Feb 13

Vancouver’s shore thing: the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier

“You know, we’re spoiled really.” said my dinner date as he scooped up a handful of seafood nachos, loaded with tasty seared tuna and spicy shrimp, as he waved at the view. Vancouver was lit up before us. All glittering high rises and moonlight over the water. “Anywhere else this would be THE best restaurant in town. But here it is, tucked away on the North Shore.”

He was right. I’m slowly making my way around Vancouver and discovering its many different neighbourhoods. I’d imagined the North Shore to be The ‘Burbs. Not much happening there. Kind of quiet. Guess what? Think again.

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

I got there on the ferry bus from the terminal downtown. It’s a pleasant 12-minute trip across the water and I’m guessing if it wasn’t bucketing with rain, it’s a lovely view. The rain held off for a few minutes when I hopped off the ferry and looking at the city from the other side made me see with fresh eyes how gorgeous it is. On the way to the hotel I stopped into the Lonsdale Quay market place which really reminded me of the indoor markets in Paris, something about the metal shutters and artistically-stacked fruit and veg, I guess. After wandering around and making a mental note to come back with shopping bags another day, I checked into the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier.

My room was big and I loved the huge tub with its glass-wall shower which faced onto the bedroom. Very steamy! Floor to ceiling windows gave a show-stopping view of the city. I sat on the bed and tried to make out my new apartment building, it’s nice to finally start to recognise the skyline. All settled in, I went to explore, and discovered one of the largest hotel pools I think I have ever seen, on the third floor – flooded with natural light and a big gym too.

Hard not to just stare... and stare...

Hard not to just stare… and stare…

We had dinner at Pier 7 , which has Executive Chef Dino Renaerts, ex-chef of Diva at the Met (one of Vancouver’s best) at the helm. I tried the Dine Out menu, three courses for just $28, which was spectacular value for money, I loved the braised beef short ribs and hope they weren’t just a Dine Out special… People always talk about hidden gems, which are often in full view, but after raving about the food to other Vancouverites who’d never heard of Pier 7, perhaps this really is one after all. Maybe these North Shore-ers are on to something

New day dawning over the city

New day dawning over the city

After being led deliciously astray by sommelier Alain – a guy who knows far too much about wine and wants you to try every drop – I reeled my way back to the hotel and kept the curtains open as I curled up in bed so that I could see that view. In the early morning at dawn it just got better.

The Pinnacle has a huge patio which they have open in the warmer months and I’m already making plans to head back on that ferry and get a heaped plate of those amazing seafood nachos to enjoy with a few cocktails and watch my new city light up as the sun sets.

I stayed and ate as a guest of The Pinnacle Pier and Pier 7. My views are 100% my own and I am definitely going back once it stops raining!

Find out more about Vancouver’s North Shore

Jan 13

Welcome back: Victoria’s Oak Bay Beach Hotel

I always used to love popping the label on a fresh jar of hot chocolate; the satisfying ‘pop’ that the spoon made when I jabbed it through the seal. I felt that way when I got to stay at Oak Bay Beach hotel in Victoria before it opened. There’s a real sense of excitement when you stay somewhere that’s on the very brink of opening. Last-minute touches are being made, anticipation is in the air, you get a very real sense of looking behind the curtain and seeing what’s going on.

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

The Oak Bay Beach is a short drive from the town centre, nestled on a glorious stretch of ocean. The team have carefully renovated and updated the original Oak Bay Beach and – I must say – have done a superb job. I rather loved it. It has the feel of an English manor house with the warmth of a Canadian welcome. From the cute coffee bar to the deceptively-named ‘Snug’ pub (about five times the size of a British pub snug!) I felt at home. I could imagine long evenings curled up drinking gin and tonic, so just to make sure reality matched the fantasy, I ordered one. Good decision, probably one of the best I’d tasted as they make it with the locally-brewed New Theatre Tonic for an authentic flavour – who knew that G&T wasn’t meant to be clear? Lucky locals who’ve had this place on their doorstep since 1927!

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

The rooms ticked all my ‘Good Things You Need In A Hotel Room’ boxes – no complicated light switches, full-length mirror, easily-available plugs, simple to operate shower, free wifi and water- it had the lot! All that plus a mini kitchenette – perfect for family stays – and oh wow! what a view over that dazzling ocean and perfectly manicured lawns.

I wandered through the grounds to pay a visit to the Boathouse Spa and enjoyed a skin smoothing seaweed treatment. After a hectic day whizzing around Victoria, my therapist gave me a blissfully relaxing massage and I wished I could  have spent the day there, lazing in a sun lounger, watching out for passing whales. Later I took a dip in the warm silky waters of the mineral pool right next to the ocean. I floated on my back and counted stars in the clear night sky. 

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

I’m told that Victoria is meant to be the most ‘British place in Canada’ and maybe that’s why I felt so at home. By now the dining room will be fully open for business, the fun dinner theatre events will be taking bookings and dollars will be raised with the sale of every ticket for the David Foster Foundation.  Six years after the hotel closed its doors to begin its renovations they are finally back in business again and I bet they’ll be a storming success, so cheers to Victoria’s newest oldest hotel, the Oak Bay Beach – here’s to many more happy years.

I was hosted by the Oak Bay Beach hotel/Tourism Victoria – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Tourism Victoria 

Dec 12

My first Vancouver hotel love revisited. I’m still crushing on The Opus

Seeing your first love again after a couple of years… well, that can be kind of complicated. You have all those expectations. Will your heart still flutter? Will they still excite you like they did? Make you feel special? Or will it be a terrible let down and leave you sad and depressed for days?

Oh, I should explain. I’m not talking about an ex-boyfriend. I’m talking about the very first hotel I stayed in when I came to Vancouver for the very first time two years ago, The Opus. I’d arrived by train from Toronto, a life-changing 4466KM, four day, three night journey that had me swooning over the sheer size of Canada and its amazing landscape. I got to the ViaRail station in the morning in a state of profound nature-worship and got a cab to Yaletown, where I checked into this gloriously sexy city hotel. At the time I wrote that it was, “…Absolutely everything a boutique hotel should be; sexy, smart, stylish and giddily decadent.” Would it still have the power to charm me? Yes, yes. YES!

Seriously snuggle-worthy

I was checking out one of the newly-renovated suites and oh, I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. My beloved moodily-lit disco-lift – all funky music and slow-changing lights - still put a smile on my face, I sashayed down the softly-soft carpet to my room and wondered whether I’d still get that giddy feeling once I got inside.

It’s enough to give a girl ideas…

I guess sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, because, if anything, the new designed rooms are saucier than ever. Oh, there’s still that knowingly party-friendly minibar, packed to the brim with re-tox and de-tox options and the gleaming Nespresso machine, but add to that an in-room iPad, a roaring fire at the touch of a button, sultry art work, all shiny lips and soft, squishy furniture that just begged for you to curl up and snuggle. The suites are pleasingly spacious; the lounge area perfect for a spot of room service as I enjoyed that hypnotic fireplace. The bedroom glamorous enough to ignite a fire of its own for any lucky couple who get to stay there. And if you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, well, the light-flooded windows of the bathroom face out over an office. Me, I kept the blinds low and enjoyed the Jacuzzi tub. But you, well… I bet you’d keep them open a bit, you saucy thing.

Sunny side up

In the morning, my four poster bed was so comfy I briefly considered chaining myself to it, to avoid leaving, but breakfast at La Pentola was calling, so reluctantly, I left its embrace and drifted downstairs. I’d eaten at the restaurant a few weeks beforehand, rustic Italian with a BC twist. There were a couple of dishes that I’d especially loved; a smoked veal tongue that was carpaccio-thin and a kale and ricotta-stuffed pasta that I could have happily eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs were on the menu this morning though and a tasty sausage perfectly paired with an apple jam. I left with a dance in my step and a head full of new and wonderful memories. I’m still crushing hard on The Opus. The flame still burns for my first Vancouver hotel-love. Can we make this a regular anniversary date? I hope so…

I stayed as a guest of the Opus, however, my views are 100% my own.

Oct 12

Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim: a little bit of a love letter…

I know this reads like a cheerleader-y whoop of a write-up, but you know what? Sometimes things are just good… and this is one of ‘em. I’m already pretty much on record as a fan of the Fairmont group in general and their Willow Stream Spas in particular. It’s true, I don’t really like chains as a rule, but I’ll make an exception for these guys because I kind of love the feeling that each of the Fairmonts I’ve visited has; the Monte Carlo Fairmont made me gurgle with glee as it had a mustard menu to go along with their buttery-soft steaks, as well as a rooftop pool that you can see France, Italy and, of course, Monaco from, as you lazily swim laps under the sun. The Savoy in London is part of the group and if you know of a more elegant luxury hotel in the world to enjoy a White Lady cocktail (which was invented in the bar there) then tell me – because I simply don’t believe it exists.

But to the Pacific Rim  in Vancouver; perched on the water’s edge, it’s a huge modern property, with a stunning open lobby with a piano bar and cocktail lounge which makes for a buzzy atmosphere as you walk in. Cheery reception staff make check-in a joy. I said something about wondering whether the rain would stop later and as I walked into my room, the phone rang; it was the gal on the desk, calling with the weather for later that day.  Do you see why I love them?

Alas, I didn’t get one of the bath-with-a-view rooms which overlook the harbour, with the pretty floatplanes taking off like duckies into the air, but as my room had a huge soaker-style tub and a bed that I never wanted to leave, turns out I had nothing to pout about after all.

Next time, this bath shall be mine

Of course, the only thing likely to drag me out of bed in a Fairmont is the chance of a trip to the spa… I love the spacious feeling that the Willow Streams have; the soft touches from the fruit and muffins in the relaxation rooms to the soft blankets available to wrap yourself up in after a soothing treatment so you can just zone out. This Willow Stream also boasts Vancouver’s most fabulous hot tub; right on the roof, towering over the city, where you can watch the sunset turn the buildings the most glorious gold.

No time to soak it up today, it was all about discovering the rejuvenating effects of marine algae with a signature ‘Power of the Sea’ massage. I was wrapped in a soothing mineral-rich cream and while that soaked into my skin, my therapist gave me a brilliant acupressure facial and eye-rollingly good scalp massage. All too soon I showered off the wrap and was then treated to a body massage with more Thalgo product. Now, I’d usually say after a good spa body treatment you could expect softer skin for maximum a couple of days. This really impressed me; a week later, my skin still felt petal-soft. I’m interested to see what effect a Thalgo full facial might have as, wow, serious results!

Snuggle up under a blanket and bliss out

Later I got to check out a tasting menu at Oro, the elegantly funky fine dining restaurant on the second floor. It’s all about the taste of the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest cuisine here, focussing on what’s local, seasonal and just plain good. We started with a sparkling Blue Mountain rosé from the Okanagan Valley, a whoosh of strawberries and citrus which was so good, it made me decide there and then to get to the Okanagan fast! We were treated to a variety of small plates from the Oru menu, my two favourites were the  Qualicum Island scallops with a brilliant faux-lardon made from smoked salmon, and the Fraser Valley pork belly which came with a new ingredient for me: lotus root purée – a wonderful taste that I want to try again. Show-stopper of the night though, was an Alaskan salt cod which was served with a ‘tea’, brewed table-side in old-fashioned gas-fired contraption, made of fragrant tomatoes and herbs. Poured over the delicate fish it was wonderful; dense with layers of herby, zingy, pure tomato flavour. I’d never tried anything even close to this before. LOVE.

Seriously. I want to eat this all day long.

I wish I could find some negatives to even out this rave of a review, but there’s nothing. The cocktails are great, the staff are friendly and hey – even the bathrooms are nice! What can I say? Go there. Eat there. Spa there. Stay there…

I stayed as a guest of The Fairmont Pacific Rim, however, my views are 100% my own – I just really love this brand!

Keep Exploring Canada


Sep 12

Vancouver hotel low-down: The Loden

There was a pleasing amount of bustle and excitement as I checked into the Loden hotel; sequined gowns, elaborate hairstyles and a smattering of men adjusting their ties and checking their waistcoats. Pretty spiffy crowd, I thought, rather regretting not having worn something more dressy myself. But Vancouver always feels like such a dressed-down and casual town that I was tired of feeling like the only person not in flip flops!

After a few minutes swiping cards at the desk (how I love a pain-free check-in) I was zooming up to the 9th floor, sharing the lift with a woman in a dazzling dress.

“I love your outfit.” I told her.

“Thanks!” she said and anxiously checked her make up in the mirror.

“You look great.” I assured her.

“Oh! I’m doing hair for the wedding here today so need to look good for the photos.”

Spiffy dressers explained. Vancouver hadn’t undergone a style transformation, but perhaps if it stayed at The Loden it might… 

Sophisticated caramel and cocoa shades

Shiny marble floor in the bathroom, caramel and cocoa shades in the bedroom, a huge and pleasingly firm bed with crisp high thread-count linens in a room flooded with light from the floor to ceiling windows. Stylish indeed. I was glad I’d packed my favourite just-in-case red dress so I could get dressed up when I visited the bar and Tableau restaurant later.

I hit the bar and tried the house cocktail ‘1181’ a citrusy fizz of prosecco, gin, elderflower syrup and lemonade. Nothing seems to match fizz as well as oysters and I’d never tried the local Vancouver island variety. Large and meaty with a faint cucumber-ish after taste I squished them with lemon and sucked and chewed my way though a half-dozen on the half-shell with indecent speed. Delicious! Tempting through it was to work my way through the small, but perfectly formed cocktail list and an ever-increasing pile of oysters, there was local wine to sample from the Okanagan Valley and the main course to order.

My new favourite thing: Vancouver Island oysters.

Tableau specialises in French bistro cooking so of course, it had to be the steak-frites, I asked for a wine recommendation and my server suggested a Pinot Gris from Naramata’s Nichol winery. It was a fruity and spicy white with a blush-pink tint that paired perfectly with the juicy steak and crisp twice-cooked fries. 

Juicy, buttery steak with salty, crisp fries.

The buzz of a good room on a great night can’t be beaten and that’s exactly the feeling at Tableau thanks to excellent table service paired with good solid cooking and some creative twists. Hotel restaurants used to be the last option of the unimaginative diner – but no more, Tableau proves that. And as for casual Vancouver? Well, if you want to feel stylish in the city, you know where to come to stay… 

I stayed as a guest of The Loden & Tableau, however, my views are 100% my own.

Like Canada? Keep exploring

The Loden: Reservations:  877 225 6336 /  Phone: 604 669 5060 / 1177 Melville Street, Vancouver

Tableau: tel 604 639 8692 / 1181 Melville Street Vancouver /

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