When British Royal Navy officer Captain George Vancouver arrived in this slice of Canadian heaven in 1792, he was transfixed by what he saw.
Some 200 years later, my view from an all-glass-walled bathroom from the 14th floor of Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim is a bit different, but no less breathtaking. I don’t often become enamored with my hotel room, but I have to admit, one look at our accommodations (really, the bathroom), and I wanted to put a cot in it and stay forever. Luxury, drama, sophistication, whimsy and comfort merely begin with renowned Canadian architect James K.M. Cheng’s Japanese-style marble Jacuzzi soaking tub, placed right smack up to the floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Upon arrival, a crystal-clear koi pond sprinkled by overhead ‘rain’ welcomes you at the front door. Giovane cafe + winebar serves fresh morning pastries and transforms into an Italian wine bar at night. Afternoon tea, a Fairmont tradition, comes via an Art Deco trolley and the Lobby Lounge soothes as you cozy up to the mesmerizing contemporary fireplace to listen to music from the one-of-a-kind Fazioli piano. ORU is the star restaurant here, where executive chef Darren Brown treated us to a six-course tasting, starting off with an amuse-bouche of watermelon/strawberry-infused gazpacho and continuing to surprise us with his fusion of flavors in sushi selections, a Kalua pork belly and Haida Gwaii olive-crusted halibut. For some downtime, Willow Stream Spa—encompassing 15,000 square feet of the property’s entire fifth floor—offers more than 50 spa services in the loveliest of surroundings.
The view from our fishbowl existence finally lured me outside for a walk along the sea wall bordering Coal Harbour. Towering glass and steel buildings form a backdrop for blocks and blocks of flower-filled parks, sunbathers on lush green grass, children splashing in water parks, dockside restaurants and water activity of every kind.
Eventually, the sea wall takes you to Stanley Park, the jewel of Vancouver. This thousand-acre wonderland is an oasis for city dwellers featuring Deadman’s Island, the Rose Garden, the locals’ beloved Girl In A Wetsuit bronze statue, the Vancouver Rowing Club clubhouse and the majestic Totem Poles. Horse-drawn carriages are a delightful way to explore.
Food choices are endless, and range from kiosks of ‘Japadog,’ a Japanese style hotdog featuring toppings of teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed to restaurants supervised by some of the finest chefs in North America. A few favorite spots: Le Crocodile, Bishop’s, Seasons in the Park, Cardero’s and LIFT, all along the sea wall; La Terrazza and Simply Thai in historic Yaletown; Blue Water Café + Raw Bar, (a must), also in Yaletown; and the funky Chambar, a Belgian restaurant in Gastown for “civilized debauchery.”
Don’t miss a visit across the bridge to Granville Island for one of the most spectacular markets you’ve ever seen. Many farmers markets are chaotic and unorganized. Not this one. You’ll find everything to like on this little island—really a peninsula. The Kids Market is unique and adorable. If you don’t have a kid, borrow one and enjoy all there is to see. Foraging your way up and down the aisles at the Public Market is a perfect way to enjoy a reasonable, delicious meal. For a ‘sit-down,’ try Bridges, The Sandbar or the trendy Edible Canada at the Market. And always, always, leave room for a scoop or two of gelato at Bella Gelateria, voted the Florence Gelato Festival Winner of 2012—and worth every lick. You can always work off all those calories by paddle-boarding, kayaking, swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, jet-skiing, wind-surfing, wakeboarding and waterskiing in the waters surrounding the city.
There are four Fairmont hotels in Vancouver. All are superb, but I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else but the Fairmont Pacific Rim, with its amenities so updated that each room has its own iPad for contacting all the hotel services. And, of course, there’s the view and that soaking tub…which I absolutely must leave before I turn into a prune.