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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Hate is a strong word, but as someone who travels a lot, I really hate travel snobs.

    We all know travel elitists: They will actually pick a dinner party fight about whether tourists are real travelers. Or whether a vacation is really a trip. They scoff at the mere suggestion of mass tourism. They have canned, over-intellectualized, one-size-fits-all answers as to the "right way" to travel...that is usually their way of traveling.

    Consciously or not, they look down on and pity those of us who don't subscribe to their clichéd and manufactured point of view. Their noses are in the air. They unabashedly pooh-pooh or one-up their fellow travelers with tales of woe or adventure. Some would say they are jaded. Their style is best, and they alone are the arbiters of travel dharma truisms. (And here I thought travel was a highly subjective personal experience and that diversity was a good thing!?)

    Some would say that we live in the era of the virtuous traveler; others argue the political correctness of travel. One way or another we travelers do let our feelings on the subject be known.

    I meet travel snobs all the time -- at airports, in hotel lobbies, at Travel and Adventure shows where I give talks, on book signing tours, as well as while serving as Event Director for The Global Scavenger Hunt, an annual around-the-world travel adventure competition that attracts many traveler types -- both the good and bad. And what do I know from all these interactions? Spoiler alert: that travel is in the eyes of the beholder.

    That said, here are some of the many ways you know you are a travel snob:

    1. You opine that tourists and vacationers are not real travelers. (Tourists and vacationers have everything pre-arranged, whereas "real" travelers live in the moment and arrange things for themselves.)

    2. You actually make distinctions between trips and journeys. (Trips are nothing more than checklist tourism, whereas journeys inevitably put you at risk somehow...and make you question life's assumptions.)

    3. You refuse to take selfies at the Taj Mahal or Iguaçu Falls, thinking it is beneath you.

    4. You continually intone that you are really a "serious" traveler.

    5. You equate pain, suffering, long and arduous journeys and doing without as more authentic than traveling without pain, suffering, long and arduous journeys and doing with.

    6. You argue that it is not "authentic" unless you spend a prolonged period of time there.

    7. You argue that it is not "authentic" unless you live there for a while.

    8. You argue that it is not really traveling unless you rough it -- and live on ten cents a day.

    9. You flaunt that you know how to travel because you always book the best of everything.

    10. You actually say, "Been there. Done that. What's next?"

    11. You over-intellectualize and analyze travel, making it out as something more than just a) a commodity -- time or money, b) simple escapism, c) a hedonistic experience, or d) plain fun.

    12. You cringe every time you see someone with a suitcase.

    13. You argue that you aren't really traveling unless you go to the most remote "off the beaten track" destination void of all human connections.

    14.You say phrases like, "I don't go there anymore because it's too touristy" or, "I would never go there."

    15. You brag that you'd rather not go someplace than fly coach.

    16. You start a conversation with "I am a road warrior who travels 50 weeks a year." (As someone wise told me, "You can indeed have a narrow mind and a thick passport.")

    17. You smugly begin a conversation with "I don't travel; I wander."

    18. You think that staying at a 5-star hotel is a crime against humanity.

    19. You roll your eyes when you see one of those hop-on, hop-off city tour buses.

    20. You virtuously argue that any kind of group travel is not "authentic" and that you have to be traveling independently to a) be really traveling, b) see anything, c) experience serendipity, or d) be adventurous.

    21. You seriously doubt that cruisers are real travelers. (Okay, I might believe this one. Hmmm, does that mean I am a travel snob? Guilty!)

    22. You righteously argue that all travel is inherently evil. That travelers are nothing more than carpetbaggers complicit in promoting a system of inequalities through the exploitation (aka cultural colonialism) of cheap labor, cheap cruises, cheap massages, cheap trinkets, cheap meals, cheap transport, and cheap sex.

    Those are mine. (In fact, now that I think about it -- maybe I am a travel snob just for thinking about it?) Anyways, what are the signs you know you're talking with a travel snob?

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    Do you know of anyone in the market for a tent that has that "I love the idea of flea markets, but hate consorting with the commoners" look? Send them right over to Anthropologie, which is selling a tent designed for "glamping" and costs $9,000.

    glamping tent

    In case you were slightly surprised that Anthropologie would sell such a thing, remember this: They were the company that introduced us to the $2,000 rickshaw.

    h/t Racked for introducing us to this product (and also diminishing our faith in humanity because such a thing exists).

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    Working at a hip New York restaurant has its hazards. "Some people are so impatient," laments a waiter. "One lady poked me in the hand with a fork while I was taking another order because she thought her food was taking too long."

    That restaurant waiter is part of a battalion of professionals tasked with making travelers' experiences go smoothly, whether it's a romantic getaway, business trip, or family vacation. Consider the honeymoon planner who books your stay in Bora Bora; the porter who helps you haul your luggage out of the airport taxi; or the national park guide who fields your questions.

    While you might not think twice about the valet you've entrusted your $75,000 car to, or the front desk manager you chatted with when you checked in, these people have seen it all -- and probably thought twice about you.

    We've interviewed travel industry professionals to get them to 'fess up and share their tips, pet peeves, and craziest experiences. They're the eyes and ears of international travel, and their stories will make your jaw drop -- or at least inspire more courtesy and more generous tips.

    --Melanie Lieberman

    See All of the Craziest Travel Confessions

    More from
    Travel + Leisure:
    How to Pack a Suitcase
    Travel Etiquette Dos and Dont's
    Hotel Travel Tips
    T+L's Cruise Finder
    Best Places to Travel in 2014

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    There's a certain magic in the air at Universal Studios as of late and it probably has something to do with new details about the Diagon Alley expansion at the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter inside Universal Studios Orlando.

    The highly-anticipated theme park addition is expected to complement the park's Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Hogsmeade, doubling the park in size and transport visitors even further into a magical land of witchcraft and sorcery once it opens this summer, the Associated Press reports.

    If the artist's renderings released on Thursday are any indication, the expansion will draw heavily from the film franchise, recreating Knockturn Alley, various shops like the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes joke emporium, Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour, and an expanded Ollivanders' wand shop.

    wizarding world of harry potter

    But visitors will have to find the entrance first. Universal Studios hasn't elaborated how to enter, keeping in line with the franchise's lore. In the books, Diagon Alley is something of a commercial hub in the wizard world, hidden amid the muggle world (that's a term for non-wizard folk).

    harry potter diagon alley

    There'll be a train to shuttle visitors between the Potter-themed areas in Universal's Islands of Adventure park and the new area in Universal Studios park, designed to look like London's Picadily Circus area according to Behind The Thrills.

    Once inside, fans of the franchise will immediately recognize shops like "Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions," where they can pick up robes, sweaters, and character costumes; "Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment" where guests looking for telescopes, compasses or hourglasses will feel right at home or nosh on traditional British fare at the Leaky Cauldron, a iconic bar from the books.

    harry potter diagon alley

    As for travellers looking for a simple thrill, the expansion's main attraction will be the "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts" ride, a multi-dimensional adventure set in the massive wizard bank run by goblins and guarded by a dragon.

    Admission to Universal Studios will grant you access to Diagon Alley but if you're looking to hop over to the original Hogsmeade area, you'll need a park-to-park admission to hop aboard the Hogwarts Express, according to CNN.

    For more images of what theme park visitors can expect, check out the renderings below

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    It's not news that there is almost always lava flowing on the Big Island of Hawaii, but it is news when video captures that lava sputtering, spattering and spewing like a middle school science project gone wrong.

    The Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and while explosive activity like this has been considered "normal" for the past year, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was able to capture exceptionally clear video this past week.

    The spattering is caused by gas within the lava lake, and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, "large bubbles bursting at the surface drive the spattering activity, as shown occasionally by large spherical bursts."

    Kilauea's roughly 2.6 million annual visitors are usually treated to effusive, docile flows (which are spectacularly trippy in their own right), but it's impossible to get an up-close-and-personal view like this. The lava lake sits within the Halema'uma'u Crater at Kilauea's summit, making viewing off limits, even by air. "The immediate area around this lava lake, including the air space above it," USGS geologist Janet Babb explained, "is closed to the public due to ongoing hazards (high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, explosions)."

    Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can witness fumes from the lava lake during the day and can see the glow at night from various overlooks within the park.

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    MILAN (AP) — Milan is Italy's finance and fashion capital, with hundreds of billions of euros invested on the Italian Stock Exchange and tens of billions more spent yearly in the city's luxury boutiques. While Florence attracts art-lovers, Venice the romantic and Rome the faithful, most travelers to Milan come to broker deals and indulge in the latest Italian fashion trends. Nonetheless, there is plenty to see for those whose pockets are not so deep — be it by style choice, or not.


    Think Milan, think fashion. It's invitation-only to the four annual Milan Fashion Week runway previews, where designers offer their vision on next season's looks — often adding audacious embellishments not really intended for the showroom.

    A peek through the windows of the city's numerous brand-name stores and boutiques gives a more street-ready view of the collections. Milan's most famous shopping street is via Montenapoleone, a one-half kilometer (third of a mile) display of pure luxury apparel, jewelry, shoes, bags — and even knives and Venetian glass. While Prada may command €11,500 ($15,700) for a blue fur coat and €220 ($300) for knit garters resembling 1980s tube socks to complete the look, it doesn't cost anything to dream.

    The globe's major luxury brands are all clustered within close proximity on the streets that surround Montenapoleone and the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping mall that dates to the 19th century, where a McDonald's recently lost its lease to Prada menswear. While window-shopping, don't forget to people-watch. Milan's instinctively snappy dressers inspired the ready-to-wear collections that took flight in the late 1970s and 1980s, and Milanesi remain among the most fashionable of the fashion-aware Italians.


    The ornate white facade of Milan's Duomo cathedral is the city's single most-recognized symbol. The Gothic-inspired Duomo took nearly six centuries to complete, incorporating a cornucopia of styles by its completion in 1965, and is among the largest cathedrals in Europe. The Duomo is also the seat of the archbishop of Milan, Italy's largest and most influential diocese that gave the world two popes during the 20th century.

    Take in the imposing facade with its Gothic spires from the piazza outside, dodging tourists, shoppers and pigeons alike, and snap a photo of the exterior. The Duomo is undergoing extensive renovations, and to raise funds, officials have inaugurated an adopt-a-spire program that includes a 2-euro fee to take pictures inside of the vaulted ceiling, naves and pillars. There's also a fee to access the spectacular view of fairytale-inspiring pinnacles and spires from the Duomo's roof. But restaurant and bar terraces offer a free peek from surrounding grand buildings — called palazzo — including the Rinascente department store.


    Visitors to Italy feast on Renaissance and Baroque treasures, but there are increasing efforts to promote contemporary art — including the HangarBicocca, founded and funded by the Pirelli tire company. The capacious former industrial complex in Milan's Bicocca district on the city's northern edge has been transformed into the largest private contemporary art space in Europe. German artist Anselm Kiefer made a site-specific installation, "The Seven Heavenly Palaces," for the 2004 inauguration. The imposing corrugated towers rise from sandy islands, taking inspiration from the palaces described in an ancient Hebrew treatise while representing the ruins of Europe after World War II. Rotating exhibits inhabit the adjoining space. The HangarBicocca also is meant to be a cultural center, offering activities for children and adults.


    A visitor emerging from the Garibaldi train station may, in a moment of disorientation provoked by the glare of glass and steel, confuse the towering skyline ahead with the heart of post-unification Berlin. The new skyscrapers at Piazza Gae Aulenti, named for the late architect and designer, have little bearing on Milan's neoclassical architecture. It's no surprise that many visitors draw quick comparisons with Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, which similarly aggregates living, office and commercial space. The ever-conservative Milanesi were wary when construction began but now seem to have embraced the new district. Families flock to the raised, pedestrian piazza on weekends, a safe place for kids to dash about. A coffee shop and bookstore with free Wi-Fi is crowded even on rainy weekday mornings. The Unicredit Tower, the shiny new headquarters of Italy's largest bank, has claimed the title of Milan's tallest building at 218 meters (715 feet), topped by a single twirling steel spire that echoes the spires of the now-dwarfed Duomo in the distance.


    Landlocked Milan had to dig a navigable system of canals to ease commerce and construction throughout the centuries. Today the canals are the center of Milan's nightlife — lined with restaurants and cafes — but there is plenty to see by day. An antiques market featuring more than 350 sellers unpacks on the banks of the Naviglio Grande every last Sunday of the month except in July. The Vicolo privato del Lavandai — literally the launderers alley — is where, until the 1950s, women would come and wash clothes using wooden washboards on the banks of the Naviglio Grande. And the Ponte di Pietra, or stone bridge, was originally made out of wood, rebuilt in cast iron by the Austrians in the 1900s and eventually cast in concrete, the current version. Once, wealthy residents collected tithings for a crossing. Today it is free.

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    RCMP search warrant documents obtained exclusively by CBC News detail a shocking degree of ineptness and dangerous handling of a potentially lethal pipe bomb at Edmonton International Airport by nearly everyone involved in the screening process.

    The search warrants describe how airport security screeners actually opened the pipe bomb and dumped the explosive contents, apparently oblivious to the potential for triggering a deadly explosion.

    The documents also show that a manual swab and an explosives-detection test also failed to detect the pipe bomb. Worse, a trainer for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) did not recognize it was an explosive device.

    “The device if it were filled with any type of gun powder would have the potential to cause death or serious bodily harm to anyone within close proximity to it,” the search warrant states.

    “At this time it is not possible to say what the extent of damage the device would have caused if it were initiated inside a pressurized aircraft, but further testing and reconstruction will be done in the near future.”

    The pipe bomb was inadvertently carried into the airport screening area by then 18-year-old Skylar Murphy of Spruce Grove, Alta., on Sept. 20, 2013. Murphy was with his mother, and his mother’s fiancé, a sheriff with Alberta Justice who works at the Alberta legislature.

    Interviews by RCMP with various screeners and managers and a description of the surveillance video from the screening area provide a detailed account of the series of security failures that followed.

    Screener suspicious

    At 5:25 a.m., a screener detected something in a duffel bag, and Murphy was identified as the owner of the bag. Murphy immediately looked nervous and embarrassed.

    Inside the duffel bag was a camera bag and inside that bag was another small velvet bag from a shop that sells marijuana paraphernalia. The small bag was taken out of the screening machine and opened.

    “[The screener] is observed to examine the device further by taking a swab and doing an explosives detection test,” the document states.

    The screener then discusses the item with Murphy, who denies it is his. The device is checked out by at least two other screening officers.

    “[The screener] is then observed to put the device back into the small black pouch and try and return it to Murphy,” according to a description of the event from the surveillance video.

    The screener who was dealing with Murphy told RCMP that after the explosives test proved negative, “he was still not satisfied and showed it to another supervisor, but was then told to give the object back to the passenger, but ‘the kid’ would not take it.

    “The kid’s parents said if the kid didn’t want it then they didn’t want it either,” and the pipe bomb was placed in a forfeit bin.

    The screener said that when he returned from a 45-minute break he observed a manager examining the pipe bomb by opening it and “taking what looked like green granules out of it."

    “The manager dumped it out,” the document states.

    Pipe bomb contents dumped

    Later, the entire contents of the pipe bomb were dumped into the garbage, which they believe was taken away.

    Finally, on Sept. 25, five days after the pipe bomb was forfeited by Murphy, RCMP were called about the “suspicious improvised explosive device.”

    The Mounties conducted some tests. They cut off a section of the fuse and lit it with a match.

    “The material flared up and burned as a fuse would be expected to,” the search warrant states, adding that the pipe contained a “small amount of grey powder which appeared to gun powder.”

    When that powder was tested with a match, it also flared up and burned.

    The search warrant shows RCMP seized computer equipment, phones and other items in an apparent attempt to determine if Murphy intended to harm anyone.

    The RCMP arrested Murphy when he returned with his parents from Mexico on Sept. 27. The Mounties later determined that Murphy had no intention of harming anyone. He and a friend had built the pipe bomb for fun, to blow up a shed. He placed the pipe bomb in his camera bag and forgot it.

    In December, a judge handed Murphy a one-year suspended sentence, fined him $100 and ordered him to make a $500 donation to a burn unit.

    CATSA said it conducted an internal review of the incident, made changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and suspended some employees. But screeners at the airport told CBC News that the changes are minor and no one was suspended.

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    Hawaii is currently welcoming a massive influx of testosterone as NFL players set up camp ahead of Sunday's Pro Bowl game.

    Just in case Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice aren't the types to lounge on the beach, mai tais in hand, we've assembled a handy guide of activities the players (and anyone looking to bro out) can enjoy during their time in the Aloha State.

    1. Spearfish
    Um, is there anything more primal as hunting, stalking and spearing your own fish? At Spearfish Maui, Jeremy Selg takes small groups out for guided tours and dives.
    spear fishing

    2. Hike on Lava
    There are very few places in the world where you can see lava, let alone walk right up to it. Kalapana Cultural Tours on Hawaii's Big Island guides you over miles of lava fields (including a buried fishing village) and gets you right up to the hot, flowing action.
    lava hike

    3. Golf -- like the Marines do
    Golf in and of itself isn't very macho, but golfing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii adds a certain badass quality to the sport. Perhaps that's why President Obama golfed there several times over his Christmas vacation. Or maybe it was because of the absolutely stunning ocean views.
    marine corp golf course hawaii

    4. Drink Beers
    Some call it "liquid aloha," others just call it delicious -- either way, Hawaii's diverse selection of craft breweries are intoxicating. Kona Brewing Company on the Big Island and Maui Brewing Company on, well, Maui are two of the state's best, offering selections as exotic as Lemongrass Ginger Luau and Coconut Porter.
    kona brewing company

    5. Rides ATVs like the Hawaiian Cowboys
    Mexican vaqueros arrived in Hawaii in 1832, introducing the cowboy culture and lifestyle a generation before it reached the American west. Called paniolo in Hawaiian, today's island cowboys often use ATVs in the open country, and you can too.
    hawaii atv

    6. Body Surf
    If you thought surfing was macho, imagine ditching the board and getting rocked by the ocean's fury without anything to hold onto. Sandy's beach on Oahu is a favorite destination among body surfers. Just be careful; the ocean is stronger than you think!
    body surfers

    7. Hunt -- On Cliffs
    Wild pigs, goats, deer, and feral sheep roam the mountains in Hawaii without any natural predators, making hunting in Hawaii one of the most beautiful and ethical hunting destinations ever. Plenty of places will give you guided hunting trips, just remember to leave your fear of heights at home.

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    Ever wished you could jump into the perfect blue waters of your computer's desktop image?

    You probably can. These are real photos of real places, after all, and some might be closer than you think.

    You always thought this was: somewhere in Ireland
    It's actually: Sonoma, California. The original Windows XP desktop image, known commonly to the tech world as 'Bliss,' was taken in 1996 on a road that cuts through California's wine country (the photographer claims the photo wasn't digitally enhanced at all). Grapevines have since been planted on the iconic hillside.

    You always thought this was: the Grand Canyon
    It's actually: Antelope Canyon. About a three-hour drive from the Grand Canyon, Antelope is popular with hikers.

    You always thought this was: Umm... Mount Fuji?
    It's actually: Mount Rainier, in Washington state. With 25 major glaciers, glassy lakes, and fields on fields of wildflowers, the area around Mount Rainier is one of our country's favorite national parks.

    You always thought this was: a small town in Vermont
    It's actually: Burlington, but not the town in Vermont. It's the Burlington in Ontario, Canada. People wonder about the location of this photo more than any other desktop background, it seems. A Vanity Fair writer even went on a year-long quest to track down exactly where it was taken. With help from the image's elusive photographer (who had completely forgotten which town he took it in), they finally narrowed in on "the lane leading south to the old Harris homestead" in Burlington.

    You always thought this was: the Sahara Desert
    It's actually: maybe not a real place at all. Techies are quick to notice that the moon is upside down in this image, a dead giveaway that something here has been Photoshopped. If the dunes* are real, though, we say they're a dead ringer for the ones in Sossusvlei, the clay pan in Africa's Namib Desert (it's all the way across the country from the Sahara).
    *Fun fact: this image was the original default background for Windows XP, until users complained it "looked like a pair of buttocks."

    You always thought this was: the coast of Norway, on a summer's eve
    It's actually: Pyramid Lake in Nevada, on a night in 2004. This lake served as the default background for the first-edition iPad, and it's filled with water from the Truckee River, which is mostly outflow from Lake Tahoe.

    You always thought this was: somewhere in the Caribbean
    It's actually: probably somewhere in the Caribbean. The jury's out on where the Windows XP 'Azul' background was shot, but judging from other photos, it could easily be near Antigua or the Cayman Islands, both of which sit in crystal-blue ocean.

    You always thought this was: Oh goodness... Iceland, maybe?
    It's actually: the "Blue Pond" near the town of Biei, Japan. Filled with trees, it changes color in different shades of light.

    You always thought this was: Stonehenge
    It's actually: Foamhenge, a roadside attraction made of foam in the mountains of Virginia. JK LOLZ... it's Stonehenge.

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    If you go to Expedia or Travelocity on Monday morning to book a flight, you may notice something missing — WestJet. 

    The Calgary-based airline is on the verge of ending its contract with Sabre Global Distribution Service, the booking system that powers Expedia, Travelocity and travel agencies around the world.

    For more than a year, WestJet has been renegotiating its contract with the company.

    Sabre provides technology that runs WestJet's reservation system and also acts as a distribution service for the travel industry. Many travel agents use its software to book flights and hotel rooms.

    In October, WestJet said that, as of Jan. 26, it would pull out of the Sabre GDS.

    Cost is one of the sticking points. Travel industry analysts say that Sabre charges airlines around $5 per segment of travel, including each leg of a flight, each hotel room booked or car rented.

    The airline wouldn't confirm how much Sabre charges, but did say that pricing is one of the sticking points in the negotiation

     WestJet’s ​executive vice-president of sales and marketing Bob Cummings says it has a lot to do with keeping prices down for passengers.

    "The economics are pretty critical to us, in respect to the cost of sale," said Cummings.

    "The industry has razor-thin margins."

    Expedia is the largest online travel agency in the world. And while WestJet wouldn’t say how much of the company's sales come from the site, air industry analyst Robert Kokonis says it would be significant.

    “I can't for the life of me believe that WestJet would want to be in a situation where the competition is visible in Expedia and WestJet isn't. But again, there's a price for everything.”

    Travel industry pleads for deal

    Travel agents are also concerned about the contract ending.

    Sabre’s GDS is widely used by large travel agencies that serve the corporate market.

    The Association of Canadian Travel Agents sent out a plea about a week ago, both to Sabre's chief executive and to WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky, asking them to go back to the negotiating table.

    The companies began talking again recently and extended the deadline to 7 a.m. MT Monday.

    Cummings says he knows it’s in the best interest of both companies to come to an agreement.

    “It’s definitely in our joint interests to reach a deal with Sabre. We certainly want to do so. There’s a little bit of time left — we’ll have to see what happens.”

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    Get your couches fluffed up and your bowl of chips filled, because the 2014 Super Bowl is right around the corner. The final NFL match-up of the year, between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, will be broadcast on Sunday, February 2 on CTV in Canada and on Fox in the United States. The kickoff time is set for 6:30 pm ET (3:30 pm PT), with the fight for the Vince Lombardi trophy taking place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

    Canadians interested in watching the Super Bowl XLVIII U.S. commercials on TV are probably out of luck unless you subscribe to U.S.-based football-specific channels -- CTV will substitute the American ads with Canadian ones. But you can watch out for Super Bowl 2014 commercials on HuffPost Canada on game day.

    The halftime show also promises to be a doozy if football-watching isn't your thing (or you've been roped into the game by your buddies/spouse/significant other). Set to perform this year is pop sensation Bruno Mars, who has also personally invited rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers to join him onstage.

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    The polar vortex may be a thing of the past, but a look at your weather app might convince you otherwise.

    Earlier this week, much of Ontario was dealing with temperatures dipping well below negatives — temperatures low enough to make just about anyone visiting the city want to wrap themselves up in a blanket and never leave their room.

    But if that were the case, they'd be missing out on this:
    lake ontario

    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 23: A half moon lingers in the sky as the sun reflects off ice formations on the Lake Ontario shoreline at Len Ford Park, Etobicoke. Although the snow did not come as predicted in the GTA, the temperature remains in the minus double digits. January 23, 2014. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    This is Lake Ontario, one of Canada's great lakes that's sometime's not so great for swimming during the summer. But hey, at least it looks absolutely splendid in the cold and given how Toronto is on track for one of the coldest winters in 25 years, according to City News, the lake's never looked so good.

    lake ontario
    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 23: A half moon lingers in the sky as the sun reflects off ice formations on the Lake Ontario shoreline at Len Ford Park, Etobicoke. Although the snow did not come as predicted in the GTA, the temperature remains in the minus double digits. January 23, 2014. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    So don your boots, or skates at the National Post suggests, and brave the cold to see what you'll missing. Just make sure you also bundle up.

    lake ontario
    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 23: Silhouetted against lake effect snow cloud formations out over Lake Ontario, a man does his morning stretches beside a pagoda at Tall Oaks Park, Mississauga. Although the snow did not come as predicted in the GTA, the temperature remains in the minus double digits. January 23, 2014. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    Got a photo of Lake Ontario in its frozen glory? Send it our way @HPCaTravel on Twitter and it could be featured as part of an upcoming story.

    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mentioned a man doing stretches by a gondola. The story has since been updated.

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    Air Canada is one of those airlines that people love to hate, and a new comedy skit shows you precisely why.

    "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" decided to lampoon the Canadian carrier following its tumultuous, yet financially successful 2013.

    The skit starts off with Trevor, an Air Canada customer service representative, sounding off options for people seeking assistance.

    "To rebook a cancelled flight, press one. To reclaim lost luggage, press two," says a straight-faced Trevor played by Shaun Majumder‎.

    "If you have special needs and we wouldn't let your service dog on the plane, press three," says Trevor, a reference to Air Canada's rejection of a war veteran's request to bring her service dog on board because she had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    At the time, Air Canada said it was because they didn't recognize PTSD as a medical condition. It has since apologized for the incident, saying it was a "misunderstanding."

    The skit continues to dig at the airline's past follies including losing a customer's dog and then denying it ever happened. It concludes with over-the-top scenarios like shoe theft, half-eaten airline food and a flight attendant calling out a traveller for leaving a foul smell in an airplane lavatory.

    Despite the blunders the airline has faced, Air Canada looks to post its second annual profit in its most recent fiscal year, turning around the business thanks to cost-cutting measures, the Star reports.

    Now if only they can turn around their public relations...

    This Hour Has 22 Minutes airs on CBC TV Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. Catch more clips of the show on Facebook and Twitter.

    Like this article? Follow us on Twitter

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    While Italy is always a popular destination for travelers, 2014 is shaping up to be a very special year for travel to la bel paese. I've been reporting on Italy travel full-time for 11 years in my role as editor of Dream of Italy, and this year I've noticed a few new trends that are giving travelers more ways to experience the magic of Italy, from enjoying outdoor adventure to taking Italian genealogy one step further and exploring dual citizenship with Italy.

    But first we start with Pope Francis, the man who has made being Catholic cool again and is bringing record numbers of travelers to Rome.

    Planning a trip to Italy in 2014? Get our free Italy villa rental guide, learn how to access all of our Italy travel advice, and/or book your Italy trip with our team of professionals!

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    Visiting America can be a mind-blowing experience. There are so many beautiful places to see, cities to wander, and regions to explore. There's also a good chance visitors will experience culture shock.

    If you're American, you probably think the following eight things about American culture are quite normal. But they're definitely a bit weird to visitors and newcomers to the States.

    Check them out in the list below...

    1. Uber-Friendliness
    customer service
    Americans are, apparently, much friendlier than most people around the world. It's not uncommon to chat up a stranger while waiting on line or traveling on public transportation.

    2. Extra-Large Food Portions
    The concept of "super-size me" is definitely an American one. In most other places in the world, American-sized single-serving portions would dwarf typical portion sizes abroad.

    3. Tipping
    restaurant tip
    Americans tend to tip everyone and anyone in the service industry -- waitstaff, bartenders, cab drivers, hotel employees, beauticians-- and good service is rewarded with a good tip. While tipping is technically voluntary, not tipping is generally looked down upon. Tipping in many other places in the world is much less emphasized or even non-existent.

    4. Prescription Drug Commercials
    pill bottles
    America is one of two countries in the world (alongside New Zealand) that allow pharmaceutical countries to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. So all those Ambien and Zoloft commercials seem pretty odd to non-Americans.

    5. Places Are Really Far Apart
    map of united states
    Sure, you can see Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia in one trip, but you want to see New York AND Los Angeles? That ain't close. Our spread-outness and varied geography tends to be shocking to unknowing first-timers.

    6. The Non-Metric System
    miles road sign
    The United States is one of three countries that doesn't use the Metric System. The other two are Liberia and Myanmar. So it's no wonder our inches, miles, pounds and quarts might be confusing to visitors...

    7. Patriotism
    american flags
    American patriotism is unique. Flying the stars and stripes outside your house is perhaps a typically American thing. Hell, we even have a song "Proud to be an American." This country-centric pride can come off as bizarre to those unfamiliar with it.

    8. Many, Many Food Items
    According to a Reddit thread, there are a lot of American food products folks abroad find strange. The list includes Hershey's Chocolate (gasp!), bread, Pop-Tarts and snow cones.

    Share your puzzling American travel experiences in the comments!

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    There's a reason that Nashville has been named one of the 52 places to go in 2014 by the New York Times.

    Nashville is, increasingly, the perfect blend of its historic country roots and its hipster and rock & roll present. It's a strange juxtaposition, certainly, that the land of Elvis and Dolly is now also the land of hipsters and foodies, but that's how it goes, it seems.

    With that in mind, here are 22 reasons why you visit the blended old and new Music City not just this year but right now.

    1. The hot chicken (a Nashville specialty) at Hattie B's. Add a side of pimento mac & cheese.

    2. The piano at Studio B (an additional tour at kinda-gotta-see The Country Music Hall of Fame), where Elvis recorded more music than anywhere else.
    studio b nashville

    3. With over 700 of them, there are more churches per capita in this town than any place else in the country. So there's that.

    4. Little Richard lives on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel downtown, across from the Country Music Hall of Fame. It's a known fact. And so lovable.

    5. Hatch Show Print. An oldie--established in 1879--but a goodie for lovers of letterpress posters.

    6. Honky tonks! Robert's Western sits amongst a plethora of options on lower Broadway.
    honky tonk

    7. Frist Museum for the Norman Rockwell show (on through Feb. 9).
    frist museum nashville

    8. The awesome blue grass tunes at The Station Inn.
    station inn nashville

    9. The guacamole and house margarita at Saint Anejo in the Gulch, one of the hipster neighborhoods that just popped out of nowhere.
    saint anejo

    10. The full scale replica of the Parthenon.
    the parthenon nashville

    11. Shopping at Nashvillian boutiques in places like Hillsboro Village (home of the famous Pancake Pantry) and 12 South (Below, 12South Tap Room, seen on warmer days).
    12 south

    12. The burgers at Burger Up (be prepared to wait in line).
    burger up nashville

    13. Franklin, a 20-minute drive south of town, for shopping and good eats.
    franklin tn

    14. Goo Goo clusters!
    googoo clusters

    15. The beauty of the Ryman Auditorium, the "mother Church of country music."
    ryman auditorium nashville

    16. The knowledge that the band you're listening to at some random venue might just be the next big thing.

    17. Parnassus Books, an independent store owned by author Ann Patchett.

    18. The complete package experience of Pinewood Social: brunch, bowling and booze.

    19. People are really friendly.

    20. The ridiculous amounts of memorabilia at the new-ish Johnny Cash Museum.
    johnny cash museum

    21. Knowing that you could run into Taylor Swift at any moment.

    22. Jack White's Third Man Records store.

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    They're not your average war memorials.

    However, these monuments celebrate some equally interesting items.

    Ben Franklin's kite
    St. Stephen's Church in Philadelphia has a bizarre plaque on its wall, explaining that the church was "built on the site where Ben J. Franklin flew his famous kite." How positively electrifying.

    Abraham Lincoln's hunk of watermelon
    When Abraham Lincoln was invited to christen the small town of Lincoln, Illinois, he did so by splitting a watermelon in two and pouring its juice on the ground. There is now a watermelon monument made of steel near the town's Amtrak station.
    lincoln watermelon

    A "space acorn"
    Some people think it was an alien spacecraft. Others say it was a Russian satellite. Still others believe it was a "time-traveling Nazi spacecraft." All we know for sure is that on December 9, 1965, an unidentified object zipped across the sky near Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. According to witnesses, military officials rushed in to haul the item away as quickly as they could. Baffled Kecksburg residents now display a life-size replica of what they call "the space acorn."
    space acron

    George Washington's last supper
    After winning the Revolutionary War, General George Washington said "an emotional farewell" to his officers in the second-floor dining room of Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan. Nowadays, you can tour the sacred room or just grab a pretzel bun burger downstairs.

    The boll weevil
    This tiny, long-snouted bug has a monument all its own in Enterprise, Alabama. In 1915, boll weevils from Mexico invaded Enterprise and ate all the cotton crops in the area. This disaster caused farmers to switch to peanut farming, which brought more money into their economy, which led them to refer to the beetle as "the herald of prosperity." As such, the Boll Weevil Monument consists of a woman thrusting her mighty boll weevil toward the sky in praise.

    Benedict Arnold's bruised foot
    This statue at Saratoga National Historic Park in New York pays homage to Benedict Arnold's foot and leg, which suffered many injuries while he fought with the Continental Army (pre-traitor scandal, of course). It's just a limp, unmarked boot dangling from a pole.
    space acron

    FDR's face
    Like any good father, Albert Christenson dug a hole in a rock so his kids would have somewhere to hang out during those long, lonesome nights in the desert of Moab, Utah. Thanks to Albert's hardworking spirit, the casual hole soon ballooned into a 5,000-square-foot, 14-room complex with a fireplace and chimney. Albert never got to complete it, but travelers on Highway 191 are more than welcome to tour "Hole N" The Rock" and a pay homage to its centerpiece, a carving of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's head.

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    We don't know about your hearths, but the recent sub-zero temperatures have left our homes and our hearts a bit cold to the touch.

    The best antidote to all that snow and ice? How about a private stretch of white sand beach? Or a perfectly turquoise infinity pool?

    These jaw-dropping properties are all located steps away from warm, welcoming ocean waters. Click through to discover our favorite places we'd like to escape to from the winter chill.

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    HALIFAX - Nova Scotia RCMP say a woman is facing charges after they say someone became disruptive in an airport terminal and assaulted a police officer.

    The Mounties say they received a call around Friday afternoon about two passengers who were involved in a sexual act onboard Air Canada flight 610, a Toronto to Halifax flight.

    Police say after arriving at the terminal at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, the 24-year-old woman and 38-year-old man were approached by officers.

    They say the woman then became agitated and was arrested for causing a disturbance.

    Police say while being taken to an RCMP office inside the airport, the Nova Scotia woman kicked an officer.

    She's facing charges including assaulting a police officer, causing a disturbance and mischief.

    Police say the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are anticipated.

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    LOTR fans, your dream hath cometh true. There is a town in the Netherlands called Geldrop, and it's got a neighborhood where every street is named after a resident of Middle-earth.

    They're all organized by category: The north part of the neighborhood has the Gondorian streets, like Boromir and Aragorn. The Dwarf zone has streets like Balin and Dori. There's a Rohan section where you'll find Éowyn and Éomer, and the Elven streets include Legolas and Galadriel.


    There's no word on why the neighborhood decided to give itself such Tolkien-y titles, but we're glad they did. Geldrop is incredibly fun to explore on Google Maps, and it actually looks like a nice, orderly, quaint little place to live.

    Seriously-- here's the green, grassy intersection of Frodo street and Laan von Tolkien (Tolkien Avenue).

    View Larger Map

    Here's the little playground on the corner of Gandalf and Sam Gewissies (the Dutch name for Samwise Gamgee).

    View Larger Map

    And here's the local preschool, literally named De Hobbit.

    View Larger Map

    Have fun exploring Geldrop, Middle-earth on Earth!

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