Friday, February 26, 2010

Young figure skaters have role models in Kim Yu-Na, Mao Asada and Canadian Joannie Rochette

Young skater at the 2010 US Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, WA. Photo by Sue Frause.
What great performances the figure skaters gave us last night! I had nary a dry eye as I stayed up late to watch the Women's Figure Skating Long Program of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Kim Yu-Na of South Korea was perfection. Mao Asada from Japan the two triple axel queen. Quebec's Joannie Rochette a vision of blue courage.

Here's to the gold, silver and bronze medal winners -- and to Joannie and her father, who tragically lost their beloved mother and wife. She was most certainly smiling down on the ice on Thursday night.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kevin Brauch of Iron Chef America and The Thirsty Traveler wears his Olympic red mittens in style

Kevin Brauch sabers a bottle of Champagne at the chef-off
Sue Frause photo

Kevin Brauch
of Iron Chef America and The Thirsty Traveler entertained a sold-out ballroom at The Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria on Wednesday night. The foodies in the crowd were part of Mission Emp-Possible: Battle of the Chefs that was a partnership between The Empress and Mission Hill Family Estate.

There was plenty of pre-celebrating going on, thanks to Canada's 7-3 victory over Russia in hockey. But the challenge here was between Executive Chef Takashi Ito of The Empress and Mission Hill Executive Winery Chef Matthew Batey.

I was one of five "celebrity judges" for the competition, which featured a five-course tasting menu prepared by each chef, along with five wines selected by Mission Hill's chief winemaker John Simes who explained the wines prior to each course.

It was a close race, but in the end, The Empress' Takashi Ito took the gold. Although he didn't receive a medal, one of the judges placed a wine cork around his neck to commemorate the victory.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Postcard from Vancouver: Olympic Cauldron burns bright at Jack Poole Plaza

Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza. Photo by Sue Frause.
The Olympic flame burns bright in the cauldron located at Jack Poole Plaza west of the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is serving as the International Broadcast Centre during the 2010 Winter Games.

The plaza was named for the founding chairman of VANOC, Jack Poole, who died in October 2009.

The cauldron overlooks Coal Harbour and the floating set of Olympic rings off Stanley Park, and beyond to the North Shore mountains. Once the Olympics are over, the cauldron will go dark.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Window on Whistler: Ullr, Norse God of Snow

Ullr! 
Here I am in the green during a press trip to Whistler in February 2005 with other travel journalists and team members of Tourism Whistler.

We're posing with Ullr, the Norse God of Snow.

Five years later, and the sun's still shinin' on Whistler.

Games on!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic Hockey: Torn between Canada and USA

Watching the game at home in HD. Photo by Sue Frause

I have to say I've only been to three hockey matches in my life. The first was watching a game in Vancouver a decade or more ago. It was New Year's Eve and the Canucks played the Anaheim Ducks. I was surprised it wasn't rowdier and disappointed there weren't more fights.

The second was in Zurich, Switzerland where Zurich played ... I can't remember. It was a bit boring but I enjoyed the yummy Swiss food.

And the third was in the Okanogan in 2004, where the Kelowna Rockets took on my team, the Everett Silvertips. My team meaning they are just across the water from me and have a loyal following. I wrote a travel feature about my long weekend in Kelowna called The days of wine and slapshots.

Canada wants to win this match. Big time. And I sort of want them to win. I like that Sidney Crosby from Nova Scotia, seems like a nice kid.

Oh, and amazingly, MSNBC is showing the match live! We west coasters are not happy with NBC's delayed coverage and unfortunately, CTV is not on our cable menu.

It's about time for the face-off (I think that's what it's called). I best go try to scrounge up a beer or two, eh?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Quebec's cusine includes a lot more than poutine

La table de Pierre Delahaye  in Papineauville. Sue Frause  photo.
I try to visit Quebec at least once a year. My affection for La Belle Province is based on a lot of things, but right at the top is their cuisine.

When the now defunct Gourmet magazine devoted an entire issue to Montreal, it was of course a salute to the entire province's love affair with food.

So what about that food delicacy (I use the word lightly) known as poutine? I will admit that I've never tasted it. I know, as a Closet Canuck, you think I would be a bit more adventurous, but the thought of putting a fork filled with french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy into my mouth is not at all appealing. Obviously, I'm in the minority.

Not only does McDonald's have poutine on its menu, there is a website simply called Montreal Poutine.

And on the front page of The Seattle Times today, there's a 2010 Winter Olympics story about poutine: Can fries, gravy, curds calm a war over words?

Bon appetit!



Friday, February 19, 2010

Postcard from the Pacific NW: Amtrak to Vancouver (PHOTOS)

















I went on a pre-Olympics trip to Vancouver several days before the XXI Winter Games opened, and I'm planning another via Amtrak Cascades next week. 

Above are scenes from Everett, WA to Vancouver, BC. There is direct service to Vancouver, BC from Portland, OR and now two round-trips daily from Seattle, WA. Don't forget your passport. All aboard!

Photos by Sue Frause

Thursday, February 18, 2010

West Coast Winter Games viewers screwed by NBC

Olympic Art on Granville Street in Vancouver
Photo by Sue Frause
Back in January 2010, a month before the opening of the XXI Winter Games, I blogged about not being able to access CTV for the Olympics. I'm blogging again about it as the reality really sucks.

One thing I didn't anticipate were all the spoilers from well-meaning Canadian Facebook and Twitter friends. Although I've unfriended and unfollowed the ones who I thought would be the biggest culprits (such as mainstream media outlets), well meaning PR and tourism folks have been sharing the results.

You can't blame them, and their explanations are sincere: "Sorry about that, we were just so excited! We promise that's the last time."

Nonetheless, one of them tweeted that Lindsey Vonn won the Gold, so while watching it late last night on NBC, I already knew the outcome. OK, it's Canada's Games, but we west coasters in the US are on a three-hour tape delay thanks to the NBC conspiracy. Not to mention that we have to suffer while watching Bob Costas.

Well, groups are rallying around Bob and the bunch who are dishing out the results (with way too many commercials). I've already joined one on Facebook: 10,000,000 People Against NBC Coverage.

A Facebook friend just posted on my wall that Anacortes, Washington (located north of Whidbey Island via the Deception Pass Bridge) does in fact get CTV. Maybe I'll have to head up there for a few days. And start planning my trip to Sochi for the XXII Winter Games in 2013.

The flight to and from Russia has to be less painful than watching NBC.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vancouver and Whistler restaurants salute Olympic medalists with complimentary meals + bubbly

Local restaurants are offering up some unique ways to honor the medal winners of the XXI Winter Olympics.

Four Top Table restaurants in Vancouver and Whistler are saluting the gold, silver and bronze medal winners by offering them a complimentary bottle of Nicolas Feuillate Champagne to share with family and friends.

They include Araxi in Whistler and Blue Water Cafe, CinCin and West in Vancouver.

"We want to congratulate the bronze, silver and gold medalists from all countries, and give them the opportunity to toast those closest to them, that took them to the pinnacle of their sport," said Jack Evrensel, owner of Top Table. "Top Table is all about teamwork, and so are the endeavours of Olympic athletes - this is a simple way to show our appreciation."

And another one of my favorite Vancouver restos, Chambar on Beatty Street in Crosstown, is treating Canadian Winter Games medalists with a celebratory dinner for each of them and a guest.

Owners Nico and Karri Schuermans want to recognize the Canadian victors during a gustatory evening of Belgian cuisine (with North African accents), fun atmosphere and "perhaps a little civilized debauchery."

Chambar is located close to BC Place and Canada Hockey Place, making it a hot spot for Olympic activity and a popular place for fans, athletes and celebrities. There's a big screen TV in the restaurant's lounge and also the back dining room (the bar is open 'til 2 AM during the duration of the Winter Games).

Champage bar aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean
Photo by Sue Frause

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You don't need tickets to experience Vancouver

"I'm not sure what I was expecting three days before the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Winter Olympics. I know whenever my hubby and I are having dinner or weekend guests, I'm scrambling right up to the last moment before the door flies open to familiar faces. Well, not Vancouver. With a quarter of a million strangers expected in Doug Coupland's so-named City of Glass Feb. 12-28, it quietly oozed calm and cool. Most folks I talked with didn't even seem all that upset about the lack of snow at Cypress Mountain, the venue for snowboard and freestyle competitions."

You can read the rest of my piece in Crosscut here: Vancouver itself is a spectator sport, no tickets required

Shopper in downtown Vancouver during the Winter Olympics
Photo by Sue Frause

Monday, February 15, 2010

EXPOSURE 2010: Calgary-Banff-Canmore Photography Festival in Alberta

EXPOSURE 2010 is the sixth annual celebration of photographic arts in Alberta. Held during the month of February, EXPOSURE 2010 is a celebration of Canadian and international photo based work in Calgary and the Bow Valley.

The festival is open to the public and is an opportunity to look at photography as a rich art form in its various genres. This year, lectures and education events have been added to the mix, along with the nearly 40 exhibitions by organizations and galleries in Calgary, Banff and Canmore.

The goal of EXPOSURE 2010, in their own words, is "to increase awareness of the photographic arts and put Alberta on the international photography map." This year’s theme is Perception, and the works explore, examine and invite discussion.

Heading west to Jasper, Alberta on VIA Rail Canada
Photo by Sue Frause

Friday, February 12, 2010

Game On! Let the XXI Olympic Winter Games begin!

I saw no shortage of Olympic regalia while in Vancouver for two days before the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Winter Games tonight.

But Andy Maxwell of Victoria takes the gold for the most decked-out Olympic fan.

While enjoying an afternoon libation at the House of Switzerland on Granville Island, I couldn't ignore the colorful Canadian as he walked into the venue (Bridges restaurant).

The House of Switzerland is a great spot for enjoying fondue and other Swiss specialties (they brought in two Swiss chefs); hanging out with Swiss athletes (they're hoping to win 14 medals); and watching live broadcasts of the 2010 Winter Games.

Andy and his wife Karen say they're total Vancouver Canucks fans. So it's no surprise the couple bought tickets for all the hockey and curling events. To ease their commute from Vancouver Island, they've rented a condo in Vancouver for the run of the Games.

The House of Switzerland is one of the few national guest centers open to the public; admission is free. There's also a Whistler outpost in what was the former Mountain Club restaurant in Whistler Village.

Andy said he's attracted a lot of attention, including Evening Magazine. The popular Seattle TV program snagged Andy for an interview and the piece is to air on Monday, Feb. 15 on KING-5.

Andy Maxwell of Victoria at the House of Switzerland
Photo by Sue Frause

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Everything you need to know about Canada from NBC Nightly News

2010 Winter Olympics Red Mittens

I scored not one, but two pairs of the prized red mittens that have become the signature accessory of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Word has it that another shipment will be arriving at the official Olympic Superstore in Vancouver, located at Hudson's Bay Company.

And there's no shortage of media in town; I was up there for two days, and the streets are crawling with reporters, bloggers, photographers and camera crews.

On NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kevin Tibbles did a fun piece: Don't blame Canada just for being decent (scroll down to find the video). And Tibbles should know, he's a Canadian. Here's Tibble's bio from NBC:
Before joining NBC News, Tibbles was a national correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where his coverage experience included the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto.


Red mittens in Vancouver
Photo by Sue Frause

Monday, February 08, 2010

Vancouverites can now take a morning train to Seattle with twice-daily, round-trip service

For Vancouverites not swept away with the soon to explode Olympics fever, it may be a fun time to head south.

And now with twice-daily round-trip service between Vancouver-Seattle, you'll arrive at a decent hour instead of late at night. That's if you don't mind catching the 6:40 AM southbound train. The good thing is, you should arrive around 11 AM. The second train leaves Vancouver at 7:45 PM.

Amtrak makes stops along the way in Bellingham, Mt. Vernon, Everett and Edmonds and it's a super scenic ride. Try to snag a seat on the water side and consider spending a bit more ($13 one-way) to go Business Class. It's quieter, you'll receive a discount card for food/beverages but be allowed to board and de-train first.

Keep in mind there are going to be a glut of travelers in February, with the Winter Olympics running from Feb. 12-28, 2010. I just booked a one-way ticket from Seattle to Vancouver during the Winter Games, and it was $51.30. That's because Amtrak handles seat inventory like the airlines do: when seat sales increase, the fares are bumped to the next level.

In other words, purchase early.

Also, security is going to be much tighter this month, as I reported in my Seattle Travel Examiner site: Amtrak steps up security to Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Don't forget to bring your passport.

Seattle's iconic Space Needle as seen from Amtrak
Photo by Sue Frause

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Elizabeth Manley and Katarina Witt ice it up during the Olympics

Elizabeth Manley, Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas
Two figure skating rivals will reunite today at 11:30 AM at the GE Ice Plaza at Robson Square in Vancouver. Although it's been 22 years since the duo last met up, Olympic Gold Medalist Katarina Witt and Silver Medalist Elizabeth Manley will lace up their skates one more time.

It will undoubtedly be an emotional reunion, as the women will share both the ice and their stories of the Olympic competition in Calgary in 1988.

Billed as the Battle of the Carmens, the event is still remembered as the much anticipated battle between German skater Katarina Witt and American Debi Thomas. But it never happened, as Canadian Elizabeth Manley gave a spectacular performance and stole the silver medal from Thomas ... along with the hearts of Canadians.

Young skaters from the Coquitlam Skating Club will also be on the ice. Katarina Witt is in Vancouver covering the 2010 Olympics for German broadcaster ARD.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Olympic torch to dip down into the USA on Feb. 9

Peace Arch Park

The 2010 Olympic Torch Relay started in Victoria on Vancouver Island on Oct. 30, 2009. Now, after nearly 45,000 km (27,961 miles), it's almost to its final destination of Vancouver for the start of the 2010 Winter Games on Friday, Feb. 12.

But first, it will take a little dip into the US, passing through Peace Arch International Park on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 AM.

Two torchbearers, one Canadian and one American, will carry the torch. There will also be a ceremony by the Semiahmoo First Nation from Surrey. Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire and BC Premier Gordon Campbell are expected to speak, and there will be performances of the two country's national anthems.

According to The Seattle Times,"Spectators are advised to arrive early, but they don't need to go through customs stations because the Peace Arch monument can be reached on foot from parking lots on either side of the border."

Cars line up to return to Canada at the Canada-US Peace Arch crossing between Blaine, Washington and Douglas, BC. Photo by Sue Frause.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Port Townsend looking for Canadian visitors

Tourism boards and bureaus everywhere are redefining who their audiences are. With the economy still in a slump, it's more important than ever to target who you want to visit your region.

Port Townsend, located on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, is targeting visitors from southern Vancouver Island. According to the Peninsula Daily News, the city is "developing a marketing promotion to British Columbia ... targeting advertising in the Vancouver media market."

One of Port Townsend's newest inns is offering a special to all British Columbia residents. The Clam Cannery, a luxury boutique hotel right on the water, is inviting BC guests to pay for the first night ... and the second one is free. The complimentary night is available Sundays-Thursdays now through March 15, 2010.

My husband and I stayed at the hotel last year, and it's a great addition to the PT accommodations scene. Built in 1885 and operated as a clam canning facility until the 1940s, it's undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and restoration. The rooms average 800+ square feet and all have full gourmet kitchens along with unobstructed water and views out to the Olympics.

Plus it's right in the heart of Port Townsend, whether you want to take in a movie at the wonderful Rose Theatre; shop for music at Quimper Sound; enjoy a meal at the Silverwater Cafe or Khu Lharb; or visit the new Northwest Maritime Center.

The Clam Cannery is located in the heart of Port Townsend's retail core
Photo by Sue Frause

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

James Cameron and Jason Reitman among six Canadian Oscar nominees at the Academy Awards

James Cameron and Jason Reitman are among six Canadians nominated for Oscars this year.

Both are nominated for Best Director; Cameron for Avatar and Reitman for Up in the Air. The two are in the running with Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Quentin Tarentino (Inglorious Bastards) and Lee Daniels (Precious).

The other four Canadian nominees include Christopher Plummer, Best Supporting Actor for The Last Station; Neil Blomkamp, Best Adapted Screenplay, District 9; Dan Kaufman and Peter Meuyzers, part of a trio nominated for Best Visual Effects, District 9; and Gordon Sim, Best Set Decoration, Nine.

Surprisingly, Quebec director Xavier Dolan's debut film J'ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother) was not among the nine nominees for Best Foreign Language Film.

The 82nd Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, March 8, 2010. The show is hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Monday, February 01, 2010

2010 Olympics cruise ship hits rough economic seas

I attended a media event hosted by Newwest Special Projects LP in the summer of 2009. The Edmonton-based travel and cruise company was introducing the Norwegian Cruise Line luxury ship Norwegian Star as the largest hotel for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

A group of print, web and broadcast media along with travel industry types toured the ship at Pier 66 in Seattle on June 20, 2009. Representatives from Norwegian Cruise Line were also at the luncheon.

According to Newwest, the Norwegian Star was to be docked in North Vancouver from Feb. 10-March 2, 2010 and would add 10% capacity to Vancouver's downtown inventory of 12,000 rooms. I wrote about the unique accommodation for Examiner.com.

It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the floating hotel. The Vancouver Sun reports:
"A plan to berth an 1,100-room cruise ship in North Vancouver for use as a floating hotel during the Olympic Games appears to be in serious danger of sinking. Edmonton-based Newwest Special Projects - which has marketed the Norwegian Star to Games visitors for the past nine months - said in a statement over the weekend that sales have been disappointing while expenses have increased beyond expectations. It said it is negotiating with its partners to try to lower costs and keep the project alive.:

On Newwest's website for the Olympics ship, there's a lone page titled Vancouver Accommodations with this Statement from Newwest Special Projects:

"Still looking for accommodations in Vancouver during the Games? The luxurious NCL Star still has rooms on sale until February 5th. Start at USD $275 per room, per night."

It's very odd that there is no reservation or information number included with the descriptions of the various accommodations. Who you gonna call, Shipbusters? Not a good sign, indeed.

UPDATE 2/2/1010: Here's the latest as about the cruise ship debacle from CKNW/AM90.

UPDATE 2/3/2010: Newwest has updated its website with information on how to get refunds. And it looks like the Make-a-Wish Foundation kids who were to be on board will have to find other accommodations.

UPDATE: Good News for the Make-a-Wish Kids!

Norwegian Star at Pier 66, Seattle in June 2009
Photo by Sue Frause

DECEMBER IN VICTORIA: TAKE A COZY CHRISTMAS SELF-GUIDED FOOD TOUR

The tour begins at the CPR Steamship Terminal Building, located across the street from the BC Parliament Buildings pictured here. ©SueFrause...