January 16, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Chemainus - Diving
For me, SCUBA diving is like flying under water. So you can imagine how excited I am to be able to "fly" over and around a plane underwater! It has taken years for the out of service Boeing 737 to finally find a home as an artificial reef in Chemainus
on Vancouver Island
. It was finally sunk this weekend and my dive buddies and I can't wait to drop down the 70 feet to blow bubbles (or not - for those with rebreathers) and "fly" around the plane peeking into portholes. As the plane sits 15 feet above the ocean floor you can even swim under the belly. The new dive site has been called Xihuw Reef, the Hul'qumi'num name for red sea urchins. Check out the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia
for more information.
January 06, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Squamish - Biking
January 1 is more than a day off to recover from New Year's festivities for local mountain bikers - it's also Test of Metal registration day http://www.testofmetal.com
. For those of you not familiar with the Test, it's an epic cross country mountain bike race held in Squamish each June. You may wonder what defines "epic" - think of a 67km course, with 1200 metres of climbing, sections named Bonk Hill and the 9 Mile Climb and you get the idea of what it's like! It's also a mass start, so professional athletes like Alison Sydor (Olympic silver medalist) and Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks line up to start with 800 slightly less fit weekend warriors. The race has become very popular over the last few years, with all 800 places being snapped up in 6 days in 2005. I've done the race previously (2002-2004) and after nearly sweating to death in 32 degree heat in 2004, swore to take a few years off. Well, I wisely missed last year (it was a horrible wet day), but got "convinced" to sign up this year. My mountain biking friends were speculating that the race would sell out quickly this year - little did I know how quickly! A friend called me 3 hours after registration opened to tell me there were less than 200 places left. I registered right then (secretly hoping that the magical 800th slot was gone!), but I am happy to report I am racer #701. Let the training begin!! If you happen to be in Squamish
on June 17-18, I'd highly recommend checking out the festivities, which last all weekend. The Test itself starts at 11am on Saturday, June 17. The race starts and ends in town and people are out in droves cheering on the riders. The fastest riders will be done in just under 3 hours. Personally, I'll be looking to better my 2004 time of 5 hours 29 minutes!
January 04, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Vancouver - Dining
You better read this quick so you can make a few reservations asap! Dine Out Vancouver
is back in town and I have been told that some restaurants are already selling out on key nights. I am desperately trying to get into Cassis on opening night and, since I have had to email my reservation request to the restaurant directly, I am biting my nails waiting for a response. This is worse than waiting for Christmas morning!! If you plan to be in Vancouver
between January 20 and February 4 this is a great way to experience the top restaurants at extremely affordable prices - $15, $25, or $35 per person.
January 04, 2006 | Tips from Us >
Vancouver, Art Galleries & Artists
Find more information about Vancouver - Art Galleries & Artists
The Vancouver Art Gallery
has changed the night that admission is by donation. Previously on Thursdays, now you need to go on Tuesday nights from 5 to 9 pm to get the deal.
December 29, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Whistler, Sightseeing Tours
Find more information about Whistler - Sightseeing Tours
It's true - driving to Whistler
can get a bit scary, especially with construction and agressive drivers on the road. I especially don't like driving late at night or early in the morning when I feel as though I am not following the road, but the lights on the car in front of me instead. So last time I needed to head north, which happened to be late at night with working construction, I decided to let Greyhound
drive for me. For $35.50 (round-trip from downtown Vancouver) I spent 2 1/2 hours at the front of the bus. Since it was dark outside I wasn't able to see too much so I tried to sleep, but a very chatty fellow sat down beside me and filled our time with his stories of working on an organic farm in "P Town" (Pemberton), growing up and hiking in the "Stoke" (Revelstoke
) and coming into Vancouver to get the essentials for living on a farm (gumboots and raincoats). I have spent way too many hours on buses in Thailand, Vietnam, Portugal, Honduras and Guatemala and I have to say that this was the cleanest, quietest bus I have ever travelled on - complete with late night bed-time stories!
December 23, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Find more information about Victoria - Dining
I have to admit, I haven't been in the Christmas spirit. The shopping mall parking lot tends not to bring out the best in me and work has been busy, and its so hard to find the right present, and, and, and. Today however, I got that lovely tingly feeling after a visit to the Fairmont Empress Hotel
. Heading out on my lunch hour to battle the crowds, I was on a mission to purchase a gift certificate at the incredible Willow Stream Spa
. From the moment I walked into the lobby of the Empress, my spirits started to lift. The bellman opened the door with fanfare and wished me a Merry Christmas and the staff at the spa were delightful, professional and my modest purchase was treated with the same dignity and respect as the lady beside me purchasing the "Pure Pampering Full Day Special". Once my beautifully packaged gift was purchased, I made my way back to the lobby where I stopped to admire the works of local business who have participated in the Festival of Trees. Trees are decorated in a wide range of themes from the traditional balls and garlands to themed trees featuring dumptrucks and flashing lights and proceeds from the event go to the BC Childrens Hospital. One of my personal favourites was the Wedding Tree complete with tin cans and a Barbie bride as a tree top. I wandered further and ended up in the Tea Lobby where guests dressed up in Christmas finery (the little girl in the red velvet dress stole my heart) were enjoying the world famous Afternoon Tea and entertained by a choir decked in period costume. Reluctantly, it was time to return to work, but as I passed back through the lobby, I watched excited guests arriving for their stay at the Empress, the anticipation in their eyes just knowing they were going to have a very special Christmas was evident. I walked out with a smile on my face and looked forward to getting home to my family and starting our Christmas f
December 22, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Sun Peaks Resort, Wineries & Vineyards
The Sun Peaks Icewine Festival
is coming up in mid-January, and it's an event not to be missed. I attended last years festival, and had a great time. Held at Sun Peaks
, a ski resort in the BC interior (about 45 minutes from Kamloops), the festival is a celebration of harvest time for the icewine grapes. Icewine, for the uninitiated, is a sweet dessert wine which is created from grapes that are left on the vine until mid-winter. They are only harvested after the temperatures have dipped below freezing for an extended period, which freezes the grape right through. The solid grapes are then pressed, and the resulting sweet juice is fermented into a really remarkable drink. But the festival's activities aren't restricted to just dessert wines. Last year, I attended seminars that covered topics such as pairing wine with cheese, and another on BC's unique wines
and wine regions. But for me, the call of the outdoors was too much to keep me inside all day. A snowshoeing tour, a snowbike lesson
, and as much skiing
as I could fit in, put roses in my cheeks all weekend (really, it was because of the brisk outdoor activity, not the wine...) The highlight of the festival is the progressive tasting, where wineries are set up throughout the resort's village, and festival-goers, with glass in hand, wind (or weave) their way through the pedestrian streets to the many tasting tables. This year, the Sun Peak Icewine festival is January 19 - 22, 2006.
December 21, 2005 | Tips from Us >
North Vancouver, Attractions
Find more information about North Vancouver - Attractions
I live in North Vancouver and on Sunday December 18th I decided on a whim to take my husband and 4 year old son to Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge
. We were going to go out somewhere for dinner, but felt we should do something more fun and “Christmassy”.
We had a wonderful evening – the canyon was lit up with beautiful Christmas lights, we crossed the famous suspension bridge and ventured across Treetops (7 suspension bridges in the tree canopy, 100 feet above the ground) – which looked magical at night all lit up. My 4 year old son was so excited and enjoyed every moment, quote: “This is much better than watching TV or staying in bed all day” – a compliment indeed! I cannot think of a more enjoyable family Christmas evening, surrounded by Christmas lights, carol singers, friendly and courteous staff throughout the park – and the added bonus, for an entry fee of $19.95 (normal price is $21.95 but BC residents get a $2 discount) we were given a free year’s membership on the spot.
For the next two weeks until December 31 (except Christmas Day), Canyon Lights is open until 9:00 pm in the evenings.
December 16, 2005 | Tips from Us >
North Vancouver, Snowshoeing
Find more information about North Vancouver - Snowshoeing
Vancouver is blessed to have three mountains within a 40 minute drive of the city. The snow conditions can vary from incredible to incredibly wet (the highest peak is just over 4,000 ft). Last night was the full moon and the skies were crystal clear - a perfect night for a full moon snowshoe tour of Mount Seymour
. A small group of work colleagues joined a group of hardy souls for a 2 hour stomp through the woods on snowshoes. I'm not usually one for guided tours, but having got lost on snowshoes in the daylight, going with a guide on a night time excursion is probably a good idea. Although the two guides had headlamps, I was amazed that the moon gave off enough light to snowshoe by. The group climbed to Dinky Peak (which wasn't all that dinky) and we were rewarded with an incredible view of the city of Vancouver. Our guide entertained us with lots of moon and astronomy facts & trivia along the way. It was a bit too much for me at times, although I did learn a few things like each full moon has a name(December's full moon is called the long moon since the nights are longest this month). Mount Seymour offers full moon and big moon tours twice a month. The cost is reasonable - $29 which includes snowshoe rentals, trail ticket, guiding, and a cup of syrupy hot chocolate.
December 16, 2005 | Tips from Us >
Victoria, Breweries, Distilleries & Cideries
Find more information about Victoria - Breweries, Distilleries & Cideries
I'm not normally a creature of habit. But, for me, a trip to Victoria isn't complete without a visit to Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub
. It's the oldest brewpub in Canada and their beer is so tasty (not to mention their food!). Their beer list changes from visit to visit but the last time I was there, I tried the Pumpkin Porter and the Holiday Saison. Thumbs up for both. One of the best things about Victoria is that it is really easy to get around on foot. (Which is especially fortunate after you've had a few beers.) If you're not ready to call it a night after Spinnakers, you can follow the self-guided Ale Trail and stop in at some of the city's other craft breweries. Canoe Brewpub, Marina & Restaurant
is housed inside a beautiful 19th century brick and timber building (it was once the municipal hydro plant). They have a daily "appy hour" if you have the munchies. Just a few short blocks away is Swans Brewpub.
It's located inside the Swans Hotel and is home to a stunning art collection (everything from original Pierre Trudeau paintings to First Nations' art). Again, they have very yummy craft ales and lagers. They also have a really good home-brewed non-alcoholic root beer on tap. From Swans, you can end the Ale Trail at Hugo's Brewhouse
which has the look-and-feel of a funky warehouse with high ceilings, brick walls and exposed pipes. You can cap off the evening with my fave drink there - the Super G beer (it has ginseng in it, so it must be good for you!)