Angela and I recently returned from a weekend trip to Vancouver where we spent a few days exploring the city and eating delicious food. We really enjoyed our time there and would definitely recommend it to those on the west coast looking for a quick trip somewhere fun.
At the end of last year, I had American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts credits to use and had already been burned twice by cancellations forced by pandemic-related restrictions. I wanted to pick somewhere to use the 2021 credits that I was certain we’d be able to travel by the time the trip rolled around. Vancouver, Canada seemed like a safe option, so I decided to pursue it.
With the destination chosen, it was time to find flights and a hotel. I tried to minimize our out-of-pocket costs while maximizing our usage of stranded miles (that is, not having to transfer anything new).
As luck would have it, there was a single three-night period over the course of the entire schedule with direct business class flights on Air Canada to Vancouver. Conveniently, I could use up the remainder of my United Airlines MileagePlus miles as well. It felt like serendipity.
- Angela and Nicholas
- 52,500 United Airlines MileagePlus miles + 53.36USD per person
- LAS-YVR on AC J
- YVR-LAS on AC J
- 52,500 United Airlines MileagePlus miles + 53.36USD per person
As I mentioned previously, I needed to book our stay using American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts in order to use three 200.00USD credits that we had available to us. There’s a fair selection of hotels available through the program in the city and I chose one that seemed to be in a good location at a reasonable price point. We enjoyed the perks of booking through FHR, including a 60.00CAD breakfast credit per day and a 125.00CAD experience credit usable for room service or any other food related item.
- One room for three nights at the Loden Hotel for 83.88USD per room per night, inclusive of taxes and after credits, through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program
We chose to do a food tour through Chinatown given that we know the Chinese experience is a big part of Vancouver’s history and wanted to make sure we were grounded in the culture.
- 86.52CAD (66.36USD) per person for two people for A Wok Around Chinatown Food Tour
Thursday, October 20, 2022
After dropping Fitz off at boarding, we returned home to pack before driving to LAS and parking in long-term parking. We got to the airport a little earlier than we normally would, and it was a good thing we did. The security lines were absolutely packed. The Clear, TSA preCheck, and normal queues were all longer than I’ve seen them in quite some time.
We eventually made our way through security and arrived at our gate about half an hour before boarding started. Because we checked in online, we needed to perform passport verification checks before scanning our boarding passes and walking on to the plane.
The seats on Air Canada’s North American business class are large domestic recliners. They are quite comfortable, the service, in our experience, has been uniformly friendly and helpful, and the meals are tasty, if not exceptional. Overall, I would recommend Air Canada’s short-to-medium haul business class. Angela enjoyed her first ever Canadian beer on this flight.
Once we made it to Vancouver, we quickly cleared immigration and I was finally in Canada for the first time!
We took the train from the airport to the city center and walked to our hotel where we were greeted with tea and cookies and given an explanation of the benefits for our stay. We were not upgraded, but the room we booked was comfortable and spacious. The bed was quite a bit softer than we prefer, but that was our only major complaint. The toiletries were of high quality and there was a Dyson hair dryer available, if desired.
After unpacking, we set out for Miku for dinner. We did not have a reservation, so we dropped our name with the hostess, were informed there was a one hour and forty-five minute wait, and set off into the city.
We walked along the waterfront a bit before heading to Gastown to see the Gastown Steam Clock, one of only a few working steam clocks in the entire world. We waited for the quarter hour to hear the chimes before continuing on.
We continued on through Chinatown because we expected the area’s gate to be lit up. It was not, unfortunately, so we continued meandering around the city. At this point, we encountered the unfortunate reality of urban living as we stumbled upon a relatively large grouping of homeless people, many obviously in the throes of drug addiction or mental health issues. It was sad but seemed to be easily avoidable as long as you were careful about where you were going.
We returned to the restaurant where we waited about twenty minutes before we were seated. After a brief look at the choices, we chose the 7-course kaiseki. The meal was absolutely fantastic and the service was superb throughout. I was very impressed by Miku and, as long as you’re comfortable with spending a few hundred dollars on dinner, I would recommend it to anyone looking for an exceptional Japanese dining experience.
At the end of the meal, our waiter offered us several recommendations for the best food in the city. While we didn’t make it to any of them on this trip given limited time, Angela saved them for return trips.
Friday, October 21
We enjoyed breakfast at Tableau, the restaurant attached to the hotel. Service could best be described as a little odd. The 60.00CAD credit is enough for two people and fairly comfortably covered our breakfast each day. On all three mornings of our stay, I ordered the avocado toast and a cappuccino while Angela opted for the omelette and an Americano.
After breakfast, we walked to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden to begin our tour. We were greeted by Robert Song, our tour guide for the day, and given a brief overview of Chinese culture before setting off into the garden. I wholeheartedly recommend this tour and, to avoid spoiling too much of it, will only post a few pictures and highlight some things we thought were very special.
As mentioned, the first stop was a tour of the garden. We thought the grounds were quite beautiful and our guide was kind enough to snap a few pictures of us.
After leaving the garden, we strolled through Chinatown, stopping for information on Chinese herbal medicine, traditional fruits and vegetables in Chinese cooking, and the Chinese experience in Canada. One of the more interesting things we saw was at the Chinatown Storytelling Centre where our guide showed us an exhibit featuring his father and uncle, two of the first Chinese-Canadians to obtain citizenship.
Finally, we tried a bunch of food, sampling BBQ pork, an apple-filled bao bun, caramelized pork, egg tart, various teas, and ending with a varied dim sum lunch.
Angela enjoyed the tea tasting so much that we ended up purchasing three different teas from Treasure Green Tea Company.
After the tour, we returned to the hotel where we relaxed the afternoon away watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while performing some self-care.
Saturday, October 22
Given the relatively pleasant weather and our limited time in the city, we spent our final day walking around Stanley Park, both the circumference and interior, before doubling back to Chinatown for a snack. In all, we walked 13.1 miles over the course of the day.
Stanley Park is beautiful and the walk there from our hotel was quite scenic, too. We really enjoyed wandering through nature and seeing the important sites in the public park.
When we reached the waterfront on the exterior of the park, we were lucky enough to see two bald eagles hanging out on some rocks near the shoreline. We took a stroll on the beach so we could get a little bit closer.
We also ran into a huge area of beachfront where someone had diligently stacked a ton of rocks, including one pile that we termed Vancouver Henge.
We saw a seagull chowing down on a crab before passing under the Lions Gate Bridge.
During the rest of our journey through Stanley Park we stopped at Beaver Lake (didn’t see any beavers), Lumbermen’s Arch, the SS Empress replica figurehead, and the totem poles.
After leaving the park, we walked to a Tim Horton’s to get one of the famous doughnuts and see what all the fuss was about. We were, to put it mildly, very disappointed.
To make up for it, we went to Kouign Cafe and had some absolutely incredible tasting savory and sweet kouign amman. We chose The Pot of Gold, The Treasure Chest, and The Spice Gurrl to eat and Miss Saigon and The Silver Sky to drink. It was all delicious and very much worth the stop (and the calories).
After our snack, we stopped at Lush to get a bath bomb before returning to the hotel to relax. That evening, we visited the hotel bar for drinks and finally got to experience the service we expected from the restaurant. I had a cappuccino and a somewhat plain mocktail while Angela had two French Cocktails. I’d definitely recommend stopping for drinks at The Loden if you’re staying there and have experience credit to burn.
After drinks, we dined at Forage. All the dishes, with the exception of the bison, are sourced locally (in and around Vancouver). The bison is sourced from Alberta, the next province over. Everything we ordered was delicious and we had what we would consider the best duck liver of our lives. We both highly recommend making a reservation at Forage.
Sunday, October 23
Our last day in Vancouver was fairly short. We ate breakfast and, immediately thereafter, grabbed our bags and headed for the train that would bring us back to the airport. Check-out was straightforward with no additional charges after the breakfast and experience credits were deducted.
Security at YVR was efficient and well-run and we made it to the USA pre-clearance area without any issues. The availability of Global Entry kiosks made our path to the gate easy and we arrived at the holding area about five minutes before doors opened. Again, we were subject to a passport verification check before boarding the plane and made our way to our seats shortly after being checked.
The flight home was pleasant with another acceptable meal and friendly service courtesy of Air Canada. Once we arrived at LAS, we were able to walk directly to parking, get in the car, and pick up Fitz on the way home.
In all, we loved our time in Vancouver and are definitely going to return in the future. There’s so much left for us to explore and so much left for us to eat.