"The Non-Scotsman" went out of town, so I called a girls' weekend to order. Only a short drive (and one somewhat intimidating checkpoint) to our North is Vancouver, B.C. I've been twice for a few hours and even once for a night, but have always driven home keenly aware that I somehow missed the city's international charms.
(MY map of Vancouver, 2010)
This trip was different: one of those vacations where you always find the perfect parking spot, the sun comes out at just the right moments and the locals you meet actually seem to like you. We Seattlites found a kindred spirit in Vancouver, so much so that we renamed the district's on our tourist map to reflect their counterparts in Seattle. (See my version above)
(The oddly piled strawberries on Granville Island - like pyramids)
Our first stop was a walk along the waterway to Granville Island, Vancouver's younger version of Pike Place Market. The best hidden gem in the lot was Paper-Ya, a boutique for paper, bookbinding, stationary, and more ways of documenting or inviting than any place I've seen lately. I stood for about a quarter of an hour just turning around and around, like Julie Andrews on the hills in the Sound of Music.
We sat in the sun, tasted the free samples of baked goodness, and jumped the rainbow "Aquabus" back down the inlet to our hotel, trying unsuccessfully not to get sat on and squashed by tired tourists.
(Our Aquabus from Granville Island)
Then ... we got serious, got dressed, and got to dining:
Starting off at the acclaimed Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown/Belltown, we bellied up to the raw
bar and ordered some of the most refined sushi I've seen in a while.
(The Blue Water Cafe bar where I indulged in the tall, cheesy breadsticks)
Their tagline is "Celebrating our Ocean's Harvest." I'll raise a glass to them any day, especially to our 30-something already-graying barman who took such good care of us. I'll call him Brad.
As we were polishing off our ginger Brad said, "Hey, go find Dave at Uva Wine Bar around the corner. Some of the best wines by the glass in town."
(We cozied into white armchairs at Uva, 2010)
We took his advice, and off we tromped in our heels - my already-crumpled map in hand. Dave was the gracious host Brad made him out to be, although we ended up letting him recreate some classic cocktails in our honor, foregoing the wine. Green Chartreuse with cool mint will make any night fresh & dreamy.
Dave said, "You know, you really should go find Salt in Gastown." So, off we scuttled again, map in hand, heels thankfully not yet in hand. We cautiously walked through Gastown's restored industrial warehouses, following our directions with wide eyes into a dark, garbage-ridden alley. If only our husbands could see us now. A light beckoned from the left side of the alley's corridor, and we tripped into Salt - one big Edison light bulb of glory and cheese in the darkness.
Salt Tasting Room is a dream restoration project - simple brick walls, wood tables, and blackboard paint with white chalk everywhere, foretelling the delectable you are about to enjoy. One of the most accessible culinary concepts, Salt required guests pair varieties of cheeses, charcuterie and accompaniments to their eclectic wine selections. They glibly offer suggestions and directions, and we took our waitress up on what was supposedly rated "the best cheese in the whole world," a soft goat. I confessed (not to our over-eager waitress) that preferred the blue.
We discovered the cellar via chalk writing on a slate door, and down in the dungeon was the sweetest meat locker you've ever seen. A long communal table invited a party.
(Salt's communal table and meat locker)
Determining that "3rd stop's the charm," we took our last swigs of sparkling vintages and bites of Best-In-The-World-Cheese. Serendipitous, we meandered back to our perfectly-priced budget hotel to dream of lockers full of aging meats. Vancouver, we're smitten with you.
(...and that was just Day 1!)