My cruise started and ended in Vancouver, BC. I knew I wanted to see more of Vancouver than what I would see in a taxi or bus to the airport. If I spent a couple of hours walking around the city what would I do with my luggage? Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations available and for good reason. It is easy to get to Vancouver or Seattle to get on board and Alaska is great anytime you go. But, I knew I would be missing something if I didn’t spend a bit of time in Vancouver. I had breezed through before on a cruise and the glimpses I had of the city told me I needed to see more. Plus, I keep reading that Vancouver is one of the finest cities to live in North America.
This time I was determined to not make the same mistake. Searching for a centrally located, upscale hotel I found several. My fortunate choice was the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, located within easy walking distance of Canada Place (the cruise terminal) and key areas of the city. I don’t have room to mention all their accolades, but being listed by Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Hotels and No. 1 in Vancouver along with the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the “World’s Best Places To Stay” should suffice.
The list of room amenities goes on and on, so I’ll just mention the complimentary high speed and wireless internet access, the flat screen TVs, cordless phones, Egyptian cotton bathrobes and Turkish towels. Plus a balcony off every room.
I had a massage in the spa and discovered why it has been called the “Best Day Spa in Vancouver.” I checked out the exercise facility. It had a very pleasant garden patio, but I didn’t have time to use it. In spite of the fact that I really would have enjoyed sitting around doing nothing but enjoying all the wonderful amenities of the hotel, I am, at heart, a traveler. I just have a hard time stopping. I wanted to see Vancouver and had allowed myself only two days. I should have stayed longer, but my schedule wouldn’t allow it. Maybe yours will.
I did have breakfast and dinner at the hotel, however, and I can tell you that my dinner steak was cooked to absolute perfection. My excellent waiter described what each level of cooking meant in this restaurant– rare, medium, etc. Then I told him what I wanted. A steak that was hot and pink in the center, not bleeding and not overcooked. And that is exactly what I was served. The fresh fruit for breakfast was a perfect beginning to both my days. The Bacchus Restaurant is deserving of your visit even if you find the hotel is full and have to stay elsewhere. It is not just a “hotel restaurant.” It has been chosen for a Gold Award by the Vancouver Restaurant Awards for Best Hotel Dining.
For the ninth consecutive year the Bacchus Bar & Lounge has received the Best Bar & Lounge in the City. I’ll leave that for you to discover. After all my days spent walking around the city I retired to enjoy my room and soak in the tub after dinner.
If you can force yourself away from the comforts of the Wedgewood, there is a lot to do and see in Vancouver. I discovered early on that two days was not nearly enough time. But, I was determined to squeeze in as much as possible. A good way to begin is by taking the Vancouver Trolley Company’s Hop-On, Hop-Off sightseeing tour around the city. The ticket is good for two days and there are 24 regular stops where you can get on and off. There should be a trolley along about every 20 minutes, so stay at each stop as long as you like and then catch the next one. Some of the stops include Canada Place, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Chinatown, Gastown, the Seabus terminal and a number of hotels, restaurants and public squares.
Another great way to view the city is by taking a sightseeing cruise with Harbour Cruises. It’s about a 2 ½ hour excursion on the only authentic paddlewheeler in the harbor. It’s fun to watch the seaplanes taking off or coming in for a landing among the ferries, cruise ships, sailboats, kayaks and other personal craft on the water.
Yet another way to see Vancouver is to ride the elevator to the top of Vancouver Lookout. It’s right in the heart of the city, also within easy walking distance of the Wedgewood, and has a 360 degree view high above the city. The good news is that your admission ticket is good for all day so if you go up at midday you can return in the evening to see the city lights. And they’re worth the ride back up to the top.
But, we’re only just beginning. If you get off the trolley at the Totem Poles you can walk on around Stanley Park to the Aquarium. Here you’ll see beautiful white Beluga whales, Orcas and lots of other sea creatures. Your favorite may be the sea otters – they love to perform and will dive and cavort before your eyes often swimming on their backs while holding in their hands (paws?) whatever food they might be having for dinner
And you can’t travel all the way to Vancouver and not visit the spectacular Capilano Suspension Bridge. The sometimes swaying bridge is 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. It might make you a little nervous, but I understand that it would hold the weight of two 747’s. Let’s just hope no one tries to land one on the bridge when you walk across. When you do get to the other side you’ll discover the latest addition to the area. In 2004 they added something called “Treetops Adventure.” This is a series of seven walkways suspended between some of the towering trees. There are viewing platforms at each of the trees and you’ll get great views from the walkways between the trees.
One of the best ways to get to the bridge is to take the Seabus across the harbor. From there you can catch a bus to Capilano. Ask anyone for directions or just follow the crowd. But, it’s bus #236. Or you may want to take the bus from downtown and cross over the famous Lions Gate Bridge, considered by some as the most beautiful bridge in Canada. You’ll get a good view of the bridge from the harbor cruise as well.
I didn’t have time to get to Chinatown or the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It was the first full scale classical garden built outside of China, by 52 artisans over a period of 13 months. It has been described as a masterpiece and is at the top of my list for my next visit. And I won’t miss the Chinatown night market, held every Friday, Saturday & Sunday during the summer.
There are a number of ways to get to Vancouver. You can fly in, of course, but Amtrak runs right into the city. When you get off Amtrak you can walk across the street and catch the SkyTrain to take you to the cruise docks or a stop close to your hotel. If you want to fly into Seattle and take the train to Vancouver I can advise you that it is a very limited schedule. The good news, however, is that there is an excellent bus trip directly from the Seattle Amtrak station, that delivers you to the station in Vancouver. The bus is very modern, very comfortable and a lot cheaper than driving or any other shuttle or car rental available. It runs several times a day and will offer a schedule that will accommodate your travel plans. The border crossing is pretty quick and efficient. You’ll have a nice restroom or last-minute tax free shopping break just before you cross into Canada.
The last thing I want to mention is a personal quest. I love fine dining, but I’m always looking for good pizza. And not the gourmet stuff with artichokes or spinach or some exotic topping. I want pizza that tastes like pizza, the old style stuff. Because I am often eating alone I like to find a nice little place that maybe has a couple of chairs around a little table or maybe a stool to sit on. Or someplace I can just get my slice or two and take it onto the street and eat it while I’m walking. I don’t always find what I’m looking for but I got lucky in Vancouver. Just a few blocks from the Wedgewood I discovered F.M Classic Pizza. Large slices for only a couple of bucks - and delicious! Try it – you’ll like it. Not just the pizza, but Vancouver as well . . . Keep on traveling!