Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 20, 2021
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Pacific heights

Mix a big city with mountains and sea and you'll end up with world-class food and acres of nature

Despite the tendency of North American conference organizers to be drawn to sunny southern hotspots, a few choice Canadian destinations still top the convention list and Vancouver is undoubtedly one of them. Home to spectacular natural scenery, a culturally diverse metropolis and one of the mildest climates in Canada, Vancouver offers up a blend of Mother Nature and urban culture.

On the culture front, the city claims a world-class museum, reputable symphony orchestra, a strong opera company and cutting-edge dance troupes. And while Vancouver now boasts a high calibre of shopping and dining options in areas such as Robson Street, just a few minutes' walk will take you out of the hustle and bustle, landing you smack in the middle of Stanley Park's 400 hectares of sandy beaches, giant firs, cedars and lakes.

There are also a range of accessible day trips to add to your agenda. Since Whistler is in the Rocky Mountains and only one-and-a-half hours from downtown Vancouver, you can easily visit the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It's worth it for the drive along Highway 99 alone, often referred to as the Sea to Sky route because of its dramatic views.

If staying closer to sea-level is more your thing, Vancouver Island is just a ferry ride away. Located on the southern tip of the island, Victoria is the second largest city in BC, the province's capital, and only an hour and 45 minutes by ferry from Vancouver. On the ride across to Victoria, you have a great chance to spot killer whales and other marine curiosities.

Where to Stay
The 85-room Granville Island Hotel (1253 Johnston Street; tel: 800-663-1840; is tucked away on the edge of Granville Island, a small peninsula connected to downtown Vancouver via the Granville Street Bridge. The hotel offers a unique waterfront setting in the heart of some of the city's most interesting galleries, theatres, shops and restaurants, as well as one of Vancouver's favourite public markets. Rooms start at $110 a night, and the hotel also offers a variety of package deals. The Theatre Package ($229 double occupancy) includes a $50 dinner credit at the Dockside Restaurant and two tickets to the Arts Club Theatre or the Stanley Theatre. The offer is good between October 1 and December 31, 2005.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (900 West Georgia Street; tel: 866-540-4452; sits in the centre of the downtown business, shopping and entertainment district. Considered a Vancouver landmark, the hotel was recently restored to its original 1939 glory. It features 556 guestrooms and suites, two award-winning restaurants, a day spa and a health club with indoor swimming pool. Rooms start at approximately $220. Packages include the Art of Romance ($359 from May to October) -- one night's accommodation along with a bottle of Blue Mountain sparkling wine, chocolate-dipped strawberries, a deluxe breakfast served in your room, spa products, valet parking and also a late check-out time of 3pm.

If you're looking for an alternative to the big hotel, you might want to try A Treehouse Bed and Breakfast (2490 West 49th Avenue; tel: 877-266-2960; Treehouse offers uniquely tailored suites decorated with contemporary paintings and sculptures. Located in the prestigious Kerrisdale district, only a few minutes from most major attractions, the smoke-free bed and breakfast has three suites ranging from $135 to $175 for double occupancy, $30 per additional person. Each suite comes with a plant-filled sitting room, private deck, jacuzzi and a four-course gourmet breakfast. The B&B welcomes children over 10.

Where to Eat
Vancouver's restaurant scene has exploded in the past few years, offering world-class cuisine from every corner of the globe. Fine dinning, casual or family-friendly restaurants are easily accessible throughout Vancouver.

Since it opened in 1995, Lumière Restaurant (2551 West Broadway; tel: 604-739-8185; and its chef Rob Feenie have received accolades from notable food critics around the world. In November 2000, Lumière became the first restaurant in Canada to receive the coveted Relais Gourmand designation without being affiliated with a Relais & Châteaux hotel.

The restaurant combines European flavour, North American flair and Asian minimalism. Trying one of their four tasting menus -- vegetarian, seafood, chef's menu or special menu -- is highly recommended. Each one comprises an eight- to 10-course meal ($100-$130), and for an additional $50-$65, wine can accompany each course. For less decadent diners, Lumière also offers a tasty bar menu. Dinner is served from 5:30pm and reservations are recommended. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.



If sushi is what you're craving, there's no shortage of Japanese dining options in Vancouver. From $9.99 all-you-can-eat to $50 a plate, there is something for every level of sushi craving. Sushi Bar Wabi Sabi (4422 West 10th Avenue; tel: 604-222-8188; www.sushibarwabisabi. com) is a classic upscale Japanese restaurant located in the West Point Grey neighbourhood. It is widely recognized as one of the finest places for Japanese cuisine. Reservations are recommended if you'd like to be seated in one of their tatami rooms, which accommodates up to five guests. Wabi Sabi's menu includes a host of elegantly prepared sushi and sashimi. A tower of tuna tartar served marinated with mango-wasabi guacamole is a favourite on the menu, or choose from grilled duck or lamb. They offer over a dozen wines by the glass and have a large selection of Japanese sakes served in bamboo flasks. Most dishes at Wabi Sabi's are under $20.

Since it's not easy to find a sushi restaurant that offers up a Happy Meal, consider going American-Italian if you're looking for family dining. Romano's Macaroni Grill (1523 Davie Street; tel: 604-689-4334; www.macaroni is housed in a huge stone mansion. Romano's is fun and casual, with wood panelling, stained-glass windows and chandeliers surrounding tables covered with red-and-white chequered tablecloths. The menu covers everything from pasta, seafood, veal and steaks, roasted chicken and pizza baked in a wood-burning oven. There's also a kid's menu which features lasagne, meatloaf and pizza. This obviously isn't high-concept Italian, but the food is simple and consistently good. Main courses are between $6 and $16, the kid's menu is $5 to $6. Reservations are recommended.

What to Do by Day
Without a doubt, Stanley Park is a great way to spend a day in Vancouver. You can take a romantic horse and carriage ride, visit the public aquarium, hang out on the beach or picnic in the company of the friendly local wildlife. It's the best that nature has to offer in the heart of city life.

On rainy days, a visit the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street; tel: 604-662-4700; is certainly well worth your time. The work of British Columbia's own Emily Carr (1871-1945) is part of the gallery's permanent collection and an exhibit that covers the full spectrum of her career, including her connection to the Group of Seven. Whether you're already a Carr admirer or not, this is the place to make the most of one of Canada's most beloved artists. Best known for her depictions of the natural landscape and native culture of coastal British Columbia, she is also renowned for her unique vision of BC's seemingly impenetrable rainforest and for the ethereal, light-struck oil on paper works of her later years. The art gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5:30pm, Thursdays until 9pm. Admission for adults is $15, $10 for students and $11 for seniors. The gallery also offers a special admission-by-donation policy Thursday evenings after 5pm.

You'd be remiss to visit Vancouver without taking in its Chinatown, the second largest in North America after San Francisco. Walking from the downtown hotel district, just follow the recently inaugurated Silk Road route, the first pedestrian path connecting Chinatown to downtown Vancouver. Clearly marked throughout with colourful banners and road signs, this self-guided walking tour encompasses all of Chinatown's activities, services and cultural highlights. Starting from downtown, the path will take you through Keefer Street, International Village, the Millennium Gates, the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Chinatown Market and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden. Once in Chinatown, have fun browsing through the shops, grab a bite at one of the many restaurants, or consider consulting a traditional Chinese medicine herbalist.

What to Do by Night
Vancouver has a vibrant nightlife and entertainment scene, whether you choose to dance all night, take in a show or plan an outing for the entire family.

The Cellar (3611 West Broadway; tel: 604-738-1959; is Vancouver's answer to New York City's Village Vanguard -- a small 70-seat club/ restaurant that presents the best of local jazz five nights a week, as well as some well-known international jazz acts. One note to chatty diners, though: the Cellar has a noise policy that encourages people to listen, so if you're planning on conversation this is probably not the best place.

If you happen to have kids in tow, you and the rugrats will love Vancouver's CN IMAX Theatre (tel: 604-682-imax;, located at the north end of Canada Place in downtown Vancouver. Treat the entire family to Wild Safari 3D or Sharks 3D, films that'll have you all marvelling at nature's many faces. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for children aged nine and under.

Getting There
You still have two airline options when heading to Vancouver. Air Canada (tel: 888-247-2262; www.aircanada. com) has several direct flights a day from Toronto to Vancouver, with its Tango option offering fares in the $600 to $800 range. But it's worth checking their website for special seat sales before you book.

WestJet (tel: 888-west-jet; www.west often represents the less-expensive airline option, sometimes offering round-trip fares for as little as $500, witty in-flight staff included. However many of the flights have a stopover of anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in either Winnipeg or Calgary and food costs extra.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.