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Salt Lake City : Utah Jazz and The Backyardigans

Tuesday Oct 21, 2008
Olympic Cauldron Salt Lake City - Courtesy

Olympic Cauldron Salt Lake City - Courtesy

Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City is the gateway to the state’s renowned ski resorts, scenic national parks and recreational areas. Well-known as a ski destination it has the credentials for hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Skiers continue to flock here to enjoy world-class facilities and the “greatest snow on earth.” With close proximity to several world-class ski and summer resorts, including Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and Snowbird the place attracts tourists from all over. Resorts here cater to them each year besides offering year-round activities. The scene gets so hectic that its best making reservations early on through Salt Lake City Downtown Hotel site to get a foothold.

This populous mid-west city christened S.L.C. for short is also known as the Crossroads of the West. Besides its strong outdoor-recreation tourist industry backdrop it is famous as an industrial banking center. SLC’s modern economy has turned service-oriented with trade, transportation, utilities, professional and business services besides tourism, conventions, and its suburban call centers. Tourism has increased rapidly here over the years having brought many hotels and restaurants in wake. The convention industry has also expanded considerably since the construction of the Salt Palace convention center, holding trade shows and conventions. This aside the historic Mormon Temple Square is a popular tourist attraction and the city also offers lively entertainment and nightlife.

Salt Lake is home to several museums. Near Temple Square is the Museum of Church History and Art. Operated by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the museum contains collections of artifacts, documents, art, photographs, tools, clothing and furniture from the history of the LDS Church which spans nearly two centuries! The Great Salt Lake is separated from Salt Lake City by extensive marshlands and mudflats. The Jordan River flows through the city and is a drainage of Utah Lake that empties into the Great Salt Lake.

The highest mountaintop visible from Salt Lake City is Twin Peaks, which reaches 11,489 feet. Twin Peaks is located southeast of Salt Lake in the Wasatch Range. The second-highest mountain range is the Oquirrhs, reaching a maximum height of 10,620 feet at Flat Top. The Traverse Mountains to the south extend to 6,000 feet connecting the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains. The mountains near Salt Lake City are easily visible from the city and have sharp vertical relief caused by massive ancient earthquakes.

The Salt Lake Valley floor is the ancient lakebed of Lake Bonneville which existed at the end of the last Ice Age. Several Lake Bonneville shorelines can be distinctly seen on the foothills or benches of nearby mountains. The climate of Salt Lake City is characterized as a semi-arid steppe climate with four distinct seasons. Both summer and winter are long, with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters, and with spring and fall serving as brief but comfortable transition periods. Salt Lake City features large variations in temperatures between seasons. During mid-winter, strong areas of high pressure often situate themselves over the Great Basin, leading to strong temperature inversions. Aside from occasional heavy snows in winter, severe weather is very rare.

Tourist attractions in Salt Lake abound. Museums here include the Utah State Historical Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneer Memorial Museum, Fort Douglas Military Museum, and the Social Hall Heritage Museum. Salt Lake City provides many venues for both professional and amateur theater. The city attracts many traveling Broadway and off-Broadway performances. Local professional acting companies include the Pioneer Theater Company, Salt Lake Acting Company, and Plan-B Theater Company. The Off Broadway Theater, located in Salt Lake’s historic Clift Building, features comedy plays and Utah’s longest running comedy troupe, Laughing Stock.

Salt Lake City has begun to host its own events in the last few years, most notably the Friday Night Flicks, free movies in the City’s parks, as well as the Mayor’s health and fitness awareness program, Salt Lake City Gets Fit. To add variety and an international taste to the music fans, events such as the annual Thyagaraja Music Festival of Utah are held in Salt Lake City. First Night on New Year’s Eve, a celebration emphasizing family-friendly entertainment and activities held at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah, culminates with a fireworks display at midnight.

The Olympic Cauldron Park, located at Rice-Eccles Stadium, features the Olympic Cauldron from the games, a visitor’s center, and the Hoberman Arch. The Olympic Legacy Plaza, located at the Gateway District, features a dancing fountain set to music and the names of 30,000 Olympic volunteers carved in stone. The Utah Olympic Park, located near Park City, features the Olympic ski jumps, as well as bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton runs. Today, the Olympic Park is used for year-round training and competitions. Visitors to the park can watch the various events that occur and even ride a bobsled. The Utah Olympic Oval, located in nearby Kearns, was home to the speed skating events and is now open to the public. Other popular Olympic venues include Soldier Hollow, the site of cross-country skiing events, located southeast of Salt Lake near Heber City.

Visitors can go through the story of Salt Lake city’s settlement and growth thats written on the historic buildings of its downtown. The Historic Downtown Salt Lake city Walking Tour identifies 58 historic buildings and sites encompassing over 100 years of the City’s history and architecture. Each building or site is identified with a numbered sign explaining its significance. A recommended route for seeing all the buildings and sites in shown on the map. However, one can start at any point and view the buildings and sites in any order. Also at hand are free downtown buses or the TRAX light rail on Main Street to return to the starting point. Coming attractions for the next few weeks include Utah Jazz with their series of Basketball Games and the Backyardigans showcasing Celine Dion in Salt Lake City, Utah on Nov 21, 2008 at the Capitol Theatre.

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Visiting Vancouver : Enjoy John Reischmann and the Jaybirds

Tuesday Oct 21, 2008
Vancouver City Scape - Courtesy

Vancouver City Scape - Courtesy

It was a port call that took me flying all the way from Mumbai to Vancouver. As an executive with the Shipping Corporation of India I was attending a conference at the famed Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Center. VCEC the largest convention center in all of Canada is located at Canada Park and shares a cruise ship terminal besides the Pan Pacific hotel and the 3D IMAX! I was in a fit of excitement.

The Port of Vancouver is one of the world’s finest natural, deep-water harbors. Covering a coastline of 247 kms it runs along from Roberts Bank at the U.S.-Canada border, along the south shore of Burrard Inlet, upto Indian Arm and the north shore of Burrard Inlet. The Vancouver Port Authority with 6,000 hectares of water and 460 hectares of land controls the cargo terminals and shipping Industry operations here.

The Port of Vancouver is actually North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade. Extremely large it ranks number one in the world in foreign exports, besides being ranked number one for total containerized cargo handling in Canada. Trading an astounding $43 billion in goods with more than 90 trading economies worldwide the Port of Vancouver is also home port to the Vancouver Alaska Cruise, one of the world’s premier cruise routes. One day, I promise to my self,one day I am going to be on it!

The shipping conference was to cover the economic Impacts of the shipping trade along with the operations at the Port of Vancouver involving many different enterprises. Cargo terminals, cruise terminals, tidewater access, shipyards, tugboats, railways, trucks, shipping agents, freight forwarders, suppliers, builders, and administrative agencies et all were involved. In fact the whole works to be worked out.

Besides understanding the finer points of international trade my mind was set on undertaking as much sight seeing as possible. Some bit of research on the internet had already familiarized me the facts and attractions. I was fascinated by the fact that the name Vancouver itself originated from the Dutch language van Coevorden denoting somebody from Coevorden in Netherlands had crossed over to this side of the Pacific. Also the port city had become internationally strategic since the Panama Canal having considerably reduced freight rates making it a viable shipping trade route. Today its the busiest seaport in Canada.

Historically the city developed from a small lumber mill town into a metropolitan center to go on to become the nations largest industrial center. Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the three most livable cities in the world as also the 10th cleanest city in the world. It’s a great city to live, work and play! I can vouch for that. Its a city that I will not forget and would like to come back again anytime. The wonderful things I enjoyed here – from live music performances to the fair at PNE have etched some remarkable memories for me.

I was amazed at the high quality of living and it comes as no surprise that it ranks only behind Zurich and Geneva in terms of quality of life. Like them the city’s scenic location makes it a major tourist destination. I made it a point to visit the city’s gardens – both Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park. It was awesome to see the mountains, ocean, forest and parklands that surround the city, along with beaches, parks, waterfronts. Its a heady combination of being in the vicinity of a mountainous backdrop along with a sea coast. Plus the cultural and multi-ethnic character of the city holds a charm all its own. Vancouver, I learn is the favorite haunt of stylish tourists. Also many people pass through Vancouver en route to the cruise ship vacation over to Alaska.

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreation. Its a fact that Vancouver has a low adult obesity rate. And if truth be told I did manage to shed off my extra flab over a ten day extended stay. Perhaps it was all that walking about! Downtown was the place to stroll along and enjoy the marvelous sights. There are several striking modern looking buildings in the downtown area, like the Harbour Centre, Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square. Also the Vancouver Library Square stands out since it appears as a replica of the Colosseum in Rome! Some other notable buildings of the city that have some impressive architecture include Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver Art Gallery and the unforgettable Vancouver Hotel.

Surrounded by water on three sides and nestled alongside the Coast Mountain Range, Vancouver proved the tourist destination of my dreams. With one of the mildest climates in Canada along with spectacular natural scenery with the bustling metropolitan ambiance it provided an ideal relaxed vacation after a hectic conference. City guidelines have succeeded in preserving mountain views by restricting building heights but of late some leeway allows an element of visual interest to enhance Vancouver’s skyline. For my part I simply enjoyed walking in the parks or biking around the seawall that gave me an uncommon thrill after a long long time. Moving about is one way to keep discovering something more to do and enjoy in Vancouver, all the time.

Doing the museums was de riguer for me, an avid arts buff. Vancouver is the home to museums and galleries. The Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of over 7,900 items valued at over $100 million. Also of interest to me was the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, a leading museum of the First Nations culture. The Vancouver Museum is the largest civic museum in Canada. However it was also the Vancouver Science Museum with its interactive exhibits that had me enjoying the experiments.

My Vancouverite delights ended with the Harrison Festival of Arts performed by John Reischmann and the Jaybirds. Performed at Harrison Hall, the Jaybirds give their elegant bluegrass sounds new meaning. It was Canadian folk music at its best with teh rendition of original songs from an acoustical power house. My Vancouver rhapsody was over in no time making me aware that there are places to be seen that this world has never dreamt of. At least my part of the world. For all of those with the travel itch of visiting far away and distant places unseen, I would say the Vancouver Downtown Hotel site is your best bet to enjoy the City of Vancouver that lives by the motto : “By Sea, Land, and Air We Prosper”.

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