Clandestine Dinner Kitchens of Distinction - Amazing!


Last night we attended a “Clandestine Dinner”.  To keep things a secret, we find out where to go at the last minute.  We meet the other guests when we get there, and the menu unfolds once we sit down at the table.  I grew up on meat and potatoes, so a secret menu is kind of scary. 
This dinner was hosted by Kitchens of Distinction Culinary Arts and owner and head chef Shirley Lang.  The dinners are small and intimate with around ten guests and are designed to give talented local chefs an opportunity to showcase their skills.  The real trick is getting invited to one of these events.   Well, that is really not too hard to do, apparently!  To get your name(s) in the pool, just email Shirley at secret@kitchensofdistinction.caand soon you will be receiving notifications of these exciting, delicious and mysterious “clandestine” events.
Our dinner turned out to be a “Journey to Morocco”.  Moroccan cuisine is considered one of the most influential cuisines in the world.  Located in North Africa, it influences date back in history of its many colonizers and immigrants.  The first inhabitants, the Berbers, left staple dishes of tagine and couscous.
The Arab invasion brought new spices, nuts, and dried fruits, as well as the sweet and sour combinations.  The Moors introduced olives and citrus while the Jewish-Moors left behind their sophisticated preserving techniques that we see in the frequent use of preserved lemons, pickles, etc.
The Ottoman Empire introduced kebabs and even the short-lived French Colony, left behind cafes, pastries, and even wine.  Over time, cooks in the kitchens of the four royal cities (Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat) have developed and perfected the dishes that blend each of these distinctive tastes.  Every Moroccan dish has its place in society and varies with the market, the season, and the region.
As we arrived at the table, we were provided with a menu.  Each course was unique and for me, surprisingly delicious.  Our pictorial will demonstrate the quality of the dinner.  To get into the tastes, you will have to sign up for one of Shirley’s Clandestine Dinner.  Till then, it will be a secret!
If you are a tourist coming to Victoria, then it is unlikely that you could tie into one of these dinners, but you can still try.  It certainly is worth more than a try.  If you are local my recommendation would be to move on this one as quickly as you can.  If you don’t you may get no closer than these pictures.
 For more pictures of the Clandestine Dinner, visit our Facebook Page.
It was that good!  Visit Shirley's Web Site

Rialto Hotel celebrates Victoria's 150th Birthday Party



VolleyFest - Enter your team today!



The VGSN along with the Rooftop Surf Club proudly presents
*The Fourth Annual VolleyFEST 2012!*
A Charity Roof-top Beach Volleyball Tournament and Food Drive!

***Sunday, August 19th2012***

*Benefiting The Mustard Seed and Our Place Societies*
A canned food drive will also be taken, so please
bring some when you arrive for the tourney!

Teams of 6 plus 1 sub.  Max of 7ppl. 
Co-ed Tourney: 2 persons of the opposite sex
on the court at all times.
$250 per team.  That is approx. $35 per player. 
*All proceeds go to our two charities!

Please show up by 11:30pm at the Rooftop as game play starts at 12noon.

               Please contact Maureen from the Hotel Rialto if you are interested in enter a team, this promises to be one of the best hospitality events of the summer, play, network, win!
250-818-1166           

For more pictures from last year's fun event, please visit our Facebook Page.       

Buskers Festival Victoria 2012


The buskers festival is now on in downtown Victoria.  It runs from July 20-29, so get down there soon to take some of it in.  For more amazing pictures of the festival, go to our
Facebook Page.

Victoria's 150th Celebration - Toast it with a new cocktail at the Veneto Tapa Lounge


Those of you that have met Head Bartender Simon Ogden, understand he is given a project related to cocktail history, he won't take it lightly (to be completely understated). So when the Rialto challenged him to do his research and create a cocktail to pay tribute to the City's 150th celebration...he went missing for a while.


When he emerged back into the light, he was holding the recipe to his "Incorporation Cocktail" inspired by local ingredients that were all the fashion to bar patrons of the era. Here are his notes (courtesy of the hotel):


The Incorporation Cocktail is constructed and presented in the Spirit-forward and nuanced style of the cocktails that were being served in fine Victoria bars in 1862, the year Fort Victoria was incorporated into the City of Victoria. The locally-distilled premium gin from Victoria Spirits drives the drink, combined with the honey and ginger-spice of Tugwell Creek Solstice Mead, the juicy citrus tang of Victoria-made New Theatre Tonic concentrate, all balanced with local organic lavender bitters. Top aromatics are supplied by a spanked basil leaf from my garden. A love letter to our delightful city.

So if that peaks your interest, join the staff at Veneto as they do their best to recreate the experience of cocktailing and hob nobbing back in the day. The Incorporation Cocktail will be available at a featured price as will be other beverages common in the period to try as well. Chef is going to pass out some complimentary nibbles that might have been seen in local public houses at the time.



Best Adventure Travel Websites

It would be a good idea to refer to some of the best adventure travel websites if you wish to embark on an adventure tour. There are some adventure travel sites at our finger tips, which we could suggest for you to consider when you plan your trip.

Best travel directory has been nominated as the best adventure travel company by the National Geographic Adventurer Magazine. The top 10 best selling trips are to Antarctica, Egypt, Peru, Jordan, South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Australia and India. There is a destination of the week and free trips to be won.

National Geographic is one of the best adventure travel sites. It presents the best in adventure travel and ecotourism, complete with descriptions of destinations and photos. Get acquainted with the researchers and their projects. Right now you can choose from the best of American adventures or 20 Family Adventure travels. It is often difficult to plan a vacation that pleases all the members of your family. With the help of experts, you can do just that and have a marvelous holiday, no matter what you're looking for - culture, wildlife, or just pure relaxation. You could check out the 50 best American adventures, or go on a hiking trail.

About.com lists 21 top adventure travel companies, which present an interesting collection of adventure trips like biking in Morocco or rafting through the Grand Canyon. The websites of each company has a list of its adventure trips, with its itineraries, prices and photos to give you a 'feel' of the adventure. They include geographic expeditions, mountain travel, ecotourism and nature trips, rafting and so on.

The organizers of Gap Adventures seem to promise a lot - they wish to take you off the beaten path to come face to face with the unexpected and meet the extraordinary. They intend to make your travel dreams come true, and their only aim is to do their best to give you the very best in every sphere of your journey. Gap Adventures does not believe that an adventure trip must be costly; they try their best to keep the prices competitive and concentrate on delivering tours that you remember for a lifetime. With 1000 trips in the seven continents, there's a Gap Adventure trip for everyone!

Horizons Unlimited is a site just for motor cyclists. This is a place where all the motorbike enthusiasts share their experiences and plan their trips. Horizon Unlimited has quite a few mad adventures lined up for these riders, who think nothing of whizzing off to seemingly impossible destinations on their two wheelers. This site wishes to share all your mad capers across the continents.

These are some of the best adventure travel websites; you'll find many more at the click of your mouse, ready to help you plan your special trip.

Cheap Travel Websites - Buyer Beware!

With the increasing numbers of people who are on a budget, cheap travel sites have been doing a lot more business. Everyone wants and needs a break every now and then but times are so that being thrifty is more in fashion so to speak.

As with any other trade for websites online, there has been a growing trend for those cheap travel sites that are a little less than ethical. There are varying degrees of this - from websites sending a load of spam to the email of a past purchaser to unexplained charges on their credit card to fake tickets - but whatever the case, these are unethical and fraudulent practices from sites that are supposed to keep information confidential.

It is of the utmost important that anyone looking for cheaper airfare, travel packages, or any other form of cheap travel option, that they do their fair share of research first. There are reviews that are written online about these websites and even those sites that are dedicated to uncovering these deceitful sites. It is worth the extra time spent to find out if the site can be trusted. One sure way is to check out the security signs on the website and to check with the Better Business Bureau or other trusted business sites.

In the case that there is even a slight bit of suspicion or doubt in mind about a site, it is always a wise idea to skip the eagerness that arises when a good deal is discovered and watch for the next good deal that comes from a site that is reputable. This may just prevent a person from becoming another one of the twenty percent of individuals who have already had one of these unfortunate experiences.

The Best Travel Websites For Cheap Airfares

Finding cheap airfares is easy to do if you follow some basic guidelines and use the best travel sites. With the internet anyone can be their own travel agent and save themselves a lot of money in the process. Before I touch on the best websites to use I will first go over the most important guidelines to be thinking about before you start doing your online searches for the cheapest airfares.
The first thing to think about is how far in advance should you try to book your ticket. If you will be flying in high season then the earlier the better, probably at least three or four months in advance if at all possible. If it will not be high season then typically you can get your best deals somewhere between six to eight weeks in advance. At a minimum you should try to buy your ticket at least three weeks in advance, because this is often a requirement by the airlines to get their best fares.
The next thing to be aware of is that you should be as flexible as you possibly can. Do searches for different dates if your schedule allows it, and know that it generally tends to be more expensive to fly on Mondays, Fridays, or Sundays which are typically heavily traveled days for business people. Likewise try to be open to different departure times. And if possible be open to flying from and/or to different airports, especially those that are served by budget airlines.
The last thing to keep in mind is what day of the week you make your purchase. Several experts believe that on average you get the best prices right after midnight on Tuesday nights. The reasoning is that this is when the airlines put back on the market all of the un-purchased reservations for sale priced tickets from the previous weekend.
Armed with these basic guidelines you can now start using the best travel sites to find the best fares. First try searching the best aggregator sites which are search engines that search multiple travel websites at the same time. The best aggregators for airfares as of now are Kayak.com, Mobissimo.com and Momondo.com.
After you have found a great fare with an aggregator you should also check directly with the airline's website to see if you can get it even cheaper there. And you could also do a search on Google for 'promotion codes' along with the name of the airline. Sometimes you can find a special running for the itinerary that you want, and you can only use this code on the airline's website.
Now it is time to check to see if the aggregator sites missed a budget airline due to the fact that many budget airlines do not allow themselves to be searched by the aggregators. Southwest Airlines is a prime example. You can do this by using Whichbudget.com. If you discover that a budget airline that wasn't covered by the aggregator sites flies the route you need, then go to that airline's website and get a price. Sometimes it will be lower than anything that you found in your other searches.
If you follow these simple steps and use the recommended best travel sites you can easily save yourself a lot of money booking your own airline tickets. And in these difficult economic times, who doesn't want to save money whenever they can? Good luck!

5 Best Honeymoon Destinations - Honeymoon Travel Advice



Best Europe honeymoon destinations - Honeymoon Tips - Travel Advice

While her friends go on honeymoon to common destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean, why not make your honeymoon a memorable experience? There are many places to go, who can provide the special Honeymoon - When a couple decides to marry, the first and logical stop and think what is in the place of the ceremony and subsequent celebration. But for people like me, these things matter little or rather nothing, more important is the honeymoon.


Photograph by Andrew H. Brown,
National Geographic Stock
Norwegian Fjords -  The number 1 on my particular list is a road trip through the Fjords. A 
possible route would be a few days in Oslo to meet the capital to later take the car to go to Bergen, the fjords starting point. Then you should visit Flam Myrdal, Sognefjord or Stavanger. The landscape can be seen in this area are unique in Europe, and only in parts of Canada, Alaska or New Zealand you can see formations of this type.

Lately it is fashionable to do long trips on the grounds that it is a once in a lifetime, but nothing you have to travel thousands of kilometers and pass through three airports to enjoy a honeymoon. I propose my five favorite destination for honeymoon trips. In all cases I take, I refer to them for free, without guides or tour groups:

Image source - building-traveling.blogspot.com
St. Petersburg - Located on the Baltic, St. Petersburg is considered National Heritage by UNESCO. Known as the Venice of the North, a walk through its streets and canals and is in itself an experience. The Hermitage Museum is considered one of the major museums worldwide. It has a charm if you visit in winter, despite the cold. Destination therefore recommended for travelers who flee the heat.

Jordan - Jordan is a destination for adventurers. Personally, I consider Jordan as one of the countries to visit once in life. Besides the capital Amman, Petra is well worth a visit, and if possible at dawn, when lights are projected onto the monastery and gives a touch orange. What elsewhere is possible to swim in the Dead Sea? Highly recommended, although avoiding the summer months.

Image Source - musingsonroute66.blogspot.com
Route 66 - For lovers of combining automotive travel and adventure. Although there are sections that no longer exists, it is still possible that once part of the route linking Chicago with Los Angeles. It is possible to travel in a Ford Mustang. I recommend a minimum of 15 days to enjoy and appreciate the diversity of landscapes.

Vienna and Salzburg - Consider Austria as one of the most romantic countries in Europe. Perhaps the combination of Vienna and Salzburg is one of the great classics, but never gets old. Personally, and while they may do so at any time of year, I highly recommend do in the months of November and December, when both cities already have the typical Christmas markets, truly wonderful in and of themselves. The distances in Austria are not long, so 10 days would be enough for the two cities, but can be extended and visit Innsbruck, especially if you like skiing.

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Suddenly Sasquatch Now on at the Muse Winery Don't miss it!



Dejected Amelia feels something is missing in her life.  She lives at the bottom of Mount Douglas (about 100 years ago) and is bored silly.  Her mother is pressing her to marry a weep from Vancouver named Roderick, who is being forced by his domineering mother to marry Amelia.  Roderick has the hots for Lila, amaid.  Amelia's dad has Alzheimer's DiseaseIt gets even more zany!  A professor chasing the elusive Sasquatch thinks everyone else is nuts and invites himself to stay at Amelia's on the eve of the wedding.  Amelia's mother is an alcoholic.  Amelia's over-sexed nanny shares stories that shock the innocent Amelia!  Then Amelia suddenly meets a Sasquatch who lives on Mount Douglas, who is passed off as Nanny's cousin Harold from Sooke.  Wait, there is more....this is a musical! 

This whimsical and absolutely hilarious love performance is playing now at the Muse Winery in North Saanich (11195 Chalet Road).  The play was written by Sasha Moriaty-Schieven and uses music cleverly adapted from many sources and previous musicals such as Sound of Music, Girl Crazy, Guys and Dolls, Beauty and the Beast, Batboy, and All Shook Up. 

The cast and crew of Peninsula Players did a masterful job of entertaining a sold-out opening night crowd at Muse Winery's great outdoor theatre venue.  There were stellar performances and lots of laughs from an appreciative audience.  The rousing finale of Burning Love from All Shook Up brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation.  Additional performances are scheduled for July 28, 29, Aug. 11 & 12.   When word gets around, they will bound to be sold out, so make your reservations soon. 

If you want to make the evening even more special make a reservation for dinner ahead of the 7:30 PM performance.  The buffet dinner included two choices of soup, bread and crostini, unique salads, prawn cocktails, hot entrees, and delicious desserts.  We also enjoyed some award winning Muse Winery wines.

This was truly a pleasurable experience that we whole-heartedly recommend.  If you have not been to the Muse Winery you are missing out.  There is no better time to visit than during the warm summer days.  If you can't make the play, then go out for lunch.  For more details visit the Muse website  and the Peninsula Players Website.

For more pictures please go to my Facebook page.

Vacation Travel Tips and Hints

The developments in the travel industry are rife with contests of all sorts which are resulting in decrease in the prices and countless discounts offers to suit every type of traveler. No one is welcoming the changes more than the persons who only had dreams of visiting far away countries and can now turn it into a reality. Yes, it is possible for travelers to find Jamaica international airline deals, packages, discount tickets and much more encouraging tropical vacation experiences for the sick, young, seniors or just about anyone who want to take advantage.

It is a well known fact that traveling to international locations for vacation will put a big dent in most people's pocket; this means that everyone is looking for deals that would get them to travel at the cheapest rate possible. This is not only pertaining to the airline tickets, as finding affordable accommodations, restaurants, shopping, tours and more would definitely make it easier for everyone. However, a great way to start would be to find the discount flights that would keep you in budget for the rest of the vacation.

There are a number of options available to travel outside of one's country these days without dipping too much into the savings. Some of the offers that are out there are due to the high influx of travelers that are seeking or searching vigorously for discounts. Some people still visit the local travel agents, while others make use of the opportunities to save online. If you can spend a couple of minutes each day to examine and compare the different deals on the travel sites, you would be surprised of the wonderful vacation package or discount tickets that you can discover.

For this reason, some travel companies don't even bother to contend with the attractive offers online. Almost every detail for traveling is now provided on the travel sites ranging from, newsletters, tourist information, tour guides, vacation planners and a number of other promotions. However, if you are planning to book your airline tickets online, it will be best to do your research before, especially if you are traveling to the island for the first time.

The travel sites are now considered the best and most effective way to get the right Jamaica international airline tickets. One of the biggest reasons for this is the number of times that the information is updated daily with new travel details. But, you should be prepared to do some monitoring as the rates fluctuate daily and you have to be ready to book as soon as you spot the right price for you.

Another contributing factor to online booking is the deals that are available for business or vacation travelers alike. Most people are aware of such offerings and will look out for them on each trip. It is also possible to find great deals for frequent travelers or persons who are booking in advance, which enable them to save a lot on the traveling costs.

While you are searching for your discounts, there are certain things to consider as they will determine if you are successful or not. This includes the airlines that you select, whether the route is busy or slow, the season you are traveling and also the time of day when you want to depart or arrive. All of these are part of the deciding factor which will determine if you pay the discounted or regular price for airline tickets.

Book Air Travel and Cheap Flights Online

The internet is fast replacing the travel agents as more and more people tend to search for deals and even book Air Jamaica flights online. This is not really shocking as they can save more money if they know where and how to look for the specials.

You will find that there is a lot tricks involved in this trade and when you want to find the cheap flights it is important that one get accustom to the happenings in the industry, as well as the travel sites. Nevertheless, there are some helpful tips, suggestions and information that are provided for travelers to save on air travel. So, it is possible to get to any destination you want to go to these days and pay the lowest prices for tickets.

When you have familiarize yourself with all the prices offered by the different airlines and discover the ones that will travel the routes that you desire, then it would be easier for you to plan. Some people find the details on the airlines on the travel site and then compare the prices and offers on the airlines websites. But, some airlines don't provide options for purchasing tickets and you might have to call to inquire about the flights. So, the better option is to examine all the options on the travel site carefully and save the money that you would use to call the different places.

When it comes to online booking it is about doing price comparisons, it is similar to when you are shopping for any other product. This is if you are looking to save of course, but in any case everyone should be doing this in order to spend money wisely in these times. One thing you have to understand about the prices online is that they change very quickly.

Most people think this is a strategy by the airlines and the travel sites, but you have to understand that the sites will have a definite amount of tickets to sell and if you don't move quickly once you see a deal, it will be gone the next day. Although, some might have the deals available the next day, but the price could increase. Therefore, it would be best to book your flights as soon as you find one that is suitable.

I am sure you are always hearing that if you are flexible when you are planning for your business trips or vacations, it would work to your advantage. In fact, whether you are booking offline or online, this is usually a way to save money on flights especially on the days when there is not much people traveling. There are different deals that can be accessible this way and you can save a significant sum if you can leave at any time of the day or night.

When you are looking for deals and special offers online, you should be aware of some of them as they might not be what they seem. In general, to book Air Jamaica flights online or even any other type of flights is really a simple task; as long as you research carefully the savings would be possible.

This week I visited the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific with friends and found a quiet gem of a display garden just waiting to be discovered. While waiting for everyone to arrive, we wandered through the tiny Gift Shop, filled with all sorts of goodies for the nature lover. The shop features a number of unique items for sale by local artists and crafters. We found the Lily Garden to be a riot of colour at this time of year, and the roses to be as happy to see the sunshine as I am. There is a special garden for every season, including winter, as well as a Japanese Garden and a Native Plant Garden. There are quite a number of interesting sculptures dotting the garden, which reminds me that their annual Arts & Music in the Gardens is set for the weekend of August 11th and 12th this year. I attended this a few years back, and enjoyed the variety of artists and musicians who share their passion with those of us less talented. Following our stroll through the gardens, we enjoyed refreshments at the Nourish Cafe and Bistro on site. The beautiful warm weather allowed us to enjoy the patio for the occasion, and the menu served up some unique takes on traditional fare. I believe a return to try out their lunch menu is in order. The Gardens were quiet on our midweek visit, I hope you enjoy my photos enough to visit yourself. Dogs on leashes are allowed, and the entry fee of $11 is very reasonable, considering it would be easy to spend half a day there. The Gardens are staffed and maintained by volunteers, quite an undertaking considering the size of the gardens at 505 Quale Road. You can see their website at http://www.hcp.ca/. Enjoy!

For more pictures of this amazing gardens, see our Facebook Page.

The Rialto Hotel - A Victoria Jewel

Last night we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tour the newly renovated Rialto Hotel on Douglas Street in downtown Victoria, across the street from Victoria's historic City Hall. In its last life as the Douglas Hotel, it had been in a run down condition. Wow, you should see it now. Following are pictures that give you some idea of how beautiful the hotel is. The rooms come in all sizes from some small economy rooms to some more large and spacious. All are tastefully decorated with comfort in mind. Two to the amenities worth a visit are the Cafe Veneto and the Veneto Tapa Lounge. We were lucky enough to taste some of the delicious creations of Chef Todd. When you are in, try Chef Todd's delicious Tapa Trios. The food was absolutely delicious and they serve up some of the finest cocktails in Victoria. Check it out you will be very glad you did!  
For more pictures, please visit the VGSN Facebook.


Air Travel Discounts to Jamaica

What if you were able to reduce the cost of your traveling, take trips to popular spots such as Ocho Rios or Montego Bay anytime you want and still get to save some money? Naturally, most people would love do this, especially for destinations which demands the high priced tickets. But, I bet some of you are not aware that attractive offers are provided for persons to find air travel discounts to Jamaica and still provide them with the opportunity to visit exotic spots like the private beach near Frenchman's Cove in Port Antonio.

Indeed, the possibilities also exist to stay in five star resorts or hotels on family vacations with attractive package offers from all inclusive properties such as Starfish resort in Trelawny or Beaches in Negril. Locating the best discounts for traveling will take a bit of research, but if you make use of the information that is provided on the internet it will yield good results in short space of time.

In addition, even if you want discounts for hotels, car rentals, tour packages and more for places in the quiet South Coast areas, you can find this simple by browsing the travel sites. You can find information for just about every little corner in Jamaica, regardless of its popularity, so if you want to see attractions like Lovers Leap in St Elizabeth you will be able to get results just the same.

The rest of the information on this page will focus on some of the things that would help you to reduce the costs for your trips.

First, search for the travel discounts on the website and take advantage of the multiple options with available ticket offers and promotions all the time. The airline companies such as Air Jamaica will provide the travel sites with updated details regularly, so you are guaranteed to find specials which will enable you to save on even last minute deals.

Next, check for the vacation packages which are provided for all the holiday spots on the island and will enable you to save much more, plus offer convenience for your trip. These deals usually combine hotel, airline ticket and at times airport transfers, so when it is compared to the price that you would pay individually, you will realize that this is significantly cheaper.

Another way to reduce your air travel cost is to search for the specials that are offered by the hotels or resorts at the same time. In the event that you cannot find a travel package at the time of your trip, try to find deals that will give discounts such as free night at a hotel on the "hip strip" in Montego Bay or any other promotion that might be available at that time.

While you are researching your options on the travel sites, ensure that you are not wasting your time examining every single option. The most effective way to get your desired results is to decide on the exact location in Jamaica that you want to visit and select the airport that would be closest to this spot. For instance, if you want to spend your holiday in Lucea, then you would look for the flights that will take you to the Sangster's International airport in Montego Bay.

If you are traveling from the UK or any other far country, ensure that you check the flights that would visit Montego Bay from your location and determine which options would be cheaper. There are specific flights that will only land at the Norman Manley airport in Kingston, so it is important that you pay attention to this as well. Most times this little detail is overlooked by travelers and they end up spending unnecessary money.

Finally, as soon as you find the hotels or air travel discounts to Jamaica, you should consider examining some of the other aspects of your trip to realize more savings. Remember that a vacation is not complete if you are not having fun and sampling authentic Jamaican cuisine, such as the roast breadfruit and fried fish is a must, so check all the options and find the ways to save.

National Marine Conservation Area - You can help.

Sidney, BC, July 7, 2012: We don’t have gold coins or bedazzled crowns hiding in our waters but the colours in the Salish Sea far outshine any pirate’s treasure chest, and Canadians should be anxious to protect this precious resource. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre's new exhibit “Local Jewel, National Treasure” focuses on the making of a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) in the Salish Sea. Canada lags behind other nations in creating marine conservation areas with only 2 in existence, compared to 41 national parks and national park reserves. Parks Canada and the Province of BC have embarked on the process of creating a third around Southern Vancouver Island. “It’s an exciting prospect for everyone associated with the Salish Sea and especially here in Sidney which is centrally located in the proposed marine conservation area” says Tina Kelly, the Centre’s Visitor Experience Director, “It’s an important project that requires vision and the support of a nation, As Sidney’s award-winning aquarium of the Salish Sea we have a special role in establishing a shared vision and addressing competing interest associated with the NMCA”. The timing for the exhibit was calculated to reach Canadians from coast to coast “The summer is the perfect time to launch this exhibit, we have visitors from all over Canada and this is so much more than a local issue.” Says Kelly. “Canadians need to take ownership of our oceans. If we don’t, who will? It’s a conversation we need to approach at a local and national level. “ The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre will advance the conversation by presenting new hands-on activities, a special display from Parks Canada, and intimate underwater views of the proposed NMCA through the aquariums live exhibits. “Almost everybody has been on the ferry through Active Pass,” says Angus Matthews, Executive Director “But have you stopped to think about the landscape below the water? We’re going to pin point high profile, key habitat locations within the proposed conservation area and show you what that looks like and why it matters.” You can check out the booty beneath the Salish Sea starting July 11th.
We toured the new exhibit today and it was very educational and inspiring.  We learned a lot and certainly found out how we and you can help protect this amazing jewel we have.  To see more pictures and learn more about how to help, please visit our Facebook Page.  You can also learn more at the Shaw Ocean Discover Centre web page. 

Travel Agents - Are They Needed?

Travel agents aren't going the way of the eight-track tape just yet. They are also increasingly expected to know about and be able to advise travelers about their destinations, such as the weather conditions, local ordinances and customs, attractions, and exhibitions.These agents are the critical connection between the customer and vendor of the service that the customer is wishing to book. Travel Agents are experts in helping tourist with how to move within the country, where to stay & what to do are are held to a high standard of care and are relied upon by consumers.

When traveling abroad to a new destination, having a travel agent who has actually been there is a huge plus. Face to face is still the best way to do business and it's sad that the Agent is considered an obsolete commodity these days. I had an aunt and uncle who would tell their travel agent when they had a vacation coming up and the agent would find a great trip for them year after year.Some people are also inexperienced travelers and speaking/planning face to face with an expert would make them much less anxious.

Good travel agents focus on finding deals during nonpeak times, which is when you can score the cheapest rates and greatest selection. Because they book trips in volume and have longstanding relationships with travel providers, travel agents routinely get preferred rates and extra amenities that you and your favorite travel site will rarely match. Written off as dinosaurs not so long ago, agents are seeing a welcome bump in business, with the 2006 average weekly sales per agent location up 15% over the year before. Many agents have become a specialized bunch, some offering adrenaline-fueled adventure trips, others pricey safaris. Other agents go after even thinner slices of the travel pie, with specialties ranging from twins-only cruises to kosher dude ranches. Some agents charge anywhere from $150 to redeem a frequent-flier award to a $500 consulting fee for arranging customized trips. In the 1980s, agents were the gatekeepers of travel, booking nearly 80% of all airline tickets.

I am not defending all agents, as there isn't a standard, or requirement to become an agent,(other than basic computer skills) therefore, there are many agents that just wanted to get out of the house. I guess my point is: Lower your expectations, as many agents don't know much more than the general public, although they have access to the info. The same would be for a lawyer, a real estate agent, a hair dresser and I can go on and on. So why do people think you do not have to do your research or get a referral to find an excellent travel agent. There are MANY great travel agents out there and the value of having a good one is ten times better than booking on the internet.

Travel agents are agents of the travel providers, receiving commissions from the travel providers for sales they make. You will find travel agents are like doctors, accountants, book-keepers and any other service professional. They are in the business of selling advice and service, not commodity products. MOST travel agents are continually learning about destinations and suppliers; who to work with and who Not to work with.They are there, though, because they work for you. Whether times are good or not, these agents are your secret weapon, hiding in plain sight.

Peninsula Players & Muse Winery Present their third annual summer show, "Suddenly Sasquatch", an original musical by Saanich resident Sasha Moriarty--‐Schieven, with songs from many sources. Performances are on the Ortega Terrace at Muse Winery & Bistro, 11195 Chalet Road, North Saanich, and are on Saturday July 14, 28, &; August 11 (curtain 7:30pm) and Sunday July 29 &; August 12 (matinee 4pm). Tickets ($25 for evening, $20 for matinee performances) are available at Stonestreet CafĂ© or Muse Winery, or call 250-656-2552. Admission is free for Sasquatches.

Playgoers may also want to enjoy the tasty delights of the Bistro Muse before the show, beneath the clear blue skies of Deep Cove. Reservations for lunch or dinner can be made by calling 250-656-2552.

“Suddenly Sasquatch – A Musical Adventure with Big Heart and Big Feet”, is Sasha Moriarty-- Schieven’s third play performed at the Muse winery. The play is filled with wonderful song and dance, hilarious slapstick, and a touch of naughty. Amelia and Roderick are being pressured by their domineering mothers to marry, but when Amelia meets the Sasquatch, mayhem ensues.




For this year’s performances, the Muse Winery has built a pavilion, the Ortega Terrace, with completely open sides revealing the beautiful woods and vines surrounding the estate, but with a roof to protect audiences from the elements.


More information about the show, tickets, and dinner can be found at http:www.musewinery.ca  or http://www.peninsulaplayers.bc.ca/, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/events/312541602172886/

Contacts: Muse Winery: Peter & Jane Ellman 250-656-2552

Summer in Cowichan Bay



Cowichan Bay in the Summer is one busy place.  It is full throttle with the shops and restaurants.  The parking along the road through the village was almost full.  Everything was spruced up with flowers and there were lots of people in Cowichan Bay.  Check it out.  It is an amazing place.  While we were there we had dineer at the Rock Cod Cafe.  Their fish dishes are amazing and very tasty.  We think halibut is the best fish ever.  Go there and give it a try.  Be sure to visit Arthur Vicker's Gallery, Hilary's Cheese, True Grain Bread, and the Maritime Museum.
For more pictures of Cowichan Bay on our summer visit, check out our
Facebook Page.

Take this West Coast Smug....

It has been an unusual Spring on the West Coast for sure!  One of my Alberta "friends" sent this.  Well the great weather is back, so we are smug again.

Five Star Catamaran Whale Watching Company

Five Star Whale Watching is Victoria’s oldest and most respected Whale Watching company. The Expedition catamarans are great vessels for responsible whale watching. Whale Watching in Victoria B.C is one of the best places in the world to enjoy this wonderful activity.
The company has been around since 1985, Five Star is a family business offering unparalleled service and location. Five Star Charters Whale Watching makes sure you discover the picturesque West Coast of Canada, and Vancouver Island.  The waters around Victoria are the spring and summer home to the largest population of resident Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca) in the world. Victoria area water surrounding Southern Vancouver Island, Victoria, and the Gulf Islands, is the home of pods “J”, “K”, and “L” numbering approximately 90 whales in total.  As you will see from the pictures on our Facebook page, in addition to whales there is a lot more to see on your adventure.  Great scenery, lots of different wild life, great views of the area, amazing marine traffic, leaving from one of the busiest harbours in Canada that boasts the only water runway in Canada and a whole lot more.  Check out our Facebook Page for more pictures.  The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and will ensure you have a great timer on the most seaworthy boat.  It has great viewing from inside, the bow and up top.  It is a very comfortable ride and handles rough sea well, should those conditions arise.  Safety is a major concern and there mission is to show you a great time and they will.
See there web site at: http://5starwhales.com/





CVS Sightseeing Victoria's Finest Tour Company

CVS Cruise Victoria is Victoria's best sightseeing company.  In addition to Butchart Gardens Express Shuttle they now have a Peninsula Attactions Connector that will take you to Butchart Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse and Shaw Ocean Discover Centre...the finest attractions on the Saanich Peninsula just north of Victoria.  They have also just started a Deluxe Victoria Hop-on, Hop-Off multi-day city tour.  The new bus for this service is comfortable and airy with a glass roof, spacious windows and a great speaker system to year the narration of the tour by the driver.  They visit Chinatown, Craigdarroch Castle, Oak Bay Village, Cook Street Village and Beacon Hill Park and much more.  This is a company offering great service for visitors to Victoria.  Contact them at 1-877-5787-5552 or check their web site at http://www.cvscruisevictoria.com
 For more pictures of the sights you will see, please visit our Facebook Page.



The Cowichan region is a rich agricultural area of Vancouver Island, BC.  It rests between rivers, mountains and the ocean on the west coast of Canada and the east coast of Vancouver Island. You will be amazed at the number of first class chefs and wine makers now operating in this area. The "Warm Land" as it is known is renowned for quality wine and culinary experiences. Explore the beautiful and peaceful backroads as you explore this region. Put September 8-16 in your calendar and come and enjoy the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival. For details of this festival,
click here.  You can experience 16 vineyards and a cidery.  You can drive yourself, take a tour, or sign up for a bicycle tour.  There are lots of special events in the region throughout the summer as well.  For more pictures please check out our Facebook, then you will want to go for sure!
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