I can’t quite put my finger on it. My obsession with Canada grows at a rapid pace each and every time I visit. The amount of wilderness to get lost in and friendly Canadians to befriend are endless. As for the language barrier…well, there isn’t one, unless you find yourself in a quaint storefront of Quebec somewhere. As for the lodging, Canada takes hotels seriously.
This past winter, I had the chance to visit Whistler, British Columbia, a snow-globe wonderland and world-renown ski resort town. I was ecstatic to head back towards the area during the month of July for a completely different experience as I traded my parka for a light sweater (a chill still exists even during the summertime) during a long weekend in B.C. The ‘Best of Two Cities’ package that both The Loden and The Magnolia hotel partnered up to offer was about to commence!
11:30am – Arrival to Vancouver International Airport
I hoped off the plane at YVR with a carry-on and my cardigan. I took the Canada line train to Waterfront Station where I walked the remaining 10 minutes to the Loden Hotel. Ahh. I love a hotel that’s a breeze from the airport.
1pm – Check in to the Loden Hotel
If you don’t know Coal Harbour, you don’t know paradise. Located on Vancouver’s coveted waterfront neighborhood, the Loden is situated in quite possibly the best location a hotel can be situated: on the same block as Starbucks and around the corner from yachts, greenways and water. Ahhhh. The dream.
2pm – Lunch at Meet in Gastown
I knew I could live in Vancouver when my eyes met Gastown, the city’s fashion and design district. With character, culinary and culture delights, this neighborhood has it all. I even saw a man walking around in a full latex Spiderman outfit. Winning.
7pm – Dinner at Homer Street Cafe & Bar
What’s not to love about chicken decor, elegantly tiled floor and an adventurous wine/cocktail list? I’m all in! Here, the chicken reigns supreme, served in quarter, half or whole portions. Homer Street would be my go-to if I lived in Vancouver, of which I wouldn’t be mad about.
8am – Breakfast at Tableau Bar Bistro
If my day doesn’t start out with a breakfast buffet, it’ll be marginal at best. Thanks for making my mornings extra special with your granola, yogurt and innumerable pastries, Tableau.
10am – Grouse Grind Hike
“It’s called Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. OUCH. Let’s just say it was real. It was fun. But it wasn’t real fun. I’m only kidding…sort of. Totaling only 1.8 miles, Grouse Grind has an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet. On average it takes about an hour and a half to climb. Guess I’m about average then 😉 It doesn’t cost anything except some major calories, and the tram ride down is $10.
12pm – Lunch at the top
With multiple eateries on Vancouver’s best peak, I didn’t have trouble finding great food after depleting my body of all necessary elements. Afterwards, I walked around and witnessed the zip-liners, the helicopter, and paragliders before I took the tram down the mountain.
3pm – Gondola down and take bus ride to Capilano Suspension Bridge
Note* There’s a free shuttle service from Downtown Vancouver (Canada Place + other locations) to/from Grouse Mountain from May – September (takes about 20 minutes). If you’re going to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge before heading back into the city (it’s on the way!), the bus service stops at Capilano.
7pm – Dinner at Nightingale
Winner winner chicken dinner! I’m sorry to open with that, but I had to. Never have I ever had better fried chicken for dinner before. I’m getting hungry just writing this… The restaurant’s take on a gin & tonic is especially creative (it’s on tap!), almost as if it was infused with a hint of whiskey. It was so nice, I had it twice! Renowned Vancouver chef David Hawksworth outdid himself again.
9pm – Drinks at Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s Hawksworth Restaurant bar
I can’t speak to the food (although I’m confident Chef Hawksworth’s brilliance continues here), but the bartenders know what they’re doing. I can’t put my finger on what exactly my bespoke cocktail was called (bartender’s choice), but I do remember it was infused with chocolate. Night made.
7am – Breakfast at Tableau Bar Bistro
Yep. Buffet breakfast again. Enough said.
8am – Bike ride around Stanley Park
Even though the Loden has a gym, the hotel also provides complimentary bikes to ride the 5.5 miles along the seawall and the 17 miles of forest trails.
10:45am – Check out of Loden Hotel and head to Victoria Harbour
I was sad to leave my spacious room with a view (and macarons and massive tub and patio!), but I had a plane to catch…
11:40am – Seaplane to Victoria Harbour
If you’ve never been on a seaplane before, you need to make it happen. First off, checking in with Harbour Air was a BREEZE. No lines, no hassle, no problem. Secondly, I only waited about 15 minutes near the gate until I spotted the pilot getting ready for boarding. Many thanks to Caleb for allowing me to fly in the cockpit for the 35 minute, unbelievably gorgeous flight!
1pm – Check into Magnolia Hotel & Spa
I hopped out of the cockpit and there to pick up my teeny tiny carry-on was a staff member from The Magnolia hotel. We walked about .2 miles and boom. We had arrived! I was immediately shown to my beautiful room complete with the coziest fireplace that ever was and the most scrumptious amenities that can accompany a room: chocolates from local chocolatier Rogers, chilled wine from the B.C. region, Saltspring Soapworks Sparkling Rhubarb Bubble Bath (!!!) and Magnolia whisk to whip up some bath bubbles, literally. We’d only just met and yet The Magnolia already knew the way to my heart… <3
…and then there’s always this view of the stunning Inner Harbour outside my window.
1:15 – Lunch at 10 Acres Bistro
From farm to table, this place knows fresh food. It’s a perfect place for both lunch and dinner, and I highly recommend dining on their patio.
2pm – 75 Minute OneBody Treatment at Spa Magnolia
What is life? After a delectable lunch, I was treated to a full-body treatment that reduces inflammation, increases circulation and assists with cellulite management. Oh hayyyyy. And if that wasn’t good enough, there was a bath involved. Swoooooon.
6pm – Drinks and Dinner at Catalano Restaurant
Located inside the Magnolia Hotel, Catalano surprised me with its Mediterranean flare. Did you say tzatziki? I actually had the Mediterranean chicken and it was everything I wanted and more.
8pm – Walk to Inner Harbour for views, views, views.
8am – Breakfast
Breakfast buffet = heaven.
9am – Will Walk for Donuts (& Fisherman’s Wharf)
Dear Everyone, please go try Yonni’s Doughnuts. During the month of July, they served the most vibrant rainbow donuts with coconut vanilla icing for Pride Month, where $1 from each went towards programs that directly benefited the LGBT community in British Colombia. #loveislove
My brightly colored donut and I made the walk to Fisherman’s Wharf and its famous floating home village. Yes, please.
11am – Bike ride via Magnolia’s Curated Trails
I was lucky enough to have Victoria extraordinaire Mariah as a guide who knows all there is to know about the city. Victoria is known as the ‘Cycling Capital of Canada’ for a reason. From the historic Rockland neighborhood to Beacon Hill park, my eyes were having a feast with the Victorian mansions and beautiful beaches of British Columbia.
12:15 – Teahouse at the Abkhazi Gardens
While many visitors to Victoria would tell you they had tea at The Empress, I’ll tell you that Abkhazi Gardens is the best you can do for a tea time. It’s located in a fairytale-like setting with some of the funniest wait staff I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Tour the gardens afterwards or buy lots and lots of tea in the gift shop!
4pm – Hike to the top of Gowlland Tod with Hike Victoria
To work off all those biscuits and clotted cream, I met up with Mark who guides hikes for Hike Victoria. We went to the top of Gowlland Tod for some incredible views of the fjords below, but that wasn’t even the best part. Mark is a photographer and while I wasn’t on one of his signature photo school hikes, he was kind enough to bestow as much knowledge on the group as possible that afternoon.
9pm – Dinner at OLO Restaurant
Sure, farm-to-table is hot right now, but OLO is more than just fresh ingredients. Chef Brad Holmes switches up the sustainable menus depending on what’s coming through the kitchen doors every day, and each dish celebrates life in B.C., using only the best ingredients available while working with amazing farmers, fishermen and foragers. Repeat after me: pork rinds with chili sea salt. DO IT. I can’t leave here without mentioning the Nectarous beer on the menu from B.C. DO IT, TOO.
Departure is such sweet sorrow…
I truly love both of these cities and find them extremely livable…something I can’t say about most places I visit. Many thanks to The Loden for supplying me with hiking gear when my carry-on wouldn’t allow for it, and to the Magnolia for shipping home I jacket that I left behind. Both properties go above and beyond, and I highly recommend a stay with them upon your next visit!
The 4-night Best of Two Cities package is available from May – September 30th starting at $459.50/night.