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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    There might not be a traveler out there with as many miles under their belt as the man, the myth, the legend himself: Mr. Santa Claus.

    The jolly-spreading magical man (red) suits up every December 24th to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls around the world and although he can skip the airport lines and traffic jams, good old St. Nick still deals with the hustle and bustle of holiday travel.

    Did you know that the average person spends approximately $759 on holiday travel while it costs Santa a whopping $0? (He is magical, after all.) And if you thought your journey to grandma's house was a long distance, Santa covers 175 million miles, in just one night.

    How does the rest of Santa's travel experiences compare to us common folk? Well, did a little research to show us what traveling like Santa is really like. Check out their nifty infographic below for more fun facts!

    How to Travel like Santa

    How to Travel like Santa by

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    Sledding, quad runs and bike rides, oh my! The opportunities to travel for unclothed events are endless.

    Most of us prefer to lie on nude beaches, but sometimes your nude little self just gets restless. If so, these worldwide naked runs are for you.

    Roskilde Naked Run, Denmark
    The Roskilde Festival, held each summer in Denmark, is just the Woodstock-y sort of hippie music fest where you would expect to find some naked folks. The festival's opening run will meet your expectations, and then some. On the first day of the weeklong event, hundreds of festival-goers strip down for a jog around the grounds, which stretch over almost 200 acres. If you're the quickest naked sprinter, you score a free ticket to next year's festival.

    Running of the Nudes, Spain
    Arrive a few days early for Pamplona's annual Running of the Bulls, and you'll see hundreds of PETA activists wearing nothing but plastic horns. They aim to fight what they call the unethical practice of bullfighting by posing as bulls in fake coffins, coating themselves in faux blood, and streaking through the same streets that the bulls use on running day.

    The Wreck Beach Bare Buns Run, Canada
    At this clothing-optional gathering place in Vancouver, nudies of all ages take an annual 5k jog along what claims to be the largest naturist beach in the world. Other Wreck Beach activities include an annual naked postcard shoot and nude swim nights in the dead of winter.
    streak run

    Bay to Breakers, California
    The oldest consecutively-run annual footrace in the world is one of contradictions: Some people come to win, and some people come to walk. Some people wear hot pink gorilla suits, and some people wear... absolutely nothing. It's not quite certain how Bay to Breakers -- named for the 12k route from a bay to the beach -- became such a nudie destination, but then again we are in San Francisco. Cops tried to nix the nakedness a few years ago, but nude racing teams prevailed.

    The Great Annual Nude Tunnel Run, New Zealand
    So there's this road tunnel in New Zealand that's three quarters of a mile long and, at the time of this run, completely dark. Sponsored by a local kayaking outfitter, brave souls take to the tunnel totally naked and wield torches to fend off the blackness. The whole thing sounds scary, for a number of reasons.
    homer tunnel

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    A weekend ice storm responsible for dozens of flight delays and cancellations is still causing headaches for travellers as of Monday morning.

    Airlines are continuing to advise customers to call ahead to see if their flights have been affected. Air Canada is still waiving rebooking fees for travellers impacted by the storm. Flights flying to, from or connecting at Toronto Pearson, Billy Bishop, Montreal-Trudeau, Ottawa's Macdonald-Cartier, as well as airports in Kingston, Ont., and Atlantic Canada may be affected by delays, the carrier's website cautions.

    WestJet and Porter Airlines are also advising travellers to call in advance before leaving for the airport. Like Air Canada, both airlines are allowing customers to rebook by phone without charge.

    You can reach Air Canada's automated flight system at 1-888-422-7533.

    Travellers flying with WestJet can call 1-888-937-8538 to rebook.

    Flying with Porter? You can find out more about your flight at 1-888-619-8622.

    So far 59 flights scheduled for Monday have been cancelled at Toronto Pearson, with the expectation that numbers will grow throughout the day. By comparison, the airport saw 229 cancellations on Sunday, according to Flightaware, a flight-tracking website.

    These delays at Canada's busiest airport during the holiday season are sending a ripple effect across the nation, with many dealing with backlog from the weekend. B.C. also experienced ice and freezing rain, throwing an even larger wrench into the vacation plans for some flyers, like Jeff and Leslie Whittaker. The couple was delayed at Vancouver International after their WestJet flight was cancelled on Saturday and their Air Canada flight to the Caribbean was cancelled on Sunday.

    "We're hoping that the people's airline has enough capacity and enough experience with this weather that they'll get us ... to Toronto in the morning," Jeff Whittaker said in an interview with the CBC.

    Travellers from the East Coast weren't having much luck either. Patsy Hollett made her flight from St. John’s, N.L. only to be stranded at Pearson International Sunday. She and her husband were trying to catch a connecting flight to Kingston. Ont -- just 250 km away -- to visit their daughter for Christmas.

    “It’s a real problem,” Hollett said. “But as long as you get to spend Christmas Day with (family), it’s OK," she told the Toronto Star.

    There is some good news for travellers though.

    Via Rail is telling its customers "it's business as usual" and there are no cancellations. Delays are to be expected, though, for anyone travelling on the Toronto-Ottawa, Toronto-Montreal, Toronto -New York or Halifax-Montreal routes.

    Transportation within the Greater Toronto Area is also faring better compared to Sunday with TTC service and Go Transit resuming service with some delays.

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    Skip the Food Court and Go Gourmet at the Airport

    Have you noticed what's happening at airports? Gone are the days where your only choice is grabbing unhealthy, fat-laden food or having to settle for pre-packaged on-board food options as you make a mad dash for a flight.

    On a recent flight out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport, I had time to take in breakfast. At Nobel Burger, I was able to order from the chicly designed menu on a tableside iPad while relaxing at a fabulous dining/work table. In less than 10 minutes, my scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit arrived, along with a great cup of coffee. Instead of feeling hurried, I felt as if I was having brunch at a downtown Toronto cafe as I browsed the iPad and enjoyed my meal.


    Mark McEwan's Nobel Burger Bar at Pearson Airport Terminal 3

    The Chefs Are Here

    Executive Chef, Winlai Wong, a Stratford Culinary School graduate, is responsible for overseeing the food transformation at Pearson International Airport's OTG Management, an award-winning airport food and beverage operator. Wong honed her skills in the kitchens of some of Toronto's best restaurants, but remarked on how she had to rethink her whole approach to serving gourmet food when time is of the essence. The transformation is not over; Wong mentioned that additional restaurants would be opening soon.

    Chef Wong has opened 12 restaurants in one year, in Terminals 1 and 3, under the guidance of OTG's Head Concept Chef, Michael Coury. Reflecting the diverse culture of Toronto, savvy travellers are now offered the same first class menus they have come to expect in their favourite chef-driven Toronto restaurants.

    Just as the menus at Pearson International Airport have been upgraded, so has the decor. Each restaurant offers unique visual dining experiences that help to calm and relax busy travellers. Manhattan's ICRAVE is responsible for creating these aesthetically appealing restaurants and holding gates.


    Corso: Travellers can delight in Italian snacks, from small plates of charcuterie, to Corso's thin-crust personal pizzas by Chef Rocco Agostino, of Pizza Libretto fame.



    Corso's made to order pizza

    Marathi: Indian street food, is available in Terminal 1. The menu was created with Toronto's Hermant Bhagwani, from the Amaya group of restaurants.

    • 2013-12-22-IMG_4394.jpg

    Behind the scenes look at Marathi Kitchen, staff prepping orders.

    Vinifera Wine Bar offers over 80 wines. The best of Ontario and international labels have been selected by Master Sommelier, John Szabo. This impressive wine list is accompanied by small plates created by Chef Michael Coury. Not sure what wine to order with your small plate? Let the iPad's menu make suggestions for you. Impressive!


    Vinifera - Wine Bar at Terminals 1 & 3

    Cibo Express Gourmet Market: offers a variety of grab-and-go products from local shops and markets. Gluten-free, kosher, and vegan products are on hand to accommodate the dietary needs of almost any traveller.

    Interesting Fact

    Many travellers don't realize that when you have passed through to the international gates, especially the United States, certain food restrictions come into play in order to legally adhere to that nation's agricultural guidelines. Certain meats, like goat, can't be taken on planes, due to health regulations. This makes Wong's job that much more complicated, but she loves the challenge.

    LaGuardia Experience

    I spent time with OTG's Director of Public Relations, Sean Aziz, in New York, where he led me on a tour of LaGuardia Airport's Delta Terminal experience.

    "It's not just about the dining experience that is on offer," Azis stated, adding, "It's the whole way you experience travel. You have great design married with technology and chef-inspired food. You can come to the airport early and have a great meal in a beautiful setting and then catch your flight."

    The new dining options also offer guests free access to iPads at every seat. From there, diners can order meals through an intuitive visual menu that can be easily converted to one of 12 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, German, English, Hebrew, Greek, French, Hindi, Italian, Arabic, Korean, and Spanish.

    The multi-lingual capabilities of the iPad platform allow non-English speaking international travelers the ability to easily communicate, order food, and check the status of their flights.

    The Chefs of New York

    New York is one of the best dining capitals in the world. Its only natural Chef Michael Coury would have an abundance of A-list Chefs to collaborate with for Delta terminals C and D at LaGuardia Airport.


    LaGuardia's Terminal C

    Cotto: this enticing trattoria, by celebrity chef, Andrew White, features traditional Italian cuisine with a modern translation

    Vuelo Taqueria: under the hands of celebrated Chef Aaron Sanchez, Mexican spices and flavours come alive with flavourful tacos.

    Custom Burgers: Pat LaFrieda's Custom Burgers offer delicious gourmet burgers made from a custom beef blend.

    Kevin O'Neil, Executive Chef at Delta Terminals C and D, works to ensure the day-to-day operations of the restaurants run smoothly. In other words, he is Chef Winlai Wong's New York counterpart. I met O'Neil during my tour with Sean Aziz. Judging by the commuter traffic in both terminals, O'Neil is kept on his toes, but he did take time to put together a tasting menu for me to sample at lunch.

    Minnow: Andrew Carmellini's seafood and raw bar serving fresh fish and shellfish. Carmellini run's Tribeca's popular Locanda Verde restaurant.


    Minnow Roll, tempura oyster, tokyo scallions, spicy salmon, bibb lettuce, cucumber. SASHIMI - king salmon, hamachi, yellow fin tuna

    Wibar: ultimate wine bar with 101 premium wines by the glass. The wine list is composed by Roger Dagorn and features wines from California, France and all around the world.


    Garlic salami and mozzarella panini, radichio and extra virgin olive oil.

    Bisoux: A bistro inspired by Provencal cuisine, the menu has been created by celebrated Chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. These chef's are behind successful restaurants -- Balthazar, Pastis, Schiller's and Minetta Tavern.


    According to Aziz, OTG takes their coffee experience very seriously. In fact, there actually exists a "Director of Coffee." This person is responsible for training baristas and ensuring that high quality beans, used at all locations, deliver the best cup of java.

    See more behind the scenes by clicking on Photos.

    The visionary behind this whole enterprise is OTG's CEO, Rick Blatstein. Judging by the success of these airport initiatives we can expect to see more improvements across the continent.

    Next time you're at the airport, take the time to look what is being offered. You might just begin to hope that there is a layover soon in your future!


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    It's that time of year again, when Canadians across the country are sending in their audition videos for "Amazing Race Canada," which is now casting for its second season.

    You'd better hurry, though -- auditions for "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 close on Thursday, December 26. While you may be prepping for Boxing Day, you may also want to set aside an hour or two to make a creative, fun audition video.

    There are some shining examples of classic Canadian behaviour -- like running through (and falling into) snow drifts -- but there's also a lot of Canadians sitting on couches, which, of course, we love too.

    "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 is set to start in the summer of 2014. (Don't forget, you can't just apply on YouTube, you have to apply via the official CTV website.)

    Submit your "Amazing Race Canada" audition video to the slideshow below (if it's not already there) and let Huffington Post Canada readers take a look at what you have to offer!

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    Wouldn't you love to give up life's responsibilities and just go travel? That's precisely what two Vancouver women have done with a journey that has generated an enormous following on Instagram.

    "Our Wild Abandon" founders Jillian Mann and Kyla Trethewey left their homes, their and their jobs behind in August and have since documented a road trip across the United States in a gorgeous photo series that has gathered over 50,000 followers.

    The idea for the trip began some months back when the pair longed for an adventure. Trethewey sent Mann a text message: "Actually, do you want to go to Salt Lake city? If we left now, we could watch the sun rise on the salt flats. Please say yes," said an Instagram blog.

    The pair took a whirlwind road trip to Salt Lake City. Months later, they bought a trailer, re-painted it, named it "Bobby Jean" and hit the road on Aug. 26, using Instagram and their personal website to keep loved ones apprised of their travels.

    Trethewey, a former property manager with Vancouver Luxury Realty, told The Province that she never anticipated the journey would grow to be so popular online.

    The pair has driven almost 18,000 km, visiting eight states including California, Utah, New Mexico and Texas, and has encountered plenty of adventures along the way.

    Their engine broke down in Utah, forcing them to live in a junkyard for a week while they scrounged up money for repairs. They also spent a day in a Yuma, Ariz. prison after picking up a hitchhiker who was carrying illegal medication.

    But none of that has dampened their passion for the open road. Mann and Trethewey are currently in Louisiana, where they have toured a swamp, handled an alligator and witnessed a New Orleans jazz funeral procession first hand.

    Check out some photos from "Our Wild Abandon":

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    Forget the president. All anyone in Hawaii cared about this past weekend was the massive swell on the North Shore and the perfect Pipe conditions. Below, a round up of the best Instagram shots from the epic surf sesh for anyone who missed it.

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    When you're flying home for the holidays, it's easy for travel to turn stressful. Tight connections, flight delays, lost luggage, and that one guy in front of you in the security line who can't believe he has to take off his shoes -- there are plenty of things to make you anxious.

    But this air travel mishap takes the cake: on Monday morning, a Delta jet got stuck in mud after sliding off the taxiway at Detroit Metro Airport.

    According to the Associated Press, a spokesman for the airline said the sliding may have been caused by hitting some black ice around 6:40 a.m. Thankfully, no one on board was hurt.

    The 180 passengers on the Boeing 737 were bound for Atlanta, according to USA Today. Though they were fine physically and many ended up on another flight that has already departed, others likely had plenty of mental anguish as they tried to sort out travel plans.

    At least one passenger wasn't happy with the rebooking options he was given. Twitter user TheRealJackNacy wrote that he was told he couldn't get to his final destination for several days.

    Good thing he isn't missing a special trip... oh, wait.

    At least he can look on the bright side?

    Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said he was looking into the Twitter complaint.

    "The flight has since re-departed using another aircraft and some would have been offered other rebooking options depending on their final destination," he told The Huffington Post in an email.

    There's not much you can do when your plane gets stuck (except try to remember a calming travel mantra), but here are a few tips to solve more common holiday travel problems.

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    Photo Courtesy Michael Mohr. Article by Ian Crouch, contributor to Budget Travel.

    Just what is travel writing? Sometimes it tells the story of a journey -- the initial excitement of a ship leaving port or the joy of watching the sun rise in a brand-new place. Often it celebrates the act of exploration itself -- poking around, asking questions, getting lost and into scrapes, making all the mistakes of the newcomer. But most essentially, it should prompt us to look longingly at our suitcases, start thinking about that next week off, and begin planning adventures of our own. This is the spirit that animates the books on our list -- Budget Travel's first ever roundup of the greatest travel literature. Despite their differences in genre and style, these books all give an unforgettable sense of place -- whether that place is a small patch of ground, an entire continent, or just the wrinkles of the writer's mind.

    Did we highlight your favorites? Forget any notable titles? We'd love to hear your thoughts, in the comments section below.


    On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (1957)
    Kerouac didn't invent America's obsession with the open road, but he did capture the complexities of our collective drive West in a uniquely deep and enduring way. The travels of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise are a celebration of two of the country's greatest inventions: jazz and the roaring, big-engined automobile. Yet Kerouac persists at revealing the dark, forgotten places like skid-row San Francisco and a migrant farmworkers' camp in southern California. What draws new generations of restless young readers to the book, though, is Kerouac's exuberant prose: "...The car was swaying as Dean and I both swayed to the rhythm and the IT of our final excited joy in talking and living to the blank tranced end of all innumerable riotous angelic particulars that had been lurking in our souls all our lives."
    Window to: The U.S., from New York City to California, and Mexico.

    The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
    "I mistrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together," says Hemingway's narrator Jake Barnes, yet this remarkable novel about Americans abroad following World War I manages to be frank without ever being simple, and its stories are expertly held together. These scenes of Europe are among Hemingway's most indelible: drinking Pernod in Paris cafes, fishing in a mountain stream in the Pyrenees -- a bottle of white wine tucked in a nearby spring to chill -- and finally on to Pamplona, where Barnes momentarily escapes his grief while marveling at the exploits of a bullfighter: "Romero's bull-fighting gave real emotion, because he kept the absolute purity of line in his movements and always quietly and calmly let the horns pass him close each time."
    Window to: France and Spain.

    The Beach, by Alex Garland (1996)
    Garland's sly page-turner about an unorthodox, supersecret community of expat island-dwellers in Southeast Asia navigates a remarkable middle ground, at once celebrating the spirit of exploration that inspires the backpacker set and satirizing the ad-hoc culture based on drugs, tans, and pseudo-enlightenment that these young people seek. Despite Garland's suspicion of the Goa and Phuket faithful, few writers have described so well the thrill of a cliff dive, the joys of Tetris on a Game Boy, or the beguiling beauty of a tropical sunset -- and inspired armchair travelers to embark on the real thing in the process: "If I'd learned one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don't talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens."
    Window to: Thailand and London.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith (1955)
    Americans have always seen Europe as an aspirational place. For Tom Ripley, though, a free trip to Italy provides the perfect chance to better himself -- by killing the object of his obsession, the shipbuilding heir Dickie Greenleaf, and taking on his enviable identity. Ripley haunts the streets of Rome and Venice, and Highsmith conjures a vision of the sun-bleached southern Italian shore that fills the dreams of pasty citizens of the world's cold-weather towns: "Now and then he caught glimpses of little villages down at the water's edge, houses like white crumbs of bread, specks that were the heads of people swimming near the shore."
    Window to: Italy.

    Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende (1999)
    This exhaustively researched novel follows two fascinating characters, Eliza Sommers, an orphan adopted by an English brother and sister, and Tao Chi'en, her Chinese physician, as they are drawn into a mysterious adventure in California during the 1848 Gold Rush. Allende is a master of the street scene; her description of boomtown San Francisco, with its surging crowds of fortune-hunters from around the world, would spark the imagination of any traveler who has ventured into an unknown city for the first time: "The heterogeneous throng pulsed with frenzied activity, pushing, bumping into building materials, barrels, boxes, burros, and carts."
    Window to: Valparaíso, Chile and San Francisco, California.


    The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux (1975)
    Theroux persuades us that one of the best ways to discover the culture of a country is by riding its trains. The author reached nearly every corner of Asia, and just reading the names of the notable trains he rode -- the Direct-Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Mandalay Express, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, and the Trans-Siberian Express -- is enough to summon visions of a kind of travel that even then was beginning to fade away.
    Window to: Asia's fabled trains.

    Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (1996)
    Krakauer's two classics -- Into the Wild and Into Thin Air -- were published in the span of just two years. Into Thin Air -- a riveting first-person retelling of a season of bad choices and disaster on Mt. Everest -- drew more headlines. But it's his earlier work, which tells the mysterious story of Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate who was found dead in the Alaskan wilderness, that lingers in the mind long after you close the book. Krakauer is sympathetic to the spirit that led McCandless to ditch his car, burn the money in his wallet, and set out for life off the grid. In a rousing section, he recalls his own [youthful] climbing adventure in Alaska, on a stark and wondrous peak called the Devils Thumb, which was both exhilarating and nearly fatal. Yet much like Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man, this is a story that draws sharp lines between adventure and madness.
    Window to: Alaska.

    Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck (1962)
    Roughly 20 years after he set the Joads off to California in their jalopy, Steinbeck took to the American roads himself, in a pickup truck he named Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse. Since human companionship can "disturb the ecological complex of an area," his French poodle Charley stood in as his Sancho Panza. Over the course of more than 10,000 miles, the great American moralist took one final survey of his country: "I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation -- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here."
    Window to: the U.S.

    In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson (2000)
    "I was standing there with a map of Australia, surveying the emptiness and trying to conceive the ungraspable fact that if I walked north from here I wouldn't come to a paved surface for eleven hundred miles," Bryson writes. This funny and insightful book eloquently captures a country often obscured by the stereotypes fueled by all those Foster's beer ads. Along with the curious geography and terrifying fauna -- snakes, sharks, and crocs -- Bryson captures the spirit of a uniquely sporting people, who excel at games ranging from cricket to Australian Rules football: "It is a wonder in such a vigorous and active society that there is anyone left to form an audience."
    Window to: Australia.

    Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey (1968)
    A corollary to the roaming spirit is the desire to get to know one place supremely well. Abbey worked two seasons in the mid-fifties as a wry, tourist-phobic ranger at Arches National Park in eastern Utah, several years before the roads were paved and the hulking RVs arrived. Abbey is a gruff, no-nonsense environmentalist and a poet of the rocks, which he sees in every light, including gorgeous visions of dusk: "The sun is touching the fretted tablelands on the west. It seems to bulge a little, to expand for a moment, and then it drops -- abruptly -- over the edge. I listen for a long time."
    Window to: Utah's red-rock country.

    Click here to see 15 more of the greatest travel books of all time!

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    Like the rest of us, the Obamas are creatures of habit. They make the Hawaiian island of Oahu their holiday trip every winter, they rent the same beachside house, and they frequent (more or less) the same restaurants and attractions.

    This year, we have something else in mind for the Obamas. If you're listening, first family, we very respectfully ask that you try the below seven Oahu attractions -- like true locals.

    1. Have a local breakfast at Hukilau Cafe.

    The obvious choice for breakfast would be the famous Cinnamon's Restaurant in Kailua, not far from the Obamas' winter residence, but we'd like to see the president and his family do breakfast like a true local would. (Live up to that birth certificate, Mr. President!)

    We would send the Obamas to the Hukilau Cafe, which is tucked into the quiet countryside of Laie on the east side of Oahu. Our presidential recommendations include the macadamia nut pancakes, a fried rice omelet and, of course, a loco moco -- an island breakfast-staple consisting of rice, a hamburger patty and a fried egg, all underneath a generous pour of hot gravy.

    2. Do yoga on a stand up paddle board at Kawela Bay.

    This beach stretches along one of the last few untouched bays on the island of Oahu and is at risk of being replaced by new hotels and condominiums. Although the quiet bay's future is up in the air, the Obama family can still enjoy the pristine beach now.

    Protected by a reef and two points of land, the water in Kawela Bay stays relatively calm, especially during the powerful winter surf season on the North Shore. In our presidential dreamworld, we imagine Michelle, Malia and Sasha playing in shallow waters as Barack paddles deeper in the bay for a calming downward dog and sun salutation. Namaste, Mr. President.

    3. Jump off the rock at Waimea Bay...

    Just how brave can the Obamas be? The appropriately named "Jump Rock" at Waimea Bay on Oahu's North Shore is perfect for climbing and cannon-balling back into the ocean. Let's just hope that no one in the family has a fear of heights. The tallest point on the rock is about 30 feet and the water below is anywhere between 10 to 20 feet deep, depending on the tide.

    4. ...or watch the massive waves.
    waimea bay surf
    It's very likely that the Obamas will be on the island to experience one of the massive swells that Hawaii's North Shore is famous for. When the conditions are just right, Waimea Bay hosts some of the biggest waves in the world, with wave faces up to 30 and 40 feet.

    If the Obamas are extra lucky, they might be able to catch the world's most prestigious big wave competition, the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surf competition, which can only be held when the waves are a minimum of 20 feet. The contest has only happened eight times since its inception in 1985, with the most recent contest in 2009.

    5. Kayak to the Mokulua Islands.
    mokulua islands kayak
    The Mokulua islands, known as "the Mokes" to locals, are two small islands just off the coast of Kailua -- the little beach town where the Obamas are staying for the holidays. The bigger of the two islands, Moku Nui, is the perfect spot for a presidential beach day since it's only a thirty minute kayak ride from Lanikai Beach. The first family can bring beach towels, boogie boards, even a small grill for barbecuing, and spend hours exploring the beaches and coves on the tiny island.

    6. Take a booze cruise during sunset.
    waikiki booze cruise
    What do you get when you have a 45-foot catamaran, endless beer and Mai Tais, and a Hawaiian sunset? One. Epic. Evening.

    An island attraction for drinking-inclined tourists and locals, commercial sailing catamarans launch from Waikiki beach for a 90-minute boozy boat ride. Charters like Na Hoku II and Manu Kai have reputations as the hardest partying boats on the shoreline, both with open bars and impromptu dance parties. While it's very unlikely that the Obamas would actually end up on one of these, we can dream, can't we?

    7. Get fresh produce at a local farmers market.
    oahu farmers market
    The first family can turn their next Hawaii meal into a true community experience by buying local food and produce at one of the many farmers markets on the island of Oahu. Hawaii imports about 85-90% of its food, which means promoting and supporting local food is an environmental priority. Obama can meet and greet farmers and pick up some of the island's signature fruits -- lilikoi, guavas, pineapples and the ever-strange-looking dragon fruit. There are many farmers markets around the island, including one in Kailua town near the Obamas' winter vacation rental.

    Alongside fruits and veggies, many markets also offer a wide variety of food plates -- from sushi to desserts -- and unique gifts and crafts. The first family will be able to have a local and healthy meal while picking up last-minute holiday gifts, all while helping to support the local economy!

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    A rotund man in a red suit and a white beard flies around the world in a sleigh powered by reindeer to deliver presents for boys and girls deemed "nice" after spying on them for a year.

    Yes, the crux of Christmas Eve may sound kind of strange depending on how and who you explain it to, but if you think this concept is a little to fare-fetched, perhaps a look at these Christmas traditions around the world, courtesy of Love Home Swap, will put things in perspective.

    For some in South Africa, Christmas is the perfect time to eat deep-fried caterpillars from the Emperor Moth. It's a little unclear why it's a tradition but research shows that the grub is highly nutritious. Meanwhile, there are those in Japan who keep the deep-fried goodness but trade caterpillars for chicken, a la KFC.

    Other regions eschew the idea of a man doling out presents and call upon a descendent of witches or young girls who resemble Christ to hand out sweets and gifts to little children. On the other end of the spectrum is the infamous Krampus who punishes naughty children with a switch and is said to roam the lands of Austria and other parts of Eastern Europe.

    Yet despite all these differences, there's a common theme stringing these traditions together: Reward the good, punish the bad and spend December with loved one in hopes of a better, brighter new year.

    Happy Holidays!

    35 Bizarrest Christmas Traditions

    How do you celebrate Christmas? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter at @HPCaTravel.

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    We've already taken a look at how some cultures stay calm during the craziness that is the holiday season, and now we're examining how some countries do it...differently...than us here in the States.

    Thanks to the folks at lovehomeswap, here are 35 bizarrest (their words, not ours) Christmas traditions around the globe.

    35 Bizarrest Christmas Traditions

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    In the Cappadoccia region of Turkey, hot air ballooning is the sport of choice.

    It's easy to see why when you look at the town of Göreme, a mountain village that's famous for its fairy chimney rock formations. Tons of balloons took flight there last week, even as snow started to cover the spectacular badlands.





    These flights may look like they should be reserved for professionals, but the balloons are full of regular, everyday tourists. Cappadocia is home to about 50 hot air balloon tour companies, so it's more than easy to take a ride for yourself.

    People admit to feeling a bit afraid before they take flight, but most come down with rave reviews, for obvious reasons.





    Though there can obviously be good flying days in winter, April through October is generally considered the best ballooning time in Turkey because morning winds are nice and light.

    If you thought winter looks wondrous, check out these stunning summer flights!





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    Would you stand on the edge of the mountain? How about perched atop a precariously tall building?

    Vertigo-inducing attractions have a special appeal. They're exhilarating, terrifying and give just enough of a rush without taking too much of a risk. Here are our favorite ones we stumbled upon this year.

    Beware, even these photos might make you very dizzy.

    "Step into the Void," French Alps
    step into the void
    "Step into the Void" consists of a glass cube suspended from Aiguille du Midi mountain. While it might make you weak at the knees, the views of the alps and Mont Blanc are epic.

    Aurland Lookout, Norway
    aurland lookout
    The Aurland Lookout dangles you over water and trees and offers sweeping mountaintop views.

    Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona
    grand canyon skywalk
    Hang out above the Grand Canyon. Literally. While we didn't discover the Skywalk this year, it did reopen to tourists in June. So for all intents and purposes, it makes the list.

    Trolltunga, Norway
    If you can make it to the end of this craggy cliff without your legs turning to Jell-O... you are fearless.

    Kjeragbolten, Norway
    Kjeragbolten is a massive boulder wedged in the crevice of a mountain. Brave travelers love to have their photo taken on it. Extreme travelers BASE jump off it. Sidenote: Norway has all the cool things in the world.

    Zhangjiajie National Park Cableway
    zhangjiajie national park
    Zhangjiajie National Park has crazy twisty roads and the longest cableway in the world. Hopefully it's not too rocky!

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    Sure, our Santa loves a good sugar cookie and glass of 2%. But that's not going to keep him fueled in other countries this Christmas Eve.

    Leave the Big Guy -- or one of his gift-giving colleagues -- a different treat if you're spending Christmas somewhere exotic.

    If you're in Chile, for example, you'd better get baking. There, it's customary to offer Old Man Christmas (aka Viejo Pascuero) a special, homemade pan de Pascua. The spongy snack is a bread similar to panettone, and it's flavored with candied fruit, honey and ginger.

    And in France, Père Noël rides a noble steed: a donkey named Gui. Leave carrots in your shoes at night to keep Gui trotting around the world.

    Similarly, Sinterklaas rides a horse in the Netherlands. Fill your shoes with hay and carrots -- and maybe even some sugar cubes -- like all the other kids do.

    In England, Santa likes a proper meal of mince pie (a hand-held pocket of meat, fruit and spices) with milk. Some families, though, decide he needs some sherry or brandy to keep things sprightly in the sleigh.

    The deal is pretty much the same in Ireland. Here, though, Santa Claus more typically washes down his mince pie with Guinness or whiskey.

    It's not Santa you have to feed in Denmark, but rather some elves. Little guys called nisser supposedly live in the attics over there, and if you don't leave them a bowl of sweet rice pudding called risengrød, they might play tricks on you all night. You too will be eating risengrød on Christmas Eve-- if you find the almond hidden in one of the bowls, you've won good luck for a year.

    If you're in Sweden or some parts of Italy during mid December, Saint Lucy will come to deliver gifts at night. She prefers a cup of coffee or a sandwich. Leave carrots for her trusty donkey and some wine wine for her pal Castaldo. What a team!

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    Greyhound is apologizing to an 80-year-old woman for making her wait for a late bus in the cold for almost two hours.

    Donna Guillemin says her mother's bus was running late on Saturday but instead of waiting inside the station at Castlegar, she was asked to wait outside because the station was closing.

    "She was just left outside in the cold without a chair or a bench," Guillemin said.

    "It's just not that safe. It's not what we would want for young people waiting for parents or old people."

    Guillemin says her mother was told she could wait at a coffee shop up the street.

    Greyhound spokeswoman Alexandra Pedrini says the company was in the wrong.

    "Unfortunately the situation wasn't handled the way it should have been," she said. "And for that we sincerely apologize"

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    Victoria's Janion Hotel micro-condo project has only a few units left to sell as construction is set to begin next month.

    Reliance Properties has 11 tiny condos left in the popular development after about 100 were picked up in the first two weeks of November. The units sold for anywhere between $110,000 and $199,000.

    Company president Jon Stovell told The Huffington Post B.C. that the project has attracted a diverse cross-section of buyers from former renters, to "pied-a-terre" people and pensioners.

    Check out renderings of the Janion Hotel micro-condo project in downtown Victoria. The story continues below the slideshow:

    "Victoria is a low population market," he said. "To get that kind of sales depth, you're going to be selling a little bit to everybody."

    The Janion project is located in a former hotel that was built in 1891 and has sat empty since 1973.

    Reliance obtained a development permit in October that will allow it to add a six-storey structure to the rear of the building and restore the property for commercial and residential use.

    The condos themselves measure anywhere from 243 to 352 square feet, and will have features such as built-in wall beds with dining tables, and electrical ports built into the furniture.

    Amenities at the Janion will include a rooftop lounge, a boardroom and social rooms that face the waterfront.

    Stovell expects construction to be finished in 2015.

    And this isn't the last micro-condo development that Reliance plans to take on. The company, which also built the Burns Block on Vancouver's Hastings Street, is planning yet another project in the city's downtown core though it won't reveal any further details.

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    If you've used Airbnb before, you know that the site pairs travellers with home owners to create a Craigslist for couch-surfers. Well, the vacation rental website is putting a twist on its services in light of Sunday's deadly ice storm in Eastern Canada.

    From Dec. 23 to Dec. 30, the site is waiving service fees for Toronto area users affected by the disaster. This means users can book or advertise places for free. The site is also promoting the properties of users who have power and are willing to take in people for free.

    Airbnb says the gestures are part of their disaster response service: an idea created following the destruction that Hurricane Sandy left in New York in 2012.

    Toronto, like many regions across Eastern Canada, continues to deal with the aftermath of nearly 30 mm of freezing rain from the weekend. Emergency workers and hydro crews are still working to clean up the mess that the storm left in its wake.

    In Toronto, roughly 115,000 residents are entering their third day without power; for some, it could mean a dark Christmas.

    In Quebec's Eastern Townships, an estimated 24,000 households are still without power as hydro crews work to restore power lines downed by icy trees, CBC News reports. In The Maritimes, roughly 5,000 Nova Scotians and 44,000 New Brunswickers remain in the dark.

    Airbnb is not the only Canadian company stepping up in response to the ice storm. On Monday, Rogers announced it would open its retail locations in Ontario to let visitors charge their phones and provide free Wi-Fi, reports Mobile Syrup. Toronto's Real Jerk restaurant is also embracing the giving spirit by offering a free Christmas lunch with a "Caribbean flair."

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    (Relaxnews) - The holidays are here, and the world's airports are abuzz with winter vacationers, many of whom will seize the opportunity to finish their holiday shopping in duty-free shops and other airport boutiques. Of course, not all airports are created equal., a website specializing in travelers' rights, has compiled a list of the top five airports for shopping.

    Dubai International Airport
    dubai international airport
    With its 5,400 square meters of shopping space, the Sheikh Rashid terminal looks every bit like a shopping mall. Travellers will find a wide selection of stores open around the clock, 7 days a week.

    Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
    schiphol airport
    According to, Amsterdam has the best airport in Europe when it comes to scoring bargains. The boutiques at Schiphol price their wares 10 to 35 percent less than those at other airports.

    Hong Kong International Airport
    hong kong international airport shop
    With over 250 stores, this international hub allows travelers to shop some of the world's most prestigious brands, including Chanel, Armani and Cartier, to name just a few. Whether travelers are interested in fashion, jewelry, household items or high-tech products, they are sure to enjoy their layover in the Hong Kong airport.

    Heathrow Airport, London
    heathrow airport shops
    With nearly 100 shops, Heathrow offers a wide range of products, particularly at the high end. The airport, which even includes multiple branches of the famous London department store Harrods, was named as having the "World's Best Airport Shopping" in the 2013 World Airport Awards from Skytrax.

    Changi Airport, Singapore
    changi airport shop
    This airport, among the most modern and prestigious in the world, is regularly named among the world's most pleasant places to catch a flight. This year, it was even named "Airport of the Year 2013" in the World Airport Awards, awarded based on the votes of international travelers. In terms of shopping, the airport has over 300 boutiques, including something for every budget.

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    There’s no doubt that water is essential. We drink it. We swim in it. We’re even made up of it. But sometimes, we should stop and appreciate the sheer beauty of it.

    If you’re yearning for that feeling of serenity, the peaceful moment amidst the craziness of the world, these fifteen water landscapes will undoubtedly take your breath away and then, maybe, just maybe, reawaken your wanderlust:

    Great Blue Hole

    great blue hole
    The Great Blue Hole is an underwater sinkhole, or cave, in Lighthouse Reef, Belize. It was a vertical cave above ground during the past ice ages, but with time, the rising ocean levels flooded the 400 feet deep cave.

    Eleuthera Island, Bahamas

    Glass Window Bridge-18
    (Flickr/Michael Harris)
    In the 110-mile long and 1-mile wide island of Eleuthera, there is bridge called the Glass Window Bridge. There, you can see the incredible deep dark blue of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the aquamarine of the Caribbean Sea on the other.

    Lake Hillier, Australia

    Lake Hillier - Western Australia
    Like other pink lakes around the world, the beautiful pink color could have been caused by a combination of salt-attracted Dunaliella Salina bacteria and sunlight absorption.

    Iguazu Falls

    This semicircular waterfall lies on the border of Brazil and Argentina and about 2 miles wide

    Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, Colorado

    Located in the Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world

    Great Barrier Reef

    Home to an abundance of marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, consisting of 3,000 individual reef systems.

    Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

    One of the most famous glaciers in Patagonia, visitors are allowed to hike this incredible glacier in the town of El Calafate, Argentina.

    Abraham Lake in Alberta, Canada

    These magnificent ice bubbles in Abraham Lake are created by methane gas released by the plants at the bottom of the lake


    Palau, in Western Pacific Ocean, is a country made up of of volcanic and limestone islands and is a hot spot for scuba divers.

    Fairy Pools, Scotland

    These gorgeous waterfalls, known as Fairy Pools, can be seen while hiking in Isle of Skye, Scotland.

    Pamukkale Travertine Pools
    A UNESCO world heritage site, these hot springs were built in 2nd century BCE in Pamukkale, Turkey.

    Five Flower Lake

    The Five Flower Lake in Jiuzhaigou Valley, China gets its beautiful colors from plant and mineral deposits.

    The Dead Sea

    The Dead Sea lies between Jordan and Israel and is the saltiest sea in the world.

    Glowing Waves

    Blue tide of dinoflagellates
    (Flickr/BMC Ecology)
    You know the algal bloom that causes the red tide? A big enough movement (a wave in this case) can chemically change the same algal bloom and create these beautiful bright blue waves visible at night.

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