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This just in from @fairmont hotels via Twitter (and why YOU should be on Twitter too!):   Twitter Early Access (in advance of Travelzoo launch on 3/18/09) – $101 room rates at The Fairmont Empress –
The Fairmont Empress on Victoria Harbour

The Fairmont Empress on Victoria Harbour

Victoria, BC‘s most-photographed hotel, the venerable Fairmont Empress, celebrates 101 years this year but in this economy she’s the one bearing the gifts: until March 24, you can book a room for any time up to December 23, 2009 for just $101 a night, INCLUDING a 15% discount on food, drink and indulgent Willowstream Spa treatments. It doesn’t get better that that–especially if you’re paying in Euros or US dollars.


If you’re tempted, don’t dither. This special package will hit TravelZoo on Wednesday…

Sometimes a press release comes across my desk touting some unbelievably good travel deal and then I read the fine print and discover that’s exactly what it is: unbelievable.
So I went looking for the catch in the “20/20 Celebration Sale” that’s getting underway tomorrow at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler……and I kept looking……but there wasn’t one.

Starting February 25 at 12:01 am Pacific time, the grande dame of Whistler’s hotel scene will offer 20 rooms every day for the rest of 2009 at just $99. And even better: they’re not kidding when they say every day–there are no blacked out dates for this amazing offer: Christmas is included.

I attended the official opening of this toney property 20 years ago and have returned many times over the years–sometimes on their dime but more often on mine. It’s one of those rare hotels that never wavers in quality or customer service; it manages to add new amenities without cutting back on quality somewhere else.

I’m a huge fan of this hotel even though I’m not a skier. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed there in the winter–I usually visit Whistler in the summer or early fall because I like to hike. The resort is a great fit for couples and families with different interests–one likes to golf, for example, the other likes to spa. But let’s be frank: family-friendly doesn’t always equate with budget-friendly. Until now.

Reservations open tomorrow at 12:01 am PST until Tuesday, March 3 at 11:59 pm PST at Rates start at $99 CAD plus taxes for a moderate room and are based on a minimum two-night stay (trust me: one is not enough).  Full prepayment is required at time of booking and is non-refundable.

Now outta my way: I’ve got to get caffeinated so I can stay up ’til midnight…

Tourism Ottawa just launched a series of videos featuring local residents welcoming President Obama to Canada and offering suggestions for how to fill his spare minutes during his upcoming visit to our nation’s frigid capital:



This is feel-good, put-a-smile-on-your-face puffery to be sure–don’t expect to hear anything even mildly controversial–but it’s a bit of cure for the February blahs and definitely worth a gander.

My advice for what Obama should do when he’s in town? Drop in on my alma mater, Carleton University, for a spontaneous scrum with the next generation of political reporters currently in training at Canada’s best  J-school

Tourism Vancouver/Dannielle Hayes

Tourism Vancouver/Dannielle Hayes

Looking for the world’s best Chinese food? Then you better make a beeline to…Vancouver, BC? It’s true: the Lower Mainland’s myriad Asian eateries could easily go chopstick-to-chopstick with any contender back in the old country. From har gow to hot pot and Shanghai to Szechuan, it’s all here and it’s all good—and sometimes even outstanding.

Which is why it’s time to say hello to Canada’s first annual Chinese Restaurant Awards, presented today to 23 Vancouver-area restaurants deemed by a panel of esteemed food fetishists to be serving the best Chinese signature dishes.

Where to find the city’s best congee? Mak’s Noodle Restaurant, apparently. Dim sum? Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant. Soup? Wonton King. And Jade Dynasty won in no fewer than three categories: best scallop, best geoduck, and best chicken.

The list is long and the winners range from neighborhood haunts to high-end restos, but you’re pretty much guaranteed a good meal just by closing your eyes and picking a name at random. (In fact, there are two fool-proof lists—the other is a round-up of best restaurants by category—bubble tea, noodle house BBQ, etc.—as chosen by diners themselves. You’ll find both on the awards web site.) 

Now excuse me please: I’m off to New Town Bakery & Restaurant for a box of the city’s (maybe the world’s?) best coconut buns… 

Had the pleasure and privilege today of a working lunch at Voya, a swank new eatery worthy of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, next to the Loden Hotel at Melville and Thurlow in downtown Vancouver.

Voya at Loden Hotel, Vancouver, BC

Voya at Loden Hotel, Vancouver, BC

The lunch menu is a smart two-course prix fixe: $26 buys your choice of any two plates from the small and carefully crafted menu. My organic beet-and-chevre salad was as good or better than the nearly perfect one I enjoyed at L’Express in Montreal recently (high praise indeed), and the poached wild salmon that followed was faultlessly prepared and presented.

This place is a natural to participate in Tourism Vancouver’s Dine Out Vancouver event happening January 14 to February 1–except that they missed the registration deadline. That’s the bad news. The good news: marketing director Barbara Hicks says they’ll go it alone with their own cheekily named Wine Out Vancouver prom0tion–$38 will buy you a three-course dinner, but even better, you can sample any bottle from their sophisticated wine list for just the retail price plus 15 bucks. Heck, you might even want to sample two…

Call or e-mail for details & resos: 604.639.VOYA or

(And ps: yes, that was Fresco chef Rod Butters sitting at the bar today…)