Vancouver, Canada

In Destinations, North America by LA Travel Magazine

Vancouver is often referred to as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Even the locals are swept away by the backdrop of snow-capped mountains peeking between downtown skyscrapers.  With its chic atmosphere, high end fashion boutiques and love for health conscious eating it has earned the nickname “North Hollywood.” We have visited Vancouver in the past but each time we visit we realize we need more time at the end of the trip. On this recent trip we decided to stay at The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, one of Vancouver’s leading luxury hotels.
If you’re searching for a romantic, sophisticated hotel with over the top service, immaculate rooms, a top rated restaurant, a full-service award winning spa, and a central downtown location, the Wedgewood is the only choice.
The hotel is individually owned and not a product of a major hotel chain which is clear the second you walk through the main entrance. The overall vibe has everything to do with the personal interior decorating skills of Greek born owner and founder, Eleni Skalbania. With only eighty-three rooms and suites the family-run boutique hotel has been a top notch Vancouver destination in and of itself. Upon arrival it was evident; we were in the lap of luxury and immediately felt at home (although our home is nothing close to this extravagant).  Our room was well appointed and spacious.  We were anxious to get out and jump on in to the hustle and bustle of Robson Street awaiting just steps from the hotel so we quickly stored our luggage, changed into comfortable walking shoes and off we went.  Walking through Vancouver; one of the great walking cities in North America is an exciting task in itself.  The people watching is great and everyone is very friendly.
We headed towards Stanley Park which is a haven of hidden lakes, lapped on three sides by the ocean and encircled by a six-mile sea wall. Active options throughout the park include rollerblading, hiking, running or bicycling. Located inside the park is the Vancouver Aquarium; one of the most popular aquariums in North America.  It is home to 8,000 aquatic animals from the Arctic and the Amazon, including orcas, beluga whales and dolphins.  It is also the largest marine wildlife museum in Canada and home to more than 70,000 animals.  Our favorite part was watching the Beluga and Dolphin Shows; they are a must see!
Before leaving for our next activity we decided lunch was up next.  We asked a representative of the aquarium for some trendy spots to try; with so many restaurant options it can be difficult to find the best ones on your own.  Always ask the locals when you are in search of a city’s hot spots.  One of her recommendations Tableau Bar & Bistro was not too far away; after getting directions we were off.   Tableau was easy to find and with no wait we were seated quickly.  The bistro serves their take on traditional French bistro fare.
Yes this is a place with bistro classics like burgers and moules-frites but the cooking here is more ambitious. The calm, mostly unadorned restaurant has a welcoming atmosphere and extremely pleasant staff with a relatively spacious seating area.  To start we ordered the Endive & Pear Salad with Blue Cheese & Hazelnut, the flavors were well balanced and light; a perfect starter.  Vancouver is definitely known for its seafood and when our server suggested we try the soup of the day, lobster bisque with crème fraiche we had to oblige.  Paired with a Beef Brisket, Sauerkraut, Gruyere Cheese and Mustard Sandwich it was utter bliss.  We also tried the BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich as well which was equally delicious.
After lunch we headed over to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  Originally built in 1889, the bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River.   Overall the park includes 27 acres, 7 suspension bridges 100 feet above the forest floor which make up Treetop Adventures and a Cliffwalk, the parks newest attraction which is a cantilevered walkway clinging to a granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon.  It was a great way to walk off lunch and it provided us with a memorable photo.
Back at the hotel, we took some time to unwind and enjoy the luxury.  We normally don’t do this, typically it is go, go, go for us as we have a hard time sitting still when traveling.  When you are in a hotel such as the Wedgewood you make time to enjoy it.  Succumbing to the relaxation I even decided to book myself a spa appointment for the next morning.
Around 6:30pm we started getting ready for dinner.  We decided to try the hotel restaurant Bacchus which was recently awarded “Travellers’ Choice Best Vancouver Restaurant” by TripAdvisor.  After a day of city slicking, Bacchus deemed the perfect choice.
We sank into a plush velvet banquette while the server presented us with a 300-bottle international wine list and menus.  One look around and you instantly notice you are surrounded by luxury, with richly upholstered furniture, dark wood, and light fixtures imported from Venice by owner Skalbania herself.  The live piano entertainment completes the atmosphere.
A glass of Chardonnay and a Raspberry Lemon Drop Martini kicked off the dinner.  For starters we decided on an Organic Arugula, Baby Spinach Leaves and Endive Salad topped with Spiced Poached Pear, Candied Pecans and Crumbled Stilton and the Ahi Tuna Tartare with Avocado, Toasted Sesame, Shiso, Pine Nuts and Ciabatta Crisps.  Both were fantastic.  Our server was meticulously trained and highly knowledgeable.   For our entrees we both ordered the “AAA” Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Truffle and Parmesan “Pont Neuf”, Wilted Spinach, Portabello Mushrooms and Béarnaise Sauce.  This truly is an award winning restaurant, the food was outstanding and the ambiance is just as good.
Luckily we decided to skip dessert because when we arrived back at our room there was a plate of freshly baked cookies along with turn-down service, a sweet end to a sweet night.
The next morning we awoke in a great mood, the beds are so comfortable at the Wedgewood I really need to find out where I can get this set up for my own home.  It was almost time for my facial appointment, but first breakfast!  I know your probably thinking “How can you eat again?”    This time we went light with a Fresh Fruit, Granola and Yogurt Parfait.  It was a great option before my trip to the spa.
The Spa was warm and inviting and I noticed right away a displayed line of my favorite skin care, Epicuren.  I was thrilled and immediately started going through the Epicuren products to see which ones I didn’t have.  Seconds later, an esthetician named Jan arrived to take me back for my facial.  The 60-minute affair was punctuated by cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, and a stress-relieving oil massage for my stiff shoulders. After some final extractions, she smoothed on a series of aromatic potions and spritzed on some protein spray that left my skin moist. She was great, and I left with a luminous complexion that kept my face glowing all day.
After the spa we headed out to do some window shopping on Robson.  A must while visiting the city is a stop at Cupcakes by Heather and Lori.  The cupcake offerings range from Blue Hawaiian to Cosmopolitan.  On this trip I had to try the Nutella, paying homage to our recent European adventure where Nutella is a staple.  It was seriously the best cupcake I have EVER had and that my friends is a bold statement coming from the Cupcake Queen herself!  On previous visits I had tried the Koo Koo Coconut, Blue Hawaiian, Lemondrop and Sweet 16 and they were all very good but the Nutella takes the cake, or cupcake for that matter.
It was still early and we had heard from locals that we should head over to Vancouver Island for the day.  We booked a ferry http://www.bcferries.com/ out of Horseshoe Bay to Nainamo.  The boarding process was smooth and quick.  Once on board we noticed a wide range of passenger services including dining options so decided to grab lunch at their Coastal Café.  The food options varied from sandwiches, salads, sushi, burgers and more.  We played cards to pass the time and before we knew it, we had arrived.   We hiked for the rest of the day until the dark night no longer allowed us to continue.  Back on the ferry we went and again another easy commute.
We had one final thing to do on our trip to Vancouver and that was go ice skating.  The hotel had told us about an open air rink right across the street.  Having not skated since I was a kid this had automatically been added to the “things to do” list.  We had a blast; it did get a little crowded towards the end but we managed to dodge the occasional fallen ice skater.  It was the perfect way to end another great weekend getaway.