"Lying on top of a building, the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street." Those words, from U.K. artist Liam Gillick, are writ large across the facade of the new James K.M. Cheng-designed Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver. While their meaning may be obscure, they do make one thing very clear: the ultramodern hotel is a departure for the typically white-gloved Fairmont chain, known for buttoned-up beauties such as the Plaza in New York City and the Savoy in London.
It's still posh of course, from the rooftop pool decked out with cabanas and fire pits to the custom-made, gold-hinged Fazioli piano that takes center stage in the lobby lounge. But the Vancouver Fairmont's greatest asset has everything to do with one phrase: Location, location, location. Built just steps from Canada Place and the Olympic cauldron, it offers views of fog-enshrouded mountains and the bay as seaplanes glide in and bald eagles wheel in the sky. Of the 377 guest rooms, it's the corner accommodations that show off these scapes best from the bathrooms, in fact, which have two-person Japanese-style soaker tubs parked in front of floor-to-ceiling windows.
Vancouver scores extremely highly when it comes to organic, locally sourced cuisine, and the Fairmont is no exception. Oru, its pan-Asian bistro, serves a clever amalgam of tandoori dishes, made-from-scratch noodles and seafood specialties. Plus, the place has the best-stocked sake cellar in town and stellar waterfront views. Rates start at $229. See www.fairmont.com/pacificrim.