09 July 2014

La Fin de Vancouver

I had a 12-hour layover in Vancouver yesterday on my way back to London, but I didn't mind too much as I could leave my suitcase at the left luggage and take the Sky Train into the city. It takes about 20 minutes and a day pass, which gives you access to most public transport within the city, is under $10. My first destination was the Lululemon Lab, a design hub on West Broadway, where local designers collaborate to produce technical clothing that is a little hipper (i.e. less colourful) than the regular Lulu kit. It's all locally made — very locally, in fact: in the room adjacent to the store.

I had woken up at 5.15 Saskatoon time and by this point it was 10.30 and I was in desperate need of a proper coffee; luckily, I had earmarked a few places nearby. The closest was Innocent Coffee on West 4th Avenue — a small, dollhouse-like house containing a tiny coffee bar on the ground floor. Innocent is run by a brother–sister team, who made me an excellent iced pourover, which woke me up and cooled me down in the hot Vancouver sun.

Caffeine crisis dealt with, food was my next requirement. I thought I would have a quick bite to eat and then a late lunch, but it turns out that West 4th is a great place to get brunch or brunch-like fare. I stopped at Sophie's Cosmic Café, partly because I liked the look of the patio seating area, and partly because I'd heard good things about their eggs Benedict — the primary brunch dish in Vancouver. I can't resist an avo–egg combo, so of course I ordered the Santa Fe eggs Benny, which came with guacamole, salsa, black beans and home fries. It was delicious, although kind of ruined my 'quick bite to eat' plan.

After brunch, I made a brief stop at the original Lululemon, which is just across the street from Sophie's, although I didn't buy anything. The ten or so blocks of West 4th Avenue between Fir and Macdonald are a great place to shop and to wander. There are tons of cute boutiques and nice restaurants and cafés. I headed into 49th Parallel for a macchiato and a salted caramel doughnut (I was full, but I knew it would be the last doughnut for a while).

The sun was getting seriously hot by then, so I headed down to Kitsilano Beach, which is a great place to spend the afternoon on a sunny day. The beach is sandy, there are wonderful views of the city and the mountains, and you can swim, rent kayaks or just lie down and enjoy the sun. I didn't have my swimming kit with me, so I just lay in the sun and paddled. Oh, and leaped, of course.

I then walked around the waterfront to Granville Island, stopping to browse all of the cool design-inspired gifts at Make, before catching the sea bus to Yaletown, an area in the southeast part of downtown Vancouver. As well as lots of interesting restaurants and bars, Yaletown has a lot of cool boutiques. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but time was not on my side.

Instead, I walked back to downtown to do a bit of last-minute shopping, stopped by Japadog — a food truck serving Japanese-style hotdogs — for a quick dinner, and then caught the train back to the airport for the flight back to London. An action-packed day, but a fun one. It would have been nice to spend a couple more days in Vancouver, so that I could have explored Yaletown and Fairview, and done the Grouse Grind (or taken the cable car, at least), but you can see a lot of the city in three or four days. I'll be doing round-up of some of my favourite Vancouver and Saskatoon coffee bars later in the week.

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