Where I go: Vancouver, BC

Anthony Bourdain said something along the lines of “you can’t throw a fish in Vancouver and not hit a Japanese restaurant.” My motherland is known for several things: moose, maple syrup, and mountains, who knew we could add sushi to the list? But I guess that’s the great thing about Vancity – it really is a melting pot of many influences and you’ll find just about everything you need in the 114.67 km2 of downtown Vancouver. It’s really a very agreeable place, there’s big city bustle and small town charm all wrapped into one breathtaking package, the people are kind and even nature tries its best to accommodate your ever need – you can go from sea to sky in under 2 hours (this means you can water ski in the AM and snow ski in the PM) with a highway that takes you straight to the heart of Whistler (arguably the best ski resort in North America). There really isn’t anything quite like it in the whole wide world

Wearing: Lots of layers. It gets cold in this coastal city during the winter (0-7°c) so you’ll want to break out the winter wear and bundle up! Scarves are an amazing addition to any outfit and have the added benefit of being able to keep you nice and toasty if you know how to tie them right (if you need some education check out the amazing tutorial on Wendy’s Lookbook: 25 ways to tie a scarf in just 4.5minutes)

Watching: Some people, but mostly the adorable dogs that populate this place. Vancouver is an extremely dog-friendly city, and its citizens have every breed of cute pooch you can possibly imagine. Park yourself at any of the dozens of coffee shops that dot this city, or by the waterfront if you want a great view of the marina, soak up some winter sun, and watch the world (and their four-legged friends) go by.

Eating: Sushi, sashimi and every form of seafood. Vancouver’s a great place to get some seafood – it’s so fresh, and the chefs in this town really know what they’re doing with it. Check out Blue Water Café for sushi, sashimi and succulent oysters fresh off the Pacific coast. It also boasts great décor (exposed brick walls and an open kitchen), and is located right in the heart of Yaletown so you can bar hop before or after dinner. Another great on their menu – the maple pecan panna cotta which had me humming Oh Canada! in my head.For manly man food, head to aptly named Meat&Bread in Gastown, where all they will serve you is a whole lot of meat only moderately covered by some bread. This is not a place for vegans or vegetarians, in fact, there should be a sign at the door that says “Vegans and Veggie lovers NOT WELCOME.” We had the Wednesday Special (layers and layers of oh so tender beef chuck roll that was braised? Brisket? Smoked? Slow roasted? To succulent perfection and served with jalapeno slaw and lime sour cream), and the Porcheta (this my friends, is bacon’s better looking and tasting cousin). The Porcheta – this is a sandwich that will bring bacon lovers to their knees, and tears to the eyes of meat fans everywhere. Juicy tender layers of porcheta are interspersed with generous chunks of crispy crackling that’s jam packed with flavour, housed between two ciabatta buns. Personally, this thing was a religious experience for me and I can’t wait to make my next pilgrimage back. Great, now I’m salivating on my keyboard and desperately hating my upcoming salad lunch date. Just a sidenote folks, I generally don’t do sandwiches, I don’t like them and they aren’t satisfying. I suppose the problem is that I just wasn’t eating the right ones. Meat&Bread, Y U NO COME TO SINGAPORE?

Blue Water Café & Raw Bar: 1095 Hamilton Street, Yaletown
Meat&Bread: 370 Cambie Street (x Hastings), Gastown

Drinking: Gimlets at Glowbal. Now this town has a whole host of watering holes, but we picked this one because it’s got delicious finger food on the side (satays and the like aren’t easy to find in Vancouver), a relatively creative drink list, super friendly service and it was right by our dinner place (Blue Water Café).

Toting: Shopping bags. While Vancouver isn’t known for its shopping, there are a couple of streets (and some very large malls) that will keep the retail fanatics among us satisfied for about a week or so. Robson Street is usually high up on everyone’s list of places for a little retail therapy, Metrotown in Burnaby is a gargantuan suburban mall that you could possibly get lost in for days, and the slightly less touristy stretch of Gastown has quite a few hidden gems, such as Old Faithful Shop which is stocked with all sorts of fabulous curiosities from rustic chairs, old school soap and shave kits, to proper leather and rope leashes for dogs. Don’t forget to hit up Aritzia, a homegrown favourite among the fashionable ladies. This store (born and bred in Vancouver) has a well curated selection of clothing from charming delicate tops to edgy little leather jackets.

Trotting: Furry boots! Suede boots! And little feathered booties! To keep ‘em tiny toes warm and toasty. Boots are a great investment, so long as you make the effort to keep them in good condition, especially in our wretched weather. Also, if they’re leather, please get some of that protective spray on them ASAP, it rains a hell lot in Vancouver and you wouldn’t want soggy toes in the wintertime.

Loving: The view. The scenery is just so incredibly spectacular. No matter where you turn, there’s always something stunning in your line of sight. You’ve got the water on one side and those majestic mountains on the other. Spend an afternoon in Stanley Park, hang out with the fat squirrels and take in the incredible panoramas all around you. Alternatively, take a drive up to Whistler and hit the slopes – it’s got one of the best ranges in all of North America. Plus you’ll love the view up on the sea to sky highway. Also loving? The epic corned beef hash at Paul’s Place Resaurant & Omelettery. You have to understand, I’m a corned beef hash fanatic. Chances are, if it’s on the menu, I’m definitely having it for breakfast or brunch. They use real corned beef (it’s so hard to find the real stuff!), topped with hashbrown, onions, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a whole poached egg. It’s delicious, it’s incredible, it’s breakfast food at its best and it’s one of the things I love most about Vancouver. 

Odds & Ends: For every kind of bit and bauble, head to Granville Island Market. The food is fresh (and makes for amazing pictures), the views are gorgeous, the cupcakes and candy are so colourful and delicious, and there are so many shops specializing in so many different things! Really, there’s even a broom shop, where they make brooms! A trip to Vancity isn’t complete if I don’t stop into Paper Ya to check out its beautiful selection of paper products and fabulous stationery. And if you’re up for a mid-afternoon tipple, head to Artisan Sake Maker where Masa Shiroki brews his own sake to suit west coast foods.

Granville Island Public Market: 1689 Johnston Street

What I bring (back): The usual tourist favourites such as maple syrup and a canucks hockey jersey, but also, salmon candy (maple soaked smoked salmon, it is so so good, and you can get it packed for air travel at Granville Island Market), David’s Tea (from Montreal), and not surprisingly, puppy treats! The multitude of canines in Vancity means there’s a whole lot of stores that cater to your four-legged friend from doggy-bakeries to spas! Pebbles gets lots of cute and delicious treats, and usually a new leash, whenever I’m in Vancouver.

Three Dog Bakery: Point Grey Village, Vancouver

Other awesome things: If you’re into the Great Outdoors, then you’ll love Vancouver, because the outdoors don’t get greater than this (at least not in such close proximity to a major urban city). There are a ton of hiking and biking trails in and around the city, you can take a day pass to ski and ride at some of the surrounding mountains like Cypress or Grouse (or do a longer trip up at Whistler/Blackcomb), or enjoy the tree tops at the Capilano suspension bridge and tree top walk.

Catch a concert. Vancouver is a key stop on a lot of tours for big performers and chances are someone (like Aerosmith, or MGMT, or Bon Jovi, or Lady Antebellum) will be playing while you’re in town. On my last trip, Jay Z and Kanye were wrapping up the last leg of their tour in Vancity – too bad I wasn’t fast enough on my feet to score tix. So do check ticketmaster while you’re booking flights.

And that brings me to the end of my ramble on Vancity, I’m pretty sure I’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the things there are to do in the “most liveable city” on Earth. So if any of ya’ll have things to share, please do! They’re always welcome here :)

x ash