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Vancouver trip notes - no cruise involved


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We did a three-day trip this weekend to Vancouver; I thought I'd post just a couple of notes that might be useful to cruisers passing through Vancouver en route to/from Alaska.

 

Border: We drove from Seattle on Thurs. July 1 (Canada Day) and arrived at the border around 1 PM. We tuned the car radio after Bellingham to one of the several Vancouver stations that updates border conditions with their traffic news bulletins every 20 min. or so, and heard that the Peace Arch (Interstate 5) was running about 20 min. while the Pacific Hwy (Truck Crossing) station (around a mile detour off the freeway) had minimal wait. Indeed, there was one car in front of us at the Truck Crossing; it was the shortest wait I think I've ever had. No passports or other ID was requested.

 

Hotel: We stayed at the Hyatt Regency, two rooms at US$60 each that I got on Priceline. I think the rack rate is around CDN$200 or so. 30th floor, nice view, the front desk even took my Hyatt Gold card, nice of them to do on PL bookings. I recommend you get the free hotel frequent visitor cards (Hyatt, Starwood, etc.) even if you stay infrequently or use Priceline; you can often get upgraded or put on the club level floors. I think we were put on one of the business suite floors - nice office area available to us down the hall.

 

The Hyatt is on Burrard two blocks from the center of the action on Robson, a good location. There's a Skytrain station accessible from the hotel via the underground shopping center below the hotel lobby; we rode out to the Metrotown shopping mall yesterday to do some quick retail therapy. The Skytrain is fun and fast; if you go the other way from the Burrard stop, the next and last stop is at the waterfront, walkable from the Canada Place cruise terminal, and the Seabus (ferry) that crosses Burrard Inlet to the Lonsdale Quay market and shopping center in North Vancouver - a cheap and scenic outing.

 

Food and entertainment: The Lonsdale market has numerous fresh food stands, shops, craftspeople, and a great food court featuring all sorts of dining choices. I had a decent (well, cheap) plate of various Indian foods; my wife and my dad (visiting from Calif.) split something called a "Beaver Tail" (no, not really) - a big flat piece of something like Indian Fry-Bread, topped with cream cheese and a lot of lox-style smoked salmon, onions, tomatoes... It was fabulous. They also sell sweet Beaver Tails - with various toppings.

 

Dinner Thursday was at an old favorite, Bistro de Paris on Denman St. near Stanley Park. Would that Seattle had such a place - simple French bistro/brasserie food...to...die...for. Veal for the (temporarily) guilty-feeling Ms. and me; Pop had a spectacular piece of BC (could have been Alaskan) halibut with a raspberry reduction sauce. Yikes, everything was great and not very expensive considering. Highly recommended.

 

Friday we rode around town, the park, etc, and went to the aquarium, which we hadn't visited for some years. It's still a fabulous place, but even on a Friday (okay,the day after a national holiday, so obviously not typical) it was extremely crowded, so allow extra time. Luckily the Orcas are gone (as they should be) but the lovely Beluga Whales are still there, with their kindly faces and plentiful squeeking and chirping - talkative beasts.

 

Friday night we had an early dinner with some family members also visiting the city. We had intended to go to a highly regarded Greek place (Kalamata on W. Broadway) but arrived to find the staff had declared a holiday (over Canada Day weekend? Things must be going well) so we scrambled and went across the street to the Afghan Horsemen restaurant instead. Afghan food is pretty close to Persian - kebabs, "chello" rice - delicious and very reasonable. We got lucky, it turned out.

 

Then we went to see Macbeth performed at the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival held every summer in the park across False Creek from downtown. Enjoyable, the play a tad dark for a soft summer evening in Vancouver. Traffic and parking hassles were minimal, no toil or trouble. ;)

 

Saturday morning the hotel lobby was overwhelmed by cruise folks waiting around to go to the boat (Radiance of the Sea tags on most suitcases.) I'm thinking the Radiance was at the Ballantyne terminal, otherwise people could have easily gotten down to Canada Place with cheap cab rides instead of waiting for bus connections.

 

We checked out, then drove to the border, where this time the wait leaving Canada (at both crossings) was 45 min; the northbound (entering Canada) wait was over 90 min. at both the Peace Arch and Truck Crossing, so if you're planning to drive on a Saturday morning, be advised to plan accordingly. We had to show passports (Pop doesn't have one but his Calif. drivers license was okay) to the tattooed and quite intimidating-looking Immigration officer at the border. Otherwise the drive home was a breeze.

 

A couple of random notes. Vancouver, as anyone who's visited there will know, possesses an enormous Chinese community, but the city is still very much a melting pot of European, Asian and N. American cultures. Lots more French being spoken and heard than I remember from years ago.

 

There's a big Chinese restaurant with dim sum in the mornings in the shopping center below the Hyatt. It was PACKED and looked quite good.

 

Prices, even after the exchange, are still quite high compared to the US. Only deal we got was (as usual) on CDs and DVDs.

 

BC hard cider is out of this world. If you want to take anything on board your cruise, stop at one of the provincial liquor stores and buy a half rack of the apple or pear cider. Seriously delicious.

 

I'll post other thoughts as they arise.

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Not counting the border, I usually figure 3 hours center to center. The border adds 0-90 min. depending on luck, plus you might want to stop for necessities, especially if the wait at the border is over an hour, if you know what I mean. Also note gas is around 30% higher in BC than in WA at the moment (after you compute litres to gallons, US$ to CDN$, etc.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Great post! If you have more thoughts, please add.

 

My FI and I have booked the Diamond Princess for 6/05 for our honeymoon. We plan on flying out several days early to sightsee in Vancouver and Seattle ahead of the cruise.

 

Since we are flying and won't have a car (unless we decide to rent one), is it best to take the Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver??

 

I'll be sure to print off your comments as they are a huge help!

 

Thanks,

Christi

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