Visitors to Vancouver are spoiled for choice, but when they’ve flown all the way across the pond from France, they deserve a blast of breathtaking in the way of landscape.
My relatives from Normandy had scheduled only five days to spend in Canada — a place they’d never been — before heading south of the border, so I wanted them to see as much as possible without wearing them out. The coast’s glorious landscape is evident everywhere, but for a mega-dose of the great outdoors, I decided to take them to Whistler.
Friends cautioned me against it. “What is there to do there in the summer? It’s a ski resort,” they griped. They’d forgotten that the drive up the Sea to Sky Highway, with Howe sound on one side and glaciers and mountains on the other, is one of Canada’s most spectacular. Shirley and Charles were astonished by the views, but more spectacular scenery was in store.
Having scrambled all over Vancouver and faced with an itinerary choc-a-block full of activities in Whistler, I thought some peace and tranquility were in order first. So we checked into Nita Lake Lodge, just outside the village of Whistler (more “oohs” and “aahs”) . We were just in time for the “girls’ body rejuvenation” at Loka Wellness and Yoga (they don’t use the “Spa” word) located in the Lodge. Shirley and I opted for the full package: Our bodies were completely exfoliated, slathered in mud, then wrapped in cloth like a cocoon. Both ex-Englishwomen, we felt rather like we were being mummified and made ready for shipping to the British Museum. Then they hosed us down. After another hour of massage we glided back to our two-bedroom loft, ready for a brisk hike on one of the lake trails. Charles had been investigating the mini-bar…
Instead, we woke two hours later, just in time for a gin and tonic and dinner at ‘Jordon’s Crossing’ on the deck, overlooking Nitka lake. We, albeit with a little guilt, watched joggers with their dogs circumnavigate the glassy lake and a yoga session in progress on the lake’s dock. Tranquile… Tucking into local halibut and scallops (Chef Julian Owen-Mould knows his seafood) and a few bottles of wine chosen by eonophile Charles, we planned our next day’s activities. As I chattered on about all our options, I briefly saw Shirley’s eyes glaze over, so we decided that after the gondola ride, they would stroll around the village and have lunch while I went solo on a zip ride with Ziptrek Ecotours Inc.
For $42 a ticket, we boarded the Peak 2 Peak gondola (one of whose trams, the silver special ,has a glass floor) that connects Blackcomb and Whistler mountains and climbs 436 meters. After about 30 minutes on the gondola, we emerged from 30 degree heat into cool alpine air, to throw snowballs at each other.
It was a scorcher that day. Back in the village at the Ziptrek office, after gearing up like we were about to climb Everest, 10 of us trudged over to the baby zip line near the Roundhouse Lodge and we each had a “go.” Next, we piled into a van that took us up Blackcomb and under the new 2010 Olympics bobsled run, then up a dirt road to the real zip lines. To zip through the trees and across a deep ravine at a gazillion miles per hour is exhilarating, to say the least.
I found Shirley and Charles in the village bookstore. We decided to break camp and moved to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (several “Cor Blimey’s” signaled approval upon arrival). Shirley described it perfectly: “Luxury, luxury and more luxury. We felt like royalty.
After appies at the hotel and a too-many course dinner at Araxi, then fuelled by breakfast the next morning, we waddled across the road from the hotel through the immense carved cedar doors of the 30,400 sq. foot Squamish Lil’ wat Cultural Centre (4584 Blackcomb Way, www.slcc.ca), which opened last June. We were officially greeted with a morning song and dance, then watched, enthralled, a slick 15-minute film presentation explaining the histories of the two nations—the Squamish coastal and the Lil’wat mountain. The airy building, whose handsome wood, stone and glass architecture and vistas of mountains and forest reflect the nations’ profound connection with the natural world, is a showplace for traditional dugout canoes, woven wool and cedar artifacts, and distinctive art that reflects Squamish and Lil’wat life, past and present. One of the greeters took us upstairs and showed us how to weave a cedar bracelet. Along with memories of Whistler, Shirley and Charles had a unique souvenir to take back to the UK.
As it turned out, the problem with Whistler in the summer is not that there isn’t enough to do. Rather, it’s a challenge to leave yourself enough time to truly relax and enjoy the peaceful vibe, the clean mountain air, the stellar hotels and a landscape few Canadian towns can rival. I could have easily stayed a few more days…