Vancouver is one of the most diverse cities in the world, bar none.
This coastal Canadian seaport city is a melting pot of east, west, north, and south in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, food, and everything else in between. It's no surprise then that this city in the province of British Columbia is consistently included in the world's top five cities for its quality of life.
We were in Vancouver for a few weeks in autumn, eager to marvel at how nature makes the trees change color and shed their leaves. And what better way to enjoy a beautiful place than to explore it in an efficient, low emissions crossover?
Let's go for an Eat, Sip, Drive adventure around Metro Vancouver in the 2020 Lexus UX 250h.
Like the city, the UX from Lexus is a bit of a mix of everything nice. It's boldly styled and expressive, it's got the drive of a car but in the package of a small crossover SUV. It's premium but has low emissions thanks to its powertrain, and while Lexus may be perceived as a brand for mature customers, this one is clearly targeted at a more youthful clientele. UX, after all, is a familiar acronym for tech-savvy drivers.
The hybrid Lexus UX 250h, much like the highly diverse city, was the perfect runabout as it’s style design, compact size and maneuverability was perfect for the metropolitan downtown streets. This gasoline-electric hybrid powered version can run on either the 2.0-liter inline-4, full-electric on batteries, or both. It’s the perfect urban cruiser, but not exactly the best choice if you regularly drive on the highway or freeway as you won’t get much of the fuel-saving benefit of the electric motor.
Interestingly, it was also in Vancouver where the world’s first hybrid taxicab was used nearly 20 years ago. Andrew Grant swapped out his gas-fed taxicab for a brand-new Toyota Prius on November 1, 2000. The very same hybrid principle that powers the UX I’m driving.
You don't always need a car to enjoy a well-planned city like Vancouver, all you need is an open mind, a camera, some cash, and a thirst for adventure. But since I'm doing an eat/sip/drive, it wouldn't make sense if I didn't drive.
You don't need an expensive or complicated camera too, modern phones are very well-equipped to take nice photos. Since Globe Telecom failed to deliver my new phone before I left for my trip, I relied upon my trusty Fuji XT-10 with an 18mm f/2.0 lens.
Places to go, things to do
A series of beaches within the city, Spanish Banks is located along the shores of English Bay and is a popular location for walking, picnics, family gatherings, sports activities like soccer and volleyball. Sometimes it even doubles as a film location. You also get a nice view of the more affluent West Vancouver and ships on Burrard Inlet.
The long bank is divided into three sections: Spanish Bank East, Spanish Bank West, and Spanish Bank Extension. Lifeguards are on duty during summertime, but not in fall. It's too cold anyway.
Swimming in Spanish Bank East is possible but it is also popular for skimboarding and kitesurfing. Spanish Bank West is designated as a “quiet beach” where amplified music is not permitted. The “extension”, further west of the Spanish Bank West is a designated off-the-leash area where your furry friends and go about freely. Just make sure they're well mannered and obedient.
I wasn’t able to enjoy as much of Spanish Banks as it was a bit cold this time of the year, but hey, it makes for some great photography.
This place is a laid-back beachside community just a few minutes drive east from Spanish Banks. Kitsilano is mostly residential, but there’s a nice commercial district along the vicinity of Cornwall Avenue and West 4th Avenue. Other attractions include Kitsilano Pool (a gigantic outdoor saltwater public pool), Vanier Park, the Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver Maritime Museum, and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.
My time in “Kits” was a bit brief; parking was rather “expensive” for Philippine standards. Still, that didn't stop me from having coffee at 49th Parallel and have a French bistro experience for dinner at Au Comptoir.
For your car porn desires, the premium car dealerships along nearby Burrard Street and its surroundings will definitely satisfy you.
The unique waterfront destination can be considered Vancouver's hub for arts and culture. Granville Island is steeped with a rich industrial and maritime heritage, it's urban, waterfront location attracts millions of local and foreign visitors annually.
Up until 2017, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design campus was part of the community for over three decades.
The unique mix of arts, culture, commerce, and recreation is the very charm behind Granville Island. The most famous spot is the Public Market; home to more than 50 independent food purveyors and contributes to the Island’s appeal as a renowned culinary destination. Granville Public Market is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Many of Canada's best artists and designers can also be found in the Net Loft Shops and Railspur District. It also houses many cultural venues where numerous performing arts and cultural festivals happen throughout the year.
A green oasis right in the heart of Vancouver, it is a 400-hectare natural rainforest with scenic views of the water, mountains, sky and majestic trees along the famous ‘Seawall’. The Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path that is 28-kilometers long.
The park houses trails, beaches, local wildlife, natural, cultural and historic landmarks.
Famous Stanley Park attractions include the Siwash Rock, Brockton Point Lighthouse, Totem Poles, 9 O’Clock Gun, Lumbermen’s Arch, Hollow Tree, gardens, the Vancouver Aquarium, and of course, a statue of Lord Stanley.
Sitting along the south side of the downtown Vancouver peninsula, Yaletown is bordered by Homer Street, Robson Street, and False Creek. The chic neighborhood was a former warehouse district and Western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Proof of this is Engine 374, the locomotive that pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into the city in 1887. It's on display at the Roundhouse Community Centre.
Yaletown shops range from fashion to designer homewares, the stores of which are quirky, stylish and a lot of fun – think designer dog clothing, modern bathtubs, and historic hats.
It is also a food destination and a good way to start the way is at OEB Breakfast Co., a popular breakfast and brunch joint which originated from Calgary. Most Yaletown restaurants and pubs are located along Hamilton Street and Mainland Street, notable ones include The Parlour, Minami, Brix & Mortar, and The Flying Pig.
There’s a Chinatown in virtually every city in the world and you will never go hungry in any of these. Bao Bei Brasserie on Keefer Street has a good selection of modern Chinese and inventive cocktails with a cool vibe. It’s also pretty close to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden if you feel like exploring.
A local’s favorite that’s always busy is Phnom Penh on E Georgia Street, a no-frills place that serves Cambodian (obviously) and Vietnamese food. Popular dishes include their Butter Beef, Beef Luc Lac, and Fried Chicken. You won’t have space for more after a visit to Phnom Penh, so you won’t need a next place. You can go have a cup of coffee across the street at Matchstick Roasters.
South Main is a part of Main Street just a bit further off Mount Pleasant, it has slowly turned into Vancouver’s version of Brooklyn: it's considered to be the “wrong side of the tracks”. Now hipsters started moving in and opened up breweries, cafes, galleries, and shops. The indie vibe has certainly made the area a good place to shop for vintage clothing, antiques, and unique souvenirs.
For foodies, South Main offers a plethora of cuisine selections from something as simple as fish and chips from The Fish Counter (a really good place, by the way), dim sum at Sun Sui Wah, modern Vietnamese at Anh and Chi, farm to table food at Burdock & Co., 49th Parallel Coffee, Lucky’s Doughnuts, and the list goes on and on.
A drive further out to Richmond took us Steveston Village, a historic fishing town in Richmond City, about half an hour drive from Vancouver. Sure, it may be a little cliché and touristy for some, but the old town charm is a welcome escape from the modern city vibe.
The Fisherman’s Wharf offers daily catch straight from the Pacific Ocean. You can take a dive into history with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Britannia Shipyards, or just take a relaxing stroll around Garry Point Park.
The Cannery Café, Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant, and Davood’s are worthy food places to check out.
There's nothing like a scenic view, good food, and a pleasant drive, especially with the 2020 Lexus NX 250h. Vancouver is a beautiful city to explore behind the wheel, and I really can't wait to go back. But, given the current situation, we'll have to put a pin in that for now.
Maybe someday I can re-explore it and experience a bit more, and maybe we'll pick something from Lexus that's even more enjoyable to drive.