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Trip Report Vancouver - We Loved It!

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We had never been to Vancouver, primarily due to the distance from New York City (where we live) and the limited non-stop airline service between the 2 cities. We had been to Victoria on an Alaska cruise out of Seattle but that was the closest we had come to the area. We noticed that NCL was offering a 5 day repositioning cruise out of Vancouver and decided this was the time to visit Vancouver for a couple of days pre-cruise.

Unfortunately, the only non-stop flight was a 7AM Air Canada flight from Newark, NJ. We dreaded having to get up at 3:30AM and being driven to the airport at 4:45AM, but the advantages were - we would avoid a connection with it’s inherent problems of missed connections and weather issues, and we would have most of the first day still available for sightseeing.

Initially we planned on staying 2 nights and booked the Westin hotel on the border of Yaletown. As we got a couple of months out from the cruise, our research indicated it might be nice to do a full day tour of Whistler so we opted for a 3rd night in Vancouver. As we researched further it became clear that we would rather be on Burrard Street, near Robson. We live in midtown Manhattan and like the hustle and bustle of center city and felt the Westin location would be too quiet for us. As such, we cancelled the Westin and booked 3 nights at the Sutton Place Hotel. As we got closer to departure, we again switch hotels to the Hyatt Regency. That switch was based on reviews on Tripadvisor and our preference for large chain hotels that offer fewer surprises than independent hotels or small chains like the Sutton Place.

The 6 hour flight was uneventful, and we arrived in Vancouver at 10AM and were greeted by a light drizzle, which we saw as an omen of bad weather to come for the next 3 days. We quickly got our luggage and hopped a taxi to the Hyatt as the drizzle got a little heavier. We had requested an early check-in and we were in our room by 11AM. The hotel has recently gone through an $18 million renovation, and everything from the public spaces through the rooms are brand spanking new, which is always a plus. The lobby is big and bustling with a large Starbucks that’s opened from early morning to 9PM, exactly what we like a hotel lobby to be, none of that sedate ambiance for us. The hotel is connected to a small upscale shopping mall which has a food court on the lower level with a wide variety of options for a quick bite. There’s also a Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s, about 50 feet from the front door of the hotel that are both open 24/7.

Our room was newly renovated and pleasantly trendy for a Hyatt. There was plenty of light from the full wall of windows facing the SkyTrain station on Burrard. Since the station is underground, all you see from the hotel is a nicely landscaped square city block with a fountain, and no buildings within a block of our window. We even had a sliver of a view of the harbor. Although still overcast, the rain had stopped.

We had booked a 2PM city tour with Landsea Tours, so we only had a short time to relax, freshen-up and get a bite to eat. We discovered the food court in the mall next door and ate some pretty good Asian food considering the location. Then on to some double espressos (at this point we had been up more than 13 hours) at Starbucks before being picked up by the tour company.

The city tour was a 4 hour over view with stops in Stanley Park (totems), Granville Island and Queen Elizabeth Park (Botanical and Sunken Gardens). We also drove through Gastown, the Harbor area, Chinatown, Robson Street, and over the Lions Gate Bridge. It was the perfect way to get oriented and familiar with the city without much effort on our part, having been up 18 hours at this point. By the end of the tour it began raining again so we asked to be dropped off at Robson St, where we were looking for a quick bite and than back to the hotel for some much needed rest. We ate at Café Crepe which hit the spot all things considered, it was light, fast and tasty.

The next day (Friday) we had booked an all day trip of Whistler. We were up at 5:30AM, had a buffet breakfast at 6:30AM in the hotel and were picked up by Landsea at 7:30AM promptly. We booked the tour that went up to Whistler on the Rocky Mountaineer train and came back by mini-bus. We got dropped off at the train station in North Vancouver at around 8AM and the train pulled out at 8:30 am. This is a popular trip, since the train was full and the Saturday run had been sold out weeks ahead. Luckily for us, the weather was sunny and 70, perfect for the trip up to Whistler.

We were floored by the entire experience, the train was clean and comfortable, and we were served a boxed breakfast and a beverage and had access to coffee all along the way. But nothing could compare to the 3 hours of spectacular scenery we experienced on the climb up to Whistler. The time just flew by - half of it riding the outside car. We arrived at Whistler at 11:30AM and we had 5 hours on our own to shop, eat and explore the Village and visit the Squamish Cultural Centre, whose admission was included in the tour. The scenery at Whistler Village was amazing, the flowers, trees, mountains and blue sky were what we imagine the Swiss Alps to look like. Again the time flew by and it was 4:30PM, time for our pickup.

We drove down the Sea to Sky highway, stopping along the way at a lookout point for photo ops, the Squamish Chief Granite monolith, and Shannon Falls, all interesting and scenic. We arrived back in Vancouver at around 7PM and were dead on our feet after 2 very long days combined with jet lag. We opted for room service at the Hyatt for dinner, to tired to even think about dealing with a restaurant.

Saturday was our leisurely day, we got out of the hotel around 9:30AM, it was lightly raining on and off and we had breakfast at White Spot on West Georgia and Seymour. It had been recommended by someone on this forum. We had a good breakfast in a very friendly and quaint environment. By the time we had finished breakfast, the rain had stopped and the weather turned sunny and clear as the day wore on. We walked through Yaletown, but at 11:30AM on a Saturday, things were very quiet. We headed back to Burrard and checked out the lobby of the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel. Then we walked up and down Robson and picked up a few souvenirs before heading off to Christ Church Cathedral, which unfortunately was closed on weekends except for Sunday services. That was kind of surprising considering the city was packed with people, both locals and tourists . We headed down to the harbor along Burrard and checked out the lobbies of the Fairmont Harborside and the Pan Pacific. I guess by now you know we like to check out hotel lobbies. We walked out to the Olympic Torch, and than down along the walkway behind the convention center for some beautiful views of the harbor and mountains beyond. We checked out Canada Place and walked the Canada Trail, taking photos of all the locations we had been to in Canada.

We headed off to Gastown and had a late lunch at the Water Street Café, where we sat outside due to the beautiful weather. We ate Italian food and enjoyed the street scene and show put on by the Steam Clock directly across the street. After lunch we continued to meander for another half hour or so through Gastown and than made your way back to the Hyatt.

We had dinner reservations at the Top Of Vancouver (against everyone’s recommendation) for 6:30PM. We had done a lot of walking that day so we took a taxi to TOV. Since the weather was so clear, it was the perfect night to experience the revolving restaurant. We timed our reservation so we would be seated in the daylight and see the sunset and nighttime views. We had asked for and got a table at the window and the views were out of this world. Although the prices are top dollar, we enjoyed the food (we stuck to the basics) and the service was friendly and efficient. We stayed through 2 full revolutions (2 hours) and really enjoyed the experience as a nice way to cap off our 3 nights in Vancouver.

The next morning we were leaving on our cruise and it turned out to be the busiest day of the year with 6 ships in port. Ours and another ship were bumped from Canada Place to the Ballantyne Pier. I will say this was the only hitch in our Vancouver stay, the city is not equipped to handle 6 ships and definitely not 2 at Ballantyne.

All in all we loved our stay in Vancouver. Prices for food and taxis seemed comparable to Manhattan, only the hotels seemed like a relative bargain. We hope to be back again soon, to pay a more leisurely visit and sample some of the great food, this visit was all about sightseeing. We thought Vancouver/Whistler is truly one of the most scenically beautiful areas of the world.

Thanks again for all of your help in planning our stay.

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