Freelance Writing: Spotlight on Cathay Pacific’s New A350 on Non-Stop Flights to Hong Kong from YVR

Hello All,

Some travel/tourism project updates for you! I’ve written an article on behalf of Cathay Pacific for Vancouver Magazine on their luxurious new A350 plane. Anyone who wants to go to Hong Kong will definitely want to book this flight after reading the link below! Chinese food and a luxurious non-stop flight to Hong Kong? I know I’m there!

Now You Can Travel to Hong Kong in the Ultimate Comfort


Discovering Iceland: How They’re Revolutionizing Tech


A view of the Reykjavik skyline from the observation deck of the Perlan.

On a recent trip to Iceland, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the city of Reykjavik and the rest of the country and learn about their culture. This is part one of a blog series that I’m developing featuring tidbits of my vacation to Iceland and insights into some of the things I’d learned about their lifestyle, industry and history.

Part one will feature insights into Iceland’s tech industry with the upcoming parts 2 and 3 focusing on interesting and fun tidbits of the country’s history and lifestyle.

Stepping Into Reykjavik

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

Before I landed in Reykjavik, I had vague notions of what to expect in the capital city and in Iceland in general. I had an idea of what to expect regarding their food, landmarks I wanted to see and of course, geothermal pools I wanted to soak in. But I didn’t know much about their tech industry.

It was a definite eye opener to see how Iceland has started to become a hot bed for industries such as virtual reality gaming, special effects and home grown start-ups.

International Tech in Iceland

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Walking down the Shore and Sculpture path en route to the iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre along the harbour in downtown Reykjavik, I was definitely surprised to see the Microsoft logo emblazoned on a building.

I didn’t think Iceland had a population large enough to sustain a corporate office for Microsoft, yet there they were. Based on some research, it looks like the Reykjavik office has their own division that manages product marketing for office products and deals with legal affairs surrounding customer data protection in Europe. Near as I could tell, it doesn’t seem like the Iceland office has a software development division, but it was still a welcome surprise to see that the Seattle based tech giant made the leap.

A Hotbed for VR Video Games and Special Effects

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Iceland actually has a sculpture dedicated to a video game. That’s right, the sculpture in the above photo is dedicated to EVE Online, one of the world’s biggest and popular MMORPGs (massive multi-player online roleplaying games) developed by video game powerhouse CCP Games. Not only can you participate in different forms of combat from player versus player to player versus environment in the game, but you can also take up several occupations from mining and manufacturing to exploring and trading.

CCP Games is also a pioneer in virtual reality gaming in Iceland with more than one of their titles. Gunjack, a virtual reality arcade shooter was released for the Samsung Gear VR in 2015 and the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016 and EVE: Valkyrie, a first person space combat simulator was released for the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive in 2016. But they’re not the only gaming company in Reykjavik developing virtual reality titles.

Gaming startup Sólfar Studios specializes purely in VR games with several titles such as Everest VR and Godling available exclusively on VR platforms such as Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive.

Reykjavik’s harbor district is also an up and coming area for special effects in film and television. Local company RVX, founded in 2008, has provided VFX supervision for the Harry Potter film franchise, Hollywood blockbusters such as 2 Guns and Contraband and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Home Grown Icelandic Start Ups in Tech, Tourism & Beyond

Cottages in Iceland

Cottages in Iceland

Other start-ups outside of video games and VFX effects have started up in Iceland as well, thanks in part to the annual Startup Iceland tech conference.

I discovered Bungalo, a great accommodation site that allows travelers to find local cottages where hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts are harder to come by. It’s Iceland’s largest cottage marketplace with accommodations all over the country. Although we didn’t go with them this time, I definitely think it might be worth trying to book through them for our next Iceland trip.

A success story in the hospitality industry, Blendin isn’t just another app that gives users information like the times bars and clubs are open. Nominated for Nordic start up of the years in 2014, it even connects friendship groups together in one go, eliminating the need to create separate event invites on Facebook.

On the tech side, Activity Stream is developing operational intelligence software. The software monitors a company’s operations and uses artificial intelligence to improve daily operations and customer support.

This vacation was an eye opener when it came to learning about Iceland’s tech and gaming industry. But that’s not the only thing I learned about Iceland. Next up, fun, interesting and thought provoking facts that I learned about Icelandic history in Part 2 of Discovering Iceland.

Essential tips for traveling with kids


It’s been many a month since I last posted on this blog. Projects for clients and other companies took precedence, but I’ve learned a lot along the way that I hope to share with you soon. Here’s hoping for more bigger and better marketing, social media and business posts filled with insightful advice-due to arrive ASAP!

In the meantime, here’s a reblog of the post that I wrote for MEC on traveling with kids. For parents looking to make family trips a little easier, enjoy!

Whether you’re planning a long road trip, a fall camping vacation or a first-time visit to a different city, travelling with kids is a great opportunity to build some family memories. But as any parent knows, things can get a little crazy when you add little travellers to the mix. Use this list of tips to keep everyone (adults included) happy and your trip running smoothly.

Choose lightweight luggage

When you’re travelling with kids, it’s important to make sure that you have enough lightweight compact storage to keep their clothes, toys and snacks in order. Look for bags that can pack away when you’re not using them to save space, like the Travel Light Duffle. It has plenty of room and can fold into its own pocket to stash during or away after your trip.

Even the littlest explorer wants a bit of independence from mom and dad. Equip your kids with their own small daysack that has room for a toy, snack and water bottle, so that they can stay hydrated, happy and feeling grown up (and you have one less thing to carry). The Littlelife Animal Daysack comes in neat shapes for kids that like nature. Find out what other features to look for when you’re choosing a kids’ backpack.

Pack portable fun


When you’re traveling for hours – whether it’s a long drive to your campsite or an international flight to see new cities – keep the kids entertained with a portable game that won’t drain any batteries or need a power outlet. They’ll be too busy having fun to ask the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”

Layer up

It’s good to be prepared for anything the weather might bring – and this is where layering comes in handy. Layer a fleece jacket under your kid’s water-resistant outer shell to keep them warm and dry if it starts to drizzle, or just use the fleece jacket for cool nights. Some ideas? The Yeti Hooded Jacket or the Cocoon Reversible Jacket.

Don’t forget about yourself either – it’s important for you to be comfortable when you’re wrangling the family from point A to B. The waterproof-breathable Alpine Ally Jacket has deep pockets that gives parents quick access to essential items like bug spray. It’s also super lightweight, which allows for easy movement when you’re chasing after kids or tucking them into their sleeping bags.

Let the Kids Be the Chefs


Build a mobile pantry with all the fixings for trail mix in separate food containers, so that everyone can create their own combinations. You can also let the kids create a fun dessert like s’mores – they’ll like camping that much more when they have a say into what’s on the menu.

Pack cutlery and bowls that don’t have sharp edges, are small enough to be held by little hands and can easily flatten to save room, so that you can call on help from the whole family to make clean up that much quicker.

Give Them the Chance to Explore


One of the best reasons to bring kids on a road trip is so they can explore nature in new places, which means mud, dirt, leaves and puddles. Look for waterproof boots made with parents in mind, like these Stonz Rain Bootz – they’re easy to pull on and off as the weather changes. That means you can let your little ones wander (within reason!) through the woods, without worrying about wet feet.

Prep for naptime

When you’re on a hike and the kids get tired, give your arms a break and strap them into a comfortable carrier. They’ll be off their feet and shielded from the rain, giving them an opportunity to rest up for the next fun activity.

Bring the first aid kit

Scrapes and bruises are bound to happen when you’re travelling with kids. Keep the first aid kit on hand to help bandage any minor bumps quickly so you can get back to enjoying your vacation as soon as possible.

These simple tips will help you keep everyone happy on your next family vacation. By prepping ahead of time, you’ll have a memorable trip with the kids that’ll have you planning your next vacation as soon as you get home.

Original Blog Post

New Year, New Look, New Services-& Some Brand New Content!

Happy 2013!

Happy 2013 to you and yours in Vancouver & Victoria!

With a new year, there are many new and exciting changes to In Retrospect Writing Services!

New Sophisticated & User-Friendly Design

I’ve created a new design and layout that better reflects the In Retrospect brand and it also looks more sophisticated and more user-friendly for all of my readers to navigate my blog. It wasn’t my intention originally, but the color scheme also fits with the winter season, the holidays and the New Year, so I hope you all enjoy!

Up-To-Date Portfolio, Media & Info Pages

On to all the new and updated pages, all linked and up for viewing on the navigation menu.  For those of you who have read about how In Retrospect Writing Services got started and about me, I’ve updated both sections with a short and sweet story on how everything came to be.

I’ve updated my list of clients and portfolio to reflect the latest projects I’ve worked on AND the list of publications I’ve written for is constantly expanding as I work to build up my experience in the media industry and magazine publishing.

Brand-New Services

With a new year comes a desire to focus on providing new services and expertise.  I will continue to offer clients my expertise in copywriting, social media and blogging. But I’m also expanding my focus to include the bigger picture of strategic planning, public relations consulting, corporate communications, project and event management.

Not only can my clients trust me to create marketing collateral, blog posts, websites and social media status updates, I will be offering them my experience and skills in creating strategic communications and public relations plans as well as marketing strategies. I will manage, develop, implement and execute each project from beginning to end; not just one website, one status update or one campaign, but the entire marketing picture.

Brand New Content

This year, in addition to blogging about my experiences, my travels and events on everything related to tourism, food & wine and interior design/architecture; I’ll also be focusing on marketing tips for businesses, top ten ad campaigns and reviewing business books and other publications.

Posts will be done, to the best of my ability, twice a month with each month featuring a marketing/business related post as well as a fun post on food, travel, events or interior design. Here are some examples of posts that I’m working on:

  • Top 10 Sports Ad Campaigns
  • Common Misconceptions About the Communications Industry (And Those In It)
  • Top 5 Dishes & Spirits I’ve Tasted in Victoria-Not in a Restaurant
  • Top 5 Associations to Network In No Matter What Industry You’re In
  • Discover Little Known Secrets As a Tourist in Your Home Town

Stay tuned for more exciting news, content and tips for your businesses as well as fun events, experiences and topics from all around BC, especially Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland!

Coming Soon…….New Year’s Resolutions in Marketing for Businesses

Thanks for reading and keep your eye on In Retrospect Writing Services for more exciting projects, content and news this year!


Sheepdogs, Throwing Hammers and Kilts: 2012 Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival

Matt Doherty Weight for Distance Throw

After experiencing the 2011 Victoria Highland Games, my expectations for 2012 were raised, partly because I now have a great camera to take amazing photos. Still, with the warm sunny weather and not a cloud in the sky I was excited to see what the 2012 Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival had to offer.

After walking through the front entrance to Topaz Park, I snapped a few quick photos of the pipe band practicing in one of the lower fields and joined the large crowd waiting to see the sheepdog trials. Being a city girl all my life, I’d never seen a sheep being sheared up close, but the quick and effective way that the woman handled the sheep and sheared all the wool off with no pain at all, seemingly, to the sheep was impressive.

Next, I watched the tug-of-war competition between two different teams and cheered along with the crowd when the team on the right won. From there, I snapped a few photos in quick succession of the different vendors and clans that attended the Highland Games this year. Standing in front of Clans Cameron and MacLaren, I could see some of the vendors such as Freedom Kilts and Labyrinth Leathercraft, the name which invokes for me images of the Greek myth of Minotaur.

Standing with the crowd and being able to see the distance weight toss up close and personal through the amazing zoom of the camera lens was awesome. It was the first time that I’d ever been able to capture live action shots so clearly, making the experience of watching the Heavy Events that much more memorable.

I was even able to catch an Irish step dancing performance as well as a pipe band performance on the main stage over the heads of the crowd. Both performances as well as that of a music performance on the Bard & Banker stage were made that much more special because of the ability to see every aspect of each performance up close and personal through the camera lens.

Lastly, I was able to capture some great shots of the sheepdog herding trials; snapping photos of the dog in motion as he herded the sheep around makeshift fences in a circle.

What are my expectations for next year’s Highland Games & Celtic Festival? Well, it would be fantastic to finally see the caber toss, which I’ve never gotten a chance to see, as well as the braemar stone competition. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have the guts to try some haggis! If you’ve never been to the Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival, I definitely recommend it!


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Gourmet Fare, A Dip in the Pool & A Sip of Wine-Experiencing Parksville Uncorked 2012 Part 2

Mussels served at Swirl for Parksville Uncorked (Courtesy of Greg Howard Photography & Tigh-Na-Mara)

Friday morning in Parksville after Parksville Untapped started off uneventful enough. I started off my morning with an amazing breakfast in the Cedar Room at Tigh-Na-Mara before heading off to do my interview with Jenn on how Parksville Uncorked got started and what they hoped to achieve for the future

After the interview, I decided to take a soak at the mineral pool at Grotto Spa. If you haven’t been there before, I highly recommend it. Not only is it the epitome of luxury at a resort spa, with rain showers and the best tapas grill I’d ever been to where you’re able to sample endless tapas in nothing but a soft bathrobe and slippers; but the minerals inside the pool work miracles. I had been dealing with some shoulder pain from earlier on in the week, but after spending a good half an hour alternating between the mineral pool and the hot tub, my shoulder pain all but disappeared the day after. It was a great way to relax and spend some time pampering myself at one of my all-time favorite spas.

Once I got back to my suite, I prepared for Parksville Uncorked’s signature event, Swirl, by writing down a few more questions I was planning on asking both Wendy & Jenn. I also took another look at my media package to see what sort of wines would be available.

There were several wineries participating that I recognized, including Mission Hill, Jackson Triggs and Sumac Ridge, to name a few. But I was also surprised to see so many other BC wineries and wines being represented at Swirl. All told, over 150 different BC wines were poured at Swirl. 150! It was definitely an impressive number and I couldn’t wait to try as many as I could.

For an event that’s only four years old, it’s amazing how many wineries, food suppliers and breweries have jumped on board. And it’s got nothing to do with revenue. Parksville Uncorked is one of the few wine and culinary events where vendors aren’t charged a cent and neither resort has to depend on sponsorships. It’s entirely independent and one of the main reasons they’ve been able to run the festival in that way is because of the incredible partnerships. As Wendy told me while we chatted at Parksville Untapped, “the cornerstone to the success of Parksville Uncorked is partnership and not just the partnership between Tigh-Na-Mara and the Beach Club Resort. It’s the collaboration between so many partners such as wineries, restaurants, breweries and food suppliers. We are all working together to support not only tourism in the Oceanside Region but to showcase the diversity of our food & beverage.”  And that’s what it comes down to, the reason Parksville Uncorked is so successful is because of the partnerships and the common goal of showcasing BC & the Oceanside region as one of the world mecca’s for food & wine.

Once I arrived at Swirl, I wanted to try as many different wines as I could, knowing that tonight’s crowd was anticipated to be twice as large as the one the night before. I noticed a few more familiar names of wineries on the list and decided to hit them up first as well as few others.

In total, I sampled from Muse, Summerhill, MooBerry Winery, Elephant Island Orchard Winery, St. Hubertus and Calliope Wines. And the wine that became the absolute love of my life was the 2010 Framboise from Elephant Island, followed closely by a tart yet delicious Cranberry wine from Mooberry. The framboise was just fantastic, it was the taste of sweet raspberries that turned tart as soon as I sampled a strawberry with the chocolate fountain. I’d also highly recommend the Gewurztraminer from Muse as well as St. Hubertus. The Rose from Summerhill also paired well with the amazing grilled cheese sandwich courtesy of Tigh-Na-Mara’s amazing chefs.

Overall, I loved Parksville Uncorked. It was an amazing firsthand experience of an upscale wine and culinary event in a region I’m only briefly familiar with. Personally, I can’t wait for next year and another opportunity to experience what Parksville Uncorked has to offer!

And what does the future for Parksville Uncorked look like? Jenn had this to say when I asked “Parksville Uncorked is truly a celebration of all things BC. The spectacular wines and amazing cuisine come together in this festival of tastes. Our goal is to continue to provide festival goers with the opportunity to experience the incredible products right in their own backyard.” And that’s definitely something I want to be a part of.


Coming up within the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing my experiences with Dine Around and Stay in Town 2012 as well as the CHBA Victoria Home Show 2012.


Cheers and always, happy reading.



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Gourmet Fare & A Pint of Cider-Experiencing Parksville Uncorked 2012 Part 1

Chocolate fountain, strawberries & beer cupcakes by Tigh-Na-Mara @ Parksville Untapped

Months ago, I was invited by Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, Director of Sales & Marketing at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa & Conference Centre to attend Parksville Uncorked for the first time. I’ve always been interested in getting more involved in travel and tourism and she thought that inviting me to cover the event as a freelance writer would help me learn more about the industry and gain an opportunity to become more well-known as a writer who can cover tourism/hospitality & culinary related events.

It was a beautiful, sunny day when I finally arrived in Parksville and it didn’t hurt that my suite also gave me an amazing view of the beach and the water.  It was the perfect environment to be in for a wine & culinary festival, even if the weather wasn’t warm enough to actually spend any time on the beach.

As I got settled into my room and starting preparing for the first event, writing down questions I’d planned to ask Jenn and Wendy Sears, Director of Sales & Marketing for the Beach Club Resort, I was definitely excited for Parksville Untapped. I knew from speaking with Jenn and looking at my media package that Parksville Untapped was the beer & cider event that they had added to Parksville Uncorked. While I’m not a beer drinker (save for a few brands that I can tolerate), I was looking forward to the gourmet fare that was promised as well as the different types of cider.

So with my stomach rumbling with anticipation, I arrived at Parksville Untapped fully expecting to enjoy myself. And, I wasn’t disappointed.  I was able to sample a smorgasbord of great food supplied by both resorts, Tigh-Na-Mara & The Beach Club as well as other food vendors like Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

From an incredible chocolate fountain with beer cupcakes (yes, the batter & the icing had beer) and strawberries to porcini mushroom risotto balls, Tuscan sausage & amazingly decadent truffles, the food did anything BUT disappoint. Out of all of the food, I would have to say that strawberries swirled in the chocolate fountain and the shrimp “spoons” chilling on top of the ice sculpture were my favorites. I also loved the truffles as a final dessert.

When it comes to the beverages, I did find an ice luge carved into a beautiful sculpture that was serving Ephemere Pomme beer, which was quite enjoyable to sip. It was also a novelty to hold my glass up to the sculpture and watch the beer flow through the ice into my glass. Surprisingly, I also found a cider that I enjoyed, which is not usually that simple. I loved the Merri-Berri cider from Merridale Cider and I made a point of writing down the name so that I could pick up a bottle on my way home.

Thanks to Jenn & Wendy, I also learned a lot about how Parksville Uncorked started, how the festival has benefited the resorts and the Oceanside region and it’s made me all the more excited for next year! You can read my article in the Parksville Qualicum-Beach News on it here.

I’ll have Part 2 up by dinner time and you can hopefully enjoy a sip of wine with dinner and my post as reading material.  🙂


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Resorts Reaping Benefits from Parksville Uncorked

Display featuring Elephant Island, Hester Creek, Crowsnest Wineries among others


As I’m still working on editing my photos and putting all my experiences from Parksville Uncorked down on paper, I thought I’d share with you another piece that I’ve written about the festival. My feature article for Parksville Qualicum Beach News sheds some light on how Parksville Uncorked came to be and how it’s become a premiere event for Tigh-Na-Mara, The Beach Club Resort and the Oceanside region in general during the tourism off-season. It’ll also shed some light on what may lie ahead for Parksville Uncorked 2013 and beyond.

As always, I hope you read, enjoy and leave your thoughts on the page.


A Bird’s Eye View of Vancouver & Victoria: Flying Harbour Air for the First Time

Aerial view of Downtown Vancouver

As a semi-frequent commuter between Vancouver and Victoria, I’d somewhat resigned myself to living with long lineups and commutes to and from the Lower Mainland on BC Ferries. However, a Groupon that my partner and I spotted late last year changed all that.

For $100, we were able to purchase $200 worth of credit from Harbour Air Seaplanes to be used for tickets, merchandise or whatever we chose.  As luck would have it, we were due back in Vancouver for a trip to see family as catch the Behind the Myths Tour, which I’ll be talking about in the next post.

So we decided that we would take the ferry there, but fly back. I’d never flown Harbour Air before, but I’d heard from others about how fast seaplanes were, but that you also had to be willing to pay the extra price for quick travel. The Groupon gave us the best deal I’d ever encountered with travel, we only ended up paying $45 out of pocket for the one-way trip for both of us.

And what a trip it was! Although the smaller plane made much more noise than I’m used to with planes and you can feel more of the turbulence when the wind hit, the view was incredible.

Seeing Canada Place, the Convention Centre and the downtown core from a bird’s eye view as we were taking off was definitely something to behold, even though it was cloudy as we left Vancouver. It was a view I would never forget. The view was completely white at times as the plane flew through the clouds. When the plane broke through the clouds though, the result was an absolutely gorgeous view of the sunny blue sky and the sun glistening off the water.

As we got closer to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the view of the golf courses, Dallas Road and Ogden Point was even more breathtaking. It was sunny in Victoria which somehow made the view even more spectacular. As we landed in the heart of the Inner Harbour, the landing was also nothing like what I’d expected. I’d expected a bumpy landing like a plane landing on the tarmac, instead the landing was so smooth I barely felt it and it was all over in just over half an hour!

For anyone looking for a faster way to travel as well as great scenery, I’d definitely recommend Harbour Air Seaplanes. Take advantage of their web saver rates as well as other discounts and next time, you can travel from the Inner Habour to Coal Harbour in less than 45 minutes!


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Cinematic Pleasure and a Little Glamour: The 2012 Victoria Film Festival Opening Gala

Part I: The Film

Buffet Table @ 2012 Victoria Film Festival Opening Gala

As this was my third consecutive year attending the Victoria Film Fest’s opening gala, I had a general idea of what to expect. I knew they were going to be showing a pre-selected film for the first time at the gala and there was going to be an event afterwards where there would be music, as well as great food and wine.

What I didn’t know was how I would feel about the film. Sure, I’d read the synopsis for the French film “House of Pleasures” otherwise known as “House of Tolerance” or “L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close)” and I was intrigued, but I didn’t really know what to expect. At this point, my record for films at the opening gala was 1-1, I loved last year’s Japanese Film “Chef of the South Polar”, but I couldn’t stand the French film I saw my first year, “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”. As a result, walking into the Empire Theatre, I was cautiously optimistic but also a little excited.

The other unknown was how they would open the film. The year before, they opened with a crowd of volunteers as a flash mob, with cupcakes for everyone in the audience. This year, there were a few more surprises. Because it was first year that Swiss films were getting its own showcase at the film fest, the Consulate General of Switzerland was flown in and he gave a speech on how proud he was that Swiss films at a presence at the film fest. There was also a goodbye given to the film projector. For those of you who are more educated in the cinematic arts and use equipment in the industry on a regular basis, perhaps you knew that theatres no longer used projectors and had fully transitioned over to using digital; but it was news to me.

It was a little sad to see technology that had been strong and fully ingrained in film culture for over a hundred years finally be put to rest; though the hilarious slideshow with horrible photo editing that accompanied the mock funeral lightened the mood.

As I said before, my previous experience with French films wasn’t the greatest, but I wanted to give it another go. After all, I’d grown up watching Chinese films, both in my native Cantonese and in Mandarin and God knows, not every single one of them was a hit to me either.

For people who haven’t seen the film and who are waiting to see it either at Sips ‘N Cinema or the regular film showing on Sunday or waiting to rent it, I’ll do my best not to spoil too much of the film for you, but be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

To me, the film was essentially trying to portray the other side of life in a brothel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The film wanted to show that the women who worked in the brothel were not just sexual objects who were paid to satisfy the urges of rich aristocrats who were bored, but that they were human too, with real issues and emotions that deserved empathy and understanding from the outside world.

I think that the director, Bertrand Bonello, succeeded in accomplishing this goal. If nothing else, I did sympathize with the women who lived and worked in the brothel and understand that they often chose to stay and do what they did because there was no alternative. The film even took it one step further and made the madam of the brothel, Marie-France, sympathetic. You hear stories of madams who own brothels as greedy, selfish women who exploit the women who work for them, who don’t care about their pain or any abuse they may have suffered; all they care about is making a profit.

With Marie-France, you get the real sense that she is struggling to keep the brothel open and it really has nothing to do with turning a profit. She is a single mother in the film, working to raise a young son and daughter and she too has a history with the brothel, L’Apollonide. Like the women she employed, she also once worked for the brothel herself but she was able to earn enough money and rise above poverty to buy the brothel herself. It’s a real success story, if you ask me, one that was rare for women of that time period. You also get the sense that although she is strict about the women paying their debts, she really does care for them. She spends time with them on outings and later on the film, she also keeps and find a place for two of her girls who are permanently injured and sick. Maybe I’m painting Marie-France out to be more a sympathetic character than she truly is, but she IS the most empathetic madam I’d ever seen on screen.

As for the girls, the film opens with one of the main characters, Madeleine, being attacked by one of her regular customers and given what’s known as a “Glasgow Smile” (if you don’t know what that is, I’d suggest looking up the historical significance on Wikipedia and/or watching the film “The Dark Knight”. On a side note, when my partner leaned over and whispered to me “Why so serious”, I nearly jumped out of my skin.) The Glasgow smile permanently scars Madeleine’s face and as a result, she hides away from interacting with clients most of the time and instead helps out in the kitchen and with the rest of the housework. Her scarring is an event that the film returns to over and over, each time more graphic than the last, perhaps because Madeleine herself keeps thinking about the event herself.

The other girls also have their own set of problems. Clotilde, who reminded me of Maggie Gyllenhaal with sharper, more angular features; is one of the oldest girls at 28, having been there for 12 years. She makes no secret of the fact that she is tired and depressed with her lot in life and wants desperately to leave the brothel. She even goes as far as to say that if her regular client, Micheux, pays off her debts, she’ll marry him. Eventually, Micheux tires of her, wanting someone who can be happy spending time with him and Clotilde turns to drugs (presumably opium) to ease her pain.

For Julie (nicknamed Caca), Samira, & Lea, their struggles primarily seem to deal with their lack of control over the needs of regular clients (though not abusive, can be repetitive and boring) and while they don’t love their regular clients, it feels good to have a patron take care of them. For Julie, that desire to stay a man’s primary mistress grows into a genuine need to be loved as the film goes on.

And finally, onto Pauline, the newest and youngest member of the brothel at 15. She is the only one in the film that you see join the brothel out of her own free will, borne out of the desire to make her money and see the world for herself. Though she is awkward at first, you never get the sense that she is bitter or depressed about her situation. It seems like she’s trying out an experiment of sorts by working at the brothel and in spite of what the other girls tell her about owing debt, she always firmly believes that she can leave on her own accord.

It was the personal stories of the girls and a few funny moments, such as Pauline quipping after her first job that it wasn’t easy to have sex in a bathtub filled with champagne, but she did it anyway; that made the film more enjoyable to me than it otherwise would have been. About halfway through, the film starts to lag and all the stories become convoluted. It may be because I don’t understand the French editing style of cinematography, but I found that the film jumping from scene to scene and character to character detrimental to the movie and completely unnecessary. It made the characters’ stories hard to follow and some scenes even had music cutting in and out at varying volumes, which only served as an annoyance.

I’ve heard several theories regarding the film’s ending and I’m not sure what to make of any of them or the ending itself. I will say that in spite of the drawbacks, this film was better than the last French film I’d seen, as I did care for the characters. I hope that you’ll see the film for yourselves and come to your own conclusions. If nothing else, it’s a film that causes you to sympathize and empathize with women in a profession that you may have never given a thought to.

Part 2: The Gala

Smoked Salmon Crostini with Lapsang Souchang infused Creme Fraiche

After the film was over, we walked across the street to the Atrium where the gala was being held. The Atrium is the perfect venue for the gala because of the wide open space and the acoustics, thanks to the architecture of the ceiling. We walked in with the red, or rather, pink carpet treatment with pretend cardboard cut-outs of photographers snapping photos of us.

We walked into the main concourse, already filling up with people. We managed to make it through the crowd to the buffet table and enjoy some of the food laid out by volunteers. It was one of the best tables of hors oeuvres I’d ever seen. Put on by Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub, there was everything there from Gulf Island shrimp & spinach local free range egg roulade and Cortes Island oysters raw on the half shell with pink peppercorn mignonette to roasted beet carpaccio and Victoria gin cured wild sockeye salmon. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try everything on the menu, given how many people were at the table.

Out of all of the food I tried though, the smoked salmon was my favorite and it paired really well with the tart tang of the grapefruit martini I was sipping. As we walked around, mingling with the crowds and enjoying our drinks, we snapped our own photos of the décor, the food and the crowds milling about on the concourse.

As the music from two local DJs pulsed through the room, we spotted a robot that someone had built, sitting on a chair. It was really neat because it responded to people’s movements and dialogue by moving its head and having the lights that were on its body flicker on and off. There was also a display that paid a fitting tribute to the film projector that we snapped a photo of.

It was a great night, all in all and I loved having the opportunity to be there and to experience an interesting film and a great gala, once again in an amazing venue. It’s one of my favourite events of the year and I definitely look forward to it every year. If you haven’t been, I highly suggest that you try it out next year it’s definitely worth the admission price. J I do plan to see at least a few more films this weekend, so you’ll see a few more reviews in the coming days.


P.S. Photos to come, editing them is taking a little longer than I thought.

P.P.S And they’re done!

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