In Vancouver, Canada: Working Remotely With Time to Explore

by Kyra Shapurji
The city view from Grouse Mountain. Photos by Kyra Shapurji.

The last time I went to Vancouver, Canada, I was in my twenties, it was the early aughts, and the trip was a whirlwind few days. This time around, I spent the week working remotely, visiting with my resident octogenarian aunt, and checking off my curated to-do list: art museums, restaurants, boutiques, and coffee joints.

I kept close to Yaletown, a lively area with open-air eateries and clubs close to the Financial District and Gastown (the oldest neighborhood in the city), with remnants of its industrial past (warehouses, rail yards). These days, the neighborhood is populated with restaurants, art galleries, and locals walking dogs of all sizes. Here’s how I spent my time.

Necessary Espresso Mornings

Before I logged on for my east coast job at the crack of the west coast morning, I beelined to a nearby coffee shop for a much-needed daily caffeine jolt (east coast hours rule). One of the biggest thrills was seeing how the java scene exploded since my last visit. While Kafka’s coffee met the strength threshold for me, I fell in love with Rocanini Coffee Roasters for their fresh-from-the-oven danish pastries and simple, no-fuss interiors that let me savor the cappuccino in hand. It became the closest thing to a ritual when the barista recognized me and my cardamom bun order — a true extended trip perk.

Vancouver Special design shop.
Lee's Donuts and a store full of beautiful brooms.

A Time Zone Advantage: Afternoon Culture Breaks

Working east coast hours freed up my afternoons and evenings to tour and sightsee. This worked out really well. With bright blue sky weather during my entire stay, it was easy to plan for a few hours atop Grouse Mountain. Visitors can visit for a full day, but since this wasn’t my first time to the Peak of Vancouver, I opted out of “The Grouse Grind,” a grueling hike up the steep 1.5 mile incline, and took the lift instead. A slew of wildlife refuge activities are available at the tippy top: ranger talks, lumberjack entertainment, and up close views of Coola and Grinder, the resident rescued grizzly bears. If hunger pains catch you off guard on Grouse, there’s a cafe and a coffee shop that also provide a perfect panorama of daring hang gliders.

For my shopping fix, I visited boutiques on Main Street and in the South Main / Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, a relatively quick ten- or fifteen-minute drive from Yaletown. Walking the sidewalks almost made me feel like I was back in Brooklyn with the bars, the ramen and taco joints, and the ubiquitous doughnut spot peppering the street. My favorite retail hits were Much & Little, a clothing and accessory boutique, and Vancouver Special, a delightfully curated home furniture and interiors shop showcasing brands like HAY, Alessi, and Audo.

On one of my last open afternoons, I took advantage of Vancouver’s fine arts in the heart of the Financial District, where I found the Bill Reid Gallery. It’s the only public Canadian gallery devoted to the Northwest Coast, featuring a mix of contemporary Indigenous regional art and a permanent collection of Bill Reid’s masterworks, a prominent 20th-century Indigenous artist whose work spanned varying types of jewelry, painting, and sculpture using repoussé techniques and Coast Salish designs like tridents. I caught an exhibit called Bright Futures that brought together 14 contemporary artists to celebrate the Reid legacy 25 years after his death. Exquisite fashions, intricate metal jewelry, and painted currency were just a few of the pieces produced in homage to Reid.

Another cultural city spot not to be missed is Granville Island. To say there’s a lot to see and do on Granville is an understatement. The 35 acres of what is technically a peninsula and what used to be a fishing area for the Squamish people and Musqueam Indian Band holds a public market, multiple performing arts theaters, a community center, artist studios, and countless restaurants. I was mesmerized by the bounty of individual niche shops focused on one single object crafted by an artist: handmade brooms, aprons, and even hammocks. But perhaps the biggest attraction and the main tourist draw is the public market. Some of the most popular food stands in the main hall (noted by the queues) include Lee’s Donuts, for their fresh Honey Dip, and À La Mode Pi, for its sweet slices and pot pies filled with local salmon or clam chowder. My favorite discovery was Popina Cantina, adjacent to the hall’s outdoor seating area and underneath circling seagulls, where I devoured a signature “puffcream,” a milky vanilla soft serve sandwiched between a cream puff with saffron and chocolate toppings.

Here’s a tip on parking your car: Don’t bother. Parking spots are limited and there’s only one small garage. Take public transportation or a ride share and save a hefty chunk of time.

Flora-inspired dining. Photo courtesy of Botanist.
A meal worth a toast. Photo courtesy of Capo & The Spritz.

PST Early Evenings

My most memorable neighborhood meal was at Capo & The Spritz where I popped over for lunch to nosh on arancini, gnocco fritto, and a wood-fired pizza with an accompanying Aperol spritz. The stiff Inception Negroni I had at Reflections Terrace at the Rosewood’s Hotel Georgia (a breeze of a walk, only 15-minutes from Yaletown) leaves the best and booziest memory. This slick cocktail’s ice sphere dissolves into the mixed base of botanist gin, bianco vermouth, and Luxardo bitter bianco to essentially become a double. Once the last of the ice sphere dissolves, the price tag seems nominal, if also hard to remember.

I found the ambiance I wanted at the indoor-outdoor D/6 Lounge Bar, where I was offered flights of sake, agave, and scotch beyond the basic cocktails and wine. While my aunt passed on the bar scene, I did manage to take her to Seasons in the Park, center and atop a hill in Queen Elizabeth Park for one of the best and highest dining views of downtown. Perched among the treetops, it was hard to tear ourselves from the views. After a while, we paid attention to our plates: crab cakes, local clam chowder, and entrées of sablefish and salmon. If you manage to snag a window wall table, relish the sunset and a slow-paced meal.Botanist is a high-end, accolade-dripping dinner and cocktail place where, as the name suggests, plants and vegetables inspire libations like an oyster leaf martini and What The Flower (a gin-based beverage with Brazilian plant called an electric daisy). Beautiful dishes, la carte or prix fixe, include foraged mushrooms, salt-roasted beets and an oven roasted cauliflower with XO sauce.

A Place To Plug-In and Rest My Head

For my virtual office and a central downtown location, I chose The Douglas, an Autograph property, as my home base. The rooms at The Douglas give off a mix of rustic forestry (the hotel’s name is a nod to a douglas fir tree) and modern aesthetic. There’s soft, natural wood furniture and large landscape hanging art. Aesop bath products leave their hallmark herbal woodsy scents after use. I loved the walkability to adjacent neighborhoods like Gastown and short rides to Mount Pleasant and Granville. I didn’t have time to catch any sports, but if you’re inclined, the hotel is a block from Rogers Stadium, home to the Canucks, and neighboring BC Place, a multi-purpose venue for rotating concerts (hello, Renaissance tour) and for the MLS and Canadian Football League games.

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