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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. (AP) — Ski NH and its 33 member resorts are offering a week of free learn to ski and snowboard packages as part of a national outreach program.


    From Jan. 11-17, the mountains are offering a limited number of packages that include a free lesson, rentals and lift ticket. Participants should visit www.SkiNH.com to register and download a Learn to Ski or Ride Free coupon. Then, they'll contact a participating ski area to reserve a specific day.


    It's part of national Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month, a program featuring special offers to make it easier and more affordable for people to learn to ski, snowboard, cross country ski or snowshoe.


    New Hampshire's ski areas also offer learn to ski and snowboard programs all season long.


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    ATLANTA (AP) — Many people who visit Atlanta for the hundreds of conventions the city hosts each year never make it out of the few blocks around their hotels. But the city has much more to offer, and some attractions are even free.


    Atlanta is a diverse, cosmopolitan city that is home to major corporations' headquarters, world-class cultural institutions and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs. It has a rich cultural and political history, plus parks and trails to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy during the many months of the year when Atlanta's latitude makes it pleasant to be outside. Here are five free things to do and see on your next trip to Atlanta.


    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. HISTORIC SITE


    The historic site is operated by the National Park Service. A film and an exhibition of photos, text and video clips in the visitor's center give a comprehensive overview of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership role. Up the street is the home where King was born. Tours of the birth home are free but must be reserved in person the day of the tour at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The crypts of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit in the middle of a reflecting pool outside The King Center. A few steps away, visitors can walk through Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors.


    SWEET AUBURN CURB MARKET


    Nearby lies the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which was a major economic, cultural and political center for African-American life for the first half of the 20th century, before a major highway bisected the neighborhood and decades of urban decline followed. Originally known as the Municipal Market, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market is now an urban farmers market that provides a lively atmosphere for browsing and grabbing lunch. Stalls run by butchers feature pigs' ears and feet, oxtails and many other animal parts and cuts of meat stacked neatly in trays behind glass. Produce vendors offer heaping stacks of collard greens, turnips and other seasonal produce. Prepared food stands offer a wide variety of lunch options, but it's fun to browse whether or not you buy.


    THE BELTLINE


    The Atlanta BeltLine is a redevelopment project that aims to turn an old 22-mile (35-kilometer) railroad corridor that rings the city's in-town neighborhoods into a network of trails, parks, affordable housing and, eventually, transit. So far, only the 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometer) Eastside Trail has opened, with skyline views and regularly changing public art installations providing added scenery for those who walk, bike and jog along the path.


    PIEDMONT PARK


    Sitting at one end of the BeltLine's completed Eastside Trail is Piedmont Park. Like New York's Central Park, the nearly 200-acre (80-hectare) green space in Midtown gives Atlanta residents and visitors a tranquil setting to picnic, play games, walk their dogs and relax in the meadow or along the shores of Lake Clara Meer. The park also hosts major city events, like the Dogwood Festival in April and the Music Midtown festival in September, and the finish line of the annual 10-kilometer Fourth of July Peachtree Road Race.


    OAKLAND CEMETERY


    The graves of dozens of Atlanta mayors and six Georgia governors, as well as the rich and poor of different races and different religions dot the gentle hills of Oakland Cemetery. Some of the most famous residents are "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell and golf legend Bobby Jones, as well as rows and rows of Confederate soldiers. Despite the surrounding busy streets and the clanking and beeping from the adjacent freight rail terminal, the 48-acre (19.4-hectare) cemetery feels calm and peaceful. Self-guided tours are free whenever the cemetery is open.


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    Well if this isn't a reason to book a flight to Paris next Christmas, we don't know what is.

    eiffel tower ice skating

    Back in the day (and by day we mean 2010) you could ice skate 188 feet above the ground on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. The rink is closed this year while the first floor gets refurbished, but we're really hoping to take in the sweeping views come Christmastime 2014.

    eiffel tower ice skating

    Until then, you can check out these 10 outdoor skating rinks around America.

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    Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

    Around the world, there are a surprising number of "replicas" -- copies of famous locales in locations you probably wouldn't expect.

    We discovered four replicas in 2013 that are quirky, eerie and totally cool. Check them out below.

    Eiffel Tower, Slobozia, Romania
    eiffel tower slobozia
    The world loves Eiffel Tower replicas, so much in fact that there are at least nine really cool ones out there.

    Thames Town, Songjiang District, China
    thames town china
    This quaint little English town is miles and miles away from the UK. Thames Town can be found in the suburbs of Songjiang District, near Shanghai. The town is mostly deserted, aside from the newlyweds who utilize the town as a backdrop for wedding photos.

    Tianducheng, Hangzhou, China
    tianducheng
    Another eerie, abandoned European replica in China, Tianducheng attempts to mimic all things Parisian. There's an Eiffel Tower, fountains and French architecture. Like Thames Town though, Tianducheng is a ghost town.

    All Of The Fake Venices
    venitian macao
    Much like Paris and Eiffel Towers, Venice is a replica favorite. From the Veneitian Hotels in Macao (pictured) and Las Vegas, to full-on replicas in South Korea and China, one thing's for sure: everyone loves Venezia.

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  • 12/26/13--05:04: Resort Spas for Athletes
  • A day at the spa is an undeniable luxury. But the benefits of a mineral soak, a deep-tissue massage or a reflexology session can go far beyond a gratuitous endorphins boost: For the athletically inclined, an indulgent spa treatment is restorative bodywork. From runners to golfers to skiers to surfers, athletes of all types and levels aim for maximum physical efficiency--and spas have stepped up to help.

    Whatever your sport--or treatment--of preference, these spas are sure to keep you in the game.

    --Amiee White Beazley

    More from
    Departures:
    Top New Hotel Spas
    Stunning Modernist Mountain Escapes
    Best Home Fitness Equipment
    10 Charming Small Hotels
    Stunning Hotel Plunge Pools



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    Instagram allows every traveler to display their unique perspectives of the cities they live in and explore.

    This week, Jan Pražák's (@prazakj) photos of his home city of Prague are featured on the Instagram blog's "Local Lens" series, giving those less familiar with the city a glimpse into his distinct perspective.

    Pražák's photos focus on the architecture and landscape of Prague.

    "I really enjoy the minimalist architecture, and Prague is filled with shapes and curves," Pražák said. "I didn’t study architecture—I just look for forms I like."

    Check out Pražák's featured photos below!
















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    (DUBAI-AFP) - Dubai has promised to celebrate New Year's Eve with a record-breaking extravaganza featuring over 400,000 fireworks, the largest display the world has ever seen, its government said.

    The United Arab Emirates city state, home to the world's tallest tower, largest man-made island and one of the world's busiest airports, will "break the Guinness World Record for the 'Largest Firework Display'," a government statement said.

    The six-minute show over two of its manmade islands -- The Palm Jumeirah and The World -- will "feature over 400,000 colourful fireworks and a series of amazing scenes designed exclusively for the event and set to a specially choreographed musical soundtrack."

    The display will be overseen by more than 200 pyrotechnicians, and the fireworks will be launched from 400 locations, it added.
    Over the past few years, Dubai has been vying to become a permanent fixture on the world map of New Year celebrations, staging spectacular shows since the opening of the 828-metre (2,716-foot) Burj Khalifa tower in 2010.

    The glitzy Gulf city, which has already established itself as a global hub for air transport and transit trade, as well as a regional financial centre, beat off opposition from Brazil, Russia and Turkey on November 27 to win the right to host the five-yearly World Expo trade fair in 2020.

    Dubai's economy was hit in 2009 by the global financial crisis, which caused its growing real estate sector to shed half its value.
    But the economy of the emirate has made a strong comeback.

    With its reputation as a liberal city in a conservative region, the Gulf city is home to an expat population of more than 200 nationalities.

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    One airplane pilot says he and his whole crew got a touching surprise from a grateful passenger while they were working on Christmas.

    "Today, a passenger gave our crew Christmas cards with this note inside," the unidentified pilot said on Reddit. The note was apparently from a nurse who cares for cancer patients at NYU Langone Medical Center.

    Airplane crew members on Reddit seemed to support the idea that such a small gesture makes a big difference.

    "As a former FA [flight attendant], I can confirm that it is always appreciated when passengers were nice, or acknowledged us in this way," user MonorailBlack wrote on Thursday. "Flying over the holidays isn't fun - missing Christmas with your family for more than 10 years gets really old. The little things made it more tolerable."

    LOOK:

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    KAUPOA, MOLOKAI — In its recent heyday, Kaupoa beach village on the island of Molokai was another of Hawaii's idyllic getaways — a place where visitors lounged in the sun in long pillowed beach chairs as they sipped fruit drinks while coco palms fanned in the breeze overhead.

    They played in the day and sometimes frolicked in the night. But then it ended, and the passage of time can give the impression that all that is left at the beach village are the ghosts of lost pleasures.

    A visitor hears it in the creaking children's swings that sway lazily in the breeze.

    It is written on the signs that guide visitors toward the beach cottages that are now broken cabins amid headless palm trees.

    Kaupoa means "Place of Thieves." If they are still here, it is only as ghosts.

    entrance

    What Happened to Kaupoa?

    The palm trees, which aren't indigenous to Molokai, were brought into the area for shade and to create ambiance around the grounds.

    But when Molokai Ranch closed down the company’s tourism operations they had the tops of the trees cut off for insurance reasons; they didn't want coconuts or branches falling on people who might pass through.

    Some locals interpret that action as an ancient Polynesian declaration of war. In this case, they saw it as Molokai Ranch's parting shot at the island community after it voted to reject plans to develop 200 luxury homes at La'au Point.

    dead

    Kaupoa’s most recent life was as a beach hotel, consisting of luxury "tentalows" — like bungalows made of canvas tents — owned and operated by Molokai Ranch from 1997 until 2001 before operations were handed off to Sheraton Hotels, which ran it from 2001 until 2004.

    But Molokai Ranch still owns the area.

    These photographs are mostly of the abandoned beach camp but there are also many hidden archeological sites in the vicinity.

    A Hideout for Criminals

    About 100 people lived full-time in the Kaupoa area between 1300 A.D. and 1500 A.D. Another 200 or 300 often spent time around here, depending on the season.

    The area was abandoned in the early 1800’s as Hawaiians’ curiosity about the outside world took over. (Sometimes local men would simply swim out to whaling ships that were sailing by.)

    Kaupoa's location and the transient population helped to make it into a natural hideout for people who had violated the kapu system. (There wasn’t a lot of incentive to stick around and face justice when the punishment for such crimes was death.)

    Modern day Molokai kupuna (elders) recount that the transient population was drawn to the shorelines of the west end where the fish were plentiful.

    stone circle

    Those people from the northern shore would come from the pali — in this case, a cliff — of Kaulapapa to the west end. Their journey would take them through Naiwa, Hoolehua, Moomomi, Keonalele, and they would sometimes go past Kaupoa to Ilio for the fishing.

    Some showed up early in the season. Others came later on, to steal early arrivals' He'e, Kala, Moi — seafood — as it dried in the sun while the owners fished down by the shore.

    Many shrines — called Koa — to the fishing god Kuula are located between Kaunala and Laau, which includes this area of Kaupoa.

    Known burials were marked within the campsite, which was identified by local Kupuna who spent most of their lives fishing around here.

    Particularly well-preserved shines are north of Kaupoa Beach Village.

    Some of the photos show artifacts that can still be found at one of the Koa shrines at the entrance of Kaupoa Beach Village.

    Sweet potatoes were grown on farm sites in the area, and some remain even now.

    Going up the road, there are ahus — road markers that helped Hawaiians find their way up the ahapuaa (swaths of land) from the beach to the mountain.

    trees

    Rascal Spirits

    Before Kaupoa was opened to the public as a beach camp-style hotel in the late 1990s, local kupuna told the ranch to plant kukui trees at what now is the stone entrance to the camp.

    The kukkui trees dispel kalohe (rascal) spirits. As long as the trees remained, the camp would flourish and the rascals wouldn't enter.

    Kukui hele po — the lantern in the tree — was the bright light.

    The American Sugar Company began to make sugar cane on the land. Later the Cooke family bought it and Molokai Ranch became a place to raise cattle, produce honey and plant sweet potato and wheat.

    But eventually Molokai Ranch cut down the trees and built a stone wall entrance that still stands.

    It was downhill after that. A few years later the hotel closed. Without the kukui tree’s protection, the rascal spirits got in.

    Before the Molokai Ranch Lodge opened in 1999, soon after the opening of a “tentalow” village with luxury camping at Kaupoa Beach, the kupuna slept on the grounds one night.

    They surmised that the the spirits of their ancestors longed to hear children (keiki) playing again and the ranch built a playground area that includes swings, a jungle gym and a slide.

    These days only the wind touches that playground.

    It is unclear what Molokai Ranch’s future plans are for the Kaupoa area.

    playground

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  • 12/26/13--18:31: The Hottest Surfers Of 2013
  • From world records to posterior pictures to inspiring stories of love and age, it was a big year in surfing. Below, the 7 biggest, hottest, most news-worthy surfers of 2013.


    1. Alana Blanchard
    Sports Illustrated named her in its Top 25 Under 25 list for "athletic performers," and it's no surprise why. The 23-year-old's Instagram account (which has nearly 800,000 followers) is as mesmerizing as the YouTube videos of her shredding Hawaii's surf.



    2. Garrett McNamara
    McNamara, 46, is already the record-holder for biggest wave ever surfed (78 feet), but he made news in January of this year when he surfed a massive 100-foot behemoth in Nazare, Portugal. (This year's ride is pending certification.)

    garrett mcnamara nazare

    3. Anastasia Ashley
    Ashley's derrière made the news an astounding three times this year. First, and most notably, for her twerking warm-up dance before competitions; next for her Kim Kardashian-inspired Twitter photo; and most recently for her surfing video that opens with a long, seemingly unnecessary posterior shot.



    4. Kelly Slater
    Whenever a 41-year-old beats a 21-year-old in a sports competition, there is reason to celebrate. Slater won his 7th Billabong Pipe Masters this December in front of one of the largest crowds the competition has ever seen.

    kelly slater

    5. Bethany Hamilton
    The little girl who lost her arm in a shark attack is all grown-up -- and she's just as inspiring as ever. Hamilton got married this year and continues to impress people with her surf career, her philanthropic work, and her upbeat outlook on life.

    bethany hamilton

    6. Mick Fanning
    The Australian blondie won the ASP World Title for the third time this year. His rides at the Billabong Pipe Masters were almost as awesome as his emotional celebration, which began before he even knew his score.

    mick fanning

    7. Tyron Swan and Pascale Honore
    Honore is a paraplegic, but she's always watched her sons surf in Australia and thought it looked fun. So Swan, one of her son's friends, grabbed some duct tape and devised a way to carry the determined mother on his back while he surfed. Craziest surfer of the year? Or bravest mom?


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    Of course there are always exceptions to the rule (the lone ranger CEO who wants to go on a safari or go super duper far away), but by and large, where there's one millionaire, there's another nearby.

    And what playgrounds they frolic in on their downtime. Herewith, where you can expect to see the who's-who of the world this time of year.

    Mustique
    Where: A privately-run island (by the Mustique Company) in the Caribbean.
    Who goes: Will & Kate (among other royals), Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger, New York & British gliterrati
    How to get there: Bad news is, unless you stay in one of the 17 rooms available at The Cotton House Resort or rent a villa, you have to get there by boat.
    mustique

    St. Barts
    Where: A French island next to St. Maarten/St. Martin in the French West Indies, Caribbean.
    Who goes: During the winter months, it's mostly Hollywood-ers and Russian oligarchs (think Beyonce and Roman Abramovich). Spring break time, it's New Yorkers--famous and not.
    How to get there: Fly into St. Maarten's Princess Juiliana Airport, then take a 10-minute puddle jumper ride to the island.
    yachts gustavia st barts

    Courchevel
    Where: Courchevel 1850, one of the areas towns, is a super-exclusive ski resort in the French Alps.
    Who goes: Beckhams, royalty from various countries, Russian oligarchs, Parisian and English jetsetters (basically people who can afford $130K/week chalets)
    How to get there: Courchevel has a private airport, but Geneva's about 92 miles away and Chamberay/Aix les Bains is some 68 miles away by car (you can also train it from nearby Moutiers).
    courchevel winter

    Aspen
    Where: Aspen sits about a 3-hour drive southwest from Denver.
    Who goes: There's an entire mountain full of homes owned by the insanely wealthy, including Sid Bass and William Wrigley, Jr., not to mention all the wealthy celebrities that live in and near the famous ski town.
    How to get there: You can drive (see above), or fly via connection from Denver.
    aspen town winter

    Cabo San Lucas
    Where: A town at the bottom of the Baja California peninsula
    Who goes: While Cabo is often overrun with tourists, the more exclusive "Corridor" has gated communities for Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities as well as some super swanky hotels.
    How to get there: Fly from cities such as LA, Dallas and New York.
    cabo san lucas

    Gstaad
    Where: Southwestern Switzerland
    Who goes: Back in the day, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; nowadays, politicians and heads of states, Europe's major jet set.
    How to get there: Train, car or nearby airports
    gstaad celebrities

    Alternatively, make like a millionaire and rent a yacht or better yet like Larry Ellison buy a whole damn island (the Hawaiian island of Lanai to you and me)...or a cluster of islands, like David Copperfield's Copperfield Bay.



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    With so many famous cities in Italy, sometimes Turin gets lost in the mix.

    It's not Rome or Florence or Venice, but Turin has a lot to offer. The capital of the Piedmont region, Turin offers art galleries, churches, stunning diverse architecture and delicious northern Italian cuisine. Turin is also home to Gianduiotto chocolate -- so prepare your sweet tooth.

    These stunning black and white photos of Turin are the perfect reminder that it's a city definitely worth a visit.

    Check out the photos below!


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    There are so many natural wonders to visit in America -- but the Bonneville Salt Flats are perhaps one of the most eye-catching, unique spots in the U.S.

    Bonneville Salt Flats is a densely packed salt pan located in Tooele County of northwestern Utah and is one of the largest salt flats in America. During the dry season, the flats seem to continue on forever. And when it rains, the flats appear to turn into a giant mirror, reflecting all around it.

    Check out some awesome photos of the Bonneville Salt Flats via the Instagram Blog.














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    Got a success story of your own? Send it to us at success.stories@huffingtonpost.com and you could be featured in our I Lost Weight series!

    Name: Jackie Shaheed
    Age: 42
    Height: 5'7"
    Before Weight: 375 pounds

    How I Gained It: I struggled with weight my entire life. I had always been overweight and tried every single diet and exercise program that came my way. I ate out a lot, and I ate a lot of processed foods and sweets.

    Breaking Point: After having my third daughter and reaching an all-time high of 375 pounds, I was afraid I would die of a heart attack as my father did when I was a little girl if I didn't take massive action.

    I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and was told I had to wear a mask at night to help with the flow of air to my brain. One fitting of that machine and I was in tears. I knew the sleep apnea had to do with my weight. I was always the type of person to start the diet Monday and never follow through for very long. However this time, something clicked! Whether it was wearing that mask, or the fact that I couldn't get off the coach to play with my kids, I knew if I didn't do something I wouldn't be around to see my girls grow up.

    How I Lost It: I started my journey by joining a gym that offered personal training. I not only joined the gym but committed to a year's contract of personal training. Talk about an expensive visit! I also went to a nutritionist and went back to Weight Watchers.

    Within a year's time, I had dropped 100 pounds and was feeling great, but still had an additional 100 pounds to drop! The problem at this point was that I was bored with the traditional machines, weights and exercise routine at the gym. My trainer -- who had become my friend and mentor -- encouraged me to join a gym that offered different types of fitness classes. My very first day I tried a Zumba class. It was love at first dance! I could not believe the energy in the room, the moves that spiked my heart rate and the amount of sweat I left in that room!

    Within a few short months I had become a Zumba "addict" and took Zumba seven days a week, twice a day if possible! I had dropped the next 100 pounds with Zumba in a year! I loved it so much and was encouraged by my classmates to get certified to teach. So I took the plunge and became certified in February 2009.

    Sharing my transformation with my students and seeing what it has done for their motivation encouraged me to share my Zumba story with the Z-Life magazine (a Zumba publication). The next thing I knew, I received a call that a big talk show was interested in my story! In my wildest dreams I never thought the talk show was the one and only Oprah Winfrey Show!

    I was invited to be part of the show for her final weight loss episode! On May 10, 2011, I shed my old clothes on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was part of the most amazing experience I have ever had in my weight loss journey! I even left my corporate job to start my own FitZone and FitPalz businesses, so that I can share my passion for helping others lose weight and feel great!

    After Weight: 183 pounds
    2013-11-19-JackieShaheed.jpg
    The Huffington Post publishes photographs as they are submitted to us by our readers.

    Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories below:


    For more on weight loss, click here.

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    About a month from now, I'll be getting settled in a whole new city. I have actually been ready to uproot it all (cat included) for Europe for a while, but after 20 years in Toronto, and then meeting my Italian at the 18-year mark, I don't think I would have ever thought it would be for Prague.

    The capital of the Czech Republic has all the makings of a Disney fairytale, mixed with the seedy bits you would expect in any metropolis. A maze of thousand-year-old cobbled streets, that lead to a Starbucks, or a McDonald's, more often than I expected. However overrun with American brands it may be for my taste -- yes, there is even a Hooters (insert horrified gasp here) -- there is much to love beyond the Burger King.

    However this post is not about where the best pubs are, where one can eat quite well on the cheap. No surprises there. What I was amazed to find in Prague was the variety, if you are willing to spend a bit more. Here are some hot spots:

    EATS

    We start with the street food vendors in Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square -- who serve up hot wine and the traditional fare, so you don't forget that you are in the land of sausage, potatoes and goulash. And lest I leave out the trdelnik -- a rolled pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. We found a grand selection of sweet and savoury snacks served up in front of the Palladium shopping centre (Prague 1) at the weekend.

    2013-12-27-Prague_eatsandstreets.jpg



    For Thai that pairs excellently with a Pilsner Urquell, hit Lemon Leaf (Myslíkova 14, Prague 2) on the early side of any evening. He really enjoyed the Laab Kai, while I ate every last noodle of my Pad Thai.

    PAUL boulangerie is a fancier chain of grab-and-go gourmet that is a bit pricier, but the quality is worth it. Mario frequents this joint for an upscale espresso and likes to make dinners out of their salmon sandwiches.

    I stumbled upon Cake Café (Jungmannovo nam. 21, Prague 1) one morning and just thought it would be the best place for a tea date, or a long lunch. They've got the goods to satisfy either outing. Plus it's just a sweet stone's throw from Wenceslas Square and an easy escape from the crowds.

    On the other side of the Square, you will find Soup in the City (Panská 1308/9, Prague 1). A comfortable spot for an afternoon nosh, before or after hitting the Mucha Museum. Try one of the satisfying daily soups (obviously) or tuck into a savoury quiche.

    Mexican. Oh yes we did. The cuisine is actually quite popular in this town and we loaded up on fajitas at Cantina (Újezd 38, Prague 5). Yum. My theory is that this type of food goes really well with a Pilsner Urquell, but Conde Nast Traveler published an interesting feature on the phenomenon, which you can read here.

    2013-12-27-Prague_Cantinaroof.jpg



    Another unexpected discovery, right next to a TGI Fridays, was Planet Sushi (Nádražní 110, Prague 5). Loved the fresh Khioki San Syake (salmon salad) and fun signature maki. As with all of the above, the service matched the friendly environment. For a real splurge on a special occasion, book a table at Mr. Sushi (Mala Štupartska 3, Prague 1).

    2013-12-27-Prague_Mr.Sushi.jpg



    My last recommendation should be for a pub (a roundup of those will come soon, promise) but it's going to go Italian. Just try a pie at Pizza Nuova (Revolucni 655/1, Prague 1) and you'll be with me all the way on this one. Having eaten my way around Italy this past summer, I can safely say perfection can be had in Prague.

    STAY

    Merchant's Yard Residence is conveniently located in a cozy 14th-century nook of Old Town. Just a skip away from Týn Church, as well as many low to lavish shopping and dining options around Palladium and on Pařížská Street. That medieval astronomical clock is not far away either.

    While the price tag on our stay at MYR was infinitely reasonable, I felt like a wealthy local just popping in and out of my pied-à-terre.

    Each suite offers ample space to spread out, while bathrooms are kitted out with deep soaker tubs and heated floors (one of my favourite things in the world).

    WiFi is complimentary, and so is breakfast -- served every morning in the cavernous Vabene restaurant. All said, if we can't accommodate friends and family at our place in Prague 3, they'll be staying here.

    2013-12-27-Prague_MerchantsYard.jpg



    Oh, and drinks! You need to know where to go for a drink. We found a gem of a bar in Jewel (Rytířská 529/3, Prague 1). Non-smoking, chatty vibe, good wines and a really good becherovka -- at least according to the Italian who is fast becoming a connoisseur on herbal bitters. Watch this space for more Eastern European insights in 2014!

    All photos, except Mr. Sushi, taken with the HTC One Mini smartphone.

    ALSO ON HUFFPOST:


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    I visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights earlier this month. It is immediately the most outstanding tourist-focused building in Canada -- and right now there's nothing in it but construction material. When it is filled with innovative and interactive displays -- many of which will showcase the evolution of humanity under the rule of law -- the CMHR will herald a new era for a city overdue for a tourism reboot.

    Winnipeg's reputation has languished for too long. Lambasted for its frigid temperatures in winter and buggy conditions in summer, the Manitoba capital has had to work hard to earn back some good PR. It has built momentum in recent years, thanks to an under-the-radar dining scene and the return of the city's beloved NHL team, the Jets, who have stoked Winnipeg with more confidence and pride. Now, this. The CMHR.

    The name is boring, the building is astonishing. Designed by New Mexico-based Antoine Predock, the CMHR is 260,123 square feet of whoa. It explodes out of the landscape to grab your eye and break any prejudice you have held toward the city. What is a building like this doing in Winnipeg? That, I'm sure, will be a question many will ask. Once a visitor gains some knowledge about the $351-million facility's home, the location will make sense.

    Truth is, Winnipeg has a history of grandeur that's largely been forgotten outside of Manitoba. A century ago, it was home to 19 millionaires, more per capita than any other city in Canada, or even New York. Its Main Street is lined with former bank buildings constructed to be palaces of money. Twenty of them were positioned in a row like opulent dominoes. In their prime, they offered a spectacle of gild that would rival modern-day Bay Street in Toronto. Today, those buildings that remain have been converted into offices and restaurants.

    CMHR Vaults Winnipeg to Tourism Prominence

    The city's other architecture gem, however, is still serving its original purpose. The province's capital building, the Manitoba Legislature, was constructed between 1913-20 and was the opus of Masonic devotee Frank Worthington Simon, educated in Paris and fanatical about creating a monument that adhered to the principles of an ancient temple. And it would be no mere millennia-old place of worship either; Simon interjected his version of the Holy of the Holies -- with a hidden Ark of the Covenant and all -- in the design. The building is perfectly proportioned, the clues to its true purpose deciphered in the book The Hermetic Code by academic Frank Albo. It's also a fun attraction. A feature in this homage to King Solomon's Temple is called the "Pool of the Black Star" and it allows whoever stands on its tiles to throw his or her voice toward the heavens with a god-like burst. [Read all about the Manitoba Legislature in Vacay.ca]

    "Once you get inside the mind of the architect, you really understand what a genius he was and you never look at a building the same again," says Don Finkbeiner, a knowledgeable guide and owner of Heartland International Travel and Tours. "Since I've been in here, I now find myself always looking for the hidden meaning of things, especially for things in plain sight, in other buildings."

    There are no secrets you need to know about the CMHR, though. It joins the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, and Toronto's CN Tower as the notable architectural landmarks in a country whose cities have been far too focused on building pricey hotel/condo towers than fantastic public spaces. When the Art Gallery of Ontario unveiled its Frank Gehry upgrades in 2008, hundreds in Toronto lined up for hours to enter. That was for a renovation.

    The CMHR does for Winnipeg what the I.M. Pei's Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame did for Cleveland -- create a reason to go. So much so, in fact, that Winnipeg earns the distinction as the No. 5 Place to Visit in Canada in 2014, according to Vacay.ca's team of travel experts.

    It is the first national museum constructed since 1967 and will be the only one built outside of the Ottawa region. In August, the world's travel media will arrive in Winnipeg to glimpse the city's new star attraction a month before it opens. The annual Go Media conference (of which I am helping to coordinate) will launch a series of promotions to raise awareness of this one-of-a-kind museum whose stated purpose is to promote reflection and action about human-rights issues around the planet, including those related to First Nations in Canada.

    A statue of Gandhi is outside the building. You can be sure Nelson Mandela will feature prominently in the 47,000 square feet of exhibit space. Interactive displays will allow visitors the chance to debate human-rights cases and consider different positions on particular topics. Those interactions will take place in a building flooded with light and constructed with basalt and alabaster, climbing more than 100 metres to the peak of the Tower of Hope, from which you can peer down on the staggeringly beautiful structure while standing atop a small platform and holding your breath and thinking to yourself, Ok, I'm really glad I came to Winnipeg.

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    This might be the most brilliant thing a Reddit user has done in a while.

    To curb the pain of the "do I need a visa?!" research headache, udit99 made a no-frills website called VisaMapper. Visitors select their nationality from a drop-down menu and instantly see, on a color-coded world map, which countries require a visa for them to visit and which don't.

    Tell VisaMapper you're of Swedish citizenship, for example, and watch loads of nations on the map turn to happy shades of green. This color means you won't need a visa to visit them.

    Say you're from Afghanistan, though, and everything -- with the exception of Haiti and a few small islands -- goes instantly maroon to tell you that "a visa is required prior to arrival."

    A few countries are missing from the site, and you should double-check its data with the State Department before traveling, but the map is nevertheless addicting... and educational. Play around with it to see what travel is like as a citizen of different countries.

    Here's where you can travel with a U.S. passport, for example (green means no visa, maroon means you'll need one):

    visa

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    UBC alumnus Nicole Sy opened her mailbox in Beijing one day to find a condo brochure with pictures that looked eerily like her former home.

    The news editor and anchor for China's Xinhua news agency, who lived in Vancouver until 2009, opened the flyer to find units for sale at the Bay Palace, a development in Weihai, Shandong province, she wrote on her blog.

    The city looked awfully pretty from the brochure ... and a touch too familiar. There were mountains. There were boats. There was a seawall and a crossing that resembled Vancouver's Burrard Bridge.

    She began to think the developers had passed off Lotusland as a city in northern China.

    "(My) initial reaction was, I need to fact check this," Sy told The Huffington Post B.C. via e-mail. "I Googled images of Weihai on the off chance that it looked like Yaletown."

    weihai vancouver

    weihai vancouver

    Images Sy shared on her blog show a condo brochure with a picture of a landscape that looks like Yaletown, the Burrard Bridge and the Pacific Range mountains in the background.

    She questioned why anyone would include those photos when Weihai already boasts the status of being China's most livable city, according to China.org.cn.

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    So apparently this is how they do ice cream in Turkey.

    A hilarious YouTube video from earlier this week shows an ice cream vendor messing playfully with an innocent guy who would just like his cone, please.

    At first, the ice cream man fills the cone as usual and appears to hand it over... but then he sticks it stealthily into the guy’s pant pocket in the speediest sleight of hand.

    The ice cream man then proceeds to whirl the cone around the dude’s head, through the ice cream cart, and in and out of the customer’s grasp, all while the poor guy tries to pick his flavors as if nothing weird is happening.

    The whole charade ends with a sloppy, double-cheeked, ice cream-tinged kiss between our two protagonists.

    The jest was all in good fun, to be sure... but nothing's that fun when you just want your vanilla.


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    If you're ever in Toronto and talk to strangers on the bus, chances are you'll find most people are originally from another country.

    In an effort to prove this point, documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer is on a simple quest: photograph someone born in every single country of the world who now calls Toronto his or her home. Whether it's leaving their home countries because of war, unemployment or for their children's future, Boyd Shafer has been able to capture both portraits and personal stories. Dubbed the Cosmopolis Toronto, Boyd Shafer wants to show how diverse Toronto really is.

    "Toronto is an incredible city full of people who have amazing stories to share. Although the people I have photographed have migrated from a wide range of places, there are many common elements to their stories," he says. "This project reminds us of our country's important historical and continued relationship with migration, one that I am directly the product of as my grandparents migrated here."

    The 30-year-old, who is also a high school teacher in the city, started the project in July with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. After raising more than $8,000 with a goal of $6,000, he began taking photographs in September.

    Through word of mouth, people often contact Boyd Shafer themselves, asking to take part in the project. And besides reaching out to his own network, he also lists all the countries he has so far (116 to date) and which countries he is missing.

    Working towards his first exhibit in January, Boyd Shafer says he also plans on creating a photography book as a final project.

    "The city is far from perfect, but as mentioned by most of my participants, it is a place that is 'open' enough for most people to feel a sense of belonging," he says.

    Check out some of our favourite shots below:

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