Black Meetings and Tourism

March/April 2012

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FAM REPORT #2 RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA: WHERE THE FAR EAST MEETS THE WEST COAST BY EDITH BILLUPS N estled where the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Fraser Rive meet,Richmond,British Columbia is a city of delightful con- trasts where the Far East meets the West Coast. Voted one of the most livable communities in British Columbia, Richmond is a thriving multicultural destination offering a growing range of cultural, heritage, culinary and leisure experiences. Whether you are a meeting planner, vacationing, or visiting for business,Richmond has some- thing for everyone. Located next door to Vancouver and in close prox- imity toWhistler andVictoria, Richmond is home to an urban setting with a flourish- ing Asian culture, local farms, and numerous National Historic Sites. If you are a nature lover, be prepared for some of the best whale watch- ing expeditions in the Northwest along with gor- geousWest Coast sunsets that will take your breath away.Or if you are a fitness buff, check out the world class Richmond Olympic Oval, site of the 2010Winter Games speed- skate trials, or go dragonboating as part of a team building adventure. I recently packed my bags for a four day visit and quickly immersed myself in the local history and the friendliness of the residents, who are more than happy to show off their northwest hospitality. I arrived on a Tuesday and checked into theWestin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport hotel, located conveniently within a 28 10-minute drive of Vancouver Airport. The city's newest hotel, the Westin has 185 rooms and 8,500 sq. ft. of flexible meeting and event space, including a 4,700-sq. ft. ballroom. If visiting, be sure to stop by the hotel's Apron restaurant that offers deli- cious dining, with fresh vegetables and fruits grown in the restaurant's own plot at a local sharing farm. OnWednesday, I set off on a five- hour whale watch adventure, arriving hoped for, as we spotted the area's J and K pods, with a combined total of more than 40 whales. If visiting, be sure out to look out for the J pod, whose matriarch, Granny, is more than 100 years-old and who has a leg- endary history of avoiding cruel whale hunters who once used the pods for target practice because they felt that the creatures were consum- ing too many salmon. I completed the day with dinner at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant, which juts out over the Bayview Pier, and which is a favorite among locals. Voted best scenic view, best ambiance, and best outdoor dining by a local website, the restaurant's chef, Paul Haldane, will whip up a sumptu- ous meal of local ingredients, includ- ing wild salmon and shellfish. I ordered the homemade coconut, gin- ger and carrot soup and would highly recommend that to fellow vegetari- ans. On Thursday, I returned to Steveston to take in more of the history and had breakfast at Rocanini Coffee Roasters, which roasts award-winning fair trade and organic coffee beans from areas including Ethiopia, El Salvador and Peru. During my visit, owner Dawn Pend explained the intricacies of coffee roasting and described which beans bring out a rich, bold flavor. At Rocanini's, coffee is made one cup at a time, and tea lovers need not despair, as one can try out several delicious flavors, including a yummy first in the picturesque village of Steveston, a charming gem estab- lished in the early 1800s during the fishing cannery boom. The friendly staff at Seabreeze Adventures noted that the day looked promising for whale watching, as several pods had been spotted earlier. Slipping into a life jacket, I settled back happily as we ventured out to the Pacific Ocean while guide Connie Scott pointed out the intriguing scenery along the way. Our grand adventure was more exciting than any of us could have lavender sunset tea. My adventure continued with a tour of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, a National Historic Site, which cele- brates the fascinating history of the West Coast fishing industry. Built in 1894 and available for events, the cannery was one of about 15 that existed in the area, was the largest building of its kind, and the leading producer of canned salmon in British Columbia. Situated atop wooden pil- ings on the Fraser River, one can see where mountains of fish once Black Meetings & Tourism March/April 2012:

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