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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    When you go on a vacation, your life can feel like a Greatest Hits video package of the country you're in. If you've only got five days to spend in Paris, then you'll obviously make it a point to visit the Louvre and climb the Eiffel Tower. If you're in Rome for a long weekend, then why wouldn't you see the Colosseo and listen to some Eiffel 65?

    Living in a city, even for just a month, isn't like a month-long vacation. When you spend a month anywhere, you eventually need to address common questions, like: "Where do I get toilet paper at midnight?" and "How did my apartment get this dusty? What is dust even made of? Why did public education fail me in such a profound fashion?"

    This first month in Córdoba has felt a lot like Frosh Week at university; there's always a new friend to get to know in my family/tribe/tramily of remote workers, and between WhatsApp and Slack, I can always find someone to grab food or drinks with if that's what I'm feeling. It would be a nightmare scenario for anyone with FOMO, because you quite literally cannot do everything at once.

    What I am realizing (well, what my liver and stomach have realized and have sternly communicated to my brain) is that I cannot do the Frosh Week thing every day.

    Some background: Not only is this my first time going abroad for more than a week (I went to Rome last year with my family and loved it in that Greatest Hits way), it's my first time living alone since university. After graduating, I moved back home with my family, and that's where I was until a month ago. So I'm playing a bit of catch-up when it comes to the "Being A Functional Adult" thing, but I'm working on it.

    In Spanish.

    (I'm terrible at Spanish, but seem to be getting sympathy from locals due to the novelty of it all. If you watch a dog play basketball, you're not going to criticize him for a weak lay up. I call it the Air Bud Effect.)

    What I am realizing (well, what my liver and stomach have realized and have sternly communicated to my brain) is that I cannot do the Frosh Week thing every day. I mean, I could, but I'd die. I'd die and leave behind a popular corpse. But if I'm going to actually live in these cities (and I am), then I need to make peace with the fact that not every day will be like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and that's okay. Some days, I'll just do laundry, eat a sandwich, and nap. Just like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

    So I'm learning. I'm learning how to be a functional human being who enjoys enough new experiences to justify this whole "opportunity to travel the world thing," while also remaining gainfully employed, while also stocking my fridge with more than eggs and some sort of delightful apple marmalade (which I just found out exists and have developed a powerful, borderline sexual, appetite for).

    I'm learning that the North American idea of a salad is a very specific creation, and we have all taken it for granted.

    And that means that some days I'll need to give myself permission and forgiveness to stay in and watch Argentinian Netflix. And some days, I'll just have a perfectly pleasant day where I don't make out with my bidet or chase a pigeon out of my apartment. And when I accept that, I can be rid of the the FOMO-lite I suffer from when I choose not to join people for drinks because Pants Are The Enemy.

    You can see the world and still take naps and read on your couch. It's not a zero-sum game between growth and regression, despite what that Inspirational Instagram account you follow likes to say. I'm down to leave my comfort zone, but if I abandoned it entirely, I'd have nowhere to recharge.

    And by "recharge," I mean "watch Spanish Nic Cage movies in my pajamas."

    Mike Sholars is currently residing in Córdoba, 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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    Photo Credit: Stephan Klage

    More than 15 flights make the journey from Singapore to Bali everyday. The island paradise, which is a dream destination for some, has seen its share of development and foreign visitors. However, the onslaught of tourists, American fast food chains and high-rise resorts can make you feel like you haven't left North America at all.

    Fortunately, Indonesia is home to more than 17,500 islands, littered with destinations that have barely been touched by tourists or developers. The following four Indonesian islands offer the exotic beaches, extraordinary adventures and authentic culture that will make your getaway unforgettable.


    The island of Flores (meaning flowers), with its powder-white beaches and lively green hills, is as picturesque as it sounds. Visitors can spend days sipping frozen drinks at tropical bars and dining on the cheap beachside warungs or engage in activities as adventurous as diving or exploring Komodo National Park.

    Komodo National Park includes three islands, Flores, Padar and Komodo, and is famous for its population of Komodo dragons. However, the crystal clear, bathtub-warm waters off the coast are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Volcanoes, lakes, rice paddies and postcard-worthy beaches are just a few of the natural landscapes that can be visited in a single trip to Flores.

    Photo Credit: Kerinci

    Sumatra has made headlines for its volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes, but rare natural disasters shouldn't deter you from visiting one of Indonesia's wildest islands. Tigers and elephants roam the jungles, volcanoes tower over pristine lakes and surfers glide along picture perfect waves.

    Hike Kerinci Seblat National Park, the island's largest national park, or experience the less traveled and even more rewarding Gunung Leuser National Park for a truly unhindered jungle experience. After days of volcano and jungle exploration, it's time to jump in the water at West Sumatra's Air Manis Beach or venture even farther to Pulau Weh (Weh Island), for a tropical setting and some of the world's best snorkeling, diving and surfing.


    Sulawesi is a nature lover's dream come true. Simply seeing the island on a map could inspire you to book a plane ticket immediately. The island's coastline features multiple offshoots reaching out like tropical arms begging you to come snorkel, dive or lay under a palm tree. The exterior of the island boasts picturesque beaches and rainbow-colored coral reefs, while the interior offers wildlife-filled jungles and mountains.

    Sulawesi is home to unique cultures that have been mainly unaffected by the modern world. Visit with the seafaring Bugis people along the coast, the Toraja in the highlands and dine with the Minahasans in the north (but beware of spicy dishes and unconventional meats). Sulawesi's unique tribal cutlures are a reason to visit alone.

    Photo Credit: Pulau Kembang

    Borneo is the world's third-largest island, and Indonesia's portion of it is known as Kalimantan. Kalimantan's protection from tsunamis allows trees to grow strikingly tall, creating ancient forests that are ripe for wandering. Hikers can spot families of orangutans while exploring Tanjung Puting National Park and beach lovers can basque in the relentless sun on the tropical islands of the Derawan Archipelago. There are 31 islands in the Derawan Archipelago, and visitors can choose to engage in the party atmosphere of Derawan or venture beyond to the rarely visited paradises of Maratua, Kakaban and Sangalaki for an unforgettable treat.

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    Photo Credit: Artur Staszewki

    Montreal is one of Canada's most beautiful and romantic cities. It features the perfect combination of contemporary North America with old-world European charm. Here are our insider tips on how to spend your first 24 hours in Montreal.

    If you're arriving to Montreal by plane, you can get downtown by taking the 747 shuttle bus. The bus runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and takes between 45 minutes and an hour. Tickets are $10 and allow you unlimited bus/metro transportation for 24 hours.

    Fuel Up With Brunch

    Start your day by fuelling up at one of Montreal's top breakfast spots. I recommend Universel or Allo Mon Coco. Both places are located centrally. Universel is elegant and classy and has a wide selection of food, from standard breakfast to dessert crepes. Allo Mon Coco has a typical breakfast diner feel with a great selection of waffles.

    Experience Europe Without Jet Lag

    Photo Credit: Rahul Nair

    On a full stomach, head over to Old Montreal. Enjoy the cobblestone alleys and be sure to stop by the Notre-Dame Basilica. Founded in 1642, the Notre-Dame Basilica was the first Gothic Revival style church build in Canada. If you choose to go inside, the admission fee is $5 and includes a 20-minute guided tour.

    If you've worked up a thirst, stop for a refreshing rooftop drink at Terrasse Place d'Armes in the summer or for a warm drink and snack at Olive & Gourmando.

    Refuel for Dinner

    After a day full of exploring, you deserve a full sit down dinner. My top picks: Lola Rosa, Deville, Kazu, Cinko and Schwartz's. Lola Rosa is a cosy and quirky vegetarian restaurant offering comfort food like nachos, curry and quesadillas. Deville is a step up from the classic American diner. The menu is filled with fun items like mac and cheese wontons and steak spring rolls. Kazu is an authentic Japanese restaurant. It's a hole in the wall restaurant that locals are ranting about. Cinko has a unique concept, exclusively offering tavern dishes for $5. It's the place to go if you're into trying a few different things. If it's your first time to Montreal, you'll want to check out Schwartz's, a renowned deli specializing in Montreal's famous smoked-meat sandwiches.

    Catch the Sunset at the City's Best Lookout

    Photo Credit: Ivv@Idzenl

    Time to work off that big dinner with a hike up Mount Royal. Mount Royal offers a spectacular view of the downtown area and the St. Lawrence River. Montrealers head up to Mount Royal year round, whether to jog, bike, rollerblade, skate, toboggan, bird watch or picnic. If you can catch a sunset, you won't be disappointed no matter what season of the year.

    Treat Your Sweet Tooth

    End the day with Montreal's world famous dessert. I recommend Juliette et Chocolat, Cacao 70 and Suite 88. After all, if you're going to visit Montreal, you may as well do it right and take advantage of Montreal's best sweets.

    This article first appeared on Hello City Girl.

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    This week the eyes of the world -- and certainly of Americans -- will once again turn to Cuba with intense focus. The reason, of course, is President Barack Obama's visit -- the first of the holder of the United States' highest office since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.


    Image Credit: Angelo Domini

    Overwhelmingly, America's neighbours to the north profess strong support for both the reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties with Cuba, and the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo against the island nation: our Angus Reid Institute survey of Canadians late last year on this very subject found nearly 90 per cent approved of both measures. This is higher than support among Americans on both questions, according to the Pew Research Center, which studied the issue last July.


    But there is one thing bothering Canadians about this thaw in near-frozen U.S.-Cuba relations...the fear that a beloved vacation spot may get wrecked.

    Indeed, for those who've walked more than a few beaches in more than a few parts of the world, little can compare to the white sands and turquoise waters of Cuba. It's no doubt a big part of why 1.1 million Canadian visitors -- frozen through and weary of winter -- visited the country in 2014. That number represents roughly one-third of all annual visits to the country, and there are more than ten times as many visitors from Canada as from the next most-common country of origin (Germany -- 139,138).

    Of course, sun and sand aren't the only draws: there's also culture, storied history, relative safety, and something Canadians think about but are generally too polite to say out loud (unless we as pollsters prompt them): no Americans.

    Now, I've travelled enough to know the long-held stereotype about "ugly Americans" is just that: a stereotype. And I have witnessed my share of obnoxious globetrotting Canadian "hosers" as well. But while Canadians may be OK with having to share the cabana section with topless octogenarian Russians, the potential easing of travel restrictions between America and Cuba has Canadians feeling quite mixed.

    The U.S. defrosting of relations may spur beneficial employment and investment opportunities for Cuba -- which has suffered under the long economic shadow thrown by the embargo -- and for the United States itself.

    Canadians recognize this, with the vast majority saying that normalization of relations between Cuba and U.S. is a good thing for both countries:


    As noted in the preceding graph, respondents are far less convinced of any benefit to Canada, with nearly one-in-five actually predicting normalization will result in a bad outcome for this country. Perhaps this view simply reflects anxiety around loss of market share. While Canada's relationship with Cuba is modest compared to some of its other trading partners, we have had the advantage of exclusivity against the United States, doing more than $1 billion in imports and exports with Cuba last year.

    Much more likely, though, is that Canada's perceived disadvantage in the normalizing of U.S.-Cuba relations is related to how a total lifting of travel restrictions to Cuba for Americans would impact Canadian visitors. Among all respondents, nearly half say it will have a worsening effect:


    And indeed, among those who have themselves baked on the beaches of Veradero or strolled through old Havana, fully two-thirds (64 per cent) say the experience of a return visit will be "worse than it is now" -- if Americans are allowed to visit too:


    Notwithstanding the more self-involved anxiety over potentially ruined vacations, people in Canada are also slightly more circumspect about the impact of normalized relations on the future democratization of Cuba. Our Angus Reid Institute survey showed about two-in-five Canadians (38 per cent) say Cuba will become more democratic in future years, slightly fewer than the 43 per cent of Americans who thought the same, according to Pew Research.


    Still, it is presumably a long journey from a historic state visit by Barack Obama to a Starbucks in Havana's Main Square and full, representative democracy in the country. Cubans will determine their own future.

    There's one thing Canadians won't have to worry about: the President of the United States is guaranteed to be the most well-behaved of American visitors.

    This article was originally published at

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    Some of the biggest names in entertainment are from Canada. That's right, we can lay claim to a multitude of well known celebrities from Justin Bieber and Ryan Reynolds to Rachel McAdams and Ellen Page. If you're curious as to where these big names grew up, read on. has the scoop on eight celebrity hometowns and why they're worth a visit.

    Stratford, Ontario

    Image: Robert Taylor, City Hall, Stratford, Ontario via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    The charming hometown of Justin Bieber is well worth a visit and not just for avid Bieber fans. Stratford is famous for their renowned namesake theatre festival, which runs April 19 to December 31. The festival draws visitors from all over the country, but catching a performance is just one reason to plan a visit. Just a short drive from Toronto or London, Stratford makes for a nice weekend getaway. In addition to the theatre, Stratford has a thriving visual arts scene with many artists opting to call the area home. Gallery Stratford is a good place to start if you're interested in seeing what's on offer.

    Foodies will appreciate Stratford's growing reputation as a culinary destination. In addition to restaurant-hopping, there are culinary events, food festivals, like the Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival, and food tours to enjoy.

    Vancouver, British Columbia

    Image: InSapphoWeTrust, Stanley Park via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    This west coast city is hometown to some pretty big names, including Ryan Reynolds, Joshua Jackson, Jason Priestly, Carrie-Anne Moss, Cobie Smulders and Seth Rogan. Vancouver is a beautiful city ideal for active travellers who want to get closer to nature. Make your first stop Stanley Park, Vancouver's largest urban park, which boasts beaches, kilometres of trails, the city's famous Seawall and views of both mountains and the water. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is another worthwhile Vancouver stop, the highlight of which is the suspension bridge. Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 137 metres across and 70 metres above Capilano River, and the views of the forest canopy as you cross are pretty incredible.

    Other aspects of Vancouver to appreciate include Grouse Mountain, where you can ride the Grouse Mountain Skyride, North America's largest aerial tram system; Chinatown, North America's third-largest Chinatown; and Vancouver Art Gallery, the largest public art museum in Western Canada.

    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Image: gLangille, Halifax Harbour Tall Ships via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Actress Ellen Page was born and raised in this east coast town, and it has a lot to offer many different types of travellers. History buffs will want to check out the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Memory Lane Heritage Village and Nova Scotia Museum of National Heritage. Art-lovers can wander through the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the largest art museum in Atlantic Canada. Beer fans will want to take the theatrical tour of Alexander Keith's original brewery. The entertaining, informative tour is hosted by actors portraying citizens of 1863 Halifax. Anyone who loves to be outdoors will enjoy Halifax's many trails and public gardens, and foodies can appreciate the Maritime cuisine featuring fresh seafood.

    Ottawa, Ontario

    Image: Tony Webster, Rideau Canal, Ottawa via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Canadian songstress Alanis Morissette was born in Canada's capital. While not as bustling as say, Montreal or Toronto, quieter Ottawa still has a lot to offer curious travellers. Make a stop at ByWard Market to shop, refuel at one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars and just take in the cheerful atmosphere. Next, make time to explore the National Gallery of Canada, a world renowned art gallery featuring nearly 65,000 works. And no trip to Ottawa is complete without a visit to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the warmer months, walk or jog along the canal, which runs through Ottawa's downtown core and, in the winter, lace up your skates and glide on it. Visitors will also want to make their way to Parliament Hill, home of Canada's national government and the setting for various events and celebrations through the year.

    Kelowna, British Columbia

    Image: Stuart Madden, Waterfront Park, Kelowna BC via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Beautiful Kelowna is the hometown of Taylor Kitsch, who starred in both Friday Night Lights and True Detective. Kelowna is a destination for wine touring thanks to its location in the Okanagan Valley, a region home to more than 200 wineries. Kelowna itself is home to 30 wineries, so, if you like wine, this is the place for you. You can take a guided wine tour or opt to set out on your own, depending on your style of travel.

    Since Kelowna is situated on Lake Okanagan, this is also an ideal destination for beach lovers and anyone who likes being by the water. There are more than 30 beaches in and around Kelowna, many with playgrounds, concessions and bathrooms. If wineries and beaches aren't your thing, but golf is, Kelowna is also home to 18 golf courses and one of the longest golf seasons thanks to the 2,000 hours of sunshine the city gets each year.

    Montreal, Quebec

    Image: Dominic Simpson, Montreal skyline via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Elisha Cuthbert (24, Happy Endings) and Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage), were both born in bustling, eclectic Montreal. Montreal is worth a visit for many reasons. If you love to eat you'll be pleased with the fact that Montreal has the largest number of restaurants per capita in North America, so no matter what you're looking for, you should have no trouble finding it. In addition to all those restaurants, there are also 350 food trucks to sample. Shoppers will want to put Montreal on their radar, too. The city is known to be fashion-forward so you're likely to find some potentially trend-setting items.

    Visitors to Montreal will also want to head to Old Montreal, which feels a bit like stumbling into a quaint European city. The cobblestone streets and buildings, which date as far back as 1685, create an irresistible charm that's hard not to love.

    Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Image: Robert Linsdell, Waterfront Bridge, Red River via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Anna Paquin's hometown is Winnipeg, Manitoba. This Academy-Award winning actress (who snagged the award at age 11 for her role in The Piano) also starred in True Blood. One of the biggest draws in Winnipeg is The Forks National Historic Site, which also happens to be the number one tourist attraction in the city. Located at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red River, the Forks is an all-season destination that attracts more than four million visitors annually. There are so many attractions in and around The Forks you'd need weeks or even months to see and enjoy them all. Several museums and historic sites can found there, including the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Children's Museum, The Forks Historic Port and The Forks Historic Rail Bridge. The Forks Market is the place to go if you feel like shopping for everything from local foods to souvenirs to crafts and artwork by 300 local and Canadian artists. In addition, there are events going on all the time, parks, gardens and restaurants.

    London, Ontario

    Image: phrawr, DSC_2722 via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    One of the most beloved (former) celebrity couples, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, were both born in London, Ontario. The city has a lot to offer visitors, from families to couples to groups of friends. Anyone interested in arts and culture will appreciate London's many museums and galleries, outdoorsy types can enjoy the city's parks and conservation areas for hikes and nature walks, and families have their pick of several family-friendly attractions like Adventures on Wonderland, London's largest indoor playground, and Clovermead Adventure Farm with wagon rides, pedal go carts, live bee display hives, a zip line and more.

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    Visitors can leave messages of encouragement for peace on the Peace Wall in Belfast.

    The trick to travelling with kids when you want to absorb the history and culture could be making sure they think they are just having fun. Finding educational ways to explore in Northern Ireland happens easily in Belfast, Northern Ireland with its historical tales of woe behind but the architectural evidence still a living art history in the streets. For instance, there is the super snazzy story of the building of the unsinkable ship, Titanic, and its museum. Every meal in the pubs comes with craic ( people's banter) that always has a tinge of blarney and dose of politics. And the sheep speckled countryside has a fair share of castles and Game of Thrones sets to tour on day trips.

    Here are a few tips:

    If you drive up from Dublin, you will barely notice that you have crossed into Northern Ireland until you have to pay for something. In the south they use Euros but in the North the currency is of the Queen in Pounds Sterling. Most places will happily take either but a credit card is the easiest way to have all that math handled for you.

    Belfast is a walkable city and there are self catered apartments as well as B and B's that serve up full breakfasts This will save you time and money in the long run and contribute to that sense of home while abroad. On Discover Northern Ireland (my hosts) there are listings of certified accommodation that will serve every family's need.

    Eat lunch or early dinner in the now smoke-free pubs like The Crown Bar and find hearty, traditional food for a few bucks. Kids will be confused to see items things like "bangers and champs" on the menu but pleased to learn it is a simple dish of grilled sausage and mashed potatoes with gravy. Order sharing platters and save a few dollars and prevent over ordering because they don't even have take out containers, it is that uncommon a habit here. It is fun to dine in a "snug" which is a cozy private cubicle and with the added benefit of being a containment stall for toddler.


    Don't miss the Titanic Museum They like to tell you all about how she was build here but the sinking was the fault of a Canadian iceberg and an English captain. The interactivity of this spot is cool for everyone from ages 3 to 100. There are loads of words to read on walls festooned with artifacts, of course, but also buttons to push and light up engaging videos as well as experiential exhibits. There is a ride to get on (sit in the front seat) and be lowered into the bowel of the ship where a 14 year old boy's Irish voice will explain what it was like to be a ship builder during the Industrial Revolution plus a 3D film that takes a virtual elevator ride through the core of the ship (stand in the exact middle of the corral for the best sensation) but the sleeper hit exhibit is the walkway containing a film that looks as if you are watching the sea from the bow of the Titanic herself (a la Kate Winslet).Many will walk right on by with a glance but you will hold onto the rail because you now know that it vibrates like the waves of the ocean for full effect.

    And speaking of full effect, take a Black Cab tour of town with the likes of Billy Scott. He will orate the entire history and drive you 'round personally telling tales (and fibs to make you laugh so watch if there is a twinkle in the eye...) and vast amounts of history, architecture and legislature. Billy is one of those boyish men who seems to know everyone or is so comfortable around town that everyone is willing to play along. But he did not know about the waving handrail at the museum until I told him and I bet my black beer he will be telling everyone from now on.

    Belfast itself embraces a wonderful story of conflict turned to tolerance well on its way to acceptance of difference. The Peace Wall is a great example It is a lesson every child as they grow to understand how safe and lucky they are to live in Canada.

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    Vienna is the grand dame of Europe. A monarchy up until 1918, echoes of her aristocratic roots can still be felt and experienced by visitors today. As important as this history and tradition are to the city, there is also an edgy emerging art, fashion and food scene that are definitely worth exploring, experiencing and tasting. So without further ado here is our guide to caffeinating, eating, sleeping, shopping and playing in this (once) dynastic capital.


    Coffee house culture is a huge part of Viennese life and so visitors and locals alike are spoiled for choice. For a traditional experience (read: brightly lit, bustling and smoky). Be sure to try Hotel Sacher Café for its elegance and proximity to the opera house (and don't miss their world-famous chocolate torte), Café Prüekel and Kaffe Zentral (frequented by all the famous literati at the end of the 19th century). For something more akin to a Brooklyn brew, we loved Balthasar in the up and coming Praterstrasse 2 (second district).


    Something a little stronger than coffee:

    Hotel Sacher Blaue Bar is a Viennese institution, and a glass of champagne or a delightful local white wine is just the thing to order.

    For a more contemporary vibe and a birds-eye-vista, be sure to visit Loft for views that won't stop (it's located on the 18th floor of the Sofitel)


    Roberto's American Bar sets the standard for cocktail culture in Vienna. Small, smoky, dark and intimate. What the bar lacks in space it more than makes up for in style and hospitality. Cocktails with a capital C. Ask for Roberto and tell him we sent you!


    Loos Bar -- don't let the ongoing feud with neighbouring Roberto's bar deter you. Loos bar is not only architecturally beautiful (amazing Art Deco), but historically significant as well. Most of Vienna's intellectuals drank here throughout history. The bar, designed by Adolf Loos in 1908 has (fortunately) remained un changed.

    Lunching & Snacking around the Ringstrasse:

    Zum Schwarzen Kameel has been an institution since 1901. Still serving fine coffee, Austrian wine and the prettiest open faced sandwiches with the original recipes from fräulein Frieze. Spend an afternoon enjoying an aperitif and some of their many delicacies while watching their sophisticated customers come and go.


    Bitzinger Sausage Stand, because a visit to Vienna would not be complete without a late-night sausage, a post-opera sausage or a just-because sausage snack. A visit to this civilized little stand is the perfect cap to nearly any activity. Street food with 200 years of tradition! Plus you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer to accompany your choice of wurst.



    Tian - Vegetarian or not, the menu at the one Michelin starred Tian is so mouth-watering that even a die-hard carnivore couldn't possibly miss their beloved meat. Set in a beautiful, light-filled historical building, both the lunch and dinner menus are definitely something to write home about.

    Labstelle -- with a dedication to local, fresh and seasonal bordering on obsessive, this central eatery manages to be both rustic and contemporary all at the same time. The menu delights with unique, sometimes foraged ingredients, and the staff are as knowledgeable as they are hospitable. Be sure to save room for any of their mind blowing deserts and don't pass up the house blend coffee roasted locally by Bernd Salat ( Even the wine comes from less than 10 miles away (in Vienna city limits no less).

    Looking for a classic option to satiate your schnitzel craving? Be sure to pay a visit to Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper. According to the Viennese, a proper schnitzel is prepared with veal, and this one ticks all the right boxes (thin, light and crispy) -- ever so decadent! Served with a traditional potato salad in a vinegar dressing and paired with a glass of Austrian white wine, you'll want to yodel your praise from the foothills of the Alps (incidentally, less than an hour outside Vienna)!



    The Sofitel is a great boutique property on the edge of Praterstrasse 2, a hip emerging neighbourhood with some cool boutiques and cafes nearby that can easily be explored on foot. The all-white rooms and cloud-like beds will make it hard to rise come morning, but the city streets will beckon.

    The Park Hyatt Vienna is the newest luxury hotel to open its doors in Vienna. This converted bank in a prime location has more marble than a Roman bathhouse. The historical rooms are large and luxurious with traditional wood paneling and herringbone floors that belie all the intuitive technology built-into the furnishings -- no need to leave your bed thanks to the command centre within arm's reach. Be sure to take a dip in the old vault that now houses a stunning spa and pool.



    Supersense is part hipster coffee shop and part boutique offering customers the opportunity to ignite all their senses. From sound (they sell analogue music from cassettes to records), smell (create your own memory scent in a glass vial composed of various elements to be cracked and inhaled at a poignant life event), taste (a selection of locally roasted coffee and delicacies) and much more.


    Ceramics are not the easiest souvenir to transport, but you'll be inspired to take the risk upon visiting Sandra Haischberger's stunning bright studio shop, Feinedinge. Delicate clay vases, tableware, pots and their famous glowsphere. Bring on the bubble wrap!


    Mühlbauer -- Celebrities like Madonna and Brad Pitt flock to this fashionable hat shop for fanciful headgear from Mühlbauer Hutmanufaktur, all handmade since 1903.

    Karmelitermarkt Market offers up interesting food stalls and restaurants permanently stationed in an open square in Praterstrasse 2. The neighbourhood is up and coming and is full of contemporary art and interesting cafes and boutiques that are worth a visit.

    Doing & Seeing: The Visual Arts:

    The Leopold Museum is located in the heart of the MuseumsQuartier, an example of city planning at its finest. Visitors can take in the impressive modern art collection with works by Schiele, Klimt and Josef Hoffmann. Get a combined ticket to save some euros then wander next door to the MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung ludwig Wien) where you can continue your art crawl into and through the remainder of the 20th century.


    Doing & Seeing: Music:

    Take in an Opera at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House) because, well quite frankly, it's bucket-list worthy (and just what one does while in Vienna). Many of the productions are thoroughly modern but approachable for opera rookies. Opt for a balcony seat and join your fellow guests for a glass of champagne at intermission, like something out of a James Bond film.


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    Photo Credit: Wladyslaw

    Canada has more coastline than any other country in the world. And it's no wonder those 202,080 kilometres of coastline are dotted with some of the world's coolest coastal towns. Whether you're into whale watching, fishing, kayaking, surfing or even snapping photos of icebergs, these six Canadian coastal towns are ones every traveller should see.

    Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

    Photo Credit: I santry

    Travellers seeking complete relaxation will find the small coastal town of Cavendish the perfect place to stay and play. You can have the photo-worthy Prince Edward Island beaches all to yourself during most times of year. However, the tiny town's population of 300 grows substantially in the summer months, when the shops, restaurants and attractions come alive.

    Spend day after day with your toes in the sand, play a round of golf, dine on fresh lobster, or enjoy one of many family-friendly attractions, like miniature golf, deep sea fishing, Jurassic Bart's Dinosaur Museum, parasailing and more. Your Cavendish getaway can be as action-packed or relaxing as you want it to be.

    Tofino, British Columbia

    Photo Credit: Joltex

    Tofino is one of Canada's most famous coastal towns. It's probably because it's also one of the most captivating places in the world. Surfers flock to Tofino for its abundance of swells while hikers take to the peninsula's array of wooded hiking trails. However, whether you venture out to sea or into the woods, you're never far from Tofino's pristine sandy shores and abundance of outdoorsy places to dine and shop.

    Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

    Photo Credit: Bobjagendorf

    The village of Peggy's Cove is a coastal destination that you'll never want to leave. This quaint East Coast town is known for its famous Peggy's Point Lighthouse, but once you're finished snapping photos, you're guaranteed to fall in love with the quaint fishing village that calls the lighthouse its own. Boulders groomed by centuries of crashing waves protect the coastal houses that sit perched above the ocean. Whether you're exploring the rocks, enjoying a day-long fishing trip or are shopping and dining at the coastal shops and restaurants, you'll immediately feel at ease in this historic Nova Scotia town.

    Port Rowan, Ontario

    Photo Credit: SylviaSchade

    Port Rowan is a small town along the north shore of Ontario's storied Long Point Bay. This white-sand hamlet on Lake Erie is known for some of the best camping and beachcombing in the province. More than 100,000 visitors flock to the beaches of Long Point each year to swim, hike, shipwreck dive and enjoy the pristine Lake Erie waters. The small nearby town of Port Rowan offers breathtaking views of the bay coupled with cool shops, delicious seafood restaurants, golf courses and plenty of affordable rental cottages for the ultimate family getaway.

    Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

    Photo Credit:

    The town of Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you'll understand why it is so beloved upon arrival. The community continues to win awards each year for it's stunning downtown area and scenic shores. Take a step back to a simpler time on the town's antique streets while admiring historic homes, unique shops and tasty eateries. Despite the town's multitude of annual festivals, golf courses, historic tours, fine art galleries and museums, it seems that most visitors come to gawk at the stunning ocean views and to dip their toes in the sand.

    Twillingate Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

    Photo Credit: KimManleyOrt

    Twillingate is a hot summer vacation destination for Canadians, but the rest of the world is missing out on this Newfoundland and Labrador gem. This small island in the North Atlantic Ocean is one of the best places in the country to trade the hustle and bustle of daily life for stunning views and non-stop family fun. Whale watching and iceberg boat tours are popular among tourists, but the island also offers unique museums, coastal shops, delicious seafood restaurants, and loads of scenic hiking trails for those who prefer to stay on land.

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    "Keep going, kids." Says the weary adult as their child optimistically looks at the business class seats on their way to the way, way back of the plane. As they pass the front section, past the premium or preferred economy seats, the spacious exit row seats, and find themselves in the last row, middle seats, not even together they wonder "why does this always happen to me?"

    Experienced air travellers know all the tricks and tips to secure the best seats on the plane. Now, I'm not talking about paying thousands of extra dollars for business or first class seats -- anyone with a bit of money can do that -- but more how to score the best in the economy section, at little or no extra cost.

    The "best" seat of course is a personal choice; some prefer the aisle, others the window (I've yet to meet a person who prefers the middle seat), most like the front of the plane over the back, but not all. My personal preference is aisle, close to the front, but not the bulkhead because you can't store a bag under the seat in front of you.

    Exit rows are an appeal for some, while it makes others nervous. It is important to note that exit row seating will not be given to children, those who require a seat belt extension, or those with physical disabilities that would not allow them to perform the required functions in case of an emergency. An extra benefit to exit row seating (besides extra legroom) is you normally board before the rest of the plane, giving you plenty of time and opportunity to score coveted overhead bin space.

    But how can you figure out what the seat configuration of your plane is, before you've booked your flight? You can check out sides such as; once you've booked your flight, you will be given the opportunity to review the seat options of your particular plane. Many planes are three across either side of the aisle, but smaller flights can see one seat on one side, and two on the other, while larger flights can see a middle section of seating as well.

    Many airlines offer premium economy which, for a fee of anywhere from $15 - $50 typically, you can reserve and pre-book the first few rows in economy, as well as the exit row seating. Others, like Air Transat, offer "plus" seating which gives you food and beverages as well, but these costs can run into the hundreds of dollars.

    If you're a frequent flier and have accumulated miles or credits, check to see if you can redeem these for an upgrade.

    Otherwise, you'll have to wait until 24 hours before your flight departure time to check in online, and select a regular economy seat. And don't kid yourself; many people (perhaps myself included) set timers to go on to the airlines' site at exactly 24 hours before their flight time. Waiting even five minutes can cost you that seat.

    Many experienced fliers who are travelling with a companion will book the window and the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat open. This is less likely to be booked by another passenger, than if they had left either window or aisle open. Should the middle seat become booked, there's a 99.9 per cent chance that person will switch with either of your seats, still allowing you to sit together.

    If you are trying to book seats together, but others have beaten you to it, you can always consider registering with For $0.99 per request, you can ask for email alerts should a particular seat, or general type of seat become available on your flight. It covers most airlines -- Air Canada and WestJet included.

    If your travel dates are flexible, try to travel mid-week to avoid the weekend, or Monday morning and Friday afternoon rush. The Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa and Vancouver/Calgary/Edmonton corridors are a nightmare beginning and end of week, and even beginning and end of day. Book midday if you can on these busy business travel routes. Also, be aware that many business travellers are savvy to seat selection strategies and likely have "status" with the airlines' frequent flier programs, so your options will be limited right away.

    But what if all of your efforts are in vain, and you're still not in an optimal seat or separated from your travel companions? Flight attendants are most likely not going to help you solve your dilemma, although you can let them know that you are interested in switching. Most airlines will suggest you have to wait until the flight is in the air, or at least until the cabin doors are closed. You cannot switch to an upgraded seat unless the airline allows you to pay for it on the spot.

    Don't assume others will automatically switch seats with you; they may have specifically chosen that seat for comfort, personal or superstitious reasons (many people don't want row 13, for example). Ask politely and if they turn you down, look for other options.

    And one more thing; if you should end up getting the middle seat, common airline etiquette dictates that you "own" both arm rests. Fellow passengers may not subscribe to this, but if you are in a window or aisle seat, keep this in mind for your struggling middling companion.

    Kathy Buckworth's "How She Travels" segment can be heard on "What She Said" on Sirius/XM Canada Talks, Channel 167. Check out her travel blog here.

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    After the Internet kept bugging me about how every woman should take a trip by herself at least once in her life, I thought I'd give it a go.

    I'm never one to shy away from a challenge, but I'm also not the person you'd go to when you need directions (unless you actually want to get lost).

    As women, we're taught that the world is dangerous and we should have a man by our side to protect us. Obviously, there are places which are genuinely unsafe for both genders, but the majority of the world should not leave you cowering in fear just because you're female. As long as you do some research, the benefits of solo female travel far outweigh the cons.

    Solo travel is terrifying but exhilarating. I took my first solo trip in June 2015 through Costa Rica and Panama, and these are the lessons I learnt.

    People are kind

    It's easy when you first set out by yourself to be suspicious of everyone and everything around you. That street looks a bit dodgy, you might think, or Cross the road and avoid that person: they might rob you!

    Your mind can quickly go into overdrive. While it's absolutely necessary to take precautions and have your wits about you, be open to kindness as well.

    At an airport in Costa Rica, a man told me which direction to go after I deeply suspected he would demand money for the information (he didn't). At one hostel, a girl invited me to dinner with her friends when she saw me by myself.

    When travelling alone, you may predominantly rely on yourself, but you also take more chances on other people. When someone does something nice for you when you feel a bit lonely or lost, you return the favour: whenever I saw someone by themselves at a hostel, I immediately went over to say hi.


    Foreign languages (and cultures) are important

    I went to Costa Rica and Panama with minimal Spanish skills. I'm not even being modest, I was really clueless. Apart from going back in time and deciding to travel a country I'd have had more luck in (a French-speaking country, for example) or practising Spanish months in advance, nothing could prepare me for the guilt I would feel upon that first "hola."

    It's just simple manners to make the effort to speak the language -- however little -- of the country you're travelling in, not to mention respectful and a lot smoother for your travel plans.

    Saying goodbye is tough

    When you move around during your trip, you make an effort to talk to people and make friends. The sad part is that each place I'd make a lovely group of friends, we'd inevitably go our separate ways - then you're back to the beginning, introducing yourself to new people, going through the usual routine backpacker questions. It was like ending and starting a whole new trip, setting the restart button.

    Solo, you don't have that companion who's your constant while everything else changes. Solo, you reflect on everything, then have to move on and adapt again. Your time travelling becomes more like lots of fleeting, separate moments than a linear, continuous journey.


    Being alone can actually be comforting

    When I took off on my solo adventure, I thought I'd always want to be surrounded by people. I like my alone time at home, but would I like it so much when I didn't have the comfort of having someone I know only in the other room or a train ride away?

    Turns out, yes. I loved moments of going to find something to eat on my own or picking the comfiest looking hammock and reading by myself (and there are definitely no shortage of hammocks in Central America). There's a calmness in just being in your own company that makes you more present and in the moment.

    Being alone can also be really disorientating

    On the other hand, there were times that all I wanted was to go home and wondered what on earth I'd got myself into.

    I forced my expectations and hopes of my trip onto myself and got disappointed when they didn't work out. That sort of pressure isn't helpful to your happiness on a solo adventure.

    The times you want to feel good about being alone, you might hate it. The times you want to make deeper friendships, there may not be anyone you bond with. But that's ok, because travel comes with the nice surprises, too. Solo travel means learning that you don't have much say as to whether you're going to find what you're looking for, so you might as well just trust the ride.


    Be yourself

    Or anyone you want to be. The point is, you don't have to impress anyone. The only person you have to answer to is yourself.

    Travelling solo can be completely liberating: you're probably never going to see the people you meet on the road again (unless you really click) so who cares if you'd actually rather go to bed instead of staying up all night drinking with people you only sort of like? You're just doing what you want without pressure from anyone. People go travelling for all sorts of reasons so leave the judgement behind and let people be who they are.

    If you don't like it, change it

    If you don't like a place, move on to another. You may waste some money, but wasting time being unhappy is worse when you've put all this effort into giving yourself an amazing experience. Create a buffer in your budget for the possibility you won't like a place -- I would have been a lot happier if I hadn't have stayed in empty, rainy Puerto Viejo for as long as I did.

    Similarly, if you don't get on with someone, or they want to do something you don't want to do, politely excuse yourself and do what feels right to you. The beauty of solo travel is that you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself -- take advantage of that!

    To read more about my solo travel experiences or about Central America (among other destinations), visit my blog, Kirst Over the World.

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    That question never entered our heads when we booked a trip from Toronto to Africa, cashing in our Aeroplan Miles to fly business class. When our travel agent booked us back home from Cape Town to Toronto, we hunkered down in the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport for the six-hour layover.

    One step inside and it became clear that this is to 'lounge' what 'rec room' is to 'Rogers Centre.'

    In fact, it's bigger than some airports, spread out over 60,000 square feet on two vast floors and can hold 1,000 passengers at a time, with a capacity of 4,000 passengers per day. It's much, much bigger than Canada's largest airline lounge, the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in the Domestic Departures area of Pearson International in Toronto.

    But it's not just size that makes Istanbul the largest airline lounge on earth; it's what you can do here. Of course you can eat and drink, much better than in business class on many airlines. There are over a dozen food stations serving everything from full meals to fine wine. One station serves only western desserts; another, only Turkish. There's also a separate station devoted entirely to olives.

    Beyond eating and drinking, you can do things here that most loungers don't offer, like have a shower, snooze in a 'quiet room', and get a massage. But this is the only lounge with two roaming masseuses who will give you a 15-minute shoulder-rub at your seat.

    And what other lounge has a pool table, a library, a model race-car track, a prayer room, a golf simulator, a separate kid's area, and two baby grand pianos that play
    a la pianola all night and day?

    The lounge is saved from being cavernous by being divided into a number of loose sections, set off with different furniture and floorings that reflect the Ottoman and Seljuk periods in Turkish history. We settled in to a foresty-gardeny area and it took me awhile to realize the sounds of birds I was hearing weren't taped, but were real birds flying overhead.

    The Turkish Airlines Lounge is all part of the airline's push to remain the Best Airline in Europe for the 5th year running, and it's clearly a new weapon in the war to attract lucrative international business class customers.

    Will rival airlines pile on with ever larger lounges so that Turkish Airlines no longer enjoys first-mover advantage?

    Let's hope yes.

    But to me, the bigger question is, would you deliberately change your flight route in order to enjoy a layover in an airline lounge?

    Well, Istanbul is now the third most visited city in Europe, after Paris and London.

    One reason may be that way back in 2009, Turkish Airlines, alongside the local and national governments, started a program called TourIstanbul that offers free 4-to-8-hour sightseeing tours for transit passengers - meals included:

    It's clear that investing in your passengers' well-being when they're not on the plane carries serious long-term benefits that our own airlines would do well to emulate.

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    A real sign of maturity is being able to identify and embrace your true nature without fear or concern of outside judgement. Córdoba is a beautiful city, one that I'll be leaving at the end of next week. And so many of my friends have had amazing and life-changing culinary experiences here in some of the finest restaurants in the continent. But, just like wine tasting, I can't help but feel that Michelin star establishments and their equivalents around the world would be wasted on me. It's never really been my scene.

    Deep down, I've always been a street food guy.

    Maybe it has to do with my personality. I am far too riddled with ADHD to really enjoy sitting down to eat over an hour or two without outside stimulation. Street food gives me options that no sit-down food can ever afford me. It's honest in a way that only a person creating your meal right in front of you inside a poorly-ventilated cart can be. It's the culinary equivalent of working from home in your underwear -- you accomplish what you need to in the best possible way, on your terms.

    (Also, yes, that is how all of my best writing is done. Gaze beyond the curtain and despair.)

    So when I found out Córdoba would be hosting the World Choripan Festival while we were staying here, my soul did a backflip and my stomach quietly resigned itself to its fate. While others were going to Mendoza, Argentina's wine country, I would be making makeshift bibs out of napkins at a world of meat. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

    Choripan is fairly self-explanatory once you parse the word: It's a chorizo (chori) sandwich (pan). It's an actual sausage sandwich with some funky dressings on top, and it will change your life if you let it into your heart. And I did, because I ate four of them in a night.

    More accurately, I let cholesterol into my heart, but that's for One-Year-From-Now-Mike to deal with.

    (Side Note: Dear Future Mike, Please don't be too much of a dick to the Americans about the whole President Trump thing. They'll be your new neighbours in Toronto soon enough.)

    We're nearing the end of our first city, and it's still hard for me to really comprehend what the next year will be like. It's one thing to say "BRB gonna c the world bai" to your entire life, and it's another thing to live that every day. When you leave home, you take a snapshot of everything you love there and store it somewhere safe in your brain. You hope that when you go back, everything will mostly be where it was, give or take some new fashion trends and haircuts.

    And that's just bullshit.

    Travel changes you. I have literally been told that, to my face, by dozens of people. Various versions of "You'll be so different when you come back" have been repeated to me for months.

    Which really makes me wonder how long my friends and family have been waiting for me to revamp my personality. Anyway.

    Time changes you. Life changes you. New experiences change you. And travel can be all of that, bundled together and super-sized. And that's good and beneficial and hopefully leads to you ending up in a better place than you started.

    But your life back home changes too. Your loved ones won't freeze in place and wait for your presence so they can continue their development as humans with you around to enjoy it. I'm excited and kind of scared to reintroduce myself to the people I love in a year. I hope 2017 Them is a fan of 2017 Me. I hope they're not too freaked out by how full and well-trimmed my beard is, or that my washboard abs make wearing and owning shirts a cruel and needless habit.

    Maybe travel is easier (or less prone to bouts of melancholy) if you fully embrace where you are and where you're going. If each new place is home in every sense of the word. But for all of my travels, I'm coming back. I have a place and a date of return. So I will always keep one foot back where I came from.

    I am changing, my home is changing, and the former never feels further from the latter than during weeks like this.

    A week when a man who dominated the tone of my city and was the first story I ever got to professionally follow as a writer, died.

    A week when I watched, via shaky phone footage, a person I know and respect be thrown to the ground by Toronto police for participating in the #BlackLivesMatter protest outside police HQ.

    A week when Jian Ghomeshi walks free, and it seems to be both inconceivable and inevitable.

    And that's just a week looking at my home. I have a friend from Belgium, and his home changed this week too.

    Change happens whether you're there or not, and that truth isn't always advertised front-and-centre by everyone who encourages you to chase your wanderlust.


    Next we'll talk about football. It's kind of a thing here.

    Mike Sholars is currently residing in Córdoba, 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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    Josh Tetrick of Hampton Creek and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern at SXSW Interactive

    South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual interactive/film/music festival that attracts thousands of hipsters each year to Austin, deserved kudos for lasting 30 years. This year it even attracted the U.S. President and First Lady as keynote speakers.

    But after experiencing my first SXSW -- watching Generation Z up close, hearing panelists weigh forward on everything from how to make food cheaper and healthier to the prospects for virtual reality and Twitter -- I don't know if I've left Austin with higher hopes for humanity.

    Its not the sight of thousands of young, hip kids roaming around glued to their screens -- at least we as a species have evolved to the point where we can simultaneously text, navigate a crosswalk and talk to a companion. Nor is it the somewhat vulgar lyrics coming out of the mouths of the many hip hop artists on SXSW stages. Nor is it worrisome predictions from futurists such as Kevin Kelly that in the years ahead we will each be 100 per cent totally tracked by others.

    It just seems to me that by now we would have figured it out better -- how to tweak technology to make us superior collaborators. How to nudge young kids offline in order to be less self-centered and more we-centered, aware and caring of other people and the environment.

    Information shared at SXSW actually says email is making us dumber! Yep -- with the average worker checking email 36 times-per-hour, his IQ has been reduced by 10 points due to email distraction.

    What does that say about how our kids will end up, who are being lured to screens more and more, and who seem to think little or privacy concerns for the sake of expediency and convenience.

    Take the chat app Kik. Do we really need yet one more app that encourages young teenagers to chat online? Since the Waterloo-based company launched their app -- complete with compelling emojis and the ability to send GIFs -- it has attracted more than 200 million registered users in just four years. Law enforcement officials say apps like Kik and Snapchat have become hunting grounds for predators.

    I also fear that chat apps are leading more kids to a dangerous stage of device-olation where they lose the ability to communicate, collaborate, hold normal conversations. As adults they're likely to suffer from bandwidth separation anxiety every time they fly on a plane with no wifi.

    Indeed, a recent study indicates that the number of kids as young as two (yes two!) who have used a device for media had more than doubled between 2011 and 2013. Other research is showing that kids raised on devices are starting to show less empathy and are having problems reading facial expressions.

    Though to its credit, Kik has been engaging kids to participate in campaigns with the World Wildlife Fund and other causes. They also concede there's a need to nudge kids from online to offline -- at least for a bit -- towards charitable causes or volunteerism.

    A couple of people who do give me cause for hope are TV personality and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern and Josh Tetrick, the founder of Hampton Creek, which describes itself as the world's fastest growing food company with a mission to "bring healthier and affordable food to everyone, everywhere." Zimmern and Tetrick are nothing short of rock stars, and ooze empathy. Both have been to some of the world's nastiest places, to leverage their brains, connections and resources to bring people more food and water.

    Tetrick agreed with me that climate change is a real concern, and is diminishing the amount of arable land in the places that need it the most. The bright side, he said, is that there are hundreds if not thousands of plant species that have never been tapped for nutrition. And guess what? Many take less water to grow.

    Many countries, including Ireland, were promoting their high-tech industries at SXSW

    Here in the United States, we need to encourage people to invest in themselves and learn how to cook -- in the process weaning them off unhealthy and expensive processed foods, Zimmern said. It'd also be good if large corporations kick their addiction to growing corn and soy for healthier alternatives such as kale and carrots.

    More cause for hope: big tech and media companies are becoming more savvy about corporate social responsibility. I heard some great concepts from the likes of LinkedIn and Pandora. Turns out that music is a great way to move kids to do good. With more than 80-million active users, Pandora has the reach to move people to move - and is helping young kids to learn music instead of playing with tablets. Nice!

    Turns out we are also getting a better grasp of how to combat modern slavery, described as the fastest growing illicit industry (with up to 36 million individuals forcibly helping to generate an estimated $150-billion in profits each year). There's even apps to help monitor the industry and help put the bad guys out of business.

    In the interests of disclosure. in the couple of hours it took me to write this piece I checked my social media apps six times and my email twice. I hope I'm not dumber for it.

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    My ears popped as the truck travelled up, up into the mountains outside the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. The buildings faded behind us and were replaced by rolling green mountains with sparse, lonely trees dotting the tops.

    Stepping out of the truck, the air felt significantly colder than the muggy heat of Cochabamba. Only an hour away, and we were in a different world.

    The homes here are perched precariously on the sides of mountains, near streams and rivers. For centuries, the local Quechua people have drawn their water from these sources. Their ancestors, the Incas, built complex irrigation systems to move where they needed it to go. In some areas, these methods of watering the crops are still being used today.

    Water that harms

    But today, water from many of these sources is no longer safe for human consumption. Since both people and livestock use the water, they can often become contaminated.

    The rivers and lakes are also dangerous for children who may not know how to swim. The banks can become swollen, and the current swift during the rainy season. Small children who use the rivers as a latrine or wade in with buckets to gather water can get caught under the flow and swept away. We met a mother who said her children have even seen snakes sliding through the river.

    The water sources can also be far from people's homes. It can take hours, or even all day, for some remote households to reach the water source. With parents busy working to feed their families, the task can fall to children- children who then don't have time to go to school.

    First-hand pain

    Just a week before this mountain trip, while staying in the city, I had discovered for myself just how dangerous dirty water can be. Throughout my time in Bolivia, I had dutifully washed any fruit and vegetables I consumed, just like we do in Canada.

    But three weeks into the visit, I got sick. Very sick. The first day of the illness I popped my traveller's medication, hoping to calm my stomach and get some strength back. But by the second morning, I knew that something was seriously wrong. We went to the hospital.

    The doctor who examined me gave an almost immediate diagnosis.

    "The vegetables you ate were contaminated with dirty water," she said.

    Right away my mind flashed to the beautiful, colourful salad I had made my husband and myself yesterday evening. Despite my diligence in washing the vegetables, I had poisoned myself. I had a waterborne illness.

    I know from first-hand experience that when you are sick from a waterborne illness, the smallest task can seem insurmountable. For days during my illness, just walking up the stairs required colossal effort. For a child suffering from the same illness, going to school is out of the question.

    Imagine children's suffering

    On the mountainside, listening to the World Vision Bolivia staff who guided us explain just how many kids get sick, and even die from the same disease I had suffered from, I wanted to cry.

    Children all over Bolivia battle this kind of illness every day. Little kids, especially those under five years old, undernourished already and with developing immune systems, are struggling to stay alive just because of the basic human need for water. Waterborne illness is easy to catch, as I discovered. But for children all over Bolivia, it is very difficult to get rid of.

    Children in rural communities don't have the easy access to medicine I did. Without proper bathrooms, the illness can spread quickly. And parents who are barely making ends meet can't afford to buy bottled water for their children. So a sick child must continue to consume the water that made them sick in the first place.

    Clean water gives life

    Just as dirty water sentences kids to lives of illness and suffering, having a reliable source of clean water can set them free.

    When my husband and I visited one of the mountain homes, we met a young girl for whom clean, accessible water has meant a renewed chance at a full life.

    Irma is 12 years old and actively learning and growing at a nearby school. But it wasn't always this way. For many years of her life, Irma's water source was a polluted, dangerous river down the mountain from her house. But then World Vision equipped her home with a basic washroom, an outdoor washing station and water pump, all supplied by a regularly tested reservoir up the mountain from her home.


    "We used to get sick from the water," Irma told me, "we would get stomach aches and diarrhea." Even boiling it was no use. I remembered my two days doubled over on the bed, unable to keep in any nutrients or even move without difficulty. It's not hard to imagine why Irma used to miss so many weeks of school every year.

    Maria, Irma's mother, says her five children used to get sick from the water too often for growing kids going to school.

    Now, she said, "I feel more relaxed."


    The entire community is more at ease, now that World Vision has established 1600 of these 'wash stations' around this area of Bolivia. The joy and pride everyone takes in their modern structures made me realize how much something we take for granted really means.

    When you desperately need one, a clean, working washroom is literally a lifesaver. And water that can heal, not hurt, is even more precious.


    You can help

    Around the world, there are so many more communities like Irma's that are in need of clean, accessible water sources. World Vision is committed to reaching as many of these as possible, so that children like Irma can go to school and live an illness-free, full life.

    I hope you will join us, and visit our clean water campaign to be a part of this powerful change. Children like Irma will thank you.

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    There's no denying that Canada is huge, so you'd be forgiven for not quite knowing how to begin exploring it. For one thing, the choices seem limitless. And frequently, the only cities on our radar are those ranking in the top spots for best quality of life. So what about the more adventurous pursuits?

    These are our top picks for epic adventures that will leave you in awe, get your heart racing and cement your love for Canada.

    1. Northern Lights in Yellowknife, NT

    Yellowknife Northern Lights. Flickr Photo by GoToVan

    Yellowknife is the go-to destination in Canada for the Northern Lights -- so much so that it has even named a place after the marvel (Aurora Village). To increase your chances of seeing the phenomenon on almost everyone's bucket list, travel between January and early April. The trick is to stay at least three nights, so that you can increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. This is because even if there are clear skies, you won't necessarily see them. What makes them so remarkable is what makes them equally elusive: You need a combination of clear skies, high-particle activity and maybe some luck. I say this based on my own elusive treks to see the Northern Lights in other parts of the world.

    Yellowknife has particularly good conditions for witnessing those green, glimmering lights because of the lack of cloud coverage and its position under the "Aurora Oval." You can rent a car and drive out yourself or take a night tour where a guide will tell you about the aboriginal beliefs about the Northern Lights.

    2. Polar bears in Churchill, MB

    Polar bears roaming in Churchill, Manitoba. Flickr photo by Gary Ullah

    Every year, from September until November, polar bears pass through Churchill, Manitoba on their migration route (summers on land; winters hunting on the frozen Hudson Bay). While this may seem like a terrifying prospect -- and while you may ask yourself why anyone would visit a place with big polar bears -- it is a great opportunity to see these majestic animals in their natural environment.

    Tours use giant Tundra Buggies so you cross the uneven ground (there are no roads in Churchill) at a safe distance.

    3. Orca watching off Vancouver Island, B.C.

    Orcas off the coast of Vanvoucer Island. Photo by Kirsten Powley

    By this point, you might be a bit suspicious of my seemingly dangerous suggestions. First polar bears, now killer whales? Speaking first hand, seeing orcas in the wild is the most breathtaking experience. It also puts the mind to ease--unless your gasping along with everyone else in the boat when you first lock eyes on these majestic creatures.

    There are plenty of places to visit, with sightings around Vancouver Island being the most likely, as the Johnstone Strait provides lots of food for orcas from mid-July to September. (Of course, nothing is guaranteed as nature tends to do its own thing.) To increase your chances of encountering an orca in the wild (and getting as close to it as you can) -- opt for a multiple-day kayak tour.

    4. Surf in Tofino, B.C.

    Surfing in Tofino. Photo courtesy of

    Step aside California and Australia, there's a new surfing destination in town. Sure, surfing in Canada would probably strike you as a hilarious notion, but British Columbia's Tofino is as scenic as it gets.

    The water is 10°C year-round, which is cold, but it's perfectly doable in a good wetsuit. It's ideal for both beginners and pro-surfers, but if you want a stronger swell, winter is the time to head into the water.

    So why Tofino? It's unlike your usual beach destination in that it has rainforests, hiking and hot springs. It's basically the best of Canada merged into a laid-back surfing destination like California.

    5. Iceberg Alley - Great Northern Peninsula, NL

    Iceberg watching off Twillingate, NF. Photo courtesy of

    Ever wondered what an iceberg would look like up close? That is, without fearing for your life as the Titanic soundtrack eerily echoes in your ear.

    Iceberg Alley stretches from the coast of Labrador to the northeast coast of Newfoundland. Popular places for iceberg sightings include St. John's/Cape Spear, Bonavista, Battle Harbour and Fogo Island. Depending on your level of excitement and adventure, you can watch from the land, take a boat trip or even kayak amongst the giants.

    The icebergs are up to 10,000 years old and are so plentiful that East Coasters actually put them into drinks: there's Iceberg Water, Iceberg Vodka, Gin and Rum and even Iceberg Beer. It's worth visiting just to test out these concoctions.

    6. Raft the highest tides in the world - Shubenacadie River, NS

    Rafting along the Shubenacadie. Photo courtesy of

    This isn't for the faint-hearted. Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia is home to the world's highest tides, rising up to 15 metres, resulting in a tidal wave or bore which flows up the river. Being more inventive and opportunistic than ever before, people have now made rafting on the Shubenacadie River a "thing." In small-powered zodiacs, you ride the collision of incoming tides, which can get very, very wet.

    7. Ski, snowboard or zipline Whistler

    The gondola at Whistler, BC. Flickr photo by Perfect Zero

    As one of the world's best and most famous ski resorts, Whistler is perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. With stunning views and great apres-ski options, Whistler brings people from all over the world.

    If shredding the slopes isn't your thing or you're looking for an extra buzz, try ziplining. As you zoom (screaming at the top of your lungs, most likely) through the snow-capped trees, you'll get even closer to the mountain views Canada does so well.

    8. Ice climbing in Alberta

    Ice climbing near Lake Louise, Alberta. Flickr photo by davebloggs007

    Defy gravity and even logic as you climb up an ice waterfall in the Canadian Rockies. Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise are not only breathtaking locations, but ideal places for adventure junkies ready to go with crampons and ice axes in tow.

    As snow and ice trickles down each time you smack your axe into a frozen blue wall, you'll be blown away by the surreal nature and rush of ice climbing. It's like you're in a thriller version of the film Frozen.

    9. Hang out at Toronto CN Tower

    Edgewalk at the CN Tower. Flickr photo by Kevin Costain

    Don't be fooled, I don't mean "hang out" metaphorically, but literally. The CN Tower's EdgeWalk is a panoramic view of the city on a whole other level: walk on the roof of the CN Tower's restaurant, which sits at 1,168 feet above ground and literally hang off the tower's edge. Sound scary? You bet it is, but you'll earn bragging rights for months.

    Good thing Canadians are so trustworthy! offers various deals to Canadian and international destinations.

    Kirsten Powley 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.

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    PRAGUE, Czech Republic. Foodie travellers -- the brand new fashionable term for gourmands who like to spend time on the road -- like to stop and eat pretty much everywhere in Western Europe. Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, so many great destinations for foodies. But for the countries of Central Europe -- especially the ones that were part of the Communist bloc -- don't attract the foodie kind as much. It's not surprising, since communism did serious damage to all kind of culture, including gastronomy. Prague's culinary culture is just beginning to find its wheels again.

    However one thing is for certain: Prague is a first class tourism destination. Proof: eight million tourists visited the Czech capital in 2014, an all-time best.

    Going through the foodie side of Prague is a trip that history buffs will love. Follow me!


    First Lunch, And An Exceptional Panorama

    I almost always start my foodie guides with lunch. I have to admit: I almost never have breakfast. A strong coffee and I'm ready to go. So here's a couple of lunch addresses!

    Here, you have two rather similar choices. Both offer a wonderful view of the city. Coda and Terasa U Zlate Studne both are restaurants for hotels located in the Mala Strana neighborhood, on the Western shore of Prague.

    Terasa U Zlate Studne is on the rooftop of a historical hotel called the Golden Well, which traces its origins back to the 1500's. The menu is built accordingly, since it includes "the mandatories," the "crowd-pleasers," including a beef carpaccio.

    Coda is in a brand new and very chic hotel, and its menu is on the modern side, including a homemade beef ravioli.

    In both cases, the point of view allows you to take in the whole city at once. This is a great opportunity to get a great first impression of Prague!

    Terasa U Zlaté studně - U Zlaté studně 166/4, 118 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic - +420 257 533 322

    Coda - Tržiště 368/9, 118 00 Prague, Czech Republic - +420 225 334 761

    A Beer?

    Czech beers are among the best in the world, including the superb Pilsner Urquell. And Prague abounds with small outside bars similar to the classic German beer gardens. One of these is located in Letna park, on the same shore as the first two restaurants. One again, the views are incredible!

    The Best Restaurant In The Country

    The best restaurant of the whole Czech Republic is called Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise and is right next to the historical Dlouha Street. The short walk from the Old Square (Staromestske Namesti) to the restaurant is always a pleasant one. And a meal at the Degustation can be a special experience, since they offer a meal-juice pairing! Click here to know everything about this relatively experimental restaurant.

    La Dégustation Bohême Bourgeoise - Haštalská 753/18, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic - +420 222 311 234

    End The Evening With A Few Creative Cocktails

    To end the evening with style and discover a place where the concept and the alcoholic beverages are both amusing and unique, you need to head to AnonymouS bar. It's a flair bartending bar and the dark atmosphere is truly enchanting! Click here to view my video shot on-site.

    AnonymouS Bar - Michalská 432/12, 110 00 Praha, Czech Republic

    48 Hours In Prague: Second Day, Second Lunch

    The morning is the ideal time to visit Prague's mandatory sights. The Old Square, Charles bridge, the Prague Castle and Tancici Dum are on everyone's list! And in the same history-laden vein, our lunch stop is another place that should be on all lists : Cafe Imperial.

    It's a historical café that has seen it all, from nazis to Soviets to the fall of the Communist regime. Café Imperial is now back to the look of its glory days. There are several different menus available, however the classic Czech dishes - grandmother food, if you will - hold an important place at Café Imperal. Try the kulajda, it's unique!

    Café Impérial -- Na Poříčí 15, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic

    A Trip Off The Beaten Path

    Prague's suburbs are never part of the tourist trail. And when we think about Prague, we don't really think about microbreweries, since they have such well-known brews. So I suggest we take a stop off the proverbial beaten path. Ideally, this trip would be a beautiful bike ride towards the countryside - though the trip is easily done by bus - with, as its ultimate stop, the Uneticky Pivovar microbrewery, which brews a few beers and serves them in its wonderful, rustic restaurant. Na zdraví!

    Únětický Pivovar - Rýznerova 19/5, 252 62 Únětice, Czech Republic

    And A Last Modern Czech Dinner: V Zatisi

    V Zatisi claims to have had been the first gastronomical restaurant to have opened its doors after the end of Communism. The decor is a mix of glam and nouveau gothic and the dishes are simple but well executed. They even have an Indian menu. That'll get anyone's curiosity going!

    V Zátiší - Liliová 216/1, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic - +420 222 221 155

    Thanks to JayWay Travel for hosting C&C in Prague! If you need help to plan your trip anywhere in Central Europe, they're the ones you need!

    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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    VR, or "virtual reality," is the new buzzword in technology and the travel industry may just be one of the first to bring this phenomenon into mainstream marketing. Who wouldn't want a "real life" experience in the Amazon before committing to a $10K-plus investment? As virtual reality becomes more and more accessible, companies like Marriott are diving right in.

    In a recent article published by Bloomberg Business, Marriott is calling their VR experience "4-D" and creating one of the most innovative teleportation-like journeys in the industry. To create this experience, Marriott developed personalized "teleporter stations" as part of the hotel chain's Travel Brilliantly campaign. The stations allow the guest to enjoy a 360-degree virtual experience, including movement, wind, smells and sounds which feels like you traveled into another dimension without ever leaving.

    When we asked Chris Bazos, Co-Founder & President of Travelous, a private tour company, what he thought of VR and how it's about to impact the future of travel, he was excited at the opportunity of how this would transform his industry.

    Early adopters of airlines, hoteliers and tour companies like his realize its potential -- and the advantages to utilizing the immersive technology to stand out among other service providers. He believes VR is poised to enhance the overall travel booking process, by providing the ability to explore a location and virtually "try before you buy" it.

    "No longer is it just about itineraries, bloggers, reviews, images and video. Anyone in travel right now should be rethinking their content strategy with VR in mind -- a very exciting time for the travel industry and travelers alike," says Chris.

    According to Bloomberg, Thomas Cook, one of Europe's largest travel companies, went to Egypt to film the pyramids, six different hotel properties, and live-action biking on sand dunes. These videos will be used in their next marketing campaign where they will be utilizing Google Cardboard, an inexpensive VR player.

    The players, along with 5,000 virtual brochures, will be mailed to their target audience, allowing the viewer to use their smartphones to enjoy custom-branded VR experiences via the downloadable app.

    Shawn Smith, founder of nadaCliché -- what he calls "The Black Sheep Travel Blog" -- is no stranger to traipsing the globe and capturing the essence of resorts, hotels and tours to enhance their visual experience through marketing and communications.

    Shawn is excited to embark on this new adventure in technology and creativity. Much like Bazos, he believes VR will play a major part in selling the experience.

    "It is the next evolution of 3D tours for the hospitality industry, which can showcase their offerings in a more interactive fashion. Hate it or love it, it's gonna happen. As a traveller who strives to discover the underdogs in the hospitality industry, I think the technology can lend great support in opening people's eyes. Don't believe that this 3 star 5 bedroom boutique hotel is as luxurious as the 5 star hotel down the street? Well then...*hand over the VR headset*... see for yourself," says Smith.

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    All moms know and appreciate a solo trip to the grocery store, the library or, on really bad days, just sneaking in a solo trip to the bathroom. These types of trips are important, immediate life-savers. But let's face it their benefits are short-lived.

    When I traveled to Australia recently it occurred to me, after a few trepidatious days, how much I needed to be there, traveling alone. When is the last time you traveled farther than across town on your own? If you are struggling to think about where, when and why you've traveled alone it's been too long!

    I do not have a life that is any harder than any other mom. Yet, for years, I always had a reason to get home as quickly as possible when I had to travel for work. I never took the time to enjoying being alone in fact I often felt guilty for not being at home. For me, Australia was a wake-up call. After such a long flight, so much planning and the sheer exhaustion of jet lag, I was not in my usual panic to get home. No matter what was going on at home, I was not able to get there quickly. It was a terrifying reality and also an odd relief.


    Once I'd accepted the extra time in Australia, I decided to get to know "me" again and just enjoy some alone time. I created my own version of the long lunch. I picked up a magazine simply because I liked the cover. I ordered exactly what I wanted and tacked on a glass of wine. That's right! Wine!!!! In the middle of the day! Not quite a Mad Men lunch, but as close as I get! I took my time eating, sipping wine and flipping through the magazine.

    At first I felt a little guilty. Lunch normally is something I eat, when I eat, in the car on the way to my next appointment or at my computer. Or when kids are home it's often standing up and going between getting them drinks or styling their sandwiches (Yes, I have done this. If a child will eat a sandwich cut into triangles but not squares and I have a meeting at two, I will cut the sandwich into triangles.) Wine? Ummm nope. Fun magazines? Only if sorting mail counts.


    But, in Australia, no one knew me. No one cared what I ate, how long it took me to eat, what I was reading as I ate or that I had wine (in the MIDDLE of the day!). Once I got used to the idea that I could just relax and be me, I started looking forward to my long lunches. Maybe it's just me, but food tastes so much better when someone else makes it for you!

    It was lovely just taking time for myself, just being alone and not having to respond to anyone calling my name. Being able to enjoy the decadence of a glass of wine and a trashy magazine. I realized I rarely did anything just for me and if I did I didn't take the time to ENJOY it.


    Take a chance. If you travel for work or must take a trip for other reasons, go ahead and go alone. Yes, it can be a hassle to arrange childcare, pre-make dinners and all the rest of the stuff your family thinks just magically happens. Still, it's worth it. Traveling alone lets you remember who you were before you were the key cog in a family. You don't have to go to Australia to achieve this. They have wine in Pittsburgh, Toronto and Phoenix. They also have tea, massages and nice empty hotel rooms if you simply want to skip lunch and nap!


    The key to travel alone is taking the time to get to know yourself again. Not a mom, not a part of a couple -- just you. Trust me, you will come home rejuvenated and ready to re-assume your role as mom and partner.

    Laura Berg

    Come join my adventures!

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    HONOLULU — A Japan-bound airplane returned to Hawaii because of a violent South Korean passenger who wanted to do yoga instead of sit in his seat, the FBI said.

    The pilot of the March 26 United Airlines flight from Honolulu International Airport to Narita International Airport turned the plane around after hearing that Hyongtae Pae was yelling at crew members and shoving his wife, the FBI said in a criminal complaint.

    Pae told the FBI he didn't want to sit in his seat during the meal service, so he went to the back of the plane to do yoga and meditate. He became angry when his wife and flight attendants told him to return to his seat. "Pae pushed his wife because she was trying to make him stop,'' the complaint said. "He felt that she was siding with the flight crew.''

    He tried to head-butt and bite Marines who were passengers on the flight and tried to force him back to his seat, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching said at Pae's detention hearing Wednesday.

    "Pae pushed his wife because she was trying to make him stop. He felt that she was siding with the flight crew.''

    According to the complaint, he threatened to kill passengers and was yelling that there is no god.

    Pae went into a rage because he felt the flight crew was ordering him around, Ching said.

    Ching said Pae shouldn't be released because he's a danger to his wife, himself and others. Pae urinated on himself and was on suicide watch at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, Ching said.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang ordered that Pae be released on $25,000 bond, but with certain conditions including not leaving the island of Oahu and undergoing a mental health evaluation.

    Since the arrest, Pae's wife has been staying at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel, defence attorney Jin Tae "J.T.'' Kim told the judge, who asked whether Pae had financial resources to continue staying there after his release. Kim said he's working with the consulate to transfer more money to Pae's wife and find alternate, temporary housing.

    united airlines

    Chang denied Kim's request to allow Pae to return home to Korea, because that would involve getting on a plane again.

    Outside of court, Kim said his client is a 72-year-old retired farmer who travelled from South Korea to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary with a Hawaii vacation. It was the couple's first trip to Hawaii.

    Pae only recently took up yoga to help with anxiety, Kim said, adding that he was sleep-deprived during the vacation. Pae told the FBI he hadn't been able to sleep in 11 days.

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    When Tourism Ireland invited me on a Foodie Tour of Northern Ireland, my first thought was "I can boil my own potatoes and I don't eat deep fried foods." They were only too happy to show me that my concept of Irish food is outdated and how far their culinary world has come.

    In addition, I experienced living history with the peaceful political shift in the North from Belfast, through County Down and into Derry/Londonderry. This place is in its spring, bursting onto the scene from its rich, fertile, deeply cultured past and ready to blossom for the world.


    Here is a quick video montage of the Irish Foodie Adventure.

    While in Belfast you must not miss:

    True Irish pubs like the Crown which has enclosed cubicles called snugs: booths that are festooned in a British-ish richness and red. (there is a coupon on the website!) A seat at the bar in the afternoon affords the best view of the comings and goings and for about 13 pounds Stirling (They trade in British Pounds in Northern Ireland and Euros in the south.) you can get a plate of sausage and champs with gravy that will stick to the ribs of two average appetites. Don't over-order and plan to take away, it's simply not done; they don't even have take out containers. Oh and it isn't unusual to have a pint for lunch, in fact, it would be unusual not to.

    A black cab tour to provide an up close and personal guided view of the city including the Peace Bridge with its murals of the Troubles and gates that are still closed at night. Visitors sign the walls with messages of peace. There is absolutely no extreme rebellion or fear in the streets but old habits and the drink still exist.

    The Titanic Museum Belfast has something for everyone. Whether you're interested in the history of shipbuilding, the infamous ship herself, the films based upon her story or just looking for a way to entertain the kids in Belfast; plan a couple hours. The Titanic was built here and employed 3000 men for two years which had an impact on the working class society before it even had a chance to sail.

    Northern Ireland has only one Michelin Star accredited restaurant called OX. This small, bare room with high white ceilings keeps all eyes focussed on the food without distraction. The tasting menu is the way to go at $85 Canadian (converted from 45 pounds at today's rate) and the wine pairings are a must. In my experience, sometimes wines are theoretically paired with each food and it is a hit and miss dance. But in this case, the enhancement of key flavours felt like the sommelier had handpicked petals of the brightest blossom on the tallest bough.

    If you are a Van Morrison fan you will want to take a drive up to Holywood which houses the only five star hotel in town called the Culloden Spa and Estate. It is a poorly kept secret that Ireland's own song master takes a corner in the lounge, takes his family to brunch and often performs here. And no wonder, it is a majestic five star retreat that offers exquisite dining, a seaside walk and a spa to restore you. Traditional Irish Breakfast is a highlight here with its cold buffet of gorgeous smoked fish, rich local yogurt, housemade granola and muesli (and a nod to the ever present British Weetabix biscuits) with fruit compote and fresh juices. This is all before you enjoy traditional hot breakfast of black pudding, white pudding, sausage, eggs, baked tomato and mushrooms.

    Northern Ireland's second city is the town of Derry/LondonDerry and it is truly the place you want to be to be able to wrap your brain around the very present history and the extreme hyper local commitment to food.

    Must not miss in Derry/LondonDerry:

    This walled city is stunning with its history of loyalism and defense of independence infused into every rock on the 1 Km promenade that surrounds it. From above you can see the countryside with its sheep, the sleepy neighborhoods surrounding it and the Peace Bridge built to connect unionist 'Waterside' with the largely nationalist 'Cityside and transcend the troubles. Join the Martin McCrossan wall walk guided tour for a very few dollars and an excellent overview. It meets outside the Foyle Mall curbside.

    From there it all comes down to culture inside the town. The Bishops Gate Hotel is freshly restored and one of only two hotels within the walls. The sumptuous offerings in the bar/pub/restaurant are classic and yet up to date. For instance, a large bowl of porridge to accompany the serve yourself cold breakfast buffet is hearty and healthy with an added touch: it comes with its own special syrup made with reduced whisky. Sounds strange but the taste will change your mind about porridge forever. Fresh smoothies and pressed juices will keep you well for the remaining ways you will eat here. Here, too, there is barely a potato in sight.

    Browns and The Sooty Olive are both terrific restaurants for dinner. Always, always go for the tasting menus when offered, these chefs are committed to hyper local and exquisite expression of food. Like, that bacon can from three miles up the road and I picked those flowers myself for garnish this morning kind of local. Any mashed potato is served as a swipe on a plate in honour of the past, there are no heaps of white suffering here.

    There are monthly festivals and 2016 has been designated as the year of Food and Drink. March held the LegenDerry food festival where local producers and chefs connect with the people. Minds are changed and hearts are won over the dinner table where culture is built. I'm not surprised to see that the commitment to supporting the local farmers is woven into small shops that carry everything from black pudding to butter pastured not 10 miles away. No doubt the supermarket here has prices that compete fiercely but the ferocity of the Irish has never been in question. They are a committed people in lore, politics, belief and play and it has nothing to do with the "Luck of the Irish." It comes from generation after generation of knowing what's real.

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