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: Eye Opening Facts About Icelandic History

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

In part two of my three part series on my recent travels to Iceland, I’ll be focusing on interesting and fun facts about Icelandic history, including how Iceland is historically connected to Canada.

It was a definite eye opener traversing through the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery in the quaint northern town of Holmavik, appropriately enough, on Halloween and then the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik.

It was fun, enlightening and definitely worth the visit. So without further ado, here are some really cool facts that I learned about Icelandic history. If you’re curious about business in Iceland, check out part one of Discovering Iceland for an overview of Iceland’s tech industry.

Delving into Iceland’s Sordid Witchcraft Past

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

The Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery might be on the small side, but it was chalk full of eye opening bits of history and artifacts.

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One of the coolest things we came across was an actual stone bowl that held the only evidence that the Vikings held conducted ritual blood sacrifices. There was still dried blood in the bowl.

Letter from the Journalist

Letter from the Journalist

Beyond that, there was a creepy true story in the form of a letter from a journalist who visited the museum, who had purchased a talisman in the form of a necklace, hoping that it’d cure him of a recent toothache. Instead of a cure, everything went wrong. Once he sent it back, however, everything went back to normal.

The handy guidebooks we were given also had a plethora of different spells and incantations using different grimores and symbols. There were spells for invisibility, catching a thief, healing minor wounds and protecting livestock.

However, there was an entirely darker and more sinister side to the spells as well. People had been accused of harming livestock, causing ships to crash along the shores and making their neighbors to fall ill.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

One of the most eye opening facts that stuck with me out of the entire excursion to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery is that Icelandic witchcraft history is almost EXACTLY the inverse of the Salem Witch Trials across the border in the US. Of those 21 people accused and executed, only ONE of them was a woman. That’s right, witchcraft in Iceland, historically, was practiced by men. In fact, based on the museum exhibits, there was only one spell really, that women were commonly known to have conjured and it involved creating their own monstrous ‘pets’ that grew out of their thighs and that needed to be fed human milk. I couldn’t see the use of that particular spell during the 1660s so I moved on pretty quick after reading that.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

The first man to be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1652, Jón Rõgnvaldsson, had been accused of raising the dead. Clearly, even though that word wasn’t in use at the time, Icelanders feared the idea of zombies. Just seeing the creepy re-enactment on the floor of the museum was enough for your skin to crawl. It was by far, the most unique case of witchcraft I came across. Others had been accused of controlling predatory animals such as foxes to kill livestock, causing their neighbors to fall ill or stealing money and valuables.

Not surprisingly, many of those doing the accusing held positions of political power, something Iceland’s witchcraft past shares with Salem. You had mayors and magistrates doing the accusing or their family members leveraging said relationships to get people they hated into court. Of course, these judges and mayors also found themselves accused from time to time and while their influence was usually kept them from execution, they weren’t always so lucky.

The Sorcerer's Cottage

The Sorcerer’s Cottage

We traveled to the Sorcerer’s Cottage, about half an hour away from the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery to see the flip side of how the people who often got accused, used to live. Indeed, most of the people who were accused of witchcraft were poor fishermen and their families who lived in one-room cottages and who barely scraped by when it came to food and hunting enough animals to create warm clothing for the winter. They built their homes from discarded driftwood and really didn’t have the means or the resources to often defend themselves from accusations of witchcraft. The prevailing belief was that they turned to the supernatural to try and raise their stations in life, even if that belief turned out to be false.

How the Vikings Have a Connection to Canada

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

On our second to last day in Iceland, we stopped in at the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik as my husband had been wanting to take in some Viking history on this trip.

Boats used for Viking funerals

Boats used for Viking funerals

Notable exhibits included a replica of the ships that were used for Viking funerals, filled with objects that meant something to the deceased in life and that would carry them on the journey to Valhalla. The boats were then lit on fire and pushed out into the water on their journey. I also enjoyed taking a look at the exhibit featuring the quern stone which indicated that early settlers to Iceland had tried-and failed-in their attempts to grind local lyme grass into flour.

The Yggardsil World Tree

The Yggdrasil World Tree

There was even an interesting exhibition on Norse mythology known as Fate of the Gods with all the pieces put together by contemporary Icelandic artists and featuring the World Tree, otherwise known as Yggdrasil. Marvel Cinematic nerds like me will recognize that name as the tree that connects all the worlds together, meaning Asgard to Midgard (Earth), Helheim and more.

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

However, the most eye opening part of the Viking World Museum was definitely how the Vikings were connected and continue to be connected to Canada. By now, I’m sure many people have heard about how ruins of a Viking settlement had been found in Newfoundland and Labrador and that Leifur Eirikkson had made the journey to Canada approximately around 870 AD. In fact, artifacts known as Tupliaks, carved by Canada’s Inuit population have been found in Iceland, indicating that they’d come in contact with Eirikkson’s Vikings and conducted trade.

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur's voyage to Newfoundland

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur’s voyage to Newfoundland

The talented shipwright, Gunnar Eggertsson, re-created a replica of Eirikkson’s ship known as Íslendingur, which he sailed to North America in 2000 to commemorate Leifur Eirikkson’s journey to the New World 1000 years before. The ship arrived in Newfoundland in July 2000 and the Special Celebrations Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, hosted a magor celebration on July 28, when the Íslendingur arrived in L’anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Viking site in North America. They received several gifts from the mayor and the delegation to commemorate the anniversary, including a commemorative plaque, Tupliaks, a commemorative plate and even a soapstone carving. Íslendingur was suspended on ropes and we could walk onto the deck of it and remarkably, considering the ship was built in 1995 and it endured such a long journey, it was in great shape. It was definitely humbling to walk on the deck of something that had been built by hand and re-created one of the greatest historical journeys connecting Iceland to Canada.

Stay tuned for part three of my blog series on Discovering Iceland, this time focusing on aspects of the Icelandic lifestyle. In the meantime, check out my insights on the Icelandic tech industry in Discovering Iceland Part 1.

 

Discovering Iceland: How They’re Revolutionizing Tech

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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.

BONUS: Day 8-The Best Apps & Websites for Planning Your Dream Honeymoon

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Planning a vacation should be about enjoying the journey of discovering all the options of destinations, attractions and activities available to you-and avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming and rushing.

Even after you decide on a destination, you have to make a decision on transportation (flight, road trip, cruise etc.) and decide on what kind of accommodations you’d like to stay in during your vacation and the types of attractions & landmarks you want to experience.

Overall, planning a fun, exciting and possibly romantic trip is all about making decisions. But, the key element to creating the best itinerary for any vacation is a stress-free, seamless decision making process. How do you go about having a seamless vacation planning process? By choosing the right websites and apps, of course. Although large vacation sites such as Expedia and Travelocity have their place, don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the best-or the only-websites for your travel planning.

So which apps and websites should you turn to? Well, I’m glad you asked! As an extra bonus for brides and grooms mired in wedding planning, I’m going to expand my usual top 5 list for this blog series to include NINE of the best apps & websites that I’ve discovered that will help you plan the perfect honeymoon with the itinerary of your dreams!

After all, with all the work you’ve been doing to plan your wedding, you deserve a well-earned, fun, adventurous and romantic honeymoon. Without further ado, here’s the list of top 9 (in no particular order) of the best apps and websites for planning your honeymoon.

1) TripIt Travel Organizer


Why It’s Awesome: TripIt magically organizes all of your travel plans in one place so you can access them anytime, anywhere—in the airport or on the road (even when you don’t have an Internet connection.) Just hit forward to send the team all of your hotel, airline, car rental, and restaurant reservations and they’ll take care of it. Want to add a few notes, links, or recommendations? Just click Add Plans and enter away. The TripIt master itinerary has all the details you need, plus maps, directions and weather, so you can keep calm and carry on. It keeps all of your travel plans in one spot and stay organized with separate itineraries for every destination—ideal for frequent travelers. You can access trip details whenever and wherever you need them—on your smartphone, tablet or online at tripit.com. You can also easily add or edit plans manually right from the app or on tripit.com and receive daily weather forecasts, directions and maps for each destination as well as use map-based search to find restaurants, businesses and attractions, then add them to your trip itinerary in one click.

2) Jetsetter for iPad Hotels & Exclusive Travel Deals

jetsetter
Why It’s Awesome: Jetsetter provides insider access to the world’s greatest hotels, vacation homes and tour packages. With the app you can enjoy panoramic photography, first-hand reviews, and access Jetsetter’s exclusive flash sales — up to 50% off daily. Browse panoramic pictures and 360-degree room tours, read first-hand reviews and grab insider tips and search and discover hundreds of the world’s greatest vacations, from boutique hotels in New York City to charming villas in Tuscany. You can also access Jetsetter’s members-only deals at up to 50% off and iPad exclusive offers without having to join.

3) Dwellable Vacation Rentals

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Why It’s Awesome: Find the perfect vacation rental with this app! Compare thousands of dream rentals right on your iPhone/iPad. It covers all US destinations, including hot spots like Hawaii, Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, Orlando, Outer Banks, San Diego and many others. There are over 80,000 vacation rentals and 1,000,000 photos that you can browse through the regional map and your search results will be automatically filtered by date, beds, price or amenity.

4) Utrip

UTrip
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a European vacation, complete with an interactive map! You decide on your travel dates and it takes you to an interactive map of Europe where you can choose the county and/or city you want to travel to. Then an interactive menu pops up where you can choose your lodging for the trip. Each menu not only has photos of the hotel, descriptions of the amenities and ratings, but once you click to book a room, an interactive map will pop up. The map shows you the locations of all the restaurants, attractions, landmarks and amenities in the area with icons, descriptions, photos, ratings and reviews of each place. It’ll even give you general price ranges that you can expect to spend at each place.

5) YourTour

yourtour
Why It’s Awesome: Not only does YourTour allow you to generate city trips on the spot, but it goes beyond the city setting to offer you visits to whole regions: after all, wouldn’t it be a shame to visit Paris and then find that your adviser never mentioned Versailles to you? YourTour is currently the only travel generator which covers all of a city, one or more regions or even a whole country. What’s more, YourTour will automatically plan hotels to suit your trip and you can make all your reservations in just one click. It’s the only tool that will generate you a real trip complete with reservations based on the preferences and budget you’ve indicated. The YourTour.com website is based on a unique calculation engine that combines mainly hotels and activities in order to generate several million tours in a few seconds. YourTour’s calculation engine matches the attractions and hotels to your tastes and preferences (modifiable in the “Personalize” tab), along with price, distance to be travelled, opening hours, availability, etc.

6) Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search

hipmunk
Why It’s Awesome: This app is the fastest, easiest way to search for flights and hotels, by comparing all the top travel sites so you don’t have to. Unlike every other travel app out there, Hipmunk doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first–the app sorts by “flight agony” instead, incorporating important factors like flight duration, number of layovers and price. Hotel results are shown on a map so you can see exactly where you’ll be staying in a destination. You can also read TripAdvisor reviews in the app and turn on heatmaps to see the best areas to stay in based on unique interests like food, landmarks, nightlife and more.

7) Room 77 – Hotel Deal Finder for 200K+ Hotels

room77
Why It’s Awesome: Room 77 is a hotel booking app that helps travelers find the most rates and book the best prices on 200,000+ hotels worldwide. In one search, travelers can compare rates across hundreds of leading travel sites, including Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com and hotels directly, so they can be sure they are seeing the widest selection of rates and availability to get the best deal. You can easily search and find your perfect hotel from 200,000+ hotels worldwide, see more rates and room categories than anywhere else, so you always get the best deals and save up to 50% with AAA Member and Senior rates. You can also get the inside scoop on the best rooms in each hotel and after you book with Room 77, the team goes behind-the-scenes to get you a room matching your preferences. Want a quiet room or one with a view? They’ll hook you up.

8) Turquoise Holidays Honeymoon Guide

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Why It’s Awesome: You can discover dream destinations, read top tips of where to go when, what to pack and golden rules from the experts on all things honeymoon. You can learn about Turquoise’s unique gift list service, where your guests can purchase gift cards that will go towards your honeymoon and enter a world of stunning landscapes, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and once in a lifetime journeys. Features of this app include: honeymoon tips & ideas, interactive guides for 32 countries across the globe, packing tips, budget tips, destination guides including currency, visas and flight information, interactive maps, special offers, beautiful photos and accommodation photos & descriptions.

9) Cruise Ship Mate

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Why It’s Awesome: Now you can find all cruise ships itinerary in one app! Including the following cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, P&O, Cunard, Oceania and Azamara. No matter which cruise line you’re traveling with, you can access all of these features: Cruise countdown clock, roll call, deck plans & cruise ship info, cruise port info (history, maps, locations, weather), excursion info, postcards, cruise itineraries, deck cams, cruising packing list, cruise ship tracker, vacation picture gallery and cruising tips. You will NOT need internet service to use the app on the ship. You can put your phone on “airplane mode” and still use the majority of Ship Mate’s features.

Yours in Wedding & Honeymoon Planning,

Lilian Sue

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!

-Lilian

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From Brunch and Wine to Traveling and Marketing: Changes on the Way

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you all on new developments and projects as well as blog posts that I’m working on, that will be coming your way in the near future.

In the coming weeks, you’ll be seeing blog posts on the Taste Victoria brunch at Vista 18, afternoon tea at the Empress as well as reviews of the eye-opening documentary ‘Art & Copy’ on the advertising industry and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, it’s a real eye-opener).

I’ll also be talking about my experiences on one of Wilson’s Tours newest walking tours, ‘Saloons, Scandals & Sweets’ as well as my first trip up island to the Courtenay/Comox area and stay at the luxurious Old House Village Hotel & Spa.

In the meantime, I’d like to tell you all about a new venture of mine that I’ve recently started on. A few months ago, I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’m expanding my list of writing services for clients to include tourism/travel writing, PR, blogging and social media.

Well, slowly, I’ve started writing more travel articles and have since expanded the list of other websites where you can view some of my work:

 

Trip Advisor

Sante Spa: The Best in Luxurious Treatments & Environment

My review of my one-of-a-kind spa treatment at Sante Spa Victoria at Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Eagle Wing Whale Watching: Searching for the Whales

My review of my first-ever experience going whale watching with Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours in Victoria, BC

Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park & Turtle Farm, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Visiting with sea turtles on excursion at Grand Cayman during a Princess Cruises Caribbean cruise

Dolphin Discovery, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Part two of my shore excursion in Grand Cayman, swimming with the dolphins.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Las Vegas, NV

My first trip to Madame Tussaud’s in Las Vegas.

 

Tourism BC Blog

Discovering China & Botanical Beaches

How some friends and I discovered China and Botanical Beaches along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

A Historical Gem: Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park

My journey through Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park during my first time in Comox.

 

Big Time Tours (Online Community for Tourism/Travel Writers)

Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort & Spa, Parksville, BC

My experiences at Tigh-Na-Mara’s Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas Lounge.

Scuba Diving for the First Time, Victoria, BC

Learning how to scuba dive from Wilson Diving.

I plan on building on this list as I continue to write more articles about tourism, accommodations, attractions and events out there. Currently, I’m also working on a couple of pieces for Life As A Human.com, which I will post to the Online Writing section of my blog once they have been approved.

I won’t reveal too much of what else I’m working on, however, I will say that I’ve also turned some of my attention to writing for magazines and here’s to hoping that I will have further published articles to share with you in the near future.

As always, thank you for your continued readership and support

 

Sincerely,

Lilian Sue-In Retrospect Writing Service, Owner & Operator.

Announcing a New Service: Destination/Travel/Tourism PR, Blogging & Marketing

June 20th, 2011-Announcing my new service: Travel/Tourism PR, Blogging & Marketing

To reflect my love of travel and desire to promote and raise awareness for Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland’s accommodations, restaurants, attractions and culture, I’ve ventured into travel blogging, writing and marketing.

What began a few years ago as a web copy project for jetPADs Luxury Vacation Rentals’ Vancouver and Los Angeles microsites, has blossomed into a strong desire to understand the unique challenges and the creative opportunities within Vancouver Island’s and the Lower Mainland’s tourism industries and experience the hospitality and one-of-a-kind attractions that my own backyard has to offer.

In blogging and promoting these experiences, I hope to give travelers the world over a taste of why Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland are-and continue to be, the absolute best destinations to travel to and allow them glimpses into the unique experiences, accommodations and attractions we offer.

Some of my recent travel & attraction review/blogging/writing work

Sante Spa Victoria: The Best in Luxurious Treatments and Environment (under the username LSue23)

Chasing the Whales: Whale Watching for the First Time with Eagle Wing Tours

As I continue to add more travel/event/attraction experiences to my portfolio, they will be posted in the Online Writing Section of my site for your reading pleasure.

As always, thank you for the support!

Searching for the Whales: Whale-Watching for the First Time with Eagle Wing Tours

Although I’ve lived on the West Coast my entire life, I’d never been whale watching before last week. It was one of those activities that I always wanted to try and yet, I never did because I felt strange going by myself and it had never been on the list of things to do for friends or relatives who visited my family.

This all changed with a wonderful trip with Eagle Wing Tours here in Victoria. Not only was the day that I chose to go gorgeous, warm and sunny without a cloud in the sky; Eagle Wing also went a long way to changing my perception of whale watching tours.

Although I’d always wanted to try whale watching, I always felt a certain amount of apprehension about them. Everything I’d seen on TV or magazines made it seem like every whale watching company used the Zodiac boats that made for a very bumpy and wet ride and you had to have good balance in order to stand or sit in them. I was worried that I’d either get sick from the bumpiness or fall overboard due to my lack of balance.

But Eagle Wing changed all that, starting with their boats. The trip I took was on the MV Gold Wing, a 60-foot long passenger boat designed to hold approximately 26 people. It had comfortable bench seating and even an on-board washroom facility. Eagle Wing goes the extra mile for its guests, not only providing heavy warm jackets that double as life jackets and pants to protect against the cold spray of the water, but blankets, binoculars, sunscreen, hats, gloves and even sunglasses-anything and everything you’d need for any whale watching trip.

Eagle Wing’s captain Jeff and crew mate Lana made everyone feel welcome and turned what was a good trip into a great trip with jokes and conversation that put me at ease, personally. And the way that Gold Wing skimmed over the surface of the water, occasionally bouncing on top of the waves was exhilarating; it was the best ride of my life.

We made it to Trial Island, south of Oak Bay where I managed to get some great shots of harbor seals on the rocks and a pigeon guillemot.

Next were the Chain Islands, home of harbor seals, ducks and cormorants; where I snapped some of the best photos I’ve ever taken.

We caught the trail of a pod of transient orcas somewhere in between Oak Bay and Sidney and managed to see them hunting harbor seals around Dock Island.

We followed them into the Sidney Channel and the Sidney Spit before being surprised by them as they popped up just in front of the bow of the boat.

Before leaving, we managed to see them surface one last time and as we turned back for the return trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, we bounced higher on the waves as Gold Wing skimmed the surface.

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Overall, it was an amazing experience that I can’t wait to have again. Thanks to Jeff, Lana and Chris for giving me this opportunity to experience everything whale watching has to offer!

The Sante Spa Victoria Experience: Atop the Hill at Westin Bear Mountain

Check out my online review of Sante Spa in my Online Writing section for more info and photos!

Outdoor Terrace looking over the golf course and mountains

Walking through the spa with Spa Director Jen Spencer, gave me a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘the spa experience’. Taking in the gorgeous view of the snow capped mountains and the golf course surrounded by lush greenery and the arbutus trees from the Forest Lounge and the outdoor mineral pool was the best scenery I’d ever seen at a spa.

It was a sunny day and a little chilly but thankfully, the water in the mineral pool was warm

Outdoor mineral pool

enough for me to sit and enjoy the view. Warming up in front of the fireplace in the Forest Lounge with a cup of peppermint tea afterwards was like coming home to the luxury of a fireplace on a winter’s night. Of course, that was only the beginning of my time at Sante Spa.

Experiencing a Body Wrap

uSkincare Bamboo Polish

My massage therapist, Lindsey, greeted me in the lounge and to my surprise; my treatment was in the Birch Room, one of the treatment rooms usually reserved for couples. She had me lie on a heated bed and I definitely appreciated it (beats having cold feet, after all).

Lindsey started my Rejuvenating Arbutus Wrap , one of Sante Spa’s signature treatments, with a full body exfoliation using Bamboo Polish (How cool is that? They have body scrub made out of ground-up bamboo!) on my back, shoulders, arms, legs and stomach. I discovered that the Arbutus Wrap was named not because it used any of the arbutus trees (which are endangered) but because it was inspired by the arbutus tree shedding its bark every season, renewing its skin similar to the effects of the treatment.

After the Bamboo Polish, Lindsey covered my body with mud and cocooned me in the spa’s ritual wrap. I’d never felt so

Arbutus Tree

warm and relaxed in my life. The many layers of the wrap start off with a few towels and layers of what looked like plastic wrap, heavy blankets and even what looked like a heat-resistant fire blanket.

While I was cocooned, Lindsey gave me a relaxing scalp and facial massage using aromatherapy oils. I’d never had a scalp massage before which helped relieve a slight headache I’d been feeling earlier in the day. After the massage, I stepped into the shower to wash away the remnants of the Bamboo Polish and mud. For the last stage of the wrap, Lindsey worked all the tension out of my muscles using moisturizing Cocoa Butter Cream.

What Makes Sante Spa Different

The Forest Lounge

One of the interesting aspects of Sante Spa is its membership in the Green Spa Network.  Sante Spa makes a conscientious effort to ensure that all of the spa products they carry are sustainable brands and that they source sustainable and natural ingredients. They’ve adopted low flush toilets, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, eco-friendly detergents and comprehensive recycling, including donating their used and old towels to charities.   Even the bulk of their furniture is made from reclaimed wood from lumber mills.

A local artist from North Vancouver, Brent Comber, created one of my favorite pieces in the spa –

Brent Comber's coffee table in the Forest Lounge

the coffee table in the Forest Lounge. He created many other pieces at the spa, including the beautiful reception desk in the spa’s front entrance and the tables in the waiting area.

Sante Spa is only spa I’ve ever experienced that has a vertical garden or Living Wall, as it’s called. It’s a wall full of different types of plants that are self-sustaining. It has its own reservoir of water and fertilizer that waters and feeds the plants through pipes and the excess is then recycled back into the reservoir. It brings some of living nature indoors, improves air quality, is energy efficient and surprisingly, reduces noise.

Living Wall in the Forest Lounge

What sets Sante Spa apart for me is the whole experience – the combination of the breathtaking view, the spa’s tranquil surroundings, the exclusive treatments as well as the attentive staff, make for one of the best spa experiences I have ever had. I intend to go back and experience more of their treatments in the future.

Check out my online review of Sante Spa here for more info and photos!

The Inside Look at a Luxury Property-From a Local’s Perspective (Part Three: Tigh-Na-Mara Resort & Spa)

(A/N: Although I experienced Tigh-Na-Mara approximately a year ago now, I wanted to add it to the collection as it’s still a great resort on the island and it’s an experience that needs to be shared)

My partner and I had decided to use our Air Miles for a mini-vacation with an oceanview cabin as well as for a dip in

Oceanview Room

Tigh-Na-Mara’s famous Grotto mineral pool. My mini-vacation last April up island to Tigh-Na-Mara was the first time I’d ever stayed inside a luxury cabin. Well, the first time I’d stayed in a luxury cabin attached to a resort and spa, that is.

Oceanview Cabin

The cabin was both luxurious and rustic, if there ever was such a thing. All the furniture, the full kitchen’s cabinetry and the walls were all made of rustic planks of wood, as close as you could get to an actual tree. The gas fireplace was great when the wind blew up later that night and a balcony with a gorgeous view of the beach and the ocean completed the luxury in the main room.

Our bedroom had a spacious queen-sized bed and just a small window, looking out on the resort grounds and the bathroom was spacious and just the perfect complement to the rest of our suite.

We added a treatment in the hydrotherapy tub to our dip in the Grotto Pool and it was the perfect way to relax at the

Grotto Pool

spa. The minerals within the Grotto Pool cured the slight cough I had and the man-made waterfalls in the pool gave it a luxurious yet whimsical feel. The hydrotherapy tub was the most luxurious soak I’d ever had. Picture the deepest tub you’ve ever been in, with over ten jets giving you an amazing massage and the warmest water ever, heated enough so that it stayed warm for the entire half hour.  It relaxed all the tension and stress out of my shoulders and my back, with the help of some of the minerals in the water and is easily the crowning glory of Tigh-Na-Mara, one that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Running a close second, however, was the Relaxation Lounge and Treetop Tapas & Grill restaurant.

Relaxation Lounge

The Relaxation Lounge was the first spa lounge I’d ever been to where you could indulge in free coffee, tea, fruit and other snacks-all while reading magazines wearing a bathrobe and slippers. What’s more, the Treetop Tapas and Grill had an amazing tapas menu and an even better drink menu. Our waiter recommended I add mango to my pina colada and it turned out to be the most delicious tropical drink I’d ever had.

We ended our time there with drinks that night at the Copper Lounge and then their

Treetop Tapas & Grill

amazing buffet breakfast the next morning. Tigh-Na-Mara is an amazing resort, steps above others I’ve been to since, because of its tapas and hydrotherapy tub treatment. Next time I go back, I’d love to be able to experience a couples’ treatment package completed with the two-person Jacuzzi tub.