A Sunday cycling down commercial drive on Italian day.

It has been a big day. We set out on bicycle today to Commercial drive, on the east side of Vancouver for the ‘Italian day’ festival. The roads are closed off between Parker Street and East Third Avenue between noon and 8pm. The Italian community first opened business on the Drive in the 1940s and ’50s. There are numerous ethnic restaurants, cafes, cakes, bakeries and sports bar type places lining the street.

Co-incidentally, the Euro Cup opening cup match between Italy and Spain was on and in the final minutes of the game when we arrived. The final score ended up being a tie at 1-1 which meant that spirits weren’t dampened, but also fortunately not crazy on the streets given the crowd of about 60,000 that attended.

We arrived a little early at around 11am and after a twenty-five minute ride in the freezing cold, we well and truly deserved a coffee/hot chocolate. We stopped into Prado Cafe at 1348 Commercial Drive (on the corner of east fourth). Prado means open spaces in Spanish. It was the large windows, minimalist decor and overall look of the place that was inviting enough for me to want to stop in and fortuitously they were serving some of the best coffee available in Vancouver; 49th Parallel Roasters!  The vibe was laid back with really friendly staff who wanted to ensure a perfect coffee upon our first experience.

It felt really good to walk or do a slow cycle on a Sunday sans cars.  people watching, checking out what foodie treats were on offer, listening to the Italian music harmoniously blending into the happy atmosphere that surrounded us.

Our toddler needed to burn off some energy after drinking a reasonable amount of his hot chocolate, and we were again lucky enough to be metres from beautiful Grandview Park, 1657 Charles Street (at commercial drive) for a play. There was a fantastic play area with equipment set up with shady maple trees amongst the space. There is even a log table which comes from a 537-year-old cedar tree which blew down in Stanley Park.

Next stop, lunch at Biercraft Tap and Tapas at 1191 Commercial Drive. It was conveniently placed on the corner near Grandview Park.

We ordered from the brunch menu which was open on festival day till 3:30pm and ordered the Caesar Salad with a zesty lemon & Asiago dressing and grilled filone crouton, Fish and Chips, beer battered seasonal catch with Belgian frites & house made tartar and the Pulled pork sandwich, twelve-hour slow roasted pork shoulder with Grimbergen barbeque sauce, white cabbage coleslaw on a warm bun. I enjoyed it immensely and guilt-free too, knowing I had to also ride another twenty five minutes back home.

All washed down with a beer from their extensive list. My husband ordered a bottle of Canadian Bête Noire which was a smooth and creamy black ale, with notes of coffee, chocolate and roasted malts. I ordered a Tripel Karmeliet which was a beautiful clear gold sweet and fruity taste with layers of citrus, spice and caramel to finish it off. I didn’t take any notice of the alcohol content which was almost double my husbands! I am glad I was not responsible for cycling our ‘precious cargo’, aka our son, back home.

A couple of hills home and I probably only burned off about ten Belgian frites, but when we opened our front door I knew I had earnt a well deserved Sunday siesta.

It was a really enjoyable way to wrap up the weekend and I think we’ll be heading back for more fun the following weekend for car free day on Commercial Drive.

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