Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beefed-up ID needed for border crossing between Canada and US

Blaine-Douglas border crossing between US and Canada. Sue Frause photo.

Beginning Jan. 31, 2008 travelers between Canada and the USA are going to need even more proof of who they are. Kristin Jackson of The Seattle Times has done a good job in getting the word out. Read her story here.
The US isn't all that happy with the new, stiffer requirements. Read another Seattle Times story
here about how lawmakers are hoping to delay them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hoscars: Toronto hostel named one of top ten in the world

Sweet Dreams. Photo by Sue Frause.

Clarence Castle, a hostel in Toronto, has received the coveted Hoscar. What's a Hoscar? It's Hostelworld's annual award selected by guests around the world. The Top Ten Worldwide Hostels were recently announced at Temple Bar's Button Factory in Dublin:

  1. Flamingo Hostel | Krakow, Poland
  2. Mama's Hostel | Krakow, Poland
  3. Clarence Castle | Toronto, Canada
  4. Jetpak City Hostel | Berlin | last year's winner
  5. Hostel Estoril | Buenos Aires
  6. Hilux Valencia Feetup Hostels | Valencia, Barcelona
  7. Hostel of the Sun | Naples, Italy
  8. Travellers House | Lisbon, Portugal
  9. Backpacker Hostel K’s house | Tokyo, Japan
  10. East Seven Berlin Hostel | Berlin, Germany
More than 600,000 Hostelworld users rated the 15,000 hostels. Voting customers, who booked their hostel stays online, were surveyed after their stay and asked to grade their accommodation based on character, security, location, staff, fun and cleanliness. The average individual ratings determined the winners.

Awards were also presented to the most secure hostel, the cleanest hostel, the most fun hostel and hostels that don't have as many beds as others, aka the best small hostel.

More than 300 hostel owners and managers attended the awards ceremony, which were part of Hostelworld's fourth annual Hostel Conference held at Dublin's Hilton Hotel. 
This year's theme was Engaging the online customer -- the social web and you.

The conference featured keynote speakers and a backpacker panel on the subject of user generated content, social networking and online reviews.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Fairmont Empress turns 100 with $100 rooms to celebrate

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC. Photo by Sue Frause.

The Fairmont Empress turned 100 years old on Jan. 20, 2008 but the grande dame of Vancouver Island is showing no signs of slowing down. 

To celebrate her milestone, if you book a room for the coming year, you can get the Deal of a Century package: Fairmont room for two for only $100. You just need to reserve it by January 31, 2008.

Another fun package is Breakfast in Bed with Royal Tea,
available through 2008. It includes overnight accommodation, breaky for two, Royal Tea for two (including bubbly) and a copy of the newly updated Fairmont Empress coffee table book. The rate is $269 for double occupancy.

28th Annual Genie Awards honor outstanding Canadian films

The nominees for the 28th Annual Genie Awards were announced Jan. 28, 2008 by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (ACCT). The top nominated films include Eastern Promises and Shake Hands With the Devil, both with 12 nominations.
They are followed by Away From Her with seven; The Tracey Fragments with six; Continental, a Film Without Guns and Silk, both with five and Denys Arcand’s Days of Darkness with four nominations.

According to ACCT CEO Sara Morton, 2007 was an outstanding year for Canadian film and film making talent, "especially in English Canada.” 
Crossing a wide array of genres, many of the films have been honored with international awards and nominations, including the upcoming Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2008.

This year’s Genie Awards presentation is March 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. For the first time, they will be broadcast on the E! Television Network and IFC.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quebec Winter Carnival celebrates 400th anniversary of Quebec City

Quartier du Petit Champlain, Quebec City
Quartier du Petit Champlain, Quebec City. Sue Frause photo.

The province of Quebec is home to my favorite winter carnival. Now in its 54th year, the Quebec Winter Carnival runs Feb. 1-17, 2008 in Quebec City. Riding high on this year's 400th anniversary celebration of Quebec City, there are some new features.

The redesigned Night Parade will be presented on two Saturdays, February 9 and 16. 
New allegorical elements include two 24-ft. tall marionettes with moving joints, creative lighting and a unique sound track, multimedia projections and 1,200 new costumes for the extras.

Place Loto-Quebec is the venue for the outdoor dance parties and other entertainment and home of the International Snow Sculpture Competition. 
It's also the site of Bonhomme's Ice Palace, fashioned this year after Le Chateau de Pau in France, where Henry IV met Champlain to disuss his future excursions to Quebec City.

Other highlights include the Grand Viree (Dog Sled Race) on February 2, the Canoe Race on February 10 and the HBC Snow Bath on February 16.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? CBC search is on

The search to find Canada's Maria von Trapp begins Jan. 15, 2008 with a seven-city cross-country audition tour. 
It culminates in the CBC Television series, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? 

Canadians will select who plays the most famous role in musical theatre in a new production of The Sound of Music, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and David Mirvish. It opens October 2008 at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre. Open casting calls will be held in these cities:

  • Toronto | CBC TV Toronto Glen Gould Studio | Jan. 25
  • Montreal | Delta Hotel Montreal | Jan. 28
  • Vancouver | Pacific Palisades Hotel | Feb. 1
  • Calgary | University of Calgary | Feb. 3
  • Winnipeg | Victoria Inn & Conference Centre | Feb. 4
  • Halifax | CBC TV Halifax | Feb. 8
  • St. John's | CBC St. John's | Feb. 9
The Canadian version of the smash hit will audition thousands of women across the country. The group will be narrowed down to 200, who will be invited for callbacks in Toronto. Fifty women will be selected from this group to attend Maria School for further training.

The show will follow the "Marias" as they endure rigorous auditions, training sessions and honest evaluations. The role requires acting ability, singing ability and stage presence. Prospective Marias will need to show the nation their "favorite things," and how they can be a nun-in-training, a governess, a will-o-the-wisp and a singing sensation.

Heath Ledger: Vancouver was next filming locale on actor's list

Due to the untimely and tragic death of Australian actor Heath Ledger, filming of his current production in Vancouver has been put on hold, and the movie's future is in doubt.

The 28-year-old Ledger was to have arrived in Vancouver today, with filming to begin on Monday. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, directed by Terry Gilliam, also stars Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits.

According to The Vancouver Sun, 100 crew members have been laid off the $30 million production in Vancouver. 
Interior and blue screen shots were to take place at The Bridge Studios in Burnaby.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vancouver: Barbara-Jo's Second Annual Cookbook Awards

Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks. Photo by Sue Frause.

One of my favorite independent bookstores, Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver, is hosting Barbara-Jo's Second Annual Cookbook Awards. The staff selected ten titles as front runners in what was described as "a very heated contest." In alphabetical order, they are:

  • The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill by Pino Posterraro
  • The Flexiterian Table by Peter Berley
  • Fresh by John Bishop/Dennis Green/Dawne Gourley
  • Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
  • Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
  • River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall and Nick Fisher
  • Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells
  • Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Dennis Cotter

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Horizon Air provides nonstop service between Prince George and Seattle

Horizon Air Photo

Horizon Air will provide nonstop service between Prince George, BC and Seattle beginning May 1, 2008. The once-a-day service departs Seattle at 1:20 PM and Prince George at 3:45 PM. The flight takes one hour and 45 minutes.

This is the first scheduled international flight for Prince George, which is the economic and commercial hub for Central and Northern British Columbia.

In addition to the Pacific Northwest, the region will have connections to such US destinations as California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. They are served by Horizon and sister company Alaska Airlines.

"Our region will enjoy access to the U.S. market for business and leisure travel," said Prince George Mayor Colin Kinsley. "Now, we look forward to familiarizing more of our U.S. neighbors with the wilderness, adventure and cultural experiences in Northern B.C., as well as the investment opportunities. There will be strong economic benefits from this new service."

Prince George is 750 kilometers (471 miles) north of Vancouver and is the largest city in Northern B.C. Located at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako rivers, it's just minutes from pristine wilderness and outdoor adventure.

Pictured: Horizon's 76-seat Q400 turboprop, manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace, will operate daily service between Prince George and Seattle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Vancouver Island : Lots of love for Valentine's Day

A view from a room at the Villa Marco Polo Inn. Sue Frause photo.

Two Vancouver Island inns are offering up lots of love during the upcoming Valentine's Day celebration.

Victoria's Villa Marco Polo Inn has put together a
Romanza package for $250 CAD per person that includes:
  • Overnight in one of four suites at the 1923 villa
  • Candlelit dinner for two at Zambri's ($100 credit)
  • Two tickets for Puccini's Madama Butterfly at Pacific Opera Victoria
  • Four-course gourmet breakfast the next morning
A full-service spa is scheduled to open at Villa Marco Polo in February.

At the nearby Bear Mountain Resort, it's February Romance Month with the launch of its Endless Love
package. Rates begin at $349 CAD per couple and the packageincludes:
  • One night accommodation
  • Sparkling wine, strawberries and a bath "bomb"
  • $100 dining credit at the resort's Panache, Copper Rock Grill, Kuma Sushi, Jack's Place or Masters Lounge
  • Special romantic memento

Monday, January 21, 2008

Anthony Bourdain's travel show features Vancouver people, food and more

Vancouver's Opus Hotel is located in Yaletown. Sue Frause photo.

I'm a fan of Anthony Bourdain's travel show, No Reservations. If you're not familiar with the Discovery Channel TV show, tune in this week and see the outspoken chef and author's take on Vancouver. 

It's interesting that his picks included Sooke Harbour House, which is not in Vancouver, but on Vancouver Island. On the show's website, it's described as a Victoria landmark, although it's actually in Sooke. It's a lovely spot, nonetheless -- and I'm sure they were thrilled to be included. Here are some of the other foodie places Bourdain visited:
  • Save-on-Meats for fast-food burgers on West Hastings
  • Cioppino's in Yaletown
  • Tojo's Restaurant
  • JapaDog in front of the Sutton Place Hotel
  • Vij's Rangoli on the South Granville Rise
Bourdain and his crew stayed at the Opus Hotel. He also traveled to Whistler for some snowboarding and Ziptrekking.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Simple Treasures: A cookbook created by Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts

The Canadian Rockies have long been a popular destination for year-round outdoor enthusiasts. Now the indoors is being celebrated, too.
Simple Treasures is a cookbook created by Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts and its Executive Chef Alistair Barnes. 
The book showcases the best of Western Canadian cuisine and includes recipes using the region's fruits, vegetables, game meats and fish.

Chef Barnes collaborated with the head chefs at CRMR's restaurants, and the end result is a biography of the each of the three lodges and four restaurants. 
Beautifully photographed, Simple Treasures also explores the history, concept and atmosphere of each lodge and restaurant.

Recipes include such tempting titles as Bow River Trout Fillet with Citrus Herb Sauce and Roast Elk Tenderloin, Squash Hash and Wild Rose Game Reduction.
Simple Pleasures
is published by Altitude Publishing and available for $29.95 CAD at Chapters, Indigo, Coles, Amazon and independent booksellers. The book is also available at CRMR's lodges and restaurants.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts include Emerald Lake Lodge in Field, British Columbia; Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, Alberta; and Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, Alberta. CRMR owns four Calgary restaurants: Cilantro, Velvet, The Ranche and Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro. They also own The Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch; Bin 905, a wine boutique and Panino, a bakery -- both in Canmore, Alberta.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Brunswick mourns loss of teen athletes and coach's wife

Whidbey Island Rose. Photo by Sue Frause.
I cried when I watched the CBC News last night.

It was a news story about the seven teenage basketball players and their coach's wife who died in a horrific highway accident not far from their hometown of Bathurst, New Brunswick.

My heart aches for you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10th Annual Icewine Festival celebrated in Sun Peaks, BC

Wine tasting and seminars at the Icewine Festival at Sun Peaks. Sue Frause photo.

The 10th Annual Icewine Festival kicked off Jan. 14, 2008 in Sun Peaks, BC. What started as a small festival back in 1998 has grown in both size and prestige. This year's event is sponsored by Okanagan Wine Festivals and American Express.

Tourism British Columbia has identified the festival as the first signature event of 2008 commemorating BC's 150th Anniversary. 
Let the party begin!

I attended the festival several years ago, enjoying the seminars and dinners. But the main tasting events seemed to be overcrowded, with long lines. 
Hopefully that's been resolved.

New features this year include an Icewine and Oyster Bar created out of snow and ice, featuring Icewine martinis. 
Fire dancers are scheduled to perform at Sun Peaks' Village Square on Friday, January 18 from 7-9 PM.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

University of British Columbia bags big golf book collection

View from Spanish Banks, not far from the UBC campus. Sue Frause photo.

Blogger Michael Lieberman had an interesting post today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about the University of British Columbia acquiring a 4,700+ collection of books on golf: Fore! Amazing Golf Collection Lands at the University of British Columbia

It's the greatest collection ever assembled on the sport. Only problem is, there are no loonies and toonies to process it. 
I left a comment on his blog that Vancouver is also home to the nearby British Columbia Golf Museum. It was established in 1987 and is located just behind the 17th tee at the University Golf Club.

The museum is housed in the oldest surviving clubhouse in Vancouver and is on the edge of the UBC Endowment Lands. There's f
ree parking, but call before you go. And the hours are sporadic -- the one time I stopped by, it was closed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ellen Page: Golden Globe nominee's fans watch from Halifax

What a boring broadcast. They may as well have been reading the names of members of a high school honor role at last night's scaled-down version of the Golden GlobesDue to the two-month long Writers Guild of America strike, the Hollywood Foreign Press opted for a news conference instead of the usual big boozy show.

But it didn't stop fans of Ellen Page from watching the broadcast. Fifty of Page's friends showed up at the actress' former school in Halifax to watch the abridged awards show. 
And Access Hollywood was there to tape the proceedings.

In the end, Page lost the
Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for her role in Juno to Marion Cotillard, who played Edith Piaf in La Vie En RoseLa Vie En Rose certainly wasn't a comedy and I don't consider it a musical, but a movie with music. C'est la vie. Let's hope the strike gets settled before the Academy Awards show on Feb. 24, 2008.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The New York Times : Vancouver's big building boom for 2010 OlympicsSi

Signage for The Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver that's under construction. Sue Frause photo.

In the hefty Sunday edition of The 
New York Times, Christopher Solomon penned a travel feature titled A Building Boom to Welcome the Winter Games.

The story includes a travel guide of preferred places to stay (Wedgewood Hotel, Sutton Place Hotel), dine (Lift, The Locus Cafe, Aurora Bistro, Nu) and a round-up of things to do.

Golden Globes: Writers Guild of America affects Vancouver's Hollywood North

Bicycling in Vancouver's Stanley Park with a view across Coal Harbour. Sue Frause photo.

I'm going to miss watching the Golden Globe awards Sunday night on TV. Due to the Writers Guild of America strike, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will reveal the recipients of the awards during an hour-long press conference at The Beverly
Hilton on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 9 PM PST on NBC.
The usual telecast and booze infused dinner from the hotel's International Ballroom has been cancelled. But the writers' strike is affecting more than my TV viewing.

Vancouver has felt the impact, as reflects this story in The Globe and Mail: 
Quiet on the set. Let's hope things get ironed out before the Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2008.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bumpy flight from Victoria-Toronto results emergency landing

Air Canada at Toronto Pearson Airport. Photo by Sue Frause.

There were some scary moments for passengers on a flight from Victoria to Toronto yesterday. According to the Times Colonist, control problems forced Air Canada Flight 190 to make an emergency landing in Calgary Thursday morning. Ten passengers were taken to the hospital in Calgary.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Brunswick Romance? Head to Fredericton for Valentine's Day

New Brunswick vehicle spotted in Quebec. Sue Frause photo.

Love is in the air at the Delta Fredericton Hotel in New Brunswick. To celebrate Valentine's Day, the hotel's Valentine's Romance package is available February 14-17, 2008. The package includes:

  • One night’s accommodation
  • Bottle of bubbly upon arrival
  • Candles in your room
  • Fondue for two in DJ Purdy’s lounge
Rates begin at $179.99 based on double occupancy.

The Delta Fredericton Hotel is a member of Romantic Inns & Hotels.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Order up a little PEI this winter from

PEI Lobster Dinner
Lobster dinners are popular in PEI. Photo courtesy Canada Tourism Commission.

Prince Edward Island is high on my list of
Canadian Provinces and Territories to See Before I'm Through Traveling.

The others I've missed and need to visit are Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

But a travel writer friend directed me to a cool website where I can at least enjoy PEI through its products.

The features the work of more than 100 artists from the island. They include craftspeople, jewelers, blacksmiths, musicians and specialty chefs.

If you're in Charlottetown, the bestofpei store is located in Victoria Row.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fiji nationals leaving their homeland for Canada

Coronach, Saskatchewan is located 10 km north of the US border. Sue Frause photo.

According to an article in the The Fiji Times Online, Fiji is losing 41 of its nationals every month to Canada.

Statistics Canada reports that between 2001-2006, 2,455 people relocated from Fiji to Canada.

Most of them end set up residing in British Columbia.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

6.5 earthquake hits off the coast of British Columbia

Aboard Bluewater Adventures in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Photo by Sue Frause.

Here's an alert sent out by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Center:
At 3:45 AM Pacific Standard Time on January 5, an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 6.5 occurred 150 miles/241 Km southeast of Sandspit, British Columbia.
The Times Colonist in Victoria has more details about the temblor.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Dine Out Vacouver features 19 days and 182 restaurants

Salt Tasting Room in Gastown. Photo by Sue Frause.

Vancouver's hot winter restaurant promotion is now open for reservations. Dine Out Vancouver 2008 runs for 19 days, Jan. 16 to Feb. 3, 2008. A list of the 182 restaurants is now available at

I tried to log on the first day, and traffic was so high, I couldn't get in. 
It seems to be fine now. Meals are priced at $15, $25 or $35 CAD for a three-course prix fixe menu. Taxes, tips and alcohol are extra.

New this year are the Best Bite Awards, selected by diners who want to say Encore! in the categories of best course, best service, best food and wine parings and best overall menu.

Diners who vote will be entered into a contest that includes a grand prize of two tickets to anywhere in North America courtesy of Air Canada
Votes may be made online or by text messaging "DOV" to 247365.

A number of hotels are offering special packages that include one night's accommodation for two, a Dine Out Vancouver
dinner for two in the hotel's dining room and other amenities. Rates begin at $129/night.

Among the participating hotels are the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, The Listel Hotel, Comfort Inn Downtown, The Sutton Place Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Fairmont Waterfront. 
Hotel packages may be booked online.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Two Montreal restaurants make Travel+Leisure list

Photo by Sue Frause

Montreal is definitely a foodie town. And now, Travel+Leisure magazine has included two of its eateries in Best new restaurants of 2007Joe Beef and L'Atelier.

Eight cities, including Montreal, made the list. 
The others are Barcelona, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris, Las Vegas, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

I haven't dined at either of the Montreal restos, so the next time I'm in the city, a table for two s'il vous ples!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Galey Farms new home to Crystal Garden's giant BC map

If you're wondering what happened to that giant BC map that was housed in the now defunct BC Experience at the Crystal Garden in Victoria, it moved up the road.

Rob Galey, president of Galey Farms Corn Maze, Market and Railway, is the new owner of the map. The tennis-court sized map measures 12.2 metres by 22.5 metres and is made out of high density foam panels.

In an article in the Times Colonist, Galey said he has big plans for the outsize relief map. Galey Farms was given the map and will have to incur the cost of the move and the installation in an old onion shed. The moving of the map started Jan. 2, 2008 and will take several days.
Pictured Above: Galey Farms built a half-scale replica of the Great Sphinx and Great Pyramid of Giza to tie in with Royal BC Museum's Eternal Egypt exhibition in 2004. The cost? $500,000. Photo by Sue Frause.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The flying loonie and other Canadian news from The Tyee

Vancouver International Airport. Sue Frause photo.

One of the best wrap-ups of 2007 in Canada and the rest of the world was written by Mark Leiren-Young.

The Vancouver screenwriter, playwright and journalist writes
Fast Rewind for The Tyee, an online publication. It appears monthly in The Tyee.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Canadians nominated for 20 Grammys at 50th Annual Grammy Awards

Album cover of Feist's "The Reminder"

I just watched the movie
Paris, Je'taime for the second time and was captivated by the final, haunting song in this lovely film. We're All in the Dance is sung beautifully by Feist, a Canadian singer-songwriter nominated for four Grammy Awards.

The Nova Scotia born musician, who grew up in Calgary and now lives in Toronto, was nominated in four categories:

  • Best Female Pop Vocal for 1234
  • Best New Artist
  • Best Pop Vocal Album for The Reminder
  • Best Short Form Music video for 1234
Feist is in good company, with Canadians garnering 20 nominations at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards to be held in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2008. Other artists include:

Michael Buble, Nelly Furtado, Arcade Fire, Bramwell Tovey and James Ehnes (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Delerium, Emerson Drive, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Joni Mitchell, Loreena McKennitt, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Nickelback, Royal Conservatory Ensemble, Rush and Walter Ostanek.

In the past, megastars such as Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion, Diana Krall, Sarah McLachlan and Shania Twain have been awarded Grammys.

Feist's most recent album, The Reminder, made Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2007 along with SPIN magazine's Top 40 Albums of 2007. Arcade Fire's
Neon Bible also made both lists.