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concierge

Concierge Q & A

Concierge_Diane-Munroe

Diane Munroe has been in the hospitality industry for 20 years, starting out at the Keltic Lodge in guest services as a housekeeper. Diane is now an active member of Les Clefs d’Or Atlantic and resident-services manager at Bishop’s Landing in Halifax.

Q: What’s the best thing about September in the city?
A: The best thing about Halifax in September for me is enjoying the Halifax waterfront. The weather is amazing and after the busy summer it is nice to get out and experience all of our local shops and restaurants. From Casino Nova Scotia south to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 you’ll find the Historic Properties and many unique businesses. Here you can also hop on the Halifax Transit ferry for a quick sail across the harbour to explore compact and charming downtown Dartmouth.

Q: What’s a fun spot for a family dinner in the city?
A: The Bluenose II Restaurant is a great place for a family dinner. The downtown diner boasts a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and there is something for everyone on this menu: Greek specialties, fresh seafood, burgers, all-day breakfast, and a lot more. There’s a reason locals have loved this spot since it opened in 1964.

Q: Where can readers go to enjoy great live music?
A: The Lower Deck Pub—Beer Market is in the heart of the Historic Properties directly on the Halifax Waterfront and it’s a great place to take in some live Nova Scotian music. With big communal tables, a harbourside patio, boisterous and friendly atmosphere, and great local beers on tap, it offers the quintessential Maritime-pub experience. There’s live East Coast music nightly, plus weekend matinees. 

Q: What can sports fans do in Halifax this month?
A: If you brought along your golf clubs on this trip, head for the Ashburn Golf Club on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax. Known as Old Ashburn (the club has a newer course outside the city), this historic course was crafted by acclaimed architect Stanley Thompson. A throwback to another era, it measures just 5,210 yards, which belies its difficulty. Compact greens and a naturally rolling landscape make this one a challenge even for long-time players.

Q: Where should readers go to find a unique piece of jewelry?
A: You will always find something unique at Frida Jewellery, located in Bishop’s Landing on Lower Water Street. Here you can get individually designed jewelry that is hand made using metals, gemstones and diamonds.

Concierge Q & A

Concierge_Penny-Cameron

Penny Cameron is the Regional Secretary for Les Clefs d’Or Atlantic Region and was the first female concierge in our region to receive the golden keys. After 30 years with The Prince George, she is now part of the concierge team at Parkland at the Gardens, a luxury retirement residence in Halifax.

Q: What’s your pick for Halifax’s can’t-miss August event?
A: In August, the waterfront is alive with action. From August 1 to 6, the Halifax Busker Festival offers 300 shows at various stages on the waterfront with performers from all over the world. If you are here during the first week in August, you’ll also catch the Halifax Natal Day Festival, celebrating the city’s birthday. There’s great beach weather in August too; check out the Clam Harbour Sandcastle Competition taking place on our Eastern Shore.

Q: What’s a great way for outdoor adventurers to spend the day in the Halifax area?
A: The Halifax Harbour is a stone’s throw from the downtown and a great way to see Halifax from the water is by sea kayak. Kayak Halifax—at Sands at Salter on the waterfront—offers two-hour and full-day tours with professional guides enabling you to explore the second largest natural harbour in the world. Or join Kattuk Expeditions in Fisherman’s Cove for the Sunset Kayak Tour to McNab’s Island.

Q: How can a family make a rainy day fun in Halifax?
A: I always recommend the Discovery Centre to families visiting Halifax, a unique experience offering four floors of interactive exhibits including an immersive dome theatre. It’s open from 10am to 5pm daily in a new beautiful facility on the waterfront.

Q: Where should diners go to experience unique Nova Scotian wines?
A: Visitors are often surprised to learn of Nova Scotia’s thriving wine industry and if you have time, a visit to the wineries in the Gaspereau Valley is well worth the trip. Tour companies such as Grape Escapes Wine Tours offer excellent day trips to the award-winning wineries. Many restaurants support local wineries and offer the best of Nova Scotia wines. Obladee Wine Bar has an extensive wine list along with small plates and charcuterie boards. They also offer private tastings for small groups. Make sure you try our Tidal Bay wines, unique to Nova Scotia and learn more about Nova Scotia wines at Bishop’s Cellar.

Q: Where can travellers find a unique memento of their visit?
A: Head to the Hydrostone Market on Young Street and take home a unique gift from Made in the Maritimes Artisan Boutique. Lady Luck Boutique nearby is also a great spot to purchase locally made jewellery and art. Downtown, Amos Pewter offers beautiful locally-made pewter crafts, frames, and gift ideas.

Concierge Q & A

Concierge_Stephen-Morris

Starting his journey as a bellman in Lake Louise, Alberta, Stephen Morris has worked in the hospitality industry for the last 24 years and been a concierge for the last decade. He’s an active member of Les Clef ’s d’Or, Atlantic Region, seeing himself as an ambassador for the Prince George Hotel and the city of Halifax.

Q: What are July’s can’t-miss events for visitors?
A: July offers many things in Halifax but the one event you cannot miss is the Halifax Jazz Festival from July 10 to 15. Many venues, many artists, and a slice of coolness to go with the hot summer nights.

Q: What patios do you suggest for afternoon drinks with friends?
A: The best way to beat the heat is on the Gahan House patio located directly on the Halifax waterfront in the Historic Properties. An excellent assortment of Maritime-brewed beers and an amazing menu makes the Gahan House a can’t-miss.

Q: Where can visitors find a unique memento of their visit to Nova Scotia?
A: Take a stroll to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market on Marginal Road. Local artists and vendors provide you with memories of Nova Scotia and Halifax that can fit into any suitcase.

Q: What tour experience should visitors be sure not to miss?
A: Everyone visiting Halifax must try the Harbour Hopper by Ambassatours Gray Line. Informative and fun, this amphibious tour gives you a unique perspective on the city from land and sea.

Q: If you only had one day in Halifax, how would you spend it?
A: My day would be spent grabbing a coffee from Steve-o-Reno’s Cappuccino on Brunswick Street, taking a stroll on the Halifax waterfront boardwalk, lunch at the Gahan House, an afternoon cruise of the harbour on the Tall Ship Silva operated by Murphy’s The Cable Wharf and then finishing off with a memorable meal and nightcap at the Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar.

Concierge Q&A

Concierge_Trevor-MacRae

Trevor MacRae is an executive host at the recently renovated Casino Nova Scotia. He graduated from Dalhousie University and is a professional affiliate with Les Clefs d’Or Canada.

Q: Excluding your property, what’s a great place to see live music in Halifax this month?
A: 
The Marquee Ballroom located at 2037 Gottingen Street in Halifax’s North End is an exceptional venue for live music. The vibe and the sound make it one of the best venues in the city, bringing in musical acts from all genres. This month there are some terrific bands gracing the stage, including Protest the Hero.

Q: If you only had one day in Halifax this month, how would you spend it?
A:
 I would begin by going to the Coastal Cafe for breakfast, located at 2731 Robie Street. It is by far one of the best spots for breakfast in the city. I would then continue on to the Halifax Central Library located at 5440 Spring Garden Road. A beautiful new building that offers something for everyone from a rooftop patio offering stunning views of the harbour, a 300-seat theatre, two cafes, gaming stations, two music studios and much more. Moving on from the Central Library, I would take a tour of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic located at 1675 Lower Water Street. This is Canada’s oldest and largest maritime museum, housing many relics of Canada’s naval past. There are displays about Second World War convoys, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the Halifax Explosion. A day would not be complete without taking a tour of the Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery, located at 1496 Lower Water Street. It is one of the oldest working breweries in North America.

Q: Where should sports fans go to watch the NHL playoffs?
A: HFX Sports Bar & Grill 
located at 1721 Brunswick Street is by far the best place to watch sports in the city. With over 90 TVs, there is plenty of opportunity to watch your favourite NHL team plus they have one TV that is an enormous 235 inches. Along with being able to watch multiple NHL games at one time they have a free app that taps into any TV on site so you can listen to your preferred game.

Q: Where should visitors go to indulge a sweet tooth?
A: 
If you have a sweet tooth then The Old Apothecary Bakery and Cafe at 1549 Barrington Street is the place for you. Everything is made from scratch and locally sourced where possible with delicious selections that include breads, pastries, and cakes.

Q: What should visitors be sure to see and do when visiting Dartmouth?
A: 
If you are planning on visiting Dartmouth I would suggest taking a walk through Shubie Park located at 54 Locks Road. The heavily forested park has many picturesque walking trails from easy to moderate in difficulty. Bordering on Lake Micmac, a portion of the abandoned Shubenacadie Canal passes through the park, from which the park takes its name. I would also recommend visiting the Shearwater Aviation Museum located at 34 Bonaventure Street. The museum acquires artifacts and documents which exemplify the history of Canadian maritime military aviation. One of my favourite exhibits is on HMCS Bonaventure which was Canada’s last aircraft carrier (decommissioned in 1970).

Concierge Q&A

Todd-Young

An outgoing person with a theatre background, Todd Young has been concierge for Southwest Properties at Bishop’s Landing since 2011 and a corporate affiliate member of Les Clefs d’Or Canada. He enjoys his role at a property with many permanent residents, where he’s in a unique position to be part of their daily lives and discover more about the city.

Q: What’s the best way to spend a blustery winter day in Halifax?
A: 
Building a snowman on the Halifax Common or skating at the Oval followed by hot chocolate and a delicious treat at The Old Apothecary Bakery & Cafe on Barrington Street. You can’t get much blusterier than downtown in the winter and the European-style hot chocolate helps a lot! The baked goods are incredible and the breads are divine.

Q: What’s your favourite winter day trip from Halifax?
A: Taking a sleigh ride at Hatfield Farm in Hammonds Plains or a trip to Sugar Moon Farm: a maple-syrup farm and restaurant in Earltown, a 90-minute drive north of Halifax in Central Nova Scotia. It’s nice to get out of the city in any season and enjoy the great beauty that Nova Scotia offers.

Q: What’s your favourite place to enjoy a hearty bowl of seafood chowder?
A: The Esquire Restaurant, an old-fashion diner on the Bedford Highway, hands down. One of my favourite wintertime meals! Friendly staff, great food. It’s like being hugged by Nova Scotia.

Q: What’s one must-visit Halifax destination for craft-beer aficionados?
A: Nine Locks Brewing Company on Waverly Road in Dartmouth. Its Scottish Ale and Vanilla Porter are amazing and the brewer is always working on something new. If you’re a chocolate fan, their Chocolate Stout is a must-try.

Q: What does Halifax have on offer for sports fans this winter?
A: Catching a Halifax Mooseheads or university hockey game is one of the best winter activities in the city. After, grab a wonderful dinner at a downtown restaurant like Ristorante a Mano or Little Oak.

Unlock the City: Your Hotel Concierge Can be Your Key to a Great Trip

AMONG THE MANY PEOPLE YOU’LL ENCOUNTER DURING YOUR STAY IN TORONTO, YOUR HOTEL CONCIERGE IS PERHAPS ONE OF YOUR GREATEST ASSETS. THEY CAN FACILITATE YOUR VISIT IN MANY WAYS—EVEN BEFORE YOU ARRIVE

 

Carolina Avaria photo by Nicholas Lachman

Carolina Avaria, photo by Nicholas Lachman

Carolina Avaria, chef concierge of the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville, says that concierges are “front line superlative service providers who are ready to assist with any request. Nothing (unless illegal or unethical) is unreachable for an experienced concierge.Although the most common requests she and her peers receive are for restaurant recommendations, purchasing tickets and returning forgotten teddy bears, your concierge is ready and willing to assist with any request no matter how big or small. Among some of the more wild requests she’s heard being fulfilled: filling tubs with champagne and even jelly beans for proposals, buying bespoke presents for pet parrots, shipping breast milk overnight, and organizing a bullet-proof limousine.

“We pride ourselves on making the impossible seamlessly be possible,” says Avaria, who is also the President of Les Clefs d’Or Canada, an elite group of concierges who are easily identifiable by the golden keys worn on their lapels.

This year, Les Clefs d’Or Canada celebrates its 40th anniversary as a valued chapter of Les Clefs d’Or UICH (Union Internationale des Concierges d’Hôtels). Worldwide there are more than 4,000 members representing Great Britain, Denmark, Hong Kong, Brazil, UAE and Israel among more than 40 other nations. In Canada there are 152 members, along with professional and corporate affiliates, which proudly includes Where Toronto.

To become a member of this prestigious organization doesn’t happen by chance; it requires commitment through a rigorous process that includes an invitation from an existing member along with at least five years of hotel experience. Potential candidates must then attend monthly meetings for a year, then go through a three-month long test, write a national exam and do a presentation in front of regional members who then vote on the member’s qualifications, with the final decision being made by the executive/national board.

The golden keys represent the organization’s global contacts, allowing them to reach out to fellow concierges around the world to assist local guests with whatever they might need. “We are your key to everything,” says Avaria. “Our motto ‘In service through friendship,’ ensures that our keys open doors for you.”

So how does a guest develop a relationship with their concierge? It can start even before you’ve left home according to Avaria, who suggests calling or emailing your concierge in advance, who can make recommendations depending on the nature of your trip, and even help with transportation from the airport. And be sure to let them know if you’re in town to celebrate a particular occasion—they might be able to provide a complimentary touch.

And once you’ve arrived, just visit the concierge desk. “You have a dedicated friend in the lobby,” says Avaria. “Even if you have researched the city, plan a five minute stop in the lobby on your first day with your concierge.” Expect them to ask you what you like to do, and from there they’ll be able to “lay out the city for you according to your preferences, layering in our local knowledge and not-to-be-missed gems.”

And finally, “Once our guest, always a guest,” says Avaria. If you’ve left something behind or visited a great restaurant that you wanted to recommend to your friends at home but can’t quite remember its name, your concierge is there to help.

To learn more about Les Clefs d’Or Canada, visit lesclefsdorcanada.org.

August Concierge Q&A

Stephen Morris has worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years, starting out in Lake Louise, Alberta as a bellman. In the past nine years, he’s returned to the role of concierge and has been an active member of Les Clefs d’Or, Atlantic Region. He sees himself as “an ambassador” for the Prince George Hotel and the city of Halifax.

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What’s your favourite way to spend a summer afternoon in Halifax?

My idea of a great summer afternoon in Halifax is head to the waterfront and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Grab a wrap to go at Wrap So D and head out to one of the many sit-down spots and enjoy the sun. Then I would move on down the boardwalk and enjoy a sweet waffle cone from Sugah. Your stroll along the waterfront will burn off all those tasty calories, unless you head back for a second scoop.

What’s the best place to find a locally made Halifax souvenir?

My go-to place for my guests is Amos Pewter in the Historic Properties on Lower Water Street. So many handcrafted gifts and souvenirs that truly embody Nova Scotia. You are sure to find something to take home with you.

What’s your pick for this month’s can’t-miss events?

If you like live music and outdoor fun you won’t want to miss the Dutch Mason Blues Festival happening in Alderney Landing in Dartmouth from August 7 to 9. Located right on the waterfront, it’s a short ride from downtown on the Halifax Transit ferry.

If you had one day in Halifax, how would you spend it?

I would wake up and head over to Steve-O-Reno’s on Brunswick Street and grab a coffee and a bite then head up towards the Halifax Public Gardens and enjoy a nice stroll, a breath of fresh air and take in the beautiful scenery. I would then head over to the Halifax Citadel and watch the firing of the Noon Gun… As I make my way to the waterfront I would grab a bite to eat at Durty Nelly’s on Argyle Street and enjoy a cold beer on the patio. After that I would head to Murphy’s The Cable Wharf where I would get on the Harbour Hopper and enjoy a fun, fact-filled tour of the city and harbour. To top the day off I would relax with a glass of wine and some excellent food at The Bicycle Thief, located in Bishop’s Landing on the waterfront.

What’s your favourite spot for a romantic dinner for two in Halifax?

My recommendation would be The Press Gang on Prince Street. It offers an excellent menu and the lighting is dimmed for a truly romantic ambience. If you are dining on a Friday or Saturday, you will be treated to the jazzy Mike Cowie Trio as you enjoy your meal.