Senior Women's Travel

Advice from my cousin Chiquita, a 20 year Vancouver transplant leads us to insider restaurants & shops.

Dinner with her will give insights into life in this sophisticated city that has spectacular natural beauty.

SENIOR WOMEN'S TRAVEL
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Vancouver and Victoria

June 2014

Totem Poles at Vancouver's Stanley Park

Come experience British Columbia’s most intriguing cities.

Vancouver is a bustling, beautiful metropolis, totally modern city.  Towering, sleek apartment buildings hug a shoreline marked by boats, both big and small, and a Sea Wall Promenade that circles the city filled with runners and bicycles.  You can feel the excitement in Vancouver as it prepares to host the 2012 Winter Olympics.

Victoria, more British than Vancouver, is both gracious and  remarkable for its Inner Harbour with its cluster of classic buildings, notably the Parliament Building and the stately Empress Hotel, a monolith of by gone days.  We’re happy it still exists.  And Butchart Gardens described in several guide books as “one of the gardening wonders of the world.”

 

Our Itinerary:

Marina at Granville Island

Day 1
Arrive in Vancouver, transfer on your own to our hotel on Granville Island.  This hotel is not in the center of town. In our view, the center resembles most large cities marked by tall buildings and a bustling shopping district.  Granville Island, on the other hand, is an enclave of small theatres, casual restaurants, art galleries and a Public Market filled with every type of fresh produce (some you have never seen) and diverse eating alternatives.  You will be able to walk everywhere and explore this small area at your leisure.

Day 2
Sights of the city…Gray Line city tour visiting Stanley Park, Gastown, Chinatown, Canada Place and more of the city’s top sites.  If you want to see more of Stanley Park, Vancouver’s 988-acre, mega-park, you can go back on your Optional Day to take the one-hour horse and carriage tour that will drive you to many areas you haven’t seen and perhaps visit the Aquarium with its adorable dolphins.

Light lunch at Caffe Artigiano, hyped as serving  the best latte in town.  The plus, if you order a coffee drink that has foam, the counter person will decorate your latte with a heart, a leaf or other motifs.  Does it taste better when coffee becomes art? Of course, it does.

We’ll cross the street to the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Explore on your own for an hour or longer.  Don’t miss the paintings of Emily Carr (1871-1945), noted Victoria-born painter, whose biography includes study in London, Paris and San Francisco. Her large body of paintings of First Nation themes (native Canadians) gives us insight into their lives, homes, and landscapes. Time to explore downtown shopping on your own after your Art Gallery visit.

Dinner at Chef’s Table at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.  I first encountered the Chef’s Table concept at the Dorchester Hotel in London. The chef, a superstar, started inviting a few people to join him in the kitchen for a meal.  The trend of a Chef’s Table is now popular worldwide.  You actually eat in the kitchen while the activity of food preparation swirls around you.  It’s a behind-the-scenes look.  The bonus, a five-course gourmet tasting menu prepared by talented student chefs.

First Nation Art

Day 3
Morning….A Look at First Nation Art.   We’ll visit Eagle Spirits Art Gallery, a handsome art gallery right on Granville Island that displays a stunning array of First Nation Art from totem poles to jewelry.   The merchandise, we feel, is all museum quality.

Afternoon…Grouse Mountain. An  eight-minute funicular takes us to the top of the mountain ( 3,642 ft. high) for a spectacular panoramic view of Vancouver. (Incidental information:  Famous in Vancouver, the Grouse Grind, a near vertical trail that challenges the best athletes in the world.  The record, almost impossible to imagine, to reach the top of the mountain is 28 minutes.)

Chinese Garden

Day 4
Explore Granville Island …the Public Market and an array of interesting shops.    

Visit the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden in Chinatown, built by master craftsmen from China in the 1980's using the principles and techniques of a Ming dynasty garden.  A fascinating look into Chinese life and culture. 

Evening…We’ll see a play at the Arts Club Theatre, a few minute walk from our hotel, that usually features the work of Canadian playwrights. 

Day 5
A day trip to Victoria…We take a 7:30 a.m. bus to the Ferry, then a one-and-a-half scenic trip on the Ferry through the Gulf Islands, and then back on the bus for the half hour trip to Victoria.

Tea at The Empress Hotel in Victoria

We start our visit to Victoria with Tea at The Empress Hotel, a former Canadian Pacific hotel, one of the magnificent hotels built in the heyday of the railroads.  I’ve heard people knock tea at the Empress Hotel as being too touristy. True, the dining room is full of tourists but the tea at the Empress Hotel was superb.  I’ve done tea all over the world -- in London, Hong Kong, Toronto, New York – and  I have never had a better, more delicious tea.  Trust me!

Tea is followed by a brief visit to the Royal BC Museum, to see its exhibit of First Nations Art and Culture.  Then on to Butchart Gardens for a leisurely tour through the gardens.

We return to the Bus Terminal for the trip to Vancouver.   The trip back is the same as our three-hour plus trip to Victoria.  Alternatively, you can take a seaplane that leaves near the Empress Hotel and only takes 35 minutes to  downtown Vancouver.  There is an additional charge of  $140 for the seaplane fare (not included in tour price).   I did the bus, ferry, bus routine round trip in February -- long but comfortable, not arduous.

Vancouver Sunset

Day 6
Your Optional Day to do just what you want.  Activities not included in tour price.

We can suggest some possible activities.  A couple of options include a whale watching trip or a Hammam, a Middle Eastern spa ritual that includes steam heat, a soap down with  a wonderful black Moroccan soap, gommage (rub down with a loofah), shower, massage, and, finally, mint tea and a pastry.

Meet for a farewell dinner.  Conclude with a festive chocolate dessert buffet at a downtown hotel.  This chocolate orgy includes cakes, pastries, ice cream, and chocolate-dipped fruit. 

Day 7
Leave for home.

Note:  There will probably be adjustments in the itinerary due to changes made by local tour operators, theatre schedules, etc.

Cost
$3,300 (USD) includes 6 night hotel (single occupancy, no single supplement), 4 meals (including tea at The Empress Hotel in Victoria),  bus/ferry transportation to and from Victoria, all activities in itinerary except Optional Day.

Price does not include airfare, transfers to and from airport, breakfasts, meals not included above, wine and alcoholic beverages, coffee stops, Optional Day activities, and personal expenses.