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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    While these animals may not star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio anytime soon, nor likely to be chosen as supporting cast for the next Disney blockbuster, they're still in need of attention. These are threatened species -- some due to hunting, others to habitat loss from industrialization. Today, travelers are digging in to preserve their future, and giving them a much needed turn in the spotlight.

    The Amazon's Pink River Dolphin:
    Credit: Earthwatch

    The vast, relatively untouched Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru harbour an incredible diversity of wildlife. Pink river dolphins and caimans still swim these waters, while extraordinary birds species colour the canopy above. In this remote and isolated region of the Amazon, Earthwatch scientists are working with travelers to conduct a comprehensive survey of the area's biodiversity to develop sustainable conservation strategies for the region and the people who inhabit it. Illegal timber companies, pet traders, and hunters have decimated wildlife in other areas of the Amazon, lending urgency to the conservation of these nearly pristine reserves.

    The Echidna's of Australia:
    Credit: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

    This is an opportunity of a lifetime, assisting with native Australian wildlife in a remarkable sanctuary setting. The main focus of the Currumbin Sanctuary is to protect the welfare of native wildlife. Sick, injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife receive medical treatment and a new lease on life. Residents include echidnas, wombats, koalas, bobtails, quendas, and red kangaroos.

    The Sun Bears of Cambodia:
    Credit: Free the Bears

    Conservation travelers are helping care for over 150 bears (Malayan sun bears and Asiatic black bears) and using their free time to explore Cambodia. By investing at the Centre, travelers are making a major contribution to the welfare of bears in Asia. Their time and efforts help to care for the bears, and the majority of the program costs provide essential sources of funding for their future sustainability. On a personal level, conservation travelers with Free the Bears have a unique opportunity to work alongside some incredible animals and gain the satisfaction of helping to make a difference to the lives of these animals.

    The Gelada Baboon of Ethiopia:

    Credit: Natural Habitat Adventures

    Atop the Ethiopian Highlands, you perch on the very roof of Africa. This vast high-altitude plateau is one of the world's most dramatic landscapes. It's also home to rare endemic wildlife such as walia ibex, mountain nyala, Ethiopian wolf and the gelada baboon. These are at-risk and threatened species due to hunting and habitat loss, and the award-winning Natural Habitat Adventures offers expeditions that invest in the sustainability of the region.

    The White-lipped Peccaries of Brazil:
    Credit: Kaya Responsible Travel

    Work on a conservation project in the Pantanal with Kaya Responsible Travel and help protect the white-lipped peccary from extinction. White-lipped peccaries (WLPs) are wide-ranging, fruit-eating ungulates that form large herds in Neotropical forests. The herds strongly affect forest biodiversity via fruit predation and dispersal, and WLPs are important prey for jaguar and humans. Throughout its range, local extinctions have occurred due to habitat fragmentation and hunting. The multi-disciplinary nature of the project makes it ideal for enthusiastic volunteers to engage with conservation issues surrounding Brazil's critically endangered Cerrado ecosystem.

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    2016-02-29-1456764678-5851402-MiriamandNoahTorontosign.JPG Photo: Miriam Porter

    Growing up in Toronto I can attest to its thriving Jewish community. Not only is Toronto a great place for locals, it's truly a special destination as a Jewish tourist. In fact, half of Toronto's population was born outside of Canada, so it's fitting that Toronto's motto is "Diversity is our Strength."

    Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with more than 140 languages and dialects spoken and a population of close to three million people. According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Toronto is home to Canada's largest Jewish population with approximately 200,000 Jews living in the Greater Toronto Area. If you want to be immersed in unique Jewish culture and explore all that Jewish Toronto has to offer, pack your bags and come on down!

    Porter Airlines flies direct to Toronto from many major U.S. and Canadian cities, arriving at the city island airport versus Toronto's main airport hub -- so you are right downtown in the heart of Toronto upon landing.

    The airport is connected to the mainland by ferries (a 90-second ride) and a tunnel where you can zoom along a moving sidewalk towards the city. If you fly into Pearson International Airport from one of the many airlines you can take the new convenient UP Express downtown to Union Station.

    Ashkenaz Festival

    Not far from the world famous CN Tower is the Harbourfront Centre. Located on 10 acres along the shores of Lake Ontario, it's a non-profit cultural organization with events for the whole family rotating seasonally. They have original vendors, music, films, and cultural festivals; including the Ashkenaz Festival -- one of the biggest showcases of Jewish culture and music in the world. It was created to profile Yiddish and Klezmer music and has grown over time to offer Jewish cultural arts, traditions of Eastern Europe, Sephardic, Mizrachi and Israeli culture. The next Ashkenaz Festival takes place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, 2016.

    Jewish Film Festival

    While on the theme of Jewish entertainment, Toronto has a Jewish Film Festival. Watching movies are a great way to learn about Jewish culture, identity, and diversity. The next festival is May 5 to15, 2016 and will feature original films with Jewish themes about the past, present and future and an ideal way for all cultural backgrounds to learn about Jewish culture.

    Jewish Music Week

    Get ready to sing your favourite Jewish songs or learn some new ones at Jewish Music Week from May 29 to June 5, 2016. There are concerts, recitals and musical events throughout the city. These lively events include Sephardic and Klezmer music, Israeli pop, Jazz, folk, gospel, Yiddish theater and more! Daytime events are free and money raised from most evening concerts benefit Toronto charities.

    Hungry yet?

    Toronto's got you covered for authentic and tasty food and diversity comes through in restaurants too. If you keep kosher you can check out multiple restaurants along historic Bathurst Street, including an exceptional place for kosher sushi take-out hiding in the back of Richmond's Kosher Bakery (4119 Bathurst St). As a kid, I grew up going to United Bakers (not kosher, but no meat) and it has a very Jew-ish feel to it, complete with Bubbie and Zadies eating there regularly. My personal favourites are the plethora of restaurants serving up healthy vegan food and are ideal if you don't consume animal products or are looking for meat-free dining. You can easily find them scattered throughout the city such as Fresh, Vegetarian Haven and Urban Herbivore.

    A Hotel that gives Tzedakah (Hebrew for 'charity')

    After a busy day you will want a cozy place to sleep and the Chelsea Hotel Toronto is perfect. Located downtown, it's Canada's largest hotel and great for families. It's the hotel my son and I choose every summer for our annual "stay-cation" getaway. He loves the 130-foot corkscrew waterslide and the games in the Family Fun Zone, not to mention the adorable rabbits that call this unique hotel home. I have always been impressed with the Chelsea's commitment to Tzedakah and giving back to the community through their support of SickKids Foundation. In 2014 they presented $90,000 dollars to the Foundation to help patients at Toronto's world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children.

    Historical Synagogues

    Should you be staying at the Chelsea over Shabbat and want to attend synagogue, you can walk to Kensington Market. The Anshei Minsk Synagogue in Kensington is the last remaining downtown Orthodox Shul, which began around 1916. Kensington is considered one of the best street markets in Canada and has a feel for all things trendy, alternative, and old school, mixed together. During the 1920s this was a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood and now represents people of all backgrounds and cultures -- a perfect example of Toronto's motto.

    If you are looking for more background on Toronto's Jewish culture while in town, check out the Holocaust Museum and Memorial at the Holocaust Education Centre and the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, which hosts a permanent photography exhibit of Toronto's first synagogues.

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    Gone are the days of uncomfortable metal cots and tattered rented towels. No more slipping gingerly into sketchy sheets - hostels are stepping up their game, appealing to the more sophisticated jet-setter. The posh hostel (or '¬poshtel') is here to stay. With the rise in demand for fancier digs, many hostels now provide high-end toiletries, afternoon wine tastings and sheets with an actual thread-count. Think non-conventional, boutique amenities at hostel prices. With both private and shared options, these hostels aren't just for the youthful backpacker; according to Hostelling International's 2014 Annual Report, 65.4% of their members are over 40, and international chain Generator Hostels notes the number of guests over 35 is on a meteoric rise.

    Take the hostility out of hostel and book one of these poshtels in 2016.

    The Independente Collective, Lisbon, Portugal


    What once was built to be the Swiss ambassador's residence is now an adult-only hostel in Lisbon. The décor is fluid and modern with muted colours contributing to the relaxing atmosphere of this art-deco mansion. While this poshtel pointedly has no pool or spa, the free Portuguese-style breakfast, wine tastings and private balconies above a trendy restaurant scream luxe relaxation off the beaten tourist path.

    Freehand Miami, Miami, United States


    Soak up rays by the pool of this restored 1930s art-deco hotel, and sip on cocktails crafted in the James Beard nominated bar, a two block walk from the beach. This hostel offers both private and shared accommodations artfully decorated with bright colours, local original artwork, lush linens, and most importantly air-conditioning. Amenities like yoga classes, free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast are the norm for all guests, a third of which are over 30 years old.
    Their Chicago sister opened in the fall of 2015 and is adorned with dark wood trim and chic private rooms.

    Generator Paris, Paris, France


    The views of Sacré-Cœur from the rooftop terrace of this 10th arrondissment poshtel rival any 5-star property in Paris. Private terrace rooms come with hammocks, free sparkling water in the mini-bar and toiletries for a hotel feel that compliments the hostel conveniences like 24-hour laundry and €5 breakfast.
    If the city of lights isn't on your bucket list this year, this hip chain has fancy hostels in Barcelona, Copenhagen and half a dozen other destination European cities.

    The Hat Madrid, Madrid, Spain


    This design-centric poshtel is less than a 5-minute walk from the Plaza Mayor with modern functional design, light and airy private guestrooms and the Cave, which features local art exhibitions. The free breakfast buffet serves fresh fruit and hot coffee daily in typical hotel fashion, while the €9 airport shuttle caters to business travellers and backpackers alike.

    Kex, Reykjavik, Iceland


    This quirky Reykjavik poshtel resides in an old biscuit factory with retro accents and a distinctly cool feel. Sip on coffee (or a local lager) in the lofty restaurant or heated outdoor patio, or hole up on a chilly night in rooms with fluffy duvets. Those needing a haircut don't have to stray far - there's a 3rd generation barber in the corner of the lobby in the vintage-inspired Raxtur.

    Gallery Hostel, Porto, Portugal


    A self-described 'luxury hostel', the Gallery Hostel is housed in a 1906 refurbished home with an ever-changing art gallery. With the kindly staff giving free walking tours of the surrounding Miguel Bombarda neighbourhood, free breakfast and private rooms with garden views there's nothing hostile about this poshtel.

    Slo Living Hostel, Lyon, France


    Sleeping bags are forbidden at this poshtel, housed in the centre of the gastronomic capital of France, with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for €5 full of local breads, cheeses and meats. The design is minimal yet thoughtful, as sunshine spills into airy guestrooms through floor to ceiling French doors opening onto the shared terrace.

    PLUS Berlin Hostel and Hotel, Berlin, Germany


    There are no shared bathrooms at this large central Berlin poshtel. Cool, minimalist design characterizes the guestrooms that come with fresh linens and free Wi-Fi. The moody indoor swimming pool and sauna will relax even the weariest of travellers, and a lush garden furnishes the large central courtyard in the middle of this Friedrichshain district retreat.

    City Circus, Athens, Greece


    Mid-century furniture, contemporary murals and bright open spaces define this modern bohemian mansion, situated a 15-minute walk from the Acropolis. This poshtel garners all the expected amenities like free Wi-Fi and complimentary continental, as well as ergonomic mattresses, soundproofing and spectacular views from the rooftop terrace.

    Bunk Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey


    Situated in the modern Soho-like neighbourhood of Beyoglu, guests of this poshtel wake up to elaborately painted ceilings, marble bathrooms and free Turkish breakfast. The rooftop terrace has expansive city views, and amenities like hair straighteners and free Wi-Fi are steps away from the bustle of this chic area.

    Gabby Peyton is a Travelzoo Deal Expert based in Toronto. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.

    -- 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.

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    With the 150th birthday of Canada on the horizon and the buying power of the loonie stronger at home than many other places, domestic travel has moved up the agenda for many Canadians. And given the diversity of the country's almost 10 million square kilometres, there is certainly no shortage of places to explore.

    So, what destinations are catching Canadian travellers' interest? On the hunt for some emerging hot spots, took a peek at places that are seeing the biggest spikes in travel searches. Comparing flight searches for Canadian destinations in the first six weeks of 2016 versus the same window in 2015 shows significant increased interest in some traditional tourist towns, namely Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. However, the data also reveals that Canadians are going off the beaten path, with these five spots leading our list of "rising star" destinations.

    Kelowna, British Columbia

    Image: Loriane, Zachary, Agnès & Nicolas, IMG_2607 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Just recently Kelowna was named the fastest growing city in British Columbia and fifth fastest growing city in Canada, proving that word continues to spread about the charms of this lakefront destination. Dry and sunny by Canadian standards, Kelowna and the surrounding Okanagan Valley are a sprawl of blue water, rolling hills and big sky. The city sits on the eastern shore of the 110-kilometre-long Okanagan Lake, which has more than 30 beaches and water sport options to suit every taste. The valley is also home to dozens of vineyards, many with award-winning wines, and rich farmland that make fresh, local food and farm-to-table dining a way of life. Finally, for the snow lovers, sun and champagne powder are the standard winter forecast for the valley. And, whether you want downhill, heli-skiing, cross-country, snowshoeing or snowmobiling, there's a resort waiting for you.

    Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

    Image: Hideyuki KAMON, Northern Lights @ Aurora Village via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Admittedly, Yellowknife is a bit extreme as a destination. This former gold rush town is just a few hundred kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. Yet, with nearly 24 hours of sun in the height of summer and a sky full of northern lights in the winter, it draws visitors year round with an upswing underway. Winter adventures include ice fishing and dog sledding, while summertime is for hiking, birding, canoeing and fishing. Remote and scenic, there is seemingly endless backcountry for the hearty to explore, and lakes and streams loaded with pike, walleye, trout and more. The region has a storied history centred around fur, gold and diamonds, as well as an aboriginal culture that remains strong. This rich history and heritage is on display throughout the Yellowknife area as well, adding a cultural thread to any visit.

    Whitehorse, Yukon

    Image: Matt Boulton, Whitehorse via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    Tucked into a valley in the northwest corner of Canada, Whitehorse has long been the hub of the Yukon. Stretched along the Yukon River and the Alaska Highway, the city was a key transit point in the Klondike Gold Rush with steamships, tramlines and, later, railroads serving stampeders. Now the city is an increasingly popular jumping-off point for exploring the largely untouched wilderness of the Yukon. With a number of Canada's tallest mountains and massive ice fields, as well as a rich population of moose, bears and salmon, there is plenty to entertain any nature lover. Explore by raft, mountain bike, car or, of course, foot. The surprisingly mild summers offer as much as 20 hours of daylight for seeing the sights, while the winter is a wonderland of snow, with extensive cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and dog sledding. And don't think the long winter nights aren't filled with entertainment too. With the northern lights, some amazing hot springs and a growing nightlife, Whitehorse has you covered even when the sun doesn't shine.

    Nanaimo, British Columbia

    Image: Jo-in-BC, 2011 via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is arguably a little sister to Vancouver or Victoria, which might just be the reason folks are checking it out. Surrounded by water, the "Harbour City" has a bustling waterfront and a growing art and food scene. An outdoor lover's destination, Nanaimo offers a mix of endless shoreline, easy access to nearby islands and many reasons (and ways) to get out onto the water. The inland attractions are plentiful too, with Mount Benson rising to 1,000 metres just west of town and a network of trails, parks, lakes and rivers to explore. Nanaimo also serves up city fun with a lively shopping, historic and food district (the Old City Quarter) and four floating restaurants. Speaking of floating and fun, one of the city's biggest claims to fame is its annual bathtub race, a four-day festival hosted by the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society every July.

    Banff, Alberta

    Image: InSapphoWeTrust, Banff Avenue, Banff via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    This gateway to Lake Louise and the Rockies is not exactly a secret, off-the-radar destination. The resort has year-round appeal, attracting visitors from around the world. Still it is a pristine mountain escape offering the sizable and scenic Banff National Park (Canada's oldest) as a playground for every season. The Town of Banff, which started out as a stop on the Canadian Pacific Railroad, was built as a tourist town. Even the streets are laid out to maximize the view. Visitors today find plenty to see and do (and eat and drink). The natural beauty and non-stop hospitality of Banff make it a "must-visit" place for an increasing number of Canadians.

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    An Emirates Airbus A380 touched down in New Zealand on Wednesday, completing what is believed to be the world's longest non-stop scheduled commercial flight.

    The service from Dubai to Auckland covered 14,200 kilometres (8,824 miles), according to industry website, pipping Qantas' 13,800-kilometre Sydney-Dallas route launched in 2014.

    It said the route was also the longest in duration, with passengers set to spend 17 hours 15 minutes in the air during the return leg from Auckland to Dubai.

    However, that record is expected to be short-lived because Emirates' upcoming Dubai-Panama City service will take 17 hours 35 minutes when it launches later this month.

    Emirates described it as "one of the longest air routes in the world by distance".

    "But with the assistance of clever technology and good planning, passengers will get to their destination in the shortest possible time," it said.

    "Emirates will be using flexible routes, which can vary by day, taking advantage of tail winds and avoiding head winds to reduce the time in the air."

    The inaugural Dubai-Auckland flight was made by an A380 but the regular service will be carried out using the Boeing 777.

    New Zealand Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the non-stop service, which cuts three hours off current Dubai-Auckland travel times, improved New Zealand's connectivity to the rest of the world.

    "Direct flights will encourage even more trade and tourism between our two countries, by offering more choice to passengers and freight customers," he said.


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    Now this is how everyone should travel.

    Cinematographer Chris Hau travelled to the Azores, a cluster of volcanic islands off the coast of Portugal, and somehow managed to book a round-trip in December for just $325.

    Yes, you read that right.

    Hau booked the trip in the "spur of the moment," after coming across the deal on travel site Kayak. He knew next to nothing about his destination.

    show me the azores

    "We were like, 'What is this place?'" Hau told The Huffington Post Canada in an email. "We looked up a few photos on Google and we're like, 'We should just book it and go!'"

    The Toronto-native explained the flight was "so cheap" partly because it didn't include checked baggage.

    After just a five-hour direct flight from Pearson International Airport with Sata Airlines, Hau and a friend landed in the city of Ponta Delgada, on Dec. 3, 2015.

    During their eight-day adventure, the duo explored the city's architecture and natural landscapes. They also travelled to other places such as Furnas, a town built atop an active volcano, and the city of Angra do Heroísmo, which is a UNESCO heritage site. In a little over a week, they covered two of the region's nine islands.

    Hau, who is known for his travel video series "Show Me," managed to capture the incredible experience on film. The video, posted to Facebook earlier this week, has already been shared more than 3,000 times.

    In the past, the cinematographer has also filmed destinations such as Ireland, and captured life in Canadian cities such as Ottawa, Toronto and Quebec City.

    The Azores islands, as breathtaking as they are visually, are also known for their delicious food.

    show me the azores

    "They are known for some of the best meat in the world," said Hau, explaining it's all bred locally. "They have more cows than people."

    It's not just airfare that was budget-friendly, Hau said the food ranged from four to 15 euros per meal, while a bottle of wine often cost only five euros.

    The duo also managed to score an Airbnb with an ocean view, which cost them only $20 per night. It came with free airport pick up and care packages stuffed with local treats.

    Now that's a steal, but don't take our word for it. Check out the Azores for yourself in Hau's latest "Show Me" video above.

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    Downtown buildings have lots of amenities, like gyms, swimming pools, and rooftop gardens.

    But an outdoor slide? That's new.

    oue los angeles

    The "Skyslide," which is 14 metres long, is made from glass that's just over an inch thick. It's the real attraction of OUE Skyspace LA — an open-air observation deck being planned for the 69th and 70th floors of the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles.

    The deck will provide visitors with a 360-degree view of the city, 305 metres above the ground.

    oue los angeles

    The "Skyslide" will take people from floor 70 down to floor 60, offering unobstructed views of the city above, beside and — gulp — below.

    The Skyslide is expected to open on June 25, but tickets will be on sale later this month.

    One can't help but be reminded of similarly terrifying attractions, like the Glass Mountain Path in China's Shiniuzhai National Geological Park.

    china glass bridge

    china glass suspension bridge

    Or the walkway at China's Yuntai Mountain. Which actually cracked, although no one was hurt.

    Those behind the L.A. project have promised to try the slide ahead of its opening, the Associated Press reported.

    "We’re going to be the ones who actually test the whole thing before it goes public. The risk is on us," spokeswoman Lucy Rumantir said.

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    I suck at travel. I am objectively bad at it.

    How bad? I arrived in Cordoba, Argentina less than a week ago. Since then, I have I almost lit my hand on fire with a gas stove, was chased through the streets by a family of stray dogs and shot myself in the face with a bidet.


    But give me a break; I'm new to this.

    While my Facebook friends spent the last decade casually showing me exotic vistas and #nofilter selfies with delicious meals, I was living at home. Or taking too long to finish university. Or paying off my OSAP while working as a contract journalist. You may recognize many of those scenes from your own life.

    And I don't regret it for a second, because despite what badly Photoshopped and misattributed quotes over pictures of horizons will tell you, you are not "wasting your life" if you're not travelling. There aren't holes in your soul that only a EuroRail pass and an Osprey backpack can fill.

    Travel is a very lovely way to spend your time, but it's also 10 types of privilege rolled into one, and I had made my peace with the idea that I was never going to really travel in a significant way.

    Four months ago, I was accepted into Remote Year, a really cool year-long travel program that I didn't apply for because I was convinced long ago that I wasn't the kind of person who gets to travel.

    I know what that person looks like: They look good in tank tops, can live comfortably out of a backpack for weeks at a time and probably don't count "Borderline Infantile French" as their proud second language.

    I didn't even apply for the program; my best friend entered my name and email for me. Several weeks later, I was in, and suddenly I had to face the reality that I was about to start living the exact type of life I was entirely prepared to never have.

    No Adele album can cover the breadth of emotions I've lived through in preparing for this trip, but I somehow got through it, and now I'm living in Argentina.

    I believe the phrase we're looking for here is "failing upward."

    If having the opportunity to travel is 10 types of privilege, then travelling enough to be good at it is another thing entirely.

    To get good at anything, you need to do it enough times for it to be a one-off. I'm sure that certain types of people are more naturally inclined to be good at travel, but in general, it comes with repetition and practice. The more you see of the world, the more at home you'll be in it as a whole.

    And I hope to be there one day, I really do. In a year, I expect to come back home sporting a full-on Drake Beard, a stylish unisex indoor scarf and the ability to effortlessly weave compelling references to The Argentinian Sunset into casual conversation. I'll be insufferable, I'll be enviable, I'll be the exact mashup of Indiana Jones and The Rock that I've always aspired to be.

    (Sometime this year there I'll put on 30 pounds of muscle. It sounds easy, and I'm pretty sure all of this will sort itself out.)

    But right now, I'm not there. Not even close. And I realized: That's okay. I can't compete with Anthony Bourdain when it comes to being A Travel Guy, because I'm fairly sure he could take me in a straight fistfight if it came down to that.

    So instead, I'll be writing what I do know: An ongoing travel column from someone who has always wanted to travel but got to it really late, and because of that, he kinda really sucks at it. Over the next year, I'll be spending four months each in South America, Europe, and Asia (in that order). I'll spend a month in a different city.

    I speak exactly one language. I brought far too many items, most of them undershirts. I look weird in shorts. To call me "out of shape" would be a cruel insult to the idea of shapes. If I know anything about the cities we're visiting beforehand, it's because of video games or exotic action movies. The first thing I did upon arrival was check to see what Argentina's Netflix situation is like (it's solid).

    I'm not what anyone expects a traveller to look like, but here I am. Travelling. Hopefully it'll wind up being Remotely Interesting.

    Mike Sholars is currently residing in Cordoba, Argentina as he travels the world for a year while working remotely for the
    Huffington Post Canada. Remotely Interesting is his weekly travel column. Follow @sholarsenic on Instagram and Twitter to be assaulted with his bad jokes and shaky photos.

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    OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying until the fall the enforcement of a controversial electronic visa for European citizens and other visa-exempt countries.

    The Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is a new mandatory entry requirement for almost all foreign nationals who don’t normally have to get a visa to come to Canada, such as French, Norwegians and British citizens, who fly or pass through Canada. Americans are exempted, as are those with valid Canadian visas.

    The eTA requires would-be travellers to apply online days before boarding their flight. They must pay a $7 fee and provide the Canadian government with passport and personal information, such as marital status and funds available for the trip, as well as details about any possible criminal records, health problems and any past immigration issues. The eTA, which is in line with similar requirements for the United States, was announced last summer with a long phase-in until becoming mandatory on March 15.

    But foreigners and dual-nationals complained. French Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis took particular issue with the matter, taking his concerns to high-ranking officials in the Canadian government.

    pearson international airport
    The eTA is a mandatory entry requirement for almost all foreign nationals, who didn't need a visa to enter Canada in the past. (Photo: Getty)

    Dual French and Canadian citizens were particularly incensed that they would have to buy a Canadian passport to come to Canada because, Canadian citizens are not allowed to apply for an eTA for use with a foreign passport.

    “Except a passport isn’t free,” one woman identified as Emllie posted on the French consulate’s Facebook page. “They can’t really reject Canadian citizens…?” she wondered.

    When others on Facebook suggested that the government might, she wrote back: “Absurd!”

    “That you have to prove that you are Canadian to enter, whether you are solely Canadian or a bi-national, that seems logical to me,” wrote a man named Ronan Gire. “But I don’t understand why you can’t request an eTA if you are a dual-citizen.”

    On Thursday, the government decided to postpone the enforcement of the eTA until some, unspecified, time in the fall.

    “As of March 15, 2016, eTA is mandatory [and] citizens from countries that do not need a visa to travel to Canada are expected to have an eTA to fly to or transit through Canada,” said Faith St-John, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. But from March 15 until fall 2016, she said, border services officers can let travellers arriving without an eTA into the country, as long as the other requirements to enter Canada are satisfied.

    Critics of the eTA suggest the prior approval system will make it much more difficult for would-be refugees to seek asylum.

    “Once they are on Canadian soil, they have a whole host of rights. They have hearings, they can make a claim, they can go to the refugee board."

    Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the Canadian government had been focused for some time on stopping refugee claims before they arrive on Canadian shores.

    “Once they are on Canadian soil, they have a whole host of rights. They have hearings, they can make a claim, they can go to the refugee board. They can’t just be deported as a matter of course, they have to go through a process,” Paterson said. “[But] you can avoid all those things if you stop people from even getting here.”

    Paterson told The Huffington Post Canada that he hoped the leniency period would give the government pause and make it consider whether implementing this program contravened Canada’s international commitment under the UN’s refugee convention.

    New system to enhance security

    Ottawa says the eTA will enhance the safety and security of Canadians and “strengthen the integrity of the immigration program.”

    Between 2012–2013, 7,055 visa-exempt foreign nationals were denied admission when they arrived at a Canadian airport, according to government records. Twenty-eight individuals with prior removal orders were found trying to return to Canada without proper authorization.

    “Had there been a mechanism in place to verify the status of these foreign nationals, it would have been known that they likely would have presented admissibility concerns prior to their arrival at a Canadian air port of entry,” the eTA’s regulatory impact analysis statement notes.

    Refusals can be made on several grounds: membership in terrorist organizations or organized crime groups; espionage; participation in war crimes or crimes against humanity; international human rights violations; criminal records; or dangerous public health cases, such as tuberculosis.

    In 2011, the Canadian government announced it would introduce the eTA as part of a plan to harmonize entry requirements with the United States through the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The government said at the time that the electronic travel authorization would make it easier to identify “inadmissible persons and stop them from travelling to this country, rather than waiting to deal with them only once they are on Canadian soil.”

    Requirement could affect Canadian tourism

    Beyond security concerns, the government said deporting individuals back to their point of departure was also costly for taxpayers and the airlines.

    It did note in 2014, however, that the eTA could significantly affect the travel and tourism sectors in Canada. Visa-exempt travellers, excluding U.S. citizens, represent approximately 74 per cent of the foreign nationals who arrive in Canada by air, government records show.

    The cost of implementing the program, from 2015 to 2024, is expected to be $173.6 million, with the government projecting benefits to be worth $174.7 million — mostly recouped from the $7 fee.

    The eTA is good for five years or as long as one’s passport doesn’t expire. The Canadian government says eTA applications should be accepted within a few minutes, and if more time is needed to process an application, the citizenship department will email the applicant within 72 hours outlining next steps.

    The Canadian government also notes that any biometrics requested as part of the eTA application, such as fingerprints, may be shared with the RCMP, other law enforcement agencies in Canada and foreign governments.

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    Photo credit: clurr

    Imagine a travel destination with beautiful beaches. Do places like the Bahamas, Hawaii and Bali may come to mind?

    Your mind probably doesn't wander to the small Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka. This rugged yet charming island south of India is loaded with sacred cities, ancient Buddhist ruins and beaches that will impress even the most well-traveled beach bums.

    Sri Lanka's beaches are some of the most picturesque on the Asian continent, and the following are seven that every travelLer must visit on their first trip to the country formerly known as Ceylon.

    Tangalle Beach

    Photo credit: clurr

    One of the best parts of exploring Sri Lanka's beaches is the adventure you experience getting to each one. Tangalle Beach is hidden on the island's southern coast, and venturing beyond the towns of Galle and Matara will lead you to sandy nooks between large boulders and bending palm trees. Tangalle Beach looks like a place you'd find on a postcard, and you can stay among the beauty in one of many affordable bungalows, resorts and hotels.


    The golden sand and lush palms of Uppuveli are enough to draw you into the coastal town, but the laid-back atmosphere and serene, undeveloped feel are what will make you want to stay forever. Few places remain around the world where you can lounge on the sand in the shade of a palm tree without another soul in sight, and Uppuveli, found just 6 km northeast of Trincomalee, is one of them.


    Photo credit: Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement

    The coastal town and beaches of Koggala are located just a short tuk tuk ride from bustling Galle and the historic Galle Fort. The long, golden sand beach backed by coconut palms and a small smathering of resorts is ideal for beachcombers, swimmers, surfers, snorkelers and all water sports enthusiasts. Koggala is known for its stilt fishermen, who fish while perched on single poles emerging from the breaking waves. The stilt fishermen combined with Koggala's famed sunsets make for unbeatable photo opportunities.


    Within an hour of your arrival at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport you can be sipping a cold Lion beer with your toes in the Indian Ocean at Negombo Beach. Negombo is known for its strip of restaurants, shops, bars and live bands that turn the coastline into a happening place to be any day of the week. However, the orange sunsets, cartoonish palm trees and golden sands make it an ideal place to dive into the beauty of Sri Lanka's beaches before continuing to other destinations.


    Photo credit: Indi Samarajiva

    Unawatuna is one of Sri Lanka's most happening beaches, and while it provides a bit of a spring break vibe, you won't be able to resist the town's infectious feeling of relaxation. The beach's hip town, where you can dine on everything from Sri Lankan rote to hamburgers and iced mochas, is just steps from a turquoise bay that screams "paradise." The waters are calm and ideal for swimming, and although the beach is slowly eroding, you won't find a shortage of places to hang out on the sand, including a multitude of bars and restaurants on stilts overlooking the sea.

    Passekudah Bay

    Travellers who make it to the east coast destination of Passekudah Bay have likely traveled long hours by car, bus or train. However, anyone who makes it to Passekudah will be rewarded with some of Sri Lanka's most picturesque beaches and waters that were made for swimming. The bay's flat, shallow bed allows swimmers to wade roughly 200 metres from shore without drifting too deep. The baby blue waters, sugary sand and cartoonish palm trees are enough to make all of your friends and family back home jealous.

    Arugam Bay

    Photo credit: Sylvester S.

    Arugam Bay has become famous for its surfing waves, which are best between the months of April and October. However, if the waves are flat or you visit in the off-season, you'll still fall in love with the soft sand and tropical feel of the moon-shaped bay. Even better, Arugam Bay offers several oceanfront resorts and beachside guesthouses that can quickly turn even the most serious city dwellers into well-tanned beach bums.

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  • 03/04/16--11:58: Top Small Towns In Canada
  • You've probably heard of -- or even been to -- Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary. When Canadians or international travellers plan a trip to Canada, they tend to choose these and other major cities as travel destinations. However, the Great White North offers far more than these metropolitan cities.

    With the Canadian dollar continuing to decrease, this list of 50 small towns in Canada would make a great option for a family, a couple or even a group of friends. These destinations can easily be explored as a weekend getaway or simply hopping on a quick flight.

    Dawson Creek, BC

    Photo credit: Unknown

    Town's Best Features

    The Dawson Creek community is known for its rich history and is loaded with heritage and historic sites. It's the Mile "0" site for the Alaska Highway and is home to some of the last remaining original structures of the highway.

    Why should people visit Dawson Creek?

    Visitors should head to Dawson Creek for its hiking trails, which wind through meadows and mountain ranges to waterfalls. Travelers who enjoy spending plenty of time outside on lakes or trails will love the natural serenity Dawson Creek provides.

    Dawson Creek Fun Fact

    Dawson Creek's Kiskatinaw Bridge is one of the Alaska Highway's last remaining original structures.

    What's an attraction in your town that every visitor must see/do?

    Every visitor should spend time camping, fishing or bird watching at some of Dawson Creek's provincial parks, including Kiskatinaw, One Island Lake and Swan Lake.

    Website: Tourism Dawson Creek

    Camrose, AB

    Photo credit 1: WinterE229

    Town's Best Features

    Camrose is often praised for its hospitable community, a gorgeous parks system and some of the best recreational facilities in the country.

    Why Should People Visit Camrose?

    Anyone who likes to spend much of their vacation outside will fall in love with Camrose. The city offers an array of outdoor skating rinks, golf courses and parks that will make you feel like you're lightyears away from downtown. Although, visitors are always just minutes from Camrose's 27 unique downtown boutiques.

    Camrose Fun Fact

    Camrose is situated among some of Alberta's richest prairies and farmland.

    What's an attraction in your city/town that every visitor must see/do?

    Every visitor should spend plenty of time dining, shopping and admiring Camrose's charming downtown district.

    Website:Toursim Camrose

    Nipawin, SK

    Photo credit 1 : Henning Norris

    Town's Best Features

    Nipawin is known as "Saskatchewan's Playground," and its best features are those that can be found outdoors -- scenic campsites, pristine golf courses, and lakes for fishing, boating and nearly any watersport you can imagine.

    Why should people visit Nipawin?

    Nipawin is a place to visit for non-stop fun. Visitors can spend long days outside hunting, fishing, boating and hiking or explore some of Nipawin's locally famous restaurants, museums and shops. There's something for everyone in this small, outdoorsy Saskatchewan town.

    Nipawin Fun Fact

    The famed "Old CPR Bridge" was built in 1928. Before the bridge was constructed, settlers crossed the waterway on a cable-guided ferry.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Every visitor should spend at least a day out on Tobin Lake or Codette Lake. Boats can be rented from the local resorts and rental companies at most times of year.

    Website: Nipawin, SK

    The Pas, MB

    Photo credit 1:

    Town's Best Features

    The Pas is known as one of the oldest settlements in northern Manitoba, and it's home to one of few true blue lakes in the world. It's the area's striking natural beauty that draws in visitors at all times of year.

    Why should people visit The Pas?

    There's no doubt you can spend days admiring The Pas' natural beauty, but you'll want to get out and enjoy it too. This progressive community makes an ideal homebase for hunting, fishing and other outdoor excursions.

    The Pas Fun Fact

    The Northern Lights can be seen year-round in The Pas.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    If possible, plan your visit around one of The Pas' famous annual events, the Trapper's Festival, the Opasquia Indian Days, the Agricultural Fair or one of many others.

    Website: The Pas

    Bracebridge, ON

    Photo credit: Unknown

    Town's Best Features

    Bracebridge celebrates the "Art of Muskoka Living" and will win you over with its small town charm. Manitoba Street is one of the town's best features, offerin a place for locals and visitors to catch up with a cup of coffee, shop or dine.

    Why should people visit Bracebridge?

    Bracebridge is a place to escape the stresses of everyday life and get outside on the lakes and trails (whether snowy or sunny), dine at some fabulous restaurants featuring locally produced fare and enjoy some amazing and unique festivals that embody the iconic Muskoka lifestyle.

    Bracebridge Fun Fact

    Bracebridge is location on the 45th parallel.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Visit in the summer or over the Christmas season and you must see Santa's Village, a Christmas village attracting more than 80,000 visitors each year.

    Website: Visit Bracebridge

    Saint Alexis Des Mont, QC

    Photo credit 1: flickr

    Town's Best Features

    Saint Alexis Des Monts' location is what makes it so undeniably special. It's easy to pass days, weeks or months exploring the Laurentian Mountains on foot, bike, cross-country skis or snowshoes.

    Why should people visit Saint Alexis Des Mont?

    Saint Alexis Des Monts will likely be one of the most beautiful places you'll ever visit. You'll find it difficult to leave the stunning Laurentian Mountain scenery, historic town, and the area's never-ending, natural outdoor playground.

    Saint Alexis Des Mont Fun Fact

    Saint Alexis Des Monts depends heavily on outdoor tourism. In fact, the town's seasonal population grows by nearly 10,000 because of its ideal mountain location.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Saint Alexis Des Monts is known for its variety of luxurious spas. Spend a day at the Geos Spa Sacacomie or the Serenita Spa Auberge to ease your muscles after days of adventure in the Laurentian Mountains.

    Riverview, NB


    Town's Best Features

    Riverview is a scenic town along the Petitcodiac River. The town's numerous parks, annual festivities and recreational centers make it an ideal place for families or anyone seeking a fun-packed getaway with plenty of time spent outside.

    Why should people visit Riverview?

    Riverview is New Brunswick's fifth largest municipality, which makes it the perfect place for Canadians who are seeking a little more. It's loaded with renowned restaurants, countless parks, a long list of annual events, trails, shops, galleries and plenty of things to do for visitors of all ages.

    Riverview Fun Fact

    Riverview possesses one of Canada's seven Nav Canada control centers, which serve air traffic over Prince Edward Island, eastern Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Hike the Riverfront Trail, which winds along the Petitcodiac River and is a hotspot for seeing waterfowl and other local wildlife.

    Website: Town of Riverview

    Summerside, PEI


    Town's Best Features

    Summerside is the second largest city in Prince Edward Island, which means there is a long list of things to do on your visit. The happening boardwalk, plentiful shopping centers, award-winning restaurants, and endless list of ocean activities make it a must-visit PEI town.

    Why should people visit Summerside?

    Summerside is a place to experience Prince Edward Island to the fullest. The fresh-caught seafood and stunning ocean views are reason enough to spend several days in this hip, artsy and historic seaside town.

    Summerside Fun Fact

    The Summerside Raceway is believed to be Canada's oldest operating race track. It opened in 1886.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Catch a show at the Harbourfront Theatre, a theatre that has been known to attract some of the world's best entertainers. The oceanside boardwalk is also a must-visit place for some of Summerside's most scenic shopping and dining.

    Website: Explore Summerside

    Yarmouth, NS


    Town's Best Features

    Yarmouth's place as one of the most happening towns on the Bay of Fundy means visitors enjoy an endless list of things to do. The natural scenery and easy ocean access are the town's best features, offering a multitude of on and off-water outdoor activities.

    Why should people visit Yarmouth?

    Yarmouth is a place for seafood lovers and ocean enthusiasts. Days can easily be spent dining at world-class seafood restaurants, exploring main street, gawking at cruise ships and discovering historic Bay of Fundy homes.

    Yarmouth Fun Fact

    Yarmouth is located among the world's largest lobster fishing grounds.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Take a kayaking tour with an experienced and knowledgeable guide to discover Yarmouth from a different angle.

    Website: Town of Yarmouth

    Labrador City, NL

    Photo credit 1, 2 and 3: Neil and Kathy Carey

    City's Best Features

    Labrador City's best features are its natural ones. The small town in western Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its surrounding nature, which is ideal for hiking, hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and countless other outdoor activities for every season.

    Why Should People Visit Labrador City?

    Visitors are welcomed with open arms in Labrador City. The local businesses all wish to share their piece of paradise and help you relax among some of Newfoundland and Labrador's most stunning scenery.

    Labrador City Fun Fact

    Labrador City is the Iron Ore Capital of Canada.

    What's an attraction in your city/town that every visitor must see/do?

    Website:Town of Labrador

    Watson Lake, YK


    Town's Best Features

    Watson Lake is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. However, the town's impressive Northern Lights museum, Mt. Maichen Ski Hill and cool downtown area offer a little bit of something for every type of traveler.

    Why should people visit Watson Lake?

    Visitors should head to Watson Lake to admire the stunning Aurora Borealis displays and discover all of the science and folklore associated with the phenomenon. The town's Northern Lights Center is one of the best places to learn about the Northern Lights in the world, with interactive displays and a state-of-the-art dome.

    Watson Lake, YK Fun Fact

    Watson Lake's famous Signpost Forest features more than 72,000 signs.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    Every visitor must spend a night outside admiring Watson Lake's spectacular Northern Lights displays. And no visit to the town is complete without seeing the incredible, world-famous Signpost Forest.

    Website: Watson Lake

    Inuvik, NWT


    Town's Best Features

    Inuvik lies at the end of the world-famous Dempster Highway and has been welcoming visitors since it was built in 1961 as the hub of the Western Arctic. Located 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, and just 100 kilometres from the Arctic Ocean, the town calls the beautiful Mackenzie Delta home. Whether enjoying summer activities under the midnight sun, or winter activities under the aurora borealis, Inuvik is sure to please everyone.

    Why should people visit Inuvik?

    We are a fully functioning urban area with all the expected amenities of a southern town - except we are in the Arctic!

    Inuvik Fun Fact

    We are the home of the Muskrat Jamboree and the annual reindeer crossing. Each spring, a managed herd of more than 3,000 reindeer make their way from the foothills to cross the frozen Mackenzie River Ice Road near Inuvik on their way to a small island in the Canadian Arctic that serves as their calving grounds.

    What's an attraction every visitor must see/do?

    In winter, drive the ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk (and the Arctic Ocean) - just like the Ice Road Truckers. In the warmer months, take in the local sights - visit the Igloo Church, see the Greenhouse (North America's northernmost commercial greenhouse), play a round of golf and boat through the Mackenzie Delta.

    Destination Inuvik

    Website: Destination Inuvik

    For the full list of Canada's Top 50 Small Towns click here

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    My father tells me stories about growing up in Kashmir. He describes it as a wealth of natural beauty tucked high away in India's north, with unique cuisine and local craftsmanship. While years of political unrest makes this state especially interesting to the curious traveller, much of what he remembers has since been washed away.

    Kashmir is a war-torn territory that is currently split into three main zones: the northwest belongs to Pakistan, India controls the central and southern portion, and the northeast is part of China.

    In the 60s, Kashmiri nationalists tried to form an independent state, and in the midst of political uncertainty, tourism has taken a hit.

    Often dubbed the "Switzerland of India," the valley of Kashmir finds itself between the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. My father would talk of breathtaking mountaintop sceneries paired with an evening view of houseboats on Dal Lake. Towards the end of the summer, lotus flowers would blossom on the floating garden.

    Five years ago he took me to Kashmir. We stood in front of Dal Lake as I closed my eyes and listened to his words, trying to imagine what he saw 50 years ago. When I opened, I was underwhelmed. A lake that was once a popular paradise was reduced to murky waters. The serenity it would once bring now feels eerie.

    While shikaras still mark the water today, environmental deterioration and heavy pollution has stricken Dal Lake. Houseboating was a common choice for visitors to Kashmir. Wealthy artists and movie stars would boast about the luxury and tranquility found here.

    Today, many of those same houseboat hotels are run-down -- the wooden structures are rotting and there is little to no maintenance work being done to improve conditions. Tourists are better advised to stay in hotels and visit the lake by day.

    The state is mainly divided between Hindus and Muslims. The beauty of this heavily disputed territory comes in the form of monuments, textiles and religious shrines which draw influences from rulings of different times.

    While the face of Jammu and Kashmir has changed over the years, the cuisine does not fail to deliver. Traditional cooking is catered to a non-vegetarian palette -- the signature dish is a yoghurt-based lamb curry called yakhni, often paired with white rice and other curried vegetables. Mouth-watering meat dishes are typically followed by kahwa -- a traditional green tea spiced with saffron, cardamom and ginger.

    Kashmir is also the place to get your hands on true pashminas. About a two-hour drive east of Srinagar Airport is the town of Pahalgam. Here, local artisans line the streets selling colorful shawls, carpets and embroidered ponchos. Visitors can ride ponies up to a scenic meadow, known to locals as Baisaran or "Mini Switzerland." Each summer a three-day Hindu pilgrimage leaves from Pahalgam to Chandanwari.

    When we returned from Kashmir my father said it brought him closure. I think that he still closes his eyes today, and imagines the paradise the north once was. The place he left behind looks better than the one he came back to.

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    The highly-anticipated "Fifty Shades Of Grey" sequel, "Fifty Shades Darker," began filming in Vancouver this week — and it sent fans into a tizzy.

    Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan returned to Gastown to get things rolling, reprising their roles as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

    Luke Grimes, Bella Heathcote, and Eric Johnson were also spotted on set. Heathcote plays Leila Williams — Grey's ex-lover — while Grimes plays the millionaire's brother, Elliot.

    Eric Johnson plays Christian Grey's rival, Jack Hyde.

    The cast and crew shot the original movie in Vancouver in 2014. The city's tourism agency even promoted locations used in the film, suggesting that tourists "rub up" against the "sensual spots" the next time they swung through the area.

    A rainy jogging scene shot on the famous Stanley Park Seawall was a particular fan favourite. (We'll leave it to you to check out why.)

    "Fifty Shades Darker" is set for release in 2017.

    Three E's but two of them don't know how to spell their names... @ericjohnson @ericafabs

    A photo posted by E L James (@erikaljames) on

    #fiftyshadesofgrey #cinquentatonsdecinza #christiangrey #jamiedornan

    A photo posted by @only50tons on


    A photo posted by Cinquenta Tons de Cinza - FSOG (@50tonsdegrey) on

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    Need a quick weekend escape? Look no further than Nita Lake Lodge and Opus' Wild Weekend/Clean Living package, which recently provided us with the perfect mix of party time and relaxation.

    First stop was Yaletown's boutique OPUS Hotel, where we were welcomed with a near-constant flow of drinks and an in-room Hangover Kit (complete with Red Bull, a mini Absolut vodka and a "thirst-aid" kit of much needed recovery meds!). On the food front was high end Italian at the hotel's La Pentola (where the wild mushroom risotto was to die for). We started Day Two with brunch at Hawksworth Restaurant (do opt for the seared albacore tuna) then dinner at Glowbal's raw bar.

    Later that night, we put on our party shoes and headed to the OPUS Bar for flirty cocktails like the sweet, fresh "Little Chile" and nightcaps at Vancouver's new underground cocktail lounge, Hello Goodbye.

    The next day, our Hair of the Dog was the pink "Hibiscus Wit" beer on the Vancouver Brewery Tour. (Now that's one girly brew!).




    Once we were all partied out we drove the Sea to Sky highway for some serious chill time at the area's only lakeside property, Nita Lake Lodge. Here we were welcomed with a delicious eggs benny brunch at Cure Lounge & Patio before heading out for fat biking, skiing and snowshoeing with The Adventure Group.

    It wasn't long before we'd worked up an appetite again: good thing fine dining restaurant Christine's on Blackcomb was conveniently located right on the hill! (The breathtaking views didn't hurt, either). Post-ski was another meal at Nita Lake Lodge's Aura Restaurant (hey, a girl needs her energy!).

    Finally, the pièce de résistance: A Kundalini massage and vitamin IV wellness treatment at The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge which restored our nervous system and sent us off into a stress-free oasis. The result: boosted energy for our busy week back in Vancouver.

    Grab your girlfriends and go! -- Krystin Tysire




    The Wild Weekend/Clean Living package runs until April 30th. From $1756 for two people at

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    Spring is the perfect time to start skiing. The weather is milder, the slopes aren't too busy and with softer snow, usually it is easier to learn on.

    To find out the top tips on how newbies can learn how to ski this spring, I spoke with Nick Castagnoli, Brand and Communications Manager, Group Rossignol, NA. Nick shared all the top tips on how a beginner can start skiing this season.

    What are the best ski skills to build on the basic ski skills?

    To be clear I am not a ski instructor.

    I will offer that once a skier has begun finding their balance and gained comfort gliding on mellow terrain while shifting their weight from foot to foot in order to turn - I generally recommend they begin concentrating on where their eyes are in relation to where they are going.

    This is an essential skill that helps build confidence before skiers begin picking up speed and moving onto more challenging terrain. The goal is to look where you WANT to go and plot your course in advance. The tendency when just starting out is to look at the tips of your skis or often looking at where you DON'T want to go.

    This presents a few problems:

    1. If you are looking down at your ski tips you won't be prepared for what's coming at you next, essentially throwing you off balance and making it difficult to begin linking turns together with fluidity.

    2. You should always be looking at least one turn ahead so you can plan and anticipate for any adjustments in speed or a shift in balance. If you are looking down at your tips and not looking ahead you are forcing yourself to make adjustments in the moment which is next to impossible when carrying any speed or skiing in variable terrain like moguls and trees.

    3. When skiing your body will often drift in the direction your eyes are looking. So don't focus on where you don't want to go. You need to focus on your line and plot your course while simultaneously being aware of your surroundings. You can't ski safely with tunnel vision and need to be aware of other skiers, signs, etc. It takes practice.

    Lastly, keep your hands up and in front of you. Once your hands fall to your sides you will be off balance and more prone to "falling into the backseat" or weighting the back half of the ski, making it more difficult and fatiguing to steer and control your skis. Eyes up, hands up!

    How to challenge yourself and take your skiing to the next level, when you have the basics of skiing?

    Begin moving into more challenging terrain. The sides of many groomed trails often have snow that hasn't been groomed like the main part of the trail and feature smaller bumps and variable snow.

    These are great places to practice as they offer an easy escape back to smooth, groomed snow if you begin feeling overwhelmed, tired, etc. Most every snow sports school will offer lessons for those who aren't beginners but are looking to advance as well.

    What are the different type of skis available for a newbie, intermediate and advanced?

    The type of ski you choose has as much to do with your preferred type of terrain as it does your skier level. Beginners should generally look for something that offers easy versatility with a moderate rocker profile in the tip and tail. These designs make pivoting and speed control easier, helping to build confidence while also offering an incredible platform to progress into making carved turns.

    How to care for your equipment?

    Skis should be allowed to dry before storing and be stored vertically in a cool, dry place. Boots should be re-buckled in order to help the plastic retain its original shape and stored in a cool, dry place.

    Never set boots too close to a heat source in order to warm them up or dry them out as the plastic can melt. If the liners need to dry out before skiing the next day, remove the liners from the shell to speed the process up.

    Have your skis and bindings serviced each year (at least) to ensure they have clean edges and a good base structure, and that the bindings are set properly and will release as they are supposed to in the event of a fall.

    How often do you need to replace your equipment?

    This really all depends on the skier, how often they are skiing, and how well they take care of their equipment.

    Any other tips?

    Skiing with someone who's a little bit better than you will force you to push yourself, allow you to ask questions, and watch how they approach different terrain and snow conditions. Find a friend and go skiing as much as you can.

    But most importantly - don't take it too seriously, relax, and just enjoy being out in the mountains. Having fun and being outside is the whole point of this. Yes, it can sometimes be frustrating to learn and advance in a new sport - everyone wants to be an expert right out of the gate.

    You'll have good days and days when you don't feel as solid. But just be patient, keep working at it, and you'll continue to progress. There's an old saying that goes, "the best skier on the mountain is the one that's having the most fun." I think that's pretty accurate.

    I am going to use these amazing tips when I am out on the slopes!

    Let's have the best season ever!!

    Visit Sacha daily at

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    COLUMBIA ICEFIELD, Alta. — When it comes to the most visited glacier in North America, the journey is every bit as important as the final destination.

    It's been 75 years since the Columbia Icefield has been readily accessible to the general public.

    Before the Icefields Parkway was opened in 1940 the region was the haunt of aboriginal and indigenous people who were using the area for about 10,000 years as the glaciers receded. They were supplanted by fur traders and explorers.

    "The national parks are such a big draw to so much nature and that drive has been dubbed one of the most beautiful drives in the world,'' said Gloria Keyes-Brady, interpretation co-ordinator at Jasper National Park.

    The 230-kilometre parkway, which parallels the Continental Divide between Banff and Jasper, is busiest in July and August with up to 100,000 vehicles a month.

    It also passes by the Columbia Icefield, a giant sea of white ice and snow to the west, which is impossible to miss. About 800,000 tourists visit the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre each year and many take a one hour and 20 minute snowcoach tour onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier.

    columbia icefield

    "It's a tourist destination absolutely because we see a lot of tour groups come from Banff and they only come as far as the Icefield centre and then they return back,'' said Keyes-Brady.

    The Athabasca Glacier is the largest of six ice sheets that form part of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. While it receives about seven metres of snowfall annually, the glacier has been slowly shrinking for about 150 years.

    Some experts say it could be completely gone in a generation.

    An American report has singled out the rapid melt of glaciers in British Columbia and Alaska as a major climate change issue saying they are "shrinking substantially.''

    The U.S. National Climate Assessment said the trend is expected to continue and has implications for hydro-power production, ocean circulation patterns, fisheries and a global rise in sea levels.

    athabasca glacier

    The report said glaciers in the region are losing 20 to 30 per cent, as much as what is melting annually from the Greenland ice sheet, which has received far more worldwide attention.

    The melting is clearly evident at the eastern edge of the Athabasca Glacier.

    Markers dating back as early as 1890 show the toe of the Athabasca Glacier has retreated 1.5 kilometres, leaving behind a moonscape of gravel and rock.

    "It's spectacular year-round and I have to say I've lived and worked here for about 30 years and I've never seen the parkway the same way twice,'' said Keyes-Brady.

    "I have to pinch myself to say this is in my backyard.''

    If You Go...

    Take a snowcoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier.

    Visit Banff National Park.

    If you make it all the way to the Icefield, Jasper is only 93 kilometres away.

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    Americans looking for refuge from a potential Donald Trump-led apocalypse should consider "lovely" Cape Breton, according to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    At a global town hall hosted by The Huffington Post Canada on Monday, Trudeau was asked what he would do if the Republican candidate won and implemented his immigration policies, which include banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and building a wall at the country's border with Mexico (and making Mexico pay for it).

    trudeau town hall smilingJustin Trudeau isn't saying Americans should flee their country, but he's also saying Cape Breton is pretty awesome. (Photo: Tim Fraser/The Huffington Post Canada)

    "Answering hypotheticals ... is not something that politicians should do," Trudeau said. "The fact is, Cape Breton is lovely all times of the year and if people do want to make choices that perhaps suit their lifestyles better, Canada is always welcoming and opening."

    Watch the full town hall here.

    Trudeau's comment comes as the Nova Scotia island is racking up interest from Americans looking to flee a Trump presidency.

    Cape Breton's rise to fame south of the border started after a website called "Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins" was launched, touting the benefits of living there.

    The website's creator says he's received hundreds of emails from Americans making serious inquiries about moving to Nova Scotia.

    The spotlight on Cape Breton only grew after CNN sent a team to ask residents what the island could offer Americans looking to escape a potential orange Trumpian wave.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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  • 03/08/16--10:53: Dining At Beaumont Kitchen
  • Beaumont Kitchen is the newest family member to be born out of the Oliver and Bonacini empire. Situated inside the sprawling, luxurious space of the Saks 5th Avenue store at Sherway Gardens, Beaumont has carved out a nook of comfort for avid shoppers and those seeking a respite from the 9-5 drudgery.


    Featuring a cozy 'living room' aesthetic, as described by their General Manager Tina Bronzovic, the welcoming design by Moncur Architects carries flourishes of whimsy including a spiral bookcase and multi-pronged light fixture in the centre of the room.


    Defined as Eclectic West Coast cuisine, Chef Michael Hay elaborates on Beaumont Kitchen's food philosophy: " It is a lifestyle cuisine focused on whole ingredients and whole is very vegetable driven." Chef posits it as a place where you get a robust restaurant experience, have a meal and feel nourished.

    In a somewhat joking and self-deprecating manner, he describes the menu as egocentric-- that is-- the dishes mirror the way Chef Michael Hay enjoys eating at home. And fortunately, his creations have garnered universal appeal. "Whole ingredients that offer energy align well with the branding and lifestyle of Saks." Hay adds, " I think food can be indulgent but doesn't have to be deep fried."

    Having energy in spades has been a saving grace for Hay. Six months ago, a partnership opportunity with Saks arrived on O&B's plate. And Michael Bonacini informed Chef Hay that he would be spearheading this restaurant project.

    No stranger to its line of restaurants, Chef Michael Hay has been with the O&B family for 3 years, so opening Beaumont was not as daunting as one might assume. Hay says that the food is an extension of what he was already doing at Canteen (another O&B Restaurant in downtown Toronto). He explains, "It is a fast paced, high-volume restaurant. To keep up with the intensity, I packed my own meals and brought them to work-- one time I brought this particular salad (packed with quinoa, nuts, etc.) that drew attention from the staff. So when we were thinking about what to offer as a special, one of our General Managers suggested we put that on the menu. And so Canteen evolved into a place where you could have something for lunch but not feel lethargic afterwards when returning to the office. With Beaumont Kitchen, we're extending Canteen's food philosophy with an emphasis on West Coast cuisine-- highlighting fresh seafood, for instance."

    For someone who endorses work/life balance, this transition was a natural evolution. Many of his personal convictions regarding healthy eating (eating for power and energy) have been infused into Beaumont's menu. He was allowed to take many creative liberties alongside Michael Bonacini (owner) and Chef Anthony Walsh (who oversees all the O&B properties), who were present to offer advice and mentorship where needed. Hay adds, "90% of the menu-- I wrote and tested. Many dishes are remixes of Canteen dishes, some come from home, and others inspired from previous places I worked at."

    In creating harmony between work/life, naturally, there has to be decadence to balance out the healthy eating. In exploring the brunch/lunch menu there are a few highlights Hay notes everyone will clamour for. First is the 'PB&J Stuffed French Toast' with mascarpone, brioche (all pastries and breads come from their bakery down at Arcadian Court), fruit compote and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. As a peanut butter lover, Hay just had to have this on the menu. He describes the dish as sort of a 'stairway to heaven' and a 'talking piece' for the restaurant.


    For something veering more towards the holistic and nourishing side, Hay recommends the Thai Root Salad that features cashew butter, lime & chili dressing, and cilantro; it is big on flavour and colour. For something heartier, he notes that their Flat Iron Steak dish is a winner; it features roasted sweet potato, hazelnut romesco, kale, quinoa. The beef is sustainably-sourced, antibiotic-free and from Wellington County.


    The pork, featured as bacon and ham in our Eggs Benedict brunch comes from Willowgrove Hill Farms, in Mitchell, Ontario.


    In this partnership with Saks, sharing the space with the high-end retailer has created a synergistic relationship that they both hope will draw in the crowds and praises from.

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    When my sister suggested a week in Los Angeles I hesitated. I wasn't a fan of mega cities - the crowds, the noise, and the traffic - and I'd done LA's popular attractions - Disneyland, Hollywood and Universal Studios - a few times. But when she described what she had in mind, "easy to get to, a quiet beach, and walk everywhere," I was in.

    A 2 ½-hour flight from Vancouver, a 20-minute taxi ride, and we were ensconced in a cozy, whitewashed six-unit "cottage" on Santa Monica State Beach (a VRBO at less than $100 per night each.) And I mean right on the beach, as in open the gate and step onto a 6-km stretch of white sand. The evening show - a glorious citrus-hued sunset - was just beginning. We kicked off our shoes, and headed towards the surf for front-row seats. To our right were the dusky Santa Monica Mountains, and to the left, a giant twinkling pinwheel, the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier.

    Ranked by National Geographic as one of the top ten beach cities in the world, Santa Monica is adjacent to, but a separate city from, LA. It's a blend of Coney Island and Rodeo Drive, with vintage attractions, contemporary architecture, and home to the homeless and celebrities.

    The Pier, built in 1909, is the official end of historic Route 66, and where Forrest Gump ran to on his cross-country run "clear to the ocean." In addition to the Ferris wheel, the Pier has a roller coaster, amusement games, restaurants, shops, an aquarium, a trapeze school, and an operating vintage 1924 carousel that Marilyn Monroe is said to have frequented. We eschewed all those for simpler pleasures: the free walking tour, a display of old photos, and watching people fish.

    Our evening entertainment, after the sunsets, was the pedestrian-friendly Third Street Promenade. The shops stayed open late, lively restaurants spilled out onto the sidewalk, musicians, clowns, and salsa lessons filled the centre, and the two movie theatres were playing the latest releases.

    At the south end of the Promenade is Santa Monica Place, an open-air, three-story mall designed by the renowned Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry. The mall is home to upscale stores, restaurants, and, on the rooftop deck, the food fair's outdoor dining area with ocean views, canopies, and cushioned seating to rival many a finer establishment.

    A short walk south of Santa Monica is Venice Beach, the noisier, wanton sister. On Ocean Front Walk were a hundred or more hucksters peddling their wares: fortunetellers, snake handlers, posing dogs, artists, T-shirts vendors, and medical marijuana evaluations. At the Venice Beach Freak-show, the inspiration for a reality TV series, there was a lineup to see the attractions that included, wolf-man, little people, the bearded lady, and a two-headed turtle.

    Venice Beach is also a giant outdoor sports facility with basketball courts, beach volleyball, a skateboard park, and the Muscle Beach gym, where Arnold Schwarzenegger was once a regular. On Sundays, closer to the Pier, Cirque de Soleil performers often put on impromptu shows on outdoor tightropes.

    Although everything was within walking distance, we rented bikes to explore the 35-km South Bay Bicycle Trail, the "world's longest oceanfront bike path." With the exception of the Venice stretch, the beaches were quiet, a few surfers carving waves and us. Palisades Park, right in Santa Monica, is another pleasant stroll with bluff-top ocean views, shade, and a soothing Eucalyptus-scented breeze.

    The number of homeless people in Santa Monica was surprising, although it shouldn't have been - warmth and sunshine draw us all. The atmosphere was peaceful- a man snoozing on a park bench with a sock-monkey as a pillow - and the panhandling wasn't aggressive.

    Our late November visit meant we'd missed the summer crowds, yet at 27 Celsius it was still beach weather. When a Canadian friend who lives there lamented, "It hasn't rained in a year ¬- I'm sick of it! I want to wear socks!" we could only shake our heads.

    Where to eat

    Loteria Grill - 1251 Third Street Promenade
    The California experience isn't complete without Mexican food. The Loteria Grill offers tasty twists on regional Mexican specialties including the Napolito burrito with cactus paddle, black beans, salsa, tomatillos, and quesa fresca. The tamales of pineapple, zucchini and roasted corn must have been delicious since, sadly, they were sold out both times we visited.

    R+D Kitchen - 1323 Montana Avenue
    The R+D Kitchen is a popular gastropub with a small menu featuring inventive American fare. The ground Ahi tuna burger on a sweet brioche bun was, hands down, the best burger I've ever had. The Brussels sprouts with anchovies, crunchy-fried beet leaves and kale, tastes as good as it is for you.

    Tender Greens - 201 Arizona Avenue
    This popular salad place with lunchtime lineups showcases California's bountiful produce. Salads prepared before your eyes included grilled octopus, with wild arugula, fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, marinated chickpeas and olives. The "Salad in the Raw" features the best of the farmer's market that takes place outside Tender Greens' front door on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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    Trade palm trees for pines and firs and you have one of the world's dreamiest beach destinations -- Canada. The Great White North may not be praised for its hot temperatures and turquoise waters, but it's a place where you can still enjoy the peace and beauty of a beach all to yourself. Throw in some excellent swimming, boating, fishing, surfing, shelling and other must-do beach activities, and you have a beach destination that rivals those in the Caribbean.

    The following are five of Canada's best beach destinations for those who want to sink their toes into the sand without costly plane tickets or travel delays.

    Long Beach, British Columbia

    Photo Credit: smikygrl

    Long Beach is no secret to Canadian beach lovers, but as the name implies, this 10-kilometre stretch of coastline offers plenty of room for beachcombers to spread out. Long Beach is grouped with other Pacific Rim Park beaches, so despite the region seeing roughly one million tourists each year, you're bound to feel a bit secluded. The unique rainforest backdrop, migrating grey whales (in spring and summer), ideal surfing waves and picture-perfect scenery are just a few reasons to start packing your bags and your flip flops.

    Wasaga Beach, Ontario

    Photo Credit: divya_

    Many beach enthusiasts know that Vancouver Island offers postcard-worthy beach scenery, but they don't know that Ontario does too. In less than a 2-hour drive north of Toronto, city dwellers can be on the world's largest freshwater beach -- Wasaga Beach. This Canadian beach hotspot is actually home to eight individual beaches, a Main Street Mall and plenty of attractions for kids and adults. The picturesque stretch of sand does see crowds, but you can always find solitude and adventure in Wasaga's towering sand dunes.

    Bennett Beach, Yukon

    Photo Credit: Chris Hunkeler

    Packing your beach bag for a trip to the Yukon may sound crazy, but Bennett Beach offers 2 km of sandy paradise. This powdery white sand beach sits with snow-capped mountains in the background and the historic town of Carcross steps away. Whether you're seeking a place to stretch your legs on the route between Whitehorse and Skagway, Alaska, or this scenic beach is your destination, there's no doubt you'll want to take plenty of time to wade in the crystal clear waters and snap photos of the panoramic views.

    Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan

    Photo Credit: UnTapping The World

    Manitou Beach is one of the strangest beaches you'll ever visit, and you'll probably never want to leave. Leave your rafts behind, because Little Manitou Lake's water is so salty that you can lie in it without getting your magazine wet. Fortunately, the beaches' public showers offer welcoming places to rinse away the salt. The area, located just 1.5 hours southeast of Saskatoon, is equipped with nearby camping, golf, playgrounds, the mineral spa at Manitou Beach Village, a drive-in movie theater and plenty of other family-friendly fun.

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