Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Canadian Christmas Kick-off: Vancouver-style


As appeared in JustLuxe.com
by Cynthia Dial

At this time of year noted for family, fun and festivities, what better way to revel in the season than a weekend in a city where celebration is effortless? Having hosted such world-renowned fetes as the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver is no stranger to entertaining guests, so pack your bags and head to this chilly Canadian metropolis for a pre-holiday warm-up. Long known as the “Castle on the Hill,” Fairmont Hotel Vancouver seems the epicenter of activity. Follow me for a short but seasonal kickoff that starts in the city’s center on North Georgia Street and continues beyond.
Photo from Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Welcoming surprises begin upon check-in, especially for the smallest of guests and dog lovers (of any size), when greeted by one of the hotel’s resident canine ambassadors – Ella, a yellow lab, and Ellie, a black lab. Continuing with such amenities as a white-terry toddler robe, cookies and milk delivered at bedtime and a miniature stuffed dog named Ella and the hearts of Fairmont’s youngest guests are forever captured.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
An old-fashioned locomotive engine marks the entrance to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Notch8, complete with a steam blast, a train whistle and decked out with holiday items for purchase. So named for the train term, “notch-8” translates to the final notch at which a train can travel (basically the highest speed) – a level that can only be attained when all systems are running perfectly – a name underscoring the restaurant’s goal of perfection. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Famous for its ever-changing themed teas throughout the year – from the Great British Tea Party to the Enchanted Tea Menu – Winter Wonderful Afternoon Tea marks this time of year with such inclusions as fromage frais ‘penguins’ and Battenberg biscuits (a festive green, white and pink dessert), as well as a children’s tea menu. Served in a cozy library-style room within Notch8, the setting is very British, very authentic.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Christmas decorations are everywhere, from the blue-themed Christmas trees in the lobby to the red-and-green decorated trees in the Pacific Ballroom – setting of the annual Santa Claus Breakfast, a morning treat complete with egg entrees, fresh waffle and hot chocolate stations, a cookie decorating table and, of course, a one-on-one with Santa. Followed by the Santa Claus Parade (it’s Western Canada’s largest) which travels a route fronting the hotel, this once-a-year breakfast/parade duo – always the first Sunday in December – is the official kickoff to a full calendar of across-the-city activities.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Set harborside at the home of the Olympic Cauldron lit in holiday red and a background of city lights is the Vancouver Christmas Market with such enticements as a walk-in Christmas tree; a Christmas store featuring shelf after shelf of ornaments; 80 huts of authentic German sweets, treats and treasures; a Gl├╝hwein hut serving mulled wine and a Christmas carousel. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Described as “the transformation of Concord Pacific Place into a magical winter wonderful,” Aurora Winter Festival has animated sculptures, dazzling light displays and ice skating on a frozen river. A complimentary shuttle bus takes revelers from downtown’s Hyatt Hotel (located one block from Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) to view Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge. Here, the suspension bridge, rainforest, canyon and Cliffwalk are transformed by innumerable lights as are the seven suspension bridges of Treetops Adventure. Connected by viewing platforms, the eight 250-year-old Douglas-firs reaching up to 110 feet above the forest floor are the world’s eight tallest Christmas trees.  
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Not to be outdone, Stanley Park’s attractions are equally appealing. Vancouver Aquarium, the country’s largest, offers a holiday tree powered by an electric eel, a jelly fish snow globe, Scuba Claus dives where Santa swims with the fish and the screening of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A 4-D Experience. The price of a donation buys a ticket to Bright Nights in Stanley Park, a fundraiser for the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, where holiday music plays and the Bright Lights Christmas Train and Stanley Park Train Plaza are decorated with approximately three million lights. If there’s interest in the VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights in addition to Bright Nights, the Karaoke Christmas Lights Trolley Tour on festively decorated trolleys equipped with karaoke machines travels to both.
Photo by Cynthia Dial

For those additionally interested in the stage, skating and shopping, there’s more. A Charlie Brown Christmas plays at the Waterfront Theatre. On one the city’s most recognized shopping streets, Robson, is free skating at the Robson Square Ice Rink and Plaza. Shopping can include such fun purchases as ornaments from the Vancouver Christmas Market, the I Saw Santa in Vancouver children’s book which is available at local bookstores, as well as a Naughty, Nice and I Did My Best decorative pillow found at Indigo, Vancouver’s flagship bookstore found on Robson. 
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Indeed, Vancouver’s holiday season offers something for everyone, something for every age – especially Fairmont guests and cousins, three-year-old Reagan Marie and four-year-old Laney London. Upon meeting Santa, Reagan was shy, but Laney took the opportunity to ask for a bike. After hearing her request, Saint Nick responded with a safety-oriented query: “And what will you always wear if I bring you a bike?” When she looked puzzled, he pointed to his head. And without hesitation, she answered, “A Santa hat.”

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #hotelvancouver #christmasinvancouver #castleonthehill #explorebc

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What's in a Number? The Meaning Behind Assigned Flight Numbers


American Airlines Celebrates the Country’s Founding, Every Day
Photo by Cynthia Dial
On April 18, 1775 Paul Revere rode through what’s now Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Massachusetts, to warn that British troops were enroute and that they sought to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock.

The American revolution began that month, but it was July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress in Philadelphia formally declared independence and two days later that it approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence.

Today you can fly Philadelphia – Boston round trip each afternoon on American flight AA1776. And American offers Sam Adams beer on board.

Fly Lucky 7’s to Las Vegas

There are 7 days of the week, 7 seas, and 7 continents. God is said to have rested on the 7th day. There are 7 deadly sins and 7 wonders of the ancient world. If 7 is lucky, then 777 is triply so: on most slot machines 777 is jackpot.

So, it’s appropriate that American Airlines flight AA777 runs the Phoenix – Las Vegas route.

Good Luck in China

When the airline eventually flies Los Angeles or Dallas – Guangzhou to connect up with China Southern, in which it owns a small stake, they’ll need to re-assign flight 888 from Pittsburgh – Philadelphia in celebration of the luck that venture will bring them.

Incidentally neither American nor United nor Delta regularly offers a flight 666.

Excerpted from View from the Wing and by Gary Leff

#travel #traveltips #traveltuesday #traveltidbits #travelingcynthia #americanairlines #meaningofairlineflightnumbers


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Places That Don't Want You to Visit

From Fodors.com

Similar to what was included in our list for 2018, places in the world who are capping tourism or whose residents have spoken out about how it’s detrimental to their home. Last year, destinations such as Amsterdam, Machu Picchu, Venice, Santorini, and Koh Tachai were all examples of places that were overwhelmed by their own tourism industry. This year, more are begging tourists to reconsider how and when they travel.

Venice, Italy
Photo by Cynthia Dial

Residents of Isle of Skye, Scotland, have complained about traffic and congestion clogging up roads and throughways, especially near famed ethereal Fairy Pools, and hope that if tourists do come, they will look beyond one site with respect to the locals. 

Chile’s remote and ancient Easter Island, with its World Heritage Site monolithic human sculptures, have drawn curious tourists who are overstaying their welcome—they could once stay for 90 days, but it’s since been curtailed to 30. “Foreigners are already taking over the island. They’re damaging the local idiosyncrasy, the 1,000-year culture is changing and not for the good,” said mayor Petro Edmunds. Ana Maria Gutierrez, the local government’s environmental adviser, warns that, “Environmentally, the island is very fragile” and basic services are under strain–not least, waste management. A decade ago, the island produced 1.4 metric tons of waste per year. Now, it produces nearly twice that amount at 2.5 metric tons a year. 

In Dubrovnik, where Game of Thrones fervor has reached a fever pitch, with locals claiming Old Town has become “Disneyland,” especially due to multiple cruise dockings on the same day. 

And most alarmingly, in Mallorca, a local campaign to protest mass tourism led to a “summer of action” where campaigners vandalized hotels, demonstrated at the airport, and tagged graffiti proclaiming “ “tourism kills the city.”

In all these cases, the residents and locals emphasize that it’s not necessarily the tourists themselves who cause the frustration that comes from living in a tourism economy, but often poor management of resources from the region’s governmental and business leaders who exploit the situation. 

Feel like you just have to visit? Consider off-season, veer away from tourist hot spots, and make sure to be considerate of the people who live in your vacation destination.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

You Had Me at Hello or Did You?


I love this article, as it makes you think about those cities you instantly love and those with whom you initially don't like but slowly begin to love. And why??

By Nomadic Matt

HELLO LA

How are you? I'm in L.A. this week for meetings, meet-ups, collabs, and visits with friends and family. It's amazing how my love for L.A. has grown over the years. The more time I spend here, the more I love it.
During my first visits, I hated Los Angeles.
Maybe it was the traffic. Maybe it was vanity. Maybe the smog. Or the hippie-dippie way of life. I know it was definitely in part the lack of public transportation.  I could never put my finger on it fully but something about LA just always rubbed me the wrong way.
But then, one day, everything just clicked. I couldn't wait to visit and was sad when I left.  It hit me recently why.
I hated LA for the same reason I originally hated Bangkok.  And I love LA for the same reasons I fell in love with Bangkok.
LA isn’t like Hong Kong, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Sydney, or a bunch of other things where you can go down a long list, drink in the culture, find stuff easily, get around easily, and get a feel for the place in a short period of time.
It’s a city you live in not a city you visit.  Just like Bangkok.
LA is an onion and requires you to peel back the layers over time. You need to let the city unveil itself to you.
I began to love Bangkok when I stopped traveling, stayed put, and started to see the city as a resident. When I got know it beyond the temples and the tourist trail. When I found hidden markets, amazing street stalls with only locals, became friends with my hairdresser and the expats of the city.
When I understood how the city operates, suddenly I knew why people loved it so much.  And I began to love it.  I began to love LA when the same thing happened.
I think that's why I never liked it when I first visited. I expected it to be like Paris, London, Tokyo, or New York. A city with lots of tourist activities that's easy to get around.  And it wasn't that.  But the more I got to know it, the more I liked it!
The moral of the story: never judge a destination by the first time you visit.
There are so many factors that determine how you feel about a place - weather, traffic, the people in your hostel, your interactions with locals - that every place always deserves a second chance.  And, yes, that even means my least favorite place in the world - Vietnam.  I would go back there if the opportunity arose.
So never count a destination out. You never know what can happen on that second visit!
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I Think We Should Change the Definition of Travel

By Nomadic Matt


People like to think of travel as this thing you do in faraway lands. They think that travel is about getting on flights to places that don’t speak their language, have different customs, a different history, different food, and different climate.
Helsinki
Idaho
San Diego
Photos of Cynthia Dial 

Travel is the act of going to the exotic, they say.  But I don’t agree with that definition. To me, travel is the act of going somewhere new. That can be to a country half a world away. Or, it could be to the next town over. Or, it could be simply when you explore your own town for the first eyes (the staycation).
Anywhere can be a travel destination.
When I travel, so many people tell me that I've seen more of their country than they have. I remind them they could travel their own country too. "I guess," they reply and move on to the next subject. I'm always amazed by how few people explore their own country.
There’s something special about being a stranger in your homeland and realizing you really don’t know much about it as you thought. We think because we’re born in a place we understand it but every country has regional differences that make it unique and, unless we travel to see and experience them, we'll never fully understand the place we call home.
Driving across my country (the U.S.) taught me a lot about it. It gave me a deep appreciation for it, the people, and the diversity within its borders. It broke down stereotypes and misconceptions I had about the different regions in the US. My time exploring my own backyard was just as important to my growth as any trip to a foreign country.
If you're on a limited budget, can't afford a flight or a trip to exotic land, or just want to do something different, don't forget that you can always travel your own country. It can be just as powerful as visiting another country.
Expand the definition of travel.
And be a stranger in your homeland!
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #definitionoftravel 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Survey on Air Travel Etiquette and Comfort


Excerpted from Genfare.com

Air travel gets us where we need to go, but it can also make for a long, long day. As the amenities start to dwindle and the leg room gets smaller, it’s easy to get worn out and uncomfortable during a flight. In fact, our survey revealed that the average amount of time before people get uncomfortable on a flight is three hours.

Photo by Cynthia Dial

So, what do travelers do to combat this discomfort? In order to get more comfortable on a flight, many fliers will try adjusting their seat or using a travel pillow while others may kick off their shoes and socks. But is this socially acceptable? According to our survey, 64% said it’s OK to take their shoes off, and 20% said it’s OK to take your socks off to get more comfortable during a flight.

Lastly, we asked our survey to rank flying annoyances. Coming in at No. 1 with 54% of the vote was getting your seat kicked. A crying child followed seat kicking with 27% of the vote and body odor came in third with 26% of the vote. Other flying annoyances were a talkative passenger, inattentive parents, a drunk passenger, a seat pulled back or leaned on, snoring, rushing to get off the plane as soon as it gets to the gate, a reclining seat, a passenger putting their feet up, smelly food, man-spreading, a passenger removing their socks or shoes, bright screens on phones, non-service dogs, and finally in last place was dressing sloppy, which bothered just 1% of our survey.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remember September 11, 2001

Seventeen years ago I flew to DC shortly after the tragedy of September 11 to be with my friend, Linda Mathes, CEO, American Red Cross of the National Capital Region, and as a former Red Crosser, help in any way I could. My day at the Pentagon was the most difficult.
Most poignant for me was an intact desk visible through the building's gaping black hole -- a dark reminder that someone was simply working when the unimaginable occurred.

#september112001 #wewillneverforget #unitedwestand