Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier
138 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver, 1-877-986-7437; pinnaclepierhotel.com. 105 rooms, from $149. Green Key 4 eco-rating.
Vancouver may be growing like a science project, but the city has managed to hang on to its medium-size feel. Locals complain about traffic and clogged freeway routes, but please, try driving across Toronto or Montreal. If you arrive by plane and dally for a moment or two when you're walking through the terminal, your luggage will beat you to the carousel. If you grab your bag and board the airport's Canada Line (light rapid transit train), you can speed downtown for $2.75. If you really want to avoid the crowds, transfer to the SeaBus (for no additional fare) and carry on across the Burrard Inlet to the North Shore, where the boat lets you off at the quaint cobblestone village of Lonsdale Quay. You can grab a seafood lunch at an outdoor café, inhale that salt air and check into the new Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier. From there, you're only minutes away from the downtown business district, snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park and the other diversions of what The Economist magazine regularly proclaims "the world's most livable city."
West Coast architecture celebrates nature by getting out of her way, and the Pinnacle employs floor-to-ceiling windows to allow guests to engage with the hotel's magnificent physical setting. Even the showers have glass walls, so you don't have to miss the scenery as you lather up. Natural light fills the rooms, blending with the taupe fabrics and dark wood cabinetry. Each room has a balcony for viewing the passing ships, cruising seaplanes and coastal mountains. Downstairs, the lobby and halls feature original paintings by noted Canadian artists, and black and white photos of the neighbourhood's past as a world-famous shipyard. Over all, the Pinnacle manages to feel more like a seaside resort than a big-city hotel.
In Vancouver, physical fitness is considered to be as important as one's career, and the hotel devotes an entire floor to a yoga/dance studio, a sauna and steam room, and a sleek workout centre equipped with high-end exercise equipment and a 25-metre swimming pool. If you'd rather head outdoors, the hotel provides bicycles for exploring the neighbourhood - the specialty shops of Lonsdale Quay, the old shipyards and the Seaspan wharf with its brawny cartoonish tugboats.
Each room has plush bathrobes, a flat-screen TV, mini-bar, and a comfortable work station with free wireless Internet. On the bed, a teddy bear is nestled among the pillows. It's an odd idea, but it turns out to be a good one. The bears are on sale for $25, with the profits going to the Orfund Foundation, a registered charity that provides shelter and support for AIDS orphans in Africa.
Vancouverites shun pretense by dressing down, and place their chips on informality and the personal touch. It all seems a bit casual until one sees the striving beneath it. The aim is to provide more than expected, then dismiss any gratitude with a wave of the hand. It's the way we do things around here. The Pinnacle attempts to be more than just a hotel by supporting charities, artists, service clubs and sports teams. The hotel is small enough (105 rooms) to maintain close touch with guests, and you soon get accustomed to staffers addressing you by name. They know a hint when they hear one, and it would be challenging to come up with some whim they wouldn't tackle with quiet gusto.
The Lobby Restaurant and Lounge focuses on West Coast fare. Dishes are composed of British Columbia's natural bounty of fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables, prepared with a tip of the hat to French cuisine. Ethical foods are de rigueur in this neck of the woods, and the menu focuses on meat, fish and produce harvested without damage to the environment.
A stylish and surprisingly inexpensive hotel on the Western rim. The nearby Seabus-Canada Line will get you downtown in 15 minutes and to the airport in half an hour. Isn't this how great cities are supposed to work?
Special to The Globe and Mail