Even before I booked my flights, I knew I was going to fall head over heels in love with Vancouver. A place you can surf and ski in the same day can only be so bad, right?
The raw natural beauty of the British Columbian coast blew me away. Majestic snow-covered mountains rise up from the shimmering ice-cold Pacific Ocean, both vying for the dazzling golden rays of the sun. The city itself is beautiful, with Stanley Park extending out into the ocean, the surrounding sea wall pathway always bustling with joggers, cyclists and walkers.
Nature undeniably plays a huge role in the lives of most British Columbians (I’ve never met a more outdoorsy bunch!), as well as the obvious things like ice hockey (just ‘hockey’ to them, of course), amazing seafood, native history, maple syrup and wild bears, but they’re also concealing a few unexpected hidden gems…
PUREBREAD (a.k.a. Heaven on Earth)
This bakery takes bread and cakes to a whole new level of interesting. As a purveyor of baked goods, I can say I have never been to a better bakery. There’s two in Whistler, and one in Vancouver city itself, so all our bases were covered – phew!
We tried potato, gruyere and rosemary bread and a deadly chocolate brownie, but by far the best was their ‘crack’ bar. Half flapjack-half butter tart, this decadent treat may look small and uninteresting, but never judge a book by its cover! I will eventually succeed in recreating this recipe *watch this space*.
SCANDINAVE SPA, Whistler
The Scandinave Spa in Whistler is the definition of relaxation. We went fairly early on in the day and it was deserted. The rigidly-enforced silence rule was the best part (normally something I find challenging!) and really allowed you to drink in the spectacular mountain views. Go from hot jacuzzi to cold plunge pool, stay warm in the large wooden sauna, or read a book in the solarium. Bliss.
Trust me the $60 entrance fee is worth it. http://www.scandinave.com/en/whistler/
Microbreweries have really taken off over the past few years, not just in Canada, but the Whistler Brewing Co. made me fall in love with beer. Having always thought I disliked the taste, only ever drinking the occasional acceptably girly bottle of Peroni with a pizza, I discovered that beer can be delicious! We filled up a couple of enormous growlers (yes, that is really what they call them) of Bear Paw Honey Lager and Chestnut Ale. Not to be missed. http://whistlerbeer.com/
Remember those awesome simulators at the Science Museum which made you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster zooming through an alien planet? Well, Flyover Canada is a 21st Century upgrade which suspends you, feet dangling, in front of a spherical 20-meter screen which guides you over the incredible sights of Canada. You will feel the wind in your hair, the spray of the ocean and smells of the forests – you really do feel like you’re flying!
Best to book in advance and go early in the day to avoid the queues. On the upside, the queue line has a fantastic view across the bay towards Stanley Park, with quirky Gastown behind you. www.flyovercanada.com