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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Vacations are fabulous opportunities to immerse ourselves in new cultures and experiences. However, with more than 4,000 languages spoken around the world, communication remains a constant barrier for those who are not multilingual.

    While we would all would like to learn the language of the country we're visiting before actually getting there, the fact of the matter is learning the nuances of an entire language can be almost impossible before embarking on a holiday.

    Not being able to easily communicate while vacationing can create feelings of isolation or, even worse, lead to problems if you are misunderstood.

    For the more than 125,000 S-Trip! student travellers we have taken abroad communicating with the locals has proved a consistent challenge. Especially for those that are doing community volunteer work and cultural exchange.

    The wonderful thing about young people is they are easily adaptable and we have had more than a few travellers pick up the native tongue of the countries we travel to quickly. But not everyone picks up language as quickly as others.

    Earlier this year a new tech-startup promised to address the language barrier problem with their latest creation. Pilot, a small set of earbuds, that developers claim are able to translate any language in real time discreetly in the wearer's ear.

    Pilot has the potential to revolutionize the way we communicate with one another at home and abroad, however it isn't on the market quite yet.

    Until then, here are a few tips to better understand and communicate on vacation.

    1. Take a class

    If you are travelling solo or plan to travel abroad for a long period of time, it may be wise to invest in a class. Most cities offer foreign language night classes that students can attend in the evening.

    If time is an issue, try an online course. Rosetta Stone is a very popular language learning program that promises to have you fluent in no time.

    Online classes are also helpful because you can attend them on the go or even while on vacation, if you find the language barrier is too great for you. Some language software also includes apps for smartphones, which can offer helpful phrases and tools while you are on vacation.

    2. Ask your friends

    While official language and online courses are the best way to learn a new language, they are often expensive. If cost is an issue, try crowdsourcing some language lessons.

    Thanks to our increasingly borderless world, most of us have friends from a variety of countries and backgrounds. Maybe someone you know speaks the language and can teach you.

    You can also try online bartering communities like Bunz Trading Zone. Perhaps someone can give you some lessons about key phrases and any nuances or colloquialisms for an exchange of services or stuff.

    3. Apps

    There are also a number of free apps travellers can download and use on vacation to help them communicate. Google Translate is one of the most popular language translation tools available. Duolingo, iTranslate and Vocre are other popular translation apps that can translate a phrase you say into a language of your choice.

    4. Social Media/Internet

    For the web savvy, try joining Facebook groups or forums in the language you are learning. Facebook now offers a translate feature which can help you figure out what is being said. You can also follow speakers of the language you are learning on Twitter and Instagram.

    Thanks to Google Translate's integration throughout the web, travellers can check out local papers and magazines of their destination country. This a great way to pick up local phrases while learning what's happening in your destination country or city.

    5. Language books

    Even though technology is very helpful, there is something to be said about tradition. Language books have taught foreign languages to linguists and travellers for decades and are a tried and true method of learning a new language.

    While downloading apps is quick and convenient, a great deal of vacation time is spent in transit where Wi-Fi is often unavailable. Having a reference book or language guide will not only give you reading material, it will help you communicate whether you are connected to the web or not.

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    2016-11-09-1478714629-4423106-BannerPetsinCargo2720x3402x.jpg

    By Vjosa Isai

    The festive transformation of storefront windows and winter drink menus are already in motion, signalling this year's holiday season is upon us once again. While it may be too soon for Christmas shopping, anyone thinking of a holiday getaway would benefit from an early start to planning, especially if you're bringing along a furry friend.

    Airlines have pet policies in place to designate which animals are permitted in the cabin versus cargo hold, a vital consideration for pet owners. These guidelines are often based on the pet's weight, age, carrier size, and whether the flight is international or domestic.

    Breed is also a major consideration. Some airlines, including WestJet, recommend that travellers with snub-nose (or brachycephalic) pets consult with a veterinarian before flying. According to WestJet's pet policies, "These types of pets suffer from respiratory problems that increase with stress and heat, and may not be suitable for travel in checked baggage."

    Unfortunately, the whole experience of travelling with your pet can be rendered much more stressful with airlines that don't allow pets in the cabin (British Airways, Emirates, Air Asia, Air New Zealand, or Qantas to name a few, although some make exceptions for service animals). This restriction can force a pet owner's hand at making a decision that may leave them ill-at-ease during the flight, knowing their pet is in a pressurized and cooler-temperature part of the plane, with no access to them for the duration of the flight.

    But is this fear warranted?

    "Travelling in cargo isn't necessarily unsafe," said Get Leashed Magazine's veterinarian-in-residence, Dr. Sheldon. "If it's a onetime thing, and you're flying internationally and this is the only way, flying your pet in cargo is most likely going to be safe."

    However, Dr. Sheldon strongly suggests avoiding having your pet in the cargo hold for for more frequent trips, saying it could increase health risks to your pet.

    "If it's constant type of travel, I would never suggest you bringing your pet back and forth in cargo. You're increasing the risk and your pet would be much better off left in someone's care instead."

    Echoing WestJet's recommendation on snub-nose breeds, Dr. Sheldon said dogs like pugs and bulldogs are not suited for the cargo hold due to breathing problems. Stress caused by noises, the cool temperature, and confined space in cargo can aggravate respiratory and cardiac issues, he said.

    Other breeds without the "pushed-in" facial appearance, including poodles and Yorkies who have a tracheal collapse, can also be negatively affected by travelling in cargo.

    "If the pet has a breathing problem, or an underlying condition you are unaware of, you could end up with a deceased pet on arrival," Dr. Sheldon said.

    This frightening reality has pushed airlines like Delta to change their pet policies.

    Delta Airlines banned all pets from travelling in its cargo hold as of March 1, 2016, after a total of 74 pet deaths were reported between May 2005 and September 2015.

    According to MarketWatch, Delta banned snub-nosed dogs and cats from being checked in with baggage in 2011 due to respiratory issues. However, even after this initial ban, the airline experienced another 24 deaths leading up to the ban on all pets in cargo.

    Another 14 animals went missing during this 10-year period.

    "If an airline can lose luggage, they can lose your pet," Dr. Sheldon said. And as with any type of travel, delays can cause stressful situations for both pet and owner.

    2016-11-09-1478714668-1762762-IMG_7761720x4802x.jpg

    Elizabeth Taylor & Chance always fly in cabin

    "Operations do not always run smoothly; you're sometimes delayed waiting for hours on board and you may not know what's going on. That situation alone is concerning."

    If you're anything like me, the very thought of a beloved pet under my care being just beyond reach when they might need me most is enough for me to call a no-go to cargo hold travelling.

    I can't control when the flight will land, how long it will stay on the tarmac, or who will handle my pet. I can't be there to comfort them during turbulence, or make sure they don't go missing in between flights. While it may not be high-risk to every animal's health, there are too many factors that I would rather find an alternative for in order to avoid a potentially stressful trip for myself and my animal.

    But as much as I would rather avoid it, there could be a time when my pet has to travel in cargo. And the best person to go to if you're experiencing travel anxiety for your pet is your veterinarian.

    Dr. Sheldon recommends seeing a vet before travelling to make sure your pet receives a clean bill of health. 

    The holidays see some of the busiest travel days of the year with the heaviest luggage. So be sure to get started early on planning your pets travel itinerary or holiday accommodations.

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    If you're a travel addict looking for a unique way to get around a new destination, look no further.

    From China to Thailand, Sweden, France and more, these beautiful countries, while their landscapes may differ, all have one thing in common: towns with roads that are made of water.

    But no need to panic if you're not an avid swimmer. They all have boats available to get pedestrians around.

    Check out the video above to see the full list of cities!


    Have you ever been to one of these destinations before? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Lake Louise saw more than 20 inches of snowfall last December. This Alberta winter wonderland is the ultimate destination for a holiday vacation, complete with twinkling lights, icicles hanging from window sills, snow-covered pines, and mountainside ice skating rinks. Add the world-renowned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and some of Canada's top-rated ski resorts, and there's simply no better place to be for the holidays. These six reasons to start booking your winter escape to Lake Louise will inspire you to pull your skis out of storage.

    You can shred instead of shovel
    2016-11-14-1479101186-8201040-5505111720_585af1c7d1_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Larry Kwan

    You don't have to dread shoveling snow or driving to Grandma's house on icy roads when you spend the holidays at Lake Louise. Forego the dreadful parts of snowstorms for chest-deep powder at the world-renowned Lake Louise Ski Resort and nearby Norquay and Sunshine Village. Big3 and 3-Mountain passes allow you to explore the 8,000 acres of powder, steeps, bowls, and groomers without breaking the bank.

    Your photos will be envied
    Lake Louise has distinguished itself as one of the most photogenic destinations in the world. This tightknit mountain community sits in front of the Victoria Glacier and is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Sitting just 40 miles west of Banff and submerged in Canada's oldest national park (Banff National Park), Lake Louise is a place of postcards.

    You can bring the whole family
    2016-11-14-1479101373-6166331-25913846191_b6268aa4d3_z.jpg
    Photo credit: brookpeterson

    Kids aren't just accepted at Lake Louise, they're welcomed with open arms and a huge list of indoor and outdoor activities. From daycare and ski schools at the resorts to horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, group campfires, and dog sledding expeditions, every moment in Lake Louise becomes a cherished family memory.

    Everything is in one place
    The holiday season is stressful for many -- excitement and holiday cheer are traded for overspending, party planning, and cleaning. Lake Louise eases the stresses of the holidays by offering everything you need in one easy-to-reach place. You can forget about cooking and cleaning and dine at world-class restaurant or stop in a bakery for a fresh-out-of-the-oven breakfast. The town's numerous hotels, resorts, and rentals ensure you enjoy everything you need without any of the holiday hassle.

    The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is better than ever
    2016-11-14-1479101441-539512-13074670543_60e9fd49cc_z.jpg
    Photo credit: davidgsteadman

    The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise goes above and beyond for the holidays. Visitors can enjoy all of the amenities of a luxury mountain resort with special holiday activities and celebrations, including a Christmas holiday sleigh ride, a skating rink and ice castle on Lake Louise, Christmas tree decorating, Santa's workshop, and traditional holiday meals. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise doesn't let anyone feel like a scrooge this time of year.

    You can bring your swim suit
    You don't have to travel to the Caribbean to pack your swimsuit for a holiday getaway. The world-famous Banff Upper Hot Springs are just a 50-minute drive south of Lake Louise, offering steaming, mineral-rich waters for relaxing on cold winter days. There's no better way to soothe your muscles after a long day on the mountain, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or simply taking in the pristine natural beauty of Banff National Park.

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    The holiday season can be overwhelming. There are presents to buy, parties to plan, extravagant meals to cook, and relatives to entertain. However, you can eliminate all of the stresses of the holidays by escaping to a warm-weather destination, a city you've always longed to see, or a winter wonderland this time of year.

    Visit one of these five out-of-this-world destinations instead of spending your money on gifts this holiday season -- no one will miss those ugly Santa socks anyway.

    Puerto Vallarta, México

    2016-11-14-1479097048-2965071-15908564650_f2c633123a_z.jpg
    Photo credit: bud ellison - from the street

    Puerto Vallarta, located in the state of Jalisco on Mexico's Pacific coast, boasts some of the country's best weather, pristine beaches, bustling nightlife, and opportunities to engage in Mexico's unique holiday culture. Soak your toes into the warm sand by day, shop the cobblestone streets of the city's "Old Town" region at night, and don't miss some of Puerto Vallarta's annual Guadalupe processions, which take place from Dec. 1 through 12. Christmas is also a week-long celebration for most Mexican families, and you can take part in a number of the city's posadas (parties) from Dec. 16 through 24. Puerto Vallarta is a place where you can avoid shoveling snow without missing out on any of the holiday cheer.

    New York City, United States
    Spending the holidays in New York City is a bucket-list item for many travelers. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, admiring the massive decorated tree, catching a Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City, and stocking up on souvenirs at Columbus Circle are all iconic holiday traditions you can experience in the Big Apple. And instead of spending all of your year's earnings on gifts, you can walk Fifth Avenue after dark to admire the extravagant holiday window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co., and Henri Bendel. Stay through New Year's Eve, and you're in for one of the world's most grandiose celebrations at Times Square.

    Prague, Czech Republic

    2016-11-14-1479097146-9858303-5333323810_b08b4cf996_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Marcus Povey

    No city will coerce you into the holiday spirit better than Prague. This real life winter wonderland is known for its annual Christmas markets, notably the ones within walking distance of one-another at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. City-wide holiday lights, often capped with a dusting of snow, make perusing the handicraft vendors even more charming. Of course, the holiday markets aren't just for shopping. You can fill yourself to the brim every evening with traditional holiday foods, like ham roasted on spits, klobása, and Czech pastries.

    Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

    Searching for a place to escape the Black Friday specials and over-played holiday music? Punta Cana offers average December high temperatures in the low 80s and sugar-sand beaches that are much more comfortable on bare feet than snow. Even better, the resort region of Punta Cana, at the Dominican Republic's eastern tip, is packed with hundreds of hotels hoping to lure travelers away from their homes for low holiday rates. All-inclusive flight and hotel packages make it easy for you to forget about the stresses of the holidays while lounging under a palm tree with a fruity drink.

    Nuremberg, Germany

    2016-11-14-1479097246-4829025-15451035774_422d99603f_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Tristan Smith

    Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is worth a holiday ticket to Germany alone. More than 2 million people visit the traditional holiday market every year to pack their bags with stocking stuffers, ride the old-fashioned carousel, take a stagecoach tour, sip warm beverages, and fill up on bratwursts and gingerbread. Outside of the market, Nuremberg's iconic medieval architecture and charming red-roofed buildings are donned with glistening white holiday lights, appearing more like a quaint Christmas village than the metropolis the Bavarian city really is.

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    We might be a little bit biased, but we think winter in Banff National Park should be experienced by every Canadian at least once.

    The snow-capped mountains, the multitude of festivals, the gigantic fireplaces and toasty mugs of hot chocolate – spending some time in this winter wonderland is like being transported to the set of the most romantic holiday movie you could ever imagine, and then some.

    The best thing about winter in the Canadian Rockies is that there is something for everyone. Want to curl up with a good book and forget about the cold outside? You can do that. Want to climb a frozen waterfall? You can do that. Want to eat your way into hibernation? You can do that, too.

    Check out a few of our favourite things to do in Banff National Park in winter:




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    Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has become the first in Canada to launch a program to help travellers with autism get through airports faster.

    The I CAN Fly program, announced Monday, will be rolling out resources to make air travel easier for those on the autism spectrum, including the YVR Austism Access Sticker.

    The badge is placed on a passenger's boarding pass, and guarantees quicker processing through customs and security screenings.

    autism sticker vancouver airport
    This sticker will speed up the airport screening process for individuals with autism flying out of Vancouver's airport. (Photo: Vancouver International Airport)

    Individuals on the autism spectrum are often dependent on routine, and travelling can often disrupt that. The bustle of airports can be particularly overwhelming.

    YVR's sticker, launched in partnership with the Canucks Autism Network, is meant to help flying be a little more seamless.

    Airport 'rehearsals'

    Several American airports have offered "rehearsal programs" for flyers with autism. Each terminal runs its program a little differently, but passengers are generally able to practice steps like packing a bag, going through security, boarding, "flying", and disembarking.

    Last fall, the Calgary Airport Authority invited families with children on the autism spectrum for an airport experience test-run.

    The program was a hit with parents.

    "In the past five years I couldn't travel anywhere with the family just because I know I am going to get extremely frustrated with the flight," Raed Jan, whose six-year-old son has autism, told CBC News in May.

    "This is one of the showstoppers for me."

    For the past three years, YVR has offered accessibility tours with a similar goal for individuals with autism.

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    Kale, quinoa and pulses -- they've all had their fifteen minutes of food fame. Food trends come and go, but when a trend evolves and starts to have a lasting impact on business and the economy, it becomes a movement. That's what's happening with local food in Canada.

    In my role as "Ms. Food Tourism" at the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA), I've seen the local food "trend" become a national food movement, and the impact of this cannot be underestimated.

    Our food-obsessed culture is more interested than ever in sourcing their food locally, and local food experiences have become one of the primary travel motivators. Through a comprehensive study, we discovered the rise of food tourism is driven by the values of the modern consumer, specifically millennials, who look for immersive travel experiences.

    This is one of the reasons that food tourism continues to gain momentum across the globe. It's why global administrations, such as the UN World Tourism Organization, are bringing people together from all over the world to work in food tourism. Canada is one of the countries at the forefront of food tourism, as our research shows that Ontario has emerged as one of the top three local food tourism leaders worldwide.

    I've seen dozens of regions invest in food tourism strategies across Ontario and beyond. The results have led to more engaged communities and some seriously delicious experiences. Places you wouldn't think to visit are now hosting travellers all year long, and others that were known for theatre or sports or nature now have ways to make you come back. It's the local food -- and drink!

    But don't just take my word for it -- consider data from the TAMS survey, which revealed that compared to a generic tourist, the food tourist spends three times more on dining, seven times more on wineries and 40 per cent more on hotel accommodations.

    So, why has food tourism blown-up in recent years? There are a few trends contributing to the boom, one of which is that people simply want to enjoy the yummy fruits of the region they're exploring by tasting, sipping and savouring the local spirits, produce and specialty dishes. Culinary trails are another emerging trend contributing to the rise of food tourism, with tourists eating their way through these food and beverage theme trails, which has seen significant growth in Canada.

    From the Niagara wine route to the Dumpling Trail in Richmond, B.C., these mostly self-guided tours continue to crop up across the country. It's why provinces like New Brunswick, who have previously not had a food tourism strategy, are now working with restaurateurs and taste experiences to build their local food identity.

    Other food and beverage movements, like the proliferation of craft beer and breweries, also entice food tourists and are having a huge impact on tourism. Last year alone, Ontario generated more than $69 million in craft beer sales and these hoppy libations continue to be one of the fastest growing categories in the beverage sector.



    As Canada's food tourism sector continues to grow, we want to inspire Canadians to be proud of our culinary offerings and food heritage.



    These trends are helping to grow Canada's local food movement, which is a really good thing for us. Research shows that in Ontario eating local has a three to one impact on the local economy, while every bottle of VQA Ontario wine consumed generates $12.29 of value to the provincial economy.

    Sourcing local isn't always easy. Two of the biggest barriers to sourcing locally include a disconnect between producers and restaurants and education for those in the industry, making it difficult for consumers to know what's available and producers to know what's in demand. It's why programs like our Feast On program, which couple local farmers and artisans with restaurant owners, are important to the local food movement. Restaurant owners supported by this program alone helped funnel $14 million back into the local economies, a pretty impactful number, if you ask me.

    We have strong agricultural sectors in Canada, and we need to educate our locavore foodies and the general public about Canada's unique tastes. The Ontario Food Tourism Summit, which CTA organizes in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, is a great place for those in the food industry to learn about food trends, the food tourism sector and the future of the local food movement. Teaching industry tastemakers will better inform food tourism strategies, help restaurant owners source locally and ultimately, benefit the local economies.

    As Canada's food tourism sector continues to grow, we want to inspire Canadians to be proud of our culinary offerings and food heritage. Having our own unique food identity has been something that I think we as a nation haven't really celebrated -- our food culture is a mosaic! It's exciting that we're now carving out a niche for ourselves as one of the world leaders in the local food movement. We see this happening as local products/restaurants, such as Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, are receiving recognition with acknowledgements like the University of Guelph's Good Food Innovation Award.

    I love Canadian grown food and I want our country to be at the forefront of the food tourism industry. Whether it's learning more about the local food movement or vowing to eat more delicious meals at restaurants who only source locally -- what will you do to become part of the movement?

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    Editors of National Geographic Traveler magazine have released their picks for the best destinations of 2017, giving shout-outs to places like Banff, Chengdu, Seoul, Madrid and Georgia, USA.

    For their annual Best of the World list, editors chose a total of 21 destinations they deem to be “must-see” places to visit next year.

    The selections fall into three categories: cities, nature and culture.

    In the nature category, the magazine shines the spotlight on Kauai, a paradisiac island in Hawaii which has stood in as blockbuster locations for no less than 60 feature films, including the “Jurassic Park” franchise.

    cartagena colombiaCartagena, Colombia, was chosen as one of Nat Geo Traveler's picks for the best destinations of 2017.

    Nature lovers will find renewal in Kauai's towering sea cliffs, cascading waterfalls, mahogany forests and lush living landscapes.

    Finland is also singled out for travelers looking for quiet. The country's 40 national parks, 12 wilderness areas, and six national hiking areas are described as “sanctuaries for silence-seekers.”

    The year 2017 will be a big one for the country, as they will celebrate 100 years of independence marked by four nationwide “Finnish Nature Days,” one for each season.

    Similarly, Canada fetes its 150th birthday next year. To experience the best of the country, editors suggest heading to the jewel of Canada, Banff, renowned for its rugged mountain peaks, meadowed valleys and turquoise-blue lakes.

    banff albertaBanff, Alberta, was chosen as one of Nat Geo Traveler's picks for the best destinations of 2017.

    On the flipside, travellers in search of an exciting, city holiday are advised to check out Seoul, which “can make even the most hardened urbanite feel like a country bumpkin.”

    With a population of 25 million for the Greater Seoul area, the city pulses with humanity, palaces, markets, high-rises, restaurants and fashionistas.

    And for its legendary, unparalleled cuisine Sichuan cuisine, Chengdu, China made the cut in the culture category.
    A UNESCO-designated “City of Gastronomy,” the region is known for dishes like tea-smoked duck, ma po tofu, hot pot, twice-cooked pork and kung pao chicken. The online hub features additional details such as travel tips for each locale and 360 videos.

    Here are Nat Geo Traveler's picks for the best destinations of 2017 in alphabetical order:


    • Anchorage, Alaska, USA

    • Baja California National Marine Parks, Mexico

    • Banff, Alberta, Canada

    • Canton Uri, Switzerland

    • Cartagena, Colombia

    • Central India's National Parks

    • Chengdu, China

    • Cradle of Humankind, South Africa

    • Ecuador's Cloud Forests

    • Finland

    • Georgia, USA

    • Guadeloupe Islands

    • Hamburg, Germany

    • Kauai, Hawaii, USA

    • Madrid, Spain

    • Malta

    • Marrakech, Morocco

    • Moscow, Russia

    • Papua New Guinea

    • Seoul, Korea

    • Via Dinarica, Western Balkans


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    After you check in, and swipe the key card to unlock your hotel room, what's the first thing you do? Lie on the bed? Check out the view? Unpack your suitcase? Our research shows when entering a hotel room, 47 per cent of us head straight to the bathroom (And not because we've necessarily been needing to go since the airport).

    Similar to someone's home, a bathroom can say a lot about a person -- or a hotel. It's way of understanding how that hotel wants to treat their guests. Whether it's a freestanding tub, a shower built for two or views while you bathe, bathrooms can be both a private oasis and an experience of its own.

    We have searched our more than one million properties to uncover accommodations worth booking for the bathroom alone. By evaluating design, amenities and must-see views, here are the seven most jaw-dropping bathrooms across the globe.

    Calistoga Ranch - California, USA

    2016-11-16-1479310219-9798743-CalistogaRanch.jpg

    Nestled in 157 acres of lush surroundings such as ancient oaks, hills and a private lake in Napa Valley, Calistoga Ranch offers the ultimate and most private way to relax. The luxurious bathrooms in each lodge include custom all-natural bath and body products, a separate soaking bath and most importantly, a rain shower in your own secluded outdoor shower garden.

    2016-11-16-1479310245-1608524-CalistogaRanch1.jpg

    Ponta dos Ganchos Resort - Governador Celso Ramos, Brazil

    2016-11-16-1479310303-2554805-PontadosGanchosResort.jpg

    Overlooking the gorgeous Brazilian Emerald Coast, you're sure to enjoy the breathtaking view while experiencing this spa-inspired bathroom. Sip on a glass of wine or settle back with a good book while soaking in the luxurious bath, featuring massaging mats. The double-bathroom is a bonus for you and your significant other to have just enough space.

    2016-11-16-1479310558-7003446-PontadosGanchosResort1.jpg

    Six Senses Villas - Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

    2016-11-16-1479310620-3802256-SixSensesNinhVanBay.jpg

    While this relaxing sanctuary features an award-winning spa, a yoga pavilion, four restaurants and is a 20-minute boat ride from Nha Trang City, you won't want to leave the room once you see the open en-suite bathroom with a uniquely handcrafted wooden bath. The calming colour schemes along with the sounds of the waves may be the best addition to any bath time. You won't be disturbed by your partner either, since the vanity area is separate.

    2016-11-16-1479310739-8434766-SixSensesNinhVanBay1.jpg

    Shangri-La Hotel - London, UK

    2016-11-16-1479310791-1135153-ShangriLaHotelatTheShardLondon.jpg

    Looking over the London skyline, the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard (Europe's tallest building) provides guests with an oriental-inspired bathroom and the finest Acqua Di Parma amenities. Grab your plush bathrobe and enter the elegant marble-clad bathrooms featuring underfloor heating, a jacuzzi bath tub, a glass-enclosed shower, views of the city and of course, a bathroom mirror T.V.

    Huvafen Fushi Resort - Male City, The Maldives

    2016-11-16-1479310889-237751-PERAQUUMHuvafenFushi.jpg

    Unwind in your own private beach or over-water bungalow with glass floors at the indulgent Hufaven Fushi. After participating in a range of water activities and spending time at the world's first underwater spa, make your way back to your ocean bungalow's open air bathroom, featuring an oversized bathtub and waterfall shower.

    2016-11-16-1479310933-2229415-PERAQUUMHuvafenFushi1.jpg

    Underwater Suites at Atlantis The Palm - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    2016-11-16-1479310964-6578740-AtlantisThePalmDubai.jpg

    As one of the most unique hotel bathrooms, the Underwater Suites at Atlantis The Palm is -- you guessed it -- underwater. In other words, swim in your own grand tub while sea creatures swim beside you in a lagoon for the most entertaining bathing experience. The five-star Atlantis offers stunning views of the Arabian Gulf both above and below the water.

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    Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge - Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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    Set on a hill in Madikwe Game Reserve, this lavish lodge is a relaxing retreat surrounded by wildlife (like cheetahs, elephants and lions), grand boulders and majestic Tamboti trees. The romantic glass-fronted suites include both an indoor and outdoor shower, so you can enjoy the uninterrupted views of the savannah.

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    *Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among 6,620 people (18+) across USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France and Australia (June and July 2015)

    All photos courtesy of Booking.com

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    It's 1 p.m. on a Sunday and Douglas Street is teeming with action. Over there, a bhangra dance class is ruling the corner of Johnson Street. Up the block, local band Lovecoast is turning out funky, danceable pop songs on a sun-lit stage. In front of them is a beer garden, food trucks and artisan vendors, altering downtown Victoria into a street party not unlike what you might see on a weekend in Montreal.

    Of all of Canada's major cities, Victoria would be considered the farthest away from cutting edge. For years, it has been a retirement hot spot for mainlanders from British Columbia, as well as Albertans and Ontarians.

    But a tech boom, evolving music scene, rejuvenated interest in farming and craft food production, and a soft housing market compared to the sky-high cost of ownership in Vancouver has helped bring and retain more young people. That's leading to days like Car-Free Day, an event organized by the Downtown Victoria Business Association.



    With technology comes youth, and with youth comes fresh perspectives and change, often in exciting ways.



    "Victoria is a tech town," says Stephen Roughley, general manager at the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour. "You have that demographic already here, with a lot of small tech firms and app companies, and it's only growing."

    Most people would be surprised to know technology -- and not government or tourism -- is the No. 1 industry in the beautiful capital of British Columbia. It generates $3.15 billion in annual revenue and employs 23,000 people across more than 880 companies, according to the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC).

    With technology comes youth, and with youth comes fresh perspectives and change, often in exciting ways. Noticeably, the Rifflandia music festival, which takes place in mid-September, is quickly emerging as a major event in Western Canada. This year's headliners included Michael Franti and Spearhead, and X Ambassadors. Along with Rifflandia, there are craft beer festivals, one of the nation's most popular Fringe fests, and other events geared for millennials and Gen-Xers.

    So while visitors will still arrive for some of the nation's best whale-watching tours and high-tea experiences, you will also be able to mingle with a youthful crowd in good, popular hangouts such as The Commons. The recently opened bar is part of three restaurants operated by 10 Acres Farms and its charismatic owner, Mike Murphy, who has spent more than 20 years as a restaurateur in the city. Murphy says young diners are leading a change in the city's culinary scene as they're demanding to know where their food is coming from and are eager to support local suppliers.

    "They know about GMO products and they know it's not good for them and they ask a lot more questions about what's on the menu. I think 'farm-to-table' is one of the most overused terms out there but it does speak to how people are thinking these days," he says.

    Murphy bought 10 Acre Farms five years ago and has begun to ramp up the amount of food it provides to his three Victoria restaurants -- The Commons, 10 Acres Bistro and The Kitchen, the fine-dining component of the operation.

    Similarly, the preferences of a new group of consumer is also shifting the hotel industry.

    "In previous generations you would never have a table where two people sitting together didn't know each other. It happens all the time now and one of the aims of the hotel industry is figuring how to serve that new generation of customer," Roughley says.

    You can expect mobile check-in to be offered at Marriotts around the world in coming years and the new renovation of the Victoria property planned for next year will have numerous technology and decor changes to appeal to a younger crowd.

    While Tofino -- with its hippie culture and world-class surfing -- has for years been the Vancouver Island destination of choice for the young and young at heart, Victoria is demonstrating it can provide an urban experience that is also fit for the times.


    See Photos of Victoria and Plan Your Trip on Vacay.ca

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  • 11/22/16--03:03: Winter Fun In Toronto!
  • I love finding new places to visit and exploring new parts of cities. Recently, I was lucky enough to learn about some new fun activities to try in Toronto in the winter!

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    Here are my top ten picks for what I think will be super fun for your next visit to Toronto this winter!

    1. Why not try, Winter surfing? Yes, you read that right.. you can surf in the winter!

    2. If you have been following my blog, you have probably read about how I love cross-country skiing, Downhill skiing and Snowboarding. You can do all of these fun activities close to Toronto.

    3. Curling the ultimate Canadian sport! And you can meet up with other people to learn more about Toronto.

    4. There is nothing prettier that skating in the winter. There are lots of opportunities to go on a beautiful skate in Toronto.

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    5. Something really unique to do in the cooler months is Fat Biking. Cycling is no longer just a summer activity. You can ride during the colder months and take in the sights of this beautiful city.

    6. Everyone loves to enjoy a bite or sip on a beverage on a patio. You can try one of the many Heated Outdoor Patios throughout Toronto.

    7. For two delicious weeks you can try unique and mouth watering cuisine as part of Winterlicious. This is an opportunity to try something exotic, the perfect celebration for foodies!

    8. Ice sculptures are gorgeous and the best part about them is how temporary their beauty is. Icefest provides you with a chance to get to see an ice carving competition and many ice sculptures.

    9. Canada's Top Ten Film Festival will take place from January 13 - 26th, 2017 and you can view movies that are the best in Canadian cinema.

    10. I love looking at beautiful design and The Interior Design Show is the perfect opportunity for you to see the best of the best in design.

    Looking for accommodation and more activities?

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    Try the Ritz Carlton, located in the downtown city centre is the perfect place to put your feet up and relax in a cozy room. They have the Experience Toronto package which includes different dining options.

    If you want to take it easy and relax, you can do one of my favourite activities which is spend the day at the spa! They have an Escape to the Spa package for the winter.

    Over the holidays, they will have holiday menus and offerings.

    They will also have a life-sized gingerbread house in their lobby, yum!

    To find out more about different accommodation options in Toronto, you can also look at Tourism Toronto, for hotels and stays in the city.

    Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to live life to the fullest. Let's explore some wonderful places and have the very best 2016!

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    What to do when you've got hundreds of pairs of shoes, enough clothes to dress a small army, and your career demands that you move, oh on average, about every three years? And not just to another city, but an entirely foreign country.

    Welcome to Anne-Marie Bodal's life. The Footwear Design Director currently lives in Alicante, Spain (that's the designer shoe capital of Europe BTW), but before that she called Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and the UK home. After studying at De Montfort University in Leicester, a solid fashion foundation specializing in footwear led to a flourishing career that's got her expertise is in global demand. From design-led projects for the likes of Fila to brand building for various businesses across Asia, as well as developing successful online marketing strategies, Anne-Marie is leaving her definitive footprint on the industry.

    Find out how this fashion girl of the world manages to make relocation look like a catwalk.

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    First, I must know how you handle the business of packing and shipping your belongings around the globe. What is your no-fail method?

    My no fail method, to be honest, is getting someone else to do all the packing!

    What's the first thing you do when you know you've got a big move coming up?

    Start looking for shipping companies and have a good clear out.

    Any preferred shipping companies?

    My advice on shipping companies is to go with a reputable local company. I've found that you get more personalized service if you go with a smaller shipper, as you generally get local knowledge and better prices. However, with corporate moves, your new employer will likely turn things over to a relocation company so they will do the heavy lifting. Love to be hands free on this kind of stuff!

    That time when your designer duds got lost at sea...

    Sadly, this happened somewhere between Cape Town and Singapore. After three months at sea, all my stuff from Cape Town arrived smelling of fish! It took weeks to wash everything and some of my vintage pieces still smell weird to this day.

    Do you think this nomadic lifestyle is in your DNA?

    I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to an Antiguan mother and a Danish father so there's that. Multiple expat postings as a kid definitely sparked my travel obsession.

    My interest in art started from a very young age with all the colour and creativity of the Haitian people becoming ingrained. Also having a mother who was obsessed with fashion and design sparked my curiosity in the world of clothes and accessories.

    After leaving Haiti, we spent some time in Panama, then a couple of years in Antigua, followed by a long-term stop in Bermuda. I was 16 when we made the big move to the UK. So, yes, I guess I got used to moving around.

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    How do you assimilate into the culture?

    I always try and research the hot spots like markets, festivals, events, and so on so I can mix with the locals. Befriending my colleagues has led me to those lesser-known haunts. Outside of work, InterNations and Meetup.com have proven to be useful in facilitating introductions to new people.

    Do you learn the language, or get by on the basics?

    I think it's important to learn the language if one wants full immersion; otherwise you'll miss the real nuances of the culture. I would recommend taking lessons in order to integrate quickly.

    You are in Alicante now so how does that compare to the big, at times chaotic, cities that you have lived in?

    In 2007 I moved to Cape Town to experience life in a smaller city. I needed respite from huge, pumping London. It was good for my soul and gave me space to focus.

    After stints in Singapore and Bangkok, it's good to be back in a smaller "slower" city. Even though I still do miss Thailand every day... especially the kindness of its people. However in contrast to Bangkok, day-to-day life here is simply just easier. No fighting with the traffic; the tram is never massively congested; the beach is five minutes walk from the city centre; the local market is five minutes walk up the street. These benefits make living here simple. And oddly enough for a city of only 300,000 people, there is enough to do from a social perspective, especially on the food front.

    I do miss out on the big cultural events that Madrid and Barcelona frequently offer, but if there's something major happening, those cities are only two and four hours away respectively. NBD.

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    From my own travels, I know that Thailand has quite a distinct culture. How did living in Bangkok affect you?

    Thailand has a whole other set of life principles and inspiration - the perfect place to develop life/work balance.

    After moving to Bangkok I realized, and perhaps this sounds ironic, that I was living in fear of change. This was causing me much unhappiness and I was admittedly a very unpleasant person to be around. The Thai people really gave me a reality check. Basically I wanted some of what they were having. And what they are having is a simple, happy, content life; even those with very little.

    Guessing you have a regular yoga and meditation practice?

    I think living in Buddhist culture forces you to stop and consider that staring at your belly button for a period of time might be the key to happiness. This was when I made the choice to take some time off work and reassess. I needed to learn to truly understand my needs, so I started practicing yoga every day, as well as meditating. I have noticed a marked improvement with my yoga practice since. I try to meditate for minimum 10 minutes every day and I practice yoga every day. I do an hour session every other day and on the alternate days I'll do 10 to 15 minutes of yoga stretches to stay supple.

    2016-11-20-1479640295-6567890-HuffPo_AMB_Alcoy.jpg


    What prompted the move to Spain?

    All this new thinking. With my inner foundations stronger than ever, and a fresh perspective on life, I was able to realize that it was time to shift away from the people that were no longer adding value to it. I split up from my partner and moved to Spain, a country that I have loved for many many years, with the intention of making a clean start. I'm taking every day as it comes and loving every moment of being here. New career paths are blossoming as I carry a new and improved self-awareness, which I would never have gained if not for that period of stopping and realizing the importance of my needs and my values. My time in Thailand was brief, but filled with life lessons.

    Anne-Marie is one of 17 international contributors featured in my guidebook, How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind, currently available for Amazon Kindle, iBooks and Kobo readers.

    Images courtesy of Anne-Marie's Instagram @intlfashionnative.

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    Co-Authored with Elena Murzello, Author of The Love List


    Unless you have money to burn, red-eyes are a great way to save on an extra day of a hotel costs. They also give you a full day to hit the pavement running. I usually can't stand taking red-eyes, but I found myself taking one last week from Vancouver to New York City.

    The normal daytime flight would take approximately 5.5 to 7.5 hours depending upon layovers -- this amazing red-eye took a quick 4.5 hours due to the tail wind. 4.5 hours was enough time to indulge in one movie (Joy), a meal (thank you Cathay Pacific) and 1.5 hours of "rest."

    When I arrived at JFK, I found myself grabbing some shut-eye as the Luxury Ride driver weaved through the already thick Manhattan traffic. As my eyes opened slightly to take in the sharp morning light, I thought to myself -- without upgrading to first class or business class, how can one go from economy to engagement without being a totally zombie? Here's my list to help take you from the airplane to the assembly with no long layover.

    1. Non-Caffeinated tea: Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for caffeinated drinks. In fact, its' mochas and black tea is my staple. But for unwinding, I prefer something that is more soothing. Tease Tea has great non-caffeinated options of Midnight Mint and Golden Slumbers use a perfect mix of rooibos, rose, ginger, sunflower, spearmint, chocolate and calendula.

    2. Flat shoes: Going through the airport security, it's always a hit or miss when it comes taking off your shoes. Try these FS/NY classic Tequilla flats with a scalloped top-line, pointed-toe, rubber sole and cushioned foot bed. Taking them off mid flight is a breeze as well as putting them back on when you land. Made in Spain, the polished look is professional for your next meeting.

    3. A warm coat: It's freezing on planes and what better way to cozy up than a coat that can serve dual purpose as a blanket. As much as I love the airline blanket, I often leave the plane looking disheveled with lint all over my outfit. This Marta Scarampi Kate Cape has a timeless shape with vintage charm.

    4. Lip Balm: The last thing you want is chapped lips anywhere. But when you're on a red-eye and can often you wake up to dry lips thanks to that dry stale air. Kiehls #1 lip balm helps protect lips from the drying effects of wind and cold weather (perfect for winter - or the cold tundra of the plane). Formulated with soothing emollients Squalanea, Lanolin and Wheat Germ Oil, as well as Vitamin E gives you enough shine to enhance your natural lip color.

    5. Facial Hydration spray: There are many on the market, but I personally use this Hydro-Aid Moisturizing Lifting Mist from Sulwahsoo. It restores hydration levels deep within the skin while also preventing excess moisture evaporation. This Korean herbal seaweed facial spray also has a light aroma helps relax stress-affected skin that wakes you up after a long flight. Using a misting spray is easier than trying to wash your face in the tiny airline sink!

    6. Travel Hairbrush: I know this should be obvious. But with my hair in the usual travel messy bun, I forget how unprofessional it can look the day after a flight. All the dry, recycled stale air in the plane can't be great for your hair. Often mine turns into a fuzz ball after a flight. But did you know that brushing hair regularly stimulates blood circulation, which generates hair growth, oxygenates the scalp and eliminates impurities. Brushing from root to tip distributes natural oils, helps strengthen hair, and most important to me adds shine. Try this Christophe Robin natural boar hair one.

    7. Minimize electronics on flight: It's hard to get rest sometimes. I always like to catch up on my movies, yet if you have meetings booked for the next day means you should get some beauty sleep and give your eyes a rest. But, if you must work, the Moleskine Paper Tablet, Pen+ and the companion app, the Pen+ has the ability to transfer your freehand notes from page to screen in real time, giving you the possibility to digitize text, edit, organize, share and bring your ideas to life (provided you have Wi-Fi on the flight). Compatible to many apps including iCloud, Google Drive, Evernote and Adobe -- it can even capture audio too!

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    2016-11-23-1479861622-8480001-22143397586_a96c586531_z.jpg
    Photo credit: f.ermert

    There's no better time than now for Canadians to pack their bags and start traveling. A strong Canadian Dollar coupled with shockingly low flight prices means Canadians will see huge savings on travel when compared to previous years. In fact, in some destinations, Canadians are seeing their dollars go 36-per cent further than they did last year.

    Award-winning, Calgary-based travel agency Discount My Flights recently released its list of 15 cities around the world where you can get the most bang for your Canadian buck. These five ranked at the top of their list for the biggest possible savings.

    Cancun, Mexico
    It's time to pull your shorts and flip flops back out of storage, because you can save big on this winter's escape to Cancun. Known as one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Cancun is packed with accommodation options, beaches, tours, nightlife, and everything you need to relax , adventure, and let loose. A week-long trip to Cancun is now $558.87 cheaper than the same trip would have been last year, meaning you'll enjoy a savings of 36.25-percent by heading there now.

    Cairo, Egypt

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    Photo credit: Michael Caven

    Egypt is a bucket-list destination, and visiting Cairo is now drastically cheaper for Canadians than it would have been last year. A week-long trip that would have costed $1,471 last year will now cost just $997, a savings of 32.22 percent. Discover why the Egyptians called this capital city the Mother of the World by perusing ancient buildings, mosques, picture-perfect avenues, and the nearby pyramids.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    City lovers won't have a hard time falling in love with Buenos Aires. This Argentinian metropolis is known for its 19th-century buildings, award-winning restaurants, and plenty of tours and places to discover the Argentinian way of life. Best of all, you'll save 29.68-percent on a week-long trip to the culture-filled capital city this year versus last.

    Playa del Carmen, Mexico
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    Photo credit: Robert Brands

    Offering a more laid back atmosphere than nearby Cancun, Playa del Carmen encourages visitors to enjoy its stunning beaches and coral reefs without spending a fortune. Round-trip flights from Canada to the seaside city can be found for as little as $300, and a week-long escape costs 27.36-percent less than last year. If you've been awaiting a getaway filled with delicious eats and long days on the sand, now is the time to book your trip to Playa del Carmen.

    Tulum, Mexico
    Mexico is one of the easiest warm-weather destinations to reach from Canada, so it's no wonder escapes to this scenic country are some of the most affordable. Tulum offers a different feel than other Mexican beach locales with Mayan ruins that sit just steps from the turquoise sea. A week-long getaway in Tulum is now 26.75-percent less than it was last year, so you'll have more to spend on snorkeling excursions, cenote tours, ziplines, and other unique area experiences.

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    Los Angeles is an adventurer's paradise. Home to more than just tanned celebrities, the sprawling metropolis offers everything from modern rock climbing to incredible trails ideal for mountain biking and of course amazing surf spots. And what better time to head to the sunny state than when the snow starts falling in the Great White North?

    To get you started, we've put together a two-day itinerary ideal for any thrill seekers craving a daring getaway.

    DAY 1

    Upon arrival, check in to the Farmer's Daughter , a boutique property offering some good ol' fashioned fun with its onsite pool bar and restaurant. Located right at the intersection of the Beverly Hills, Mid-Town, and West Hollywood, there's plenty of things to see, do and eat all within walking distance.

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    Santa Monica Stairs | Photo courtesy of Ken Shelton, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

    Morning: Santa Monica Stairs
    Start your first day with a challenge. Grab your friends and see who can run five laps on the infamous Santa Monica Stairs the fastest. The 160-plus steps climb straight up the hill towards Adelaide Drive. In between gasps, remember to peek at the picturesque ocean views.

    Breakfast: Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee
    If you ran the steps, you've earned donuts and coffee. Owners of Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Sumter and Chi-Lin Pendergrast, and executive chef Brooke Desprez offer what some are calling the best doughnuts in Los Angeles. For a city where doughnut shops seem to occupy every corner, the folks at Sidecar are breaking the mold and offering something better than your average glazed donut.

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    Photo courtesy of Rock N Rope Adventures, Facebook

    After Breakfast - Rock 'N Rope Adventures
    Meet up with your guides from Rock 'N Rope Adventures for a morning rock climbing in Malibu. Guides teach students the basics of rock climbing safety and technique as well as provide the gear for your lesson. If this isn't your first time roping up, then don't worry - Malibu Creek offers routes from 5.4 to 5.13, which means there is more than enough challenging terrain to go around.

    Lunch - Oaxaqueña Taco Truck
    In L.A., the taco truck is life. Ask any locals in the know, and they'll tell you the taco truck is worth its weight in diesel-fueled gold. Oaxaqueña also offer burritos, tortas (meat sandwiches), and tostadas. But, our recommendation is to stick to the basics and get four tacos for just US $6 total!

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    Photo courtesy of Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons

    Afternoon - Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons
    You didn't come all the way to L.A. to skip the beach, it's what this city is known for--the sun, the sand, the babes. Pro tip, you'll look a lot more like a local with a wetsuit on, even if you spend all your time on the board taking diggers into the sand. If you are a total newbie, Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons offer lessons to all levels and ages. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as lessons can fill up early.

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    Eight Flavors of Pork Belly | Photo courtesy of Eight Korean BBQ Los Angeles, Facebook

    Dinner - Eight Korean BBQ
    This isn't your father's BBQ, but it's almost as iconic. Eight Korean BBQ is a L.A. staple, and once you've had it, you'll see why. Food is served family style, with the highlight of the meal being the thinly sliced meat that you grill yourself at the table. So, what makes this meat so amazing? Well it's not just one type of meat, but eight. Eight Korean BBQ gets its name from its signature entree - eight servings of pork belly marinated eight ways.

    DAY 2

    Breakfast - Du-par's
    Opened at The Original Farmers Market in 1938, Du-par's serves its breakfast menu 24-7. The buttermilk hotcakes are legendary - Frisbee-sized and nearly one inch thick. The short stack has three hotcakes, and when the waiter asks if you want butter on top, the answer is, "Yes, please." Served with a ramekin of warm maple syrup, the hotcakes are fluffy and just right on the sweet-o-meter.

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    Photo courtesy of Du-Pars

    Morning - Aileen Getty Ridge Trail
    Properly fueled up, you're ready to hike to the Wisdom Tree, which sits along one of the most fun and interesting trails in Griffith Park, called the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail. Unlike most trails in Griffith Park, this trail more closely resembles a use trail - it's crumbly, rugged, and super fun to hike. About half a mile from the end the trail there's a ridge and the left fork will take you to the Wisdom Tree. TIP: There's an ammo box at its base with letters and wishes from other hikers!

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    Wisdom Tree | Photo courtesy of cielodlp, Flickr

    Lunch - Golden Road Brewing
    Golden Road Brewing was one of L.A.'s original micro-breweries. Founded in 2011 by Meg Gill and Tony Yanow, Golden Road offers four of their beers year-round, as well as a choice of their newest brews. The original location, in Atwater Village, also has amazing eats made by Executive Chef Adam Levoe, who sources local ingredients to craft his incredible comfort food.

    Afternoon - Griffith Park / L.A. River Bike Ride
    Located less than a mile from Golden Road, Bicycle Pit Stop will get you set up for your afternoon bike ride. The shop rents Durban Folding Bikes, which are made for paved roads. Return to Griffith Park and ride the perimeter along bike friendly Zoo Drive/Crystal Springs Drive to the Los Angeles River Bike Path. Bike rental is US $15 an hour for the first day.

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    L.A. River Bike Path | Photo courtesy of Joséphine Runneboom, Discover Los Angeles Flikr Pool

    Dinner - MessHall
    Located in Los Feliz, MessHall Kitchen showcases Executive Chef Shane Pritchett's modern take on regional American comfort food in a sleek setting that was once the site of one of the legendary Brown Derby restaurants. The bar program focuses on classics, including small batch new American spirits and craft beers.

    After Hours - Tom Bergin's
    Your weekend of adventure ends at the landmark Tom Bergin's Public House, located on Fairfax about a mile south of Farmer's Daughter. The oldest Irish establishment in L.A., the "House of Irish Coffee" continues to pour its signature drink for new generations of fans. The horseshoe-shaped bar is said to be the inspiration for the classic TV comedy series, Cheers.

    2016-11-22-1479847404-8454066-TomBerain.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Tom Bergin's

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    (Photos: Desi Globetrotter)

    Note: Airfare provided by Air France. Accommodations and activities arranged courtesy of Atout France, Aquitaine and Bordeaux Tourism.


    Like preserved fine wine, Bordeaux is becoming better with age. Famous for its surrounding vineyards and chateaux, this port city in France's southwestern Aquitane region is no longer a gateway or a quick stopover on the road to the world's best vinos; it's also a highlight. To fully understand the Bordelais art de vivre, or art of living, visitors are encouraged to indulge in its art, architecture, wine and gastronomic culture; a city in wine country is not meant to be consumed in a hurry -- swirl, sip, savour and stay awhile.

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    Why Go Now

    Dubbed in the 80s as "Sleeping Beauty," Bordeaux has awoken refreshed and energized after a 15-year makeover. Once engulfed in black soot due to heavy pollution, the city's limestone façade has been polished clean, unveiling the grandeur of the city's historic 18th century architecture, helping the city garner recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    With Bordeaux's commitment to urban renewal and city beautification, the once neglected waterfront has been revitalized with new pedestrian areas, cycling paths, interactive public spaces such as the Miroir d'eau, a reflective sheet of water in front of the Place de Bourse. The city has an easy tramway system for connecting its various quarters and upcoming in 2017 is the launch of the LGV Sud-Ouest train, a high-speed rail linking central Paris to Bordeaux in two hours.

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    New Wine Museum

    Bordeaux's revival has shown no signs of stopping. Bold and powerful, curvy and sensual, Bordeaux's waterfront is now home to La Cité du Vin, a massive contemporary architectural landmark museum dedicated to discovering the diversity of world wines. This impressive and unique example of contemporary architecture opened its doors June 2016 and has cemented Bordeaux's role as the wine capital of the world, giving the city its very own "Bilbao effect."

    Built by Parisian agency XTU Architects, the museum's fluid design is emblematic of wine swirling in a glass. Inside, visitors can expect an interactive, multi-sensory and digital experience through permanent and temporary exhibitions taking you through the history of wine regions around the world.

    Engage your senses by smelling various aromas and elements of wine, swirl and swipe your hands across digital screens built into taller-than-human wine bottle constructions, and take with you the "travel companion," a guide available in eight languages as you make your way through the museum.

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    General admission is inexpensive and includes a drink at The Belvedere, a top-floor wine bar with a city view and a cool ceiling thematically decorated in hundreds of wine bottles. To add to your experience, you can book various multi-sensory workshops for adults, families and children at reasonable prices and if you lose track of time, cap the night with dinner at the panoramic Restaurant Le 7 -- as predicted, the sommeliers there have deep knowledge of food and wine pairings and can give you spot-on recommendations.

    La Cité du Vin has become a highlight for visitors and in the short time it's been open, it has welcomed its 130,000 visitor (as of September 2016). And if that's not enough to have you pack your bags and fly to wine city, Bordeaux has also recently been named the number one city to visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet.

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    Lively and Young City

    Along with its physical transformation, Bordeaux is also welcoming a natural cultural shift with new trends and a liveliness felt throughout the city -- a boon for tourism. Bordeaux is a young city with one-third of the city's population under 25 years old and with many student facilities (two universities, 10 business schools, eight engineering schools and one political studies institute), it's been an attractive choice for students.

    Bordeaux welcomes young people every year because of its strong cultural scene, its "art de vivre" and gastronomy, its outdoor cafes on every street (Bordeaux has the highest number of cafes and restaurants per capita in France), trendy bars, galleries, designer shopping (Rue Sainte-Catherine is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe) and its nightlife. Locals see it as a dynamic city with all the positive aspects of a capital like Paris, but less expensive -- and warmer, with 350 more hours of sunshine a year.

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    What's On Trend

    With the young come new ideas. If you're looking for trendy things to see and do on your visit to Bordeaux, start with the city's gastronomical revolution. Three Michelin-starred chefs -- Gordan Ramsay, Joël Rabuchon and Pierre Gagnaire -- have opened up restaurants in under a year. Surprisingly, the concept of wine bars in wine-centric Bordeaux was obsolete 10 years ago (the outlier chateaux is where you went) -- now modern wine bars such as La Ligne Rouge and Garopapilles are spotted all over the city and are the places to sip.

    For art aficionados, head to the CAPC - Musée d'art Contemporain, for intriguing contemporary art exhibitions located inside a historical warehouse, then walk over to Rue Notre Dame to shop at independent artisan boutiques with a vintage touch.

    With Bordeaux attracting more young people, it's also embracing the sharing economy, stimulating and encouraging the creation of alternative spaces such as the Darwin eco-quarter which features an urban farm, a skate park, spaces for graffiti artists, co-working spaces, a wellness centre and more.

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    How to Get There

    Bordeaux is only a one hour, 10 minute flight from Paris with Air France. A bonus? Air France fares allow for free stopovers, either on the inbound or outbound flight, allowing you to visit two destinations on the same journey.

    Tourist Information

    For trip planning help, visit: Atout France - ca.france.fr; Aquitane Tourism - tourisme-aquitane.fr; Bordeaux Tourism - bordeaux-tourism.co.uk.

    City on the Move

    It's an exciting time to visit Bordeaux -- with revitalization boosting its tourism, a new architectural wonder spotlighting world wines and a young demographic bringing in a trendy vibe, Bordeaux seems to be a city on the rise.

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    Exotic escapes don't have to be expensive. While lounging on a tropical beach in the Philippines or discovering the ancient Pyramids of Giza sound like excursions that will burn a hole in your pocket, you'll be wowed by how far your Canadian dollar can go in such sought-after travel destinations.

    Since 2015, the Canadian dollar has appreciated by an average of 19 per cent, while flight prices have dropped by roughly 20 per cent. Combine the lower airfares with destinations that offer more bang for your Canadian dollar, and you can escape to some of the world's most exotic travel destinations for the price you typically pay for a getaway much closer to home.

    These three fascinating destinations are ones you should consider if you're seeking life-changing culture and picture-perfect scenery on a budget this winter.

    Palawan, Philippines
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    Photo credit: Zaldy Camerino

    It's no wonder Palawan was praised as the World's Best Island in Travel and Leisure's World's Best Awards. But you may find it more difficult to believe this naturally stunning island is far from over-traveled. Turquoise ocean waters, reefs ripe for snorkeling and scuba diving, an iconic five-mile-long underground river, photogenic fishing boats, and towering rock caverns turn this northern Philippines archipelago into a getaway destination that will be impossible to forget.

    Last year, a week-long trip to Palawan costed $1,757.65, but that same trip can be purchased this year for just $1,433.46. A coconut is calling your name.

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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    Photo credit: Paul Arps

    You may know a handful of people who have been to Bangkok, but fewer have been to the alluring, and far more rugged, Southeast Asian Ho Chi Minh City. Located in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City oozes culture through markets, museums, street stalls, chaotic roadways, and buildings that reflect the city's history while anticipating its future. Stare up at towering skyscrapers, duck into a temple, dine at world-class eateries, or grab meat-on-a-stick from a street vendor -- this city urges you to experience the Southeast Asia of yesterday.

    Many travelers know that Southeast Asia is a characteristically affordable travel region, but the cost of a week-long escape to Ho Chi Minh City has dropped more than 17 per cent compared to last year. Now is the time to go.

    Cairo, Egypt
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    Photo credit: David Stanley

    Egypt is a dream destination for history buffs, photographers, foodies, and anyone in search of the world's most iconic historical sites. As the country's capital, Cairo sits at the heart of it all. With roots in Ancient Egypt (the Great Pyramid at Giza is less than 30 minutes away) and a clearly modern metropolitan area that's the largest in the Middle East, you won't find yourself wishing you traveled anywhere else when you visit Cairo. And you certainly won't regret your trip to this iconic Egyptian city when you realize you're saving more than 30 per cent on your trip by going this year instead of last.

    Also on HuffPost:Exotic escapes don't have to be expensive. While lounging on a tropical beach in the Philippines or discovering the ancient Pyramids of Giza sound like excursions that will burn a hole in your pocket, you'll be wowed by how far your Canadian dollar can go in such sought-after travel destinations.

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    Canadians are no strangers to outrageous winter adventures. They're used to playing ice hockey on frozen lakes, skiing down steeps in chest-deep powder, and soaring downhill on plastic saucers.

    However, many Canadians and travellers from around the world are missing out on some of the most thrilling winter adventures that can be had in the Great White North. These four insane winter experiences are just a handful of the bucket-list-worthy, snow-based thrills you can find on a trip to Canada this winter.

    Ice Road to Tuktoyaktuk -- Whitehorse, Yukon

    Most people try to steer clear of snow and ice covered roads during the winter months, but that's not the case in Canada's Yukon Territory. The world-famous, ultra challenging ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, Yukon, can only be travelled for a few months each year, when the Mackenzie River Delta freezes and is turned into an icy, river-top road.

    Arctic Range Adventure has been praised for its Arctic Winter Explorer tours, which take travellers on an overland adventure along snow-covered roads from the Pacific to the Arctic. In addition to seeing some of the country's wildest scenery, visitors get the rare opportunity to cruise along the famed ice road to the Inuit village of Tuktoyaktuk.

    Tundra Lodge Polar Bear Adventure -- Churchill, Manitoba

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    Photo credit: RichardBH

    Once you've experienced the Tundra Lodge, you may never want to stay in a traditional hotel again. The Tundra Lodge Polar Bear Adventure by Natural Habitat Adventures allows you to stay in a cozy, mobile hotel placed in the subarctic tundra outside of Churchill, Manitoba. The private cabins offer large windows and observation decks for admiring the area's iconic polar bears, arctic fox, hare, caribou, and snowy owls in their natural habitats.

    In addition to wildlife watching from the hotel, guests enjoy daily Polar Rover excursions to the shores of the Hudson Bay in search of even more breathtaking wildlife.

    Winter Storm Watching in Tofino -- Tofino, British Columbia

    Many iconic Canadian winter adventures don't require tours or guides. But you will want to pack your heaviest jacket and boots for winter storm watching on Vancouver Island's Pacific Coast. Tofino's famously rugged coastal scenery provides a much different feel in winter than during the sun and sand-filled days of summer.

    Winter is when the biggest swells and fiercest winds lash the Tofino area's beaches, and there's no better place to experience them than from the comfort of a cozy seaside hotel. In fact, winter storm watching from the famed Wickaninnish Inn was named a Canadian Signature Experience by the Canadian Tourism Commission in 2011.

    Floe Edge Ski and Kayak Expeditions -- Pond Inlet, Nunavut

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    Photo credit: jdanchaomian

    The best way to find an authentic Canadian winter experience is to travel to the country's northernmost territory of Nunavut. Intrepid travellers can kayak among icebergs, admire rare arctic wildlife, and ski amongst some of the country's most rugged scenery with the Black Feather wilderness adventure company.

    The company uses their Floe Edge base camp, on the sea ice off the coast of Baffin Island, as an otherworldly home base for ice, snow, and sea-based winter adventures. Once you experience the beauty of Canada's Arctic region, you'll never wish the cold weather away again.

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    Morocco is a curious traveller's dream. Bordering Spain to the north and Algeria to the east, this is a country of many cultural influences. Bustling marketplaces in cities like Marrakech and Fez offer a glimpse of the real-life Arabian nights: handwoven carpets hang on the walls of narrow alleyways and colorful spices sit in big, cane baskets on the stone path below.

    As you follow the aroma of spicy kebabs and vegetable tagines ahead, you can't escape the vendors selling handicrafts who ask you to stop for a peek into their shops. The souks in these old cities surely excites the senses, but there is more to Morocco than what's found in these commonly-travelled areas.

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    Bhalil is a small town about 30 kilometres southeast of Fez. With a population of just 17,000 it's largely unknown to tourists and offers a more authentic view of Moroccan culture. Here are five reasons I recommend adding it to your list of Moroccan destinations:

    1. THE CAVES

    Bhalil's most unique attraction is its more than 500 caves -- the majority of which are used as storage spaces for sheep and cattle. Though, there are about 100 caves that families actually live in!

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    Once each year, those people remove all of their belongings from inside the cave and paint the entire interior with a fresh coat of limestone.

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    Kacem, his wife, and their five children live in one of those caves.

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    2. THE GUIDE

    Dar KamalChaoui is the only guesthouse inside Bhalil's old city. It's a quaint 4-bedroom place, with a beautiful terrace overlooking the town. The owner, Kamal, is very proud of where he calls home. Twenty dollars will get you a guided tour, where you can learn the history of Bhalil and meet the locals.

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    You'll get introduced to people like Latef Abdallaoui, who is a carpenter and has lived in Bhalil for nearly a decade.

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    Much of the furniture inside Dar KamalChaoui was made by Latef. He works in this 6th century cave, where he also collects antiques.

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    3. THE MOUNTAINS

    Found in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Bhalil is the perfect place to begin a trek into the range.

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    Kamal led our nearly 7-hour hike, and along the way we met families who reside in the Atlas Mountains. Many of them live off the land and are happy to offer you mint tea and share their stories through Kamal's translations. For me, this was the most moving experience of our entire trip to Morocco.

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    About half-way through our trek, we stopped to have a picnic at Fatima's home in the mountains.

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    Children who grow up in the mountains often aren't able to get an education. It's too long a journey to hike back and forth each day, so some who have family in Bhalil, attend classes and stay in town with them. Fatima's 12-year-old daughter, Assiya, spends her days as a shepherd in the mountains. She is beautiful and strong and stole my heart.

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    4. THE FOOD

    There are a few shops in Bhalil but no restaurants -- at least none that I'm told are safe for tourists to eat at. The best place to eat is at Kamal's guesthouse, where his cook Naima prepares traditional Moroccan meals like tagines and couscous. Olives, almonds and wheat are harvested nearby and incorporated into many dishes.

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    5. THE LOCALS

    The most fascinating part of Bhalil is the people! Most speak their own dialect of Arabic, but some are able to speak French. Women in Bhalil tend to get married young and spend their days making djellaba buttons. Djellabas are a traditional North African garment -- it looks a lot like a loose-fitting robe with full sleeves.

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    Most men work in agriculture or they are bricklayers. Since schools in this small town are overcrowded, you'll find lots of children hanging out in alleyways, playing with their friends.
    Compared to kids in bigger Moroccan cities, most here are happy to chat with tourists and be photographed.

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