Vancouver is a city where you can ski in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and sail in the evening.
It all sounds too good to be true, but thanks to a backdrop of coastal mountains and elegant fingers of land reaching into the sea, Vancouver delivers a near perfect setting and, unlike much of Canada, has a pleasingly temperate climate to boot.
On a stomp around the city, I took to the famed shops in Robson Street, such as buzzing Robson St Market which has all sorts of eclectic fashion boutiques and shops selling everything from great shoes to vitamin supplements and fabulous lingerie.
And then, of course, there’s the bars of trendy Yaletown, a gentrified former industrial district near the city centre.
Here I rubbed shoulders with the cosmopolitan locals and downed a great pint in the Yaletown Brewing Company, a large brick-exposed restaurant and bar where people are equally welcome in suits or Lycra shorts (very Vancouver!).
The large Asian population adds spice to the mix and it is here that you’ll find Canada’s biggest Chinatown.
There are temples, museums such as The Chinese Cultural Centre Museum, numerous art galleries, ornate gardens (don’t miss Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden), karaoke bars, and stores selling jade, vibrant silks and gold.
And, of course, there’s fabulous dim sum and sushi. The Millennium Gate is the entrance to Chinatown.
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s most popular green spot, and North America’s largest urban park: a 1,000-acre haven filled with forest paths, clear lakes and grassy picnic-perfect meadows.
Here you can enjoy outdoor theatre; take part in outdoor painting and for the kids there’s a miniature train and farmyard. Equally you can just wander and explore some of the most spectacular trees in the world.
And if that gives you a taste for escape, take the 90-minute ferry and bus ride to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, on nearby Vancouver Island.
While Vancouver fits two million inhabitants into its 46 sq miles, Vancouver Island has a landmass the size of Holland and a population of just 600,000. As a result it is one of the world’s best outdoor playgrounds.
But it’s not all mountains, there’s a buzzing capital city too. Vancouver Island’s capital, Victoria – founded and named after our queen in 1843 – is quintessentially British and hugely proud of it.
The Gold Rush years filled the town with rough-and-ready miners, but from 1858 British settlers brought ‘civilisation’, and with it such delicacies as afternoon tea and fine architecture.
Wandering the streets of Victoria you will find shops selling English linen, Scottish shortbread and Irish lace. The local accent here still has a distinct twang due to the numbers of Celts who settled here.
When I ordered a cup of tea in the bijoux Empress Hotel and the waiting staff heard my Scottish accent, I made instant friends.
Other attractions include the Royal London Wax Museum, and ‘historic’ sights like the replica of Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Craigdarroch Castle, but don’t miss the Royal BC Museum, with its seven million exhibits and an excellent section on the First Peoples.
This gallery gives a real insight into First Nations cultures before and after the arrival of Europeans, and includes exhibits such as ceremonial masks and a reconstruction of the house of Tribal Chief.
The surrounding waters are equally beguiling and whale watching with an outfit called (cheesily) ‘Prince of Whales’ is a must. The Prince offers three hour cruises in search of killer whales, grey, minke and humpbacks.
On my trip I saw all three and countless seals also. Whenever you go, you’re guaranteed to need the camera.
If you are staying on the island, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a comfortable base and has an excellent Asian restaurant.
And St John’s Place, 723 Pandora Avenue a diner regularly packed with eccentric locals is worth seeking out for its well-priced, award winning food.
There are few finer spots to spend a genteel afternoon than at the spectacular Butchart Gardens. Each year over a million people visit the 104-year-old gardens, which are still owned by the Butchart family who were cement magnates who transformed their fromer quarry into one of the world’s most stunning gardens.
There are 55 acres of manicured turf for you to explore, including the Sunken Garden and delightful Rose Garden.
And if you want to follow in royal footsteps the little-known Milner Gardens at Qualicum Beach will fit the bill. Prior to her death in 1998, Mrs Milner hosted Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles at her home on the property.
With formal gardens, yet more giant trees (a recurring theme in these parts) and views of the Strait of Georgia, they are quite stunning.
But for some of the biggest and most spectacular trees in the world Cathedral Grove, in McMillan Provincial Park, in central Vancouver Island, with 800-year-old giant Douglas Firs is breathtaking.
Follow the trails and drink in the scenery. It doesn’t get much better than this. Anywhere. I came away from my trip feeling like a guest, rather than a tourist, and that is a second home, to which I would be happy to return.