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Judy Crowell: Soaking Up the Views in Vancouver, B.C.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel provides a breathtaking vantage point for enjoying this slice of Canadian heaven

Downtown Vancouver, B.C., and Coal Harbour, where towering glass and steel buildings form a backdrop for blocks.

Downtown Vancouver, B.C., and Coal Harbour, where towering glass and steel buildings form a backdrop for blocks.  (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

By Judy Crowell, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery of Vancouver, B.C.]

Not often do I become so enamored with my hotel room that I don’t want to leave it. One look at our accommodations (read bathroom!) at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, B.C., and I wanted to put a cot in it and stay forever.

Capt. George Vancouver arrived in this slice of Canadian heaven in 1792 and was transfixed by what he saw. Some 200 years later, my view from the 14th-floor, all glass-walled bathroom was a bit different, but no less breathtaking. Luxury, drama, sophistication, whimsy and comfort merely begin with architect James K.M. Cheng’s 4-foot-tall marble Jacuzzi soaking tub, placed right smack up to the ceiling-to-ceiling glass wall.

Willow Stream Spa, encompassing 15,000 square feet of the entire fifth floor, offers more than 50 spa services in the loveliest of surroundings. A crystal-clear koi pond sprinkled by overhead "rain" welcomes you at the front door.

Giovane Café + Winebar serves fresh morning pastries and transforms into an Italian winebar at night. Afternoon tea, a Fairmont tradition, comes via an Art Deco trolley, and the Lobby Lounge soothes as you cozy up to the mesmerizing contemporary fireplace to listen to music from the one-of-a-kind Fazioli piano.

ORU is the star restaurant here. Executive Chef Darren Brown treated us to a six-course tasting, starting off with watermelon-strawberry infused gazpacho and continuing to surprise us with his fusion of flavors in sushi selections, a Kallia pork belly and Haida Gwaii olive crusted halibut.

The view from our fishbowl existence finally lured me outside for a walk along the seawall bordering Coal Harbour. Towering glass and steel buildings form a backdrop for blocks and blocks of flower-filled parks, sunbathers on lush green grass, children splashing in water parks, dockside restaurants and water activity of every kind.

Eventually this seawall takes you to Stanley Park, the jewel of Vancouver. This 1,000-acre wonderland is an oasis for city dwellers featuring Deadman’s Island, the Rose Garden, the locals' beloved Girl in a Wetsuit life-size bronze sculpture, the Vancouver Rowing Club Clubhouse and majestic Totem Poles. Horse-drawn carriages are a delightful way to explore.

Food choices are endless and range from kiosks of Japadog, a Japanese-style hotdog featuring toppings of teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed, to restaurants supervised by some of the finest chefs in North America. A few favorite spots: Le Crocodile, Bishop's, Seasons in the Park, Cardero's and Lift Bar View Grill along the seawall; La Terrazza and Simply Thai in historic Yaletown; Blue Water Café + Raw Bar, a must also in Yaletown; and the funky Chambar Belgian Restaurant in Gastown for “civilized debauchery.”

Don’t miss a visit across the bridge to Granville Island for one of the most spectacular markets I’ve ever seen. Many farmers markets are chaotic and unorganized. Not this one. You’ll find everything to like on this little island, really a peninsula. The Kids Market is unique and adorable. If you don’t have a kid, borrow one and enjoy all there is to see here. Foraging your way up and down the aisles at the Public Market is a perfect way to enjoy a reasonable, delicious meal. For a "sit-down," try Bridges, the Sandbar or the trendy Edible Canada at the market.

And always — always — leave room for a scoop or two of gelato at Bella Gelateria, voted the Florence Gelato Festival Winner of 2012 and worth every lick. You can always work off all those calories by paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, jet-skiing, wind-surfing, wakeboarding and waterskiing in the waters surrounding the city.

There are four Fairmont hotels in Vancouver. All are superb, but I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else but the Fairmont Pacific Rim, its amenities so updated that each room has its own iPad for contacting all the hotel services. Of course, there’s the view and the Jacuzzi soaking tub placed right smack up to the ceiling-to-ceiling glass wall — which I absolutely must leave before I turn into a prune.

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.




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