Sitting in Our Tree

Vancouver, BC

travelKelsey BethuneComment

Our five year anniversary was supposed to be marked with a giant trip. A tropical trip. It was going to be great. But 2015 was an intense year for us, & as October 23rd grew closer, we had neither the time to research nor the money to book a big trip. We settled for a day trip to Philadelphia, followed by a day in the Virginia mountains, & honestly, it was exactly what we needed. But we promised ourselves that Year 6 was going to be the year for that tropical vacation. The kind where you arrive at a resort, & spend your days on the beach, with a waiter putting another margarita in your hand every time your last one is empty. The kind of resort that you pay extra not to deal with kids in the pool. The kind with a swim up bar & 6 restaurants to choose from. We dutifully put money away all year, & I planned our entire trip. For about a month, we went back & forth sending resorts to each other over email. We settled on Mexico, & debated if we cared about the Zika factor, but decided that by the time we were ready to try to have a baby, we'd be safely out of the hazard window. We'd get tested, it'd be fine.

You can imagine that it was a little ironic, a little comical, & very unreal when about 48 hours before Jared was going to officially book the trip, I took a test that read, "Pregnant." So! We regrouped. More than ever, we needed to get away together. We read all about how Zika could just be a big pharmaceutical conspiracy & blah blah blah, but neither of us were comfortable risking it. With our anniversary falling on a consistently gorgeous autumn weekend, we decided to finally take the Seattle/Vancouver trip we'd heard a family friend gush about a few years back. Bonuses including 1) another stamp in our passports & 2) seeing my dear friend Chelsea, whom Jared hadn't met yet.

We flew into Seattle & immediately hopped in a rental car, making the trip to Vancouver in a little over two hours. It was a really pretty drive (confession: I slept for part of it), & driving through border control was a bit of an andrenaline rush for Jared. Based on advice from my Twitter friends over at Treasures & Travel, we found an amazing Airbnb in the Vancouver neighborhood of Gastown. Perched in a super eclectic, modern loft, we were really in the heart of Gastown, with seemingly every shop & restaurant that had been recommended to us a very short walk away.Perfectly cool & a little drizzly, we got into town around 5pm & wandered the streets a bit, orienting ourselves & deciding where OH WHERE to eat. We happened to be staying about a block away from Tacofino, a taco spot that at least 45 people plus 90% of the internet said we needed to try. & guys... I'm so glad we did.

It's pretty hard to impress a margarita connoisseur that can't currently drink, but between their mocktail menu & (I am not exaggerating) THE BEST FISH TACO I'VE EVER HAD EVER, I was one happy pregnant lady. Tacofino was also the first time we stopped & realized that everyone in Vancouver is basically a model, & that every brick & mortar had perfect styling & branding. We decided this is a town filled with graphic & interior designers, who get married & then open really cool shops together.

One thing we did notice is that Vancouver is a sleeeeeeepy town. Or at least Gastown is a sleepy neighborhood. Maybe we were staying in the Georgetown equivalent of Vancouver, but we were up the next morning & hitting the sidewalk at 8:30am, & there was not one single spot open. The clean up crew was out, cleaning up the streets from the night before, & we walked around the neighborhood until Nelson the Seagull opened at 9am, then partook in the first of many avocado toasts on this trip. The PNW loooooves its avocado toast.

 

My lovely Instagram friend @adrianasinke was so kind to make some recommendations of spots for us to visit in her former city, & brilliantly directed us to Lynn Canyon Park. When you start investigating Vancouver, you see all of these insanely gorgeous photos of a giant suspension bridge, called the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were really excited about it before we realized that it costs $45 a person to go! Not quite at that point in our traveling lives. Fortunately, Lynn Canyon's suspension bridge is FREE (though not quite as big/extensive) & has trails that kept us busy for a solid three hours. It was a beautifully scenic hike.

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(Even though we switched our swimsuits for beanies, my margaritas for bottled water, & our search for Mexican ruins for continual searches for the nearest bathroom, this was still our best anniversary yet.) 

After our trek back to Gastown, we explored the shops in the neighborhood, where I tried to capture the impeccable branding on basically every window & we managed to only buy one thing: A 100% Canadian blanket for the baby. It's very cute. You'll see.

I can't think of a single thing that DC is obsessed with the way that Vancouver was obsessed with butternut squash. Nearly every restaurant featured a seasonal item with butternut squash, & I feel like I ordered that item every single time. This sandwich & tea from The Birds & The Beets was a perfect pick me up. SUCH a fresh food scene in Vancouver.

We ran down to Crab Park, which was basically directly behind our loft, to try to watch the sunset, but the cloudy skies had different plans. Still a pleasant walk, with the sound of seagulls & bells dinging everywhere. This is also where it seems like all the dogs hung out. I had been very concerned about the lack of dogs up to this point.

Right around the corner, but not pictured, was Alibi Room, where Jared got to try a flight of Canadian beers. Having frequently visited Toronto over the last year, he'd been convinced Canada didn't have great beers, but Alibi Room's selection changed his mind. So there's that. I had a ginger ale & it was great, thanks for asking

We finished our actual anniversary off with a fancy dinner at L'Abattoir, which was insanely delicious. In case you can't tell, my meal came complete with an apple rosette, so like, sold.

We spent our final breakfast in Vancouver at Le Marché St. George, which a shop kid had tried to discourage us from visiting the day before, but we were SO glad we ignored him. As the weird kid that grew up with crepes on Saturday mornings instead of pancakes, this little corner spot won me over with their quiche and crepe selection, topped off with a nice spicy chai.

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The golden doodle parked right outside out window waiting dutifully for his mom also helped in my decision to move to Vancouver & stay forever. I've since changed my mind, don't worry, but between the neighborhoods & that brie + apple crepe... It was close.

We got back in our terrible Mitsubishi rental & started our journey back to Seattle, but not without a fond farewell to Vancouver, its autumnal glory & surprisingly incredible food scene. Not going to lie, I was expecting more CANADA than I got (maple syrup & poutine were simply NOT a thing in Vancouver), but I guess that means we just need to head to Montreal next!

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EAT
Tacofino Even though you don't think you're heading to Vancouver for tacos, you need to stop here. Best fish tacos we've ever had, with a really great drink menu, including mocktails. Bumpin' on a Saturday night, but plenty of space at the bar & a great aesthetic.
The Birds & The Beets A gorgeous shop tucked away in the heart of gastown, this little cafe had the most beautiful organic vibe & a bonus flower shop in the back. Featuring a small salad/sandwich menu & the right amount of mid-afternoon-pick-me-up drinks, it was a perfect refuel stop.
L'Abattoir A little on the pricier end, this restaurant was a perfect fit for our anniversary dinner. Just the right amount of comfortable & fancy, the interior was gorgeous, with an indoor courtyard that you see from the outside & assume a $300 tasting menu awaits you. Not so! Super friendly service & perfect portions from this French-inspired menu.
Le Marché St. George This is a tiny spot right in the middle of a neighborhood that will make you second guess if your directions are correct, but they are & you will be so glad you made the trip. Savory quiches, the best spicy chai I've had in a long time & crepes made by employees with accents (try the seasonal) make this place a must stop. Heads up: It was empty on a Monday morning, but we could see this getting a little cramped on a busy weekend.
Other spots that were recommended that we didn't get to try:
Guilt & Co.Juice Truck
La Mezcaleria
Field & Social
Cafe Medina

Meat & Bread
Nuba
& "any Asian place." We were told this multiple times.

DRINK
Nelson the Seagull This little coffee shop was right around the corner from our Airbnb, & had a small breakfast menu - Just enough of a morning boost to get us through hiking for three hours.
Alibi Room After a walk through Crab Park, Alibi Room is right around the corner for a flight of Canadian beers. Though this stop would have been slightly more fun if I were able to drink, their small bites were a perfect late afternoon pick-me-up for the pregnant lady with a 8:30pm dinner reservation.

COFFEE
They're all delicious, according to Jared who drank way more than my allotted 12 oz. a day ;) But also aesthetically pleasing, which is what I'm here for.
Revolver
Timbertrain

Matchstick

SHOP
Old Faithful Shop
Luke's General Store
Litchfield
Meadow
Parade Organics Baby Co.

DO
Lynn Canyon Park Smaller but FREE suspension bridge with a super scenic hike.
Crab Park Waterfront park on the other side of Gastown, for those who enjoy seagulls & dogs.
Other spots that were recommended that we didn't get to:
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Lighthouse Park
Stanley Park
Granville Island

RESOURCES
Local Wanderer's Vancouver City Guide
Design Sponge's Vancouver City Guide (A little dated, FYI.)
Treasures & Travel's Perfect Vancouver Day
Vancouver Dinner Restaurants

TIPS

  • RENT. A. CAR. I learned after Chelsea & I visited Nashville not to assume that every city is a walking city like DC... Or London/Paris. We were so grateful to be able to get around where we pleased, but be sure to look into overnight parking before your trip!
  • Just prepare yourself to lose cell service once you cross into Canada, unless your plan makes sense to pay for international service. (Ours did not.) We got a lot of use out of pulling up walking/driving directions on Google Maps while we were on wi-fi, then leaving the app open. Even though you don't have service, GPS will still follow you/show you the directions. Thank goodness Vancouver is all about some Starbucks, & thank goodness even Canadian Starbucks is all about some free wi-fi!
  • Gastown is a super cute little neighborhood that felt very central to the places we wanted to visit. Our trip was short, so we didn't run out of things to do in this area, with its shops, parks, restaurants & cafes. If you've ever visited Norfolk, VA or Philadelphia, this is very much a mash up of those two cities. However! There is definitely an intense sidewalk population, just to be aware of in the late evenings/early mornings. East of Columbia St. definitely has a different vibe. We never felt unsafe, but a heads up if you're not used to that!