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Saturday, February 27, 2016

When Giving Up Your Seat Means So Much More

I read this New York Times article today about an accomplished retired lawyer who was asked to move from her seat on an airline just because her fellow seat passenger refused to be seated next to a woman for "religious" reasons.

This story struck a very personal note as a very similar incident happened to me in a Saudia flight from Riyadh to Dubai a few years ago.

I had specifically selected an aisle seat in a packed economy class cabin.  There was a Muslim woman in a hijab and abaya in the window seat, and a few minutes later along came a heavy-set Saudi Muslim man. He took one look at both of us already in our seats, then at the empty seat between us, and told a nearby flight attendant he wanted to move as he claimed he couldn't sit next to a Muslim woman to whom he was not related. 

All the classes in the flight were near capacity and there wasn't another spare seat he could take that wasn't next to a Muslim woman. So the harried flight attendant leaned over to me and asked if I would move over to the middle seat. 

Now all this happened very rapidly and it was somewhat chaotic in the plane which was already delayed in its departure. Nearby passengers were stuffing their oversized luggage in overhead compartments, others were trying to squeeze by with young children in tow, so I initially had difficulty hearing the request. It was in this harried environment that resulted with me automatically saying OK whilst feeling mildly exasperated and alternatively rationalizing it was not that big a deal; I then moved over to the middle seat. 

I regretted it the moment I agreed to the request and still do to this day. You see, it wasn't only that it was physically uncomfortable for me to sit in the middle, but more due to the fact that I did not stand my ground, stay in my aisle seat and tell that male passenger to go find an alternate seat somewhere else. 

It's not even a case of me moving seats out of noble and unselfish reasons, because if I believed I was any of those things to justify my action, then that would be a huge lie. The truth of the matter was, in that split second when I agreed to swap seats for no reason other than to accommodate one person who didn't want to sit next to another for "religious" reasons, I was a patsy, a doormat, and an enabler, and I will never, ever let that happen again.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Hotel Review: The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino

Lately, my thoughts have been drifting back to Tofino, a tiny, super chill town on the western peninsula of Vancouver Island.  Maybe it's the current foggy weather in Hong Kong that's reminding me of that rugged coastline, or it's dreams of winter surfing the Pacific Ocean, Point Break-style as I wade through the PR plans under my office's fluorescent lights, but there's definitely something tugging at the ol' wanderlusting heart of mine.

Aerial view of the resort in Tofino, Vancouver Island (Photo credit: The Wickaninnish Inn)
This little hamlet of a district that is home to less than 2,000 residents had been on my bucket list for some time.  Being from the travel industry, it was, of course, a hotel that first drew my attention to the existence of Tofino.  The Wickaninnish Inn (or the "Wick," as it's affectionately known locally) has been topping all national and international surveys and lists of Canada's best hotels for decades, and so there was only one place to stay when I was there last fall on a family holiday.

View of Chesterman Beach through the old-growth forest from the lobby of The Wickaninnish Inn.
The annual weather in Tofino ranges from 2 to 20 degrees Celsius, which makes for mild winters, cool summers, and, despite being one of the wettest regions in Canada, is a popular attraction for visitors year round.  Sitting comfortably next to Pacific Rim National Park and sharing Long Beach (the largest and longest in the Reserve) with the neighbouring town of Ucluelet, Tofino naturally draws in the campers, hikers, whale watchers, fishermen, boating enthusiasts, and of course, surfers from all over the world.

At the entrance to The Wickaninnish Inn.

As it was the shoulder season, we paid the rack Harvest Season rates for our corner Beachcomber Suites.  Each come with a gas fireplace, a small balcony with two white Adirondack chairs, and a queen-sized bed. My only beef is that the inn has a surcharge for a third person in that suite - a tad penny pinching, in my opinion. I mean, the rates already don't include breakfast, and one of the main features of the suite is the additional queen-sized pullout sofa bed in the living room so there's already an expectation of more than two persons who can comfortably occupy the space.

The view of Chesterman Beach is aided tremendously by the large windows and, for bird-and-people watchers, there's a set of binoculars conveniently placed at hand to satisfy all voyeuristic curiosities. Yellow rain slickers and gum boots are in the closet for walks in the drizzly fog when it rolls inland.
Elements of the exceedingly eco-friendly materials used throughout the inn. Especially those handmade driftwood chairs designed by BC artisan Maxwell Newhouse that's found in every guest room. 
The family owners of The Wick take pride in making sure that their 100-acre oceanfront resort preserves the natural beauty of its ancient land.  To that end, they ensured that all vegetation outside the inn's structures are left intact, natural underbrush were hand-cleared, and that some of the Western Red Cedars and Sitka Spruce trees that had to be removed were re-used to form the textured walls of the lobby, Driftwood CafĂ© and Lookout Library.

All produce, seafood and meat are sourced locally from sustainable farms and fisheries, the Ancient Cedars Spa's certified organic SeaFlora Skincare products are made from nutrient-rich seaweed that are hand-harvested off the coast of Vancouver Island, and electric vehicle charges (including one of course specifically for Tesla) were installed back in 2012.

Oh and it's 100% non-smoking - has been ever since its opening in 1996.

The comfy seating area in the Wickaninnish-On-The-Beach lobby

The weather was quite temperamental while we were there - from sunny blue skies to dreamy mists and back again - all in a matter of hours.  It made for interesting explorations of the inn's grounds and beaches - sensory-wise.  On a side note, I appreciated the genius of the inn's marketing team in promoting their winter season (which gets the lowest rates of the year) with the superhero pugilistic-ish name of the Storm Watchers package, complete with oilskin hats, wine and cheese plate, and daily breakfast for two.  Available from November through February.

My mom on Chesterman Beach. To paraphrase the inn's marketing literature, there's nothing between her and Japan but the Pacific Ocean.
The sitting area of The Pointe Restaurant.  We only had breakfast there although it would have been great to have been there for dinner and the weekend Champagne brunch which I hear are excellent. Not for nothing that many acclaimed chefs who honed their skills at The Pointe at some time in their careers proudly reference it in their bios and subsequent media interviews as a culinary badge of honour. 
My order of toasted bagels, a generous dollop of cream cheese and fresh fruit.

Ancient grain porridge of quinoa, oats, flax seed, spiced honey, dried and poached fruit, vanilla chantilly.

Brioche French toast with pear butter, poached pear and oat streusel.

The Pointe Restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: The Wickaninnish Inn
To be sure, The Wick warrants more than a brief stay during the fall.  I wouldn't necessarily want to pay the exorbitant rates for the summer season but I might just consider heading back for that winter/Storm Chaser package; those visions of the rolling fog, monster surf, gale force winds, Johnny Utah, and gas fireplaces all exude a moody atmospheric vibe that definitely appeals to my inner emo self.  And, as an added bonus, fulfills those Point Break fantasies for good measure.

Photo credit: Sander Jain for The Wickaninnish Inn
The Wickaninnish Inn
Tofino, Canada
1.250.725.3100 Main Line
1.800.333.4604 Reservations Line

(Unless otherwise credited, all photos are by me.)
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