Many of us crave travel these days. I am one of them. My entire being wanted to hit the road. But how to avoid stressful issues, such as costly COVID-19 testing, converting to American dollars, or signage in other languages? I chose a five-day, four-night visit to our own Pacific idyll, the international City of Vancouver.
I shopped for the cheapest flights possible. On Flair Airlines, I chose to only bring a large purse (stuffed to the brim) to avoid additional baggage charges. Returning with WestJet, a carry-on bag was included in my fare. I bought one at Value Village in Vancouver for $15. Round trip flight: $330.
After the 90 minute flight, I was in Vancouver and almost danced to the SkyTrain to head downtown. Wearing a mask didn’t bother me. It’s a small concession for the sheer pleasure of going somewhere.
I bought a TransLink public transit Compass Card (a one-time fee of $6; see compasscard.ca for more info). Day passes are $10.75 for adults and provide access to all buses, SkyTrain, and SeaBus. Otherwise, visit translink.ca for more information on fares. Do not bring a car to Vancouver. Parking is outrageous and the traffic is congested. Public transit during my stay: $50 (plus a $5 fee for leaving YVR on SkyTrain).
For the first two nights, I stayed in one of the oldest hotels in the city, smack in the middle of the west end. Located on Denman Street at Davie, I found the English Bay Hotel on Booking.com for $112 a night plus tax. The hotel was safe and in a vibrant location, but it is run down. However, the price was right. For the last two nights, I stayed with a friend, also in the west end. Hotel: $280.
I love the west end’s English Bay with its palm trees and sand. As for food, walk along Davie, Denman, or Robson streets until something takes your fancy. Relax in a Breka Bakery & Café at least once, with its scrumptious pastries and exquisite coffee. My friend and photographer, James Oakes, lives near the Breka on Bute Street. “It’s the heart of the west end, with locals and visitors mingling,” he says. Breka treat: $10.
Wherever my fancy took me, I enjoyed impromptu food and beverage choices. Vaccination cards are checked. I ate Persian (lamb shank and rice) at Gillaneh Grill House on Denman Street, Chinese at On Lok Restaurant and Won-Ton House on East Hastings, and Thai, Japanese, Indian, and Italian elsewhere. Average daily for food: $40.
Using a day pass (load your Compass Card on the day of travel), I took the SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore. From there, I bussed to Grouse Mountain on a winding route along the coast. If you’ve never been up Grouse Mountain’s Skyride, spend $61 (adult ticket) on this thrilling gondola to the top. Masks and a vaccination card are required.
The next day, with another day pass, I walked to West Georgia Street and caught the #257 Horseshoe Bay Express. From the early 1900s, city folk came by boat or train to enjoy the lovely view of Howe Sound. Walking on the small beach, I lowered my mask and breathed great gulps of Pacific air. Simple pleasures are the best. I could have splurged with the famous Troll’s Restaurant fish and chips, but chose an ice cream cone nearby. Then it was back to Vancouver, and across the Lions Gate Bridge past Stanley Park.
Vancouver never disappoints. From the vantage of an Edmontonian, it’s like many international cities rolled into one. Enjoy the ambience without blowing the bank. Explore on foot, and hop on, hop off public transit. Or just sit with a coffee and watch the world go by. It’s been awhile and it feels oh, so good.