Link Fest: Holiday Event Warmup

November 25th, 2009 @ 8:25am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Despite the soggy grey blanket of November rain, the City of Vancouver has come alive with events and activities. Making our way past American Thanksgiving and sliding into December, here is this week’s Link Fest of events to check out around town.

Photo credit: sashafatcat on Flickr
  • The West End Community Centre is hosting its Holiday Craft Fair this weekend, November 28th & 29th from 10:00am – 4:00pm. Admission is free.
  • It’s the Steveston Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday November 28th at the Steveston Community Centre.
  • Bright Nights in Stanley Park featuring the holiday train begins November 27th.
  • St Paul’s Hospital downtown is hosting the Women’s Heart Health Forum this Saturday, November 28th. The Forum and Fair are free to the public although space is limited.
  • Stop by The Bay downtown on Saturday to meet up with Canadian Olympic athletes Gaetan Boucher and Kurt Browning. The first 100 people on site will receive a free signed poster from 2:00pm – 4:00pm. It’s an event to celebrate the “birthday” of the Olympic mascots.
  • The next Vancouver 2010 Pulse to the Podium event takes place at the False Creek Community Centre this Sunday, November 29th, from 11:00am – 1:00pm.
  • The Vancouver Opera is hosting a Food Bank Food Drive November 28th until December 5th.
  • On December 1st there will be a tree lighting ceremony at Holland Park in Surrey. The free event, with Mayor Dianne Watts, is for all ages will feature the Olympic mascots, Tim Horton’s hot chocolate, and many activities. They will also be accepting non-perishable food donations for the Surrey Food Bank.
  • The Edmonds Santa Claus Parade happens in Burnaby this Saturday, November 28th at 1:00pm.
  • The Bear Creek Park Christmas Train launches its holiday run December 4th.
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge launches its holiday light display, Canyon Lights on December 4th.
  • CBC’s annual Food Bank Day fundraiser is December 4th and they’re also doing an open house for their new downtown broadcast facilities.
  • The biggest holiday light show in BC, Lagerstrom’s Christmas, kicks off December 5th. 15466 91A Ave, Surrey and proceeds go to charity.
  • The New Westminster Hyack Parade of Christmas Light is December 5th along Columbia Street.
  • Last but not least, the DOXA Documentary Film Festival hosts monthly screenings and Thursday November 26th they will be showing Football Under Cover at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas. Tickets are $10 and available online or right here. I have two tickets to give away to this screening so to enter, just leave a comment below and I’ll draw a winner by the end of the day today.

    Update: I drew Stv (Steve) as the movie pass winner – congratulations!

    Then and Now Vancouver Hotels

    November 24th, 2009 @ 3:22pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    After staying in 4 hotels over the last 7 nights, I figured a reprise of the “hotel” theme for my Vancouver Then and Now series would be in order. The original photos are from the City of Vancouver Archives’ online collection, and some of the new images are from Google Street Views.

    Then and Now Vancouver Hotels

    Clarence Hotel, 515 Seymour Street

    Photographer: Jack Lindsay, Item #: CVA 1184-227

    Malone’s Bar and Grill

    Hotel Pennsylvania, corner of Carrall and Hastings Streets

    Major Matthews Collection, Item #: Hot N34

    Portland Hotel Society-Pennsylvania

    Hotel Georgia, 801 West Georgia Street

    Major Matthews Collection, Item #: Hot N36

    Rosewood Hotel Georgia 2014

    Murray Hotel, 1119 Hornby Street

    Photographer: WJ Moore, Item #: Hot N6

    Murray Hotel

    Wigwam Inn, up Indian Arm

    Major Matthews Collection, Item #: LGN 1028

    Wigwam Inn, up Indian Arm
    Wigwam Inn

    You can read other posts in this series, including “Then and Now” hotels (part one), apartments (part one and two), tourist attractions, parks, and more. Just a reminder that the City of Vancouver Archives are presenting a special film showcase this Sunday and I have 4 tickets available for my readers to win. See this post for details.

    Robson Square Ice Rink Now GE Ice Plaza

    November 23rd, 2009 @ 9:30am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    After closing in 2004, the Robson Square Ice Rink is now renovated, re-surfaced, and covered with ice in time for some winter fun and 2010 festivities — of Olympic proportions.

    Former Site of Robson Square Ice Rink

    In 2006 I profiled the rink, which was in limbo — looking for sponsors and ways to reconstruct the skating surface without damaging the offices and classrooms that had come to surround it. In recent years it was a popular venue for dance classes as Vancouverites would meet to tango and salsa under Robson Street through Dance Sport BC.

    With the return of the ice in an opening ceremony at 9:30am today, the rink will be open for a free public skate from 12:00pm until 9:00pm today. Regular hours will be:

    Free Public Skating
    Public Skate and Cafe: noon to 9 p.m.
    School Groups, Coaching Clinics and Skills Training: 9 a.m. to noon
    Extended Public Skate Hours from Dec 21 to Jan 1: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    Hours Christmas Day (noon-5 p.m.), Boxing Day (9 a.m.-9 p.m.),
    New Year’s Day (9 a.m.-9 p.m.)
    Extended Public Skate Hours during the Winter Games

    “After” Photo credit: © Michael Wong on Flickr – Used with Permission

    “After” Photo credit: © Michael Wong on Flickr – Used with Permission

    According to Metro News, General Electric spent $1.6 million in the past three years restoring the rink and the glass-domed GE Ice Plaza will be used as a central location for public celebration during the Vancouver Olympics. Skating will be free if you bring your own skates to wear but you can also rent for $3 (kids 12 and under can rent for free). Free skating will continue to be open to the public as of today and running through the 2010 Olympic Games.

    Will you be taking advantage of FREE public skating at the new GE Ice Plaza?

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    Update: I stopped by today to take some photos. There were plenty of lunchtime skaters as well as live entertainment from a brass band.

    Christmas @ GE Plaza

    Christmas @ GE Plaza

    Christmas @ GE Plaza Christmas @ GE Plaza

    Christmas @ GE Plaza Christmas @ GE Plaza

    Christmas @ GE Plaza

    Update: To answer some questions, they have helmets available to rent as well as plastic carts to push around on the ice, assisting young ones and those who cannot skate very well.

    Update: You can cross OVER the ice rink on the FREE Olympic Zipline, read more here.

    Update: Due to an attack on my site, this post was republished and comments have been lost.

    Update: The rink will re-open the first weekend of December, 2010 per UBC Robson Square. Construction update here.

    Vancouver Archival Films at Vancity Theatre

    November 23rd, 2009 @ 9:15am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    The City of Vancouver Archives are opening up their film vault this Sunday with a historic showcase of some fascinating moments in our City’s history.

    Where: Vancity Theatre (Vancouver International Film Centre on Seymour)
    When: Sunday, November 29th at 2:00pm
    Tickets: $8 and available online in advance

    The footage (different to the spot featured above) will include some of the following events from Vancouver’s past:

  • The Vancouver Polo team defeat Douglas Lake 13-4 and takes the B.C. Challenge Trophy, 1928.
  • Spencer’s Toy Parade ca 1927. Santa Claus climbs the facade of Spencer’s Department Store.
  • World War I flying ace Albert Earl Godfrey takes off from the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Jericho Beach ca 1928.
  • The New Zealand All Blacks play rugby at the Brockton Oval, Stanley Park ca 1934.
  • A newsreel of Bing Crosby’s visit to Vancouver in 1948 to raise funds for the Sunset Memorial Centre (Film was found in a time capsule).
  • Things to do in Stanley Park in the 1930s and 40s.
  • … and much more.
  • This is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of Vancouverites from 1926 – 1950. There will be live music accompaniment and the Vancity Theatre is a licensed venue (please note this event is for ages 19 and over). You can follow the City of Vancouver Archives on Twitter or see other footage on their YouTube channel.

    Update: I have FOUR tickets to give away for this film event. Please leave a comment below and I’ll draw a winner by the end of the week.
    Update: Scales is my first winner and I’ll draw another later today, thanks!
    Update: My other winner is Andrea, congratulations & have fun!

    Switzerland: Farewell Zurich

    November 22nd, 2009 @ 4:00pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    LaSalleUpon returning to Zurich, we went out for dinner last night in the industrial district, where our hotel was located. The Schiffbau used to be a ship building yard/warehouse but is now a centre of theatre, dining, drinks, and entertainment.

    There we met up with more representatives of Presence Switzerland, along with Martin Elbel & Martin von Walterskirchen from OSEC.

    Following a farewell aperitif and dinner, we headed to the Zimtstern event a few block over in another warehouse building.

    zimtstern-contrastI will have a full post about Zimtstern (official outfitters of the 2010 Swiss Olympic team) but it was nice to see Claus Zimmermann of the company once again (since we met him last time we were in Zurich) along with his brother Florian, who hosted us at the hockey game a few days ago.

    We were sat along the catwalk in the front row of their 2010/2011 collection fashion show as we checked out the modern, colourful and functional snowboard and skate gear from Zimtstern.

    Awaking in Zurich on a Sunday morning was peaceful an invigorating since it was the first time I had more than 5 hours of sleep on this trip. I chatted with John for a bit as he winded down on a Vancouver Saturday night before I ventured out for a small photowalk around the area. Sunday means all shops are closed and since we’re in the industrial part of town, which is actually home to tech companies, dotcoms, and startups, the streets were bare save for a few dog-walkers emerging from their condo lofts.

    Zurich morning, in the industrial district Zurich morning, in the industrial district

    I’m writing this just about an hour before we head to the airport although this post will be published later in the day, probably around the time I arrive back in Vancouver. I have more posts about my visit, which will be more Olympic and Vancouver 2010 related so they will be peppered amongst my regular local coverage over the coming weeks.

    Zurich morning, in the industrial district

    I would like to thank the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland for their hospitality and for giving us Dr. Sibylle Ambühl as an amazing guide. Along with her colleagues, Tania Humair, Xenia Schlegel and a host of others I hope to see in Vancouver this February, we were well taken care of and loaded with an abundance of useful information about this country. The guests they lined up to guide us, and for us to interview were also extremely helpful, friendly, and insightful.

    Zurich morning, in the industrial district

    Signing off from Zurich as the sun makes its way up to its peak in the rose-coloured sky, I have a new-found knowledge of this country’s pillars of economics, politics, and deep-rooted traditions. The efficiency, the environmentally sound practices, and the hospitality of its people is hard to match. That, and the entire country, from bustling urban hubs to goat-grazing alpine meadows, is utterly unique and refreshingly cool.

    All of my posts from Switzerland can be viewed here.

    Switzerland: St Moritz

    November 22nd, 2009 @ 10:00am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    After a night of good food in a wood-paneled room above the world’s largest whiskey bar we set out from our Hotel Waldhaus Am See to explore St Moritz on foot.

    St Moritz

    Our guide for the morning was John Webster, an Australian who traveled the globe and decided that there was no place better for him to live than St Moritz. He set up his life in this historic town (sitting at 1,800 above sea level) and is an extremely charming ambassador for the City.

    St Moritz

    St Moritz is divided into two communities, St Moritz – Bad (on the West side of the lake) and St Moritz – Dorf, on the North side. The city is known for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948 however it was also the birthplace of the bobsleigh, competitive winter sports as a whole, the skeleton (tobogganing), and winter tourism. The alpine ski starting point atop Piz Nair has a 100 per cent vertical drop, which is the longest, steepest start in the world and various other venues are either the longest, fastest, or oldest of their kind in the world.

    St Moritz

    Aside from Winter sports, St Moritz is also a summertime destination with a trail network that spans over 180km. Athletes such as Lance Armstrong come here for altitude training, while windsurfing and sailing on the lake are also big attractions. John also noted that they have three seasons in St Moritz; Summer, winter, and building as we noticed cranes and construction work dotting the landscape.

    St Moritz

    Due to its mineral springs, the area was originally a place people traveled to for cures, spas and even pilgrimages as in 1519, Pope Leo X gave total absolution to all who made the journey to St. Mauritius Church. For centuries it was a destination but there was no real infrastructure until 1815 when the first formal spa facilities were constructed.

    Soon after hotels followed, including the five-star Carlton (that was originally built as a holiday home for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia), Palace Badrutt’s, and the Cresta Palace.

    St Moritz

    Palace, St Moritz

    Heading up to the city from the lake-side promenade, we crossed through the central parking garage. To reduce the amount of cars on the narrow roads, this massive multi-level lot is carved inside the face of the mountain and uses a series of escalators (including the country’s longest) to get pedestrians up to the village level. Along the way, the Design Gallery of St Moritz outfits the passage walls with a photography exhibit.

    St Moritz St Moritz

    The city was deserted when we started out and John explained that during the winter, locals go about 4 straight months of working 7 days a week so in the off season they take plenty of much-deserved time for themselves. However bare the streets were in terms of actual people, there was no shortage of high-end names; from D & G to Cartier, Versace, Prada, and Bulgari. At 10am on a Saturday morning the locals you do pass by are completely dressed to the nines in suits and sleek leather apparel, even when out walking their dogs.

    St Moritz St Moritz

    St Moritz St Moritz

    Winding up the stone passageways I couldn’t stop taking photos of the buildings, which all had such beautiful architecture and detailing. John said that the etching we saw on the sides of the structures was called “scrafitti.” This is the process of etching coloured patterns into the plaster while it sets over a period of several weeks.

    Scrafitti, St Moritz

    We passed by the oldest farmhouse in town, where we were told that livestock would be lead through the bottom door and kept on the lowest level of the house during winter months. The heat from the animals’ bodies would then rise up through the floorboards and keep the families nice and toasty. Now, the building is home to a restaurant and a pizzeria on the very top level. The ornately-carved wooden doors were a sign of status and wealth.

    St Moritz

    Continuing our inclined stroll through the twisting streets I noticed the abundance of colour — bright blue, yellow, and red alpine flowers were spotted throughout courtyards while the scraffiti-surfaced buildings boasted deep brown, and orange hues.

    St Moritz

    St Moritz St Moritz

    St Moritz

    Making our way all the way up to the original site of St. Mauritius Church, which has its own leaning tower, which is still structurally sound. From there we learned about the history of the bobsleigh and the Cresta Run before heading down to the Olympia Bob Run (which will be covered in another post).

    St Moritz, Birth of the bobsleigh/skeleton

    St Moritz St Moritz

    St Moritz

    Walking back through town we passed the outdoor curling rink used during the St Moritz Olympics, and stopped off at Hanselmann for some coffee and treats.

    Olympic Curling Rink, St Moritz

    Hanselmann, St Moritz

    Sitting in the confectionery where Audrey Hepburn would have her afternoon tea, the legend that is St Moritz had yet to soak in. The profound history of ancient ruins and sporting innovation mixed with modern glitz and glam all melts together in this wondrous place. Snuggled in by mountains on all sides with a lake that reflects its naturally glassy scenery, I think my breath was simply taken away for the entire duration of our guided walk.

    St Moritz

    Although this side of St Moritz may not be the most affordable for most (compared to our quaint hotel across the lake) it is still a destination to be explored for countless reasons.

    St Moritz

    Hopefully my hike-loving husband will want to return with me someday in the summertime so we can get a bird’s eye view of one of the most amazing places on earth.

    St Moritz

    You can get your own taste of St Moritz at the House of Switzerland Canada during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. Located at Bridges on Granville Island (and the Mountain Club in Whistler), the House will have a St Moritz theme and will be entirely open to the public throughout the Games.

    You can view the rest of my photos from my media trip to Switzerland in this photo set, and read all posts here.