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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 25, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 4
Vivacious Vancouver - The perfect layover for WinterPride
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Vivacious Vancouver - The perfect layover for WinterPride

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN Travel Writer

Although it's beyond the midway point up to Whistler, Vancouver is the best place to splurge en route to the popular ski resort, or on the way back. Hundreds of Gay snow bunnies are flocking to British Columbia for WinterPride, running Feb. 3-10. The event not only includes a full week of ski activities, but it also boasts a series of happy hours, themed parties, the Mr. Gay Canada Grand Finale, and other social gatherings. Vancouver is just 90 minutes from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, providing an excellent escape all its own. Here are a few spots to check out while visiting Vancouver, and for information on WinterPride, go to www.gaywhistler.com.

ACCOMMODATIONS
Need a hotel close to the action but not on its direct path? Sunset Inn & Suites (www.sunsetinn.com) is just the place. Located on a residential street one block from Davie Village, this 11-story property easily blends in with the apartment and condo buildings that surround it. Suites, such as those on the Executive Floor, are generous in space with balconies, combined living/dining rooms, full kitchens with modern appliances and utensils, sofas, work desks with leather chairs, and a separate bedroom with a second flat-screen TV. The Sunset staff is super-friendly and complimentary continental-style breakfasts make the affordable rates that much sweeter. If you choose to stay in for the night then borrow a movie from the front desk's DVD library. This is a terrific, centralized hotel that affords you lots of quiet, though late-night Davie crowds are a teensy bit loud. I found Sunset Inn & Suites to be comfortable and modest, yet classy, with quick access to everything I wanted to see and do in Vancouver.

DINING
Vancouver's food scene rivals that of Seattle or Portland, with interesting new restaurants popping up just about every week. Two newcomers worth noting are The Fish Shack (www.glowbalgroup.com/fish-shack) and Lily Mae's (www.lilymaes.ca). The latter is owned by real-life partners Armand Tencha and Jeff Jefkins from Winnipeg, who fulfilled a dream to open a French-inspired cafe in a core urban neighborhood. Nestled on a corner in the touristy Gastown district, Lily Mae's seats only about 30 people combined on the main floor and in a loft area. The decor is rustic European with antique mirrors, cabinets, table lamps, and a beautiful understated chandelier that illuminates the brick-wall interior. The menu is limited and seasonal, yet everything is made from scratch, including house specialties Beef Bourguignon and French Onion Soup. Service was slow when I visited, but that was soon after Lily Mae's opened, so my assumption is that they've quickened the pace. It's an adorable spot to have lunch or dinner with definite intimacy, a new jewel in an old hood.

The Fish Shack occupies the old digs of Sanafir on Granville Street, whose elegant two-tier dining room has been refurbished into a casual restaurant that plays on a pier/dockside theme. As you'd expect, fish is the star attraction here - from oysters to cod to halibut to Northwest-caught salmon, The Fish Shack is bliss for any seafood lover. While everything I tried needed a dash more salt, I was content with my selections and with the accompanying sides: the house-made potato chips were warm and crunchy, the Brussels sprouts tossed in chili flakes and Parmesan were delicious, and the creamy horseradish coleslaw had a nice kick. I really liked the Blackened Snapper Burger, but was slightly disappointed with the Fish Tacos, which arrived in hard shells rather than soft flour tortillas - they literally broke when bitten into. I do, however, recommend closing out the meal with the Sticky Toffee Pudding, a rich and gooey dessert experience.

Raincity Grill (www.raincitygrill.com) has been around for a while and is said to be one of Vancouver's most beloved restaurants. Using the freshest ingredients, such as regionally farmed meats and produce, and with a polished interior and romantic views of the English Bay, it's a great place to inhale the scenery and rub shoulders with the locals. Lunch favorites range from the Braised Lamb Sandwich to the Mushroom Omelet, and from their version of Fish 'n' Chips (beer-battered halibut) to the Yarrow Meadows Duck Confit Pasta. Dinner can be ordered รก la carte or from a multi-course tasting menu. Raincity Grill also offers weekend brunch with such items as Brioche French Toast, Sloping Hills Bacon Benedict, Grilled Caesar Salad, Beetroot Salad, and of course, Mimosas, Bloody Caesars, and freshly brewed coffee.

WHAT'S GOING ON
There's always something going on in Vancouver, whether it's during WinterPride week or next month or this spring. Happening now through Feb. 3 is the Dine Out Vancouver Festival, a two-and-a-half-week event that allows foodies to enjoy prix-fixe menus at 240 participating restaurants throughout the city. For more information and the full list of Dine Out eateries, visit www.dineoutvancouver.com. For you winos, the Vancouver International Wine Festival runs from Feb. 25 to March 3 with dozens of wineries from around the world participating, and planned lunches, dinners, and seminars open to the public. Get more information at www.vanwinefest.ca. Several live theater options abound, with Boeing-Boeing playing at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (Jan. 24-Feb. 24), Ride the Cyclone at the Granville Island Stage (now through Feb. 16) and Rhinoceros at the Telus Studio Theatre (through Feb. 9). In music, Diana Krall performs to a hometown crowd at the Orpheum on Feb. 5, Martin Short appears at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Feb. 8, and Margaret Cho brings her 'Mother' show to the Centre in Vancouver on Feb. 16.

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