It's getting to be a habit. I've been there twice in five months. For me it has to be the perfect city. It's set on the Pacific coast, with soaring mountains as a backdrop. There's skiing close by at world famous Whistler. I have friends and family there, and the price is right. Canadians find it difficult to get all of the above for a price they can
live with. It's not only a matter of economics but it's good common sense. We lose 50 cents on our dollar in Europe and the USA so we look to our own country for the place that offers everything. Vancouver is the answer. It can be for you too. Hear me out.
Coastal cities always hold an attraction. The sea is like a magnet and the coastal cities boast boat tours and waterfront holidays. But few have the natural charm of Vancouver. This sprawling city is a short hop to the us border. The city has expanded in three directions. Only the Pacific stops its western growth but for those who want to get even farther west, there's the Provincial capital at charming but more sedate Victoria.
Vancouver is a city of regions and they all have their peculiarities. North Vancouver is built on the slopes of Grouse Mountain and mount Seymour. And at the eastern end of that community lies the snug and inviting Deep Cove. It's only forty minutes from downtown Vancouver but you are as close to wilderness as you can get.
The city itself is bustling, especially with the influx of people from the far east. There is a distinctive feel of the orient but it is truly an upscale Canadian city. There is a section called Chinatown but it is only one of many ethnic or cultural sections. Gastown, in the heart of the downtown is the old section reborn with the modern shops and some of the city's finest restaurants. Recharge your batteries at a sidewalk café or just relax and watch the world go by. Gastown has a famous steam clock, worth seeing as well as antique shops, designer fashions and funky eateries. It's all easily accessible by Skytrain, Seabus, public transportation, car or on foot
The main street for shopping is Robson Street, affectionately referred to as Robsonstrasse. Here, one can find the high fashion items from all over the world.
In the center of the city the city fathers have passed laws to protect a large tract of land as a green space for joggers, picnickers, strollers or lovers. It's the ideal place within the city to take the kids for an outing. And talk about scenery. Where else can you take your picture under an authentic totem pole? The first nations presence makes Vancouver feel like a city open to everyone and that's exactly what it is. There is even a gay village that seems to be thriving.
And if that's not enough, you can walk around English Bay or take a dip in the icy waters on New Years Day as people have been doing for years.
Queen Elizabeth Park has spectacular views of the city with Sunken Gardens and a floral conservatory.
In the Shaughnessy Estates you can see millionaire homes that rival those in any city. It's exclusively residential and well manicured.
Canada Place is where the Alaska cruise ships come and go. Its special design makes it a unique landmark.
Then there's Granville Island with its boat moorings, artist studios, craft galleries and Public Market. It's especially popular with people looking for a place to eat near the water. They even have tiny water taxis that transport you back and forth from English Bay. There's also the Burrard Bridge for those less adventurous.
There are fun things to do and see as half-day trips by car or tour. I recommend the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park in North Vancouver. The original swing bridge was built in 1889 and allowed people to cross the rushing waters of Capilano Canyon. Transport improved and so did the bridge itself. Now you can safely walk across the 450 foot span 230 feet in the air. Then there are trails and a Living Forest exhibit. People have been visiting this site since 1911. Here too you can see original totem poles and watch First Nations carvers do their thing. The site is easy to find once you leave the Lions Gate Bridge and head less than a mile up Capilano Road. It's well worth the trip.
You can visit the Fish hatchery while you're there or take the Skyride to the summit of Grouse Mountain 3,700 feet above the city.
Vancouver is a bustling metropolis and is keeping up with the times. With expansion always on their mind, a new area has sprung up. It's called Yaletown and when I visited there recently, I couldn't help notice the countless building sites with huge cranes like a forest across the skyline. Yaletown is expanding and becoming a choice of apartment or condo hunters and a quiet yet exciting place to sip a coffee or dine at an upscale restaurant.
I live in Montreal which is a city of restaurants but the last night in Vancouver I discovered a restaurant worth writing about. Actually, it was recommended to me and it certainly put a frosting on my last night in town.
Yaletown was once an area of factories, warehouses and depots. Today it is as upscale as you can get. There on Hamilton Street, I discovered
Capones at number 1141. The first thing that came to mind was that the infamous man's headquarters was at number 2222 South Wabash Ave. in Chicago. I thought it would be perfect if this eatery was at 1111, then instead of The Four Deuces, as Capone's club was called, this Yaletown find could be given the name The Four Aces. But I'm getting carried away. I spent almost 35 years lecturing about the 'roaring twenties' and when I faced a place called Capones, I simply flipped. Inside, I found something quite different from what I expected. Aside from the name and a couple of 'mob' named dishes, there is not much to remind one of 'those days'. There's no bouncer and the staff doesn't talk with sandpaper voices. What I found instead was a modern, fashionable and comfortable restaurant and live jazz club. And what a find it was.
Greeted by one of the owners, the cordial and hospitable Karen Watts, (she bills herself as the 'operations diva') I was given a tour of the establishment. I fell for the décor and the sounds immediately. Unfortunately Rob Geitl, her partner and 'head of the mob', wasn't there but I had a personal tour of the main restaurant with the wonderful paintings of the jazz musicians of old. I saw the new private banquet room equipped with a bar and a stage set for live jazz. I watched the talented chef prepare 'tapes' that looked more splendid (certainly more exotic) than the ones I had last month in Barcelona and I sat under a telling portrait of Dizzy Gillespie (jowls and all) and studied their unique menu. There is something for every taste and every mood. It's not surprising that their Martini list is award winning. Guests are invited to try vodka and gin martinis with a twist, and I don't mean a twist of lemon. The names alone conjure up memories of times, places and sensations long gone. I could have tried the Betty Boop or the Ella Fitzgerald or The Gangster or Oscar Peterson. (He is a Montrealer too.) But I did try the After Eight since I'm a sucker for peppermint schnapps and crème de cacao. It was as expected: monumental.
Feeling the effects of the liberal squirts of who knows what, I searched for something to start with. . I hit on Capone's Signature Soup and what a soup it was. This hearty smoked chicken and potato chowder was everything I expected ($6,00).
Now that I had ever tasted their smoked chicken, I turned to the Cherrywood Smoked Chicken cannelloni ($15.00). What a treat! It was like nothing I've had before, filled with what it promised and topped with a wonderful, slightly piquant sauce. I tasted the ricotta cheese and basil rose sauce. I can still taste it. (I mean that in a positive way).
Others at my table enjoyed the Seafood Linguini ($17.00) and the Lamb & Rosemary Sausage Penne ($16.00) made with wild mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and pesto cream sauce. They were great successes.
But as the menu says, "There's always room for desert" and my sweet tooth called out to the Belgian chocolate cheesecake,
'so rich and divine". All for $7.00 (Cdn.)
I passed on coffee…You can see why. And all through the meal, although we were seated too far to see him, Vancouverite, Wes 'The Bluesman' Mackey and his sideman, favored us with mellow jazz with a traditional appeal. The ambiance was perfect. The room was well fashioned, the staff more than pleasant, the music and décor perfect for Jazz aficionados and the food SUPERB…
Even out on the terrace where the guests could hardly be expected to hear the music properly, there was a feeling of celebration. It was in the air. I have a feeling that 'celebration' lives in the walls of 1411 Hamilton Street (off Davie) in Yaletown.
They're open seven days a week. The secret is out. Just call to be sure of a front and center seat, if you like great food, ambiance and jazz. The number is 604 684 7900. (Fax 684 7960). Let someone 'take you for a ride'. It's in Yaletown and that has nothing to do with Frankie Yale but if you're worried, let me know, I'll ride 'shotgun' there anytime.
Vancouver is a place to relax or enjoy an upscale holiday. It's great value for Canadians and even better for those south of the border. Capones is my choice for dinner. You wont find Greasy Thumb, Bugs, Scarface or The Enforcer there, even on St Valentines Day, but they'll serve up the best food and jazz in town… if you make them an
offer . . .
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)