STUCK IN TORONTO, LOOKING TO REALLY GET AWAY? A LONG WEEKEND IN VANCOUVER IS MORE REALISTIC THAN YOU THINK

by | Jan 4, 2022 | Travel

The other day I saw a post online with the headline, “Top Ten Winter Resort Getaways”. The resorts were Ontario-based, the assumption being that during these end-of-days times, no one wants to venture too far from the secured confines of their Toronto home. I am here to pour cold water on that. Vancouver is closer than you think.

Related: Expedia survey says Canadian travellers looking to splurge

For me personally, being a native of Toronto, there’s no place that feels more “home” than Vancouver. There’s a wellness mood and health vibe there that hits me the moment I turn west on the Dunsmuir Viaduct, past Rogers Centre and into the city’s downtown. I lived there for two years in the 1990s, and I had forgotten that feel.

I feel a pride in this country every time I go there, that there’s a place like this, that seems so distant, both physically and in terms of feel, but really isn’t. Being from the east, it’s magical every time I can go to a place that feels so opposite of what Toronto is. And here’s the thing I want to emphasize, as our travel focus is lasered more and more on our home country, looking into 2022.

Travelling from Toronto, a long weekend – say, four-day, junket – to the “Best Coast” is more than realistic. It’s very do-able. All you need to do is jump off your keaster and head to Pearson Airport.

Our destination? OPUS Vancouver, on Davie St. in Yaletown. Sarah Vallely, the general manager of the hotel, has spent her life in the hotel business. She was with the Four Seasons hotel previous, lived in Asia and Europe growing up, has had opportunities to work abroad in the business, but has never wanted to leave Vancouver.

For Vallely, Vancouver ranks among the Top 3 destinations in the world. It offers the finest cuisine, world-class activities. And great luxury hotel properties like OPUS. This wasn’t our first time at OPUS, and yeah we’re biased. We once took a VIA train across Canada, and our final destination, before flying back to Toronto, was OPUS Vancouver. It’s a true boutique luxury respite, right in the heart of everything (Yaletown).

On this trip, we drove the 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport (featured before on our pages). So we were blessed here. But if you’re taking the Skytrain from the airport, there’s a stop kitty corner to the hotel’s entrance. Just grab your bags and walk across the street. The rail trip from airport to OPUS concierge is 22 minutes.

Opus Hotel, Yaletown, Vancouver

Vallely understands that when people travel from Toronto, in this case, she wants them to be immersed in that Vancouver vibe the moment they walk through the doors of the hotel. And that come down to the details of the destination. The decorations, the music, the locally sourced food.

“We also want people to relax, because that’s also what Vancouver is about,” she says. “So if you need that prayer mat, or a yoga mat, or a wellness package with our essential oil bundles, we are ready to provide that. As much as it’s great to go out on the town, we also want you to go to the Seawall, to Granville Island, to Grouse Mountain, to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, see the lights and breathe in the air. We have some of the best air in the world. We live in a rain forest.”

That seamless long weekend in Vancouver for us started with a 9 a.m. Thursday morning flight out of Pearson. Covid-age travel was nowhere near what I expected. Lines moved fast. Staff were all amenable, but pack your patience anyway. If this is going to be new world travel then I am good. By 2:30 p.m. PST, I was having a steak and wine at Cactus Club, across from the hotel.

Click on image to enlarge and view gallery

For Sarah, the OPUS is meant to be like a fine apartment owned by your best friend. He or she has just tossed you the keys for the weekend, and you just go with it.

“I understand why it’s hard to find a word that describes it (in Vancouver)  because there isn’t one thing that grabs you and stands out. It’s way deeper. It’s a soulfulness. Like standing on the sea wall and looking in to the Pacific Ocean surrounded by the snow-packed mountains, that beautiful mountain range. Everyone is chilled here, having a great time. It’s this feeling of peace that washes over you.”

OPUS focuses on the little details, and those add up. Looking for a little pick-me-up after the trip? Call on the hotel’s “Beverage Butler”, a drink hand-created by their mixologist, hand-delivered to your room. No one wants to drink out of a mini bar anymore. I had the “Sox and Slippers” – Havana 7-year rum, Strega, lemon and cranberry.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, Whistler, B.C.

“You want the hotel to be a curated west coast experience that people dive right into,” she says. “When I go to Toronto I want to feel like i am in Toronto. There’s also a certain vibe to Toronto that you get. Toronto and New York are similar. That grit, rush, a fast-paced cool city, and you better be dressed up when you walk out the door.”

Other room details at OPUS? A spa bathroom with heated floors. Plush, pillow top King bed. MALIN+GOETZ body wash in the shower. Deep-soak tub. Samsung 40-inch LED TV. Frette bathrobes. Dyson Supersonic hair dryer (that blew my wife’s mind), Herman Miller ergonomic chairs and a Nespresso coffee machine. Just unplug and unwind, and everything that is B.C. is just outside your window. The OPUS suites have wrap-around balconies.

Beverage Butler

Another fun touch – the designer of the hotel played on five different muses to design the features of the rooms and suites. The colours, lamps, art, beds, fabrics – all are very true to who the muse is.

“People get attached to their muses,” Vallely says. Ours was “Billy” – artful and eclectic green colour, irreverent and off the wall by nature, she says. The muses are virtual concierges, who point you to spots to go to in the city that you wouldn’t find on Trip Advisor. In Billy’s case that includes Kick Ass House Fried Rice at Bao Bei, shopping for Gastown Vintage jeans at Brooklyn Clothing, hanging out at Wreck Beach, lounging at BK Block Party at The New Oxford.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, in Whistler, B.C.

Not sure where the 1.5 hour drive up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler sits in Billy’s world, but that’s where we headed. Rain soon changed to a winter wonderland of snow as we arrived into the village, and skiers and snowboarders came out of hiding to head for the hills there, known around the world.

Want a White Christmas? In Vancouver you can hop in your car and drive to it. Then it’s back to OPUS, a cocktail at Spritz, dinner at Capo, and next morning we’re on our way back to Toronto. Long weekend complete, batteries re-charged.

TOP IMAGE: 2021 CADILLAC ESCALADE, WHISTLER VILLAGE

2021 Cadillac Escalade, Furry Creek, B.C.

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