If you live in Portland and want a PLAYcation, Vancouver BC (oh, Canada!) is where it’s at. My friend Andrew and I decided to drive up there on a whim last weekend to celebrate a three-day weekend and it was AWESOME.
I learned a thing or two about Canadians while we were up there, which was refreshing since the last time I was on their soil was in middle school (?). By the way, it’s been agreed upon that Canada is the most boring vacation your family can do as a road trip during childhood. I almost didn’t want to go based on my memories of being dragged through every Chinatown by my parents, and having to get out of the car and get photos taken next to every horse drawn carriage. My friend had the same traumatic experience, but then we figured, if Portland got so much better after we turned 21 (or got fake IDs), how bad could Canada be?
The first thing I learned was that Crown Royal at the duty-free store next to the border patrol is really, really cheap. All the liquor is, but you can only bring back one liter to the States.
Second, I was reassured that Canadians really are the friendliest people! I guess this doesn’t say much because I usually just adore everyone (except for pretentious East Coast men) You can get a passport stamp at the border if you ask reallllly nicely and smile! J We stayed at an adorable Airbnb in the West End (their version of Nob Hill or NW Portland) and our host was this sweet, down to earth, artsy blonde chick whom I instantly developed a girl crush on.
Third, Easter is a big deal. I think Good Friday is an actual holiday that people get off work, and a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed due to it. Oh well. Also, tea is a big deal. I’m assuming it’s from the British influence? GAH I must not have paid enough attention at the museum, I’ll get to that later.
Fourth, I’ve never seen so many restaurants in my life. Food is everywhere, and every street is packed with incredibly diverse cuisines, from Malaysian to seafood tapas. Vancouver locals are definitely foodies.
I made a list of things to do and places to dine and drink at during our drive up, curated from generous recommendations from friends and Google. We had two-ish full days and checked just about everything off our list (got shit DONE!), but it would have been great to stay and relax/shop for an extra day.
Exploring Granville Public Market. If Pike Place Market in Seattle was in Canada instead, this would be it. Isn’t it funny how if you’ve been to a lot of places, after a while everywhere you go reminds you of somewhere you’ve already been? It’s comforting and annoying at the same time to me. Lots of fresh meats, pastas and delis serving gourmet local pastries, pies, etc. It’s under the bridge along a pretty waterfront as well!
Gastown. This is a downtown, gritty bar district, which makes it glorious and also essential for any decent city. Although most of the shops were closed for the holiday, each bar was just a stone’s throw away from each other and packed. We popped into a few for drinks, and then hit up a highly recommended Japanese izakaya for dinner.
GUU. OMG. Is it bad that I lived in Asia for four years and I’m tempted to crown this place the best izakaya I’ve ever had?? I was beyond impressed with the quality and flavors of our meal, everything was perfection. I’m no foodie, but the fried chicken was breaded masterfully and so tender, the yakiudon was seasoned JUST right…best meal of our trip hand’s down. If you’re in Vancouver, GO EAT AT GUU.
Keepin’ it classy in Yaletown. They say Yaletown is for yuppies, so I guess it was like Portland’s Pearl District..only there were a LOT of well dressed, drunk middle-aged folks on dates. That’s just what I observed. Anyways, when a bartender at a swanky bar insists that you check out another swanky bar down the street, you should go. That’s how we discovered George Lounge, a plush, sexy joint playing 80’s music and packed with 40-year-old divorced housewives in 5 inch heels. No, I really loved it. Their cocktails were excellent (I’m a cocktail snob now, don’t you know?) and I was thrilled that mine came in a Chinese take-out box. Probably my favorite cocktail ever!
Taking the ferry to Victoria, the capital and one of the oldest cities of British Columbia. I like taking ferries, I take them whenever I can because I’ve never been disappointed by the views. It was too windy to sit outside, but I could have stared out those windows for hours. Oh wait, I did. I’m too lazy to think of adjectives so here’s a photo. Protip: If you’re only here for a day, no need to bring your car (which will cost you $100+ CAD to drive on to the ferry each way). Double decker buses #72 and #70 picks people up right outside the terminal and brings you straight to downtown for $5 CAD round trip. You can buy bus passes in the gift shop on the ferry, you’re welcome.
Stumbling into the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. Totally unplanned, but I saw this on the map and we decided to throw down the $16 CAD to check it out. THE MOST AMAZING MUSEUM I HAVE EVER BEEN TO. I’ll admit I usually don’t beeline to museums so I haven’t been to many, but I’ve still been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and this was way better. It’s better than OMSI too. I walked through movie-set like exhibits learning about the colonization of British Colombia to now, it was just so done. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, but this was the highlight of Victoria for me, and it would have been such a shame if everyone missed it!
Oh last thing I learned about Canadians- they adore Portland. J
And tomorrow, off to Mexico I go!