Summer Street Festivals in the Vancouver Area

Summer Street Festivals in the Vancouver Area

One of the many things I love about summer is all the festivals that are put on in the Lower Mainland. There are quite the variety too. They range from things like the tulip festival, film festivals (VIFF is awesome!), music festivals, local community festivals, car festivals, beer festivals, food festivals, different festivals for different cultures, Shakespeare festival, sports festivals, and some street festivals. I hate to say it but I had never been to any of the street festivals in Vancouver before. I can’t believe what I was missing. They really are a great way to spend a summer day with free admission. Listed below are the summer street festivals in the Vancouver area I attended in 2017.

 

Hats Off Day on Hastings in Burnaby (June 2, 2018)

Hats Off Day (website) is an annual street festival held the first Saturday in June by the merchants and community of the Burnaby Heights area of Hastings Street. They are taking their ‘hats off’ to the community. Hastings Street from Boundary Rd to Gamma Avenue is closed to cars and the day starts off with a parade at 9:30am that leads right into a big street party lasting till around 4pm. If walking along and enjoying yourself isn’t enough exercise for the kids, there is the Family Fun Dash. A 100-metre race also taking place at 9:30am.

Merchants set-up on the sidewalk and street to offer games, activities, share information, or sell their goods. There is even a Show & Shine to check out some amazing cars, and a stage for musicians to play. You can listen to music, check out the fire hall and a fire truck, have your picture taken with an RCMP officer, eat lots of different foods, be entertained, play games, watch dancers, shop, or have a balloon animal made for you. There are so many possibilities depending on what the merchants are doing or offering.

Walking down the middle of Hastings Street surrounded by a giant crowd of people is something I find so exciting and entertaining. You can even check out a great chocolaterie patisserie and soda fountain shop while you are there.

Italian Day on The Drive (June 10, 2018)

Probably one of the most known summer street festivals in the Vancouver Area, Italian Day on The Drive (website) is huge and shuts down a large part of Commercial Drive for the day. Italian Day is just that. It is a full day street festival from 12pm to 8pm celebrating all aspects of Italian culture. When I say it is huge, I don’t just mean the length of Commercial Street closed, or the amount of merchants and vendors offering their goods and treats, or even the amount of performers sharing their talent. I mean the shear amount of people of every culture from all over the Vancouver area walking down the street. This is a very busy street festival but I really enjoyed myself.

There were musicians, DJ’s, food trucks, as well as the stores on Commercial putting up tables along the street. Last year’s Italian Day festival was where I tried my first cannoli. While I wasn’t overly impressed with the desert, I did enjoy the gelato I had later. There were so many people and so much to see, do, and eat. Oh, so much food and drink at this street festival. It was great.

Surrey Fusion Festival (July 21-22, 2018)

Okay so located in Holland Park, the Surrey Fusion Festival (website) is technically not one of the summer street festivals in the Vancouver area. It is a summer festival though and it is in the Vancouver area seeing as it is in Surrey. I just really wanted to include it because it was huge, and fun, and well, I really enjoyed it. I wanted to share with everyone.

The Fusion Festival is a large festival incorporating culture, traditions, food, and talented performers of all types from almost every country and culture you can think of. There are several sections with several stages offering different types of entertainment, including an Indigenous section and a children’s section with entertainment, games, and activities all set-up for children and families. You will also find dancers, DJ’s, musicians, bands, as well as pavilions set-up providing items and food to purchase from countries all over the world.

Running from 11am to 10pm, this festival provides two full days of immersion into other cultures. It allows you to enjoy shopping, being entertained by an assortment of talented performers, and eating foods you’ve maybe never experienced before. Parts of it are learning experiences, parts of it are entertainment, and parts of it are a giant party. It was my first time in 2017 but it definitely won’t be my last. I only regret not knowing about it sooner.

Mural Festival (August 6-11, 2018)

While I enjoyed all the summer street festivals in the Vancouver area, the Mural Festival (website) might have been my favourite. It was a lot less crowded, probably because of how spread out it was in duration and location. While you get to enjoy the Mount Pleasant Street party on Main Street, it also included art. Actually, it could be classified more of an art festival that includes a street festival. The website says it is the city’s largest annual free public art celebration. So, it provides a great, free way to spend time enjoying different forms of art.

I really enjoyed the touring pop-up party, public disco. It had a great vibe and I wasn’t expecting it. Especially when I randomly found it in an alleyway. There was music, places to relax, murals, people, and of course dancing.

Murals are painted by a variety of artists at different times, including some being done live during the festival. They are also of varying sizes and shapes depending on the location. You can find a map for the locations of all the murals on the website. My first-time attending was 2017 and I really loved watching the artists painting the parking stalls in one of the parking lots, live. I’m a lover of almost all forms of art, maybe because I feel so untalented myself. The talent people have is amazing and awe inspiring.

Not to be outdone by the art, shops are set up along the part of Main Street that is car-free for the street festival, selling goods and food. Plus, I found a small parking lot on one of the other streets where several food trucks were set-up.

 

More Summer Street Festivals in the Vancouver Area to Enjoy

Obviously, there are a lot more summer street festivals in the Vancouver area so hopefully I will visit more each year. Here are some I would like to check out. Greek Day on Broadway (June 24, 2018), Columbia Street Food Truck Fest, Khatsahlano Street Party, Fun City Festival (August and includes a giant waterslide in the street), and the Powell Street Festival (August 4-5, 2018) a festival for Japanese-Canadian culture.

 

Cookie Challenge of 2018 in the Vancouver Area

Cookie Challenge of 2018 in the Vancouver Area

Over the years I have heard of different food and drink challenges taking place around the lower mainland but I never looked into them let alone participated. Until this year when I checked out the Vancouver Foodster website to see what he had going for 2018. There are a lot of different challenges offered throughout the year but one of the many that jumped out at me was the #cookiechallengeYVR. The cookie challenge of 2018 seemed like a wonderful first to try. I not only enjoyed all the cookies offered for the challenge but I found some great new bakeries and eateries around the Vancouver area.

 

You can read all the official cookie descriptions here as well as find links to each company’s social media.

Fratelli Bakery

I have driven past this bakery in New Westminster for years but unfortunately never took the time to stop and see what they made. Fratelli’s offers a great selection of different breads, cookies, squares, cakes and other wonderful products to enjoy.

Their cookie challenge participant is an Almond Apricot Empire Cookie. The cookie is crunchy with sliced almonds, sweet apricot jam and an additional mini cookie with chocolate. I hate apricots so I wasn’t sure about this cookie but everything mixed together so well I enjoyed it.

I also tried and enjoyed their Triple Chocolate Cake. It kind of speaks for itself with that name.

Laura’s Coffee Corner

I don’t go to White Rock often, maybe a little more now since I found my favourite hot chocolate ever, but I’m happy to also have a great new place to go, eat, and take some baked products home with me with Laura’s. I went there on a sunny Thursday in the middle of the afternoon and it was super busy. So, I guess I’m not the only one that liked this place.

Laura’s went tradition for the cookie challenge and offered a Dulce De Leche Shortbread Cookie. It was probably the best shortbread cookie I can remember trying that wasn’t homemade. The chunky cookie wasn’t overly buttery and had the added benefit of the dollop of sweet dulce de leche on top. It created a nice treat.

I also tried, and very much enjoyed, their Hot Chocolate Cookie (soft, chewy, chocolatey and even had melted mini marshmallows on top), as well as this square I can’t remember the name of. It was a perfect mix of flavours and textures with a shortbread base, a layer of dulce de leche, and then topped with chocolate ganache.

Tartine Bread and Pies

I went to the Davie Street location of Tartine on a Friday at lunch time, they were very busy. Another place I never would have visited before, mostly because I’m not downtown often, but will now be visiting again.

Going out of any, and almost every, comfort zone, Tartine shared a Mystery Cookie for the cookie challenge. It was sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft, with such a wonderful assortment of textures and flavours. Not lying, I ate that big cookie and it is still a mystery as to what I exactly ate. Here are items I know were in it as well as some of my guesses. Nuts, chocolate, potato chips, cereal?, coconut?, coffee?, black pepper?. I might not know all the ingredients used but I do know it was a constant, surprising treat for my taste buds.

While I was there it was Pie Day so I decided to take part. I went out of my comfort zone to try the Raspberry & Lavender Pie. It looked so amazing that even though I only eat apple pie and don’t like cream pies, I went for it. I’m happy I did, the flavours worked so well together. The lavender was subtle and the raspberries gave great shots of tart sweetness.

Small Victory Bread & Coffee

This eatery looked great and I will have to go back to try more of their food. It had such a warm feeling with its trendy look and open style ceiling.

Small Victory also went kind of traditional for the cookie challenge with their Coconut White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie. The cookie was crunchy on the outside with a soft texture inside and it had a nice subtle mix of ingredients. I don’t remember the coconut and the chocolate was minimal but the nuts were more obvious. It was a subtle but nice mix that made the cookie less sweet than others.

Panidor Bakery Café

Panidor is new but I’m glad they took part in the challenge so I could find them. I was only able to pick-up their cookie (two different ones actually) that day but I want to go back for more treats as well as one of their sandwiches. The sandwiches looked delicious and the baked products looked like works of art.

The Ladybug Bite is the work of art Panidor created for the cookie challenge. It looks amazing and tastes just as good with its cookie base, layer of sweet jam, and topped with white chocolate ganache decorated to look like grass. Oh yah, and a cute white chocolate ladybug. There were two different options though. I’m not quite sure what the difference was in words but you can see in my pictures that one has a thicker topping. Even though they both tasted good, I preferred the one with the thin layer on top of the jam.

Half Baked Cookie Co.

I would have to use words like different, decadent and addictive to describe the Half Baked Cookie Co products. I was even a bit overwhelmed with the products and forgot to take pictures of the bakery. They call themselves a micro-bakery and their shop is a small space. It means you can see all the ingredients and watch them work while you are enjoying everything.

A really interesting product is the assortment of different flavoured shortbread cookies in individual glass jars on the counter. I tried both the cheddar cheese as well as the rosemary & brown sugar cookies. My brain was so confused. My taste buds were so confused. But all in a good way. The shortbread expectations of my mind mixed with the reality of the savoury flavours was an amazing experience. They had shortbread that was sweet, savoury, and also a matcha one.

The cookie concoction offered by Half Baked Cookie Co for the cookie challenge is the Malaysian Malted Cookie. It is crunchy, soft, chocolatey, buttery, thin but a large diameter, and even contains Milo.

I decided to also try the Chocolate Chip Cookie (soft, chewy, and chocolatey) and the Snickers Brownie (so super rich and chocolatey, it almost melts in the mouth).

Italia Bakery

Italia Bakery also offers more traditional Italian baked treats, which other than trying my first cannoli last year from their Cannoli King Food Truck, are new to me. It’s a large, busy bakery that surprise, also makes a lot of cannoli’s.

So, it’s not too much of a surprise that Italia Bakery made a Cannoli Macaron for the cookie challenge. I found it to be soft, sweet and very flavourful with the two cannoli flavoured sides and a centre of mascarpone and cream cheese. Apparently, there are also almonds and chocolate chips in the filling but they did an amazing job of grinding those up enough that I didn’t even feel them or separate those flavours.

I chose to also try a small Jam Filled Cookie (I didn’t really enjoy the thin layer of jam that was actually chewy) and a Chocolate Strawberry Monster Cookie (two soft cake like cookies with a strawberry icing filling that wasn’t overly sweet and a melted white chocolate coating on half the entire cookie).

Sweet Somethings

This is a really cute little, pastel coloured, shop that serves food, baked products, chocolates and artisanal coffee. I didn’t stay to eat but I did bring home a few other baked products to try. I made a special trip to visit them and while I really wanted to try the fresh lemonade, I forgot by the time I got there. Next time!

Sweet Somethings went with something they know with a twist, for their cookie challenge offering. The Cinnamon Bun Cookie is based on their most popular baked product. The cookie looks like a pinwheel style cookie. To me it tastes like a sweet, crunchy, shortbread cookie base with twisted strips of a cinnamon filling and topped with soft cream cheese piped on top. The flavours all blend really well together to create a good cookie.

I decided to try one of their cute little scones and went with the White Chocolate and Lavender Scone (The lavender is quite obvious – almost overwhelming – in contrast to the white chocolate which is almost hidden its so subtle. The scone itself is a really nice buttery, soft texture). Plus I had the Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chip Cookie (crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, this cookie contains lots of very rich dark chocolate).

 

I never would have found or tried any of these places and I would have forever missed out on the great food and desserts they make. I’ll also now be taking part in more of the Vancouver Foodster challenges after having such a wonderful experience with the cookie challenge.

The Cookie Challenge of 2018 runs until May 12th so you still have time to enjoy these baked treats and vote for your favourite. Enjoy!

 

Note: I will apologize for not having enough photos of treats as well as all the shops but I won’t apologize for eating the wonderful items before I could take a picture. Sometimes my sugar fix took over and the drool as well as the fuzzy, obsessive brain made me forget to take pictures. I hope to work on that and do better in the future. I can’t make promises though.

Hot Chocolate Festival in Vancouver & All Year Treat Enjoyment

Hot Chocolate Festival in Vancouver & All Year Treat Enjoyment

I don’t drink coffee or tea so my warm drink of choice, is the comforting hot chocolate. Actually, I feel I am a bit of a hot chocolate connoisseur really. I love both a hot, rich, chocolatey drink that isn’t too sweet and I also love a hot, creamy, sweet chocolate drink. I also enjoy a sweetly flavoured hot chocolate. Even though I can be kinda picky, depending on my mood, I’ve wanted to experience the Hot Chocolate Festival (website) in Vancouver for years. This year I finally took part and I visited four different locations to try their offerings. I am so happy I did. I had to step out of my comfort zone a bit with some of the flavours, but I enjoyed everything. Of course I did have a favourite.

This year the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival was from January 20th to February 14th, 2018 so if you didn’t get to try it, hopefully you get a chance next year. There are so many different flavours, and versions of those flavours, you won’t be bored. These are the hot chocolates I tried but there were sweet, savoury, and even alcohol versions from so many different places throughout the Lower Mainland. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few of the cold, rainy, winter days in Vancouver. Plus, you can visit these places all year round to enjoy all the other amazing treats they offer.

Chez Christophe

Chez Christophe had two very different options but both were interesting and really good. I also enjoyed a wonderful pastry that was a French version of an apple turnover. Not as sweet but still delicious. Chez Christophe is a very popular place all year round and they offer a lot of delicious looking treats and chocolates.

“Off The Beet’n’ Path” – Made with white chocolate and black sesame then topped with fresh beet sauce. This hot chocolate festival flavour was the most ‘outside of my comfort zone’ flavour I tried. I wasn’t sure what to expect but by mixing a sweet white chocolate with the savoury flavours of sesame and beet, they created quite an original and enjoyable treat. I learned a little to late though that I should have been stirring the hot chocolate while I drank it because I was left with a lot of beet flavour at the bottom. The sesame sugar cookie partially dipped in a beet flavoured white chocolate was a wonderful addition.

“At The Movies” – Made with milk chocolate and served with a popcorn infused whipping cream, corn nut sprinkles, and caramel sauce. I was skeptical of the popcorn flavour coming out in a hot chocolate because seriously, how were they going to create it. I should have had faith. This was definitely my preferred choice for the hot chocolate festival offerings at Chez Christophe. They managed to make the entire hot chocolate taste like popcorn.  It wasn’t overwhelming and it tasted more creamy than sweet chocolate but it was good and I enjoyed it. And even though I don’t like corn nuts, I really enjoyed the chocolate covered corn nuts that accompanied this warm, comfort inducing drink.

Eternal Abundance Organic Market & Café

Eternal Abundance had three options on offer for the hot chocolate festival. The ‘Hot Chocolate Chage’ for the entire festival as well as ‘That Salty Rosemary’ in January and the February choice I enjoyed. Eternal Abundance was very, very busy on a Saturday morning, both the market and the café. The food looked amazing but I didn’t get a chance to try any of it.

‘Turtle Hot Chocolate’ – If it is possible for a hot chocolate to taste healthy, this was it. Both organic and vegan, this hot chocolate festival offering from Eternal Abundance was a caramel hot chocolate with coconut whip, caramel drizzle and pecans. It was also served with a raw caramel pecan ‘turtle’. It was quite chocolatey and lighter than other hot chocolates.  I didn’t really taste any caramel though. The little chocolate it was served with was delicious.

Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionery

Depending on the date, Glenburn Soda Fountain mixed up three different hot chocolate choices. I had the third one and the last five days of the hot chocolate festival, featured the most popular of their three offerings.

I also couldn’t visit a soda fountain without getting a milkshake so it was a sugar filled visit for me. A sweet and salty hot chocolate with a chocolate chip cookie and a butterscotch milkshake. Yah, it was a lot of sugar but it was a wonderfully delicious way to spend an afternoon.

A bit of advice, Glenburn is quite popular and is only open for limited hours. I arrived 10 minutes after they opened on a Saturday afternoon and it was packed with a line-up and very limited seating. It was worth it though for all the different treats available.

‘Knoten To It’ –  A pretzel-infused, salty, white chocolate hot chocolate, this was my favourite hot chocolate. Hands down. I even went back on another day for a second one. It was served with a soft, gooey, sugared pretzel chocolate chip cookie. I didn’t taste the pretzel infused part of the hot chocolate but I can tell you the creamy, sweet white chocolate mixed with salt was a flavour I wasn’t expecting to so fully enjoy. But I really, really did.

Mon Paris Patisserie

Mon Paris Patisserie had two fruity hot chocolate choices offered for the entire hot chocolate festival. I don’t generally enjoy mixing my fruit flavours with chocolate but hey, I was game to enjoy more hot chocolate. Even though Mon Paris was impressively tempting with their treats and beautiful chocolates, I unfortunately only ended up adding a caramel macaron to my order. No worries though because their beautiful presented hot chocolate, came with unexpected decorative chocolates.

‘Mademoiselle Jasmine’ – This hot chocolate was made with jasmine tea infused cream, dark chocolate and a strawberry puree. Topped with a huge amount of fluffy, super sweet whipped cream and decorated with a strawberry and a flower made of chocolate. This was a really interesting mix of flavours for me but it was so flavourful. While the strawberry was the dominant flavour, it was still a delicious, dark chocolate, creamy treat.

I definitely enjoyed the Hot Chocolate Festival and I will hopefully be attending a lot more in the future.

Castlemaine, the Small City with a Big Heart

Castlemaine, the Small City with a Big Heart

Before I left Canada the only thing I knew about Castlemaine was that a longtime friend from my hometown lived there with her husband. Now I know that it is a small city, in a lovely part of the country, where the gold rush happened, and amongst other little towns that all offer wonderfully friendly people, antiques, artists & markets. To name a few things. It is only a short 1 ½ hour train ride from Melbourne or an hour shuttle bus ride from Melbourne’s airport, but once you arrive you feel as though you are further out in the country.

I’m a big city person but Castlemaine has so much to offer, even I was thoroughly impressed. Check out the Castlemaine Maldon area website here. I arrived on Friday afternoon easily via the Bendigo Airport Service bus from the Melbourne airport for $45.00 and was dropped off right in front of the Information Centre on Mostyn Street in Castlemaine. On Saturday morning we went to the local outdoor market where there was a wonderful selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, foods, antiques and other locally made products, music and art. The city of Castlemaine is quite small but there are lovely shops that carry everything from necessities to antiques to hand crafted products to quirky items. It was lovely to walk around and check out the shops and there is also a large community of artists living in this area so chances are you will find something wonderful to purchase.

We had lunch outside at the Governor’s Café at the Old Castlemaine Gaol. The café is located in the former Governor’s residence which was built on the side of the Gaol. The food was delicious plus you have an amazing view of the city from up there on the hill. Until 1990 the Gaol was still being used but it is now a museum that you can tour around. The Gaols in Australia were built using a design originating in England, and while they tend to have a very disturbing past, Castlemaine turned theirs around and uses it as a museum, an upmarket café, an event venue plus they have concerts there. It is a really nice, positive way to keep the building in use.

After shopping and lunch we drove up the hill on the other side of town, to the Burke & Wills Monument. It provided a great view that was on the opposite side of the Gaol but it also taught me a bit of history about these two gentlemen. I can’t even begin to image what the early explorers dealt with when they headed into the outback. The temperatures, the lack of water, the fact that everything tries to kill you. No wonder so many people died.

Later in the afternoon we went for a bit of culture and visited the Castlemaine Art Museum located in this beautiful art deco building. I was more than impressed by this gallery as well as the local history museum located downstairs. I am an avid museum and gallery visitor and most small cities and towns end up having quite a varied collection for both. Castlemaine’s Art Gallery had an assortment of contemporary, and more traditional works by Australian artists. They even had paintings of more amateur artists who were participating in a competition. The gift shop has an assortment of works you can purchase, including some sculptures, by some very talented artists. Everything was so wonderful and even the historical building was a great showcase for all the talent. When you head downstairs to the museum you might mistakenly assuming it won’t be overly interesting or contain a lot of items, like I did. You will be humbled though by the assortment as well as information that is on display in this basement. I have to say that Castlemaine’s Museum completely surprised me and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The next morning was a Sunday so we headed over to Maldon to check out this historic town that has maintained so many of their original buildings, you almost believe you are lost in time. It was a lovely place with B&B’s, plenty of shops, pubs, and cafes. It was the second Sunday of the month so the Maldon Market was on that day, where there were all types of vendors selling food to eat or take away, products, clothes, art, etc. When we arrived there was also a choir singing Christmas carols in the gazebo. I left the market that day with a beautiful summer hat handmade using vintage fabric.

It was a really warm day so after our little trip to Maldon and before I had to pack and catch the train to Melbourne, we visited the Ice Cream Social at The Mill Castlemaine. This little shop offers ice cream, gelato and sorbet made in small batches, from scratch and using local ingredients so the artisan flavours are changed daily. It was awesome ice cream. The day we were there, one flavour was olive oil and basil, which was surprisingly delicious. The only downside is they run out of a popular flavour quickly. The Mill also has a café, a coffee roaster, a brewery, a winery, markets for vintage items as well as an artist’s studio space. The Mill Castlemaine is across the street from the Botanical Gardens, which looked stunning from the road but I unfortunately had run out of time in this lovely city.

These are only the things I could get to but there is more to see and do in Castlemaine. There is no public transportation other than the train in and out of town, but I did see a taxi cab while I was there and it is possible to walk to most, if not all, of the sights in the city. It was a great relaxing weekend and so close to Melbourne that it makes going there for the weekend, or a few days, incredible easy. You could even time your visit with one of their festivals.

Here is what I did in Melbourne.

 

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Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 – Movies

Vancouver International Film Festival 2016 – Movies

The Vancouver International Film Festival is in the process of its 35th year right now and it is going smashing, in my eyes.  Normally my schedule conflicts with the schedule of the movies at VIFF, that I want to see, and I am left feeling as though I missed out and I want more.  This year I have had the opportunity to see more films than my regular 1-2 per festival and I am very happy I did, plus the festival isn’t finished yet.  It’s a good year for me.

VIFF 2016 has been going for a little over a week and I have already seen four movies and attended a Creator’s Talk.  I’ve experienced more of the festival than ever before but with the quantity and quality of films and events, I still feel I could have seen more.  I love watching these emotional, touching, thought provoking movies and I really love listening to the directors, writers, and everyone else that takes part in the Q&A’s after the movie.  When you watch a movie, you interpret it with your experiences & thoughts but when you are able to hear how, why and the process of the making of the movie, you get more from it, you see the movie through different eyes.   A different perspective.  It is a much more honest & fulfilling experience.

Previously I had only attended a Q&A once, after a documentary and completely unintentionally.  The experience was one I haven’t forgotten, I learned so much more through that Q&A.  This year I wanted to try and attend another one but in the end, so far out of four movies, there have been three Q&A’s.  I’m in my little glory over here.  I never studied film in school, I’m not in the business & I in no way know the particulars of what, why, how, etc but I do know how movies make me feel and they have always been a hobby I love.  My mood generally decides the genre I want to watch, as well as whether it will be a blockbuster, an arthouse or documentary type.  I’m not particular, I love the art of storytelling.  Whether it be film, television, literature, song, art, etc.

The Vancouver International Film Festival annually allows me a few weeks to watch arthouse films from not just Canada but from all over the world that I normally wouldn’t have easy access to (although Netflix helps), watch films before they are in theatres as well as find out the particulars of making a specific movie from the people involved, in the Q&A’s.  This is what I enjoy but the festival offers even more experiences for everyone.

I have tickets for two more films scheduled for the last two days of VIFF 2016 but here are the films I have seen already and what I thought of them.

The Other Half – I enjoyed this movie.  I really liked the premise of it, the story, as well as the characters. I was fortunate to have attended the Creator’s Talk with Tatiana Maslany earlier in the day so I knew about this film in more detail before I watched it.  In her words (from my memory), it is a movie about a man and a woman who see the darkness in each other and are scared of it but they love each other and are more scared to live without that love.  I did get a little confused with one scene though when I wasn’t sure what the time line was supposed to be.  For a first film, I thought Joey Klein did a great job and shows great potential.  It was a thoughtful film with the sensitive subject of mental health, in any form.  I laughed, I cried and I felt the love between these characters.  The Q&A after gave me a better understanding of how this movie came to be made and the process of making it.

Sins of the Flesh – WOW!  This movie was intense and so very good.  The two main actors have never even played a starring role before.  The film shows us uncomfortable truths about people, things we might not have witnessed in our own lives.  The story centres on a poor family that live and work on a farm as well as the rich family that owns the farm, in Egypt during the rebellion/uprising of 2011.  This movie is truthful and that is what made parts of it hard to watch.  If we don’t watch movies like this though, to be aware of things happening around us, how can change happen?  The Q&A after was definitely something I won’t forget.  The director is a talented, experienced man who tells stories, even if they cause him controversy because of the truths involved.  There is a reason he has won so many awards and his passion for the subjects he tackles is obvious.

Ganjy – This was a short that proceeded Marrying the Family.  It was a touching and real, locally shot with local actors, film about an aging boxer with dementia pugilistica.  Concussions and brain injuries can happen to anyone and are more likely to happen to people while not playing sports but by telling these sports related stories we are making this a subject seen and understood by more and more people.  This is something really close to my heart and I really enjoyed this short.  There is currently an Indiegogo project to make this short film into a feature film, with great incentives.

Marrying the Family – This movie was funny.  Not laughed so hard I cried, snorted and coughed, but it was funny and I laughed, a lot.  I find attending weddings aren’t as much fun as watching them on screen.  When you laugh at the situations created by people involved with weddings in real life, people get upset but when you put it all together in a movie, it’s okay.  The story centres around a young couple engaged to be married.  The bride-to-be’s family though are wedding organizers so of course things are going to get a little crazy.  Plus, there is the added bonus of furries, which I think is still new enough and unknown enough to the general public to provide heaps of entertainment.  The Q&A after was a completely different experience because this was a locally made movie.  Everyone involved is local and it was shot local (10 days, on weekends, over a few months) so more people involved in the movie were in attendance plus people in the industry, friends, etc.  As I was leaving, the theatre was still quite full but they were all talking together, etc. and there was so much encouragement and positivity.  It was just cool to witness.

Hedi – I really, really enjoyed this film.  To me, this movie was about the struggle we all have in life between what we really want, to obtain happiness, and our fears.  I felt so much for Hedi, I might not have his life exactly but I can relate to him and his choices.  I think we all can, in our own way, which is what makes this film so realistic to so many people.  It was wonderfully told by two newcomers, Mohamed Ben Attia (according to IMBd his only other credit is a short 12 years ago), who wrote and directed the movie as well as Majd Mastoura (according to IMDb, his career so far consists of two films, both in 2016. I think he actually just finished school in June), the actor portraying Hedi. Both did an absolutely, amazing job.  There were a few sound effects made by the audience at the end, a true testament to how this movie affected people.

 

tatiana-maslany-creator-talk    Read about my experience at the VIFF 2016 Creator’s Talk with Tatiana Maslany.

Trafiq Cafe & Bakery and Luke’s Diner Pop-up

Trafiq Cafe & Bakery and Luke’s Diner Pop-up

I was out and about today, stopped at Starbuck’s, and was checking my Facebook while waiting for my half sweet, coconut milk, hot chocolate when I saw a post about the Luke’s Diner pop-ups to promote the new four episode season of Gilmore Girls coming on Netflix November 25th. I figured I would read it and probably have to drive down to Seattle one day soon but it turns out it was today; the good news was there would be one in Vancouver. I hummed and hawed for like maybe three minutes when I realized, why wouldn’t I go? LUKE’S DINER! So I drove out to Trafiq Cafe on Main Street in Vancouver.

Trafiq Café & Bakery became Luke’s Diner for the day. I arrived at approx. 1:20 pm and walked past the line-up to check the place out. There was a temporary Luke’s sign hanging from one of the front windows and people were walking out with Luke’s cups and cup sleeves. I’m not even going to try and hide it from you, I was completely geeking out. I watched that show every week or I set my VCR to record it. It was that tv show. That one I just couldn’t miss because I had invested in Lorelai & Rory’s life. I felt for them and with them. There were the conversations, the relationships, the life that was like everyone’s life but not quite like anyone’s life.

After I checked out what was up, I went to the back of the line-up; down the sidewalk and around the corner. There was a woman from a local radio station, I believe, on Facebook Live interviewing people and she was saying someone told her they had waited two hours and were now at the door to the café. I was a little stunned but I was there, I wasn’t going to give up. I didn’t expect the range in ages of everyone waiting though until I remembered this was a tv show now on Netflix for a whole new generation to fall in love with. That made me feel the warm fuzzies of happiness. Two of the gentlemen in line were even there for their wives who were unable to make it. The dedication of fans was wonderful to see. It took approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes to get into the café and order myself some cake. Unfortunately, they had already run out of the 500 cups and cup sleeves they had received for the event so nothing for me to take home. The staff were all wearing Luke’s baseball hats backwards, plaid shirts and jeans with Luke’s aprons. There was also the No Cell Phones sign. It was awesome. I’m going to venture to say, it was even better than the time I drove to Coquitlam because one of the 7-11 stores became a Kwik-E-Mart for the day.

Obviously Trafiq Café & Bistro was crazy busy today. Inside the tables were full of people eating lunch and outside there was still a line-up going down the sidewalk at 2:40 in the afternoon. Everyone was busy getting their picture taken with the Luke’s sign while they waited. The Café had a very yummy looking menu with wonderful choices for lunch but I had heard several people talking about how great their pastries were so those are the only things I was thinking of when I got to the till. Everything looked so good but Carly, a psychology student who I met in line and spoke to for over an hour about a variety of subjects, recommended the chocolate cake so I ordered a slice of the Vanilla Salted Caramel cake as well as one of the Chocolate Decadence, to go. She also told me the Coconut Cloud cake was another favourite of hers.

The Vanilla Salted Caramel Cake was moist and very sweet. When I ate it in pieces to break apart the flavours and textures, I realized the cake, the fluffy filling and the fluffy icing weren’t really sweet at all, it was the caramel sauce that was on top of each layer of cake that was doin’ it. I’m not really sure what type of icing it was but it was fluffy almost like a whipped cream but it didn’t taste like a whipped cream really. There was vanilla cake, caramel sauce, then filling, all done up in three layers with icing covering the top and sides. There were even these wee little covered biscuit balls as decoration on top. I loved the cake and the icing but I found the caramel sauce too sweet for me and the filling almost tasted a bit like coffee which I don’t like. I thought this was a great cake but I personally will keep trying other flavours the next time I am there.

I’m not kidding, this place really knows how to do cakes. I’m not sure I have eaten at a bakery with such moist, fresh cakes before and I like to think of myself as a cake connoisseur. The Decadent Chocolate Cake was super chocolatey. Again there were three layers of moist cake and fluffy filling but this one was covered with a dark chocolate ganache. As part of the decoration each slice also had a ball on top that was a cross between cookie dough and ganache, flavoured of chocolate with a faint something else that I couldn’t quite name (think lavender, rose, or orange). It was a really good cake. The chocolate was a bit darker in flavour than commercial store bought cakes so it was much more rich and with each layer also having its own unique flavour and texture like the vanilla salted caramel, it was pure delight. I would definitely eat this cake again but I really want to try other flavours and other pastries from this bakery now.

While Netflix did a great marketing job today with the Luke’s Diner pop-ups, I think that Trafiq Cafe & Bakery did an absolutely amazing job keeping up with the demand, staying friendly, providing great service as well as wonderful product.

Creator Talk at VIFF 2016 with Tatiana Maslany

Creator Talk at VIFF 2016 with Tatiana Maslany

This year The Vancouver International Film Festival made some changes in the way they are doing things. One of those changes is the VIFF HUB and Creator Talks, an opportunity to listen to people who are creating a movie, talk about the movie.

Creator Talk with Tatiana Maslany
Saturday October 1, 2016 12:30 pm
Rio Theatre
Tim Goodman – Chief Television Critic for the Hollywood Reporter oka/@BastardMachine

I went with the only expectation being that I was going to listen to a very talented person speak. I left thinking I couldn’t have been more affected if I had paid a ton of money to see an inspirational speaker.

Tatiana Maslany was absolutely delightful. She was warm, open, humble, encouraging, thoughtful, inspirational, professional, generous, uninhibited, knowledgeable, funny, serious, passionate…….I’m going to stop before I gush. I never knew I could have such a girl crush before.

I love Orphan Black so when I saw this year VIFF was doing Creator Talks and one of them was going to be with Tatiana Maslany, I spent several days trying to decide if I wanted to go. You see, I’m not a, fawn all over someone because they are famous, person. Actually I’m probably more the opposite. My long-time crush is Keanu Reeves. I say long-time because the first time I crushed on him was a commercial advertising his Babes In Toyland movie, on tv, for Christmas, in the mid to late 80’s. That man still does it for me and I refuse to listen to anyone who chooses to speak badly about him to me, around me, near me. One year, as a birthday gift, two of my friends bought us all tickets to see his band play when they came to town. I stood there for the entire show with my arms crossed, staring at him. Someone tried to talk to me and I shut them down so fast in the most aggressively verbal way that by the end of the show there was a berth around me and I’m sure the word stalker & crazy were being used to describe me. Even then, we went home after the show. We did not wait at the back door, we did not hit up all of the hotels or bars or anywhere else looking for this magnificent creature. He is a man, an incredibly beautiful man, who does a job. I don’t know him personally so I don’t know who he really is or even if I would like him once I got past staring at his incredible face and listening to his magical voice. I think he’s like a unicorn. A stunning, beautiful, magical creature that you look at and love. I mean seriously maybe that unicorn turns out to be a dick and every time humans get close to it, it kicks them in the head. We don’t know. Maybe that’s why we only ever see unicorns in pictures or fairy tales, because we can’t get close to one. I don’t know if I want to get close to Keanu, I don’t want my dreams of his wonderful personality crashing against the kick of reality. I’ve read a bunch of stuff over the years and he sounds like a great guy but I also have doubts about actors. Do they ever turn off the acting, do they know how, are they so narcissistic they can’t see past themselves and their ‘art’?

Tatiana Maslany took all of my preconceived notions and doubts about actors and made me cry. I’m as shocked as you. I literally had tears in my eyes when she was describing her new movie screening at VIFF this year, The Other Half. She was explaining how the characters in this movie are afraid of the darkness they see in the other person but they are also afraid of not having that other person in their lives. About how in life all humans are afraid, our lives are lived and based, around fear. It hit me so hard I started tearing up. This is a subject very close to me right now as I am at a personal crossroads in life and I am searching for what/where is next. It reflected my own thoughts of how I have been living my life and how I want to change it. Obviously she didn’t know this was going to make me emotional but I did accept it as a very good validation point for my decision to see her talk.

I admit that while I generally know what critics think of projects, I do not follow what critics specifically say really because I always like to draw my own conclusions. This means I was unaware of who Tim Goodman was before he walked on stage this afternoon but I was very impressed with his knowledge of Tatiana Maslany and her work. They had a very easy conversation that covered the three movies she has out/coming out (The Other Half, Two Lovers and a Bear, as well as Stronger with Jake Gyllenhaal), her scope of experience and work, some of her life experiences, as well as the reason most people love her and came to see her, Orphan Black. It lasted about 30 to 45 minutes (why would I pay attention to the time when the conversation was so riveting) before he opened up to a Q&A session. During their conversation, Tatiana was very open about how she feels about projects she chooses to be part of, what she would like to do in the future, how taking the job of Orphan Black and it’s many characters was done so she couldn’t be pigeonholed in a role, but ended up pigeonholing her in the roles she is offered (no, she doesn’t only want to play several characters in one project), how she came to be involved with The Other Half, and what it was like working on this movie with her off-screen boyfriend (he knows her so well, she couldn’t use any of her tricks, she had to be present and not afraid to open herself up for the character). I never once felt this conversation was scripted, acted out or anything other than real. A few times there were shouted comments from the audience and Tatiana took them in stride and engaged with the person.

The Q&A session was one of the best sessions I’ve been to, even though I have never been to one of these kind of talks before. Everyone congratulated Tatiana on her recent Emmy win, which she accepted graciously. The questions ranged from research of roles with injuries (from a physiotherapist, who Tatiana took the time to thank for helping people), to what is the ‘thing’ she looks for when choosing a project (from a screen writing student), to how hard is it to play a clone pretending to be another clone (from a member of a 20 or so group that watches and celebrates every episode of Orphan Black together) to when did she know she wanted to be an actress (from one of a set of mature twin actresses in the new A Series of Unfortunate Events tv series). Tatiana answered every question with honesty, kindness and thoughtfulness. Even when the twin actress was promoting her own show, Tatiana was graceful and encouraging. These weren’t your standard ‘actor’ answers. At the end of the, more than one hour, Tatianna went down the few stairs to write autographs, take pictures and shake hands with fans even as the VIFF staff were trying to wrap the event up and get her out of there. Very classy Tatianna, very classy.

I was planning on seeing The Other Half movie tomorrow, October 2nd, but to be honest, my new girl crush is demanding more Tatiana Maslany the person time so I’ll now be going tonight. There is a Q&A after the movie with her and the screenwriter/director for me to experience.

 

Movie creators and stars at Vancouver International Film Festival    Read about the VIFF movies I attended and my experiences at them here.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – the Surprise that Awaits You

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – the Surprise that Awaits You

You don’t often consider Saskatoon, Saskatchewan a holiday destination but this city has a lot going for it. Not only does it have a very strong emphasis on arts, it has festivals, attractions, shopping, parks, and some great architecture. The city was first settled about 130 years ago and as of 2014, has a population of between 250,000 and 300,000. Even though Saskatoon is a large city, it is spread out instead of going up so you don’t have large skyscrapers ruining its historic beauty. There is such a wonderful mix of historic and modern in this prairie city.

I grew up in Saskatoon so of course I have some fond, biased memories. In the half dozen times I have gone back for a visit over the years, those memories haven’t been ruined with my older, more jaded eyes. A few years ago I went back and attended the Folkfest which I loved as a child. Not only did my memories of the Folkfest hold up but I found it even more fun as an adult. Even one who has done a lot of travelling. This year was the first time I attended the Fringe Festival. The festival is smaller than some I have attended in Vancouver, but it was a great set-up and had quite a bit to offer.

The Western Development Museum

I have to admit that as a child this was one of my favourite places to visit. I have always loved history and this museum has an indoor 1910 Boomtown street. Seriously with their winters you have to have attractions indoors. The street is complete with various shops, carts and even homes completely set-up as they would have been in that time. The dentist’s office still sticks in my head after all of these years. In all of my travels this museum still has me in awe. I have not seen another Boomtown museum quite like this one.

There is also a section in this giant building for different vehicles throughout history, including tractors and farming machinery. It’s not normally my thing but it is still impressive to see.

Folkfest

Held every summer in August, the Saskatoon Folkfest is a cultural joy. Using all types of buildings all over the city, you visit a country’s pavilion where you experience their food, music, dance, clothing, beverages, art & language. Their culture and people. I suggest getting the three-day passport. It allows you unlimited access to all of the pavilions for the entire three days. As well as the Folkfest busses. You can enjoy the different beers, etc from each country without worrying about driving.

PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival

Another festival that is held every summer is the Saskatoon PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival located on Broadway Avenue. There are free street performances as well as the paid ones in various venues. You can also find locally made products and art sold by vendors set up on the street. There are even food stalls and food trucks. Broadway Avenue is shut down for the duration of the festival but the shops and restaurants are still open for you to enjoy.

The only point of criticism I had about this festival was the food prices. Around $10.00 for a specialty juice from a food truck. I’ll stick with The Juice Truck here in Vancouver for half that price thank you very much. I did eat perogies from the Perogie Pirates truck though and those prices were very reasonable. I think they were somewhere around $5.00. The perogies tasted great and the service was very friendly and fast.

 

As I said before there are a lot of things to see and do in Saskatoon. Besides the above items there is also beautiful historical architecture all over the east side as well as along the river on the west side. Don’t forget the Mendel Art Gallery (soon The Art Gallery of Saskatchewan), Midtown Plaza shopping centre in downtown, 8th Street restaurants and shopping, The Ex (carnival with rides), the Bez (Delta Bessborough Hotel), concerts, theatre performances, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Blades WHL hockey team, Saskatchewan International Raceway and Auto Clearing Motor Speedway to name a few. If you are heading to the prairies or thinking of just driving through cause there is nothing there, please stop and take a look. It will definitely surprise you.

 

If you are interested in, or starting to plan a trip, there are several travel related products and websites listed on the Yup…..We Like These page, to help you out. Some of the affiliate link descriptions also contain a coupon code for you to use.