What is it? A family holiday at the Pacific Palisades Hotel.

Where? Robson Street, Vancouver, Canada

Description: [canada.jpg]A taste of the great outdoors in a great city – that’s what Tanya Spriggs and her family got when they visited Vancouver, Canada. But how could Tanya, her husband Alan and daughters Imogen, four, and Savannah, seven, bear to leave?

Feel the throb of the city from this fun, family-friendly hotel at the heart of Vancouver’s buzzing Robson Street. Great for exploring the city – day or night.

Vancouver itself is crying out to be explored, and the hotel is slap-bang in the city’s shopping district, so chances are you won’t spend that much time in the hotel. The spa, however, has a lot to offer (see pamper possibilities below).

Step out of the hotel lobby and find yourself on Vancouver’s most happening street. Go where the urge takes you!

Babysitting and childcare are available. Contact the hotel for details.

The hotel’s poolside treatment area offers ‘My First Spa’ treatments for kids. Choose from a 15-minute ‘Little Mermaid Manicure’, ‘Little Princess Pedicure’ or ‘Jitter Critters Massage’. The spa also offers standard adult treatments, as well as an indoor pool, fitness equipment and spa tub.

Local activities: Vancouver itself has stacks of attractions. Top spots include the world-famous 400-hectre Stanley Park, which houses an aquarium, totem poles, children’s zoo and miniature train. The city has several beaches and museums (including Science World for the kids), as well as Gastown and Chinatown to explore. North Vancouver has Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain, which has a cable car which you can ride to the top for fantastic views of the city, sea and mountains. The city is also a gateway to the beautiful and remote Vancouver Island – which includes the genteel city of Victoria – and the mountain-studded British Columbia region – with outdoor activities ranging from bear- and whale-watching to kayaking, mountain biking and horse riding.

Wish we had known: How long it takes to get to Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain. It’s a day trip, not a half-day one, when you have kids in tow. We left our excursion until after lunch but should have departed after breakfast.

Our top tip: There’s a serious lack of taxis in Vancouver, so find another way to get around the city.

Kids say: The highlight for the girls was their kiddie manicures at the hotel. It made them feel ultra grown-up and they looked like pampered princesses.

Getting There: The Pacific Palisades can be contacted on 00800 546 78660. Visit www.pacificpalisadeshotel.com. Prices for weekend B&B with two adults and two children sharing a South Beach one-bedroom apartment start at Canadian $193 (October-May) Prices for May-Oct start at Can $ 293 (May-October). The hotel’s Have Family Will Travel package includes travel games and toys for the kids, plus passes and discount coupons for some of the city’s attractions. Contact the hotel for details. Zoom Airlines (www.flyzoom.com; 0870 240 0055) flies to Vancouver from L199 (including taxes) one-way or L398 return.

About our stay: Vancouver has something for everyone. It’s got beaches and mountains, museums and galleries, nightlife and shopping. And within the city buzz, it has space for outdoor activities. It’s a fun and happening city to visit, and the Palisades is a fun and happening place to stay. The hotel consists of two converted residential tower blocks, so the rooms (formerly apartments) are modern and spacious, making them ideal for families. The smell of burning incense follows you throughout the hotel and if it wasn’t for the constant hum of the bustling city outside you could easily forget where you were. No visit to Vancouver would be complete without a ride around the colossal Stanley Park, so on day one we hired bikes and set off along the seawall, a flat, paved path which circles the whole park – some 10 kilometres (6.2 miles). The views of the North Shore mountains and Lions Gate Bridge are stunning, and the girls loved watching the endless line of float planes coming into land above our heads. The great thing about the route is that there are many stopping points along the way – we visited the totem poles, kids’ playground and the aquarium. Other stop-offs include beaches, the rose garden and the Vancouver Rowing Club. [totem_pole_girls.jpg] The aquarium is a top family spot. The girls were fascinated by the hitherto unseen and unknown Beluga whales – huge ghostly white creatures insulated in a double-bed-sized duvet cover of blubber to protect them from the Arctic seas in which they live. There were plenty of hands-on exhibits and shows, including a dolphin display which got a big thumbs-up from the girls. Back at the hotel, it was four-legged animals which captured the girls’ interest – in the form of the hotel’s all-pets-welcome policy. In reception stood a blackboard listing the names of the four-legged guests. And the girls spent a great deal of time discussing what sort of animals Bruce, Amy and Molly might be. They’d heard that a man with a chimp and a woman with seven Pekinese had stayed at the hotel previously, so they kept a constant look-out for giraffes, hippos and herds of wildebeest! Needless to say, we didn’t spot many. With young children you tend to have to give city nightlife a miss but at the Palisades you can stay at “home” and the nightlife comes to you. The surrounding streets really come to life as the sun sets and, with the girls tucked safely in bed, Al and I sat on the balcony, chatting and sharing a bottle of wine while watching the hum of activity of Robson Street below. The street is heaving with places to eat but you’d be hard pushed to find anything better than the hotel’s Zin restaurant. The kids’ menu isn’t the usual boring fast food fayre – it’s ‘proper’ food. It includes the old favourites like pizza and burger, but they’re made on the premises using fresh and local ingredients and more than a touch of inspiration – check out the lattice chips, pea fettuccini and chicken noodle soup. But what made our stay particularly special for the girls was their manicures. They couldn’t stop grinning while their tiny hands were pampered and their nails painted. And they spent the following days flashing their hands around and saying in Little Britain-esque voices – “I’m a lady!” We took our little ladies onto the ferry across to North Vancouver, catching a bus to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge and nearby Grouse Mountain. The former is an 118-year-old bridge suspended 450 feet across and 230 feet above a canyon floor. It wobbles significantly as you cross, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. On the other side of the valley is a tree-tops adventure, a walkway built up in the trees which take you into the upper reaches of the living forest. [across_the_bridge.jpg] Grouse Mountain is just a few more minutes along the road from the bridge. The ride up in the cable car offers great views of the city, and mountains and sea beyond. At the top there’s more to see than the stunning views – there’s a lumberjack show, bird of prey display and a chance to catch a glimpse of the mountain’s resident grizzly bears – a pair of orphans, housed in a five-acre habitat on the Grouse’s peak. Unfortunately, we’d left our trip late in the day so didn’t feel as though we spent enough time on Grouse Mountain. And we felt the same about Vancouver generally. It’s such a clean and fresh city, with a refreshing outdoorsy feel, that perhaps you can never spend enough time there. “Can we come back soon?” asked Imogen. Unlikely, but highly desirable. (Tanya Spriggs is a journalist who has worked extensively for parenting magazines and the parenting sections of daily newspapers. She lives in Kelvedon, Essex, with her husband, Alan, and two children.)

Created: 2007-09-04 07:48:57.463

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