Aritzia makes good pants, you guys. I feel like you`re probably getting sick of me waxing poetical on the topic, but it`s true. Here is another pair, slightly different from the other two (black) pairs of Aritzia pants I own, and it`s so good. Slouchy but still relatively slim cut, with a definite casual vibe thanks to the rolled hems and the drawstring waist. They`re fancy joggers basically … but they come with buttons and snaps, so I can totally wear these to the office as well. Right? You know I am going to try.
Meanwhile, with this chambray-esque top, these pants make for a nice off-duty outfit. Simple but polished. It`s the closest I get to feeling effortlessly chic. I always think outfits like these look better in person than in photos, so I guess you`ll have to take my word for it. Hmm, what else? Ah, yes: shoes and bag. The shoes are my fave AGL flats. Super comfy, would highly recommend; there are usually a few pairs floating around on eBay. I`m a loafer convert — I`m almost ready to give up all my high heels. Almost. But I do wear loafers most weekends. As for the bag, it`s my trusty MbMJ Mag bag. The colour is starting to fade which is making me sad; the leather is otherwise still in great shape; vintage Marc Jacobs leather was the best leather — soft and supple, with a nice weight to it. I may have to invest in some maroon leather polish and see what miracles I can create. If anyone has advice about rehabbing leather bags, let me have it — please and thank you.
Packing for a family vacation is not all that exciting. Practical considerations win out over fashion, every time. Since I wanted to minimize the number of bags we had to check, and considering how much kids gear we had to haul with us, I had to make all my stuff (minus toiletries) fit into a carry-on. To some of you, that might seem like a total “duh” moment — after all, we were only traveling for a week — but I am a (largely reformed) over-packer so success was not a foregone conclusion. I did manage, even with a few errors in the mix.
My main mistake was not trusting the weather forecast. It showed the weather as being sunny, hot and dry during our stay … which is not my experience with Vancouver weather. I figured there would be at least one or two rainstorms and some cooler days, and packed accordingly. I was wrong. All the bulky, warm clothes I brought (two jackets, three sweaters, one pair of loafers)? Not necessary. I should have packed more summery pieces instead. As it was, I wore the same stuff more than once, which was fine. Like I said, style was not high on the agenda. Luckily, Vancouver is a very casual city for the most part, so I didn`t look like the total tourist I was.
I got a bunch of compliments from various strangers on this dress; I guess it was as much of a hit on the West Coast as at home. I tend to feel a bit self-conscious wearing it here, as it is on the short side; not so in Vancouver. Thigh-grazing hemlines are everywhere there, so I totally blended in.
This was another perfect dress to pack. It`s lightweight but offers some sun protection, and it`s wonderfully accommodating of all my gastronomic pursuits.
I ended up wearing this top twice, with different pants. I probably should have packed more dresses instead of two pairs of pants, but I made do. This top is also nice and roomy, so that was a bonus.
This counted as my most “fancy” outfit and I wore it (for dinner with friends in Yaletown which was as fancy as our vacation got) mostly because I wanted to get some use out of this blazer; I love it, but it was completely unnecessary on this trip. Oh well. Aritzia is super popular in Vancouver, so this Talula blazer was at least on trend.
I didn`t do much shopping on this trip, though not for lack of trying. I did check out the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (mostly so I would not lose ALL blogger cred) and bought a Natori Feathers bra to try out; everyone and their mom seems to love this bra, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So far, I`m liking it but bras are a long-term game; I won`t make any snap judgments. While at Nordstrom, I did take a shine to a couple of bags:
In the end, I didn`t love them enough to justify even the sale price, so I passed. I haven`t been truly wowed by a bag in a long time, and I`m starting to wonder if my days as a “bag lady” are coming to an end. Say it ain`t so!
I also did a bit of thrifting at the Salvation Army on West 4th, without any success. Prices were on the high end, similar to Value Village back home. I did spot a few good brands, though.
Being short on time and means of rapid transportation meant that I did not get to explore the Van thrift scene more extensively; many of its highlights are located outside the downtown core where we spent 99% of our time. I`ve made peace with the fact that vacation thrifting is never going to be as satisfying as the homegrown kind, at least not until I travel alone and can devote myself to the task.
Lastly, I did pop in to a couple of stores on Robson Street to check out the retail scene. The Aritzia store was as overwhelming as always and I walked out almost immediately, needless to say empty-handed. You know how some people can`t handle places like Winners? I feel that way at Aritzia. All those rows of seemingly identical clothing that looks like nothing at all on a hanger. I can never find anything I like in that store, which is really weird because I`m loving the aesthetic of every piece I`ve thrifted recently. Also, the prices; I can`t with the prices.
The J. Crew store bored me as it has been doing for ages. What is happening there? One thing J. Crew used to do really well as recently as a couple of years ago was prints. I didn`t see a single interesting one this time. Similarly, Club Monaco was a disappointment. I went through a CM phase late last year, but I was not wowed by their current offerings. Nothing truly special that would justify the prices, as far as I`m concerned.
In contrast, Zara was full of alluring choices. I tried on an armful of clothes … and left empty-handed. Zara has a knack for making clothes that look “high fashion” from a distance, but they rarely seem to work on my body.
I`ve been looking for a knife-pleated skirt for a few months now, and loved the dark green shade of this ones, but the fabric was too stiff and the length did not flatter. At $70, it was nowhere close to being worthwhile. The shirt was intriguing but, on balance, too trendy for me.
I was excited to try this blouse after spotting it on the website earlier, but it was a disappointment. It simply didn`t look the same on me as in the stock photo, and I couldn`t figure out how to fix the problem. You can`t see them well in this photo, but I also tried on a pair of high waisted, dark green culottes which … no. Definitely, unquestionably, no.
So I came home from my trip (almost) empty-handed but feeling pretty Zen about it. Trying on clothes that didn`t work for me made me thankful for the clothes I already have … and excited to go back to my usual thrift haunts. I know. I`m incorrigible, always. See you on the thrift side!
Vancouver is one of my fave vacation spots, with or without kids in tow. There is something comforting about the familiarity of a town you’ve lived in before, but Van is also legitimately cool. It has everything — ocean, mountains, museums, shops, you name it. The kids are at an age where they still need constant “entertainment”, and Van makes it easy for us to keep them happy while also doing things that are fun for grown-ups. In this case, eating. Oh em gee, the eating. Edmonton has a thriving foodie scene, but it’s spread out over a large area. In Van, you practically trip over delicious restaurants at every turn. We quickly gave up any other plans we might have had, and resigned ourselves to the routine imposed by our friendly mini dictators; we spent most of our vacation shuttling between various kid-friendly activities (read: anything involving water), with eating pit-stops every few hours. And it was glorious.
A lot of kid-oriented things in downtown Van — like the aquarium and the Telus World of Science — proved to be quite expensive, so we decided to go low key. The False Creek ferries, while not exactly cheap, proved to be a much better investment. For $44, the cost of an all day pass for the family, we explored everything from the Olympic Village, to Granville Island (which rated a follow-up trip), to Kitsilano. The kids loved riding the ferries … and, well, the adults did too. Much more fun than, say, a bus.
At the Olympic Village, we ran into a food truck selling this heavenly dessert combination:
Imagine a cone made of sweet dough (similar to a yeast donut), lined with Nutella and filled with soft serve ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. Heaven, I tell you.
Granville Island was also a huge hit. The kids loved the free splash park and the, what else, Kids Market. I loved the Public Market and its amazing food offerings. There are few things that rival fresh BC produce (Rainier cherries are my faves), but the market has them all on offer. Siegel`s Bagels were a hit with the whole family, especially the (warm) cheese-filled variety. Another highlight for me was the Chau Veggie Express; the golden temple soup bowl was to die for. There was also fish and chips, not to mention fudge, in the mix, and the only reason why any of us could still fit into our clothes by the end of the trip was because we walked everywhere. Miles and miles every day.
We took the kids to Sunset Beach on English Bay almost every morning. The ocean is too cold for swimming, but it`s a great spot for a bit of splashing and seashell hunting. Further down the sea wall, there is Second Beach, which has a fantastic (heated) public swimming pool. We went early, just as it opened, and got to have it almost all to ourselves for about an hour before the crowds hit. It`s large and has a graduated slope (along with a couple of water slides) for little ones. It sits right on the sea wall above the ocean, and it has a bit of that infinity pool feel to it. I hate public pools, but this one was great — and an inexpensive outing at $12 for the whole family.
Speaking of cheap thrills, on Tuesday nights the Vancouver Art Gallery has admission by donation from 5-9PM, so we took the opportunity to see the Monet Secret Garden exhibit. If you have the chance to see it, do. It`s worth the trip. Even though the kids are too young to fully appreciate the art, they still had fun walking around the gallery with our friends` daughter. The best thing about being young is making instant best friends.
The kids fared even better at the Roundhouse Community Centre, where we took them for a morning drop-in play gym. For a minimal cost, they got to expend some of their inexhaustible energy among other peeps their age, and it was a nice alternative to the (free) outdoor playground at Emery Barnes Park (on Davie and Richards Street) because it was an indoor, enclosed setting requiring somewhat less vigilance on our part. The kids were also big fans of the hotel pool; we were fans of the hotel hot tub (after all that walking), so this was another win win situation.
As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I didn`t get to cross many things off our personal Vancouver bucket lists, eating excluded. We will have to save those for our next solo trip. Still, I was able to do at least one of my fave Van activities — checking out the fancy local real estate (it`s the stuff that lotto dreams are made of), and the abundant green spaces. Beautiful things grow everywhere. I mean EVERYwhere. Even under bridges.
Other culinary highlights for me included Tacofino in Yaletown (best West Coast-style tacos ever) and Breka Cafe on Davie Street (best desserts, hands down). Also, a shoutout to Yamato Sushi, my favourite spot for inexpensive but delish sushi. Van has no shortage of sushi joints, and you probably can`t go wrong with any of them, but this one is close to our usual hotel (the Marriott Residence Inn) and I`m a creature of habit. I also can`t forget Fritz and Firecrust, which were the kids` fave restaurants for, respectively, European-style fries and pizza. They have sophisticated palates, what can I say /sarcasm.
All in all, this was our most successful family vacation yet, if judged by the amount of temper tantrums experienced (fewer than ever!) and the amount of yummy food consumed. Traveling with kids is never exactly relaxing — maybe that will change with time, here`s hoping — but this was a much-needed opportunity to connect as a family and we made the most of it. So, for that and everything else, thanks Vancouver! Till next time …