Monday, 27 July 2009

Press Release written for Ottawa Tourism - hotel deal for girlfriends


Message to the Girls: Celebrate Summer With Wallet-Friendly Packages

Toronto, July 23, 2009 – When the sun beams down all day and even the nighttime temperatures are pleasant, it's a sign that the summer season is in full bloom. Many people know that spending time in Ottawa during the warm holiday months will create a lifetime of memories.
To make a Capital City getaway more alluring, Ottawa Tourism is promoting the new "Girlfriends Getaway" package that gives women travelers the chance to stay, shop, dine, spa and take in a cultural event, all at a special affordable price.
Ottawa’s new "Girlfriends Getaway" package is a fun choice for a 'girls only' holiday shopping trip tailored for two (but more guests can be added on). The package offers a two-night stay in a downtown Ottawa hotel, discount Rideau Centre Saving coupons and the choice of an add-on.
The “Girlfriends Getaway" optional add-ons are numerous and varied. Guests can receive one-time only, free admission to one of a number of famous attractions including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, Canada Aviation Museum, Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield Steam Train, National Gallery of Canada, and the Chamberfest ’09 (a summer festival of Chamber Music) One Day Pass. Want to shop and then drop into a luxurious spa? The Girlfriends Getaway also offers an option to receive a Holtz Spa Gift Card. Tickets to the National Arts Center’s coming blockbuster hit Drowsy Chaperone (October 14-31) will also be sold through this package.
Given Ottawa’s abundance of attractions, the Girlfriends Getaway program provides a compelling reason to extend a weekend visit. Guests who book accommodations for a (consecutive) Friday and Saturday two-night stay have the option to reserve a third night at 50% off the listed room rate. The Girlfriends Getaway two-night package starts at $128US per person.
Tourists wanting information, tickets and lodging reservations for the Girlfriends Getaway can visit, a powerful website operated by Ottawa Tourism. Visitors can also call and request information at 1-888-OTTAWA-8.
Ottawa Tourism provides destination marketing, strategic direction and leadership in cooperation with members and partners to service the travel media and attract visitors, tours and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region. Its vision is to build recognition of Ottawa as an outstanding four-season tourism destination.
For more information and Ottawa-area images,
please contact:

Jantine Van Kregten Chris Ryall
Director of Communications GTA PublicRelations Rep
Ottawa Tourism Ottawa Tourism
613-237-6822, ext. 116 416-861-1022 / 888-423-3995

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bloomberg News: Reggae Music, Wild Parade Send ‘Vibe’ Through Toronto Caribana


This story crossed Bloomberg's wire this morning. The feature is the first time in my memory of Scotiabank Caribana (going back 10 years before it was even called Scotiabank) that a business news service has looked at the festival. I obviously didn't write it, but, Bloomberg did use a few of my photographs.

Socca Music, Wild Parade Send ‘Vibe’ Through Toronto Caribana

By Sean B. Pasternak

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Mention Toronto and steel drums, Carnival and reggae music probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. From July 14 through Aug. 3, however, Canada’s biggest city opens up for Scotiabank Caribana, which promotes itself as North America’s largest celebration of Caribbean culture.
Now in its 42nd year, Caribana gives 1.3 million local residents and tourists the chance to see buttoned-down Toronto letting loose, as this year’s slogan -- “Won’t Stop De Vibe” -- suggests.
Caribana is best known for its signature parade, set for Aug. 1. Rambunctious crowds line the streets to cheer folks decked out in outlandish, colorful costumes, many featuring headdresses and sparkling fringes, dancing to steel drums and Calypso music. About 25,000 people (including local son and Miami Heat center Jamaal Magloire) are expected to take part in the parade.
Opening tomorrow and running through Aug. 3, the Royal Ontario Museum is hosting “Beyond the Rhythm,” an exhibition of works by 25 Caribbean and African-Canadian artists, among others. The king and queen of Caribana will be crowned on July 30; the next day there will be a battle of the steelpan bands at Lamport Stadium.

Crucial Boon

The festival serves as a crucial boon to tourism, which has been declining from the financial crisis and tighter passport controls at the U.S.-Canadian border. Hotel occupancy in Toronto was down 10 percent at the end of May compared with a year earlier, Tourism Toronto spokesman Andrew Weir said.
Last year’s Caribana had an impact of about C$300 million ($271.4 million) on Toronto’s economy, according to festival organizers.
In addition to a record C$1.3 million in public subsidy, Caribana has received an increase in endorsements from Canadian businesses, said Joe Halstead, the festival’s chief executive officer.
Bank of Nova Scotia, the country’s third-biggest bank in assets, is the event’s title sponsor, while BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. is also a sponsor.
The festival, patterned on Trinidad and Tobago’s famed Carnival, began in 1967, when the federal government asked the Caribbean community to get involved in Canada’s centennial celebrations. (Today, the Caribbean population is about 225,000, or 4.5 percent of Greater Toronto’s 5.5 million people.)

Biggest Events

Since then, Caribana has grown from “a kitchen-table operation that can be driven by volunteers after work,” to one of the city’s biggest annual events as measured by attendance, along with June’s Pride parade and September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Halstead said.
“Toronto is a richer place to live because of the contributions made by the people of the Caribbean community,” Scotiabank Chief Executive Officer Richard Waugh wrote in a program. The Toronto-based lender calls itself the largest bank in the Caribbean, and opened a branch in Kingston, Jamaica in 1889 -- 10 years before it operated in Toronto.
“Caribana is more than just a great celebration,” Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti told reporters July 15. “The city has worked closely with organizers to ensure it moves ahead.” He was referring to a strike by 24,000 municipal workers that began June 22 and has halted garbage pick-up across the city.
“One of Toronto’s strongest cultural expressions is the variety and diversity of cultures,” Halstead, 64, said in an interview. “Caribana is one of those pieces that make up that culture.”
For more details on Scotiabank Caribana, see
To contact the reporter on this story: Sean B. Pasternak in Toronto at

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Top Seven Fresh and Salt Water Beaches in New Hampshire


Slighty expanded story which appeared in Maple Gazette (Cdn newsletter for travel agents)

Top Seven Beaches
By Stephen Weir

So many lakes. So many rivers. And then there is the wide-open ocean. We went to the experts to find out where the seven top beaches and swimming spots in New Hampshire can be found. You might be surprised at the answers!
Hampton Beach. MSNBC rated it in the top 3 cleanest beaches in the United States. Miles of white sand. Supervised swimming. There is camping at the Hampton Beach State Park. Lots to do from the annual summer sand sculpture competition (pictured above) to the February 1st Penguin Plunge!
Rye on the Rocks. This beach is best known for being the home of the best surf breaks in New England. The beach is off Route 1-A a few miles from Rye, NH.
Wallis Sands State Beach. When the tide is out, this is one of the best beaches in the state. Wide expanses of clean sand. This is a family-oriented beach featuring picnicking and hot water showers. Lifeguards on duty. Check the tide guide before heading out.
Cedar Waters Village Nudist Park. The small beach is surrounded by 350 acres of heavily wooded, private land with secluded roads and hiking trails. Considered one of the best clothing optional swimming holes in New England. Day visits permitted for families and couples only.
Star Island. There are no sand beaches on this small island off the coast of New Hampshire. However, you can swim at the town pier under the watchful eyes of a lifeguard. Star Island is one of the four Isles of Shoals that are located in New Hampshire, seven miles from the mainland in the Atlantic Ocean. First settled in the 1600s and now a religious and educational conference center, visitors can make daytrips to island, explore its historical sites and have a swim. Ferry service is from Rye Harbor.
Wellington State Park. Located on Newfound Lake, this state park has the largest freshwater swimming beach in the state park system. Hiking trails and picnic areas along the shore afford views of one of the deepest and clearest lakes in the state.
Weir's Beach. Just an hour from Manchester and a two-hour drive from Boston, this is the most popular freshwater beach in the state. The wide white sand beach offers a breathtaking view of Lake Winnipesauke. There is a park, a boardwalk, picnic areas, amusement arcades, a working antique cruise ship, historic train rides, restaurants and nightclubs.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Junior Carnival Parade all part of Scotiabank Caribana

Driving down Yonge Street on Saturday night, heading for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the new location for the Soca Monarch competition. I was running late, I had been at the Junior Carnival (Kiddies Parade)all day and was not expecting to be interviewed.

Its reporter Jasmeet Sidhu from the Toronto Star, -- Toronto's biggest newsaper had not covered the parade. Other papers had. Reporter interviewed me, and the story below appeared on line an hour or so later. Appeared in print this morning. Posted the story not because I was interviewed, but, because they were in need of a photo ... I sent them one I had taken early in the day.

Caribana's Junior Carnival lights up Jane and Finch
Jul 18, 2009 08:35 PM
Jasmeet Sidhu
Staff Reporter

They danced, they laughed, their glittered costumes sparkling in the afternoon sun.

The Jane and Finch area was the scene of jubilant festivities and the bright colours of the Caribbean as the annual Junior Carnival took to the streets Saturday afternoon.

More than 1,500 kids and 5,000 spectators flooded the Jane and Finch area for the annual parade, where kids danced, sung, and revelled down the streets in full costume like their adult counterparts will on Aug. 1.

Nicknamed the "Kiddie Parade", the festival is held two weeks before the Caribana parade and is designed as a rite of passage for younger masqueraders hoping to one day march in the Caribana when older.

"It gives kids a taste of what it's all about. It ensures survival of the parade by passing it down to children," spokesperson Stephen Weir said.

And they do start early, from babies in strollers adorned with feathers and glitter, to tweens in bright elaborate costumes not too unlike those of the Caribana parade.

The parade, which features similar masquerade or 'mas' camps, began at Shoreham Rd. and ended at Yorkgate Mall, where free food and a steel drum orchestra greeted parade-goers.

The significance of holding the parade in the Jane and Finch area was not lost on organizers, with the bright colours and jubilant children providing a refreshing scene for a neighbourhood often painted by negative circumstances.

"Jane and Finch is not only a technically great place to hold a parade, but the parade shows it's a really great place," Weir said.

"A lot of the kids in the parade live in the neighbourhood, and they also want to show it's a nice place to live."