For those of us who live in the north, the winter season can be a bit tough. There are only so few exciting options for driving and plane tickets are notoriously expensive starting with Thanksgiving all the way past New Year's day. There is a kind of travel, though, which is exciting even in the winter - visiting a modern metropolis. Here at Gemini Connect, we enjoy living and traveling in Washington. Typically, winter gets to our nerves by January and we're itching to make a quick trip to break up the winter slump. Vancouver has become our local getaway destination in Canada. This modern metropolis is located just a quick two and a half hour drive away. Our mission this January was to spend a weekend in Vancouver to discourage us from spending another weekend working away at our computers, to take advantage of the huge post-holiday retail sales, and of course stuff ourselves with ethnic cuisine.
Mission: Refresh winter wardrobe and relax for a weekend in Vancouver, B.C.
Our Trip By the Numbers
- 2 Days
- 286 Miles driven
- $194.50* Cost per person
- 44,4381 Steps walked
- 17.93 Miles walked
*Cost per person is in USD and includes accommodations, roundtrip gas and dining out. **Steps and mileage were tracked by FitBit Flex
Besides the proximity and easy drive up I-5, there are more reasons to visit Vancouver. Here are a few:
1) Gorgeous urban setting and architecture
Downtown Vancouver is surrounded by water on 3 sides and mountains rise immediately to the north. The city itself is famous for its city planning - using residential towers as the standard and is often called the 'North American Hong Kong'. The combination of the two makes it an amazing places to be even if all you do is look. Another great benefit of this city planning is that downtown there are very many offerings on AirBnB which let you experience what it's like living in one of those towers and are quite affordable!
While searching for a place to stay in Vancouver, our one requirement besides proximity to town was a stellar view of the city. We lucked out with a lovely one-bedroom Airbnb apartment located just a few blocks from Vancouver's main strips, Granville and Robson. The apartment was an ideal base for our weekend trip and it came with a stunning 180-degree view of the city.
2) Abundant, diverse ethnic food
Almost half of Vancouver's population is foreign-born. One of the results of this diverse population is in some of the most authentic ethnic food we've been able to find on our travels. In two short days we dined on ten dishes at a traditional Japanese izakaya restaurant, Japanese-style hot dogs, traditional Bulgarian pastries, Transylvanian desserts and Malaysian curries and roti. All made by people from those countries, all very good, and all reasonably priced.
Dining Around Vancouver
We approached this trip to Vancouver plotting out how many meal and snack times we had available and specifically determining which eatery to be at each time. This time around, our standout choices revolved around what we each deemed to be comfort food. [tw-column width="one-half"]
Our first meal was at Guu Original on Thurlow. Located just a few blocks away from our Airbnb apartment, Guu Original is credited as being the very first Izakaya (a type of casual Japanese drinking establishment) in Vancouver. It first opened in 1993 and is famous for serving classic and authentic Japanese foods. Guu's immense success is noted by its long line of customers awaiting tables even before the restaurant has opened. The dishes we tried at Guu included Kabocha squash croquette, kimchi udon, tuna tataki, beef tataki, and oden, the latter of which strongly reminded Suzi of her grandmother's cooking.
Guu Original 838 Thurlow Street Vancouver, BC http://www.guu-izakaya.com
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For brunch the next day, our dining choice revolved around Martin's Eastern European roots. We made our way on foot through Vancouver's West End to Acacía Fillo Bar, a family-owned restaurant specializing in Bulgarian pastries, particularly the banitza. A savory pastry made of fillo dough and stuffed with filling such as leeks or feta cheese, the banitza is similar to the Greek spanakopita, but made with thicker pastry dough. Acacía Fillo Bar's banitza was the best and closest to his own grandmother's recipe that Martin has been able to find in the Pacific Northwest.
Acacía Fillo Bar 1103 Denman Vancouver, BC http://www.acaciafillobar.com [/tw-column]
3) Constant economic growth
Vancouver is regularly noted as an esteemed city. It constantly tops "Best cities in the world" kind of charts like this one by the esteemed Economist Intelligence Unit where it got #3, making it one of the most coveted cities to live in the world. Because of this, since its founding Vancouver's metropolitan area has seen constant high growth of population, often near 10% or above, and constant economic growth accordingly. Being in Vancouver you often get the ritzy vibe and accordingly in downtown, you're never too far from a Prada, Burberry or Hugo Boss store. Shopping is a big draw for American, Asian and European tourists alike, and if you go early in the year like in January, you'll enjoy some of the huge post holiday markdowns and sales that for some reason aren't as common in the USA. As another plus, the drive from Seattle to Vancouver goes right by Seattle Premium Outlets, which makes for a great pit stop while on your shopping binge.
BONUS: Foreign currency values
Vancouver is only 30 minutes away from the US border, but it is still in another country. This means that besides all the cultural differences which give you a feeling of novelty, you are also using a different currency. At the time we went - mid-January 2015, a Canadian Dollar to a US dollar (CAD - USD) was 0.85. This means that if you're using your American card, everything you buy is automatically 15% discounted! This is why AirBnB options in the towers were so affordable and why we didn't sweat covering whole tables in delicious food or shopping in the shiny malls. We still ended up spending in reasonable limits as you can see in the breakdown.