Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vancouver nabs city and hotel awards from Travel + Leisure

Vancouver as seen from Helijet en route to Victoria. ©SueFrausePhoto
Let's hope it doesn't go to Vancouver's shiny little head, as the BC city has picked up yet another accolade. According to the readers of the travel magazine Travel + Leisure, Vancouver is Canada's top travel destination. The magazine's annual World's Best Awards survey asks readers to evaluate cities on five characteristics:

  • Sights and Landmarks
  • Culture and Arts
  • Restaurants and Food
  • People
  • Value
Vancouver's score for the 2014 survey was 86.71, making it the top city in Canada and #6 in North America -- Quebec City came in #8. Here is the top ten list for North American cities

11Charleston, South Carolina90.18
26New Orleans88.74
37Savannah, Georgia88.30
42San Francisco87.53
75Santa Fe, New Mexico86.68
88Quebec City86.51
93New York City86.26

Vancouver also scored in the World's Best Hotel category, with five of the top 10 Canadian hotels located in Vancouver. Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver was anointed Canada's Top City Hotel, with four other Vancouver Hotels placing in the top ten: Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, The Fairmont Waterfront, and Fairmont Pacific Rim. Here is T+L's complete list: 
14Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver93.00
2-Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver92.27
32Ritz-Carlton, Toronto92.00
4-Ritz-Carlton, Montreal91.50
53Auberge Saint-Antoine, Quebec City90.94
65Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, Vancouver89.60
76Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver89.08
8-Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto88.50
91Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver87.49
10-Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria, British Columbia87.41

Friday, August 08, 2014

Vikings Land at Victoria's Royal BC Museum During First Stop on North American Tour

Days of the Week: Discover which four weekday names that are still in use today have Viking origins. Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum.

Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends has landed at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC. Vancouver Island is the international exhibition's first North American stop and runs through November 11, 2014. The exhibition evolved from recent discoveries and provides insight into the Viking era. 

Artifacts, interactive computer displays and hands-on educational activities tell the story of the Viking people, illustrating who they were and how they lived. Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends challenges commonly held beliefs and misconceptions of this mythical period. It breaks through stereotypes of Vikings as plunderers rampaging across Europe, wielding swords in search of treasures and valuables. The people of what is today Denmark, Sweden, Norway, northern Germany and parts of Finland lived mainly off the land. They were farmers and fishermen, and the myth of horned helmets was invented in modern times.
Pendant, crucifix, silver. This pendant is considered to be the oldest known crucifix found in what is present day Sweden. It was discovered in a woman's grave in Björkö, Adelsö, Uppland -- she seemed to have great wealth. The crucifix is completely unique, both in shape and its early dates, and no others of this type have been found. Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum, 
SHM 34000:Bj 660 (FID 108914).

The exhibition, produced by the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm and MuseumsPartner in Innsbruck, Austria, features more than 500 rare artifacts and original archaeological objects from the 8th-11th centuries. They include jewelry, swords, axes and clothing -- many have never been displayed outside Scandinavia. 

The objects provide glimpses into domestic life at that time: family and community, religion and rituals, travel and trade aristocracy and slavery and Viking women. The exhibition provides insights into the significance of the Vikings' craft, the power of their mythology and the symbolism of their ships.
Scandinavian Settlement and Viking Activity: Though the word 'viking' appears in Old Norse sources, it's mainly used to describe an activity. Men and women went 'on a viking' -- a commercial trip or raid. People seem to have referred to themselves as a Viking only when involved in this activity. This map shows the wide extent of Viking activity and Scandinavian settlement across Europe and the North Atlantics from the 8th-11th centuries. Image courtesy Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

The six-month exhibition in Victoria, which opened in May, includes numerous activities for all ages. Among the youth oriented programs are Saturday Night Alive and Vikings Summer Camps. A complete schedule may be found on the Royal BC Museum website. 

IMAX Victoria, located in the Royal BC Museum, is screening a companion film to the exhibition, Vikings: Journey to the New Worlds. The 40-minute large-format documentary provides a comprehensive snapshot of the Vikings, their historical and cultural impact, as well as scientific and technological achievements. Special Royal BC Museum and IMAX combo pricing is available. 

Tickets for Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends are available online or at the Royal BC Museum Box Office. Call 888.447.7977 for more information. The Royal BC Museum, located near the BC Parliament Buildings and The Fairmont Empress, is open daily from 10-5. Extended summer hours are 10-10 on Fridays and Saturdays through September 27, 2014.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Chefs for Oceans: Vancouver Chef Ned Bell Cycles Across Canada for Sustainable Seafood

Chef Ned Bell of Vancouver is no stranger to spending hours on a bicycle. On his 40th birthday in 2013, he took off on a 4-day, 900-kilometer bike ride across Vancouver Island. It was all about increasing the awareness of our food system.

But that's a spin around the block compared to the adventure he's beginning July 1, 2014. The Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver and YEW seafood + bar Executive Chef is off on a three-month, cross-Canada journey on his two-wheeler. As the founder of Chefs for Oceans, he's pedaling across the country to support sustainable seafood -- and healthy lakes, rivers and oceans. 

The trip begins July 1 in St. John's, Newfoundland and ends September 11 in Vancouver, BC. Chef Bell will pedal between 140km and 200km each day, and the 7,453km coast-to-coast trip will take 10 weeks to complete. Stopping in major cities along the way, Chef Bell hopes to raise awareness for sustainable seafood through interviews, events and appearances. 
Chef Bell, the father of two sons (Max is pictured above, second from the right), hopes to create a movement that allows Canadians to easily and readily access sustainable seafood. He's also donating a portion of net funds raised from his ride to the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program, Sea Choice and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). Bell is co-founder of the National Sustainable Seafood Day (NSSD) and member of the Chefs Table Society of BC. 

The Chefs for Oceans ride has numerous backers and sponsors, but there's room for more. Individuals and businesses can support the ride by making a donation, signing the NSSD petition, showing up at one of his events this summer or even riding alongside him when he passes through your city. To donate and get up-to-date details of Chef Bell's most amazing bike ride, go to You can also follow him on Twitter @nedbell, hashtag #chefsforoceans.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Life and My Love of Horses: An Exclusive Afternoon with William Shatner at the Calgary Stampede

Who knew that Captain Kirk likes horses? Obviously he does, as William Shatner is a headliner at this year's Calgary Stampede. My Life and Love of Horses: An Exclusive Afternoon with William Shatner is the kick-off event for the 102nd edition of the Calgary Stampede, which runs July 4-13. 

One of the goals of the Calgary Stampede is to make urban and rural connections during the 10-day event. With Shatner being both a Hollywood actor and a passionate horseman, organizers thought he would be the perfect person to make that connection.

The 83-year-old Montreal born actor will appear in the Palomino Room of the BMO Centre on Thursday, July 3 at 3PM. The cocktail-style event will feature commentary from Shatner, followed by a Q&A. Tickets are $305 for General and $405 for VIP -- the latter includes a pre-reception and photo op with Shatner. Tickets are available at the Calgary Stampede website (click on for a fun video featuring Shatner, who will also be the Stampede Parade Grand Marshal on July 4).

Headliner entertainment during the Calgary Stampede includes Shania Twain (July 9-10), Paul Brandt (July 11), Keith Urban (July 12) and Reba McEntire (July 13). 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Black Hills Estate Winery Introduces Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen in Oliver, BC

I was first introduced to Black Hills Winery while on an AUDI road trip with Eric Pateman of Edible Canada. It was a unique and fun way to experience the Okanagan Valley, BC's largest wine growing region. One of my favorite stops was Black Hills Estate Winery. Established in 1996, the 40-acre vineyard's terroir is comprised of desert earth, long hours of sunlight and cool nights. The Bordeaux grapes are hand-picked by the Black Hills team. 

The winery has expanded since my visit in 2007, with the addition of its highly acclaimed Wine Experience Centre. And this weekend, they're introducing the Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen, where guests can enjoy a glass of wine paired with locally sourced food. Joy Road is a catering company that started out selling pastries at farmers' markets. Today, it's known for its Cuisine du Terroir, and they work closely with regional farmers and producers in sourcing fresh, in-season ingredients. 
The unique partnership between Black Hills and Joy Road features a shipping container kitchen repurposed for the patio restaurant. It's equipped with a full kitchen that includes a pizza oven, and is located beside the patio in the vineyard -- hence the name Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen

The seasonal kitchen features a menu that includes hand-tossed pizzas with house cured salumi, local cheese and produce, and Black Hills' wines. The menu will reflect the seasonal offerings, and the hours of the Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen are 11:30AM to 5:00 PM on these dates:
  • June 14 - 29 | Friday-Saturday-Sunday 
  • July 3 - September 1 | Thursday - Monday 
  • September 4 - October 12 | Thursday-Sunday
The Wine Experience Centre is also launching a Sunset Happy Hour series of special events on Thursday-Saturday nights during the summer. From July 1-September 1, guest DJs will spin music by the poolside cabanas from 4-7PM. 2 for 1 wine tasting will be offered to guests along with special food offerings.

Photos by Sue Frause
Poster by Dale Nigel Goble