We're back from Vancouver, blisters on our feet, five pounds heavier and bursting with information. Our strategy before the trip was to figure out a way to maximize our dollar without sacrificing our experience. Thanks to a generous gift of 50k airline miles from Brett's parents, we were ahead of the game from the beginning. The average nightly rate for a hotel room, on the other hand, a total killer. So we began looking for alternative accommodations. Enter Airbnb.com
This stunning one bedroom, one bath condo in the heart of Yaletown was only $586 for 4 nights. Too good to be true right? That's what we thought, until we arrived to find the condo in mint condition and the owner, Linda, to be perfectly normal. She was flexible to our travel needs and even provided us with a list of her favorite restaurants, a quality gal! This was our first experience with Airbnb, so I can't speak for its success rate in other cities, but I encourage you to give it a glance before booking a hotel.
Like I mentioned (here), we planned a self-guided food tour before leaving for the trip. I created a map detailing the restaurants we hoped to visit, and I have to say, although it may seem intense, it was referenced daily. Being as we were in Canada, we could only access wireless networks... had to forgo the iPhone for the old school map.
Aside from Yelp and recommendations from friends, bartenders are the best source of information. First order of business on vacation, go out for a drink!
Where to EAT - Vancouver's diverse culinary scene is a direct reflection of it's population, often referred to as the "City of Neighborhoods," you will not be at a loss for selection. Our favorite spots include:
1. Twisted Fork Bistro - We only visited for brunch, incredible food and french pressed coffee. If you are into scones, give them a try with some of their homemade jam. A little pricey, but the portions are large enough to share.
2. The Templeton - We found this place by accident while waiting for Twisted Fork to open. Our favorite restaurant from the trip. It's completely unassuming, an old diner style with very few seats. The price point is excellent. We only tried their brunch, but would go back for lunch or dinner.
3. Meat and Bread - Located on the edge of Gastown, I would suggest grabbing lunch (preferably the meatball sandwich or chicken noodle soup) before perusing the boutique lined streets. Great place for quality meat.
Bin 941 - recommended by our waitress at Twisted Fork, as well as, our condo owner Linda. We enjoyed some incredible tapas, though the mother of all tapas, as we ordered two dishes and were completely stuffed.
Japa Dog Stand - Located on the corner or Burrard and Smithe. We couldn't possibly leave Vancouver without trying the infamous Japanese style hotdog. A beef frank topped with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, sautéed onions and dried seaweed. After the first bite, we were hooked. It wouldn't be a weekly staple, but I can see why there's a crowd, very tasty!
GUU - If there was one restaurant to visit while in Vancouver, it would be this one. The line starts forming 15 minutes before the doors open, so you have to plan accordingly. It's loud, energetic and the food is amazing. Japanese Tapas, this time it took 5 small dishes before we tapped out. Total price $35.
Where to DRINK - Surprisingly, Vancouver has quiet a few restaurants specializing in pre-prohibition style cocktails, something I have grown quite fond of over the past months. If that's not your thing, no worries, you are sure to be impressed with their beer and wine selection.
Alabi Room - If you're looking for something laid back with a sophisticated beer, wine and cheese selection, this is your place. Referred to as a "Modern Tavern" and accomplishing the term rather well.
Pourhouse - Pre-Prohibition style cocktails and dim lighting, I fell in love the moment I walked in the door. Brett and I split the Bolognese, it was fair. Just go for a drink.
What to DO - A constant stream of rain kept us from taking full advantage of Vancouver's outdoor activities for the first 2 days. However it didn't keep us from exploring the city, there's something relaxing about wandering unfamiliar streets without any expectations...we did a lot of this.
Granville Island. $11 will get you a roundtrip on the aquabus, no need to take a taxi. Once on the island, head straight for the Granville Island Public Market, a great place for lunch and people watching. If it's a nice day I would gather ingredients for a picnic and head to one of the beautiful beaches on Vancouver Island.
Spokes Bicycle Rentals - our day of sun included a bike ride around Stanley Park. Although there are plenty of rental shops to choose from, I thought Spokes was in the best location. Just under $40 for the afternoon.
Looking forward to another trip, maybe skiing in Whistler?