On a whim, we decided to do a quick weekend trip to Vancouver. To get a cheap flight, we ended up leaving at 6:00am on the Saturday morning, and then coming back Sunday afternoon.
As it was peak tourist season in Vancouver, hotel prices were rather high in downtown Vancouver. So, we decided to stay at the Hilton Vancouver Airport, and just rent a car instead for the 2 days we were there.
Below is a summary of what we did in our brief stay in Vancouver. More photos of the trip can be found here.
Day 1 – Early morning, Stanley Park, Pandas, Beach and Friends
As we had a 6:00am flight, we had to get up early to be out the door by 4:30am. As it was just a quick trip, we decided to just park at the airport. We’ve used one company (JetSet) before, and they have a “WePark” option where you just pull up and they park your car for you. Normally, a shuttle comes right away to take us to the airport.
However, this time, we saw a shuttle bus meander through the rest of the parking lot, stopping to pick up other passengers, until finally coming to the terminal to pick us up. Once dropped off at the airport, we went straight through security (as we were not checking any bags). We had originally planned to stop at the Starbucks, but there was no time, and we basically headed straight to our gate.
We had just purchased some economy class seats, but Randy noticed that the flight was oversold, and had a suspicion that we might get upgraded (as he has the top elite status with Air Canada). Sure enough, when we were waiting to board, our names were called and we were given new boarding passes for business class. Sweet!
Our seat assignments were in different rows, but Randy asked his seat companion if he would mind trading seats with me, and he was nice enough to agree. For our meal, we got the usual Air Canada omelette with potatoes and sausage. But hey, it was free food.
Once we arrived in Vancouver, we made our way to the car rental and picked up a vehicle. Then we headed to the nearby Hilton to see if there was any chance of getting our room yet. As it was just after 7:00am by this time, we didn’t have much hope. And, as suspected, our room wasn’t ready yet. So, we checked our bags at the hotel and decided to wander around Vancouver.
We had originally planned to hit up a White Spot restaurant for breakfast when we arrived, but since we were fed on the plane, we didn’t need to do that. So, we headed to Stanley Park and decided to go for a walk along the seawall. It had been a long time since we were in Stanley Park. We parked near the Vancouver Yacht Club and went for a stroll. It was nice to be there early in the morning, as it wasn’t crowded with people yet.
We stopped at the Totem Poles in the park. When we were here 20 years ago, you used to be able to go right up to the totem poles. Now they have them set back behind a little fence and ravine to keep people from wrecking them, I guess.
One of the reasons we had come to Vancouver was to see the Pandas 1600 exhibition at Metrotown Mall. This is an exhibition that was first launched in 2008 by French artist Paulo Graneon. He handcrafted 888 papier mache pandas to bring awareness to the few remaining pandas in the world. So, after we were done in Stanley Park, we headed to Metrotown mall. The shops were just about to open when we arrived, so we were able to check out the exhibit without a lot of people around. Apparently you can actually ‘adopt’ one of these little pandas and keep it after the exhibit is over. But by the time we got there, all the pandas had been adopted. (sad face)
After we had taken enough photos of the pandas, we were starting to get hungry. So, we headed to the Jericho Sailing Centre. They have a little restaurant (The Galley Patio and Grill) that overlooks the beach. And since it was a sunny, warm day, we thought that would be a nice lunch spot.
As were eating our salmon burgers, we noticed a group of girls in bikinis walking onto the beach with a photographer. These were average girls, not models or anything. They were doing all sorts of poses together on the beach – and we thought that it was a bit random, but whatever. Then literally a minute later, we see another group of bikini-clad girls with a photographer. They weren’t part of the first group or anything. We were thinking – is this some sort of ‘thing’ that people do here? It must obviously be, because when we finished our lunch and wandered down onto the beach, we saw yet another group of bikini girls being photographed. Very strange.
After our lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel and see if our room was ready yet. It wasn’t, but they said it would be 10-15 minutes. So, we just hung out in the lobby until it was ready.
We were actually upgraded to a suite, which was nice. We had a nice living area and a separate bedroom. Lots of room to spread out. We decided to go to Wreck Beach, so we grabbed some towels and water and drover over there. Finding parking was a bit difficult, as it was a hot, sunny day and everyone likely wanted to go to the beach. We finally found a parkade about a 15 minute walk away from the start of the Trail 6. Apparently there are a few trails down to the beach, but Trail 6 has some nice wooden steps down to the beach. Approximately 500 wooden steps. Going down wasn’t hard, but by the time we got to the beach, my calves were a little sore!
Wreck Beach is a clothing optional beach. There are a number of vendors selling food and beach blankets/sarongs. There are also some enterprising people walking around with coolers selling boozy freezies or cold beer. There was even one guy advertising that he had cold beer, emergency cigarettes and marijuana. You could definitely smell people partaking of the marijuana.
As it was low tide, the water was quite a ways out. We sat on our towels for most of the time, but did go out and wade in the water for a bit. We left the beach around 3:30pm as we had only paid for 2 hours of parking. By this time it was quite warm out, so the trip back up the 500 stairs was quite tough for me. I had to stop a number of times to catch my breath. Near the top, I had Randy go ahead without me to get the vehicle, and I met him on the road.
As we were all hot and sweaty from the climb up, we both had a refreshing shower when we got back to the hotel. We got ready and hung out in the room for a bit until it was time to meet our friends Mary and Michelle for dinner. We were meeting at a restaurant called Minami in Yaletown. Mary had suggested that we take the SkyTrain to the restaurant, so we walked to a station near our hotel and caught a train downtown. The restaurant was just down the street from the Yalehouse station.
We arrived before Mary and Michelle, and had an option to eat inside or outside at some couches. Since it was so nice out, we sat outside in this very secluded back garden. We had a wonderful evening. Had great food, lots of beer, and lots of laughs. It was great to see them again. We left the restaurant just before 10pm, and Randy and I were quite beat from the early morning and busy day. So, we said goodbye to our friends and took the train back to our hotel and went straight to sleep.
Day 2 – Steveston and then back home again
We both had a good sleep and woke up around 7:00am. Breakfast was included with our hotel rate, so we showered up and headed down to the hotel restaurant. The hostess confirmed that we were on the list to get a free breakfast and then seated us. She asked us what we wanted to drink. I gave her my order, and Randy had barely got his order out when she started talking to a couple of gals and then just walked away. We weren’t sure whether she got his order, or even what our breakfast options were. She never came back, so we were sitting there just wondering what to do. A few minutes later a waiter did come by with our coffee and tea, and he explained that we were entitled to the buffet and that if we wanted eggs cooked to order, we could get that as well. We did get very good service from the waiter from that point on.
Randy said the hotel coffee was horrible, so we walked over to a nearby Starbucks so he could get a latte. We hung out in the hotel room for a bit, then got in the car and headed to Steveston. We decided to check out the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Museum. We got there just after they opened, and a guided tour had just started. One of the gals at reception offered to walk us through the museum to join up with the tour (the tour group was only 2 other people). We were actually quite glad that we joined the tour, as the guide explained the whole process of the salmon being brought into the cannery up until they are canned and ready to be exported. Even though the exhibits in this museum are really good, it was nice to have someone explain it to you.
After we were finished at the museum, we wandered down to Fisherman’s Wharf and then wandered around the downtown shops of Steveston. We walked up an appetite for some lunch, so we headed to our favourite fish & chips place – Pajo’s. Pajo’s has a few different locations now. The original location is close to Fisherman’s Wharf, but it is always very busy. We went to check it out, but it looked like a long line to order. So, we went to a different location at Garry Point Park. This is only a couple blocks away from the original restaurant, but as it isn’t in the ‘touristy’ area of Steveston, it wasn’t as busy. We ordered our favourite Halibut fish & chips and ate them overlooking the ocean. It was just as good as I remembered!
After lunch, we headed back to our hotel. We had been given a late check out of 1:30pm, so we just packed up our stuff and were just about to leave when the maid came to clean the room (right at 1:30pm on the dot). Our flight didn’t leave until 3:45pm, but we really didn’t have time to do much before heading to the airport. We did do a quick drive around Richmond to see the apartment that Randy stayed in when he worked in Richmond 20 years ago. Some things were the same, but a lot had changed in 20 years (go figure). Then we headed to the airport.
We dropped off the rental car, then went to the Air Canada concierge office to get our boarding passes printed off. As we were heading towards security, we ran into 2 concierge staff that Randy knew. So, we gabbed with them a while. Then we went through security and met up with another concierge and we sat and visited with her in the Maple Leaf Lounge for a while. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the gate.
The flight was oversold again, but this time we didn’t get an upgrade, so actually had to sit in economy (the horror!). As Randy is a Super Elite, he is able to book the Preferred seats without an extra cost, so it was quite comfortable. It’s a short trip, and before I knew it, we were landing in Edmonton.
We got off the plane and headed out to the median to wait for the parking shuttle. One was just pulling away when we got there, and we had to wait another 25 minutes for the next one to come. Considering the parking lot is not that far away, it was way too long to wait. It seemed like JetSet parking just wasn’t running very many shuttles, as there was about 20 other people waiting by the time the bus finally arrived. We picked up our car and then headed home. On previous times we’ve used JetSet, we have been happy with the service. I’m not sure if the management has changed, but we were just not overly impressed with any of the service this time, and probably would not use them in the future.
But, all in all, we had a great little getaway to Vancouver. We lucked out with awesome weather, and it was fun seeing our friends again.