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Hastings House on Salt Spring offers luxury and Gulf Island charm

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Aug 6th, 2013

The orginal farm house has been converted into two large guest rooms, their only two rooms which allow dogs. This guest house is one of several throughout the grounds. Having the accommodations spread out across the property adds to the relaxing, private feel of the Gulf Island setting.

Having stayed in both hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, I long ago decided that I prefer the B and B experience. I find it much easier to relax in a more informal, calmer atmosphere. And isn’t that why you go on vacation? Also, I love a free breakfast.

Hastings House on Salt Spring Island offers an experience very similar to a bed and breakfast, except with the same standards you would expect from a fine hotel. The grounds are picturesque, everything you might expect from a pastoral island property, dating back well over 100 years. In fact, the original house on the property was a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost before the property was even a farm, around 1850.

Waking up by the Grand Canyon River

Cara Pike
May 31st, 2013

It is morning on the river and the canyon is a reminder of the ever-changing nature of our world. Piles of rock, millions, even billions of years old stand tall, proud, resilient to many forces but also crumble under foot and get washed away in floods, making new formations, new canyons.

The conch is sounded and the new tribe of river adventurers begin to rouse and gather their sandy things.

The sand is everywhere and I’m glad for it. I hope it takes a long time for this ancient canyon dust to come out of my clothes, my books, and my skin.

After breakfast, there is a reading and a river talk. I did not expect our crew to be scientists, historians, plant experts, interpreters. It makes me relieved to know there are people who love and know this place so well and inspire others to tap those values that are deep in all of us yet easy to ignore.

Generosity runs deep in this canyon. Our group shares sun screen, lip balm, stories, smiles, and an openness to connect.

Aava Whistler Hotel in Whistler, BC: value, eco-friendly comfort and convenience

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Mar 29th, 2013

Photo courtesy of the Aava Whistler Hotel Facebook page

The Aava in Whistler is  modern-chic yet inviting. The casually cool vibe extends to the staff. They are informed and available yet unobtrusive.

Photo of the lobby courtesy of Aava Whistler Hotel

Red-hot lava flows like fiery waterfall

Esther Chetner
Dec 11th, 2012

Photos by Esther Chetner

I've always wanted to see fresh, red-hot lava, been intrigued by the emergence of land newer than us. But when you book a trip to Hawaii, getting lucky with lava is like playing roulette. I don't gamble, but I do carpe diem. I searched on the Internet and discovered that our timing was impeccable—this lava only started flowing a few days before we arrived on the Big Island.

We arranged a late afternoon sunset boat trip on a catamaran with 25 people. Locals and visitors, even seasoned observers, were psyched. Captain Dan looked a bit too jovial and casual for comfort but demonstrated his deft maneuvering long before we even got to the hot stuff. We ploughed through five and six-foot waves, often getting doused with spray, holding onto whatever handrails we could find, and bracing our feet as if in stirrups on a horse. The ride was wild. A conceptual precursor to what awaited.  

An adventure along BC's beautiful coast, captured in photos

Esther Chetner
Jul 20th, 2012

Photos by Esther Chetner

While I haven't been using my camera much these days, I did bring it with me to Victoria.  I had a generally glorious few days - even the locals were impressed with where we live.  Sharing some of the sunshine with you.
Speaking of locals.  Those of you in Vancouver are aware of the extreme flooding this year from the Fraser River.  Last week, flying out above the city, the coastal water was remarkable:  there are very clear demarcations within the ocean - lines between the murky, silty, delta water, and the clearer green ocean.  Again this week, on the ferry, you can see the lines separating the two qualities of water.  So strange - you'd think that ocean water in the same pool is ocean water.  But no, even seemingly continuous material has boundaries.  Years ago, I noticed this above the Amazon too.  A reminder that detail can be revealing and intriguing.
The next pics are of a ship that looks like a cross between a cruise ship and a huge yacht.  Ever heard of "The World" - a ship that is a private residence-at-sea?

Hotel Ocho: Living the suite life in Toronto

Zi-Ann Lum
Jul 19th, 2012

Co-owner Louise Choi sitting by Hotel Ocho's bar | Photos by Zi-Ann Lum

Hotel Ocho owner Louise Choi embraced five major life-changing events in the past five years. Born in Suriname and raised in Amsterdam, Choi walked away from her New York career, moved to Toronto, met/married her husband, and became a mother of two. Oh, and she opened a sleek boutique hotel in Toronto's downtown core. 

"I was in finance. And after a while I wanted something new so I thought: Toronto," says Choi. "I really like it. It's very multicultural. The food is amazing here. The only thing I hate is the winters. Really brutal."

Built 110-years ago in 1902, the hotel's large four-storey heritage building has seen its days as a cigar factory and garment warehouse. When Choi first took ownership, the building had become a local eyesore, run-down and boarded up from years of neglect. Its proper renovation would require five years of attention from one of the city's top design firms.

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