Vancouver Girls Trip
The scent of douglas fir, spruce, rosewood, basil and peppermint steamed from the warm cloth the spa attendant handed to us. Reclining into the relaxation lounge chairs, we sipped the spa signature combination of black and white tea infused with rich vanilla, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger and clove, and exhaled with a long “ahhhh…”. A fine Vancouver welcome to the start of a much needed “winter getaway”, greeted us at Sense Spa.
Only a short ~2 hr. drive from Seattle, or just a 1-3 hrs flight from many cities along the West Coast of North America, you arrive to Vancouver where you can experience a range of activities in just 36 hours.
Here are our recommendations:
What to Do?
- Fly Over Canada: This is a perfect way to introduce yourself to the majestic country of Canada, so head to the newest Vancouver attraction – Fly Over Canada! Located at Canada Place, this 30-minute simulated helicopter flight through the panoramic views of the mountains, valleys, glaciers and cities of Canada. Our senses were awakened by a slight mist when we flew over Niagara Falls, and scents of grain and grass heightened the experience when flying over the wheat fields and lush green valleys. An exhilarating ride for children and adults! For reservations and tickets, visit: www.flyovercanada.com
- Vancouver Art Gallery: The Vancouver Art Gallery is one of the largest art museums in Canada, with permanent collections of great artists, and exhibitions with international contemporary artists. We especially enjoyed Korean born artist, Kimsooja’s “Unfolding” retrospective exhibition that addressed notions of time, memory and displacement, and the relationship between the human body and the material world. Her exhibition is on display through January 2014. Visit: www.vanartgallery.bc.ca
- Gastown Walk: Gastown is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods, and is home to the iconic Gastown steam clock powered by a steam engine, chimes on the hour, and whistles every quarter hour. We walked the brick alleyways and tree-lined streets of this historic section of town. There are cafes, art galleries, shops, and even a maple store where you can try maple syrup tastings. Gastown is located on Water Street, few blocks north of Canada Place.
- Shop Robson Street: If you want to shop for fashionable clothing, shoes, leather, or souvenirs, head to BC’s premier shopping street on Robson.
Where to Stay?
Rosewood Hotel Georgia: Located in the heart of the city, we checked into Vancouver’s most historic boutique hotel. The doormen, with feathered hats, greeted us with a smile and were hospitable in every way. In 2011, this property was fully restored to its former grandeur.
Bernhard Wimmer, Managing Director, introduced us to its history, and noted “Hotel Georgia claims an unmatched combination of legacy and luxury – a return to the golden age of travel.” It truly is unlike any other hotel with its legendary past, yet has everything all the luxury hotels offer. Following its restoration, Hotel Georgia retained its soul, and now has 156 elegant rooms and suites with spa-inspired bathrooms, complete with modern comfort.
A Canadian historic landmark, this majestic hotel has opened its doors to the “who’s who” since the roaring 1920’s. Hollywood and royalty have stayed here, from the Rolling Stones, Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne, Sir Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, and Frank Sinatra to name a few. This leading North American hotel provides impeccable service, luxurious furnishings, a fitness center, signature bars and lounges, large meeting rooms and a ballroom that is perfect for a dream wedding. Be sure to admire browse the hotel’s art collection of Canadian artists, and stop at the bar for a drink while sampling some of the best curried flavored almonds, carmelized popcorn sprinkled with rosemary & seasalt.
Where to Relax?
Sense, a Rosewood Spa: Need to escape and release some tension, stress? We found the place at Sense, a state-of-the-art spa sanctuary where you can pamper yourself….calm your spirit, restore your body and mind.
Here you can treat yourself to “spa tapas“, a variety of 25 min services with local flavor, such as “Scalp”, a head, neck, shoulder massage with herbal mint, or “Sole” a foot rub with a drizzle of glacial honey, or “Shake”, for nail grooming with shea butter, or “Scrub” an organic ginger exfoliation. Sense offers a full range of therapies, massages and facials to bring you relief. Sense Spa Journeys with customized blends of plant and flower extracts, herbs and oils from around the world that will bring balance and a sense of well-being. Indulge yourself and listen to the sounds of nature’s elements – water, air, fire, earth, while getting your treatment. Adjacent to the spa, you can swim some laps in the indoor saltwater lap pool, in a relaxing environment created by a soothing multi-color light show. Book your treatment at: www.sensespa.com
Where to Dine?
- Vij’s: the word is out! Vij’s is known as one of the best Indian restaurants in North America. Unless you want to wait up to two hours, be sure to beat the lines that form long before the doors open for the nightly dinner. Doors open at 5:30 pm and they don’t take reservations – first come, first serve, and everyone wants a table in this small dining room. If you end up waiting in the lounge area, you can enjoy drinks and rounds of complimentary appetizers from pakoras, to savory chaat, Indian chips with spicy coriander sauce. Vikram Vij, co-owner with his wife Meeru of this almost 20 year old establishment, greeted us, “I’m inviting you into my home, where we enjoy drinks on the patio or in the lounge, get to know each other over wonderful conversation, and then welcome guests into my dining room. I want my guests to feel like they are at my home.”
Vikram welcomes guests each evening when he’s in town, and makes everyone feel like they are at his home for a traditional Indian dinner. The Indian cuisine is a combination of recipes from all regions throughout India, and prepared by a kitchen of local Indian women chefs. We started with curried chickpeas and sweet potatos, and a platter of jackfruit in black cardamom with cumin curry, and another plate of coconut grilled kale with paprika lemon juice mixed with pearled barley pilaf and decorated with fresh pomegranate seeds.
Some of our favorite dishes were Braised beef short ribs with roasted okra and walnuts, and the wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on turmeric and spinach potatoes. We barely had room for dessert – a delicious mango ice cream with pistachio nuts and an edible silver leaf. To visit the entire menu and more details: www.vijs.ca
- Vij’s Rangoli: a “sister” restaurant next door to Vij’s, is a great alternative if you don’t have time to linger to Vij’s, and prefer a less expensive, more casual dining experience. Rangoli is open for lunch, dinner, and is more family-friendly. Many locals come here for “take-out” or to purchase their Vij’s at Home pre-packaged frozen meals. www.vijsrangoli.ca
- Restaurant Hawksworth: Hawksworth is a well-known restaurant to Vancouver locals, and recognized as one of the finest dining restaurants in Canada and North America.
Set in a glamorous dining room, award winning Chef David Hawksworth masterfully blends fresh organic ingredients from the local area and presents contemporary Canadian cuisine. The attentive dining staff provides incredible service and ensures each dish is paired with the perfect glass of wine. While dining with Timothy Edgecombe, Sales Manager, he noted, “Every meal is uniquely created and delivers an explosion of flavors that wake up new tastebuds.”
We savored a roasted carrot salad with avocado, crème fraiche, almonds with dill, and another starter, the hamichi sashimi with a unique twist of passionfruit, jalepeno, coconut, white soy, topped with lime sorbet. For our main course, we delighted in every bite of a Yarrow Meadows duck breast dish, accompanied with wild onions, duck confit crepe, and carrots, while another course was the seared yellow fin tuna with wild rice, sweet and sour brussel sprouts and peanuts. A staff favorite entrée is the parmesan crusted chicken with potatoe gnocchi, artichokes interlaced with pine nuts, dressed in barigoule . A trio of desserts left us in culinary awe – a chocolate fondant with orange, and an almond tart with pear sorbet, and the coup d’etat, a homemade vanilla bean ice cream with caramel drizzled with hazelnuts. We dined in a beautiful setting while enjoying the unique Pyschomania, a custom installation of shapes and colors by artist Rodney Graham. For reservations visit their website. Written and Edited By: Anastasia Miles, Julie Biniasz, and Patricia Stone
Photos by: Julie Biniasz and Patricia Stone
We would like to thank the Rosewood Georgia Hotel for hosting our stay and dinner at Restaurant Hawksworth. We would also like to thank Vij’s for hosting our meal, and the Office of Tourism for providing access to Vancouver’s sites and attractions. Visit www.tourismvancouver.com for more details.
All opinions and recommendations in this article are our own.