I can't believe how quickly time flies. I felt like I just returned from my 2-week Europe work/vacay trip, and we're off working again in Vancouver. For someone who really only travels 5 times a year for work, I can't believe I've actually visited 5 countries this year (Taiwan, UK, Czech Republic, Germany, and now Canada). This is also my fourth trip to our friendly neighbor up north. I've been to Victoria (2002), Edmonton (2005), and Toronto (2008), so I'm very happy to have now visited Vancouver. The only major city left for me to visit in Canada would be Montreal, which I have heard many great things about.
Vancouver is a beautiful city with super friendly people. Because of the Olympics, this city did many things to make it even more interesting and welcoming. As soon as we deplaned, we were greeted by these beautiful decorations representing the First People. Also, I felt like I'm home in Taiwan because there are so many Chinese in the city. I spoke Chinese to random strangers throughout the trip, from my flight there to walking on the streets, and they all looked so surprised that I spoke Chinese to them for some reason. I guess I don't look like someone who speaks fluent Chinese. :D
Our hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront, was right across from Canada Place. Canada Place is a big cruise ship terminal with a convention center, and it is attached to another luxury hotel, the Pan Pacific. There were three gigantic ships docked that day!
I was on my way over to the historic Gastown, the birthplace of Vancouver, when I heard some festivity going on. I went to the back of a building and saw this NBA Jam Session taking place.
And they had a Larry O'Brien trophy on display in one of the tents. How cool is that?
One of the three cruise ships docking at Canada Place that day.
Then, I hopped on a Trolley Tour.
I hopped off at Granville Island. It has lots of unique shops and nice restaurants.
But, I decided to have lunch at the Central Public Market. This reminds me so much of the marketplace in Barcelona off of La Ramblas and the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. Great memories!
After checking out different food stalls and sampling a few different kinds of foods, I decided to have some perogies just because I've never had them before.
Lunch is served! Mixed perogies (cheese, onion, potato varieties), beef cabbage roll, and a potato pancake with apple sauce on top. Yum! I shared a big table with 2 Korean ladies, a Taiwanese family, and a nice Canadian woman named Kailey. Kailey told me she comes here to eat all the time and loves it. The Korean ladies were very friendly too and asked if I was eating the whole plate by myself. (Of course!) Haha! I instantly loved this market place. You can make new friends and listen to all kinds of languages spoken around you while taking in the beautiful view. Amazing!
I love this place! It reminded me so much of Sydney, Australia. I was also blessed with incredibly beautiful weather that day. It was cloudy and cold the day before, and the day after (when I started working).
I'm gonna call this "Mini Sydney."
I took a water taxi across the bay to continue my Trolley Tour.
The beautiful English Bay in the background.
Then, the tour went around Stanley Park. This is a beautiful park. I can't believe that you just drive for 5 minutes and then you'd go from the urban jungle of high-rises to this completely serene and natural reserve place.
The beautiful Lions Gate Bridge.
The tour stopped by Sutton Place Hotel, and I saw this Japadog stand and hopped off. I had been wanting to try a Japadog since last year, when I saw Anthony Bourdain's show featuring this place, and then Samantha Brown aired a show here earlier this year, too. And look, Ice Cube's been here 10 times! This is the main stand in Vancouver, and one of the three stands they have throughout the city (one in front of Waterfront Station and a third one in front of Scotiabank on Burrard and Pender - Yup, I found them all!).
Soooo happy! I recommended Japadog to many conference attendees, and they all loved it. My client/friend Steve even ditched a presentation one day and went on a hunt for it. Too funny.
My colleague tried the Oroshi, which has grated raddish on top, and she loved it. I took a bite of it and it was very tasty.
I tried something a bit fancier. I went for the Okonomi. OMG I thought about going back to Japadog EVERY DAY after this. I told Steve they must put crack in these things!
When I checked into the Fairmont Waterfront in the morning, they told me my room wasn't ready. They called while I was on the tour in the afternoon and told me that I could now check in. When I got back to the hotel, they told me they upgraded me to one of their Signature Rooms. It turned out to be a corner room. When I opened the door, there was a HALLWAY! Then I was greeted by this stunning view. Wow!
I slept with my curtains open the last night I stayed here, just like when I was in Rome in 2008.
This was the view from my BATHROOM! The best bathroom ever!
Then, my colleague and I went up to Grouse Mountain. We took a gondola up 3,000 feet.
We didn't have much time to spend on Grouse Mountain, but the breathtaking view was well worth the ride.
After breathing in some fresh mountain air, we came back to the city and had dinner at the Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar. This restaurant is situated in the trendy and quaint Yaletown. I heard so much about this place prior to this trip. Because Vancouver is a seaport, I had to try their seafood. I opted for a tasting and was pretty happy with it. Here's the Dungeness Crab Salad with white asparagus panna cotta, celery, peanuts, raisins, and green apple froth. The combination sounds weird, but all the elements worked well to my surprise. This was a very innovative dish.
My favorite dish was the Qualicum Bay scallop ceviche. I love scallop, and this was so fresh!
But this smoked sockeye salmon terrine didn't speak to me. The salmon was good, but the combination didn't work so well for me. The whole thing tasted a bit odd.
This albacore tuna tartare was the best tuna tartare I've ever had. Very fresh and flavorful!
Vancouver has an excellent transit system called the SkyTrain (even though it's underground). It's very clean, fast, and smooth. The fare can also be combined with seabus and buses as long as it's within the time limit (I think it's an hour) for only C$2.50.
We needed to walk off our dinner so we strolled along the seawall by Canada Place. We saw this beautiful globe in the Vancouver Convention Center. The globe rotates slowly mimicking the earth rotation.
We walked further and came to the Olympic torch pillars. Remember one malfunctioned during the opening ceremony?
The view at night from my room. The Lions Gate Bridge lights up at night like a string of pearls. Now you know why I left my curtains open the last night I stayed there. :)
We started working the next day and decided to go to a restaurant in Coal Harbour for lunch. We walked along the seawall and came to this thing called "The Drop."
Looking at downtown Vancouver. Again, this reminded me so much of Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden by the Harbour with the city skyline in the background.
We had lunch at Cardero's. I had this oyster burger and it was very good! You really taste the oysters. If you're a fan of oysters, I'd recommend this.
After lunch, I stopped by Mink Chocolate Cafe. Again, I heard about this place before my trip and was happy this was right by our hotel.
I really, really, really wanted to try their chocolate fondue, but didn't have time. So I got their dark hot chocolate with mint to-go since it was a damp and cold day. It was very, very, very good.
After work ended for the day, I relaxed a bit in my room before dinner. This bird flew to my window and stood there for 10 minutes looking at me! There's a little window that you can push out and it was open (behind my face), so this thing was poking its beak into the opening. I think it wanted to come in. Too funny.
A Canadian client of mine recommended that we go to the Teahouse restaurant in Stanley Park. I invited my friend Andrea to come. Andrea lives in Burnaby just outside of Vancouver. She's engaged to my good friend Rasheed (lives in Philly) and they are getting married next July here in Vancouver. I hung out with Rasheed and Andrea in NYC in May. Andrea told me she looked into having her wedding at the Teahouse too, but it's too small for the size of their guest list. Here's Andrea and I.
We shared the stuffed mushroom with crab meat and mascarpone. We loved it!
Instead of going on my seafood trail, I went for the duck confit. It was very tender and delicious.
We tried three different kinds of desserts, and my favorite was the pistachio creme brulee with mango gelato.
Andrea and I hung out in my room after dinner. We turned off the lights so we could admire the gorgeous night view of Vancouver. Then, we heard a loud pop, followed by a surprise 15-minute fireworks show that came right off of the water! We had no clue what was going on, but enjoyed the front row seat of the fireworks display. Now I think it might have been for the Chinese National Day celebration. How neat was that?!
The conference started the next day and we worked really long hours mostly on our feet. I normally would take a 15-minute power nap before I have to greet people for dinner, but this time, I went out for a walk. Steve and I decided to get a Japadog as an appetizer before dinner (I told you it has crack in it!), but by the time we got there, they had just closed the stand and were wheeling it away. Bummer. After chasing the hot dog stand around town, we decided to just take a walk on Canada Place. The weather was clear and crisp, and it re-energized me. While we were taking in the view, I saw this snow-peaked mountain from the distance. So pretty.
We had Canadian sablefish for dinner that night at the Pan Pacific Hotel (right across from the Fairmont Waterfront). I liked it. It's more buttery than salmon and just as flaky.
I went out walking again the next day after the conference was over, and saw this seaplane landing. It looked very smooth gliding across the water.
I walked over to Gastown to see the Steam Clock. I didn't realize it was about 6 o'clock in the evening, so while I was checking out the clock, it started chiming. Lucky me!
Gastown district at night.
The next day, we went on a field trip to the University of British Columbia. One of the facilities we visited housed the world's largest Cyclotron that produces isotopes. I thought it's interesting how we use these gigantic machines and lots of computers to create something so small that our eyes can't even see. I stood literally right on top of it when this photo was taken. You can't see the Cyclotron normally because it's in operation, but the entire space is impressive.
After the field trip, I had a few hours free time before coming home, so I went back to Mink Chocolate Cafe. I was determined to get my fondue. They also treated us to these fragrant rose and hazelnut chocolates. I'm not a big chocolate person because I only like chocolate flavored stuff, but these were so good.
S'mores dark chocolate fondue! I'm a happy gal!
Of course, I'm not leaving Vancouver without getting another Japadog. I went to the stand in front of Scotiabank and tried their Kurobuta Terimayo hot dog. But this time, I followed Andrea's advice and added some wasabe mayo on top. It was heavenly! I'm still thinking about it!
I'm so very happy I had a chance to visit Vancouver. It is not a very big place, but it is a wonderful blend of the old and the new, city and nature. The foods are amazing, and the diversity of people fascinating. Most importantly, these are some of the most friendly people I've ever met throughout my travels.
Originally, I was going to spend my free day visiting Whistler and going on the zipline, but I'm glad I spent time exploring the city. I look forward to coming back next summer for Andrea and Rasheed's wedding. I'll do my zipline in Whistler then!
View photo album for this trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplejoy/sets/72157624998844833/