Soaking up the sun on the quayside of False Creek, savouring some freshly made doughnut ‘holes’ bought from nearby Granville Market, I drift off to a far away place.
Only the skyline of skyscrapers on the other side of the bay reminds me we’re in a bustling city.
Chilled-out urbanites with take-out lattes, bagels and mouth-watering pastries spread out on the wooden benches in a wide, decked area, to take in the relaxed atmosphere and listen to a sweet-sounding busker before heading back to work.
While some cities are inevitably concrete and glass environments housing a plethora of shops, impressive museums and other indoor attractions, Vancouver in British Columbia is much more; in fact it’s an open-air playground where, despite the sometimes inclement weather, there are opportunities for outdoor recreation everywhere.
Indeed, this is a city to do on foot. I walk everywhere, exploring the downtown hub of the yum cha eateries and noodle bars of Chinatown (the second largest in north America after San Francisco), window-gazing at designer stores on Burrard Street (home of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany), and buying souvenirs in Robson, Vancouver’s downtown shopping district.
I’m enamoured by Water Street in Gastown, an historical area which has undergone a facelift and restored many of its late 19th century buildings to house curio and vintage shops, imaginative restaurants and First Nations indigenous art.
But today the weather’s too sunny for shopping, my teenage boys nag. Taking the brightly coloured Aquabus across the water from Granville Island to the heart of the city, catching great views of Burrard Bridge and Granville Bridge on the way, I head for the cycle hire shop to go for a bike ride around Stanley Park, a must for any active tourist who wants a great view of the water.
Over the years, the park has become so popular that they have built separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists around the sea wall because the human traffic has become so dense, I’m told by Alvin, our amiable unicyclist guide.
You can stop at various beaches en route, but as the sky by now looks grey and ominous, we plough on with Alvin, catching the amazing views of the Lions Gate Bridge over Burrard Inlet, which connects the city to the north and west districts, and the imposing North Shore mountains.
My boys are fascinated by some totem poles, replicas of 1880s First Nations artistry, near the famous Nine O’Clock Gun, built in 1894 to help ships set their chronometers and still fired nightly.
On another sunny day, we venture 20 minutes by car to the north of the city to open air hilly playground Grouse Mountain. In winter, people come here for the weekend to ski, zipwire and snowshoe. In warmer months, it’s possible to take grizzly bear trails with eco-friendly tour guides.
A five-minute drive from Grouse, I opt for a chance to balance my outdoor yin and yang at the cooling forest which houses the spectacular Capilano Suspension Bridge, 135 metres of wobbling planks connecting sky-scraping Douglas firs and hovering far above the canyon floor.
The swaying bridge offers amazing views of the canyon below, while visitors who don’t suffer from vertigo can take the cliff walk on purpose-built steel platforms which jut out of the rock and over the sheer drop which falls to the Capilano River.
It was built in 1889 by Vancouver park commissioner George Grant Mackay, and was also known as the laughing bridge because of the sound it made when the wind blew through the canyon.
Kids love it. Even my teenagers are impressed, and when we cross to the other side there’s a fascinating rainforest to explore, equipped with timber frame boardwalks and cable bridges suspended between high tree platforms.
It’s an eco-friendly perfect place for youngsters to let off steam among the trees, while I sit by a pond and contemplate life, nature and the great outdoors that is Vancouver.
IF YOU GO
STAYING THERE: Fairmont Waterfront, 900 Canada Place Way. Visit fairmont广西桑拿,/waterfront-vancouver
Looking out on to Coal Harbour and the North Shore mountains, this hotel is a haven of luxury but it’s not remotely pretentious. The newly-refurbished harbour-front rooms are beautifully equipped, spacious and offer spectacular views of the harbour and the many seaplanes which land on it.
PLAYING THERE: Bistro 101 at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, 1505 West 2nd Ave. Visit bistro101广西桑拿,
Anyone who wants fine dining at a fraction of the cost should head for this fabulous restaurant at the entrance to Granville Market, where trainee chefs from PICA cook and serve the food with enthusiasm and flair
– Chambar, 562 Beatty Street, Crosstown. This cavernous Belgian restaurant with exposed brick walls, red leather seats, rustic pine and plenty of atmosphere has earned itself the reputation of the place to be, and rightly so. Signature mussels, served in deep pans, can be washed down with a variety of imaginative beers. Visit chambar广西桑拿,
– Lost Souls of Gastown Tour. Visit forbiddenvancouver.ca
– Vancouver Police Museum. Visit vancouverpolicemuseum.ca
* The writer travelled to Vancouver as a guest of Destination British Columbia