If you love jazz and world music, have I got a prize for you: a pair of tickets to this weekend’s Water’s Edge Music Festival at the Evergreen Cultural Centre on the pretty shores of Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam, BC.

Beginning at 9:30 am on Saturday, March 7 and for 25 non-stop hours, more than 300 performers will strut their musical stuff during 25 events  at seven indoor and outdoor venues. The question isn’t whether to attend, but who to attend to: will you catch R. Murray Schafer’s Music for Wilderness Lake featuring 12 trombonists playing to one another across the lake? Or 2008 National Jazz Award winner Jodi Proznick and her quartet? Grammy-nominated Cuban jazz great Bobby Carcasses? Or maybe the midnight drum circle?

And that’s just for starters…you’ve got to have stamina for this marathon swim in deep musical waters…

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS!

Just leave a comment telling me which of the following four shows you’d most like to attend on Saturday, March 7.  I’ll do a random draw for a pair of tickets (valued at $50) tomorrow (Friday, March 6), at 5 pm. Remember to leave contact info! 

Saturday, 3 PM: Vocomotion brings to life music from many cultures and traditions

Saturday, 6 PM: Jodi Proznick Quartet 

Saturday, 8 PM: JUNO-nominated Brad Turner Quartet

Saturday, 10:30 PM: Bobby Carcasses and AFROJAZZ from Cuba

Be quick and good luck!

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Aboard BC Ferries' Queen of Capilano

Aboard BC Ferries' Queen of Capilano

Surrounded on three sides by ocean and spattered like a Jackson Pollock painting with crystalline lakes and historic rivers, Canada’s magnificent landscape is perhaps best viewed from its myriad waterways. Sure, you could take in the iconic wilderness scenery on a luxury cruise through British Columbia’s Inside Passage. But if you’re pressed for time or money, there are plenty of other ways to experience Canada at “see”-level. 

Highly recommended day-trips:

  • For the prettiest views of the historic harbour in Halifax, NS, make the 12-minute ferry crossing between Nova Scotia’s capital and the city of Dartmouth. 
  • For centuries, visitors have found respite from the urban bustle of Toronto, ON in the lushly wooded Toronto Islands, just a short hop across Lake Ontario from Canada’s largest metropolis. Year-round ferry service departs from the docks at the foot of Bay Street. The return trip offers great photo opps of the city skyline.
  • At the historic junction of Manitoba’s mighty Red and Assiniboine Rivers is Winnipeg’s premier tourist attraction, The Forks. From May to September, the River Spirit water bus plies the scenic and tranquil riverfront. Or rent a canoe or paddleboat and explore at your own pace.

Have I missed any? Let me know!

So I got this note from Pam Mandel, a Seattle travel writer, via Twitter last night:

nerdseyeview @julieoc richmond is the kinda town you want a local to drag you around. it’s not easy to know what to do/where to go, but it could be fun.

And she’s right of course. It’s easy to forget that Richmond, BC —land of mini-malls and big-box stores—is an island, with an island’s watery charms. I grew up there, so I say this with some authority. Descending into Vancouver International Airport, you stare down on Richmond’s hard, grey, flat expanse of roadways and rooftops and retail. But look to the edge of the frame, to the soft-ripened spot where the dyke holds back the mighty Fraser River: now that’s a place you ought to get to know—especially in springtime.

Bike the dyke

Bike the dyke

Richmond is below sea level and the 80-km dyke that rings the island is one of the city’s best features—and not merely as a safety measure. It’s at once a backyard fitness track for locals, a rich habitat for migratory birds, and a quiet refuge for the world-weary (except, I guess, for two weeks in 2010, when the new riverside Olympic speed-skating oval will be a little busy). 

Walk (or bike) it in the spring, when warmer weather wakes up the critters that call the marshland home. Start at Steveston village, where the annual farmers’ and artisans’ market gets underway in the parking lot of the historic Gulf of Georgia cannery every Sunday starting in late May until September. Grab a cone of fish and chips from Dave’s or Pajo’s, and then settle down at nearby Garry Point Park to catch the serendipitous photo-op of the day: Japanese box-kites slashing through the sky, or colourful fishing boats sauntering home for supper, or wizened old ladies practicing Tai Chi on the beach.

Stay long enough and you might even catch an epic sunset—a not-quickly-forgotten magenta stain in the sky over the distant Gulf Islands.  And if you’ve worked up an appetite, remember: there’s a glut of award-winning Chinese restaurants just a few miles down the road…

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…