Vancouver and Los Angeles enjoy a relationship built in celluloid, with many a Hollywood filmmaker heading north for the cost-effective, beautiful surroundings just across the Canadian border.

Vancouver and Los Angeles enjoy a relationship built in celluloid, with many a Hollywood filmmaker heading north for the cost-effective, beautiful surroundings just across the Canadian border. As the 2010 Winter Olympic Games gear up over the next few months, the city prepares for a new wave of Southern Californian visitors, this time in search of adventure, snow and sport. A former “part-time” resident journeys back with her husband to rekindle the magic of their movie-making days in one of this season’s most talked about destinations.

Whistler Blackcomb SkiingHave you ever been to a city during a really great time in your life and wonder if it would ever be as good the second time around? The last time I was in Vancouver I was working with my husband on his first feature film, Stark Raving Mad. It was magical for us, and we held such fond memories of the time we spent there. So when we had the chance to celebrate our wedding anniversary over a three-day weekend, we immediately thought of Vancouver, a city with the sophistication of Western Europe and the warmth of the U.S. Would it still enchant us as it did eight years ago?

To start fresh, we opted to stay at the brand-new Shangri-La Hotel, housed in Vancouver’s tallest building, a 61-story landmark. Our one-bedroom suite was quintessentially Vancouver: cool, modern chic with Asian flourishes, floor-to-ceiling windows letting in crisp northern sunshine by day, the electric glow of a city pulsating with life by night. From the corner of our living room area, you could peer down Georgia Street and just make out the edge of Stanley Park, its trees hugging the city’s edge, our favorite part of this metropolis.

Harbour CenterOur first day out, we started at Medina Café, a Belgian restaurant known for authentic waffles and unique toppings. I ordered two small waffles, milk chocolate lavender on one and fig orange marmalade on the other. The combination of flavors that danced on my tongue was masterfully balanced. Wanting to walk off our breakfast, we hiked over to Yaletown, a warehouse district by the stadiums that over recent years had been converted to a cool array of lofts, shops and restaurants. Our first stop was Skoah, a modern/minimalist spa touted by the locals as the best facial spa in Vancouver (I had to agree). Fresh-faced, we continued a couple of blocks down Hamilton Street and looped back up on Mainland Street, perusing the funky boutiques and bistros and remarking at the number of Aston-Martins that lined the street. We eventually stopped at Cactus Club for lunch. Their executive chef Rob Feenie has been the only Canadian to win Iron Chef America, so we wanted to put his work to the test. His tuna tataki and butternut squash ravioli did not disappoint, and the staff was superb. We made our way back to the hotel for a catnap before our evening excursion in Stanley Park, the Bright Nights train ride. Like many things in Vancouver, this family friendly outing was more of a social event, a lovely excuse to get out and share some Christmas spirit.
We ended the evening at Tojo’s, a Japanese restaurant famous for their Omakase (which translates as “to entrust”). Using the freshest ingredients of the day, the chef prepared course after course off-menu until we finally cried uncle. I’m not sure what anything was called, only that it was fresh, delicate, and utterly delicious. Becks took The Galaxy to Tojo’s for the Omakase when they were in town, and now I see why.

The next day was set aside to play in the snow. We originally contacted Vancouver-based Perfect Day Experiences to see what outdoor adventure would fit into our timeframe. Unfortunately, this outfit’s snow adventures were all based out of Whistler, which would have been a 2-hour drive each way. We decided instead to visit Grouse Mountain, less than 20 minutes from downtown. We started with a one-mile Skyride over the snow-covered treetops to give us a nice lay of the land, followed by a 25-minute helijet tour of nearby Meslilloet glacial icefield. But the most unforgettable part of our day was the 2-hour zipline tour, which started in the old-growth forest surrounding Blue Grouse Lake and ended traversing the canyon between Grouse and Dam Mountains. The ziplines through the forest were exhilarating enough. When it came time to cross between the mountain peaks, I suddenly panicked. I took a good long look at the pristine white landscape, and I felt the surge of adrenaline rush through me. I breathed deeply and stepped off the platform. People have been clocked at almost 50 miles an hour on the ziplines, but it felt more like 100! It was incredible. Still weak-kneed, we kept off our feet by sipping some hot chocolate in the chalet before hitting the slopes on our own private Sno-Limo. We ended our day at a window-side table at The Observatory restaurant. The food was unremarkable, but the magnificent view of Vancouver was worth every cent.

Richmond Olympic Oval

Deer Lodge, WhistlerBy our last day we were getting nostalgic and craved something familiar, so we ended our trip with a day on Robson Street. Burrard Street was home to the more high-end shops like Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton, but Robson Street was our old friend. In our filming days, we would unwind on the weekends by spending our per diem allowance in Robson’s accessible assortment of shops and eateries. For old time’s sake, we hit our two favorites: Café Crepe’s sidewalk window for perfectly wrapped crepes on the go, and Lush Handmade Cosmetics for a jasmine-scented bath bomb and a vanilla bean-infused body crème, scent-memory treats that would always transport me back to Vancouver, then and now. Some shops have come and gone, but the energy remained the same. We fell right back into step.

Could a city be magical the second time around? Absolutely. We tried new things but weren’t afraid to visit the places that made us smile the first time, and I think that’s the key. Some things change, some stay the same. ….

Vancouver 2010: Best in Snow

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games ignite the city February 12-28, followed by the 2010 Paralympic Games March 12-21. Information on ticketing, sporting venues and more can be found at

For snow, the locals favor Cypress Mountain. About 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, it is also the official Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard venue for the 2010 Games.

Mt. Seymour, which is 45 minutes from downtown, will not affected by the Games, so the runs may be less crowded.

Whistler Blackcomb is about two hours from Vancouver and is the official Alpine Skiing Venue for the Games. If you have the time, Whistler has the better slopes.

Perfect Day Experiences can coordinate everything from snowshoeing, dog sledding, private sleigh rides, snowmobiles, and mountain descents out of Whistler. They can even set up a ski date with Olympic silver medalist Hilary Lindh. The company will also coordinate non-skiing adventures, such as fly-fishing, yachting, flight simulators, and other unique activities.

TLH Heliskiing provides the ultimate, fresh powder skiing or snowboarding experience, flying you and your group up to the tops of the slopes in the South Chilcotin Mountains by helicopter. The company’s base of operations is an hour’s ride by helicopter (Fridays only) from the Pan Pacific Hotel. The shortest tour is a 2-day excursion for a helicopter shared with one other group; private tours are either five or seven days. Lodging is at the Tyax Resort on Tyaughton Lake, 125 miles north of Vancouver.