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Stanley Park, photo by Mike Keenan

Celebrating Vancouver's Stanley Park

© by Mike Keenan

Vancouver's Stanley Park was named after Lord Stanley of NHL Stanley Cup hockey fame, a British politician and sixth Governor General of Canada. A Canadian National Historic Site, it is one of the world's great urban parks and also one of Vancouver's main tourist attractions despite a nasty storm a few years back that felled ancient growth.

Stanley Park remains an evergreen oasis of 400 hectares, a natural West Coast rainforest with majestic cedar, hemlock and fir that offer an alluring taste of nature's serenity. The temperate clime nourishes everything from palms to Alpine novelties such as lichen and edelweiss; the city literally drips with green. However, in the park, it's hard to believe that such a bustling city actually exists mere steps away.

One may walk or cycle along the park's inviting seawall, a scenic 22-km path that lines the waterfront. Allow two to three hours for pedestrians and one hour for cyclists. We stroll and soon discover that this must be the most popular recreational area in the city, attracting casual visitors like us and hordes of exercise buffs, divided in to two clearly marked sections - one for walkers and joggers (closest to the water), and one for cyclists and inline skaters (inside path). Starting from Coal Harbour, the seawall winds around Stanley Park along Sunset Beach and False Creek, past the Burrard Street Bridge, through Vanier Park, and finishes off at Kitsilano Beach Park.

We purposefully stay at the Rosellen Suites at Stanley Park in a two-bedroom, older apartment type lodging with two baths, and a large living and dining room with its own kitchen, but we are here to sample the menus of Stanley Park's two celebrity kitchens - the Teahouse and Fish House restaurants, both conveniently within walking distance from our suite at the southern base of the park.

In the morning, we hike over to English Bay for coffee and breakfast, then take the on-off trolley (Vancouver Trolley Company) to Vanier Park, where we visit the museum to idle away some time before Bard on the Beach's performance of "Equivocation," a clever play that has Shakespeare coerced by his government to write a drama based upon the "gunpowder plot" to pit Catholic against Protestant, but which he cleverly turns into Macbeth.

Stanley Parks Lions Gate Bridge to North Shore, photo by Mike Keenan    Bard on the Beach poster, photo by Mike Keenan   Bard on the Beach, photo by Mike Keenan    Bikers, photo by Mike Keenan    Joggers, photo by Mike Keenan    Romantic view from The Teahouse restaurant, photo by Mike Keenan

Celebrating its 25th season in 2014, Bard on the Beach is one of Canada's largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festivals located in a superb waterfront setting (mountains in the background) running from June through September. A Main Stage Theatre tent was erected in 2011 with 733 seats, and the Douglas Campbell Theatre tent seats 240. We have enjoyed several plays here in the past, the productions always first rate.

After a short walk back inside Stanley Park, (we skip the aquarium and horse-drawn carriage ride) our first meal is served at the Fish House. The chef offers an appetizer of prawn, chorizo, and roasted red pepper, followed up by crab cakes for me and roasted red pepper bisque soup with watercress and prawn for my spouse. Next, we both select the three-fish medley of Arctic char, Ahi tuna and salmon. Of course, salmon is ubiquitous here, characteristically turning purple and red near the end of its life cycle, the initial form of currency employed by First Nations. For desert, we share strawberry and pistachio ice cream, made in-house. Wow, a delicious meal!

Next evening, it's a much longer walk along the seawall at low tide, just in time for a gorgeous sunset over English Bay, dotted with ships at anchor, waiting to unload myriad treasures. The Teahouse restaurant, sheltered by towering trees, presents unobstructed, spectacular views. This Ferguson Point landmark has long been a Vancouver culinary favourite since opening as a summer tearoom in the 1950s.

The chef starts us off with smoked salmon on cucumber, scallop and shrimp, and we opt for Mediterranean salads. For the main dish, I select Alaskan halibut with veggies and new small potatoes while my spouse orders sockeye salmon with broccochini asparagus, fresh potatoes, and lemon capers. For desert, we share raspberry sorbet and white chocolate cheesecake with cherry compote. Wonderful! Another exceptional dining experience and a taxi ferries us back as it's pitch black outside, much too dark to walk.

Sea Wall curve, photo by Mike Keenan   Stanley Park Sea Wall & Beach, photo by Mike Keenan   Stanley Park water lilies, photo by Mike Keenan    Appetizer, The Fish House, photo by Mike Keenan    The Fish House, photo by Mike Keenan    The Teahouse, photo by Mike Keenan

The respective chefs share interesting bios. Curtis Demyon was born and raised in Saskatoon, participating in international hockey tournaments and often preparing meals for the entire team. He practiced and honed his craft at notable Vancouver eateries such as Coast, Langara Fishing Lodge, Social at le Magasin and The Century Plaza hotel, completing his Red Seal in 2007. In 2012, he joined The Fish House as Chef de Cuisine and soon was promoted to Executive Chef.

Annabelle Leslie grew up in Montreal, exposed to culturally diverse cuisine, but it wasn't until she moved to the Caribbean that she tapped into her love of the culinary craft. After sailing through the Caribbean and South West Indies as chef on corporate yachts, she became Executive Chef at Cardero's Restaurant in Coal Harbour and 13 years later, Executive Chef at the Teahouse in Stanley Park.

The decor in both Stanley Park restaurants is warm, attractive and romantic - wonderful settings for special evenings. The service - terrific, and the fresh ocean food - bon app├ętit!

One of the Most Beautiful City in the World - Vancouver BC

The Fish House

Teahouse Restaurant In Stanley Park

Stanley Park - Vancouver, BC

Stanley Park - Vancouver, BC

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, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors 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.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan
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If you go
Bard on the Beach: http://www.bardonthebeach.org/
Rosellen Suites at Stanley Park: http://www.rosellensuites.com/
The Fish House: http://www.fishhousestanleypark.com/
The Teahouse: https://www.vancouverdine.com/teahouse
Vancouver Trolley Company: http://www.vancouvertrolley.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Park
Wikivoyage: http://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Vancouver/West_End
About.com: http://search.about.com/?q=Stanley+Park+%26+Lord+Stanley
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/...Stanley_Park...
Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/search...Stanley+Park,++Canada

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