On this day, we took on The Grind.
The Grouse Grind, or ‘nature’s stair master’ is a trail nearly 3km up Grouse Mountain which is Vancouver’s tallest peak overlooking the city. Very popular with local fitness fanatics who can use fobs to clock in and the bottom and top of the trail to record their times. The average completion is 1.5 hours, but some nutter holds the record for doing it in 25 minutes. Having now done the challenge, I have no idea how any human could do it so fast!
We started out for The Grind fresh with a belly full of Lucky Charms (the breakfast of champions) and gave the notice board at the bottom of the trail a glance before setting off. They certainly don’t hold back on warning people away from taking on the challenge unless physically up to it, after all the trail is so steep and narrow that turning back is not allowed. Yikes!
It’s a rugged, uneven staircase made of rocks and tree roots and wooden steps, winding through beautiful forest. At the bottom it starts out easy enough but as you get higher you find yourself lunging upwards with all your limbs. At least, you do it you’ve got short legs like me!
Oh and The Grind totally lives up to its name. Take lots of water with you!
You can of of course complete The Grind at whatever pace you wish, but in the spirit of the challenge, everyone gives it their best… although we witnessed a good few give up and turn back despite what the rules say!
So 1 hour and 28 minutes later (we beat the average time by 2 minutes, hoorah!) Q and I arrived at the top, lungs gasping and thighs burning. There’s a little sign at the top asking: “You mad, legs?” and I can assure you that yes, yes they are.
As with any hike up a mountain, we were hoping that our hard work would be rewarded with stunning views…
Nope. We had climbed into a cloud so zero views for us! Can’t win ’em all eh? Well, Grind over and sense of achievement… achieved (!) you can imagine that we were feeling pretty ravenous. Word has it that The Grind burns 1,000 calories! We took the skyride back down to sea level, went home to shower up and walked our weary legs over to Chinatown back in the city.
We chose Bao Bei because it was a little different to anything we’d had before, which is exciting given we eat a lot of Chinese food. It’s a Chinese Brasserie and we entered to find the restaurant very different to anything we might have expected from Chinatown: classic and botanical, almost something of a French feel about it with quaint wooden cafe tables and vintage photo frames hanging on the walls.
The menu is made up of small plates made for sharing, much the same as dim sum or tapas. The waiter recommended to us that two dishes per person would be enough but we ordered a little more because y’know, it’s us, and we had just climbed a bloody great mountain!
There’s a few Chinese classics on the menu, particularly the dumplings. We ordered the pork and prawn wontons in a black bean and chilli vinaigrette. The waiter suggested that we used spoons to eat these so we didn’t miss out on the tangy, spicy sauce that came with them. Great tip, the black bean and chilli made them!
I think these pork baos were my favourite. Lovely, pillowy soft dough buns filled with beautifully tender pork in a rich sauce. I could practically feel these comforting little buns hugging my sore legs!
The Shao Bing was a great example of the twists that Bao Bei had on the menu which brought it outside of the classic Chinese genre. This sesame flatbread was stuffed with sirloin, picked red onion and plenty of coriander. A steak sandwich infused with Asian spices.
Our stay in Vancouver has revealed that Canadian customer service is leaps and bounds beyond what we receive in the UK. Not a single restaurant we’ve visited (and we’ve been to a lot) has been anything short of outstanding and Bao Bei has been one of the top for attentiveness. The waiting staff observe every little detail: no sooner have you finished your water they’re over topping it up for you. They take time to advise how to get the best out of your meal and have a genuine friendliness about them.
I think I won’t be able to help myself from critiquing service back home more rigorously after this holiday!