Western Canada’s capital of health and happiness thinks you should get out of the house for a bit
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Grant Harder
DAY ONE | The first few seconds after you awake in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia are a little disorienting. You’re lying in a kingsize bed the color of Champagne. There are white flowers everywhere. Everything seems to be made of marble or burnished wood. Did you wake up a 19th-century railroad baron? You catch your reflection in the mirror above your stand-alone soaker tub. Nope. Still you.
Outside your window, a few pink-cheeked locals are huffing along the sidewalk in long-sleeved shirts and running shorts. You look disapprovingly at your gut and pull out a pair of sneakers. A half hour later, you’re jogging along the Seawall, a path that circumscribes the peninsula of 1,001-acre Stanley Park. To your right are clutches of red-and-white sailboats bobbing in the choppy bay. Mossy rocks lie about like lazy dogs. Vancouver Island makes occasional appearances from the fog beyond. You think: Gosh, this is pretty. And: Hey, is that a lighthouse? It is a lighthouse.
After a few miles, you reach Girl in a Wetsuit, a statue of, um, a girl in a wetsuit sitting on a rock in the harbor (a wry update on Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid). She looks kind of forlorn, out there on her own. You snap a picture with the intention of Photoshopping a few friends in for her later. Speaking of being alone, you can barely see downtown Vancouver in the distance. It’s time to head back.
After a quick shower at the hotel, you’re off on a short walk to Wildebeest. All brickwork and communal tables, this carnivore-friendly eatery has light fixtures made out of theater pulleys and a slushy machine that’s been repurposed to make frozen cocktails. Your run has earned you an indulgent brunch, you feel, so you order the Pig Face Eggs Benedict with tangy tarragon mayo on a steaming biscuit and the thickest bacon you’ve ever had, followed by sugar-dusted mini donuts with gooey caramel centers. You attack this spread as if you’ve been deprived of food for several days.
When you finish, you emerge into the city’s oldest neighborhood, Gastown, which grew up around a single saloon in the 1860s and ’70s before being incorporated as Vancouver in 1886. Gastown is now a bustling shopping and entertainment district dominated (fittingly) by bars. You wander into the trendy boutique LYNNsteven, intrigued by the cylindrical dressing room made out of stacked books, and leave with a plaid smoking jacket. Down the street, you find a selection of improbably small bonsai cactuses at Parliament Interiors, a quirky home goods store. They’re cute, but not easily packed, so you opt instead for a Ryan Gosling–themed journal covered in tiny hearts. Your teenage niece will love it.
You continue this way for hours, poking around the shops and taking breaks to admire the moody bay behind them. Eventually, realizing that you haven’t eaten anything since your pig-out brunch, you head for Pidgin. While the decor here is simple—like a café in a Japanese modern art museum—the menu is not. Your first course is a fresh oyster in a zingy foam of apple and horseradish. There are delicate raw scallops topped with apple and daikon and curry oil. Potatoes come matchstick-thin with spicy cod roe and earthy seaweed butter. For dessert, you order a Midnight Grogg: a glass of rum, lime cordial and verjus stuffed to the brim with frozen grapes. What a great idea.
It’s still early—plenty of time for a nightcap. You walk down the street to a cozy spot called Notturno. Behind the bar stands a charismatic local celebrity with a tongue ring and a lot of opinions. Known only as “H” (“The nickname’s a holdover from private school,” he says), he won Vancouver magazine’s bartender of the year award last year. H has been aging a few of his cocktails in barrels lately; he insists that you try the Boulevardier. A bourbon version of a negroni with a little extra wood flavor, it tastes like an evening in front of a log fire.
After a few more of H’s homespun cocktails, the idea of cozying up for the night is increasingly appealing. You weave your way back to the hotel through iridescent streets, peering up at lights that look like neon through vaseline, then step into the Rosewood’s mahogany lobby, where you find a fire roaring in a century-old hearth. The railroad tycoon is home at last.