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Stanley Park

British Columbia, Canada, Kitsilano, Oakwood Canadian Bistro, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Day 11: Hello Land, Hello Vancouver

So you may notice that I have skipped over days nine and ten entirely. Unfortunately, weather conditions in Ketchikan were abysmal and my condition didn’t improve after leaving Juneau either. After docking in Ketchikan and hearing most shore excursions were cancelled due to weather, and watching passengers return to the boat, drenched from sideways rain, I decided a rest day was in order. I was disappointed, but I was now aware that this cold was more than just a 24-hr thing. In an effort to recover and enjoy Vancouver post-cruise, Ketchikan, and the following day at sea were classified as rest days.

We dock in Vancouver around 7am, but it is a couple of hours before we are called to disembark. We have time for a coffee and breakfast, and despite not feeling 100%, the rest has helped, and I feel like I will have the energy to see some of Vancouver today.


The view of Vancouver from the Sheraton Hotel.

We disembark the Zaandam, gather our bags and clear customs, handing over paperwork but never showing our passports for entry into Canada. Once we have our bags, we need a cab to get to the hotel. Fortunately, despite approximately 1,500 people trying to do the same, we don’t have to wait too long for a cab, and in a matter of minutes, we are at the reception desk of the Sheraton checking in. Our room isn’t ready, so we grab an early lunch and make plans for the day.

The rain is due to end, but we’re not sure we’ll be afforded an entirely clear day, so we opt for a hop on/hop off trolley tour to acquaint ourselves with the city. I do a quick search on TripAdvisor and find a restaurant for dinner, make a reservation, and we head out to see some of Vancouver.


Vancouver’s Olympic Torch from 2010.

The clouds are parting and we’re afforded slivers of blue sky here and there, but not much can distract from the beauty of this city and its surrounding landscape. A couple of blocks away from the Sheraton, we switch from the city bus to the park bus, which will take us through Stanley Park. With a few minutes between transfers, we walk down to the waterfront and see the Olympic Torch, from the 2010 Winter Games, which is rarely lit due to the extortionate cost…something in the range of $200,000.


A view of Vancouver’s Waterfront.

Beyond the torch is the waterfront, where you have 180 degree views. To the left is Stanley Park and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, directly in front are sea planes coming and going as well as a floating Chevron gas station, and off to the right is the harbor and the port of Vancouver, where we docked this morning.


Sea Planes in Vancouver Harbor.

We head back and board the trolley bound for Stanley Park, named after Lord Frederick Stanley, who is THE Stanley of the Stanley Cup award in hockey. We begin our tour at the rose garden, and drive past the yacht club, past Lions Gate Bridge and Prospect Point.


Lions Gate Bridge

The park occupies 1,000 acres, and after covering a few miles, I no longer feel like I’m in a capital city. Dense vegetation surrounds us on the left and we’re afforded waterfront views to the right. Occasionally, we pass a teahouse or restaurant, and we come out the other side of the park on English Bay.

Our driver drops us back at Canada Place, where we’re able to hop on the last trolley tour of the city. We exit the downtown area, passing the Lulu Lemon headquarters, and make our way to the Kitsilano neighborhood. Here, Craftsman and Victorian style homes hug the waterfront, and again, I think what a livable city this is. The tour guide bursts my bubble though when he tells us that Kitsilano is one of the most expensive areas to live, with properties averaging $1 million.


Dinner in Kitsilano.

From Kitsilano, we drive by Granville Island and Chinatown, looping back to Gastown, an area of shops and restaurants near downtown, and finally back to our hotel. We have time to catch our breath before catching a cab back to Kitsilano for dinner.

We have a reservation at Oakwood Canadian Bistro, a restaurant I found after googling ‘Top Vancouver Restuarants.’ This place is described as having outstanding Canadian tapas, in a contemporary setting at an affordable price. Literally, every review is excellent, so I immediately  book a reservation on Open Table, and we find ourselves back in Kitsilano at 7:30 making our way to the a booth in the back of the restaurant.

The setting is modern and romantic. The space is dimly lit, and the front half of the space is like a contemporary ski lodge with high tables, while the back feels more like a hunting lodge, with a fire place, two semi-circle booths facing each other, and an antler-decorated mantle and fireplace behind.


Warm Kale Salad

We decide to take the chef’s suggestion and order a number of plates to share. Poutine definitely makes the cut and we also order pulled pork, served on miso pancakes with BBQ sauce, a warm kale salad with brussel sprouts and cauliflower, and the Burger 2.0 garnished with aged cheddar, bacon, alfalfa and garlic dill pickles.


Pulled Pork Pancakes.

The wine list is predominantly local, which is surprising, seeing as I didn’t think of British Columbia as a wine region. We order a Chardonnay by Brettiers Brothers.

Plates begin to arrive. First, the kale salad, which is cooked perfectly, the kale softened and the brussels and cauliflower still crunchy and covered in a citrus dressing.


Poutine to die for!

The pork and pancakes are next. They are delicious – the bbq sauce adding a little bit of sweetness to contrast with the savory pork. But the poutine is mind-blowing. I’ve had poutine in Toronto and Montreal, but I knew we had to try it seeing as we are in a new region. Oakwood’s poutine is served in a hot skillet, with the traditional french fries, cheese curds and gravy as the base, but they top theirs with maple cured brisket. This dish alone is reason to come back for a second meal here! We have the burger left to conquer, and it is just as good as the previous three dishes, despite the fact that we are almost full when it arrives.

The reviews are right, this restaurant deserves all of its 4-star reviews. From the setting, to the service and the food, it is outstanding.

Our waiter calls a cab for us, and we head back to the hotel. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for sunshine, perfect for our last day in Vancouver and finally conducive to some outdoor activities to work off some of the decadent meal we have just polished off!