Tuesday, August 16, 2011

10 Green Ways to Experience Vancouver

Having just organized a Vancouver itinerary for a very eco-conscious, overseas visitor with only days in my fair city, here are some of the whirlwind suggestions I made:

1. Rent a bike or a pair of rollerblades and self-propel your way around Vancouver's Stanley Park seawall, marveling at Vancouver's green, urban, ocean-wrapped sanctuary.

2. Get a view of the city from the water; grab a kayak from Ecomarine and paddle your way through the waters of False Creek. If you're lucky, you'll spot some of the seals, otters, eagles and fish that make this urban waterway their home.

3. See Vancouver from the highest point possible atop Grouse Mountain's new wind turbine, the Eye of the Wind. The turbine has the capacity to produce enough energy to supply the needs of 400 homes over a year.

4. Eat sustainably on fresh, sustainably-harvested seafood; choose a restaurant that participates in the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program.

5. Take a guided walking tour with Rockwood Adventures and explore Vancouver's rainforests -- one of the world's most primitive ecosystems.

6. Sleep green at one of Vancouver's hotels that has made a commitment to the environment, such as the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel. Known for its zero waste management program, the hotel has a Green Key rating of four out of five. 

7. Travel by a 25-foot, First Nations canoe through the waters of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm, while guides from Takaya Tours - an Aboriginal eco-tourism company - share legends, songs and stories from their rich history and culture.

8. Take transit - Bus, SkyTrain or SeaBus - around Vancouver's neighbourhoods and attractions. The diversity of views on water, on ground and on elevated rail, is the 'inside' way of seeing the city. Best of all, present your transit pass at a number of Vancouver's top attractions and you'll receive a discount on admission.

9. Indulge in the 100 Mile Tasting Menu at Raincity Grill where all dishes are inspired by sustainable aquaculture, local farmers and the book 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating written by Vancouver-journalists Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon.

10. See what makes Vancouver a top city for green building and design; tour some of its state-of-the-art LEED gold-grade buildings, including the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Vancouver Aquarium's Aquaquest building, and the Olympic Village neighbourhood.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

San Francisco Revisited

Having not been to San Francisco for some 12 years, it was a delight to rediscover a city that I first visited in the seventies. I thought a stroll down memory lane would be a fun way to spend an afternoon but what I found was so much more.

Gentrifying Character
There`s an air of gentrification happening around many of the once-seedy backstreets near Union Square. Many neighbourhoods have also spruced up their picturesque homes and BART feels cleaner, too. Incidentally, BART makes for a very easy (and the cheapest) trip between the airport and downtown is less than $10 and takes about 30 minutes.

In Chinatown, laundry still hangs from fire-escapes Hong Kong style to dry in breezeS that can tunnel UP quite a force from the water; my favourite restaurant (the Far East CafĂ©) is still there but has cleaned up so well that I barely recognized it; and the jazz clubs seem to have shape-shifted appearances, the music is as great as ever. However, too many non jazz locales simply pound with incessant techno-beat music. I call it lazy-DJing – give the crowd an ecstasy pill and just keep blasting sameness.

The best re-discoveries were along the waterfront where former grunge is a distant memory. People and activity is everywhere – including an outdoor Sunday ministry for the homeless that really had unexpected `good vibrations` of friendship and decency. Pier 39 has settled into a pleasant stroll-shop-experiential destination. My biggest giggle came from experiencing Vitality, a Coney-island style spa. Pretty wild with everything from a flavourful oxygen-bar to electronic massagers.

Newest Top Draws
Away from the water, I really loved the attractions such as the amazing California Academy of Sciences and Walt Disney Family Museum.

The California Academy of Sciences is a showcase of our world's three dimensions: sea, earth and sky. In the basement (as in 'sea level') lies an amazing aquarium plus a swamp where Claude, one of only 45 albino alligator lives. Fabulous natural wildlife displays are on the main floor (as in earth), and a steamy, light filled dome contains a rainforest reaching for the sky. Everything`s geared to interaction. I loved the Science Tarot Cards – yes, you read this right. They were designed by intuitive artists especially for the Museum - I picked an image depicting a telescopic view of two stars, one slightly smaller than the other. They looked very real and while the scientific explanation was something about how stars can converge to create a new stars, the parallel tarot reading had something to do with choices.

Disney Family Museum is a wonderful revelation about Walt Disney himself. His family. Background. Early efforts. Failures. The creation of Steamboat Willie – one wall is covered with hundreds of images making up only seconds of film. Snow White. Fantasia. The working model of Disneyland … and so on. His daughter was the driving force behind telling the `real` story about her father, and it really is a delight to discover.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dayton Boots Kicks It Up on Granville Island

Established in 1946, Dayton Boots have garnered quite a reputation for hand-crafted boots - first for their logging boots, then for hell-bent-for-leather biker boots, and need to have heavy-duty construction and oil-rig boots.

Then Daytons got fashionable as in the hand-crafted, hip foot apparel for the likes of Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Robin Williams, Cindy Crawford, Sharon Stone, Kurt Russell, Lou Diamond Phillips, Harry Connick Jr., Brendan Fraser, Lorenzo Lamas, Darryl Hanna, and Alyssa Milano to name but a few.

So opening up a retail outlet on gentrified Granville Island is news --it's always sold boots out of its gritty workshop space on the city's East Side -- and is bound to create a stir for 'those in the know'.

The new store carries a complete line of Dayton Boots rugged performance footwear -- specifically designed for specialized motorcycling, riding, and walking footwear.

It's not uncommon to see Dayton boots still in use after 25 to 40 years. They're THAT good!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Georgia Hotel Soon to Re-Open

Work and travel - rediscovering Montreal, has kept blogs on the back-burner but here I am again, prompted with the soon-to-re-open iconic Hotel Georgia as a Rosewood Georgia. The entire building has been under tarps and scaffolding for so long, it's great to see it finally returning to the Vancouver scene.

When the hotel first opened its doors in 1927,the location became the social, cultural and business heart of the city, as well as a hang out for celebrity guests including Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, Ginger Rogers, Elvis Presley, Nat "King" Cole, The Beatles, Katharine Hepburn, Laurence Oliver and HRH Edward Prince of Wales.

The hotel's new Managing Director, Steve Halliday, is also a prominent Vancouver hotelier, remembered best for his opening of the five-star Pan Pacific Hotel.

Because of the hotel's illustrious history, Rosewood Hotel Georgia is inviting past guests to share their memories in a contest that launched this weekend and will run until June 18th 2011.

The best and/or most captivating story will win a grand price of a night in the Lord Stanley Suite (one of the hotel's two penthouse suites with private rooftop terraces and hot tubs), dinner at Hawksworth Restaurant, a decadent room service breakfast.

Check them out at www.RosewoodHotels.com
Me? I'm interested in trying the new Sense A Rosewood Spa so I can review in for my spa site on Bella-On-Line .....

Friday, April 8, 2011

Frommer's unveils 2011 Best Cruise Ships list

As my Frommer's book hits the bookshelves for the summer, and cruise ships are soon to arrive in Vancouver, en route to Alaska, I thought I'd share their annual Best Cruise Ships list. After all, I used to work aboard cruise ships and have certainly written my fair share on cruising so it's close to my heart.

The newest and most groundbreaking ship on the list is Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, which debuted just a few months ago. Judges praised the 225,282-ton, 5,400-passenger vessel and her older twin sister, Oasis of the Seas, for "letting light and air into the center of the ships" via a radical new superstructure design. The judges also singled out Allure for being “undoubtedly the best entertainment ship at sea, with truly exceptional programming for both adults and kids.”

Also making the list of 2011’s best ships were:

· Celebrity's Solstice Class: Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, and Celebrity Eclipse
· Seabourn's Odyssey Class: Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn
· Silversea's Silver Spirit, Silver Shadow, and Silver Whisper
· Norwegian Cruise Line's Jewel Class: Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl, and Norwegian Gem
· Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria
· Celebrity's Millennium-class: Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Infinity, and Celebrity Summit

A further eight ships were recognized as “notable” including:
SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I and SeaDream II
Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic
Princess's Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, and Ruby Princess
Windstar's Wind Surf
Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, and Jewel of the Seas
Star Clippers' Royal Clipper
Crystal Cruises Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony
Regent Seven Seas' Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager

All I can say, is WOW and Happy Sailing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WHERE's 15 Things to Love about Vancouver

When I said I'd share some secrets about Vancouver, when I found this just published piece by Where Vancouver ... well, it resonates.

1 Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who are in town to film Twilight: Breaking Dawn. (did I tell you I was the Featured Performer in JK Rowling movie, Strange Magic, also shooting here?)

2 The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, which is nominated for a 2011 Juno Award. Tune in Mar. 27 to see if the VSO wins. (the VSO really is one of the most under-rated, great orchestras around)

3 Howard Hughes. The eccentric billionaire arrived at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Hotel on Mar. 14, 1972, taking over two floors for himself and his employees—though no hotel staff ever glimpsed the recluse during his long stay. (Errol Flynn - and his ladies - was another famous guest of that era, at the Hotel Vancouver ... and did you know that Boris Korloff actually came from Vancouver?)

4 Canine ambassadors such as Beau and Mavis. (Vancouverites are dog-crazy; expect to see packs of dog-walkers hanging out at your neighborhood Starbucks)

5 Fresh seafood. (Fresh, fresh, fresh ... especially if purchased directly off the boats at Steveston)

6 The Granville Island Broom Company.(Check out the organic sake maker, the amazing luthier and other one-of-a-kinds)

7 David Suzuki. The local author and environmental activist turns 75 on Mar. 24. (and let's not forget Greenpeace originated in Vancouver)

8 Luxurious anti-microbial yoga towels made by local company Baktuli (www.bak tuli.com). Each one sports a playful saying such as “Some like it hot.” At Moule and Fine Finds. (fitting company for Vancouver's other yoga great: Lulu Lemon)

9 Red Robinson. The legendary local disc jockey turns 74 on Mar. 30. Named in his honour, the 1,000-seat theatre at the Boulevard Casino features Gino Vannelli (Mar. 5) and Meat Loaf (Mar. 18 and 19) this month. (Red is one of the most genuine folks around ... a real local celeb. who has always loved his roots)

10 The Vancouver Canucks hockey team, which is celebrating its 40th season. (and they are doing sooooooo well - will the Stanley Cup be ours this year?)

11 The sense of community: Mar. 24 is Dining Out for Life, when restaurants across the Lower Mainland donate 25 per cent of each food bill to HIV/AIDS charities. (this is the first of so many community events that will now take place virtually every weekend through to the Fall)

12 Scuba diving. The water is cold—but it doesn’t warm up much in the summer. Scuba fans prefer winter diving here, when visibility is best. (Best spots include Porteau Cove)

13 The Vancouver Art Gallery. (Emily Carr and fantastic traveling exhibits of 'the classical greats)

14 Jogging on the seawall.(I've travelled the world, and Stanley Park's seawall is the best multi-experience, multi-generational seaside experience around)

15 Tiny art in Spirit Wrestler Gallery’s Mini Masterworks IV (Mar. 26 to Apr. 16). (and all the art at the Bill Reid Gallery)

If you have other favorites, let me know ...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

tripadvisor includes BC inns in its top choices

It's so gratifying when a site like tripadvisors lists BC Inns among its top choices -- even more so when some of them are already on www.greatestgetaways.com, which specializes in getaways in the Pacific Northwest, and beyond.

Here they are:

Abbeymoore Manor Bed & Breakfast, Victoria, BC
ThistleDown House, North Vancouver, BC
Eagle Landing Bed & Breakfast, Qualicum Beach, BC
Harvey House Bed & Breakfast, Tofino, BC
West End Guest House, Vancouver, BC
Apple Blossom Bed & Breakfast, West Kelowna, BC

Evan Penner, President of the British Columbia Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers Guild, says, “With four of Canada’s top 10 Bed and Breakfasts members of the BC Innkeepers’ Guild, this speaks volumes to the quality of our members. The inn or B&B experience is more than just a room: it’s a warm welcome, lovingly kept rooms, plus that unique feature – a sun porch, a cozy fireplace, a blissful hammock or a delicious afternoon tea. Our innkeepers love what they do, and it shows in the warm welcome they extend.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

San Juan Islands #2 on New York Times To Places to Visit List

With my Frommers Guide to the San Juan Islands due out any moment, it seems fitting to share this news.

The New York Times 2011 top destinations list IN THE WORLD includes these islands as Number 2!
To quote the NYT: “From the beaches of Mexico to the wilds of Kurdistan, the places on this year’s list take you to the end of the world and back.” So you can imagine that the San Juan folks are pretty chuffed at the recognition .... as I am since the new Frommers guide already includes what this prestigeous paper reveals.
The article praises the Islands’ amazing nature, and its dining scene, including Chef Lisa Nakamura’s new Allium Restaurant on Orcas Island, in Eastsound Village. The “eternal lure of the San Juans” is credited to its landscapes where “pastoral hills give way to broody forests and scrappy escarpments that overlook fjordlike inlets.” Praise is given for the recent annexation of Mitchell Hill to the San Juan Island National Historical Park, active land preservation efforts by organizations such as the San Juan County Land Bank, and the preservation from development of the spectacular Watmough Bay Preserve on Lopez Island with its “moody water as magically lighted as a Bierstadt painting.” The San Juan Islands were last honored on a New York Times annual list in 2008, in its “31 Places to Go this Summer” in the United States. In that list, the San Juans held the #14 position.

Other Pacific Northwest destinations chosen for the “41 Places to Go in 2011” list include two San Juan Islands neighbors: Olympic National Park, Washington (#27) and Whistler, British Columbia (#25). Other world destinations chosen for the 2011 list include Santiago, Chile (in the #1 position), The Danube, Zanzibar, Budapest and Singapore, to name a few.

To read the entire article, please go to www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/travel/09where-to-go.html or use the shortened link of http://nyti.ms/gJXhwc.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Now here's a travel evolution - launched today in Vancouver.

Ever dreamt of jumping in a helicopter pilot seat and soaring over some of this province’s finest glaciers, rivers, waterfalls and forests… in your pyjamas? Well now's your chance -- virtually.

The Vancouver-based northStudio360 has just developed an interactive, 360-degree helicopter video of some of BC’s most visually-stunning landscape. These techno wizards have created a web-based video by using a custom-built rig to which they strapped six cameras to a pole and hung it out of a helicopter while flying over a 150 km track of stunning coastal mainland. To finalize the product, northStudio360 used their proprietary video merging software for a seamless flying experience.

"Until now, 360 video really gave only a ground level look at our world. We’ve literally taken this technology to new heights," said Ryan Whitehead, president of northStudio360. "We teamed up with Nimmo Bay Resort, one of North America’s top heli-adventure destinations, to showcase the wild West Coast. With the push of a button, you’re in the pilot’s seat: fly inches off the surface of a river or soar over rugged mountains, it’s entirely up to you."
Due to improvements of internet and processor speeds in the past few years, it’s now possible to deliver higher quality 360-degree video to the public and with much more dynamic views, creating new opportunities for those in the tourism and advertising sectors. In the near-future, northStudio360 plans to create videos where users can stop the footage, insert location tags (Geotag) and upload vacation photos.
To experience the software first-hand, visit http://www.blogger.com/www.nimmobay.com/media/360-video/360-video-adventures

And get set for a wild ride!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunset Inn & Suites a REAL Vancouver find

Because I tend to blog when traveling, you might assume that life has been quieter these last couple of months. Until you realize that the last eight weeks have involved all the usual holiday paraphernalia and New Year celebrations. And now that we’re all ensconced into 2011, there’s a real sense of optimism in the air. Despite a still-shaky economy, poor job stats, rising air-fares, and weather-driven misery, horoscopes and intuitive forecasters seem determined to paint a much rosier picture.

So, going with the flow, I’ve started out my New Year in rediscovering hidden treasures of my home city: Vancouver.

Here one of my first finds right off the bat: Sunset Inn & Suites – an apartment style hotel that’s just like living as a resident whether you choose a studio or one-bedroom unit. Recent upgrades have made this modest hi-rise an amazing value-for-money place – very comfortable, spacious, well equipped small kitchens, a wee exercise room, Wi-Fi, a DVD library and even free parking -- a big bonus in any city.

What really stands out is its hospitality. It honestly feels so much more friendly and genuine that the Big Hoteliers just down the road.

And you’ve got to love its central location. Restaurants and coffee houses are on your doorstep. Granville Island and the downtown shopping district are a stone’s throw away. Because of this, Sunset doesn’t have (or need) its own in-house restaurant which gets it listed as a 3.5 star property but trust me, this under-the-radar place offers 5-star service.

Once discovered, it’s the kind of place that will become your home away from home for every visit to Vancouver.

Now THAT'S a bona fide Vancouver greatest getaway!