TRAVEL | THINGS TO DO | Tower of London by Jenn Chan

Inside the Walls of Tower of London

Inside the Walls of Tower of London

 

In the game of thrones, read Medieval English isle, if you control the Tower of London you control the South. William the Conqueror started construction in 1066 and the signature White Tower was added in 1078. William was the son of a bachelor in Robert I, the King of Normandy. Jon Snow, of the hit, no, smash hit, tv show Game of Thrones, was also of unmarried parents. In my pragmatic, narrow, Canadian mind I will now, and forever, equate the Tower of London with Jon Snow. As an aside I had occasion today to visit the Guildford Castle in my newly adopted hometown. Love what you did with the garden Jon Snow! Intuition tells me William probably much preferred his monicker 'the Conqueror' over 'the Bastard' despite my admittedly perfunctory knowledge of the actual, boots-on-the-ground connotations of the label a millennium ago. An even further aside, my home country just turned 150 years old this year; happy birthday Canada!!

 

As we parked we could see the majestic Tower Bridge in the distance and the signature four towers of the Tower of London in the foreground as we unwittingly made the march many a headless man made from the execution grounds on Tower Hill to the gated fortress. Ushered into an ancient house and presented with media passes we bypassed the lines and, as luck would have it, merged seamlessly with a tour group being led by an enthusiastic Yeoman Warder. To be a warder, an educated and chivalrous tour guide and ambassador to the grounds, you must have served at least 22 years in the armed forces and have demonstrated exemplary conduct. They live in the gated castle with their families and undertake these hourly tours for which their enthusiasm and knowledge should be exulted!
 

 

Tower of London
Tower of London
Tower of London
Traitor Gate

Traitor Gate

The Armoury

The Armoury

Chapel

Chapel

Tower of London
The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels

 

Views across the mysterious and harrowing River Thames, ancients swords, suits of armour, reproductions of royal bedrooms, torture chambers and some delicious food and drink in the café. It sounds like a good day to me! You?

 

Tower of London at Sunset

Tower of London at Sunset

 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

TRAVEL | THINGS TO DO | Madame Tussauds London by Jenn Chan

Royal Family

 

What an honour it must be to be asked to model for a wax likeness to be showcased at Madame Tussaud's! Athletes, scholars, celebrities, politicians and royalty all mingle in the vibrant surroundings at the famous wax museum. Being my first visit I will admit I pictured a large, neon-lit room with various figures to take selfies with. We entered a large room, with lovey lighting I might add, and there were wax statues of celebrities encircling the perimeter and dotted throughout the centre of a large showroom.

 

Marilyn Monroe
The Beckhams
Johnny Depp
Bates Motel

 

I thoroughly enjoyed checking them out and people watching as selfie after selfie was taken. We might just exit the building now I thought as we, in a sheep like manner, followed a group of people as they meandered up a ramp at the back of the room. The show isn't over folks! Themed room after themed room with 007, King Kong, Star Wars and the British royal family and the pièce de résistance the awesome theme ride park-style taxi ride through the history of London! My first time, but not my last as I'll be sure to pop in at every chance in my travels!

 

Princess Diana
Stormtrooper
Star Wars
 
Words: Scott Allan
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

TRAVEL | Exploring La Paz, Mexico by Jenn Chan

LA PAZ sign at Le Malecon

LA PAZ sign at Le Malecon

 

Do you know that feeling when you're at home on your couch, petting your dog with the tv blathering in the background as you're chest deep in a series of degrading memes aimed at teen pop stars? How often does a notification pop up with an email inviting you to spend a week, all expenses paid, in a tropical paradise? Ya, so that happened to me a few weeks ago... It has happened before, but each time is special. You know like a snowflake or your first time with a fella?

 

Have you ever heard of La Paz? No? I hadn't either. Owing, in part I'd assume, to its seclusion and exclusivity. 2 hours north of Cabo San Lucas on the other worldly Baja California Peninsula you'll find her. If your public school hasn't failed you (geographically speaking) picture Mexico and imagine the large peninsula that dominates its western seaboard and that's Baja California. If you think the Americans didn't want this thing when the American and Spanish beef was popping off? Come on... They have sun all year round, palm trees, golden beaches, fish, gold, camels and elephants; the place is legitimate!

 

La Paz & Marina

La Paz & Marina

One of the first things you'll notice about La Paz is how friendly the locals are and unlike some other Mexican tourist destinations there won't be anyone coming up to you to sell their knick knacks, or their paddy wacks, and the vibe on the street is very mellow. There aren't any commercial chains like Walmart, Mcdonalds so, accordingly, there are fewer slack jaws in Yankees caps who look like candidates for My 600 Life. And shouts out to TLC for their quality reality TV. Please send a cheque. This and the tranquility of the resort really drove home that La Paz is very peaceful and a great place to tune out the world, take in the culture and just really relax.

 

Costabaja Resort Residences

Costabaja Resort Residences

 

Over the next few days our gracious hosts at the La Paz Tourism board whisked us away to explore the more adventurous side of the city. La Paz is known for its beautiful, protected nature preserves and the magnificent, no stupendous, Isla Espíritu Santo! Rightfully designated a UNESCO Heritage Site it comprises 6 islands each more beautiful than the last and each with its own cloak of mysticism and wonder!

 

Isla Espíritu Santo

Isla Espíritu Santo

One of the "windows" in this cave

One of the "windows" in this cave

 

So now picture you're on the bow of a great ship navigating the translucent blue waters beside this chain of islands so spectacular that an organization whose only mission in life is to identify, catalogue and strive to preserve all the wonderful places on this vast Earth has tapped it as one of those. All of a sudden you hear the whine of the engine turn into a whimper and then a whisper as you pull into a bay and are told to start putting on your snorkel gear because you're going to be diving with giant, prehistoric animals who weigh a ton and have gigantic fangs. Did I mention you're in their territory where they're capable of navigating 3D space and moving their humongous bodies at neck breaking speeds? The Sea of Cortez boasts some of the most beautiful water, but was this to be where I died? I look like a fish, maybe? Maybe the snorkel looks like a tail and they could make a mistake and bite my face off, right? Well they didn't and it turned out to be one of the most breathtaking moments I’ve experienced while snorkeling. Maybe in life... Being so close to death and yielding to a giant and trusting he'll leave you in peace is so freeing. We swam alongside their children and babies and it was absolutely mesmerizing to watch them move and play around with each other. Girthier cousins were content to lazily sunbathing and sleep on the nearby rocks. Male Sea Lions are known to be territorial and protective of their young and they stay perched high on the rocks to mark their territory. Snorkelling and exploring Isla Espíritu Santo is a must, and we did that with Baja Adventure Co. Fun fact: sea lions mark their boundaries by blowing bubbles :)

 

Sea Lions Sunbathing

Sea Lions Sunbathing

Sea Lions Sunbathing

 

But wait, that’s not all! We also had the opportunity to snorkel with Whale Sharks, yes Whale Sharks! As we all jumped into the murky waters we almost immediately swam right into one. These mammals are about 6-13 meters long and have relatively poor eyesight. There were a few times when I was right above a gigantic whale shark swimming right under me. I don’t know about you, but my general thoughts of swimming with sharks basically leads to death. However, these whale sharks are absolutely harmless. Their “teeth” are basically little bristles off a tooth brush which they will use to filter out tiny fishes and shrimps from water sucked into their mouths to eat. If they accidentally had an apple in their mouths they would actually choke and die. Snorkelling with whale sharks was definitely one for the books!

 

Whale Shark Feeding

Whale Shark Feeding

Frigate Bird Colony

Frigate Bird Colony

 

I was very amazed and impressed with local efforts to protect biological marine animals, including Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, and Whales, as well as their natural lands and corals. Another region we got to explore was Balandra Beach, another naturally protected area. The government wanted to develop hotels around the area but local residents banned together to stop it. I’m so glad they were able to protect Balandra as it is absolutely beautiful! The sand is so fluffy, and it reminded me of walking in flour.  I can do sand angels all day long there! There is also a short hike up to a lookout where you can gaze down at the beautiful beach with various shade of blue in the waters. You will often see locals and tourists kayak or stand-up paddle board through the Mangrove Lagoon, and onwards to the Heart of Balandra.

 

Balandra

Balandra

Balandra
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand Up Paddle Boarding

 

Of course, we cannot forget about the food. We went to a couple of local well known spots around Downtown La Paz. Some of the more unique and authentic dishes I had were: Botanero Campechano (selection of raw seafood, like snails, scallops, oysters, shrimps) from Bismark-cito; Chocolate Clam Chowder from Steinbeck’s; Cactus Quesadilla from La Casita (recipe passed down from Sergio’s grandmother); and of course Tacos from Rancho Viego. Tacos are usually the most popular food in other Mexican cities, however in La Paz it’s Hate (pronounced Ha-Tay) that is the favourite. Hate is essentially a hot dog with bacon and a bunch of different condiments which may include flag sauce, mayo, chili, guacamole, etc. You can often find locals getting into heated arguments about what should be in a Hate and where they can get the best Hate in town.

 

Carne & Asada Tacos at Rancho Viego

Carne & Asada Tacos at Rancho Viego

Catch of the Day at Steinbecks

Catch of the Day at Steinbecks

 

La Paz is a city you’d want to visit if you want the authentic Mexico experience, where you can engross yourself in their culture, surrender yourself with natural beauty, and experience pure tranquility.

 

La Paz Sunset

La Paz Sunset

EVENT | Little Black Dress Gala at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver by Jenn Chan

Little Black Dress Gala

 

The Little Black Dress Gala is held annually to support the Help Change My City Alliance.  Their focus is providing mentorships to troubled and underprivileged youth within Vancouver.  Additionally, HCMC and LBD Gala award bursaries to those seeking higher education and help youth find employment.  Some scholarship recipients and beneficiaries of the Gala were in attendance.  Stories of community involvement were told by five incredibly talented and intelligent young women.  LBDGala used this as an engaging opportunity to bridge the gap between charitable event and the cause it supports.

 

The Gala is held on the beautiful conference level of the Vancouver Fairmont Hotel.  It seems that no detail was spared, you ascend the grand staircase and are greeted by an artist live painting a canvas for silent auction, there is a photo wall for some professional and IG pics to be snapped.  We opted to grab a glass of wine from the lounge and explore the silent auction items before the fashion show started.  There were some more unique items up for bid, such as a hand-crafted leather purse, unique jewelry and various gift bags.  There was a wide variety of art up for grabs by local artists, it really made me wish I had more wall space (and a better understanding of good art), but honestly, they we’re pretty and I was happy to appreciate them at the Gala before settling into the fashion show.

 

 

Little Black Dress Gala
Little Black Dress Gala
Little Black Dress Gala
Little Black Dress Gala
Little Black Dress Gala

 

Fashion shows with alternating designers are kind of like a grab bag (which I love), you’re going to like some things, you’re going to love others, and there’s the potential that you’ll get something that confuses you (but you’ll likely end up wanting in 6 months, because along with art, I also don’t really understand fashion or fashion trends).  Most importantly there is something there for everyone.  For the most part the designs hung out heavily in the love/like arena, combined with the killer music and personality of the models it was a lot of fun and a great way to start the night, bubbly in hand.  I have to comment on the variety of women and body types showcased at the event.  It was true to the causes mission to empower real women and a refreshing take on beauty.  A++ for model selection and the message it sends to young women. 

 

The fashion show ends and we ventured through the grand hall taking a chance for a few more photo ops.  We made sure to stop at the paper flower wall where everyone was helping each other get the perfect group or selfie shot.  After photos it was time for drinks and dancing.  Selection of beverages were fair and nice to see BC wineries such as Mission Hill on the docket.  Unlike some gala’s I’ve been to this one was straight up fun!!!  Whoever hired the DJ deserves a solid pat on the back.  There is nothing better than a night out with friends where solid throwbacks come on.  By the end of the night we were tired, a little tipsy and ready to get home to our beds but we we’re dragged back to dance song after song.  I can’t remember the last time I got home after 1 am and on Saturday morning I was unlocking my front door at 3:30 am.  A very, very good sign.

 

Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show
Little Black Dress Gala Fashion Show

 

The LBDGala supports local youth, and under privileged members of the community through philanthropic and innovative methods.  They put on a great event for those just getting into the world of Galas, it’s entertaining, fun, and welcoming.

 

Little Black Dress Gala After Party
Little Black Dress Gala After Party
Little Black Dress Gala

 

For more information on next years event check out their website http://littleblackdressgala.ca/

 

 

 
Words: Amanda Scott
Photos: Jenn Chan
 

PRESS RELEASE | Holidays have arrived at Starbucks! by Jenn Chan

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This year, Starbucks has unveiled its first colour-in holiday cup, available at Starbucks in Canada and the U.S. beginning November 1st, 2017. The holiday cup art is a hand illustration depicting scenes of the season, including a pair of hands holding red cups of coffee as a centering point, a symbol of connection, love and giving joy. Recognizing that traditions aren’t universal, they’re personal, Starbucks has intentionally left room in the design where others can colour, doodle and sketch in what the season means to them. Starbucks most inclusive cup to date is waiting for your unique holiday designs.  

 

What would the holidays at Starbucks be without a selection of seasonal beverages to keep you cozy? Below you’ll find information on Starbucks holiday food and beverage including returning favourites such as Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brûlé Latte, Eggnog Latte, Gingerbread Latte and new lattes including Chestnut Praline Tea Latte and the American Nuevo.

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NEW Holiday Beverages

 

NEW Starbucks Blonde Americano Nuevo

Hazelnut syrup adds a balanced sweetness to a classic Americano Misto.

 NEW Chestnut Praline Chai Tea Latte

A delicious holiday twist on Chai – Chestnut Praline syrup with our Lightly Sweet Chai and steamed milk, topped with spiced praline crumbs brings together these two favourites in one.

 

 

Returning Holiday Favourites

 

 

Eggnog Latte

Steamed eggnog and nonfat milk combined with our signature espresso topped with ground nutmeg.

Gingerbread Latte

Sweet and spicy Gingerbread syrup with our signature espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and ground nutmeg.

Peppermint Mocha

A holiday classic made with our signature espresso, steamed milk, Mocha sauce and Peppermint syrup. Topped with whipped cream and Dark Chocolate curls.

Chestnut Praline Latte

Caramelized chestnuts and holiday spices with our signature espresso steamed milk. Topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of spiced praline crumbs.

Caramel Brûlé Latte

Signature espresso, steamed milk and rich Caramel Brûlé sauce topped with whipped cream and Caramel Brûlé topping.

Holiday Turkey & Stuffing Panini

Sliced turkey breast topped with cranberry-herb stuffing, savoury herbs and turkey gravy, served on warm and toasty focaccia bread.

Gingerbread Loaf

The sweet and spicy flavour of ginger, topped with orange zest-infused vanilla icing.

Cranberry Bliss Bar

A blondie cake base topped with sweet cream icing, tart dried cranberries and white orange drizzle.

Nanaimo Bar

A Canadian exclusive - soft vanilla custard filling layered on top of a chocolate and coconut graham base topped with a layer of rich chocolate.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE | 12 Days of Christmas by TWG Tea by Jenn Chan

Vancouver, B.C.On December 25th, awaken to chilly winter mornings with TWG Tea's ultimate festive offering, the 12 Days of Christmas Gift Box, composed of an enchanting collection of 12 ornament-sized mini 25 gram tea tins filled with our favourite fine harvest teas and most beloved blends.

 

Enclosed in a gold and ruby-red chest and elegant sleeve, the 12 Days of Christmas Gift Box is an advent calendar in your teacup. On thefirst day of Christmas, unravel the chest and awaken the frosty morning with a spirited cup of Joy of Christmas Tea, a tantalizing mélange of black tea blended with warm spices, rare fruits and malty chocolate. On the days following, discover other classic favourites such as Milky Oolong Tea, White Night Jasmine Tea and Darjeeling Princess Tea, the perfect accompaniment to a new Epiphany.

 

Photo Credit: TWG

Photo Credit: TWG

 

For the season that keeps on giving, TWG Tea also celebrates the blessed time with a limited edition Joy of Christmas Tea as part of TWG Tea's seasonal Haute Couture Tea Collection®. As the fiery yule log crackles in the fire and family and friends gather to celebrate, indulge in a warm and sparkling cup of black tea blended with spiced fruits and velvety chocolate just in time for the joyous festivities.

 

The 12 Days of Christmas Gift box retails at $198 and the Joy of Christmas in Haute Couture Tea Collection retails at $48. Available at the TWG Tea Salon and Boutique in Vancouver from 10 November 2017.

Photo Credit: TWG

Photo Credit: TWG