Last week I wrote about how I had thrown caution to the wind and applied to be a volunteer performer at the 2010 Winter Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies. (Trust me: you have to capitalize all that stuff or you risk a knock on your door from the Olympic Language Police.) 

Here’s the note I just received by e-mail from “The Ceremonies Cast Team”:

“Thank you for your interest in volunteering for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

“We have received your application for consideration as a Volunteer Performer. [Editorial aside: You catching all these capitals?]

“In April, we will begin the audition scheduling process for auditions starting in May. As we anticipate receiving thousands of applications, this process will take several months. Please be aware that submitting an application does not guarantee an audition.

“All applicants, whether selected to audition or not, will receive information regarding the status of their application via e-mail or phone by the end of June 2009.”

Kind of makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? Giddy even. So now I guess I just have to wait for the phone to ring–or not. Likely not. But if it does, I’ll let you know what happens next on the Long Road to Olympic Stardom…

So recession kinda sucks huh? Seems every day it gets a little harder to justify an evening out when the sky is apparently falling. The way I see it, we can either cloister ourselves at home with our favourite depressant (in my case, Bombay Sapphire) and wait the downturn out–or, we can get out there and lift a budget-friendly glass to better times.

Win a Zin gift certificate!

Win a Zin gift certificate!

Think you can’t afford an after-work get-together with friends right now? Not true! Check out the great $2 tapas menu on offer between 4 and 7 pm at Zin on Robson from March 16 to April 30.

Executive chef Karen Gin’s menu of toonie treats includes mac & Jack (with a hit of Jack Daniels), chili lime-glazed chicken wings, naan pizza, braised short rib poutine, and my personal all-time lounge-food fave: truffle popcorn. 

Zin is one of my two favourite martini bars in Vancouver (more about the other one later) and I’ve got a $50 gift certificate to Zin to give away in a random draw on March 27. To enter, just leave a comment answering these three important questions: 

  • shaken or stirred?
  • vodka or gin?
  • one olive or two?

Make sure I can get in touch with you, and good luck! (And if just can’t wait to win, make sure you make Happy Hour reservations: call Zin at 604.408.1700.)

PS: Blog about this contest at your own site with a link back here and you’ll get a second chance to win!

It’s spring break in BC’s Lower Mainland and that pretty much guarantees a gloomy weather forecast. (Old joke: how do you know what the weather’s doing in Vancouver? Easy: if you can’t see the mountains it means it’s raining and if you can see the mountains, it means it’s going to rain.)

You can’t let the wet stuff dampen your holiday spirit. Just grab the Gore-Tex and a sturdy brolly (the cheerful, wind-resistant offerings from Vancouver’s Cheeky Umbrellas are well worth the bucks) and make like a local with some of these recommended rainy-day pastimes:

Vancouver loves a Cheeky Umbrella

Vancouver loves a Cheeky Umbrella

  • Visit Hong Kong without a passport on a trip to Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre, where the city’s sizeable Asian population comes to shop, eat and be entertained. 
  • Cloudy skies only heighten the moody atmosphere of the Museum of Anthropology, a celebrated repository of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art at the University of British Columbia
  • Look up when it’s coming down: head for the snow on the nearby North Shore mountains. Look for specially priced ski-and-snowshoe packages here.
  • Steamy and tropical, the domed Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park blooms with birds, butterflies and lush floral vistas. (It’s the best place for foolproof photos, too.) 
  • Indulge your inner culture-vulture at Tickets Tonight with last-minute, half-price tickets to Vancouver’s primo arts events and wait out the monsoon in a matinée.
  • Rain or shine, the Whistler Mountaineer train between North Vancouver and Whistler is the best way to take in the coastal scenery along the Sea-to-Sky corridor. (The season runs May to October.)
  • Drop your umbrella and your shoulders and say spaaaaaaah. My favourite sanctuary is still (and will likely ever be) the Absolute Spa chain, now with a new location at Park Royal in West Vancouver. 
  • When you’ve exhausted the indoor pleasures of Granville Island Public Market, pop your top and walk the False Creek seawall west to Kitsilano Beach or east to Science World.
  • Like hockey but can’t afford tickets to a game? Head downtown to Vancity Theatre for the Hockey Nights in Film series during spring break.

Where do you like to pass a rainy day in the Lower Mainland? Please share your suggestions!

There’s this little shindig in the works ’round Vancouver these days: the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Maybe you’ve already heard? 

Let's get this party started ©VANOC/COVAN

Let's get this party started ©VANOC/COVAN

I am old enough to have lived through–and worked at–this city’s last big party: Expo ’86. And this next event is unspooling pretty much the way that previous one did: initial optimism and collective goodwill, followed by major outrage, minor scandal and moderate pessimism, and capped by a couple of months of triumphant flag-waving and generous back-patting. 

We’re in the middle phase (outrage, scandal, pessimism) now, which makes it a little easier to accept that I didn’t get tickets to any events. (Who wants to go to those darn ol’ medal-round hockey games anyway?) But I know in my heart that the currently empty bandwagon will quickly fill up again…and I won’t be on it. I’ll be stuck at home watching the spectacle of a backyard Olympics on my small-screen TV.

Which is all by way of explaining why I did a really risky and potentially embarrassing thing last night: I applied to be a volunteer performer during the special ceremony events at the 2010 Winter Games.

What can I say? I like to sing. I like to dance. I play the guitar and the piano (enthusiastically if not well). I went to theatre school. I will turn 50 during the Opening Ceremonies. I want to write about the Olympics from the inside out. I want to feel one more time that little shiver of excitement that I felt in 1986 when Princess Diana stepped off her yacht and onto the site of the Canada Pavilion (now Canada Place) and said hello to all the breathless, bilingual, Alfred Sung-suited hosts and hostesses.

It won’t happen of course. But it felt good, when I pushed the “Submit your application” button, to think what it might feel like if it did: my very own personal gold-medal experience… 

Want to fight me for the spotlight at the 2010 Winter Games? Get your application in now!

 

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!

The best guidebook is the one you write yourself

The best guidebook is the one you write yourself

“For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.” 

                                                 -Aldous Huxley

No kidding. During our home exchange to Paris last summer, our best tips didn’t come from Fodor’s or Rough Guide or Lonely Planet but from the pile of hand-picked and well-worn books, magazines, newspaper clippings and hand-written notes left for us by our exchange family. 

I vowed we’d do a similar favour for our Berlin exchange visitors this coming summer, and was delighted to run across a new offering from the good folks at Moleskine, creators of the sleek little Italian notebooks favoured for centuries by artists and other creative types.

Moleskine City Notebooks –the “guidebooks you write yourself”–are currently available for dozens of international destinations, including Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. Each blank 3.5 x 5.5″ 228-page leather-bound notebook features the Moleskine hallmarks: an elastic wrap-around closure, an accordion pocket for receipts and such, and ribbon placemarkers. But you also get detailed city and transit maps, a street index, blank pages for notes and diary entries, indexed pages with space for shopping, dining and entertainment recommendations, and tear-out loose notes.

Includes a detailed city map

Includes a detailed city map

At just over $17 CDN (from Amazon.ca), this is the best guidebook investment a committed home exchanger will ever make.

Buy one for your home city and fill it in during the year, then leave it behind for your guests with a request that they add their favourite finds to it. And then buy another one for your destination city, fill it in during your exchange holiday, and leave it behind as a gift–to be added to by other guests over the years.

Related post: 10 tips for a successful home exchange.

Hockey is a big hairy deal around our house. It’s like a white noise (well, sometimes more like a black noise) that hums along in the background between October and April. And while I myself am not a hockey-head, I cannot escape its influence: since he discovered the sport in Grade 5, my now-teenaged son’s moods have been inextricably linked to his team’s divisional standings. I find Adam’s loyalty to the Canucks rather endearing: he will not abandon them, even though he knows they will inevitably break his heart.

Slap Shot

Slap Shot

So how do I–the woman who once embarrassed her son by cheering for another team’s goal because she didn’t know they switched sides after each period–plan to bond with my hockey patriot this spring break? Easy: we are going to the movies. Hockey movies.

We’ll be heading downtown to the Vancouver International Film Centre to catch a few of the 11 hockey-themed flicks on offer from March 9- 20. The Hockey Nights in Film series runs the gamut from beloved national classics (The Rocket) to Hollywood joyrides (Slap Shot) and cinéma vérité documentaries (Junior). And at just $10 a ticket, it’s way cheaper than a hockey game.

WANT TO WIN TICKETS?

Is hockey a part of your family dynamic too? I’ve got a couple of pairs of tickets to give away, so leave a comment here with a hockey-related family memory and I’ll give the best story-teller a pair of tickets to see either Slap Shot on March 9 at 7 pm, or Junior on Thursday, March 12 at 8:45 pm.  (If you blog and would like to write about this contest or share your memory on your own site, please just leave a short comment below to direct me back to your own post).

Remember to leave your e-dress or blog URL so I can contact the winner. Contest closes Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 8 pm.