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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Passengers on a cruise ship sailing into Victoria, B.C. got quite a shock recently when the boat unexpectedly tilted several degrees to the side.

    YouTube footage from passengers on the Carnival Legend shows dishes breaking, swimming pools draining, and people holding onto poles.

    "I thought we were going to crash because there was a lot of screaming and crying," passenger Mark Woodward told Inside Edition.

    carnival legend
    Water from swimming pools on upper decks of the Carnival Legend spilled onto balconies when the ship listed suddenly to the side Aug. 29. (Photo: Inside Edition/Screenshot)

    Randy Gibbs said he tried to calm his kids down.

    “I grabbed life-jackets and a bed sheet to tie us together if we went over,” Gibbs, from Puyallup, Wash., told the Times Colonist.

    The ship was on a week-long cruise to Alaska on Aug. 29 when a technical problem with the steering gear caused it to list about eight degrees, Carnival Cruise Line told the newspaper.

    The vessel was transporting 2,000 passengers and crew, but only minor injuries were reported.

    carnival legend
    Passengers on the Carnival Legend held onto poles and one another when the ship listed to the side. (Photo: Inside Edition/Screenshot)

    “At no point were guests or crew in danger," spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said in a statement obtained by CHEK News.

    After three or four minutes, the ship was right side up again.

    The Carnival Legend docked in Victoria two hours behind schedule, and no one was permitted to go ashore, according to the statement.

    The vessel arrived as planned in Seattle on Tuesday.

    You can see footage of the scary few minutes in the video above.

    carnival legend
    Water from swimming pools sloshes around on a deck of the Carnival Legend on Aug. 29. (Photo: Inside Edition/Screenshot)

    One passenger told the website Cruise Law News in an email that the ship's guest services told them this had never happened before on the vessel, but after doing some research, the passenger discovered it's not uncommon on cruise ships.

    "However, generally it is a weather event which this was not," the passenger wrote.

    "Only Carnival can manage to have an incident in near perfect weather and seas."

    A technical issue in 2013 led the Carnival Legend to cancel a scheduled stop in Grand Cayman and head instead to its final destination in Florida.

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  • 09/09/16--06:55: Epic Hotel Screening Rooms
  • Movie junkies may flock to the Toronto International Film Festival to catch the next Oscar-worthy blockbuster, but to truly escape into the magic of the movies, you need the right setting.

    With over a million properties on our site, we found the best accommodations for movie buffs. Overwhelm your senses with 7D screenings, see your favourite flick in a whole new light (under the moonlit sky) or escape to a designated crying room when a movie gets the tears flowing. These hotels have really gone over the top when it comes to entertainment. So forget the sticky seats and stale popcorn - you will never watch another movie the same way again after catching a flick in any of these unbelievable hotel screening rooms:

    Constance Moofushi: Maldives

    2016-09-08-1473363132-8465301-Booking.com_Constance.jpg

    Constance Moofushi promises movie goers a unique luxury cinema experience. While basking in the moonlight of a private Maldivian beach, guests can choose from a selection of more than 100 films for this unforgettable evening. To further fulfill all cinematic expectations, indulge in gourmet selections served right to your private spot on the beach. So cozy up to that special someone and enjoy a motion picture masterpiece like never before.

    The Soho Hotel: London, UK

    2016-09-08-1473363165-6090286-Booking.com_thesohohotel.jpg

    Ditch those stiff traditional theatre seats for the luxurious recliners that fill The Soho Hotel's two feature screening rooms. The unique red leather and cowhide seats coupled with only the highest quality cinematic projection, create the idyllic backdrop to stretch out and enjoy a timeless classic.

    Mitsui Garden Yotsuya: Japan

    2016-09-08-1473363207-7976063-Booking.com_Mitsui.jpg

    If tearjerkers are your genre of choice, Tokyo's Mitsui Garden Yotsuya has the perfect room for you. The hotel's "crying rooms" let's you wear your heart on your sleeve in private. Stocked with an array of emotional dramas guaranteed to get the waterworks flowing, the rooms also offers a complete kit to dry those eyes with makeup removers, steam eye masks and luxury tissues.

    The Miami Beach EDITION: Miami, FL

    2016-09-08-1473363241-7361262-Booking.com_MiamiEdition.jpg

    The secluded outdoor nook, known as The Sandbox at The Miami Beach EDITION, is the perfect escape to catch your favourite flick. A fresh take on outdoor theatre, guests are invited to sink into palm tree sandwiched hammocks and plush outdoor beds for this candlelit cinematic experience. The beachy atmosphere and lush surroundings are guaranteed to make you never want to watch another movie anywhere else.

    Soneva Kiri: Thailand

    2016-09-08-1473363281-3515880-Booking.com_Sonevia.jpg

    When the sun goes down, the Cinema Paradiso at Soneva Kiri lights up. This open-air theatre boasts an over-the-water screen, set on the waters of a lagoon reservoir. So nibble on an offering from the gourmet comfort food menu, snuggle into the cascading cushions of the jungle auditorium and return to the old Hollywood traditions of cinema under the stars.

    Crosby Street Hotel: New York, NY


    2016-09-08-1473363310-4619033-Booking.com_Crosby.jpg

    Inside this vibrant hotel, guests will find a state-of-the-art screening room with advanced technology in sound, projection and digital capabilities including 3D. The 99 seat theatre hosts a weekly film club on Sunday nights, complete with dinner and cocktails. And if you're lucky, maybe the hotel will play a classic NYC flick like Breakfast at Tiffany's, giving you a new perspective on the city that never sleeps.

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    It's the day before you leave for vacation. You and the kids aren't packed, nor have you even started. What happens next? You grab everything and anything, stuff your suitcase and hope your luggage isn't classified as "overweight".

    If this scenario sounds all too familiar, don't worry, you're not alone.

    Packing is something we all tend to put off. It requires careful planning and most importantly a lot of our precious time. Luckily, we've put together a few simple steps you and your family can take to make the process a breeze.

    Homework isn't just for the kids
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    Photo Credit: Parentsociety.com

    Remember the old saying 'failing to plan is planning to fail'? Don't make that mistake! Something as simple as checking the weather before you leave, will go a long way. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination and it's not the tropical paradise you imagined. You should also consider the activities you and your family have planned. Are hiking boots necessary? What about a rain coat? While usually you will be able to purchase the things you forgot to bring, it's better to avoid wasting your limited vacation time shopping because you weren't properly prepared.

    There are Limits
    2016-09-07-1473262671-1280069-airportfamily_blog.travelinsure.com.jpg
    Photo Credit: Travelinsure.com

    Arriving at the airport and being told you have to pay the excess baggage fee can really sour the start of a vacation. Ranging anywhere from $25-$200 each way, this extra cost adds up quickly especially if it applies to each of your family members' bags. Knowing your limits before departure will save you time, money and unnecessary stress. Each airline is different, and while some may allow for 50 lbs others will only let you bring a small carry on. Check the baggage restrictions before you leave the house and take a minute to weigh your suitcase - you'll be happy you did.

    Skip the Scramble
    2016-09-07-1473262776-9239569-stuffedsuitcase_beautyheaven.png
    Photo Credit: Hypebot.com

    Creating a checklist of what each family member needs to bring and what needs to be done ahead of time will help you avoid chaos and stay organized. A list will keep you and your family on track, ensuring you are prepared and ready to go in no time. Make sure to have all travel itineraries and booking confirmations printed and on hand, in case technology fails.

    Manage Moods
    2016-09-07-1473263054-3491210-teddy.jpg
    Photo Credit: Mypootleblog.com

    Travelling can be taxing on anyone, but especially for kids. The last thing you want is the, "I'm hungry, I'm tired, I'm bored" meltdown as you are boarding the plane. One of the best way to make sure the kids are content is to keep them entertained. If they love to colour, pick up a new colouring book and pack of crayons, or if they're a movie watcher download that new-released cartoon to your tablet for them to watch - whatever it is it will distract them through the duration of the flight. And of course bring a few healthy, easy to pack snacks like nuts or granola bars in case there isn't time to stop or at the very least to keep them tied over until you can. Be sure to keep these items in one easily accessible area of your carry on that you can grab and go.

    Borrow the Big Stuff
    2016-09-07-1473263239-2635233-stroller_www.healthline.com.jpg
    Photo Credit: Healthline.com

    Just because you're bringing the newborn, doesn't mean you have to pack all of the baby gear. Reduce the hassle of lugging more stuff by renting large items like strollers and high chairs at your destination in advance. If you're still worried that you might have missed something, contact your hotel through Booking Messages, and your host will make the appropriate arrangements based on your requests.

    Nap Necessities
    2016-09-07-1473263717-6335556-sleepy_sleep.org.jpg
    Photo Credit: Sleep.org

    You know how essential sleep is, especially for your little ones. Jetlag, lack of regular naps and the excitement of travel can all wreak havoc on your child's ability to fall asleep. Bringing comforts from home such as a favourite bedtime book, blanket and even a sleep mask can make it easier for your child to fall asleep in a new place. Consider downloading a white noise app to your phone or tablet to help.

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    2016-09-08-1473353709-9040614-NewfoundlandFishingHouse.jpg

    As we sat down to our last meal in St. John's, Newfoundland, after a busy week of activities and exploring in the city as well as around the Avalon Peninsula, I asked my 17 year old daughter if she would recommend Newfoundland as a family vacation spot for her friends.

    "Only my adventurous ones", she said.

    Newfoundland is unlike any other province in Canada. With 29,000 kilometers of coastline (including Labrador), boasting the most eastern part of North America at Cape Spear, the topography is constantly changing, and with it the adventures and activities you can do. "Newfoundland is one province, but two lands", said our tour guide Larry. The population in Newfoundland and Labrador is sparse; only 150,000 in St. John's (the capital city), with a total population of less than 500, 000 in Newfoundland, and only 28,000 in Labrador.

    First things first; there seems to be some confusion on how to pronounce Newfoundland. Residents tell us to remember it like this "Understand Newfoundland," making the two words rhyme.

    Traveling with teenagers can be a challenge, but I knew when I started researching for our trip that we would be able to find a mix of physical activity, exploration, and (when they weren't looking), learning as well.

    We started our stay in downtown St. John's, which is home to many restaurants, pubs, and shops. It is also adjacent to the area of St John's which is often featured on postcards and travel brochures; the Jelly Bean Row houses. These row houses are brightly coloured and line the surprisingly hilly streets just north of the main strip of downtown St. John's.

    According to Larry, the tradition came from using the leftover paint from the fishermen's' dorys (fishing boats). Today, you are allowed to pick the colour, but the city has approval to make sure there aren't two houses of similar colour in a row. And colourful describes most of the people we met, their storytelling and friendliness matched only by the pride they have in their home province. After all, you often hear people refer to themselves as Newfoundlanders, but when's the last time you heard someone say they were an Ontarian?

    "How can you tell a Newfie in heaven?"

    "He's the only one who's saying he wants to go home."

    So, coming "from away" as we did, our week long itinerary in Newfoundland had plenty to offer. Here's a breakdown of what you can pack in to that timeframe. And as our sea kayaking guide Stan Cook reminded us, "If you don't like Newfoundland and Labrador, that's your problem."

    What to do:

    McCarthy's Party: Day tours in and around the St. John's area. We took a City Tour which included Cape Spear, Signal Hill, Quidi Vidi, Petty Cove, and a quick spin down the main street of St John's. Guide Larry was fantastic.

    The Rooms: St. John's Art Gallery and Museum all in one. Great moving exhibits plus permanent displays; good for kids of all ages and adults too. Restaurant as well.

    Stan Cook Sea Kayaking: We took the two hour guided tour which included a ride back. Kayak in caves, see sea creatures 80 feet down in crystal clear water. Great stories from our hosts.

    North Atlantic Ziplines: Canada's longest zipline course; 10 lines with longest being 2,200 feet. Great tandem rides out of Petty Cove; views unbelievable.

    Gatherall's Whale Watching: A humpback whale waved a fin and breeched right in front of us. 90 minute tour; Gravol recommended.

    Salmonier Nature Park: 3km boardwalk trail through woods and wetlands. We spotted moose, caribou, owl and more.

    Mistaken Point: UNESCO World Heritage site as of July 2016. 565 million year old deep-sea floors now rock and preserving fossils of oldest complex life-forms. Need to book tour in advance.

    Cape St Mary's: Cliffs are huge and the most accessible seabird colony in North America awaits. Easy trail to watch nesting colony of gannets and seabirds.

    Wooden Boat Museum: Boat builder Jerome Canning offers workshops and advice on building a dory. Great exhibits and history to discover.

    Where to stay:

    Sheraton: Located right downtown St. John's, with indoor pool, gym, bar, and easy access to Water Street for other restaurants and shopping.

    Hometel: (St. John's) Half hotel; half home. We had two rooms in our own "townhouse" and shared breakfast (included) with other residents. Great for families, close access to downtown and Terry Fox Memorial.

    Edge Of The Avalon Inn (Trepassy): Host Carol Ann Devereaux runs the inn, and it seems like the county. Newly renovated rooms, great restaurant and Earhart's Pub a great spot to catch up with Carol Ann and other locals.

    Where to eat: Moose were introduced to Newfoundland as a form of food in 1904, when six of them were transported over from New Brunswick. Today, there are 125,000 of them in Newfoundland. My husband and son did their part in controlling the herd by munching down on a moose burger, one of the many excellent meals we had. And you can never go wrong with Newfoundland fish & chips.

    St. John's:

    Yellow Belly Brewery: An on-site brewery and menu mixed with traditional Newfoundland fare as well as some specialty meals.

    Tavola: Tapas style eating topped off with their excellent chocolate platter.

    Mustang Sallys: A great lunch spot for pizza, tortillas, nachos and wraps, all made fresh with ingredients you choose.

    Duke of Duckworth: Typical Newfoundland pub with some of the city's best fish and chips.

    Mallard Cottage: The weekend brunch is not to be missed in this quaint cottage in the fishing village of
    Quidi Vidi, five minutes from downtown St. John's. Order the chef's breakfast plate and let him decide.

    Carbonear:

    The Stone Jug: Newly opened gastro pub with fresh ingredients, a tin ceiling and three floors of dining space.

    Listen to Kathy talk travel on What She Said Radio, Saturday nights on Jewel FM.

    Watch Kathy talk travel on CHCH Morning Live, with her Get Set, Go! travel segment, last Thursday of every month.

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    Tourism Calgary used a pedal-powered kiosk this summer to bring tourists and locals free, mobile Wi-Fi.

    The kiosk, which was staffed by city guides, featured tablets and pamphlets on different things to do around Calgary.

    Now that summer's over, the cart is no longer out every day, but it'll be showing up at special events, festivals and popular locations around the city.





    Tourism Calgary said the initiative was a big success and helped more tourists than last year.

    “We had our summer team on the streets of Calgary every day from July 1 to August 31, and while we’re still analyzing the data, we know that our consults in July were up over 106 per cent over the same month the previous year," Cassandra McAuley of Tourism Calgary told the Lonely Planet.

    The organization's CEO said one of the inspirations for the mobile kiosk was to give Calgarians more info on what there is to do around the city.

    "As Calgarians are staying closer to home this year we think it's a really great idea. There's so much to do in Calgary," Cindy Ady told CBC News.

    Calgary isn't the first city to give free Wi-Fi kiosks a shot. New York City rolled out dozens of free internet towers this summer, according to The New York Times.

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    There is nothing like autumn in Alberta.

    It might seem like the shortest season, but it's also the most vibrant, as the province's forests explode into a dazzling display of orange and yellow.

    Squeeze in a bit more sun before the first snowfall hits and enjoy some of these stunning treks around the province.

    5. Salt River Trail System

    salt flats alberta
    You won't see a view like this near Banff. (Photo: Getty)

    Time: 15 minutes to 10+ hours

    This trail system in Wood Buffalo National Park is like a choose-your-own-adventure for exploring northern Alberta's topography.

    Take the south loop for a gentle meandering trail around Grosbeak Lake to the salt flats or the winding Lane Lake trail for aspen forests and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife.

    4. Pocaterra Ridge

    pocaterra ridge
    There's nothing prettier than golden larches in the fall. (Photo: Getty)

    Time: Five hours

    This one is for slightly more experienced hikers, but it is absolutely worth it.

    Once you get up on the ridge, you have a 360-degree view of Kananaskis Country.

    3. Lake Agnes Tea House

    lake agnes tea house alberta
    Lake Agnes Tea House is just a few kilometres from Lake Louise. (Photo: Getty)

    Time: One hour

    This is the perfect hike if you've worked up an appetite.

    This tea house was built over 100 years ago and still features the original tables and chairs. Supplies are flown in by helicopter and the staff boil lake water to cook food and make tea.

    2. Chester Lake

    chester lake alberta
    It's beautiful, but a bit chilly for an autumn swim. (Photo: Getty)

    Time: Four hours

    Walking through the forest to Chester Lake feels like coming across an emerald oasis.

    The trail is an easy one to do year round. On your way up, you'll pass the elephant rocks — a formation left behind from the Ice Age.

    1. Larch Valley

    larch valley alberta
    That view! (Photo: Getty)

    Time: Four hours

    This is one of the most spectacular hikes every Albertan should do at least once. It starts at Moraine Lake — a picturesque spot that was once featured on the $20 bill — before winding up through the forest for a view of the valley's larch trees.

    It's a pretty moderate hike, but those looking for a longer trek can continue on to Sentinel Pass or Eiffel Lake.

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    Please do not use your Samsung Galaxy Note 7s on airplanes.

    They might explode mid-flight.

    samsung galaxy note 7
    Samsung Electronics' new Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is displayed at its store in Seoul, South Korea on Sept. 2, 2016. (Photo: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

    Canadian airlines are falling in line with a directive by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict the use of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones on planes.

    On Thursday, the FAA advised passengers not to turn on or charge the phones on planes, or to keep them in any checked baggage amid concerns the devices were exploding.

    Transport Canada has issued a similar directive, warning people to only carry the phones in airplane cabins "where an incident can be immediately mitigated."

    Airlines are taking a number of approaches to the phones.

    porter airlines
    A Porter Airlines flight lands at Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport on Sept. 2, 2015. (Photo: Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    Porter Airlines has warned passengers not to turn on Galaxy Note 7s on board and to keep them only in carry-on luggage, CBC News reported.

    Air Canada is urging its passengers to follow Transport Canada's instructions but WestJet hasn't changed its practices around the phones.

    samsung galaxy note 7
    A Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is submerged in water to demonstrate the water-resistant capability of the device during a media event in Seoul, South Korea, on Aug. 11, 2016. (Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    Samsung has recalled 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7s after as many as 35 phones overheated or exploded due to a battery cell issue, according to Forbes.

    The "battery management system" in a phone can fail, causing the battery to keep charging after it's full, chemical engineer Donal Finegan told the website.

    “The battery can continue to charge and can become even more unstable and eventually just burst into flames itself, without any kind of external heating," he said.

    He noted that "battery failures are exceedingly rare."

    Samsung has suspended sales of the phones and is working to ship new ones with functioning batteries, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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    On a recent visit to the city of love, I was surprised to learn that her population was less than one million. San Francisco seems big -- but I soon realized that her size (surprisingly only 7 square miles), has little to do with the grandeur you feel while visiting, but everything to do with the big hearts and open minds of the San Franciscans themselves.

    Much has been written of her culinary and cocktail culture, her nature and leisure pursuits, but it is also one of the museum capitals of the United States. Furthermore, most of these institutions are doing their darnedest to cultivate the hearts and minds of their littlest visitors. All have manifestos and mission statements that lend themselves to family fun and education. What a perfect place to inspire and ignite a sense of wonder and curiosity.

    So let your little humans (and their big imaginations) run free with this carefully curated museum guide for the adventuring family visiting San Francisco. 

    2016-09-11-1473560346-5594018-DSC_6571.jpg


    1. The Exploratorium is so much more than a science museum. Giving people permission to play is at the heart of all their exhibits, activities and programs. Tots can explore and create in the Tinkering Studio or interact with 100's of hands-on exhibits and experiments. You could easily spend an entire day exploring, in fact, we urge you to. Grab lunch in their cafe serving seasonal fare, kombucha beverages and a-hard-to-resist micro-bakery. Spend some time with "the explainers" (local high school & college students employed by the museum, chosen for their innate interest and curiosity in the world around them). Children three and under are free and daily programming for children of all ages is offered.

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    2. Asian Art Museum - at one time, this buxom beaux arts building was the cities main library. It is now home to an impressive collection of Asian Art, with works as old as 6,000 years spanning an entire continent (from Turkey to Thailand). But it isn't all old relics. The museum does an impressive job marrying traditional artworks and antiquities, like Reina the celebrated ancient bronze rhinoceros, with contemporary works by emerging artists (many of them local to the Bay Area). If you have time, dine in their casual restaurant, Café Asia and be sure to save room for the exclusive limited-edition Humphry Slocombe ice-cream flavour, Adzuki Almond Cookie (hand made in small batches). Fun family programming is offered on the weekends when local story tellers bring the works of art to life through the myths and legends associated with particular pieces on display. Children 12 and under are free.

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    3. de Young Museum - Housed in an impressive Herzog & de Meuron creation, the art on the walls in only part of the immersive experience you can expect to find. Visit any of their permanent collections or special exhibits, wander the sculpture garden but be sure to stop by on a Saturday when your littles can join their drop-in art classes for hands-on art making in the museum's studio or their Friday night after-hours art "happenings" with live music, food, drink and merriment. Their beautiful cafe also offers a "deYoungster" menu daily for tots.

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    4. SFMOMA - after undergoing a massive renovation the museum is ready to show-off. Her airy new home provides what the curators call "palette cleansing moments" throughout, spaces designed to let museum goers pause and contemplate as they traverse the building. Be sure to perk-up with a cuppa joe from Sight Glass coffee - arguably the best coffee in the city. We love the The Performance in Progress program which invites an artists to work in residence on a site-specific project. Often the completion and exhibit of these works crescendos with a family-friendly weekend affair - check their website for details. Children 18 and under are free.

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    5. California Academy of Sciences - located in the Golden Gate Park. Here you can visit a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum - all within the four double-leed certified walls. We loved the 2.5 acre rooftop garden that contributes to making the building completely self-sustainable (full of native Californian plants). Be sure to climb into the Costa Rican rainforest canopy to glimpse (and hear) the colourful birds, butterflies and plantlife. We were also moved (quite literally) by their earthquake exhibit that replicates the feeling of the two largest earthquakes to take place in San Fransisco. 

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    6. The Presidio - so much more than a museum, this former Army base has been transformed into a national park and recreational destination. You can bike the breathtaking shoreline (over 35 km of trails), bird watch, dine, explore the museums, watch a concert, or picnic under the Golden Gate Bridge. Join one of their kid-friendly nature field trips or weekend craft-making sessions at the Officers' Club and don't miss their Presidio Picnic every Sunday from April-Oct when the cities best gourmet food trucks gather on their lawn and guests enjoy live music, kite flying and fun free activities - a quintessential San Francisco afternoon out! Another must is a meal at the iconic Presidio Social Club, a former barrack, now restaurant - their fresh artisanal ingredients paired with un-fussy cooking and an inviting retro vibe make it well suited to those traveling with tots for an early dinner.

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    7. The Fine Arts Museum, The Legion of Honor - full of Rodin's, Renoir's Monet's and Manet's, the spacious and colourful galleries are fun to roam as a family. School-aged children will be taken (or terrified) by the Mummies & Mummification room. This new exhibit marries ancient practices of corpse preservation with contemporary art thanks to the hieroglyphic-inspired murals by L.A based street-artist, Retna. Come on the weekends for free live organ concerts - music is also piped outside to the park (every Saturday and Sunday at 4). The Legion sits amidst a beautiful park with sweeping views and plenty of room for your littles to run around.

    8. Aquarium on the Bay - Home to 20,000 sea creatures, your mini marine biologists will get a kick out of the sweet river otters, native to the Bay Area. Then grab lunch or an early dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House (they have an extensive kid's menu). Be sure to carve off a few minutes to watch the California sea lions sunbathing on the K-Dock at PIER 39.

    9. Cable Car Museum - for the Thomas enthusiasts amongst us, this is a must visit. Explore the impressive mechanisms and machinery that keep the city's famous cable cars running. Admission is free

    Family travel tip: purchase a San Francisco CityPASS admission card for each adult or child 18 or older to save 49% off combined admission to the cities best attractions and museums, including a Cable Car & Muni transportation passport allowing a week's worth of unlimited rides (the kids will love the world-famous cable cars). The pass also includes pre-paid admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, a choice between the Exploratorium or the de Young Museum as well as a choice between two Aquariums. Fortunately many of the above museums offer free entry for children so all you need is a pass for mom and dad!

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    My very first travel feature, published by Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper in 1998, was about my first proper trip to Italy; Naples to Capri to Florence to Siena. I was on my own after a semester in France and totally free in a foreign land that somehow seemed so familiar. It was a kind of comfort combined with liberation that has been hard to replicate in my travels since.

    What has remained in my mind is a clear goal: I would live there later in life with my little vineyard. The vision is always me, older, happy in the serenity of the Tuscan hills, still listening to the soundtrack of Bertolucci's film Stealing Beauty.

    Now I want you to hear the record scratch as we rewind to present day.

    My partner of almost five years and I are planning a wedding celebration in Italy. Not because I am chasing the aforementioned goal, and not because we want to be fancy, but because half the guest list is already there. So there's my Mario, who is, as you may have guessed, very Italian. (While I like to think my radar has always been set to tall, handsome and Tuscan, we met quite randomly while he was working in Toronto.)

    Born and raised in Piombino - a lovely Etruscan town with gorgeous ocean views and incredible food - Mario's family and close friends are all there, with a few closer to Rome in Civitavecchia.

    2016-09-11-1473602013-827360-nz_wellington_saraandmario.jpg

    Coincidentally, I have relatives on my mother's side who are only about 90 away, near Lucca. My immediate family, however, will be coming all the way from New Zealand. Then there are guests flying in from Canada and other parts of the world.

    For many, this will be a destination wedding and a chance to experience Italy.

    That said, the biggest challenge presents itself. With all the venue options under the Tuscan sun, how the heck does a girl choose?

    Add to that the budget range of the guests and things start to get complicated.

    Our ultimate mission is to find one amazing venue that guests have the choice of either staying at, or nearby in another resort, hotel or Airbnb.

    My 2016 solution to this 2018 conundrum was a road trip. By designating three days last August to a discovery mission, we collected intel on a variety of wedding venues and got a good head start on figuring out how to successfully accommodate both those within driving distance and those flying in.

    In terms of geography, our travels took us from northern to southern Tuscany in order to survey four properties in distinct areas: Villa Le Maschere in the Mugello Valley; Villa La Massa, just outside of Florence; into the province of Arezzo and La Selva Giardino; and then another half hour's drive south to Castel Monastero.


    What we found were incredible options for a stellar celebration...

    Villa Le Maschere
    Nestled in the Mugello Valley, this property was the sexiest of them all. A five-year long restoration project breathed new life into this stunning resort that boasts beautiful 18th century frescoes, boldly mixed with modern décor.

    Advantages: Located one hour north of Florence and only a 10-minute drive from Barberino, which has other hotels and is a hot hub for outlet shopping. A plus that L'UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club is just 10 kms away, which my father would fully appreciate.
    2016-09-11-1473599346-8563428-HP_VillaLeMaschere_pool.jpg

    Why we loved it:
    - Rooms are beautifully decorated with a modern edge
    - Chic nooks and stylish spaces for pre- and post-wedding events
    - 18 hectares of park and forest trails
    - Lovely pools and a Wellness Centre with Turkish bath
    - Free shuttle to Florence city centre
    - For those staying more than one night, there was another restaurant within walking distance.

    Number of wedding guests possible: While 100 guests can fit into the villa's frescoed church, the property can accommodate 150 for a banquet-style reception.
    2016-09-11-1473599421-7002838-HP_LeMaschere_room.jpg

    Number of rooms and suites: 65

    Room rates start at: $217 USD, including buffet breakfast and access to the wellness centre.


    Villa La Massa
    This charming boutique hotel is located in close proximity to the city of Florence and was our vote for "most royal" for its aristocratic ambience and elegant tapestries. Apparently others feel the same as it won a prestigious Hotels.com Loved by Guests Award earlier this year.

    Advantages: Only 20 minutes drive to Florence, which opens up the city's abundant options for siteseeing, eating, shopping, as well as alternative accommodations.
    2016-09-11-1473599520-1515437-HP_VillaLaMassa_property.jpg

    Why we loved it:
    - Cozy, old world atmosphere
    - Our Double Deluxe suite was spacious with a luxe bathroom
    - 16th century chapel on the grounds
    - Lovely large patio overlooking the river
    - Heated outdoor pool in the garden
    - Their gym and Arno SPA with Turkish and Roman baths
    - Free and frequent shuttle to Florence city centre

    Number of wedding guests possible:
    200 for a cocktail party, 110 for a banquet
    2016-09-11-1473599610-1424144-HP_VillaLaMassabathroom.jpg


    Number of rooms and suites:
    37 between three buildings.

    Room rates start at: $504 USD, including buffet breakfast.


    La Selva Giardino del Belvedere
    I always thought it would be cool to rent a villa for a week with a few close friends and this was that rustic dream come true. Three private villas, four pools, and (wait for it) a yoga pavilion! The family-owned farmhouse is set on 32 acres, deep in the Chianti countryside, and is the most secluded of the bunch.

    Advantages: The town of Montevarchi is a short drive away for groceries and supplies. Bonus that the 4-Star Fontebussi Resort is a mere five minutes away by car. In fact, Francesco, who runs La Selva, often works with the resort to host wedding guests.
    2016-09-11-1473599698-3273999-HP_LaSelva.jpg

    Why we loved it:
    - Exclusivity
    - Breezy homestyle of the rooms
    - Natural gardens and stone amphitheatre
    - Salt water pools
    - Outdoor bbq and traditional woodfire oven (pizza, anyone?)
    - Francesco is the ultimate host and goes to great lengths to arrange the perfect week. From cooking classes to caterers to wine tours, he is on it!

    Number of wedding guests possible: Up to 150
    2016-09-11-1473599745-6776810-HP_Wifey.JPg

    Number of rooms: Seven rooms (16 guests) in the main farmhouse - La Selva - and three bedrooms (6 guests) in l'Cocolli villa. By 2017, an additional villa, Pianellino, will accommodate six people. For weddings, the entire property must be booked.

    Monday to Monday rates start at:
    USD$ 2200 for l'Cocolli villa; USD$10,150 for La Selva farmhouse.

    2017 Wedding Season Rates: USD$17,250 for three villas; includes use of entire property for the big event, three-course Tuscan Welcome dinner, daily cleaning services, and wedding planning assistance.




    Castel Monastero

    My first impression of this 11th century Tuscan treasure was that is was the most "me". Me if I was able to spare no expense, but me nonetheless. And I only fell deeper under its spell during our short stay at this sophisticated resort, which also offers fireworks as part of a wedding package. I love fireworks.

    Advantages: While one can completely immerse themselves as this exclusive retreat feels like a small hamlet (it actually was at one point), Siena is a mere 20-minute drive away with its own ancient walls, historic sites, restaurants and additional accommodations.
    2016-09-11-1473599849-8826815-Hp_Monastero_piazza.jpg

    Why we loved it:
    - Gorgeous country-style Junior Suite with separate shower and bathtub
    - Beautiful outdoor gourmet dining
    - Lovely 11th century church in the main piazza
    - Open-air gym and pools
    - Focus on wellness; spa with high saline density sea oil pool designed by the medical team of Thalasso del Forte
    - Lots of activities on offer; from tennis to truffle hunting to wine tasting and cooking courses (created by chef Gordon Ramsay!).

    Number of wedding guests possible: While Monastero's church can hold 50 people, there is another larger church nearby. In terms of the reception, a cocktail party can serve 200 guests, whereas 150 can be seated for a banquet.
    2016-09-11-1473599901-9854188-HP_Monastero_pool.jpg

    Number of rooms and suites: 74, plus a villa.

    Room rates start at: $461 USD for a Superior Room, including buffet breakfast.

    Well, Rome was not built in a day and neither will this wedding be planned in one.

    Speaking of the Eternal City, guests can't miss spending a day or two there. It is among the top 10 most popular international cities for Canadian travelers (according to Hotels.com*)... And where a four-star hotel can still be booked for under $200/night, by the way.

    Fiumicino will be the suggested airport for our guests and, on my way in and out of Italy this past summer, I scoped out UNA Hotel Roma and a sweet Airbnb loft in my favourite neighbourhood, Trastevere. The former is located at ideal vantage point, just a skip from Termini station and an easy walk down Via Cavour to all the great little shops cafes and restaurants on Via Urbana. With its proximity to the Colluseum, Forum and other sites, this chic hotel would be perfect for my parents and my brother's family, which includes three little ones.

    2016-09-11-1473600025-8452851-HP_unahotelroma.jpg

    For those, like my younger and single brother, who has been to Rome before and may desire the social scene in Trastevere, the loft strikes the right balance between being steps away from the hustle and also feeling like a retreat from the city heat.
    2016-09-11-1473600059-9106536-HP_Rome.jpg


    These two will definitely be on my short list of hot "Hotels & 'Hoods", which I plan to put together for our out-of-country arrivals.

    So there you have it dear reader... Enough Instagram eye candy to make for some tough choices ahead! Which would you pick of the four possible wedding venues?

    Some images courtesy of the author's Instagram.


    *The HPI is a global annual report from Hotels.com™ that looks at hotel prices in cities all around the world.


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    When you consider all of the places you might visit in North America this fall, you have to wonder if anywhere beats Toronto.

    September in Canada's largest city is always known for the excitement of the Toronto International Film Festival. This year, TIFF runs from September 8-18 and will be followed by another elite event, the World Cup of Hockey. NHL superstars will play for their home countries in a tournament that will keep the city buzzing from September 17-October 1. On top of those events are the usual attractions of a big city: theatre productions, multicultural festivals, concerts in a variety of genres, museums, and enjoyable public spaces.

    On my recent stay back in the place I called home for many years, Toronto struck me for an energy and attitude I don't ever recall on the streets of the city. There is a level of confidence, which possibly originates in the recent success of its sports teams. The NBA's Raptors have built one of the most impressive marketing campaigns in sports with their "We the North" slogan that's been adopted as a rallying cry in the city. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays appear headed for a return to the Major League Baseball postseason, and tickets to their home games are hot items, with a crush of fans pouring into Rogers Centre and the surrounding streets downtown.

    "Toronto vs. Everybody" T-shirts are big sellers, taking advantage of a sentiment that did not exist 20 years ago, when the city was still a bit of a wallflower, wondering how it measured up to New York, Chicago and other metropolises. "Toronto the Good" was the prevailing slogan in a city proud of its low crime rate, diverse population and good samaritans among its population. These days, "Toronto the Badass" might be a more apropos moniker as the city is exhibiting a level of shatter-proof confidence in itself and what it can deliver.

    Toronto's Food Scene Dazzles

    The culinary landscape of Toronto has exploded into one of the best on the continent thanks to inventive chefs such as Rob Gentile, Grant van Gameren and Anthony Rose who provide unpretentious cuisine in some of the most comfortable and fun casual-dining spaces in the city. Here were just four highlights of my visit.

    Buca (604 King Street West) -- The flagship restaurant of Gentile's empire, Buca is a gem that has ranked within the top 10 of the Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada. My most recent visit to the restaurant was the best. The pizza with truffles and bufala mozzarella was full of the divine flavours of those toppings, the fried olives stuffed with sausages was an eye-opening delight, and the pistachio cake was the best of its kind I've ever enjoyed. Buca deserves all of the accolades it has received and will undoubtedly earn more.

    Bar Raval (505 College Street West) -- This ode to Barcelona by Van Gameren is about as good as it gets if you want great drinks and share plates in a vibrant atmosphere. While the weather is warm, the patio is a pleasant spot with wine barrels serving as tables and stools. Inside, the decor is Spanish, with textured wood panelling on the walls and moody lighting. The small tapas plates, or pintxos, include octopus, Iberico ham and a range of imported cheeses. The Morcilla and Egg ($11) is blood sausage topped with a fried egg served on toast. It's a rich dish foodies will adore. Perhaps the best part about Bar Raval is its hours. You could spend all day and night there as it serves good coffee and breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. and turns into a party scene with music and lots of wines pouring going on until 2 a.m. on most nights.

    The Good Son (1096 Queen Street West) -- One of many fantastic restaurants in the Queen West neighbourhood near Ossington Street, the Good Son was started by executive chef and co-owner Vittorio Colacitti. Known for its excellent pizzas, the Good Son also serves burgers, steaks, oysters and a popular Jerk Shrimp appetizer ($17) that features the shellfish wrapped in crispy potato strings and served with jalapeño and mango.

    Bar Begonia (252 Dupont Street) -- Anthony Rose has a string of quality eateries in this area near the city's thriving Annex neighbourhood. Bar Begonia includes a patio space with picnic tables and backyard games, while the main space is a bistro-style restaurant serving delicious and reasonably priced cuisine. The highlights are a tender duck confit ($23) and classic beignets ($6) dusted with powdered sugar and served with caramel sauce.

    Four Seasons Decks Out for TIFF

    Once a focal point for TIFF activities, the Four Seasons is now quieter during the annual film festival. The opening of the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre six years ago ushered a transition to the city's downtown core and away from Yorkville for much of the festival's showings and activities. However, the Four Seasons remains a hot spot for celebrities and movie executives. The hotel has erected a long, narrow patio running along Bay Street to celebrate this year's festival with parties and private events. Sponsored by Perrier-Jouet, the patio is decorated with pricey champagne bottles and plants that are just high enough to keep peering eyes from seeing all of what's going on over the walls.

    The hotel, which re-launched in a new location in 2012, is experiencing a torrid summer, thanks to an increased amount of visitation from the United States as Americans take advantage of a favourable exchange rate. To entice more diners to visit, the flagship restaurant, Cafe Boulud, has revamped into a more casual space, while still serving fantastic French-inspired cuisine. The rotisserie chicken ($27) is perfectly cooked and the profiteroles are an epic finish with a warm chocolate sauce poured over the pastries. A selection of madeleines accompany the dish, ideal for soaking up the chocolate sauce.

    The best dining at the hotel, though, is at dBar, where the Lobster Roll ($29) is loaded with chunks of crustacean meat and served properly on a toasted, buttered hot dog roll.

    Gearing Up for World Cup of Hockey

    Hockey fans will descend on Toronto this month for the inaugural World Cup of Hockey, which will showcase the best talent on the planet in a prelude to the 2016-17 NHL season. Visitors will no doubt want to check out the most famous sports museum in Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame. Interactive games are the top draw as visitors can test their skills as both a shooter and goaltender. The displays cover the game's greatest moments and players, including a comprehensive international section that tells the story of hockey around the world.




    Not to be missed, of course, is the Stanley Cup, which is displayed on the museum's top floor along with the plaques of all the Hall of Fame players. You can have your photo taken with the iconic trophy and also ogle the names of your favourite players -- if they've won a championship, that is.

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    No good trip is complete without an iconic meal along the way.

    Whether it's the humblest of skewers from the streets of Shanghai or the richest foie gras at a Parisian bistro — food and travel go hand-in-hand.

    Travelling across Canada is no other exception. Just ask "Like A Tourist" host Dan Rodo.

    "When I came to the East Coast, there were two things I was told to try: fish & chips and scallops," Rodo says.

    And if you're going to start somewhere, you might as well pull up a seat at a place with some history, like John's Lunch.

    Co-owner Fotis Fatouros has been manning the fryer since 1969, serving up strips of clam, scallops and haddock.

    Forty-seven years later, Fatouros is still making things from scratch.

    For more on the East Coast institution, check out the video above. For more of Canada's cool spots waiting to be discovered, check out more "Like A Tourist" episodes below.

    Find More Of Canada's Hidden Gems With "Like A Tourist":
    Try Not To Fall In Love With Halifax After Watching This

    Surfing In Montreal? Oui, S'il Vous Plaît!

    It's Time You Got Acquainted With Ottawa's Fun Side

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    Just because you're planning a big trip, doesn't mean it has to leave a big hole in your wallet. Although summer tends to be an ideal travel time for most people, especially given the lengthy school break, slightly tweaking travel dates can end up saving you big in the long run.

    But that's not all! To help those planning an upcoming bucket list trip stay on budget, we have come up with a few easy ways Canadians can see the world their way, and save all at the same time! Of course if you want to have your trip paid for all together, enter your travel video into the travelcuts film fest and you could win $5,000 to travel the world.

    Here are our top tips to save on your next worldly adventure:

    September Getaway

    2016-09-12-1473705922-39894-Flickr_GetAway1.jpg

    In addition to shorter lineups and more comfortable walking/exploring weather, off-peak travel has a wide range of benefits. If your schedule (aka boss) allows, moving travel plans from summer to fall can open up a whole new world of opportunities to you. From on-trend destinations that are typically priced out of reach, to far shorter wait times when exploring a destination's highly sought after attractions - fall and spring are the perfect time to getaway.

    Don't Wait Last Minute

    2016-09-12-1473705965-8682873-Flickr_DontWait.jpg

    Despite what people say, just don't! Many of us tend to hold off booking till the very last minute in the hopes of scoring discounted fares and added perks. But, in actuality this usually isn't true. With few exceptions, prices tend to increase the closer your departure date gets, and you risk the chance of missing out if the plane fills up. Instead, save yourself the stress, time and a little money by booking in advance and locking in a great price early on.

    Be Flexible with Your Flight Dates

    2016-09-12-1473706014-5699634-Pixabay_Flight.jpg

    When doing your research, you may instinctively start your search with departure on Saturday or Sunday, but did you know that leaving on a weekday could save you big on your flight?

    Look into Less Tourist-y Destinations

    2016-09-12-1473706040-4762716-Wikipedia_Uruguay.jpg


    For those with exploration on the brain, selecting a lesser known destination could be a great way to travel, save and get fabulous memories not everyone will have all at the same time. Instead of researching the year's hottest destinations, think about some under the radar places that will give you just as much to see and do. While everyone may be heading to Rio post-Olympics, think about visiting Uruguay this year and re-visit Rio next year once the hype has worn off a bit. When selecting a destination, don't be afraid to check out some lesser explored areas as well - that is where some of the best memories are created!

    Spend More Time in Fewer Places

    2016-09-12-1473706078-3338751-Flickr_StayLonger.jpg

    If budget is a concern, cramming too much into one trip could be a huge no-no. Spending more time in fewer destinations will not only save you a lot of money in transportation costs, but you'll have extra time to see and experience a place in more depth.

    Look into Local Transportation

    2016-09-12-1473706118-5936743-Wikpedia_LocalTransportation.jpg

    Before taking off, do a bit of research on your destination, the inner city transportation and local attractions offered. A lot of times you can find great deals on city passes and/or combined transit and attraction passes that will end up saving you - even if only a few dollars. By pre-paying for transit you'll not only enjoy a cost benefit, but you'll save yourself the added stress of searching your pockets for exact, local change in the middle of a crowded bus.

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    I just got back from a splendid 14-day European vacation with my family. We were on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean and spent four days on land in Barcelona and Rome.

    I prepared for this trip months before, but not in the way I should have. With the recent bombings and terrorist activity in the countries I was about to visit, it seemed we couldn't go a month without an attack in Europe making headlines in Canada. This put me and my husband on high tourist safety alert.

    As a result, we didn't do any online research the way we should have; like looking up the best beaches to visit in Nice or Antibes, or how to get into Gaudi's famed temple the Sagrada Familia (which we didn't get into by the way because we didn't buy a ticket online!) Instead, we became paranoid, neurotic, newbie travellers prepping for a trip. We researched ad nauseam how not to get pickpocketed, areas to avoid and how not to get ripped off in taxis.

    Oh, it gets better. One week before our trip, I took out our wills. This is the first time I even looked at our will when we drafted them almost 15 years ago. I called our lawyer and told him we were changing executor status. Then called my mom to tell her where the wills would be placed; in a manila envelope, clearly marked, on our bedroom commode so she can easily find it. I left the phone number to our executors and lawyer so she would know exactly who to call in case we didn't make it back home.

    My mom and I talked at length the day before our trip. Oddly, she wasn't wishing me a wonderful trip, but rather cautioning me of dangers abroad and how to stay out of trouble. We said goodbye on the phone as if it was the last time we would ever speak again.


    All that research was a complete waste of time.


    Next, my husband and I went on a shopping excursion to a number of luggage stores looking to buy concealed money pouches. Yup, we painstakingly tried on about 10 different variations of money belts and wallets. I felt like I was strapping on a system under my shirt to smuggle in hashish. We found smooth lined satchels that could easily fit gold bouillon without bulging from our belly. Clearly, a few euros and an American Express card would have no problem squeezing in nicely. I had the strangest urge to watch the movie Midnight Express when I got home. Strange?

    Our last bit of insightful and totally useless preparation for our European extravaganza was conducting thorough YouTube searches on how professional swindlers in Europe scam tourists and their ingenious methods of pickpocketing. We spent two consecutive evenings watching videos of grainy footage of women with babies as props, taking wallets in crowded subways. We even allowed our 15-year-old daughter watch the videos so she could be prepared and she doesn't even own a wallet! And now she is frightened for life. Sorry darling. We made mental notes on what to watch out for and vowed never to take public transit abroad.

    Well, what can I say. All that research was a complete waste of time. Absolutely nothing went wrong on our trip. No one swindled us, held us hostage, pickpocketed us nor did we find ourselves in a threatening situation. And I don't think we used those ridiculous money wallets once on our trip.

    What we saw, felt and experienced in Europe was nothing short of sublime beauty, exceptional service and hospitality from hotels and restaurants, and a friendly welcome from all the locals in every city we visited. Our family walked in dark alleyways, took public transit, hailed down cabs late at night and I even left my purse dangling from my chair in an outdoor café. Shocking! There were no signs of any threats and we felt safe, secure and most of all, welcomed.

    Sure we saw armed military guards clutching onto machine guns in subways, patrolling crowded tourist attractions and even perched outside cathedrals and basilicas, but their presence felt like a protective blanket. It was a good thing to see. We visited every major tourist attraction in Cannes, Rome and Nice, and not once did we fear impending doom. We created our own anxiety for nothing.

    I researched our trip to Europe in all the wrong ways. I allowed splashy headlines and online fear mongers influence my planning and decision making. We should have better informed ourselves, rather than have made choices based on 'worst case' scenarios.

    Planning a vacation to Europe soon? Take it from me, look up things to do and where to eat, not what to fear. You'll have a better time. Trust me.

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    Sip some craft brews, stock up on fresh local veggies, dine on the streets, and dance until the sun rises. Fall is many Vancouverites' favourite time in the city, but many travellers are missing out on the action-packed and picturesque season. These five must-visit festivals are ones you don't want to miss in Gastown.

    2016 TAIWANfest

    2016-09-13-1473771479-6202968-9648954989_e13659ce37_z.jpg
    Photo credit: GoToVan

    Bring summer to a close with a trip to Taiwan, but don't worry about an around-the-world flight. Just head down to Granville Street on Sept. 3, 4, and 5, this year to take part in a number of cultural events that bring the infectious personality of Taiwan to Vancouver. Sip on traditional Taiwanese drinks, attend lectures, discover new music, learn about Hakka culture in the heart of downtown Vancouver's main entertainment district.

    The Vancouver International Flamenco Festival

    The Vancouver International Flamenco Festival brings sizzling, world-renowned flamenco performances to the culturally diverse British Columbian city. The festival, featuring local and international artists, is set to take place from Sept. 10 through 20, with everything from performances and demonstrations to classes and kids events. You may not be a fan of the native Spanish dance when you arrive at the festival, but you're guaranteed to leave with a newfound love for flamenco.

    Vancouver Fringe Festival

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    Photo credit: ItzaFineDay

    The Vancouver Fringe Festival is one of the most anticipated events of the year, and it's just around the corner. Also known as, "The Fringe," the 11-day-long celebration of theater includes more than 80 shows, ranging from dance and musicals to comedy, parodies, concerts, and more. The festival will begin on Sept. 8, and extend through Sept. 18, with performances at numerous venues throughout the city, including Studio 16, Waterfront Theatre, Performance Works, the False Creek Gym, and several indoor and outdoors arenas. Log onto the Vancouver Fringe website to view the entire schedule of events and purchase your tickets.

    Culture Days

    Vancouver is a melting pot of cultures from around the world. British, French, German, Japanese, Indo-Pakistani, Italian, Scandinavian, Greek, Filipino, Aboriginal and countless other international populations combine to make this city one of the most diverse in the world. Culture Days is collaborative event held across the country to raise awareness to the countless cultures that make the Great White North so unique. Festival events are held across more than 700 Canadian towns and cities, with Vancouver being one of the biggest hubs.

    The three-day-long festival will take place from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, this year, and Vancouver will be home to art and architecture walking tours, storytelling events, sculpture tours, open houses, craft workshops, yoga and meditation practices, poetry readings, and more. There's no better place to discover the personality of the city, the province, and the country than at Culture Days.

    Vancouver Halloween Parade and Expo

    2016-09-13-1473771752-7340720-5057609319_22096083b7_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Larissa Sayer

    True Halloween excitement begins in October, but perhaps better than the holiday itself is the annual Vancouver Halloween Parade and Expo. The third annual edition of the event will take place on Oct. 13 through 16, this year at downtown Vancouver's Robson Square. More than 100,000 locals and visitors are expected to attend the event, which will feature a parade, more than 2,000 performers, and the world's largest cosplay stage. This family-friendly event is guaranteed to give you some out-of-this-world ideas for this year's Halloween costume.

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    Travellers flock to Cape Breton Island's Cabot Trail and Quebec's Laurentian Mountains to admire Canada's fall foliage this time of year. However, fall travellers are missing out on a number of lesser known Canadian destinations that pack just as much punch in terms of fall fun. These six underrated Canadian destinations will inspire you to get off the beaten path this autumn.

    Nelson, British Columbia

    Canada's kaleidoscope of fall colors doesn't just exist in the country's easternmost provinces. Also known as, "The Queen City," Nelson is nestled in British Columbia's tree-covered Selkirk Mountains. Watch as the mountains and tree-lined streets turn fiery shades of gold and yellow while enjoying fall temperatures that hover between 13- and 22-degrees Celsius in September and October. Nelson's location on the west end of Kootenay Lake and seconds from the area's best hiking and mountain biking trails mean outdoor recreation, as well as walking the charming city streets, are activities that extend through the months of September, October, and November.

    Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

    2016-09-13-1473772355-6862516-22099351928_3dfcbce52c_b.jpg
    Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

    Cavendish's microscopic size and even smaller population shouldn't steer you away. This rural beach town is the perfect place to soak up summer's last rays on the shores of the salty Gulf of St. Lawrence. Special fall packages make trips to the beach more affordable, and attractions like Aiden's Deep Sea Fishing, the Anne of Green Gables Museum, area golf courses, and locally famous seafood restaurants stay open well into September and October.

    Whitehorse, Yukon

    Whitehorse is the capital city of Canada's Yukon territory. Despite its standing as the Yukon's largest city (with a population of roughly 28,000), the city is often overlooked by Canadian and international travellers. The city sits in front of a backdrop of rolling mountain tops and is home to a host of historic hotels, quaint cafes, locally-owned shops, and delightful eateries that let you know you've traveled to the far north.

    Adventurous leaf peepers will love the Fall Colour Aurora Borealis Tour by Northern Tales. The five-day-long tour begins in downtown Whitehorse and heads into the nearby wilderness for optimal northern lights viewing. A scenic cruise along the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction and beyond allows travellers to admire the Yukon's famously golden fall foliage set against rugged countryside.

    Twillingate, Newfoundland and Labrador

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    Photo credit: KimManleyOrt

    Twillingate is another seaside city that encourages you to squeeze the last bit of warmth and sunshine out of summer. Known as the "Iceberg Capital of the World," this small Newfoundland fishing town is known for its dramatic Atlantic Ocean scenery, abundance of boat tours, year-round lighthouses, scenic hiking trails, and mouthwatering seafood. Fall in Twillingate means affordable accommodation prices, uncrowded hiking trails, berry picking, wine tasting, and countless stops at the Cozy Tea Room.

    Churchill, Manitoba

    You don't have to like the snow and ice to fall in love with Churchill, Manitoba. Many travellers shy away from this thrilling town along the Hudson Bay for its chilly temperatures, but you'll quickly forget about the weather when you see polar bears cruising along the tundra and find yourself admiring the northern lights from the back of a dogsled. Fall is the best time of year to see more than 250 species of birds, polar bears, and beluga whales, but the charming downtown area, packed with cozy cafes, shops, and lodges, invites you to spend time exploring indoors too.

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    You've seen the Rockies. You've driven across the Prairies. You've enjoyed the city life of Toronto and Montreal. You want something different.

    You want to explore to St. John's.

    Whether you're a local like Krista Legge — someone hoping to see her home through fresh eyes — or a visitor just off a flight, Newfoundland's capital has plenty for you discover. You just need to know where to look.

    Fortunately for Krista, "Like A Tourist" host Dan Rodo done most of the leg work, uncovering some of the city's hidden gems.

    Check out the full episode below to see if anything floats your boat.

    Where to go: Cape Spear lighthouse site

    Blackhead Rd., Blackhead, N.L.

    Travellers looking for a picture-perfect photo-op will want to add the Cape Spear lighthouse site to their list. The area's got plenty of photo subjects, from the aforementioned lighthouses to the incredible cliffs and icebergs that dot the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Not one for photos? Well, you should still pay a visit. If not for the view, then for the bragging rights that you've been to the most eastern point in North America.

    cape spear lighthouse site st johns

    What to eat: Cod Sounds culinary adventures

    St. John's, N.L.

    Food doesn't get any fresher than this. Aficionados of cuisine will want to consider food foraging with local culinary adventure groups for a meal that's as unique as St. John's itself. Dig for mussels and clams during low tide along with an education on edible plants, and then combine the two over a warm campfire for an experience that'll satisfy any (sea)food lover.

    cod sounds culinary adventures

    What To Do: Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours

    135 Harbour Dr., at Pier 6, St. John's, N.L.

    Remember those distant icebergs at the Cape Spear lighthouse site? Well, you can leave your telephoto lens at the hotel and hop on a boat for a closer view. Two-hour narrated tours by locals will give you a thorough view of North Atlantic waters. Keep you eyes out for the puffins and maybe you'll even spot a pod of humpback whales.

    iceberg quest ocean tours

    Like A Tourist Takes On St. John's



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    It can be hard to admit that summer has ended and that fall is officially here, but there is one exceptionally great way to ease the pain, and that's celebrating in style. Nothing says fall better than Oktoberfest, the annual Bavarian tradition that dates back over 200 years. While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad.

    Kitchener Oktoberfest
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    Believe it or not, this is the largest Oktoberfest in North America and has been running strong for well over 40 years! This is literally as close as you'll get to the real experience in Canada and runs for an entire week. Runs October 7-15

    Toronto's Oktoberfest
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    Join 5,000 others dressed in dirndls and lederhosen at Toronto's largest Oktoberfest, celebrating Bavarian heritage with food, beer, music, and a fun fair modelled after the original Munich event. This two day festival takes place in a massive Festhalle tent and outdoor Bavarian Village. Runs September 30- October 1

    Vancouver's Harvest Haus
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    Harvest Haus is only a few years old, but the Vancouver event has already made a strong impression. An immersive food and drink festival based around the European festivals of old takes over the Queen Elizabeth plaza transforming the square into a mini-Munich Harvest Haus Halle and Marktplatz for two weeks of traditional bavarian splendour and copious amounts of liquid gold bier. Runs September 29- October 9.

    Calgary's Oktoberfest
    2016-09-13-1473808478-8785640-Calgary.png

    Probably one of the earliest Oktoberfest's on this list, Calgary Oktoberfest runs Sept 23 & 24th and features a fun and social sampling event with many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries, and delicious foods from Calgary's top restaurants. There are also authentic Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, and more in the Upper Big Four Building at Stampede Park.

    Ottawa Oktoberfest
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    With over 21,000 square feet of space, this Oktoberfest hall at Clarke Fields Park in Barrhaven Ontario transforms into a full Bavarian celebration. There are scheduled games and contests, live hall music and even human Foosball! Runs September 30- October 1.

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    It's no secret that Vancouver is a foodie city. A Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards survey recently named it one of the top food cities in the world, and Fodor's Travel listed Vancouver as one of the best Canadian destinations for foodie travel. But the British Columbian city isn't just known for its award-winning sit-down eateries. Vancouverites and visitors eat some of the city's best meals while standing up.

    These 10 Vancouver food trucks are guaranteed to change the way you feel about dining out on your next visit to one of Canada's favourite foodie cities.

    #1. Roaming Dragon
    2016-09-13-1473772819-902824-7074594473_7336a304e0_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Sombilon Photography

    Roaming Dragon is Vancouver's most recognized food truck, and that's partially because it was the first to hit the streets. The food truck's Pan-Asian cuisine includes dishes like steamed pork buns, Korean short rib tacos, and deep fried rice balls with curry sauces. You know your tastebuds are about to freak when this Asian-fusion food truck starts rolling your way.

    #2. Mr. Shawarma

    Mouthwatering Middle Eastern food isn't something that's easy to find in every city, but in Vancouver, it comes to you. The Robson Square food truck Mr. Shawarma is known for serving up some of the best falafel in B.C., fresh shawarma wraps, pitas, and poutine for those who don't want to stray too far from the Canadian staples.

    #3. Japadog

    Japadog has graduated from a food stand on the corner of Burrard and Smithe Streets to a network of food trucks, restaurants, and stands throughout British Columbia and all the way down to Los Angeles, Calif. It's no surprise that the famous hot dogs -- ranging from plain all beef dogs and bratwursts to the signature Terimayo smothered in teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise and seaweed -- have become staple parts of the Vancouverite diet.

    #4. TacoFino
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    Photo credit: Ruth Hartnup

    There's something about tacos and food trucks that go hand in hand, and Tacofino is one of the best Baja-style food trucks in the country. Whether you're into authentic Baja California-style fish tacos or a massive pork burrito, Tacofino offers a small but diverse menu of southwestern eats.

    #5. Fat Duck Mobile Eatery

    Many foodies are convinced that food trucks don't serve up the same high-quality eats you can find at a restaurant, but the Fat Duck Mobile Eatery, Ltd., is changing that misconception. This truck serves up quality dishes, like duck confit "Philly" style with marinated mushrooms, pickled red onions, swiss and a truffle/parmesan mayo, in a quick manner that makes it easy to eat gourmet foods on the go.

    #6. Yolk's Breakfast
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    Photo credit: david coombes

    Yolk's Breakfast is bringing back the most important meal of the day. It's hard to be too busy to eat breakfast when a food truck in the heart of Vancouver's West End is serving up poached egg sandwiches, crispy potato skewers and eggs benedict in a matter of minutes. Don't forget to squirt a hearty dollop of Yolk's signature spicy ketchup on your meal before walking away.

    #7. Loving Hut Express

    Food trucks should never be compared to fast food, and that's what Loving Hut Express is trying to prove. Yaletown's Loving Hut is a gourmet, vegan food truck, but even the most serious carnivores are bound to fall in love with the vegan Sunshine Teriyaki Burger, yam fries and crispy onion rings with vegan ranch dressing. A variety of gluten-free options make it even easier for Vancouverites to eat right on the run.

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    2016-09-13-1473778092-4570737-EthiopiaDay2.jpg

    A few months ago I was given the chance to reconnect with my roots, roots I was hardly holding on to. I was going to Africa for the first time since I was a child. I went with a humanitarian organization called Pious Projects of America to document the work they were doing in Mali and Ethiopia.

    With barely any memories of my home country, Somalia, I travelled carrying the western stereotypes of my home continent. I couldn't envision more than poverty, illness and a slew of flies, images I was force fed that trampled over the distant memories I once had.

    Mali was our first stop, my misconceptions were instantly tackled, though we had to communicate through a translator there was this magic synergy, I felt like I seen these people before. We stayed some nights and left for Ethiopia. When we arrived in Ethiopia we travelled to the Somali Regional State (Soomaali Galbeed) in Ethiopia. This village had a large Somali community so this energy I felt was now paired with an ability to directly communicate with my own people.


    Being in the motherland speaking my mother tongue was an experience that is truly unparalleled, a feeling of home I'll remember forever.


    Moments after arriving in the village a woman in her 70s approached me and said, "What did you bring for us my son?" My heart, feeling light and willing in the moment just transformed, I was speechless. I was feeling such a mix of emotions and her question came so raw and revealing that I didn't know how to reply. She had said that her only hope of survival was dependent on her son to travel into the city to sell a goat that belonged to them. After a month two men came back holding a pair of sandals and told her that her son had died of starvation on his way there and that the sandals belonged to him. Someone who looks almost exactly like my grandmother was struggling to find food for the next day and it was something I could not grip.

    Now my heart had to adapt, the pain of my people kept presenting itself. As I took a photo of a young girl who was smiling her mother approached her and said, "close your mouth, do you think that if people around the world see a photo of you smiling they will want to help us?" But among all that, there existed joy and laughter.

    The rocks, the sand, the wood, the clothes all carried a different value there. The minimalism of material gave them full smiles with beams brighter than any screen we have. They offered me the wealth of a new perspective, the duality of poverty and happiness.

    Visiting that village in Ethiopia was powerful, I was reminded of my importance as a representative for my people. Being in the motherland speaking my mother tongue was an experience that is truly unparalleled, a feeling of home I'll remember forever.

    So as my heart raced and held my breath and saved my tears, I captured the moments that led me to reevaluate my idea of happiness. If we let her, Africa can teach us happiness in its purest form.



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    Eating locally in St. John's is a hands-on experience. For some tourists, it quite literally means using your hands.

    That's particularly true if you're "Like A Tourist" host Dan Rodo. He's teamed up with Cod Sounds Culinary Adventures to get a taste of the city's food scene.

    Now, Rodo's no stranger to uncovering hidden gems in Canadian cities, but something tells us he's never quite had to actually dig up mussels and clams at low tide for his next meal.

    Thankfully, he's joined by local Newfoundlander Krista Legge who had a different kind of reaction to their seaside bounty. So ditch the candles, lose the table cloth and grab a seat by the fire, because you're about to watch how Newfoundlanders food forage in the video above.

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