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Opus Hotel & Corner Cafe, Yaletown, photo by Mike Keenan

Vancouver's Vibrant Yaletown & Granville Island

© by Mike Keenan

From San Diego, California, we fly to Vancouver International Airport with its impressive array of First Nations totem poles and artifacts, and upon exit, adjacent to the terminal, we board the convenient Sky Train. It's only ten stops (20 minutes) to our strategically-picked hotel, the Opus in Yaletown, directly across from the Yaletown Roundhouse station. How convenient is that! Opus is a gem of a boutique hotel amidst Yaletown's funky restaurants, sidewalk cafes, spas and shops. Trendy with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, there is an animated feel about the entire area, seemingly designed specifically for the young, beautiful and affluent. Oh to be back in my 30s!

After checking into our room, we notice False Creek from the balcony, all part of the plan - as we intend to visit nearby Granville Island via the Aqua Bus, the pickup dock an easy four-minute walk from Opus. Our room features a king bed with comfy soft pillows and covers, and - how romantic - one can see through the curtained bathroom window. There is also a strange see-through picture of a gun, hung on the purple wall! Freudian symbolism, no doubt. Opus is the only boutique hotel in Vancouver to receive the coveted Forbes Four-Star rating, and it was named in the "Top 5 Trendiest Hotels in the World" by TripAdvisor. I agree. Opus is an exceptional experience, and General Manager Nicholas Gandossi must be pleased.

I like the simple name and associate it with a piece of music from a classical composer. Or perhaps a work of art by a Renaissance master. There are 96 suites here, themed with fictional characters to depict unique room styles. The hotel exudes a sophisticated feel and perks abound such as free Wi-Fi, smart TV, Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phones and an iPad for optimum neighborhood exploration.

There is a companion restaurant with Italian cuisine, but we dine at nearby West Oak Restaurant, served by young Leo from Montreal who has been in Vancouver for only four months, and aims to be an actor. The food is good. I try the beet salad - varieties of beets, goat cheese, greens, followed by sablefish from the North Pacific above Haida Gwaii, risotto Arborio rice, chickpeas, and asparagus along with Phillips Kolsch lager from Victoria, BC and finally dessert - a chocolate brownie with gelato. Yum! It doesn't get much better than that!

With no freeways here to disrupt matters, Vancouver is one of the youngest cities in North America and blessed with eclectic, attractive districts. New York flouts its SoHo. Paris toasts the Left Bank. London admires Kensington and Vancouver offers up Yaletown with three major streets to amble about in a 12-block historic district, home to over 60 of the city's most stylish restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, spas and cafes. Formerly a warehouse district with textile shops and train yards, this False Creek waterfront community experienced major revitalization, and now, it's one of Vancouver's hippest areas.

In the morning, we visit the popular Caffé Artigiano coffee house right next door to Opus and after a short walk, arrive at Granville Island via the Aqua Bus. Granville Island, in the early 1900s, home to factories, plants and sawmills, has seen a transformation similar to that of Yaletown Now, it's a local favorite and a huge draw for visitors, centred around the Granville Island Public Market, a raucous horde of merchants selling seafood, fresh produce, cheese and breads. A wonderful experience with enticing smells, flashes of colour and a tantalizing diversity of choice! Housed indoors, there are endless rows of stalls that feature fresh produce, gourmet foods, baked goods, seafood and numerous other commercial vendors. One may sit at the waterfront and dream about lifestyles of the rich and famous as yachts drift by expensive condos that seem to fill the azure sky. Or, check out the two local breweries and even a local, artisan sake maker on the island.

Grandville Island Masts, photo by Mike Keenan   Granville Island artwork, photo by Mike Keenan    Granville Island Busker, photo by Mike Keenan    Granville Island Marina, photo by Mike Keenan

With professional and amateur theatre and comedy companies located here, there is a live entertainment option on any given night. And just outside the Public Market, talented buskers perform a range of material from sleight of hand and balancing tricks to eclectic music, a great spot to nibble away on market delicacies while watching impromptu acts. The shops feature innovative arts and crafts, a variety of wares ranging from jewelry to souvenirs, clothing and more. For the more adventurous, outfitters offer sea kayaking tours and rentals along with fishing charters, whale-watching tours, boat tours and sailing opportunities.

Granville Island Public Market, photo by Mike Keenan    Granville Island Shops, photo by Mike Keenan    Granville Island, photo by Mike Keenan    Gun decor, Opus Vancouver Hotel, photo by Mike Keenan

Granville Island and Yaletown, uniquely connected by the small, plucky Aqua Bus, offer any tourist an exciting, fun-filled day, even when it rains, as it does quite often here in Vancouver, but like the locals, one gets used to it.

The city of Vancouver was once called Granville until it was renamed in 1886, but the former name was kept and given to Granville Street, which spanned the small inlet known as False Creek. False Creek in the late 19th century was more than twice the size it is today, and its tidal flats included a large permanent sandbar over which spanned the original, rickety, wooden Granville Street bridge. This sandbar, which would eventually become Granville Island, was first mapped by Captain George Henry Richards in the British Boundary Commission's naval expedition in 1858-59, and the island today conforms roughly to the size and shape documented at that time. A British Admiralty Chart of 1893 shows the island in greater detail and conforming even more accurately to today's Granville Island.
The first attempt to stabilize the sandbar by driving piles around the perimeter was an unofficial attempt to create some free real estate shortly after the creation of the original Granville Street bridge in 1889. The Federal government put a stop to the work as a menace to navigation, but the piles are still visible in a photo taken in 1891.
In 1915, with the port of Vancouver growing, the newly formed Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a reclamation project in False Creek for an industrial area. A 14-hectare (35-acre) island, connected to the mainland by a combined road and rail bridge at its south end, was to be built. Almost 760,000 cubic metres (1,000,000 cu yd) of fill was dredged from the surrounding waters of False Creek to create the island under the Granville Street Bridge. The total cost for the reclamation was $342,000. It was originally called Industrial Island, but Granville Island, named after the bridge that ran directly overhead, was the name that stuck.
The very first tenant, B.C. Equipment Ltd., set the standard by building a wood-framed machine shop, clad on all sides in corrugated tin, at the Island-s western end. (Today the same structure houses part of the Granville Island Public Market.) By 1923 virtually every lot on the Island was occupied, mostly by similar corrugated-tin factories.
During the Great Depression, one of Vancouver's several hobo jungles sprang up on the False Creek flats opposite Granville Island's north shore. 'Shackers' lived on the island, in town, or in floathouses, and survived by fishing and beachcombing and sold salmon, smelt, and wood door to door or at the public market on Main Street. They were basically self-sufficient and were left alone.
  - Wikipedia
Granville Island

Granville Island Entrance

Photos By Google Images

Yaletown - Vancouver Condos

Granville Island Markets

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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Granville Island: http://granvilleisland.com/
Opus Hotel: http://vancouver.opushotel.com/
Aqua Bus: http://www.translink.ca/en/Schedules-and-Maps.aspx
West Oak Restaurant: http://www.westoakrestaurant.com/
Yaletown: https://yaletowninfo.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaletown
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Granville_Island

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