International TravelThings You Should KnowWining/Dining



So what did we do for the remaining days in Vancouver during our family vacation over Thanksgiving? Plenty. Please read the many fun and delicious adventures in Part 1.

A chance encounter and discussion with locals resulted in a change of plans.  With rental car in hand, we headed north to see Whistler.  The original plan of the ferry to Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens, etc., ultimately made little sense with not enough time available to do that “right.” Upon learning the beautiful Whistler area is just 90 minutes from Vancouver, there wasn’t much to deliberate.

En route to Whistler is the Sea to Sky Gondola.  The “Sea” is Howe Sound.  Following the 10 minute ride to the summit (in the spacious, comfortable and safe gondolas), the view is absolutely stunning.  There is a suspension bridge and trails in multiple directions.  We just took in the breathtaking vista, chatted with other visitors, and obviously tested our best photography skills.

Above, with Howe Sound in the background; below, two daredevils cross the suspension bridge

The Whistler Blackcomb ski area is “ranked #1 in North America” according to the Wall Street Journal.  The ranking accounts for the abundance of snow (averaging 33 feet annually), trails, apres-ski “scene” and more.  The trail options are massive as the map below shows. We saw just a snapshot of the area for lunch and a walkabout of the village.  It is very impressive and made me long for my skiing days!

The absolutely breathtaking sunset seen (below) en route back to Vancouver had us pulling over to capture the scene over Howe Sound.

Vancouver’s downtown area not only is eminently walkable, but is home to some truly outstanding restaurants. Most evenings, we walked to dinner (rain permitting).  In addition to the ones covered in Part 1, we were fortunate to enjoy two other greats:  Blue Water Cafe and Boulevard Kitchen.

Blue Water Cafe was a late addition as a result of a (full disclosure) social media post. After seeing  Vancouver’s own (heartthrob and native son) Michael Buble rave about the place, I decided it was well worth a visit.  Thank you Mr. B. not only for your great singing but for the head’s up.  We were fortunate to get a primetime reservation at this very busy place. After initially being put off by our waiter — who not once, not twice, but three times briefly said hello and added the same pat comment about how great the food is leading me to think he’s “dialing it in” — we had fabulous service and equally fabulous food.  Yes, one can get great sushi at a restaurant that isn’t a sushi bar per se.  And then there’s the wine. Oh, my.

After befriending the waiter and disclosing son Sam’s industry affiliation, we were given the grand tour of the place. In addition to the main room with sushi bar, there are several other rooms available for private dinners where wine is on display. Lots of wine, not to mention cellars we viewed.  Hat’s off to everyone we encountered who contributed to a memorable evening.

Below, sushi creations; tuna tartare; Char; desserts

Above; endless wine conversation.  Below, private dining anyone?? (Photo cred: Blue Water Cafe)

Special in a somewhat different way was our dinner at Boulevard Kitchen at the Sutton Place Hotel, situated in Vancouver’s highest end area.  Surrounding the hotel is all the top shops, many of which are on Alberni Street.  The original Fairmont Hotel (there are three others in the area) is nearby.

This dinner was all about the wine.  Again, make friends with your sommelier.  Better yet, with the GM/Wine Director.  We did a “red wine tasting” with a great deal of wine details.  Just don’t count on me repeating them.  But see for yourself the sheer number of glasses on the table! Which is likely the reason for the lack of food photos — just some outstanding fish and a lot of desserts.

That’s a lot of stemware above.  All used!  Below, my favorite:  St. Innocent 2017 Pinot Noir

Before returning the rental car, we headed south to two destinations:  The VanDusen Botanical Gardens and White Rock, the latter located just five minutes north of the US border.

The gardens were definitely in a so-called “shoulder season” — meaning the foliage was mostly gone but no snow yet.  But walking through still proved to be a lovely excursion.

White Rock, on the other hand, is a stunning spot. It is home to Canada’s longest pier. Any time one can see the sea with snow-covered mountains in the background, that is a homerun for me. The namesake “White Rock” is shown in the second photo below.

And then it was time to come home, but not before a memorable sushi lunch at Hello Nori. Counter seating and sushi rolls. That’s it, which means few decisions necessary. And the rolls were delicious! A perfect way to end this glorious week spent with family, for which we feel blessed.