Nicole Ford first moved to Vancouver in 1996 and has lived there continuously since 2007. Nicole is a communications manager for the Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train that travels along four scenic routes in western Canada.
While I was over in Vancouver, and about to ride the Rocky Mountaineer to Banff, I chatted with Nicole about Vancouver’s attractions and why she thinks it’s a great place to live and work.
She lives just outside of the downtown core, on the West Side of Vancouver, and has a number of recommendations that visitors may find useful:
Why do you think people should come to Vancouver?
I think Vancouver gives you a taste of the quintessential Canadian experience. You can do fun things out of doors with lots of active lifestyle options, and there’s a great variety of good food.
There’s a little bit of history and you are close the mountains. You can get to Whistler easily and a bunch of different destinations right around the area. You can see Canada’s west coast and we’re easy to get to, thanks to direct flights from Europe and the States.
We’re a bike-friendly city. There are lots of dedicated bike lanes and companies that rent out bicycles. You can also get them for short durations — there are plenty of stops around the city where you can pick them up and drop them off.
Cycling is a great way of seeing the city, especially with the Seawall that travels along the beach and around Stanley Park.
It’s generally pretty easy to catch taxis and our bus and public transit service is easy to follow. We have a SkyTrain that goes from the airport to the downtown core.
What is your favourite place in Vancouver?
I like being outdoors, spending time in the parks and on the beach. It’s really easy to do stand up paddleboarding, hiking and biking. The outdoor playground aspect of Vancouver is one of my favourite parts.
My favourite spot, where I go to reflect, would have to be Jericho Beach or Spanish Banks, which are on the West Side. They are really neat spots because when the tide goes out it goes way out. There’s this really huge stretch of beach. There’s a dog-friendly section, a family-friendly section, and you can take picnics.
From there you can launch. If you’re going to go for a paddle you can go around Point Gray and head back to Kits (Kitsilano).
If you were going to take a guest to lunch/dinner, where would you choose and why?
It’s either coffee or sushi — two things we do really well in Vancouver. There are a lot of options.
My favourite coffee shop would be JJ Bean, which is a Vancouver company that roasts their own beans. It has freshly baked muffins on a morning.
Trafiq (4216 Main Street; tel. +1 604-648-2244), just south of the downtown core, has the most glorious chocolate cake you’ve ever had.
For sushi I would probably take out of town guests to Miku (70-200 Granville Street; tel. +1 604-568-3900) or Minami (1118 Mainland Street; tel. +1 604-685-8080), it’s sister restaurant. Both are fabulous for higher end sushi.
If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be?
We have a burgeoning craft beer scene. Vancouver has so many local companies that are brewing their own beers. There are some really great options. You could even hire a bike and go to a few of them.
Craft Beer Market (85 West 1st Avenue; tel. +1 604 709 2337) is in the historic Salt Building, in the False Creek district, and they have a crazy number of taps — like a hundred plus brews on tap. So you can go and sample a tonne of beers from local breweries.
Brassneck (2148 Main Street, Vancouver) is a great local brewery. Head in there and they do small plates of food that you can try as well.
What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with Vancouver?
Our first life guard, Joe Fortes, was from Trinidad and Tobago. There’s a story goes that he was on a ship, travelling around and the legend is he jumped off and swam to shore and became Vancouver’s first life guard.
I’m not sure how much of that I believe but there are some fabulous historic, black and white photos of Joe in English Bay teaching kids how to swim.
If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see in the surrounding area?
Drive the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler at any time of year. If you’re into winter sports Whistler is great. It’s glorious in the summer too, with some great hikes, lakes and some fun shopping in the village.
Also, take the ferry up to the Sunshine Coast, which is beautiful. It’s a short ferry ride away. That would be from Horseshoe Bay. You’ll see some great coastal properties and there are a lot of fun activities. The TV show, The Beachcombers was filmed at Gibsons.
I’d also recommend taking the ferry or a float plane over to Victoria, so you can see our capital city and the beautiful gardens there. The Philips brewery and Victoria Distillers, which makes a great gin, are worth visiting.
Find out more about the attractions in and around city on the Tourism Vancouver and Hello BC websites. The Destination Canada website is also a good source of information about destinations in British Columbia and beyond.
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Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.