the waters edge of the city, has a pedestrian and a cycle lane. The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel offers mountain bikes for guest usage, so we could easily get our sightseeing underway!
Cycling round Stanley Park
Our first stop off, Stanley Park, is one of North America’s largest urban parks covering 1000 acres. You can’t miss the impressive stacks of Totem Poles – one of the icons of British Columbia. There are 22 miles of hiking and walking trails to enjoy within Stanley Park.
If cycling isn’t for you, there are lots of ways to get around. Try the hop on and off trolley or take a Float Plane, Skytrain or Seabus to explore the city and out of town destinations. We really enjoyed the old world charm of Gastown: the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver city, featuring cobblestones and a steam-powered clock!
The Kitsilano neighbourhood has a more relaxed, almost hippy, vibe than downtown. Vancouver is built around the coastline, but this suburb is free of tall buildings and operates at a slower pace. From the main street it is a short stroll to the beach, where we did some paddleboarding, and the giant seaside lido.
WHAT WE ATE
Vancouver is a melting pot of cuisine and has quite rightly gained a worldwide reputation for not only it’s traditional foodie fayre, but also it’s offering of Asian food. Our favourite sushi meal was at the RawBar at the Pacific Rim, which serves sustainable seafood…
Sushi is popular in Vancouver
Fish and chips from the famed ‘Go Fish’
We chose to put the healthy eating to one side while visiting Granville Island Public Market, since we had an insider tip to visit Go Fish – a fish and chip shack at the docks. The famed Public Market is a haven for foodies like us. From giant oversized vegetables, to maple syrup butter and endless counters of baked good and cheeses, we stocked up on goodies for various picnics.
Stocking up on goodies at the Granville Island Public Market
For a treat one night, we walked to the nearby Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. The specialty dishes at the ARC restaurant, including fried pickles, (above) were the perfect accompaniments to our cocktails made with honey from the hotel’s rooftop hives.
Exploring the beautiful state of British Columbia further…
Don’t miss a trip to Vancouver Island for whale watching, and lots more. You can catch an Island Link coach all the way, which includes a ferry ride to the island, and takes just a couple of hours from Vancouver. We managed to see humpback whales on our incredible whale-watching trip, (above) including a baby humpback breach out of the water. A memorable experience!
The ferry to Vancouver Island is an attraction in itself
The Fairmont Empress hotel
We stayed in Victoria, capital of British Columbia, and indulged in the world-renowned afternoon tea at the grand Fairmont Empress hotel, which provides a picturesque backdrop to the harbour.
Capilano suspension bridge
Test your fear of heights with a visit to Capilano suspension bridge, just a short shuttle bus ride out of Vancouver city. A bridge of some sort has been in situ since 1888. Known as the ‘swinging bridge’, the park now includes totem poles, a treetop walk, a kids interactive Rainforest Explorers Program, a birds of prey display area, gift shops and a restaurant.
Atop Stawamus Chief Mountain
To experience the great heights of British Coumbia, we would recommend climbing the Stawamus Chief Mountain hike. An hour outside of Vancouver, it is one of the region’s classic hikes. The 6.8-mile hike is suitable for children and the expansive views are a great reward. You can also see Shannon Falls from the trail. vancouvertrails.com. You might also like to take a trip to Whistler, especially if you visit during winter. The famous ski resort is just an hour and a half car ride away.
To plan your trip and book excursions, visit tourismvancouver.com
Visit Fairmont.com for more information and to book special discounted family packages.
British Columbian sunsets need no filter
PS. Don’t miss fried chicken and waffles with a honey butter drizzle at Chewies, in Kitsilano…
The stay reviewed in this article, in August 2015, was supported by Fairmont Hotels.
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