Vancouver – A Gay Girls Getaway
Originally published 1-4-10
For lesbians planning a trip to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games February 12-28, there’s much to see and do outside of the sports arenas in this vibrant and very gay metropolis.
Many of us know Vancouver as the place where the “L Word” was shot, and despite Jenny’s slams about it when she was location scouting for Les Girls, the city is in fact a scenically beautiful, culturally alive and exceedingly friendly town, where gays can hold hands walking down the street and not get a second look.
Femmes rejoice. Even if athletics is not your thing, you can find plenty of great attractions, like spectacular shopping, to keep you busy while your butch babe watches the competition, the sports competition that is.
For fans of L Word couture, check out JC Studio (www.jcstudio.ca), where designer RozeMerie Cuevas, inventor of the “power suit,” decked out the stars in a hidden-away warehouse at 46 West 6th Avenue. For a special insider look at the collection and a unique and intimate shopping experience, reserve a spot at the studio’s once-monthly complementary catered champagne brunch where you can meet and mingle with other fashion aficionados and the designer herself. Maybe she will even show you her autographed pic of the cast wearing her duds if you get chummy.
If you have a lot of cash to spend, or if you just want to see how the other half shops, head to Holt Renfrew, the department store where my $75 gift card couldn’t buy even a single pair of panties. This is the place to see the top Canadian and international designer fashion collections, fine jewelry and other luxury goods — like Saks 5th Avenue, on steroids. The white marble floors, gleaming glass and chrome merchandise cases as well as the well-heeled clientele are a site to behold, and unbelievably the store is abuzz with clinging cash registers and cadres of customers clearly unaware of any recession in neighboring US of A.
If you’re like the rest of the populace and have to watch your fives and dimes, Quick Nickel Clothing at 1778 Davie Street offers bargains galore, including samples and labels for less, if you don’t mind the low-rent ambiance of merchandise packed into every nook and cranny of the little shop.
If you feel overwhelmed trying to navigate your way to the hippest boutiques, have no fear, Chicwalks to the rescue. Created by Canadian fashionista Karen Henrich, who also operates a Parisian shopping tour, the online site (www.chicwalks.com) and iPod app can lead you door-to-door to the hottest retail destinations in Vancouver with maps and descriptions of all the popular and hidden shopping spots around town.
For a shoe shopping experience that would give the Sex in the City girls wet dreams, chicwalks led me to Fluevog, where the namesake designer, John Fluevog, designs his “unisexy” line of footwear in a converted warehouse at 65 Water Street in Gastown. His designs include a line which memorializes women gunslingers and criminals, with a sassy saying on the bottom of each shoe. I was thrilled to learn that Fluevog retailers can also be found in Los Angeles, New York and a few other US cities listed at http://www.fluevog.com.
After a day of retail therapy, unwind with a bit of personal pampering without hardly lifting a finger by ringing up Cranberries (www.cranberriesspa.com), a mobile spa that makes hotel-calls with a squad of qualified estheticians who offer everything from mani-pedis to massage. My ultra-sweet and professional manicurist made even my short-short nails look terrific, and when I brushed them against the wall and ruined two of my nails after she spent a half hour perfecting them, she kindly fixed them up and re-polished them with a smile. That’s great service.
Vancouverites will tell you that the city is known for its fine dining, and indeed, during my recent four-day visit I didn’t have a bad meal anywhere. I began eating and drinking my way through the town with cocktails and a formal dinner at the William Tell, located at the Georgian Court Hotel. The restaurant is known as an old boy’s club locale where many a deal have been made and many an affair discreetly carried on.
In our private dining room, Executive Chef Preston Kittle prepared a wondrous five-course meal beginning with “Vaudoise” cheese fondue with a blend of Gruyere, Emmental and Raclette cheeses with white wine and kirsch served with a French baguette; then an heirloom tomato salad with musculin greens topped with crumbled Okanagan goat cheese and roasted walnuts; an intermezzo of Gewurztraminer Granite; and a sumptuous entrée of Wild Tiger Prawns and Baja Scallops pan-seared on a carmalized onion-thyme risotto with a Morel mushroom buerre bland and seasonal vegetables; followed with a 43-year-old William Tell traditional dessert — Meringue Glacee au Chocolat, served with homemade vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Scrumptious.
When in Vancouver, it would be a crime not to dine on fresh seafood, such as at COAST Restaurant, at 1054 Alberni Street, serving up perfectly prepared fish, shellfish and all the bounty of the sea. I was amazed and actually a little intimidated by the gigantic seafood platters, piled high with succulent crab, shrimp, oysters, lobster and sushi. I managed to overcome my fear of claw crackers and dive right into the meal, which was absolutely delicious and satisfying.
If you like to hang out late and appreciate a really great mixologist, check out George Ultra Lounge at 1137 Hamilton Street, where Vancouver’s cocktail culture was born. Modeled in London style, George pioneered the cocktail kitchen concept in Canada when it opened in 2005. Award-winning bar master Shuan Layton proudly pours up classic and market-fresh cocktails, including a variety of champagne cocktails, such as the Kicking Horse, a blend of fresh lemon and strawberry muddled with Absolut Citron and crème de fraises, served over crushed ice and crowned with champagne. You can enjoy a bevy of these one-of-a-kind beverages along with dinner or a late night menu till 2 am.
For another after-hours venue where you can really mix it up, in more ways than one, head down a block to the happening Society dining lounge, at 1257 Hamilton Street. Hailed as Yaletown’s most unpredictable dining lounge, it is known as a place where opposites come together — though the night I dropped by it must have been FemmeBot night, as there was nary a man in sight but plenty of skinny straight girls, all with their long blond hair teased over Bumpits and sporting bare arms, despite 40-degree weather outside. At least they were keeping warm with comfort food from the bar menu, like mini-grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup and Kobe meatloaf wrapped in bacon. Mmm mmm good.
In the city where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2003, it’s not hard to spot gay and lesbian couples out and about everywhere, but for hard-core gayety, the hood to hit is Davie Village in the West End, along Davie Street roughly between Burrard and Jervis Streets. Here rainbow banners adorn street signs and gay bars and business abound, and it’s just a skip and a hop from the famed clothing-optional Wreck Beach on the grounds of the University of BC, and breathtaking views of nearby Stanley Park.
Particularly popular nightclubs are Celebrities and Score, both on Davie Street. Info central is at Little Sister’s Bookstore at 1238 Davie Street. You might recognize the shop from a subplot in the lesbian flick “Better Than Chocolate,” or you may have heard of the store from its ongoing battles with Canadian customs regarding sale of alleged pornographic materials. It’s a great place to pick up all the gay rags, business directories and pamphlets like the helpful Gay Friendly Vancouver In Town Guide by gayvan.com.
To find the happening action for women, take a cruise down the East Side’s Commercial Drive, between 13th Avenue and Venables, known simply as “the Drive,” where fun and funky meet in a strip packed with cute and creative reasonably priced ethic restaurants, cafes, galleries and shops.
For lesbian night life, there’s Lick, at 455 Abbot Street, where all genders are welcome; Hershe Bar; a series of parties held by Crema Productions (www.cremaproductions.com), such as their signature “Chicklets” events at Celebrities nightclub in Davie Village; and Hershe Bar and “CHICAS” events held by Flygirl Productions (www.flygirlproductions.com).
Another friendly and helpful resource I stumbled on was QMunity, BC’s queer resource centre, on, no joke, Bute Street, 1170 Bute to be exact. There I ran into the wonderfully hospitable executive director Jennifer Breakspear who gave me an impromptu run down of all the main attractions for women in the city. Jennifer and her staff were like most denizens I came across in Vancouver, very friendly and welcoming.
The perfect ending to each of my days in Vancouver was retiring to my room at the Georgian Court Hotel (www.georgiancourt.com), in the center of it all at 773 Beatty Street, on the hotel’s newly opened Orchid Floor, just for women. That’s right, a wing of the famed hotel reserved just for lady folk, complete with yoga mats, satin-padded clothes hangers, a curling iron and flat iron, upgraded Aveda amenities and an emergency kit with panty hose and feminine supplies, all at no extra charge. No worries about big loud burly drunk men stumbling to their rooms next door after a night of conventioning and carousing with the guys. I slept like a queen.
I departed Vancouver and the Georgian Court feeling a like I was leaving my home-away-from-home, bidding adieu to my newfound friends at the front desk and the delightful guest relations manager Vivian, but I was not too sad, because I knew I would be back again, soon.