Magazine article Sunset

Bargain Vancouver

Magazine article Sunset

Bargain Vancouver

Article excerpt

Plan a memorable low-budget weekend in British Columbia's scenic city

Instead of a yellow brick road, winding blue waterways lead to the lush mountains and sparkling towers in the modern-day Emerald City of Vancouver, B.C. While it may not be in the Land of Oz, on a recent trip I took with my husband, Jim, the place did seem to cast a spell on our budget: for every dollar we spent, we felt we got two dollars' worth of fun.

How did we enjoy a luxury vacation for a bargain? The favorable exchange rate was key, with 63 cents U.S. to the Canadian dollar making everything seem on sale from the quoted prices. (Rate varies; check www.bankofcanada.ca for the latest.) Also, we took advantage of the city's beautiful parks and scenery for low-cost outdoor adventures.

Except where noted, all prices are listed in U.S. dollars.

Day one: Explore the city

We started our trip by checking in at the Listel Vancouver, an art-infused, 130-room hotel on the edge of the bustling Robson Street shopping district. The rate was $120 a night, and we got a free upgrade to a larger room for booking over the Internet. Because American visitors can get a portion of taxes refunded for some expenditures, including accommodations, we got $30 of our hotel bill refunded after we returned home.

After strolling around town, we realized we could have saved more at the 1912 Sylvia Hotel at English Bay, which has slightly faded rooms from $54. And after leaving the bustle of downtown, the Granville Island Hotel feels like a discovery on the east side of the island, also with rooms from $120.

From the Listel Vancouver, we walked along the Seawall at Coal Harbour to the Canada Place dock, where a ship had just come in. From there, we watched little white seaplanes taking off, their wings glinting; they seemed impossibly small against the distant backdrop of 4,100-foot Grouse Mountain. Across the street from the dock is the Vancouver Touristinfo Centre in the Tourism Vancouver building, where we picked up free brochures and maps.

Tucked next to the harbor, Cardero's restaurant is an industrialchic fish house with out-of-this-world views. Seated there, with glasses of a British Columbia Gewurztraminer in hand and surrounded by swank businessfolk, we felt posh, yet the drinks with tax and tip cost less than $12.

Back downtown, we headed to Robson Street, the glossy shopping district with everything luxe, from Louis Vuitton to Godiva. We popped into Toronto-based Roots to check out the street-chic sportswear. I dragged my husband into Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, the British-based shop with seductively scented bath and skin-care products.

Next we headed south, walking through the $106 million (Canadian) Moshe Safdie-designed Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, opened in 1995. A pedestrian walkway splits the colosseum-esque structure. The upper floors gave us a nice view of False Greek and the place where we were headed: Yaletown.

The city's hottest neighborhood was hopping with urbanites in after-dark sunglasses. We squeezed into Rodney's Oyster House for chowder and beers. Fresh oysters from up and down the West Coast were displayed on ice. On the walk back to the hotel, moonlight bounced off the city streets, and all of Vancouver seemed enchanted.

Day two: Stanley Park

I would not mind if every day started the way this morning in Vancouver did: with cappuccinos and crepes. At La Crepe Bretonne, we had one crepe with ham and cheese and one with berries from the chefs own garden-delicieux.

Contentedly full, we wandered out to Stanley Park, Vancouver's 1,000-acre green oasis along the Burrard Inlet. We got a lovely view of the downtown skyline from the park's Seawall walk, as in-line skaters and joggers whizzed past.

Next we headed to the totem poles, wood towers carved with iconic images of birds, bears, and humans. We stopped by the cricket field, where we were lucky enough to catch a game in action. …

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