Heading up and out to the Pacific Northwest – this time without my BFF Harper – for a trip to Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. Thanks to my ever-so-generous brother, my hubby Lance and I got a free week at a timeshare anywhere in the world we wanted to go. The only problem was we had to book it by June 15th…and it was May 15th, which meant that all the popular spots were already reserved. So, after pondering what would make Lance and me happiest – he’s a city guy, I’m a mountain girl – (you know what they say about opposites) flying into Vancouver and driving up to Whistler sounded like the best of both worlds!
After making our way through the airport and miles and miles of lines to customs, we were ready to start our adventure! We rented a cute little Toyota Rav 4 and headed north. People often compare Vancouver and San Francisco, but, to me there is no comparison. Yes, San Francisco is beautiful, and maybe I’m just too used to the view up in my tree house in Fairfax, but Vancouver is BREATHTAKING. Sorry, didn’t mean to yell. It’s just the mountain girl in me — rocky cliffs and granite mountains rising up from the ocean. Small islands dot Howe Sound, the waterway that borders the narrow stretch of inhabited coastline all the way up to Squamish and beyond.
…it was just one postcard scene after another!
While I drove, my mouth agape practically the whole time, Lance busied himself taking pictures. The highway is called the Sea-To-Sky Highway, and it was just one postcard scene after another! As we made our way through downtown Vancouver, which is VERY much like San Francisco – traffic jams and construction everywhere you look - we were greeted by Stanley Park, a nicely manicured park of trees, grass and lakes. Further up the road was Lions Gate Bridge, which took us up, up and away to the beauty of West Vancouver, Horseshoe Bay and Brunswick Beach. To the right was a small ski resort called Cypress Mountain and then further up, West Lion and Brunswick Mountain.
Once we passed Squamish, BC, we left Howe Sound in our rear-view mirror. Now the Squamish River was our traveling companion and to our right, Mt. Garibaldi and Garibaldi Lake. We passed by scenic view after jaw-dropping scenic view — Tantalus Mountain Range, Cloudburst Mountain, Mt. Brew — until we arrived 90 minutes later in Whistler.
…the view of Blackcomb Mountain outside our condo window.
Our first night in Whistler was just a night to chill and relax. We checked in and flopped down on the couch with the view of Blackcomb Mountain outside our condo window reminding us of the adventures that lay ahead. We decided we couldn’t go wrong with pizza, and were referred to Creekbread Pizza, which served all-natural pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we were expecting, but c’est la vie! Lights out early.
…this was not going to be one of those “I lost five pounds on my vacation!” vacations!
Our first full day in Whistler, once we tore ourselves away from the covers (I know, TMI), was spent exploring the Village. It was so cute, with shops to the left and shops to the right. Restaurants, souvenirs, sporting goods, more restaurants…this was not going to be one of those “I lost five pounds on my vacation!” vacations! First things first, no matter how full my suitcase was, I definitely needed some new clothes! Found exactly that at a cute shop called Aritzia. Lance joined me for lunch at what was to become our hangout, Black’s Pub. Right at the end of the Village Stroll, and facing the Whistler Ski Lift and Gondola, it offered us delicious food for our stomachs and a feast for our eyes as well.
The variety of people and their sporting apparel is amazing!
In May, the top of the mountain is still ski-able and the bottom is dirt-bike-able. The variety of people and their sporting apparel was amazing! Guys and girls with snowboards and crazy outfits, muddy, dirty mountain bikers with helmets and protective gear, and tourists straight off the bus and as squeaky clean as they come. (check out that guy and his butt-cheek ski pants!) Lance and I fit in the too-cool-for-school category, of course!
We got in line…but were soon turned back because of lightning strikes. Yikes!
After a delicious lunch of Black ‘N Blu Burgers and sweet potato fries and a nice grapefruity IPA, we decided to head up the gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain. It was about 2pm, and what we didn’t realize was that a storm was coming in as we rode up the mountain. When we arrived at the top, we saw that there was another gondola, the Peak to Peak, that could take us to Blackcomb Mountain, waaaaaay on the other side of Whistler. We got in line for the massive Peak to Peak gondola, but were soon turned back because of lightning strikes. Yikes! We all rode back down to the bottom where we proceeded to get IOUs for the ride. Rain had descended on Whistler Village, so we grabbed some food from Mongolie Grill and hunkered down to watch a movie in the condo.
Rushing water, boulders rolled up and sitting on rocky beaches, trees felled along the way…
The next day dawned cloudy and gray, so we decided to take a drive north to Pemberton. Along the way, we saw a sign for Nairn Falls, so we detoured to take the short hike to the falls. As with every other part of Canada we had encountered so far, the scenery was jaw-dropingly amazing! Rushing water, boulders rolled up and sitting on rocky beaches, trees felled along the way, moss and tree branches heavy with moisture, as picturesque as you could imagine! Many of the people we passed were from foreign lands, so we ended up nodding and smiling as we passed one another. There wasn’t much to Pemberton once we got there, so we basically turned around and headed back once we arrived.
…he just swung his club around in the air like a crazy person…
When we got back to Whistler, the one thing we really wanted to see was a black bear. They are touted to be found everywhere, but so far they were elusive. Several of the locals said we would find them down on the golf course, so we drove around looking. The houses were fantastic, big stone and wood masterpieces, but no bears. We decided to be more bold, so we parked at one of the golf courses and asked the caddy if he’d seen any bears. He said there was actually one on the 9th hole, and, since it was late in the day, we probably wouldn’t run into any more golfers. We hopped on his trusty golf cart, and took off for the 9th hole, and, lo and behold, there he (or she) was, a pretty good-sized black bear munching on dandelion flowers! We got as close as we could without disturbing him or any of the few stragglers left on the course. One golfer said the bear had stomped and “huffed” at him, but he just swung his club around in the air like a crazy person and that deterred the bear (not that the bear would know what a crazy person acted like, but you catch my drift). We didn’t have any clubs so we kept a respectable distance.
The weather at the top was all puffy clouds and toasty warm sunshine.
Day 3 weather was better, so we decided to brave the elements and try the Whistler gondola again and see if we could make it across to the other side. We were in luck! The weather at the top was all puffy clouds and toasty warm sunshine. We got in line to take the Peak to Peak gondola, and hopped on with eight seniors, replete with walkers, canes and wheelchairs! The gondolas that took us across were huge, holding 18 people, so there was plenty of room to roam around once we started. This is the part of the story where I caution you to research your vacation activities before you venture out.
The Peak to Peak gondola has many acclaims tied to its name: it holds world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers—3.03 kilometers (1.88 miles) and highest point above the ground—436 meters (1,430 feet) and it’s the first lift to join two side-by-side mountains. All I can say is WOW! The views were incredible…incredibly high, incredibly vast, incredibly scary, and incredibly worth it! We rode the gondola all by ourselves on the way back, which was even more scary, but I certainly won’t forget it in this lifetime!
We decided to drive south the next day and visit Squamish. Again, brilliant views, train trestles, crashing rivers, mountain peaks reaching to the sky. We took the road less traveled in Squamish and found ourselves on a government road outside of town that paralleled the Squamish River. There was a sand spit in the middle of the river and, if we’d stayed long enough, I’m sure we would have seen eagles, river otter and all sorts of assorted wildlife. Unfortunately, all we saw was a homeless guy riding his bike through the sand dunes. On the way back, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s, a very popular Canadian chain that sells coffee, donuts and sandwiches. Yum.
We had two very memorable dinners while in Whistler, one at 21 Steps, a restaurant inside Whistler Village. And yep, I counted them – there are exactly 21 steps from the front door to the dining room. I had a delicious plate of lamb chops with potatoes and veggies and Lance had fried chicken bites, and a pork chop with potatoes and veggies. Both entrees were excellently prepared and presented. Dessert was an apple crumble that was warm, gooey and fabulous!
Our next delectable dinner was at Hy’s Steakhouse. It was right across the street from our condo and although it was a splurge, it was well worth the pomp and circumstance. I had steak and lobster, which was tender and delicious, and Lance had halibut, which was grilled to perfection. Our waiter was excellent, and every detail of our meal was seen to by a bevy of waitstaff. We left feeling fat and happy.
We made time to sneak in plenty of naps and Netflix movies in between our excursions, so, by the time departure day arrived, we both felt like a million bucks! Lance and I had re-energized our batteries, and were ready to face the world once again! Now that we’re empty nesters, we’ve vowed to go on more adventures together, so, until next time…
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