Thursday, April 10, 2014

Notre-Dame de Québec's 350th Jubilee Celebrated with Only Holy Door Outside Europe

Photo by Sue Frause

When I first visited Quebec City during Carnaval de Quebec in 2002, I made a point to visit Notre-Dame de Quebec. The Sunday mass was in French, as was the singing by the children's choir -- it was magical. A dozen years later, the cathedral is celebrating its 350th anniversary. Notre-Dame de Quebec is the first cathedral built in North America, and the first Catholic parish established in the Americas north of the Spanish colonies. 

Photo by Sue Frause

In addition to the many activities marking the 350th Jubilee, Notre-Dame de Quebec has also been honored by having the only Holy Door in the Americas and the first one outside Europe. It opened December 8, 2013 and will remain there until December 28, 2014. Even though I was raised Catholic, I'd never heard of or seen a Holy Door. Simply put, it's a symbol of oneness with the universal church. It's also a symbol of convocation, an invitation to persons of good will to enter, no matter what their religious domination. 

Photo by Sue Frause

To visit the Holy Door, begin in the Garden of the Jubilee to the left of the Cathedral-Basillica. From there, follow the walkway leading to the Holy Door, and go through it. You'll now be in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, which houses relics of "forebears, the saints and blesseds of Canada who blazed a path of faith for us to follow." When leaving the chapel, a guide will stamp your pilgrim's credential with the seal of Notre-Dame de Quebec. 

Vue panoramique du Vieux-Québec | Panoramic view of Old Québec
 Luc-Antoine Couturier

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Washington State Ferries: Anacortes-Sidney ferry returns with spring sailing schedule

Washington State Ferries in Sidney, BC with Mt. Baker in the background. Photo by Sue Frause.
Yet another sign of spring, along with Daylight Savings Time and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, is when Washington State Ferries switches to its spring sailing schedule. During the winter, there's no ferry service between Anacortes, WA and Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island. 

On Sunday, April 6, WSF's spring schedule goes into effect and the international sailings between the US and Canada will include one round-trip sailing per day (the summer schedule begins June 15 and includes two round-trip sailings per day).

In addition to the return of the Anacortes-Sidney route, additional changes go into effect on April 6 with WSF's spring schedule :
  • Weekend inter-island service in the San Juan Islands
  • Three boats serving the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Four mid-afternoon sailings on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route will leave 15 minutes earlier to better match the schedule of the second ferry. It will join the route on Mother's Day, May 11.
  • The last sailing departing Coupeville leaves 5 minutes earlier, at 9:10 PM
  • New this year are round-trip tickets available between the San Juan Islands and Sidney, BC
Passengers boarding Washington State Ferries M/V Chelan in Sidney, BC. Photo by Sue Frause.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We Are Local: Free Guide to the Best Indie Spots in Victoria and Vancouver

The Little Cheese Shop on Fort Street. Photo by Sue Frause.
I picked up a cool, free guide during my last visit to Victoria. We Are Local's Victoria & Vancouver: Your Free Guide to the Best Indie Spots is a handy little pocket guide that lists indie business that specialize in fashion, home decor, gifts, recreation, culture, food and drink. 

The booklet is part of We Are Local (Locally Yours Since 2004), and contains a wealth of must-stops in both BC cities. First on my list was The Regional Assembly of Text, which I wrote about in my EatPlaySleep blog. Nearby on Fort Street are three good foodie stops: Choux Choux Charcuterie, specializing in house made sausages and pates; Chorizo & Co., a Spanish delicatessen; and The Little Cheese Shop, offering both local and global cheeses. 
A slice at Pizzeria Prima Strada in Cook Street Village. Photo by Sue Frause.
In Cook Street Village, a pleasant walk from Victoria's Inner Harbour, the Rainbird Boutique is all about rain gear; Big Wheel Burger serves "real" fast food; and Pizzeria Prima Strada makes yummy Neapolitan wood-fired pizza. Follow We Are Local on Twitter @wearelocalguide. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

TED 2014: Vancouver hosts 30th edition featuring Bill & Melinda Gates, Chris Hadfield, Sting

Orbis World Globe at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Photo by Sue Frause.

TED, the global non-profit devoted to "ideas worth spreading," is moving its annual conference from Long Beach, California to Vancouver, British Columbia for its 30th anniversary. That's really big news for Vancouver, which will welcome speakers and attendees from around the world March 17-21, 2014. This is a new chapter for TED (which stands for technology, entertainment and design), and a real coup for Vancouver. It beat out 30 other North American cities to host TED, which will draw more than 1,200 of the world's thought-leaders for four days of talks, seminars and events. TED will be held at the waterfront Vancouver Convention Centre, built in 2010 for the Olympic Winter Games, while TEDActive (the live simulcast) will take place concurrently in Whistler. 

Looking across Burrard Inlet from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the North Shore Mountains.
Photo by Sue Frause.
Here's an explanation from TED Curator Chris Anderson on why TED relocated to Vancouver: "It is truly one of the world's great cities, not just because of its beauty, but because it is walkable and forward thinking, bursting with innovation. And there is this commitment to really try and figure out sustainability."
The Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza adjacent to the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Photo by Sue Frause.

Among the 70 featured speakers at the sold-out event are philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, novelist Isabel Allende, gun law activitists Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, musician Imogen Heap, street artist JR, athlete and actor Aimee Mullins, conversationalist Charlie Rose, architect Moshe Safdie, writer Andrew Solomon, and musician and activist Sting. The 18-minute talks and presentations will range from technology, entertainment, design and education to climate change, architecture, music, physics, parenting, typography and fireflies.

A view of Coal Harbour from Jack Poole Plaza. Photo by Sue Frause.

So where will the "TED-sters" hang out? According to Tourism Vancouver, here's their best guess for where speakers and attendees might be seen around the city:
  • Eat ~ Top restaurants such as Hawksworth, Miku, Blue Water Cafe, Market by Jean Georges and Tojo's.
  • Drink ~ Hip Gastown cocktail and wine bars such as Pourhouse, The Diamond and Salt Tasting Room. 
  • Shop ~ Holt Renfrew, Secret Location, Alberni Street (Chanel-Tiffany-Louis Vuitton-Tory Burch-Burberry), Gastown (indy boutiques-designers).
  • Sleep ~ Fairmont Pacific Rim, Fairmont Waterfront and Pan Pacific are all across from the Vancouver Convention Centre. TED's website says their other partner hotels include the Marriott Pinnacle and Le Soleil.

The theme of TED 2014 is The Next Chapter. TED 2015,Truth & Dare, will also be held in Vancouver. Dates are March 16-20, and the price to attend is $8,500.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bengal Lounge at The Fairmont Empress Celebrates 60 Years in Victoria, BC

Even if I'm not staying at The Fairmont Empress while in Victoria, I always pop into the hotel's Bengal Lounge to have a cocktail. When I last visited in February, she was just in the midst of celebrating her 60th anniversary, and preparations were underway for a black tie celebration on February 27. On that evening, revelers enjoyed live entertainment, updated twists on hors d'oeuvres and cocktails from menus gone by and special giveaways. The bar also created a signature Bengal Diamond Cocktail for the event, but more about that later. 

If you're like me and missed the event, you can enjoy dinner for two at the Bengal Lounge's curry buffet with sparkling wine for $60 (for 2) -- now through the end of March. Reservations may be made for Sunday through Thursday evenings at 250.389.2727 or 

The Bengal Lounge originated as the Reading and Writing Room and occupied the entire first floor of the south wing that was added in 1912. Fast forward to 1954, when The Fairmont Empress became the first establishment in Victoria (and one of only three in BC), to receive a liquor license. To comply with the strict new liquor laws, the room had to be upgraded and redesigned to comply with the regulations that prohibited "necking booths." After the $85,000 renovation, the room was renamed the Coronet Lounge, and featured striking blue carpet, namesake coronets, tudor roses and wreaths and views out to the hotel gardens through 12-ft windows. When the room opened, The Empress Special became the drink of choice -- it was a combination of rye, pineapple juice and grenadine in a sugared cocktail glass.

In 1970, an Indian theme was adopted for the room during a facelift called Operation Teacup. It was an acknowledgement for the hotel being named after Queen Victoria, Empress of Victoria. With waiters garbed in Nehru jackets and caps, a Bengal tiger skin was hung above the large working fireplace and an Indian theme carried out on a menu that featured curries. The room was named the Bengal Lounge. Cocktails at the time included the Bombay Stinger, The Bengal Tiger, The Tropical Itch and The Bengal Bar Special. The hotel's new lounge was an instant hit, and celebrities such as John Wayne were known to visit (he sailed his converted minesweeper, the Wild Goose, into Victoria's Inner Harbour). One local real estate person conducted so much business from the lounge that he had a personal phone line installed, and it became the place to lobby politicians who could be found at their favorite watering hole. No surprise, as the BC Parliament (also designed by the same architect as The Fairmont Empress), is just across the way.

A second phase of renovations in 1989 included the addition of a 32-color silkscreen mural to the entrance way, along with rattan furniture and punka ceiling fans -- reminiscent of the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore (now a Fairmont property). In 1998, the center bar was removed to open up the room, and furniture and floors were restored to provide colonial character. A decade later, leather furnishings and leopard accents were added and is the current "regal look" in the Bengal Lounge today. 

The Bengal Diamond Cocktail was created in honor of the 60th anniversary. Inspired from the Empress Special cocktail in the 1958 lounge menu, the 2014 cocktail uses locally produced Victoria Gin as a base with Dubonnet, Grand Marnier and Angostura Bitters -- with a dusting of gold flakes for a classic cocktail taste and a modern twist. I ordered the one pictured above, and it was delicious!

Bengal Diamond Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Victoria Gin
1 oz Dubonnet
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
Dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish: Liquid Kitchen Gold Luster Dust and Bada Bing cherry

Measure in spirits. Fill mixing glass with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into prepared martini glass. Garnish.

Photos by Sue Frause