Stock up on outdoor gear at the cluster of shops selling all the latest stuff, often at a fraction of what you would pay in the UK. MEC is worth checking out but you need to pay a few dollars for life membership. Sells a wide range of equipment and the staff seem to know what they are talking about (mind you, everyone in this city is an outdoors' specialist). You will find a bargain somewhere!
Cambie and Broadway, south of downtown. Head east along Broadway, not the prettiest few blocks but perfectly safe. Limited parking on street but bus or taxi the best bet
Excellent cafe near Sylvia Hotel. Take a walk around Stanley Park early morning and then catch breakfast in Hilary's. The most excellent bagel breakfasts to start the day with.
1184 Denman St (near Sylvia Hotel);
A rendezvous that's been going on for years and still feels totally impromptu: every Sunday, a bunch of musicians (mainly drummers, and the odd saxophonist) gathers around the Etienne Cartier statue in the beautiful Parc du Mont Royal and entertains a happy crowd of young and old hippies. Informal and really uplifting. In the winter you can enjoy a full range of seasonal activities - hockey, lovely walks and cross country ski trails that are easy, have great views and are open all evening.
Parc du Mont Royal - www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/en_index2.html
Quadra is a great island to while away a few days on and has a completely different vibe to Vancouver Island or the mainland. Everyone knows each other, the pubs are relaxed, the barmen ask your name and drink so that they can keep them coming all night. The best bit of the island though is getting off it, sea kayaking with one of the many operators gets you out in the water, seeing whales, bald eagles and bears. A truly stunning experience that gets you out seeing a Canada that you won't get anywhere else.
Hop on a 10 minute ferry from Port Campbell to Quadra where you can stay or keep going on the ferry to Cortes. For more info on the ferry service, go here www.bcferries.com for more info on sea kayaking, www.kayak-adventures.com
Canada celebrates its native people's history to a far greater extent than its southern neighbour, and this museum provides a wonderful introduction to an artistically rich culture.
The museum is actually across the bridge on the Quebec side in Hull, right on the banks of the river.
Originally built as a supply route (via the Ottawa River) between Montreal and the Great Lakes in the event of an invasion by the US that never happened, it is the longest working canal in North America and - in winter - the longest skating rink in the world.
You can rent bikes or skates at the canal near the Chateau Laurier Hotel.
Every summer, a route around the city/island is closed off to cars and turned into an all-comers cycle route. No registration required. Although it's about 50km-odd in length, the flatness of the terrain means that just about anyone with a saddle-hardened arse can make it. I had the priviledge of cycling through the famous Olympic stadium to the strains of John Williams' Star Wars theme in 2001. Unforgettable.
A Chinese garden of the Ming Dynasty 'Scholar's Garden' style. It is the first full-sized classical Chinese garden outside of China. Located in Vancouver's Chinatown, it is tranquil and beautiful. Take a tour or experience a musical presentation here, then enjoy a meal in Chinatown.
578 Carrall St. (604) 662-3207 www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/index.html
The Marine Building is Vancouver's finest example of art deco architecture and is located downtown, close to the waterfront. You can wander into the foyer to marvel at the wonderful maritime art deco style and travel up in the beautiful wooden lifts. And it's free!
Marine Building Suites 1000/1400 - 355 Burrard Street Vancouver, BC Canada V6C 2G8 Phone: 604-683-8604/Fax: 604-608-6163 www.execu-suites.com/building.html
The best way to get downtown is to get a cab, which is approximately $26. Alternatively you can catch the 'Airporter' coach for around $12 which will take you directly downtown or to the ferry terminal to Vancouver Island.
Popular with the Hollywood North set, the list of celebrities who stay here reads like a Who's Who, and even the doormen look like movie stars. If you can't afford to stay here, head over to the Opus Bar for cocktails and pretend you can.
322 Davie Street; Tel: 642 6787; www.opushotel.com
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