Vancouver's International Airport
(YVR) is located on Sea Island in
, 12 km (7.5 mi) from downtown
. That's approximately 25 minutes without traffic but often closer to 45 minutes by taxi because Vancouver access does not employ typical freeway driving. And, of course, time wise, one also has to wait for one's bags to be unloaded from the airplane.
YVR is the second busiest Canadian airport, welcoming nearly 18 million passengers last year.
Arriving late evening at YVR or flying out early in the morning, the arrival & exit scenario that we faced, my spouse and I quickly concluded that the best tactic would be to lodge close by at an airport hotel based in Richmond, only a few km from the airport, saving us both extra time and trouble, navigating into or from Vancouver's downtown. In both cases, we were pleased with our choices: the Vancouver Airport Marriott for arrival and the Vancouver Airport Hilton for our exit.
A bonus for a layover in Richmond is that one can then take some time to appreciate the incredible
on display at YVR which provides the important first and last impression of BC with beautiful art and architecture that reflects the diverse landscape and its people. In fact, YVR currently houses the largest compilation of Northwest Coast Native art in the world! With its own curator, the Vancouver Airport Authority has transformed YVR into more than just an airport, also an incredible art gallery that delights adults and children alike.
The art centres around
The Spirit of Haida Gwaii
: The Jade Canoe, created by Bill Reid, located at International Terminal, Level 3. The focal point of YVR's art collection, it also adorns the back of the Canadian $20 bill.
(1920-1998) was a Haida master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer and spokesman, one of Canada's best artists, born to a Haida mother and a European father. While CBC broadcasting in Toronto in the early 1950s, he studied jewelry-making at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, (now a University) and later studied classic European jewelry-making at the London School of Design. His passion for Haida art was kindled by a visit to
in 1954 where he saw a pair of bracelets masterfully engraved by the prominent carver and his great-uncle,
, after which, "the world was not the same."
Inspired by totems and the lush beauty of the
, Reid created many powerful sculptural masterpieces.
The Raven and the First Men
, a native version of the birth of mankind, and The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, showcased at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, brought him international acclaim, but his crowning achievement was
(Wave Eater), a 15-metre war canoe carved from a single cedar log.
The Great Wave Wall
is composed from thousands of glass pieces that represent the ocean on a 40-metre by 10-metre wall that forms a dramatic backdrop for Reid's The Spirit of the Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe.
On Level 3, the collection includes:
Flight Spindle Whorl
, located at International Terminal, Arrivals Level 3 (after security). Five metres in diameter and 30 centimetres thick, the world's largest
spindle whorl greets passengers entering the Customs Hall.
Celebration of Flight
, is located at the Link Building Atrium, Departures Level 3. The
was created as a tribute to humans not gifted with the ability to fly but who have learned to do so. Along with
Haida mythological symbols
, Western and Eastern cultural motifs are included on the totem pole to welcome travellers.
Clayoquot Welcome Figures
is located at International Terminal, Arrivals Level 2. Carved in the Clayoquot tradition, these imposing figures were temporarily positioned on the beach in front of villages, arms raised to welcome guests to special events. The impressive figures stand 3 metres tall and provide an impressive welcome to arriving passengers.
Besides wonderful aboriginal art, YVR also boasts stimulating architectural features on Level 4 such as:
The Pacific Passage
at International Terminal, Arrivals Level 4 (after security). Passengers enter a traditionally constructed post-and-beam longhouse doorway into a Northwest Coast environment, with a sandy beach, a 12-metre carved whaling canoe and a spectacular thunderbird sculpture that soars overhead.
Public Observation Area at Domestic Terminal, Level 4
features floor-to-ceiling windows with unobstructed views of the airfield and the Strait of Georgia. Ceiling-suspended panels inspired by cloud formations, draw the public into a 500 square-metre space filled with interactive exhibits and telescopes.
On Level 3, there is
Aquarium and Creek
, at the International Terminal, Departures (after security) with an indoor creek surrounded by cafés, shopping, comfortable seating and original artwork that acts as the heart of the International Terminal, and the 114,000-litre aquarium showcases 850 indigenous sea animals, celebrating West Coast nature.
, Link Building, Departures Level 3 provides a calm, restful space for passengers, standing five storeys tall and inviting natural light. It features a 10-metre tall totem pole, (described above) a circular moon mask overlooking the central atrium and a series of curved acrylic panels depicting the Northern Lights. It's quite beautiful when lit at night.
Domestic Gates, Domestic Terminal, C Pier (after security) highlights the story of a mythical canoe leaving Stanley Park for Whistler; architectural features include raindrop light fixtures illustrating the rainy climate, a rock wall reminiscent of formations along the Sea to Sky highway and a Whistler Village-inspired dining and shopping area.
Pearson Airport, hide your head and huge tax fees in shame. Vancouver International Airport is also home also to two satellite Vancouver Aquarium Marine Exhibits - a 114,000-litre main aquarium and a smaller 1,800-litre jellyfish aquarium that house a rich collection of BC marine life. The Main Aquarium on Level 3, International Terminal, hosts 5,000 aquatic creatures while the companion Jellyfish Exhibit on Level 4, International Terminal features Pacific offers sea nettle jellies reared at the Vancouver Aquarium by its resident jelly expert. Now there's a job!
Arriving: Vancouver Airport Marriott
With complimentary shuttle service from the airport (5 km away) that runs every 30 minutes, it takes us 10-12 minutes to arrive at the hotel. Our driver niftily grabs two bags from the storage bin and carries them, one in each arm like an NBA forward clutching two minuscule basketballs - all the way inside the hotel to the front desk. We are impressed already!
A cheerful, smiling check-in clerk named Tom efficiently gets us squared away and offers cinnamon tea to help us refresh after a long (two movie) Air Canada flight from chilly Toronto (-13C). We grasp complimentary green apples and proceed upstairs noting the bar and attached restaurant located conveniently just off the lobby. Lodged on the eighth floor, once inside, we can easily view the Richmond Mall, a short walk away from our hotel The Sky Train station is an easy 5-minute walk and will quickly transport us downtown tomorrow on the Canada Line.
The hotel boasts 18 floors with 65 rooms and 172 suites. Our room is of ample size with free internet access, coffee maker/tea service (always important in the a.m.), a living area with a separate bedroom and large flat screen TVs in both rooms. I'm not impressed with the circa 60-ish lamps, mirror, oval table with glass top and a chair worn slightly at an edge. I am impressed however with the ample bedroom and King-sized bed fitted with a delicious mattress and both down feather and foam pillows. In the morning after a good sleep, the Globe & Mail newspaper dutifully arrives at our door.
We did not take advantage of The American Grille (with two trumpeting Elephant figures outside) open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but here in Richmond, there is terrific Asian food around the hotel, well within walking distance. We have no car but there is on-site parking at: 4.30 CAD hourly or 14.95 CAD per day.
With an accommodating, responsive staff and our clean, comfortable room, we would easily stay here again; however, we would ask for an upgrade to concierge level with access to the lounge with complimentary continental breakfast, snacks, drinks, water and fruit.
Tip: If seeking quietude, beware the city view rooms that face highway traffic.
Aboard inexpensive public transit, it's easy to travel between Richmond and key metro destinations, connecting one to a downtown hotel, BC Ferries or a Cruise Ship.
The Canada Line, built for the Winter Olympics, is TransLink's newest rapid transit line. At Waterfront Station, Canada Line delivers you directly to SeaBus and West Coast Express Commuter Rail services. A trip from YVR to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver takes only 26 minutes!
A $5 Canada Line YVR AddFare is applicable to inbound travel departing from stations on Sea Island destined for Bridgeport or beyond. Trains leave every 7 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off hours. They operate from approximately 05:00 to 01:00. There are discounts for seniors and children. Fare details, schedules, etc. are found at:
www.translink.ca. Ticket purchases are easy with a credit card or they can be obtained at locations are listed at
Departing: Vancouver Airport Hilton Hotel
Our strategy is to sleep in Richmond conveniently close to the airport as we need to catch an early 6.25 a.m. shuttle. We take the Canada Line Sky Train from our downtown hotel, the St. Regis, and arrive in approximately 25 minutes; from our stop, it is only a 7-minute walk to the hotel. Check-in with courteous staff is quick, and we are made to feel quite welcome.
Located on the 17th floor in a King suite, our spacious bedroom and its large window allows us tonight to see all three lit ski runs north of Vancouver -
used at the Winter Olympics,
. Cool! We discover a large walk-out balcony that provides an even better view, equipped with a big patio table and four chairs, perfect for a warmer night.
While downstairs at the Sax bar, we imbibe a local favourite,
Red Truck Ale
, a blend of premium Belgian malts plus German and Pacific Northwest hop varieties providing the delicious, copper-hued ale with a zesty complex aroma, rich flavour and smoothness. Our amiable server informs us that the multiple construction cranes that we view looming through the large glass bar windows are indeed for building three new condos and a University extension. Richmond is growing!
Our spacious suite offers high-speed internet access and flat-screen TVs, with a separate bedroom and seating area and a large work desk. Surprisingly, given that many travelers like us have not much spare time, there is a fully equipped hotel fitness center and indoor whirlpool. The hotel is only a few minutes away from two major shopping centers, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife.
Parking for cars is C$14.95 (overnight). The staff here is gracious, our room clean and nicely furnished and our short sleep made easier on a comfy bed. We would return.
The morning complimentary shuttle service to VVR is thankfully punctual as is our wake-up call from the hotel, the latter often a worrisome service for travelers on an early deadline. The driver is quite pleasant for 6.25 am, and we arrive at the airport in good time after stops at the adjacent Marriott and Sheraton. It's hard to say goodbye to Vancouver's +10C weather and head back to Toronto's -13C.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
Larry Goldstein, courtesy of the Vancouver Airport Authority
is a coastal city incorporated in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Part of the Metro Vancouver area, as of 2013 it is the fourth-most populous city in the province. Richmond is the location of Vancouver International Airport and was
the site of the speed-skating events during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Richmond is located on Lulu Island at the mouth of the Fraser River, and also encompasses adjacent Sea Island and some smaller uninhabited islets to the north and south. Neighbouring communities are Vancouver and Burnaby to the north, New Westminster to the east, and Delta to the south. The Strait of Georgia forms its western border.