Business travel… anyone who has had to do it knows that it’s not always as great as people think. This past year, I have learned a neat trick for making business travel way more fun. How do I do it? I bring my wife Cristina along and we turn the business trip into an mini vacation! My last work trip took me (and Cristina) to Vancouver.
November is not the best time of year to visit Vancouver but I don’t have much control over when I travel so we decided to make the best of it. After long debate, Cristina agreed to join me at the end of the work week so we that could spend a weekend together without any interference from work. She gave me some pretty strict instructions about what restaurants to check out and reservations to make. Yes, this was another eat, shop and play vacation. What else would you expect form us?
Once again, we opted to stay at the Marriott Residence Inn on Hornby. Located in Yaletown, this gem of a hotel is perfect for us. It’s not over-the-top in terms of expense, and still the rooms are very spacious and comfortable (complete with a proper kitchenette) and the staff are amazing (friendly, courteous and fun). Plus, this Marriott has arguably one of the best basic breakfast buffets going (not counting our favourite – the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore) – and it’s included in the room rate!
Another great thing about the Marriott on Hornby is that it is only a ten minute stroll down to the Hornby Aquabus pier. This is the place where you get on to the 3 minute boat ride to Granville Island. In fact, you can take a mini tour of False Creek on the Aquabus – this is on our to-do list for our next visit.
We try to go to Granville Island anytime we are in Vancouver and this time was no different. On this trip, we stocked-up on sausage from Oyama Sausage Company. They make an incredible array of cured meats. Our only limitation was how much weight Air Canada would let us carry home!
Like I said, I was in Vancouver for four days before Cristina arrived so my colleagues and I tried-out a few eateries in advance. In the top spots were Banana Leaf on Denman, Gyoza Bar + Ramen and Miku Waterfront.
Miku was as great as ever. In total, I went to Miku 3 times in five days so I guess you could call me a fan. This was my first time visiting the new location and it did not disappoint! The best visit was the one on Halloween – because it was with Cristina! All of the servers were dressed up in costumes and the vibe was extra fun.
While at Miku, I was a little sad to hear that they no longer served their really yummy Gyozas because their “Gyoza Guys” had opened up their own restaurant and they could no longer supply the demand of three restaurants. So, armed only with this information, Cristina found out where the Gyoza Guys had moved to and hunted them down. Gyoza Bar + Ramen is a funky restaurant located at 622 West Pender Street (not far from Miku). This is a great place and is now on our must-go list when ever we are in town!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a love for Malaysia and Malaysian food. Banana Leaf advertises itself as a Malaysian restaurant and it lives up to the advertising. Nothing against this restaurant but I am just not used to eating “hawker, street food” in a proper restaurant. We loved the Roti Cannais and Sate.
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop is a little hole in the wall taco shop located at 322 W Hastings Street. Cristina had seen it featured on “You Gotta Eat Here” and it was on her list of possible places to eat. It was a perfect place to wait for the fog to burn-off so our helicopter could come pick us up. The food was excellent!
Calabash. What to say about this place… The food was good. Actually, the food was great! We had a major issue with poor service though. Long story short, keep your orders simple. Our waitress messed-up big-time on a simple order. Sorry to say, I will not be going back.
Cristina almost didn’t come on the trip. It’s understandable, it is a long way to travel just for a 3 day weekend. (Even with the amazing shopping and restaurants). So, I knew that I had to step things up a notch! I did some digging into unusual fun things to do in Vancouver. I discovered that there is really a lot to do! She loves whale watching and Vancouver has great excursions right from downtown but, the season ended the day she arrived… I was at a loss. I wanted to make this trip extra special. We have done the city tour already. But we hadn’t done the city tour from the air yet! I looked into our options and again, there were almost too many to chose. Float planes, helicopters hang-gliders, what to choose.
That’s when I happened across the Sky Helicopters website. You know sometimes, you just know that you have found the perfect idea, place or thing? That’s how I felt after looking at the tours that Sky has to offer. I sent then an email and within the hour, I heard back from our pilot Allan. All it took was a couple of more emails and we were booked on our own private helicopter tour of Vancouver.
It had rained all week. All I could hope for was a tiny break in the weather for own Saturday afternoon (Helicopter) City Tour. As luck would have it, we had a gorgeous day! Clear blue skies, not too warm, not too cold. Perfect. Allan had some weather troubles out in Pitt Meadows where the helicopter was located but everything worked out in the end.
We took off from the Vancouver Harbour Heliport – just near Waterfront Station. We headed North over Stanley Park and up to North Van. From there we flew West out to Point Atkinson where we turned South East towards English Bay. We followed False Creek over Science World and then crossed over Chinatown, looping back North up to the Harbour Heliport. The whole trip was probably around 20 minutes but it felt a lot longer! We levelled off at around 2500 feet I think (I forget how high we were).
I’ll let the pictures and video speak for themselves – it was awesome! Cristina and really enjoyed our tour.
At this point, I stopped taking still pictures and switched the camera to video mode to record the landing. We have other videos posted on our Travel-Snobs YouTube channel.
The landing was smooth as silk! Allan was a great pilot and tour guide. This is something that we will definitely be doing again – thanks for everything Allan! Next time maybe a wine tour to the interior or a mountain top picnic? Who knows.
We packed a lot into a short period of time and we enjoyed every minute of the weekend. Yes, there was shopping done – Cristina will have to chime-in about that at a later date.
All in all, one of my best business trips ever! (Thanks to Cristina)