Traveler’s Tip: Despite rivalry, Vancouver makes impression
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
Until a few weeks ago, the only thing I really knew about Vancouver was that those damn Sedin brothers play for the hated Canucks, and, therefore, it had to be an awful place. Then I actually went and realized I was totally wrong.
Just a couple hours north of Seattle, Vancouver, British Columbia, is an amazing world away. Stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, one of four Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in town. Apparently, Fairmonts began as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway chain and this newest one is just a terrific property. Vancouver is chock-full of beautiful, "Hollywood North" people, and many are on display in its airy bar with nightly live music and a sushi bar that is just amazing. Stay in a regular room and see how long it takes to figure out that the mirror in your bathroom is really a TV with Bose speakers, or better yet, upgrade to a little suite with panoramic views of the mountains and harbor. The restaurant is Oru and the chef brings a hint of Pan-Asian to swimmingly fresh salmon, prawns and the like.
As hard as it is, though, you have to leave the hotel. Get out and explore. This is a town to tour and be a tourist. Take the tour to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, walk the 450-foot cabled bridge, 250 feet over a temperate, verdant rain forest, raging river and falls, and you will understand why this city is growing faster than any place on the continent. Confront your fear of heights and walk the series of suspension bridges connecting the tree tops, or take it the next step and walk the cantilever walkway called the Cliffwalk, which literally is a glass bottomed extension of soaring cliffs over the river. Grab a salmon burger and an order of poutine — crispy, salty, french fries swathed in brown gravy, covered with cheese curds. Oh Canada!
Swing by the fish hatchery and see the zillions of small fry coho that are about to be released to grow into lox. On the way back, stop at Grouse Mountain, take the gondola 4,100 feet nearly straight up to a sprawling lodge and walk up a little further to the grizzly bear habitat to visit with 950-pound Grinder, separated from you by a little, cattle-farm-style, electric fence that hardly seems enough.
Slog your way back to the hotel, rest a bit and head back out for comfort Italian at Al Porto Ristorante, a few blocks away in Gastown, a several-block area nearby full of casual food and drink. David the waiter will bring you steamed clams in an herbed garlic broth that is so good you get spoons to turn it into soup after the shells are empty. With a broad menu full of meats and fresh seafood, we opted for a smoked salmon salad served with sharp arugula and a little olive oil, a mixed salad with walnut-crusted goat cheese and the comfort of house made fettuccine with a light tomato cream sauce, artichoke hearts and the sweetest medium prawns I've ever had.
I almost can forgive the Canucks. Almost.
Reprinted with permission from Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.