Festival of Trees – “Two Hearts, One Wish”

Festival of Trees is a cherished community tradition and has become the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in Victoria, serving our community for the last 27 consecutive years. Thanks to sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals, the Bay Centre is transformed into a lush forest of beautifully decorated trees to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. 

This year, The Union Club has sponsored tree #38.

“Two Hearts, One Wish” was founded in 2016 by “Emma”, a local Victoria girl who raises funds in support of the BC Children’s Hospital & purchases activity-craft supplies for the Surgical Daycare Centre. Emma made macrame hearts as part of her decorations for the Union Club tree. It is beautiful.

Please vote for tree #38!

How a 27-year-old DJ from Dubai Ended Up Winning Nova Scotia Island

Dubai man thought contest launched April Fools’ Day was joke

Brendan Lopes, third from left, is a Portuguese national of Indian origin who grew up in the United Arab Emirates. (Liv. Bank)

Brendan Lopes has never been to Nova Scotia — or to Canada, for that matter.

But he’s now the proud owner of a private island off the coast of the province’s Eastern Shore thanks to a few lucky dice rolls.

The 27-year-old Lopes, a Portuguese national of Indian origin who grew up in the cultural melting pot of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, holds down two jobs.

He makes video content for businesses by day. At night, he is a DJ at clubs and private parties.

He has friends who love to visit Canada and he knows basic geography. But he admits he isn’t quite sure what the country has in store for him.

“[Another thing] I hear about Canada is like all of you guys say sorry a lot,” he said. “But, obviously, other than the stereotypes, I have no idea in the world about what Canada is, man. I have no idea.”

The 2.4-hectare island Lopes now owns is about 200 kilometres east of Halifax, off the coast of Goldboro, in Guysborough County. It’s called Hollpoint Island or Hurricane Island, and other than trees, rocks and sand, there’s not much else there. 

The 2.4-hectare island, known as Hurricane Island or Hollpoint Island, is about 200 kilometres east of Halifax, off the coast of Goldboro, in Guysborough County. (Google)

It all started on April Fools’ Day. Lopes’s bank, UAE-based Liv. Bank, announced a contest to win a private island in Canada.

He thought it was a joke, until a few weeks later when he was chosen as a contestant.

In the end, it came down to Lopes and 18 others who got up on stage Oct. 14 at Caesars Palace in Dubai and rolled a die — labelled with -2, -1, 0, 1 and 2 — trying to be the first to get to six. 

“And I’m probably the only one over there who was the most underdressed of anyone.… It’s, like, literally me … not shaved, hair unkempt,” he said.

“And I just went down there like, you know, maybe the food is going to be decent,” said Lopes.

But his girlfriend and father believed he could win. 

After some nail-biting rolls, Lopes was in a position to take the final prize. All he needed to do was roll a two to get to the winning number.

“And I could actually see this happening in slow motion. Like, you throw the die and it hits the edge and it slowly goes down and it goes like zero, minus two, plus two. And I’m like what just happened?”

Stunned after the win, Brendan was approached by the MC of the game. 

“And he’s like, ‘Brendan, man, people like Richard Branson have islands, you know, like millionaires have islands, and now you’re one of them. What do you have to say?’

Lopes, wearing a prop life-jacket along with the rest of the contestants, said the only thing that came to mind: “I’m thinking about the way to get a boat to get to the island.”

Why Canada? 

Jayesh Patel is head of Liv. Bank. Its target market is millennials.

He said the bank surveyed customers to find out what kind of prizes might interest them. 

“Canada comes up always as the top three destinations for customers,” he said.

“And it’s a place that has islands which we could give away.”

Patel said Hurricane Island was particularly appealing because gold was discovered east of nearby Goldboro in the mid-1800s.

“We liked some of the facts associated with it because we also wanted it to be a story around the island itself.”

Last year, the bank gave away a Tesla. 

In addition to the island, Lopes also gets a cash prize of 100,000 UAE diram, which is about $36,000 Cdn.

Lopes is waiting for the excitement to subside but said he’s considering using the prize money to start a shop in Dubai that serves biryani, an Indian mixed rice dish. 

Lopes, wearing the orange life-jacket, holds down two jobs. He makes video content for businesses by day and is a DJ at clubs and private parties by night. (Liv. Bank)

He said there’s still a lot of paperwork to complete to take possession of an island in a country he’s never visited but he’s looking forward to making the 20-plus-hour flight in the near future. 

“I mean, I have an island now, so I definitely want to see it,” he said.

Though, Lopes added, he’s not thrilled at the prospect of paying property taxes, which don’t really exist in UAE.

According to the real estate site viewpoint.ca, the 2019 tax assessment for the island is $21,200, and it’s taxed at an annual rate of $129. 

Patel said Liv. Bank bought the island through a Germany-based private island real estate company for about $50,000 Cdn.

There’s little other than trees, rocks and sand on the 2.4-hectare island in Guysborough County. (Google)

Lopes said he’s been overwhelmed by the response from friends, the media and people he barely knows. 

“But the headlines around Dubai are ‘Indian Portuguese DJ who still lives with parents doesn’t know what to do with island’. I’m like, you guys, you guys are really killing me over this,” said Lopes.

Top Wellness Retreats to Check Out Now

Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

Around the world, “wellness” has become the buzzword of choice for hotels courting a global audience of yogis, fitness fanatics, and stressed-out workaholics in need of some serious R&R. From Arizona to the Alps, these 11 hotels and resorts are getting the well-being trend right, and prove that a good wellness retreat is more than just au courant—it’s downright transformative. Say “om,” and read on for the best wellness resorts to check out now.

Mii amo, Sedona, Arizona

Mii amo, Sedona, Arizona

In Arizona’s enticingly named Valley of the Sun, Sedona has a clutch of high-end destination spas that draw travelers from both coasts. Mii amo, an adobe and stone sanctuary within Enchantment Resort, is among the best, with customizable, expert-led wellness itineraries—or “journeys”—lasting three, four, or seven nights. Daily meals, emphasizing locally sourced grains, produce, and meats, are included and served al fresco with the famously red rocks of Sedona looming above. Come evening, guests (who have included the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow) can indulge in signature cocktails—something of a rarity for a wellness retreat. Be sure to check out Mii time, a series of themed presentations and retreats, like introductions to chakras, reiki, and sound healing.

BodyHoliday All-Inclusive, Gros Islet, St. Lucia

BodyHoliday All-Inclusive, Gros Islet, St. Lucia

Wellness and fitness meet pure relaxation under the Caribbean sun at the all-inclusive BodyHoliday, where guests can tailor activities to be as intensive (or not) as they want—from morning sweats in hard-core exercise classes to afternoons spent sipping fresh coconut water on a float in the sea (the staff will swim out to you with refills). For those who want something in between, Ashtanga yoga and chanting meditation sessions offer restorative balance while complimentary daily spa treatments like full-body massages and facials are not to be missed. The resort recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a multi-million-dollar renovation that revitalized the resort’s renowned Wellness Centre and added a new sushi counter and juice bar, where you can cheers to your health with a shot of turmeric or greens.

Six Senses Duxton, Singapore

Six Senses Duxton, Singapore

Six Senses has wellness resorts all over the world, set in famed relaxation havens like Fiji and Courchevel. The brand expanded its health-minded philosophy into cities for the first time with the debut of Six Senses Duxton in central Singapore’s historic Chinatown. The 49-room hotel comprises a collection of colonial-era trading houses, whose rich blend of Malay, Chinese, and European influences have been faithfully restored under the helm of designer Anouska Hempel. Guests have access to the hotel’s on-staff traditional Chinese doctor, who is available for health tips, readings, and dispensing medicinal herbs.

LUX* Grand Gaube, Mauritius

LUX* Grand Gaube, Mauritius

On its own peninsula along the northern coast of Mauritius, Lux* Grand Gaube reopened after a $32 million, tip-to-toe renovation from designer Kelly Hoppen. The locally owned resort—something of a rarity amongst five-star properties in Africa—features nearly 2.5 acres of land dedicated to wellness. That’s more than enough space for 11 calming treatment rooms, a massive fitness center, three pools, an aromatic steam room, sauna, hairdressing salon, and a nail station from Essie. Guests can wile away the hours undisturbed under the banyan trees at one of two beaches, or partake in fitness classes, ranging from yoga and meditation to high-energy cardio workouts.

Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Miami Beach

Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Miami Beach

Miami Beach may be more famous as a high-energy party hot spot than as a meditative mecca, but Carillon Hotel, in the relative seclusion of Miami’s North Beach, paints a different story. Fresh off a $10 million renovation, its ocean-view spa and wellness center comes in at a staggering 70,000 square-feet. (To put that into perspective, an American football field is just over 57,000 square-feet.) Inside the veritable temple to wellbeing, guests can expect more than 200 weekly classes, a two-story climbing wall, a fleet of cardio equipment, and several pools, all attended by a small army of staff, including nutritionists and acupuncturists.

The American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin

The American Club, Kohler, Wisconsin

Originally built as housing for Kohler factory workers in Wisconsin in 1918, the Tudor-style American Club became a resort in the 1980s and has been one of the Midwest’s leading wellness destinations ever since. The renowned hotel welcomes visitors to championship golf courses, fine dining, and sumptuously-appointed rooms—with fittingly luxe bathrooms. As for spa time, travelers can enjoy legendary water-inspired offerings, like the signature lavender rain therapy, which exfoliates, cleanses, and moisturizes the body.

Waldhaus Flims Wellness Resort, Switzerland

Waldhaus Flims Wellness Resort, Switzerland

In the Swiss Alps, Waldhaus Flims has been a luxurious spa retreat for European dignitaries since the mid-19th century. In 2016, the Belle Epoque resort shuttered its doors for a complete overhaul, to the tune of $40 million. Refurbished rooms honor the hotel’s heritage with natural woods, ornate furnishings, and original details. The 32,000-square-foot spa, on the other hand, is entirely modern. After a day hiking the numerous trails nearby, relax your muscles with a dip in one of the resort’s sleek pools—there’s one indoor, encased in glass, another outdoor, surrounded by stone walls—or indulge in a full body hammam treatment.

COMO Metropolitan, London, UK

COMO Metropolitan, London, UK

You don’t need to escape to the country or the seaside to enhance your well-being. At COMO Metropolitan London, situated in Mayfair between Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, wellness takes center stage. Natural light floods the zen-like guest rooms, and the hotel’s Shambhala Urban Escape spa has resident experts in energy healing, chi balancing, reflexology, and even counseling. They can help guests see their lives through a new lens—all between a morning shopping excursion and an evening at the theater. Even business meetings at the hotel are health bent thanks to a program that incorporates the spa’s menu of restorative meals and juices into events on property.

Oberoi Sukhvilas Resort & Spa, India

Oberoi Sukhvilas Resort & Spa, India

In the Punjabi forests of northern India, outside of Chandigarh, Oberoi Sukhvilas Resort & Spa opened as the brand’s first wellness destination retreat in late 2016. Last winter, the resort unveiled its spa, with Mughal-inspired design elements like reflecting fountains and courtyards. Ayurvedic treatments dominate the menu of programs, which range from one day to three weeks in length. The physician-led retreats include daily consultations, mindfulness activities, herbal applications, and yoga, often on an idyllic east-facing platform overlooking the morning sun through the trees. Another popular treatment is the hydrotherapy circuit in the resort’s Roman-inspired bath complex. Come nighttime, guests make their way to their rooms, done in soothing tones. Many take the form of tented villas, with teak floors and private pool terraces, perfect for an evening swim.

Rosewood Phuket, Thailand

Rosewood Phuket, Thailand

On a hillside along the Andaman Sea’s Emerald Bay sits Rosewood Phuket‘s 71 airy villas and pavilions. Centuries-old banyan trees dot the property, which centers around nearly 2,000 feet of pristine beachfront. You’ll also find Asaya, Rosewood’s all-encompassing wellness program. In the spa, alternative therapies like reiki and sound therapy take center stage. Some treatments, including a salt scrub detox with volcanic clay wrap, last an indulgent four hours. For a truly transformative experience, guests can sign up for two-week programs, from high-intensity boot camps to inner peace workshops.

Amanyara, Turks & Caicos

Amanyara, Turks & Caicos

A favorite for Caribbean-bound nature lovers, Amanyara enjoys a prime spot on the undeveloped western shores of Providenciales island. It’s surrounded by parkland on all sides, including a marine park offshore. Surfing, snorkeling, and wildlife-focused eco-hikes are common activities—that is once you manage to leave your lounger along the half-mile of beach. The resort’s spa, set amidst mangroves and surrounding a tranquil pond, has an outdoor yoga deck and five open-air pavilions—one for lounging, four for treatments. Last year, the resort introduced wellness experiences designed specifically for families. Think mother/daughter facials and father/son shiatsu, plus a new line of spa treatments for younger guests.

23 Signs You’re a Serious Tennis Player

You only live once, but you get to serve twice.

23 signs you are a serious tennis player:

1. You have an entire section of your closet dedicated to your tennis clothes.

2. Nothing will ruin your day quite like a double fault.

3. You’re a member of the USTA.

4. After playing tennis outside, your tan lines are super awkward. There’s nothing pretty about a tennis sock and polo shirt tan.

5. You subscribe to the Tennis Channel and actually enjoy watching it.

6. If you’re in a rut on the court you ask yourself “What would Serena do?”, and conquer on.

7. There are loose tennis balls in your car, all over your home, and in your backyard.

8. Breaking a string is like a mini epiphany that you’re playing a strong game.

9. You actually have a preference on court surface. Personally, I’m on team #hardcourt.

10. The US Open is your version of the Oscars.

11. You know you’re not supposed to slam your raquet, but damn it feels good when you do.

12. You have a name for your strong go-to shot, mine is the “Mikiller cross court forehand”.

13. There’s no better smell in the world than a fresh can of new tennis balls.

14. Your hands are covered in callouses, and you actually think it’s kind of sexy.

15. Being in “the zone” on the court is the ultimate high.

16. You’d rather spend your Friday night playing “Queen of the Court” than going out.

17. There is nothing more annoying than playing against a “pusher” or “marshmallow hitter” AKA that opponent that gets EVERYTHING back.

18. You know the term “bagels” doesn’t refer to a breakfast item, but beating someone 6-0, 6-0.

19. You’re a brand loyalist when it comes to what kind of racket you use, and you’ll never change.

20. You have a mini anxiety attack just hearing the words tiebreaker.

21. There is no greater pressure than the feeling during match point.

22. You are superstitious when it comes to how many times you bounce the ball before you serve.

23. You know all the stats of the top 10 female and male players on the professional circuit.

11 Things You Should Know Before Drinking A Pumpkin Spice Latte

Forget changing leaves, chilly temperatures or your frattiest guy friend putting his white jeans in hibernation—these days, nothing ushers in fall quite like the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s return to cafe menus nationwide. The beloved drink’s at the forefront of the still-going-strong, pumpkin-flavored everything trend (which now stretches from cereal to salad).

Before you take your first sip of the season, here’s what you need to know.


Thomas’ everything bagel clocks in at 53 grams of carbs per serving, which is about as many carbs as you’d find in a large, whole milk, no-whip pumpkin latte at most major chains. (In fact, a Pumpkin Ginger Latte from Caribou Coffee has more than twice as many carbs, clocking in at 127 grams and 710 calories, according to FOX News.)


Variations of the pumpkin latte and PSL range from 47 grams to 116 grams of sugar per large serving—well above the American Heart Association‘s recommended 24 grams of added sugar per day. While FOX News’s data uses Starbucks’ old recipe for the PSL—before it contained pumpkin puree—even updated info lists the drink as having 49 grams of sugar. And that’s for a nonfat, grande-sized latte.

The challenge is knowing how many grams of sugar are added in each drink, since nutrition labels cluster naturally occurring and added ones under the blanket category of just plain “sugar.” At this point, the American Heart Association recommends checking the ingredients listing for sucrose, maltose, honey, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, syrup, corn sweetener or fruit juice concentrates.


While Starbucks hasn’t officially announced the date its PSL hits stores—not yet, anyway—Peet’s Coffee, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have been quick to release theirs. Dunkin’s the first to bring back the drink, releasing its fall menu in stores on Aug. 29, while the Golden Arches went with Aug. 30, and Peet’s pumpkin latte will roll out a day later, on the 31st.

If history is any indication, Starbucks will wait until after Labor Day to bring back the PSL. Though who knows, the drink has reached a level of fame that the ‘Bucks could pull a Beyoncé and quietly drop it in stores unannounced. (Not likely, but hey, @TheRealPSL has just as much sass as the former Sasha Fierce.)


The PSL has such a cult following that 108,000 people follow the drink—yes, the drink—on Twitter, waiting for clues to its return. It even had a secret Orange Sleeve Society last year, and to this day, it remains the siren-logoed store’s best-selling seasonal drink of all time. More than 200 million have been sold, according to a representative for the brand.


The next time you complain about your job, consider how rough the recipe developers at Starbucks have it: To create the very first pumpkin spice latte, the product development team ate slices of pumpkin pie while sipping espresso to figure out how to blend the two flavors together, without one overpowering the other. It took three months of tasting and re-tasting drinks until they settled on The Pumpkin Spice Latte—a recipe that hadn’t changed until last year (more on that below).


Just because “pumpkin spice” is in the name doesn’t mean the gourd’s actually used to make the drink. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that Starbucks reconfigured its PSL to include it—previously, the pumpkin spice sauce was largely autumnal seasonings.

If drinking a latte that doesn’t contain real pumpkin puree makes you feel like you’re living a lie, ask to see the ingredients listing before ordering (or Google it). Sometimes, pumpkin spice simply refers to a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, and the drink’s golden hue can be the result of caramel coloring. As more brands move away from using artificial colors and flavors, expect to see more of the real thing.


People tend to spend a $1.14 more in stores when they’re ordering a Pumpkin Spice Latte, according to a study by the NPD Group. The organization analyzed 35,000 receipts, finding that buying the latte was a true #treatyoself moment—many people also splurged on something to eat with it, ratcheting up their bill a bit more than usual.


Right now, this is all a matter of timing: Starbucks hasn’t revealed the official release date of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but a spokesperson confirmed its line of PS-flavored products sold in grocery stores (including its bottled Frappuccinos) would be in stores by September. So, depending on when the ‘Bucks actually releases the drink, you could—theoretically—find it in your local Kroger or Target before you can ask your barista to whip one up.


For three years running, more people have downed pumpkin-y treats (including PSLs) on Oct. 31 than any other day of the year, according to data from MyFitnessPal. That’s probably because Halloween acts as a trigger, making you crave a festive drank to go with your mood.


Twelve years ago, when Starbucks’s director of espresso, Peter Dukes, was a project manager, he was given a task: Create a pumpkin-y latte to round out the brand’s fall seasonal drinks. Duke’s team decorated the “Liquid Lab,” an R&D kitchen at Starbucks’s Seattle HQ, with fall decorations and brought in the aforementioned pumpkin pies, testing what was almost called the “Fall Harvest Latte,” before they settled on the name (and acronym) you know today.

“Nobody knew back then what it would grow to be,” Dukes said in 2014. “It’s taken on a life of its own.”


There’s a certain social currency in being that in-the-know friend; the one who tips other people off to what’s trending and what’s coming back, Invisible Influence author and Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger told us last fall. Even though Pumpkin Spice Lattes have become lampooned as the “it” drink for “Basic B*tches” everywhere (you know, those girls who like universally likable things, which has somehow been contorted into an insult), knowing when the latte returns before anyone else does could earn you bragging rights—at least in some circles.

Of course, it has reached such a mainstream level of ubiquity that you could argue it’s about to go the way of all guilty pleasures, like watching Grey’s Anatomy after season 3 or listening to Creed albums: Something you indulge in secretly, out of concern people will judge you for loving a drink that’s often compared to a Yankee Candle.

Our take? You do you. Drink—or don’t—proudly.

NYC’s BlackTail Named Best New Cocktail Bar in America

A Cuban-inspired bar in New York City was just named the best new cocktail bar in America.

BlackTail, which is designed to mimic the decadent American bars in Cuba during Prohibition, was crowned “Best New American Cocktail Bar” at the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans.

“We are proud and humbled to win the Best New American Cocktail Bar Spirited Award. We dedicate this win to the everyday people of Cuba who inspire us with their resilience, grace, and high spirits,” says Jack McGarry, managing partner at BlackTail.

The bar’s name comes from the lavish seaplanes (whose tail ends were painted black) that ferried “dry” (and thirsty) Americans down to the “wet” island during Prohibition for liquid libations in the sun. It opened at New York Harbor’s historic Pier A in 2016.

One of the drinks on its menu, dubbed the Rum & Cola, is definitely decadent. As Grub Street first pointed out, the typical frat house drink is elevated through the addition of champagne, Fernet Branca, and homemade bitters. In fact, it’s the champagne that gives this drink its carbonation, since it’s made with cola syrup instead of Coca-Cola.

Here’s the recipe:

Rum & Cola

1 Dash Orinoco Bitters

1/2 Tsp Fernet

.75 oz Cola Syrup

1 oz Bacardi facundo NEO

4 oz Champagne

Method: Built

Glassware: Rocks & Big Rock

Garnish: Lemon Twist

Headstone Dedicated to Family That Died in Largest Maritime Disaster in West Coast History

A head stone was unveiled, there to commemorate the lives of William Peter Sr., 47, William Peter Jr., 17, and Roland Henry, 15, near the cemetery entrance at Memorial Crescent and May Street.

Friday, October 25th, marked the 101 anniversary of the sinking of SS Princess Sophia.

A group of about 20 people gathered in Ross Bay Cemetery on the morning of the anniversary, as the Maritime Museum dedicated an unmarked grave to the three members of the Smith family, who died in the wreck.

October 25th is the 101-year anniversary of the largest maritime disaster the West Coast has ever seen. On Oct. 25, 1918 the SS Princess Sophiaalong with all 367 passengers on board, sank to the depths of the Lynn Canal north of Juneau, Alaska.

A group of about 20 people gathered in Ross Bay Cemetery on the morning of the anniversary, as the Maritime Museum dedicated an unmarked grave to the three members of the Smith family, who died in the wreck.

A head stone was unveiled, there to commemorate the lives of William Peter Sr., 47, William Peter Jr., 17, and Roland Henry, 15, near the cemetery entrance at Memorial Crescent and May Street.

The father and two sons had gone north for the first time, working on the SS Dawson. The two boys were deckhands, while their father was a fireman on the vessel.

“[This family set off] for a trip of a lifetime that ended up being their last,” says David Leverton, executive director of the Maritime Museum.

Twenty-one other people, who died in the shipwreck, are also buried in the cemetery along with memorial stones for two others whose bodies were never found.

The Smith family was returning to Victoria at the end of riverboat season. William Peter Sr. had ranched at Shawnigan prior to moving to Victoria, where he was employed as an engineer at the Union Club for many years. His eldest son, William Peter Jr. had gone overseas with the 103 Battalion when he was 15 years old, only to be sent back home when his real age was discovered.

Leverton has trouble trying to imagine the chaos that must have unfolded on the ship followed the crash into the Vanderbilt Reef. The SS Princess Sophia ended up leaving the port in Skagway, Alaska about three hours late, four hours later the ship hit the reef.

“The sounds of the hull against the reef, the screaming steel, the speed in which the entire event happened, the actual sinking — it’s beyond words,” says Leverton.

The ship sat on the reef for 40 hours as rescuers tried to organize themselves in what would be deadly weather conditions. Thinking they would have better weather the next day, crews were sent home to rest up overnight only to have nothing to return to. Horrific winds, terrible storm conditions and even snow began to pummel the area.

“They basically had everything conspiring against them.”

The next morning, when the weather finally broke, crews returned to the SS Princess Sophia to find only the forward mast above the water. Lifeboats that had been launched in a effort to save some passengers, had no one alive on board — bodies were covered in a foot of snow.

It took months to retrieve the bodies of passengers and even still, some have never been found.

“These things can happen and when they do they ripple effect through so many people’s lives,” Leverton say, recognizing the importance of remembering those lost.

Last year during the 100th anniversary, the Maritime Museum dedicated another gravestone to William and Sarah O’Brien, along with their five children at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.