Listen to the great folk of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a long and rich association with great music and through its historical and cultural links with Scotland and Ireland, is perhaps best known for the genre of folk. Today the province boasts an exciting and eclectic music scene encompassing not just folk but pop, blues, Jazz, dance and more, as well as traditional music. Annually Nova Scotia plays host to hundreds of concerts and music festivals, and this year, as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, holidaymakers can expect a bumper programme of live music throughout the province; we pick three of the best not to be missed.

The Stan Rogers Folk Festival (30 June – 2 July): The summer festival informally known as Stanfest will take place in the picturesque Eastern Shore fishing community of Canso, located 3.5 hours from Halifax, and is expected to draw crowds of more than 10,000. The event, which honours the late Canadian folk artist Stan Rogers, brings together the region’s best folk musicians alongside international stars. Past headliners have included Don MacLean, Juice Newton, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Richie Havens, Jim Cuddy, Judy Collins, Peter Yarrow and Ricky Skaggs. The three day celebration of all things folk will this year fall over the 150th anniversary Canada Day Weekend, meaning a truly electric atmosphere throughout. www.stanfest.com

The TD Halifax Jazz Festival (12 – 16 July):  The largest summer festival in Atlantic Canada will take place in Nova Scotia’s provincial capital Halifax and will attract up to 55,000 revellers. The 31st edition of The TD Halifax Jazz Festival will include some 350 local musicians as well acclaimed national and international artists, spanning not just Jazz but also roots, blues, Latin music and R&B. Last year Lauryn Hill and Chic featuring Nile Rodgers were amongst the stars to perform, and this year’s line-up is being hotly anticipated. Positioned on the fashionable and centrally located Halifax Waterfront, the festival will take place just a stones throw away from many of the city’s top tourist attractions and landmark hotels. http://www.halifaxjazzfestival.ca

The Celtic Colours International Festival (6 – 14 October): Founded in 1997, the multi-award winning festival has grown in to one of Canada’s largest music events, attracting tens of thousands.  During the nine day festival, Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island will host hundreds of events and activities in a celebration of Celtic culture. Featuring some of Nova Scotia best musicians, as well as artists from all over the world, performances will take place in a range of locations including community halls, churches, theatres and even schools amidst the vivid autumn colours. Holidaymakers can expect Gaelic singing, Cape Breton fiddling, accordion playing, bagpiping and more as they tour around Island’s charming communities and scenic roads, including the famous Cabot Trail! http://celtic-colours.com

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Ottawa 2017 Mobile App Launched

This year Canada marks its 150th birthday, with holidaymakers invited to join in a countrywide, year-long celebration. The main focus for national events will be the capital city Ottawa, where 12 epic months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences are on offer. To make the most of Ottawa in 2017, and to help visitors plan their trip, the dedicated Ottawa 2017 Bureau and the office of Mayor Jim Watson have released a mobile App in partnership with the Canadian bank CIBC.

Launched just before New Year’s Eve and powered by Bell, the free experiential App is available for download to iOS and Android devices. It provides details of upcoming Ottawa 2017 Signature Events, national partner events, sporting events, associated events and community events. The descriptions are image-led and users can search by theme, alphabetically or by event date. The App also contains rich video content set to music including a short overview of the Ottawa 2017 programme. There are also bite-sized films about individual events and experiences.

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A virtual photo booth allows App users to take pictures using a variety of special filters; the first of which had a festive theme. More filters will be added throughout the year, each of which will be styled around an Ottawa 2017 experience. Other more interactive features will be added to the App in the coming months that will allow users to interact with events in real time.

To download the free Ottawa 2017 App, visit: The App Store or Google Play .

For more about Ottawa’s epic programme of events in 2017 please visit www.ottawa2017.ca

Plan your trip to Ottawa www.ottawatourism.ca

#MyOttawa

 

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Ottawa Welcomes the World

In 2017 Canada marks its 150th birthday, with holidaymakers invited to join in a countrywide, year-long celebration. The main focus for national events will be the capital city Ottawa, where 12 epic months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences will be on offer. Billed as an ‘Ottawa 2017 Signature Event’, Ottawa Welcomes the World will be a one-off series of day festivals that will celebrate the culture and heritage of more than 90 participating countries.

Canada’s capital is home to more than 120 embassies and high commissions. In partnership with the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has invited foreign ambassadors and dignitaries to take part in Ottawa Welcomes the World between March and December 2017 at the city’s Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building – both located in Lansdowne just south of the downtown. Each day’s events will be open to Ottawans and holidaymakers alike, and will celebrate the culture of each nation through music, food, cinema, dance and more.

Countries from all over the world will take part spanning Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia; with the first event hosted by the Embassy of the Hellenic Republic of Greece on 21 March. Other countries set to take part include Turkey, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Guyana, UAE, Serbia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Rwanda, Colombia, China, Japan and Thailand to name but a few. In addition to the national days, there will also be series of Ottawa Welcomes the World partner events. They include a festival on 24 May that will celebrate the culture of 30 African countries, and a showcase on 11 June that will be hosted by a delegation of 18 members of the European Union.

In addition, the British High Commission and the Embassy of France are working on a project with the London-born photographer Rip Hopkins. Hopkins, who is of both British and French nationality, is taking a series of photographs that will demonstrate how British and French culture is represented in the Canadian capital. His exhibition, called Canada Canada, will be on show between 28 April and 11 June next year at Ottawa City Hall.

For more about Ottawa’s epic programme of events in 2017 please visit www.ottawa2017.ca

Plan your trip to Ottawa www.ottawatourism.ca

#MyOttawa

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Dusit’s global expansion continues with new project in Turkey

Dusit Thani Residences joins sprawling Maslak 1453 development in Istanbul

Fast-growing global hospitality company Dusit International has signed a management agreement with Abduljawad Holding Co., an investment company headquartered in Saudi Arabia, to operate the Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul, Turkey, which will open as part of Maslak 1453 – a commercial, business and residential hub set over two million square metres on the European side of the city.

Located just 4km from the Bosphorous, 15km from Taksim Square, and 20km from the city’s Third Airport, which is now under construction, Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul is Dusit International’s first project in Turkey and is designed to offer a unique hospitality experience in Istanbul.

The property, which is being developed by experienced property developers Agaoglu, will comprise over 300 luxurious apartments inspired by contemporary Southeast Asian design and driven by Dusit International’s signature gracious service. While serviced apartments will make up the majority of the property, there will also be a branded residence with units leased to tenants on a long stay basis. One-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom apartments will all be available, each one spacious and fully furnished with high quality fixtures and fittings throughout. Rooms on the upper levels of the 41-storey building will provide stunning views of an adjacent forest.

The family-friendly property will feature a swimming pool, meeting rooms, lobby lounge, residence lounge, deli, a large gym outfitted with the latest equipment and a spa. Guests will also have easy access to a wide range of bars, restaurants, shops, theatres and other lifestyle facilities that make up the sprawling Maslak 1453.

With easy access to the TEM highway and Istanbul Metro, a rapid transit railway network that serves the city, guests can explore and experience everything this culturally-rich destination has to offer, including sightseeing cruises on the Bosphorus Strait, an immersive walk around the city’s historic areas to learn about Istanbul’s history as Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire; tours of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace, and much more.

Ms Suphajee Suthumpun, Group Chief Executive Officer of Dusit International, said, “We are delighted to partner with Abduljawad to bring the Dusit brand to Turkey for the first time. This is an important step in our global expansion and puts us in a good position for further development throughout Europe, the Middle East and beyond. We look forward to delivering our unique gracious hospitality to guests when the doors open in 2018.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Abduljawad Holding Co. said: “The Maslak 1453 project is one of the most talked about projects in Istanbul and will be a unique tourist destination in its own right. We are confident that, with Dusit’s experience operating hotels, resorts and serviced residences in key markets around the world, the Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul will become a beacon of gracious hospitality for visitors from all around the world.”

Dusit International currently operates 29 properties around the world and has 45 confirmed projects in the pipeline across four distinctive brands: Dusit Thani, dusitD2, Dusit Princess and Dusit Devarana. Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul is scheduled to open in August 2018.

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Photo 1 – Representatives of Dusit International, Abduljawad Holding Co., and Agaoglu Group of Companies at the signing ceremony of Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul, held on 1 December 2016 in Turkey. Pictured: (second from left) Mr Burak Kutlug, Member of Executive Board – Agaoglu Group of Companies; (middle) Mr Ali Agaoglu, Chairman – Agaoglu Group of Companies; (third from right) Mr Ehsan Fareed Abduljawad, Chairman – Abduljawad Holding Co.; (second from right), Mrs Suphajee Suthumpun, Group Chief Executive Officer – Dusit International.

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Photo 2 – Dusit Thani Residences Maslak Istanbul, Turkey

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Exploring British Columbia

I recently hosted a trip to Vancouver and Whistler for a group of five UK and European media, each journalist specialised in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industries. We flew with Air Canada who offers a direct service to Vancouver from Heathrow and a number of other European capitals.

This was my first trip to Canada’s west coast and I was delighted to be staying at The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for the first few days. One of three Fairmont hotels in the city, it is located in the heart of downtown. The iconic property is truly stunning and has a history of hosting royalty and Hollywood A-Listers. Known to some as the ‘Grand Lady’ and to others as ‘Castle in the City’, the historic hotel oozes charm, sophistication and style.

After a relaxed afternoon enjoying the hotel’s leisure facilities, we met at Notch8 Restaurant and Bar which is located in the lobby of The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and combines new- and old-world charm with a splashy style reminiscent of the era of grand railway hotels. The elegant menu features classic cocktails and timeless dishes, inviting patrons to linger and watch the world go by.

The next morning the group were treated to a delicious breakfast aboard a luxury Yacht moored in Vancouver Harbour. The view from the Pacific Yacht Charter vessel was truly spectacular and in the full light of day it made us appreciate just how beautiful the city is. But it was the helicopter flight later that day that really blew me away. The SKY Helicopter tour provided a unique perspective above Vancouver and the remarkable scenery that surrounds it. From this height it was clear that the city is conveniently compact but each neighbourhood has its own unique architecture and distinctive offering.

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During our visit to Vancouver we were able to check out the city’s world-class Aquarium as well the impressive Vancouver Convention Centre. But my favourite activity was a city walking tour provided by the company TourByLocals. It was a great opportunity to soak up the city’s super cool and very welcoming culture. Boutique shops, artisan markets, family run restaurants and talented street performers; downtown Vancouver really is a melting pot of cultures and peoples that did not fail to impress the whole group.

The drive north from Vancouver to Whistler only took an hour and a half. We stayed at the ornate Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which is nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and offers modern luxury in a tranquil setting. The resort town is famous for its skiing and the 2010 Olympics, but we discovered it offers so much more than just winter sport!

Whistler has a population of just 10,000 but welcomes some two millions visitors a year. With two majestic mountains, a vibrant base village, epic skiing and snowboarding, four championship golf courses, world-class shopping, restaurants and bars, hiking trails, spas and arguably the best mountain bike park in the world, it’s easy to see why the town is so popular.

One of my favourite activities in Whistler was zip lining at Cougar Mountain. A company called Super Fly use a unique system that allows two guests to ride side-by-side, each on their own cable during an incredibly scenic experience. In what can only be described as a like flying, all of us overcame our initial fear and simply went for it, it’s is a must for any itinerary.

With our feet firmly back on the ground we visited the nearby Audian Art Musuem. The impressive contemporary building is Whistler’s newest cultural hot spot and houses a permanent collection of artworks from British Columbia and hosts exhibitions from leading museums from around the world. I particularly enjoyed the First Nations collection as well as the pieces by the post-war painter Jack Shadbolt; in my view his ‘Butterfly Transformation Theme’ oil painting is exceptional.

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Sadly our trip was only for a few days but it had certainly provided a flavour for the great culture, shopping, dining and outdoor activities on offer in western Canada. It is also clear that British Columbia has a superb range of venues suitable for exhibitions and conferences of all genres and sizes.

 

 

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48 Hours in Lisbon

I recently escorted a fam trip to Portugal on behalf the Lisbon Visitors and Convention Bureau. The two night whistle-stop tour of the capital city was designed to showcase some of Lisbon’s best event facilities, accommodation, cultural attractions and nightlife. While I know and love Lisbon well, it was the first visit for several of the eight UK MICE industry guests that were joining me.

We took a morning flight with Portugal’s national airline Tap from Gatwick, in just two and a half hours we left rainy London behind and had arrived in beautiful, sunny Lisbon. We headed straight for Saint Georges Castle, one of the oldest forts in the region. Set on a hill top overlooking the whole city, parts of the stone structure date to the 2nd century BC, an onsite museum provided the group with a fascinating insight into Lisbon’s rich history.

After a delicious cod lunch (a local favourite) at the family run Casa Do Leão restaurant, we headed for our hotel. Our accommodation for both nights was the luxurious DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Lisbon, where we were given a fresh-baked cookie on arrival. Set in the Saldanha area of Lisbon, the modern property is just a stone’s throw from the city’s major tourist attractions, shopping districts and within easy reach of the beach.

After checking-in and freshening up, we had the opportunity to take an old-style tuk tuk trip around the historic quarters of Lisbon. Open to the elements and with a top speed of about 40mph, we raced through the cobbled back streets of the city. The driver of my vehicle clearly loved his job and made the thrilling journey feel like a rollercoaster ride; whizzing past old houses, boutique shops and traditional street stalls.

Then before dinner, at the nearby five star Hotel Tivoli, I joined the group on a short river cruise aboard the majestic sailing boat Westenwind (pictured). With a capacity up to 33 guests, the ship is an 80ft Klipper, typical of those used on the rivers of The Netherlands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sailing up Lisbon’s River Tagus provided stunning views of city from a unique perspective. One of our guests said it was fascinating to think that the same stretch of river was used by the great Portuguese explorers on their way to Asia and the Americas.

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We spent much of the second day in the quaint fishing port of Cascais and in the province of Sintra. The strikingly beautiful area benefits from a rocky mountain range, lush greenery and mile upon mile of pristine beaches. Named ‘Hill of the Moon’ by its Celtic settlers and ‘Mons Lunae’ by the Romans, Sintra is also home to an extensive natural park that includes Europe’s most westerly point. My favourite part of the fam was the transfer from the Hilton to Sintra, when we rode in brightly coloured vintage convertible Beetles (pictured). The open top classic cars were the perfect vehicles in which to enjoy the stunning scenery along the Atlantic coast.

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That evening we ate at Restaurante Kais, back in central Lisbon. The former warehouse is one of Lisbon’s coolest nightspots; its contemporary design reflects its industrial past and the internationally inspired menu uses only the finest locally sourced ingredients. I opted for the delicious Tenderloin Tornedó in cheese sauce served with mashed potatoes and pure butter; one of the best meals I have ever had in Portugal!

After checking out of the hotel the next morning we embarked on a ‘Go Car’ tour of Lisbon. The new concept provides an entirely new way of exploring the city in nifty yellow convertibles. The tiny cars talk to you as you take a self-guided tour complete with commentary; incredibly the vehicles have a personality and even a sense of humour! Then, before departing for the airport we had just enough time to take an exhilarating speed boat tour in and around Lisbon’s historic docks. The outing provided a great contrast to the tall ship experience earlier in the trip, and was the perfect way to bring our visit to an end.

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Discovering Ottawa

During the Summer I escorted five product managers on a fam to the city of Ottawa. It was my first trip to the Canadian capital and I along with the rest of the group were looking forward to an itinerary that would showcase Ottawa’s cultural attractions, eclectic gastronomy scene, nightlife and outdoor experiences.

The Air Canada flight departed Heathrow late morning and took less than seven hours, having us arrive in Ottawa mid-afternoon. Ottawa’s airport is conveniently compact and located just a few miles from the city. From touch down to arriving at our city centre hotel took less than 45 minutes.

We stayed at the luxurious and contemporary Westin Ottawa, which is ideally located near the historic Parliament Buildings and is just a stone’s throw away from the bustling ByWard Market district.

That first evening we ate at the fashionable Social Restaurant, about a five minute walk from our hotel. The décor oozed cool and sophistication, while the food was a delicious mix of European and traditional Canadian fare. Washed down with several helpings of locally brewed craft beer, by the end of the meal I felt the group had gotten to know each other and I could tell they would be great travelling companions!

The first full day was spent exploring the beautiful Parliament Hill and nearby Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learnt about the founding of modern Canada and found out how Ottawa was chosen as the capital city. The architecture is truly stunning and the British colonial influence is clearly visible in the gothic structures. My favourite part of our guided tour was a visit to the Library of Parliament. The impressive chamber is only part of the Parliament Buildings that survived a catastrophic fire in 1916 thanks to a quick thinking librarian. Later that day we enjoyed a fascinating ‘Aboriginal Experience’ on nearby Victoria Island. Here we learnt about First Nations customs and cultures through imaginative story telling.

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The next day we took part in a cultural tour that included some of Canada’s finest national institutions. As the capital city, Ottawa is home to countless would class museums and galleries, to rival those of London or Paris (but without the huge crowds!). We visited the impressive Canadian Museum of Nature, The National Gallery and my favourite, The Canadian War Museum. Then that night the group met back at Parliament Hill to watch the impressive ‘Northern Lights’ laser and light show, which runs nightly during the summer months.

We spent the next couple of days exploring Ottawa’s outlying neighbourhoods, markets and restaurants. I was really impressed with Wellington West, a cool and quirky district that reminded me of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury or London’s Hoxton. Peppered with boutique shops selling antiques, vintage clothes and second hand records, it was a real contrast to downtown Ottawa.

On our last day we went white water rafting. The whole group embraced it and were up for traversing all the white knuckle twists and turns. The thing that I really loved about it was the stunning scenery, just a few miles out of Ottawa’s city centre and it felt like we were in picture perfect wilderness!

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Before flying home we had a chance to check out a local football game, as Ottawa Fury took on Edmonton at nearby TD Place. It was an impressive stadium, and unlike back home, rival fans were enjoying the game together. It created a great atmosphere and real party like buzz. Despite leading 2-0 at half time, sadly Ottawa Fury ending up drawing the game!

The whole group fell in love with Ottawa, as did I. Beyond the stunning museums, galleries and beautiful architecture, we realised that there is a whole other side to this diverse and welcoming city just waiting to be discovered.

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