by Annette Lucido

Most travel writers agree that Vancouver is the most attractive summer urban area in North America.  Cooled by ocean breezes, this compact urban center combines great scenery, super restaurants, all sorts of fishing and other outdoor activities in what most feel is the cleanest large city anywhere and the most attractive city on the Pacific.

Best of all, Canadian prices run lower than in the United States even before the delightful discovery that one US dollar buys around $1.30 Canadian. It's an especially attractive destination for RV owners who can  stay in one of a number of fine Canadian parks and, with their savings, cab or use public transport to get around the compact downtown area.  As a break going or coming from British Columbia, Vancouver Island or Alaska via the Alaskan Ferry System, Vancouver offers a super urban diversion. 

All sorts of activities such as monorails and subways and a refurbished city ice the cake of quality attractions even after Expo.  Classic diversions such as the Royal Hudson Steam Train ride, Granville Island shopping or the traffic stopping Canadian Geese in Stanley Park still delight. Once you arrive in Vancouver plan two days minimum if you expect to cover downtown, beaches and park.  Well, my husband and I  photographed Vancouver in one day on our first visit, but we had a secret weapon.  The Tourism Department assigned us a gray-haired driver.  She was the first woman bus driver in the city during WW II.  She drove her battered car like a bus, ran yellow lights and darted up one-way streets the wrong way.  When asked about accidents and tickets, she replied, "Young lady, when you are gray, never turn your head to look to the side and drive a car with dents, you always have the right of way.  Besides, my son is the head of the police force.  

Nobody would dare give me a ticket."  Perhaps as a result of this ride on the wild side, we consider Vancouver a walker's town. The limited acreage between Stanley Park's green acres, fine aquarium and decent zoo and the mainland, pushed Vancouver up, on its peninsula rather like downtown San Francisco.  So we if we don't RV, we  stay at the center of the network of underground malls that shelters locals from wet winters -- see lodgings sidebar -- and are only a couple of blocks from the diverse shops, succulent ice cream and chocolate and fine inexpensive restaurants of Robson Street, called "Robsonstrasse" by long time residents for its diverse ethnic shopping. Oterwise, we leave our RV over the bridge and bus into town.

Robsonstrasse, the Canadian PR types no longer favor this, but locals still use the term -- reminds you of Carmel or Cape Cod B.T. (before tourists.)  Ethnic restaurants and shops jam the streets and interesting art galleries offer plenty to see.  Coffee houses with al fresco tables testify to the fact it does not rain every day.  There is even a ticket kiosk, much like our favorite  in London, where you can buy half-price theatre tickets on the afternoon of the performance. 

Granville Street, now closed to traffic except taxis and busses, crosses Robson Street.  It has excellent shop­ping and, a block away, the Vancouver Art Gallery that is worth a visit.

Shopping does fill the day if it rains a bit. An under­ground network of shops and malls laces together  major department stores such as THE BAY, the Hudson Bay store, downtown.  Smaller specialty shops offer good value too.  Each trip we  add to our  china at Millar and Coe, a discounter on West Hastings Street.  Towards the harbor past the glossy "sails" of Canadian Place, the cruise ship terminal, 

Gassy Jack's statue presides over an active single's scene in the Gaslight Dis­trict, a major tourist attraction with its steam clock, ethnic shops and restaurants.  Gassy Jack, a local character like San Francisco's Emperor Norton, reflected the rather raffish past of this now delightful shopping and dining area.   The Medieval Inns just up the street offer a tradi­tional English feast with wenches and such.

Two blocks towards the old Expo site, one of the three largest Chinatowns in North America -- New York City and San Franciso are the others -- offers wonderful food and shop­ping at lower prices than the U. S.  Try the Dim Sum lunches where you can select individual dishes from carts. The Sun Yat Sen Garden deseres a quick look too. 

To the north the sails of the Canadian Pavilion of Expo '86,  now a convention center, hotel and loading dock for cruise ships, back towards the Stanley Park end of the waterfront you.  The hydrofoil ferry to West Vancouver takes you to buses that access North shore attractions such as Grouse Ridge Ski Area overlooking Vancouver.  You can take the Superskyride up the 4,1000 foot peak and enjoy the view on clear days.  Beer in the outdoor Bavarian Gardens is good and their sausages seem a better value than the more expensive Grouse Nest Restaurant. 

The swaying Capilano Suspension Bridge and a fine salmonhatchery where you can spend hours  trying to photo­graph leaping fish are most worthwhile.  So is the Royal Hudson, a wonderful steam train that runs up the side of Howe Sound towards Whistler.  Tip: skip breakfast and enjoy a "sticky bun" at the train terminal.  We hear that the logging show at the end of the train line is worth the price, but have not seen it.  We did enjoy a wonderful ride on a ski equipped glacier plane from the far end of the train ride, and the optional shuttle ferry back.  Float planes and helicopters can take you to exceptional fishing in a few minutes from this area, or the general aviation airport near Vancouver International.

Stanley Park remains our favorite Sunday walk.  Shoals of cricket players and mutters of lawn bowlers all clad in white dot the green meadows between massive conifers.  Rugby players are louder and rougher.  The scene is more muted at the fine zoo where weekend art exhibits offer a peaceful break overlooking the yacht harbor.  An excellent children's zoo and miniature railroad suit kids.  Good beaches march six miles around the park towards downtown.  Our favorite is English Beach.  Watch for the tame Canadian geese that wander on roads and lawns; they have the right of way!       

Granville Island is louder, more crowded and fun.  The markets, shops, theatres and bars here attract a lively mix of shoppers who can chose from 200 cheeses at one stall and 50 different kinds of bread at another, and visitors anxious to see some of Vancouver's best art galleries.  We buy wonderful foods from the stalls and, like dozens of others, enjoy the decks overlooking the site of Expo.   If you fish, you might book a half-day boat and enjoy the action out in the roads where freighters anchor or over towards Lions Gate Bridge.  All day trips go as far as Howe Sound. 

Weekend parking is the only problem with Granville Island.  So we park or RV or Auto  across at the YMCA pool near the bridge and take a wonderful electric pram with a fringe on top across the inlet.  This mini ferry also follows the shore around to the Expo Site towards the spots dome and to a fine maritime museum in Vanier Park towards the University.  

We always visit the University!  The drive along the bay is quiet scenic and the hunge number of ships anchored out in the roads testify to Vancouver's place as the second largest port in North America. The Japanese Gardens deserve a tea stop, but the highlight of the visit is the wonderful museum that holds the finest collection of Northwest art in America.  This museum is unique in that you can see the entire collection as items not on display are visible in stacks.     TIP: check visiting hours, they vary.  Try to be  p0- there in the afternoon and walk around the back of the museum.  That's the best view of massive totem pol

Of course, these are only a few of the many attractions of Vancouver.  Delights for the eye and ear lurk everywhere.  The tradition of 3-dimensional sculpture set by the totem poles is enriched by modern sculpture everywhere.  You can enjoy a lovely symphony, quality musicals and recitals and even buskers on the streets who, on our last visit, "han­dled" a wonderful Trumpet Voluntary.  

Since we prefer to cover Vancouver on foot, we stay downtown when we fly in or take a car.  We alternate between our our favorite  Hyatt Regency over the underground Royal Centre Mall -- the morning brunch is a great way to start the day --  to the smash­ingly British Hotel Vancouver where newly decorated suites pamper visitors and the resturant's duck in cherry sauce is beyond compare.

Visitors on tight budgets can write for lists of B&Bs or opt for suburban lodgings.  South of Vancouver convenient to the Airport, Richmond offers many fine hotels.  North Vancouver adds more just a Sea Bus ride across Burrard Inlet from downtown.  

North Vancouver also offers a major RV park at the end of Lions Gate Bridge on the Capilano River near Capilano Recreational Vehicles Ltd. (1151 marine Drive, North Vancouver, B.C. V7P 1T1) that rents VW campers and camping gear for tours of the Canadian Bush or Vancouver Island. 

All this activity builds big appitites.  Residents seem to snack on sticky buns and muffins in mid-morning, eat ice cream from home-made cones and chocolate after lunch and finish the work day with splendid Canadian beer and snacks in a pub before dinner.   It's easy to find high quality, relatively high cost meals at  chains such as Trader Vics or hotel dining rooms such as our favorite Timber Room at the Hotel Vancouver.  Less expensive dining out of town on incredible seafood such as grilled black cod from the Salmon House on the Hill or Tudor meals at the Park Royal Hotel -- both in West Vancou­ver -- offer great values. So does "pick your own" seafood from the tanks of The Lobsterman on Granville Island. 

However, we don't eat many "real" restaurant meals in Vancouver because there's so much to sample.  Instead, we graze along Robson Street.   A Vietnamese soup and snack, followed by some German wurst or stuffed cabbage down the street, then a stop for Italian ice cream in a fresh- baked cone or a chocolate barely samples  options here. 

Granville Island Market overwhelms munchers.  Last trip we counted over 200 different kinds of sausage and pate, 100 varieties of fruit including sweet strawberries the size of  golf balls, at least 175 baked sweets and 41 different ethnic food stalls.  A survey, considerable discussion and a return to several stalls for the makings of al fresco  meal enjoyed on the dock overlooking the site of EXPO 86 justify a visit. 

Snacking through Chinatown on dim sum and "just one" raids on the varied foods sold in in underground malls require either much rationalization a la  "all this walking burns off calories" or more self-control than most own to stop eating long enough to work up appetites for a sitdown meal. 

Best of all, getting to Vancouver is easy.  Fly-in direct or to Seattle with a ferry shuttle.  Drive in from Washington through Blaine with a stop at Richmond's Bota Gardens of from the Trans-Canada Freeway through Burnaby's Heritage Village, a reproduction of Hudson Bay villages.  Don't want to drive.  Package up a visit with a side trip to Victoria. via  several different ferry routes to Vancouver Island, where Victoria offers a find old English flavor.  We usually cross on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay.  Do, if you have time, head up into the Comox Valley or enjoy the fine fishing on and around the Campbell River.  Really adventurous sorts can ferry over to Prince Rupert on the Mainland and either connect up with the Alaskan Ferry System  p0- or drive back to Vancouver via Stuart Lake and Prince George.

          The hard part of any Vancouver stay is the last day.  For, like London, this is a city that improves with each return.  So, it's easy to plan your next Vancouver visit when you realize that you are on the last day of your stay and there's still much to see.



Southwest British Columbia Tourist Association, Box 94449LB, Richmond, British Columbia V6Y 2A8 for area information. 

Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau, Royal Center Mall, 1055 West Georgia St., Box 11142LB, Vancouver, BC V6E 4C8 for city information.