Le Canada: Vancouver

I'm fresh off of my third solo trip ever and still riding on my Vancouver high. The travel situation was long and drawn out, 10-14 hours to get there and the same to get back, but while I was there I enjoyed every minute.

I arrived in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon at around 1p local time, which is always a win when you're going on vacation. Vancouver is two whole hours behind my home city of San Antonio, so I was basically gifted that much more time for my first day of adventure. I got to my hotel, Skwachàys Lodge and settled in, changing almost immediately and heading right back out to explore. The hotel is just steps from the gates of Vancouver's China Town, so I set forth. Some of the reviews I read online said that the hotel was located in a really sketchy area and there were homeless people and drug addicts scattered about. I found this to be true for the most part, but it was nothing I hadn't seen before. If you've been to any major city in the United States, you've not only seen this kind of thing before-especially downtown, but you know that these people have no interest in harming you. Half of them are high out of their minds and the rest are just trying to score the next hit. Unless you walk by looking scared and lost, you can just continue to mind your business and move on.

Back to China Town. Lots of vendors, selling any and everything you can think of, from vegetables to fresh fish, each in an open-market style space. Signs were mostly in Chinese and most of the people walking around were speaking Chinese and on some sort of mission. I took a long loop around the shops to poke around and ultimately ended up across the street from a bar called Caffé Brixton, or "BRXTN" as the sign outside said. I headed straight for it. On the one hand, I was genuinely thirsty (for water) from a long morning of travel. On the other hand, it was officially time for an adult beverage.

There was no one else in the bar, which I found odd because it was super cute and gave me the feel of a partial dive bar, partial bistro type of place. My kind of spot. Then I remembered it was about three in the afternoon and I was probably just early for the party. I sat at the bar and was immediately greeted by the bartender, who quickly became my guide to all things Vancouver and local conspiracy theory. I had a few beers, got a few suggestions on where to grab a bite and was on my way. Next up was The Belgard Kitchen at Postmark Brewing for food. I sat at the bar, (yes, this is a trend...try it when you're rolling solo) ordered one of their local beers and chose a gnocchi dish that basically screamed EAT ME. It was delicious and delightful. During the course of waiting on and then eating my dinner, I ended up sandwiched between two couples on first dates. Needless to say, things got awkward and I continued on my way, after buying a bottle of wine to go because it was local and decently priced.

Back to the streets of Gastown. I might mention that I mostly got around by hopping onto the wi-fi at every place I stopped at, loading directions to my next destination and taking a screen shot of it because obviously, I tried to remain on airplane mode for as much of the trip as I could.

My directions were all pulled up to head back to the hotel and chill for a bit, but then I came across Back and Forth Bar and as you might imagine, said why the hell not. So here I am, with a bottle of wine in a bag, walking into another bar. Vacation, amirite?

It turned out to be a ping-pong bar which was pretty awesome, so epic people watching. I sat...at the bar...and asked what the suggestions were. Two Jameson on the rocks later, about 15 destinations for dinner, exploration, drinks and beer were added to the list that was started at Brixton. By now, I'm getting the munchies and am about ready to eat again, so I hop on the wifi and map my route to Bao Bei, one of the restaurants now on my list.

At Bao Bei, I met a duet of lovely lawyers who welcomed me with open arms, requested another glass so they could share their bottle of wine with me and passed along the food they'd just ordered so I could have a taste. I ordered food of my own as well and oddly enough never saw a bill. The lawyers insisted on sharing a cab ride with me to make sure I got back to my destination safely. When I thanked them, one said: "We want to make sure you leave Vancouver knowing the people are nice."

Needless to say, my first day in Vancouver was absolutely delightful.

I spent the rest of the trip exploring Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the Olympic Cauldron; eating at Jules, Pourhouse and Burdock & Co; and making my way back nightly to what became my "home bar" for this visit, Caffé Brixton.

A sincere thank you to all of the people in Vancouver that made me feel right at home. You were warm, you were kind and you made my trip amazing. This was not my last time visiting.

From "Hot-Lanta" to Van-City, ya'll. (If you know, you know.)