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Trip Report jent103 goes to Canada: Vancouver/Victoria Trip Report

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Thanks to all the Fodorites who helped me plan this somewhat unexpected trip! Hopefully my report will be helpful to others later on. (We also went to Banff after Vancouver, but I’ll include that as a separate report.)

Taking full advantage of a paid-for plane ticket for an early August conference in Vancouver, I planned some sightseeing around town and in Victoria. I flew up on Friday, July 30, stayed in an airport hotel Friday night, took the Pacific Coach Lines bus and ferry to Victoria Saturday, and returned to Vancouver Sunday, staying until Thursday morning. I’ll do a quick rundown of restaurants, transport and hotels first, for those just interested in the logistics, then get into the details for anyone who wants them. If you’re interested in pictures, all of the sets can be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenthompson/collections/72157624595634483/

Hotels:
Sheraton Vancouver Airport: (Note that this is NOT the same as the Sheraton Four Points near the airport.) I “bid” on Hotwire for a 3* hotel in the YVR area with a shuttle and got the Sheraton for about $80. I was really pleased with this hotel. The shuttle, shared with the Hilton and Marriott, isn’t fast but is reliable. The front desk staff was very helpful and the room was large, clean and comfortable. I ordered room service Friday night and had a good burger and salad. Overall good experience.

Marketa’s b&b (marketas.com), Victoria: I read great things about Marketa’s on Fodor’s. If you don’t want/need a lot of interaction with staff and are looking for a comfortable, clean, relatively inexpensive place to stay, this would be great for you. I had a “budget” room on the lower level with a queen bed and ensuite bath. The room was comfortable, shower was nice, and internet was free and reliable (though, being downstairs, I didn’t get much of a cell phone signal). It’s about ten minutes’ walk from the Empress hotel, through a residential area. Breakfast was good. At least downstairs, I could hear everything happening in the hall. It didn’t bother me because I always travel with earplugs, and nobody was obnoxious or banging doors at 3am, but if you’re the sort who needs absolute quiet, the budget rooms are not for you (I’m not sure about upstairs). When I arrived, Marketa had left an envelope with my name clipped beside the front door with my keys and instructions (where my room was, internet password, etc). I didn’t see Marketa until after breakfast the next morning, when I asked to pay and leave my luggage. She was efficient and businesslike. So, if you want a super attentive and very friendly owner/staff, I might look elsewhere, but if you just want a nice room and good location at a good price, this fits the bill.

Blue Horizon Hotel, Vancouver: The only negative to this hotel was the decor. I’m not sure when it was built, but it looks like it hasn’t been redecorated since about 1992 (pink bathtubs, blue wallpaper...). That said, I liked everything else about it. It was cheaper than the hotels very close to the convention centre (all the “official” hotels for my conference were at least $220/night, and most were closer to $300; the Blue Horizon was under $200 with taxes). It’s located on a busy part of Robson Street (but noise was not a problem for me), and was about a ten-minute walk to the convention centre. The front desk staff was very helpful, including receiving the poster I was to present at the conference when Air Canada lost it and delivered it two days later. My room was large, shower was fine, flat-screen TV with good channel selection, and a great view over the harbor. The free internet was wired, but there’s a desk in the room so it’s pretty easy to deal with. Overall, definitely recommended.

Restaurants: I am a picky eater who would rather spend money on things besides really nice restaurants. So if you’re looking for a special place for fine dining, my trip reports are probably not going to help you very much. :) If you’re looking for a list of generally inexpensive places, here you go. Pretty much everything was more expensive than the equivalent at home (Nashville), just as a comparison point.

Victoria:
Liberty Cafe, on Island Highway, just down from the bus depot. I had a tuna melt on flatbread, chips and a Coke for about $11. The sandwich was actually better than I expected - good choice for a quick bite.

The Joint pizza (eatatthejoint.com). Pizzeria on Wharf Street. I’d recommend it overall, and especially if you need gluten-free or vegan options. They have whole wheat, white and gluten-free crusts, GF and vegan desserts, and salads and other things. I had a Coke and a personal ham pizza on whole wheat. It wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had, but I enjoyed it.

Salad Loop (saladloop.com): I was in need of veggies and this delivered. Pretty straightforward salad bar chain - good for a quick, healthy meal.

Vancouver
Breakfasts were at Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. I am a girl of simple tastes.

New Asahi (Japanese): I really liked this dinner. It was directly across from my hotel, and I wanted something that was takeout my first night, being tired and by myself. The restaurant was packed. It took awhile for the hostess to take my order, and took another while to get my food. But it was really tasty and cheap as well - dinner was about $8.

Natural Fare, in the Waterfront food court near the convention centre: I had the salmon teriyaki rice bowl. This place is good if you want healthy food; lots of juices, brown rice, etc. My rice bowl had tons of veggies and was topped with plain yogurt and teriyaki sauce. Rice bowl, apple and Coke Zero were about $11.

The Keg steakhouse (Thurlow Street): I got a teriyaki steak with baked potato and Caesar salad, all of which were good. All together it was about $27.

Umi Sushi, in the Waterfront food court: Teriyaki chicken today. (I ate lots of teriyaki.) It was fine. Packed at lunch, so it took awhile. If I’m not mistaken, this is a chain?

Red Robin on Robson Street: I know. Some of y’all are rolling your eyes. My brother arrived that day after being up since 3:30am, so we wanted something simple and fast. It’s what you’d expect - fine, not fine dining. Burger, fries and a soft drink were about $18 with tip.

La Petite Crepe, Pender Street: On the last day of my conference, I was tired of the food court and had seen this place the night before. I really liked it. It’s completely a one-man operation, seems like; just one guy cooking, running the register and doing everything. I had a tuna melt; I forget what my brother had, but we both enjoyed it. I also had lentil soup, which was good. And I succumbed and got a dessert crepe - cinnamon and sugar. A little overpriced at $5, but tasty. With that included, lunch was about $16.

Water Street Cafe, Gastown: We wandered around Gastown looking for somewhere and this looked like our best option. It was okay. It took a really long time to get our food. I thought it was fine but not great. I was glad work was paying for it; my Caesar salad and pesto pasta was $32 with tip. I would ask for the half order next time for sure.

Next up: Actual report!

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