When doctors told Joey and Darryl Simon that their son Jet’s premature birth could result in learning disabilities, the couple immersed him in the world of art as a means of helping him overcome any educational obstacles. Their tutelage and care paid off, resulting in an impressive array of paintings from their child at a very young age. Jet’s talent and creativity inspired his parents to establish 4Cats Arts Studio in hopes of unleashing the inner artists of other children as well as adults. The Simons accomplish this mission through hands-on sessions in mixed media, painting, and Artist Focus classes, which concentrate on the histories and styles of certain artists, such as Picasso’s cubism and Andy Warhol’s self-portraits of soup cans.
In the verdant Cowichan Valley, Pacific Northwest Raptors cares for a diverse flock of birds of prey—owls twist their heart-shaped heads curiously, and hawks look on with eyes like copper coins. The staff provides them a safe habitat while educating the public about their habits, hunting methods, and favourite brands of feather cosmetics. Eagles and falcons ride warm zephyrs overhead daily, searching for prey high over the canopy when they aren’t perched back at the centre.
Avian experts demo the birds’ skills during walks, which include the opportunity for patrons to have a hawk or owl land on a gloved hand or already impressive jaw line. Intensive workshops and week-long falconry courses let guests settle in with the animals beneath the towering trees, which hush each other liltingly in the wind. Regular family events at the centre facilitate bonding with the regal raptors, many of which are trained in film work and pest control.
Years ago, Derrick and Donna Smith began brewing a quartet of ales together, the steaming vats of barley filling their small facility with steam. They quickly gained the attention of beer drinkers and critics and expanded into a 10,000-square-foot space. There, they invite you to check out new craft brews such as Classic Nut Brown Ale, Bold Belgian Pale Ale, and Seasonal Citrus Wit. Rotating seasonal suds fill the recognizable frog-emblazoned bottles with beers whose flavors vary with the season. Derrick and Donna offer clients a peek inside their operation with tours and tastings.
With Langley's picturesque countryside as its backdrop, Neck of the Woods Winery concocts red, white, and sparkling wines using grapes grown primarily in the surrounding Fraser Valley. The facility takes advantage of the area's cool climate–which is similar to that of Northern France and Germany–to oversee the entire production process from pressing to bottling. After spending quality time with their maker or a court-appointed barrel, products migrate to store shelves throughout Fraser Valley and Vancouver, or stay right at home in the winery's tasting room. There, visitors pass through daily to sample the varietals, or hang out in the showroom, warmly stocked with rustic casks and a crackling fireplace.
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Drawing inspiration from a centuries-old German tradition, wherein people would warm away their winter blues and welcome the holiday season with uproarious festivities, the Vancouver Christmas Market fills the night air with mirth. Rows of lighted evergreens and more than 45 wooden huts lined with pine branches and twinkling lights spread out under the sky, allowing guests to duck in and examine European-themed, often handcrafted, wares. In addition to traditional German foods—bratwurst, fruitcake-like stollen, and mugs of hot mulled glühwein—the huts also house vendors slinging all manner of gifts and decorations. Woodcarvings, knitted scarves, and ornate beer steins perfectly slip into stockings, populate the space beneath a Christmas tree, or serve as spot-savers in the local hot tub, and delicate glass ornaments or nutcrackers help bring Christmas cheer into homes.
While guests peruse the collection of edible and giftable goods, they can also enjoy the sights and sounds of performances by traditional European choirs and dance troupes. At the on-site Kids' Market, a variety of age-appropriate activities entertain younger children, including a festive carousel, chocolate-lollipop-decorating stations, and gingerbread mascots.
What's proper etiquette for the Queen's sommelier? West Coast Wine Education's John Gerum confronted this question head on when he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Apparently he made the right choice, as he went on to pour wine for Prime Ministers, Presidents, Provincial Premiers, and cultural icons during his 20-year career. Gerum's achievement distills three generations of fine dining experience that was passed down from his father, a chef, and his grandfather, a maitre 'd. Wine education was always his passion, so when starting out, he sought personal instruction from the master sommelier Andrew Laliberté and demonstrated a palate refined enough to earn him membership and certification from the International Sommelier Guild. Gerum often merges his know-how with other wine educators to cultivate a roster of classes and hone their delivery. These experts join in delineating Scotch terroir and describing the bouquet of a student's favourite pinot-stained shirt with an easy professionalism that has enthralled groups of up to 300 people. They share their expertise with casual drinkers and professionals during two-hour workshops, in consultation for store openings and events, and through appearances on Global TV.