Canada’s 10 Most Haunted Places

ghostWith Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to revel in Canada’s urban legends.

Spooks, specters and spirits abound, Canada is rich with ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. We’ve rounded up the most skin-crawling locations Canada has to offer, so you can find out whether there really is something to all these spooky tales (that is, if you think you can handle it). Read on to discover where you’re most likely to find things that go bump in the night…

Keg Mansion1. Keg Mansion, Toronto, ON

Today, it’s one of many locations of the Keg steakhouse franchise, but the Keg Mansion was once the private residence of industrialist Hart Massey and his family. As legend has it, in 1915, after the death of Massey’s beloved only daughter, Lillian, one of the maids was so stricken by grief that she hung herself. Another version of the story involves the maid killing herself for fears her rumoured affair with a Massey man would be revealed. Either way, the ghostly image of a maid hanging by her neck has been seen by more than one Keg visitor over the years.

banff springs2. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, AB

Thought the Bates Motel in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining were scary accommodations, the Banff Springs Hotel is one of Canada’s most picturesque hotels, but it’s also rumoured to be one of the country’s most haunted. Built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, this hotel is the site of numerous terrifying ghost sightings, including a murdered family in room 873, a bride who died falling down the hotel’s marble staircase, and a retired bellhop named Sam Macauley who continues to haunt the hotel dressed in full uniform.

chateau laurier3. Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, ON

Business Tycoon Charles Melville Hays commissioned the Fairmount Château Laurier, but died tragically aboard the Titanic just days before the hotel’s grand opening in 1912. Hays’ spirit has since been rumoured to be seen roaming throughout the property. Had we invested our time and money into crafting the lavish Château, only to die mere days before its completion, we’d likely be inclined to return as well.

Ghosts-Old-Spaghetti-Factory-Gastown-Vancouver4. The Old Spaghetti Factory, Vancouver, B.C.

It’s been said that the ghost of a train conductor still haunts this popular eatery built atop an old underground railway track. Inexplicable cold drafts and mysteriously rearranged table settings are the calling card of the deceased conductor. Making matters truly skin tingling is a photograph of the 1950s-era, decommissioned electric trolley now featured in the restaurant’s dinning room. The photo depicts hints of “a ghostly figure”, believed to be the train conductor, standing on the steps of the trolley.

hocky hall of fame5. Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto, ON

Prior to serving as Canada’s hockey shrine, this building was once a Bank of Montreal. Legend has it that a lonely bank teller named Dorothy took her own life after her romantic advances were rejected by the bank’s manager. Dorothy’s ghost is now believed to occupy the Hockey Hall of Fame, with some visitors reporting they heard inexplicable sounds of a woman crying throughout the building.

craigdarrock castle6. Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, B.C.

Built in the 1890s for coal miner Robert Dunsmuir and his family, this Victorian-era mansion has since become an eerie Canadian tourist attraction. Rumours of a piano that plays by itself, and sightings of a ghastly woman in white have frequently been reported. Many attribute the castle’s supernatural proclivity to Dunsmuir’’s untimely demise just a year before the building was completed.

plains of Abraham7. Plains of Abraham, Quebec City, QC

In 1759, Major General James Wolfe and British soldiers staged a three-month siege of Quebec City against the French army, culminating in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Being the location of one of the most famous battles in Canadian history, it’s no wonder there have been numerous sightings of ghostly soldiers appearing throughout the Plains’ fields and tunnels. Both Wolfe and French Major General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm died in the battle – and we can’t help but wonder whether their spirits are still battling it out to this day.

maritime museum8. Maritime Museum of B.C., Victoria, B.C.

Located in Victoria’s well-known Bastion Square is the Maritime Museum, which was once the site of the city’s jail and gallows. Some say that if you look through the windows at the Museum’s entrance, a shadowy, slender, Van Dyke-bearded figure can be spotted gliding down the main staircase. The mysterious apparition is thought to be the ghost of Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, Victoria’s infamous “Hanging Judge”.

government house, sask9. Government House, Regina, SK

This building, completed in 1891, has been the site of several reported hauntings over the years. Strange occurrences such as doors opening and closing on their own, the shuffling of footsteps, and eerie faces appearing in the reflections of mirrors have all been reported.

westpoint610. West Point Lighthouse, O’Leary, P.E.I.

The sight of a lighthouse, bathed in pitch black darkness, conjures up all sorts of frightful possibilities. Rumours have long swirled that the first keeper of the lighthouse, Willie, haunts the West Point Lighthouse Inn located next door. Talk about a turndown service you’d never want to get!

Lights, Camera, Action!

RMR Winter Wonderland 2Written by Revelstoke Mountain Resort

If you’re anything like us, you’re eagerly anticipating the first big snowfall of the season (and more importantly November 29!) and are on the lookout for anything that is going to get you amped for the upcoming season.

Well, look no further!

Here’s what you need to do: go grab some popcorn and get ready to see Revelstoke take over the big screen!

Last season we were lucky enough to have five of the top production companies in the biz shooting feature films here; and what better way to start getting psyched for the 2014/15 season than watching some of the biggest names in skiing and snowboarding tearing it up in our winter wonderland?

(Face it, it’s better than your idea of walking around in your long johns and ski boots for the next two months.)

You are sure to recognize some of your favourite RMR terrain in Lynsey Dyer’s highly anticipated film Pretty Faces. The movie, featuring all female skiers and geared towards a female audience, is the first first entirely crowd-sourced, crowd-funded ski movie.

If you get a chance to take in the latest Poorboyz masterpiece, Twenty, you’ll see Tanner Hall pushing the limits in the closing segment. Hall spent six weeks in Revy and says his part of the film is 100 percent shot here.

Other top films featuring Revelstoke in a major role are: Teton Gravity Research’s Almost Ablaze, Matchstick Productions’ Days of my Youth and Absinthe’s Heavy Mental.

Below are trailers and Revelstoke tour dates for these not to be missed films… just don’t blame us if after watching them you’re itching to rip some big lines.

Pretty Faces

For film tour schedule, click here.

Heavy Mental

For film tour schedule, click here.

Days of our youth

Playing at the Roxy Theatre, Revelstoke, Friday Oct. 16

Almost Ablaze

For film tour schedule, click here.

Twenty

For film tour schedule, click here.

Best reasons to travel in the fall

shutterstock_115225654Autumn is upon us, but that’s no reason to stop travelling. The fall season is one of the best times to hit the road, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Good weather
Just because the calendar says autumn doesn’t mean the weather automatically turns frosty. This sweater weather means you can bundle up in your favourite scarf or hoodie and enjoy the last few months outside before winter sends us indoors.

2. Festival season 
Many places host fall festivals that often revolve around the harvest, so just think of all the delicious food and wine you could be enjoying.
grape fall harvest

3. Fall colours
Regions like eastern Canada and the Rockies are especially beautiful at this time of year. As the leaves on the trees change colour and create an array of reds, oranges, and yellows, take advantage of nature’s perfect photography backdrop.

4. Crowds are smaller
The lower demand for travel during fall means lines are shorter and you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists. Children are back to school so the travellers you will meet tend to be couples looking for some peace and quiet. Your boss will also be happy to give you the time off because no one else is travelling.

5. Prices are lower
We saved the best reason for last! Fall is the shoulder season, sitting between the peak summer season and the busy winter season. The slower demand in fall means many airlines, hotels (Sandman included) and attractions charge lower prices in an effort to drum up business.
autumn leaves

See you this autumn!

Do You Steal Shampoo and Soap From Hotels?

hotel shampoo1Written by Travel Junkies

I have a confession to make. You know those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotions and those little single use bars of soaps that you find in hotel rooms? Well, we take them. All of them! We don’t go to the extremes of raiding the maid’s cart, as others may do, but if it is in the room, we take them. Of course, bathrobes, slippers, and towels are off limits, as that is just plain stealing. But those little bottles and soaps, we will clean them out.

While some of you may think “What’s the big deal, we do the same thing,” others may be shocked at our criminal behavior. I read an article awhile ago that called the act of taking those little bottles and soaps criminal and was appalled that anyone would commit such a heinous crime. But we see things a little differently.

hotel soapSome people actually collect those little bottles and soaps, while others take them just to take them. I believe the people that take them just to take them are wannabe kleptomaniacs that don’t want the guilt of stealing more tangible items. So why would we risk hard prison time over the taking of these little bottles of shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and soaps? Because we use them! That’s right, we actually use shampoo and soap and they are the perfect size for travel and camping. So instead of having to buy those overpriced trial sized bottles in the store, or buying small empty bottles and dealing with the hassle of having to refill them and spilling the contents all over the place, we just stick with the little hotel bottles and mini bars of soaps.

Now the big moral question regarding the taking of these little hotel shampoos and soaps is if in fact it is truly stealing, or do they want you to take them? I think the answer is they want you to take them. The little bottles and bars of soap are little mini billboards that you will see each time you use them. They are usually branded with the hotels name and logo, and not that of a skin and hair care company. I believe they want you to take them and so each time you see that little bottle you can think, “Wow, I had a great time at Hotel XYZ and I should go back there.”

Travel Junkies are a family of three from Portland, Oregon who sold their house, quit their good jobs, and left Portland November 1, 2012 to travel around-the-world for two years with their daughter.

 

Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever

Pack this, reserve that. Travelling comes with tips and tricks that don’t always save you time or money. That’s all about to change.

Vacation like an expert with Distractify‘s amazing travel tips.

1. Keep loose chargers and cables organized with a glasses case.

Keep%20loose%20chargers%20and%20cables%20organized%20with%20a%20glasses%20case.
2. Use straws to carry travel-size amounts of skin care products.

Use%20straws%20to%20carry%20travel-size%20amounts%20of%20skin%20care%20products.
3. Put a dryer sheet at the bottom of a suitcase to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

Put%20a%20dryer%20sheet%20at%20the%20bottom%20of%20a%20suitcase%20to%20keep%20your%20clothes%20smelling%20fresh.
4. Use a spring from an old pen to protect chargers from bending and breaking.

Use%20a%20spring%20from%20an%20old%20pen%20to%20protect%20chargers%20from%20bending%20and%20breaking.
5. Skip the long lines for airport bathrooms.
It may seem like common logic, but the first bathroom in the terminal is the most crowded one. Use the next one to skip the long waits and save precious time.
Skip%20the%20long%20lines%20for%20airport%20bathrooms.
6. Use a binder clip to protect the head of shaving razors.

Use%20a%20binder%20clip%20to%20protect%20the%20head%20of%20shaving%20razors.
7. If you forget your wall plug, charge devices through the USB slot on a TV.

If%20you%20forget%20your%20wall%20plug%2C%20charge%20devices%20through%20the%20USB%20slot%20on%20a%20TV.
8. Roll clothes, instead of folding, to save tons of baggage space.

Roll clothes, instead of folding, to save tons of baggage space.
9. If you have clothes that need to be folded, use tissue paper to keep them from wrinkling.

If%20you%20have%20clothes%20that%20need%20to%20be%20folded%2C%20use%20tissue%20paper%20to%20keep%20them%20from%20wrinkling.
10. Use a pill container to keep jewelry organized and untangled.

Use%20a%20pill%20container%20to%20keep%20jewelry%20organized%20and%20untangled.
11. Scan important documents before leaving for your trip.
In the event of theft or misplacement, it comes in really handy to have extra copies of your passport, identification cards and flight itineraries that you can easily access on your smartphone or tablet.
Scan%20important%20documents%20before%20leaving%20for%20your%20trip.
12. Speed Up Going Through Security
When going through security, stuff your small belongings like wallets, keys and phones into your bag before placing it on the conveyor belt. It eliminates the need for separate bins and saves you time.

Speed%20Up%20Going%20Through%20Security%20
13. Tuck your soap and wash cloth together with this easy-to-fold pouch.

Tuck%20your%20soap%20and%20wash%20cloth%20together%20with%20this%20easy-to-fold%20pouch.
14. A shower cap is an easy way to cover the bottoms of shoes.

A%20shower%20cap%20is%20an%20easy%20way%20to%20cover%20the%20bottoms%20of%20shoes.
15. Put smartphones in airplane mode to save battery and charge faster.

Put%20smartphones%20in%20airplane%20mode%20to%20save%20battery%20and%20charge%20faster.
16. Keep your headphones from tangling by winding them around a binder clip.

Keep your headphones from tangling by winding them around a binder clip.
17. Keep hair clips tidy with an empty Tic Tac container.

Keep%20hair%20clips%20tidy%20with%20an%20empty%20Tic%20Tac%20container.
18. Sit in the seats near the wing of the plane for the least turbulence.
The seats along the wings of a plane usually have the least amount of bounce when flying because it has more structural support.

Sit%20in%20the%20seats%20near%20the%20wing%20of%20the%20plane%20for%20the%20least%20turbulence.%20
19. Keep your travel-size containers and refill them, instead of buying new each time.

Keep%20your%20travel-size%20containers%20and%20refill%20them%2C%20instead%20of%20buying%20new%20each%20time.
20. To use Google Maps offline, type “OK Maps,” and the visible area will save for future access.

To%20use%20Google%20Maps%20offline%2C%20type%20%u201COK%20Maps%2C%u201D%20and%20the%20visible%20area%20will%20save%20for%20future%20access.
21. Cram the most into your carry on.
Vacuum sealed bags can save you a ridiculous amount of space in your carry on. Makes the need for checking a bag obsolete.

Cram%20the%20most%20into%20your%20carry%20on.

22. Instead of buying water at the airport, bring an empty bottle along and fill it up after passing security.

Instead%20of%20buying%20water%20at%20the%20airport%2C%20bring%20an%20empty%20bottle%20along%20and%20fill%20it%20up%20after%20passing%20security.
23. When reserving airline seats for two people, get the aisle and window.
If no one takes the middle seat you get a full row, and if someone does, just ask to switch so you can sit next to your travel partner.

When%20reserving%20airline%20seats%20for%202%20people%2C%20get%20the%20aisle%20and%20window.
24. Wait to buy airline tickets until 3pm on Tuesdays.
Typically this is when the big Airlines reduce their fares.

Wait%20to%20buy%20airline%20tickets%20until%203%20p.m.%20on%20Tuesdays.%20
25. Certain times are better for using the airplane bathroom.
Since most airlines don’t let you stand in line for the restrooms, the best times to use it are right after the plane has leveled off and 15-20 minutes before landing.

Certain%20times%20are%20better%20for%20using%20the%20airplane%20bathroom.
26. Get the Wi-Fi password for many establishments by checking the comments section of FourSquare.

Get%20the%20WiFi%20password%20for%20many%20establishments%20by%20checking%20the%20comments%20section%20of%20FourSquare.
27. Use your GPS when travelling abroad.
If you’re travelling abroad without an international plan, turn on airplane mode and turn off data to use the GPS without connecting to the Internet. Simply load the Google map of the area before heading out the hotel, and you’ve got a fully functional map to navigate the area.

Use%20your%20GPS%20when%20traveling%20abroad.%20
28. Skip the wait at the baggage claim.
Even if it’s not, marking your bag with a fragile label leads to gentler handling by airport staff. Also they’re often loaded on the top of the other luggage meaning it’s one of the first to come out at the baggage claim.

Skip%20the%20wait%20at%20the%20baggage%20claim.%20
29. Remove other tourists from your vacation photos.

Remove%20other%20tourist%20from%20your%20vacation%20photos.
30. Use ATMs instead of airport currency exchanges to save money.
Many ATMs will offer much lower rates than what you can get from the airport currency exchanges.

Use%20ATMs%20instead%20of%20airport%20currency%20exchanges%20to%20save%20money.
31. For bonus points, travel with a power strip and be the airport hero.

For%20bonus%20points%2C%20travel%20with%20a%20power%20strip%20and%20be%20the%20airport%20hero.
32. As a treat to yourself, send yourself a postcard from each day of your travels. 
It’ll be a nice treat to come home to and make the transition back to reality easier.

As%20a%20treat%20to%20yourself%2C%20send%20yourself%20a%20postcard%20from%20each%20day%20of%20your%20travels

Most importantly… keep travelling!

Written by Distractify, a leading entertainment company in the mobile era. Through an understanding of content creation and social sharing, Distractify publishes some of the most popular content on the Web, exploring culture, lifestyle, human insight, and humor. Since launching in October 2013, Distractify has reached over 200m global readers.

Congratulations Okanagan Valley!

Okanagan1

Their well-travelled expert nomination panel – a wine educator and a wine buyer – made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest’s four-week run.  While British Columbia’s Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal’s appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honours.

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice contest for ‘Best Wine Region to Visit’ contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, California
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon, United States
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia, United States

Beautiful view from Sandman Signature Kamloops Hotel

Beautiful view from Sandman Signature Kamloops Hotel

With six hotels in the Okanagan – two in Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Princeton & Vernon – many of which offer amazing Wine Packages, Sandman Hotel Group is absolutely thrilled about the Okanagan Valley receiving this amazing recognition.

If you have ever had the pleasure of travelling through the Okanagan, you have experienced great wines from a world where the most skilled grape-growers and winemakers create absolute works of art.

The below is an excerpt from one lucky traveller’s journal.

Driving south from Okanagan Falls, with a quick stop at the famous Tickleberry’s for a double-scoop black cherry ice cream cone (irresistible, by the way), the Valley not only heats up to over 40C most of the summer, but flattens into a narrow, guarded valley.

The terroir of the South Okanagan begins at the McIntyre Bluff, which lies on the western side of Okanagan Valley, halfway between Oliver, the self-anointed Wine Capital of Canada, and Okanagan Falls. Vaseux Lake, part of the Okanagan River system, nearly abuts this prominent landmark. This cliff is the steepest and most dramatic in the Okanagan Valley, and the valley itself is the narrowest and most constricted in the Okanagan at this spot.  It is here that the soils and climate begin to define a truly southern region unlike any other in British Columbia, or Canada, for that matter.

This distinctive valley is actually the northern most tip of the transcontinental Sonoran Desert with an annual rainfall of 9 inches or less and some of hottest temperatures in Canada. Its latitude is similar to France with long daylight growing hours, clear unpolluted skies and a light intensity that rivals any wine growing region in the world.

Okanagan vineyards_86651131It is gorgeous here, as everywhere you look the stunning landscape of sunburned hills, sandy desert with its silver sage, antelope bush, and prickly pear cactus, is abutted to the lush greenery of vineyard after vineyard. It is a beautiful collision of raw natural splendor and intrepid winemaker, lured here by both the potential and the challenges of a region so unlike any other in the world.

The South Okanagan is made up of three distinct benches each with its own microclimates that define each appellation.

• The Black Sage Bench sits on top of sandy soil that can run up to 300 feet deep. Parts of this area are protected ecological habitats that preserve antelope-brush, bunchgrass, sage and prickly pear cactus.

• The Osoyoos Bench is comprised of soils such as Stepney, Trepanier and Trewitt. These soils have developed in deep gravel-free and stone-free sandy, coarse-textured fluvioglacial deposits and minor fluvial fan deposits. The soils are well to rapidly drained.

• The Golden Mile Bench soils vary from Ponderosa, Ratnip and Stemwinder. They have developed in gravelly, cobbly, stony and bouldery coarse to medium-textured fluvial fan deposits.

OkanaganEach of these areas bring distinct wine characteristics equal to any appellation found in Burgundy, Bordeaux or the Rhone Valley in France.

The South Okanagan is fertile ground for B.C.’s ripest grapes and is home to the best Bordeaux-style (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) and Rhone-style (Syrah) wines being made in Canada. On the white side, Pinot Gris is a specialty of the region along with Chardonnay and Gewuztraminer.

The area, collectively known as the South Okanagan Wine Association (formerly called Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country), is a region that includes 21 wineries, from McIntyre Bluff to the north to the U.S. border in the south. The stunning beauty of the South Okanagan combined with the near-perfect growing conditions for the major vinifera grapes make it an ideal location for touring, staying and tasting.

The region still has a rural feel to it and is unspoiled by major development, other than the rush by wineries to plant more vineyards, build larger tasting rooms and gorgeous hilltop winery restaurants.

Touring in this region is a wonderful mix of wine, pastoral beauty with creeks, lakes, the historic and aboriginal influences, and stunning lake-side resort relaxation in near-perfect weather conditions from spring to fall.

The Many Faces of the August Long Weekend

kids in grass_96137972Most Canadians are well versed in the stories of Christmas and Easter, and we all know that Canada Day recognizes the birthday of our nation. But for many, the first-Monday-of-August long weekend (often referred to on calendars as “Civic Holiday”) is shrouded in mystery and, at times, confusion.

Let us clear the air.

A long time ago, there was a lengthy and dreary gap between Canada Day and Labour Day where no holiday occurred. The first Monday of August, occurring right between the two, seemed like the perfect place for a summer holiday.

But there is more to it than that. Few know that what is most widely known as “Civic Holiday” actually has ties to the abolition of slavery which officially took place on August 1, 1834. Some communities across Canada call this “Emancipation Day”.

Across Canada, the day is known as “British Columbia Day,” “New Brunswick Day” or “Saskatchewan Day,” depending on where you are. Alberta calls it “Heritage Day,” and in Nova Scotia and PEI, they celebrate “Natal Day”.

In Ontario, the holiday has many aliases. It began in 1869 when Toronto City Council marked it as a “day of recreation”. Later on, Burlington recognized the Monday as “Joseph Brant Day”, while Brantford, Oshawa, Ottawa, and Sarnia all followed suit with names of their own (Founders’ Day, McLaughlin Day, Colonel By Day, and Alexander Mackenzie Day respectively). Municipalities across Ontario have a range of local names for the holiday honouring different historical figures, yet most Ontario workplaces simply go with “Civic Holiday”.

Today, Toronto’s official name for the first-Monday-of-August long weekend is “Simcoe Day”, and it coincides with Toronto’s annual Caribana festival. And although many organizations give employees the day off , this Monday is not a “statutory holiday” nor is it recognized or mentioned in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

As for Manitoba, there’s a new movement to have the weekend renamed Terry Fox Day starting next year. A bill to rename the holiday after the Winnipeg-born icon will be introduced in the upcoming fall session. Fox died in 1981 at the age of 22 while attempting to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

“His birthday is on July 28 — that’s very close to the Civic Holiday,” said Manitoba’s Premier Greg Selinger. “So it is just a way for us to think of his contribution as we are enjoying time with our family on the long weekend.”

No matter where you’re from, where you’re celebrating, or what you call the holiday, enjoy the long weekend!

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SANDMAN HOTEL GROUP PLANS FOUR-STAR HOTEL IN THE CITY CENTRE OF ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND

Robert Gordon University (RGU) has sold its St Andrews Street building in the heart of Aberdeen city centre to Sandman Hotel Group in a multi-million pound deal which will allow the university to continue with the development of its Garthdee campus.

Sandman will transform RGU’s St Andrews Street building into a four-star premium hotel complex with 220 rooms, including 61 one-bedroom suites, a restaurant, and convention facilities.

Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of RGU said, “The sale of St Andrews Street to Sandman Hotel Group will provide major benefits to the city as well as RGU. The capital received will allow us to continue with the development of our teaching and learning facilities, providing our students with an outstanding educational environment. In addition, the city will benefit from a new four-star hotel and a development which will help drive forward the regeneration of Aberdeen’s city centre.”

“We are thrilled to open our first hotel in Scotland and partner with RGU,” said Taj Kassam, President of Sandman Hotel Group and The Sutton Place Hotels. “Our brand of hospitality fits perfectly into the iconic city of Aberdeen. I was educated in Scotland and this is where I began my career, so it gives us a great feeling of pride and excitement to open a property here.”

RGU is currently in the process of building new facilities for the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment as part of the ongoing development of the university’s Riverside East building which opened to students in September 2013.

Professor von Prondzynski added, “Staff and students of the Scott Sutherland School will benefit from working closely with colleagues from other disciplines than has previously been possible. In addition, the development of our campus is allowing us to better engage with our professional and industry partners.”

The new facilities will complement the university’s existing buildings at the east end of the campus in terms of their innovative design and style, while providing an outstanding educational environment for its students.  The campus will retain its park-like ambience and provide a recreational setting for the benefit of staff, students, and the local community.

Which way to the beach?

Whether you’re looking for a stretch of sand to spread out and relax with a good book, an outdoor court to spike a volleyball, or a catwalk to strut your stuff, Vancouver’s got it. You’ll easily find a beach everywhere you turn.

The following is a list of some of the best beaches in the city.

Kitsilano Beach

Kitsilano Beach

If Vancouver is “Hollywood North,” then Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach – or “Kits Beach” to the locals – is our Venice Beach. Buff and bronzed bodies are sure to make their rounds but don’t be wary, you’re sure to fit in somewhere amidst the mix of joggers, stroller-pushing families, sun-worshippers, and everyday loungers. Grassy patches above the tide line are perfect for tossing the disc, the tennis courts are always popular, and the beach attracts volleyball players from all over the city. And don’t forget Kits Pool where kids and adults can splash away the day in an outdoor, heated salt-water pool with a wrap-around view of the city, ocean, and mountains. It’s almost three times the size of an Olympic pool.

Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach

When all the elements are right, fishing and a picnic at the Jericho Beach pier makes for a perfect evening. Enjoy the long, sandy stretch with stunning views of the North Shore Mountains and downtown core. It’s also a great spot for sailing, windsurfing, sea kayaking, and beach volleyball.

Spanish Banks

Spanish Banks

To commemorate the discovery of the Spanish explorers in 1792, the British named this particular shore Spanish Banks. The least crowded of Vancouver’s beaches, this stretch of sand is a wonderful retreat for those who wish to escape from the pace of city life. Skimmers alert: this is the perfect place for skim boarding once you learn the optimal tidal conditions.

English Bay

West End Beaches

The southern edge of the West End neighbourhood has two of the most attractive waterfront urban environments – English Bay and Sunset Beach. Amazingly, this large stretch of sand is no more than a 30-minute walk from Sandman Hotel Vancouver City Centre and an easy 10-minute walk from Sandman Suites Vancouver Davie – Street, with no commercial exploitation intruding on the peaceful environment. In summer, English Bay becomes a jumping off point for rollerblading adventures, strolling for ice cream, and picnics. Kids will love the floating slide and parents will appreciate the full time lifeguard. It’s also the place to lay down your blanket and look up to the sky during the Honda Celebration of Light international fireworks competition (2014 dates: July 26th, 30th & August 2nd)

Third Beach

Second & Third Beaches

Second Beach is a quick stroll north from English Bay into Stanley Park. Like Kitsilano Beach, Second Beach also has an immense, heated outdoor pool. Further along the seawall lies secluded Third Beach, which is due north of Stanley Park Drive. Locals tote grills and coolers to this spot, a popular place for summer evening barbecues and sunset watching.

Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach

This six-kilometre long, secluded beach is Canada’s first and largest, legal, clothing-optional beach. It’s located at the western tip of Vancouver, adjacent to the University of British Columbia campus, down a long flight of steep stairs. On a summer weekend, as many as 14,000 visitors flock to the beach which stretches from the Musqueam Reserve to Spanish Banks West. Vendors Row, located down the middle of the beach below Trail 6, offers snacks and refreshments. Note: Wreck Beach enthusiasts are a loyal and protective bunch who take their right to “bare” arms, legs and everything else pretty seriously.

Why Waste Time at the Beach?

Research shows that the sound of waves alters wave patterns in the brain lulling you into a deeply relaxed state. Relaxing in this way can help rejuvenate the mind and body.

Also, floating in water means blood is diverted around from our lower limbs and pumped towards our abdominal region – the part of the body near the heart – because we are no longer standing upright. Fresh blood being pumped around the body brings more oxygen to our brain which makes us more alert and active.

Fresh air for sleep

If you’ve ever wondered why we always sleep more soundly after spending the day on the beach, it’s because of the sea air. Sea air is charged with healthy negative ions that accelerate our ability to absorb oxygen. Negative ions also balance levels of seratonin, a body chemical linked with mood and stress. Which is why after a holiday you feel more alert, relaxed, and energized.

So next time you’re looking for an excuse to spend the day at the beach, the real question is, “Which beautiful Vancouver beach?”

 

SANDMAN ACCEPTS BITCOIN FOR HOTEL RESERVATIONS

bitcoinSandman Hotel Group is proud to announce they are now accepting bitcoin as a valid form of payment. As the first Canadian hospitality company to accept bitcoin, guests can now make reservations at over 40 hotels across Canada using the online currency.

Bitcoin is the world’s most widely used alternative currency with a total market cap of approximately $8.1 billion.

“Vancouver hosted the TED talk summit earlier this year. This event brought a diverse and tech savvy group of travellers and presenters to the city. Our hotels had a number of enquiries regarding payment through alternative payments including bitcoin. As a customer focused company with an eye on technology, we decided to incorporate this emerging technology as a payment option,” said Salim Kassam, Vice President of Marketing for Sandman Hotel Group.

“There is a great deal of concern regarding the fluctuation in values of bitcoin. This can be seen to a certain extent in any traditional currency. Bitcoin has seen larger fluctuations; however, we mitigate this by taking an instantaneous exchange value and converting them to Canadian dollars.

“We feel that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies may be here to stay. We can tell you without question that more and more of our customers are seeking to pay with this currency, and our job as hoteliers is to be accommodating to the changing needs and requests of our guests.”

Sandman has partnered with bitcoin payment processors Coinbase for the initiative. Coinbase is an international digital wallet that allows you to securely buy, use, and accept bitcoin currency.

To make a reservation using bitcoin is extremely simple. Guests visit Sandman’s website and select bitcoin as the payment option. An e-invoice is sent to the guest and they accept and transfer their bitcoin payment into Sandman’s bitcoin account which is hosted by Coinbase. Once the payment is confirmed, so is the reservation.

To find out more about Sandman Hotel Group, go to http://www.sandmanhotels.com.

SANDMAN SUITES ON DAVIE STREET HONOURS PRIDE WITH 55-FOOT RAINBOW

Rainbow

Sandman Suites Vancouver – Davie Street

Sandman Suites Vancouver – Davie Street was given a bold makeover last week when a vibrant 55-foot wide rainbow was painted on the roof of the hotel.

The hotel is not only located in the West End neighbourhood in Vancouver, but in the heart of the diverse Davie Street community. The hotel stands proud amongst a milieu of vibrant people, thriving shops and restaurants, and the colourful Davie Village.

“We are proud to call this community our home and want to illustrate our pride by painting the iconic rainbow crowned on-top of our hotel,” said Valentina Tang, General Manager of Sandman Suites Vancouver – Davie Street. “The concept behind the painting was: A heart of gold is where the rainbow begins. We are an inclusive organization and always like supporting our local communities.”

Join Sandman Hotel Group in celebrating the rainbow and its awareness by posting a photo on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #SandmanDavieRainbow.

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Sandman Suites Vancouver – Davie Street

Supporting the extraordinary efforts of two amazing boys

My Buddy BraydenQuinn Callander created the goal of raising $20,000 so his pal, Brayden Grozdanich, can get special surgery in New Jersey. Brayden, who is also seven, has cerebral palsy and the operation would try to relieve the pain from his muscles tightening as he grows. The two boys met in kindergarten, attend the same school in Maple Ridge, B.C., and belong to the same Beaver Scouts group.

In a note on an online fundraising page, Quinn explains: “Brayden has Cerebral Palsy, this makes it challenging for him to walk well because his muscles are very tight. Sometimes he can’t keep up with the rest of the other Beavers and he falls down a lot. Brayden gets daily physio therapy to keep him walking. Sometimes it really hurts him. When I was at his physio, I tried to keep Brayden calm when he was in pain.”

Brayden’s family plans to get the procedure called Percs Lengthening, reported Global News. A similar surgery is available in Canada, but it’s more invasive and takes longer to recover, said the news outlet.

“Please help me raise money to help my friend Brayden, he is a really good guy,” wrote Quinn.

The two boys set up a lemonade stand in front of the Pitt Meadows Superstore on Lougheed Highway on Sunday, July 6, and the quench thirsting drinks were a huge hit. Between the sale of the lemonade and online donations, they have raised over $48,000 which will go towards Brayden’s surgery, travel expenses, and physiotherapy sessions.

Sandman Hotel Group proudly supports the amazing efforts of both boys. You too can support their cause by donating online here.

Here’s a letter written by Quinn in support of his friend:

Hi my name is Quinn, and this is my buddy Brayden. We are both 7 years old. We go to the same school  and we are in Beaver Scouts together. Brayden has Cerebral Palsy, this makes it challenging for him to walk well because his muscles are very tight. Sometimes he can’t keep up with the rest of the other Beavers and he falls down a lot. Brayden gets daily physio therapy to keep him walking. Sometimes it really hurts him. When I was at his physio, I tried to keep Brayden calm when he was in pain. My Mom told me Brayden is going to have a special surgery to help release the muscle tightness and spastic action. The surgery is not done here in Canada, only in the USA. Brayden and his Mom will be travelling there in August for the operation. Since the surgery is not done in Canada, Braydens Mom and Dad have to pay for it. The surgery will cost $20,000. Please help me raise money to help my friend Brayden, he is a really good guy.

Thank you
Love Quinn

Reservations Made Easy With Sandman’s New Mobile App

Sandman Hotel Group is excited about making travel easier with the release of the new Sandman mobile app which will provide the best available rate found anywhere. Guaranteed!

Developed out of a desire to provide guests the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to book a hotel room, the app allows the user to perform a variety of functions as easy as a few taps of the app. Other features include the ability to synchronize bookings between iPad, mobile devices and desktop as well as access to booking history.

Available for iOS and Android devices, our free app enhances the users’ experience for both reservations and beyond.

iphone-find-hotelUpdates and enhancements:

• The Best Available Rate that you will find anywhere. Guaranteed.
• Automatic enrollment in the StatusPlus™ Rewards Program where you can start collecting and redeeming points for future stays.
• Easy-to-use booking functions with booking confirmations and receipts stored in the app.
• Use group, promo, or corporate codes to access special rates.
• View upcoming reservations.
• Browse hotel photos, maps, and amenities.
• Browse city guides with helpful tips about your destinations

And much, much more!

“As the number of smartphones continues to increase and mobile apps play an ever-growing role in the way people conduct busi­ness, we knew the time was right for us to substantially improve our existing app,” said Salim Kassam, Vice President of Marketing for Sandman Hotel Group. “Today’s guests expect to be able to use their smartphones to do almost everything, and that’s realistic with our new app.”

To download: Visit Apple iTunes App Store or Google Play and search Sandman Hotel Group for free iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.

Click here for more information about our NEW mobile app.

20 Things You Didn’t Know about Queen Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada has been celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday since 1845, but there’s a lot about the woman, to whom we owe the first unofficial long weekend of the summer, that you may not have realized.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Victoria, born May 24, 1819, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, and the union produced four sons and five daughters. She died at 81 years old, on January 22, 1901, and was the longest sitting sovereign in history after a reign of 63 years and 216 days.

But while the day bears her name, here are 20 things you never knew about Queen Victoria or her holiday – or have long since forgotten.

1. Victoria Day is a Canadian tradition and doesn’t actually exist in most of England. But it is celebrated in parts of Scotland, especially Edinburgh, where it remains an official holiday.

2. While the holiday moves around a lot now (falling this year on May 19th), the original rules stated it be celebrated annually on May 24th, regardless of what day that was, unless it was a Sunday – and then the observance would be moved to the 25th.

That changed with an amendment to the Statutes of Canada in 1952, when the government declared Victoria Day would fall on the Monday preceding the 25th of May. It’s been there ever since.

And those of us who appreciate our long weekends are glad they made the change or we’d all be working on Monday – and getting Sunday off.

3. Victoria Day is a legal Canadian stat, which means it’s also observed in Quebec. But the idea of honouring a British monarch doesn’t sit well with many in Le Belle Province, where it’s known it be another name. Up until three years ago, it was called Fête de Dollard after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux a French hero who helped lead a force in what is now Montreal against the Iroquois in 1660.

In 2003, it was renamed National Patriots Day in Quebec, ignoring the Queen reference altogether.

4. When Victoria was just a little girl, she was known by her nickname, Drina.

5. Despite being born in England, Victoria only spoke German up until the age of three.

6. She was the first member of the Royal Family known to suffer from hemophilia, a fact that had many questioning the circumstances of her parentage.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

7. She married Prince Albert in 1840, although they’d known each other since she was 16. And it really was a family affair.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was her first cousin and his father was her mother’s brother!

8. Because she was Queen, she had to propose to Albert, and not vice versa.

9. She took over the throne in 1837, after the death of William IV. She was just 18 years old.

10. Despite the somewhat imposing figure she’s been portrayed as in history, the real Victoria didn’t completely measure up. She stood just 5 feet tall.

11. She was the subject of at least six serious assassination attempts.

In 1840, an 18-year-old named Edward Oxford took two shots at her carriage as she was riding in London. He was accused of high treason but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Two years later, a man named John Francis fired a gun at her carriage but missed. He was caught, convicted of treason, but avoided the death penalty and was shipped to a penal colony.

Less than two months later, a youngster named John William Bean fired ammo made out of tobacco and paper at the Queen.

And in 1849, it happened again when William Hamilton, who history books describe as an ‘angry Irishman’, fired a pistol at her carriage. He pled guilty and was also exiled to a penal colony.

They say if you stay around in politics long enough, you’re bound to make enemies. Victoria was living proof of that. The Queen was set upon again in 1850, when ex-Army officer Robert Pate hit her with his cane. He pleaded insanity but the courts didn’t buy it, leaving him to the same fate as Hamilton.

Incredibly, in 1882, there was yet another attempt on her life, this time by Roderick Maclean, who also missed her with a bullet from a gun. He was found insane and sent to an asylum for life.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

12. When you see pictures or actresses playing Victoria, she’s almost always wearing black. That’s because when her husband died in December 1861, she went into seclusion and a perpetual state of mourning and never wore any other colour.

It’s long been rumoured she later married her Scottish butler John Brown, but that’s never been proven. She didn’t get back into the public eye until the early 1870′s.

13. She became a grandma at 39 and a great grandmother 20 years later.

14. The mother of nine suffered one of the major drawbacks of such a long life, tragically outliving three of her own children.

15. She was the first Queen of Canada, sitting on the throne when this country was founded in 1867.

16. She liked to drink a concoction called Vin Mariani.

17. It was Victoria who started the tradition of a bride wearing white. Before her wedding, a woman would simply wear her best dress, no matter what colour it was.

18. She was named the 18th greatest Briton in a BBC poll conducted in 2002. Winston Churchill was number one. Victoria was beaten out by, among others, Princess Diana (#3), William Shakespeare (#5), and John Lennon (#8). She was followed on the list by Paul McCartney.

Victoria, British Columbia

19. Victoria, British Columbia is named after her, but so is the capital of Saskatchewan – Regina.

20. She was the only British monarch in modern music history to be honoured by name in the title of a rock and roll song. “Victoria”, by the Kinks, #62 on the Billboard charts in 1970, although the record did understandably better on this side of the border.

Paul McCartney famously wrote his 23-second ditty “Her Majesty” tune for the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP, but it wasn’t put out as a single and it never mentioned the current Queen by name.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

I love you mom

Memories and Mother

Mary R. Hurley

When Mother came to our room
To tuck us in at night,
Her face would look so gentle
In the soft, bedside light.
And though we may not always
Have behaved our best that day,
She’d let us know she loved us
In a very special way:

An extra fold to the coverlet,
A little pat, a hug,
And we’d settle down to dreamland
Feeling safe and snug.

And of all the childhood memories
That there have ever been,
We love best to recall the times
When Mother tucked us in.

Mother's Day

There are many, many reasons why we all feel the need to say ‘Thank You’ to our moms. So we compiled a list of 30 reasons, from our guests and staff, of why we love our mothers.

  1. She loves me for me.
  2. She always left notes in my lunchbox.
  3. She taught me manners.
  4. She loves to sing as loudly in the car as I do.
  5. She’s still happily married to my dad.
  6. She preferred I play outdoors instead of in front of the tv.
  7. For taking care of me when I was sick.
  8. She apologizes when she is wrong.
  9. She endlessly gives to others without expecting anything in return.
  10. She is gracious.
  11. She has a great sense of humour.
  12. She always sees the bright side of things.
  13. She is generous.
  14. She’s a fighter. Where there is a will there is a way, and she always figures out the way.
  15. She’s a great friend.
  16. She made me work the family business as a teenager.
  17. She’s a foodie.
  18. She tries new things.
  19. She made me write thank you notes as a child.
  20. She encouraged me to go to college.
  21. She took a car full of teenage girls on road trips.
  22. She let me make messes.
  23. She let my outdoor puppy sleep in the bed with me. One time.
  24. She believes it’s never too cold for ice cream
  25. She has amazing eyelashes.
  26. She doesn’t take life for granted.
  27. She is forgiving.
  28. She has the best surprises.
  29. She is humble, but has a strong sense of self.
  30. She loves hearing my big ideas.

On behalf of everyone at Sandman Hotel Group, we wish every mother a Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for all the hard work you do!

Childhood Unplugged

Written and photographed by Sharalee Prang – guest blogger

spring break: bringing shrieks of joy… or pain across the nation.  i love my kids.  i really really do.  and i like the idea of spring break.  the reality of spring break, though, can be less than ideal, especially with young kids.  the ideal: let them stay up late for popcorn and a movie as a treat so that they will sleep in the next morning.  the reality: they stay up late and whine when they have to go to bed, even when it’s an hour past their regular bedtime.  the next morning they are up even earlier than usual, are grumpy, fight with each other nonstop and shoot you death glares when you suggest an afternoon “quiet time”.

so even though we didn’t have big plans to go away this year, we threw together a last minute one night “staycation” at sandman hotel & suites squamish.

squamish, here.we.come.

family vacation | sharalee prang photography_616family vacation | sharalee prang photography_615family vacation | sharalee prang photography_617family vacation | sharalee prang photography_619family vacation | sharalee prang photography_618another family showed up after we had been there a few minutes, so i put my camera away so that i didn’t look like a creepazoid. but i could have shot inside there all day.family vacation | sharalee prang photography_620on our way home, following google maps, i looked for the road that cut closest to the water and we ended up here. thanks google!family vacation | sharalee prang photography_621family vacation | sharalee prang photography_622family vacation | sharalee prang photography_623family vacation | sharalee prang photography_624family vacation | sharalee prang photography_632family vacation | sharalee prang photography_625family vacation | sharalee prang photography_626family vacation | sharalee prang photography_627family vacation | sharalee prang photography_628family vacation | sharalee prang photography_629family vacation | sharalee prang photography_630family vacation | sharalee prang photography_631family vacation | sharalee prang photography_633

a couple of polaroids from our little advenutre:squamish2squamish

Sharalee Prang is a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer from British Columbia. She lives in a little town called Yarrow, but can also be found driving across the country with her husband and three kids in an RV or tucked away in the corner of the best coffee shop your city has to offer. She likes using natural light to creating authentic portraits of families and people in love.

Sandman Hotels ‘Sweep’ Housekeeping Awards in Alberta

2014 Housekeeping AwardThere’s a lot to be said about cleanliness in the hotel industry. It can make or break a guest’s stay and is a basic foundation for creating a relaxing and welcoming accommodation environment. At Sandman, we make sure all of our hotels adhere to only the highest standards when it comes to housekeeping practices.

Sandman Hotel Red Deer

That’s why we’re proud to congratulate Sandman Hotel & Suites Calgary South and Sandman Hotel Red Deer for receiving the prestigious ‘Housekeeping Award’ issued by the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).

A member-driven organization that represents more than 850 hotels and motels across Alberta, the AHLA is among the foremost authorities in the tourism and hospitality industry.

FB - Corporate Suite

Sandman Hotel Suites Calgary South Corporate King Suite

Both hotels are beyond thrilled to receive the awards which, as the official award states, are given to ‘…a select group of properties that participate in the Approved Accommodation Program and have achieved excellence in cleanliness, comfort, and maintenance. It is a reflection of your staff and your property’s commitment to providing visitors with clean and comfortable accommodation.’

Now that’s pretty spotless news.

Dining In The Dark All For a Good Cause

Written by UrbanXperience Events and Entertainment Inc.

dining-in-the-darkRooted in Europe where the concept was born in 1993, Dining In The Dark has spread all over the world. Allow us to show you what others are raving about while at the same time helping to raise money for the Canadian National Institute For The Blind (CNIB).

Join UrbanXperience Events and Entertainment Inc. for the most unique dining Xperience! Challenge your palate and pick out the mysteries of the menu as your senses will be heightened when you dine in the dark. Enjoy a three course gourmet meal like never before….

Hosted by UrbanXperience Events and Entertainment Inc.

Saturday March 29, 2014 at Sandman Hotel & Suites Abbotsford

Tickets $65*  (ticket sales end date extended to Wednesday, March 26th)

All proceeds will go to Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

How it works:

- The three course meal will be a complete mystery. The menu is set with no options; however, we can accommodate vegetarians if requested prior to the event night (please email info@urbanxevents.com). We have developed the menu with taste and texture in mind while keeping with familiar foods (fully cooked protein, starch, vegetables, etc.) to create the best possible Dining in the Dark Xperience!

If you have important dietary or allergy concerns, please contact us prior to purchasing your tickets for more information.

- Cocktail hour begins at 6pm. Dinner starts at 7pm. Blindfolds will not go on until dinner begins. We ask that everyone arrive no later than 6:30pm.

- The server will give you tips at the beginning of the meal to help you orient yourself.

- Wine and cocktails available throughout the event.

- At the end of dinner, we will reveal the descriptions of what you have just eaten, which will allow you to compare with your own impressions and guesses.

Dining in the dark is truly a sensory Xperience!

*cocktails not included in ticket price.

All Green Everything!

St. Patrick's DayYou wear a green shirt, drink green beer, and put on the accent for the day. And maybe, just to prove you really are one-eighth Irish, you’ll sip a Guinness.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and it’s time to party.

But, have you ever considered what St. Patrick’s Day really means to the Irish? No, it isn’t a day dedicated to dark draughts and glittery shamrocks. The North American celebration actually has little to do with the man it’s meant to honour.

The story of St. Patrick

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain around 390 AD. When he was 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken to the Emerald Isle as a slave to herd sheep. After six years of enslavement, Patrick escaped and somehow made his way back to his family.

After returning home, St. Patrick’s story says he then heard a voice telling him he must go back to Ireland. From there, he became ordained as a priest and began spreading the message of Christianity throughout Ireland. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD.

He is buried in Downpatrick, Ireland at the Down Cathedral.

The North American tradition

Three-leaf-cloverOne of the biggest mistakes North Americans make about St. Patrick’s Day is the shamrock. The shamrock is not a four-leaf clover — it is a three-leaf shamrock instead. This is because St. Patrick used the three-leaf version to represent the father, son, and Holy Ghost in Christianity.

Adding green dye to a light coloured beer is another tradition that is strictly North American.

There are only two proper ways to refer to this celebration: St. Patrick’s Day and St. Paddy’s Day. It should never be referred to as “St. Patty’s Day” because that would be a celebration of a hamburger.

St. Patrick’s Day Tidbits

- According to the 2011 census by Statistics Canada, Canada’s official statistical office revealed that the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group with 4,544,870 or 14% of the country’s total population.

- The first St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in 1759 by Irish soldiers serving with the British army.

- Montreal has held a St. Patrick’s Day parade every year since 1824.

- In Manitoba, there is a three-day cultural festival celebrating the occasion put on by the Irish Association of Manitoba.

- The shamrock is a registered trademark of the Republic of Ireland.

Famous Irish Musicians

The rock world is filled with the Irish. Most are blessed with huge Irish lungs and the humour that goes with their heritage. Some artists have used their stardom to promote their political beliefs and humanitarian causes. There are so many to name, but the ones who have taken their place in the rock ‘n’ roll history books who turned their talent into awareness.

Bono1Paul David Hewson is most commonly known by his stage name Bono and famous for being the lead vocalist of U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, where he met the members of U2. As the band matured, his lyrics became more intense and political. Bono is widely known for his activism concerning Africa, and the need to stop poverty and starvation. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, granted an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth ll, named Person of the Year by Time Magazine, amongst many other awards and nominations. Bono continues to tour and perform while raising awareness for his many causes. He still resides in Dublin, where he purchased and renovated The Clarence Hotel.

Sinead O'ConnorSinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland and rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album The Lion and the Cobra and achieved worldwide success in 1990 with a cover of the song “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Best known as the bald-headed Irish singer/writer who encountered controversy due to her forthright statements and gestures, ordination as a priest, strong views on organized religion, women’s rights, war, and child abuse while still maintaining a singing career. Her body of work includes a number of collaborations with other artists and appearances at charity fundraising concerts, in addition to her own solo albums.

John McDermottJohn McDermott is better known as a Scottish-Canadian tenor, his roots are both Scottish and Irish, and he has devoted much of his recordings to the Irish heritage. John was discovered by chance while working as a circulation sales representative for the Toronto Sun, he belted out an impromptu rendition of “Danny Boy” at a company party. “I grew up singing, but I thought everybody grew up singing. My dad and mom introduced us to music early on, and all of the McDermott kids could unleash a verse or two of ‘Scotland the Brave’ or ‘Green Isle of Erin’ on command. My song was ‘Danny Boy,’ and I sang it with pride, because even as a kid I knew what a powerful and emotive song it was.”

Irish RoversThe Irish Rovers are a Canadian Irish folk group created in 1963 and named after the traditional song “The Irish Rover”. The group is best known for their recording of Shel Silverstein’s “The Unicorn” in 1967. The Irish Rovers have represented Canada in no less than five World Expos, and throughout the years, have continued to tour worldwide. In 2010, the band celebrated their 45 years of sharing their music with the world by producing a CD and a DVD/television special filmed entirely in Northern Ireland.

So the history and the music endure, and the Irish should be thanked for that, as well as remembered for the price they paid by coming to Canada. Celebrate St. Patrick and his day – no matter where you are on March 17th!

Powder, Powder Everywhere!

Revelstoke Mountain Resort is currently the place to be. Between the copious amounts of powder and the upcoming Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face (March 10, 2014), there’s never been a better time to stay at The Sutton Place Hotel Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Watch the latest videos showcasing Revelstoke Mountain Resort‘s beautiful winter wonderland.

 

 

Roses and candy and love.. Oh my! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart of RosesLove: it’s something we all crave. We are wired to not just need it but to want it too.

The English language only has one word assigned to convey multiple meanings of love. We use “I love you” with family, friends, and with the person we are in a relationship with.

It’s easy to understand what love for family means. The bond created by blood is intense and can never be broken.

It’s also easy to understand what love for friends means. This is a love that you choose to give. It is when you are so close with your friend you view them as if they are part of your family. You have an emotional connection with that person and you never see them not being part of your life.

But what does it mean when you tell your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or partner that you love them? And more specifically, what does it mean to be in love? Clearly there is a difference between the two as we have all heard people say that they love someone but aren’t in love with them.

Instead of trying to figure out the meaning of love, we decided to let these adorable children explain it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Romance. Love. Passion. Valentine’s Day is Back!

love_92877334“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” ~Judy Garland

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Schulz

“There’s a long life ahead of you and it’s going to be beautiful, as long as you keep loving and hugging each other.” ~Yoko Ono

“I love romance. I’m a sucker for it. I love it so much. It’s pathetic.” ~Drew Barrymore

“I like perfume and flowers.” ~Donatella Versace

february 14_93828682Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and whether you’re looking to spend quality time with your loved one, romance them, or both, Sandman Hotel Group has you covered. Give the perfect gift of a Sandman stay this February 14th.

A few of our hotels in British Columbia have embraced romance and assembled a variety of packages to suit every couple’s needs.

Sandman Suites Vancouver – Davie Street

Grab your loved one and spend Valentine’s in one of the amazing suites overlooking Vancouver.

Choose from one of two packages and create a night (or nights) to remember.

The Experience Package includes: a night’s accommodation in a one-bedroom suite, sparkling wine on ice in your room upon arrival, chocolate covered strawberries, rose petals scattered on your bed, breakfast for two at Moxie’s, and free parking.

The Valentine’s Indulgence Package includes: a night’s accommodation in a one-bedroom Jacuzzi suite on the penthouse floor, sparkling wine on ice in your room upon arrival, chocolate covered strawberries, an edible bouquet in a keepsake container, LUSH bath bomb and bubble bar, floating candles in your Jacuzzi tub, breakfast for two at Moxie’s, and free parking.

Sandman Hotel & Suites Kelowna

Treat your sweetheart to a Valentine’s weekend to remember. Indulge your passionate side with a night of decadence, sparkling wine and roses upon arrival, $100 Chop Steakhouse & Bar, and memories to last a lifetime.

Sandman Hotel & Suites Squamish

love_129289046Every day is Valentine’s Day in Squamish . With beautiful surroundings and an array of activities, all you have to do is add elegance and indulgence to your getaway. Spend a beautiful night in the mountains with a bottle of sparkling wine, chocolates, a rose on arrival, complimentary early check-in of 1pm and late check-out of 1pm, and complimentary upgrade to the next best room upon check-in (based on availability).

But BC is not the only province that knows how to spoil a loved one. Numerous Sandmans in Alberta have created beautiful packages sure to please your significant other.

Sandman Hotel & Suites Calgary West

The perfect getaway gift for you and your sweetheart awaits you. We’ll make sure you experience pure romance from start to finish! Treat your significant other to a romantic night away from home with our complete Romance Package, including a bottle of sparkling wine, a box of chocolates, and 2 – $10 Denny’s gift cards.

Sandman Hotel & Suites Calgary South

Treat your sweetheart to a romantic Valentine’s weekend away from home with our complete Valentine’s Packages. Simply book before February 7, 2014 and choose between our 3 offers:

chocolate_strawberry_93030673Package A: 1 Night Stay

  • 1 bottle of sparkling wine
  • chocolate covered strawberries
  • 1 $30 gift card to Denny’s

Package B: 2 Night Stay

  • Everything from Package A AND
  • 1 $75 gift card to Chinook Mall
  • 1 $30 gift card to Moxie’s Grill & Bar

Package C: 3 Night Stay

  • Everything from Package A & B AND
  • 25% off your 3rd night
  • 1 $30 gift card to Denny’s

No matter where you are or what you’re looking for, Sandman has the perfect amount of romance for you.

Rose Petals of Love

Hot cocoa without the mug!

beautiful winter“Winter is the time for comfort,
for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand
and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell

Brrrr. Winter is seriously in full force. Instead of getting upset, why not embrace the cold. Hot chocolate is the obvious choice on a cold winter’s day, but Sandman doesn’t conform to the norm. So instead of choosing just one yummy winter treat, we chose two: hot chocolate cookies. Yup, you heard that right. We literally put the taste of hot chocolate into a cookie.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

three cookies
A cookie twist on a classic cup of hot cocoa with a gooey marshmallow.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 package of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 20 marshmallows
  • a white or mill chocolate bar (we used both)

Directions

  1. Over a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate chips on medium low heat, stirring often. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the burner and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add the cooled melted chocolate. Then add the dry ingredients in two batches. The dough will be a thick cake batter. Chill the batter in the fridge for one hour. This is really important because if the batter is not chilled, it will be very sticky and difficult to work with.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Once the dough is chilled, line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the tray. Flatten the tops slightly.
  6. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the cookie edges start to crack. While they are baking, cut the marshmallows in half and stick on square of chocolate onto each of the cut sides.
  7. Once the cookies are done, remove them from the oven and stick the marshmallows chocolate side down onto each cookie. Put the cookies back into the oven and cook for another 4 minutes, or until the marshmallows are soft.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to cooling racks. Grate additional chocolate over the top of the cookie for garnish.
  9. Enjoy!

Fight Those January Blues

Sad DogMisery is expected to peak the third Monday in January (Monday, January 20, 2014) being that it’s the “most depressing day” of the year. (Note: you can say things like “is expected to” if one person expects it to be true.)

That one person is Cliff Arnalls of Wales, who created the formula to determine the worst day of the year. (Note: if you can find someone who agrees with him, we can say: “Researchers agree…”)

bluemonday2

whereby…

W = weather
D = debt
d = amount of January pay check
T = time since Christmas
Q = amount of time since failure to quit bad habit
M = motivational levels
NA = the need to take action

Even though the shortest day of the year is December 21st, the weather continues getting colder throughout the month of January. In fact, in the ancient Roman calendar, the year originally started in March and ended in December. The months of January and February were just one big shapeless clump of days, as the calendar was used mainly for agricultural purposes and was based on lunar cycles rather than solar.  In the 700s BC, January and February were “created” to fill in the gap.

By a couple weeks into the new year, the energy of the holidays has long dissipated, folks have failed all or most of their resolutions, and their bank accounts are still empty.

Of course, this is just a theory — one that has been dismissed by many. But if you do feel down around this time of the year, not all hope is lost. Experts may have found the most depressing day out of 365, but they have also found a number of ways to combat the accompanying feelings of depression.

To lighten the mood during Blue Monday or whenever all seems overwhelming, try these helpful tips:

exerciseGet out and exercise

Staving off the blue can be achieved in many cases with proper exercise and diet. In addition to improving a person’s self-image, exercising regularly releases feel-good chemicals in the body. Physical activity also increases body temperature which creates a calming sensation and reduces the release of stress hormones and other certain chemicals which can make symptoms of depression worse. Use Blue Monday to go out for a jog, play with your pups, or do a 20-minute round at the gym!

Be social

Celebrate Blue Monday with friends and family. Individuals who spend at least two hours a week interacting with others experienced less intense symptoms of depression compared to people who remained isolated. So if you are feeling down, make an effort to find some company!

Get Out of BedTake things one step at a time

For serious bouts of the blues, keeping things simple may be one of the best answers to fighting off Blue Monday. Instead of thinking about all the things you have to do, just focus on the task at hand. First, focus on getting out of bed. Once that task has been accomplished, focus on getting dressed, eating breakfast and getting ready for the day. By keeping things simple, you can feel a sense of accomplishment with each small task.

Keep up with a hobby

It makes sense that doing something you enjoy boosts mental health, and keeping up with a hobby has a positive impact even on patients with major depressive disorders. The use of hobbies to combat depression was primarily used by researcher Viktor Frankl, who created a psychotherapeutic technique called logotherapy. This form of therapy used hobbies and enjoyable activities to help refocus depressed individuals on what they felt was the meaning of life. Having a purpose, such as caring for a pet, helped bring patients back into a productive daily routine.

Do not fall victim of the hype

Who is to say your day has to be a bad one? Remember, you have control over your emotions and thoughts.

Helpful TipsTips for making it through Blue Monday:

“Have a party and celebrate” – Jack Gilbert, Ontario, Canada

“Exercise and bibliotherapy” — Dr. Alan Cohen, Royal College of General Practioners

“Watch the film ‘The Sound of Music’” — Ketan Shah, Harrow, England

“Move to New Zealand… It’s summer!” – Oliver, Auckland, New Zealand

Thank you, New Zealand, for rubbing that in.

Note: make sure to visit Sandman’s Facebook Page on Monday, January 20, 2014 for a giveaway that is sure to cure your Monday or January blues!

New Year’s Resolutions – Did You Make Them Realistic?

Travel Quote

Gulliver traveled. Look where it got him: lashed to the land by little people. Columbus, big traveler, right? Underestimated the circumference of the Earth and died thinking he’d found India. Sure, you can come up with justifications for never leaving the splendid safety of your office chair. Truth is, travel makes us better in many ways: better employees, better family members, and better friends.

Every year, the month of January makes us say things like: Out with the old; in with the new. It may be cliché, but every year, we say it. That may be because there’s something about the beginning of a new year that automatically sparks a desire to make a change or start something fresh. But instead of making a new year’s resolution that is unattainable, why not find something you will be able to achieve and enjoy at the same time.

iphone 5 cameraHow about learning how to actually use your camera? (Remember that there is a camera on your phone, so this applies to all smart phone users as well.) Our resident social media guru put together these five simple tips to help kick start your camera knowledge.

Number 1: Get to know your camera/phone functions. You don’t want to be fumbling with controls and missing moments.

Number 2: Turn your flash off for nightscapes. Flash can only travel a few feet, so there is no way it’s going to help you with that Vegas-by-night shot. Find a stable place to sit the camera, like a portable tripod or even a curbside newspaper box.

Number 3: Use flash in the sun. Try turning on the flash when you’re taking portraits of each other in harsh sunlight. It sounds odd, but flash will actually fill in the heavy shadows caused by the sun, giving you more even light and color.

Number 4: The landscape mode on your camera is designed to give you sharp pictures from a distance, along with rich blue skies and lush earth tones. Flip to this mode when you need it, and let the camera do all the work.

Number 5: Don’t always rely on zoom lenses to get you close to the action. Walk right up to your subject, interact with them, and get details that fly-by tourists would miss in their haste.

photo collageNow that you know how to use your camera, let’s put your new knowledge to use. And there’s no better way to test your camera skills than to go on a trip. Think about the amazing adventures, delicious food, and the beautiful photos you will take. Exciting!

There’s only one thing left to do. Plan the trip.

Why? Because the pleasure of pre-trip anticipation is invigorating. It’s why puppies are more joyful than dogs.

Pros to planning now: A vacation begins the second you start to plan it. Travelers’ moods improve as soon as the planning begins, even before the actual vacation starts.

Cons: Running out of toner the second you try to print your boarding pass. Trying to remember where you put the digital luggage scale. Rushing out to buy batteries for that digital luggage scale.

Canadian TravelSo where will your new adventure take you? If you’re looking to travel within Canada, your choices are endless.

Canada’s cities are energetic, multi-cultural, and most importantly, distinctive.  You don’t drive from one to the other expecting the same.  Vancouver and Victoria’s lifestyles are always relaxed, and while it may be wet, it doesn’t stop people from enjoying the natural surroundings of each city.  Booming Calgary and Edmonton reap the benefits of our natural resources.  Regina and Saskatoon proudly bring vibrancy to the prairies.  Winnipeg is a definite cultural centre at the heart of the country. Toronto and Ottawa are the corridors of business and politics.  Montreal enjoys a reputation as the coolest city in the country, if not the continent, while the streets of old Quebec City feel like they’ve teleported from Europe.  The history is everywhere in Halifax and Charlottetown, and the charm thick in Fredericton. In Newfoundland, St John’s witnesses the first sunrise of the continent, and its brightly painted houses as animated as its people.  Let’s not forget Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit, our vibrant outposts of the Great White North.

Whatever your new year’s resolution might be, whether it be travelling or learning how to use your camera, Sandman looks forward to spending time with you in 2014!

Ring in the New Year in Style… and with Good luck

GroupCelebrating_139152893Quick question: What will your wardrobe be on New Year’s Eve? Nice dress? Black tie? How about your, ahem, underwear? If you lived in parts of South America, it wouldn’t even be a question. In São Paulo, La Paz, and other spots, people don brightly coloured underpants to ring in the New Year — red if they’re looking for love and yellow for money.

champagne-NEW-YEARNo matter what we wear, though, New Year signifies a new beginning. Flipping open a fresh calendar, with its 12 pristine, as-yet-unmarked months, is perhaps one of the most universally hopeful acts we humans perform. Finally, a chance to shrug off a year’s worth of worries, conflicts, and mistakes. Finally, a chance to start over.

It’s no wonder we all welcome the holiday with such enthusiasm. In the U.S. (and in lots of other countries), the event is celebrated with fireworks and parades, drinking and toasts. Some cultures, though, have more unusual ways of ushering in the New Year.

In many countries, there’s a shared belief that specific actions taken on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day — or at the stroke of midnight — can influence the fate of the months ahead. In the Philippines, for example, wearing polka dots and eating round fruits is supposed to ensure a prosperous new year. In Spain, wolfing down handfuls of grapes as the clock strikes 12 is said to have the same effect.

In other countries, New Year’s customs are about driving away the bad spirits of the past year, so that the new one can arrive unsullied and uncorrupted. The purifying power of fire is often used in such ceremonies. During the Scottish festival of Hogmanay, for instance, parades of village men swing giant blazing fireballs over their heads as they march through the streets. In Panama, sculptures or statues of popular celebrities and political figures—called muñecos—are burned in bonfires. Other bad-spirit-banishing customs are less fiery and more fun, like the Danish tradition of jumping off chairs at midnight (which gives new meaning to the term “leap year”).

Corn BreadIf food is how you choose to celebrate holidays, there are multitudes of food that are said to bring luck and prosperity.

Black Eyed Peas: Resembling coins, these beans are said to bring prosperity in the New Year and are often enjoyed in the traditional southern dish known as Hoppin’ John, which in some households, may be preceded by a hopping dance performed around the table by the children.

Buttered Bread: New Years Day in Ireland is also known as Day of the Buttered Bread (or Sandwich, depending on the Gaelic translation). Tradition says buttered bread placed outside the door symbolizes an absence of hunger in the household, and presumably for the year to come.

12 grapesGrapes/Raisins: Tradition in Spain says 12 grapes or raisins eaten just before midnight (one at each chime of the clock) will bring good for all 12 months of the year, so long as you finish all 12 before the final stroke!

Greens: Because of their deep emerald color resembling money, healthy, hearty greens like kale, spinach, and collards are believed to bring wealth (and of course, health!) to those who enjoy it early and often in the New Year. For legume or meat-based dishes, a garnish of parsley is also said to ward off evil spirits.

Pork: Bring on the bacon! As pigs root forward while they forage for food (as opposed to cows, who stand still, or chickens, who scratch backwards), pork in all forms is enjoyed by many hoping to embrace the challenges and adventures that await them in the coming year.

Long Noodles: Signifying longevity in Asian culture, a stir-fry of unbroken noodles is a tradition believed to bring good health and luck in the New Year. Those who can eat at least one long noodle without chewing or breaking it is said to enjoy the longest life and best luck of all!

Lentils: Resembling tiny coins, the custom of enjoying lentils in the New Year is a common Italian tradition said to bring wealth.

Cornbread: Golden yellow and inarguably delicious, cornbread is especially popular in the South. Because its color is similar to that of gold, this bread is enjoyed by those hopeful for a prosperous year.

Round Foods: Cakes, pastries, cookies, and round fruits like clementines are often enjoyed on New Year’s Day as their shape signifies the old year has come to a close and the coming days hold the promise of a fresh start.

Whole Fish: In Chinese culture, serving fish whole (both head and tail intact) symbolizes prosperity, abundance, and a good year to come (from start to finish).

No matter how odd different traditions may seem to us, though, these customs share an optimism that’s hard not to appreciate. Out with the old, in with the new!

So no matter where or how you celebrate, Sandman Hotel Group wishes you a very happy and healthy new year. From us to you, may 2014 be full of joy, laughter, and loved ones.
Happy New Year in sparklers

Be Safe This Winter – Especially in Avalanche Terrain

Photo credit: Raven Eye Photography

Photo credit: Raven Eye Photography

Written by the Canadian Avalanche Centre

Visiting a Sandman hotel for some winter fun this year? There’s something seriously magical about sliding on snow, whatever your method.  The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) reminds you that whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or anything else that gets you outside and onto the white stuff, you’ve got to be avalanche aware. Especially if you’re heading into avalanche terrain.

Photo credit: Raven Eye Photography

Photo credit: Raven Eye Photography

The backcountry can be an enticing place — it’s peaceful, awe-inspiring, invigorating, and it deserves your respect. Remember, the backcountry can be many miles from civilization, or it can be just beyond a boundary rope. Any time you’re going into the backcountry, remember the CAC’s three key safety messages: get the gear, get the training, and check the forecast. Essential avalanche safety gear is an avalanche transceiver, a probe, and a shovel. Training gives you the fundamentals of travelling safely in avalanche terrain — whether you’re new to the backcountry or have many days of experience under your belt, you owe it to yourself, your family, and your friends to know as much as you can about avalanche risk management. The avalanche forecast gives you avalanche danger ratings, crucial details about primary avalanche concerns, travel advice, info on avalanche activity, snowpack conditions, and forecast weather conditions for the region. Together, these pieces of the puzzle help you make better decisions in the backcountry.

So who is the CAC? We’re a not-for-profit, non-government organization dedicated to public avalanche safety in Canada. Founded in 2004, we coordinate public avalanche safety programs such as regional avalanche forecasts, deliver public avalanche awareness and education programs, provide curriculum and support to instructors of Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses, act as a hub for avalanche information, and encourage avalanche research. We encourage safe, responsible backcountry use.

To enjoy the backcountry safely and responsibly, do your homework before you travel. Look through our online avalanche course for an intro to avalanche safety or a pre-season refresher (http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course). Take an AST course in your hometown or while on your trip. (http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/ast). Check the avalanche forecast for the region you’ll be visiting (http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/bulletins/latest). Most importantly, have fun and stay safe.

Sandman is a sponsor of the Canadian Avalanche Centre and the Alberta Snowmobile Association’s billboard initiative for the 2013-2014 season. The objective of this program is to remind travelers to get important avalanche forecasts for three major routes in BC and AB.

Autumn Across Canada – Like the Changing of the Guard

Fall is a season that is deserving of its poetry. It’s not blatant like summer’s heat or winter’s snow. It’s a quiet season, when everything is looking to the colder, darker days for rest. With the storms that sway the trees and brilliant leaves that grace the forests, it’s also wildly beautiful. Travelling in Canada this fall, staying at the numerous Sandmans across the country, means bearing witness to the  stunning scenes that could inspire your own poetic musings.

autumn colours

A Wave of Colour
Fall means a change in the colours of the landscape, with spectacular reds, oranges, and yellows that gradually fade into winter’s whites and greys. The Niagara Parkway near Niagara-on-the-Lake is famous for its glorious fall colour, as are the sugar maples, birches, and beech trees of Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. If you’re in the west, catch a view of the larches changing colours in the mountains around Lake O’Hara in the Canadian Rockies.

Awe-Inspiring Storm Watching
Go coastal, and feel the beauty of the rainy season. Vancouver Island’s Tofino and Ucluelet are famous for the beauty of the surf. Walk along the beach in the mist or pouring rain, or as the winter storms rage while you’re snug in an ocean-view lodge.

When the fall rains come to British Columbia, the streams fill up with spawning salmon.  The pounding water and rolling boulders are inspiring, and the crowds of visitors are mostly gone. grizzly bearFind a safe place to watch the water as it roars by, and you’ll understand the true meaning of the word awesome.

Eagles and bears accompany the salmon, feasting as the fish complete their life cycle. Goldstream Provincial Park near Victoria is an excellent place to go salmon-watching, while Brackendale near Squamish is known for its eagles. If you’d like to see wildlife of the larger, hairier variety, day trips and overnight lodges out of Campbell River bring visitors to see the grizzlies as they feast on the fall salmon runs.

Fall Sunsets That Will Blow You Away
On Canada’s prairies, the sky seems to go on forever, and so does the sunset. Sit next to a pond in the evening, enjoying the sounds as night starts to arrive.  Go north, and you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights, bits of colourful light that play across the sky in the dark.

Canada GeeseMigrations That Will Move You
There’s nothing like the honking of the Canada geese to get you in the mood for fall. It pairs nicely with a hot cocoa and a toque.

Across Canada’s north, wildflowers begin to fade, tundra readies itself for the cold winter, and the northern caribou populations begin to make their way south. 

If you’re looking for a somewhat more urban experience, Canadian wetlands play host to a myriad of bird species in the fall, as northern birds migrate south. At the Reifel Bird Sanctuary just outside Vancouver, the fall migration of Lesser Snow Geese arrives in October. Up to 20,000 of these birds come to visit the marshes of the Fraser Valley each year. The geese come from Wrangel Island in the Arctic, and they seek out the more temperate climate of Vancouver for the winter.

The Misty Shores
newfoundland_115011499In the fall, go for the mist rising off the lake or the seashore. Visit Canada’s east coast for beautiful lighthouses, tiny coves, and small villages as well as busy urban centres. More specifically, Nova Scotia’s Lighthouse Route for a collection of more than 20 lighthouses, scenic fog, and ocean spray.

A Canadian fall is all about the quiet mist and gently falling leaves. It’s also about the power of the storm and the magic of migration. It’s an awe-inspiring season of beauty, and one not to be missed.

The Maple Leafs turn red and yellow. And we’re not talking about the hockey team.

autumn“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
as I have seen in one autumnal face” – John Donne

Autumn is on the way. The world is starting to organize into a winter sleep. The trees strip off their leaves after a glorious display of colour. The days get shorter as evening descends on us earlier and earlier each day. And every once in a while, there is a hint of snow in the air.

There is no need to be upset about the end of summer. With the return of sweaters and hockey also comes the fall harvest that presents many delicious fruits and vegetables. And since Sandman has many hotels located in Western Canada, resulting in close proximity to farms and tasty produce, we’ve compiled the top 10 reasons to love autumn and the top 10 healthiest fall fruits and vegetables. Enjoy!

Ten reasons to love autumn:

  1. Breathable air – No more being stifled by the heaviness of humidity in the air. Autumn brings that crisp, cool air.
  2. Open windows – curtains blowing, hair whipping, papers flying!
  3. Hockey – It’s time to trash talk your best friends. No matter who you cheer for, everyone can agree they dislike the Leafs. Unless of course you’re from Toronto, and then you dislike everyone else.
  4. Warm blankets –There’s nothing like a soft, warm, fluffy blanket! Who doesn’t want to curl up with a blanket and their favourite book?
  5. Pumpkins – Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin carving…
  6. Hot Apple Cider – Warm and spicy and feel free to add a little nip of something extra, if you’d like.
  7. Halloween – It’s a magical time. Time to dress up in something silly or sit together at night and watch scary movies with the lights off.
  8. Spiced Wine – A lighter wine for the spring and summer is nice, but mulled wine and port in the evening help to take the chill off on those cold autumn nights.
  9. Fall colours – Fall has the most impressive colour palette out of all the seasons. And if you’re lucky enough to be in Eastern Canada during the fall, you really get to experience a true Canadian autumn.
  10. Thanksgiving – The eating holiday of all eating holidays! Turkey, gravy, apple pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing.

fall-veggies1If you’re still not convinced, maybe the talk of food will help. Even though the days of bright berries, crisp salads, and succulent summer fruit are behind us for another year, there are delicious replacements on the way to help you keep your healthy eating habits.

Autumn is a season of deep green, dark yellow, and brilliant orange, and these colours mean the fruits and vegetables are rich in disease-fighting nutrients. The more colourful the fruit, the better it is for your health.

Here are our top 10 picks for the most delicious and healthy autumn fruits and veggies.

parsnips1. Parsnips. These might look like white carrots, but they have a delicate, sweet flavour. While they don’t contain the same high amounts of vitamin A as carrots, parsnips are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Look for smooth and firm, small to medium sized parsnips for the best quality.

2. Turnips and swedes. A member of the mustard family, turnips – known as swedes in Scotland and Ireland – have a white flesh with a tough outer skin that ranges from yellow to purple, and a more bitter flavour than potatoes. They are a good source of vitamin C and offer 2-3 grams of dietary fibre per serving. Like their cousins, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, these cruciferous vegetables contain the potent phytochemical sulforaphane, which has been shown to protect against cancer, especially breast cancer.

Sweet Potato3. Sweet potatoes. Despite its name, the sweet potato is not related to the potato. Potatoes are classified as tubers, while the sweet potato is a storage root. Good-quality sweet potatoes will be firm, smooth-skinned and tan to light rose colour. They are high in vitamin C and provide three grams of fibre per serving. Sweet potatoes are an ideal choice for people with diabetes, since they are considered a low glycaemic food. This means that the carbohydrate in sweet potatoes is released slowly, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels.

4. Pumpkins. These are more than just Halloween decorations. The pumpkin’s bright orange colour is a dead giveaway that it’s loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene, as well as being rich in vitamin C and folate. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and protect against heart disease. Even the seeds are packed with nutritional value. In fact, they are only second to peanuts in protein content and a good source of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

winter squash5. Winter squash. While summer squash tends to be tender and moist with edible seeds and rind, winter squash develops hard rinds and the tough seeds and fibrous centre are inedible and must be scooped out. Winter squash is one of the few vegetables that do not lose quality after picking. In fact, during storage, the beta-carotene (vitamin A) content increases, and they contain more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. They are also a good source of heart-healthy nutrients, folate, and fibre.

6. Clementines. These are the baby cousins of the Florida or navel orange and are also known as mandarin oranges. They can be quite difficult to distinguish from tangerines, as they are both bitter orange hybrids, but the main difference is that clementines are often seedless.

7. Apples. Apples contain flavonoids, some of the most potent antioxidants around. Several studies have shown that people who eat a diet that’s rich in flavonoids have a lower risk of heart disease and heart attacks as well as several types of cancer.

pears8. Pears. Pears are a high-fibre food, with a medium pear providing four grams of fibre, which is equivalent to one and a half cups of brown rice. Most of the fibre is also of the soluble kind, which can help lower blood cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control.

cranberries9. Cranberries. If you are looking for berries that ripen in the autumn, look no further than cranberries. Not only are they a healthy, low-calorie fruit, they also play a significant role in preventing urinary tract infections and reducing the risk of gum disease, ulcers, heart disease, and cancer. Cranberries contain anthocyanins, the heart-healthy antioxidants, which are also found in tea and red wine, and the compound that gives them their colour. Only about 10% of the commercial crop is sold fresh – mostly in September through to December. The rest can be found as juice, dried, or as cranberry sauce.

figs10. Figs. These often-overlooked fruits are full of flavour and their chewy texture makes them a tasty, nutritious addition to your diet. Figs are high in fibre (5 grams per 1½-ounce serving), which is more dietary fibre per serving than any other common dried or fresh fruit. They are also a good non-dairy source of calcium – the same amount of figs and milk provide equal amounts of calcium.

What are you making for dinner this autumn?

How to attend the Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFFMovies, popcorn, and premieres. Oh my. The Vancouver International Film Festival (September 26 – October 11) is fast approaching, and with numerous festival theatres downtown Vancouver, Sandman is very excited for this year’s festival.

Now it’s time to go to the movies. Let’s walk through some tips, in chronological order, beginning with the moment you enter the theatre and sit down.

theatre1) First things first: locate your favourite seat (after awhile, you will have one in every venue).

2) The smartest thing to do is visit the washroom about ten minutes before the start of the film. Experienced festival-goers also use this time as an opportunity to share feedback on movies they’ve seen.

3) Most events start on time. VIFF is particularly good about this as screenings are usually booked one after another in the same venue. Staffers use a terrific wireless audio system which really helps things go like clockwork. All festivals have volunteers, but the ones at VIFF are a breed apart. Most return year after year and work very hard, so take some time and acknowledge their presence.

4) “On time” doesn’t mean the lights go down. Almost all movies are preceded by an introduction. This is usually done by a festival programmer. Occasionally, the filmmaker(s) and/or cast members come up prior to the screening but their remarks are usually brief. Most directors say something along the lines of, “Let’s just watch the film and let it speak for itself.”

5) The festival rep will run through a series of announcements, including thanking the major sponsors. You’ll probably have this memorized after a few screenings and be able to recite them along with the staffer. At this point, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to turn off your cellphones, pagers, beepers, anything that makes noise, buzzes, or has a light.

movie trailer6) Once the lights go down, you’ll see a series of trailers. The primary one lists the various festival sponsors. It’s usually well done with snazzy graphics and cool music. It has to be because you might see it 30 times. Kudos to the festival for always making sure of this. You’ll be tapping along before you know it. You may be reminded to vote for the audience award and to thank the festival volunteers. It’s customary to applaud at this point. That’s always a lot of fun, especially if you’re the one who starts it.

7) By the way, there is a possibility that either during the intro or during the trailers there will be a note about anti-piracy measures being taken. You may then hear a loud “ahhhhrrrrr” emerge from the crowd. It is customary to join the cacophony.

8) Once the lights go down, the standard rules apply as for any movie. Watch it. Don’t talk. One thing you’ll notice is that, in most cases, festival audiences are extremely respectful of these rules and you’ll be spoiled in no time at all. Even at the venues where food and beverages are served throughout the films (not all allow it), patrons know enough to chew and imbibe so as not to distract. The next time you go to your local multiplex, you’ll wish you were back at a festival screening. There is nothing to compare to a festival audience when it comes to respect for the filmmakers.

movie credits9) The film ends. Here is where things become dicey. To leave during the credits or not to leave? Well, keep in mind that there will, in many cases, be a Q&A. Still, many can’t resist the urge to get up and head out as soon as the names start to roll. Keep in mind that someone mentioned on screen might actually be in the next seat. Literally. Of course, if you’ve scheduled your next event too close in time to and/or far away in distance from the current one, then you may have no choice.

10) Many screenings have a Q&A after the lights go up. This generally applies to what the festival calls “Regular” screenings, not Galas. The audience will usually be informed of this during the intro. Also, the likelihood of a Q&A decreases with successive showings of films later in the week depending on whether or not the folks connected with the production are still in town. It’s one of the main reasons to attend film festivals, Nowhere else do you have the opportunity to question the filmmakers, cast, and crew about what you just saw.

11) Usually the same person who did the introduction will call up whoever is present to represent the film. In most cases, these are the director and cast members. In any case, the Q&As are more than anything what distinguishes a festival screening from one at your local theatre and help make the experience a memorable one.

12) A Q&A doesn’t work without the Q. Be ready and don’t be intimidated. That’s what they’re there for. In most cases, it is considered impolite to ask more than one. The session will go on as long as people have questions to ask, and/or until cut off by a festival staffer in order to clear the house for the next film.

13) Depending on how long the session goes and/or if another screening is coming in, there may be an opportunity to meet the filmmakers and actors. This happens more often than most people think and you don’t have to be a VIP.

14) At times, the filmmakers and cast members are moved out to the lobby or on the street and greet the public there. They often will take pictures, sign autographs, etc. You don’t have to be a member of the press to rub elbows with the stars.

Whether this is your first film festival or your 50th, it is always a new experience. Enjoy the show!

film reel

Toronto International Film Festival – Good Luck Charm or Fluke?

TIFFEuropean films festivals like Cannes and Venice may have the history and prestige — but the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has shown every best picture winner since 2007, and many have premiered there. Time will tell if any of this year’s films will take top honours, but recent history suggests one will. Find out which Oscar-winners made their way from TIFF to the Hollywood stage.

Chariots of FireChariots of Fire (1981)
In its fifth year of existence, TIFF landed its first big fish: Chariots of Fire, the true story of how British sprinters Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams won glory at the 1924 Olympics, and sprinted its way past the competition to Oscar gold.

American Beauty (1999)
The world got its first peak at the eventual best picture winner — but also its first sampling of Sam Mendes. American Beauty served as the established stage director’s feature film debut and became an overnight sensation.

CrashCrash (2004)
Crash premiered at the 2004 fest, where Lionsgate picked it up. It would wait until 2005 for its release and managed one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history, beating fellow Toronto player from 2005, Brokeback Mountain.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s tense thriller ended up the headliner of a banner year in 2007 for TIFF. Not only did the festival screen the eventual best picture winner, it had four out of five best picture nominees in its lineup, with only Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood absent from Toronto.

Slumdog MillionaireSlumdog Millionaire (2008)
Set in India, from a British director, it took home top American honours but made its world premiere in Canada. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire captured the hearts of audiences right off the bat, winning the People’s Choice award at the festival.

The Hurt Locker (2008)
The world premiere took place in Venice, but Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker kickstarted its Oscar run in Toronto where it had its North American premiere and was picked up by Summit Entertainment in 2008. A year later, the film was rewarded with six Academy awards.

the King's SpeechThe King’s Speech (2010)
The King’s Speech was the fourth film to win the People’s Choice award — and then go on to win best picture. Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, and Slumdog Millionaire are the others.

Argo (2012)
Argo is the latest to capitalize on Toronto’s good luck — though none of it seemed to rub off on Ben Affleck, who was snubbed for best director.

From September 5-15, 2013, the Toronto International Film Festival will shine its way into venues and theatres across Toronto. And if TMZ knows anything about scouting out famous people, the airport seems to be the best place. Located practically beside Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is Sandman Signature Hotel Toronto Airport – the perfect place to stay to travel to and from the airport while celebrity watching. Well that’s convenient.

SIG Toronto Exterior 1

Rider Nation – Saskatchewan’s True Love and Identity

Saskatchewan fieldsWritten by June De La Paz – guest blogger

Whenever anyone finds out that I grew up in Saskatchewan, they inevitably ask if I lived on a farm. They imagine that I drove a combine in overalls with a wheat straw dangling from my lips. That, or if I know their cousin/uncle/friend, so-and-so because Saskatchewan is a tiny, small, flat place where everyone knows everyone.

Truth be told, I had a pretty idyllic upbringing. I grew up in an area where many people didn’t lock their doors during the day. I rode my bike everywhere, including downtown and to the river. I took the bus or walked to school from the age of 9. During the hot, sweltering summers, my parents didn’t even look for me until sometime around dinner, and without mountains, the sun seemed to take forever to set. Then, there were the winters. The bright morning sun belied how bitterly cold it was outside. It didn’t matter how many sweaters or thermal underwear you had on, the cold bore its way through all of those layers to remind you how tough those Saskatchewan winters truly were.

Living in Saskatchewan was a right of passage. The spikes in the weather alone were enough to challenge the hardiest souls and still are. We didn’t have the tropical or Chinook winds to warm us. We didn’t have the bounty of the ocean or border large US cities or have mega malls to spend our money.

What we do have is the most loyal, butt-kickingest and craziest fans you will ever meet. And the rowdiest in Canada (ranked by MSN Sports). Fans wear watermelons. On. Their. Heads.

Roughrider Fans1Even though the Roughriders play in the smallest market in the CFL and are the second smallest major league in North America, they have led in away games attendance every year in the last 10 years. During away games in Alberta, Rider Nation makes up about ½ of the fans in attendance. Because it doesn’t matter where you live – once you have rider pride, it is for life.

Roughrider merchandise sales rank third in Canada for all major league sports, which includes hockey. What makes this more surprising is that the team has only won 3 Grey Cups in the last 100 years. Belonging to Rider Nation isn’t just about winning. Rider pride is about being tough, giving it your all and supporting your team through the good and the bad. Whether we win or lose, or move to another city, once a Rider fan, always a Rider fan.

You’ll never be able to fully understand what surviving a Saskatchewan summer or winter is like unless you experience it. This is an unspoken bond that unites us. Like many who left in search of greener pastures during an economic downturn, I no longer live in Saskatchewan. However, when I do meet someone from Saskatchewan, there is an immediate ease between us – a mutual understanding and downright respect, because it is earned. That is Rider pride and that is the heart of Rider nation.

RiderPride (3)June De La Paz is a freelance Marketer, specializing in the technology sector with the breadth of her experience in start-ups. She is currently working on launching her own line of natural skin care products for kids and adults. She grew up in Saskatchewan where her parents still reside.  She currently lives with her husband (who grew up in SK too), three extraordinary daughters in beautiful BC, and they all stay at Sandmans whenever they travel around Canada. They all belong to Rider Nation and have Rider Pride.

Edmonton Folk Festival is a Model Green Event

edmonton-folk-festivalBeginning in 1980 with one staff and 300 volunteers, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has grown and matured to become one of the leading folk festivals in the world. This year’s festival features Loreena McKennitt, Bruce Cockburn, The Avett Brothers, Rosanne Cash, Feist, and many more.

It is also a model green event. Since the 1980s, its team of volunteers have included an environmental crew, and every year, the festival finds ways of tweaking its ways of reducing waste.The environmental crew now includes 12- to 15-year-old “Enviropower” volunteers, who pick up trash each morning on Gallagher Hill, where the festival is held. There is a volunteer kitchen enviro crew, a beer garden enviro crew, a crew that picks up trash in the neighbourhood streets surrounding the site, and a volunteer-run secure bike area to encourage cycling to the festival. Some cash registers run on solar power, compact fluorescent lightbulbs are used wherever possible, and volunteers who don’t bring their own reusable water bottle and coffee cup simply go thirsty.

One of the festival’s most effective green initiatives is the reusable plate program, which has been in place for a few years and was an idea the Folk Fest stole from the Vancouver folk music festival, says volunteer coordinator Vicki Fannon. Folk Fest purchased thousands of Melmac plates and “sells” them to the concession stands for $2 a plate. Customers pay an extra $2 for the plate when they purchase food. They then return the plate to a plate booth once they’re done, and receive a $2 refund. The plates are washed on site, and the cycle continues.

The 2013 Folk Fest marks the fourth year of a partnership with Cleanit Greenit, an Edmonton composting company, to reduce food waste. The festival stipulates that all concessions use only biodegradable packaging — this means corn-based cutlery, glasses, and straws — and Cleanit Greenit turns all of this organic waste into compost. As a result, almost nothing gets thrown out, and what does gets sorted by Edmonton’s cutting-edge Waste Management Centre.

Information in the Folk Fest program booklet and on the giant screens set up on the hill educate people on the plate program and recycling and compost stations, but for the moment, “compost supervisors” remain stationed next to bins to ensure everything ends up where it should.

Unusual Summer Activities in Canada

The sun is shining. Shorts have come out of the closet. Summer must be here! But what should you do on your weekends and during your vacation? We’ve compiled a list of exciting adventures, that are off the beaten path, for you to embark on no matter which Sandman location you are at.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

sea lion

*Photo courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium

Feed the sea lions

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vancouver Aquarium. Learn all about the sea lions and sea otters from staff, prepare some of their favourite treats, and get up close to the animals while working alongside their trainers.

Seek a sea serpent

Did you know that Canada has its own version of the Loch Ness monster? There have been plenty of sightings of Ogopogo, a snakelike creature said to be anywhere from six to 20 metres long, in Okanagan Lake in the B.C. Interior. Sightings have been reported throughout the length of the lake but the monster appears to favour an area just south of Kelowna in waters near Peachland. Try your luck.

kayakingPaddle into the setting sun

Victoria is almost completely surrounded by water and its location on Vancouver Island’s southern tip creates several great paddling locations. To the southwest is the Juan de Fuca Strait, which opens to the Pacific Ocean and is home to boat-access only Discovery Island Marine Provincial Park. To the southeast, Haro Strait leads to dozens of small islands and islets. Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the adjacent Gorge Waterway allow kayakers to begin saltwater adventures directly from downtown.

ALBERTA

Embark on a fossil safariDinosaur-Park-Canada

Dino teeth and bones are literally lying around Dinosaur Provincial Park north of Brooks, in the southeast of the province. Explore the badlands or participate in a fully authentic dinosaur dig and be amazed by the abundant fossils, unusual wildlife, and stunning landscapes of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Peer at the petroglyphs

Ancient rock carvings, paintings, and pictographs at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, about 100 km southeast of Lethbridge, vividly depict hunting, vision quests, and scenes of battle. The spectacular Milk River valley contains the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America.

Bask in the spray of North America’s largest manmade waterfall

zipline COP

*Photo courtesy of WinSport

One of Edmonton’s most recognizable landmarks is the High Level Bridge, which carries 109 Street across the river near the Legislature building. It was built in 1913 for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but now is a beautiful drive from downtown to Old Strathcona. Every long weekend during the summer (Canada Day, Heritage Day, and Labour Day), the City turns on the waterfall. At 210 feet (64 metres) high, Edmonton’s Great Divide Waterfall is higher than Niagara Falls, and pumps out 50,000 litres of water a minute.

Go ziplining

Get big air as you soar from the top of Canada Olympic Park’s ski jump tower on North America’s fastest zipline! Riders fly down the unique cable system in a comfortable harness, reaching speeds between 120 and 140 km/h. As Calgary’s highest vantage point, the ski jump tower provides a zipline that is 500 metres long with a vertical drop of more than 100 metres.

SASKATCHEWAN

Take a Mountie crash course

Shaped like a prairie snowdrift, the new RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina celebrates all things Mountie. There’s an interactive forensics display for budding CSIs, an array of transport from dogsleds to planes, and tales of life on the frontier, when the RCMP befriended Sitting Bull, tamed Klondike prospectors, and organized manhunts.

Discover Moose Jaw’s Capone connectioncigars_83654866

Sleepy Moose Jaw earned the moniker “Little Chicago” in the 1920s, when American gangsters rode the rails north to beat the heat of Prohibition. Tour the underground tunnels — complete with animatronics — where Al Capone’s mob ran their bootleg operation.

 Act like a kid for the day

Something for everyone. Wilson’s Entertainment Park meets all your entertainment needs in Saskatoon. Get the feel of a real race car as you speed your way around the track at Velocity Raceway. Practice your golf swing on Wilson’s Driving Range or putt a round on Wilson’s Putting Course. Between the driving range, the putting course, the velocity raceway, and the jump n’slide, Wilson’s Entertainment Park is sure to amuse you for hours.

MANITOBA

skateboardingBust out a-town session

The skateboard park at the Plaza in Winnipeg’s vibrant Forks neighbourhood is distinctly gnarly. Covering an area of more than 44,000 square feet, it boasts a 30,000-square-foot plaza and 8,500-square-foot bowl complex with a 17-foot cradle.

Go snaky

Got a reptile-crazy kid? Tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate in a writhing, wriggling (procreating) mass for several weeks at the snake dens of Narcisse, about two hours north of Winnipeg.

Climb a Massive Outdoor Ropes Course

Any ambitious folks out there want to go to Adrenaline Adventures in Winnipeg? Climb and zipline down a challenging ropes course that features two separate canvas covered towers connected with a 2 story High Teams skywalk challenge course. The design also offers 14 challenging elements, climbing walls with over 1,500 square feet of climbing surface, three zip lines, vertical playground, dynamically belayed high elements, a 10-person high team course, a high whale watch, giant ladder, and a multi-challenge cargo net.

ONTARIO

Sip a cocktail with the lights of Toronto strung out before you

Good bets include the Panorama (on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre); Canoe (atop the TD Tower), and the Roof Lounge on the 18th floor of the Park Hyatt.

Parade with the swans

Heralded by horns and trumpets and led by children and pipers, at 2 p.m. Stratford’s famous swans waddle from their winter quarters to the Avon River, ushering in the arrival of spring. Other special events: concerts and tours of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse.

Walk in the clouds

Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve’s suspended walkway through the canopy of a 200-year-old pine forest feels a bit like an ectomorphic trampoline. Take in breathtaking views and, if you’re really lucky, catch a glimpse of wolves, foxes, and moose.

QUEBEC

schwart's smoked meatEat and drink a la Mordecai

Follow in the footsteps of the Bard of Montreal: Mordecai Richler. Down a medium-fat smoked-meat sandwich at Schwartz’s (3895 St-Laurent Boulevard), a chewy-sweet sesame bagel at St-Viateur Bagel (253 St-Viateur W.), veal marrow hors d’oeuvre at French bistro L’Express (3927 St-Denis), and a rib steak at Moishe’s (3961 St-Laurent). Chase with a nice single malt.

Navigate a water labyrinth

Rev up your paddleboat and head off along the 6.5 km of canals that wind through the marshland near Wakefield. You will be equipped with a compass, radio, and field guide (to help you identify resident plants and creatures).

Jardin des Floralies – Île Notre-Dame

Filled with 5,000 or so rose bushes, over 100,000 annuals as well as perennials, and weeping willow trees, the Jardin des Floralies is 25 acres of horticultural history and one of two major Montreal gardens. Originally created by some of the world’s best landscape artists who participated in the 1980 International Floralies fair, the gardens became a permanent city fixture and are now maintained by Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Meet Billy Barker: Quesnel’s most famous and successful miner

billy barker goldWho is Billy Barker, and why does he deserve his own 3-day festival?

Billy BarkerBarker was born in 1817 in March, Cambridgeshire, England. As a child, he worked as a waterman on the waterways of England.

In 1839, he married Jane Lavender and had one daughter named Emma Eliza. Jane died in 1850, and in 1863, Barker married his second wife Elizabeth Collyer. She was extremely extravagant and unfaithful and left him in 1865 after he became broke.

Because railways had begun to replace canal transport, Barker was unsure of what to do with his life. During the 1840s, he decided to go to California, where he would try his luck in the gold rush. He made very little, but when the gold rush ended, he moved up to British Columbia with fellow miners. His party discovered gold in the Williams Creek area, and his fellow crew member Wilhelm Dietz – “Dutch Bill” – was the first to find a good amount of gold in the creek valley area.

Barker decided to search for his gold down river close to Stouts Gulch. Many people said he was crazy for doing this, but, after a short period of time, they pulled out about 60 ounces of gold at about 52 feet below ground. Barker’s claim turned out to be the richest in the area and the settlement of Barkerville was set up around his claim. Throughout the rest of his mining career, he pulled out roughly 37,500 ounces of gold.

Billy Barker smoked as much as 30 cigarettes a day, finding it hard to deal with the stress of having that much gold and the progressive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

He died penniless in a Victoria nursing home on July 11, 1894 with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and/or possible cancer in his jaw. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Ross Bay Cemetery, though there has been contemplation on moving his grave to Barkerville, the town he founded and preserved as a historic town.

Since 1973, Billy Barker Days has been a staple in Quesnel and an event everyone looks forward to. With events that include rodeo, mud bogs, concessions, midway, and stage entertainment, there is sure to be something for everyone. In its 40th year, this event is British Columbia’s largest free family festival. It is true community collaboration.

A Snapshot of the Festival – Thursday, July 18, 2013 – Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quesnel crowd pictureThursday – Seniors’ Day

Friday – Kids’ Day – Children’s Headliners Sharon & Bram – Friday at 3 pm and Saturday at 2 pm.

Saturday – Parade 10 am – There’s a new parade route this year and will not be on the highway.

Sunday – Fireworks – Another great display by Fireworks Spectaculars who have produced excellent shows for the wrap up over the past 5 years. An extra special show is planned to close out the 40th anniversary of Billy Barker Days.

Dance – The Billy Barker Days Society will be sponsoring a dance this year on Saturday, July 20 at the Seniors Centre. Music by Secret Happiness. Ticket price is $25 and are currently on sale.

Costumes – The Costume Rental Shop will be located at the Child Development Centre building, formerly Bloomko Flowers. The shop is open for business.

Souvenirs – The Billy Barker Days booth will be open on Reid Street on Tuesday, July 2, 11 am to 4:30 pm weekdays and 10 am – 2 pm Saturdays up to and including July 16th.

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

rodeo cowboy silhouetteThe Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Western Culture and Heritage. Fried Food. One of these things is not like the other. Or is it?

Now that the water has been drained, the City of Calgary, The Calgary Stampede, and multitudes of volunteers are working effortlessly to ensure Stampede Park is ready for the 2013 Calgary Stampede. Although some of the events held at the Saddledome have been cancelled, officials have expressed the importance of the rodeo and the party going ahead. The new slogan ”Hell of High Water” describes the determination and desire to bring the community together for a positive event after weeks of mayhem. And what brings people together more than food?

If you’ve ever been to the Stampede midway, you understand that food is almost as important as the rodeo, Nashville North, and all the rides combined. And we’re not talking about the loved standards of corn dogs and mini donuts. We’re not even talking about the epitome of the Stampede: pulled pork on a bun. We’re talking about the evolution of Stampede midway food. Something no one can deny.

A few years ago, new additions included a doughnut burger with cheese, mac & cheese pizza, and pulled pork parfait with a side of deep-fried pickles. Last year, the bacon and maple syrup funnel cake and deep fried cheese were introduced. But this is 2013. So can you guess what the midway will be introducing this year? Bet you can’t.

Warning: excess consumption of the following foods may result in cravings and the need to go back for more.

*Photos and food descriptions courtesy of the Calgary Stampede.

Taking Deep Fried to a Whole New Level. Of Awesome.

Double Bacon Corndog

Double Bacon Corndog

Double Bacon Corndog
A hot dog is wrapped in bacon, deep fried, dipped in real bacon bit infused batter, deep fried again, and served with maple syrup and more bacon bits.

Deep Fried Pickled Beans
Continuing the pickle craze, green beans are pickled, battered, and deep fried.

Deep Fried Butter
The old adage that calories don’t count during Stampede is put to the test with this treat. Cubes of butter are wrapped tightly in homemade pie crust before being deep fried to perfection.

Banana Bacon Ear

Banana Bacon Ear

Banana Bacon Ear
Elephant ear dough is wrapped around bacon and bananas, deep fried, and served on a stick.

Sweet Corn Corndog
Fresh sweet corn is husked, cut off the cob and added to traditional corndog batter to create a fresh twist on an old favourite.

Deep Fried Avocado

Deep Fried Avocado

Deep Fried Avocado
Pieces of avocado are coated in light tempura batter and deep fried.

Deep Fried Philly Cheesesteak Rollup
The traditional Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, which gets rolled up and deep fried.

Deep Fried Bubble Gum
Despite the name, Deep Fried Bubble Gum is not of the bubble blowing variety. Puffy marshmallows are infused with bubble gum flavouring, dipped in a pink pastry batter, and deep fried. The result is an unexpected gooey delight!

Deep Fried Doritos

Deep Fried Doritos

Deep Fried Doritos
A deep fried snack made of Doritos, beer, and bacon. Could it get any better? Doritos are dipped in a beer batter, sprinkled with bacon bits, and deep fried.

Philly Cheesesteak
Thinly sliced pieces of steak, sautéed onions, and melted cheese are all served on a hoagie roll for this Philadelphia favourite.

Eggroll on a Stick

Eggroll on a Stick

Eggroll on a Stick
A Chinese favourite gets the Stampede treatment when we take a classic eggroll and serve it on a stick.

Pickle Shooters
Think you have the stomach for it? Shots of pure pickle juice are available for those daring enough to try.

Chip Dog

Chip Dog

Chip Dog
Not your typical meat and potatoes. Take your hotdog on a stick and then surround it by spiral cut chips.

Double smoked bacon wrapped cheese perogie skewer
Pan fried perogies wrapped with double smoked bacon, skewered, and served with a dollop of sour cream and chives.

godzilla-mac-and-cheese

Godzilla Mac and Cheese

Godzilla Mac and Cheese
Classic gourmet Mac and Cheese with a Japanese flair. ‘Reel Mac and Cheese’ is topped with Nori (roasted seaweed), teriyaki sauce, and a squiggle of Japanese mayo. Arigoto.

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita Pibil
Slow cooked pork served in tortillas with adobe salsa, lime, red onions, and habaneros (for the REAL Cowboy).

Idaho Taco
A jumbo Idaho potato is baked, opened, and then loaded to the brim with your favourite taco toppings.

Shrimp Chips

Shrimp Chips

Shrimp Chips
A mixture of shrimp and tapioca flour is rolled out, sliced, dried, and then deep fried. A staple Asian snack!

Idaho Nachos
Idaho’s version of nachos starts with waffle cut fries that are then topped with all the fix’ins.

Flautas de Pollo

Flautas de Pollo

Flautas de Pollo
Rolled Chicken Tacos deep friend and served with sour cream. Lettuce and salsa on top.

Naaco TNT
A sweet, salty, spicy, fresh, and crunchy puffed rice based salad from India. It is made by mixing a variety of vegetables, sauces/chutneys, spice powders, fresh herbs, lime, and puffed rice together and serving it in a waffle cone.

Not your average sweet treats!

Chocolate Dipped Jalapeno

Chocolate Dipped Jalapeno

Chocolate Dipped Jalapeno
Just as it sounds. A jalapeno is dipped into chocolate to make for a sweet and spicy treat.

Chocolate Covered Bacon
Combining two of our favourite food groups. Bacon is dipped in chocolate and served on a stick.

Frozen Yogurt
This self-serve frozen treat comes with toppings galore. You are the boss of your yogurt destiny!

Deep Fried Pie

Deep Fried Pie

Deep Fried Pie
Homemade pie crust is filled with your choice of pie filling before it is wrapped, deep fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Soft service ice cream is available to top it all off.

Chocolate Cinnamon Bear Fudge
Cinnamon Bears are added to this crowd pleasing fudge to blend sweet and spicy.

Chocolate Bacon Fudge
Bite into this decadent chocolate fudge, and you will discover bacon bits that have been added to the mixture. Sweet and salty!

B52 Fudge

B52 Fudge

B52 Fudge
Fudge with a buzz! Baileys fudge is topped with Grand Marnier fudge and then topped off with Kahlua fudge.

Dessert Fries
Home cut French fries are coated in cinnamon sugar and served with a side of special frosting dipping sauce.

Chocolate Bacon Apple
No midway is complete without a chocolate coated apple, and the Stampede is no exception. Roll that apple in bacon bits, and you are on a new playing field.

Western Cake Pops
Finally cake on a stick. Gooey chocolate cake shaped as cowboy boots and hats then dipped in milk chocolate. Giddy up!

O Canada – How beautiful art thee

What is a Canadian? A Canadian is a fellow wearing English tweeds, a Hong Kong shirt, and Spanish shoes who sips Brazilian coffee sweetened with Philippine sugar from a Bavarian cup while nibbling Swiss cheese, sitting at a Danish desk over a Persian rug, after coming home in a German car from an Italian movie all with a smile on his face saying, “What a great day, eh?”

No matter where you’re from, or what you believe in, we can all agree  Canada is our, “True North strong and free.”

British Columbia - Agassiz

British Columbia – Agassiz

Jasper National Park

Alberta – Jasper National Park

Saskatchewan2

Saskatchewan – Canadian Pacific Railway

Lake Winnipeg

Manitoba – Lake Winnipeg

Ontario - Algonquin Park

Ontario – Algonquin Park

Mont Tremblant

Quebec – Mont Tremblant

Newfoundland - Puffin Nest Island

Newfoundland – Puffin Nest Island

PEI - Covehead Lighthouse in Stanhope

Prince Edward Island – Covehead Lighthouse

Nova Scotia - Bay of Fundy Humpback whale

Nova Scotia – Humpback Whale in the Bay of Fundy

New Brunswick - longest wooden covered bridge

New Brunswick – Hartland

Yukon- Northern Lights

Yukon Territory – Night Sky Stars, clouds, and Northern Lights

Northwest Territories - Sambaa Deh Falls1

Northwest Territories – Sambaa Deh Falls

Nunavut - sunset

Nunavut – sunset on the High Arctic

Sandman’s Tribute to Fathers

Father & Son Golf

What does it mean to be a dad?

Most fathers would probably cite the same qualities — and employ much of the same language — if asked that very question. Most would say a dad provides. A dad protects. He tries to teach, often by example, if only because so many fathers still embrace the “strong, silent” stereotype, and so many dads find that showing rather than telling can frequently be a more eloquent method for imparting a lesson.

In fact, of all the familial “hoods” — motherhood, childhood, fatherhood — the latter has probably changed less, in fundamental ways, than the others over the last several generations. Motherhood is largely unrecognizable (in many positive ways) from the institution of, say, the 1950s, while childhood sometimes seems to be redefined with each new alarmist magazine cover: Our kids are too lazy! Our kids are too busy! Our kids are too coddled! Our kids are too stressed!

Father-and-Son

But fatherhood? For the most part, today’s dads are still good-natured. Much as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers did before them, maybe a little more “enlightened,” more “sensitive,” more “attuned” than their old men, but generally working on the same basic principles: Raise good kids. Don’t spoil them. Help them stand up. And, every once in a while, let them fall down. Love them, guide them — and then, as painful as it’s going to be — let them go.

From all of us at Sandman, to Bob Gaglardi, founder of our company, and every dad out there, Happy Father’s Day.

F1 Grand Prix races into Montreal

Formula One Grand PrixHailed as the biggest sporting event in the country, the annual Formula One Grand Prix fuels Montreal’s historic streets with excitement for weeks on end. And it’s finally here! Have fun this weekend Montreal.

Canada’s unofficial start to the summer – Victoria Day

Queen_VictoriaFirst things first: if you live in Western Canada, you’ll say May Long, and if you live in Eastern Canada, you’ll say May two-four. Same thing!

The May long weekend is officially called Victoria Day which is a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday – May 24th. She ruled from June 20, 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901 which is the longest reign of any monarch, 63 years and 7 months. After her death, an Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada establishing a legal holiday on May 24 (or May 25 if May 24 falls on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day.

Victoria Day is less than a month away, so we thought we’d give you some ideas of how to spend your long weekend. And what better place to celebrate Victoria Day than Victoria, a city that bears the same name.

Butchart GardensSince Victoria Day marks the beginning of summer, or at least that’s what Canadians would like to believe, take a trek to Victoria’s scenic Butchart Gardens. A National Historic Site with 55 acres of beautiful gardens, this is the perfect opportunity to catch the floral sights in full bloom.

Bastion Square, located in the heart of downtown Victoria, looks out on the Inner Harbour and features the city’s best restaurants and cafes. On Saturdays, it’s home to an artisan market with locally made arts and crafts, and on Sundays, features a Farmers’ Market with locally grown produce and fruits, homemade breads and pastries, authentic Mexican food, and much more.

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings exhibit the province’s true history. The Neo-baroque buildings face the Inner Harbour and are kiddie corner to The Empress Hotel. A statue of Queen Victoria stands on the front lawn as well as a statue of a soldier to commemorate the province’s World War I, World War II, and Korean War efforts. Free guided tours of the buildings are offered year-round.

thetislake_filterIf the outdoors are more your thing, you’re in luck. The Victoria area is full of stunning lakes and forests.

Thetis Lake refers to two freshwater lakes (Upper and Lower Thetis) in Thetis Lake Regional Park and is home to many Garry Oak and Douglas fir trees. The park includes several beaches and forest trails and is extremely popular in the summer.

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Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is an excellent place for year-round bird watching. The marsh around Swan Lake provides the perfect habitat for many birds and small animals, including muskrats, river otters, and minks.

When Monday rolls around, make sure to take-in the Victoria Day parade complete with marching bands, colourful floats, clowns, and over 100,000 spectators. The parade lasts about three hours, so bring a blanket, snacks, and don’t forget an extra jacket and umbrella. It is, after all, spring on the West Coast. The parade starts at Mayfair Mall at 9am and proceeds along Douglas Street, finishing at the intersection of Douglas & Humboldt in the downtown core.

There are so many attractions and beaches  to visit. But whether you decide to spend the weekend sightseeing or hiking, make sure to include Sandman Hotel Victoria in your Victoria Day long weekend plans!

No need to travel for a vacation

staycationNeed a vacation but don’t know where to go? Easy – Sandman Staycation. A what? A vacation in your own city where you get to truly explore sites and attractions while staying at your local Sandman hotel. Perfect way to truly enjoy your time off.

So now that you know where your vacation will be, it’s time to plan the itinerary.

Act like a tourist. Most people travel far to visit museums in other countries but have yet to visit the tourist attractions in their own backyards. When you check in at the hotel, ask for some brochures for nearby museums, hikes, and parks. Or, visit the attractions that you’ve always wanted to see but never have.

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Take your taste buds on a trip. Treat yourself to a culinary adventure by indulging in different ethnic food each night. Never been to Greece? Perfect. Find the closest Greek restaurant and make sure to try the ouzo.

Watch a foreign movie. Instead of stumbling on your words while attempting to communicate with foreign locals, just watch a movie with subtitles. Check to see if your city has a movie theatre that shows foreign films. Wouldn’t it be great to go to Paris without the long flight?Photographer

Take photos. This is your chance to really act like a tourist. Ask strangers to take pictures of you in front of famous buildings and statues. Make sure you have a camera strap and hang your camera around your neck. This way, you actually look like a tourist.

 

So next time you need a break from reality, but don’t know where to go, remember: a Sandman Staycation is right around the corner.

The Wonderous Sights of Newcastle upon Tyne

Grainger Market

Grainger Market

If you were to ask my mom what she knows about England, she would happily discuss Coronation Street – the world’s longest running soap opera.  Others would say bangers & mash or pubs. And some would love the opportunity to discuss the royal family and Kate’s pregnancy.

But how much do we really know about our friends on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. We know that London is the capital, but do you know anything about Newcastle upon Tyne?

First, a brief history. Newcastle upon Tyne was given its name because of a castle built in 1080 by Robert II, Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. Originally, the city was based around the wool trade, then coal mining, but is now a business and cultural centre.

Ten interesting facts about Newcastle:

High Level Bridge

High Level Bridge

1. In 1849, Robert Stephenson’s High Level Bridge opened and was the first road/rail bridge in the world.

2. Grey’s Monument was erected in 1838 to commemorate the Reform Act of 1832. It honours Charles Earl Grey who was an advocate of peace, civil, and religious liberty.

3. The city acquired its first art gallery, the Laing Art Gallery, in 1901. Alexander Laing, founder and Scottish wine and spirit merchant, wanted to give back to the city where he made his fortune.

4. Grainger Town is the historic heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. It was designed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger, an internationally renowned builder and developer. 40% of buildings in the area are listed as being of historical and architectural importance.

5. The Grainger Market opened in 1835 and was Newcastle’s first indoor market.

Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal

6. The Town Moor, a park just north of city centre, is larger than Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath put together. The freemen of the city have the right to graze cattle on it.

7. The original Theatre Royal opened on January 21, 1788 and was located on Mosley Street, next to Drury Lane. The present Theatre Royal on Grey Street, opened in 1837, was designed by John and Benjamin Green and just celebrated its 175th birthday.

Lit and Phil staircase

Lit and Phil

8. The Lit and Phil, largest independent library outside London, houses more than 150,000 books. It has operated since 1793 and was originally founded as a conversation club.

9. The Tyneside Cinema on Pilgrim Street originally opened as the ‘Bijou News-Reel Cinema’ in 1937, and was designed and built by Dixon Scott, great uncle of film director Ridley Scott.

10. Newcastle was the location for both the 1971 film Get Carter and the 1988 film noir thriller Stormy Monday.

Now that’s some serious history! There’s a lot to see and do in Newcastle, so on your next adventure, make sure to take advantage of Sandman Signature Hotel Newcastle’s central location.

Edmonton Gets Hot with Ice on Whyte!

ice on whyte 2If you’re not familiar with the Edmonton area, then you might think the ‘Ice on Whyte’ moniker is either misspelled or an attempt to create a new version of an old word that sounds young, hip, and kewl. Rest assured, it’s spelled this way for neither of these reasons.

The festival is called ‘Ice on Whyte’ because it pays homage to the city’s famed Whyte Avenue, a popular street that is often brewing with fun and entertainment.

Celebrating its 10th year in action, the festivities run from January 25 – February 3, and feature a wide range of winter sights, sounds, and activities to highlight both the snow, ice, land, and people!

Originally created in 2003 by a group of individuals who wanted to showcase the fabulous art of ice carving, the event has blossomed to include all aspects of winter fun. Held in the popular area known as Steel Park or Festival Park, on 85th Avenue and 104 Street (not too far from Whyte Avenue itself), the hoopla is near impossible to miss because it fills the entire space with gorgeous, brightly-lit ice sculptures in addition to tons of live entertainment, food, and family fun.

Yet, the heart of the festival is still the famed international ice carving competition – which was officially endorsed by the National Ice Carving Association in 2009– the world’s preeminent authority on ice carving standards and art.

ice on whyte 3

During the competition, 10 teams of two will chip away at 15 blocks of ice (per team) for 2.5 days (35 hours total). Using these blocks, they’ll create one sculpture that must be 3.18 meters high and sculpted on all sides. All 15 blocks must be used, and snow made from the carving may also be used in the sculpture. In addition, there are no props, decorations or ice colouring allowed – this is serious ice carving my friend.

Visitors can also expect to find snow sculptures, a giant ice slide, a children’s play area, live music, entertainment and ice carving workshops too.

ice on whyte 5ice on whyte 9ice on whyte 8ice on whyte 7ice on whyte 5ice on whyte 4
No wonder the festival won the Alberta Tourism Award in the Alberta Pride Category in 2012!
Suffice to say, even though the event will bring the big chill in many ways, it is still among one of the hottest festivals in Canada this season!

Now that’s the Whyte stuff!

To see Sandman Hotel Edmonton West’s rates and hot deals, click here: http://www.sandmanhotels.ca/specials-rewards/hot-deals/

To see Sandman Signature Hotel & Suites Edmonton South’s rates and hot deals, click here: http://www.sandmansignature.ca/specials-rewards/hot-deals/

Sandman Celebrates Dine Out Vancouver!

dine out 1

The holidays are special to some, but in Vancouver ‘The most wonderful time of the year’ is arguably less about ‘Yuletide carols being sung by a choir’ and more about yummy food being savoured by a crowd of die-hard foodies.

What we’re talking about is Dine Out Vancouver – the annual, citywide restaurant festival that lets curious culinary connoisseurs discover all the best fare this city has to offer (at amazing prices too!). Slated to take place from January 18 – February 3, there will be throngs of hungry gastronomes heading to a wide range of restaurants to test out a variety of fixed-price menus ranging from approximately $18 – $ 38.

chopOur very own Chop Steakhouse & Bar will be participating in the exciting event, offering up sweet and savoury dishes that reflect the essence of the tasty cuisine. Guests heading to Chop Steakhouse & Bar can expect to find a delicious $38 menu with a great array of culinary picks such as: roasted butternut squash soup with lemon sour cream, prime rib (12 oz) slowly roasted in rock salt and fresh ground pepper, with hand shaved fresh horseradish and au jus served (with a choice of: infused mashed potatoes, wild rice pilaf, baked potato, Chop cut fries or fresh seasonal vegetables), mini raspberry crème brûlée white chocolate, raspberries and caramelized sugar and so much more.

Located in Richmond at the Sandman Signature Hotel & Resort Vancouver Airport, the Dine Out menu provides chop dine out menuan exciting montage of appies, mains and desserts that are sure to impress even the most seasoned Dine Out fanatic. Featuring a $28 menu as well, they are focused on providing a refined, enticing, yet relaxed steak experience that tantalizes the taste buds with only the best AAA Canadian beef, the freshest local ingredients, and a surprising variety of options. Plus, if you are looking for a place to stay after your experience, our cozy Sandman Signature beds are literally an elevator ride away.

DSC_0463In addition, for those who are testing out venues in the city or downtown, other Sandman Hotels in Vancouver, such as Vancouver City Centre and Vancouver Suites on Davie Street are also offering accommodation deals for the event which is expected to draw in thousands upon thousands of locals and international visitors alike!

Possibly the tastiest way to treat yourself to cozy accommodations, fine food and a good time all in one, do yourself a favour and head to Dine Out Vancouver this year!

To see Chop Steakhouse & Bar’s Dine Out menu, click here: http://www.dineoutvancouver.com/listings/Chop-Steakhouse-Bar/21096/1042/#dineoutdinnermenu

To view Dine Out hotel packages with Sandman Hotel Vancouver City Centre, click here: https://reservations.tourismvancouver.com/Hotels-Motels/Package.asp?Hotel_ID=SHV&AFL_ID=DOVF&Pkgc=DOVF

To view Dine Our hotel packages with Sandman Suites Vancouver Davie Street, click here: https://reservations.tourismvancouver.com/Hotels-Motels/Package.asp?Hotel_ID=SSV&AFL_ID=DOVF&Pkgc=DOVF

Please visit dineoutvancouver.com for complete festival details.

Sandman Remembers the Best of 2012!

Urgent assignment2012 was a year filled with an unbelievable amount of activity at Sandman Hotel Group. Whether it was awards and accolades for our flagship hotel in Newcastle, UK, the launch of our mobile app for the iPad and Android, amazing press and coverage for our hotels across Canada, or the expansion of our online social media presence, there was no shortage of excitement for everyone here at the Sandman family.

Kicking off our New Year, here is a list of our favourite stories from the past year!

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Sandman Signature Makes a Name for Itself

Over the past year, Sandman Signature Hotels & Resorts have been making waves across the nation and overseas. For instance our Langley location picked up the 2012 Commercial Building Award of Excellence in Hospitality from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board for being able to fulfill the following requirements:

• Does the development complement or add to the surrounding properties and neighbourhood?
• Is it esthetically pleasing?
• What construction materials were used in the overall design?
• Was it built in an environmentally sensitive manner?
• Does it incorporate any unique architectural features?
• How does this project compare to others in the same category?

An excellent list of categories to live up to, we couldn’t be more proud of their achievement!

Inn Focus

There was also great press for our other locations too! From our Sandman Signature Hotel & Suites Prince George getting front page coverage in ‘In Focus’ magazine, to our Sandman Signature Hotel Newcastle, UK getting coverage for … everything! From their décor, history, and ambiance to their highly coveted RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) North East Renaissance Award for commercial property of the year, the good news hasn’t stopped coming. In addition, the reviews keep pouring in for our Edmonton South, Toronto and Vancouver Airport locations too. Quite simply, Signature is making its presence felt in the hotel world, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for each special location!

i Love the Sandman App!

2013 also ushered in some technological treats for all our guests too. Where last year we launched our brand new mobile booking app for the iPhone and BlackBerry, this year we wanted to make sure we topped ourselves with our apps for Android and the iPad (not to mention the improved version 2 for iPhone and Blackberry).

iPad App

Many months in the making, our experts worked day and night to ensure that we offered guests the easiest, breeziest and most rewarding booking experience…and we were not disappointed. With a whopping number of users already, there is no doubt that our new technology makes booking with us fast, efficient, easy, and full of perks. Not sure what you’re missing? Here are just a few of the benefits you can get from our mobile app.

  • The ability to reserve at over 40 locations worldwide
  • Exclusive access to promotions and limited-time offers
  • GPS and interactive map
  • The ability to earn and redeem StatusPlus points towards free stays
  • The ability to view StatusPlus points balance and profile status

A Clean Sweep for Sandman Hotels in Alberta

If there is one thing our hotels are proud of, it’s our standards and service. That’s why we were elated to learn that once again, that several of our hotels in Alberta have received prestigious recognition from the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association for Excellence in Housekeeping.

2012-hk-award

Our Sandman Hotel Red Deer, Sandman Hotel Calgary South and Sandman Hotel Calgary Airport all were recipients of this AHLA award which states:

‘As a recipient of the Housekeeping Award, you are among a select group of properties that participate in the Approved Accommodation Program [and] have achieved excellence in cleanliness, comfort, and maintenance. The Housekeeping Award is a reflection of your staff and your property’s commitment to providing visitors with clean and comfortable accommodation.’

Now that’s spotless news.

Social Media Expansion

This year also saw the rise of our social media expansion across several channels. From Pinterest to Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube, and the ever increasing growth of our Facebook and Twitter pages, there were so many new ways to interact with our guests, fans, and friends. We met so many new people that we decided to get to know them all even better with our ‘Share Your Sandman Story Photo Contest.’

Share Your Sandman Story

Asking our friends to share their Sandman stories with us was one of our most successful social media campaigns of the year, and we received entries from all over the world. Whether it was a story about a memorable family stay, wonderful weekend getaway, the perfect wedding or friendly service during frequent business trips, we got to see the real people who make our company a success with pictures too!

Throughout the summer months we also gave away tons of prizes to everyone ranging from restaurant gift cards, hotel gift certificates, and two brand new iPads.

Double the Luck with Lucky 13

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Though it’s 2013 already, the number 13 played a huge role for Sandman in 2012. With our Lucky 13 Rewards Program, we decided to have a bit of fun and launch a campaign on Friday the 13th, called ‘Lucky 13 on Friday the 13th.’ Since there were two Friday the 13ths in 2012, we decided to make two fun videos for our friends detailing the special promotion which allowed guests to get DOUBLE the Lucky 13 stamps for every night they booked on the superstitious day. We were even lucky enough to get all-star backup quarterback for the BC Lions, Mike Reilly, to help us out.

In case you missed it all, check out some of our favourite videos, and moments below!

With so many events and activities, it’s pretty safe to say that 2012 was among one of our best years ever. However, we’re also willing to wager a bet that 2013 will be even better!

 

 

Sandman Celebrates the Season with Rockford wok|bar|grill

stk20277wne

The holidays and New Year’s Eve are among the best times of the year to throw a big party with all your friends or relatives. Whether it’s the snow, the decorations, or the music, something in the air makes everyone and everything just a little more merry and bright.

However, if you’re planning to be the host of one such festive fete, then you’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of you. From the appetizers, to the drinks, to finding enough time to simultaneously monitor the door while playing DJ and cleaning dishes, it’s an overwhelming task even for even the most seasoned iron chef/party planner.

That’s where Rockford wok|bar|grill comes in handy. With locations at Sandman Signature Hotel & Suites Prince George and Sandman Hotel & Suites Edmonton South, they’ve outdone themselves this year with an inspired New Year’s menu that is perfectly suited for get-togethers and parties.

rockfordFor only $34.95 a person, your guests can choose from a long list of mouth-watering soups, salads, entrees and desserts ranging from roasted butternut squash-sweet potato bisque, to charbroiled AAA sirloin topped with lemon-parsley butter and a side of mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Value some good vegetarian options? Their roasted root vegetable ravioli or Rockford greens are not to be missed.

Got a sweet tooth? Don’t you worry because the menu has your choice of a vanilla custard tart with fresh berries and whipped cream or sticky chocolate date pudding with vanilla bean gelato and chocolate butterscotch sauce.

To top it off? A fresh, crisp flute of bubbly prosecco to get the celebration started in style!

r menu

Yup, it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re looking for the ideal place to hold your holiday party, Rockford’s got you covered. Plus, with our plush Sandman Signature beds just an elevator ride away, you can celebrate all night long and into those lovely wee hours of the 2013 morning.

Stay Safe This Season, Take the Elevator Home with Sandman

Why wait for a cab?

Why wait for a cab?

If you’ve ever been stuck in the rain, wearing your finest attire at 1am in the morning while trying to flag the umpteenth cab that’s passed you by, then you know the dilemma of the age old holiday party.

In general, holiday spirit is a good thing. However, when it comes to holiday spirits, the story is a tad more complicated. In moderation, alcoholic holiday beverages can be delicious and entreating, but in excess they can prove to be more trouble than you bargained for.

Celebrate safe!

Celebrate safe!

Yet, the season is a time of year when most people overindulge in one too many of a lot of things, so more likely than not, you will not be alone in your festive follies. Not to worry though, a little planning and preparation is all you need to make sure your celebrations end on a high note, and most importantly, they are all you need to ensure that you and your loved ones return home safe, sound, and well rested!

Throughout December and January, severalof our hotels (such as Sandman Suites Surrey — Guidlford, Sandman Hotel Vancouver Airport, and Sandman Signature Hotel & Resort — Vancouver Airport) will be participating in special holiday rates that are focused on making sure you have an easy alternative to driving home. The mode of transportation? Faster than a cab and cozier that a crowded bus, all it requires is the simple push of an elevator button.

All you have to do is quote the rate when you call to book your stay, and you’ll receive the discounted rate for the dates that you need (some blackout dates and restrictions apply — select locations only). That way you can eat, drink and be merry to your heart’s content – plus you’ll also have a comfortable, convenient, and plush bed waiting for you when you’re all done.

take the elevator home surreyWith RCMP across the nation once again launching their Counterattack campaign, we’re not the only ones strongly advocating planning ahead for your night. Whether it be staying in a hotel, finding a designated driver or hailing a cab – any safe way home is a good way home.

One benefit to choosing a hotel for your alternative? With Sandman you’ll be guaranteed a good night’s rest too!

No matter where you are or what you do for your festivities this year, Sandman wishes you a very merry holiday season and encourages you to stay safe when it comes to party planning. Now that’s a real reason to celebrate.

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Some Canadian Christmas Facts

canachristmas

By now you’ve likely seen all the sparkle and jazz that is the holiday season. Walk into any retail store and you’ll hear one of the many popular pop Christmas albums – whether it’s Bublé, Bieber, or perhaps a classic, like good ol’ Frank. Take a drive down any residential street and you’ll see the twinkling outdoor displays of festive lights, either frantically put up at the last minute, or, never taken down from the year before. Either way, there’s no denying that the season is upon us – ready to make everyone festive, merry, and bright.

In honour of the approaching holidays, we thought we’d do a little digging into Canada’s Christmas past, present, and future and unearth some interesting facts from around the nation.

There is a Christmas Capital of Canada winni winter

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, then you probably know which city we are talking about. Here are a few clues. Located in the center of Canada, this capital is guaranteed a white Christmas nearly every year. In addition, it has one of the most famous frozen rivers in the world and endless winter activities for enthusiasts to pursue. Whether it’s outdoor ice skating, cross country skiing, sleigh rides or world-famous holiday celebrations – yup, you guessed it, Winnipeg has the seasonal spirit in spades.

tortiereA Québec Tradition

People around the world are split on whether the custom of opening gifts should happen at midnight or in the morning, but in Quebec, the practice of réveillon makes the decision easy. The French word to ‘wake-up’, réveillion is the custom of having a Christmas meal after Midnight Mass. Festive delights include Sucre a La Crème (Cream Fudge), Buche De Noel (Yule Log), Tarte au Sucre (Sugar Pie) and Tourtiere (Meat Pie). For réveillon, families often take an afternoon nap on Christmas Eve to prepare for the late night/morning festivities that follow. Upon their return home, they are welcomed by a warming traditional buffet of comfort food followed by festive caroling, dancing, and plenty of mulled wine and cider.

Sounds like a delicious way to celebrate the season to us!

12 Days of Christmas in Nova Scotia

Christmas caroling is popular in many places around the world, but in Nova Scotia, they do things a little differently. During the 12 days of Christmas, kids add a theatrical element to the fun by dressing in costumes and masks, disguising their voices and singing and dancing for their audience. If the host can’t guess their identities, they then are obligated to join in on the caroling fun. The best part, however, are the fun names associated with these festive jokers. Called ‘Mummers’ or ‘Belsnicklers’, we think Nova Scotia knows how to have some serious seasonal fun.

A Citrus Christmasjapanese oranges

In Vancouver, there is a special shipment that arrives at the main port every year for the holidays. The shipment, Japanese oranges, is welcomed by girls wearing traditional kimonos in a ritual which, for many, heralds the beginning of the holiday season. A delicious treat (and a whole lot healthier than all that Christmas chocolate), orange you glad that your stocking contains a fruitful surprise?

A Very Merry Hanukkah too!menorah

As a multicultural country, there are many other celebrations throughout the year which bring families together.

This year, for example, the first day of Hanukkah started on December 9th, and many families are well on their way to having some great family fun. Some Hanukkah traditions include the giving of gift baskets to friends and family, and the organization of Chanukah parties, which include singing, drama, and entertaining activities involving the dreidel. Many Jewish Canadians prepare a traditional feast with treats such as latkas (potato cakes), and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts). Everyone also partakes in the lighting of a special menorah known as a hanukkiyah for eight days.

And on the Funny Side of Things…festivus pole

Though many consider Seinfeld’s Festivus celebration to be a really funny joke, there is a history behind it, and people do actually celebrate it.

The holiday, which was brought to life in a ‘Seinfeld’episode, includes practices such as the Airing of Grievances, which occurs during the Festivus meal and requires each person to tell everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal, Feats of Strength are performed, and this involves wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if someone can pin down the head of the household.

Celebrated on December 23, this holiday was originally created in 1966 by writer Dan O’Keefe and was celebrated by his family. The purpose of the holiday was to celebrate the season without partaking in its pressures and commercialism.

If you’re interested in trying out Festivus this year, there is a book that you can buy, which is aptly titled, ‘Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us’.

So there you have it, Canada is a country full of fun and interesting holiday traditions and we’re sure that we’ve only skimmed the surface of what’s out there. So if you have any contributions to make, feel free to send us a message. It is, after all, the season of sharing!

Sandman Supports the Kids This Season

KHP

For many Canadians, the holidays are a time of year filled with celebrations, family gatherings, and gift exchanges. Yet, for countless kids across the country, the season can be a difficult period to get through, and is a time when a helping hand makes a world of difference.  That’s why, this year, Sandman Hotels are making it their mission to give back to children and teens in need with an important charity campaign.

gift of giving

From November 15, 2012 to January 15, 2013 all 42 hotels across the nation will participate in Sandman’s ‘Gift of Giving’ promotion which, in partnership with Kids Help Phone, will raise funds and awareness for Canada’s only national non-profit youth counselling service. A trailblazer for essential youth services in Canada, Kids Help Phone remains the go-to service for kids, teens and young adults. Its professional counsellors offer help and hope on more than 55 issues that are of concern to kids today. That’s why Sandman is proud to join forces with them.

For the season, Sandman will be donating $1 from every reservation made under their ‘Gift of Giving’ rate to Kids Help Phone, with all donations matched by Sandman Hotel Group.

Why Kids Help Phone?

“In light of recent events not only with youth in Canada, but across the globe, we felt that it was important for Sandman to foster a Canadian-run network for youth this season,” says Salim Kassam, Vice President of Marketing for Sandman Hotel Group. “Our Company has strong family values, and we are invested in Canada’s children and teenagers, so we feel that Kids Help Phone provides one of the most vital services for kids of all ages these days.”

A Few Facts about Kids Help Phone KHP_EN_1C_RGB

In case you didn’t know, Kids Help Phone provides Canada’s leading toll-free, bilingual, and anonymous online and phone counselling and referral service for children and youth. As a non-profit group, they rely heavily on the support of companies and donors from across the country to ensure that every kid has someone to talk to in a time of need.

Available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day they also ensure that no call for help goes unheard, and their dedication is something that Sandman is proud to support.

‘No matter what young people contact us about – bullying, school, pressures, problems at home – Kids Help Phone’s professional counsellors are always there to provide non-judgemental support to kids from anywhere in Canada,” says Sharon Wood, President and CEO of Kids Help Phone. “Our service is available 24 hours a day, but we can only be there KHP_FR_1C_RGBfor kids through the financial assistance and support of companies and donors. We are delighted that Sandman Hotel Group has joined us in our mission to ensure young people across Canada always have someone to turn to. Thank you Sandman for reminding everyone that we, as individuals and as a caring community, can make a difference.”

Sandman Hotel Group will also be offering special room rates for those who book under the ‘Gift of Giving’ rate, which makes it the perfect present not only for you, but for the kids too!

To find out more about Sandman Hotel Group’s ‘Gift of Giving’ promotion, go to http://www.sandmanhotels.ca/giving

To find out more about Kids Help Phone, go to http://www.kidshelpphone.ca