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Her World

Playing at Checkers Without Reservations

February 02, 1986|JUDITH MORGAN | Morgan, of La Jolla, is a nationally known magazine and newspaper writer

I felt foolish changing hotels every two days in Vancouver, my emotions sliding from those of an evicted waif to those of a wronged woman.

I felt embarrassed at having to check out by high noon, only to check in somewhere else 10 minutes away, then race off for lunch.

I felt resentment at the time wasted indoors--packing, unpacking, riding elevators--in this cosmopolitan Canadian city whose natural beauty is stunning.

I felt angry because I had no one to blame for my rootless state but myself. This was a business trip, arranged some months in advance. It would have proceeded in efficient and leisurely fashion, with one hotel base, except for a last-minute change: A calendar glitch at home forced me to push the dates forward.

Geodesic Twinkle

Vancouver's hotels are well booked. It's tricky to get long reservations on short notice. And this was late summer, when Expo '86 was merely a geodesic twinkle in the civic eye, and not three months from opening.

Despite the hustle of two-night stands, I did get to sample life in four hotels. In between folding clothes and filing papers, interviewing locals and tipping those who helped me move on, I enjoyed these amenities:

At the Westin Bayshore, on the waterfront of Coal Harbor, I felt lucky to get a corner room on the 13th floor, facing a wall of mountains to the north. My view was of sailboats and floatplanes, the evergreen wilderness of Stanley Park and the roofline of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.

Below was a round, turquoise pool where vacationers laughed merrily until well after sunset, which was about 10:30 p.m. I'm sure they weren't laughing at me, but still . . . they were together out there, and I was on a balcony with my tape recorder.

Hong Kong Aura

At the Mandarin, a dulcet hostelry with a gracious staff, a Chinese temple screen in the lobby reminded me of a favorite wall at the Mandarin in Hong Kong. I was told it had come from there for the hotel's opening in 1984. Soft terry-cloth robes, teak shoehorns and a brass-and-mahogany Captain's Bar also reflected the parent hotel in Asia.

On the third floor were more health activities than I had strength for: squash courts, for starters. On the lobby level, the Clipper Lounge proved more my speed. I could not walk past this sunken area without settling in for tea, even after my Mandarin time was up.

The doorman remembered me, and with reason: He had arranged my across-the-street transfer to the Four Seasons Hotel. I jaywalked, as a Mandarin bellman carried my bookbag and suitcase to the Four Seasons entrance. The welcome was as cordial as if I'd arrived by limo.

Indoor/Outdoor Pool

At the Four Seasons, escalators swept up from the street to the lobby and garden atrium. New mountain-view suites were being readied. On the fourth floor is a spa with a vast indoor/outdoor pool. Four guests were enjoying cheeseburgers, Dom Perignon and Friday in the sun at poolside.

They stared at my notebook and asked why I was working on such a glorious afternoon. My answer did not sound convincing, even to me, so I retreated to browse the shops of Pacific Centre, an underground wonder-mall that is linked to the hotel.

At the Wedgewood Hotel, I arrived by taxi because the trip was five blocks and my traveling library was growing heavy. The Wedgewood has a gazebo atmosphere and overlooks the new heart of Vancouver--the terraced gardens and law courts of Robson Square.

The hotel dining room is much honored, but I fancied the more casual Bistro, which has all the marks of a fine city pub. Within a block is Murchie's coffee and tea emporium, founded in 1894, where I bought special blends of tea (duty free), including the one served each afternoon at the Empress Hotel in the provincial capital of Victoria.

On my last day in Vancouver, when the cab driver asked, "Where to?" I wanted to blurt, "The Sylvia on English Bay" or "Granville Island Hotel" or "any old B&B."

Instead, I sighed: "To the airport." So much for non-stop amenities.

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