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    Diwali is one of the biggest and most beautiful celebrations in India. Marking Hindu New Year, this ancient five day festival celebrates the triumph of light over dark and good over evil. Witness incredible light displays, mesmerising fireworks and symbolic burning of candles, while families get together to feast and share gifts.

    This year Diwali is celebrated from October 30th and we've put together some of our favourite destinations to celebrate this one of a kind festival.

    Varanasi, India

    Photo Credit:

    Varanasi comes alive even more at this time of year and you'll be blown away by the incredible fireworks going in every corner of the city. For the best view head to the Ganges and see the breath taking visage of the water lighting up and the diyas (lamps) floating down the river. Known for its abundance of culture and history, after being mesmerized by the bright lights across the night sky, spend your day exploring the bustling street markets and indulge in Diwali sweets and brightly coloured clothes.

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    Built in the 18th Century and one of the oldest structures in Varanasi, the BrijRama Palace is the perfect place to stay for a bit of luxury when visiting this part of India. With views overlooking the Ganges (the perfect spot to catch the fireworks), a rooftop terrace and beautifully decorated room, you can sit back and relax after exploring the local sights.

    Kandy, Sri Lanka

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    Sri Lanka is a symbolic place to celebrate Diwali and here you can't miss the the lighting of lamps and distribution of misiri, figurines of sugar crystals. Kandy is a great base to explore the country and travellers can either head to the beaches or stay in nearby villages to join the friendly locals celebrate after dark with colourful ceremonies.

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    This quaint homestay, Bee View is a relaxing stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Guests can enjoy beautiful views and delicious food prepared by the friendly hosts. It's also a great location for hiking and a perfect starting spot for to explore further afield.

    Udaipur, India

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    Udaipur's majestic lakes are a beautiful spot to watch the Diwali lights and fireworks, not to mention it's full of royal history and plenty of things to do. Enjoy a camel ride, feast on Marwari delicacies and pick out ethnic Rajasthani souvenirs from the local markets. Come Diwali the main streets are lit up, making for a completely magical experience.

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    Built in 1746, the iconic Taj Lake Palace is a beautiful sight - full of incredible architecture and made with marble. Guests can enjoy breath-taking views of the City Palace and Machla Magra hills, indulge in luxury spa services and enjoy fine-dining authentic cuisine at the Neel Kamal restaurant.

    Mumbai, India

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    Festivities are celebrated more privately here, rather than with a public festival but none the less, the city is completely lit up as everyone's private party includes a mesmerising firework display. Visitors should head to Mumbai's iconic Queen's Necklace to watch the most spectacular fireworks or go to Juhu Beach if you fancy perusing delicious food stalls while watching the display in the skies.

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    If you love a room with a view, Taj Lands is the perfect option. Just 200 metres from the seafront, it offers panoramic views of the Arabian Sea. After watching the fireworks at Juhu beach, travellers can retreat back to enjoy the beautiful spacious rooms, health club, and spa. The onsite restaurants offer delicious international, Indian and Oriental menus for you to take your pick from.

    Goa, Anjuna, India

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    Diwali celebrations in Goa consist of competitions in each village to see who can make the biggest and scariest version of the demon Narakasura (to celebrate Lord Krishna defeating him!) The demon is then burned at dawn, the day before the main day of Diwali. There are of course plenty of late night fireworks for you to enjoy and Goa is a great place for beaches, nightlife and relaxation.

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    If you're looking for a laid back, 'cool vibes' kind of stay than look no further than Roadhouse Hostel. You're bound to meet fellow travellers from all over the world at this quirky hostel, which is situated close to the beach and Anjuna flea market.

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    It might be your job that's getting you down, a lack of change in scenery or just feeling stuck in a rut. Whatever it may be at some point I'm sure you've felt the need to get away. For me, it was a combination of all three of those.

    Whether you have taken a few small trips, or just wondering what's out there, time spent traveling is one of the most important things you can do. Travel doesn't just broaden your horizons but helps you grow as a person. And if you really want to grow as a person traveling alone is the best way to accomplish that. That might seem overwhelming but let me show you 4 reasons why it can be the best thing for you.

    1. You're Not Forced To Accommodate For Groups Of People

    I've traveled with a ton of ridiculous and crazy characters and as much fun as that is, the bigger the groups the bigger the headaches and the more consideration everyone needs. Even if it's a small group of 3, day to day decisions are not always going to make everyone happy. Site seeing, accommodations and the worst of them all, food, can be a nightmare to accommodate. Compromise is a good thing but It can get to the point where you start to feel like a babysitter and your original traveling intentions may begin to take a back seat.

    2. Traveling Along Allows You To Be Self Sufficient & Independent

    Traveling alone is an ideal way to develop self-sufficiency as you become master of your domain. Being alone forces you to develop perseverance as you have no one to depend on but yourself. If you're looking to grow you need to get out of your comfort zone and traveling solo is the best way to do that. If you find yourself in a place where communication is difficult you are now looking at the ultimate in becoming self-sufficient. You're not in Cancun where saying "hola" is the extent of your branching out, when you're in a foreign country you will face real situations that truly help you grow.

    3. You Learn To Adopt Real Perspective

    Moving beyond your comfort zone develops that perseverance which can translate over into your everyday life. You are able to develop a new mindset and can become better conditioned at making decisions from solo travel which can have a positive effect in your work and life. You will gain a new found confidence and less hesitation when faced with decisions either big or small.

    4. Investing In Yourself

    When you don't have to accommodate others schedules and desires you get to take the time to experience the things that are most important to you. You are more able to check things off your bucket list when you do not have any obligations to anyone else. Locations, attractions and sites that appeal to you that may be less popular to others can be enjoyed on your own time and at your own pace.

    You will get to experience the things most meaningful to you with your full immersion and no interruption.

    Wrapping It Up

    I've traveled with large groups of people and also solo. I'll be honest, the large groups can be fun but after awhile it can become too much of a safety blanket. When I was finally able to go solo I felt like I was truly traveling. When left to my own devices it was then that I really felt myself grow and improve as a person. Be warned, though, once you start doing it the desire to venture out again just gets stronger and stronger.

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    We piled into our rented white Chrysler 300 -- a lowrider -- and drove towards the sunset. On our left the San Bernardino Mountains, dusky in daylight, blushed with red borrowed from the sky. "Look a roadrunner!" yelled a voice from the back. "Beep beep!" said another. We were four women -- old enough to remember that cartoon -- on a "girls" weekend. We'd picked Palm Springs for its weather and amenities, but we didn't plan to golf, lounge by the pool or shop.

    Palm Springs wind farm. (Photo: Liisa Atva)

    Palm Springs Wind Farm

    Gusts of wind threatened to blow the car off the road -- the San Gorgonio Mountain pass is one of the windiest stretches of California. We arrived just in time for a spectacular sunset framed by the blades of 4,000 giant pinwheels. The turbine generators, or windmills, located eight kilometers outside of Palm Springs, produce enough electricity to power the entire Coachella Valley. Look familiar? In one of the Mission Impossible III movie chase scenes helicopters veer through the spinning blades.

    A dog and a seal playing catch, Joshua Tree National Park. (Photo: Liisa Atva)

    Joshua Tree National Park

    On our first full day we drove 45 minutes north to Joshua Tree National Park, a 794,000-acre designated wilderness area. The helpful staff at the Visitor's Centre provided us with maps and suggestions on how to make the most of our one-day visit. With several hiking trails to choose from, we opted for three shorter ones.

    The appropriately named Hidden Valley trail, a 1.6-kilometre loop in the western side of the Park's Mojave Desert, was once a popular hideout for cattle rustlers. We marveled at the massive boulders and rock formations scattered across the landscape like giant's Lego. Never quite sure we were on the right trail, we eventually retraced our steps before we were truly lost.

    Our second hike was the 1.3-kilometre Barker Dam loop. Originally built to hold water for cattle and mining, the dam is now a rain-fed reservoir for wildlife. Nearby were small petroglyphs, the colours still surprisingly vivid. Jackrabbits, with their large heat-regulating ears, darted amongst the surrounding piñon pines, junipers, prickly pears and the desert's signature plant, the Joshua tree. The wild-armed Joshua, not truly a tree but a species of yucca, was given its name by 19th-century Mormon settlers, a reminder of the biblical Joshua with his arms stretched up in prayer.

    It was back to the lowrider for a short drive to our next stop, the Keys View lookout. Unawares that we had gradually ascended almost a mile in height, before us lay an unexpected expanse of valley, mountain and desert. In the distance lay Palm Springs, and in front an ominous dark shadow cut the earth -- the famed San Andreas Fault.

    Our last hike was into a sunbaked bowl of the Colorado Desert on the Park's eastern half. We'd already driven past the entrance to the Cholla Cactus Garden when we decided that we should have a look. Rather than backtrack we entered the trail at its exit, which is how we managed to miss the warning signs. We hadn't gotten far when my friend, who was a few feet ahead, yelled for help. "It jumped out and attacked me!" she said, pointing to her bleeding leg. Attached was a baseball-sized spiky cactus that took some doing to remove. When we reached the trail's entrance we found the sign. "Warning! Unless you are a cactus wren, be careful as you walk the trail not to brush against the Cholla cactus. The slightest touch can cause the cactus spines to penetrate your skin. Removing the embedded spines is difficult and painful."

    Palm Springs Arial Tramway

    Our next adventure was the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 10 kilometres from downtown. Aboard the world's largest rotating gondola we were transported from the Sonoran Desert to the 2,600 metres high alpine wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park. The first thing you notice is the air -- refreshingly cool after the heat of Palm Springs. The temperature at the summit is usually 18 degrees Celsius cooler than the valley floor. The second thing you notice is the smell -- the park is home to the Jeffrey Pine with its distinctive butterscotch vanilla scent.

    The park includes 87 kilometres of hiking trails from the easy 2.4-kilometre Desert View Trail to the expert San Jacinto Peak Trail, a 20-kilometre round trip to the top of the second-highest peak in southern California. The Desert View Trail meandered through mountain meadows, sub-alpine forests and outcrops of weathered granite, with five different outlooks onto the valley below.

    The trail seems benign, but was featured on the Discovery Channel's I Shouldn't Be Alive in an episode titled "Date From Hell." A young couple on their first date wandered off the trail and ended up lost for three nights. On the fourth day they stumbled across the skeleton of a hiker, who had disappeared a year earlier. They used the matches found near the deceased to start a signal fire that ultimately led to their rescue.

    Indian Canyons. (Photo: Liisa Atva)

    Indian Canyons

    On the edge of town are the Indian Canyons: the Tahquitz, Andreas, Murray and the Palm. From the Palm Canyon trading post we wound our way down a rocky gorge to the canyon floor where we found the "heart" of Palm Springs. This is where it all began and why it is called Palm Springs. The Cahuilla Indians settled in these canyons centuries ago, drawn by the abundant water springs, plants and animals. Through it runs a creek surrounded by towering grass-skirted Palm trees. A cool breeze wafts through -- another respite from the desert heat. We lay on the picnic tables and looked up -- a very cool perspective -- at the world's largest California Fan Palm oasis.

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    If you're an avid traveller who's also a major Halloween fan, you probably have visited a few haunted spots in your life.

    The infographic below shows 15 of the most haunted places on Earth — from France to Singapore, Italy and more, there's a spooky site for anyone who's looking for an extra scare.

    And with many locations in the US, and even one in Nova Scotia, there are plenty of destinations that are pretty easy for many Canadians to visit.

    Check out some of the scariest haunted places in the world below and tell us: what are some of your favourite scary places?

    15 Of The Most Haunted Places On Earth – An infographic by the team at Citybase Apartments

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    There's a small window of time for seeing the fall colors at their peak, and in many parts of North America, you haven't missed it yet. While leaves become more sparse and the thought of shoveling becomes much more real here in Canada, a long list of U.S. states are finally experiencing peak fall colors. These five destinations are the best of the best for eeking a few more fall foliage drives out of late October and early November.

    Asheville, North Carolina

    Asheville's iconic fall color display along the Blue Ridge Mountain range attracts travelers from around the globe every autumn. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountain National Park's U.S. Route 441 in North Carolina. It winds through the Asheville area for dozens of miles, offering varying colors at the different elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because of the drastic 1,524-metre elevation change, Asheville's fall color season is one of the longest running in the country. Trees at higher elevations peak in early October while the foothills shine brightest in early to mid-November.

    Photo credit: Mountain Vacation Resorts

    Corbin, Kentucky

    Few natural wonders add to the beauty of the reds, purples, and oranges of fall in Kentucky quite like waterfalls. Head to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest on Highway 90 in Corbin, for mild fall temperatures that are ideal for long, colorful hikes along the Cumberland River and to the picture-perfect Cumberland Falls. The Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is home to sourwoods and dogwoods that change vibrant shades of reds, while the abundant maples offer yellows, reds, and oranges to the mix. The park's rainbow of wildflowers, including lobelias, asters, and goldenrods, add a unique twist to the area's iconic late October color show.

    Mountain City, Georgia

    Black Rock Mountain State Park is Georgia's highest state park, and its scenic forest is even more of a must-see in autumn. Known as the recreational jewel of the area, Mountain City offers a gateway to some of the most picture-perfect adventures in Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Cruise along the park's scenic roads in late October and early November, and you'll find overlooks that provide 80 miles of visibility on clear days. Waterfalls, wildflowers, and babbling streams add to the beauty of the lush forests in fall.

    Photo credit: Thomsonmg2000

    Fort Payne, Alabama

    The Little River Canyon bursts with color at the end of October, offering expansive views of yellow, orange, green, and red from the park's famed sandstone cliffs, boulders, and canyon rims. Hop on Highway 35 in Fort Payne and cruise along it to Highway 176 along the rim of the canyon, you'll find yourself pulling off the road again and again to snap photos of the streams and rivers winding through the fiery colors of fall.

    Oconee County, South Carolina

    Cruise along South Carolina's Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway to take in a bit of Cherokee history with your fall colors. The winding two-lane road, once a Cherokee path, offers a fall tour through charming villages, peach orchards, the Cowpens National Battlefield, and some of the best fall colors in South Carolina. Late season travelers will find the brightest colors toward the end of October and early November, just in time for the mild temperatures of fall to settle in for the season.

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    Tucked above the Gulf of Guinea along the infamous Gold Coast, Ghana's capital of Accra is everything you imagine a major West African city to be -- steamy, chaotic, colourful and steeped in history, much of it involving the region's tragic legacy of slavery. Here is how to get the most of out this fascinating city of three million and its environs over 72 steamy hours.

    Day One: Coffins, culture and cuisine
    Check into the Labadi Beach Hotel, a five-star oceanfront oasis amid Accra's sticky hot mayhem. Popular among expats and travellers for its spacious pool, superb Sunday buffet and newly-refurbished spa, the Labadi Beach is the perfect palm-fringed, beachside retreat.


    Head out after breakfast for a sightseeing city tour of Accra. First, visit the famous fantasy casket makers in Teshie-Nungua, craftsmen who have achieved worldwide acclaim for designing some of the most fantastic containers imaginable for the dearly departed. Fishermen are launched into the hereafter in large wooden caskets in the shape of a fish, bus drivers in replicas of their vehicles and carpenters enter eternity in masterfully shaped hammers.


    After picking out your customized coffin, drive through the administrative and economic districts of Accra, a 138-year-old city with a blend of colonial and modern architecture. First, visit the W. E. B. Du Bois Center for Pan African Culture, where the transplanted African American civil rights activist and 'Father of Pan-Africanism once lived and worked. Then, take in Independence Square, a huge Soviet influenced space designed for huge events and military marches. Finally, pay your respects to Ghana's first president at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.


    Constructed on the site of a British colonial polo field, it was where Nkrumah declared independence in 1957. An on-site museum contains many of the personal items of Ghana's founding father, who is buried with his wife in a nearby mausoleum.


    Official site seeing complete, escape from the ever oppressive heat to nosh at one of Accra's top lunch spots, the Chop Bar, which serves authentic Ghanaian cuisine like ampese, fufu, banku and konkonte in a modern atmosphere. Then explore Accra's boisterous and local markets, like the famous Makola market where you can apply your best bargaining skills while shopping for West African art and brilliantly hued Kente cloth fabrics. Wrap up your afternoon with a visit to the seaside Centre for National Culture, where you can find incredible deals (if you are prepared to haggle) on carvings, drums, sculptures, rugs, baskets, bags and antiques.

    Day 2: Torgorme village visit
    After a leisurely breakfast, depart Accra at 10:00 a.m. for a scenic drive to this beautiful village located on the lower course of the Volta River. Once there, you're invited to pay a courtesy call on the paramount chief and elders, accompanied by traditional drumming and dancing.


    You can also participate in a naming ceremony, where you will be given a traditional African name. Other activities on offer include a demonstration of pottery making (the main occupation of the women in the village) and fishing along the Volta River. You can also watch a demonstration of traditional kente weaving. Kente is a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips that has long been emblematic of West African culture and traditions. Finally, you can visit a local school and interact with teachers and their students.


    Return to the capital for some serious sun and sand relaxation time at Labadi Beach, also called La Pleasure Beach, the busiest beach in Ghana. Take a sandy horseback ride, catch a reggae or drumming jam session, or simply relax to the sound of Atlantic surf.

    Day 3: Kakum National Park and Elmina Castle
    Depart early for a drive through the historic Denkyira Kingdom to Kakum National Park, one of West Africa's surviving tropical rainforests.


    Extending over 360 square kilometres, Kakum is home to over 40 large mammals and 400 bird species, as well as many types of butterflies. Its most popular attraction is the Canopy walkway consisting of seven bridges hanging 100 feet above the forest floor. Take a nature walk through this forest to discover the wide variety of exotic floral species and the medicinal value they offer, then take the high road along the canopy walkway.

    On the way back to Accra, visit infamous Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482.
    Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this massive stone fort was the first European structure built in Sub-Saharan Africa.


    Try to absorb the horrors that slaves held captive here once endured before exiting through Elmina's infamous 'Door of No Return'. Then admire the colorful harbor nestled just below the castle, full of pirogues preparing to go to sea.


    After returning to the capital, dine at Maquis Tante Marie in the affluent Labone district that features cuisine from all over West Africa. Try the waakye -- beans and rice served with grilled meat, shito pepper sauce and salad. Then sit back and savour the nocturnal sights and sounds of one of Africa's most vibrant cities.

    Recommended tours
    Land Tours Ghana can arrange single and multi-day tours of Accra and the surrounding region.

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    Painted faces, decorated skulls and vivid flowers can mean only one thing -- Día de Muertos is fast approaching. Dating back nearly 3,000 years, the annual holiday is celebrated throughout Mexico to honour those who have passed away.

    Recently, the ancient tradition has gained immense popularity and not surprisingly the country's capital has seen a significant increase in tourism with Mexico City, Cancun and Playa del Carmen being some of the top Mexican destinations booked by Canadians this month. And, with thousands expected to descend for the Day of the Dead festivities, what better time to explore the country's unique cultural heritage, culinary prowess and fascinating ancient history?

    To help uncover some of Mexico's best destinations, we went through our verified reviews and found the top cities for cuisine, culture and history.

    Foodie Exploration



    Seafood features prominently in Tepic dishes; you'll see a variety of succulent species from shark and sea bass to shrimp and oysters. And lots and lots of grilling.



    The capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California has an unusual hybrid cuisine. Its huge Chinese diaspora has influenced culinary traditions so much so that you'll get fresh Mexican grilled fish and meat dipped in moreish Asian sauces.


    Sit down at a restaurant table in Córdoba to a bowl of cut limes and a cerveza followed by a distinctly Spanish meal. But you can still get the most Mexican of experiences (and dishes). Córdoba is also famous for its coffee.

    Culture Vulture

    San Juan Teotihuacán


    This holy city is an awe-inspiring display of the technological prowess of its ancient inhabitants. All thanks to its main attraction - the Teotihuacán complex of imposing pyramids laid out on detailed and fascinating geometric and symbolic principles.

    Pachuca de Soto


    Though often a launch pad for the nearby mighty mountains of Sierra Madre Oriental, the capital of Hidalgo state has more than enough going for it to entice you to stay. The town centre of brightly-coloured, oddly-arranged houses rises and falls over steep hills, from the top of which you get a great panorama.

    Dolores Hidalgo


    Hugely culturally important, this unassuming, small town was the birthplace of the Mexican independence movement. Miguel Hidalgo, a Roman Catholic priest ordered the church bells to be rung, marking the end of 300 years of Spanish rule in Mexico.

    History Buff



    Instantly recognizable as the home of the eponymous spirit, Tequila is a firm tourist favourite for that reason. Museums are dedicated to its tradition of distilling the blue agave plant, which has been produced since the 16th century, and tours of distilleries are very popular.

    Tlaxcala de Xicohtencatl


    The city of Tlaxcala has a very visible colonial history, marked by monuments such as the elaborate baroque Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlán. On Constitution Square, you can admire murals that depict local history. And if you're interested in Mexican artist and feminist icon, Frida Kahlo, the Art Museum of Tlaxcala houses some of her early paintings.

    Chichén Itzá


    A mind-blowingly sophisticated complex built by the ancient Mayans, Chichén Itzá is a well-known historical site. And as one of the most visited in Mexico, you'd be best advised to go earlier in the day to really enjoy the intricate stone carvings and vast pyramids. The Mayans' astronomical knowledge is astonishing; they were so advanced that they could predict solar eclipses. And at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the morning and afternoon sun casts a light-and-shadow illusion of a serpent on the side of one of the staircases.

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    The Caribbean sees more than 25 million visitors every year. It's no wonder many Caribbean destinations are more crowded than the pictures in the brochures suggest. However, the Caribbean is home to more than 7,000 islands and 25 nations, some of which are drastically less crowded than others.

    These unique Caribbean countries and islands are ones you should consider to escape the crowds and still enjoy the iconic sugar-sand beaches this winter.


    Dominica is commonly confused with the Dominican Republic, but this pint-sized island nation is much less populated by big-name resorts. Also known as "Nature Island," Dominica is known more for its rainforests, mountains, and 365 rivers than its swim-up bars and beachfront clubs. It's a destination made for travelers who love the outdoors, offering snorkeling at Champagne Reef, hiking to Boiling Lake, and a long list of other nature-based adventures. If you're willing to trade chain resorts for eco-friendly ones, you'll fall in love with Dominica.

    Los Roques

    Photo credit: Katepalitava

    Los Roques is a destination for travelers seeking a wild Caribbean escape, dominated by coral reefs, powdery sands, crystal clear waters, mangroves, and all of the unbridled natural beauty of the region. Los Roques isn't an island nation but a Venezuelan National Park located 80 miles north of the La Guaira port in Caracas. Made up of more than 350 islets, cays, and islands in the Caribbean Sea, Los Roques feels very much like its own country. Travelers can stay at one of 60 accommodation options on the island of Gran Roque to rest just a short boat ride or swim from the archipelago's best scuba diving, sport fishing, windsurfing, sailing, and other sea-based activities.


    Barbuda, part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, is the most undeveloped island in the Caribbean, and that's a good thing. The island, which spans just 62 square miles, is home to a population of roughly 1,600 people. You won't find crowds of partying college kids or packed beaches filled with sunburned tourists on the island's remote stretches of sandy coastline. Ideal for honeymooners, Barbuda offers two luxury resorts that are the only accommodation options on the island.


    Photo credit: Jensonmorton

    You don't just travel to a new island when you visit you Nevis, you travel back in time too. Part of the two-island country of Saint Kitts and Nevis, this minute island offers visitors a glimpse of the Caribbean as it used to be. You won't find coastlines backed by hundreds of high-rises here. In fact, many of the hotels are converted plantation homes that have been around for roughly 200 years. This island paradise combines white sand beaches and turquoise waters (reminiscent of a postcard) with old-fashioned charm and an eco-friendly infrastructure to create the perfect mixture of old and new.


    Saba is a Caribbean island that has yet to be discovered by most tourists. It sees only 25,000 of the Caribbean's 25 million annual visitors. A special municipality of the Netherlands, Saba is a 5-square-mile Caribbean island known best among avid divers. However, you don't have to dive to appreciate the highly-preserved marine environment and coral reef surrounding the island as part of the Saba National Marine Park. The Dutch Caribbean island is home to a long list of charming, tropical-style guesthouses and unobtrusive hotels and resorts that don't diminish its natural beauty.

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    It's 5:30 a.m. and I'm climbing out of a van in the middle of a large field in central Turkey. It's still dark, but I can see the silhouettes of half-filled hot air balloons scattered about on their sides. We watch a man inject the closest one with air, and then warm that air with huge bursts of fire. The sky gets lighter, and the balloons inflate slowly, like giant, benevolent monsters coming out of a deep sleep.


    Our pilot introduces himself. His name is Baris, but, he says, we can call him Boris. I wonder what it must be like to list "hot air balloon pilot" as your profession. You might as well say "unicorn rider" or "yellow brick road paver."

    Taking a hot air balloon ride has been on my bucket list for longer than I care to admit, and I visit Turkey every year these days, so doing it in Cappadocia makes sense. Beyond that, it's still too early and too chilly to have any cohesive thoughts around what's about to happen.

    Sixteen of us, plus Boris, climb into the balloon basket. There are about 50 other balloons around us. Boris pulls a lever and more fire spews upwards, and suddenly we are a foot off the ground, then 10, then a hundred. Then we are one of 50 enormous bubbles floating in the sky, which is getting lighter, and the fairy chimneys are all around us. And I am gobsmacked, speechless, awestruck beyond all English vocabulary.


    Our first hover is Love Valley, so named because the peaks are phallic.

    "But this is a Muslim country," Boris points out. "So they are circumcised."


    Then Red Valley, which is self-explanatory. There is Mount Erciyes, the highest mountain in Central Anatolia. There are fields of fig trees, apple trees and apricot trees. There are fairy chimneys of all widths and heights, the youngest of which is a million years old. Later, I will learn that, in 300 BC, one whole section of these otherworldly stone peaks were inhabited by hermits. Not religious hermits, just guys who wanted to live in solitude do good deeds for people. The farmers would feed them.

    I mean, come on.


    I take photo after photo. After a while, all I can do is stare and try not to cry. More fire bursts, and we float up, down and in circles, around more volcanoes and ancient tales. The sun finally comes out from behind a mountain. When we land, there is champagne and homemade cake. You'd think Cappadocia couldn't get any more enchanting than that, but you would be wrong.

    I'm not usually one for guided tours, but after a few minutes with Ismail from Travel Atelier, I'm a convert.

    There is no question he can't answer and no fact he doesn't know. For example, he explains that Uchisar Castle, which was used by the Romans, then the Byzantines, then the Selcuks and then the Ottomans, would, in times of attack, communicate with Ortahisar Castle -- just over two kilometres away -- from high-up windows by reflecting light with obsidian mirrors.

    Who needs Lord of the Rings?

    Ismail takes me to Kaymakli, one of Cappadocia's many underground cities. Its first inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, 10,000 years ago, who used these caves for protection against wild animals. Later, they became shelter during invasions. Their size and depth is mind-boggling: Kaymakli could hold over 20,000 inhabitants. But even more mind-boggling is to stand in the quiet of one of the rooms or churches, dozens of meters under the earth's surface, trying to imagine people living here, worshipping here, fighting here, dying here, so many ages ago that my human mind can't begin to grasp it.



    Ismail also knows the best place in Cappadocia for lunch.

    Kadin Girişimciler Restaurant is owned and run by a women's cooperative, and many of the staff are single mothers. We order dolma manti -- Turkish ravioli -- and the blend of flavours is stunning. Homemade Ayran (yogurt drink), mouthwatering grape leaves and icli kofte (ground meat fried in bulger) round up the meal. It is without a doubt the most delicious food I have ever had in Turkey. And I've had a lot of food in Turkey.

    The Goreme Open Air Museum is a cluster of rock-cut churches and rooms, painted with haunting frescoes dating as far back as the 10th century. At my request, Ismail explains the meaning behind each cave painting, down to the body postures and hand positions in the depictions of Christ and the saints. He does so from outside the rooms, however, as talking (and taking photos) is not permitted inside, which heightens the experience that much more.



    Despite its draw to travellers of all budgets and tastes, Cappadocia retains the kind of authenticity that most spots with that kind of tourist draw would have lost long ago. Wander the streets of Ortahisar and you'll find tiny (but excellent) kebob shops, roadside fishmongers, and locals playing cards and drinking tea.

    Whether it's the hundreds of generations of spirits and gods, the dreamlike landscape, or the soul-revivingly fresh mountain air, there is something special about Cappadocia -- a feeling that stays with me long after I leave. There's a lot of world to see, but this is one place I plan to return to as often as I can.

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    October is here, and holiday decorations are beginning to show in the big box stores. To some, that means it's time to start preparing meal and gift ideas for the holidays. But to travelers, the smell of nutmeg and sound of holiday tunes means it's time to start planning a getaway.

    Heading out on a cruise is one way to skip the gifts (and snow) and spend more time enjoying each other's company during this otherwise overwhelming season. These five reasons to choose a cruise over your usual holiday traditions will make you want to pack your bags today.

    You'll Get More Bang for Your Buck

    Canadians and Americans spend small fortunes on holiday gifts and activities. Your money can actually go farther on a cruise. Choose a fare that includes your room, food, transportation, and entertainment, and you'll probably notice that you spend far less on cruise tickets than you would on gifts. Kids cruise free on some cruise lines, so choose the right company, and you could save hundreds on your holiday spending.

    Enjoy Over-the-Top Holiday Parties

    Photo credit: Joe Ross

    Spending the holidays on a cruise doesn't mean you'll miss out on all of the cheer. In fact, most cruise lines go above and beyond to make sure your holiday experience aboard the ship is one to remember. Lavish meals, over-the-top performances, holiday lights, carolers, and more will turn your ship into a (tropical) winter wonderland.

    See How Other Cultures Celebrate

    One of the biggest perks of cruising is that you get the chance to experience multiple destinations on one getaway. During the holidays, this means you and your kids can learn how other cultures celebrate the most magical time of year. Admire the decorated palm trees in the Bahamas or take photos with Santa Claus in St. Thomas. Every destination celebrates the holiday season differently, and you'll get to experience several on a single cruise.

    You Won't Have to Cook

    Photo credit: Murray Foubister

    The holiday stress doesn't subside when the presents are purchased. There's still all of the holiday cooking, cleaning, and party planning that needs to be done. When you hop aboard a cruise for the holidays, all of the details are left to the staff, whose only job is to ensure that you have an unforgettable holiday experience. Most cruise lines offer traditional holiday eats, like cookies and pumpkin pie, on the buffet, but you also have the opportunity to eat at whichever cruise restaurant interests you. Don't forget to make your dinner reservations well in advance for Christmas or New Years.

    You Can Forget About Shoveling Snow

    Soaking in some rays is far more fun than shoveling snow. Head to the tropics on a holiday cruise, and you won't need any of your winter gear. In fact, you'll be able to enjoy a long list of outdoor activities that don't involve building snowmen with frostbitten fingers. Try snorkeling or parasailing at one of your island stops, or head to a bar or restaurant to taste local cuisine and sip ice cold drinks. Taking a cruise over the holidays is all about new experiences, and you'll be amazed at how little you miss your old traditions the moment you step aboard the boat.

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    Salut! Chin chin! Na zdorovie!

    Raising a glass of Bordeaux in France, Aperol spritz in Italy or chilled vodka in Russia is certainly one way to familiarize and assimilate yourself in your surroundings while visiting a new country. Enjoying and sampling local cuisines also enhance sipping an archetypical tipple -- is there anything better than a caipirinha consumed by Brazil's famous beaches?

    We've compiled a short list of the world's best spots to get a feel for your environment -- places that serve up the best local offerings, and do so in an authentically native atmosphere. We'll drink to that!

    Sydney, Australia -- The Unicorn

    Smack in the middle of Sydney's iconic neighborhood Paddington, The Unicorn's historic building has been around since the 1800s. Proudly serving up local cuisine and bevvies, music, art and local talent are also important aspects of the welcoming, relaxed and lively venue.

    Carefully respecting the architecture and design while adding personal touches, co-owner Jake Smyth explains, "We basically touched nothing, yet changed everything. We ripped up vinyl, but kept the incredible terrazzo floor. We kept the bar position, but had incredible blue-gum bar top installed." As for the locally sourced and patriotic art decorating the wall? "Our favourite moment is the map of Australia; it was hand drawn by local artist Michael Whooley. It took a full week, but the result is stunning."


    Original elements, like art deco fittings, contribute to The Unicorn capturing the essence of a true Aussie pub -- "pubs are at the cornerstone of what it is to be Australian. What are we without pubs? We lose the larrikinism and we lose community, we lose the wild, arm-waving, storytelling drongo that we all have inside of us," -- Smyth declares.

    This notion is elevated with The Unicorn's involvement in supporting local talent. "We have quietly begun putting shows on here, without too much fuss because we love to support artists wherever possible. We support them in the best way we know how -- giving them an opportunity to get paid and laid!"


    But despite the history and commitment to local Aussie culture, there is definitely no lack of modernity; "The Unicorn is not a time-piece. Its not nostalgia. Its a living pub, so we wanted to give a nod to its past, yet allow it have a future. That's why there is empty space on the walls, and corners are left untouched. We want the venue to grow genuinely, to have its own story to tell in 20 years time. We believe that by over telling the story at the beginning, you stifle and choke the natural journey of then venue. The tradition is in the offering. Cold beer, bloody good food, music, art and happy people."


    Smyth, in typical Australian manner, encourages dishes and drinks to be enjoyed in the outdoor space. "The courtyard is my favourite aspect. It's quiet, tranquil and it's where we keep our swans. They make us happy." We can't argue with that.

    London, England -- Wiltons

    Established back in 1742, Wiltons was originally a shellfish monger in the Haymarket. By 1840, it had developed into a full-fledged restaurant and became famously known for serving the freshest fish, shellfish and game in the country. Today, ingredients and dishes are just as fresh and delectable. "Oysters are still shucked fresh to order; the crab, langoustine and lobster still arrive live from the market, and when in season, grouse, partridge, pheasant, duck and woodcock arrive fresh from country shoots," House Manager Michael Stokes shares.


    So what's it like to dine in such a historically sound institution today? "The artwork that adorns the walls would not be out of place in a stately home. The staff are dressed in traditional black and white, or in dresses reminiscent of a British nanny, and the service offered is not as stuffy as some may expect, but still very attentive."

    Traditional, original and truly patriotic touches have been maintained, throughout: "although we strive to keep the décor fresh, we do not and will not change the feeling of the restaurant. Guests soon decide which is their favourite table, and some still sit at the same tables that their grandfathers sat at. The whole ethos of the restaurant is that of a British country house."


    Contemporary updates are best demonstrated on the plates served. As for what Stokes favours? "Being a traditionalist, the simple dishes are the best for me; the most outstanding example of this is our carving trolley, which is available and different each day of the week; Saturday brings beef Wellington." Perhaps the most exemplary quintessential British dish of all.

    Toronto, Canada -- The Drake Hotel

    An iconic institution in Toronto's trendy Queen West, The Drake Hotel is a well-known and loved meeting place. Opening its doors in 1890, "the area was a major Canadian Pacific Railway hub that linked downtown with the lakeside summer homes of Toronto's western beaches at the time," explains The Drake's PR Manager, Jessica Rodrigues. "Then, in 1949, Michael Lundy purchased the property, renamed it the Drake, expanded the building and created many of the improvements visible today, including the grand staircase in the lobby and the addition of a lounge and restaurant."


    The hotel continues to show their local love after guests check in: "When looking through the amenities in-room, we offer Canadian products, like David Chow Chocolate (from PEI) in unique, delicious flavours like lavender, dried blackcurrants, earl grey tea and vanilla sea salt; Hawkins Cheesies (made with real Canadian cheese!); Squish Candy (sourced from Montreal); Sapsucker Maple Water, and routine natural deodorant, which is based out of Calgary, is provided in our toiletry kits."


    When guests need a bigger nosh than the Canadian-sourced room snacks, they can take comfort in knowing The Drake serves up dishes and drinks that also have Canadian flair. Rodrigues shares her favourites: "I personally love the Brown Butter Maple Old Fashioned and the Voodoo Child cocktails. The Old Fashioned gets a Canadian twist by adding real maple syrup, while the Voodoo Child uses J.P. Wiser's, an award-winning Canadian whisky, as its base.

    We of course also feature Canadian beers and wines, which always go down well with our menu. I love the Drake burger. We get our meat mainly from Cumbraes -- they work exclusively with small, family run farms throughout Ontario! I do order the lobster nachos often as well: house made chips, creamy mornay sauce, pickled jalapenos and, of course, amazing (Canadian) East-coast Lobster!"

    Cheers to that!

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    It's easy to conclude that a favourite part about summer is heading to the beach - to swim, tan, relax and of course, people watch. Whether it's Toronto's Cherry Beach or Vancouver's English Bay Beach, beachgoers are always hoping to spot some unique individuals to make the day. While the weather here is getting colder, this doesn't mean our favourite activity should stop.

    We have compiled a list of the best beaches to spot beloved celebs, street performers and average Californian Joes while soaking in the SoCal sunshine. Make sure to have your eyes, ears and camera ready.

    Venice Beach

    Despite Venice being a popular surf destination, more people visit to stroll the famous boardwalk for the vibrant restaurants, galleries, specialty shops, street performers and interesting looking individuals than to surf. Dubbed "The Coolest Block in America" with its street art and murals, Venice's boardwalk is every shopper's dream - there's eclectic shops selling vintage clothes, gifts, surf gear, books and gadgets that shoppers won't find anywhere else. Head to the Venice skateboard park or outdoor basketball courts to see L.A.'s most talented locals and visitors attempt their best tricks - it's sure to bring in the Instagram likes.

    Santa Monica Beach

    Stretched over 3.5 miles of sand and sea, this iconic SoCal beach offers much more than sunbathing. With the Santa Monica Pier, expect to spot families of all shapes and sizes at the carousel, arcade and amusement park. Wander down chic Montana Avenue, experiencing the friendly and welcoming vibes of locals and visitors alike while browsing the 10-block shopping stretch of chic retailers and one-of-a-kind boutiques. You'll want to make sure to check out the tons of beachside activites too, from outdoor chess to beach gymnastics, there is something for everyone!

    Malibu Surfrider Beach

    As the ultimate surfer hotspot, get ready to mingle with surfers from all over the world - from beginners to pros and everyone in between. Even for visitors who are not surfers, this historic pier also has bird-watching, fishing and picnicking. Surfrider Beach in Malibu is the perfect destination to embrace iconic outdoor activities that make up a vital part of L.A.'s culture. Make sure to bring those binoculars to catch the finest surfers ride those epic waves.

    Manhattan Beach

    Let's face it - many come to L.A. to check out the lifestyles of the rich and famous. At Manhattan Beach, where many movies and TV shows are filmed, prepare to be in awe of the beautiful people with their big sunglasses, lap dogs and shiny cars. Try to spot a famous actor jogging or rollerblading along The Strand, or eating at one of the upscale beachside restaurants. Visitors will fit right in the "elite" lifestyle so long as they embrace the mellow and low key vibes. Most celebs just want their privacy. After all, the key with people watching is to blend in. In addition to people watching, Manhattan Beach is most popular for its beach volleyball and tournaments. Guests can either join in a pick-up game or watch the professionals from the sidelines.

    Hermosa Beach

    From concerts and music festivals to riding the waves, Hermosa Beach is a hub of energized, activity-driven Californians and visitors. Though the hipster type may seem to dominate the sandy shorelines, there's a wide range of people who come to the Pier Plaza for the beautiful outdoor cafes, shops and paved walkway made for cycling, jogging and rollerblading. With the pristine expanse of sand comes the most intricate sandcastle building - visitors won't want to miss their favourite architectural gems being re-built. Not to mention what better place is there to compete in a beach volleyball tournament than the birthplace of the sport itself. The best part? Hermosa Beach has been able to hold onto a local feel- which means it's not too crowded with tourists. By people watching, it's easy to conclude that the abundance of young trendsetters gives the beach its cool factor - they don't call it "Bromosa" for nothing.

    Cabrillo Beach

    Whether visitors are there for people watching or whale watching, there's clearly something to be seen here. Noted as a popular swimming, fishing and boating area, Cabrillo Beach brings in various travelers and locals - often with kids in tow. Discover the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and watch fellow visitors experience the interactive exhibits and tide pool touch tanks. For something more relaxing, head to the picnic area, grab a beverage, soak in the views of Santa Catalina Island and watch families, couples and laidback locals cross along the sandy path.

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    MONTREAL — The federal government plans to raise the cap on foreign ownership of Canadian airlines in a bid to drive down fares and offer travellers more choice.

    Transport Minister Marc Garneau promised legislation that would allow foreigners to own up to 49 per cent of an airline in Canada, a jump from the current cap of 25 per cent. However, an individual foreign investor or group of foreign investors will still be capped at 25 per cent.

    Garneau said loosening Canada's foreign investment rules for airlines will spur competition and allow the launch of low-cost carriers.

    pearson airport planes
    A view of Air Canada planes at Toronto Pearson International Airport on July 20 in Toronto. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

    "This can bring down airfares and it can also provide more destinations and more choice for consumers,'' he told reporters Thursday after unveiling the government's transportation plans for the coming decades.

    The plan — responding to recommendations in a review of the Canada Transportation Act by former minister David Emerson — includes promised action on railway safety, drones, transportation emissions, coastal protections and development of transportation infrastructure in the North.

    Until the legislation is changed, Garneau said he is granting exemptions that will allow aspiring discount airlines Canada Jetlines and Enerjet to land more international investors.

    A plane takes off from Vancouver International Airport. (Photo: CP)

    Canada Jetlines CEO Jim Scott said the move will allow the Vancouver-based company to lock up investors so it can launch service next summer.

    "Canada is the only G7 country that has not brought this airline model into its network,'' he said.

    Analyst Walter Spracklin of RBC Capital Markets said the change in ownership limits could allow start ups to pressure Air Canada and WestJet on domestic fares, but won't have a "meaningful impact'' on the competitive environment in Canada.

    Air Canada and WestJet said the top issue facing the airline industry is high fees including airport rents, security surcharges and fuel taxes.

    "We are disappointed the government has not signalled more clearly a willingness to meaningfully review aviation taxation and cost structure,'' WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said.

    WestJet plane at Toronto Pearson International Airport. (Photo: Nurphoto via Getty Images)

    He also said the government should negotiate foreign ownership limits with other countries instead of adopting a unilateral increase.

    The minister said the government will also work to reduce waits at airport security to international standards by looking at new equipment and technology and the agency that oversees security.

    As well, it will introduce an air passenger rights regime that will establish clear, minimum requirements so Canadians know when they are eligible for compensation in cases of oversold flights or lost luggage.

    Garneau said the plan would pull ideas from dozens of other countries that have similar regimes, including the United States and members of the European Union.

    "What we want to do is come up with something that will be very, very clear in terms of there being consequences if the rights of passengers are violated but at the same time that are reasonable.''

    marc garneau
    Transport Minister Marc Garneau. (Photo: CP)

    Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs welcomed the bill of rights but said it can only be effective if the Canadian Transportation Agency is given teeth to enforce the rules, as is the case in the United States which doles out hefty fines.

    "If you have very good laws, but they get all ignored, what use will it have?'' he said in an interview.

    Lukacs, who has frequently challenged airline practices, said the quasi-judicial agency is biased in favour of airlines and does little to enforce existing rules under the Montreal Convention.

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    The City of Brotherly Love has garnered a reputation as the destination to learn about the storied tale of America's birth -- and that you can't leave the city without seeing the legendary Liberty Bell in person. And while it is certainly a city rife with history, there's so much more to see and do beyond "the bell."

    You may not be aware but this is a lively city budding with delicious cuisine, art culture, beer gardens, local artisan boutiques and so much more. Here are my five favourite spots you won't want to miss out on:

    The Franklin Institute


    Sure, the museum during regular hours is fantastic, with interactive exhibits galore (e.g. Jurassic world!), but it is the after-hours event you want to attend.

    Dubbed "Science With A Twist," it's an adult-only event (21+) that hosts an array of innovative and engaging science experiments you can participate in. Think of it like your high school science class and instead of chemicals in beakers -- think cocktail concoctions! Look forward to brain puzzles, live performances and more.

    In fact, the next event is Sherlock Holmes themed. Discover how evidence is collected and analysed -- participants even have opportunities to speak with real-life gumshoes and forensic scientists. IMO -- it doesn't get cooler than this.

    Philly Flavours


    Certainly, the weather may be cooler, but why does ice cream have to be a summertime (only) treat? Besides, you're usually devouring the cold stuff in a heated room -- and that's good enough for me. Despite the fact that I've always been a Franklin Fountain devotee, if you're craving gelato or Italian ice, you must head to Philly Flavours.

    You cannot find unique homemade creations such as Sour Cotton Candy and Amaretto cream anywhere else. Also not to miss: the Reese's PB Cup Sundae -- make sure to substitute the vanilla ice cream for their homemade Reese's frozen yogurt.

    Elfreth's Alley


    This street is a walk through America's historic past. As the oldest residential street in the country, it's been designated a National Historic Landmark. Nowhere else can you find architectural hallmarks of buildings erected in the early 18th and 19th centuries so exceptionally preserved.

    In fact, the conditions are so well maintained that every home is still in use; it is a thriving community of people who support their neighbourhood with events such as the upcoming Deck the Alley, which allows visitors to enter the private homes of its residents. But if you're not visiting Philly during Christmas, there are always guided tours available year-round.

    Philadelphia's Magic Gardens


    There is a dizzying amount of visual stimulation at this particular venue. The "garden" is actually a 3,000-square-foot outdoor labyrinth comprised of mosaic art and sculptures made from items such as kitchen tiles, bike wheels, glass bottles and China plates. Everything is created by visionary artist Isaiah Zagar whose pieces all tell personal narratives about his family, life and community at large.

    You'll need at least a half hour to soak up all the intricate details. Personalized tours are also available and guides will offer interpretations of art work.

    Reading Terminal Market


    It's best to come to RTM on an empty stomach. Open since 1892, this historic building still houses some of the most delicious food around. After all, it was once declared "the greatest food market in the world." With nearly 100 vendors, what should you eat?

    The roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe from DiNic's should definitely be on your hit list. The buttered crusty roll is lined with sharp provolone then stuffed with sweet slices of roast pork and topped with spears of sauteed broccoli rabe. The juicy meat makes the sammy marvellously messy, so have plenty of napkins on hand.

    And save room for dessert: get the apple and blueberry fritter from Beiler's bakery. If you have a friend, it's best to split up to conquer and divide -- the line ups, that is. They are typically long, but worth the wait for both vendors.

    To assist me in my quest to find the top attractions, sights and bites, I referenced the following resources: #CitiesByCurio Local Guides by Philly photographer Darren Burton & Grammy-nominated recording artist Gavin DeGraw's picks, and recommendations from Visit Philly.

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    For 95 years, the poppy has served as a solemn symbol of remembrance for veterans who have died in war.

    But for Air Canada, wearing it became a violation of the uniform policy for flight attendants — until the airline reversed itself just hours later.

    air canada plane
    A view of Air Canada planes at Toronto Pearson International Airport on July 20. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

    On Monday morning, Renée Smith-Valade, vice-president of in-flight service at Air Canada, issued an internal notice reminding flight attendants that the airline did not allow poppies to be worn on company uniforms, The Globe and Mail reported.

    "I strongly encourage anyone who wants to wear a poppy to observe and respect Remembrance Day to do so when not in uniform," Smith-Valade wrote, adding that Air Canada would honour veterans by making announcements on all of its flights.

    And workers didn't take kindly to the message, Michel Cournoyer, president of the Air Canada Component at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), told The Toronto Star.

    "They thought the decision was beyond absurd," he told the newspaper.

    "Lots of people were complaining. I received complaints from flight attendants who said managers asked them to remove their poppies."

    remembrance day poppies canada
    The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all the men and women who fought in war. This design is Canadian. A hand is selecting a pin from many. (Photo: Gail Shotlander/Getty Images)

    But Air Canada later reversed its position. Smith-Valade posted a second internal note saying that the "wearing of poppies is supported," according to CBC News.

    "My apologies for the angst this has caused for some. For those who choose to do so please wear your poppies while in uniform with pride," Smith-Valade added.

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    Holiday shopping doesn't have to be a drag. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when creating your list and checking it twice, but the experience of picking out all of those special gifts should be remembered not hated. These four cities across the United States offer holiday cheer, world-renowned shops, and plenty of attractions for when the shopping is done.

    San Francisco, California

    Photo credit: Ken Lund

    Not exactly seeking a winter wonderland this holiday season? Head to San Francisco for a destination that sees average temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees and a very slim chance of snow. Even better than not having to shovel is the huge selection of shops ranging from the most popular designer boutiques at Union Square to the quirky stores in the Mission District. Shop for upscale vintage items in the Upper Haight, big name brands at the Embarcadero, and budget-friendly exotic gifts in Chinatown. Shopping streets span the entire city of San Fran, making it easy to shop, see the sights, and dine at world-class restaurants in a single day.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Just 20 minutes south of Minneapolis is the largest mall in the country, the Mall of America. Avid shoppers will argue this is the best place in the U.S. to complete your shopping list and fill up on holiday cheer too. Every year, the mall is festively decked with a towering Christmas tree, garlands, thousands of holiday lights, and of course, Santa Claus. After exploring the extravagant mall, filled with 520 shops, thrill rides, and even the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, head back to the city to check out Macy's annual Santaland display, the beloved Holidazzle parade, and a long list of other holiday events.

    Boston, Massachusetts

    Photo credit: MassTravel

    Historic Boston, Mass., is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with citywide decorations, skating rinks, carolers, and cheerful window displays during the holiday season. It's one of the best cities in the country for embracing the spirit of the holidays and fulfilling your shopping list on foot.

    Peruse the decorated designer stores on Newbury Street, shop the big brands at the Prudential Center, or pick up trinkets and British snacks from the vendors at the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Put down your shopping bags and fall back in love with the holidays at a Holiday Pops concert, a performance of The Nutcracker, or one of many other annual Boston Christmas events.

    New York City, New York

    You've probably seen New York City at Christmas time in the movies, but it's something that needs to be experienced in person to be truly understood. The holiday season in New York City is bound to make you feel like a kid again, with twinkling gold lights, miniature holiday villages, and the iconic annual window display at Macy's. Lord and Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, and Bloomingdale's will also lure you in with unforgettable holiday window scenes.

    But you'll want to stray from the big name stores to the European-style pop-up shops of the open-air holiday market in Bryant Park or the iconic Union Square Holiday Market. Don't forget to ice skate at Rockefeller Center, gaze up at the carefully decorated Empire State Building, stroll through snow-covered Central Park, and experience some of the Big Apple's most famous holiday activities before heading home.

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    Photo credit: Blok 70

    Many travelers are overlooking one of North America's best travel destinations. Mexico is a culturally and naturally diverse nation, offering the key items most travelers seek -- postcard-worthy scenery, rich culture, hospitable people, delicious food, and affordability. These six reasons to visit Mexico will encourage you to forget about misleading media headlines and find your slice of heaven south of the border.

    You'll Get More Bang for Your Buck
    Mexico can be an affordable destination if you do it right. Venture away from the lavish coastal resorts, and you'll find a long list of affordable inns, hotels, and rental villas, many of which will discount your nightly rate for a longer stay. Couple affordable nightly accommodations with budget-friendly meals (don't be afraid to eat street food) and cheap local libations (think: tequila), and you can experience an unforgettable warm-weather vacation without the inflated prices.

    You Can Eat Your Fill
    Much of the Mexican way of life revolves around food. Snack on affordable tacos, tamales, tortas and other authentic Mexican fare at local taquerias or grab a freshly fried fish taco (when in Baja) or elotes (grilled Mexican street corn) from stands lining the streets in most towns and cities. Whether you're into just-out-of-the-ocean seafood or rich moles, there's something for every palette in this food-driven country.

    You Can Be Adventurous
    Photo credit: Galeon Fotografia

    When you travel to Mexico, you're not trapped on an island, forced to pay for overpriced activities like parasailing and windsurfing. Mexico's coastline offers some of the best waves in the world for surfers while many of the inland mountains and volcanoes are begging to be hiked and climbed. Avid trekkers know El Pico de Orizaba is the cream of the crop of Mexican volcanoes and stands as the tallest peak in the country, but you don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to experience the countless opportunities for higher altitude exploration.

    You Can Discover Rich Heritage
    Mexico's charming small towns and long list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites take travelers back to a simpler time. Venture into the Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco (built in the 16th century) or the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende, home to preserved Spanish mansions and strong colonial heritage. Even Mexico's most tourism-driven towns, like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, offer historic areas or "Old Town" regions for tourists to discover the country's colorful past.

    You Can Explore Ruins

    Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

    Mexico's archaeological sites take travelers even farther back in time than the "Old Towns" and historic centres. The great Maya civilization once inhabited Mexico and developed ground-breaking agricultural systems, remarkable temples, and infrastructures that were far ahead of their time. Visitors can explore the ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Palenque, Uxmal, and numerous other spectacular sites to better understand the country's culture and thousands of years of history.

    You'll Make Lasting Relationships
    Hands down, the best part of visiting Mexico is mingling with the people. Mexicans are proud of their rich cultural heritage and are happy to show visitors what makes their country so special. Don't be surprised if your new-found friends are full of recommendations for sights you must see and authentic foods you have to taste. Courage and kindness are known as the two major hallmarks of a Mexican person, and you're guaranteed to notice hospitality, festive spirit, and a strong heart in nearly every person you meet.

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    If you have a passion for the outdoors, love horses and have always been inspired to experience 'home on the range' then why not shake up your next vacation? With more than one million accommodations - including everything from extravagant castles to rustic tent stays and icy igloos -- we've put together seven rockin' ranch stays for you to experience a taste of the cowboy life for yourself. Grab a pair of boots and your Stetson hat, seize the reins and let the adventure begin!

    Sundance Guest Ranch, Ashcroft, Canada
    Overlooking the Thompson River Valley, this beautiful ranch is home to more than 100 horses and has a large crew of wranglers waiting to introduce you to the cowboy life. Whether you are an experienced rider or a first timer, an unforgettable experience awaits you in one of the sunniest spots in Canada.

    Kepler Oaks Chalet, Te Anau, New Zealand
    Set on 13 acres within Fiordland National Park Scenic Reserve, this chalet is perfect for riding the plains, fishing and exploring one of the most beautiful parts on New Zealand. And if you're travelling with kids, they can experience the farm life and enjoy free pony rides in the safety of the round pen. If you're not too worn out by sundown, you'll want be sure to save some time for stargazing.

    K3 Guest Ranch, Coby, USA
    Surrounded by mountains, this bed and breakfast was once a working cattle ranch. Featuring unique western-style themed rooms, trick horses and a Western breakfast cooked over a campfire, this is the place to stay for a true glimpse of the Old West.

    Spring Creek Ranch
    , Jackson, USA
    Offering stunning views of the Teton Mountain Range, this year-round luxury resort is located on a wildlife sanctuary. During the winter months travellers can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride, while a horseback riding during the summer months will give you a genuine taste of the Wild West.

    Flying L Guest Ranch, Bandera, USA
    Back in the day, the real Texas cowboys were driving cattle from Texas to the north. Today, at Flying L Guest Ranch guests can experience the life of a modern-day Texas cowboy and enjoy an array of tempting activities like golfing and horse riding. Founded back in 1947, this property hosted famous guests like John Wayne and Tex Ritter.

    Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa, Moab, USA
    A great variety of horseback rides and horsemanship awaits you at this 160-acre ranch resort. Enjoy leisurely rides through the breathtaking trails as you overlook the red rock mountains and infinite skyline. Animal lovers can visit the farm and feed the animals, while the younger cowgirls and cowboys can saddle up for a pony ride.

    Rocking R Ranch, Strathmore, Canada
    Nestled in Strathmore, this guest lodge is the perfect spot for a western ranch experience. Horseback riding, fly-fishing and camp fires, are just some of the activities guests can enjoy during their stay. The breathtaking property has also been known to frequent as a rustic wedding venue too!

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    If you're a snowbird heading south for the winter, you might be packing a pooch along for the ride as well. Until recently, jet-set pets looking for pre-flight places to do their business had few options once past the security checkpoint.

    A federal regulation on United States now requires airports that serve more than 10,000 passengers a year to have in-terminal pet relief areas for service animals accompanying travellers, and most are open to any other four-legged passengers or service workers. The same doesn't hold true yet in Canada. So far only Vancouver International Airport provides an indoor loo for pets, though the rest of the country can't be far behind.

    While many pet relief areas are merely small patches of fake grass in hidden corners of terminals, others are pet parks with real grass, faux fire hydrants and space to run and play. checked in at top airports across North America to get the scoop on post-security pet relief stations so you can find the best rest stops for your furry friends.

    Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, BC
    Vancouver International Airport's Pet Relief Area near Gate 76 in the United States Departures area offers pooches a place to go potty on artificial grass in a large enclosed area. This is the only Canadian airport that offers an in-terminal pet relief area that doesn't require re-entry through airport security. The pet relief area is a new addition - it opened in June of this year - but airport officials hope other airports might follow their lead.

    Miami International Airport, Miami, Florida, United States
    Miami International Airport recently opened an indoor, post-security pet restroom called SARA (Service Animal Relief Area) in Concourse D near Gate 34 and has three more scheduled to open later this month in Concourse F, Concourse G and Concourse J. SARA includes a patch of Astroturf, two sprinkler heads to clear waste and cleaning supplies for pet owners. The airport also has three outdoor pet relief areas. Miami is the first international airport in South Florida to add indoor pet relief areas (Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport plans to add indoor pet relief areas in Concourse A and Concourse B in Terminal 1 in June 2017, as well as one in Concourse D in Terminal 2 and one in Concourse G in Terminal 4 in 2018, according to the "Sun-Sentinel").

    Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
    Petports offer pooches a place to go when nature calls. (Image: Frank Hebbert, petport via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

    Boston's Logan International Airport offers four-legged travellers four Petports - small, no-frills grassy relief areas - in Terminal A, Terminal B, Terminal C and Terminal E. Their location within the terminals means two-legged travellers don't have to leave the terminal and go through security a second time.

    John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, New York, United States
    There are several purr-fect places for pets to relax and relieve themselves at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. JetBlue's rooftop lounge adjacent to Terminal 5 offers respite for both humans and pets. The 4,046-square-foot rooftop includes landscaped green spaces, seating for 50 people, a children's play area, food kiosks and a dog walk area. The space is open to all airline passengers and pets. In Terminal 4, there is a 70-square-foot pet relief room that includes artificial green grass, a fire hydrant, a hose for cleaning and plastic doggie bags. The airport is also set to open ARK -- a $32 million facility equipped with a veterinary hospital and 24-hour Paradise 4 Paws resort that offers a bone-shaped dog pool, pet suites with flat screen TVs and pet massage therapy among other services -- later this year.

    Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, United States
    Los Angeles International Airport leads all U.S. airports with the most pet relief areas of any U.S. airport. The airport boasts three mini Pet Parks and seven pet relief stations. The Pet Parks are located on the Lower/Arrivals Level of the Central Terminal (between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2), on the southeast end of the Central Terminal Area (near Terminal 7 and Terminal 8) and beyond security at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Each park has a small doghouse, trash can and plastic bags for waste. Note: pets cannot be unleashed at the Terminal 7-8 location.

    San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California, United States
    Pets passing through San Diego International Airport can find relief inside the airport. (Image: Kate Ter Haar, Pet Relief Station at the San Diego Airport via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

    Not only does San Diego International Airport offer the Ready, Pet, Go. program, a travel ambassador program with 13 dogs, including a Shih Tzu and Goldendoodle, that provide pet therapy to passengers, the airport also opened the nation's first dog bathroom back in 2013. Located between Gate 46 and Gate 47 in Terminal 2 West, the 75-square-foot pet relief area includes faux grass, a hydrant, two deodorizers, free waste bags and a hand-washing sink.

    To learn about pet relief stations at other airports across the U.S. go here.

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    Moving to Canada is starting to look like a very real prospect for many Americans, if search trends are any indication.

    Real estate portal Point2 Homes saw American searches for Canadian housing spike by 282 per cent leading up to the U.S. election on Tuesday.

    home searches
    This graph shows how much home searches trended up in the two days leading up to the U.S. election day. (Photo: Point2Homes)

    The queries were primarily from millennial women aged 25 to 44.

    Many were looking at homes in Ontario, where searches grew by 417 per cent from Nov. 6 through 8.

    Toronto and Montreal drew some of the heaviest interest, with searches going up by 200 per cent for both. Vancouver trailed them with a 128 per cent increase.

    Vancouver. (Photo: Harry Traeger/Getty Images)

    Point2 Homes also suggested that Cape Breton had succeeded in marketing to Americans fleeing a Trump victory.

    Searches for homes on the island spiked by 300 per cent. Many took an interest in this lake house, which is on the market for $349,000.

    cape breton

    Earlier this year, a radio DJ created the website "Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins," aiming to attract Americans who couldn't stand living under a Trump presidency.

    The website was partly credited for a 14 per cent surge in island tourism over the summer.

    Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on the website by simply describing Cape Breton aslovely" island.

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