Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from Nelson House B & B

Ozzie and Zack are cozy by the fireplace. I am nibbling our supply of home-baked shortbread. The Bed and Breakfast closes tonight and tomorrow, so that we can share some time with families and friends.

Here at Nelson House B & B, we count our blessings and always give thanks for the warmth and kindness of our guests.

Wherever you may be - a toast to you! We send you best wishes for a loving holiday and a wonderful year ahead!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vegan Vancouver

Vegan "turkey" anyone?

My last post on breakfast at the B & B got me thinking of all the special dietary requests that we are glad to receive(in advance, hopefully). Some have presented us with something of a learning curve.

Vegetarianism, veganism and raw food are diets that I can respect but not personally embrace. I have, however, discovered the motherlode of vegan food lore in the Vancouver scene. And I am glad to share it with you. This article on a great local website lists and describes over thirty(!) of Vancouver's best vegan restaurants. Readers' comments add many more. Plus - scan down to the bottom of the piece and find super links to five more vegan/vegetarian guides and links to answer questions like "Why go vegan?".

You can start thanking me now....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vancouver Food

Every morning at the B & B presents the opportunity to gather round the breakfast table for the best meal of the day. For guests, it is the luxury of time and relaxation, giving up the usual daily rush and worry to let someone else do the cooking, to linger over another coffee and bask in the friendly banter. For innkeepers, it is the challenge and fun of trying to please everyone's diets, tastes, preferences and palates. Frankly, we take pride in seeing our guests reluctant to push back from the table and already anticipating what we might serve the next day.

One daily constant of breakfast conversation is everyone's latest discoveries and experiences on the Vancouver food scene. We provide "David's Choice", an in-room folder of my personal favourite dining establishments nearby - everything from coffee shops to picnic supplies to the most elegant restaurants. Our conversations, however, range from the more obvious Vancouver-type questions regarding the "best seafood" and the "best views" to the more exotic(for me at least) sushi choices and vegan secrets. Guests from all over the world turn to me to knowingly discuss local organic markets, slow cooking and where to find High Tea - without having to go to Victoria. It's a reminder of just how very important, good eating really is in our lives.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Sexiest Man Alive" - just another Vancouver attraction.

When People magazine recently picked Vancouver-born and raised Ryan Reynolds as "the sexiest man alive", many Vancouverites were not at all surprised that a BC boy is turning heads and also enjoys a rep as a fun, friendly guy. While most admirers of the male form must wait to see Ryan's abs on the big screen, Vancouver is said by many locals and visitors to be a treasure trove of fine male specimens.

Vancouver is first and foremost a West Coast city - all about the great outdoors and choosing the optimal lifestyle. According to official government statistics, Vancouverites live longer than in the rest of the country. Nice to know that staying active, living well... and looking good while doing it... has great results. Vancouver is the place that Canadians choose to move to. Foreigners do too. In present day Vancouver, there is both a rich multicultural mix and the traditional Canadian Mounties/lumberjack kind of guy. Someone for everyone. You have doubts? Did you know that Ryan's dad is a retired RCMP officer?

So if you would like to check out Vancouver's athletic men for yourself, here is a heads up! Mark two events on your calendar, get planning and book early. First up is WinterPride - the most famous gay ski week of them all. Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, 2011 is coming fast! It's your chance to combine brawn and beauty up at Whistler's Olympic facilities, just an hour and a half's spectacular drive from the city. Then, during the very peak of next summer's tourism season, Vancouver will host the North American Outgames from July 25 to 31st. That party is timed to culminate with Vancouver's annual Pride celebrations and amazing fireworks festival.

Yes - these are both very big, gay events. Sorry girls, Ryan is taken(Mr. Scarlett Johansson). But you can take my word for it, when it comes to Vancouver's men, Ryan did not break the mold.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A chill in the air brings holiday warmth...

November and December mark the yuletide holiday season. Both visitors and locals should find this Vancouver holiday lights list useful:

Nov. 26 - Jan. 2, Bright Nights offers kids of all ages a chance to bundle up for a miniature train ride through the magical light displays in Stanley Park.

Dec. 3 - 23, a great Vancouver tradition celebrates its 50th anniversary. Join the flotilla of Carol Ships in the Parade of Lights for romantic dining, carolling and sight-seeing from the waters of English Bay, False Creek and Burrard Inlet.

Dec. 10 - Jan. 2, the Festival of Lights illuminates the beautiful grounds of Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

All of the above are near Nelson House B & B. If staying with us, we would be glad to book your holiday celebrations for you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Electric Buddha/End of Season

Electric Buddha from last week's Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India

I love this image. To the sounds of suitably transcendent music, the Buddha rose slowly from the stadium floor, in the centre of a giant lotus blossom, formed by a thousand children in synchronized yoga poses. Sheesh!

You may be asking: "What does this have to do with bed and breakfasts?" Well, the average innkeeper is almost always in a multitasking tizzy that just might spin out of control, if the job were not so damned enjoyable! Now that I am about 12 hours away from going on vacation, I realize that all of my best efforts to stay calm and organized have felt increasingly like electrons coursing skyward through my "chakras". Stoic on the outside. Pulsing energy on the inside. And all the time, searching for real calm and peace of mind.

 Nelson House is at the end of another busy summer season but perhaps, not as busy as it might have been, if our American friends were not still in a recession funk. Some of our bed and breakfast projects will just have to wait for next season. The summer was a blur but it still had its quota of delightful guests and remarkable, lively conversations. A BIG thank you to all our guests, both first-timers and o-so-many repeat customer/friends. We had fun!

About now, however, me and the staff could all use our own relaxing getaways.Yoga for some. A cabin in the woods for others. A sunny beach whether I can really afford it or not!

One of our staff is leaving us at month's end after an unexpected illness. We send our best wishes while we struggle to pick up the slack. Applications for a replacement are pouring in, which proves that the dream of innkeeping is still alive and well.

I get to screen the applicants while allegedly "on vacation" and the Manager gets to interview the best of the crop - as if he didn't have enough to do. But we anticipate the best. We have a new computer and that smooths the work. The dogs are happy as long as they have a full bowl. Even the Buddha  got by on alms. The B & B keeps on chugging along into the Fall.

Such is life. Such is life in a bed and breakfast.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vancouver Fringe Festival

This hilarious video of "Red Bastard" sums up the beloved in-your-face quality of the Fringe's live theatre. Still a few more days of the actual Festival but the best of the productions will soon be popping up around town. Lots of fun and provocative thought that you won't get at home sitting on the sofa!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer Finales!

Okay. Let's do it!

Vancouver is ready for some fun and nostalgia this sunny summer weekend. At the 100th Anniversary of the Pacific National Exhibition, your admission ticket to the fair will give you access to a classic wooden roller-coaster, all the mini-donuts you can eat and free concert headliners like Cyndi Lauper. She still wants to have fun.

Back in the West End, gays and their straight friends will be celebrating on the Grand Finale Cruisey T boat cruise around our beautiful harbour. The two-footed Bears will be heading to Bearaccuda, the #1 bear dance party in the USA, as it comes to our city on Sunday night.

And down at The Odyssey nightclub, many, many people will be sad and sentimental as one of Vancouver's finest gay bars will be ending its 25 year-long journey. On Sunday night, the final Feather Boa drag show will be hosted by the legendary talents of Joan- E and Justine Tyme as everyone sings and dances a "Farewell to the Odyssey".

                                                                        99 Red Balloons...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How every B & B can help: Recycling Soap. Saving Lives.

Early in the career of every Innkeeper, you ask yourself: "What am I going to do with all this leftover soap?" This week, after twenty years in this business, I found the answer. And found a wonderful way to help the less fortunate.


Nelson House B & B is now the first bed and breakfast in Canada to partner with Clean the World Foundation, a Florida not-for-profit corporation that is rapidly expanding north of the border.

Clean the World has a straightforward two-part mission:
1.Reduce the waste created by discarded soap and shampoo products.
2.Prevent the millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses every year.

Did you know that the two biggest killers of Children under the age of 5 can be greatly reduced by soap intervention? According to the World Health Organization, 34 per cent of these children die from diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections that are preventable with simple, basic hygiene. The problem is that a family earning a few dollars a day will put food and shelter needs over the purchase of a "luxury", like a bar of soap.

Since its beginnings in 2009, Clean the World  has hundreds of hotels and many B & Bs tossing their partly used soap and shampoo bottles into recycling bins for local pick-up. Here in Vancouver, CTW has just opened a recycling and processing centre employing women at risk, who reside in Vancouver's downtown eastside. A second Canadian centre will open soon in Toronto. At these Centres, the more heavily used soaps are cooked to remove impurities and rebatched into 2-ounce bars. The majority of only slightly used soaps are put through a patent-pending sanitization, steam and pressure process. PH levels are tested and the soap is repackaged to go out to those most in need.

In the last year, reputable NGOs like World Vision have helped to distribute over five million soap bars, and 250,000 pounds of shampoo and conditioner in countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Swaziland, Mali, Mongolia, Uganda, Honduras, Romania, the United States and soon, to the needy in Canada too.

I personally encourage every hotel and B & B innkeeper reading this to stop sending your guest soaps and shampoo to the landfill! Use your good business sense - go green, give back, help others!  If you stay in B & Bs, please ask your innkeeper if they have heard of this simple Win-Win solution. Here is the Clean the World link to get going.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Biking from the B & B

Photos Courtesy of City of Vancouver

One of the great advantages of Nelson House's central location is the ability to do without a car. First of all, the peninsula that comprises "downtown Vancouver" is only about 15 by 21 blocks and almost surrounded by water. If you are a healthy walker, these are not NYC blocks and most folks can do one end to the other in a half hour. If going further afield or unable to do things on foot, Robson Street buses are as close as three blocks away and they will connect you to the Skytrain, the Seabus and the entire public transit system. 

Even more fun, especially in summer, is the opportunity to rent a bike and explore more of the city at a leisurely wheeling pace. Public Seawalls border all of the downtown shoreline. Many more miles of beaches and parks heading westwards along English Bay are laced together by offstreet paved bikeways. Since the shorelines are at sea level - just think - no hills - and non-stop views!!

A cluster of bike rental shops are within a ten minute stroll from the B & B. Our guests are welcome to bring their own bikes from home or keep the rentals overnight in locked and easily accessible storage in our basement.

The City of Vancouver alone offers 400 "lane-kilometres". That's about 250 miles of one and two way bike routes. The City is currently adding separated bike lanes for safer bicycling in the business core.

And then there are the Naked Bike Rides. Visitors to Vancouver can be a little surprised the first time they witness hundreds of nude bicyclists cheerily pedaling by on a sunny afternoon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vancouver Beaches on Top Ten List

Once again, Vancouver rates with the best in the world. None other than the respected National Geographic has included Vancouver's beaches with the likes of Honolulu, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. Vancouverites are currently enjoying the long summer days on ten ocean side beaches and one fresh-water lake - all within city limits. Eleven miles of civic beaches range from the expansive views of Jericho Beach, pictured above and below, to the downtown beaches bordering the West End and Stanley Park and a few blocks from the B & B, to the muscle-beach scene at Kitsilano ("Kits") Beach and the clothing-optional wilderness feel of world famous Wreck Beach!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bard-B-Q & Fireworks

Hurry if you want some of the best fireworks views available!

Bard on the Beach is selling all-inclusive tickets during the Celebration of Light. For the four fireworks evenings, begin your experience with Act I of either Much Ado About Nothing or Falstaff. During an extended intermission, have a drink and enjoy a West Coast salmon barbeque. Return for Act II and then take coffee and dessert in the same private seating area in Vanier Park for all the pyrotechnics.

Always a sell-out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vancouver Summer Fireworks!!!

Every year, since 1990, there has been some drama over whether or not Vancouver's spectacular fireworks competition will once again find the funding. (Because you asked), I am glad to report that the Celebration of Light will launch again, next Wednesday, July 21st!

Even better, the warm up for the pyrotechnics will be live musical performances, dubbed Shorefest, on stage at the English Bay Bathhouse and the Rogue Stage at Sunset Beach. Both stage performances will be simulcast on SHORE 104 FM radio.

This year's Celebration of Light features four competitors and promises to be bigger and better than ever before. July 21, the USA is first up with a tribute to the Big Band era. The next Saturday, the 24th, this year's World Cup winner, Spain, will show us whether they can kick that fireball through the goalposts. On Wednesday, July 28, the Latin rythyms will continue with Mexico's swirling presentation. On Saturday, July 31st, the inventors of the artform, China will provide the climax for probably the biggest crowd of all - up to 350,000 people ringing the beaches, bridges, boats and highrises of beautiful English Bay.

No matter if you have seen the rest, come see the best! Our B & B guests will be bundled up with beach towels and tipped to the ultimate viewing points.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blog Freshening

I realized that at 100 posts, it was time to touch up the paint, wash the windows and let the message shine through. Hope you like the new look!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vancouver Street Food

Our city's street food scene will soon reflect more of our cultural diversity. City Hall just drew 17 names out of a barrel of 800 applications to finally award street vending licences to something other than hot dogs and chestnuts. Within weeks, pedestrians will be able to sample everything from Chinese Dim Sum to Korean and Southern style BBQs, Tex-Mex burritos to stone-baked pizza.

Ahh...the savory aromas of Vancouver!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wreck Beach Day(s)

Summer has Vancouver in its hot grasp. And that means white clothes, short skirts, shirtless muscles or NO CLOTHES AT ALL!

Tomorrow, July 11 is the 30th Annual Wreck Beach Day - a celebration  of all things nude and natural. This link(beware! non-sexual, not necessarily pretty human nudity) will lead you to photos of North America's largest clothing-optional beach and first to be legally-sanctioned in Canada!

This weekend, the quintessentially free spirits of Canada's West Coast are trying for a Guinness World Record for a mass, continent-wide simultaneous skinny-dip and posing for this years photos.

On August 8th, the more athletically inclined will form up for the 14th Annual Bare Buns Run. That is 5 kilometres on sand. Think about running 5 kms on sand even with your clothes on! For a number of years, our B & B was happy to host the oldest participant in the Run, who was always acknowledged with a prize ribbon, just for being in his seventies, bare buns, running on glorious Wreck Beach!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Canada Day

Canada is a young and virile 143 years this July 1st, 2010. Still a work in progress, some imperfections but deserving of a very happy birthday.

At the Opening Ceremonies of Vancouver's recent Olympics, a local slam poet, named Shane Koyczan, told the world a little about this country. He bravely stood alone in front of an overflowing stadium audience and a billion more watching on TV.

In his poem, We are More, he said in part:

"some say what defines us

is something as simple as please and thank you

and as for you're welcome

well we say that too

but we are more

than genteel or civilized

we are an idea in the process

of being realized

we are young

we are cultures strung together

then woven into a tapestry

and the design

is what makes us more

than the sum total of our history  

we are an experiment going right for a change...                        

we are the surprise the world has in store for you

it's true                          
Canada is the "what" in "what's new?"...                              

we are the true north

strong and free

and what's more

is that we didn't just say it

we made it be. "                                                                                                               

    Thank you Shane. Here is the full version of your spoken word.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vancouver Summer Festivals - a timeline

After my last post on the Jazz Fest, I decided that visitors to Vancouver this summer might appreciate a timeline around which to organize their trip. Both locals and part-time locals like to optimize their time while the sun shines on our beautiful city. Festivals may stretch for weeks but most events are one-offs and a real shame to miss. Then there are the regular concert halls, theatres and club offerings. This summer Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza" and the Queen E's "Lion King" are among those.

So - from Bard on the Beach, to Theatre under the Stars, from the Vancouver Folk Festival to Queer Arts, here is the chockablock summer entertainment and arts schedule and links posted on the Nelson House B & B website.

Have fun!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ALL that jazz!!

Visitors with enough foresight and planning to come to Vancouver between June 25 and July 4th can indulge in all the delights of the
Stylings will range from Alt/Indie through every variation of Avant, Free, Improv & Experimental to Big Band, a dash of Blues, Gospel & Roots, Funk, R n B & Soul, from Chamber and Traditional to Fusion and Modern, from Swing, Gypsy, World & Hip Hop to amazing songwriters and vocalists.

Big names like George Benson, Chick Corea and Strunz & Farah will bless the city's stages. Electro and Ambient sounds will vibrate through after hours clubs to the break of dawn.

Calling all music lovers to Vancouver this month!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The uncommon decency of bed and breakfast guests.

People who choose to stay in bed and breakfasts are a particularly nice kind of human being. After twenty years in this business and many more in this world, I am certain of that fact.

Regrettably, too many people aspire to a five star, gold-plated lifestyle. They spend their lives trying to add more and more material possessions to build a mountain of happiness. Others start off in their egotistical youth to chase merit and too soon, that transforms into more prestige and more power - always the next degree, the next job title, the next spouse. Others just settle for craving attention, never missing an opportunity to oppose, to whine and complain. In all of these lives, a sense of complexity and confusion mounts with every passing year. People know deep down that energy and precious time are being wasted but they just don't stop and smell the roses.

On the other hand, "Bed and Breakfasters' or "B & Bers" are individuals who have learned some very important life lessons, maybe through maturity, perhaps as old souls. B & Bers know that in life - love always trumps ambition. Think about that.

These are folks who have realized that it is the people we meet and how we treat them that counts in the long run. Practicing kindness day by day leads to a satisfying life of compassion and understanding. These are the people who embrace the many small joys of living. Bed and Breakfasters are the people who recognize the charms of a well tended garden, the character of a heritage home, the attention to detail in a home-based business.

These are my guests. People who appreciate a comfortable night's sleep, a fine cup of coffee and meeting new friends round the breakfast table.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A grey whale swims into downtown Vancouver!

A forty-foot grey whale was sighted off of Stanley Park on Wednesday morning. Shortly thereafter, the whale cruised alongside the downtown, West End, swam under the Burrard and Granville Island bridges and astonished thousands of onlookers at Granville Island Market. The mature adult male grey slowly circled the length of the salt-water False Creek estuary as far as the Science Museum and the Olympic Village. Coast Guard and Vancouver Aquarium boats ran defense for the whale and several hours later escorted him back to the deeper waters of English Bay. On Thursday, he was spotted overnight taking one last look at the downtown condos and then wandered off to join the thousands of his mates moving north for summer feeding off the coast of Alaska.

Check out this video for some of Vancouver's downtown whale-watching.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Deflating Vancouver's Domed Stadium

Vancouver has deflated the world's largest, air-supported dome. Home to the BC Lions football franchise, numerous trade shows and mega-concert events, since it opened in 1982, this 60,000 seat stadium recently hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. But this Tuesday, May 4th, the 16 giant fans were turned off and the 10 acre teflon-coated fibreglass roof sagged like a spent balloon. In only 48 minutes, the city skyline was changed forever.

Check out the time-lapsed video to see the changes.

And check back in the fall of 2011 for the new $458 million dollar "crown" - a steel and cable retractable roof. Here is the vision.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

10 Reasons to Choose a B & B Over a Hotel

The internet is always entertaining. I recently came across an article that badmouthed bed and breakfasts. Essentially, the author contended that on a rainy day, you might have to stay in and be bored because your room didn't have a TV - whereas every Motel 6 room out there had it's very own television set. So there!

When on a tight budget, I have stayed in some Motel 6s and they do have their place in the marketplace - near the bottom and beside the interstate. I also enjoyed a long career that involved a lot of business travel and being put up in luxury hotels around the world. One thing both motels and hotels had in common, was that TV as your only company.

Here are 10 reasons to pick a B & B over a hotel anyday, anywhere and on on any budget:

  1. Money. B & Bs, like motels and hotels, come in a wide price range. B & Bs may not always be cheaper but they always give you better bang for the buck. No add on fees for parking or internet use or outrageous charges for telephone calls or room service breakfast. At a hotel, you may be charged a dozen different rates for the same kind of room depending on who, how or when you call. Not so at a bed and breakfast. B & B rates are honest, straightforward and since they include the amenities, facilities and services for a comfortable stay, they are even better value.

  2. Personal Attention. B & B owners are self-employed. It's their own livelihood that is on the line. As a guest, isn't it really nice to know you are talking to the Boss? You can be sure that the boss realizes the importance of your satisfaction, your repeat business and your positive opinion. With only a handful of guests, you are bound to have more individual attention and a much higher level of service. You are not just Room # 1604.

  3. The Personal Touch. When you stay in a B & B, you are a house guest and honoured as such. The house, the garden, the decor, the books in the bookcase, everything reflects the style, life and history of your host. The innkeeper is not just a concierge but someone with whom you can swap stories. Your fellow guests are not strangers on the elevator but potential new friends over coffee.

  4. Personal Security. How many guests are victims of crime in hotels very year? Terrible to think about but there are good reasons that you might need to double-lock yourself into your hotel room and stare sleeplessly at CNN. At a B & B, with just a small number of guests to look after, owners are much more aware of what's going on in their property. Criminal issues that cause big headaches for hotels are almost non-existent in B &Bs. For single travellers, especially women, that one reason might be enough to choose a B & B.

  5. Ubiquity. That's a big word that tells you that B & Bs can be found everywhere. Anywhere that people live, even places where no hotel could survive, you will find friendly people willing to open their homes to visitors.

  6. Living like a local. Staying in a bed and breakfast gives you the oppportunity to actually get to know a local. Instead of following the beaten tourist track to the one big star attraction, you can learn an insider's secrets, all the sights, sounds, customs, tastes and colour that make every corner of this world such an interesting place.

  7. Relaxation, rest and respect. B & B innkeepers develop a sixth sense when to check on your well-being and when to leave you to do your own thing. Whether you need to catch up on sleep or catch up on romance, your host will always respect your alone time. No hotel maids will demand entry for an unwanted turndown service or to restock your mini-bar. No drunken parties will crowd the hall outside your door. Rowdyism is hardly ever heard or seen at a B & B. Indeed, a B & B will encourage you to relax and unwind with comfy chairs by the fireplace or a sunny garden nook.

  8. Real Exclusivity. Sometimes exclusivity is the opposite of expensive pretensions, snob appeal or separation. At a B & B, with only a few rooms, it may be your chance to include everyone in a group get together. You can book the entire property for a family reunion, an intimate wedding, an anniversary, the sewing club or Jane Austen Society. Imagine your own holiday home where someone else cooks breakfast and does the dishes.

  9. Breakfast with a capital B. The morning meal is an innkeeper's chance to show you down-home hospitality with grandma's best recipes, fresh baking, local, healthy and organic ingredients. Unlike a hotel dining room or buffet, your innkeeper is your personal chef and with a little forewarning can usually cope with almost any dietary restriction. The happy result when people share a good breakfast together is that they chat about the day to come and share something of themselves too.

  10. Every B & B is unique. No matter how many stars awarded to a hotel, to wake up in one hotel room is very much like waking up in any other hotel room. They will never feel like home. Only the owners of a house, cottage, chalet or castle can make it a home. To me, the sense of waking up in someone's home - a place that is loved and cared for - is one of the great joys of travel.

My thanks to an article on that inspired this list.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fine Dining in Vancouver, BC

Calling all foodies! This week the Golden Plates Awards 2010 were announced in the Georgia Straight. The hip, formerly hippie weekly, is one the most objective viewers of Vancouver's amazing, multicultural dining scene.

At the B & B, I have had guests from Tokyo rave about the freshness of our city's Japanese food and guests from Taiwan exult over the vast variety of Vancouver's Chinese cuisine. Literally thousands of new immigrants from over a hundred countries are bringing their Mama's homestyle cooking to a corner cafe somewhere around town. Then there is Pacific ocean seafood purchased on the wharf this morning, top-quality BC and Alberta beef, local native influences, wild game, organic supplies and sophisticated food fusion experiments. On and on it goes and it's hard to keep up with the ever-changing deliciousness of this city's 4500 restaurants.

What I like about the Straight's annual review is it's comprehensiveness. It acknowledges restaurants that are popular and perennial favourites as well as those that peers in the food industry think are outstanding.

If you are coming to Vancouver, follow the link, plan ahead and prepare your taste buds for some of the best and most adventurous dining in the world.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What does being "gay friendly" mean?

Recently, two news reports of gay travellers being refused accommodation by bed and breakfast owners, got me thinking about the subject of gay friendliness in the hospitality industry.

Years ago, a new B & B owner in Vancouver contacted me in order to introduce herself and her business and ask me for some tips on successful innkeeping. Over coffee and reciprocal visits to each other's guesthouses, she told me that she did not understand why I mentioned the word "gay" in describing Nelson House B & B. She said that Canadian society was moving beyond such labels. Surely no one had to worry over outright prejudice and wasn't one's sexual orientation just a private thing?

I hesitated as I didn't know her very well but I figured an honest question deserved an honest answer. First, I said that like most people(meaning the majority of heterosexuals) in the world, I would prefer that my sexual orientation remained a private and personal matter. However, now that I had opened my home to the public as a hospitality and accommodation business, I saw the need to flag sexual orientation to potential customers who might, for their own reasons, prefer to stay elsewhere. And also, I wanted to indicate to gay(and read lesbian too) travellers that no one at Nelson House B & B would blink an eye at an adult, same-sex couple wishing to share a bed.

My new innkeeper friend was too new in the business then to realize that gays form a loyal and highly desirable portion of the travel industry's client base. Even though she was a Jewish woman and probably knew something about prejudice and discrimination, she still found it very difficult to put herself in the shoes of someone suffering discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

All of this came to mind this week when the UK press gave national prominence on the BBC, newspapers and the internet to the denial of accommodation to a gay male couple once the innkeeper realized that the guests were actually a same sex couple. Simultaneously, here in Canada, an almost identical denial of service occurred in Kelowna, BC. The difference in the Canadian case is that the innkeepers defended their actions based on their evangelical Christian beliefs. In both England and Canada(and 50 other countries), national laws are in place to protect all citizens against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Incidentally, the United States is NOT one of those countries. Police in England decided not to press criminal charges and it is up to the English gay couple to pursue possible civil damages. According to media reports of the Canadian case, the couple chose to file a complaint to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. This interesting clash of rights will be decided by early next month.

Now lawsuits and heavily reported civil rights cases are not the reason anyone goes into the bed and breakfast business. In the ten years since I advised my new innkeeper friend, much of the mainstream hotel industry has discovered the reportedly lucrative "pink dollar" and most now trumpet their gay friendliness. Tourism Vancouver and many other cities, states and provinces now dedicate portions of their websites and other marketing campaigns to bragging on their non-discriminatory practices. A go-getter, gay-owned marketing company out of San Francisco has made a bundle by certifying the gay friendliness of corporate hotel chains with little icons of gay approval in the form of luggage tags. Many other PR executives have cleverly inserted a rainbow flag somewhere on their website to reassure and attract gay customers.

I now look back on twenty years of successful innkeeping and look forward to many more ahead. To me, even though times have changed, I know not everyone has changed with the times. As the gay owner of Nelson House B & B, of course I understand and genuinely welcome gay and lesbian travellers. As a man who believes in treating everyone with dignity, fairness and respect, I have long since dubbed our brand of hospitality as people-friendly!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beautiful Vancouver Spring

Majestic West Coast daffodils tower amongst the giant centuries-old blue spruce. This is a sight to leave visitors in jaw-dropped awe. Just be ready to yell "TIMBER" and run for cover!

Next week, we stalk the elusive mountain bumblebee - some the size of a VW!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vancouver video dreaming...

Surprising to some but this city has a heart. In the two weeks of Olympic glory, Vancouverites let go of their shades and earplugs isolation to high-five strangers on the streets, to smile, cheer and enjoy each other's company. It's a memory that locals are calling "amazing" and "incredible". It's a memory that stirs emotions and raises questions. Was that real? Can we ever be the same? Do we want to be?

On the internet, the following video called Vancouver City featuring Linda Ganzini has gone viral with over 800,000 views on YouTube. It is an artistic collaboration between the Inner Life Project and TimeLapseHD. If you have the broadband connection, I recommend viewing it in HD and taking the time to let it buffer first. As a Vancouverite, I think it captures some of the dreaminess that locals feel living in this place.

Today, 60,000 people have given their heads a good shake and despite cold rains are heading down to BC Place for the Opening Ceremonies of the Paralympic Games. Now, with very little media hype and the Olympic apparatus in the process of deconstruction, Vancouver finds itself inspired to support a second torch relay and the relighting of the flame.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olympic Pictures tell the story...

Immediately prior to the Vancouver Olympics' Opening Ceremonies on NBC, Tom Brokaw explained Canada to Americans in just six minutes - well worth a look!

On Day 1 of the Games, between two and three thousand spirited Vancouverites formed a "flash mob" the whole length of a Robson St. block to kick off one of the greatest people parties ever.

Courtesy of The Big Picture on, some of the world's finest photographers captured extraordinary images of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. The photo essay is compiled chronologically in Part 1 and Part 2. Enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

From Vancouver - thanks world and come back soon!

Yea - wasn't that a party?! 16 days, 17 nights of international good times, sporting excellence, shared human sadness, joy and pride. Our B & B's guests from Canada, the USA, the Netherlands and Switzerland enjoyed themselves immensely. Like tens of thousands of other visitors, they will carry the word that Vancouver is a "can do" city that is much more than just a pretty face.

Those of us who live here feel kind of lonesome today. Even as normal life picks up again, there is a strange kind of feeling that yes, the party's over and the guests are heading home, but dammit, didn't we just pull off something enormously difficult and complex in this post 9/11 world? We gave it our best effort and rolled with the punches.
Most commentators today seem to think Vancouver did most all of it with panache and true Canadian decency. In Russia, Putin and company are firing all their top sports brass for their team's inadequate performance. The next Winter Olympics in Sochi look like a real struggle starting almost from scratch. In Britain, the organizers of the next Summer Olympics vow to learn from Vancouver's exceptional organization, volunteer effort and try to achieve something like the same warm national embrace. Sebastian Coe hopes for some of Vancouver' s "magic". With a budget already four times over budget, a cynical media and a dangerous security threat, good luck to them as well.
Here in Canada and the USA , where television viewership set new ratings records, both countries have something to cheer about. The USA captured the most medals overall and the largest number they have won at any Winter Games. Canada, with one-tenth the population, also won more medals than ever before and more gold medals than any country has ever won at a Winter Olympic Games.
World news may now go on to politics as usual, the next disaster, NHL, NBA and NFL regular seasons, the World Cup in South Africa, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, back to the stress and inevitable hating but we should all remember, that for two weeks in 2010, there was love and excitement and friendship in the air in Vancouver. And we did win that little hockey game too!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic City 2

People laugh about the cauldron leg that failed to rise during the Opening Ceremonies but they come to gaze at the cauldron burning outside against an ocean and mountain backdrop. Those rings are floating almost a mile away out in the harbour.

Meanwhile, the friendly, almost exhilerated crowds wander the downtown streets, to take in the pavilion exhibits, the free concerts, entertainment and amazing people-watching!

Adrenalin is pumping in Vancouver. At night, the party continues into the wee hours!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympic City

It's been a full week since the Good Fairy of the North smiled on Vancouver. She gave us a symbol of light and put the spirit of joy in our hearts.

Yeah -yeah, you don't believe that for a minute. But you would believe, if you were here. Vancouverites believe.

I have lived here for over twenty years and have never seen so many smiles, heard so many cheers and been part of such a truly momentous party. Canadian patriotism and pride are front and centre. Red and white is the new black. Everywhere you go, there is amazing people energy and camaraderie. Russians party with Americans. Brits party with the Irish. It's a sight to behold.

While the determined, the wealthy and connected go about the business of observing world-class competition, the rest of us are enjoying every minute of day and night, free entertainment, the almost unprecedented cultural outpouring(probably nothing like it in Canada since Expo'67), the food, drink and all round fun. People need to pace themselves as this party is only halfway done.
If you can, come to Vancouver NOW. Seat yourself in a sunny sidewalk cafe. These are the "spring olympics". All at the same moment, you will feel just too cool on the outside as you feel something wonderfully warm on the inside.
It's not too late. Come to Vancouver and feel it for yourself!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Welcome World !

Vancouver is ready. I am ready. Only hours to go before the Opening Ceremonies and the Olympic Torch Relay is winding it's way towards the stadium through cheering crowds on Vancouver's streets.

Last night, I joined thousands of people at one of the LiveCity public plazas to see the torch finally arrive in Vancouver. And incidentally, the runner who passed us with a huge, happy grin on his face was Vancouver's own, Michael Buble. It was Day 105 on the longest torch run in Olympic history. Over 45,000 kms. from sea to sea to sea. The torch has been passed through the loving and excited hands of more than 12,000 runners. I actually got to hold one in my own hands.

Wandering the streets afterwards, it was impossible not to be thrilled at the international flavor of the crowds - the athletes are from over 80 nations - and the sounds of celebration everywhere. New and dramatic art installations literally light the night sky. Twenty 10,000 watt searchlights, mounted along several downtown shorelines, are controlled by people logging onto the internet at Vectorial Vancouver and suggesting where the lights should shine.

We came to a stone inukshuk that originally stood before the Northwest Territories Pavilion at Vancouver's other world party, Expo '86. Despite considerable local controversy, a stylized inukshuk was chosen almost seven years ago as the logo for Vancouver's Oympic Games. Some people didn't think that it was West Coast enough. The organizers replied that the Inuit people stack rocks in human form as a symbol of hope and friendship. The organizers said that they wanted these to be Canada's Games.
Along the way, millions of Canadians embraced the Olympic torch and fell in love with one piece of Olympic merchandising - red mittens - like your grandma might have knitted. Well, last night, we saw that someone unofficial has added grandma's mittens to a stone creature that used to look kind of forbidding.

The Vancouver Olympics have coined several successful catchphrases. They have used "with glowing hearts", some evocative words from our national anthem. TV ads have been asking Canadians for months "Do you believe?" My own feeling is Yes, maybe belatedly, we do believe.
The newest slogan features celebrity British Columbians like Michael J. Fox, Sarah McLaughlin and Ryan Reynolds telling the world - "You just gotta be here."
I hope you will be - maybe now on your living room TV and someday soon on your next vacation. You really should see this beautiful place for yourself.
Welcome World !

Friday, January 8, 2010

Back to the beach...

Day after tomorrow, it's an early morning flight to Puerto Vallarta. I know from experience that a good book, walks on the beach and tequilas by the pool will take precedence over my fiddly notebook computer and a WIFI signal that seems to waft on the breeze.

I will leave you with something to entertain you for many hours. It's the latest year-end List of Lists , compiled by Rex Sorgatz on Sorry no sound of the waves and warning: may not be hangover-free.

Talk to you from Mexico :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Top Ten Blog Posts

I've been blogging for just over a year now and I want to thank you for reading! A special thanks to those of you who commented. Your remarks and my little old "statscounter" give me a real insight into what you would like to see and read. Sometimes it surprises me - a lot of you looked at my post on the life and death of architect Arthur Erickson. A lot of posts largely made up of my own photography seemed to grab your attention. That tells me to keep the blog personal.

Here are my Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009:

10. Who knew that our trip to Tofino would capture your attention? Obviously, the secret is out.
9. Glad you liked my tip off that Google Earth now shows you beautiful Vancouver in 3 D.
8. As an innkeeper, I just had to get the stifling subject of nestled over-coziness off my chest!
7. Then, I took the guest perspective on common apprehensions about B & Bs.
6. I tried to look at all sides and the pros and cons of online reviews.
5. Five ways to avoid bed and breakfast burnout spoke for itself.
4. So did the top 5 reasons to open a bed and breakfast.
3. The most popular of my professional insider posts was about loving people.
2. A video review of Nelson House B & B was not only an Editor's Pick on but the most watched Vancouver video there! This is the youtube version of it in a bigger screen.
1. My many posts on a local's view of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games drew the most hits by far. This post is just a sneak peak of what is coming!

Love to hear from you. David.