When my friend Betty and I had the chance to take a couple of days off together and hop the border into our friendly neighbor to the north, we didn't hesitate. After a busy day of work, we welcomed the chance to stretch out on the evening ferry to scheme about our weekend ahead. Below us in the car area, the Mini Cooper was stuffed full of supplies ranging from boxed wine (you never know!), to sleeping bags, to running shoes, to cameras. We were ready for anything, essential on a last-minute, sparsely-planned excursion.
Betty and I, it turns out, both thrive on spontaneity and spur-of-the-moment decision making - although her chill and relaxed go-with-the-flow attitude extends a little further than mine! She's a champion to travel with and maintains a calm attitude in the most head-banging-into-the-steering-wheel of moments. She's has been up to Vancouver several times over the last year, having lived on San Juan Island full-time this winter in the city's near proximity. I hadn't been since I was 15, when I visited the Vancouver Olympics with my family, so it was exciting to explore the city again 10 years later. Betty and I are relatively simple souls when it comes to travel. Our requested activities aligned perfectly: drink good coffee, explore cute coffee shops and cafes and bookstores, and maybe wander around and do a few hikes. We kept shopping to a minimum - I prefer to spend travel funds on good food and bevs anyway.
Vancouver did not disappoint. Their coffee culture was what you would expect of a major city in the Northwest. Plenty of cute shops lined their boutique-y streets. Gourmet ice cream shops had 40-minute lines winding outside their doors and down the block (that didn't deter us in the slightest from getting our frozen sugar fix). Sunsets were gorgeous. Vegan and vegetarian dining options abounded. Our bellies were always happy, and our caffeine levels were kept at the perfect constant buzz.
Buddha-full was one of our favorite spots. Vegan buddha and acai bowl options were plentiful here. Betty was obsessed with their Sunflower Butter Bars. I could've tried one of everything if my budget would've...budged.
Cafe Orso was a cute coffee shop in the neighborhood of Deep Cove in North Vancouver. I appreciated that they had Kombucha on tap, and the nicest barista ever. He pointed out several hikes for us to explore in the area that were off the beaten path, and although we didn't have time to attack them this time around, they made me even more excited to venture back to Vancouver in the future.
Lyft Bakery was another amazing find - also in North Vancouver. We found this area of the city to be a delight, as it was light on the traffic side of things, and bustling with cafe culture and cute city streets. Lyft happened to be home to the most amazing breakfast sandwich I've EVER tasted. I'll never forget that homemade English muffin, sausage prepared in-house, creamy white cheddar, and perfectly fried egg.
We absolutely drooled over Vancouver's sunsets. Although we only had the time to catch one, it was stunning, and charming to see how many locals and visitors lined the beaches and pathways alongside the water to take an evening stroll. Afterwards? Dessert at Earnest Ice Cream, of course...
A short drive to the north of the city took us winding around Howe Sound up to the adventure-center of Squamish. The views were drop-dead gorgeous. I love shoreline drives like this one. Several moments reminded me of the drive along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. We drove past plenty of climbers enjoying the natural playground, and I felt a twinge of envy that I haven't taken the time to climb much. Another goal for the summer!
I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but Vancouver should really be on everyone's adventure list when they're headed to the Pacific Northwest. It's so accessible, and crossing the border should not be a deterrent at all - it's part of the fun!
Also, go to Earnest Ice Cream. Just do.