British Columbia, 1980’s, 1990’s, and early 2000’s.
1980’s: Walk along Commercial Drive in Vancouver and you enter the heart of Little Italy – the land of strong coffee, rich food, and flirtatious men. Fun and memorable, the Drive in the 1980’s was a lively district of Mediterranean languages and cultures, and outstanding food. The best sauteed lemon vegetables and the second best coffee I’ve ever tasted were from Café Calabria, served to me by an attractive dark-haired man who treated me (and all the other women in the café) as if I had stepped right off the big screen and directly into his life. He received a large tip.
During these visits to British Columbia in the 1980’s, my spouse and I had enough expendable income to splurge on hotel stays. Our most memorable hotel experience was at The Four Seasons, in downtown Vancouver. Every aspect of comfort was thoughtfully and elegantly provided, including fluffy white lounging robes which the visitor could take home (for a price!) as a memento. The beds offered the perfect amount of softness – like sleeping on a cloud but with good back support – with luxurious comforters and mountains of pillows. The bathroom was a tasteful study in marble and mirrors, with designer soaps that found their way home to my much more humble bathroom. The towels, thicker and fluffier than I’d ever encountered, stayed put. During on memorable visit, I don’t remember which floor our room was on but the view was deep and wide, and colorful at night. After having walked many miles that day from downtown museums and shops, into neighborhoods, parks, and a late-night dinner, we fell into bed around 1 a.m. No sooner did we fall asleep than we were shocked awake by the sound of a bullhorn, a whistle, and hundreds of cheering voices. My first thought – that’s some great breakfast! On the street below us, a huge group of runners were starting the first leg of a marathon – at 5 a.m.! But, our room supplied great coffee and we were young, so lack of sleep wasn’t much of an issue.
1990’s and 2000’s: Our hotel stays in later years, after our daughter was born, were much less elegant (think Best Western, etc) but as memorable as those earlier stays. We tried to stayed in hotels with kitchenettes – a most convenient way to travel with children who wake up before restaurants open. Vancouver is a fun place to take young kids – Granville Island, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Britiannia Mine Museum, and of course Science World, all offer hours of entertainment for young kids and parents. Stanley Park is a must-see destination and the perfect place to let kids run off excess energy. Many good hiking trails exist in the park for older kids, as well.
On the way to, and home from, our visits to British Columbia over the decades, we have always taken time to stop at the International Buddhist Temple (Guan-Yin Temple), in Richmond. The Buddhism practiced here is Mahayana. The temple opened in 1983 to much excitement. This temple compound is known around the world as one of the finest and most authentic examples of imperial Chinese architecture outside of China. The building is stunningly beautiful, almost overwhelming in detail and grace. The grounds contain gardens of conifers and impeccably pruned broadleaf shrubs, as well as bonsai, rock gardens, and water features. Peaceful, exquisite beauty follows the visitor throughout the temple grounds. Take time to sit in silence and you will be rewarded with the gentle sounds of life. During one visit a few years after my daughter was born, I was lucky enough to have time to sit in meditation in the temple while my spouse took our young daughter for a tour of the grounds. Of all the many enjoyable experiences we have had during our visits to British Columbia (Whistler, Victoria, Vancouver and surrounding areas), that 20 minutes of meditation is the one experience that has remained most clear and vivid to me.
With or without children, for one weekend or many weeks, with a large budget or on a limited income – British Columbia offers countless places of interest to explore and enjoy for visitors of all ages.
Wishing you comfortable beds, great food, and beautiful memories.