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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, March 2007 Issue



Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2007 
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In This Issue:

Matcha Latte at Muzi

  • Savings on Barge Cruise
  • Great St. Louis Getaway
  • Spirit to Charge for 2nd Bag
  • Royal Lahaina Re-Intro Free Upgrade
  • Argentine Assistance
  • New Airline for London-NY Service
  • Virgin America Identifies First Six Destinations
  • United’s Spring Getaways
  • Free Upgrade on American Airlines
  • Frontier Flies to Memphis
  • Picasso Private Yacht Cruises
  • Save $100 Icelandair Anniversary Celebration
  • Luxury for Less, Inn at Perry Cabin
  • Hilton Latin America Weekends
  • Cancun Winter Escape
  • Spring In Panama City
  • Maxjet Spring Sale
  • Finding a Nice Cuppa in BC by Cathryn Atkinson
  • Vietnam's Discount Airline Offers $1 Tickets

  • Savings on Barge Cruise

    French Country Waterways offers a special summer rate of $2,995 per person, for a six-night cruise aboard the 18-passenger barge Esprit, through Burgundy’s Cote d’Or wine-growing region.

    This is a savings of $1,900, or 38 percent, off the published price of $4,895. Available on a space-available basis for departures July 1 through Aug. 26, 2007, the Esprit follows the Canal du Centre, the River Saone and the Canal de Bourgogne between St. Leger-sur-Dheume and Dijon.

    The price includes accommodations, all meals with wine, open bar, sightseeing, bicycles and transfers between the barge and Paris.

    Excursions include a walking tour of Dijon, the private Chateau de Longecourt, Beaune, the port of Chalon-sur-Saone, La Rochepot castle and wine tastings in Santenay. During you free time, you can relax on the sundeck and walk or bicycle along the barge towpaths. Hot-air ballooning is an option.

    French Country Waterways or 800/222-1236.


    Great St. Louis Getaway

    Through Apr. 30, 2007, you can get special package deals at more than 25 St. Louis hotels.

    The Great St. Louis Getaway Guide features the hotel packages for families, couples, shoppers, sports fans, culture lovers and casino players. Prices start at $59.

    Sample packages include:

    TGIF package includes overnight accommodations at the OMNI Majestic Hotel with cocktails and appetizers for two, breakfast for two, parking and a 2 p.m. check out. Cost: $149 to $169.

    Zoo/Forest Park package includes overnight accommodations for two at the Sheraton Clayton Plaza, two Saint Louis Zoo train passes, transportation to and from Forest Park and continental breakfast. Cost: $139.

    Cardinals package with overnight accommodations at the Adam’s Mark, Cardinals tickets and a voucher for a full-sized souvenir bat. Valid Mar. 31, to Apr. 30, 2007. Cost: $169 to $499.

    Arch Gateway Getaway includes overnight accommodations at the Embassy Suites Airport, four tickets for the tram ride to the top of the arch, breakfast and parking. Cost $139.

    St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission or 800/916-0040.


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    Spirit to Charge for 2nd Bag

    If you plan to fly on Spirit Airlines and check two pieces of luggage, be prepared to pay an extra fee when you check in.

    The airline now charges $10 for that second piece of luggage, making the Miramar, FL based, low-cost airline the only airline in the country to charge.

    Other low-cost airlines allow passengers to check two pieces of luggage at no cost. Southwest Airlines allows three checked pieces of luggage free.

    The move, by an airline who garnered publicity by offering seats from 1 cent plus taxes and fees, is a way to increase revenues and keep discount fares. Under this plan, Spirit makes some things optional rather than mandatory. If you want extras, you can still get them but you now must pay for them.

    Other airlines aren’t planning to change baggage allowances.


    Royal Lahaina Re-Introductory Fr.ee Upgrade

    Escape to Maui and save more than 35 percent on a new luxury room at the Royal Lahaina Resort on Kaanapali Beach. As a special re-introduction to the resort, you can reserve a Terrace View room in the newly renovated Lahaina Kai Tower and receive a fr.ee triple upgrade to a new Ocean View room for $235 per night. This triple upgrade offer is for new bookings made through Apr. 14, 2007. Pricing is based on double occupancy and does not include hotel taxes.

    The resort’s Lahaina Kai Tower completed a $30 million room renovation. Each refurbished, island-inspired room includes a contemporary design with teak custom-crafted furnishings. Custom artwork accents the Hawaiian canoe and water sports theme present throughout each room.

    Each room offers beds topped with 330-thread count Egyptian cotton linens. Standard amenities include a 32” high-definition flat screen television, a sound system with iPod and MP3 ports, wireless high-speed internet service, cordless phone with voice-mail, central air-conditioning, coffee/tea maker with fr.ee coffee and tea, refrigerator, safe, hair dryer, iron and ironing board.

    On-site, there are two oceanfront swimming pools, a tennis ranch, two 18-hole golf courses, snorkeling, fr.ee scuba lessons, two restaurants, three bars, nightly torch lighting ceremony and an oceanfront Luau.

    Royal Lahaina Resort or 800/222-5642.



    Argentine Assistance

    The Sub Secretariat of Tourism of the Government Office of Buenos Aires, Argentina, launched a toll fr.ee number for assistance for local and foreign tourists.

    The hotline number, 0800-999-2838 (BUETUR), provides assistance in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian and French. Its purpose is for tourists to report crime and fraud in business dealings, robberies, thefts, losses and non-fulfillment of contracted services and other crimes within Buenos Aires.

    The hotline is available daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from a land line or a public telephone.

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    Fr-ee Fun San Diego
    This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket.

    To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, for a $1 handling fee, click here to send us an email.


    New Airline for London-New York Service

    Zoom Airlines, a low-fare transatlantic carrier wants to bring its service to the London-New York market this summer.

    Zoom Airlines filed an application with the Transportation Department in January asking permission to let it start daily service in mid-June between London (Gatwick) and New York (Kennedy) using 767 aircraft.

    Zoom Airlines is a Canadian carrier and offers scheduled service from eight Canadian cities to five U.K. destinations, including London (Gatwick), and from four Canadian cities to Paris.

    In Aug. 2006, the Bank of Scotland bought a minority stake in Zoom for about $11 million. With the money, Zoom plans to establish Zoom U.K. to fly to non-Canadian destinations, such as the U.S.



    Virgin America Identifies First Six Destinations

    Virgin America, the new start-up, low-fare airline to be based in San Francisco, announced four additional cities the carrier plans to serve, pending its certification by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    The airline previously announced its inaugural flight between San Francisco and New York City (JFK). Within nine months of operation, Virgin America also plans to serve Washington, DC (Dulles), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.

    Virgin America expects to serve as many as 10 cities within a year of operation and up to 30 cities within five years of service. Additional cities under consideration include: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence, Portland, Ore., Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Jose, Calif., Sarasota, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

    The onboard cabin will include first class seats with 55 inches of seat pitch (legroom) and massage chairs, mood lighting and a digital inflight entertainment system with on-demand movies and TV, games, music and online chat rooms plus self-service mini-bars for snacks and beverages throughout the flight.

    The airline asks travelers to rank where they should fly next by visiting its website.

    Virgin America.



    United’s Spring Getaways

    Purchase your Europe getaway for March, when temperatures are warming, prices are still low and crowds are minimal. Book by Mar. 15, 2007 for travel through Mar. 28, 2007. With this promotion, receive up to $100 in fr.ee tours and get a fr.ee night’s stay at select hotels!

    European city packages includes your roundtrip airfare on United Airlines in W class, up to $100 in fr.ee tours, four nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and fees. Use promotional code EUFREETOUR when booking to take advantage of the fr.ee tour offer.

    Rates to London start from $574 from New York; $594 from Boston; $644 from Washington D.C.; $684 from Chicago; $739 from Portland; $779 from Denver, San Francisco or Los Angeles; and $794 from Seattle.

    Rates to Brussels start from $659 from New York or Boston; $699 from Washington D.C.; $769 from Chicago; $809 from Denver; $834 from Los Angeles; $874 from San Francisco; $1020 from Seattle; and $1315 from Portland.

    Rates to Florence start from $814 from Boston; $839 from New York; $849 from from Washington D.C. or Chicago; $934 from Denver; $959 from Seattle; $989 from San Francisco; $994 from Los Angeles; and $1019 from Portland.

    Rates to Zurich start from $899 to New York or Boston; $919 from Chicago; $934 from Washington, D.C.; $994 from Denver; $1044 from San Francisco; $1055 from Seattle; $1069 from Los Angeles; and $1495 from Portland.

    Fares do not include international taxes and fees of up to $152, passenger facility charges of up to $18, flight segment fees of $3.30 per domestic segment and the September 11th Security Fee of up to $10. Prices are per person, based on double occupancy and reflect Wednesday and Thursday departures and include a fuel surcharge fee of up to $150. Prices for Friday to Tuesday departures are about $50 higher per person. W class bulk flights are only available when booked electronically on unitedvacations.com

    United Vacations or 800/699-6122.


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    There's no mistaking your luggage with the Face-It Luggage Tag. The durable, laminated tag displays your face and the phrase "This Face Belongs With This Luggage."

    A Face-It Luggage tag makes it less likely for a stranger or thief to walk off with your luggage and helps you recognize your luggage at a glance in hotels or airports. Face-It Tags are also available for briefcases, portfolio books, backpacks, sporting equipment, musical instruments, bicycles and more. Face-It Luggage Tags.



    Fr.ee Upgrade on American Airlines

    Book a business class flight from New York to London and receive a fr.ee first class upgrade on American Airlines. You must purchase your tickets on American’s web site by Mar. 31, 2007 and complete your travel by Mar. 31,2007.

    Upgrades are valid on roundtrip or one-way business-class flights from New York (JFK) to London (Heathrow) booked in fare basis code DUP. The offer applies only to new reservations.

    First Class transatlantic flights on Boeing 777 aircraft offer reclining seats with six feet and six inches of sleeper comfort, personal powerports, leather head-rests and increased leg room.

    Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights or dates. Blackout dates and additional restrictions may apply.

    American Airlines.



    Frontier Flies to Memphis

    Denver-based Frontier Airlines will offer service from Memphis to and from Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando. The airline said the new service will use new Airbus planes with wider seats and fr.ee Direct tv built into seat backs.

    Flights start in May. Introductory rates are offered, if you book by Mar. 28, 2007. The temporary, one-way, intro rates are $99 to Denver, $79 to Orlando and $109 to Las Vegas.

    Frontier Airlines or 800/432-1359.


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    The pre-numbered, one-time use plastic padlocks are the perfect way to protect your luggage since they cannot be reinstalled once removed. That feature lets you instantly know if someone tampered with your luggage. Yet when TSAs at airports need to inspect your luggage, Baggage Guard Seals can be easily removed. A package of 10 Baggage Guard Seals is still only $9.95.

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    Picasso Private Yacht Cruises

    If you dreamed of cruising on your own private yacht, Picasso Tours & Cruises can make that dream a reality with its Blue Cruises.

    From $275 per person, based on double occupancy, or $412.50 for singles, you cruise seven nights onboard schooner-rigged yachts or traditional wooden built ketches known as gulets. Cruises are along the Turkish Turquoise Coast, known for clear water, bays and islands, and lush green coastline. Turkish ports of call include Marmaris, Ekincik, Fethiye, Gocek Islands, Oludeniz, Agalimani, Kumblubuk, Kadirga and Turunc. Three daily meals are included on the cruise. Departures from Marmaris are every Saturday April through October.

    The gulet yachts are 60 to 80 ft. long boats with four to12 cabins, each with double berth and private facilities and crewed by a captain, cook and deck hand. The yacht is equipped with a galley and bar, where you can help with the food preparation if desired.

    Your trip can extend to nine nights if you include a pre-cruise option in Istanbul. The land/sea package starts from $589 per person, double occupancy or $685 for singles. In addition to the cruise, the package includes two nights’ hotel accommodations in Istanbul with daily breakfast, half-day Istanbul city tour, roundtrip flights between Istanbul and Marmaris, airport and port transfer to and from Marmaris. Departures for land and cruise packages are every Thursday April through October.

    Picasso Tours and Cruises or 800/995-7997.



    Save $100 Icelandair Anniversary Celebration

    Icelandair kicks off its 70th anniversary celebration with a Spring Sale with $100 off per person, on four of the most popular packages to Iceland. The packages, which must be booked by Mar. 15, 2007, for travel during March and April 2007, are the Iceland Getaway, Iceland Party Weekend, Romantic Reykjavik and Glaciers, Geysers and Waterfalls multi-day guided tour.

    The Iceland Getaway package includes two nights in Iceland and a multiple of options, such as hotel, car rental, gourmet dining and sightseeing tours.

    The Iceland Party Weekend includes air, three nights’ hotel accommodations, transfers, admission to Reykjavik's Ice Bar, and several tours.

    Romantic Reykjavik includes air, two nights’ hotel accommodations with breakfast, an evening visit to the Blue Lagoon and a three-course dinner at a romantic restaurant.

    The Glaciers, Geysers and Waterfalls package includes five nights in Iceland with guided tours.

    Icelandair flies from Boston, New York-JFK, Baltimore/Washington, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando Sanford and Halifax (starting May 2007).

    Icelandair.



    Luxury for Less, Inn at Perry Cabin

    The Inn at Perry Cabin, in St. Michaels, MD, an Orient-Express Hotel, offers three nights for the price of two, through Mar. 31, 2007. The offer costs $540 for the three evenings based on double occupancy in a Signature room, without taxes and gratuities..

    The 3-for-2 offer, a 40 percent savings, includes: Board games by the fire or in your room, DVD movies for your second evening, candlelight turndown service, in-room cordials and a bubble bath on the third evening, fresh-baked cookies with evening turndown service.

    The circa 1816 inn is located on 25 acres overlooking the Miles River by the Chesapeake Bay. The hotel features 80 guest rooms, most with water views, private terraces, in suite fireplaces and oversized bathrooms with soaking tubs for two

    The Inn at Perry Cabin or 866/278-9601.



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    Buy Tickets at a Discount -- Special ticket outlets sell discounted day-of-performance tickets to theater productions, films, and sporting events. Discounts can be 50 percent or more. On The Go Publishing’s Cheap Tix Chart, still only $14, lists outlets in the U.S. and eight foreign cities that sell discounted, day-of-performance tickets. Click here to order the Cheap Tix Chart from On The Go Publishing.

    Hilton Latin America Weekends

    With the U.S. dollar still struggling, you can find some travel values in South America. Below are some of Hilton Latin America's weekend packages with rates from $150. Packages are available in nine destinations including Buenos Aires, Belem, Cartagena and Quito.

    All packages are available through Dec. 31, 2007 and are valid Friday to Sunday, based on availability. Prices vary by property and are listed per room, per night, based on double occupancy. Taxes are not included and restrictions may apply.

    Be Romantic package includes deluxe or suite accommodation, chilled champagne, chocolate, and fresh flowers on arrival, breakfast daily, f.ree use of leisure facilities, and late check-out on Saturdays and Sundays. Request booking code PR04BR.

    Be Romantic packages start at: Buenos Aires $210, São Paulo Morumbi $213, Cartagena $289, Colon Guayaquil $210, Colon Quito $158, Barquisimeto $155, Caracas $153, Margarita & Suites $255

    Get Together packages include a second room at half price, daily breakfast, fr.ee meals for children, and late check-out on Saturdays and Sundays. Request booking code PR09GT.

    Get Together packages start at: Buenos Aires $190, Belem $150, São Paulo Morumbi $185, Cartagena $211, Colon Guayaquil $192, Colon Quito $153, Barquisimeto $130, Caracas $124, Margarita & Suites $160.

    Spoil Yourself packages offer upgraded accommodations, daily breakfast, two beauty treatments per stay, and late check-out Saturdays and Sundays. Request booking code PR04SY.

    Spoil Yourself packages start at: Buenos Aires $220, São Paulo Morumbi $243, Belem $170, Cartagena $265, Colon Guayaquil $273, Colon Quito $183, Barquisimeto $160, Caracas $100, Margarita & Suites $210.

    Hilton Hotels or 800-HILTONS.


    Cancun Winter Escape

    The InterContinental Cancun fully remodeled its property in 2006 including the motor lobby, reception area, pool areas and all 299 rooms. The beach and pool area feature all new furniture and palapas.

    Rates are $163 per night with two people in a room, $199 per night for three people in a room. Rates don’t include 12 percent taxes and there’s a minimum stay of three nights. Prices are per person, land only, based on double occupancy. Travel must be booked by Mar. 28, 2007.

    The offer also includes ground transfers to and from the airport, fr.ee internet access in the business center, upgrade to Ocean View subject to availability , fr.ee transportation to the Cancun Golf Course with 10 percent discount on green fees and 10 percent discount in the hotel’s Italian restaurant. If you are a InterContinental Priority Club member, you get double points, 4,000 for your stay.

    The resort offers three dining options and two bars.

    InterContinental 888/424-6835.


    Spring In Panama City

    Surf's up and rates are down in Panama City Beach, FL with discounts up to one-third off at beachfront properties.

    Savings on packages listed below are available for spring vacation.

    By The Sea Resorts offer unique packages at its three beachfront resorts, Legacy by the Sea, Beachbreak by the Sea and Beachcomber by the Sea. The Explore the Shore package includes a "Peterson First Guide to Shells of North America" book, five magnifying lenses, a souvenir pail with a Frisbee lid and a shell assortment. Packages start at $84 per night based on double occupancy. With the Passport To Play program, your key card or parking pass doubles as a discount card, earning savings at area attractions. You’ll receive 20 percent off admission at Zoo World and Gulf World, 15 percent off local spa services, up to $10 off at Holiday Golf Club, $1 off bowling and skating at Rock'It Lanes and more.

    With the Pizza in Paradise package, stay three nights at any By The Sea property and get a large two-topping Domino's pizza and a two-liter bottle of soda for fr.ee. Rates start at $69 based on double occupancy and include a gulf-front suite and fr.ee continental breakfast. The offer is valid for Sunday, Monday or Tuesday arrivals only, and advance reservations are required. Delivery charges apply.

    The Edgewater Beach Resort's or 800/874-8686, Family Fun package provides accommodations in a one-bedroom condo with private gulf-front balcony and fully-equipped kitchen. The rate is $439 per unit for two nights. Fr.ee breakfast daily, daily beach chair set up with umbrella, access to the health club and fr.ee daily cleaning service are part of the package, valid through May 17, 2007. Blackout dates are Mar. 30 to Apr. 6, 2007.

    Sterling Resorts' or 888/632-8905, “Sailing with Sterling” package features a fr.ee sunset cruise on the Gulf of Mexico as part of a three-night stay at several of its condominium resorts. From $176 per night, Sailing with Sterling is available Apr. 14 to May 20, 2007, at Sterling Reef, Sterling Beach and the new Splash, Northwest Florida's first vacation condominium resort with an onsite water park. The package must be booked seven days or more before arrival.

    The Summit Condominiums or 800/824-5048, Spring Family Getaway package offers a one-bedroom condo at weekly rates from $694, down from the summer rate of $1,054 per week, a savings of nearly 35 percent. Each furnished condo has a fully-equipped kitchen and private balcony with Gulf views. Rates are valid Apr. 7 to May 23, 2007. Special rates are also available for two and three-bedroom condo.

    From Mar. 1 to June, 1, 2007, you pay $230 per night at the Princess Condominums or 877/565-5651, for a two-bedroom condo, down from $300 per night during the summer for a savings of nearly 25 percent.

    The beachfront Osprey Motel or 850/234-0303, offers savings of up to 30 percent. Each package includes a double efficiency room with two queen beds, fully-equipped kitchen and private beachfront balcony. With the March Rates special, visit during the week from $75 per night with a minimum three-night stay, Mar. 2 to 22, 2007. The Spring Fling package offers rates from $65 per night for midweek stays, with a minimum stay of three nights, Apr. 14 to May 2, 2007.

    Panama City Beach offers 27 miles of white-sand beaches along the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. 800/850-233-5070.



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    Maxjet Spring Sale

    BOOK BY MAR. 5. - - Maxjet, the all-business-class airline flying into London Stansted (STN), offers a spring fare sale. The sale fares start at $499 each way, out of New York (JFK), Washington (IAD) or Las Vegas (LAS). Reservations must be made by Mar. 5, 2007 for travel through Sep. 15, 2007.

    Seats are limited and certain flights may be sold out due to demand. Fares are non-transferable, but refundable for a $300 fee. Changes can be made for $100 (£60) plus any additional increase in fare. Additional taxes and fees are about $74 each way.

    Maxjet or 888/435-9629.


    Perfection to a Tea, Finding a Nice Cuppa in BC by Cathryn Atkinson

    Chai, bubble, matcha, mint - Chamomile, earl grey, jasmine dragon tears, and good old orange pekoe. There are many ways to enjoy a nice cup of tea.

    A good brew is something cozy and warm, rather like good company. You might believe, like the 18th-century English author Henry Fielding, that "Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.” Or perhaps you prefer the approach of the Chinese philosopher T'ien Yiheng, who used it to rest, refresh and reflect: "Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world."

    Whatever the case, tea can be found in a bag, as loose leaves, in "pearls," or compacted in bricks, and because of the immigrants from around the world who made BC their home, British Columbians can boast that they know how to serve a nice cuppa. This is a guide to some of the great tearooms around the province.

    Some tearooms are stylish, while others are traditional.The Café Fleuri at The Sutton Place Hotel, 845 Burrard Street, Vancouver, 604/642-2900, is definitely a combination of both, with traditional “British” fare and a decidedly chic West Coast clientele.

    Entering the salon-like rooms of the Café Fleuri for afternoon tea transports you far away from the bustle of nearby Robson Street. It has elegance and ceremony without being stuffily formal (casual attire and designer clothes are equally welcome). The café is not understaffed so there is old-fashioned, high-quality service that suits the atmosphere. Once seated, the diner is given a small menu outlining the teas and finger foods on offer. An “English Service” high tea costs $22 per person, $27 if you add sparkling wine to the mix.

    Our waiter brought out a small case, rather like a jewel box, that contained 13 small jars. In them were samples of the special blends on offer – each with a delicious smell. The variety ensures that any visitor should find a tea worth brewing. There are herbal blends as well as caffeinated.

    I took as my dining companion my eight-year-old son, who was on his first tea room visit. We selected a Darjeeling oolong with lavender flowers infused throughout. Our waitress promptly brought out our pot and a three-tiered dish of goodies to go with it.

    For savories we had that traditional English favorite – cucumber and watercress in tiny sandwiches that seemed more like sculptures than food items. There was also smoked salmon pinwheels on dark pumpernickel and tiny ham and Camembert croissants.

    For the sweet end to it all, two chocolate-dipped strawberries sat next to scones, cakes and eclairs. Devonshire clotted cream and a variety of jams were on the table. If the word “exquisite” isn’t normally in your vocabulary, the spread on the table provides ample opportunity to use it.

    And our tea was wonderful – the Darjeeling and lavender mix had a flowery fragrance and taste that rounded out everything else about our visit beautifully, yet it was strong enough to satisfy my need for a caffeinated refresher. The teapot was refilled with boiling water twice and that power was not lost.

    And what did my eight-year-old soccer loving, video game fan think?

    “This is heaven,” he said, sinking into his comfortable chair. He quickly helped himself to another small cake and took a sip of tea from a white porcelain cup.

    Several blocks and a world away is another tea room, with a different look but the same mission – to provide a delicious cup and a haven away from the downtown hubbub. Muzi, 870 West Cordova, Vancouver, 604/689-3188, is a prime example of the boutique-style metropolitan “tea bars” that have sprung up around the province.

    Muzi has done much to introduce exotic forms of tea to BC, particularly matcha – “The greatest of green teas,” which was brought to North America by the company (while one could likely find matcha several years ago, it was Muzi that launched it to the masses and made it a popular beverage, especially in the Vancouver market). And let’s not forget granite-ground powder teas – white, black, and rooibos blends – that “pack 10 times the nutritional punch” of “regular” steeped teas.

    Muzi was previously known as Infuze, and changed its name last year. The service, quality and variety of tea on offer remains the same, however, and customers voted it best tea house of 2006 in Georgia Straight magazine. A fine, exotic cuppa can be bought for under $5.

    Decked out in a minimalist white with contrasting hues of color, Muzi has a downtown look and cool atmosphere. The firm places a large importance on educating the customer on the tea brewing process, the quality of tea varieties, history of tea, tea cultivation, flavor profiles and health benefits.

    Phoenix silver needle (a rare south Chinese tea made from silvery unopened buds) and white monkey (made from peony flowers in the Fujian region of China) are among the more unusual teas offered. To be recommended is their Mediterranean-style mint tea, which mentally transports the taster to a Casbah in North Africa.

    Plans are afoot to expand the Muzi franchise around Canada and the U.S. So, while Seattle brought the coffee revolution north of the border, it looks like BC will return the compliment in tea.

    The city of Victoria is, of course, synonymous with sipping tea. The epicenter of Vancouver Island’s passion for the liquid gold is the Fairmont Empress Hotel, 721 Government Street, 250/384-3111, near the legislative building and along the city’s spectacular inner harbor.

    For almost 100 years, the lobby of the Edwardian landmark has hosted its daily afternoon tea – long considered one of Victoria’s grand traditions. Award-winning Pastry Chef D’Oyen Christie creates an authentic and memorable experience, with delectable offerings and the hotel’s own Tea at the Empress tea blend. The Tea Lobby, as the eating area is known, was recently renovated and customers are encouraged to dress smart-casual.

    And for those seeking out a bit more on the art of sipping, a visit to the annual Victoria Tea Festival at the Holiday Inn Victoria, 3020 Blanshard Street, on March 11 provides the perfect cup. This one-day event features a tasting of a wide variety of teas from around the world as well as presentations on tea topics.

    Representatives will provide samples, share tea steeping and serving tips, and discuss the history and health benefits of tea. Local tearooms, bakeries and restaurants will also be on hand to display their menus, tea selections, and provide samples of their products. The day marks the signature annual fund-raising event for Camosun College Child Care Services, and will feature a silent and live auction.

    Of course, there are many more fine establishments all around British Columbia that can brew a great pot of tea. Sometimes tea refreshes while visiting a new place and sometimes the tea itself provides the reason for the journey. Here are some of the best tea houses:

    Thompson Okanagan
    Chai Baba Tea House - A contemporary tea lounge with a wide range of loose leaf teas.
    Location: 104-1289 Ellis Street, Kelowna Phone: 250/717-5616

    Kootenay/Rockies
    Julie’s Teas and Coffees - In historic downtown Castlegar. A good cuppa “anytime.” With loose leaf and chai.
    Location: 1010 3rd Street, Castlegar Phone: 250/365-4866

    Northern BC
    The Royal Empress’ Tea House - A casual atmosphere with lavender scones to die for. Boasts all sorts of teas from around the world and a vegetarian menu.
    Location: 1739 South Nicholson Street, Prince George Phone: 250/564-9512

    Vancouver Island
    The White Heather Tea Room - Located in Oak Bay, this locale is a favorite with locals with an afternoon tea menu that includes the Wee Tea, the Not So Wee Tea and the Big Muckle Giant Tea for Two.
    Location: 1885 Oak Bay Avenue, Victoria Phone: 250/595-8020

    Lower Mainland
    Madhatter’s Tea Shop - Tea bar and shop with casual atmosphere, serving dozens of varieties of teas. Private parties available.
    Location: 5498 Salt Lane, Langley Phone: 778/238-1979

      Vancouver
    • Wedgewood Hotel - Popular traditional teas in the Bacchus Restaurant and Piano Bar. Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
    • Location: 845 Hornby Street, Vancouver Phone: 604/689-7777
    • T - Tea room and merchant that has 350 blends of loose teas and tisanes, tea bags and iced teas.
      Location: 1568 West Broadway, Vancouver Tel: 604/730-8390
    • Moonstruck Chinese Teahouse - Chinese style and Asian tea ceremony
      Location: 1590 Coal Harbour Quay, Vancouver Phone: 604/602-6669
    • The Secret Garden Tea Company - This cozy tearoom serves delicious scones, desserts and sandwiches and makes high tea an occasion.
    • Location: 5559 W. Boulevard, Vancouver Phone: 604/261-3070

    British Columbia or 800/HELLO-BC.



    Vietnam's Discount Airline Offers $1 Tickets

    Vietnam's Pacific Airlines offers 50,000 discount tickets from $1 on routes between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and flights to Taiwan. .

    The promotion relaunches Pacific Airlines as a budget alternative to national carrier Vietnam Airlines, according to Thanh Nien newspaper.

    Starting Feb. 13, 2007, Pacific Airlines started selling the promotional e-tickets priced from 15,000 dong ($1) to 500,000 dong (about $31) on its web site.

    Discount tickets apply to flights in March between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and central Danang, airline director Luong Hoai Nam told the paper.

    Flights to Taipei and Kaohsiung from Ho Chi Minh City are also included in the promotion.

    Pacific plans to expand its routes in 2007 to Hong Kong, Siem Reap and Bangkok and Vietnamese cities Hue and Nha Trang, the report said.

    Pacific Airlines


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