Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 10, 2017
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Vancouver for the weekend

This cosmopolitan city by the sea is the perfect conference destination

Unless you’ve just jetted in from another planet, you’re aware that Vancouver is in the breathless countdown phase to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Seeing the world’s best compete is reason enough to visit one of the world’s most liveable cities, but Paradise-upon-Pacific has lots of other lures. For a weekend of sightseeing after a Vancouver conference, here’s a plan based on walking or public transport within easy reach of downtown.

Friday

2pm Seawall stroll

After flying in, a saunter along Vancouver’s ever-lengthening Seawall is a perfect way to get the kinks out. The walk was spawned in 1911 when forward-thinkers snatched a few hundred metres from proliferating rooming-houses along the seashore. Over the decades, more land was acquired until today the city’s famous Seawall stretches 26 kilometres wrapping itself around Stanley Park through False Creek, past Granville Island, Vanier Park and toward the sea cliffs below Kitsilano. It’s the longest uninterrupted urban seafront walkway in the world and takes two and a half hours to bike; eight and a half hours to walk.

5pm Back to the digs

The downtown St. Regis Hotel (602 Dunsmuir Street; tel: 604-681-1135; www.stregishotel.com) emerged last year after an $11-million upgrade from down-at-the-heel to four-star status. Originally built in 1913 as one of the city’s top hotels, it went through several phases, including a period as a fave for sport figures and rock musicians. Up-to-the-minute in amenities today, the hotel is within walking distance of everything including the Convention Centre. It’s reasonably priced and has spa service at La Casa de la Raffinage (521 West Georgia Street; tel: 604-681-9933; www.laraffinage.com) around the corner. This spa and salon’s extensive range of therapies include such pampering as its coconut-milk massage ($85) — bliss after a long seawall hike.

8pm Pacific pearl

Trying to choose a place to dine in Vancouver’s abundance of traditional, ethnic and seafood restaurants, is a challenge (to say the least) but this is a city that loves to chow down on seafood or Asian cuisine. It’s often said that Vancouver has the best Chinese food outside Hong Kong — and enough great sushi restaurants to make you cross-eyed.

The new Coast Restaurant (1054 Alberni Street; tel: 604-685-5010; www.coastrestaurant.ca) is a good medium-priced downtown choice for seafood. Formerly in Yaletown, the new Coast has a huge menu, heavy on seafood from oysters (Malpeques, Kusshis, Effinghams) with steamers of shellfish and chowders, lobsters, crab legs and, of course, sushi.

Saturday

8am Trolley tra-la

For first-timers to Vancouver, booking a day pass with the Vancouver Trolley (tel: 604-801-5515; www.vancouvertrolley.com; $35.25 adults; $32.38 seniors) is the best way to combine sightseeing and visits to downtown highlights. These red cars on rubber wheels resemble Vancouver’s early streetcars. The Trolley circumnavigates downtown to let passengers hop on and off when they choose. Taking the “red route,” good photo-op stops are at Stanley Park’s famous clutch of totem poles, Prospect Point and “the skin diver,” a statue that sits just off the Seawall and looks very much like Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid.

10am Fish tales

Most large cities have an aquarium but the Vancouver Aquarium (845 Avison Way; tel: 604-659-3473; www.vanaqua.org) deserves a long hop off the Trolley. As Canada’s largest marine science centre, it has underground viewing where you can come nose to snout with a blubbery beluga, walk through a large humid conservatory, get to feed marine mammals, go behind the scenes or, best of all, meet the Aquarium’s newest member, a baby beluga born in June (see video of the birth on the website.)

12pm The best for less

The recently opened Shangri-La Hotel (1128 West Georgia Street; tel: 604-689-1120; www.shangri-la.com/vancouver) on Georgia Street is the tallest building in Vancouver but that’s only where the superlatives begin. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Market by Jean-Georges marks the Canadian debut of three-Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. If dinner is a bit pricey, lunch is a great opportunity to have the best for less. The lunch special at $28 includes two courses plus dessert — perhaps some Artic char sashimi, soy-glazed short ribs with apple-jalapeno purée and chocolate pudding with crystallized violets?

After a taste of window shopping on Robson Street, hop on the Trolley again on Howe Street by the Vancouver Art Gallery for a leg on the Trolley’s “blue route” past the Vancouver Museum, Maritime Museum and Space Centre to Granville Island.

3pm Market island

Up until the 1960s, Granville Island (www.granvilleisland.com) was Vancouver’s worst eyesore — a grimy collection of derelict warehouses and rat-infested wharves edging onto a toxic sewer called False Creek. Today it’s become the heart of urban living with a thriving farmer’s market at its hub, scores of artists’ studios, workshops, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, theatres, restaurants, a brewery, museums and much more.

There are shops that sell everything from cookbooks to beads but for one-of-a-kind handmade clothing, Funk Shui (1375 Railspur Avenue; tel: 604-684-5327; www.propagatelove.com) has clothing that is art.

You can spend all day in Granville Island’s Food Market (there’s always something new) where a stop at Edible BC (tel: 604-812-9660; www.edible-britishcolumbia.com) is a must. The fertile imagination of president Eric Pateman has not only collected the best selection of uniquely BC products but has enhanced these with food demos, cooking courses that let you be a chef for a day, tours and more.

There are scores of chocolate shops, bakeries, butcheries and places to nosh including the Stock Market for delicious made-on-the-spot soups to sample or take home. For a break, the Granville Island Tea Company (#117, 1689 Johnston Street; tel: 604-683-7491; www.granvilletea.com) has an eye-boggling collection of favourite and rare teas to drink there or take home (try the Masala Chai).

7pm Star tracks

Back on the Trolley for a cruise through Yaletown, a once-rundown part of the city, now another example of renaissance in Vancouver. This is the city’s hippest new area packed with cafés, upscale boutiques and its most chichi restaurants.

There are restaurants in Yaletown for any palate but the Glowbal Grill and Satay Restaurant (1079 Maitland Street; tel: 604-602-0835; www.glowbalgrill.com) has been known to lure in the movie crowd to sample such delicacies as blackened wild BC Salmon with putanesca gnocchi ($24) or Queen Charlotte Island Sablefish with crab and shrimp conchiglioni pasta ($29). If you bat zero and no one famous is dining, film folk can frequently be spotted at the O Bar (322 Davie Street; tel: 604-642-6787; www.opushotel.com) in the Opus Hotel, one of the hottest bars in Yaletown and ranked Vancouver’s most popular nightspot by Zagat.

Sunday

9am Down memory lane

Gastown was where Vancouver began when “Gassy Jack” Deighton set up a bar and started serving drinks to thirsty loggers. You can spot his statue at Water and Carrall Streets and see the famous steam clock two blocks west.

Wander through Canada Place to the Marine Building on Burrard and Water Streets where some of the city’s choicest dim sum awaits. The Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant (255 Burrard Street; tel: 604-688-8191; www.imperialrest.com; dim sum daily from 11am to 2:30pm) may not have the least expensive dim sum in town, but it gets constant accolades as the best. On the main floor of the beautiful Art Deco heritage Marine Building, it’s miles away from the cacophony of Chinatown on a weekend.

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

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