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The most populous and well-known metropolis in British Columbia, Vancouver is one Canadian city you should never pass up visiting. Known as a busy port city and ethnically diverse place it’s also one the best arts and music cities in Western Canada. It’s also a well-known filming location.  Sound good?  Great, because Vancouver is all that and were just getting started!

The Best Luxury Hotels on the West Coast

When you first visit Vancouver, it may be a good idea to find a well-known and respected hotel. Fortunately, there are a whole lot of those here. The Loden Hotel is just an example, albeit quite an excellent one. Close to the sea, it offers a beautiful view, as well as an intimate setting, unique design and perfect layouts for the rooms.

A truly remarkable historic hotel, the St. Regis is another great option. It features clean, comfortable and discreet rooms, fitted with all the modern necessities and even luxuries that you might want. The hotel is also close to a main shopping center and the harbor, so you will have no issues getting around.

A great third pick is the Fairmont Pacific Rim. The service is as professional as you might find in the most well-known and respected hotels in the world.  You will enjoy unique benefits such as courtesy bikes, state-of-the-art controls for lighting and electronics, and one of the best spas in the city.  Who doesn’t want to get refreshed and enjoy a soothing massage after a long trip?

Excellent Food Places to Choose from

Nothing makes you more hungry than exploring the streets of an interesting city.  In Vancouver, they have virtually every types of restaurants and food venues you might be interested in.

For some delicious oriental treats, the most happening place to visit is The Orchid Restaurant. This place serves the best Thai food, and the service is equally impressive. You’ll basically enjoy every step of the experience, from cocktails to entrees, and you never have to wait too long to be served.

If you want some cheaper, yet equally delicious food, go to The Pie Shoppe. Here, you can enjoy the most delightful freshly baked pies, and coffee aficionados will be glad to know they serve only the most refined organic, single-origin coffee.

Finally, a French cafe and lunch spot you simply have to check out is Thierry. From delicious salted caramel macaroons, to sumptuous cakes, gourmet baguettes and quality coffee, there aren’t many truly great dishes you can’t enjoy here.  The prices are not to bad either.

What to Do in Vancouver

Vancouver is definitely a big place, so there’s plenty to see and lots to do. The first thing to look forward to is a glimpse at island life. Go to Granville Island, and explore the various boutiques, picnic spots or small restaurants and galleries. You could also take a stroll through the lively local market for some unique finds.

Another outstanding natural place to visit is Stanley Park. You can rent bikes and ride around the park to see it in its complete, majestic beauty, or just take a relaxing stroll. The wonderful greenery and long trails will make exploring the park totally worthwhile.  You can also get a ride on horse driven carriage if you prefer to see Stanley Park in style.

The Vancouver Aquarium is always a great place to visit. This is truly a huge place, and you might find it confusing at first, but you certainly get a great show to enjoy.  Wildlife enthusiasts will feel right at home here. The Aquarium is one of the first places in the world where naturalist experts will be present to interpret animal behavior for the visitors. There are plenty of penguins, fish, jellies, sea mammals and snakes to see – a total of more than 30,000 species.

Explorer’s Tips for Visiting Vancouver

Did you know about Vancouver’s “shady” past? For adults only, the Vancouver Police Museum organizes the Sins of the City Walking Tour each year to show you a glimpse into Vancouver as it was during the vice-filled times of opium dens, brothels and bootlegging.

From the well-known Blood Alley to a look at Vancouver’s first jail and the sight of Glassy Jack’s first saloon, there’s a whole lot of ground to cover.  Anyone even remotely interested in Canada’s rich and often intriguing history should definitely check this out.

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A Unique Day Spent in Vancouver

When organizing a unique day of activities and exploring in Vancouver, there almost an endless number of things you can consider.

First of all, in the morning you can get a quick and fulfilling workout, while enjoying a stunning view climbing the Grouse Grind at Grouse Mountain. After you’re done, the best place to relax is Pan Pacific Vancouver’s Spa Utopia.  There you can get a genuine stone massage at LaStone Therapy.

For the adventurers out there, the Indian Arm Luncheon Cruise is the perfect way to see Vancouver from a totally unique perspective – out at sea. You can experience the stunning view of the coastal mountain fjords without even needing much time for it.

There are also plenty of walking tours to enjoy here. Vancouver’s oldest and most historically interesting city, Gastown, can be explored as part of one of these tours. You can check out the renowned steam clock here, and have a quiet cafe at one of the cozy coffee shops nearby.

On Saturday nights, you can get a real thrill at the Pan Pacific.  Enjoy the Italian Opera Buffet, or visit the Richmond Night Market for finding some of the most interesting “treasures” and souvenirs. If you like to get even more of a thrill from Vancouver nights, you can also go skiing at Grouse Mountain. It’s open as late as 10 PM, all year round.

Although Vancouver is a clean, pleasant and overall “well-behaved” city, you’ll find the nightlife to be just as fulfilling as the relaxing beautiful parks and strange museums you visit during the day.  The city’s natural locations and activities can open up immense opportunities for those looking for less mainstream things to do.   You’ll definitely enjoy your stay here in full.

I was home from the ceremony by midnight, but could still here the blaring ranchero music when I drifted off to sleep around two.  I had expected it to be a loud night and didn’t really mind.  It’s not every day you turn two-hundred.  This was the culmination for me, having traveled through North America and been in each country for its Independence Day.  But I should start at the beginning…

July 1st, Victoria, BC

Canada

“How independent is Canada really?” I teased my friend. It’s true, she confessed.  The Queen was visiting that Canada Day and an editorial in the newspaper seemed to capture the national sentiment – supporting a European Monarchy is ridiculous, but the Queen herself is so perfect no one has the heart to change things.

July 1st was also the first day of a new tax, the “harmonized sales tax”.  I found this name hilarious.  I assured my friends that in the U.S. we would never refer to a tax as harmonious.  We would never use those two words in the same sentence.

The streets were filled with festivities.  Everyone was dressed in red and white and seemed to be in an alcohol-assisted state of happiness.  This all fit with what I’ve heard about Canadians, extremely polite, and rather fond of beer.  According to my friend, a good deal of Canada’s current national identity can be linked back to a Molson’s commercial.

July 4th Gig Harbor, WA

USA

On July 4th, we sailed from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington.  A sign at the ferry terminal said, “Happy Independence, neighbor.”  We were eventually on our way to Portland which has a fabulous Blues Festival fourth of July weekend.  However, we spent the night in the small town of Gig Harbor on Puget Sound.  Things were fairly subdued. We sat at Tides Tavern and watched boat sail up to the dock to order to-go food.  It was early evening.  There was no municipal fireworks display and restaurants were closing.  “Everyone wants to go home and BBQ and let off fireworks with their family,” I explained to the Canadians, feeling a little embarrassed.

The lack of hoopla was fine with me.  I’m a bit uncomfortable with patriotism.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate what I have.  A representative, secular democracy is a great thing.  But I didn’t do anything to earn the privileges I enjoy.  I don’t feel proud to be American- I feel lucky.

September 16 –  Guanajuato, Gto

Mexico

And now I am in Mexico for what is not just any Independence Day, but the Bicentennial.  And, I’m not just anywhere, but in Guanajuato where the first battle in the struggle for independence was fought and won.  Victory did not come swiftly.  The leaders of the fight for independence did not live to see the success of their efforts the way Washington and Jefferson did.  They were martyrs to the cause. For ten years, the Spanish displayed the cut-off heads of “the conspirators” hung in cages on the corners of the Alhondiga, a building which is now a museum.

Mexicans are night owls, so the big party was on the eve of Independence Day. People with flags, horns and confetti flooded down to the plaza in front of the Alhondiga.  Musicians performed, a slide show depicted images of Mexico’s history and people, a giant digital clock counted down the minutes until the “grito”. The “grito” is an annual reenactment of the cry for independence which was first given by the priest Miguel Hidalgo 200 years ago.  Now politicians repeat it to cheering crowds and one did so now.  We all yelled ¡Vive!, sang and watched fireworks.

Independence isn’t all its cracked up to be.   It’s hard to say if the world is really making progress.  Sometimes it seems that given the chance at self-determination, what people are determined to do is make war with their neighbors.  Fair and democratic elections have brought some really bad people to power.  One wonders if we have simply shifted from political to economic imperialism.  And of course, Mexico is having a hard time right now.  In the end though, it beats the alternative.  ¡Vive la Independencia!