I'm having a love affair with Canada. Sssshhhh! Don't tell my first love, France.
Part of the appeal might be that I have a Toronto-born husband. But despite being Canadian by marriage for 18 years, and having visited many of our northern neighbor's cities, i've only recently set foot in British Columbia and the remarkable city of Vancouver, just two hours from my home in San Francisco. Admittedly, it was arctic cold when I was there, which means I, a California girl, spent most of my time huddled under a wool scarf scurrying to some of the city's fantastic (and heated) restaurants, like Hawksworth, which is worth -10 degrees. I really didn't open my eyes much on my visit, for fear the icicles that had formed on my eyelashes would drop into my pupils and stab and blind me.
"I'm thinking we should come back in summer," I suggested to the husband, drool frozen to my chin.
Here are eight reasons I'm looking forward to it---besides icicle-free eyelashes.
1. Night markets. In particular the Chinatown Night Market (opens June 1), which is the oldest in Vancouver. The market is expanding this summer to include outdoor movies, ping-pong, more food vendors, storytelling, and Mahjong. I don't know what it is but if the game is as fun as the word, I'm in.
2. Booze. Recent changes in liquor laws have resulted in an exuberance for urban imbibing, even by Canadian standards. And if you don't know---Canadians like their drinks, eh? Seven new craft and nano-breweries are slated to open in Vancouver in 2013, which follow on the heels of the three that launched last year. Add in Longtable Distillery, which opened in February, and the Urban Winery that opened last summer (36 BC wines to sip ) and you've got fun on tap for days.
3. Art Peddling. What do you get when an art enthusiast meets with bicycle enthusiast? Wonder Twin Powers Activate---Art Wheelers, a bicycle company that leads guided tours through some of Vancouver's neighborhoods, like Coal Harbour and Stanley Park, to discover some of the city's public art installations. Suitable for children 12 and up but probably not suitable for anyone spending a day researching reason number two.
4. Getting High. Relax, I'm not a real Canadian. I won't McGiver a soda can or bake brownies to partake. Instead, I'll check out the new $16-million Fly Over Canada at Vancouver's Canada Place. The virtual flight takes 60 guests at a time soaring over Canada's majestic mountains, vast prairies and sparkling cities and waterways in a 4-D experience. This is the first of its kind in Canada and has been three years in the making.
5. SOLEfood. I'm a sucker for a good cause. This 2-acre urban farm with 3,000 planter boxes containing 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables took root last summer in downtown Vancouver and employs 25 inner city residents. Though you can't tour the farm, there are restaurants in Vancouver that serve food with ingredients from SOLEfood. I plan to frequent them.
6. Flannel. Channel your inner lumberjack and take part in the ultimate plaid-infused fantasy (go ahead and admit you have them) at the Loden Hotel. Through the end of September, this fabulous hotel is offering a Lumberjack Package. Yep, you heard me. Check into a cabin-themed guest room and don you flannel shirts and trapper hats. Once geared up, (and your Facebook picture has been uploaded), head to the Lumberjack Show at nearby Grouse Mountain (May-October) for axe throwing and log rolling excitement---Canada style!
7. TED. The global non-proift devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, is moving its flagship annual conference from the Long Beach, CA to Vancouver next year. "It's cosmopolitan, energetic, innovative yet with unrivaled natural beauty," a press release said of Vancouver. Natural beauty? L.A. can't compete, I guess. But they'll always have the Kardashians. If Vancouver is good enough for TED, then it's good enough for me.
8. Nanaimo Bars. Canada's favorite dessert that no one has ever heard of in the U.S.A. Named for the town on Vancouver Island. Shortbread crust, custard middle, chocolate on top. I'm planning on eating a few a day.