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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Looking to really impress your special someone this Valentine's Day? Have half a million dollars to spare?

    If you answered an enthusiastic "Yes!" to both of those questions, then we found just the deal for you.

    The Sutton Place Hotels (with locations in Vancouver, Revelstoke, and Edmonton) is offering "The Ultimate Once-In-A-Lifetime Valentine's Experience," and it can all be yours for "a mere $500,000."

    So what exactly does all that dough buy you?

    There's door-to-door limo service, a night in the hotel's Presidential Suite, a bottle of Dom Pérignon and hors d'oeuvres upon arrival, for starters. You'll also get personalized monogrammed Frette terry robes, a private helicopter tour of the city, and a private $100,000 shopping spree at Holt Renfrew.

    But wait, there's more!

    Big spenders can also look forward to $50,000 worth of diamonds and fine jewelry, free couple's massages for the year, and weekly fresh flower delivery for the year. And last but certainly not least: a new personalized Maserati.

    If that price tag is a little (or, you know, a lot) out of your price range, no fear: there are two other V-Day deals to choose from: the Make Their Heart Flutter Package (starting from $209 per night) and the Love The Theatre Package (starting from $259 per night).

    So pick your jaw up off the floor and start counting those quarters.

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    Your moment is finally here. You've been saving money all year, carefully planned out your beach reads and swimsuit purchases, and you even packed three different pairs of flip flops, for variety's sake.

    But when the plane lands ... it's raining. And the weather reports show no sign of a sunny day for weeks.

    Before you cry into your Facebook status, consider these tips to salvage your rained-out vacation.

    1. Accept and then even appreciate the rain.
    hawaii rain

    It might be a far cry from the sandy, sun kissed week you were hoping for, but wet weather -- especially in tropical locales -- can be truly beautiful.

    Local waterfalls will be at their best, and few things can be as freeing as a muddy, barefoot hike through the jungle. Maunawili Falls trail, for example, on the Hawaii island of Oahu is a moderate hike that is manageable enough to do during light rain. You'll find that the cloudy mist actually makes for greener greens and brighter flowers. Grab an umbrella and definitely don't forget your camera!

    2. Go ahead, ask a local.

    This probably isn't the first time it has rained in your vacation town, and we're pretty sure life goes on when things get wet. Take this opportunity to ditch the lame tourist traps and ask a local what types of things they like to do on a rainy day. Travel-based social websites like are designed to connect locals with travelers. Vayable's search engine allows you to find locals or "insiders" in the area who are willing to give a tour, hang out, or even just grab a bite to eat.

    We can't predict what you'll end up getting into -- could be anything from an under the radar concert to joining a drum circle in someone's living room -- but we can assume it'll be a lot more fun than watching the rain from your hotel balcony. Who knows, you might just make a friend who has a free couch to crash on during your next trip.

    3. Indulge in a spa day, all day.

    This might be one of the only things on your trip's to-do list that didn't need a rain check, so why not make it an all day affair? Extend that hour-long massage into two hours. Exfoliate away with a facial and a mineral scrub. Daydream in the steam room while you detox. You'll soon laugh at the thought of your trip being ruined by a little rain. (That, or you've been in the steam room too long. You should probably get out.)

    If possible, book a massage in a covered outdoor cabana. You'll reach new levels of zen during a hot stone massage while listening to the pitter patter of rain all around you. "It should rain more often," you'll say to yourself with a dazed smile.

    4. Chase the sun.
    road trip

    Three words: Rental. Car. Adventure. Pull out the weather report and find the closest area with less intense rain (or none at all) and head in that direction. Obviously, you should trust your instincts and keep moving if you're not in a safe part of town, but this is your chance to be a true explorer, traveling with the excitement of having no expectations.

    You may discover a small beach with just enough sunshine for a picnic or a dry daytime hike in a lesser-known area. Heck, you might even stumble upon a hole-in-the-wall diner with local food that trumps anything dished out at that five-star restaurant back at the resort. The whole point of your mini road trip is to wander the roads while counting the rainbows along the way. Anything picked up, eaten or enjoyed on said roads is just a bonus.

    5. Screw it and go to the beach anyway!

    Remember when we told you to appreciate the rain? Well, you haven't truly appreciated it until you've gone swimming in the rain and let go of caring if you're wet or not. Throw caution -- and clothes -- to the wind and splash along with the raindrops, play in the wet sand, and throw a cocktail or hot-tub excursion in for warmth.

    Like Vivian Greene once wrote, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain." (Oh yeah, we went there.)

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    Sure, it's been bitterly cold around wide swaths of the United States of late. And sure, it's snowed and been pretty, but it's also snowed and been not so pretty.

    We're always upset when it snows here in this lovely country of ours and it doesn't look charming and cozy, like how Europe does in the snow.

    Allow us to visually explain. Here's what some places in Europe have looked like of late. We're jealous.

    europe snow

    Thuringian Forest region, Germany
    europe snow

    Herrenhausen Gardens, Germany
    europe snow

    More Prague
    europe snow

    And our case from last year:

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    Goodbye Year of the Snake, hello Year of the Horse!

    Friday marks the start of 15 days of celebrations to ring in a new zodiac calendar year for over a billion people around the world. From grand lion dance performances to solemn temple ceremonies, the Lunar New Year is also special time for individual and collective reflection amid raucous merriment.

    From a family gathering at North Korea's doorstep to a colourful underwater show in Jakarta, the following images are some of our favourites collected around the world of festivities.

    Happy new year!

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    Billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, musician Sting and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will be among the speakers when the influential and highly popular TED Conference is held for the first time Vancouver in March.

    TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is an ideas forum which gives presenters a maximum of 18 minutes to speak. Organizers, who revealed the Vancouver lineup on Thursday, said this year's theme is "The Next Chapter."

    The event attracts incredibly gifted, passionate and charismatic speakers. British explorer Ben Saunders, who is finishing a South Pole trek, and Zak Ebrahim, a peace activist whose father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center attack, will join Amanda Burden, New York's chief city planner, and Geena Rocero, a model and activist, as presenters in Vancouver.

    Other speakers booked for Vancouver include jugglers, scientists, and designers.

    Last year, organizers announced its keynote event in Long Beach, Calif. would be moved to Vancouver to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

    Hadfield is one of only two Canadians scheduled to present at TED Vancouver. The other is Michel Laberge, a physicist from Burnaby. He is a privately funded scientist working on building a commercially viable fusion power plant, reported The Vancouver Sun.

    The conference will be held March 17-24, 2014 at the Vancouver Convention Centre and a satellite event, TEDactive, will be located in Whistler.

    But good luck trying to get in. The 1,200 seats for TED, which cost $7,500 US, are sold out already. However, entry to the Whistler event is still available for $3,750.

    Video of the best TED talks are posted to YouTube, but it's up to the discretion of organizers which Vancouver ones will be shared.

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    Vancouver may now be a sophisticated city of soaring glass towers with sushi restaurants on every corner, but let's not forget there was a simpler time. A time when SeaBuses were orange, Science World wasn’t a world yet, and something called Expo 86 defined the city.

    If you grew up in Vancouver in the ‘80s, this list is for you:

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    Communities in China and beyond are welcoming the Year of the Horse on January 31, the day of the Lunar New Year.

    It's a family holiday in most places, with no shortage of stunning parades, prayers, and fireworks displays.

    Which festivity would you hop on a plane for?

    Of course Beijing was the center of the action, where dancers twirled at Temple of Earth park and paraded at Temple of Heaven. Down the coast in Nantong, people scrambled to pray with incense.





    Cathay Pacific hosted a nighttime parade with lit-up floats and dancers.

    Fire eaters went all-out in Manila. Nearby, a dragon dropped off envelopes full of cash.
    chinese new year phillippines

    chinese new year philippines

    Costumed kiddies came out to play in Bangkok's Chinatown on Friday, while the rest of the city remains tense with protest over upcoming elections.


    Temple-goers prayed with incense sticks at Hong San Ko Tee in the city of Surabaya. Meanwhile, in Jakarta, mermaids danced with underwater lions.


    The changing of the guards had special flair at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. ...but not everyone was inspired by the hawks on display.


    Wax figures of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan hung out with dragons in London's Chinatown. Long, fake beards also made an appearance.


    The traditional lion dance was a hit in Kolkata, home to India's official Chinatown.


    Candy and oranges rained from the sky in Kuala Lumpur. Chinese plum blossoms were a hot photo opp, too.

    malaysia chinese new year

    At the Duan Hua Chinese school, students worked on costumes for their dance performance.


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    Whoever said "love will find a way" never spent hours in a busy mall searching for the perfect present for their special someone.

    And if the girl in your life loves to travel, you already know the mundane heart-shaped chocolates won't do the trick for a woman always looking for an adventure.

    A gift to a lady with a love for travel can take many forms, big or small. It could mean planning a vacation together with your Valentine as a weekend escape, or simply sending her a postcard instead of a traditional email or text message.

    If the lady in your life is always planning her next trip, the right Valentine's Day gift will have to go a step further. It could mean a hand-picked glass of wine that takes her back to wine-tasting days in California or a travel book that'll add even more notes to her growing bucket list.

    If you're stumped, these gifts are a good starting place for your jet-setting Valentine and at the very least, will work as a memento to accompany her on her next adventure when you can't.

    Missed out on a great idea? Let us know what else you'd like to see in the comments below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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    When your small town in Alberta is facing dire economic hardship, there's only one thing to do: Kill and stuff dozens of gophers, and then arrange them into disturbingly lifelike little dioramas. Then charge people to come visit, and you're good to go!

    Visitors to the Gopher Hole Museum will either wince, giggle or both at 47 dioramas of taxidermic rodents arranged in a building in Torrington, Canada.

    The furry guys are indulging in their "favorite activities," from checking the mail to kissing in the moonlight to welding gopher shoes. Things get intense when one gopher performs a Texas-style holdup on another seemingly innocent rodent in a treasury building.






    The Gopher Hole Museum is open daily from June through September, but apparently the owners will let you peek during the rest of the year if you call ahead and ask.

    "The gophers" who "run" the museum's website remind visitors to check out Canada's other wonders, like Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

    We'd rather just watch them say prayers and play harmonicas.






    The tour ends with a display that seems to poke fun at the whole Gopher Museum itself: In it, a gopher dressed in a top hat fights with a gopher dressed as a hippie about whether it's ethical to kill and stuff a wild gopher for the museum.

    We don't know if this is political commentary, or animal cruelty, or straight-up Canadian kookiness. But whatever it is, we just can't look away.


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    It's arguably the most romantic city in the world, but where do you stay if you want a truly seductive experience of Paris? Here's my personal pick of the six best hotels for couples in love.


    One by the Five

    One by the Five (pictured above) is a luxurious and hedonistic single-suite hotel where a "floating" bed is suspended amid clouds and fiber-optic stars. There is a video camera for -- ahem -- your private use, and a cocktail station with all the ingredients for a "love elixir." Walls are hung with red velvet and mirrors.

    The hotel is located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a heartbeat from the Latin Quarter, filled with bars and brasseries, and within walking distance of Rue Mouffetard, the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Pantheon. From €500 per night.

    Pavillon de la Reine

    Set in the heart of the Marais on the Place des Vosges -- regarded by many as the most beautiful square in the world -- this quiet, family-owned boutique hotel is the perfect hideaway for couples looking for a relaxed setting that's only a short walk from the trendiest bars and restaurants and fashionable boutiques of the Marais.

    The hotel has 54 rooms and suites, including the Victor Hugo suite, which hints at the history of the Marais, where the romantic novelist once lived. The suite has a sleek contemporary feel, with original features such as exposed original timber beams and antique, iron-bound trunks. Pavillon de la Reine has a secluded, flower-filled courtyard perfect for enjoying a morning coffee, as well as its own spa. Rooms from €380 per night with breakfast.


    Hotel Pont Royal

    Hotel Pont Royal is located in the heart of the elegant Saint-Germain-des-Prés and has a long literary and artistic heritage. It's the place where many American greats such as Hemingway, Miller and Fitzgerald tasted intellectual Paris -- perfect for culture-loving couples. All 65 rooms and 10 suites have high ceilings and romantic city views. The panoramic suite (pictured above) overlooks the rooftops of Paris. Classic rooms start at €225 per night.

    Le Meurice

    If you really want a taste of the Paris high life and have the cash to indulge, you can't get more prestigious (and romantic) than Le Meurice. Ideally located near the Louvres on rue de Rivoli, it's one of the oldest Palace hotels and has a marvelous history -- its décor, by Philippe Starck, was inspired by loyal guest Salvador Dali's surrealistic vision. Big spenders can book La Belle Etoile suite on the seventh floor, with 360-degree views of the city, including Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur. All F&B operations are now managed by Alain Ducasse, who is rated as one of the top chefs in the world. Classic rooms from €670.


    Hotel du Collectionneur

    The Hotel du Collectionneur (pictured above) is close to the Arc de Triomphe (less than a 10-minute walk from the Champs-Elysées). Its 52 suites have views over an Andalucian patio, tropical gardens and/or a private terrace. All of the suites are furnished in 1930s art-deco style and are equipped with elegant fixtures and fittings as well as in-room technology. Couples can indulge in haute cuisine at the gourmet restaurant Le Safran and massages at Spa Mosaic. Junior suites start at €529 per night.

    Hotel Particulier Montmartre

    If you're looking for a hidden escape in the atmospheric streets of Montmartre, this mansion hotel is tucked down a secret passage. Once you're past the black iron gates, you're inside a world of lush gardens and opulent suites, all five designed by a different artist. It is contemporary and enchanting, and you can even buy some of the classic furniture on sale in the Salon Prive -- how about an Arne Jacobsen egg chair as a keepsake? Junior suites from €390 per night.

    Jane Anderson is Editor of 101 Honeymoons.

    Photos courtesy of 101 Honeymoons.

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    What happens when seven guys make their own ice hut in the middle of a lake? They create the most epic Super Bowl entertainment room we've ever seen.

    A group of dudes from Ennismore, Ont., designed and constructed their own man (ice) cave, fully equipped with a bar counter, hardwood floor, beer lights, a plasma TV and lots of beer. The ice hut was created by Lee Gynane, Jay and Ben Mark, Shawn Gallant, Aaron Davis, Tyler Sabatino and Greg Young, and also includes a 12-inch cathedral ceiling.

    ice hut super bowl

    And if that didn't impress you, the hut on Chemong Lake also includes a fishing hole. Yes, a fishing hole. We guess we know what they'll be doing during the halftime show.

    ice hut super bowl

    According to PTBOCanada, the hut owners will use a wood stove to heat the place, as well as cook in it, and say they don't spend nights there because they conveniently live five minutes away from the hut.

    At this point, the only things they're missing are the bacon and poutine.

    ice hut super bowl

    H/T PTBOCanada

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    It's the Lunar New Year, a time when an estimated 3.6 billion trips will take place in China as people travel to see their families and celebrate the year of the Horse.

    Except me. My passport just expired (and really, my family lives a ten-minute drive away).

    I realized the end was nigh just recently and, in a panic, rushed to get passport photos taken at a Black's photography outlet in downtown Toronto.

    It took a few tries to get them right, and I was in a rush, so I had to return later that day. The very kind photographer packaged up the photos for me and sent me on my way.

    After I got home, I took a look at the envelope she’d put the photos in. Apparently she'd forgotten to take my name that morning, so she put in a descriptive name instead:

    ms oriental lady

    Ah, ‘Oriental.’ That colonial term of yore -- now considered eurocentric and offensive. You may remember Rob Ford’s now infamous quote: “Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life.” Kinda like that.

    Ironically, the photographer didn’t need to put down a descriptor -- she could have just taken the photos out to see that it was me!

    As the old saying goes: a picture may be worth 1,000 words, but probably none of them should be ‘oriental.’

    (Hey, at least she called me a lady -- and not 'lady chinky eyes').

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    (Relaxnews) - It seems no one wants the Biebs. Not only has an online petition in the US to deport Justin Bieber reached more than 200,000 signatures, now a Canadian travel agency is offering to fly the pop singer out of Canada for free.

    It’s rocky times for the embattled teen idol, who was charged with driving under the influence and drag racing in Florida last week, sparking public outcry and the creation of a petition called "Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card” in the US.

    Then, on Wednesday, the Biebs presented himself to Toronto police where he was charged with the assault of a limo driver from an incident December 30.

    Enter, a Canadian travel agency that is offering to fly the singer and up to five members of his entourage anywhere in the US on their dime with this little caveat: they can't use any flight credits to return to Toronto.

    "We feel it's best -- given what a great deal this is -- that Mr. Bieber and his companions take the opportunity to explore other parts of the world," said Chief Marketing Officer Neil Bhapkar in a cheeky statement. is taking a page out of the marketing strategy of Spirit Airlines, notorious for riding on the trials and tribulations of politicians to make headlines.

    For example, when Toronto mayor Rob Ford was outed for smoking crack, the low-budget carrier launched a special promotion that screamed, “We’re not smoking crack!”

    Similarly, the airline created an ad of a mustachioed hot dog in a condom-cape in reference to disgraced New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, with the tag line, “The Wiener rises again!”

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    I don't know what it is, but when restaurant servers are happy and friendly, the whole experience is enhanced. The food just tastes better, right? On a recent visit, I discovered that Halifax is one heck of a hot spot. East coast city locals sweetly fill plates with savoury fare, as well as provide visitors with a charming place to stay.

    Hamachi House - As part of the Hamachi Group of restaurants, this fine Japanese joint has been serving lunch, brunch and dinner since 2001. On the first of two visits, the group ordered Crispy Salmon Taquitos and also savoured a Deluxe Shashimi Plate alongside special house rolls packed with fresh lobster. On both occasions I started with a Gomae Salad, which I could eat every day. Just saying.


    The Bicycle Thief - My TV producer friend Ron lives in Toronto, but is often in Halifax for projects and is a regular at this spot that features "American food with Italian soul." When we go he raves about the lasagna, but orders the local lobster chowder to start, and the organic chicken stuffed with truffle-laced wild mushroom risotto as a main. He thoroughly enjoys every bite. I was captivated by the apps and ordered the tuna tartare, and the flash-fried calamari. The former was delish, while the latter was dismal. 

    Ela Greek Taverna - A bit of a drive out of downtown, but worth the trip. Loved the atmosphere of this place -- completely unexpected since it sits amongst big box stores like Target and Best Buy. Two visits here as well, and ordered the grilled octopus on chickpea salata both times. Highly recommend the souvlaki platter to share as it comes with tasty beef, chicken and scallop skewers. 

    Chives Canadian Bistro - If you are all about highly-rated and award-winning, then book a table at Chives. Chef/Owner Craig Flinn has three best-selling Canadian cookbooks for a reason, but he's not pretentious about it. His attitude is reflected in a casual and cozy atmosphere, where really good food and wine is fully enjoyed. The menu changes seasonally so my only suggestion is to go with a group that likes to share, and have a bite of everything!

    Halifax Farmers' Market - Head here on any morning, except Monday, for the freshest pick from vendors offering up sweet baked goods (don't miss Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet), samosas, sandwiches and a dang good guacamole (El Gallo Mexican Foods). Whether you prefer java, getting juiced (check out Fruition), or tucking in for a hearty brunch at the restaurant on site, there is something for every food lover. Loads of locally-crafted goods to boot.


    FRED Style - Yes, it's true. Fred ran for mayor. He lost, but the salon lives on offering Fred Connor's perspective on hair, housewares and food. These are his strengths and his staff, while polished, are anything but bureaucratic. Make your way to the city's North End and stop in for a piece of chocolate cake. You might walk out with Fred Face (an eponymous line of cosmetics, that is), a fresh cut or colour...or perhaps a couch.


    Agricola Street Brasserie - Feels like a trendy Brooklyn boite...tastes like something that will become an institution. After an appointment at FRED, skip down the street and lunch on Arctic Char atop kale and walnuts, paired with a Sauv Blanc from New Zealand. Tell me that's not perfection. I want to get back here for dinner and brunch!


    Good Food Emporium - When it comes to weekend brunching with the cool kids, look no further that this sweet corner spot. Social service in a super casual environment. Very organic, one might say. I enjoyed the crab cakes, while my brother inhaled Sunday's special omelet. 


    The Haliburton on Morris Street is all class and sophistication in a very convenient downtown location. Originally built in 1809 for the first Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, three heritage townhouses make up the property today. The charm extends into each guestroom -- each totally unique in size, layout and décor. Ask for one with a wood burning fireplace if booking during Winter, Spring or Fall. A private balcony overlooking the garden will do nicely in the Summer months. 

    As the boutique hotel is so close to the waterfront, there are plenty of dining out options (including many of the above). For an intimate night in, order a glass of wine in the cozy library, before Chef Scott Vail cooks up a fine multi-course meal. Note there are no elevators, and the property is not fully accessible to those with physical impairments.


    For where to spain Halifax, read my review of LIFE SalonSpa here.


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    There are sounds that can transport you to a different time. The squeaky complaint of a laundry line being reeled in. The clink of bottles recalling a milkman's delivery on the doorstep.
    The baying tones of a foghorn reminding you of a city vanished ... in more ways than one.

    Vancouver has become an occupied city. To hell with Carl Sandburg. To hell with fog arriving on "little cat feet."

    For weeks now, unseasonable fog has shrouded the city in vapour. Unlike the fog in Sandburg's beloved poem, this fog shows no sign of moving on. Less like Sandburg's little cat and more like a rogue cougar, this fog is remaining settled on its haunches.

    It wreaks its usual havoc, fog does. Commutes are complicated; flights are delayed; things get wet.

    But many of us are delighted, for with the fog, returned the foghorn. The foghorn! The low, baying sound of a Vancouver from an earlier time is back. And with it, so many of our childhood memories.

    As a young girl growing up within sight of the Lion's Gate Bridge, the foghorn was a frequent presence in my life. I used to lie in bed trying to assign words to the sound the foghorn made. Many years later, I discovered that the foghorn did, indeed, have a story to tell.

    A young woman dies shortly after childbirth leaving her husband with a baby daughter. The year is 1818: Such things were hideously common then. The young Scottish widower decides to start over in a new place. He chooses Ohio. He sets sail from Glasgow with his baby daughter. His name is Robert Foulis. He is 22.

    The Atlantic crossing is interrupted by a storm. The boat puts in at Halifax. That a 22 year-old widower traveling with a baby decides to go no further is completely understandable. The world will be a better place as a result of his decision to set up home in a port city will be understandable in the decades to come.

    Back then, the expression "Go with God" wasn't uttered lightly. Travel of any sort was risky and passage by boat, infamously so. Lighthouses with parabolic light reflectors had been around since the early 1800s. arious devices that warned of submerged hazards were rigged up according to local initiative, but often these were no more than bells or whistles mounted on buoys. Death at sea was an inherent risk for all who set sail. That Foulis decided to forsake plans for Ohio and set up home in Nova Scotia speaks of how difficult his Atlantic passage must have been.

    Robert Foulis was an especially resourceful and intelligent man. Back in Scotland, he had dual ambitions: to become a surgeon; to study engineering. Engineering would win out. While in Halifax, he kept body and soul together by teaching art and through commissioned portraiture. Eventually, he remarried and had two more children. The family relocated to New Brunswick where Foulis returned to engineering, while also lecturing on a wide variety of topics.

    While walking home one foggy evening, he could hear his daughter playing the piano. He noticed how the low notes carried the distance to him through the fog.

    Since the 1700s, Saint John harbour had what was called a cannon alarm. In the early 1800s, the city had installed at bell tower to warn of the shoals.

    Foulis had become fascinated by fog and the way that sound traveled. He was convinced that a better maritime warning system was possible. He undertook to invent a steam-operated horn that emitted long, low notes that carried greater distances than the high-pitched bell tones of the current warning system. He also devised a coded system so that various horn installations could be distinguished from one another.

    The wheels of government move slowly, but finally, in 1859, Foulis's foghorn was installed on Partridge Island in Saint John harbour. It was the first foghorn in the world. It would remain in place, effective and operational, until the Coast Guard shut it off in 1998.

    The world had changed. Emerging technology was making foghorns redundant; even recreational boats had sophisticated radar systems. Enclosed superstructures on ships made it impossible to even hear a foghorn.

    In its time, the foghorn averted countless deaths. Robert Foulis's invention, however, had become obsolete.

    Blog continues after slideshow:

    And yet.

    And yet.

    These past few weeks, the mournful baying of a foghorn has been haunting the city. Long-time residents remark on it to one another:

    "Did you hear ...?"

    "Isn't it lovely ...?"

    "... can't remember the last time I heard one ..."

    A mnemonic device if there ever was one, the foghorn awakens memories from an earlier time. The keening dipthong, somehow comforting, recalling steaming bowls of porridge before an unescorted walk to school.

    The days when the Lion's Gate was a toll bridge.

    The days when the Nine O'clock Gun could be heard all over the city.

    It seems we love the foghorn. The fog may be a presence to be managed but the foghorn conveys a special sense of community. And not just any community, but of a maritime community.

    But where was it coming from?

    I made inquiries. None of the authorities I spoke with seemed to know anything about it. Port Metro Vancouver said they'd fielded dozens of inquiries but that there was no foghorn operational within the port.

    It took awhile before I found the answer. The mournful tones slicing through the Vancouver fog aren't land-based foghorns but those of foghorns installed on ships. There are a set of rules governing their use, but captains can use them at their discretion.

    Personally, I give them licence to use them liberally.

    Robert Foulis did not get properly recognized nor rewarded for his selfless invention. An American applied for the patent for his foghorn and Foulis died penniless.

    When I learned the story of Robert Foulis's noble invention, I suddenly heard the word the foghorn had been trying to tell me all those years ago: Fouuuuuu ... Lisssssss.

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    It might not feel like it when you're standing in the middle of a crowded Waikiki beach, but the Hawaiian archipelago is actually the most isolated population center on Earth. It is roughly 2,400 miles to the closest landmass (California), which means -- as the below photos illustrate -- you really are all by your lonesome in the Pacific.

    NASA Astronaut Rex J. Walheim took these amazing images during a 2008 Space Shuttle Mission to the International Space Station and recently shared them with the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) on the Big Island. Hawaii's isolation has made it an epicenter of scientific and environmental studies. It boasts the largest cluster of telescopes and observatories in the world thanks to its low levels of air and light pollution.

    Yep, looks pretty ideal to us.


    Big Island
    big island



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    You know that first day of spring? When everyone breaks out their warm-weather clothing and has that doofy smile on their face? Well, that just happened in Hawaii except instead of a spring day, it was because of a snow day.

    Earlier this week, a snow storm hit the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island and residents were (understandably) psyched. From flip-flop snowshoes to "snow surfing," locals made the most of the snow days, perhaps teaching the rest of us to embrace the joys of winter a bit more.

    Snow falls almost every winter in Hawaii, but only at the tallest summits of the islands' three tallest volcanoes: Mauna Loa (the Earth's largest volcano) and Mauna Kea, both on the Big Island, and Haleakala on Maui.

    Snow was so fierce this past week that one hiker even had to be rescued after being caught in the storm for two days.

    "The snow level almost never gets below 9,000 feet ... during the winter," Ken Rubin, assistant professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii, told Wunderground.

    "But since these mountains are taller than 13,600 feet, 13,700 feet and 10,000 feet, respectively, they get dusted with snow a few times a year. It rarely stays on the ground for more than a few days though."

    Skiers and snowboarders still manage to shred the slopes of Mauna Kea even though it is not maintained as a recreational ski area. According to Mauna Kea Ski Corporation, "Skiing areas may have unmarked and exposed rocks ... Most runs are for intermediate to advanced skiers/snowboarders -- weather permitting."

    The Big Island enjoys all but two of the world's climate zones. It won't take you long, for example, to go from playing in the snow to this:

    Want to see what it looks like right now atop a Hawaiian volcano? Check out Mauna Kea's live streaming weather cams here.

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    Ngwe Saung is nestled about five hours from Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, and it's perfectly pristine. The coastline was recently transformed into a beautiful 10-mile strip of brand-new hotels, yacht clubs and waterfront infinity pools, all within view of the sparkling ocean.

    But nobody's visiting Ngwe Saung. And that's a real bummer.

    Locals say the government started taking possession of their land in 2000 to build new resorts for the Southeast Asian Games, which were held in Myanmar last month. But now that the Games are over, few tourists have shown interest in the brand-new facilities at Ngwe Saung. Luxury hotel rooms -- some of which go for $300 a night -- are mostly empty.







    Ngwe Saung makes for a relaxing adventure after the rich tastes and crazy crowds of Yangon, which is most people's first stop in the country.

    It's also not far from Shwedgaon Paya, the oldest (and might we say prettiest) Buddhist pagoda in the world.

    The Ngwe Saung region is still under construction in hopes that visitors will discover it soon.

    And the local people are keeping traditional Ngwe Saung alive, even with big hotels popping up all around. They've kept on fishing and are still enjoying their pristine beach-- a beach few others choose to visit.




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    You know it's true: nothing on this Earth feels better than hitting the ocean wearing nothin' but your birthday suit.

    But why are Americans so shy about swimming in the buff, and why are European nudist beaches so darn crowded? The only answer, it seems, is to veer off Europe's beaten path to the continent's secret nudie paradises. Drop your pants and grab your goggles!

    Playa de los Muertos, Almeria

    Locals are "regretting to share this secret" about their beach that lies at the end of a "grueling road" near a cement factory. Nude snorkelers love Playa de los Muertos for its crystal-clear, see-straight-through-it water... and its whopper of a sunset.
    Photos of Playa de los Muertos, Province of Almeria

    This photo of Playa de los Muertos is courtesy of TripAdvisor

    Spiaggia di Guvano, Cinque Terre

    You can hike Italy's Cinque Terre like everyone else... or you can escape the flood of tacky tourists and get naked in a hidden grotto. To find Guvano takes dedication-- you'll start at the Corniglia train station, then weave your way down toward the water. If you run into a long, dark tunnel with a light switch but no working lights, then you're in the right place. Some call the tunnel "terrifying," but your inner nudie will be rewarded with a secret, sparkling little cove that's "always nude, free, and happy."

    Kordovan Beach, Jerolim

    It's located on Jerolim, the island CNN called one of the best nudist destinations in the world. But luckily for you, Kordovan is hidden across the island from the main beach, and it's little-known among locals-- in fact, some locals haven't even heard of it. Lush pine trees and pebbles give the hidden cove a rustic, 'Survivor'-y feel. It's the "most chilled place" on an otherwise popular island chain.
    Photos of Pakleni Islands, Hvar

    This photo of Pakleni Islands is courtesy of TripAdvisor

    Wild Pear Beach, Devon

    It's about a 30-minute walk from the tiny tourist town of Combe Martin-- a "steep scramble" leads you down a cliff to water so blue, the beach looks like it belongs on the other side of Europe. You'd think the Brits might be a little timid about baring it all, but this blissful cove is totally open to naturists of every persuasion. As one Yelper puts it, "there is nothing so liberating than taking off one's clothes and running into the sea."

    CHM Montalivet resort, Vendays-Montalivet

    This family naturist resort is "buried within a dense pine forest" on the Côte d'Argent, France's under-the-radar beach that also happens to be the longest strip of sand in Europe. Families can choose to stay in a chalet, tent, cottage or motor home and kick back on one of two uber-private nude beaches.

    Red Beach, Crete

    Hand-painted signs and a rocky hike lead to this "little heaven" on the Greek island of Crete. Once at Red Beach, you'll find a makeshift coffee shop, umbrellas for rent, and scores of the jolly Greek nudists you've always dreamed of befriending.
    Photos of Red Sand Beach, Matala

    This photo of Red Sand Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

    Adegas Beach, Odeceixe

    This is one of Portugal's six official naturist (aka nudist) beaches. It's tucked beneath a long wooden staircase near the parking lot for Odeceixe, a popular beach nearby. Gentle, lapping waves make Adegas ideal for swimming sans bikini... you won't find any body-thrashing tsunamis here.
    praia de adegas

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    A group of Manitoba students has returned early from a trip to the Dominican Republic, after some of them witnessed a violent break-in and shooting that sent a Canadian man to hospital in the Caribbean country.

    Dominican police confirmed Saturday that a Canadian who has permanent residency in the country was shot in a violent break-in on Thursday night, a day after the group of students had arrived to help out at a local orphanage.

    Captain José Callado told CBC News the victim owns a hostel, condo, and hotel complex where the students were staying.

    He said the victim is in critical but stable condition after being shot, and that police are looking for two suspects.

    In Winnipeg, there were tears and relief as the Manitoba students returned home early Saturday morning.

    The 18 high-school students from St. Jean Baptiste and Ste. Anne arrived back in Winnipeg at around 5 a.m.

    Their trip was cut short when some of them witnessed the break-in and shooting at their compound in Puerto Plata.

    Alain Laberge, superintendant of the Franco-Manitoban School Division, was at Winnipeg's James Richardson International Airport to welcome the travellers home.

    He said the students and their eight chaperones are fine.

    Laberge said the school division has been organizing the trip for the last three to four years and it's unclear at this point whether it will continue.

    "You could go to an outing here in Winnipeg and something like this could happen," he said on Saturday."You never know. So we never want to say we'll never do that again, but we have to see what happened."

    Leberge said grief counsellors will be at the schools on Monday to speak with the students.

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