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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Celebrated world traveler, Robin Esrock encourages you to explore your backyard, whether it is in Canada or anywhere in the world. In his new book, The Great Global Bucket List, Robin lists One-Of-A-Kind Travel experiences that anyone can do.

    If you live in British Columbia, or just anywhere in Canada, you don't have to go very far from home to take in some of the greatest natural sights the world as to offer.

    Canada is a natural theme park. It hosts endless mountaintop vistas, dark skies perfect for stargazing, and beautiful waterfalls. Canada's natural wonders are scattered across each province and are usually just a couple of hours away.

    The Sea-to-Sky Highway

    Living in BC is just proof that Canada hosts some of the most spectacular views. One of my favorite day trips is going to Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The Sea-to-Sky is a ribbon of road between Vancouver and Whistler. All along the way are long ocean views with jagged mountains floating above the water's surface. You'll drive through thick forest, evocative historic sites, and some of the best outdoor adventures waiting for you to explore.


    One of my favorite stops is the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish. The gondola whisks you up high into the alpine to see a whole new landscape of BC's mountains views and endless ocean. The gondola is almost 3,999 feet from sea level and offers sweeping views of Howe Sound, Shannon Falls, Stawamus Chief and the other surrounding peaks. Once on the top, you can go on a deck which goes over a sheer drop and try walking on the 100 meter-long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.


    The Sea-to-Sky highway is littered with incredible hiking trails and majestic waterfalls. The trails to Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls are relatively easy and can take anywhere between 5 to 25 minutes.

    The Sea-to-Sky is also rich with history that comes alive at the Britannia Mine Museum, a National Historic Site south of Squamish. Here you can step back in time to see what life was like when Britannia was a mining town.

    A trip to Whistler is just one of the many things you explore. The key to an adventure though is to find a Bucket List approved experience.

    Where Did The Bucket List Challenge Come From?

    Ten years ago, Robin Esrock left his career to travel the globe in search of one-of-a-kind, bucket list worthy experiences. He documented his findings by creating a travel blog. This blog soon became a travel column and grew into popular travel shows and multiple book deals. Flash forward to the present and Robin has visited over 100 countries and seven continents. Robin's newest book The Great Global Bucket List has 400 pages that are filled with unique experiences that you won't find in any other travel book. Each one of these experiences deserves to be on a bucket list.


    The amount of things Robin Esrock has seen is mind-blowing and eye-opening. The Global Bucket List book covers everywhere from far-flung places as Nicaragua and Mongolia to more common locations like Paris and Thailand. Robin has seen it all.

    Robin Esrock has proved that modern travel is more than over-trafficked tourist attractions by sharing unique adventures, fascinating histories, cultural spectacles and unforgettable in his new book.

    What Makes A Bucket List Experience?

    According to Robin Esrock, a Bucket List experience is something that you will never forget. If you can answer 'yes' to these four questions, then you have a Bucket List experience on your hands.

    • Is it unique in the world?
    • Will you remember it the rest of your life?
    • Is it something everyone can actually do?
    • Will it make a great story?

    If you wish to talk bucket lists, Robin Esrock is your man. There are very few countries in our vast world that Robin has not set foot in.

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    I am traveling more and more these days and I love it! But it is a challenge to maintain the same healthy eating patterns (and exercise) when I am traveling.

    Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Kim McDevitt, MPH, RD who works at Vega as a National Educator. Kim shared with me easy and practical tips that will keep your healthy habits on track during your travels.

    View from my room - recent trip to Miami

    What are the top tips for eating healthy while travelling?

    It can be tricky (and tempting!) to stick to your normal eating routine and daily dietary habits when traveling. The first thing to remember is to stay hydrated and reach for water wherever you go! It's super easy to forget to drink water while we're rushing to our destination not to mention the dry airplane air that you'll find if you're flying.

    Water helps everything run smoothly in our body and is especially important for when you're away from home. I also never leave home without some "emergency" snacks. You never know what might happen or what your choices will be (airport delay, traffic, etc.) so I love to have a piece of fruit, some raw nuts and seeds, a nut butter packet and/or a bar in my bag that I can reach for at any time.

    Finally, when arriving at your destination do a quick Google search or ask at your hotel for restaurants, smoothie bars, coffee shops and more that are specific to what you're looking for. I personally love asking for some good local spots, which usually offer fresh and local ingredients and food that might be particular to the place you're visiting.

    What can you do if you have dietary restrictions?

    If you avoid ingredients such as dairy, gluten or soy, you likely already know to plan ahead! Despite more and more food options being free from these ingredients skip the stress of spending time in the airport, at rest stops, etc. hunting and gathering for foods that fit your requirements.

    Instead, pack your own! It's so easy to take 5 minutes (probably less) to toss an apple or banana into your bag and to grab a few bars that you know are both good and work for you.

    Can you ask for room service with modified meals?

    Whether you're eating in your room (getting room service) or you're out at a restaurant I am a big believer that you should never be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for modifications to your order.

    Of course if you're not at a specialized restaurant it is possible they may not be able to accommodate your every request (do some research before you head out the door if you know you've got some non-negotiable restrictions) but more times than not they should be able to accommodate your request.

    Is it a good idea to email the hotel before you leave to ask about healthy eating options?

    If you are the type of person who has dietary restrictions or allergies such as gluten-free or vegan you may want to do some research before heading to your destination. One option could be to contact the hotel concierge and see if they can suggest restaurants or grocery stores in the area that would fit your needs.

    Today there are also really great website and apps (such as Yelp, OpenTable or TripAdvisor) that you can search for restaurants and stores that meet your needs. Or put out a call on your social sites asking if anyone has been to your destination and can offer suggestions!

    What are snack suggestions for jet lag?

    Exhaustion, like stress, can quickly manifest
    into poor eating choices. If you've taken the red eye or just had a really hideous day-long airport experience it works in your favor to choose nutrient dense foods. This is the time where I really try and choose a smoothie or green juice or nutritional shake.

    Any of these options not only help to hydrate you (definitely needed after flying!) but also give you vitamins and minerals. Smoothies can add to that list protein as well as good fats (depending on add-ins you choose such as a plant-based protein or nut butter), both of which can help keep you full.

    Top tips to avoid overindulging when away on holidays?

    Between the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, combined with the increase in celebration, we often see an over indulgence in food followed by a New Year's resolution to eat better and lose weight. My number one tip to try and not overdo it at every holiday gathering is to stay present - and mindful - of your choices.

    Mindfulness is all about just being present in the moment. Being more aware of our surroundings, even if those surroundings are noisy and chaotic! When we are mindful we can channel that into all of the decisions we make during the day, such as our food choices. It's not about deprivation and restriction, especially not during this celebratory time of year.

    More so, it's about continuing to pay attention to hunger cues - eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full - being aware of your choices and your portions, and just simply surrounding yourself with good company, quality conversation, and a satisfying yet proportionate amount to food.

    I love travelling healthy! Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to live life to the fullest. Let's have the very best 2016!

    Visit Sacha daily at

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    Winter is unlike any other time of year in Quebec City. Cobblestone streets are lined with freshly-shoveled snow, 17th-century buildings drip with icicles, and seasonal events and attractions welcome those who aren't afraid to travel north once the temperatures drop. These four reasons to visit Quebec City this winter prove those who only visit in the warmer months are missing out.

    Embrace Winter at the Quebec Winter Carnival

    Photo credit: Ivailo Dochkov

    The Quebec Winter Carnival encourages locals and visitors to stop loathing the winter months and start embracing them. Thousands of visitors travel to the anticipated Quebec Winter Carnival every year in search of exciting snow-based activities, warm winter eats, and so much more. The carnival takes place across the city with a main site at the Plains of Abraham in Battlefields Park. Visitors can admire snow sculptures, take sleigh rides, ice skate, attend night parades, cheer for ice canoe racers, play giant foosball, and take part in a long list of activities that can only be enjoyed in the snow and chilly temperatures of winter.

    Sleep in an Ice Hotel

    Quebec City is home to North America's only ice hotel -- the Hôtel de Glace. This architectural wonder is made entirely of snow and ice, providing the ultimate place for a wintry retreat. The hotel includes an ice slide, a chapel, the famed Great Hall, and of course, the Ice Bar, which serves tasty seasonal cocktails in glasses made of ice. Stay surprisingly toasty in the comfort of a fascinating igloo-like room or splurge on the premium arctic spa suite with fireplace. And when you're ready for an adventure, you can head to the Valcartier Vacation Village Winter Playground to sled, ice skate, snow raft, and try a number of other snowy activities.

    Spend More Time Outside

    Photo credit: Bill

    Canadians know better than to stay indoors when the snow starts to fall, but many don't know that getting outdoors doesn't mean heading far into the wilderness. Quebec City locals and visitors can get out on the snow at the largest research forest in the world, La Forêt Montmorency. The Boreal Glide, more than 2.5 kilometers of groomed track, opens on the last Friday of October and operates throughout the long winter season every year. It's the only cross-country skiing track to open this early, allowing Canadians and visitors from around the world more opportunities to embrace the outdoors this winter. Once the natural snow arrives, the forest becomes even more welcoming, with 57 kilometers of cross-country skiing terrain for all levels of adventurers.

    Experience One-of-a-Kind Attractions

    Some of Quebec City's winter experiences can't be had anywhere else in the world, and one of them is tobogganing at the Dufferin Terrace Slides. This more than 100-year-old structure, located next to the Château Frontenac, is arguably the oldest attraction in the city. When Mother Nature cooperates, visitors can soar down one of three ice-covered slides at speeds of up to 70 kilometers-per-hour. Four passengers can pile onto a single toboggan, making a visit to the Dufferin Terrace Slides a must-try winter activity for families and thrill-seekers of all ages.

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    Note: Airfare provided by Air France. Accommodation and activities arranged courtesy of Atout France, Aquitaine and Saint-Emilion Tourism. Tours of the art galleries were not arranged - I explored them solo.

    With its old-world architecture, Romanesque churches, limestone ruins, underground caves, steep and narrow cobbled streets, Saint-Émilion is a picturesque medieval French village surrounded by vineyard landscapes and world-renowned châteaux. It's a surprising treat and an ideal starting point for travellers looking for a cultural escape in the heart of Bordeaux wine country.

    Saint-Émilion's famous Monolithic Church was built between the 12th and 15th centuries.

    Steeped in history and protected by UNESCO as a "cultural landscape," visiting Saint-Émilion is like stepping back in time. The vineyards were first planted by the Romans in 2nd century AD; its founder was an 8th century monk named Émilion; and since the middle ages, Saint-Émilion has been a pilgrimage site.

    My recent visit to this cultural gem built on a hill had me meandering down its pretty lanes and up its cobbled inclines discovering art, culture and history at every turn.

    View of the village and vineyards from the Monolithic Church.

    Where Contemporary Art & Wine Blend Together
    Paris may be home to the Louvre, but small villages like Saint-Émilion is where under-the-radar artists, artisans and galleries are unveiled. Due to its location and its environment, Saint-Émilion has always been an attractive place for artists, but it's only been a couple of years where many new galleries have opened in the village.

    Exploring up and down the narrow, cobbled lanes in Saint-Émilion, I stumble upon artisans in La Cours des Arts on Rue de la Grande Fontaine. With its open space and vibrant, bold paintings, the studio of artist Emmanuel Macouin catches my eye. Sitting at a table surrounded by acrylic paints, Emmanuel works diligently on his paintings as visitors pop in and out of his studio.

    "I consider myself a colourist who loves roundness; I like the perfection of a circle," he says, describing his work. "I also try to put life, cheerfulness and a little humour [in my paintings]." For Emmanuel, making his art accessible is important. With visitors coming from around the world, Emmanuel's paintings range in price from budget-friendly €50 all the way to €2500; he can also ship his paintings worldwide.

    Visitors can drop in to see Emmanuel Macouin working in his studio.

    Close to Emmanuel's studio, I discover the gallery of Maurice Barbette, a contemporary sculptor who transforms steel and wood materials into creative, fun characters. Many of his works are inspired by Saint-Émilion's wine-making region. His collections Douelle'men and Hangover are unique examples of how to use staves of wine barrels to make contemporary art.

    "My Douelle'men represent the hidden side of the barrels. When you open a bottle of wine, you can't imagine the number of people involved in delighting your palate. I pay homage through my Douelle'men to these men and women who work hard on a daily basis in the vineyards," he says.

    "On the other hand, for those who exploit the know-how of the winemakers, I pay tribute to them with my new collection called Hangover - always made from wine barrel staves, but without stainless steel this time," he adds. Maurice's Hangover series are €90 and his Douelle'men are €450. He creates all sorts of artworks and also ships worldwide.

    For Maurice, choosing to settle in Saint-Émilion was a natural fit. "My artwork made from casks of barrels fit perfectly with the terroir and its wine culture."

    Douelle'men by artist Maurice Barbette.

    To discover artists and artisans at your own pace, the Saint-Émilion tourism office also offers a map for a self-guided art tour.

    A Bed & Breakfast with 16th Century Roots
    Owned by friendly Dutch expats Arnoud Rietman and his wife Mariese de Monchy, Logis des Jurats is the bed and breakfast where I stayed for a night. Arnoud and Mariese also own a wine travel agency and it was a natural fit for them to purchase their own B&B.

    Logis des Jurats contains three apartments in three houses all next to each other on a cute, quiet cobbled street very close to the main square. Not only does the village itself have history, but so do many of the lodgings. The large house is from the 16th century and the smaller house next door is from the 19th century.

    "In the house, you see many traces of its history like former passages and openings that have been refilled again," says Arnoud. "When we bought the houses there were still wine-making facilities in the back, like big vats and other small tools for harvesting and winemaking."

    For Arnoud, settling in Saint-Émilion was the right choice. "It's by far the most interesting and charming due to its combination of architecture and history, together with the most famous and prestigious châteaus of the world. The good thing is, except maybe for July and August, you can still walk around and enjoy it without the mass tourism that often spoils the experience."

    Logis des Jurats located on a quiet, cobbled street.

    Wine Estates Passed Down from Family to Family
    A visit to Saint-Émilion is incomplete without a wine tour. Pair your visit to the village with a trip to Château Troplong Mondot, a winery with history dating back to the 18th century. It's perched on a hill overlooking the village and with its 33 hectares is one of the biggest estates in the appellation of Saint-Émilion. If budget allows, stay for lunch at the estate's restaurant, Les Belles Perdrix de Troplong Mondot, a top-notch one Michelin star restaurant with a flawlessly executed menu that honours the vineyard.

    Saint Émilion is where you come for the wine - and stay for the culture.

    Chateau Troplong Mondot vineyards.

    How to Get There
    Fly to Bordeaux via Paris with Air France and take advantage of a free stopover either on the inbound or outbound flight. From Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion is less than an hour drive away.

    Tourist Information
    For trip planning help, visit: Atout France -; Aquitane Tourism -; Saint-Emilion Tourism -

    Photos: Desi Globetrotter

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    Lino Oliveira has been running his restaurant in downtown Edmonton since 2008 and says he has never seen as many patrons as he has this fall. Sabor, which specializes in Mediterranean dishes and seafood, served more than 250 diners one weekend night in October, a culinary feat for a restaurant that seats about 120 people.

    The change is stark and dramatic in a city whose downtown core has struggled for vitality. Those fortunes changed on September 8 -- when Edmonton's sensational $480-million arena opened -- and the newfound wealth of customers, foot traffic and enthusiasm only appears to be beginning.

    On top of that good stuff is a first-place team. The Edmonton Oilers are lighting up the NHL and when their fans merrily depart Rogers Place, the team's new home, they brighten the mood of Alberta's capital city. These days, Edmonton indeed has many reasons to feel like a champion.

    "We have been packed on game nights. I've never seen anything like it. We almost couldn't keep up," Oliveira says of one of the early days in the 2016-17 Oilers' season. "There were 20,000 people walking by on game night, heading to the arena. They stopped traffic on the street, so everyone was on foot. It was something else to see. We are busier than we've ever been."

    It's palpable, the energy that's building up.

    While there had been discussion for years about relocating the Oilers from the north side, about 10 kilometres (6.5 miles) away from downtown, to the heart of Edmonton, no small-business owner could ever bank on the shift ever occurring. Now that the move has been made, downtown is filling up with people and businesses, including more places to eat. Daniel Costa, one of the city's most well-regarded culinary talents, recently launched a third establishment on Jasper Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Edmonton. Uccellino is a vibrant, contemporary Italian restaurant that wouldn't look out of place in Toronto's hip West Queen West district. It is a casual option to Costa's high-end Corso 32, which is two doors down, and next to his other restaurant on the block, the popular Bar Bricco.

    While Costa's businesses and Sabor are getting more attention, the street with the most activity before an Oilers' game is destined to be 104 Street, which is across from the arena. Rostizado, a Mexican restaurant, has launched an $18 burrito-and-beer special for fans marching toward the gates. There's also a $12 take-out option at the restaurant's burrito stand, which it calls La Mision.

    Daniel Braun, one of the co-owners of Rostizado and its sister restaurant, Tres Canales, says the changes in Edmonton's downtown have been taking place for several years and calls the opening of Rogers Place "the cherry on top of the cake" of that progress.

    "We've been one of those businesses that have been committed to bringing the spark back to downtown. I think the change that's taking place started reaching critical mass six or seven years ago, when people just really wanted something fresh and different in where they live and what they can eat," says Braun, who is of German and Mexican descent. He moved from Mexico, where he was working in the restaurant industry, to Edmonton in 2001 after marrying a Canadian woman. When once he needed to get into his car to dine out or go on a shopping trip, his life "is now in a six-block radius and I don't drive hardly anymore."

    Braun anticipates the dynamic of downtown life only becoming more exciting.

    "It's palpable, the energy that's building up," he says. "In two to three years, you can see we will have the downtown Edmonton always wanted."

    The Ice District promises to be the main anchor that pulls residents and visitors back to downtown.

    The population shift is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years. Rogers Place is only the beginning of an ambitious 25-acre plan called the Ice District, which will include public sports facilities and an entertainment complex, as well as a JW Marriott hotel and a 67-storey office tower that will be the tallest in Canada outside of Toronto.

    The Ice District promises to be the main anchor that pulls residents and visitors back to downtown, seizing them away from the massive West Edmonton Mall, which features a mind-boggling 3.8 million square feet of retail space and more than 20,000 parking spots.

    The largest shopping mall in North America is a 20-minute drive from Rogers Place and a generation away from what is now relevant to consumers and travellers. Several people I spoke to during my visit to Edmonton cited the mall, which opened in 1981, as the reason for the sinking of the city's downtown.

    All of a sudden, though, like the hockey team that calls it home, Edmonton is on the rise again -- in a big way. No other city in Canada is currently going through a build up such as Edmonton, and when it's complete the Ice District will be the catalyst that attracts more tourism business, including conferences and major sporting events, perhaps even a Winter Olympics.

    "I've lived in Edmonton my whole life and the city has never had this kind of buzz," says Tim Shipton, the vice president of communications for the Oilers Entertainment Group, owners of Rogers Place and the land on which the Ice District will be built. "We are in the midst of transforming the downtown of the city for the better and that's very exciting to be a part of."

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    Holiday shopping is always a challenge, and shopping for frequent travellers can be even more difficult. If we've seen one list of "travel gifts," we've seen them all, amirite? How many monogrammed travel pouches, passport covers and decorative globes does one person need? Sure, it's the thought that counts, but why not combine thoughtful with genuinely useful this holiday season? has compiled a list of travel gear that will make great gifts for the frequent flier in your life -- from tech-savvy stocking stuffers, to can't-believe-we-didn't-think-of-that travel gadgets, to a few big ticket items that every traveller should own. And to make sure we covered all our bases, we consulted some globetrotting travel bloggers on the products they love and the ones they'd love to receive to bring you a list of gifts that real travellers will actually use. And, to avoid all the hassle of Black Friday, these gifts are all available online right now. All prices listed are Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated. Happy shopping!

    The perfect carry-on luggage:

    Tough and tech-savvy
    Image: Away

    That perfect carry-on is hard to find. Either it's too big, too small, too difficult to organize or too uncomfortable to lug around the airport. The Away carry-on is perfectly sized and boasts an impenetrable shell, features compartments for all your stuff and offers a built-in battery to conveniently charge your USB devices. Tessa Juliette from Where To Next? is a huge fan of this sturdy, multi-tasking carry-on: "It's durable, spacious and the exact dimensions for every airline's carry-on allowance.

    The best thing about it, and also the biggest time saver at the airport, is the charging ports that are on the luggage itself. That means I can grab food without having to worry about finding a plug before or after my flight. Serious piece of mind." While the price tag on this carry-on is a little steep (just under $370 with shipping), it may be a worthwhile investment. As Juliette shares: "Even if you're an occasional traveller it pays off in so many ways."

    Durable and affordable
    Image: Paul Marshman

    Another carry-on to consider with a bit of a lower price tag is Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20″ Molded Upright Spinner. It's lightweight and sturdy with a retractable handle and multi-directional wheels and comes in a variety of fun colours. And, costing less than $100, this carry-on is durable and affordable.

    For Paul Marshman of The Travelling Boomer, this carry-on is a must: "I find I can fit in enough clothes for a whole week, with special compartments for shoes and toiletries. And if I buy things on my trip, the case expands about an inch to accommodate the extra volume. Some people like the soft-sided cases, but I prefer the hard because it protects the contents better -- I could even put a camera lens in there."

    Packing made easy:

    Keeping it together
    Image: Demi Hugger

    You know that feeling when you're juggling a rolling suitcase, a shoulder bag and a laptop bag, diaper bag or purse through the airport? Everyone's done it, and everyone's watched other people do it. Save your loved ones the trouble by gifting them the Demi Hugger. It's a strong neoprene strap that attaches to the handle of your rolling suitcase, keeping other bags placed atop it secure. For less than $55 including shipping, travellers can avoid inconveniently juggling luggage through the airport terminal.

    According to Tracey Nesbitt of Solo Traveler, this "new type of luggage strap is completely adjustable and attaches items snugly to your suitcase handle. I'm usually travelling with a laptop, and in colder months, a coat, and I need to have my hands free for my boarding pass, phone, coffee, etc. when maneuvering through the airport. This product makes my travel life a little bit easier."

    Go-to gadget organizer
    Image: Cocoon Innovations

    Even the least digitally savvy among us travel with a number of devices. From phones to tablets and e-readers to laptops, it can be hard to keep track of all the chargers, adapters, headphones and other easy-to-lose items. The Cocoon Grid-it comes in a variety of sizes, with options specially crafted for different tablet and laptop sizes. Prices vary but start around $16, not including added charges for shipping to Canada.

    Keep all your gadgets organized and accessible, with cords untangled and headphones and other small items easy to find. Matilda Geroulis of The Travel Sisters swears by this organizational must-have: "Most people travel with a large number of electronics and accessories. This electronics organizer keeps all your digital devices and accessories organized and readily available."

    Multitasking clothing:

    Change of Clothes
    Image: Encircled

    Travellers are always looking for ways to pack less without sacrificing style. The Chrysalis Cardi does just that. It is one item that can be worn eight-plus ways, including as an infinity scarf, wrap dress, cardigan, poncho, beach cover-up and airplane blanket. Made in Toronto, Canada from eco-friendly, Modal fabric, the soft multi-way travel garment costs $138 and is wrinkle-resistant and easy to transform -- hidden snaps along the hemline and a belt help facilitate the various looks.

    Smart outerwear
    Image: Scottevest

    The Scottevest RFID travel vest boasts a surprising number of hidden pockets given its tailored look. Carry everything you need on your person and feel safe from high-tech skimmers with an RFID-blocking pocket. Johnny Jet is "a huge fan of Scottevest [travel vests] because of their multiple hidden pockets. They not only keep my valuables safe but the jacket also acts as an extra carry-on. I use their products every time I travel." The vest starts around $135, plus international shipping charges, and comes in multiple colours with styles for men and women.

    Go here to find more than a dozen other ideas is these categories and others such as "mats and towels with purpose," "airplane necessities," "kid-friendly gear" and "travel pillows 2.0."

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  • 12/02/16--03:24: L.A.'s Best Hikes
  • Hiking is known as one of Los Angeles's most popular outdoor activities - and for good reason. With some of North America's most scenic views and an abundance of natural beauty, any one of L.A.'s numerous trails are the perfect place to lace up and set out on an adventure.

    We've compiled some of the best hiking routes across the metropolis for beginners, intermediates, and pros to explore the Los Angeles wild. So, grab your gear, some H2O and your best hiking pal and head out on an adventure across the Southern California terrain.

    Hikes for Beginners
    O'Melveny Park | Photo by Joshua Lurie

    O'Melveny Park
    Distance: 3.1 miles
    Route: Loop

    Ideal for a 'drive and hike', pull into the spacious lot, park and get started on the concrete path just past a picnic area. At the sign for O'Melveny Trail/Equestrian Trail, take a right down a dirt fire road and begin your trail. Climb switchbacks to see rugged rock faces until you reach the breathtaking plateau that overlooks the residential San Fernando Valley, a reservoir and mountains.

    Runyon Canyon | Photo by Joshua Lurie

    Runyon Canyon Park
    Distance: 3.0 miles
    Route: Out And Back

    Start at the north end of Fuller Avenue, through a gate with butterfly design, hang a quick left and then a right, past palms, to start your concrete climb. To your right, people climb stairs on the next ridge, which is a tougher road. Eventually you'll reach houses, a cactus-framed Airstream trailer and the photo-op worthy Hollywood Sign before the trail lets out at a Mulholland Drive parking lot. This is where you can descend to the trail's start.

    Intermediate Hikes
    Murphy Ranch Power House | Photo by Joshua Lurie

    Rustic Canyon to Murphy Ranch
    Distance: 3.3 miles or more
    Route: Loop

    Before the hike even begins you'll have to descend 529 stairs to a dirt path lined with pines, and then pass through the graffiti-covered, fenced-off remains of Murphy Ranch. After exploring, begin your climb up the stairs to the paved road. As you go you'll encounter a fork in the road, take a hard right and pass a water tower to reach a stone-framed gate - pass through the hole in the stone to get back to the main paved road. To keep on the hike, take a left and pile on the miles, reaching more trailheads, or a summer camp called Camp Josepho. Finish your journey, and take a right to reach the beginning of your hike.

    The Old Zoo at Griffith Park | Photo by Joshua Lurie

    Bee Rock
    Distance: 4.0 miles
    Route: Loop

    Bee Rock is another perfect 'Park and Hike' spot, starting off with access to the lot in the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round lot. Begin your climb at the fire road that overlooks Wilson Golf Course then pass through an open fence to the remnants of the original L.A. Zoo (you'll want to have your camera ready). Walk through a gaping hole in a fence to a fork in a dirt road and take a right. Look up and you'll see a fenced-in lookout at the top of Bee Rock, your final destination. Begin to take a left to descend the trail passing a graffiti-lined path, rusted fence lookout and single-track dirt path.

    Difficult Hikes
    Hollywood Sign viewed from Mount Lee | Photo courtesy of pbuschmann, Flickr

    Mount Lee & The Hollywood Sign via Brush Canyon Trail
    Distance: 6.1 miles
    Format: Out And Back

    Although one of the longer more difficult hikes in L.A., it is also one of the most iconic. Pass Camp Hollywood Land as the concrete quickly turns to a dirt fire road that traces the hillside. At the 1.7-mile mark of your hike, take a right at the fork and begin your climb. Near the top, you'll meet white fence, views of the Griffith Park back country and the Forest Lawn Cemetery. Corkscrew around to the south side of the mountain to see Lake Hollywood Reservoir - another photo worthy view - and dead end at radio towers. Look down to see the Hollywood Sign and panoramic views of L.A., then reverse for a mainly downhill hike to the parking lot.

    Rocky Peak Park at sunset | Photo courtesy of Kevin Dinkel, Flickr

    Rocky Peak
    Distance: 4.75 miles
    Format: Out And Back

    This boulder-lined path should be taken only by equipped and experienced hikers. Views are minimal on this trail, unless you crave glances of Simi Valley and the occasional bird, but the challenge and final destination is worth it. A dirt road rises precipitously, passing big rocks with tufts of brush to reach the peak, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding Santa Susana Mountains, San Fernando Valley, and distant Santa Monica Mountains. Double back to your car to complete a short but strenuous hike.

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    Canadians are really eager to get their hands on a pass to a national park.

    Parks Canada is handing out free 2017 Discovery passes to mark the country's 150th anniversary. The passes will be available for the entire year, but nature lovers were so ready to jump on the offer, that they crashed Parks Canada's website over the weekend.

    "We are thrilled that so many of you are excited for Canada150 and the free souvenir 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass," the organization posted on Facebook.

    "We wish to remind those who are trying to order their pass online that this is not a limited time offer and encourage you to come back and try again later."

    canada national park
    Admission to all of Canada's national parks will be free in 2017. (Photo: Gibsonpictures)

    The organization's website was still down as of Sunday morning. Beginning on January 1, passes will also be available at park entry gates and visitor centres, as well as at Parks Canada partners like Mountain Equipment Co-op.

    An annual adult pass to all of Canada's national parks usually costs $67.70 or $9.80 for a single day pass.

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  • 12/05/16--05:10: An Insider's Guide To Capri
  • 2016-11-11-1478830769-7531339-Capri.jpg

    Capri, the blue island, is a Mediterranean magnet for celebrities, jet setters and global nomads alike. It's inhabitants are Caprese first and Italians second. Everything about Capri's lifestyle and pace reinforce it's unique beauty and appeal to such a well-travelled tourist. On a recent jaunt to the tiny island, i met a unicorn. A beautiful Caprese -- Anna Chiara Della Corte -- born in the town of Capri, "on the south side by Marina Piccola, the little bay from where you can see Farraglioni Rocks."

    I compare her to a mythical creature because meeting someone raised in this particular paradise, is a unique and rare happenstance. As any self-respecting tourist and travel writer would do, I took it upon myself to pepper her with questions. The result is this carefully crafted insider's guide to Capri. You're welcome!

    Best views on the island?
    Pizzolungo, the footpath which hugs the southern coast of the island, offers a succession of quite amazing views of the sea, the Sorrentine peninsula and the Faraglioni.

    Most romantic spot for a picnic?
    Cetrella, near Monte Solaro, the hightest point on the island, a magical place, reachable by foot or by chairlift. Unparalleled views of the gulf of Naples.

    What are three things that every tourist must experience on the isle of Capri?
    1. A boat tour to explore the colourful sea caves
    2. Have a coffee or an aperitif in the Piazzetta and relax while watching the parade of people come and go (it truly is like out of a movie). Then walk through the little paths that lead to the historic centre of Capri (or Anacapri)..and just get lost!
    3. Discover the magnificent Villas of Capri where the Emperor Tiberius used to live more than 2 thousand years ago (Villa San Michele, Villa Jovis and Villa Damecuta)

    Tastiest gelato?
    Buonocore, especially for the waffle bowls. Or try the home-made ice-cream at L'Olivo. Best granita in town is at Bar Caso, in piazzetta (a little secret!) (Piazza Umberto I, 4 80073)

    Photo taken by author

    Best place for a casual lunch?
    Bistrot Ragù, on the terrace of the Capri Palace, traditional Mediterranean cuisine with mesmerizing views.
    In spring and autumn: Edivino, part home part restaurant with a bohemian atmosphere. They serve the best "pasta alla genovese" on the island and have a cozy garden for al fresco meals. You can even dine in a real bedroom while lounging on the bed.

    What and where to buy the best souvenirs?
    For sandals, Capritouch,
    For handcrafted treasures Eco Capri,
    For timeless classics (they just turned 110 this year!) La Parisienne,
    For the best knitwear in town, Le Farella,
    For the best Italian sportswear (the owner was the fist tailor of Capri).Laboratorio Capri

    Anacapri or Capri?
    Capri during the low season, Anacapri in high season, to avoid the crowd and chaos.

    Photo taken by author

    Favourite beach club?
    Da Luigi ai Faraglioni, for the location, you are just beside Faraglioni rocks, the sea is amazing and there is always a pleasant breeze.

    Romantic dinner?
    L'Olivo has the most impeccable service and food, you know you and your date will be well taken care of and pampered - nothing more romantic than this.
    Downtown Capri, I would suggest Villa Brunella, near belvedere Tragara.

    Favourite workout studio/class or where/how do you work up a good sweat?
    Put on your most comfortable footwear and go for a jog by belvedere la Migliera along the Via Migliera footpath. Discover the stunning coastal path that winds past Capri's ancient block houses, amidst vineyards and woodlands with views of the sea peeking through at every turn. You must swim at the lighthouse to refresh yourself and complete your workout.

    Where is the best place to grab an aperitivo with friends?
    Bar degli Artisti, at Capri Palace, they have more than 50 kinds of gin & tonic! And you are surrounded by beauty and artworks.

    Photo taken by author

    Best place for a celebratory dinner ?
    Il Riccio beach Club & restaurant, excellent service, sublime views and flavourful fresh food.

    Best bar for a dance party?
    Number One (for 70s and live music) Via V. Emanuele 55 and Number two ( disco-elettro), Via Camerelle, 1.

    Best coffee on the island?
    Piccolo Bar, in Capri square.

    Do you have any secret non-touristy places you love to go or things to do?
    Villa Lysis, once the residence of count Fersen, a stunning art nouveau style villa with breath-taking views and lots of cultural events ( readings-open-air theatre- exhibitions..) A real gem nestled in the rocks, on the north east side of the Island.

    Photo taken by author

    Where to cure your hangover?
    Try a croissant at Bar Alberto (by the Piazzetta), they start serving them from 1 am (my favorite one is filled with white chocolate).

    What is the quintessential hotel you would recommend to out of town guests?
    This would have to be the iconic Capri Palace Hotel & Spa - the attention to detail and the level of pampering bestowed on their guests is beyond. Surrounded by contemporary art, lush gardens and plush rooms, it is discreet luxury at it's finest. It feels like a true hideaway and isn't that the purpose of a holiday? With a Michelin starred restaurant and an award-winning medical spa, it provides a true escape from the everyday.


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    Cottage season was longer than ever this year: September boasted summer-like warmth; October and November saw temperatures in the 20s.

    Yet, a countrywide cooling is finally underway. The first flurries have fallen and, more tellingly, pumpkin spice has been dethroned by eggnog.

    For many Canadians this change in climate signals the end of cottage season, a peculiar behaviour for a people who call the great white north home. It gets a little -- err, a lot -- chilly and Canadians cease to take part in a favourite national pastime.

    With so many winterized cottages, cabins, chalets, and yurts (yes, yurts) across Canada, cottage "season" can be a thing of the past. This winter, keep your hair smelling like campfire even when there's snow on the ground with this list of the coziest and coolest all-Canadian getaways.

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    The winter blues sets in shortly after the cheer of the holidays has passed. But you can beat those feelings of hatred for shoveling snow, icy windshields and slippery roads by escaping to the exotic beaches of Central America. These five Costa Rican beaches, complete with lanky palm trees, jungle backdrops, sugary sands, and laid-back tropical vibes, are guaranteed to make you forget what sub-zero temperatures feel like.

    Playa Grande

    Photo credit: Angelique

    Just a short walk north of Tamarindo is the sleepy surf town of Playa Grande, home to a handful of hotels, restaurants, and a wave that attracts surfers from around the globe. A more low-key contrast to tourist-heavy Tamarindo, Playa Grande is just the right distance away from the town's popular night spots and tour companies. You don't have to be an avid surfer to enjoy the warm ocean breezes, fine sands and welcoming waters of Playa Grande.

    Playa Santa Teresa

    Travelers seeking a laid-back beach destination, loaded with affordable accommodation options (or high-end boutique hotels if desired), fresh local eats, laid-back surfer vibes and saltwater that permeates every aspect of life in and out of the water, will find paradise at Playa Santa Teresa. This pint-sized town in the Puntarenas Province at the western edge of the Nicoya Peninsula provides a low-key, eco-friendly atmosphere that encourages you to take a surf lesson, practice yoga overlooking the sea, and indulge in the area's fresh fruits and local seafood.

    Playa Manuel Antonio

    Photo credit: Martin Garrido

    You'll walk through jungles lush in tropical plants, rare birds, sloths and monkeys enroute to some of Costa Rica's most picture-perfect beaches at and around Manuel Antonio National Park. Free and public Manuel Antonio area beaches are easy to access and are ideal for escaping the crowds and noise that beaches with nearby town centers are often plagued by. The tour companies, shops, and restaurants are spread out along a winding main road, giving the area a distinctly less crowded feel, even during the high season.


    Dominical seems to grow every year, but the beachfront town never loses its charm. The moment you step on the beach's warm black sands, you'll want to snap photos of cliffs that appear to cascade into the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Popular among nature enthusiasts (especially bird watchers), surfers and beach bums, Dominical encourages you to trek to the Nauyaca Waterfalls, take a surf lesson at nearby Playa Dominicalito, horseback ride along the coast, snorkel, deep sea fish and take advantage of the area's natural wonders.


    Photo credit: Arturo Sotillo

    Costa Rica's legendary lush rainforests line the shores of the tiny pueblo of Pavones. Known mostly for its long left point break that attracts adventurous surfers from around the globe, Pavones is one of those beach destinations where your entire day can revolve around the sea. Homestyle eateries serve fresh seafood and local vegetables to hungry, sunburned surfers, while screens play surf footage to get everyone excited for another day of sun and surf in paradise. Located in Costa Rica's southern Pacific Zone, Pavones is one of the last villages you can visit before entering Panama, which often means less-crowded sands and some of the mellowest vibes in the country.

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    Spending a winter month in a warm-weather destination is a dream for many Canadians. But enjoying several weeks away from the frigid temperatures and feet of snow of the Great White North doesn't have to break the bank. These four Central American towns, loaded with natural beauty, culture, and budget-friendly places to call home, will encourage you to take a little more time off work this winter.

    Caye Caulker, Belize

    Photo credit: James Willamor

    Belize is becoming an increasingly popular long-term getaway destination for Canadians and Americans seeking postcard-worthy scenery they can call home for an affordable price. Caye Caulker's iconic town slogan is "Go Slow," and you'll find it difficult not to move at a snail's pace when you feel the laid-back Caribbean beach vibes. This lively island south of much larger Ambergris Caye is a haven for expats seeking rich history, renowned diving, plenty of shops and countless places to fill up on fresh seafood and frozen margaritas. It takes just 20 minutes to mosey from one end of the island to the other, making it easy to venture from your new home away from home at a at a tropical villa, guest house or suite to the many must-visit seaside hangouts.

    Boquete, Panama

    Panama is a convenient country for expats, but the use of the U.S. dollar, excellent healthcare and low cost of living aren't the only reasons to visit this alluring, warm-weather paradise. The highland town of Boquete is one place that can't help but appeal to North American travelers. Spring-like temperatures, lush mountains, abundant wildlife, plenty of shopping options and the opportunity for a simpler lifestyle make this town of 6,000 people ideal for escaping the Canadian cold. Boquete allows visitors to live a rural Panamanian lifestyle just a 40-minute drive from bustling David and one hour from the picture-perfect beaches lining the Gulf of Chiriquí.

    Flores, Guatemala

    Photo credit: Hector Garcia

    Flores is most well-known as a gateway to Guatemala's famous Maya ruins of Tikal. Although, you'll find yourself wanting to spend far more than a few days in the charming island town. You'll quickly feel like a local in this pint-sized, walkable city, packed with plenty of accommodation options, bars, eateries, shops and attractions to fill a long term stay with excitement. Picture-perfect red-roofed buildings and cobblestone streets seconds from the sea reflect the area's colonial heritage, making Flores far more than a simple jumping point.

    Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

    Santa Teresa is a beach town on the photogenic Nicoya Peninsula that embodies everything most travelers are seeking when visiting Costa Rica. Famous surfing waves crash onto pale sands while artists, yogis and laid-back beach bums gather to watch the country's famous west coast sunsets. Santa Teresa is a place where you can find budget-friendly accommodations, ranging from hostels to guesthouses and eco-friendly boutique hotels, at all times of year. You're bound to head back to Canada with a newfound love for riding waves, practicing yoga on the sand and snacking only on the freshest fruits and seafood. Santa Teresa is a winter escape that truly spoils its visitors.

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    The capital of Bavaria is known for its beer festival, Oktoberfest. Every year people drink hundreds of litres of good beer, eat kilometres of sausage and scarf down thousands of roast chickens. But does Munich, during the rest of the year, resemble the city that we see in the news each year? Well, a little bit, yes...

    Eating in Munich is all about the classics. There's sausage, chicken, pork, beer, of course. But when you go looking for something "different", you find other classics, too: excellent Turkish, Italian, French food!
    There is a very large Turkish community in Munich, and some of the restaurants around Goethestraße and Schillerstraße offer beautiful traditional dishes.

    Munich is not a city at the climax of the culinary adventure, and its inhabitants are not the friendliest, but it's super easy to eat very well. Here are some interesting addresses!


    Things To Do In Munich: Spatenhaus

    When we think of Munich, we think of the classics of German cuisine. Braised pork, roast duck, sauerkraut, beer, heavy and dark multigrain breads, sausages of all kinds ... And we imagine eating in one of these immense rooms with wooden shades where people of all ages engulf their beer at a phenomenal speed. This is the "brauhaus" experience. The Spaten brewery has its own restaurant, the Spatenhaus, and offers exactly what the cliché requires. The clichés have to come from somewhere, right? Click here to see what an evening at the Spatenhaus looks like. And for digestif, a visit at the restaurant across the street, Kuffler Restaurant!

    Spatenhaus an der Oper - Residenzstraße 12, 80333
    Kuffler restaurant - Hofgraben 9, 80539

    Things To Do In Munich: Dallmayr

    Any self-respecting foodie will start a visit to Munich with Dallmayr. It's a delicatessen that offers the best of everything in a luxurious setting. It's simple: the best quality of all products imaginable at the peak of their freshness.
    But Dallmayr is also a luxury restaurant, double-starred by the Michelin guide, and considered as one of the best restaurants in all of Europe. For my part, I frankly loved my experience. All that was served to me was simply sublime... except for one dish. Want to know which? Click here to read my review of Dallmayr restaurant on my brand new blog, The Fine Dining Blog.

    Restaurant Dallmayr - Dienerstraße 14, 80331

    Things To Do In Munich: Le Cézanne

    From fine modern cuisine with a twist, we go to classic French fare. Restaurant Le Cézanne, in the chic Schwabing district, has been held for nearly 20 years by French chef Patrick Geay. He takes care of all the dishes, and his wife takes care of the service. Everything I ate there was delicious.

    Le Cézanne, Konradstraße 1, 80801

    Things To Do In Munich: Nage & Sauge

    This young and trendy restaurant and bar offers inexpensive sandwiches and pasta dishes in addition to a fine selection of local beers. And it's open late! Why not go for a drink and observe the local flora before going to bed?

    Nage & Sauge - Mariannenstraße 2, 80538

    Things To Do In Munich: Restaurant Pageou

    This restaurant is located in the heart of the historic district of Munich and offers meals meticulously assembled in a grandiose setting. I especially enjoyed the duck ravioli!

    Restaurant Pageou, Kardinal-Faulhaber-Straße 10, 80333

    Munich is a very conservative city and a business centre. It's a city that's entrenched in its ways and will not change anytime soon. And as a traveller, this has a certain charm, as it can feel like stepping onto a movie set, or even like going back in time! And while you're at it, try the local beers, there are so many delicious ones...

    In this series, Cédric Lizotte visits some of Europe's best restaurants. On his blog, Continents & Condiments, he shares his inside knowledge about the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow his gastronomical journey on social media with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.

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    Miami is a city of vibrant diversity: the opulence of soaring, marble-floored 5-diamond hotels are juxtaposed beside Spring Break-loving, neon-clad partiers slurping Ocean Drive's famous fishbowl margaritas.

    But there is so much more to South Beach and beyond when it comes to exploring Florida's most southern city; famously fabulous for both its sizzling culture and residents (WAGS Miami, anyone?), Art Basel Miami Beach, which just wrapped up a few short days ago, is arguably one of the biggest -- if not for certain the most glamorous -- art fairs in the world.

    A-list celebrities, the filthy rich and those that are so impossibly (and impeccably) dressed gather to gawk at the art on display and for sale, and probably check out fellow fair-goers in equal measure. Whether you're escaping the brutally bleak Canadian winter this holiday season, planning your spring break getaway come April or devising the best way to get on the list for next season's Art Basel, here's where to stay and play in the searingly sexy city.

    Epitomizing the essence of all things art, The W Hotel South Beach is about as authentic as you can get while staying in South Beach. Not to be confused with Miami city proper, which is a short trip across the causeway, South Beach is situated on the golden, sandy shores of Miami Beach. This enormous property is the place to stay if you're keen on both luxury and design -- each and every room is perfectly situated for sprawling ocean views; the art decorating the lobby is currently (and impressively) a private collection of Andy Warhol originals; and the insanely gigantic and stunning swimming pool, appropriately named Wet, is so expansive and comfortably equipped with designer chaise lounges and cabanas, the sinking sun at day's end is hardly reason enough to leave.


    Other highlights include The Grove, a lush, fragrant garden with ample seating and one of the most enjoyable places on earth to enjoy a cocktail; The Living Room bar, where said cocktails are crisp, sophisticated and the setting is one in which I aspire to recreate as my own living room one day; Swish & Swing, a state of the art tennis and basketball court which is situated on the rooftop; and the resort's private beach, Sand, the most perfect place to catch an afternoon snooze (or pretend to while enjoying some of the best people-watching views in the city... Is that a real Birkin I spotted as a beach bag?!).

    For a more laid back yet still artistic and fantastically plush stay, head down to the other end of Miami Beach and book into the boutique Blanc Kara Hotel. Set slightly back from the incessant buzz, stepping into the lobby immediately instils the sense that you're in a well-kept and very chic home. Bookshelves are stocked with fabulous fashion books from the likes of Chanel and YSL and tons of adorable and lust worthy knick-knacks (think teapots, jewellery and candles); oversized couches beckon the moment you enter the lobby; the hallways evoke vintage glamour with their huge and beautiful black and white photography and 60s-esque floor-tiling, and the rooms are all king-sized suites complete with a kitchenette.


    Evoking a Parisian-type ambience (feel free to stock your pantry with Bordeaux and baguette), the understated yet glamorous spaces throughout the Blanc Kara are airy and refined at once. The all-white theme conjures a feeling of freshness, which translates throughout the hotel and in-room. The suites all boast a large, comfortable sofa and bed, which are both all white, as is the gleaming and ultra-modern bathroom. The serene, breezy outdoor space also warmly welcomes you with a daybed so big it could fit a whole family, and offers ample sunshine and shade, which benefits both guests and the beautifully tropical plants and flowers decorating the space.

    Back in the the middle of South Beach, just try and step into the Delano's lobby without complete astoundment, as it's a near impossible feat not to gasp in all its glory: soaring, billowing curtains look as tall as mountains and as luxurious as royalty would expect. Situated on the famed and extremely well-heeled Collins Avenue, the Delano is as dramatic as it is extraordinary. Host to some of the best parties in Miami, the hotel's beach club welcomes nightfall with an understated decadence that is sure to thrill and bring a delicious sense of ease in equal measure. The highly acclaimed and whimsically designed Alice in Wonderland garden -- complete with a life-size chess board, a sprawling, impeccably-kept emerald lawn and garden and scattered lighting that casts a perfect, magical ambience -- leads to the enormous pool, which is equipped with tables and chairs in which to sit and sip your cocktail while swishing your ankles around in the water.


    The Rose Bar, which is tucked away in near-secrecy, masterfully mixes some of the city's most unique and palate-pleasing drinks. The exquisite design oozes glamour, and is the perfect place to post up to people watch as all the beautiful people stream into the Delano Beach Club. Dazzling, party-ready Jimmy Choo's and a designer bag aren't a prerequisite, but isn't it fun to look the part?


    During Art Basel and beyond, the design district in Miami is home to the city's best designer shopping, events, and galleries; this is especially true for the supremely special and unique outdoor art haven, Wynwood Walls.

    Iconic and notoriously fabulous Patricia Fields hosted her packed-out fashion show there during the art fair last week, and major glossy store Dior threw one of the biggest and most successful parties in their neighbouring flagship store. Miami is all about enjoying the high life, which is always achieved with flair, fun and bit of spicy flavour; the city's inspiring, intriguing and provocative inclinations are what keep me always coming back for more.

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    U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for an official visit to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

    But one thing, or person, will be missing while Joe's biden (get it?) his time in the capital: his tag-team partner Barack Obama.

    Watch the video above to see how Biden is keeping his buddy up to date on the visit.

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    Wine tastings and tours might be a summer pastime, but when it comes to icewines, think winter.

    Ontario's Niagara region is a large producer of the country's icewines, and according to Wine Country Ontario, the province's selection is considered to be some of the best icewine in the world.

    Jillian Nero of travel agency Niagara Canada notes January is also icewine month in Niagara — so it may be a good time to start booking those tours and tastings during the holiday season.


    Icewine, often called dessert wine (generally it is sweet and served at the end of a meal), is made from frozen grapes. Icewines come in a range of flavours from fruits to chocolate, and taste best with rich flavoured foods like foie gras and aged blue cheese.

    If you're looking for a quick weekend getaway in Ontario or some winter date ideas, an icewine tasting is the perfect way to indulge and enjoy some of Canada's sweetest wines.

    Below are some of our and Nero's picks of some of the best ways to experience icewines in Niagara this holiday season. Cheers!

    Peller Estates Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
    Peller Estates Winery offers various ways to sip icewine all-season long.

    ice wines niagara

    Greatest Winery Tour

    On this popular tour, Nero says wine lovers get to explore the winery and end the tour by stepping into the 10Below Lounge dressed in warm parkas. The lounge is made with more than 13 thousand kilos of ice and visitors can enjoy a tasting surrounded by the cold stuff.

    pellar estates

    Ultimate 10Below Experience

    You can also head down to the lounge first. The 10Below experience offers three icewines available until the end of December. And if you are a club member, you can also check out the outdoor seated sour cocktail experience starting January 2017.

    pellar estates

    Inniskillin (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
    Inniskillin dessert wines are a classic in Ontario's wine country, and the winery has two activities for wine lovers.

    Icewine Tasting Bar
    "They have created a dedicated icewine tasting bar where guests can learn about the many icewines Inniskillin produces," Nero says. Icewine flights range from $15 to $20.

    Icewine Public Tour
    In this public tour, learn about the origins of icewine in Niagara and get a history lesson of some of Inniskillin’s most adorned wines.

    Pillitteri Estates Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
    A winery in the family business for generations, the estate's grapes are frozen in -8 C weather or colder. The winery offers two activities for those of you looking to sip on icewines.

    pillitteri estates winery

    Private Icewine Tour and Tasting Program
    Designed for groups of 10 and more, Nero says this includes a peek into Pillitteri’s production facilities and unique barrel cellar. "Tastings include three award-winning icewines, including one of their rare red [ones]." The tasting also includes a chocolate icewine.

    pillitteri estates winery

    Icewine Tasting Flight

    For those who want to head straight to drinking, the winery also offers an icewine tasting flight including three icewine samples for $10.

    The Ice House Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
    "As Niagara’s only winery solely dedicated to the production of icewine, The Ice House is a great place to visit if you are interested in immersing yourself in the history and tastes of various icewines," Nero says.

    the ice house winery

    Tastings And Slushies
    The Ice House Winery is known for icewine cocktails and slushies (yes, boozy slushies). "You can try the slushies as part of the 'Niagara Icewine Experience' of The Icewine Legacy Tour available year-round."

    the ice house winery

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    I love uncovering hidden gems and when someone told me about how Winnipeg has so many amazing restaurants, a flourishing art scene, a fabulous shopping district and one of the most famous museums in Canada, I know I needed to visit.

    Winnipeg is the largest city in Manitoba and also the capital. The city was named after Lake Winnipeg and was at one time a major trading post for aboriginal peoples, the Europeans and the French.

    Now, it is a city that has many fun and interesting things to see and do.

    The Mere Hotel is a sleek, stylish contemporary hotel that has an art installation in their lobby. The hotel is set along the Red River, a 9-minute walk from the Centennial Concert Hall and 1.6 km from the Portage Place Shopping Centre. If you are looking for a unique place to stay with warm, friendly staff then this is the place to be in Winnipeg.

    For more ideas on places to stay in Winnipeg, check out Tourism Winnipeg's options for accommodations.

    The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) opened in 2014, and is a national museum in Winnipeg.

    The focus of the museum is to "explore the subject of human rights with a special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue."

    With beautiful and inspiring architecture, and thought provoking exhibits this is a must see destination in Winnipeg.

    Since 2007, Chocolatier Constance Popp (CCP) has been creating the finest artisan chocolates, pastries and frozen treats in Winnipeg. They use fresh, whole food ingredients and no artificial flavours or preservatives. Their mouth watering chocolates are the finest premium chocolate (including single-origin and single plantation).

    Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum is a fascinating assembly of artifacts which reveal Western Canada's French-Canadian and Métis heritage. At the same time, recognizing the significant involvements of the First Nations and the religious communities. The Museum's focus is to provide visitors with an expanded understanding of the French-Canadian and Métis cultures in Manitoba.

    What could be nicer than enjoying a delicious meal in a gorgeous natural spa setting? The Therma restaurant is nestled in amongst the Thermëa Spa. At the spa you can reenergize in their Nordic baths and waterfalls, steam bath, Finnish sauna, and relaxation areas. Then experience a meal at the Therma restaurant with seasonal favourites included in the menu.

    The Forks is one of Winnipeg's premier meeting places. Located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, The Forks is at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers. If you visit in the winter or the summer (anytime of the year), The Forks has different places you can try for dining, shopping, entertainment events, and fun attractions.

    The Exchange District, is a National Historic Site in Winnipeg which features North America's largest and best preserved collection of heritage buildings. There are also plenty of cool shops, restaurants, events, music and art. I love this area! Beautiful stone and brick warehouses, elegant terracotta-clad buildings, narrow angled streets and cobblestone paths are all a part of this magical part of Winnipeg.

    If you love to relax in a welcoming pub atmosphere, then the Kings Head Pub is the place for you. Named as one of the best pubs in North America, the Kings Head Pub hosts live music acts and comedians, and is the place everyone goes to after the Jets game! They also have an interesting mix of pub food and Indian cuisine, taken from the owners own family recipes.

    History is a big part of the sights you can see in Winnipeg. Lower Fort Garry was constructed in 1830 by the Hudson's Bay Company. The fort is located on the western bank of the Red River approximately 32 km north of the original Fort Garry.

    Hudson's Bay Company retained the fort until 1951, at this time it was given to the federal government. In 1958, site was designated a National Historic Site and has also been named one of the top 10 National Historic Sites in the country in 2011 by Canada's History magazine.

    If you want to do something really unique for your visit to Winnipeg, you can try Enigma Escapes Winnipeg. This is a Live Escape Game that is an interactive adventure experience. You and your team will be locked in a themed room. You'll be surrounded in puzzles, clues and codes that you will solve by working together as a team. Problem-solving skills, logic and patience will all come in handy as well as a spirit of cooperation and sense of fun. You will have plenty of memories from this fun adventure.

    Inferno's on Academy is a restaurant known for their creative menus, wine lists, warm welcoming family atmosphere and as a great place for jazz performed by locals and visiting musicians. Inferno's on Academy is a great place to dine if you would like to try some amazing food and local superb music without breaking the bank.

    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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    With the joys of the holiday season, comes the love-hate relationship with Christmas shopping. There's nothing more discouraging than visiting your local mall only to be pushed and shoved for the latest gadget. If you still haven't booked your holiday vacation and have gifts to cross off your list, we're here to help. Endorsed for their popular souks, these six cities are a great choice for travellers who want to escape the traditional Christmas shopping and explore some of the oldest markets in the world.

    Whether you consider yourself a "shopaholic" or not, you're sure to appreciate the lights of the suspended lanterns and the colourful stalls while becoming immersed in the city's local culture. There's also no doubt you'll impress your family and friends with what you bring back. Who says shopping has to be a chore?

    Marrakech, Morocco


    The vibrant souks of Marrakech offer a unique shopping experience, thanks to the myriad little alleys filled with colourful fabrics, furniture, ceramics, spices and everything a traveller could possibly imagine. Immerse yourself in culture, ant stay at the stylish Riad Palais Sebban which combines Moroccan and Andalusian architecture. Guests can relax by the pool or at the rooftop terrace overlooking the city before exploring the labyrinths of the Marrakesh Souks.


    Istanbul, Turkey


    Considered to be one of the biggest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a shopping paradise with about 5,000 shops grouped by the type of products. The stalls include Turkish ceramics, traditional clothes, jewellery and spices. Featuring three original buildings, the Soho House Istanbul - Special Category has luxurious rooms tastefully decorated in contemporary style, king-size beds with Egyptian cotton sheets and bathrooms with walk-in rainforest showers. The onsite Cowshed Spa is a great place to relax after a day exploring the truly Grand Bazaar.


    Doha, Qatar


    The stylish Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is situated on Banana Island, just a 20-minute luxury ferry ride from Doha and the famous Souq Waqif, known for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts and souvenirs. Combine your visit to Doha's most beautiful market area with a relaxing stay at a luxurious Arabic design accommodation, featuring a private beach, a lagoon pool, nine dining options, a spa and a cinema.


    Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina


    Surrounded by a lush garden with roses and palm trees, the Bosnian National Monument Muslibegovic House is a unique hotel-museum located directly in Mostar's historic city centre within walking distance to the UNESCO World Heritage Old Bridge. Famous for its old Turkish houses, the stunning landscape and the Blagaj Monastery, Mostar is also home to traditional market stalls on both sides of the river selling rugs, Middle Eastern souvenirs, jewellery and handmade products.


    Kuwait City, Kuwait


    The Souk Al-Mubarakiya Market is Kuwait's older and most popular traditional market, but not the only one you'll find. Travellers can spend their day discovering an array of souks selling different types of goods, such as Persian silk carpets, perfumes, traditional wear, antiques and gold. After a full day of shopping, check into the Four Points By Sheraton Kuwait, conveniently situated at Kuwait's commercial and financial centre. It offers chic, modern rooms and an indoor pool on the 42nd floor, offering panoramic views of Kuwait's Gulf.


    Fès, Morocco


    Composed of three 18th century residences, the Algilà Fès is set on a quiet street near the ancient labyrinth in Fès Medina. It is the perfect place to relax after a long day exploring the medieval streets of the medina, thanks to its patio with a fountain and the rooftop terrace. The city of Fès is home to many souks, but the Souk el Henna is one of the most popular because of the henna and spices available.


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    I've travelled to 24 countries thus far and 60% of those trips were done solo. I couldn't be happier for making that conscious choice. Not to say I don't love travelling with friends, it's just an entirely different experience.

    It's hard to describe the depth of value of seeing the world through your eyes and your eyes only. But I'll try. 

    Independence grows on you.

    You do the things you want to do, when you want to do them without consulting anyone else. This freedom makes you more confident and flexible. 

    While living solo in Bali, I was able to throw in a five day trip to Thailand or take off on a mapless scooter adventure in search of natural infinity pools overlooking postcard landscapes, when I wanted to.

    Traveling alone allows you to change your circumstances on a whim, where the only thing that matters is making yourself happy, and growing a pair to do something bold on your own.

    Down to wing it.
    You have no fixed plans travelling solo, unexpected experiences are the only constant during your visit. When I checked into Bali solo, everyday was different than the day before. If I dined alone and got a good vibe from the person sitting next to me, I would spark up a conversation, next thing I know, we're off to an outdoor screening for a local film, followed by hitting up the nearest dive bar with the director and their friends. Now not only did I make a handful of new friends, but I also discovered a new part of town. 

    By winging it, half the fun and excitement is not knowing what will come your way next!

    Live outside of your comfort zone.
    Being in your comfort zone provides mental security, which equals routine. Travelling is the opposite of routine which equals uncertainty. Uncertainty can be mindblowing or scary as f*ck, regardless of the outcome what matters is challenging yourself. It's sort of like getting comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.

    Forced to figure sh*t out on your own.
    My friends will confirm, I'm not the best navigator, but put me in a foreign country by myself and I will get to that one out-of-the-way spot that doles out best passion fruit ginger creme brulee in town. Travelling solo, you have to pay attention to landmarks where there are no streets signs, because if you don't no one else will. You have to be responsible for yourself, whereas when I travel with friends, I become reliant on them to figure sh*t out.

    Know yourself better.
    Each time you travel solo, you uncover more about yourself. It could be as simple as discovering a new flavour and now knowing you like it to uncovering a new skill that can be applied to your real life. Travelling solo measures your strengths and weaknesses, uncovers your likes and dislikes and tests your patience and fears. It's one-on-one time with yourself, outside your hometown, naturally self discovery will happen . . . maybe even some clarity on what you want in life will ensue. 

    Become wiser.
    You become more understanding of people as a whole. You grow awareness of other's cultures and stories, and take note of how unique or similar someone else's life is to what you know.

    Travelling isn't always sunshine and sandwiches, it can get physically and mentally stressful, but it opens your mind because you're learning along the way, therefore becoming smarter in the process. 

    "Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." -- Anthony Bourdain

    Connect with people you wouldn't have met otherwise.
    This is definitely one of the best perks about travelling. Having travelled to 24 countries, I now have friends in 24 countries. You learn from these people and discover how they live. Through engaging in conversations with new people, you're able to expand your vocabulary, learn new expressions, understand life through someone else's experiences which is invaluable in terms of expanding your own mind.

    Plus, travelling solo makes it easier to be approached by others and forces you to be social by making the first move. As a solo traveller you also rely on the kindness of strangers. And you realize how many kind people there actually are in the world. This is something we tend to forget when we're stuck in our routine bubbles at home.

    Reset your life.
    Travelling allows you reset. We all need to press the restart button on ourselves from time to time. Traveling solo allows you to take a three hour brunch, where half of the time is spent enjoying a meal and the other half is spent people watching and daydreaming, without feeling guilty. Basically you're slowing down to enjoy the moment.

    Also, travelling solo teaches you live with less things. You come back home realizing how many things you don't need to make you happy and healthy.

    Inspiration transpires.
    Travelling gives you a boost of energy to get out there and do stuff. You fall in love with things the country has that you don't have back home, anything from the brightness of the sun, to the wafting smells in the streets, the exotic flavours, the landscape designs, the noises, the traditions, the textiles or the colours. All these things inspire, flooding your mind with wild ideas and imagination, and maybe a little drive. 

    Connecting with the country means connecting with the people. It's odd how misunderstood some places are in the world until you visit them yourself and have enticing conversations with the people that are also there.

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    If you're currently suffering from the seasonal blues, fear not, the best remedy is to channel some summertime sunshine and head to a patio. But not just any patio.

    When "Winter Is Coming," these spots do not fret about the chilly air -- they are armed with amenities and offer guests plenty of coziness such as wool blankets, robes, roaring fireplaces, and patio heaters. And let's not forget about specialty cocktails and comforting treats that are sure to warm you from the inside out.

    The following are my favourite wintertime patios in Canada and the Northern United States that 'bring the heat'.


    Big Crow - Toronto, Ontario


    Image courtesy of Ryan Thompson & Big Crow

    In the summer, the Big Crow feels like your best friend's killer talk-of-the town cookout; it is akin to a breezy picnic filled with brisket, ribs, and mile-high meat sandwiches. In the wintertime, the party doesn't stop; the space is transformed into an enclosed log cabin hideaway. Don't worry about missing it; although it's a bit of a tucked-away oasis, you'll usually see (and smell) BBQ smoke emanating down the alleyway and onto the street. At Big Crow, it's all about good grub and lots of sharing. The restaurant seats 60 guests at their communal tables.

    Staying warm:
    No shivering here; they deck the space out with heaters, supply blankets to guests, and cover wood bench seating with leather hides for insulation.

    Drink to order:
    Root beer and bourbon is can be ordered by the glass or pitcher but the latter makes you more friends. Highly recommended. The magic is in the mix: bourbon, bokers bitters, root beer.

    Little Brick Cafe & General Store - Edmonton, Alberta

    Image courtesy of Explore Edmonton

    The prairies get some much deserved love and warmth. At Little Brick, a cozy-country style vibe is offered; it is saddled with equal amounts of comforting fare à la favourites such as Chicken Stew with house-made fresh biscuits, and Pine Haven Bacon and Eggs featuring thick-cut porky goodness, apple cider hollandaise and local soft boiled eggs on toast. Don't forget to order it with a side of sautéed potatoes. Ideally located in the river valley, soak up some pristine views of mother nature with your meal.

    Staying warm:
    Above -15°C, wood fire pits will always be available to get toasty by; heat lamps are nearby to provide extra warmth. It's an ideal spot to relax after a day of skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking through snowy trails.

    Drink to order:
    Sea Cider Pippins (Organic) - a sharpness from the Newton Pippin apples used as well as cool fermentation from champagne yeast gives this Vancouver Island cider pineapple and candy notes.


    Assembly: The Logan Philadelphia - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


    Image courtesy of Curio - A Collection by Hilton

    A welcoming, chic environment and modern aesthetic greets you at Assembly's open-air lounge, bar, and patio. Located nine stories high and perched atop of The Logan Philadelphia Hotel, highlights include an illuminated bar, with charcoal and beige tones throughout the space.

    There's plenty of room to mingle in with 2500 square feet of space; the patio itself seats 200 comfortably. Views of Benjamin Franklin Parkway are stunning, especially at dawn and at dusk where light illuminates the plentiful art gallery and museum scenes. Bundle up and head to the top of The Logan; linger over cocktails and gaze at the Logan Square neighbourhood whose energetic spirit will no doubt get you fired up.

    Staying warm:
    Charcoal fireplaces stationed in front of cushy seating offer warmth as you nestle into wool blankets provided on site.

    Drink to order:
    Champagne cocktails are the specialties here. Opt for The Prince of Wales that features Whistle Pig Rye 10yr, maraschino, broiled pineapple, and "Cuvée 17" J Dumangin & Fils Premier Cru Champagne. It tastes like tropical paradise in a glass.

    230 Fifth - New York City, New York


    Image courtesy of Eric Vasquez

    Literally and figuratively, this place offers that 'cool' factor we all seek in a patio. The semi-heated, vast rooftop bar and garden -- with 14,000 square feet of room -- accommodates up to 1200 guests.
    At 20 stories high, you'll have prime views of the Manhattan skyline, including The Empire State Building; undoubtedly, there will be swoon-worthy images aplenty to capture and share with friends and family.

    A piece of advice: It can be overwhelmingly crowded on the weekends, so plan to come here on a weeknight.

    Staying warm:
    Patrons are loaned red robes to don; heat lamps are stationed throughout the patio space. But the talk-of-the-town feature would have to be the heated winter igloos. Fashioned out of PVC and PE plastic, they seat about 11 people; each one is supplied with a heater. Best of all, they're about 15 to 20 degrees warmer compared with that of the outside nippy weather.

    Drink to order:
    Popular winter drinks include Pumpkin Patch and Spiced Whiskey Martinis, or hot drinks such as Apple Cider, Hot Chocolate, Irish Coffee, or Pumpkin Pie Hot Chocolate.

    A Bar+ Kitchen: Avenue Suites (a Modus Hotel) - Washington, The District of Columbia


    Image courtesy of Chris Giglio

    Located in the Avenue Suites Hotel in Georgetown, A Bar + Kitchen's expansive outdoor terrace is located at the back of the building. Ideally situated, the patio is a mere mile away from landmark spots such as the White House, the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

    Flowing out from the indoor lounge to the outside, plenty of privacy is afforded despite its city digs, thanks to greenery walls which offers intimacy and albeit, a bit of shelter from cold winds. With splashes of colour, its modern and relaxed environment is ideal for the after-work crowd and casual dates with friends. This is a spot to kick off your shoes and channel your inner child -- especially when you can order your very own s'mores kit and roast marshmallows on the open fire!

    Staying warm:
    Two fire pits roar with heat on the patio; four area heaters are situated nearby as an added measure of warmth during the frosty, winter season. Blankets are also provided to guests.

    Drink to order:
    Guests can create their own seasonal libations at the do-it-yourself hot cider bar with cinnamon sticks and mulling spices; then add a big swig of Bourbon or Dark Spiced rum.

    Boozy hot chocolate is also a winner: opt to add marshmallows, peppermint and other toppings, then add a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, Bourbon, or Peppermint Schnapps.

    Note: Bar selections may be limited or altered; A Bar + Kitchen is currently undergoing renovations, but the patio is unaffected and remains open for the winter season.

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