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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    The holiday season is officially in full swing, and no celebrations are anticipated more than those held on New Year's Eve. Stuffed with Christmas ham and outfitted with fresh socks, party seekers from around the globe search for the most extravagant ways to ring in the new year. Known as the "World in a City," Vancouver's rich diversity creates some unique ways to celebrate all of the good of 2016, and anticipate the adventures offered by another year. These five New Year's Eve celebrations will provide all of the glitz and glamour you're seeking with a big dose of Vancouver's unique personality on top.

    NYE Vancouver Celebration

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    Photo credit: Nick Lau

    Many New Year's Eve celebrations will cause you to kick off 2017 in debt. But the NYE Vancouver Celebration in downtown Vancouver is once again free and open to the public. Head down to Canada Place Way for live music, food, entertainment and a countdown to an over-the-top fireworks show at 9 p.m. (great for the kids), and 12 a.m., for the night owls.

    3rd Annual Naughty Little New Year's Eve

    Forego your usual New Year's Eve party for one that's a lot funnier this year. The Rio Theatre is a favorite Vancouver hotspot for catching films, live music, performances and so much more. This New Year's Eve, the theatre welcomes back Patrick Maliha for an evening of nonstop comedy, magic, burlesque and music. Tickets include a complimentary glass of champagne, party favors, and the opportunity to see several world renowned performers, including Wes Barker of America's Got Talent, for just $20 (in advance).

    Family First Night

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    Photo credit: Jenny Lee Silver

    There's no better way to ring in the new year than with the ones you love. Mount Seymour's Family First Night encourages every Vancouverite to do just that. Take the 30-minute drive from downtown to nearby Mount Seymour, and you'll be taking part in the area's longest running family-friendly NYE event. Live entertainment accompanies snow tubing, face painting, tobogganing, fire pits, s'mores, and food vendors to create an atmosphere that's exciting for kids and adults of all ages. The countdown, fireworks, and party favors finale takes place at 9 p.m., so nobody has to miss bedtime.

    New Year's Eve at the TELUS World of Science

    More than 1,000 party-goers can cram into the New Year's Eve celebration at the TELUS World of Science, and the event still sells out every year. Two floors of music, six DJs, nonstop live performances and five bars make this one of the most iconic annual celebrations in the city. More than 700 tickets have already been sold to the party that will take place from 9 p.m., to 3 a.m., on New Year's Eve, and the party throwers are expecting one of the biggest countdowns the city has ever seen. This landmark Vancouver event is only for partiers ages 19 and up.

    Electric Flower Circus in the Dark

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    Photo credit: Fraser Nelson

    Celebrate Vancouver's eccentric side at The Legion's Electric Flower Circus in the Dark. Located at 2205 Commercial Dr., this black light New Year's Eve event will be loaded with DJs, contortionists, jugglers, body painting, hoopers, and several other electric performers that are guaranteed to make it a night to remember. The Electric Flower Circus in the Dark brings excitement and color back into New Year's Eve.

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    Despite Facebook photos of smiling faces and carefully decorated cookies, many holiday celebrations are riddled with family feuds and boring traditions. That's not the case for New Year's Eve. This celebration of a new beginning is something everyone can agree on -- it's time to have some fun. These four Canadian destinations are places where you can celebrate 2017 in an unforgettable way.

    Niagara Falls, Ontario

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    Photo credit: HiEtec

    Niagara Falls always goes above and beyond when entertaining visitors, and New Year's Eve is no exception. Aptly named "The Biggest Bash," the party includes an all-Canadian lineup of free musical performances at Queen Victoria Park. The concert kicks off at 8 p.m., and the celebration will include tasty local food vendors, beverages, an outdoor licensed drink area, and an extravagant midnight fireworks show from the Niagara Gorge.

    Ottawa, Ontario

    Prepare for a memorable night out by the Ottawa River if you'll be heading to the capital city this holiday season. The Canada 150 celebration, to celebrate the Confederation's 150th anniversary, is set to take place at 19 urban centres across the country this year. But there's arguably no better place to celebrate the Canada 150 than at Parliament Hill in picture-perfect Ottawa. The free event will take place at 7 p.m., on both sides of the river with live music and an over-the-top pyromusical fireworks display. The first fireworks show will take place at 8:17 p.m. (20:17), and another display will be launched for the night owls at midnight.

    Iqaluit, Nunavut

    2016-12-13-1481654097-7579037-19276489955_fe17a455cf_z.jpg
    Photo credit: US Embassy Canada

    Travelers seeking an otherworldly New Year's Eve experience should head to the largest and least populated Canadian territory of Nunavut. Iqaluit is one of the 19 cities celebrating the Canada 150, but none of the others will be celebrating it with this small city's unique Arctic flare. The family friendly party will include local performances provided by the Alianait Arts Festival, outdoor activities, a festive countdown, and a sea-ice fireworks display at 8:17 p.m. The full day of family fun kicks off at 11 a.m., in snow-covered downtown Iqaluit.

    Quebec City, Quebec

    Quebec City's Old World feel is even more fairytale-like when dusted with snow and sprinkled with holiday decorations. New Year's Eve is a five-day-long celebration in "La Vieille Capitale," which will take place from Dec. 27 through 31, this year. The Grande Allée is redesigned with heated outdoor bars, live music, a ferris wheel, ziplines, and plenty of opportunities for kids and adults to continue the excitement of the holidays. December 31, is the biggest night of all with a grand musical pyrotechnic show, celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary, at 20:17 and midnight. This year's events are expected to be bigger than ever, and the festivities will spread from the Hotel Le Concorde to Parliament Building.

    Unfortunately, you can only be in one place on the night of New Year's Eve, but as long as you're in Canada, there's bound to be an unforgettable Canada 150 celebration or other extravagant way to ring in the new year nearby.

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    I have been travelling a lot lately, and I realized that just because I am in a new place, does not mean that my style has to go out the door. In fact, it is possible to look and feel great when you're travelling with a few easy tips.

    Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Bradley O'Brien, Executive Vice President of Design and Product Development for Tommy Bahama. Bradley shared her insights on the top travel style trends for both women and men.

    Here are Bradley's style tips on how you can look and feel great on your next trip:

    2016-12-12-1481513255-5586189-P1130201.JPG

    Author (Sacha) in Little Havana - Miami


    What are the top travel style trends for this season?

    When it comes to travel, comfort is king, and the on-going "athleisure" trend is making everyone feel much more comfortable in transit. "Athleisure" is all about taking technological fibers and materials from the active world and marrying them with sportswear styling so that you don't have to look like you've just come straight from the gym.

    These garments have technical properties which function, perhaps to keep you cool or wick moisture, as well as features and benefits, such as stretch which also have comfort attributes. Stretch also allows for more movement, and creates less wrinkles.

    On flights now, I see a lot of travelers in athletic inspired knit tops, stretch woven bottoms and even stretch denim, who can arrive in style, while staying extremely comfortable.

    2016-12-12-1481513097-3956575-tommybahamapic21.jpg

    Author (Sacha) in comfy style in Miami


    Which colours and styles are popular this season?

    Look for colours that tend to be bright and fun. Early in holiday we have vivid jewel tones: cherry red, sapphire and purple which play off of core neutrals, black, navy, oatmeal and grey. These are festive and fun and set the tone for the holidays. In the later part of the season there are bright citrus tropical colours balanced with salt washed mid-tone pastels, which are more appropriate for resort wear.

    If you were going to start with one new look this season what would it be?

    Dresses. I am really excited about the broad range of dress options: from knits sundresses, spa dresses and simple shifts, to magnificent printed and embellished woven, they are versatile in their wearing occasions, pack and travel well, and are incredibly comfortable.

    You can slip on a dress and feel pulled together in an instant. Just add accessories and the right shoe and you are ready for whatever comes your way.

    2016-12-12-1481513169-7461889-tommybahamapic3.jpg

    Author (Sacha) by the pool in Miami


    How are people wearing these new trends now?

    They are wearing the athleisure trend head to toe or mixing key pieces off of sportswear. It all depends where you are going and the reason for your travel. I think it's more sophisticated and interesting to be able to mix the pieces back to traditional sportswear.

    What are the trends for men this season?

    We are seeing some great new hybrid outerwear/sweater combinations, elastic waist and drawstring pants, five pocketing styling on non-denim fabrications, with global warming we are seeing more season-less sweaters (I call them pan-seasonal) for longer wear-ability and sumptuous knits.

    Any other style tips?

    Layer! It's always better to be able to add or remove a layer as needed, and it helps you look more polished.

    Do you have any packing tips so you look great when you arrive?

    I typically try to pack a specific colour palette. In the spring it may be navy and white, in the fall neutrals. This makes it easier to mix and match items, and get more wear out of each piece, which leads to (hopefully) a smaller bag! I try to wear each item 2x, and refresh as much as possible with footwear and accessories.

    When travelling
    I consider my departure city and my destination and try to pull a look together which looks appropriate for each. For example, from Seattle to Hawaii, I would wear white jeans (yes, it is ok to wear white denim 365 day a year!) a tropical silk camisole and a lightweight knit blazer.

    Shoes no socks. I always carry a wrap too, since the temperature on airplanes can be so unpredictable, which also doubles as a blanket, and I always bring my travel pillow, so I arrive looking rested. When I land the blazer is quickly stashed in my carry-on bag, not to be seen for the remainder of the trip, and the white jeans may get rolled a bit at the cuff.

    No socks keep me cool and comfy, and the printed camisole looks just right in the tropical locale. Versatility is so important, and making sure the items you select can take you from the beach to the bar to the bonfire! Aloha!

    Keep an eye out for my blog, where I will continue to share the top travel style tips for feeling your best self. If you have any questions about travel style or fashion for 2017, please leave your comments below and I will do my best to find the answers for you!

    Visit Sacha daily at SachaD.com
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  • 12/15/16--04:08: What's In My Travel Bag
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    In a couple short days, we are headed for the sun to Hawaii for the holidays to visit my sister and her family. My parents will be there too and I am SO excited for some R&R, good family time, and of course, sunshine! I know the holidays are a busy time for a lot of you, and often mean jetting off.

    Whether by car, plane or maybe even train, traveling can be a surefire way to get off the wagon with your regular healthy routine. From disrupted sleep to airport and airplane food, gas station stops and constantly being on the go, it's easy to get caught up in grabbing whatever's most convenient.

    Unfortunately this doesn't always leave you feeling so hot. Packing your bag with a few key items can make all the difference for keeping you energized and making sure you arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go!

    Start your trip off right by packing smart. These are a few of my all time favorite go-tos:

    1. Dried Fruit & Nuts: I like to pack a few healthy snack options like dried fruit or nuts. The combo of the protein and healthy fats + a little whole food sugar boost will help maintain blood sugar levels and curb your hunger.

    2. Individual matcha or coffee packs: I am all about maximizing my time on vacation and that can sometimes mean taking a red eye flight. It's never fun to arrive to your destination feeling tired and run down. Having individual coffee or matcha pouches (like these Matcha Ninja stick packs) on-hand, have saved me time and time again.

    3. Fresh fruit: There are so many benefits to adding fresh fruit into your diet. If you're not flying over the border, packing a few pieces of fresh fruit will prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping and help maintain your mood and energy. Fruit like bananas, apples and oranges are great because they don't require a ton of prep work and won't squish or bruise too easily like some other fruit.

    4. Comfy clothes: This may seem like a no brainer but I love to travel in comfy clothes. You can still be comfy without sacrificing style. One of my go-to travel outfits is a cotton maxi dress and sweater. With a spare pair of wool socks and a big scarf (that can double as a blanket) stashed away in my purse, I stay nice and cozy even when that airplane air conditioning gets turned on full blast.

    5. A re-usable water bottle: It's really easy to get dehydrated while traveling. Dehydration can alter your mood, energy levels and overall digestive health. I can't go anywhere without my S'well bottle in tow. Not only is it good for the environment, it's light-weight and can hold up to 25 oz of cold OR hot water (that's 4 times the size of an airline cup)! Just remember to empty it before you go through security and then top it up on the other side!

    6. Energy balls or whole food bars: I keep a not-so-secret stash of energy balls in my car and purse to help me out if I'm ever in a food bind. When I don't have those prepped, whole food bars with simple ingredients are a good go to as well! Look for bars or recipes with ingredients like nuts, fruit, oats or other whole grains (like these Lemon Coconut Energy Balls) to ensure you stay satisfied and energized throughout your trip.

    7. Good book: This is a must have for me! Not only do I love getting lost in a good book when I'm laying on the beach, reading is also a great and entertaining way to help pass time if you get delayed anywhere along the way.

    8. Music: Good music and travel go together like peanut butter and jelly. Plus it doesn't hurt that your tunes can help block out the snoring coming from 16C

    9. Ear plugs and eye mask: It's not always easy to fall asleep in a plane, car or hotel room. That's when I pull out my ear plugs and eye mask for some extra help getting those zzz's.

    10. Arrive Revived: In case you weren't able to get any shut eye on the plane, this is a life saver! If you're prone to jet lag or just need a little extra boost, this Saje remedy will do the trick!

    Happy Travels!

    P.S.- Have you heard?! I've just opened the doors to a new FREE Eat Well Live Well Facebook Community with daily tips, recipes, support and motivation. I'll be checking in regularly to answer your questions and create awesome content just for you! All you have to do is click on this link and hit the "Join" button. Can't wait to you inside!

    For more recipes and kitchen inspiration, check out www.lindsaypleskot.com or find Lindsay on Instagram here or Facebook.

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    Christmas is expensive, and many of us are depleting our travel funds to put presents under the tree. But the memories of a holiday season spent in style on a not-so-faraway island can be much more fulfilling than another holiday-themed sweater or the five-pack of underwear in your stocking. It's not too late to forego your old holiday traditions and opt for your first annual trip to the islands instead.

    These five islands are easy to reach from the Great White North, affordable, and guaranteed to ease your holiday spending blues.

    Jamaica

    "Ya mon," may not be the first thing you typically hear on Christmas morning, but you'll get used to it quickly in sunny Jamaica. As one of the most affordable island nations to visit in the Caribbean, you can lounge by the beach at one of many budget-friendly resorts without stressing about your holiday spending. Jamaica is known for its laid-back vibes, jitter-inducing coffee, and picture-perfect beaches backed by the tree-covered Blue Mountains. Whether you're spending the holidays on the "rock" as a couple or an entire family, you'll find an affordable hotel, guest house, or resort that you'll have no problem calling home for the holidays.

    Puerto Rico

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    Photo credit: Trish Hartmann

    A direct flight from Toronto to San Juan, Puerto Rico takes less than 4.5 hours. You'll hardly even have to sacrifice part of your day to land on this affordable and tropical Caribbean island. Because the island is an American territory, it's relatively easy for Canadians to swap their loonies for U.S. bucks, and start exploring the world-renowned surfing waves in Rincon, winding caves in the Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy, and even the nearby islands of Culebra and Vieques. Traveling to Puerto Rico is affordable year-round, which means you won't get sticker shock when searching for a hotel during the holidays.

    Roatan Island

    Roughly 65 kilometres north of Honduras is the picture-perfect tropical island of Roatan. A haven for fishermen, snorkelers, and avid divers, you'll find yourself spending the holidays in the sea rather than snow. While Roatan looks and feels like a faraway island paradise, the Roatan International Airport is easily accessed from major U.S. cities, like Houston, Miami, Atlanta, and New York. Daily passenger ferry services from La Ceiba and charter flight services from Toronto and Montreal make it easy to turn your Caribbean holiday dream into a reality -- even on short notice.

    Grand Cayman

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    Photo credit: Bruce Harlick

    You won't miss out on holiday cheer by heading to the Caribbean this time of year, and that's especially true if you head to Grand Cayman. The north end of the island's planned community features a Town Centre with a towering Christmas tree and daily holiday workshops and activities for visitors of all ages. Kids can even take part in two hours of supervised holiday programs at Starfish Village while adults enjoy a little alone time. As the largest of the Caribbean's three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is loaded with easily-accessed reefs, the iconic, crescent-shaped Seven Mile Beach, the Stingray City sandbar, and countless other activities that will make you forget about shoveling snow in no time.

    Grenada
    Grenada is one of the most underrated destinations in the Caribbean, but that means you'll enjoy more of the white sand beaches and turquoise waters to yourself. While it remains one of the most laid-back and affordable Caribbean islands, you'll save even more by visiting in early winter before the January and February warm-weather seekers arrive. Experience the vibrant colours of St. George's harbour, feel the soft sands of Grand Anse Beach, and don't forget to fill your stocking with the island's locally grown spices and world-renowned rum.

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    I challenge you to walk away from Mont-Saint-Michel and not look back. You will find it an impossible feat.

    The medieval icon dares you to depart. It commands your gaze from miles away and once you arrive ensnares your imagination after you've migrated within its walls. When I exited, I continued to turn back to get another glimpse of this beguiling mass of granite, gold and gall that had first caught my attention 12 years ago when I read about it in a magazine.

    Mont-Saint-Michel is one of those places. A revered attraction whose allure has been built for centuries and made all the more legendary because it requires some commitment to reach. It took me three trains and more than four hours to make it to this spot that had been lingering on my bucket list like an itch.

    Seeing it didn't disappoint. Not in the least. As travellers make their 2017 vacation plans, this location in northern France is one you have to consider.




    The walls of Mont-Saint-Michel date to before the 10th century -- this fact alone makes it an extraordinary place to visit. Featuring a towering cathedral and soaring monolithic spire with a golden statue of Archangel Michael on top, the site is a wonder. A series of narrow cobblestone walkways lead up to steps upon steps that keep you climbing as if you were aiming to ascend heaven at that moment.

    Visitors are able to access the famed abbey and walk around the town inside the walls of Mont-Saint-Michel. Similar to Old Quebec City, this fortified village is touristy but in a pleasant way. You will find bars, creperies, expensive restaurants, souvenir shops and all kinds of sweets for sale. Small as it is, the fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel is still a residential town. There's a cemetery, a few offices and a population of 50, according to the 2015 census in France.

    Reaching Mont-Saint-Michel used to be hazardous, if not undoable. The islet upon which the cathedral is built juts out into water as if it were a giant trophy on a mantelpiece. The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel once surrounded the fortress. But a dam has been built, slowing the flow of water from the Cousenon River into the bay and preventing the moat from forming, on most days. The tide coming in from the Atlantic Ocean usually recedes more than 15 kilometres (nine miles), but there are about 30 days a year when the water rises and Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island again. For most of the year, however, the coast is wondrously clear and a recently built causeway allows buses to bring visitors within a short walk of the gates. You will notice many barefooted people clomping in the muddy ground between the fortress and Tomblaine Island, an uninhabited speck of land in the middle of the bay. Traditionally, pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago made it to the sanctuary by crossing the bay in this direction. Pilgrims and other tourists replicate the march daily.

    The large shuttle buses, called passeurs, offer free rides and they are frequent, departing every 15 minutes from 7 a.m. until after midnight. The buses pick up passengers at spots along the main road that cuts through the town of Le Mont-Saint-Michel, which is outside of the walls and is a different experience from the town that is inside the fortress. I visited on the eve of Bastille Day, which brought a boisterous atmosphere to the lightly populated region. Ironic, given that the French Revolution caused much damage to the cathedral and village, but these days Mont-Saint-Michel is enjoying a revival in interest, following a 10-year renovation project and added infrastructure such as the buses and causeway.

    Outside of the walls, you will find additional accommodations, as well as restaurants, shops and other tourist fare. Both the walled city and the external town are worth spending time in, though it is the life within the fortress -- past and present -- that you will most want to explore.

    A prison in the 19th century, Mont-Saint-Michel has had a tumultuous, sometimes wicked, past, as you might expect from a place that has endured eras considered among the worst periods in human history. According to legend, it even had a violent beginning. A myth says Archangel Michael, for whom the fortress and area are named, commanded a priest in the early 8th century to build a sanctuary and church on the rocky mountain that is 80 metres (260 feet) above the sea. The priest twice ignored the order, which came to him in a vision, and Michael did what archangels apparently do when they don't get their wish: He used his finger to burn a hole in the priest's skull, getting his point across more tangibly.

    Soon afterwards, the priest, who would become Saint Aubert, began construction of the monastic sanctuary. A dramatic wall sculpture of Michael and Aubert is in the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, one of many art pieces visitors will find fascinating.

    There are contemporary artworks as well, including a current installation featuring a massive golden eagle and a large snake. A night show occurs often during the summer and choir groups occasionally perform concerts. It demonstrates Mont-Saint-Michel's wealth of history, as well as its commitment to remaining culturally current, too.

    And that's all the more reason to contemplate a visit to this epic attraction that will convince you it has a magnetic energy amid all of its marble, stone and rock. A force intent on summoning you back.

    Visit Vacay.ca for Photos and Tips for Seeing Mont-Saint-Michel

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    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you fly.

    With the rush of holiday travel just around the corner, airports around the globe are doing their best to to get passengers in the festive spirit with decorations, illuminated trees and whimsical treats. Look for everything from ice skating rinks to carollers to Christmas trees at Cheapflights.ca's picks for best decked out airports around the world:

    Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver

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    Image: Vancouver International Airport


    The sounds of seasonal music entertain arriving and departing passengers at Vancouver International Airport. Free live music and holiday entertainment are set against a backdrop of seasonal installations and photo opportunities. Look for performances both pre- and post-security between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Dec. 16-24, 2016. Holiday perks for passengers in Vancouver include free gift-wrapping for all purchases post-security and double Aeroplan Miles for all travellers who pre-book for stays until Dec. 31, 2016 with jetSet Parking for a minimum four-day stay.

    Changi Airport, Singapore
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    Image: Changi Airport


    Changi Airport's holiday theme this year is "Pokémon at Changi," capitalizing on the popularity of Pokemon Go. The Singapore airport will be turned into a lair for the pocket monsters through Feb. 11, 2017. The holidays kicked off in mid-November with a Pikachu Parade featuring 10 of the bright yellow characters. The holiday set-up in Terminal 3's departure hall includes a giant seven-foot Pikachu and a Gingerbread House that is home to Santa's Workshop and Mrs. Claus' Confectionary, which is filled with toys and treats.

    Pikachu visits the Gingerbread House on weekends until Jan. 1, 2017. More Pokémons are in the Terminal 3 departure hall, while three life-size Snorlaxes lounge at the Snorlax Garden for photo ops. Pokémon trainers and visitors can embark on a Poké Trail for a chance to win exclusive Pokemon merchandise by hunting for the 26 Pokémon waiting to surprise them at various locations across Changi Airport.

    At the Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 departure halls, visitors can find virtual face painting kiosks where they can see themselves turned into Pikachu. Pokémon fans can buy a full set of nine limited-edition Pokémon plush toys including Pikachu, Eevee, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle and three new characters from Nintendo's new Sun and Moon series - Rowlet, Litten and Popplio - as well as the Poké Ball.

    Heathrow Airport, London, England
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    Image: Heathrow Airport


    At Heathrow Airport in London, passengers are treated to performances by a string quartet and carollers. Don't miss Santa Claus handing out chocolates. Children can participate in workshops to make Christmas candles and tree decorations, and they can eat for free at Heathrow's restaurants during the holiday season. Travellers departing from Heathrow and shopping along the way can receive complimentary gift-wrapping. Emotional reunions are aplenty in the arrivals area, so it's no wonder parts of the holiday film "Love Actually" were filmed there.

    Zurich Airport, Zurich, Switzerland
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    Image: Zurich Airport


    Zurich Airport is aglow for the holidays, literally. The airport is decked with 500,000 lights inside and outside. The Airport Center on the landside is draped with huge chandeliers and chains of lights. Post-security, there is a 26-foot tree, decked with Swarovski ornaments and festive sleighs, which is the perfect place for selfies. Near the gates, there's another Christmas tree decorated by Tiffany & Co. Swarovski, Fogal and Lindt offer their products in specially-built and festively decorated pop-up stores.

    Holiday events include an Advent Brunch, fondue, raclette and wine tastings at airport restaurants. Children can decorate gingerbread and bake cookies in the Airport Bakery, and Santa Claus is making visits too. Passengers can enter to win prizes like shopping vouchers and a European flight with Germania. The grand prize, a pair of long-haul tickets in SWISS Business Class, will be drawn on Dec. 24. All passengers get free chocolate every weekend in December.

    Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
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    Image: Lauren Mack


    The holidays at Orlando International Airport may not be quite what they are at nearby Walt Disney World, but they're still an impressive addition to the festive season for travellers. A massive tree with blue, red, green and yellow LED lights graces the atrium of terminal B. It's easily one of the largest trees seen in an airport terminal.

    Toronto International Airport, Toronto, Ontario
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    Image: Toronto Pearson International Airport


    Toronto Pearson International Airport becomes a winter wonderland during the holidays. There is a 27-foot tree in the check-in area of Terminal 1, an 80-foot tree in the check-in area in Terminal 3 and an 18-foot tree in the T1 domestic baggage hall. The airport is also decorated with wreaths and smaller trees. The Toronto airport hosts a retail and restaurant decorating contest, which ratchets up the holiday flair. Travellers are also in for some yet-to-be-announced holiday surprises and fun retail promotions.

    Denver International Airport, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
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    Image: Tim Whiteaker, dia1 via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Denver International Airport is kicking off its holiday season with the addition of an ice skating rink on the airport's open-air plaza. Skating is free from Nov. 25- Jan. 1 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and carollers and costumed characters will make surprise appearances. In addition to this winter wonderland, the airport will also have an outdoor holiday market from Dec. 9-11, featuring local crafts and food items. Have some time on your hands before your flight on Dec. 16? Starting at 4 p.m. on the DEN Plaza, catch a holiday "Film on the Fly" with a screening of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and an Ugly Holiday Sweater contest (also perfect for keeping cozy - and festive - on your flight!).

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    I love visiting new places and discovering hidden gems. Port Credit is a neighbourhood in Mississauga, approximately 25 kilometers from Toronto or about a 35-minute drive from downtown Toronto. You can also take a train from Toronto to Port Credit or Uber as transportation to this lovely lakeside area.

    In Port Credit, you can enjoy shopping, music and dining on the waterfront. They also have a wide selection of restaurants and a very friendly community. I found it easy to walk around and wander around all the different shops. There are two marinas and beautiful views of Lake Ontario.

    To find out more about Port Credit you can look at information from Discover Mississauga or the Port Credit Business Association.

    A small family run business, MyOlive is the best in the Toronto area for Premium Olive Oils and has a Balsamic Tasting Bar. You can ask for Robert Pineau and Sandy Pretty, and they can share with you, the best Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamic vinegars for every taste.

    The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro's mission is to make the world's best burger, and I would say that they are definitely on their way! Located in the heart of Port Credit, they have burgers to suite everyone's tastes including gluten free burgers. Their milkshakes are world-famous and delicious.

    If you love shopping for pretty jewellery, then Hickox Fine Jewellery Ltd. is the place to be in Port Credit. It is a family-run retail shop that has everything from gorgeous watches, to fine jewellery, to custom designs, to original diamond engagement rings. They provide amazing, warm customer service.



    A longtime resident of Port Credit is Paul T. O'Marra. Paul has been practicing law since 1992 and is the Proprietor of Paul T. O'Marra, O'Marra & Elliott - Barristers and Solicitors.

    As a longtime local, Paul shared with me some of his favourite spots in Port Credit including the Port Credit arena where he plays hockey, and after a game, enjoys chicken wings and beer at the Pump House Grille in Port Credit.

    If you want a unique and special dining experience, try &company Resto Bar. They have beautiful natural wood and custom antique-finished metal installations, offer fine familiar cuisine and delicious after dinner drinks to suit all tastes. This is a gourmet restaurant which in the evening transforms into a lively nightlife hotspot.

    I love to try new spa treatments and relax when I am on holidays. Allura Skin and Laser Centre in Port Credit, has the latest skin rejuvenation and anti-aging treatments which leave your skin feeling fresh and revitalized. They also offer some of the most advanced non-surgical laser aesthetic treatments available and offer an amazing Hot Stone Massage which will leave you feeling relaxed and fantastic.

    Keeping fit is always on top of my travel agenda, whether it is going for a bike ride around town or hitting the gym in my hotel. I want to stay healthy when I am traveling.

    In Port Credit, you can try something a bit different for your next workout. Academy of Martial Arts - Port Credit offers a wide range of fitness options including; Kardio Kickboxing, Karate, Tai Chi and much more.

    If you are looking for more things to see and do around Toronto, you check out Tourism Toronto. They have additional information on the local sights, seasonal events, entertainment, accommodations, dining, shopping, activities and much more in Toronto.


    Please let me know in the comments below, if you have been to Port Credit and if so, what were your favourite spots or restaurants. I'd love to hear from you!

    Let's keep thriving and living our very best lives! Keep an eye on my blog, as I continue to travel to unique destinations and reveal all the best travel tips in 2017.

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

    Visit Sacha daily at SachaD.com
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    Christmas markets may have originated in Germany, but you don't have to travel to Nuremberg or Munich to enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of a true holiday market. As soon as December is seen on the horizon, markets and bazaars begin to pop up across the Great White North's favorite cities and small towns. These five Canadian Christmas markets are complete with homemade gifts, tasty seasonal eats, and warm holiday drinks to keep you fueled for checking every name off your Christmas shopping list.

    Toronto Christmas Market -- Toronto, Ontario
    Perhaps the most legendary of all Canadian Christmas markets, the Toronto Christmas Market attracts visitors from around the country. Located in the trendy Distillery District, this market encourages you to spend more than one day shopping for handcrafted gifts, taking part in holiday-themed activities, sipping seasonal craft beers, and nibbling on traditional Christmas market eats, like schnitzel, German potato pancakes, and fresh baked goods.

    German Christmas Market -- Quebec City, Quebec
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    Photo credit: glasseyes view

    Quebec City's old-world charm and elegant citywide decorations make it a must-visit destination for those seeking an extra dose of holiday cheer this year. And the German Christmas Market should be one the first stops on your seasonal tour of the city. This European-style Christmas market, which can be found at 2 Rue des Jardins from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, features an authentic village of wooden kiosks, offering one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, holiday performances, traditional German market eats (bratwursts, gingerbread, mulled wine and more), and special appearances from Santa Claus.

    Vancouver Christmas Market -- Vancouver, Canada
    Vancouver is often called the "World in a City," for its rich ethnic diversity. For the past seven years, the holiday season has illuminated the west coast seaport's European side through the treasured Vancouver Christmas Market. Now taking place at the Jack Poole Plaza due to a need for more space than ever before, the 2016 Christmas market will be loaded with merchandise vendors, live entertainment, kids activities, and mouthwatering foods from Vancouver, Germany, and around the world. Visits with Santa, dance performances, live holiday-themed concerts, and caroling by local choirs are just a few of the events you'll find on schedule every day leading up to Dec. 25.

    Christkindl Market -- Kitchener, Ontario

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    Photo credit: john

    Canada's original Christkindl Market has been taking place in Kitchener, Ontario, since 1996, making it one of the oldest Christmas markets in the country. In addition to being the oldest, it's also one of the most authentic, with small huts along King Street offering sweet and savoury eats, mulled wine, traditional German crafts, and even blacksmith demonstrations. Holiday decorations, nativity scenes, candlelight processions, folk dancers, bands, and choirs set this market aside from the rest in terms of authenticity and nonstop entertainment.

    Puces POP -- Montréal, Québec
    Puces POP is an arts and entertainment market that's so popular it happens three times a year. The holiday edition of the event, which will take place throughout the weekends of Dec. 9 and Dec. 16, this year, will bring together more than 100 artisans and 10,000 visitors at the Eglise Saint-Denis. There's no better place in Montreal to load stockings with handcrafted organic soaps, stock up on trendy t-shirts for teens, find Fido the perfect gift, and check everyone off your naughty and nice lists.

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    2016-12-18-1482024678-4753021-12427824243_44ee6e342a_z.jpg
    Photo credit: Roderick Eime

    The holiday season is here, and families just like mine are packing their layers into suitcases for another trip to Whistler, Sunshine VIllage, Lake Louise, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, or one of Canada's more than 100 ski areas. This year, we chose Whistler, and while my husband and two sons are far more excited about terrain parks, bowls, and chest-deep powder than Santa Claus, I'm going through my annual pre-ski-trip blues.

    I'm dreading the parking space I'll find that feels light years away from the ticket booth, the lift lines that will make my knees ache more than any black diamond, and the crowds of people I'll be dodging fearfully with my mediocre skiing skills.

    However, thanks to Google and a few lessons I've learned over the years, I think this trip may be different. I've been diligently researching the best ways to beat the crowds at popular ski resorts during the insane holiday season, and I'd like to share my findings with all of the other overwhelmed ski moms out there.

    Pack A Lunch

    This tip is one of my own. I dread lunchtime at the ski resort before I even step into my bindings. The moment we arrive at the cafeteria, my boys dart in opposite directions in search of pizza slices, hot chocolate, french fries, and all of the delicious junk food served at every resort we've ever visited. I don't mind letting them indulge in their favorite foods while on vacation, but I don't want to wait until the food is cold to pay for it. I've been packing our lunches for full days on the mountain for several years now, which means we all get to eat long before we get "hangry."

    Ski on Christmas Day

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    Photo credit: Murray Foubister

    Now that my boys are more interested in fresh powder than Santa Claus, we plan to spend Christmas morning a little differently. Heather Balogh, the author of a 2014 blog post for Liftopia, suggests heading to the mountain while everyone else is sipping coffee and opening presents at home or in their rented condo. We're going to pray for fresh snowfall and open our gifts several hours later this year. Who knows -- this could become a new family tradition.

    Buy Lift Tickets Ahead of Time

    I've been skiing since the early '80s, long before sites like Liftopia and Get Ski Tickets existed, so I never even considered foregoing the dreaded lift ticket lines during the holidays. This year, I logged onto the Whistler-Blackcomb website and booked our passes online. That's one less line to worry about, and to me, that's a pretty big deal.

    The Closer the Better

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    Photo credit: Patrick Nouhailler

    We're not the type of travelers that have to stay on top of the attraction if there's a more affordable option nearby. We didn't stay at a Disney resort on our trip Orlando, Fla., and we always choose a budget-friendly hotel just slightly farther from the sand to save money in Puerto Vallarta.

    However, on ski vacations, closer is most certainly better. Stay within or very close to the village of the ski area you're visiting, and you'll find the extra money you spend on your room is recuperated elsewhere. You can forget about costly cab fares for dinner and drinks, you can park your vehicle for the duration of your trip, and you won't have to dodge traffic in the lot for a parking space that's 3 kilometres from the chairlift. After all, the goal is to spend more time on the mountain with your family and less time worrying about the unrelenting holiday ski crowds.

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    Canadian employers, recruiters and postsecondary admissions staff are beginning to recognize the value of taking a gap year, but just taking time off from school or work doesn't quite cut it.

    As the trend continues to gain traction in Canada, those who spend their time sifting through resumes and applications have recognized that some gap years are better spent than others.



    Some approaches look better on a resume or application than others.



    "Personally, I have always found details about what someone opted to do during a gap year or when volunteering to be quite insightful, telling me a story about what makes the applicant tick," said Beverly Marinucci, the director of service delivery for Workopolis.

    Gap years are also no longer just limited to students entering university. A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. citizens by Hostelworld found that over a quarter of respondents had taken a gap year, and nearly 60 per cent of them were taken after university.

    "[Gap years] do help set them apart a bit more," said Carrie Kelly, the director of the graduate program office at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University. Kelly oversees all admissions for applicants to the business school's graduate diplomas and degrees. "They just seem to be more committed, more settled down, more sure of what they want."

    While there are many ways to spend the time off from work or school, Marinucci and Kelly agree that some approaches look better on a resume or application than others. Here are eight ways to make the most out of your gap year.

    Don't just go on vacation

    You'd hope it would go without saying, but Kelly says she's seen it on student applications in the past; taking a gap year is different than going on vacation, and anyone who looks at your resume will quickly identify the difference.

    "If they were to just be travelling on vacation, maybe spent a few months in Europe backpacking, that doesn't hold much weight," she said.

    Experience different cultures

    That's not to say that travel isn't a highly valuable asset for those taking a gap year, but some travel is considered more valuable than others.

    "International experience and international exchanges are becoming a lot more common," said Kelly. "Just having international volunteer or work experience, knowing multiple languages, especially in business, that can add to the value of the application."

    Find work experience that is relevant to your career ambitions

    Whether you're seeking work experience at home or abroad, the more relevant it is to your career ambitions or field of study, the more beneficial it will be when submitting an application or resume.

    "That strongly indicates that that's their area of interest; that they've worked in that area and they're more certain that's the area they want to pursue," said Kelly, adding that there's a practical reason why admissions staff prefer seeing relevant work experience. "They're statistically more likely to continue in the program once they get in. The dropout rate won't be as high."

    Furthermore, Kelly explains that students are typically able to find more prestigious placements in co-op programs if they've already completed an entry-level position in that field. She adds, however, that any work experience is better than no work experience, even if it's not directly relevant.

    Make sure you get a positive reference

    No matter how relevant the position is to your future career or educational ambitions, it's vitally important to leave on good terms. After all, applicants who have taken a year off are commonly asked to prove they were productive during that time, and a negative review could suggest they just aren't ready to return to school or work just yet.

    "What you don't want to see is students that use their employers for references and they're not very favourable," said Kelly. "That has happened a lot, surprisingly."

    Keep track of your accomplishments

    For many, the gap year is a dizzying period filled with unique experiences and accomplishments. No matter how they spend that year, however, many will find themselves struggling to put all of those experiences into words at the end of it all, said Kelly. Instead she suggests keeping track of accomplishments as they happen, making it easier to translate those experiences onto an application when the year comes to an end.

    "We even talk to our students about making sure everything they're doing, if they're volunteering, working, or going the extra mile, that they document it and they keep a record of it," she said. "Anything that adds value to your resume will make a difference, so you don't want to forget it."

    Find a cause that's meaningful to you

    While there may be seemingly infinite ways to give back during a gap year, Joel Nicholson, founder of UniversityHub.ca -- an online resource that provides support to tens of thousands of university-bound students -- suggests favouring opportunities that are personally meaningful above those that might look better on an application.

    "You can find awesome programs that focus on any cause that you can think of," he said. "Find something that really resonates with you, and that way you'll become even more passionate to make a change."

    Learn a freelance-able skill

    While there are also infinite job opportunities for those pursuing a gap year, finding a skill that can earn money over the Internet provides a number of advantages over a traditional, in-person job, suggests Nicholson.

    "Once you learn a skill -- whether its social media marketing or blog post writing or detailed data analytics -- you can go online onto these freelancer communities and get hired," he said. "You can earn great money, and the benefit of that is you can do it anywhere, particularly somewhere with a very low cost of living, so your net profit for that year would be higher than if you worked a traditional part-time student job with the cost of living you would endure back home in Canada."

    Keep an open mind

    While volunteer and work experiences will help get students and job applicants further along during the application process, employers and admissions staff often expect those who have taken a gap year to demonstrate superior self-awareness and adaptability when they sit down for an interview.

    "The number one skill is allowing yourself to be articulate about what you seek out of your university experience in terms of what you actually want to get out of it, what kind of person you want to become," says Nicholson. "If you can do that, that separates you from 99 per cent of the people applying to university."

    "Each individual activity one undertakes during a gap year ultimately helps build this intangible quality," adds Marinucci. "These are all characteristics that display a 'well roundedness' that we hope to see in students entering post secondary education, our companies as our newest employees, and our communities as future leaders," she said.

    See also:
    5 things to consider before returning to a former employer

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    Tiny potions that say "drink me," accompanied by cookies that read "eat me" are served as stilt walkers tower above and mounds of fabric wrap around women to form elaborate dresses with voluminous trains. It's opening night at the Marrakech International Film Festival, a week-long celebration of global cinema patroned by Moroccan King Mohammed VI that beckons you to tumble down the rabbit hole.

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    Suzanne Clément, Montreal actress and jurist at the Marrakech Film Festival // Source: Christine Lee


    And it's under this hazy spell that I meet Montreal actress Suzanne Clément, who has made a name for herself in French cinema as an award winning actress in Lawrence Anyways and I Killed My Mother. Clément was invited as a member of the festival's jury, which awarded top honors to Chinese filmmakers, including the Grand Prix to Chinese feature The Donor. I ask Clément why she agreed to do the festival, and for her way it was a way to reconnect with Morocco, a country that conjures fond memories of camping out in the Sahara desert while gazing at stars. It was also a way to give back to what she called a "liberal North African country."

    Indeed, Morocco has taken steps to become one of the more progressive and stable Muslim countries in the region, following the Arab Spring of 2011, King Mohammed VI announced constitutional reforms to transfer more power to parliament. Pressure to give women more rights has been mounting and events like this film festival aim to bridge western and Middle Eastern cultures through film and art.

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    Isabelle Hupert presents a Lifetime Achievement award to Paul Verhoeven, flanked by French and Arabic presenters at the Palais des Congrès // Source: Christine Lee


    Every night at the Palais des Congrès, stars walk the red carpet and an international film is presented by an Arabic-speaking woman and a French-speaking gentleman beneath English subtitles. For Clément, watching the presenters is an epiphanous moment that demonstrates how different cultures can live in harmony.

    "It's very simple just to hear both of them presenting, so it's not like [our different languages are something] that we're asked to put aside or it's a thing that is so dangerous and violent," says Clément. "This for me is opening our minds and pushing these boundaries that the world is potentially creating for nothing."


    2016-12-23-1482515763-1744303-20161205_140659.jpg
    Marrakech's medieval market, the Medina // Source: Christine Lee


    Reflecting on Clément's words, perhaps her point is even more evident when walking the maze-like quarters of the Medina, Marrakech's medieval market where Jews, Muslims and ancient Berbers blend together, selling brass lights, tanned leather, glass tea sets and wool carpets.

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    Stunning Moroccan courtyards at La Mamounia // Source: Christine Lee


    Back at La Mamounia hotel, Paul Haggis, London, Ontario-born director of the films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, delivered a Master Class on cinema and talked about this cultural mélange. He said Morocco has seemed to "figure out" what the rest of the world hasn't been able to figure out -- how all the various ethnicities and religious factions seem to coexist quite peacefully, contrary to the tensions often felt in America and many other places right now.

    At a time when anti-immigrant and anti-globalization sentiment is sweeping across the western world, I didn't expect to find a beacon of tolerance and progress in Morocco, though the North African country has taken steps to open itself to the world and hosted the latest major summit on global climate change, COP22, in November.

    2016-12-23-1482515914-4216394-IMG_20161211_002539.jpg
    An oasis of palm trees, the Palmeraie // Source: Christine Lee


    The Marrakech International Film Festival concluded it's 16th run this month, and one of my final memories was of walking through the Palmeraie, an oasis of palm trees on the outskirts of the city with a group of journalists. A gang of kids on bicycles yelled out suspiciously to stop taking photos when Salima Yacoubi Soussane, a local journalist, began answering them in Arabic. They were surprised and immediately made peace, learning about our different nationalities and cultures.

    2016-12-23-1482515936-5241774-DSC03122.JPG
    Salima Youcoubi Soussane makes friends with local boys in Marrakech // Source: Christine Lee


    Soussane, a pentalinguist, encouraged them to learn more languages at school. The kids began shouting out different languages and bragging about siblings who were bi of trilingual.

    2016-12-23-1482515957-2318583-DSC03131.JPG
    Multilingualist in the making // Source: Christine Lee


    My favourite answer was from a boy who insisted his brother could speak Arabic, French ...and Chinese.

    It's a good sign when multingualism gives you street cred on the playground.

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    Ah, the holidays. When dreaming of a white Christmas becomes a little too real, enjoying your time off with loved ones in a tropical setting seems a tad more appealing. No destination seems more appropriate to while the days away than Bali; the Indonesian gem of an island can certainly be defined as paradise, regardless of your inclination while on vacation. The wonderfully diverse destination is, yes, undeniably beautiful, but is also the perfect place to spend Christmas break, surrounded by family and friends, as there truly is something for everyone. Below, your guide to the best of Bali.

    Seminyak -- The Place to Party
    Generally, when you fly into Bali, you'll land at Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (fun fact: it's also known as Denpasar International Airport, as visitors couldn't pronounce its proper name). Close by is tourist-favourite and the ever-buzzing city of Seminyak. Motorbikes by the hundreds whiz by in every direction, and late night drinks and parties spill onto the hot, steamy streets. Just north of the crowded Double Six Beach, The W Retreat and Spa Bali is an oasis in the middle of all the action. Upon arrival, the dazzling bright and enchanting entrance instantly transports you -- a canopy of trees shimmer with legions of lights, and the noise instantly dims.

    Replaced is a glamorous, artistic aesthetic the W is known for; notoriously bold Alec Monopoly paintings decorate the lobby, as do local Balinese touches, like the Batik ceilings overhead. The resort is situated beachside, and features a stunning and large, black-tiled and tiered swimming pool overlooking the ocean. When the sun begins its slow and vibrant descend, slink over to Woobar to sip a fruity cocktail and take in the spectacular scenery. A live DJ spinning lounge-y, chill sounds evokes a relaxed and entertaining vibe.

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    If you're keen to partake in Seminyak's party culture, Legian Beach is the place to be. Cocoon Beach Club throws a Splash Party on Sundays, and draws crowds of fun-loving tourists to the beach-side day club with their top-tier DJ's and outrageously costumed staff (don't be surprised to see Go-Go dancers surrounded by plumes of pink feathers, perched high upon stilts in full flamingo get-ups).

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    For a stylish beach soiree, arrange a table at the discernibly fabulous Potato Head. This magnificent space boasts three restaurants, each with a distinct milieu; two bars, each with fabulously imaginative and delicious cocktails; and an enormous, perfectly manicured lawn that leads to an equally impressive infinity pool (in which one of the bars is in) overlooking the beach.

    Uluwatu -- A Pampered Paradise
    Further south down the coast of Bali lays Uluwatu. Far more serene, authentic and sanguine in nature, The Four Seasons Jimbaran Resort encapsulates these notions. Archetypically known as the first large-scale resort to boast villa-only accommodations, the newly renovated villas can only be described as heaven on earth. Offering utmost privacy, each villa offers a supremely indulgent living space both indoor and out.

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    Around the resort, there are plenty of places to simply watch the undulating welcome of the shore, take in the culture by participating in activities such as learned to weave baskets, or get your heart rate up by trying your hand at stand-up paddleboarding. If your desires fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, take in the magnificent views from any angle, and book in for an aerial yoga session. The private pavilion is a tropical bliss, and the blend of practicing poses and mindful meditation brings a special kind of peacefulness that can only be found in moments of true tranquility.

    Ubud -- An Artistic, Healthful Escape
    In the middle of the Balinese rainforest lays the spiritual, richly-cultured town of Ubud. A well-known hub for traditional crafts and dance, there are many holy places in Ubud, too, such as the elaborately carved 'Elephant Cave', and many temples and shrines.

    Get swept up in the atmosphere and check yourself in to The Purist Villas and Spa. Situated in a private location away from (but still very close to) Ubud's buzz, this tropical rainforest getaway allows for an ultimate retreat. The gorgeous jungle setting can be completely enjoyed; the pool and restaurant are surrounded, and bamboo encases the half-indoor half-outdoor villas. The bathroom is partially open, while the enormous, circular shower area is entirely in fresh air, evoking a sense of getting back to nature and enjoying the simpler things in life.

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    While in Ubud, you mustn't miss out on one of the most absolutely spectacular dining experiences to be had at award-winning Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique. Arrive a few minutes early, and sip a cocktail in the pre-dinner lounge that has been designed to mimic the chef Chris Salans's living room. When you're ready to be seated, prepare to have your breath taken away; a glittering, scented garden veiled in candlelight ensures the setting is romantic, relaxing and enjoyed by all senses. The only thing better is one of the most memorable meals you'll surely indulge in during a lifetime -- French techniques seamlessly blend with Balinese flavours and ingredients for what can only be described as pure magic.

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    For a luxurious, eco-friendly and complete holistic healing experience, be sure to stay awhile at the Fivelements, a multi-award winning wellness retreat that realigns, transforms and transcends. Nine eco-villas are nestled deep in the lush, emerald jungle and surrounded by the rush of the Ayung River. This serene sanctuary has been inspired by the traditional Balinese way of life, and encapsulates the spirit of caring for nature and oneself. Healing the mind and body through 'Panca Mahabhuta', a Hindu concept which represents the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth), Fivelements approaches with a harmonious philosophy that balances, restores and rejuvenates.

    2016-12-20-1482210421-6933694-FivelementsPuriAhimsaphotosExteriorHotelinformation.jpg


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    Many Canadians will make resolutions to travel more in 2017. And like every year, tens of thousands of us will venture across the border to the U.S., south to Mexico, or across the globe to faraway destinations like Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. However, not everyone will get the opportunity to pack their bags and escape for weeks, or even months, at a time in the new year.

    Those with slightly less nomadic lifestyles can still experience new cultures, taste exotic foods, and fill their Instagram pages with comment-worthy travel photos by visiting these four worldly cities right here in Canada.

    Montreal, Quebec

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    Photo credit: Michel Curi

    Forget about that budget-breaking ticket to Europe and travel to Montreal instead. Not only will you finally get to practice your French accent, you'll wander cobblestone streets, wind through narrow avenues, gawk at the elegant Basilique Notre-Dame, and shop boutiques that resembles those of Rome and London.

    Experience Montreal's Paris-like romantic side by cozying up in an Old Montreal boutique hotel, renting bicycles for a leisurely ride through the city, or dining on fresh, seasonal eats at Toque or Bouillon Bilk. Montreal is a destination for travellers that want to experience the Old World without the plane tickets and baggage fees.

    Victoria, British Columbia

    Victoria is not your average capital city. More than simply a clean and comfortable place for politicians to live and work, Victoria's downtown is loaded with green spaces, charming shops, world-renowned eateries, and historic castles and churches that transport visitors back in time.

    Travellers trying to stay close to home can still experience much of the culture they'd experience in other parts of the world by visiting the Gothic style Christ Church Cathedral, the Congregation Emanu-El (the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada), the Royal BC Museum, and Vancouver Island's largest professional theatre company, the Belfry Theatre.

    Toronto, Ontario

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    Photo credit: michael_swan

    Also known as the City of Neighborhoods, those who visit Toronto in 2017 have the chance to experience multiple faraway countries in a single metropolis. The 5.2 million people who live in Toronto flow between a long list of neighbourhoods, including Corktown (replete with vintage architecture), the Harbourfront (home of the famous CN Tower) and numerous cultural centres, like Little Italy, Koreatown and Chinatown.

    You'll find that Toronto is home to so many unique neighbourhoods, each with its own quirky shops, museums, theatres, pubs and eateries, that a single visit just isn't enough.

    Quebec City, Quebec

    Quebec is the province to visit if you love the Old World, and similar to Montreal, Quebec City is known for its distinctly European flair. French cuisine works its way onto nearly every restaurant menu, 400-year-old buildings wear snow just how you'd imagine in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and the top floor of the world's most photographed hotel, Chateau Frontenac, sit overlooking it all.

    Historic fortifications and ancient neighbourhoods are complemented by new-age eateries, state-of-the-art attractions (like the Aquarium du Quebec), and trendy accommodation options to reassure you that you're not travelling in the olden times. Visit Quebec City in 2017, and you'll realize Europe is a whole lot closer than it seems.

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    Indonesia is home to 17,000 islands, and Bali is just one of them. While the "Island of the Gods" is revered for its coral reefs, volcanic mountains and technicolor rice terraces, many travelers' tunnel vision causes them to miss out on the country's countless other island paradises. These six Indonesian destinations offer the authentic culture and exotic beauty you're seeking without the hoards of year-round tourists you'll find on the country's most popular tourist island.

    Komodo Island

    You don't have to be the age of most Jurassic Park enthusiasts to get excited about seeing modern day dinosaurs in real life. Between the more prominent islands of Sumbawa and East Nusa Tenggara lies Komodo, a small island that has made a big name for itself as the home of the world's largest living lizards (typically ranging from 68 to 90 kilograms), the Komodo dragons. The island is part of the scenic Komodo National Park, providing a picture-perfect backdrop for unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime Komodo dragon experiences.

    Karimunjawa Island

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    Photo credit: Azwari Nugraha

    Just off the coast of Central Java, are the 27 idyllic islands that make up Karimunjawa, a designated marine park. One of the two main islands, Karimunjawa Island is known for its clean, sugar-sand beaches, clear ocean waters and dozens of tree-covered peaks. A regular ferry travels from Jepara, Central Java, to Karimunjawa Island, making it easy for travelers to call this island's fairytale-like beauty home for a while.

    Lombok

    Lombok's palm-tree studded shores and Hawaii-status beauty can be found in just a short one-hour flight from Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. While it's an easy island to reach, spending the extra time and money to get there means fewer camera-toting tourists at your hotel and less local sales people shouting "transport" and "massage" everywhere you go. A more authentic Indonesian vibe, untouched natural beauty in many areas and easy access to the turtle sanctuaries and vehicle-free roads of the nearby Gili Islands make Lombok a must-visit.

    Weh Island

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    Photo credit: Ben Bland

    Travelers seeking a sleepy island oasis will fall in love with the laid-back vibes of Pulau Weh, or Weh Island. Visitors can spend days watching the island's animals roam about from the shade of a coconut palm or experience some of the country's best snorkeling and diving. Tourism only reached this minute island just off the coast of Sumatra roughly a decade ago, which means those who venture here experience a glimpse into Indonesian life before the beachcombing crowds.

    Rote Island

    Similar to Pulau Weh, Rote takes travelers back to a time when pigs and goats roamed freely on Indonesian islands and beaches were void of colorful umbrellas and lounge chairs. Sitting just 500 kilometres northwest of Australia, it's a wonder the white sand beaches and turquoise waters aren't packed with tourists from the Land Down Under. However, visit Rote and all you'll find is wave-hungry surfers in search of the famously long left-hand waves at T-land, and cheerful locals hoping you'll stay in one of their cabanas or guest houses. More and more foreign-owned hotels and mini-resorts are rising in Rote every year, so there is no better time to go than now.

    Sulawesi

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    Photo credit: g2acy

    Being the 11th-largest island in the world and one of just four Greater Sunda Islands, Sulawesi doesn't lack charm because of its size. The island is home to three large peninsulas with coral-reef-filled gulfs between each one. Sulawesi's octopus-like shape means those who visit get to experience multiple ecosystems and tribal cultures on a single journey. World-class diving, postcard-worthy beaches and cultural experiences worthy of a spread in National Geographic make the journey to Makassar and throughout the 67,413-square-metre island worth every bemo ride.

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    As 2016 winds down, it's time to look ahead to what the New Year has in store. Changes coming in 2017 are set to transform every aspect of the travel experience -- from the way travellers book (on their mobile phones in response to deal alerts) to the airline they choose (including an upswing in low-cost options), to how far they can stretch their travel budget (the result of greater competition). All these innovations -- plus the desire for more meaningful travel -- will see some Canadians opt to combine work and travel in a new nomadic travel lifestyle.

    Here are some of the changes Cheapflights.ca predicts are in store for 2017:

    The rise of low-cost carriers and unbundled airfare - 2017 is the year the low-cost carrier model really makes an impact for Canadian travellers. Base airfares for travel in the U.S. and across much of the rest of the world will continue to drop as more airlines -- from legacy carriers such as United and Delta, to growing low-cost airlines like Allegiant to Norwegian - add to the volume of available discount seats.

    For Canadians, this trend will get an added push from the growth of overseas players like Wow and new domestic start-ups like NewLeaf (and possibly Jetlines and FlyToo), as well as the recent decision to raise the limit on foreign investment in Canadian airlines. Travellers around the world have voted with their wallets, fuelling the demand for low-cost carriers, and now, more and more Canadians will have the opportunity to opt for lower fares, recognizing the upside of saving on their seat and paying only for the "perks" that matter enough to them that they will fork out added cash for the service.

    While such travel is still not for everyone, it will be an increasingly popular choice as travellers embrace the opportunity to get where they want to go for less.

    A "golden age" for international travel - With airlines around the world offering increasing budget options, international travel will be more accessible than ever. Look for more moves like Norwegian Air's adoption of narrow-body planes and BYO entertainment to ensure lighter, more streamlined flying and continued low fuel costs to help keep airline costs (and thus, airfares) in check. Open Skies agreements have added to this "golden age" for international travel, as they allow for increased cross competition from international airlines.

    Add into the equation some major currency fluctuations, which have created increased buying power in many popular markets from Europe to Vietnam and Brazil to Japan. Of course, there are some potential headwinds for overseas travels, especially as Brexit and other industry lobbying threaten some key Open Skies agreements and raise the possibility of more immigration and customs challenges.

    Despite the tumult, some internationally minded folks will see travel as the antidote to the politics of the day. And all should recognize that there may be no better opportunity than the present to get out there and explore the world.

    More airport innovation and investment - Business leaders from markets across Canada are calling for a renewed focus on airport investment and innovation. In the wake of record-setting security and immigration lines throughout North America and increased comparisons to the efficiency of top international airports, such a rallying cry is no surprise. Government moves, like the rules change on foreign investment in airlines and the efforts to streamline preclearance for travel to the U.S., are signs of progress, and we anticipate a few more commitments to new investments and policies aimed at making air travel more efficient and affordable.

    In the meantime, though, look for a wave of short-term upgrades introduced by the private sector to start impacting travellers' airport experience. Improvements to watch for include automated security screening lanes, higher tech baggage tracking systems, biometric-powered and fast-tracked security screenings, and personalized services like food delivery to your departure gate or print-your-own luggage tags.


    Key 2017 destinations

    Cork, Ireland
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    Image: Anna & Michal, County Cork, the road via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

    A new darling of low-cost airlines, Cork will be an easy and affordable hop from the East Coast by the summer of 2017. And while travellers can easily transfer on to other points across Europe, Cork is a charming spot to visit either as an extended layover or as your main destination. Whether you prefer churches, castles and old-world architecture, a bustling and scenic waterfront, or popping into pubs and fish and chips shops, County Cork has you covered.

    A visit to Cork's English Market, which dates back to 1788, is a feast for the senses. Acclaimed as one of the finest covered markets in Europe, Queen Elizabeth insisted on a stop here during her historic visit to Ireland in 2011. The most recent proof of the region's allure? West Cork's Clonakilty claimed the 2017 Great Town Award naming it the best town in Britain and Ireland.

    Finland
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    Image: Timo Newton-Syms, Northern Lights via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

    With saunas, snow and the Northern Lights in the winter, and hiking, beaches, stunning scenery and cultured cities (as well as endless sunshine to enjoy it all) in the summer, Finland should be on everyone's travel to-do list. And 2017 may well be the best year to visit, as its 100th birthday celebration kicks off on New Year's Eve and builds through the summer, right up to Independence Day next Dec. 6.

    Celebration spots include a giant SnowCastle, housing a SnowRestaurant, SnowHotel and even a SnowChapel for those with marriage on the mind (cold feet, understandable!). There's also a wine festival with five 100th anniversary wines and, of course, a grand ball to mark the birthday itself. If you can't get to Finland in its Centennial year, perhaps you can catch the Traveling Sauna tour closer by in the U.S.

    To find out about more travel trends and destinations coming in 2017, go here.

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    Arriving in Cartagena the day the government signed a historic peace deal with FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) heightened both my excitement and anxiety about choosing Colombia for a winter getaway. A peace deal that had been rejected by Colombian voters months before, revised, and has since been approved unanimously by parliament. Luckily, the ceasefire that came into effect between the two groups while peace talks were underway had been extended to the end of the year, just in time for me to safely enjoy my holiday, I reasoned.

    Within minutes of being there, any fear I had about venturing into this post-narco controlled country quickly melted away. Cartagena is a photogenic, sexy city for the senses. With the romance and rogue bougainvillea blooms of Capri mixed with remnants of revolutionary eras not unlike Havana, I arrived at so many comparisons. In fact, Cuban flags could be seen throughout the city as Fidel Castro passed away the day after we arrived, signalling the two nations historic ties are still strong. Yet, the Caribbean city has an energy all it's own that simply can't be categorized.

    What struck me most, aside from the Spanish-colonial architecture and street art galore was the kindness, patience and chivalry of its people. When young dance troupes decide to perform in the street, traffic literally halts and waits until they're finished and the crowd had an opportunity to applaud. I even noticed some vehicles had turned on their hazard lights in an effort to safely alert oncoming cars.

    Poverty isn't overtly evident in Cartagena, but there are notably some people living on the streets. What felt so different from my experiences in North America, though, was the respect and compassion shown towards these folks. Whether it be a friendly buenos dias or someone popping out of a café to offer a bottle of water, these gestures didn't seem charitable, instead they seemed natural.

    Whether you're spending a few days, or decide to linger a little longer, here's some tips on eating, drinking and soaking in this stunning city.

    What to see

    While Cartagena has a modern business district with an expanding skyline of skyscrapers, you'll probably spend most of your time exploring the old city (La Ciudad Vieja). Spilt into four neighbourhoods, El Centro is the most popular, especially when the cruise ships roll in. Visit the iconic Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría, have a coffee in Plaza Santo Domingo and buy an ensalada de frutas from one of the city's famous fruit ladies. Also squeeze in a visit (or an entire afternoon) to Abaco Libros y Café, a bookstore with a café, full bar and good selection of books by Colombian Nobel prize-winning writer Gabriel García Márquez.

    San Diego to the north is slightly more modern with high-end shops and restaurants. Have a cerveza in Plaza Fernandez de Madrid and see what's playing at the Teatro Heredia.

    Spend most of your time in Getsemani, an up and coming neighbourhood with a local feel. This is the epicentre of the street art craze that's been sweeping Cartagena, some of which has been commissioned by the local government. Prepare to go snap happy along Calle de la Sierpe.

    Set out early before the searing heat sets in and explore Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, built by the Spanish in the 1500s. For sunset and a panoramic view of the city, take a taxi to La Popa, the highest point in Cartagena.

    If it's beach time you crave, venture to Bocagrande, although better beaches and crystal blue water is only a short boat ride away at one of the nearby islands.

    Where to eat

    You could easily survive off of street food for your entire stay, with ceviche, paella, and fresh fruit for days. Try an arepas de huevo (disk of fried corn masa, slit open and fried again with an egg inside), especially good if you hit the rum a little too hard the night before.

    La Mulata for inventive fish dishes and funky décor. Demente for modern tapas and a retractable roof perfect for stargazing. La Cocina de Pepina for the best meal you'll have your entire trip (reservations recommended).

    Where to drink

    Nightlife is the cornerstone of culture in Cartagena, in part because it's the most pleasant temperature of the day.

    Enjoy a few sundowners at romantic Café del Mar (we witnessed a few proposals here), check out Quiebra-Canto for salsa and reggae and popular Café Havana for live music that begins at 11pm nightly. If you're looking for something more local and nondescript, buy a six-pack of Aguila, perch on a bench in Plaza de Santisma Trinidad and people watch. Finally, a visit to Colombia isn't legit without sampling the coffee. See a proper coffee chemist at work at Cafe del Mural.

    Where to stay

    From small, boutique hostels to luxury hotels, there's something to suit any budget. For something charming and low key, book a private room at Mi Llave. The pretty, pink two-story has a view of downtown and is walking distance to everything in the Old City. For luxury in the heart of El Centro, book in a the Movich for it's stellar locale and breathtaking rooftop pool (also available to day visitors for a fee).

    Travel advisories encourage you to "exercise a high degree of caution" when visiting, specifically in rural areas and the region bordering Venezuela. While these warnings are reasonable, Colombia has made huge strides in recent years to protect tourists specifically in cities like Cartagena, Bogota and Medellín. Be alert and be smart, just as you would traveling anywhere. But don't rule out this country on the cusp of an exciting and promising new chapter. It's a wonder to see and a pleasure to visit.

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    As baggage restrictions tighten, travellers are finding more creative ways to avoid fees. But even the lightest packers find it difficult to forego checking a bag when travelling to chilly winter destinations. These five expert packing tips will help you squeeze all of your winter clothes into a single carry-on, so you can spend your travel savings on lift tickets and hot toddies.

    Wear It

    Most experienced travellers will advise you to keep layers to a minimum when travelling by air. The less you wear, the less there is to shed when passing through security. But travelling in the winter months is different.

    While donning your bulky winter jacket, heaviest shoes, scarf and hat may be annoying for a moment during the security screening process, it could save you from having to check a bag. And you'll arrive at your destination dressed for the elements.

    Don't Pack Outfits

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    Photo credit: m01229

    Specific outfits, with a top and bottom worn solely with one another, are not ideal for travelling light. Instead, pack neutral-coloured pants that can be worn with multiple tops. Make sure every shirt goes with each pair of pants, and you'll never have to wear the same outfit twice.

    Do Laundry

    Don't pack a clean pair of pants for everyday of your trip. Instead, research if the Airbnb apartment you're renting has access to a communal laundry space, or ask the friend you're visiting if you can do a load or two throughout your stay. Wherever you travel, you'll probably find laundry services nearby, which means you can pack much less.

    Think Twice

    Packing for cold weather requires much more thought than packing for a week-long trip to Jamaica. Imagine yourself at your destination and which items you'll be wearing. Leave any items behind that you won't be wearing more than twice.

    Use Space Savers

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    Photo credit: Ginny

    It may seem a little over the top to purchase space-saving bags for a single journey, but they can be invaluable if you travel often during the winter months. There are dozens of brands available, but you can also make your own using plastic garbage bags and any vacuum cleaner with a hose.

    If that seems like a little too much effort to save yourself $25 to $100 on checked baggage, carefully roll your clothing and use rubber bands to tie each piece. You'll be amazed at how much space you've been wasting by folding your clothing into your carry-on luggage.

    Layer Lightly

    Chunky sweaters are in style, but they're not practical when packing light. Forego packing your favourite thick wool sweater and opt for a lightweight but cozy cashmere one instead. Thermal underwear or any type of base layer can be worn on its own or under a traditional top for added warmth without bulk. Leggings work great as a bottom base layer for women, because they can be worn under pants or styled on their own.

    Pack Accessories

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    Photo credit: Hernan Pinera

    You should pack more accessories than any other clothing item when heading to cooler temperatures. Instead of loading your carry-on with multiple sweaters or jackets to change your look every day, pack multiple accessories. You can accessorize the same black sweater with several cute hats and scarves to turn one clothing item into countless unique looks.

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    A pilot who allegedly passed out drunk in a plane cockpit at the Calgary airport faces two criminal charges.

    The male pilot for Sunwing Airlines was found "severely impaired by alcohol" early Saturday morning, Calgary police said in a press release.

    The plane's crew noticed that he was acting oddly before he lost consciousness. Police allege the co-pilot found the captain passed out in the cockpit.

    "They found him slumped over in the seat. He was the captain," Sgt. Paul Stacey told a news conference.

    At the time of the incident, 99 passengers and five other flight crew were already on board.

    sunwing airlines
    A Sunwing plane lands in Calgary on July 21, 2016.

    The 737 800 Series aircraft was scheduled to fly to Regina and Winnipeg, with a final destination of Cancun, Mexico.

    "We are very appreciative of our crew’s diligence in handling this very unfortunate matter in accordance with procedures," Sunwing said in a statement. The flight was en route to Cancun with a new captain after a "minimal delay," added the company.

    "We are very apologetic for any upset that this has caused and would like to assure our customers that safety remains our utmost priority."


    "It had all the potential for a disaster."
    — Sgt. Paul Stacey



    Miroslav Gronych, 37, of Slovakia has been charged with one count of having control of a plane while impaired, and one count of having control of a plane with a blood alcohol level above .08.

    Stacey said police allege the suspect had three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system.

    "It had all the potential for a disaster but I'll tell you this much — the likelihood of a pilot on a major airline like this actually being able to take off when they're impaired like that is pretty slim, because there's a lot of checks and balances. There's the other flight crew and there's gate crew and they're all about safety," Stacey said.

    Transport Canada investigating

    Transport Canada spokesman Dan Dugas said in an email that it is a criminal offence in Canada for a flight crew to work within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence.

    Dugas said Transport Canada is reviewing the pilot's records and Sunwing Airlines' procedures and protocols.

    "As more information becomes available, the department will not hesitate to take enforcement action, including issuing fines and revoking licenses if appropriate. The airline is responsible for taking any disciplinary action against the pilots," the email said.

    With files from The Canadian Press

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    Travel is more than rest and relaxation for me. It's how I learn, grow, and find inspiration for my sometimes dull life at home in Toronto. Every trip I take has a profound impact on me, but I want it to have a profound impact on the people and places I visit too. These five simple ways I travel consciously -- both environmentally and socially -- are easy for any traveler to implement and are guaranteed to make every holiday more beneficial for you and your destinations.

    I Shop with Purpose

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    Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis

    I can't help but shop on every adventure I take. I pick up souvenirs for the kids, paintings for the grandparents, and a few personal treasures that remind me of my journeys on the boring winter days back home. But I'm careful about where I make my purchases. I could buy t-shirts at the Senor Frog's gift shop in Puerto Vallarta, but I choose to buy from local artisans instead. The money I spend is always invested in the local economy, typically with those who make their own crafts, clothing, and other items.

    I Bring Gifts

    I'm not Oprah. I can't give away cars, flat-screen TVs, and designer cosmetics. But I can toss a trick-or-treat size bag of lollipops in my carry-on luggage and give them to the kids I see throughout my adventures. Similarly, I often load a suitcase with clothes I haven't worn in more than a year. Those clothes are then given to the families and individuals I meet who could use a helping hand or a simple smile. Best of all, my checked baggage is left free to fill with all of my hand-crafted souvenirs.

    I'm Kind to the Environment

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    Photo credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

    It can be hard to see a future for the beaches of Bali when you step on a Coke can hidden under a thin layer of sand. Many destinations and entire countries don't care for their natural environments the way we do here in the Great White North, and that can be discouraging. Instead of leaving my Bintang bottle on the sand, I take it back to the Indomaret where I purchased it. And instead of buying a 48-pack of water bottles upon arrival, I buy a single 5-gallon jug and have it refilled. When I see a local throw trash out the window of a vehicle, I stop, pick it up, and search for the nearest trash can.

    I Don't Nickel and Dime

    For years, especially before I had a family, I thought getting the best price was one of the most important parts of my daily backpacking adventures. I'd argue over $2 on casita rentals, I'd stay in a filthy hostel for $10 instead of paying $15 with the nice local family down the road, I'd eat Cup Noodles instead of fresh-out-of-the-sea fish. I wasn't just missing out on unforgettable experiences and flavors; I was missing out on spending a little extra with those who truly needed my money.

    Most importantly, I remain conscious about what I think is a fair price when spending. I no longer haggle a hotel owner until he feels defeated. I decide on a price that feels fair to me, and once that price is reached, I pay. I may pay slightly more or less than the next person, but I always walk away from the transaction feeling good.

    I Research Like Crazy

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    Photo credit: PortoBay Hotels & Resorts

    One of the simplest ways to give back to the communities you visit is to research the places you'll stay, the activities you'll do, and some of the restaurants you'll try before you arrive. Searching for the perfect winter cruise? Princess Cruises holds high standards for social and environmental responsibility. Discover which hotels, tour companies, eateries, and even countries (think Costa Rica) are dedicated to providing services that are environmentally and socially conscious, and you can feel better about ever escape.

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