The last time I visited Vancouver was over a decade ago; I was twelve to be exact. What do I remember from that trip? To be honest, a lot of rain, Birkenstocks, and doggy fountains. I remember thinking, “they really love dogs here.” It doesn’t really paint a picture (or memory) of a stylish city, and has never topped my list as a fashion destination in my adult life. But if you consider how much a city such as Toronto has evolved over the past decade (and how quickly), is it so hard to think that Vancouver could have too? To find out, I hopped a plane, not as a thrill-seeking snowboarder/skier looking to hit the mountains, but as a fashion girl seeking a stylish weekend away on Canada’s West Coast.
WHERE TO STAY: THE OPUS HOTEL
Landing in Vancouver at 9:00 a.m., the questions on my mind were: 1. How am I going to shower? 2. Where am I going to leave my stuff? 3. Where am I going to be able to eat lunch at breakfast time (I was on Eastern Standard Time). As suspected, when I arrived at the Opus Hotel in downtown Vancouver’s Yaletown, it was too early to check in, and my room wasn’t going to be ready until 3 p.m. Desperate for a shower to wake me up (can anyone really sleep well on planes?), the concierge was more than understanding and accommodating, allowing me to use an empty room to freshen up, and then storing my luggage until check-in. While some of Opus’ boutique rooms feature heavily designed and themed rooms that may not to be for everyone’s taste, they are counter balanced by a number of “standard” rooms, which are sophisticated, modern, and understated.
In fact, I was completely unaware that their more “playful” rooms even existed. My temporary “shower” room was cozy, but contemporary with an envious bathroom overlooking Davie Street that featured floor-to-ceiling glass French doors. My real room, was double the size with a king-sized bed and a bathroom that didn’t look out to Davie Street, but did feature a large glass window between the bathtub and bedroom. After recently being voted one of Canada’s trendiest hotels, OPUS introduced The Trendsetting Package; a large Hershel duffel bag filled local goods that awaited me when I entered my room. Hinting at some of the cities best temptations from spas to boutiques, none were hard to track down thanks to the room’s complimentary iPad that was mine to use, inside and outside of the hotel for the weekend. Aside from the great location and service, the best part about staying at the Opus Hotel was that it felt more like coming back to my stylish Vancouver apartment, rather than to a generic hotel, that’s hard to ease into. Only it’s better, because this “apartment” has a bar, and restaurant (both notable social spots in the city). Each one is another temptation keeping guests from leaving the comfort of the hotel.
A SEAFARER’S BRUNCH: PROVENCE MARINASIDE
In my experience, most restaurants with the coveted real estate of an ocean-side patio aren’t the ones you go to for the best food. At the same time, when you don’t live by the ocean, you want enjoy the view as much as possible when you are near it. For this reason, and a recommendation, I chose to give Yaletown’s Provence Marinaside restaurant a shot for brunch. Located less than five minutes away from the Opus Hotel, Provence Marinaside is literally down the street. In fact, I could almost see it from my hotel balcony.
Upon entering, the dated and unexciting decor was typical of my idea of a restaurant with a prime waterfront location. My hopes for the delectability of the brunch dwindled. Nevertheless, we ordered the following: 1 caesar, 1 bacon caesar with whisky, shrimp and crab cake benedict, and smoked salmon eggs benedict. To be honest, I replaced the vodka in my second bacon caesar, feeling strongly that it would compliment it much better. It did, and it should have, considering the drink was only slightly less than the eggs benedict.Upon the foods arrival, I was disappointed to find slices of fruit siding the eggs and potatoes, rather than mixed greens (a breakfast pet peeve of mine), but dug in regardless.
To my surprise, both the crab cakes and smoked salmon were made from fresh, high-quality seafood. This was the real deal. There was not even a hint of artificial crab in the cakes, and the smoke salmon was dense and rich — well paired with a homemade corn pancake instead of an English muffin. My surprise and delight over the food was so overwhelming, I pulled the waiter aside and said, “to be honest, I thought the food would be really bad, but this is really, really good.”
WHERE TO SHOP & LOCAL DESIGNERS OF NOTE
Plenty – Since 1989, Plenty has been providing Vancouver with a fashion-forward approach to the city’s laid-back style. Since the company’s first store opening in Kitsilano, it has grown to open five locations around the city, along with an online store to service the rest of the country. Plenty comes across like the mom and pop version of Aritzia. While, of course, a successful and growing business, it is minuscule in comparison to the mega chain that has sprawled throughout Canada, and now on to the States. And this is a good thing, the styles are comparable, but the difference is you feel like you’re purchasing a true piece from Vancouver’s fashion scene, that won’t be found on everyone, everywhere else.
Obakki – ”A dress can make a difference. A water bottle can save the world.” These are the words thatObakki lives by; the contemporary fashion brand that is used as the main fundraising vehicle for The Obbaki Foundation. Now a 100% humanitarian project, the Obakki Foundation focus on providing clean water and education for developing communities in urgent need. The luxe fabrics and designs make it hard to believe purchasing something that makes you look so good could change someones life, which makes it hard to want to shop from anywhere else.
Marimekko – Although not Canadian, or from Vancouver, the iconic Finnish textile and clothing company has its only Marimekko concept store located in Vancouver’s Yaletown. Without a store to call our own in Toronto, it is nearly impossible not to be envious of this West Coast gem, when you can so easily stock up on everything from printed tea cups to baby clothes all in one big, bright, and colourful space.
Beth Richards – She may not have her own store, but Beth Richards‘ coveted luxury swimwear line — where pin up meets goth meets street style — can be found on the likes of Net-a-Porter.com, as well as Vancouver’s Gravity Pope if you prefer to shop in person. My introduction to Beth came first, unknowingly, when I met her years ago through a friend. Then an email from her PR, then it just so happened I was in town the same weekend she was to reveal her newest collection at a large warehouse with a party-style presentation.
Drinks & Bites: Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar
Don’t let the word “cafe” confuse you, this is no beatnik joint full of coffee roasters and dreadlocks. TheBlue Water Cafe is the city’s “definitive destination for seafood,” and is the epitome of an upscale seafood house. Mentions of my dinner reservation brought people to share their experiences at the restaurant for their engagements dinner, meeting the parents, and the like. Perhaps not the usual pick for most to sit at a bar for dinner, and end up with a bill in the threes, but it was worth it. If not to eat a full dinner, it is a must to enjoy a glass of prosecco and order (even just a couple of pieces) from their impressive sushi bar.
European Delight: Killjoy Cocktail Tavern
Vegetarians beware, you may not notice at first when walking into the dimly lit interior of Killjoy, but take a closer look and you’ll see an array of meats hanging from behind the bar. An ideal situation for those who love to enjoy a glass of wine with a good plate of charcuterie. The space has more of an edge than many of the other Yaletown nighttime spots, but it would be wise to go early and leave early, avoiding the fist pumping crowd that infiltrates later into the night.
Mad Men Rejoice: Clough Club
Perfect for the appreciator of retro cocktails and dark spirits, Gastown’s Clough Club focuses on their house made barrel-aged recipes. That’s not to say that beer and wine are not still available, there’s a full bar along with a menu of South American tapas to be enjoyed. The quirky interiors match the taste of the establishment’s old-fashioned whiskey drinkers, channelling a modern-day stylish saloon through their decor.
(feature as seen in FILLER Magazine)