Ballet With the Ball: A Love Story

women's world cup, FIFA
Originally published by John Lanchester, National Geographic, June 2006

Why do we fall in love with soccer? What happens?

At some deep level, the reason soccer snags us is that good soccer is beautiful, and it’s difficult, and the two are related.

A team kicking the ball to each other, passing into empty space that is suddenly filled by a player who wasn’t there two seconds ago and who is running at full pelt and who without looking or breaking stride knocks the ball back to a third player who he surely can’t have seen, who, also at full pelt and without breaking stride, then passes the ball, at say 60 miles an hour, to land on the head of a fourth player who has run 75 yards to get there and who, again all in stride, jumps and heads the ball with, once you realize how hard this is, unbelievable power and accuracy toward a corner of the goal just exactly where the goalkeeper, executing some complex physics entirely without conscious thought and through muscle-memory, has expected it to be, so that all this grace and speed and muscle and athleticism and attention to detail and power and precision will never appear on a score sheet and will be forgotten by everybody a day later–this is the strange fragility, the evanescence of soccer.

It’s hard to describe and it is even harder to do, but it does have a deep beauty, a beauty hard to talk about and that everyone watching a game discovers for themselves, a secret thing, and this is the reason why soccer, which has so much ugliness around it and attached to it, still sinks so deeply into us: Because it is, it can be, so beautiful.


women's world cup

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is finally here!

Canadian Living magazine went behind the scenes with the Canadian national women's soccer team. From superstitions to pre-game food to the musicians they rock out to (you won't believe who!), here are the secrets to team Canada's success.

How do you celebrate a win?
“Usually by singing Celine Dion … After one of our big wins last year, or a couple of years in the Cyprus Cups, we had the stereo system in the locker room and we popped in Celine Dion and started singing at the top of our lungs. And that’s usually, as a team, what we do. If anybody walked by they’d think: What a bunch of crazy Canadians. I can’t sing worth anything, but I am singing at the top of my lungs.”
– Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, 31 years old, from Maple Ridge, B.C.

“A lot of dancing, music … (and, after a tournament) Celine Dion’s Power of Love, that’s a good one.”
– Forward Melissa Tancredi, 29, Hamilton, Ont.

“Usually in the locker room we end up singing some kind of Celine Dion song … You can thank Karine LeBlanc for that one.”
– Forward Christine Sinclair, 27, from Burnaby, B.C.

women's world cup

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from a coach?
“Just to be confident in my own skill and my own ability and just to believe in myself. As a girl growing up you’re not expected to be boisterous or look into yourself and be who you are, it’s always like ‘stay in the back, be a team player.’ For a coach to come up to you and say ‘you’re better than you think you are,’ and to push it out of you is the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”
– M.T.

The team’s pre-game rituals
“Music is a must. And, for me, when I put my shin guards on and my cleats, and even when I get my ankles taped, it’s always left side first …”
– M.T.

More of the team’s pre-game rituals
“Left to right: you’ve gotta put on everything from left to right (when getting dressed for the game). And definitely say a prayer. I always say a prayer right before I enter the field and during the national anthem.”
– K.L.

“I always have to make sure my laces are tied extremely tight before a game. If they’re too lose it sets me off.”
– Forward Jonelle Filigno, 20, from Mississauga, Ont.

women's world cup

Favourite pre-game meals
“My pre-game meal is always a big plate of pasta.”
– J.F.

“Pre-game it’s usually plain, simple pasta. Especially with an Italian as a head coach, she’s all about the pasta and the crostata before a game.”
– C.S.

“Actually a lot of us have been taking these goo packets, which are supposed to be a lot of simple sugars right before we play and they taste like chocolate icing, so they’re delicious.”
– Midfielder Diana Matheson, 27, from Oakville, Ont.

Post-game snacks
“Post-game, right away we have Parmesan. It’s gonna sound weird to people but Parmesan is what I look forward to. Parmesan is the first thing we eat in the locker room, as weird as that sounds. I’m a cheese-lover, too, so it works.”
– M.T.

“Certain members of our team are obsessed with Parmesan cheese. I’m not quite there: It’s hard for me to want to stick a brick of Parmesan cheese in my mouth after a game!”
– C.S.


As a Canadian owned and operated company, with hotels in both Canada and the UK, Sandman Hotel Group is excited to cheer for both Team Canada and Team England. Who will you be cheering for?

Click here for a full tournament schedule.

World Cup, women's world cup, FIFA

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!

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.

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!

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