Powerful 8.8 Earthquake in Chile Sends Tsunami to Hawaii

Chile was struck by a powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake on Friday night which has resulted in the National Weather Service issuing a tsunami warning for the Pacific Rim including Hawaii.

Devastating photographs and stories from survivors have only begun to surface at this time.  The American Red Cross website is already set up to accept donations and to help connect families connect with loved ones in Chile.

The earthquake epicenter was 200 miles to the southwest of Chile's capital city, Santiago.  In 1960, Chile experienced the largest earthquake ever recorded which registered as a 9.5 magnitude.

Flickr.com Photo: Chile Llamas by Doug88888

Princess Cruises to Offer the Bon Voyage Experience

Due to security concerns, gone were the days when friends and relatives could board a ship to wish lucky passengers a bon voyage.  Beginning in early March, Princess Cruises is going back in time to revive that well-loved cruising tradition of the past, the Bon Voyage Experience.

This unique feature will allow guests to board the ship along with passengers prior to embarkation and enjoy a number of fun activities including a four-course luncheon with wine, a tour of the ship, along with a souvenir photo during the four hour time allotment.

The cost for the Bon Voyage Experience is USD $39 per person, which can be applied toward the purchase of a future Princess Cruise.

For more information, visit Princess Cruises.

Palm Beach Marine Flea Market & Seafood Festival

Shop and savor this weekend, February 26-28, 2010, at the Palm Beach Marine Flea Market & Seafood Festival located at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, FL.

This ‘massive maritime event’ provides an outlet for individuals & business owners to showcase their services as well as sell new and used marine equipment at significant savings for potential buyers.  Sample items for sale will include boats, apparel, fishing equipment, art, jewelry, crafts, collectibles, scuba equipment, floating docks and more – with ‘nautical bargains galore!

Don’t miss the Seafood Festival!  Enjoy live local bands along with healthy delicious seafood complete with side dishes, beverages, desserts, and comfort foods, throughout the three days of the event.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club is located at 1111 N Congress Ave, West Palm Beach, FL with easy access from the Florida Turnpike and I 95 with tons of free parking.

For more information and directions, visit Miami Nautical Flea Market.

Flickr.com Photo Credits:

Hiking in Mount Hood National Forest

The Pacific Northwest offers a plethora of outdoor opportunities including fantastic hiking in the Mount Hood National Forest, only twenty miles from Portland, OR.  Nestled between the Willamette River valley and the Columbia River Gorge, it’s no wonder that visitors flock to the over 1 million acres of scenic trails, lakes, and stunning natural beauty.

Although climbing Mt. Hood (11,237 feet) is an option, many visitors opt for less strenuous hikes including popular Mirror Lake, Mountaineer Lake (at famous Timberline Lodge), Little Zigzag Falls, and Ramona Falls Loop.  

Jackpot Meadows is an easy trail that covers about 2 miles in 2 hours – bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the views of the Upper Salmon River.  Mountaineer Trail is another 2 mile/2 hour hiking option that ends in spectacular views (from Silcox Hut) – of the Coast Mountain range, Mt. Jefferson, Broken Top, and Three Sisters.

The heavily used Eagle Creek Trail is a 13.2 mile hike starting at Bonneville Dam (tours available) that includes the perfect Oregon trail experience – meadowlands full of wildflowers, waterfalls, cliffs, camping, and there's even a fish hatchery next to the picnic grounds.

The U.S. Forest Service advises that all hikers heading onto a trail or into backcountry should be equipped with ‘The Ten Essentials’: map; compass; working flashlight; extra food and water; extra clothing; sunglasses; first aid kit; pocket knife; waterproof matches; candle and firestarter.  Additions to this would be a great pair of walking boots, comfortable clothes, binoculars, and a camera.

Camping, rafting, fishing, mountain biking, boating, canoeing, and horseback riding are just some of the other options you’ll find in the Mount Hood National Forest along with several Day Use areas.  Passes & permits (such as the Northwest Forest Pass) may be necessary to access certain areas of the forest; a Day Use Fee is USD $6 per vehicle.

If you’re looking to bike the Mt. Hood Loop in the summer, Cascade Huts offers a 3-night/4-day option that ranges from 135 to 160 miles in length.  Each Cascade Hut sleeps up to 8 people and comes complete with food, water, a propane stove, and lanterns.

For more information, visit Mt. Hood National Forest.

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Hood by nosha
Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood by Mulmatsherm

Discover the Pristine Northeast Coast of Brazil

Are you looking for an alternate destination for your vacation this year with the perfect combination of sun, sand, authentic culture, nature, and cuisine?  Look no further than the state of Pernambuco, Brazil.

Offering over one hundred miles of gorgeous coastline, Pernambuco is known for its spectacular marine life and scuba diving plus its historical architecture displayed in the abundance of 16th century Dutch buildings.

One vacation option is Recife, the capital city of Pernambuco.  This port city has only recently become a popular choice for tourists and is known as the ‘Venice of Brazil’ due to its canals, bridges, and narrow windy streets.  Within Recife, Boa Viagem has immerged as the place to stay as it offers a wide selection of hotels and nightlife while Old Recife is known for its restaurants, museums, and architectural charm.

Olinda, the former capital city of Pernambuco is just 4.5 short miles north of Recife.  Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olinda proudly displays some of the best colonial architecture in all of the country.  Along the Golden Coast (between Olinda and Recife) are several excellent dive sites offering a fabulous presentation of sharks, turtles, and shipwrecks.

The tiny island of Fernando de Noronha (also a UNESCO World Heritage site) lies approximately 340 miles from Recife and is the only inhabited island in the archipelago.  Formed atop an underwater volcano, Fernando de Noronha offers no less than sixteen stunning beaches with amazingly clear turquoise waters which are again perfect for diving, snorkelling, and even surfing during the winter months.

For more information, visit Brazil Tourism.

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Olinda by Helder da Rocha and Recife by Helder da Rocha 

Voluntourism Getaway in New Orleans

The centrally located New Orleans Marriott is offering hotel guests a way to give back with their Big Easy Spirit to Serve Voluntourism Getaway package.

Designed to offer guests ‘Care Concierge’ recommendations for community service projects, this unique package includes one night accommodation, a USD $50 donation to the Greater New Orleans Habitat for Humanity program, and a breakfast for two in-room or at the in-house 5 Fifty 5 restaurant.

The Big Easy Spirit to Save Voluntourism Getaway is available seven days a week until March 31, 2010, and is subject to availability; rates for this special getaway range from $139 to $299 based on double occupancy.

For more information, visit the New Orleans Marriott.

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Welcome to Camp Hope by P Keigan 
View from Marriott- New Orleans by Jamie M. Lewis ______________________________________________________________________________

Discover Super, Natural British Columbia

One of the most beautiful provinces in all of Canada, British Columbia can be divided into six distinct regions with all of them offering unique beauty and experiences.

Vancouver, Coast & Mountains: known for its stunning scenery and diverse cultures, this region of B.C. offers world-class recreation opportunities including hiking, biking, golf, cycling, and kayaking; combined with fresh west coast cuisine, shopping, and attractions like Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Whistler Blackcomb

Vancouver Island: home to the Provincial capital city of Victoria, you’ll find a plethora of whale watching, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and surfing along these pristine coastlines; Vancouver Island provides the mildest climate in all of Canada

Thompson Okanagan: the perfect destination for avid golfers, cyclers, skiers, house boat enthusiasts, and wine lovers, this region features beautiful Lake Okanagan which sparked the legend of the Ogopogo; the Thompson Okanagan is the hottest region in the province

Northern British Columbia: untouched natural beauty with over sixty parks featuring one of a kind eco-systems and cultural experiences; enjoy fishing, hiking, learn about First Nations art, soak in the hot springs, or experience whale and grizzly bear viewing opportunities

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast: extending from the fjords, to the mountains, and the plains in between, here you can explore the Gold Rush Trail, experience heli-skiing for the first time, or gaze at the sheer natural beauty of the pristine lakes

Kootenay Rockies: rivers, lakes, forest, national parks, and five mountain ranges offer an array of choices for nature and year-round recreation lovers; uncrowded and inviting, visitors come to enjoy the laid-back lifestyle eco-conscious environment

For more information, visit Hello BC, & don't forget to Enter to Win the Perfect British Columbia Vacation!!

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Mission Hill Vineyard by CottonCandy
Spirit of Vancouver Island en route to Swartz Bay by  SteveVoght
Main Street in Nelson by RegNatarajan

Top-Rated Hotels in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, B.C., home to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, is a vibrant city nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Mountain range.  It's natural beauty is accented through a blending of cultures, amazing cuisine, and an array of top-rated hotels.

According to readers of TripAdvisor, here are the Top-Rated Hotels found in Vancouver, B.C.:
  1. Loden Vancouver, 1177 Melville Street 
  2. St. Regis Hotel, 602 Dunsmuir Street
  3. Shangri-La Hotel, 1128 West Georgia Street
  4. Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, 845 Hornby Street
  5. Opus Hotel, 322 Davie Street
  6. Carmana Plaza, 1128 Alberni Street
  7. Hotel Le Soleil, 567 Hornby Street
  8. Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver, 645 Howe Street
  9. Club Intrawest Vancouver, 1001 Hornby Street
  10. L'Hermitage Hotel, 788 Richards Street
For more information, visit Tourism Vancouver.

Join the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Party!

During the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, celebration sites in Whistler, Vancouver and Richmond will offer everything from top international performing artists to live big screen feeds from the competition venues. But that’s not all: here’s a guide to some other party zones promising Olympic-inspired amusement.

Just steps from LiveCity Downtown, in a Coast Salish-style longhouse topped by a 20-metre (65-foot) high, air-supported multi-media sphere, the 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion will be the place to experience First Nations art, music, entertainment and cuisine from across Canada. Free performances will range from Inuit throat singing, M├ętis jigging and hoop dancing to such cutting edge works as Marie Clements’s multi-media project The Road Forward shown in a room-sized snow globe.

Concerts and cultural events headline the Surrey 2010 Celebration Site in Holland Park, with outdoor skating and curling rinks, a toboggan zone, and live Games broadcasts rounding out the all-ages entertainment. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Musical Ride promises to be a special draw; featured daily, this ceremony showcases scarlet-uniformed Mounties on horseback.

Live music, dance performances and big screen broadcasts of the sporting events are also on the menu at Spirit Square, West Vancouver’s official celebration site. Daytime and evening entertainment and programming will feature local and national artists: celebrations will showcase spectacular cultural performers from Canada’s Arctic – including a traditional Inuit blanket toss -- and a North Shore Youth Film Festival Gala. In addition to the entertainment, the Canadian Space Agency’s Sports in Space exhibit makes its debut at the official 2010 Celebration Site.

The biggest party zone, though, is Granville Island. Home to several theatres, a lively public market and dozens of galleries, craft shops and restaurants, this popular urban park on False Creek’s south shore will host several cultural Olympiad venues, hospitality pavilions and its own Winterruption festival during the Games. Bridges Restaurant will temporarily morph into the Swiss National House, one of the few national houses open to the public, while top Maritime acts and nightly kitchen parties will draw fans to Atlantic Canada House. Also on the island: Place de la Francophonie 2010, a celebration of French Canadian music, food and culture. Singer Florence K, offbeat band the Porn Flakes, and top francophone comics performing in Juste pour rire 2010 are part of a long list of entertainment planned. A free streetcar service will link Granville Island to the Canada Line Olympic Village Station (Cambie Street and West 2nd Avenue).

And the price of admission for any of these sites?  Most of it is FREE! 

For more information, visit:
Aboriginal Pavilion 
Surrey 2010    
West Vancouver  
Granville Island    

Press Release: Hello BC
Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Vancouver British Columbia Skyline by Brandon Godfrey
The Vancouver Art Gallery by Brandon Godfrey 
Granville Island Public Market, Vancouver, B.C by MargaretNapier

WIN The Perfect British Columbia Vacation!!!

As the world views Beautiful British Columbia, Canada, from afar during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, here's your chance to win The Perfect British Columbia Vacation!

All you have to do to win is visit the Super Natural, British Columbia website and choose from one of six fantastic Experience Packages located throughout this amazing province:
  • Vancouver Island 
  • Vancouver/Whistler
  • Thompson Okanagan Wine
  • Northern British Columbia Inside Package
  • Kootenay Rockies Heli-Hiking
  • Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Luxury Guest Ranch
The contest is open to both residents of the U.S. and Canada with the average price worth approximately CAD $10,000 (USD $9,452).  The contest ends March 31, 2010, but enter today so you don't forget! ;)

Best of luck!! (Let me know if you win!)

Flickr.com Photo Credit:
Vancouver Aquarium by Ed Bierman

Top-Rated Hotels in Whistler, BC

Consistently ranked as the number one ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb offers an array of top-rated hotels to accompany their world class skiing.  According to readers of TripAdvisor, here are the Top-Rated Hotels in Whistler, BC:
  1. Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre 
  2. Nita Lake Lodge 
  3. Sundial Boutique Hotel 
  4. First Tracks Lodge 
  5. Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside 
  6. Four Seasons Resort Whistler 
  7. Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa 
  8. Delta Whistler Village Suites 
  9. Alpine Chalet Whistler Inn Bed & Breakfast 
  10. Inn at Clifftop Lane 

For more information, visit Whistler Tourism.

And, on an unrelated note -


Inniskillin Icewines at Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games

With vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Inniskillin Wines is Canada's premier estate winery producing truly distinctive and elegant wines from premium grape varieties grown in Canada.

Proud to be an Official Wine Supplier for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games, Inniskillin Wines will present ICE GATE in the Richmond O Zone, an official celebration site for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.  ICE GATE is a monumental art installation created by Canadian artist Gord Halloran; using ice as his canvas, Halloran created a massive and boldly coloured painting whose colours will fluctuate with the changing temperatures.

ICE GATE is a fitting affiliation for Inniskillin Wines as there is a joint appreciate for ice crystals, present in both this work of art and in Icewine.  Inniskillin Icewine, enjoyed by wine lovers in 69 countries around the world, is a perfect icon to connect to Canada.  Inniskillin Icewine was selected by Oprah Winfrey’s ‘O’ magazine as a Valentine’s Day suggestion, and it was served to accompany the dessert course at the Nobel Prize dinner at which President Obama received his Peace Prize in December 2009.  These are testaments to the global prominence that Inniskillin Icewine holds.

Located across from ICE GATE, Inniskillin Wines has erected a 60 foot tasting bar, the Icewine Gallery, where wine lovers can sample Icewine and enjoy a wintery VIP lounge area.  Screens will play videos showing the magic of crafting Icewine and samples of Inniskillin Vidal Icewine Commemorative Edition from Niagara, Inniskillin Vidal from Niagara, and Inniskillin Okanagan Riesling Icewine will be available.

Open from February 12-28, 2010, the Icewine Gallery hours of operation are 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  Costs are $5 for a half ounce sample, or $10 for three half ounce tastes.

For more information, visit Inniskillin Wines.

PRESS RELEASE: Inniskillin Wines; Photo Inniskillin Wines 

Whistler Blackcomb Record Snowfall

It’s seems as if Mother Nature is helping Whistler Blackcomb to celebrate the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games by providing a record snowfall of 9.6 metres (32.5 feet) and counting!

Consistently ranked as "the number one ski resort in North America," Whistler Blackcomb also provides the largest terrain in North America with a total of 8.2 acres.  During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, over 90% of the runs will be open for the public to enjoy.

From February 12 to 28, Whistler Blackcomb is host to Vancouver 2010 Olympic events that include ski jumping, biathlon, bobsled, and luge; during the Paralympic Winter Games, March 12 to 21, Whistler Blackcomb will host events including cross-country skiing and sledge hockey.

For more information, visit Whistler Blackcomb.

Flickr.com Photo Credits:
Whistler by Trec_Lit
Inukshuk on Whistler by Derek Purdy

Top Choices for Best Vancouver Olympic Souvenirs

It’s taken me many years of traveling to realize that souvenirs should evoke cherished memories of the place you have visited and that this does not include old dusty souvenir magnets placed haphazardly on a fridge.   

Taking into consideration the amazing Vancouver west coast lifestyle and culture, here are Travel Writer’s Top Choices for Best Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Souvenirs (some of which are not Olympic themed but will reveal wonderful memories of Vancouver nonetheless).

Visit the historic district of Gastown and take home an authentic aboriginal piece of artwork ranging from a striking native art print to a stunning mask or totem; try Hill’s Native Art at 165 Cambie Street or Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery in Yaletown (1024 Mainland Street)

An Inukshuk (the Vancouver Olympic symbol) could be a typical souvenir but not if you buy an inuit Inukshuk made of jade; for added Olympic flavour, try the Inukshuk Hockey Players at The Jade Mine (#4-375 Water Street)

Visit the Olympic O Zone in Richmond to sample the world-famous award-winning Inniskillin Icewine; choose your favorite and purchase a bottle (or two) to enjoy at home (note: due to its popularity, Inniskillin Icewine is definitely not a long-lasting souvenir as once the bottle is open, it will empty quickly)

Take the time to go through your own photographs from Vancouver; have them enlarged, display them, and enjoy; visit Stanley Park, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the Vancouver Aquarium for photo ops

Visit Aritzia (1110 Robson Street), one of the official suppliers of 2010 Olympic costumes including the gorgeous Vintage Ski Coat, the amazing Heritage Sweater (to be worn by indoor medal bearers), and the adorable Cocoon Parka; all of which are rumoured to soon be available to the public

Take a tour at the Granville Island Brewery Taproom (1441 Cartwright, Granville Island) and enjoy four sample tasters; be sure to inquire about their ‘limited release’ brews and take your favourite home to enjoy

For another taste of Vancouver, visit Salmon Village (779 Thurlow Street) and try the Salmon candy, jerky, or caviar or consider a Salmon & Maple gift package combination

And if you really do find yourself in need of an official Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic souvenir, the best selection and the easiest way to avoid line-ups is to visit the Official Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store online.  But remember, they only take VISA.

Photo Credits:

The Beaches of the Dominican Republic

With over 1,000 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, it’s no wonder the Dominican Republic is a popular Caribbean destination for winter sun seekers.  Contrasted by the clear turquoise waters and swaying palms, the beaches of the Dominican Republic are known to be some of the best in the world.

The north coast beaches of the Dominican Republic including Cabaret, Playa Cofresi, Playa Dorada, Playa Grande, Playa Punta Rucia, and Playa Sosua, offer a variety of natural beauty plus opportunities for surfing, hiking and water sports galore.  Popular crescent shaped Playa Sosua is accented with tons of shopping and seaside restaurants.

Boca Chica, Playa Juan Dolio, and Playa Guayacanes, are amongst the popular south central beaches offering a variety of water sports and activities, along with beachside restaurants and bars.  In contrast to the busy tourist beaches, the southwest beaches of the Dominican Republic offer a laid back vibe with local fishermen going about their daily lives.

East coast beaches including Isla Catalina, Isla Saona, Playa Bavaro, Punta Cana, Playa Dominicus, and Playa Minitas, offer a selection of everything from white sand to coral reefs perfect for scuba diving.  Ever popular Punta Cana features over 30 miles of coconut palm fringed beach and a huge selection of all-inclusive resorts.

Northeast beaches in the Dominican Republic including Cayo Levantado, Las Terranas, Playa Bonita, Playa Las Flechas, and Playa Rincon, offer diverse scenery; Playa Bonita resembles a movie set while Playa Rincon has been voted one of the world’s ten best beaches by Conde Naste Traveler magazine.

For more information, visit Go Dominican Republic.

Photo Credits: The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism