Winter in Vancouver
Photos: Karen Loftus
It’s no wonder that Canada’s west coast city was chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics as it has been touted as the best city in the world to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit. This sexy Pacific Northwest city has it all, in Olympic proportions. So, if you’re looking to get your game on this winter, in or outside of the Olympic season, head west. Then let the games begin.
Canada has long been a haven for any vacationing lesbian as it is the home of the big "I Do," the set of The L Word and it is known for hosting some of the best Prides in the world.
So, if you’re heading north this winter for or before the games, leave the race behind and the competition to those in training. Sit back and relax, as there are plenty of places and ways to enjoy this urban oasis. Here are just a few decadent directions to head in.
Get your move on The best way to get to know this sprawling city is to jump on the hop on hop off bus or trolley with their guided audio tour filled with city tidbits. Buy a three-day Vancouver Attractions Pass and use it as your personal guide and shuttle service.
Biker Babe If crowds and cameras aren’t your thing, the Seawall adventure center has two wheels, and three options with bike, motorcycle and scooter rentals. The leisurely spin around the seawall’s city edge, along the beach and through Stanley Park, the second largest public park in Northern America, with snowcapped mountains and Lions Gate Bridge as your backdrop, will make your athletic heart sing. It’s also a great way to get around. Stop off at any of the Caffee Artigiano’s if you need refueling or to take a closer look at the sexy locals.
Hot Pockets Like any great city, Vancouver is filled with rich and interesting neighborhoods. Gastown is the city’s most historic neighborhood with it’s many Victorian buildings. SoMa’s gallery alley is a can’t miss as is Commercial Drive’s ethnic neighborhoods with authentic Italian, Portuguese and Greek restaurants. Best to wander on foot for local inspiration, stopping and one off shopping.
It’s a beautiful day in the gayborhood Vancouver is full of creative corners that the gay community calls home. West End’s bohemian, café society with its tree lined streets and beachside community has long been known as the gay neighborhood. Grandview is home to the largest lesbian community while Mountpleasant is quickly becoming the new lesbian enclave with its many hip haunts, cafes, resturants and retro clothing.
Be sure to hit Kitsilano or Kits for yogis, veggies and the sexy set. You can get your volleyball game on with its many courts or head out to the gay nude beach. Best bet is to head towards UBC campus, and then ask for directions to Wreck Beach’s South End for au natural afternoon.
Urban options Vancouver has a number of museums, yet there are a few can’t misses. The Anthropology Museum will give you an understanding to the First Nations, similar to our Native American culture, while The Vancouver Museum covers world heritage. The beautiful Vancouver Art Gallery has excellent exhibitions and permanent collections. Bill Reed however was a master of Haida master artist, sculptor, carver and writer. His gallery is an intimate look in. (tourismvancouver.com)
Chic Sleeps If the cultural overload is exhausting, sneak in a chic sleep in at the new Loden boutique hotel. The service is seamless and the Zen rock garden on your balcony will have you reaching inner Nirvana and buzzing on the inside in no time.
For you highbrow hotties, The Four Seasons newly renovated hotel is ready for its couture close up. You will be too after a suite sleep there. Your sprawling abode is set up for seduction or an impromptu party. It’s that big.
Nibbles Brunch it up at Glowbal restaurant group’s own Glowbal, a Twilight cast favorite or go fish at Coast, both in the heart of trendy Yaletown. Have a ball or two, the famous Italian meatball at The Italian Kitchen. It’s a Halle haunt and a local culinary fave.
If you’ve got French fever, slip in to Daniel Boulud’s db bistro for a seductive Sunday brunch. Dip in to your decadent side and try their irresistible Foie Gras Burger. Make a night of it next door at Boulud’s own Lumiere Restaurant, one of Canada’s finest, a Relais &Chateaux restaurant and a loca,l well-heeled hotspot to accept a proposal, indecent or otherwise.
Rumor has it that one of the major networks has already booked out the award winning resto for the full Olympic run. Go team go!
Swizzles For an early evening swizzle, Justin at Yew’s Four Season’s will suggest a fine wine from any bottle on the expansive international list by the glass, provided you buy two. Loden’s Voya simply makes the best cocktails in town while Sanafir has the sexiest late night sip in the city with their tray of desserts served in seductive Moroccan style beds with champagne. Canada’s own Baywatch babe Pam Anderson swears by it.
Touch me! Rather than running off to the races, sit back and relax. You can get a two-hour green tea facial at The Vida Salon at The Sutton Place Hotel or a deep tissue massage at The Loden Hotel that will have you dreaming and drooling in no time. Matt at Absolute Spa across the Lions Gate Bridge (a good excuse to go) will dig deep and offer you a chilled glass of champagne and fresh fruit plate after his rub. It’s a great place to contemplate your good fortune and ponder the day away.
Come fly with me For another angle of bliss and a quick fix from the urban action, catch a casual flight from Vancouver to Kelowna, Canada’s wine country in The Okanagan Valley. In and about an hour you are surrounded by simply stunning aesthetics that rival Colorado or Tahoe. You can get your leisurely game on as it’s linx land and golf is queen.
Best bet is to stay at the Predator Ridge Resort in Vernon. You can hike, bike, swim, and battle it out with a bucket of balls or surrender to their chakra balancing in their spa. The sunsets on your private deck are simply sublime.
Grape Expectations Hit the trail! Agro-tourism is big in the area from Carmelis' artisan goat cheese farm to the Okanagan lavender farm. Yet no trip to the region is complete without a spin through the vineyards. You will meet a fleet of impassioned people in town that know a thing or two about viti-culture. Stop by Cedar Crest, Quails Gate, Tantalus and Mission Hill winery, the crème de le crème of the Canadian wine world, and largely responsible for putting the area and their vineyards on the map. Mission Hill was awarded the 5th best vineyard restaurant in the world. It’s that good.
European influence Proprietor Anthony has a floor to ceiling original Chagall in the private dining room. He designed the expansive grounds in a very European style complete with an amphitheater, a bell tower and the open air Terrace restaurant. It’s a definitive win with an outdoor concert and a view of the vines, valley and Okanagan Lake while a Mission Hill Oculus (red) swirls in your hand. It’s pure gold!
Blogger Bio: Karen Loftus is a Comedian, Writer, Producer and Travel & Lifestyle Writer focused on Fashion, Food, Wine, Spirits & Golf.
After globetrotting through The Middle East, Europe and Asia, entertaining Expats, execs, US troops abroad and theater savvy audiences around the globe at international theaters and festivals, award winning playwright, Tennessee Williams Fellow and international comedian Karen Loftus took a break from touring, slipping in to journalism, putting on the page what she once delivered onstage. www.karenloftus.net
As a journalist, Karen found her definitive niche in travel writing, covering vino trends in travel and culinary and cocktail tourism. It was a coming home as her Irish grandparents ran a speakeasy, distilled their own spirits and ran many a famous pub.This fashion forward foodie takes great risks and goes to extreme journalistic measures on the global road, parasailing, bungee jumping, four tracking and canyoning in search of the story. Karen is a travel addict and is most at home when she is away from it. Follow Karen on Twitter: @LAKarenLoftus or find her On Facebook.