10 Highlights of Wintery Vancouver
Makers and Crafters
Vancouver is awash with locally made goodies and rare is a visit without a walk through a craft fair. However, this year, the emerging talent at Portobello West market blew my Hudson's Bay socks off.
The entry fee initially deterred us. It was only a couple of dollars but paying to get into a place to spend more money is not something we’re accustomed to in the UK. But this was the designated rainy day of our trip and it turned out to be worth every cent. The large room was overwhelmingly full of amazing local makers and their extremely high quality wares. I chatted to as many as possible and wanted to buy everything, for myself and for presents. We came away with shortbread and some beautiful wooden candle holders and magnets (for gifts and for us) along with some handmade skin balm. It could have been so much more if the pesky airlines didn't have a weight limit. (We had to buy a holdall from the newly opened Muji).
Canada’s finest tradition is now appearing in the UK. This is where we most traditionally pop in for an evening French Vanilla fix or for any meal when we can’t find a better alternative. (We popped into the Glasgow branch since then but it didn’t feel like Canada to me, despite them serving our beloved nightcap).
A must visit on every trip, this time we treated ourselves to one night stay at one of the oldest hotels in the city. We were heading out for a few days in Whistler so the perfect excuse for a one-night treat. From the lunches, dinners and even cocktails sipped overlooking the English bay over previous years, Sylvia's was everything I hoped for, and even a little bit more.
And it's close to Safeway's, the supermarket swallowed up by Morrisons in the UK but my first stop for sugar cookies - and other essentials - when I arrive in Vancouver.
Lights at Lafarge Park
The Vancouver Christmas tree light switch is on 1st December as it should be, rather than at the start of November for many UK cities. However, the bigger highlight was the lights spectacular that was worth every minute of the Skytrain ride out Coquitlam. A truly amazing free attraction that dazzles from the lily ponds on the lake to the giant candy cane to the dinner set for two – all created from thousands of magical lights. (On till 21 January 2018).
The Christmas shop to end all Christmas shops with a whole floor dedicated to the most wonderful time of the year. Not even Harrods has as much choice as ‘Canada’s Christmas store’ or indeed as much organisation. We picked up quite a few bits to go with our tartan theme for Christmas 2017.
As if to prove there are so many breakfast choices in Vancouver, I didn’t have my favourite breakfast – pancakes - until the very last day. This, as per tradition was at Joe’s Grill. But there are so many great ones including some new discoveries this trip, The Distillery and the outstanding Medina Café which serves excellent waffles with a variety of toppings, and this is on top of their amazing brunch choices. It's certain to be a regular on future trips although we only discovered it by chance as the one we attempted to go to next door had a queue outside, even on a week day. I absolutely will never understand queueing for breakfast when we have so much choice.
Hudson Bay Co
Locals may think it’s naff but we adore this old school iconic store that’s a cross between House of Fraser and Selfridges. We shamelessly buy as much branded stuff as we can carry back, which this time meant their mini Christmas baubles.
Coffee from Melriches, Milano and Parallel 49th
There are so many great coffee shops in the city but these are my perennial favourites. One of the things I’ve always loved about this part of the world is that most coffee shops open late and I take full advantage of that.
Four seasons in a day is not uncommon and there were plenty of red leaves to be seen in the city in late November, along with the snow almost permanently settled on top of Grouse Mountain.
I first stepped into this hotel in 1998 and have loved it since, going back on every visit. As well as enjoying the city views from our room in this all-suite base, we enjoyed a breakfast and a dinner. With pool and spa – not to mention laundry room - it’s a treat in itself. But right outside, the best city in the world awaits.