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- 12/09/15--15:32: _Kicking Back In Los...
- 12/09/15--15:48: _Discover An Old-Sch...
- 12/10/15--11:03: _VR May Have Uninten...
- 12/10/15--22:46: _Justin Trudeau Kill...
- 12/11/15--15:07: _10 Reasons To Escap...
- 12/11/15--15:18: _Bliss Out In Cuba's...
- 12/11/15--17:25: _Dave Sandford's Lak...
- 12/13/15--08:55: _Edmonton Best Resta...
- 12/14/15--10:50: _The Magic Is Real A...
- 12/14/15--12:48: _Escape The Cold To ...
- 12/14/15--14:54: _Prevent Stolen Lugg...
- 12/14/15--15:21: _Vancouver Cat Café ...
- 12/16/15--09:25: _Skiing The French A...
- 12/16/15--13:07: _12 Ways To Stay Saf...
- 12/16/15--14:42: _Alberta's Most Beau...
- 12/17/15--09:08: _5 Things You Can On...
- 12/17/15--15:34: _Fodors Best Cruises...
- 12/18/15--10:56: _Star Wars Filming L...
- 12/18/15--12:46: _Top Canadian Busine...
- 12/18/15--13:33: _How To Pass Time Du...
- 12/09/15--15:32: Kicking Back In Los Cabos, Mexico
- 12/09/15--15:48: Discover An Old-School Elegance In Nice, France
- 12/10/15--11:03: VR May Have Unintended Consequences For Travel
- 12/10/15--22:46: Justin Trudeau Kills Time At The Airport Like The Rest Of Us
- 12/11/15--15:07: 10 Reasons To Escape To Bali Right Now
- 12/11/15--15:18: Bliss Out In Cuba's Viñales Valley
- 12/11/15--17:25: Dave Sandford's Lake Erie Photos Turn Waves Into 'Liquid Mountains'
- 12/14/15--10:50: The Magic Is Real And It's Spectacular
- 12/14/15--12:48: Escape The Cold To A Water Wonderland
- 12/14/15--14:54: Prevent Stolen Luggage With The Ultimate Personalized Suitcase
- 12/14/15--15:21: Vancouver Cat Café Opens For Business
- 12/16/15--09:25: Skiing The French Alps: Vive Le Difference
- 12/16/15--13:07: 12 Ways To Stay Safe Abroad
- 12/16/15--14:42: Alberta's Most Beautiful Winter Travel Destinations
- 12/17/15--09:08: 5 Things You Can Only Do In Vancouver In Winter
- 12/17/15--15:34: Fodors Best Cruises In The World Includes B.C. Tugboat
- 12/18/15--10:56: Star Wars Filming Locations To Visit
- 12/18/15--12:46: Top Canadian Business Travel Trends To Expect In 2016
- 12/18/15--13:33: How To Pass Time During A Layover In The Great White North
Sea of Cortez or Pacific Ocean? Work out or work the club scene? ATV or local artisans? In Los Cabos, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, you'll get all the sunshine, guacamole and margaritas you'd expect from a Mexican getaway, as well as a diverse choice of activities that lets you craft just the vacay you want. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
stay: Booking the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas through Signature Vacations as your home base means you're just a 10-minute drive from town (and have a superb view of the rocks that form El Arco, to boot). The margaritas are a solid choice at any of the hotel bars and, when your belly rumbles, the buffet, serving green chilaquiles at breakfast and a fresh roast at dinner, is a sure bet. Or, book an à la carte supper at the resort's own Mexican resto, where freshly caught red snapper served with creamy potatoes and veracruz salsa figures.
sweat: ScubaCaribe staff at the Riu can help you get your fitness on with High Tide Los Cabos. Start with a standup paddleboard (SUP) excursion to El Arco (see if you can spot the rock that looks like Scooby Doo) before getting in the water for some sensational snorkeling by Pelican Rock. If kayaking is your jam, plan for an hour-long paddle from Santa Maria Bay to Chileno Beach, keeping your eyes peeled for sea lions and, from December to March, spot whales.
shop: Flea markets hocking shot glasses, sombreros and magnets abound in Cabo San Lucas any day of the week. But, if you're looking for something a little more unique, drive 30 minutes to nearby San José del Cabo, where Thursday evenings see local artisans set up shop in the main square for the town's weekly art walk. Here, score a pretty embroidered Mexican caftan, stunning tablecloths and blankets at Curios Carmela, and fine jewelry, ceramics and Huichol tribe beaded sculptures at Marquina Gallery.
savour: When the sun becomes too much to bear, cool off with delicious paleta (popsicle) at Paleteria Tropical in San José del Cabo--these icey treats are made right on-site by the family that lives in the home behind the storefront (go for cherry). For a casual by-the-marina lunch back in Cabo San Lucas, El Agave Bar boasts a small patio, friendly service and a signature dish of local sea bass fajitas with mango salsa that'll have you wishing you hadn't gobbled up so many of that chips-and-salsa appy. --Karen Kwan
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NICE, France - The French Riviera is exquisite, and at the time of my visit, American and German tourists were everywhere, falling in love with the city, which is tailored for tourism. Some may think that nearby Cannes and Monaco are the centre of the Earth, with their film festival and F1 Grand Prix, respectively, but Nice is a tourist centre for abundant reasons: The Promenade des Anglais, the sun, gastronomy, beaches, museums... I could go on and on. Everyone can agree: the entire city exudes elegance of an old-school variety. It's more affordable, more approachable than Monaco or Cannes.
Best of Nice - Restaurant: Le Vingt4
When one arrives in a city, the first order of business is to head to the hotel, relax, take a shower and a quick tour to get the lay of the landscape. That done, the first place you'll want to linger is restaurant le Vingt4.
Le Vingt4 has none of the posh affectations of a restaurant that is trying too hard. On the contrary, this luxury brasserie offers a warm welcome in addition to its high quality offerings. Once there, it feels like home. In fact, it inspired the longest description of a restaurant that I have ever written - go, read it, it will make your mouth water! This is an exceptional restaurant, with friendly people, affordable prices and a wine list trimmed to perfection. The restaurant is led by a staff that knows very well the treasure they are safeguarding. Click here to view all the photos from my evening there!
Best of Nice - Restaurant: La P'tite Cocotte
After a good night's sleep, one is refreshed and ready to explore la promenade du Paillon, Verdun Avenue, the Promenade des Anglais, Jean Medecin Avenue and Massena, the pedestrian street. History is everywhere here, and we're not talking recent history. Take Terra Amata, an archaeological site which scientists believe was home to humans as far back as 380,000 BC. Yes, that's right: 380,000 years.
Old Nice was founded in 350 BC by the Greeks. It's a mandatory stop for any tourist. Fortunately, there is a small charming restaurant named P'tite Cocotte, led by a chef who learned his trade at Europea restaurant in Montreal, among others, which is anything but a tourist trap! Click here for all the details.
Best of Nice - Restaurant: Jan
In the afternoon, it's time to take in the sun. The beach along the Promenade des Anglais is pebbly -- not exactly comfortable -- but sit a while and watch the planes land at the nearby airport, so close that the planes fly just above your head, and people-watch for a captivating afternoon.
Equally captivating is the nearby restaurant named Jan, the brainchild of young author and photographer Jan Hendrik. This fine-dining restaurant offers dishes with an artistic subtlety of tastes and aromas. The wine pairings in this simple and classic restaurant are an experience in and of themselves. The restaurant décor is almost as beautiful as the food. The only mystery is why this restaurant has not yet been graced with a Michelin star.
Best of Nice - Hotel: WindsoR
For a centrally located and comfortable place to stay, WindsoR, a four-star hotel close to the Promenade des Anglais, is ideal. It has everything one could wish for: outdoor pool, beautiful garden, comfortable rooms and a gym. But what makes WindsoR worth discovering is its relationship with contemporary art.
This hotel is nothing less than a museum, with rooms decorated by artists, some renowned, including the great Claudio Parmiggiani. A beautiful hotel is a luxury that is not to be overlooked, and art-lovers have much to love about Nice: the Matisse Museum, Marc Chagall museum and the museum of modern and contemporary art have tons unique pieces. The cathedrals of the city also have their charm!
Best of Nice - Restaurant: Les Garçons
When you are ready to enjoy the nightlife, the place to begin your evening is Les Garçons. Restaurant by evening, supperclub by night, they don't hesitate to push the volume a bit on a Friday and Saturday night!
In this series, Cédric Lizotte visits some of Europe's best restaurants. On his blog, Continents & Condiments, he shares his inside knowledge about the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow his gastronomical journey on social media with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.
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-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Can strapping on a headset that puts you in a mountain meadow induce you to visit that actual meadow on your next vacation?
The travel industry thinks so, and last week's Globe article "Can virtual reality bring real tourists to B.C.?" practically yodels "YES!" in reply.
I beg to disagree, or at least to pause in praising virtual reality (VR) as the next revolution in travel.
I say this because, the day before this article appeared, I had a demonstration of VR's astounding ability to convey the three-dimensional, 360-degree reality of, well, everything you can see now on a YouTube video, including travel videos. The demo had four parts: a Cirque du Soleil performance where I was on stage with acrobats flinging around me; a guy walking through the streets of New York; a baby one month from being born (the baby smiled at me!); and a mountaintop that the camera (and I) took off from.
They were all stunning. I was charmed, gob-smacked, instantly hooked. After 10 minutes, I felt the same way I did when I first used a mobile phone to take pictures, the first time I saw a 3D movie, the first time I'd actually been to a real mountaintop.
Part of my life involves taking friends on trips -- especially to the Rocky Mountains. So, I started thinking about the future of what I'd just experienced. My second thoughts started seconds into that process. Maybe it was because I felt slightly nauseated after taking off the headset. The demo guy told me this can happen, because the 3D, 360-degree stuff plays tricks with your eyes and sense of balance.
That aside, there are some implications from this magical new technology that may make claims of the death of printed brochures and even 3D videos greatly exaggerated. Here are a handful of reminders that every new technology comes with unintended consequences:
1. If everything's amazing, pretty soon nothing is.
Companies are placing billion-dollar bets that VR will catch on the way video itself has. But remember just a few years ago when travel videos were a novelty? Sure, a few early adopters gained a market advantage, just like B.C. plans to (they're the first government agency to use VR to market their destinations).
But now, it's only if you don't have a marketing video that people will give your destination or property a pass. I think the same will soon hold true for VR.
2. The VR of a bad hotel only amplifies the reality of a bad hotel.
Still photos can still fool us. That creaky hotel can look all dressed up and new in a retouched photo. With video, it's harder to fake grimy reality. With VR video, it's much, much harder to sweep the grunge under the rug , especially when you're standing on the rug. So, top-rate places will be proud to show themselves off in VR; others, not so much.
3. VR is incredibly expensive to produce.
Sure, that cost will fall dramatically in the next few years. But not so much that it won't create a class system with the rich destinations and marketers "going VR" and the poor ones not.
4. Pretty soon, it won't be enough for just you to be immersed in the video.
Your family and friends (or at least their avatars) will need to be in the same totally immersive picture. And that won't cost peanuts.
5. Isn't travel supposed to be about making discoveries?
You know, about the world and yourself? I suspect being able to preview every nanosecond of your incredible experience on that mountaintop will diminish the thrill of actually standing there. As the saying goes: "Adventure is not in the guidebook, and beauty is not on the map."
Nor will reality succumb easily to virtual reality.
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Much anticipation built up at Toronto's Pearson International Airport Thursday night as the first large group of Syrian refugees coming to Canada by government aircraft was expected to arrive.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a point of being at the terminal to greet them.
"How you will receive these people tonight will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives, but also I know something that you will remember for the rest of your lives,'' Trudeau told the crowd gathered to welcome the newcomers.
"Tonight matters, not just for Canada but for the world."
Buuuuut the flight's arrival was delayed. By more than three hours.
But hey, Trudeau likely killed time like the rest of us do at the airport.
With files from The Canadian Press
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Photo credit: DrewScott
As temperatures start to drop and snow falls, it's easy to find reasons to hop aboard a plane and head to the "Island of the Gods," also known as Bali. Bali's rich culture, show-stopping beauty, friendly locals, and dirt cheap prices (once you arrive) are reasons visitors head back to the island paradise year after year. As you start to consider warm-weather destinations for your winter getaway in early 2016, these 10 reasons to visit Bali are guaranteed to swing your decision toward this small island in Indonesia.
1. It's Always Summer
If you're truly searching for the "endless summer," Bali is the place to be. The island, situated 8-degrees south of the equator, boasts an average temperature of 28-degrees Celsius with roughly 12 to 13 hours of daylight every day of the year.
2. It's the Island of the Gods
Photo credit: Joan Campderros-i-Canas
Bali's nickname "Island of the Gods" is more than fitting. The island is littered with some of the world's most picturesque temples, situated on the highest mountain peaks, on top of jagged cliffs, and just steps from the sea. Roughly 90-percent of Balinese people are Hindu, and your visit is guaranteed to coincide with one of the island's countless colorful ceremonies.
3. Balinese Food
Few destinations in the world will make you miss their food quite like Bali. The meal prices, typically ranging from $1 to $3 for a delicious Balinese meal of fried rice or noodles with fresh fish, shrimp or chicken, are guaranteed to make you like the food a little more. However, the island specializes in it's own unique cuisine, which ranges from spicy minced meat skewers (sates) to stuffed duck and fresh fish or prawns pulled out of the sea and grilled to perfection.
4. The Prices
Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman
Bali's low prices span far beyond the island's foods. Once you arrive, you'll find accommodation prices that are a fraction of those in other popular tourist destinations. Souvenirs, tours, motorbike rentals, surfboards, clothing and countless other items are known for being extremely affordable in Bali. However, you shouldn't forget to brush up on your bargaining skills before you go.
5. The Adventure
Whether you're interested in surfing some of the world's best waves, trekking the active Mount Batur volcano or mastering your yoga skills in Ubud, there's an adventure waiting around every corner on Bali.
6. You Can Make Last-Minute Plans
Photo credit: Graeme Churchard
You don't have to visit the island of Bali with a set itinerary of what you want to see and do. The island is littered with accommodation options ranging from $10-per-night backpacker hostels to five-star luxury resorts. The overabundance of places to stay on the island means you can change plans at a moment's notice and not have to worry about finding a hotel that suits your budget and needs.
7. The People
It's impossible not to catch the infectious Balinese smile during your stay. The people of Bali, even those who are trying their hardest to convince you to buy souvenirs, are always friendly with a contagious sense of humor. You'll find that some of your best moments on the island are those spent with a jovial tour guide, hotel staff member or a shop owner that makes you feel at home in their piece of paradise.
8. The Unbelievable Beaches
Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman
Bali is an island surrounded by beaches, ranging from huge expanses of golden sand to shady caves surrounded by cliffs. The province of Bali also includes a number of small outer lying islands, many of which are famous for their postcard beaches, like Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan.
9. The Rice Terraces
Bali's natural beauty comes in countless forms, but the rice terraces create some of the island's most awe-inspiring backdrops. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud are a famous place for snapping photos of what feels like the brightest greens you'll ever see, and those in Jatiluwih offer less-crowded places to hike and small villages to explore. It doesn't matter where you spend most of your time on your visit to Bali, a day-trip to the rice paddies is always essential.
10. You're Destined to Relax
Photo credit: Matthias Ripp
When the hustle and bustle of the holidays passes, a relaxing getaway should be the next item on your agenda. Bali is an island that encourages you to sit under a palm tree and shed the weight on your shoulders. Whether you're interested in the island's ultra affordable spas, a budget-friendly all-inclusive getaway or days spent exploring without a worry in sight, Bali, and its smiling people, encourage you to experience a more laid-back lifestyle.
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Cuba is synonymous with beaches but, on a recent trip to the lush Viñales Valley, white sand was (miraculously!) the furthest thing from our minds. After two days in Havana, a 1950s Chevrolet whisked us west to the tranquil valley, deemed a UNESCO world heritage site for its majestic mogotes (limestone rock formations). With endless trails to hike and organic food to taste, it's no wonder this is a backpacker -- and honeymooner -- hot spot.
stay: Get acquainted with locals in one of the many Chiclet-coloured casa particulares (guest houses). Take the owners (like Nelson of Villa Nelson's) up on their offers of a home-cooked seafood dinner or tropical fruit breakfast. Can't wait to explore the valley? Book horseback riding, bike riding and hiking (or beach day trips) through your casa. Villa Nelson, Calle Camilo Cienfuegos N0 4, Vinales, Cuba.
sweat: Grab a local guide to lead you along red-soil paths through the valley's tiny farming communities and dish on the area's flora, culture and politics. On our trek we traversed lush mango and guava groves (gorge-fest and all), oxen-plowed fields and coffee plantations. By happy hour we'd reached a tobacco farm where we were greeted with fresh mint mojitos and hand-rolled cigars. Perfect planning, we must say.
savour: Feast on home-cooked Cuban fare -- succulent roast pig, fritters, rice, beets, stuffed plantains -- at the always-packed family-run organic farm and restaurant Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso. To-die-for views of the Valley of Silence below, an over-the-top array of daily specials delivered to your picnic table and a frothy rum-cinnamon Stress Reliever cocktail are why we're proud to admit we dined there three times in five days. Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, Carretera Al Cementerio KM 1 1/2, Vinales, Cuba
salsa: For some of the smoothest moves we've seen, head to the nightly party at Centro Cultural Polo Montañez. Salsa skills less than stellar? Find a local to lead you -- or come prepared with a few lessons under your belt. Salsa Centro Cultural Polo Montañez, cnr Salvador Cisneros & Joaquin Pérez, music from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Viñales, we'll definitely be back. --Lise Boullard
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Lake Erie is well known for the pollution that humans have put in it.
It was once so contaminated that it caught on fire. And last year, it saw a toxic algae bloom so serious that it threatened Canadian water supplies.
But London, Ont. photographer Dave Sandford has found beauty in its waters.
He posted some mesmerizing photos of Lake Erie waves to artistic site BoredPanda this week, calling them "Liquid Mountains."
They have drawn over 300,000 views, and Sandford, who normally shoots professional sports, is "overwhelmed" at the attention, he told CBC News.
Sandford took the pictures in November, sometimes spending as long as six hours trying to grab the best shots, CBC News reported.
"Since I was a kid, I’ve loved to be on, in or around water," he wrote on BoredPanda.
"I’m fascinated by the sheer raw power and force of it, captivated by the graceful movement of a wave and mesmerized by light dancing across it."
This one he called the "Lake Erie Monster."
The photos have also drawn attention on his Instagram and Facebook accounts.
And it's easy to see why.
He titled this photo, "The Gales of November."
Sandford is a great sports photographer. But we think he has a calling capturing the power of nature.
Here are more photos of Lake Erie from his Instagram:
-Riding This Wave- Wow! What an overwhelmingly amazing few days it's been for me! Thank you everyone who's supported me for a long time. Thank you to the new supporters. My Lake Erie series has gained international success! Instagram surpassed 10k today & so many amazing comments from around the globe! Thank you all. If you are looking for prints please be patient I will get to you! My head is spinning like a top trying to handle it all!
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Alberta's capital has seen some incredibly delicious restaurants spring up over the past few years, and 2015 was no exception.
We asked a few local food bloggers to dish on their top places to dine that opened in the past year. We've included their top 5 picks, plus an honourable mention that opened just a bit too early to be included.
Here's what they picked:
1. Nongbu Korean Eatery
(Photo: Cindy Nguyen/Let's Om Nom)
Where: 8115 104th St.
"Nongbu Korean Eatery is offering up dishes that are distinct from other Korean restaurants in Edmonton. They have a small rotating menu, but their focus is to do those items well. Favourite dishes include the fried ddukbbokki (fresh chewy rice cakes, fried with a nice crisp and tossed in a nice balanced sweet and spicy sauce) and the kalguksu bowls (fresh hand cut Korean noodles in various broths)." — Cindy Nguyen, Let's Om Nom
2. Little Brick
(Photo: Little Brick)
Where: 8115 104th St.
"Little Brick is a fantastic cafe located right on the river valley trail system, in a historic central Edmonton neighbourhood. The space itself is a heritage house that has been beautifully restored, and also has a large outdoor seating space where the cafe also grows their own herbs and salad greens. The food is simple, yet delicious, with an emphasis on freshness and quality. Dishes like a ricotta tartine, with cherry tomato and thyme, or a duck breast with crispy potato pave, apple fennel slaw, and saskatoon berry, make it obvious this isn't your typical cafe lunch. " — Phil Wilson, Baconhound
"Love the fact that Little Brick has turned one of Edmonton’s historical homes into a general store and cafe. The menu is seasonal so it’s hard to pick one dish since they’re always changing! Their use of local and seasonal ingredients is one of the best features." — Cindy Nguyen, Let's Om Nom
3. 12 Acres
(Photo: Linda Hoang)
Where: 8 Mission Ave., St. Albert
"Farm to table, pasture to plate, 'local' food - these words have been used so much the past year that they can start to lose their meaning. 12 Acres' concept is one to be applauded — partnering with City Life Farms — which will only ever have as many cows (for example) as the restaurant needs to serve, and vice versa. Run out of a cut, that's it. They want the farm to exist for the restaurant and the restaurant to exist for the farm. Ambitious and exciting — but what it results in is fresh, well-prepared food.
"Recommended dishes: Charcuterie board (cured meats, bread, pickled veg all done in house, with some cheeses that are also done in-house), Sous Vide Pork T-Bone and the Reuben Sandwich." — Linda Hoang
4. buco pizzeria + vino
(Photo: Cheryl Cottrell-Smith/wine+dine)
Where: 105 130 Bellerose Dr., St. Albert
"buco offers a stylish and modern approach to traditional Neapolitan fare, with daily drink features that are almost as fabulous as their assaggini bar. Expect fresh, classic pizza toppings and a great variety of antipasti options. Favourite dish: Prosciutto wrapped figs—pan-fried and decadent." — Cheryl Cottrell-Smith, wine+dine
5. Prairie Noodle Shop
(Photo: Cindy Nguyen/Let's Om Nom)
Where: 10350 124th St.
Prairie Noodle Shop's soft opening was on Dec. 12, and they'll be officially open to the public on Dec. 15. Cindy Nguyen has had the chance to try their menu prior to their opening at some of their pop-up events, and she say the spot is sure to be a success.
"What makes them special: locally made fresh ramen noodles, locally sourced produce and meats and creative flavours and plating that’s only home to Alberta. Favourite is their Roasted Barley Chicken." — Cindy Nguyen, Let's Om Nom
Honourable mention: Ampersand 27
(Photo: Cheryl Cottrell-Smith/wine+dine)
Where: 10612 82nd Ave.
Ampersand 27 opened just two months too early to make it onto the list, but it sounded so delicious we had to include it. Here's what Cheryl Cottrell-Smith of wine+dine had to say:
"Not only is Ampersand 27 perfectly located on Edmonton’s vibrant Whyte Avenue, it’s the home of the city’s most decadent build-your-own charcuterie board. Their drink menu alone is the very definition of craft cocktail culture, featuring more herbs than most dishes.
"Favourite dish: A handcrafted charcuterie. Preferably one that includes chorizo, Avonlea cloth bound cheddar, and Saskatoon and duck rillette."
Read about Calgary's best new restaurants of 2015 here.
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My face actually hurts from smiling so much. But I just can't stop. I hold hands with my son Noah, age 9, as we march behind the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade in Orlando.
"Find the dream inside of you and seize the moment", the passionate life size mouse tells a crowd of children from all over the world. "When you believe in yourself anything is possible".
(Yes Mickey! I believe!)
Disney World's Magic Kingdom is so much more than attractions, rides, entertainment, activities, shopping, and food, -- it's about believing in the power of dreams and "taking the dream with you wherever you may go".
A smiling Minnie Mouse chimes in, "By believing in your dreams you save the day".
The challenge is, how do we take these magical dreams and apply them to our every day lives? All I know for sure is we are having the best time.
The families around us represent multiple cultures and ethnic backgrounds. And apparently they all took their children out of school since it's Friday morning. I met a mom from Russia with two adopted daughters; a young couple from China on their honeymoon; a family from the middle east celebrating their son's birthday; three generations from Mexico with many grandkids; an American family with a seasons pass; and a single mom from Spain that saved for years to come here with her two children.
Noah shouts over the singing animals; "Now I understand what my friends meant when they said it's magical here. I had no idea it was like this!" And quite frankly neither did I. After a 25-year absence my return to the world where dreams come true is beyond anything I could have dreamed up.
And hey, Disney is the only place where make believe characters need bodyguards to fend off the mommy and daddy paparazzi.
There is nothing cooler than a selfie with your favourite life size talking stuffed animal to add on your Facebook profile. Kids excitedly swarm the lovable fairy-tale creatures for hugs. Earlier I witnessed teenagers screaming and crying when Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore walked by as if it were John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
However, when we met Mickey Mouse earlier I was so emotional I stumbled over my words. I told him I loved him as a child and was thrilled to see him again. And I hugged him. Yup, a total stranger dressed up as a mouse received my passionate embrace. Anywhere else in the world this would be unacceptable. Noah picks up on my energy and we see everything through a magical filter. My smart rationale son believes in magic.
"Mommy, will Mickey Mouse live forever?"
"Does he really love us like he says?"
"If you marry him can he come live with us?"
(Wait, what? No! He's married to Minnie silly, now lets go check out It's A Small World and try some famous Dole Whip!
Tip: Sign up for FastPass online before you arrive. This complimentary tool allows you to reserve up to three attractions and rides per day and saves you time waiting in line-ups.
Five Additional Magical Things To Do In Orlando
1. Have a glass of wine and act goofy with Goofy
The Pinot Grigio is all for me. Noah enjoys a pasta dinner. But we both high-five Goofy as he walks in the room and visits our table. Character dining is a great way to keep the magic going if you aren't going back to the Kingdom. We stayed at the Swan and Dolphin and they have Disney character dining at the Garden Grove restaurant nightly for dinner and weekend breakfasts. For dessert we share the coconut ice-cream and order multiple bowls to hang out with our huge stuffed animal friends all night.
2. Meet a Wild Alligator at Boggy Creek
We don't attend zoos, marine parks, or any place that keeps animals in captivity, so lucky for us we discovered Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. Our boat glides magically through wetlands and zips past cypress trees and tall grass over water that eventually connects to the everglades. Our captain, Brandon, stops occasionally and points out birds and wildlife. Suddenly Noah sees an alligator and our boat slows down. We smile and wave just before the little guy slithers away.
3. Enjoy a famous gluten free, vegan, kosher cupcake
A magical cupcake you ask? Sure, why not! While it may not give you superpowers it sure tastes delicious. And to find a vegan cupcake on Disney property qualifies as magic to me. Erin Mckenna's Bakery NYC has a location at Disney Springs and is a short shuttle bus ride from our hotel. Noah and I devour multiple treats that are every color of the rainbow. We are too full to try the vegan frosty soft serve so we will have to return again.
4. Fly on the Eye
The Orlando Eye is definitely magical and allows you to see the entire city from 400 feet in the air in an observation wheel. The little capsules are fully enclosed (No jumping!) and safe for all ages. I wasn't nearly as scared as I thought I would be. Bring your camera!
5. Design your own lightsaber
Just in time for the release of the new Star Wars movie, trekkies can build their very own lightsaber at Once Upon A Toy at Disney Springs. Noah carefully chooses the pieces for his mighty glowing sword, puts them together, and voila -- magic! Now my little Jedi Knight is all set for the movie premiere!
Our dreams definitely came true on this trip. And if we are lucky, Mickey's magical messages will stay with us long after the memories of Orlando fade.
So lets all say it together. The magic is real. And it's spectacular.
Get more ideas for planning your vacation from Visit Orlando.
All Photos Property Of Miriam Porter
The author was a guest of the Orlando tourist board. The hotel and the tourism board did not review or approve this article.
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There's nothing quite like admiring your destination from the edge of an infinity pool. And few things make you feel more fortunate to be in the wild than feeling the mist of a waterfall after a grueling hike.
Most Canadians start to forget the feeling of lounging in warm air and diving into refreshing turquoise waters this time of year. Whether you're planning an upcoming trip or are vicariously travelling from your sofa, these water wonderlands from around the world are guaranteed to take you on an adventure.
Marina Bay Sands Resort -- Singapore
Singapore's Skypark Pool at the Marina Bay Sands Resort is a place you'll never want to leave. Why go sightseeing when you can see the shining city lights from the edge of an infinity pool surrounded by palm trees? It's known as the largest and highest infinity pool in the world, leaving plenty of room for every guest to enjoy a bit of privacy. You must stay at the Marina Bay Sands Resort to use its pool facilities, but you won't be disappointed by the numerous award-winning restaurants, entertainment options, shops and spas that you'll experience without ever having to leave Marina Bay Sands.
Gold Nugget Pool -- Las Vegas
As with most things in Las Vegas, the Gold Nugget Pool is over-the-top. At the center of the pool, visitors will find a full aquarium, loaded with sharks and other marine life. The Golden Nugget Pool will transport you to the tropical reefs of an island paradise in the heart of the Nevada desert. Don't forget to take a run down the three-story-tall waterslide that flies past sharks through the heart of the tank.
Taranaki Falls -- New Zealand
Few places in the world make you appreciate the outdoors more than New Zealand. Taranaki Falls is located inside Tongariro National Park and takes about a 2-hour round-trip journey to reach. Prepare to be amazed when you arrive at the falls to see water rushing 20-meters down from the edge of a massive lava flow that erupted from Mt. Ruapehu roughly 15,000 years ago. The red, black and white volcanic rock that surrounds the fall and the pool below creates colorful and dramatic photo opportunities.
Havasu Falls -- Arizona
You don't have to travel far to reach one of the world's most sought-after waterfalls. Havasu Falls, located in the Havasupai Indian Reservation of the Grand Canyon, stuns its visitors with blue-green waters that obtain their color from large amounts of magnesium. The red cliffs surrounding the falls are similar to those you'll see in the Grand Canyon, but you'll have to stop snapping photos to take a dip in the crystal clear waters.
Saona Island -- Dominican Republic
The postcard-worthy beaches of Saona island offer untouched white sand, tropical blue waters and palm trees as far as the eye can see. This mystical island is located off of the southeast tip of the Dominican Republic, and a visit there is a must-do day trip for any visitor to the country.
Cascais Beaches -- Portugal
Travellers don't often imagine Portugal as a happening beach destination, but anyone who has visited Cascais Beach knows different. Cascais' northern beaches are more desirable for bodyboarders, surfers and travellers seeking a less-developed beach atmosphere. However, the eastern beaches are more family-friendly with places to dine, shop and use the facilities. The Cascais beaches are just 40 minutes from Lisbon by car, so they do fill up in the summer months.
Saturnia -- Italy
You don't have to travel to the warmest places in the world to enjoy a dip in the water. Saturnia is Tuscany's spa town, and there's no place else like it in the world. Visitors can spend days lounging in the toasty-warm, sulphurous spring waters, which hover at 37.5-degrees Celsius. Even better, the town's thermal pools are known for their healing qualities.
Banff Upper Hot Springs -- Canada
Travellers don't even have to leave Canada to find a place to swim outdoors among picturesque scenery. The Banff Upper Hot Springs sit among the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies and offer warmth to visitors at all times of day. The thermal pool appears to be an everyday pool nestled in the area's evergreen trees, but you'll notice the difference as soon as you dip your toes into the 38-degree (Celsius) waters.
Cenote Dzitnup -- Mexico
Most visitors to Mexico find themselves sipping summery cocktails on pristine beaches. However, Mexico is a country of many wonders, including the Cenote Dzitnup. The underground swimming hole is surrounded by limestone formations that arch over the swimmers lounging in the 76-degree water. This famous cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula features a small opening in the top of the cave that helps sunlight shine on the naturally-beautiful water.
Giola Lagoon -- Greece
Greece is a country known for its famed ruins, historic architecture and diverse Mediterranean beaches. The Giola Lagoon is none of the above -- it's a natural lagoon, perfect for swimming, that has been carved in the seaside rocks. The rocks are terraced and pleasant for walking or lounging, but it's swimming among some of the world's most beautiful scenery that attracts most visitors. The Giola Lagoon is located near the Greek town of Astris, and it's a hot spot among locals and visitors in the warmer months.
Königssee Lake -- Germany
If you're seeking a lake that will fill your camera's memory card with postcard-like photos, this natural lake in the southeast Berchtesgadener Land district is it. It's the deepest lake in Germany and is expected to have been formed during the last ice age. However, it's not the depth of the lake that will catch your eye. It's the unique look of the lake, which appears more like a fjord, surrounded by mountains reaching up to 2,700-meters tall. Another sight to behold is the view of the adorable village of Königssee from the milk-glass waters.
Lake Como -- Italy
Lake Como's location, roughly 1.5 hours by car from Milan, makes it an ideal destination for a day trip from the city. It's one of the country's most famous lakes for its surrounding tree-covered mountains, relaxing spas and the likelihood of snapping photos of wildlife during your stay. The lake forks into two long, thinner sections with the town of Bellagio sitting where they part. A trip from Milan to Lake Como can easily be done in a day, but you may want to stay at least one night to admire the lake from one of the many luxury villas among the trees above.
The world is littered with awesome places to jump into the water and leave all of your worries behind. Find out more about some of the world's best pools, waterfalls, beaches, hot springs, caves and lakes or find one near you by clicking here.
If luggage tags, bag straps and ribbons don't stop thieves -- or other travellers -- from grabbing your bags, maybe this will help.
Imgur user jew3lr0se shared the photo above on the image-sharing site with the caption, " The best way to never lose your luggage... is also a shrine to your former self."
The photo of the unknown traveller sitting with a suitcase displaying his likeness has garnered over 2.7 million views in the 18 hours it has been online, though most commenters seem more distracted by the man's socks and sandals than the luggage itself.
Still, we think this guy's on to something, and we think a custom HuffPost Living bag would be the perfect accessory for our travels. If you too want a custom bag with your image on it, order one here and you might just get it in time for Christmas!
Vancouver's first cat café has opened its doors, and to roaring (er, meowing) success.
Catfé is part coffee shop, part foster home for about a dozen felines in the city's Gastown neighbourhood.
The cats spend their time hanging out with customers, or they climb scratching posts and shelves to their heart's content.
When the animals need a break, they can pop into a cats-only back room for some refuge.
They've been so busy, that staff — known as "purristas," naturally — are recommending reservations for anyone planning a visit this month.
In cat news (because that's the news we all really want), a cat cafe is opening Monday. In other news, life is good. pic.twitter.com/0CGCFA8lRf— Kamil Karamali (@CBCKamil) December 13, 2015
North America's first cat cafe, called Cafe des Chats, opened in Montreal in 2014. Toronto opened a feline-friendly bistro of its own last month.
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French Alps Skiing? Mai oui. Vive le difference.
Liste de seau is the French translation for the term "Bucket List". For most skiers, the French Alps is high on their list, and with good reason. The Alps are famed for their glamour, sophistication, and of course excellent skiing and even better après ski. Skiing in the French Alps can be either a terrific active family vacation, or an unparalleled adult party and physical challenge.
First, if you're an experienced North American skier and considering a trip to the French Alps, there are a few differences that you might want to be aware of before hitting the slopes.
1) No tree line. Keep your lingerie on; there's no typical "Bra Tree" to pass on the chair lift in the Alps. Most of us are used to heading up hill surrounded by trees (mostly evergreens); a path which has been carved through the forest at times. In the Alps, as you head upwards, it's somewhat startling to look around and see only white, broken up by some grey rocks and a few isolated trees. You can make out the groomed parts of the runs, barely, but there is plenty of off-piste skiing to be had, while glade skiing is usually not available.
2) T-bar type hooks. Those of us growing up skiing in the 70's and 80's remember with some discomfort the rope tows and T-bar lifts that always managed to pitch us off to the side at least once or twice. The French Alps have quite a few of these to manoeuvre.
3) Red runs. In North America, we have a ski run rating system of green (easy), blue (intermediate) and black (difficult). Black branches into single black diamond and double black diamond. In the French Alps, they have Red Runs, which are somewhere in between a blue and a black.
4) Helmets. Most North Americans have helmets, and use helmets. You can certainly rent helmets in the French Alps. But you will find a huge number of skiers who still wear either fashionable hats (not berets, sadly) or no hat at all. I asked a fellow skier if he wasn't cold, not wearing a hat and he said "No. Because I am a man. A French man." Don't try to lecture them.
5) Skiers vs Snowboarders. While snowboarding numbers are currently dropping in North America, as this generation of kids doesn't want to be like their snowboarding parents, in Europe it has always been a more ski dominated industry.
Valmorel, which is located in the Grand Domaine is a natural and beautiful ski area which is accessible to every level of skier. There are 165 kilometres of trails with 50 ski lifts taking skiers to more than a 1,250 feet of vertical drop. Club Med Valmorel is ski-on/ski-off, so well suited for families who want the ease of not having to transport kids and skis first thing in the morning. Ski rentals are available, as are storage lockers which lead right out to the slopes. All Club Meds are "all-inclusive" and at their ski resorts this includes ski lessons and lift tickets, in addition to the food, drink, and other on-site activities. Ski and snowboard lessons are available for children aged three and up. Valmorel recently won the "Best Family Resort" at the 2014 Snow Award, and the views of Mont Blanc are fantastic from this ski resort.
A shuttle bus ride away, the small village of Valmorel features cheese boutiques, wine stores, restaurants and the shopping that you would expect to find in a small French town. Well worth taking an afternoon off skiing to enjoy the local sites and take part in local customs; like drinking wine and eating cheese.
For those travelling with teenage children, or better yet, no children, you might want to consider Val Thorens, as it is as famed for its active nightlife as it is as a place to see and be seen, skiing. Val Thorens is about 200 kilometres from both Lyon and Geneva; the closest airports.
Club Med Val Thorens is positioned in the largest ski area in the world; 335 slopes covering more than 600 kilometres of terrain, with half of it easily accessible for most skiers, at the green and blue levels. It is the highest and oldest ski region in the world, but has all the advantages of modern high-speed lifts and gondolas. Many skiers are found sunning themselves on the many outdoor terraces and lounge which dot the bottom of the hill.
Make it so, your liste de seau.
For more information visit www.clubmed.ca, www.valmorel.com, or www.valthorens.com
Excerpted from an article which previously ran in GoodLife Magazine.
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It's unlikely you'll ever encounter more than a pick pocket during your travels. In fact in most countries, you're much more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle accident than be assaulted during a robbery. But it does happen and you should take precautions where you can.
My approach is simply not to be the most visible and valuable target. And in most places that just means not strolling around with an expensive camera around your neck.
Here are 12 travel safety tips to avoid trouble and recover quickly in the unlikely event of theft.
1) Carry multiple forms of money and keep them separated.
Bring a number of credit and debit cards, but store them separately, and not in your purse or wallet. In addition to local currency, have at least $100 of a world currency (i.e. - Euros or USD) as back up in case of emergency. This should be stored in the frame of a pack back or even under the cushions in the toes of your shoes. If one stash disappears you'll have the others to rely on.
2) Wear a money belt under your clothes.
Please no fanny packs. Buy a low profile money belt and wear it under your clothes. Don't access it while you're out and about. Use it for storing your passport and high domination bills.
3) Use a 'fake' wallet for daily purchases, or no wallet at all.
I keep a wallet with cash for the day and a few expired cards and IDs to fill it out. Any punk who wants it is welcome to it.
4) Back up your documents.
Scan your important documents such as your passport and travel insurance and email them to yourself. Paper copies are good too.
5) Create a contact list.
Keep a paper contact list including numbers at home, local embassy or consulate and the Department of Foreign Affairs emergency operations centre. It's also good to have the contact numbers for your credit cards and bank.
6) Learn some of the language and customs.
If you end up being left on the side of the road, far from the usual tourist circuit you'll need some basic language skills to flag down help. Just a few phrases can make all the difference. And being familiar with the customs will help you understand what's normal behaviour and what's not. Besides helping you spot and avoid trouble, this will make your whole trip more enjoyable.
7) Dress down and try to blend in.
Replace that TAG watch with a Timex. And if you're heading to a sunny destination try and find a way to avoid that fresh off the plane white glow. In some countries the best you can do is look like an ex pat that's been there a while. Review maps before setting out for the day or at lunch. Count the number of blocks between your destination and put the map away while out in public.
8) Travel with others, especially at night.
Going solo has it perks, but at night consider making a few new friends at your hostel and head out with them. If that's not possible, scout out a few restaurants for supper while you're out in the day.
9) Travel light.
Too many bags make you more visible during transit from city to city. They also make you slow should you have a need to move quickly. Ideally, I'd go with one carry on size back pack that I could keep with me on bus trips, but rarely do I get down to that size.
10) Keep a tidy room.
This might seem odd, but most thefts will occur at your hotel or hostel. A tidy room with everything in its place means you'll quickly discover if an item is missing. If you're room doesn't have a safe of locker keep everything in a locked bag. Sure it can be cut, but most thefts are crimes of opportunity.
11) Don't stand still.
Anytime you're standing still in public you're a target for pickpockets. So whether you're watching a street performer or engaging in conversation with a friendly local, remain aware of who's around you. When you're on public transportation there's no room to move, so stay especially vigilant.
12) Don't use an off the rack camera bag.
Thieves know the bags and target them. Instead use a regular backpack or saddle bag with a Crumpler bag insert. And if you really want the functionally of a specialized bag stay away from the most popular brands or pick a sporty model, or even better, check out Think Tank's Retrospective line.
I take the extra step of using black duck tape to cover brand names and generally make my gear look beaten up. And keep in mind, while you're in shooting mode with your eye to the camera it's very easy for people to get close to you. It's always good to head out with a friend. When I'm alone in a city I'll often use my point and shoot, especially in the less touristy areas.
If all your precautions have failed and you find yourself faced with a confrontation, don't resist. It may go against your instinct, but the assailant doesn't want your life, just your possessions. Give them up. Resisting can be fatal.
Near the end of my trip to Argentina an incident reminded me of how quickly things can go wrong. A French nature photographer went for a stroll after breakfast before his flight later in the day. He was taking photos in a park which I had recently visited. Thieves tried to steal his camera and he resisted. He was stabbed six times in the chest, dying moments later. The lesson here is simple. Don't resist. No possession is worth your life.
It's extremely unlikely that you will ever face a situation like this. Fear of these rare situations shouldn't stop you from travelling or from enjoying every moment of your trip. Just keep these simple precautions in mind and be aware of your surroundings. In all my travels I've only had one pickpocket attempt and I have never felt personally threatened. So get out there and explore!
While many Alberta snowbirds choose to migrate south for the winter, sometimes it's worth putting up with chilly weather for beautiful sights here at home.
Winter is one of the best times to appreciate Alberta's stunning vistas — there's truly no reason to hibernate with its enchanting, snowy landscapes just a short drive away.
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Winter is one of the best times of year to visit Vancouver. Unlike many parts of Canada, Vancouver boasts not-so-freezing winter temperatures that average 4-degree Celsius in the coldest month of January. Vancouver is a city that encourages you to get outside with outdoor activities ranging from days at some of the world's best ski resorts to romantic evenings ice skating under the stars.
The following five activities are ones that you can only do during a Vancouver winter, so pack your bags and plan your Canadian getaway today.
Ice Skating at Robson Square
Photo credit: Imogene Huxham
Vancouverites and the city's visitors can find plenty of holiday cheer at the Robson Square Ice Rink in downtown Vancouver. However, the open-air rink at 800 Robson St., is open well beyond the holidays and into the end of February. The rink features live music every day from mid-December to Christmas Eve, so lace up your skates, or rent some on site for just $4, and admire the city lights from one of Vancouver's favourite squares.
Ski or Snowboard Grouse Mountain
Photo credit: Andrea Schaffer
A short 15-minute drive north of downtown Vancouver is the winter wonderland of Grouse Mountain. The mountain resort offers some of the area's best ski and snowboard terrain with an elevation of 1,250 metres and plenty of terrain for everyone from beginners to adrenaline junkies. Although, you don't have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy Grouse Mountain. The resort also features snowshoe trails, a skating pond, zip lines, the Skyride gondola and a variety of special Christmas events, including the Gingerbread Village, Santa's Workshop and more.
Save Your Shopping for Boxing Day
Photo credit: GoToVan
Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by shopping before the holidays, because Boxing Day is one of the best days to hit the streets and shop until you drop. The day after Christmas, also known as the Canadian holiday of Boxing Day, is the day to find crazy deals on everything from home furnishings to the latest electronics, clothing, appliances, toys and accessories. Get in the heart of the Boxing Day action by heading to the Pacific Centre Mall or Robson Street to see the crowds and join them in finding deals that only come around once a year.
Check Out the Chinese New Year Parade
The Chinese New Year Parade is the ultimate Vancouver event. Vancouver's Chinatown district is known as one of the best in the world, providing authentic Chinese culture in the Great White North. The annual Chinese New Year Parade is anticipated by Vancouverites from all parts of the city, and it's known as one of the biggest and best parades of the year. This year's parade will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Feb. 8, and you'll want to arrive at the Chinatown entrance early to find the perfect spot for admiring the parade's colourful dragon, costumed performers, floats and bands. Plan to linger around Chinatown all day for even more Chinese New Year festivities, and plenty of delicious eats, after the parade has passed.
Cross-Country Ski at Cypress Mountain
Photo credit: Craig Nagy
Similar to Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain is a place to get outside and experience the best that winter in Vancouver has to offer. The resort offers excellent ski and snowboard conditions but is just as famous for its famed cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Nineteen kilometres of groomed trails will help you enjoy Vancouver's surrounding mountain scenery while burning off those hefty holiday meals. More than 7 kilometres of the network of trails are lit for night skiing, so don't have to limit your activities to daylight hours.
The B.C. tugboat Swell, shown in a handout photo, has made Fodors' list of the world's best cruises in 2016.
VICTORIA — An expedition aboard a converted tugboat to B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest is on Fodors' list of the world's best cruises for 2016.
The 12-passenger Swell shares company on the list with a fleet of new ships including Royal Caribbean's 16-deck Harmony, the world's largest cruise liner.
Seabourn's 600-passenger Encore, Carnival's Imax theatre-equipped Carnival Vista, and the luxurious Seven Seas Explorer from Regent Seven Seas are also among the 15 vessels making the cut.
The tugboat, built in Vancouver in 1912, had its maiden voyage as a boutique expedition ship last April. Its history of service along the B.C. coast includes an appearance in a 1974 episode of CBC-TV's "The Beachcombers."
The Swell has six private cabins, each with ensuite bathroom and shower, and carries kayaks, inflatable boats and fishing gear.
Victoria-based Maple Leaf Adventures is offering sailings aboard the Swell in 2016 to the Great Bear Rainforest from ports including Port McNeill, Bella Bella and Kitimat.
A sample eight-day itinerary in May starts at $4,720 per person and includes rainforest walks, fjord cruising and a visit to the First Nations community of Klemtu.
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We're not exactly sure what these real earthly locations will become in the universe that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But we do know that each of these locales will play a role in the movie. Look closely when the much-anticipated epic opens on December 18 and see if you can spot these travel destinations as the backdrop of galaxies and planets where rebel warriors and storm troopers live, plot and fight battles.
Mývatn, Krafla Volcano, Iceland
We know that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was filmed in Iceland because True North Film Production cites Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams in their client list. But where exactly did the shooting take place? The volcano locale was listed in IMDB and rumours circulated that the next Star Wars installment was being filmed there last September. For The Force Awakens scenes, Iceland was apparently used for shots with stormtroopers and the Nordic country served as the setting for the planet Sullust for both the video game and the movie.
Skellig Michael, County Kerry, Ireland
Not exactly a galaxy far, far away, but Skellig Michael off the coast of County Kerry became the far, far away home more than 1,400 years ago for a group of men seeking religious solitude and isolation. They succeeded. It's one of the most lonely spots in western Europe and when the men arrived, they built a monastery at the edge of a cliff almost 200 metres above the waves. The structure of terraces and walls of stone survives intact to this day. Visitors can get the Skellig Experience by going to a purpose-built visitor centre that opened in 1992. Designed to be rugged in feeling and finishes, the centre reflects the experience that will be undertaken by visitors. The use of concrete vaults with grass topping is designed to echo the wild quality of the southwest of Ireland and to blend in with the surrounding hills.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Leaked footage last August showed scenes from The Force Awakens shot in Abu Dhabi. We now know that the location is the landscape for Jakku, which is described as a "frontier desert world" that is populated by "thieves, outlaws and scavengers." It is also supposedly the site of a major battle between the New Republic and Imperialists holdouts. One still image that has been released depicts a fallen X-wing being used as a cover in the desert firefight between rebels and Imperial troops.
Story by Guillermo Serrano, Vacay.ca writer. Read more on Vacay.ca, here.
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At Vision Travel, we manage an average of over 100,000 individual business travellers every year allowing us to draw key insights on upcoming business travel trends. Based upon feedback from many of them, we've put together eight key trends road warriors may expect to see this year.
Ultra-Long Haul Is Back
Newer, lighter and faster airplanes paired with new routes means international travel growth will be flying at an all-time high in the coming year. Before the close of the decade we will see a major technologically advanced launch, the Airbus A350, expected to roll out commercially next year. This ultra-long range aircraft not only opens up new ultra-long haul routes (it can fly up to 19 hours straight), it also opens up new shorter haul routes because it makes it cheaper for airlines to fly them.
Both Air Canada and WestJet have opened up new longer haul routes -- from direct flights to Korea to about a dozen new cities in Europe, and Canadian businesses are benefiting from this access to new trade and export lines beyond North America. However, the flow goes both ways. We are also seeing business travellers, predominantly from the conference and meetings groups from traditionally long-haul markets like China, come into Canada to conduct business.
Canada's Super Hub
Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America and continues to grow year on year. Canada's largest airline, Air Canada, is now focused on establishing Toronto as a super hub for international travel. They have indicated that they may be looking at expanding Pearson International Airport. Part of the expansion could even involve building an additional international terminal in the foreseeable future.
With advancements in technology, the travel experience has never been more seamless. Travellers can research, plan, book and report their activities all on mobile, and travel managers can dive into detailed reports like they never have before. All this technology is making business travel more efficient, but interestingly, it is also driving travellers to seek more personalized service, creating more demand for the expertise of travel management companies.
Frugality Is The Order Of The Day
With the recent global financial crisis, companies are becoming more frugal when it comes to allocated travel budget. This year we will see corporate travel managers choosing the lowest possible airfare, fewer hotel room upgrades and capped spending on per diem allowances. Innovative payment technologies such as the prepaid CSI globalVCard, a single-use electronic payment credit card, is helping Canadian corporate travel managers across the country set parameters and keep employees well within their spending allowances. Furthermore, these single use credit cards will facilitate payment for millennials, the largest growing demographic to enter the workforce, many of which do not already carry credit.
Tighter Security, Stricter Travel Policies
In light of recent global events, traveller security is high on the radar and companies are reviewing Duty of Care policies to ensure that any potential gaps are addressed. Companies will also be stricter in implementing travel policies, from booking with approved vendors to establishing protocols to mitigate any potential risks when travelling to high-risk destinations, or engaging with "new entrant" vendors that are classified as non-traditional.
Millennials Changing The Market
Millennial business travellers are changing the travel industry every day. As early adopters of social media and mobile app technology, they are putting the pressure on companies to become more digitalized in everything from hotel travel apps to on-demand car service. The app industry is growing at a rapid pace and we can expect to see more travel related apps coming out of woodwork over the next year.
Business Traveller By Day, Foodie By Night
We see a growing foodies trend across Canada. In addition to a serious interest in what ends up on their plate, foodies are constantly looking for new culinary experiences. Business travellers like most clientele have adopted the foodie trend and the hospitality industry is responding quickly! Hotel restaurants are adapting their offer, often including locally sourced ingredients that are sustainably produced.
Integrating Wellness And Health Into The Guest Experience
An increasing number of travellers are focused on maintaining their health-conscious lifestyles while on the road. Hotels are responding with programs, new menus, amenities and services like gyms, yoga classes, or even providing workout gear to guests. Furthermore, hotels are now taking measures to respond to the growing health focus of their guests. For example, some hotels are equipping their suites with air purification devices to ensure that guests with allergies and asthma breathe more easily.
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Although being stuck with a layover can be frustrating, you'll likely end up playing the waiting game at the airport at some point during your travels. What you do with that layover depends entirely on how much time you have and how far away the airport is from all the action (i.e., downtown).
Whether you're stuck for three hours, six hours, 10 hours or overnight, we're here to help see you through the wait. Here's Cheapflights.ca's guide to passing the time during layovers at some of Canada's major airports.
Toronto Pearson International
Image: TravelingOtter, Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
If you have three hours: If you happen to end up with three hours to kill at Pearson your best bet is to stay at the airport. Three hours just isn't enough time to leave and come back without missing your connecting flight, but there are things to do. In both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 there are plenty of opportunities to shop, eat and drink. Your best bet is to download the Toronto Pearson app to get terminal maps to help guide you.
If you have six hours: It's possible to leave the airport during a six-hour layover, but it'll be a tight squeeze. The Union Pearson Express can get you downtown to Union Station in around 25 minutes and they offer a "long layover" round trip fare of $27.50 that can be purchased online. Once you're at Union, the closest attractions to choose from include the Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower and Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. If you don't want to risk missing your connection, a six-hour lounge pass will run you $70, but you'll have access to flat screen TVs, comfy chairs, hot food options and drinks (including booze).
If you have 10 hours: A 10-hour layover in Toronto is more than enough time to go forth and enjoy the many sights and attractions the city has to offer. Take the aforementioned Union Pearson Express or a taxi into downtown and do some exploring. The attractions mentioned above are all good options, but in addition, you can also add a brewery tour of Steam Whistle Brewing to your list, as well as a walk around St. Lawrence Market, where you can also stop for something to eat. You might also want to consider a walk down to the waterfront, which is easily done from Union Station (about a 10 to 12-minute walk), depending on weather.
Overnight: There is some armrest-free seating to be found at most gates, which is probably your best bet for at least attempting to get comfortable without waking up with a weird cramp. Or, if you prefer to pull an all-nighter rather than contort yourself into a suitable sleeping position, there are some Starbucks open until 4:30 a.m. to fuel you.
Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International
Image: abdallahh, aéroport de Montréal via Flickr CC BY 2.0
If you have three hours: Three hours at Montreal-Trudeau International isn't enough time to leave, so you'll have to occupy yourself at the airport. Luckily, there are many shops, bars and restaurants where you can spend your time. Buy a magazine and sidle up to the bar for a drink at Six Pints or a coffee at Starbucks, shop some duty-free at The Loop or treat yourself to some time at the spa.
If you have six hours: A six-hour layover is tricky. You can get downtown via the 24-hour 747 bus, which takes between 45 minutes to an hour. So that won't leave you a ton of time to explore, especially considering you'll need enough time to go back through security. But, if you're interested, the bus will put you at Berri-UQAM métro station, where you can explore the immediate area or hop the subway to Old Montreal, which is a beautiful spot to wander. If you're short on time, stick to Saint-Paul Street, one of the most picturesque streets in Old Montreal. Alternatively, you can while away the hours in the National Bank World MasterCard Lounge.
If you have 10 hours: A 10-hour layover is more than enough time to head out and explore some of what Montreal has to offer. A jaunt to Old Montreal (as mentioned above) is a must and if you have a few hours you can see more without having to rush. In addition, you can visit the Basilique Notre-Dame, eat a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz's or Lester's, get a bagel from St. Viateur and check out the Jean-Talon or Atwater market.
Overnight: Getting some shuteye at the Montreal airport might not be easy. Do your best, or at least try to caffeinate enough that you don't need to sleep. Failing that, maybe book a room at an airport hotel. These are the ones with airport shuttle service.
Image: Joshua Ganderson, untitled via Flickr CC BY 2.0
If you have three hours: Like the other airports in our guide, when it comes to leaving with only three hours at your disposal, you likely won't want to risk it. The Vancouver International Airport does have a convenient link direct to downtown but, because security lines can be unpredictable, it's best to stay put. However, all is not lost -- there's lots to see, do and eat while you wait.
If you have six hours: With six hours on hand you can definitely make a break for it. The Canada Line links YVR to downtown Vancouver in just 26 minutes and to downtown Richmond in 18 minutes, so you have your pick of sightseeing options. Getting off at Richmond-Brighouse Station, five stops from YVR, puts you close to Richmond Art Gallery, Gateway Theatre, pretty Minoru Park and the shopping and dining of Richmond Centre.
If you have 10 hours: Ten hours to kill? Even better. OK, not necessarily better, but you will have ample time to discover Vancouver. Hop on the Canada Line and get off at the Vancouver City Centre stop where you'll have access to Vancouver Art Gallery, shopping on Robson Street, heritage buildings along Georgia Street and shopping at Pacific Centre Mall, not to mention restaurants and bars.
Overnight: According to "The Guide to Sleeping in Airports", YVR nabbed fifth spot for best airport to sleep in for 2014 based on an annual survey. So that should be comforting if you're forced to bed down between flights. The site recommends the armrest free seating found at the gates as a good sleeping option
Overnight at the airport: How to stay (reasonably) sane
Image: Morag Riddell, apr9_13 via Flickr CC BY 2.0
If you've ever tried to sleep at an airport, even a nice one, you know you're up for a challenge. The average airport isn't exactly built to cater to people looking for a good night's rest. In fact, you might say airports are the opposite of comfort if you have to be in them for more than a few hours. That being said, it's still possible to grab a modicum of shut-eye at the airport. Here are some tips for doing so -- without losing your sanity in the process.
Wear layers: Many airports tend to have the thermostat set to "meat locker", so some extra padding is essential for not freezing while trying to sleep.
Use ear plugs: Airport announcements are LOUD. Don't let someone else's flight announcement get in the way of your beauty sleep. But you may want to set a vibrating alarm if you'll need a reminder of your own boarding time.
Create a makeshift bed: Use whatever you have -- jackets, sweatshirts, underwear -- pile it all into a cocoon-like nest that will be way more comfortable than whatever hard-as-concrete surface you've found to call a temporary home.
Caffeinate: You do not want to be that guy who misses his flight because he was fast asleep at gate 47C. Do not be that guy.
Hide out: Find the remotest, quietest corner that you can to camp out in, especially if you're saddled down with all of your stuff.
Use the buddy system: If you're travelling with someone, sleep in shifts so that someone is always keeping watch over the bags.
Read up on how to pass time at more airports across Canada at Cheapflights.ca.