A Vancouver Visit 5-12-2006

Clients cruise into this northern port

By: Maryann Hammers

With the 2006 Alaska season almost under way, cruisers will be descending upon Vancouver. It’s hard to think of a more pleasant locale for a pre- or post-cruise visit: Vancouver is clean, cosmopolitan and full of great coffeehouses. Everything seems gleaming and new with the possible exception of Historic Gastown, which is gleaming and old. Clients will likely find great shopping, friendly people and Canada’s mildest climate. Nestled against the dramatic Coast Range Mountains, Vancouver is surrounded by water on three sides and boasts one of the world’s largest urban parks.

Welcome to the Neighborhoods

Vancouver’s most interesting communities are within easy strolling distance of the port and each other. In the Gastown District, gas lamps (fake, but still quaint) line charming cobbled streets, and plaques explain the city’s history and lore.

Nowadays, boutiques, galleries and souvenir stores have taken over those historic buildings where visitors can stock up on maple syrup, smoked salmon, fuzzy fleece jackets, native crafts and “Made in Canada” wares. Other areas include Robson Street, for fine dining and shopping, and trendy-funky Yaletown, which boasts some of the city’s best and most innovative restaurants.

Across the bridge on Granville Island, the Public Market is a fun, colorful setting to grab a bite or wander the galleries and craft shops located in old tin warehouses. The quickest way to get there is via bus or cab, but it might be more fun to hop on the False Creek Ferry, which travels between Granville Island and stops throughout Vancouver for about $2.50 each way (www. granvilleislandferries.bc.ca/home.html).

Wild Times

Travelers will find more scenic strolls at 1,000-acre Stanley Park, a quasi-wilderness area near downtown. Clients can jog or bicycle around the six-mile seawall along the park’s perimeter or hoof it on any of the 120 miles of tree-shaded flat trails. Shops along Denman and Georgia streets near the park’s entry rent bicycles and inline skates.

For about $70, Rockwood Adventures offers inspirational, educational tours of Stanley Park and Vancouver’s even wilder north shore. The company offers agents $10 commission (www. rockwoodadventures.com).

Eat Here

Nu (604-646-4668) is the town’s hot new waterfront restaurant, offering an eclectic menu, mango-pepper liqueur signature cocktail and a glass-walled bar overlooking yachts in the marina. CinCin (604-688-7338) in the heart of Robson Street is one of the city’s best Italian eateries.

The cozy and casual Watermark Restaurant on Kits Beach (604-738-5487) features an Asian-inspired menu and sunset views. If there’s just time for a quick cappuccino, coffeehouses are located on almost every corner or for a cuppa, there’s Infuze (604-689-3188), a downtown teahouse that brews green-tea frappes, tea lattes and chai.

Outback Adventures

Canadian Outback Adventures coordinates customized rafting and other outdoor adventures and excursions, including all the necessary gear and transportation from ship or hotel.

The Eagle Safari rafting trip is one of its newest and most popular outings. The peaceful float down the Squamish River guarantees glimpses of wildlife seals, gulls, ducks, maybe a bear or beaver and eagles galore while the well-informed guides talk about the area’s wildlife, history and culture.

The company also offers other more exhilarating or family-oriented rafting trips. Many include a barbecue or lunch at Howe Sound Brewery, a comfortable diner famous for cheddar-ale soup, fresh-baked breads and handcrafted micro-brewed beers. Prices range from $60 to $175, per person. Commission is 10 percent (www.canadian outback.com).

Where to Stay

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is the city’s oldest and finest hotel. This sophisticated, elegant landmark has hosted guests ranging from royals to Robin Williams.

Rooms boast authentic Chippendale and antique mahogany furnishings. The clubby lounge is a destination in itself, featuring mellow jazz singers, an eclectic tapas menu and killer martinis. It’s in the heart of downtown near Robson Street. Room rates start at $215 per night; commission is 10 percent (www.fairmont. com/hotelvancouver).

The Opus in Yaletown is a hip boutique hotel, popular with celebrities. Its 97 rooms were designed with distinct “personalities” to appeal to different types of guests.

One room, for example, has a muted palette and the look of an urban loft; while another resembles a trendy beach bungalow, decorated with a funky mix of leopard skin and other unusual fabrics. A townhouse-style room is easy going and comfortable with big soft chairs. Rates start at $205; commission is 10 percent (www.opushotel.com).

The Fairmont Waterfront the Hotel Vancouver’s younger sister is sleek and modern and offers mountain and harbor views from every window. Located steps from the port, it’s also an easy walk to Stanley Park and Gastown, with mountain and harbor views from every window. Rates start at $215 per night; commission is 10 percent (www.fairmont.com/waterfront).