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.

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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.

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Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix Speeds In to Montreal

Montreal F1Few cities can compete with Montreal’s mouth-watering mix of food, festivals, and fun-centric living.

Montreal is a beautiful slice of old Europe in a pie of contemporary design. A day’s wander might take you through the photogenic 18th-century facades of Old Montreal followed by a cycling tour of the lovely Canal de Lachine, or take you through the glittering shops and restaurants of downtown, ending at the inviting terraced cafes of Plateau Mont-Royal. The architectural sweep of the city takes in a wealth of heritage churches such as the breathtaking Basilique Notre-Dame, as well as 20th-century icons like the Stade Olympique and Habitat 67.

If your’re looking for a summer getaway sure to inspire and motivate, then Sandman Hotel Montreal-Longueuil is the perfect place for you.

It’s not just about the race. It’s about a whole city coming alive with excitement. People arriving in Montreal from every part of the globe with one common objective – Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix!

Hailed as the biggest sporting event in the country, the annual Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix fuels Montreal’s historic streets with excitement for weeks on end. From June 5-7, 2015, this illustrious international event, held every June on Parc Jean-Drapeau’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, is the only Canadian stop on the Formula One World Championship schedule and is the place to be for fans who love car racing or who enjoy thrills.

With events happening all over the city, Sandman couldn’t be more excited and is the ideal location for all your needs. The metro station which takes you to the Grand Prix is across the street (literally steps away) and will drop you off at the track. It’s absolutely perfect.

La Ronde

If Formula 1 isn’t your cup of tea, and you’re looking for a family-friendly vacation, then La Ronde is the perfect place for you.

La Ronde is the largest theme park in Eastern Canada. Inaugurated during Expo 67, La Ronde offers over 40 rides and attractions including Goliath — one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in North America.

Offering exciting rides and attractions, dazzling shows, as well as entertainment, this large amusement park, can be seen from the hotel. It doesn’t get more convenient than that.

See you this summer in Montreal!

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!

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.

Let the Ski Season Begin

Sandman Powder

Let the Ski Season Begin

We’ve all heard the stereotypes about Canada. Some say it is a country full of wild bears and others call it a barren prairieland full of snow. While there may be a few Grizzlies in the woods up here, we Canadians know that the majority of us certainly don’t spend our days running around in plaid shirts fending the furry creatures off with our burly northern physiques and hand carved axes.

However, when it comes to the white stuff, we are pretty proud to admit that during the winter, more often than not, you can find an abundance of the pristine powder on almost every mountain.

Amen for that because if you’re an avid skier, snowboarder, snow shoer, tuber or beyond, there’s an unlimited amount of wonderland to see and ski in Canada this season!

Just to give you an idea of all the great snowy terrain, here are a few of our favourite Canadian mountain picks for 2013.

Rev Up for the Downhill Fun at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC

Revelstoke Mountain Resort SkiFast becoming a hot spot for thrill seekers and resort enthusiasts alike, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has been getting outstanding press left, right, and center. So much so that is has been deemed by the Telegraph in the UK as ‘The Greatest Ski Resort on Earth.’ Not to mention, it is also ranked in the top 10 of many ‘best ski resort’ lists worldwide.

Perhaps all these merits are the reason why, once again, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is the only Canadian destination to host the world-famous Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face (only 6 locations in the world get to host this famed event every year!).

Or, it could be the mountains stats. For example, Revelstoke Mountain Resort boasts North America’s greatest vertical at 1,713 metres or (5620 feet). You’ll also find 3,121 acres of fall line skiing, 13 areas of gladed terrain and, the pièce de résistance… RMR is the only resort in the world to offer lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing from one village base.

As an added bonus, if you’re looking for a great family getaway, the resort also has a new Turtle Creek Beginner Area & Tube Park for all the learners and young ones to enjoy. Truly, this destination is the full powder package and then some.

Place to Stay:

Sandman Hotel Revelstoke

White Wonderland in Whistler, BC

Whistler BcFamed for being the host resort for the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler and Blackcomb are two mountains which, combined, offer adventurists a whopping 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, and three glaciers.

Tricksters can have a blast at the exceptional Nintendo Terrain Park where pipes, tables, and boxes align the slope in abundance, making way for some excellent scenery for the chairlift onlookers from above.

Just an hour from Vancouver, and less than 30 minutes from Squamish, this world-class ski resort is easily accessible from Highway 1 and offers drivers some spectacular scenery along the way.
Oh and did we mention that the two mountains are connected by the world’s longest free span gondola? At 4.4 km long, you’ll experience panoramic views unlike any other in the world. Connecting the two epic mountains, the ride will give you an idea of all the amazing terrain at Whistler and Blackcomb – and if you’re lucky, you can ride in one of the two glass bottomed carriages, both which truly show the full extent of this construction wonder.

Sandman Hotel Squamish

A Mountain of Fun at Mont Tremblant, Quebec

Set North of Montreal, Mont Tremblant is famed for being the city’s go-to ski destination. The resort has 41 trails and one of the highest Mont Tremblantverticals in the East Coast of Canada. In addition, it is set against the gorgeous Laurentian Mountain range, offering a splendid host of sights and sounds to see.

If you’re in Montreal, you can drive here in less than an hour and a half and experience the charming slopes which offer a great variety for both beginner and advanced skiers.

Where to Stay:

Sandman Hotel Montreal – Longueuil

So there you have it. Canada may be vast, but it is far from barren. You could even say it is ripe with snowy opportunities eh?