Vancouver - TRAVEL & LEISURE
April 22nd, 2013
Bicycle shorts, clunky helmets, and rain ponchos. Cycling does not often conjure up the most fashionable of images.
Luckily, Opus Bikes’ Nuovella model is probably the furthest thing from a mountain or racing bike, and as close as we are going to get to Chanel’s wheels. This stylish, retro-looking bicycle boasts features like Shimano brakes and internal gears that change incredibly smoothly, as well as great design.
We are imagining ourselves doing good for the environment by forgoing the car and biking through Vancouver on a sunny day while wearing a nautical striped sweater.
Now that's life in the bike lane.—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
Opus Nuovella bike, $912 at Ace Cycle Shop, 3155 Broadway, Vancouver, 604-738-9818, www.acecycles.com
April 11th, 2013
One family navigates the happiest place on Earth – and comes up all smiles.
California Adventure Park, the new theme park right beside Disneyland, is less busy and has rides and activities for all ages – including lots that will appeal to older boys (i.e. fewer princesses). Number one pick: Soaring Over California has you swinging on a chair lift, wind in your hair, with a bird’s eye view of the Golden State. If you are not the hang gliding type, be prepared to white knuckle it.
Cars Land has been getting all kinds of press (not least for the two-hour line ups) so either get a FastPass for priority entry or follow our survival tips (see sidebar). The Radiator Springs Racer ride is the highlight, simulating a Formula 1-style race. Recommended for brave kids aged 7 to 47. Luigi’s Flying Tires is fun for the whole family, and is one of the few rides where you can steer (lets crash Daddy!).
The fastest way to get into California Adventure Land is through the private entrance for guests of the Grand California Hotel. That’s just one reason to stay there. The Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, location right in Downtown Disneyland, early entrance to the parks, and the childcare centre are reasons two through five. http://disneyland.disney.go.com
While there is no WiFi in the theme parks, the new, free Disneyland Explorer app is a fun way to pass the time in lineups and plan your next activity or area.
While there are lots of novelty foods (churros and turkey legs everywhere), the most civilized option is Wine Country Trattoria in Disney Adventure Park, where a shaded patio lets you rise above the fray for an hour. Try the Fritto Misto ($9.99) a heaping plate of lightly breaded calamari, mussels, green beans and artichoke hearts, with the Honig Vineyards sauvignon blanc. Kids meals include sustainable fish and come with a free starter of fruit and veggies. Now this how we Disney.
April 5th, 2013
Gardening might be a dirty business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add some colour to the yard, before the flowers bloom.
Dramm ColourStorm watering supplies add a pretty and practical dose of colour to the yard. Mix and match rainbow-coloured sprinklers, hoses, watering pistols, and wands so you can add a pop of colour to your lawn, and actually find the hose in the grass. Starting at $12.99 for a pistol at Maple Leaf Garden Center, 1343 Lynn Valley Rd, North Vancouver, 604-985-1784. www.mapleleafgardencentre.ca
Garant’s Canadian made kids tools make it easy for little hands to get involved in the garden. Featuring a range of rakes and shovels, we are planning on giving them a little plot and helping them start their own vegetable garden. If they grow kale, maybe they will eat it, too. $6.59 each from Rona. http://garant.com
Having moved into a great pad complete with vegetable garden and tons of foliage made me happy for five minutes then completely terrified that my black thumb would kill it all and my son would never look at me the same way again. I mean if Curious George can grow prize worthy carrots mom should be able to right? Wrong. So I tapped the gurus at Victory Gardens spearheaded by the lovely Lisa Giroday (who also used to help me buy Vanessa Bruno bags at the now Toronto-based Jonathan + Olivia) to get my backyard into full swing for spring. Our initial consult was a mere $40, which is then applied to the package we went with which included a soil overhaul, seed and plant purchasing, planting as well as a coaching session for me and my son. For an additional $35 a week Lisa and team will harvest your garden and leave your bounty in a basket on your doorstep. Take that Whole Foods! (Photo by Jennilee Marigomen)
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg and Tara Parker Tait
March 28th, 2013
With its black sand beaches, lush rainforest and natural hot springs, it’s no wonder we’re crushing on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. We took a trip to the “sleepy south” and found laid back resorts, natural beauty, and plenty of local flavour.
At Anse Chastanet no two rooms are alike but all include local art and a breezy Caribbean vibe. Ask for 14B, which has a tree growing through the rainfall shower (pictured). The hotel has four restaurants - including one that’s exclusively vegetarian - and two beaches with oceanside service. Make the trek over to Anse Mamin, the hotel’s more remote beach, for a Caribbean spice burger tucked between a Jonny Cake, a local bread grilled fresh to order. www.ansechastanet.com
Hotel Chocolat grows 10 per cent of the island’s cocoa. Tour the hotel’s Rabot Estate cocoa groves, pluck a pod, and craft your own dark bar with the Tree to Bar experience. Afterwards, reward yourself with a fresh cacao martini in the hotel bar. http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/home
Locals swear by the healing power of the sulphur springs, part of your entrance fee the Caribbean’s only “drive-in” volcano. Bring a dark swimsuit, cover yourself in volcanic mud, then dip into the natural (45 degree!) hot springs. http://soufrierefoundation.org
Guests at Jade Mountain benefit from more than just in-suite infinity pools and unobstructed views of the Pitons. At the Kai en Cielis spa the chocolate body wrap is good enough to eat but it’s the hotel’s own handmade chocolates, given at the end of the treatment, that really sweeten the experience. www.jademountain.com
Every Friday the town of Anse La Raye plays host to a fish fry dance party. Choose from snapper, mahi mahi, shrimp, box fish or spiny lobster then watch as your plate is piled high with homemade rice and peas, mac and cheese and coleslaw. (Sorry about the lack of photo, but were were too busy eating!)—Shannon Heth Vergette
March 21st, 2013
While the “world’s greatest freakshow” still entices tourists to Venice Beach, we prefer to explore the the spots where laid back cool belies some serious sophistication. What’s the heart of Venice Beach these days? The action has shifted to Rose Avenue, a few blocks over, where rents are cheaper, the stores more eclectic and you can breathe in the potential of a neighbourhood that is about to become the new “it.” Get there before the others do.
333 ½ Rose Avenue, an eco-luxe vacation rental remodelled by a local architect, is spacious and private, and close enough to the beach, restaurants and shops. Park the car, rent a cruiser bike, a.k.a. Venice’s de-facto wheels and you will slip into local mode instantly. www.vacationrentals.com
Oscar’s Cerveteca (pictured) is the neighbourhood joint for all occasions, but brunch is a standout with wild salmon tacos that arrive in steaming tortillas; beer battered waffles with caramelized peaches and applewood bacon; and (for those with lighter tastes,) a tasty breakfast salad with greens, avocado and grapefruit. 523 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.cervetecala.com
Located in the Archstone, a new Platinum Leed Certified building that cemented Rose Avenue’s gentrification, Café Gratitude’s Venice outpost features the San Francisco-based organic, vegan chain’s signature juices, elixirs, smoothies and delicious southwest inspired vegan cuisine that will entice you no matter what your eating preferences may be. The raw desserts are exceptional. 512 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.cafegratitudevenice.com
Over at Moon Juice (pictured), try the Goodness Greens for a morning boost and a pure ginger shot with raw honey if you need some more immune boosting zing for your California Glow at this cold-pressed organic juice bar flocked by cleansing devotees. 507 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.moonjuiceshop.com
Venice Beach Wines is where you go for your post sunset glass of prosecco, or perhaps a crisp Belgian ale. The tiny patio is also perfect for a post dinner conversation over a bottle of that hard to find zinfandel from Mendocino. Venice Beach Wines, 529 Rose Ave. www.venicebeachwines.com
Yes, Rose Avenue also has the requisite artsy coffee/ breakfast hangout. That would be Flake. Come for the coffee, stay for the decadent Acai bowls with heapings of fresh fruit and granola. 513 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.veniceflake.com
Eclectic lifestyle store The Golden State pays a nostalgia-meets-today homage to Southern California culture. Browse one of a kind art prints by local artists, find a vintage inspired one-piece by cult swimwear lines Salt or Cali Dreaming, and pick up a hand thrown platter by Venice’s own potters Luna Garcia. 564 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.thegoldenstatestore.com
Founded by a botanist who views plants as the ultimate art, the Big Red Sun is a dreamy emporium filled with things you will want both inside and outside your “perfect” home. It also moonlights as a setting for invite-only pop up dinners. Leaf through a coffee table book on design diva Vera; covet a vintage French linen upholstered armchair; or lose yourself in the inviting garden out back. If you stay long enough, you may snag an invite to dinner. 560 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.bigredsun.com
February 28th, 2013
Let your inner ski bunny shine as you jaunt from hill to hill at Vail Resorts Colorado, the largest ski resort in the United States. Not only is it home to some of the best snow in the world, but it is also a great spot to explore mountain-village life.
If you are going to stay anywhere in Vail, you’ll want to be as close to the bottom of the mountain as possible, and you can’t get any closer than The Lodge at Vail. Built in 1962, it has all of the classic alpine-inspired elements of a traditional ski lodge, not to mention incredible views of the mountains and a big fireplace for Après-ski wind down. www.lodgeatvail.rockresorts.com
Looking for a way to see everything in one fell swoop? The stunning Gondola One at Vail was unveiled last year for their 50th anniversary and features heated seats and in-car complimentary WiFi. Plus, you get a bird's eye view of the skiers below. www.vail.com/mountain
If mountainside dining is your flavour, The 10th on Vail Mountain is the one for you. Gondola One will take you straight to the restaurant or, better yet, ski right in. Large and welcoming, this upscale dining room brings fine dining and snow pants to a union never seen before. A warm and hearty meal like the Elk Bolognese with Penne was the perfect kickstart to get us back in our boots. www.vail.com/lodging-and-dining
While the après-ski is essential to any winter vacation, hydration and body care are also essential (translation: spa day!). The Arrabelle Spa at Vail Square will treat you right with their luxe spa accommodations. Arrive early to take advantage of their hydrotherapy pool in the women’s relaxation room. Booking a full body Swedish massage just seems like the right thing to do after a day of hard work on the hills. www.arrabelle.rockresorts.com/spa/index.asp
Every vacation must have a shopping trip tacked on, which is why we fell in love with Perch at Vail Square. Nary a ski jacket to be seen, this girly boutique was stocked with beautiful cocktail dresses, designer baubles and sweet accessories. Truly a one-of-a-kind finds in a village jam-packed with outerwear and Vail t-shirts. http://www.perchvail.com
February 27th, 2013
We spent a family day in scenic New Westminster bonding over potstickers, pretending to be pop stars and playing with flying trapezes at River Market.
From Wally’s Burgers to Wild Rice to Re-Up BBQ, the dining options here are stellar (with more exciting ones to come). Come for lunch, stay for dinner.
If you’ve been known to sleuth New West’s Antique Row, you will recognize Midcentury Modern Home, now relocated to the market. Beautiful Danish lamps, and items small and large get snapped up by the new crop of resident young hipsters.
What market is complete without a stellar cheese shop? Pick up your Morbiere and Tomme de Savoie at this modern outlet of La Grotta Del Formaggio, www.lgdf.ca
Learn the ropes (literally) with the excellent young instructors at Vancouver Circus School. Our kids loved the clowning techniques, trampoline, swinging and spinning plates on a stick while going down the slide. www.vancouvercircusschool.ca
The beautifully designed space (think modular Japanese) that is Music Box will have your wee ones practicing their scales, then recording a CD to send to Grandma. Our 7-year-old's rendition of Call Me Maybe is, um, priceless. www.musicboxnw.ca
February 14th, 2013
Queenstown, one of the filming locations for a little movie about Middle Earth, is the perfect jump-off for exploring New Zealand's South Island. The beautiful scenery and delicious vineyards make for an equally chic and sportif trip.
Queenstown’s Matakauri Lodge is situated on Lake Wakatipu and overlooks The Remarkables mountain range. Book through luxury boutique concierge service Mr & Mrs Smith to receive a complimentary “Smith Extra”, currently a gourmet picnic hamper for two. www.mrandmrssmith.com
Visit the charming Amisfield Winery Bistro for dinner. Select "trust the chef" for a multi-course, simple yet stylish meal. Ours was completed with a chocolate and praline confection expertly paired with their deliciously honeyed sticky wine, produced with the "noble rot" method. Head over to the winery shop after to purchase a few bottles- Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are also good buys from this Central Otago winery. www.amisfield.co.nz
For a little cinematic escape, visit The Dorothy Browns Theatre in neighboring Arrowtown (you may even catch a screening of The Hobbit!). This stylish cinema offers a selection of both blockbusters and art-house films. Order a glass of local wine and a cheese plate to enjoy while you watch your movie. www.dorothybrowns.com
The Postmasters Residence in Arrowtown is a quaint restaurant in a heritage garden cottage. We ordered the caramelized banana and brioche French toast. With bacon. And mimosas. After all, vacation is the time to indulge! Fiending for less sugar and more caffeine? Bob’s Weigh in town brews a good cup. www.postmasters.co.nz
From Queenstown you can charter a helicopter air tour to visit world-renowned Milford Sound. But, we recommend saving your Kiwi dollars and rent a car- when a road has "UNESCO World Heritage" designation you know it'll be worth the drive. Once at Milford Sound, join a 2-3 hour boat tour. Budget two days for the journey, with a night in Te Anau, so you can stop at the many scenic points and wineries along the way.
February 9th, 2013
Taking your kids to Paris? Read this first! Or, “How do you say umbrella stroller in French?”
Get your bearings with day passes for the BatoBus, sightseeing boats that stop every 15 minutes along the Seine so you can hop on and off at all the major monuments ($15 Euros/day). It’s the best way to get the pretty and sprawling Jardins Des Plantes with its Menagerie (the oldest zoo in the world opened in 1794). Don’t miss Nenette, the famous 40 year-old orangutan. Hint: if you go just before closing at 5, you can see the cats get fed whole chickens. Menagerie Du Jardins Des Plantes 9 Euros/7 Euros.
The L’Ouvre and Musee D’Orsay are for a different trip. To get your culture fix, head to the Centre Pompidou, the famous inside-out art gallery. The very best view of Paris is from its rooftop café (try the Vietnamese spring rolls) and there are lots of free activities for kids in and around the lobby and grounds, plus a great gift shop. www.centrepompidouparis.com
Hands down my favourite afternoon was spent at the stunning Jardins Luxemburg. Check out the art exhibits in its Orangerie, ponder the immaculate topiaries, and make sure to rent the affordable wooden boats (pictured) for your kids to play with in the main fountain. There is a pretty garden and wading pool just for kids under 5, which makes a nice oasis for a picnic from nearby Le Petit Luxe (2 Rue de Vaugirard) which has inventive take-away salads and sandwiches for just 3 Euros (hence line-ups).
If your local science centre were designed by Philippe Starck and housed in a massive sculpture park, you are beginning to get a sense of the sheer scale and scope of Paris’ Cite des Enfants. We wished we had a whole day to explore inside and out, but at the very least take them to the main science experiences where they can “work” in a water factory, play with a light wall, collaborate in a kiddie construction site and stimulate their growing grey matter. Cite Des Sciences, www.cite-sciences.fr
Even the best parents deserve a date night in Paris. We used the babysitting service Baby Chou and met a wonderful English-speaking au pair named Aude. Ask for her! It is better to phone rather than book online. 9 Euros/hour plus agency fee. 01 43 65 58 58, www.babychou.com
Be prepared to carry strollers up and down Metro stairs and wait for grumpy attendants to open access doors beside the turnstiles. For shorter journeys, taxis are better (get a business card and reserve a “maxi cab” for your trip to the airport).
Remember: the Eiffel Tower is best viewed from the park at its base, don’t waste half a day dodging pickpockets in the lineups. Instead, take them to the Eiffel Tower Carousel, the prettiest in the city.
We found that picnicking in parks was better than trying to keep the steak knives and wine glasses out of tiny hands. Not to mention all the glares we avoided this way. If you have rented an apartment like we did, even better.
Credit cards and online reservations are de rigeur, but you will find that your booking can’t be retrieved with a foreign credit card. This applies to train tickets, museum passes, etc. Be prepared to line up.
The 12% VAT can add up. Make sure to carry your passport number and ask for a tax form at point of purchase. You can get the tax back in cash at the airport before you check in as long as you have your purchases on hand to present to them.
February 7th, 2013
High fashion indie shops congregate in the Marais alongside to-the-trade fashion, great art, and, like everywhere in Paris, hot girls on bikes! A tour:
Stop for delicious (and affordable) café alongé (Americano) and pain au chocolat at Christain LeCroix’s favourite neighbourhood spot, Le Sancerre. If you have kids, let them run wild in the gated park across the street. 87 Rue des Archives, Paris.
Pick up the best bedding, table linens, Japanese stationery, and maybe even a Vanessa Bruno coat at the famous 3-storey lifestyle store, Merci. Look for special collaborations with the likes of Maison Martin Margiela (trompe d’oeil door, pictured). The adjoining restaurant is known for its healthy fare. 111 Boul., Beaumarché, Paris, www.merci-merci.com
Designer children’s clothes like you have never seen (baby Chloé!) are up to 60 per cent off at the clearance outlet of Fifi de Vem. 17 Rue de Turenne, Paris.
The Lebanese couscous counter at the lively food market dating back to 1615, Marché Des Enfants Rouge is known city-wide. Great for a refueling pitstop at the end of a fun day. 39 Rue de Bretagne, Paris.
Open till 7:30 pm, the flagship store for Isabel Marant does inventory every two hours. Watch the chauffeurs crowding the street waiting for their charges doing serious credit card damage inside. Pale blue leather leggings anyone? 47 Rue de Saintonge, www.isabelmarant.tm.fr
Just a block away is the hush-hush tequila bar housed in the back of the teensy taqueria that everyone is talking about, Candelaria. You mean you went all the way to Paris for cheap Mexican food? We sure did. 52 Rue de Saintonge, Paris, www.candelariaparis.com