Century Plaza, Vancouver

After having a great customer service experience in Verona at Christmas, Century Plaza is now officially the best hotel experience I have ever had. Whereas Hotel Siena was all about the five star service and great location, Century Plaza has all that and more.

I’d stayed there before in 1998 but only for 2 nights, enough to make me go back for more. As far as luxury is concerned, that’s still with Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans (also still standing I’m pleased to report) but this old school gem at the northern end of downtown Vancouver is perfection in every way.

Century Plaza - home from home, but more gorgeous

4 things I love about Century Plaza

Location

For a start, it’s perfectly located, if you’re like me and likes to be on the peripheral rather than in the middle of the action. Having said that, it’s just two blocks from the main shops but just one block from the delightful Davie Village. I’m pretty sure this gay town wasn’t here on my last stay(!) but not only does it have everything you need on your doorstep; restaurants and coffee shops a-plenty, books, grocery stores, a few clothing shops and  home ware stores which confirms this place is residential, just the way I like it. What’s more, a few minutes past Davie Village and you’re in the West End leading onto the English Bay.

The area is surrounded by beach walks anyway so I’m only 10-15 minutes away for a stroll along the beach wall on a sunny – or indeed any other type of day!

The hotel itself has coffee shop to watch the world go-buy in, a spa to wash away the world and a comedy club to kick start your laughing gear.

Ordinarily I never eat in the hotel but I was given gift card to spend so I take advantage and have the most perfect Eggs Benedict topped with the now inevitable fantastic service.

View from balcony at Century Plaza

View from the top

It’s the glorious view of the Rockies that bought me back here and the view from the 28th floor is spectacular, despite or because of the ever increasing sky scrapers that are being built.

Green credentials

Whilst Century Plaza’s great service is what’s expected (but my no means always delivered, see Watt Tredici Hotel, Milan) what blew me away is the hotel’s green policy. All over the world (well where I’ve travelled) we’ve started seeing notices that say ‘please re-use your towels’ etc. I always hang up my towels to signal they don’t need changing but low and behold, fresh one’s inevitably arrive.

At Century Plaza, they really mean it. As if I needed an incentive, they give me $5 for each day I decline housekeeping, which I happily spend in the coffee shop each evening.

$5 is really not a lot when we think how much housekeeping time is saved and the system clearly works as the coffee shop staff were fully aware of the little $5 gift cards.

Add to this, the kitchen has a recycle bin, the first I have seen in a hotel.

Five star Service

What impresses me more now that I have spent an entire week living at Century Plaza is that the door men/bell boys (haven’t met any females yet) have a cheery greeting no matter how often I pass or what time of day it is, the reception are ready to serve and the concierge… well the concierge do their job, which is to learn everything and impart their local knowledge to you, their guest.

And a guest is how you are treated, all the time by everyone. Even the other visitors I encounter in the lift are jovial; in part I’m sure because they are made to feel so very welcome.

Housekeeping greeted me each time I passed or even if they simply heard me coming out of my room, there’ll be a ‘good morning’ shouted from somewhere on the floor.

In all, Century Plaza knows service, they know what guests want and make it look effortless.

You gotta love a town that has this on the streets!

Adventures in Vancouver: Day seven, a day of inspiration

It’s my last day of waking up to this fantastic view, tomorrow I will be waking up to Heathrow airport and then to street level, there is no floor-to-ceiling window at home.

Good morning Vancouver

 

I never do get to have pancakes at the very local Joe’s Grill in Davie Village, upon which the Century Plaza is situated on the end of. Instead, I decide upon a last look at Gastown, the old part of the city on the edge of the water that Vancouver is built around, including the statue of ‘Gassy Jack’, John Leighton, around whose pub the area was built so the nearby mill workers could have a drink. They say Gastown is less touristy and much improved but I remember enjoying this neighbourhood much more last time.

Yesterday, I spent the best part of an hour trying to catch a photo of a bus when the sign flashes up ‘Go Canucks Go!’. The buses have had this all week so why I choose my last day to try and catch a photo I will never know. In any case, when I’m standing at the right spot for a bus to go past me that had the signage (it seemed like they all had it but it’s not the case) I realise I can’t take the shot as I can’t work the zoom on my phone, I gave up on the dodgy camera long ago. (Incidentally, I decided to buy a Canucks supporters item but too late again, I was already at the airport and all they had were shirts, no mugs or pens or anything I would actually use. I do buy the Oprah magazine though!).

I love how the whole town ha ‘Go Canucks Go!’ signs everywhere, from small shops with posters to big stores, train stations and mobile phone shops that have electronic messages posted as large as they can. There’s something to be said for just having one team per city rather than having derby matches.

Last pancakes

I’m not allowing myself in any more book stores but have a very long list of books to buy upon my return, particularly coffee table books like ’This is East Vancouver’ and fashion photography by YSL. The case ends up being.7lb over in weight anyway. I also want to buy every home decoration magazine but I figure I can import these later if the addiction holds.

I have noted that in Vancouver my train tickets have not been checked once; do they have electronic monitors that check you are carrying a ticket maybe?!

Today is about walking. After I realise there is indeed nothing doing at Gastown, I race to find the place I went to yesterday, knowing they serve breakfast until 11.30 and I’m so glad to make it. After checking in on-line for tonight’s flight and a little blogging, I tuck into my last pancakes then work my way back through Yaletown, saying goodbye to all the book shops, boutiques and vintage stores on my way back to Davie Village.

So, the neighbourhood where I’m staying at is the perfect one. It wasn’t last I was here but now Davie Village has come out, a fact that is immediate as I turn the corner onto Davie street which is covered in flags to represent Vancouver’s gay village. For the solo woman traveller, this is the best place to stay.

I’ve walked from Yaletown all along the beach so go a little further than I plan, almost into West End and so dive into the first coffee shop I see, (I think Meeches but no amount of searching has found it). Finally I hear John Cougar Mellencamp (Hurts So Good) – my trip is complete! I always say when I turn on the radio in North American I’m guaranteed to hear certain artists within the first hour, usually Bon Jovi, Journey or John Mellancamp. I’d heard the former so this felt very apt for the last day!

I drink my last London Fog and make my way slowly back to the hotel to get changed for travelling and then have a final drink. I reflect I’ve not been to the cinema once, a habit I normally have each night of North American travel. There wasn’t anything on and besides, I was busy!

Century Plaza is the most green hotel I have stayed in. I imagine Vancouver (probably Canada) is more green than most cities as the country customarily looks after it’s environment. Vancouver is also much more social media savvy than the UK; every shop, guide book and even the bus advertises their Twitter name.

Century Plaza give $5 back each day if you say ‘no’ to housekeeping. For them this actually means I don’t have a housekeeper come to the room at all so it means making my own bed and doing the washing up – like I do every other day of my life. I’ve asked for ‘no towels’ before but housekeeping normally still just give you them, despite my hanging them up to dry.

I accumulate $5 vouchers to spend in the hotel so it meant a large chai for me each evening, without leaving the hotel, and now whilst I wait for my bus to the airport.

What a fantastic week; this time the pre-trip excitement is validated and I cannot wait for Calgary next.

Vancouver Adventure, Day Six: Staying Local in Yaletown

I cannot remember the last time a trip came to an end all too soon. Normally after 5 days I am looking forward to going home, to my own bed, to all my clothes, to my fully stocked kitchen, but despite having some exciting projects to work on my return, not to mention completing my first book, I wish for the week to be a little longer. For one, I feel so at home; Century Plaza is the most comfortable hotel I have ever stayed at, it has a large restful bedroom, a fully working spacious bathroom and a home from home kitchen; I have need for nothing else.

When I say I’m going away for a week, people always say, ‘only a week?’, like I am being hard-done by. To me, that’s my maximum, four or five days is adequate but given the distance, a week is perfect. After all, I went to San Francisco for five days! Longer than a week and I will forget my log-in, never mind my name or my alarm code to get back in my home. I prefer to have more adventures then just one big one every year or two.

 

Vancouver Library

 

And of course, keeping it short means I pack in every minute, there are no lie-ins for me. How can you wake up with a view of the Rockies and want to stay inside? Although the aforementioned comfortable suite meant it was hard to leave the hotel but lovely to come back to.

It’s customary for me to find my favourite neighbourhood on the last day, as happened in San Francisco when I discover the adorable Haight neighbourhood next to my own. This is where I first found Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Store that I have hunted down wherever I have been since.

So on my last full day of the Vancouver Adventure, there is no sky train, no boat or ferry as I stay local in Yaletown. It’s not as preppy as it sounds and having walked through it on a rainy Easter Sunday evening, I already had my bearings.

After devouring two eggs (over easy) and three pancakes (plain with maple syrup) – a first for me, whilst poring over a new addiction, ‘Traditional Home’ magazine, I hit the home wares shops.

Rachel Ashwell has spawned a plethora of shabby chic shops around the world and Yaletown has it’s fair share, headed up by the shabby chic Mecca that is, The Cross. As tempting as it was, it’s horrendously over priced and I spent my whole time there making notes on what I’m at my Birmingham Vintage Fair stall, at a fifth of the cost. I loved every second though.

The Cross in Yaletown

It was a very stimulating visit and I come away with an armful of ideas for my vintage event. In fact the day turned out to be dry and sunny rather than the forecast showers and I’m full of inspiration to bring back home.

Talking of inspiration, I whiled away a happy lunch period in book shops, where I bought two too many books and then on to the much flaunted Vancouver Library. A piece of heaven which made me look forward to the unveiling of the soon to be opened Birmingham Library. Vancouver is great but I think this will be better.

Of the areas I marked out to visit from one of the excellent books and magazines in my room, Kitsilano (Kits) was top of the list but it would have meant finding out about buses. I didn’t get to Richmond either although drove through it no less than four times. I have to leave something new to explore on my next visit!

 

The library with shopping baskets

Later, I stay even more local by going to the West End, where the English Bay is and do some blogging in a cafe whilst watching the end of the Montreal game. They lost.

There was the matter of getting home in time for the Canucks match at 6pm. I thought it may start at 7pm but no, the TV programme came on at 6, the match started at 6.10. How refreshing.

Vancouver Adventure, Canucks Stanley Cup Play-Offs

Tweets from the game

The website says the game’s on at 6pm, I get back to my room at 5.45 with Mac & Cheese for the game from IAG across the road. The show starts at 6pm, the game starts at 6.10. This is how to show live sport British TV, not an hour of pre-game build up listening to presenters who like hearing their own voices!!!

Go Canucks Go!

I’m guessing the goalie is tiny under that Michelin man get up

It feels odd to be sitting inside watching ice hockey when it’s such a sunny evening. I’ve moved the arm chair closer to the TV and the skyscraper outside is towering over my right side now, like it’s going to enter the room any moment and sit next to me to watch the game.

I will never get used to American sports having advert breaks; they literally stop playing ice hockey for them. When I used to watch the New York Rangers, I learnt a red light comes on in Madison Square Garden when the adverts are on!

I’m wondering if I can get this on British TV? Although the games will be on in the middle of the night. I won’t get sports channels for my sport, football, because it will mean I never leave the house, read or do other things, but I’m considering it for NHL?!

There were 3 minutes to go in first period; I’ve heated the mac & cheese, made salad and ate it. The period is still in play.

End of first period, I’m off to start packing for homeward journey.

Three big events on the news over here in BC; the Stanley Cup Play offs, the election on May 3rd and a big wedding. The news guys are praying for no overtime in this game as the wedding coverage starts at 1am!

15 minute break and all I have done is empty the suitcase, gone through my receipts(binned all) and packed some of my purchases. Still 1-1.

Yes, Vancouver score! There is a delayed celebration as officials double checked the goal. 12.14 in second period.

I can’t remember what Power Plays are.

Wow, one of the Nashville players has just somersaulted into the air. Another has just broken his stick on the ice.

Second period ended, usual big fight on the ice before they go into their dressing rooms.

The case is as packed as it can be now.

Third period, nervous now, Nashville just had a near miss.

Ad break: I don’t have anything to do now, nothing to pack, not hungry, not thirsty, don’t need the bathroom.

Oh gosh, Mr Spock on TV advert, advertising a TV product that interacts with Facebook.

I have no idea who’s playing better anyway, it’s all so fast moving for me.

Ad break, 5 minutes to go, meaning half hour in Canadian TV ice hockey time. Off to get some chips.

Torn between watching my last sunset in Vancouver and the game. Cherish both moments.

Soundtrack to the game has included the Beach Boys, the inevitable Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC and now best of all, a little bit of the Cult! I can only imagine the atmosphere just around the corner in Rogers Arena right now.

Is the NHL run by Canada or America or jointly or someone else? How many teams are there? I’m guessing more American than Canadian, despite ice hockey being Canada’s sport.

“One – nothing tonight on hockey night in Canada” Ad break.

21 seconds to go and the game re-starts. The crowd are going crazy.

Final whistle, 1-0 to Vancouver, 1 down, up to 6 to go.

No idea why it’s best of 7, I suspect advertising revenue. We’d be so bored of that in football don’t you think?

Vancouver Adventure, Day Five: Commercial Drive

Today is all about the Sky Train. It’s pretty much what it says, an over ground train service that sometimes is a little like a rollercoaster, except it doesn’t go round in circles or unnecessarily fast and you don’t have to be belted up. Actually it’s just like a normal train that happens to run on some high rails. It is a good way to see the city, as the concierge at Century Plaza said but today, I just plan to go to Commercial Drive to tick East Vancouver of the list.

The Drive, as it’s called hear is easy to find and is choc full of vintage shops. In short it’s hippydom and so far, it’s top of my fantasy places to live if I was to live in Vancouver. IT helps that I saw it on a dry morning and my plans to ‘Sky train it’ to two other places today are thwarted as the rain is a coming.

Isn't what they drive in Chuck?!

 

I come back and head out deep into the West End, my neighbourhood in search of an internet coffee shop and buy another cupcake. Mission accomplished, today’s it’s Red Velvet cake. Still no cheesecake though although there has been a couple of near misses, I’ve not see actual plain New York Cheesecake anywhere. It will probably be at the airport upon my return.

The only disappointment is that Montreal lose their ‘must win’ game. I feel bad as they were in over time when I stood up to go and they promptly lost with sudden death. Still ‘Go Canucks Go!’

I pop into another Safeway’s on the way back for a late (for me) dinner. It turns out to be one of the most unwittingly perfect meals; meat balls, Mac & cheese (as they say), salad pic-a-mix which I love – they compartmentalise everything so you can choose how you want it served – genius!

There is still no sign of a Martha Stewart magazine in Vancouver, Canada is clearly not Stewart country, even the UK has the magazines!

I take it back to the hotel, starving after an evening’s blogging, just in time to switch for the end of the Jimmy Fallon show with Twister Sister playing live. Somehow it just all added up as I watched yet another sunset, my favourite time in the hotel.

Vancouver Adventure, Day Four: Victoria trip

 Victoria not at all like England; no-ones drunk, they don’t complain about the weather & the workmen politely say hello.

Horse & Carriage outside Victoria government offices

 Today is what this trip was planned around, getting onto Vancouver Islands. It took five hours door to door to get here, as the hotel kindly arranged it but I will regret it if I don’t see Victoria, ‘more English than England’. Well it’s not, obviously, you’ll only think that perhaps if you’re American but it does have the English charm. There are none of the skyscrapers – well tall buildings anyway- that have sprung up on every road in downtown Vancouver since I’ve been gone but a calm, pacific coastline city, the size of an English town. I picked today as it promised sun and I did good. I had a glorious day walking up and down the streets before settling for a late lunch in the very first place I spotted, even whilst on the coach arriving, Dolce Vita. A lovely Moroccan soup and a London Fog.

What’s London Fog? A bit like chai but not.

On the way back to the bus I notice a sign offering 2 things: sightseeing tour around Victoria or a trip to IKEA. I feel that sums up Victoria perfectly.

My believe is that Victoria is filled with more mature people, confounded by the fact that my pink argyle socks worn under cropped jeans caused quite and unexpected stir. I was dressed for comfort and indeed we had 2 drops of rain and 10 seconds of nippiness, the rest of the day is perfect.

 

On route to Victoria

 

The day is topped by being on the boat back in time for the big game, Vancouver vs. Boston in a must win game to get to the next round of the Stanley Cup. I go without the burger and fries I’d promised myself as the pre-game line was too long.

I start seeing the game in Victoria and see the last touch back at the hotel in Vancouver some 3.5 hours later. The game is not that long; it’s just all the advert breaks that they stop for.

Canucks win – Vancouver has a street party into the early hours, I fall asleep to the noise of car horns. Blissfully happy.

Vancouver Adventure, Day Three: Boat trip

 Breakfast: French Toast at Moodyville Cafe, North Vancouver

London Fog & peanut butter cake at Cafe of Contemporary Art

Today the rain is forecast but I decide to take the jaunt over to North Vancouver. I’ve promised myself I’ll explore BC so that’s what I’m doing. On landing over the water, there is another Public Market, an indoors market almost identical to Granville Island. I manage to find French Toast for breakfast at Moodyville’s before the rain takes hold and spot the Cafe of Contemporary Art as recommended by for shelter later. The shops recommended in the wonderful Vancouver book in the hotel elude me; they just seem not enough to bother with in the rain so I console myself with just the gorgeous view of Vancouver and a look round the few local shops. Then I sit and have a read in the aforementioned cafe – these Sunday Times magazines are not going to read themselves! – before catching the boat back. It’s an effortless journey although no-one seems to check tickets in Vancouver, is there an invisible electronic checker?!

Back on dry land, I plan to treat myself to the shops in the very much drier Pacific Centre, home of Bath and Body Works. Yes I did check this shop was in Vancouver before I planned my trip. It’s my absolute favourite toiletries haunt has been for way more than a decade and I’ve always bought my favourites each time I’ve visited America. Now it’s Canada’s turn to be supplier. $80 well spent for a year’s worth of bubble bath & body lotions and two lots of my favourite hand scrub.