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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    So much to do, so many places to see, but so little time to do it all. That's where Destination Unknown comes into play. At the beginning of each month, HuffPost Canada Travel will be putting together a list that offers something for everyone — those on a budget, those looking for something unique or those simply looking to get away. Curious? Good. A sense of wanderlust is always healthy. So, without further ado, here's March's Destination Unknown round-up.


    Trying to forget what seems like one of the coldest, snowiest and iciest winters to date isn’t easy when Old Man Winter keeps things frosty long past Wiarton Willie annual weather prediction.

    Lucky for you, there are plenty of places with sun and sand — or that will at least keep you indoors — that are perfect March destinations for when you’re tired of windburn and wet feet. The trick is to head farther than you probably usually would, since the warmest weather during this time of year is in the southern hemisphere. Seasons are opposite of Canada’s there, making it the tail end of summer in all lands down under.

    But that doesn’t mean you should rule out our northern neighbours. That nip in the air might still be there, but there are plenty of travel-worthy events happening north of the equator. And for those who can't get enough of the snow, there's still time to head to the Alps.

    To see where you should book your March vacation, check out the gallery below.

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  • 02/01/14--23:39: A Tequila Massage in Mexico
  • I can most definitely say that my body was drunk after my first tequila massage at Apuane Spa at The Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, Mexico. Well, drunk in the way that my body felt like jello after all the kinks and knots were worked out by my lovely massage therapist. Oh, and yes -- tequila was also poured all over my back, stomach and feet -- straight up.

    The Punta Mita Massage uses indigenous sage oil and tequila for their natural healing properties. Sage has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and has been found to lower blood pressure. Sage oil can also stimulate the lymphatic system, heal insect bites and reduce large pores. Since the herb itself is very powerful, a small amount of the sage oil is blended with massage oil and tequila for this type of therapy.

    Tequila is a whole other matter. Having only experienced the magic of tequila in my body, it was time for the outside of my body to enjoy its healing benefits. A high quality tequila should be used if you're trying this at home. This guarantees a large amount of actual agave, the plant that tequila is sourced from. The liquid itself feels cool and calming against my skin - agave is traditionally used for healing cuts, burns and rashes.

    The actual massage itself is a soft to medium pressure, using the lomi lomi technique, which includes rolling of the therapists' forearm along your back. Tequila and sage oil are massaged into your body while your skin soaks up all that goodness. To finish, warm towels were placed on my back and feet to soothe and relax those muscles and ensured that I didn't walk out smelling like I had been drinking all morning. Skeptical of the whole thing at first, I can definitely say the tequila-based Punta Mita Massage left me more relaxed then other massages that uses heavy shiatsu-style pressure. I slept like a baby that night.

    The resort also features an oceanfront infinity pool and relaxing lazy river. A loop around the shaded river is the best place to escape if you've had too much sun. The hotel gym feels like a workout in a tropical jungle with cardio machines tucked underneath a shaded pergola and large plants surrounding the glass workout room.



    The Punta Mita Massage is available at The Four Seasons Resort - Punta Mita, Mexico. $165 for 50 minutes and the spa is open from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm daily. To learn more visit www.fourseasons.com/puntamita


    Lisa Ng is the Editor-in-Chief of This Beautiful Day - a lifestyle blog for smart women and where this article first appeared.

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    I can't forget those big eyes looking up at me. Angelica is two years old and she has been living at one of the Dominican Republic's SOS Children's Villages since she was six months old. A social worker first found her alone in a hovel, covered in flies. Her brothers were out scavenging for food on the streets -- they were only two and four at the time.

    Now, they have a permanent home at SOS Children's Villages, where they live with their SOS mother Anna and seven other children.

    Today, Angelica thrives; she walks down the street holding her brothers' hands. When she turns four she will attend the local school, which is part of the village. Her future is bright and the odds are she will leave her tough start far behind her.

    2014-01-31-DSC_0041.JPG



    Angelica is just one of the current 78,000 children who has been given a home by SOS Children's Villages. You may never have heard of them, but SOS Children's Villages cares for more abandoned and orphaned children around the world than any other aid agency.

    The vision of SOS Children's Villages is "a loving home for every child" and they provide stability and a family for abandoned and orphaned children in 133 countries. The children are housed in groups of approximately ten with an "SOS mother." Their "SOS mother" cares for the children as if they were her own, and usually continues a relationship with them long after they leave the village. Some of these children have suffered unspeakable horrors; their families in one way or another had abandoned all of them. There are often schools, medical clinics and social workers in the community as well.

    I visited and stayed at two SOS Children's Villages, thanks to Air Transat who flew me to the Dominican Republic so I could see first-hand the good work of SOS Children's Villages. Transat has been a generous partner to SOS Children's Villages since 2009 when they chose to focus on children's organizations that work in their destination countries. They have donated almost a million dollars and helped thousands of kids get better lives. Everyone from the executive level to the grounds crew and passengers has donated to SOS Children's Villages. Some of that money goes to the running of the villages; and some of the money goes to projects like a needed water filtration plant in the Children's Village in Haiti.

    2014-01-31-DSC_0386Copy.JPG



    During my week in the Dominican, I learned a lot about the organization, and also about unconditional love and how the feelings of permanence and security can help a child heal from trauma. It changed how I think about children in need, and also about how I look at travel.

    The Children's Villages were far from the all-inclusive resorts that make the Dominican Republic a desirable destination. Our guides took us to downtown Santiago and Santo Domingo to show us their country, and it was beautiful. We ate local food, and were schooled in the correct avocado to eat with dinner and the wonders of the plantain.

    The trip got me thinking about how I could be a better, more responsible traveler. How could I teach my children to enjoy travel, but also do it in an eco and culturally responsible way? I was not surprised to find that I am not alone in trying to find that balance. A study by Transat Holidays found that 87 per cent of Canadian package travelers prefer a vacation carrier that takes part in socially responsible tourism like environmental protection efforts and giving back to the communities in which it serves.

    Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Travel Tips

    1. Take photos, and leave the natural environment as is -- leave your sand, shells and coral souvenirs on the beach.
    2. Support the local economy by purchasing unique gifts and souvenirs made by local artisans.
    3. Go out to tourist-friendly restaurants outside of your hotel, to support local business.
    4. Look for a company that gives back to the destinations in which it travels to by supporting social or humanitarian causes.
    5. If you have a specific set of skills, research trips where you can use your skills to help a community in-need.

    Read more about Emma's experience at SOS Children's Village at SOSmothers.ca.

    ALSO ON HUFFPOST:


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    desert

    This week's Moment of Travel Zen comes to us from Caley Weyman. Her photo of wooly camels in Mongolia's Gobi Desert shows the tranquility of the desert and its wildlife.

    With vast stretches of sand, gorgeous sunsets and a diverse array of wildlife, the desert has no shortage of stunning sights to see. An escape to the desert to connect with nature will provide you with a fresh outlook on everyday life.



    Where have you traveled for a moment of zen? Email travel@huffingtonpost.com with your travel zen or submit below!



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    We understand the premise of this post may give you pause (see below), but hear us out.
    smoke stacks new jersey

    Let's face it. New Jersey is pretty polarizing. You either love it or you love to hate it. And if the latter is true, we have a sneaky feeling you just haven't given it a fair chance.

    With shows like "Jersey Shore," "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and "The Sopranos," there are some very specific stereotypes that come to mind when one thinks about the Garden State. We are here, however, to help you realize there's so much more to Jersey than blowouts and goombas.

    There's everything from breathtaking mountains and miles of farmland to sandy beaches and cityscapes. New Jersey has produced greats like Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep & Peter Dinklage, super athletes like Yogi Berra and Vince Lombardi. And not one, but TWO gubernatorial scandals in recent years.

    Come now, what isn't there to love about good ol' NJ? There's a little something for everyone and it's hidden there, right in plain sight.

    So without further ado, we highlight a few reasons, places and facts to help everyone give New Jersey a second chance.

    1. Cute little towns.

    lambertville nj
    Lambertville, NJ
    This hidden treasure is only one of the many examples of the quaint little towns nestled along rivers and lakes in New Jersey. The hometown vibe of this western town sends you back in time with its rich history and charming streets, but catapults you into present day with the hipster-esque antique market and the River Horse Brewing Company. There are numerous towns just like this one that have been around for hundreds of years, full of little treasures you can't get anywhere else.

    2. Two words: Beach towns.
    135514134
    Ship Bottom, NJ
    Hurricane Sandy did some damage to the New Jersey coast line, but that hasn't stopped the little beach towns from bouncing back. Although boardwalk games, salt water taffy and french fries with vinegar are very much parts of a Jersey summer, it's the beach communities that millions of people call home from Memorial Day to Labor Day (and beyond) that make the Jersey Shore a treasure. Whether it's a week's vacation on Long Beach Island, a summer at your grandmother's house in Lavallette or an overnight in Atlantic City, beach towns in New Jersey make for the best summer getaways.

    FUN FACT
    The very first baseball game under the modern rules took place in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.


    3. Thriving little metropolises... (metropoli?)

    Morristown, NJ
    For country bumpkins, it's certainly a city but for city folk, Morristown seems more like a movie set. Motown, as it can be affectionately referred to, and the towns in New Jersey that fit the same bill are the perfect blend urban and suburban life. You can walk into the town center for a yoga class or to grab a bite to eat, but you're within a short car ride away from, let's say, the mall. Morristown's proximity to New York City makes it a commuters delight, with only an hour long midtown direct train plopping you right at Penn Station. You get all of the city life conveniences right along side of the suburban perks.

    4. Ski resorts in winter, water parks in the summer.

    Mountain Creek -- Vernon, NJ
    Hit the slopes at one of the ski resorts nestled in the northern part of New Jersey. The mountains and farms will surprise anyone who doesn't realize the state isn't all malls and highways. The New Jersey Turnpike ends miles and miles before Sussex County (whose motto is "People and Nature Together") begins. But the fun doesn't end when the Polar Vortex does. This little resort village turns into a golf course mecca and water park, how's that for resourceful?

    FUN FACT
    Want breakfast anytime of the day? Or maybe some meatloaf at 8 in the morning? New Jersey has the most diners in the world, so that's legitimately an option there.


    5.Sterling Hill Zinc Mine -- Ogdensburg, NJ

    Only in Jersey can you find a tiny little mining town hiding a real gem of a tourist attraction. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum was once the home of the Sterling Hill zinc mine, one of the oldest mines in the United States and one of the world's most premiere mineral locales. Along with around two dozen minerals that can be found nowhere else in the world, fluorescent rocks make this museum one rather cool hot spot. Turn the regular lights off and the black lights on and you'll find yourself in a glowing cave, much like this far off one in New Zealand. Rock on, Ogdensburg!

    FUN FACT
    Both of those New York NFL teams may be named for New York, but they live in New Jersey. We've gotten over it, you should too.


    6. Where would you be without Monopoly?
    Seriously, Monopoly is a right of board game passage for every child and the original version was based off of New Jersey's own Atlantic City. Although the jury is still out on whether anyone actually follows the rules exactly, where would we all be without it? We certainly wouldn't be passing "Go" and we certainly wouldn't be collecting $200.

    7. We don't pump our gas...
    We don't pump our gas, we pump our fists. While that funny little saying perpetuates the bro-tastic image we're trying to shed, it's actually true. New Jersey is one of the two states in the U.S. where you are not allowed to pump your own gas. A law was passed in 1949 stating only those who were properly trained to pump gas were allowed to do so. You certainly wouldn't hate this perk if you lived here. That's almost a guarantee.

    LAST BUT NOT LEAST
    Jersey people know how to share.
    Some may say we're just latching onto two of the greatest cities on the East Coast, but those people from New Jersey know it's so much more than that. Jersey is the support system. The sidekick. What would the NYC skyline look like if it weren't for the view from across the Hudson?
    new york city skyline

    And Philadelphia, please, where would you be without your neighbors to the east? You'd certainly be losing the battle for best city in Pennsylvania, but that's an argument for a different day.
    philadelphia

    So, as all eyes are on New Jersey and Super Bowl XLVIII, don't just jump on the bad mouthing bandwagon. Try it on for size before you judge the Garden State.


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    In the tiny Polish town of Zalipe, a teeny tiny town northeast of Krakow, there remains an endearing tradition amongst residents. It all started back in the 19th century, when residents would whitewash entires houses to cover sooty exteriors, creating huge canvases on which to paint. Turns out, they like flowers in Zalipe.

    You think this sweet? We're just getting started.
    zalipie

    Told ya
    zalipie

    There's some really intricate work going on...
    zalipie

    They're not fooling around here...
    zalipie

    Like, seriously


    The town's most famous painter, Felicja Curlowa, passed away in 1974. Her three-room farmhouse is open to the public today as the Felicja Curyłowa Farmstead Museum, where every flat surface is covered in flowers (if it's locked, Lonely Planet notes, go to the house across the street at Zalipe 196 for the key).

    zalipie

    zalipie

    An oldie but a goodie
    zalipie

    zalipie

    In fact, there's still an annual competition (held every year since 1948) which occurs during the weekend after Corpus Christi (end of May to early June) to determine the best painted house.

    Zalipe's House of Painters serves as a main hub for the town's (mostly female) painters. There's also a gift shop there.

    In basic sum, if this isn't the definition of darling, we don't know what is.

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    It's a sad, sad thing when a dog has been to more exotic countries than you have.

    ...and we'd totally hate them, if they weren't so gosh darn adorable.

    1. This is Caique. He's a regular on the beaches of Rio. Other hobbies include dog parades and dress-up.
    caique the dog

    2. Oh it's cool, Ozzy. Most humans don't get to paddle surf Brazil in their lifetimes anyways.
    dog beach

    3. Because if you can nap at the top of Cuzco, you should nap at the top of Cuzco.
    pit boss

    4. We can only hope that our owners take us on a birthday trip to the Oregon coast, and that it makes us spaz this hard.
    dog beach

    5. One wiener, one car. Just your average road trip in Mendocino, California.
    pit boss

    6. This little guy just started following a group of hikers in the Himalayas, and he didn't quit until he got to the summit. Says his friend on Reddit, "when I decided to get up at 4 a.m. to climb the next peak for sunrise, he accompanied me as well. On the top he was sitting for the entire 30 minutes on this place."
    dog

    7. Because every dog should visit the Acropolis.
    dog beach

    8. ...and some pyramids.
    pit boss

    9. You're really weighing that boat down, Stella. And also, can we come to Shades State Park?
    pit boss


    10. Something tells us Cali did NOT want to be buried on the beach made of sea glass.
    pit boss

    11. We wish someone would offer to carry us on a majestic wilderness hike. Lola's owner says she was "overheating" in her kangaroo pouch.
    pit boss

    12. The only thing better than kibble is the Louvre.
    dog beach


    13. Some dogs explore the Aran Islands in Ireland. Others dogs explore your local trash can.
    dog

    14. These dudes are just lounging on Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, smacking some frozen custard. We'd take a lick.
    traveling dog

    15. Oh, to be on the road.
    travel dog

    16. Sampson just loooves this beach, which we're pretty sure is in Florida, based on his other photos. Wanna invite us next time, Sampson?
    pit boss

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    The upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia have people on the West Coast feeling a little nostalgic.

    It's been four years since the Olympic Winter Games swept Vancouver and Whistler. Those exciting two weeks back in 2010 saw Canada collect a record 14 gold medals in sports such as hockey, skating, curling and skiing. Highlights included freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau collecting the country's first gold medal on home soil, and Sidney Crosby scoring the "golden goal" to beat the United States in the men's hockey final.

    However, tragedy also struck along the way. Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died at the Whistler Sliding Centre during a test run before the Games even started, while Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette won a bronze just two days after her mother died.

    The Vancouver Games were full of triumph and heartbreak, and many moments that few will ever forget. Here are the ones we remember most vividly:




    First Nations Welcome The World
    Vancouver Olympic organizers engaged First Nations as partners in putting on the Games. The highlight of that partnership was seeing aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people from across Canada welcome the athletes to BC Place Stadium at the opening ceremonies. One participant said it gave the country's indigenous people a chance to formally welcome the world — including Canadians — to their territory.

    Olympic Cauldron Malfunction
    While beautiful, the opening ceremonies didn't go off without a hitch. Only three out of the four arms of the Olympic cauldron ever came out of the floor, leaving torchbearers Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene Raine, and Catriona LeMay Doan to stand awkwardly by as they waited for it to light up. Games organizers poked fun at the incident in the closing ceremonies, when the cauldron finally lit as expected.

    Georgian Luger Dies At The Whistler Sliding Centre
    Tragedy struck the Games before they even began when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre. A report by the International Luge Federation determined that he exited a curve too late before his sled flew off the track, sending him hurtling to his death. A memorial was set up in his honour in Whistler.

    Alexandre Bilodeau Wins Canada's 1st Gold Medal On Home Soil
    Freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau topped strong competition at Cypress Mountain with some elaborate jumps, giving Canada its first Olympic gold medal at home. It wouldn't be the last.

    Norway's Curling Pants
    Norway won a silver medal in men's curling at the 2010 Games, but the team's elaborate pants stole the show. And they have only outdone themselves for Sochi.

    Stephen Colbert Lightens Up Vancouver
    Stephen Colbert became a fixture of Vancouver Olympics coverage when he sponsored the U.S. speed skating team. Hilarity ensued from there as the late night comedy host feuded with the City of Richmond (which later offered him a job) over the team's perceived lack of practice time. Colbert taped segments of his show right next to Science World, drawing thousands of members of Colbert Nation North.

    Jon Montgomery Wins Gold In Skeleton, Chugs A Pitcher:
    Jon Montgomery's gold medal win at the Whistler Sliding Centre sent waves of Canadian pride through the ski resort. In the middle of his celebration, a random follower handed him a pitcher of beer that he knocked back on live TV.

    Shaun White Wins Men's Halfpipe
    U.S. snowboarding legend Shaun White had already scored high enough to win the gold medal in men's halfpipe on his first try, but he wasn't about to let his fans down on the second. His victory lap saw him pull off a Double McTwist 1260, a daring trick that made the crowd at Cypress going wild.

    Joannie Rochette Wins Bronze After Her Mother Dies
    Joannie Rochette's mother Therese died of a heart attack just a few hours after arriving in Vancouver to see her daughter compete in women's figure skating. She hit the ice anyway, scoring a personal best in the short program and performing just well enough in the long program to secure the bronze medal. Rochette was later chosen as Canada's flagbearer at the closing ceremonies.

    Sven Kramer, Dutch Speed Skater, Disqualified
    Sven Kramer was denied a gold medal and an Olympic record in the 10,000-metre race when he was disqualified for incorrectly changing lanes at his coach's instruction.

    Lindsey Vonn Dominates Women's Downhill
    Lindsey Vonn came into the Olympics with a bruised shin that had observers worrying she wouldn't be able to compete. But she defied the odds and became the first American woman to win a gold in downhill skiing with a time of 1 minute, 44.19 seconds, more than a half-second faster than her closest competitor.

    Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir Win Gold
    This lovely ice dancing couple won Canada's first gold medal in the sport and became the youngest dance team to win at the Olympics.

    Women's Hockey Team Downs Beer, Smokes Cigars After Win
    Canada's women's hockey team downed the Americans 2-0 in the final, but the win was soon overshadowed by a lame controversy after the players were photographed drinking beer and smoking cigars with their medals around their necks. The IOC was unhappy with the celebration and the team apologized. In our opinion, they shouldn't have.

    Canada Wins Men's Hockey Gold
    The final event of the 2010 Olympics wasn't lacking in drama and excitement. Canada looked like it had the men's hockey gold medal secured when Zach Parise put the puck past Roberto Luongo with just seconds remaining in the third period. Then at around eight minutes into overtime, Sidney Crosby flicked the puck to Jarome Iginla and immediately found some open space in front of the net. He took a pass right back from the winger and shot the "golden goal" past netminder Ryan Miller, winning the game 3-2 and sending Canadian hockey fans everywhere into a frenzy.

    Olympic Fans Crowd Vancouver Streets
    Anyone who attended the 2010 Olympics will likely remember crowded streets full of happy people over anything else. Vancouver came alive in a way it never had before, ushering thousands of people into the downtown to watch sports and celebrate together. The Canadian pride on display throughout the Games prompted IOC Chief Jacques Rogue to call the Vancouver Olympics an "excellent and friendly games" at the closing ceremonies.

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    When we escape our homes for the winter season, it's usually to head to the mountains and hit the slopes. And the best part of it all? Snuggling up with a blanket in the lodge. But that doesn't have to end with a return trip home -- even the most luxe ski lodges have some decor elements in common, and its those exact things that you can bring back with you for the coziest transformation your home has seen yet.

    1. Forget the TV, a fireplace is the ultimate focal point. Giving structure to a room by establishing a focal point is always a great idea, but using a cozy fire instead of technology to do so is an even better idea.
    ski lodge fireplace

    2. Never underestimate the value of a view. What's better than gathering by the fire? Looking out over an incredible panorama. Ski lodges have a way of framing the outside world in a romantically gorgeous way through picture windows and carefully-positioned patios. While that might involve a bit too much in the way of modifying your home, you can simply open the blinds once in a while.
    ski lodge inside

    3. Art isn't the only thing you can hang on walls. Whether it be sleds and snowshoes or trophies from ski competitions past, using your walls for something a bit more untraditional makes a strong statement.
    ski lodge wall

    4. Don't let exposed brick have all the fun. We've all heard how fabulous an exposed brick wall can be, but we happen to think natural stone or rustic wood does the trick just as well, if not better. Don't have one? Join the club. Incorporating natural elements, like incredible stones or wood cross-cuts to use as an alternative centerpiece, will do the trick.
    ski lodge

    5. A little touch of vintage or history goes a long way. Sentimental decor -- think old photos, vintage signs and artwork -- creates a cozy vibe.
    vintage ski

    6. Porches and fire pits aren't just a warm weather thing. We're done letting summer have all the fun with these additions -- lighting an outdoor fire and roasting s'mores might just be even better when you're wrapped in a blanket and watching the snow fall.
    ski lodge porch

    7. Texture is essential. From classic wool blankets to chic faux fur throws, layering these elements will instantly take you to a cabin in the Alps.
    fur throw

    8. Bring some warmth with lighting and palette. Have you ever been to a ski lodge that didn't feel cozy? That's because it's all about earth tones and dimmed, yellow glows.
    ski lodge lighting

    9. Celebrate architectural elements. Exposed beams, wood trim and built-ins should be featured, not obscured.
    ski lodge ceiling

    10. Focus on comfort From a gathering-centered layout to having hot-chocolate and schnapps on hand at all times, these places know what they're design for -- a snug and intimate escape from winter.
    ski lodge hot cocoa

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    I'll be honest, despite living in Southern Ontario my whole life, I had never heard about the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY. If it wasn't for some friends who recently rented a cottage there last summer, we probably wouldn't have been introduced to this gem of a destination, only a three to four hour drive from the GTA.

    Wherever you went, the locals raved about all the things for us to see and do there, especially for families -- so many things that the piece of paper I was writing their suggestions on started to look like a cheat sheet and was soon filled with a plethora of awesome excursions, activities and outdoor adventures.

    With that in mind I set out to find out what we could with our kids to turn this lemon of a winter into lemonade. Turns out, Finger Lakes is a full-year destination, with indoor and outdoor activities to keep you busy for weeks at a time. The Finger Lakes Region extends from Rochester to the West, Syracuse to the East, Lake Ontario to the North, and all the way to the Pennsylvania Border to the south. Add in some of the finest wineries in the world - with Wine, Beer, Cheese and Culinary Trails across the region - we couldn't possibly see and do it justice in a weekend - but we tried!

    Here's our list of the Top 10 things for families to do:

    1. Wonderworks in Destiny U.S.A. (Syracuse) - this upside-down and mind-bending interactive adventure house is part science center, part playground, part tree-top walk and a full day of fun on its own! One of the best parts is its within the Destiny USA Shopping and Outlet Mall.
    2014-02-01-IMG_0597.JPG

    2. Greek Peak Ski Resort and Indoor Waterpark (Cortland) - beautiful skiing trails and majestic runs, just the right length, for all abilities. They also have an indoor waterpark for those who want to warm up in some rushing waters.
    2014-02-01-greekpeak.jpg

    2014-02-01-FL.jpg

    3. Harriet Tubman's home (Auburn) - a crucial link to the underground railroad, now a historical site.

    4. Cheese trails - kids can see the creamery, pet the cows, help milk them and them participate in the cheese-making process.

    5. Preferred Pairings - spend a weekend along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and try professional culinary pairings from both a winery and cheese trail boutique

    6. Corning Museum of Glass (Corning) - kids can learn how glass is made and create their own.

    7. Strong Museum of Play (Rochester) - for kids of all ages - yes, all ages. With toys dating back to our pioneer days, early electronics (the kids giggled while playing the first Mario game), and a tropical Butterfly Garden.
    2014-02-01-IMG_0749.JPG

    2014-02-01-IMG_0727.JPG

    2014-02-01-IMG_0707.JPG

    8. Rochester Museum and Science Center (Rochester) - we had a magical visit at this science centre, really we did. We loved it so much we went back the next day and found they had a Harry Potter day! A true science centre and museum with a planetarium next door.
    2014-02-01-IMG_0806.JPG

    9. Jello Museum (LeRoy) - There's always room for Jello and with this much kitsch and nostalgia they've backed it all into the home where Jello was created. You can check out all the Jello-ware from inception until today.

    10. SPAS!!! - Yes, they have a host of world-class spas offering elegant and restorative getaways....this one may be for the Kid-Free Weekend, so I thought I'd just plant the seed. More to come on that later....

    As much as we tried to pack everything we could into this long weekend family getaway, we didn't even scratch the surface. Thank you to the Cindy and Jessica from the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance for their help, insights and suggestions! We're already planning for our next trip where we'll get to really experience the outdoor majesty, just across the border. To plan your own vacation, you can find lots of things to do at: www.Fingerlakes.org


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    Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi got an interesting question from a border guard at the Calgary International Airport on Sunday.

    On his way back from a trip to the United Kingdom, Nenshi, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, was asked about his thoughts on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

    Only after the U.K. border guard wished him happy birthday, of course.




    Social media was quick to react, with some using the opportunity to comment on Ford's recent trip to B.C., where he was ticketed for jaywalking and photographed dancing at a local pub.

    "Don't jaywalk while you're over there. I hear police everywhere are cracking down on mayors who don't use crosswalks," said one user.

    "That other guy has set a pretty high bar for erratic hijinks!" said another.

    Wishes also poured in for the mayor, who turned 42 on Sunday.

    Here's a look at more of the reaction:



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    If you are looking for a way to truly connect to the food culture of Jamaica then I have the culinary adventure for you! It turns out that the white-knuckle, hair-raising journey over the mountains from Montego Bay to Saint Elizabeth Parish, the breadbasket of Jamaica, is worth every minute. It is advisable to take a Gravol before embarking if you suffer from any motion sickness.

    Enroute to your delicious destination, Jakes Hotel, I highly recommend a stop in Middle Quarters for some pepper shrimp -- ask for spicy if your pallet loves heat-fresh fruit (think honey bananas, oranges, sweetsop and mangos) and raw peanuts. Grab a few chilly Red Stripes to add to your picnic basket and make your way to YS Falls.

    The falls are located in a stunning nature reserve nestled in the rain forest. It's the perfect place to cool off, go ziplining and enjoy a break from the road before heading to Treasure Beach. Remember to pack your bathing suit and be sure to get your photo taken swinging out and dropping into the river pool!

    About 45 minutes from YS Falls you'll come to the "home of Community Tourism" at Treasure Beach. Jake's Hotel, a small (30 rooms) boutique resort, located on the south coast is committed to offering an authentic taste-of-place and while you can rent a villa with a kitchenette and prepare your own meals, I would highly recommend letting Chef Dockery Lloyd and his crew cook for you.

    Breakfast is served on the patio and cooked in an outdoor kitchen. Dishes include smoked marlin and poached eggs served on a bed of callaloo, breadfruit with ackee and salt fish, coconut pancakes and more. The menu changes daily and takes in the freshest ingredients from the farms and waters that surround the resort. Desserts at dinner are outstanding -- I long for a piece of their coconut cake and a dish of their sorrel sorbet! If you're looking for a more casual but no less delicious choice, you can dine at Jack Sprat's -- my favourite dish is the jerk lobster with rice and peas.

    Hire Captain Dennis and his boat to the Black River for a visit to Sister Lou's shore shack for fresh crab, and a stop at the world famous Pelican Bar for a few cold ones and your vacation will start swimmingly! If you're interested in a fishing trip and shore lunch Captain Dennis is also your man. Plan your trip to during the full moon and you can experience Jake's monthly farm-to-table dinner that takes place at Farmer Dull's-an al fresco dinner on his organic farm. Guests gather at a harvest table in the light of an enormous moon under a mango tree canopy to share authentic dishes featuring ingredients fresh from his soil.

    From Treasure Beach make you way to Negril and be sure to visit the very contemporary restaurant Pushcart for great local flavours and a gorgeous view. Less hectic and touristy than Ricks Café and you don't have to go jumping off any cliffs. Be sure to order the Drunken Coconut-trust me you won't be disappointed.

    Before you reluctantly head home, pay a visit to Scotchies in Montego Bay for the real deal when it comes to jerk. Order chicken, pork and sides including rice and peas and carnival-and don't forget their (in)famous hot sauce. I still dream about the grills of smoking pimento wood and the chilled vibe before I headed for the airport and a return to reality, sigh.

    Jamaican Culinary Adventure Check List:
    • Ensure you drive in comfort and safety-travel with Richard Russell from Jamaica Co-Operative Automobile & Limousine Tours,
    • Make your vacation uber-romantic and reserve one of the Octopussy cabins at Jakes Hotel,
    • Book your fishing and Black River adventure with Captain Dennis,
    • Reserve a table with a water view at Pushcart,

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    (PARIS-AFP) - What do Tokyo, Las Vegas, Hangzhou and Tegucigalpa have in common?

    All boast a replica - more or less true to the original - of the Eiffel Tower, Paris's landmark building that has long been a symbol of the city and of France itself.

    The imposing iron tower is probably the most copied monument in the world, but even SETE, the company that runs the structure, says it is impossible to know exactly how many other versions there are across the world.

    Some of these faux-Eiffels have become famous in their own right, like the Tokyo tower and the huge replica on the Las Vegas Strip.

    Others are more modest or kitsch, and can be found in some rather surprising places, such as the Bolivian capital, a public garden by the Black Sea in Bulgaria, or even a UN peacekeeping base in Lebanon.

    Paris's "Old Iron Lady" is a huge seller. AFP has great demand for photos of the 125-year-old lattice structure, and replicas pop up in dozens of theme parks and in advertising campaigns the world over for just about any business imaginable.

    Inaugurated in 1999, the replica Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas was initially supposed to be even taller than the original, which soars 324 metres (1,063 feet) into the sky - including the antenna at the top. But architects had to trim their ambitions in half because of its proximity to the city's airport.

    The Vegas tower is 165 metres tall and sits alongside a replica Arc de Triomphe and other famous Paris structures. "At Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, you are transported to the City of Lights with all the same passion, excitement and ambiance of Europe's most romantic city," the hotel's website states.

    Tokyo's tower, built in 1958 and painted red and white, is one of the few copies to exceed the original in height, reaching 333 metres, though this was temporarily reduced to 312 metres in 2011 after the antenna was damaged in an earthquake and taken down for repair.

    Story continues after the gallery


    This television tower remains a symbol of the Japanese capital, even though the Tokyo Sky Tree tower, which was completed in 2012, is nearly twice as tall.

    Although they are not as big as the original, some of the other copies are no less grandiose, such as the tower in Hangzhou, China. It rises to 108 metres in the heart of the city's plush Tianducheng development.

    There are other towns named Paris, and some of these have their own towers. Parizh, at the foot of the Urals in southern Russia, was founded in 1842 to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon's army 30 years earlier. Today it has a mobile phone mast, built in 2005, that looks like the Eiffel Tower.

    'The price of success'

    There have never been copyright restrictions on the original structure built in 1889. From the street hawker selling trinkets to tourists in Paris, to chocolate makers and megalomaniac real-estate developers - anyone is free to copy the tower.

    But, the name "Eiffel Tower" is a registered trademark. Anyone who wants to, say, name a perfume or a restaurant after the structure must pay royalties - how much depends on the size of the venture.

    Similarly, the tower's dazzling golden lighting, designed by the engineer Pierre Bideau and inaugurated on New Year's Eve 1985, is seen as an "oeuvre de l'esprit" - or an intellectual work - and so reproduction is not allowed.

    What do those who run the Eiffel Tower think of all these imitations? "We're delighted," says Jean-Bernard Bros, the president of the SETE company in charge.

    "That's just the price you pay for success," he told AFP. "The Eiffel Tower is imitated, copied, reproduced but never equalled. The replicas make people want to come to Paris to see the original. Our Eiffel Tower is something no one else can ever take from us, it is Paris."

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    In the never ending rat race of adulthood, you'd think Walt Disney World would ultimately be lumped in with countless other family-friendly locales as a place that’s “Just for kids.” After all, we logically know that Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy exist only in the world of animation, and that Frontierland and Tomorrowland aren’t actually portals to different times and places.

    Yet, there's something about Walt Disney World -- something intangible and hard to quantify or succinctly define -- that keeps people young and old coming back every year with the same child-like wonder they had as kids. What is that something, you ask? We call it showing your Disney Side and it can be expressed in a number of ways.

    For instance:

    It's a Living, Breathing, Community

    Walt Disney World is far from a simple theme park. As kids, for many of us, it was the honest to goodness home of Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang. It was truly where they lived, and no one could tell us different. Unlike other amusement parks, which are usually nothing more than a fun weekend diversion from everyday life, Walt Disney World is a city with its own stories, characters, and history. In some ways, it’s like any other town, but the fact that you can meet animated legends and tour the town where they live and work right alongside them, makes it an impossibly magical place. Besides, how many towns have their own castles?

    It Reminds You What it's Like to be a Kid Again

    Inevitably, weight of adulthood takes over, and we forget our Disney Side: how we felt when we visited Walt Disney World for the first time. We forget what it was like to imagine such a place where cartoon characters lived, and something fantastic waited around every corner. We forget what it was like to believe, before we were pushed from all sides to "grow up." That Disney Side of yourself lies dormant -- pushed down by the demands of adulthood. But then, we come to Walt Disney World and our Disney Side comes flooding back; that time when you were single-digit age and the rides weren't rides, but magical passports to otherworldly adventures, and places like Tomorrowland weren't spots on a map, but enchanting portraits of an art deco future.



    It's Where Time Stops and You See the World with Fresh Eyes

    Time stops at Walt Disney World, where you revert back to the age where the only thing that matters is the strength of your imagination. Suddenly, you know what it felt like to be a kid and to see and experience the world with the fresh eyes and optimism of your Disney Side; an experience you never really can have the same way outside the confines of Walt Disney World.

    It's About Giving Back

    Walt Disney’s favourite song from his films was "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins. The song is about an old english beggar women asking passers-by for two pence, not for herself, but so she can feed the little birds that surround her. Robert Sherman said that all Mr. Disney would have to say was "Play it", and the Sherman Brothers knew which song he was talking about. As they played, Disney would often gaze out the window and confirm under his breath, "Yep, that's what it's all about." Today, though the price of "Tuppence" has gone up at Walt Disney World, the park still shows its Disney Side by hosting many children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation and other worthy causes completely free.

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    Airline fees for everything ranging from booking a trip by phone to checking a bag are on the rise, and four carriers are levying fees of $400 or more, a USA TODAY survey of a dozen U.S. airlines shows.

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    Every now and again (but really in the fall and winter), heavy rains, high winds and bizarro tides couple up to create Acqua Alta, which is a pain in the neck for tourists and locals alike but is really cool to look at from afar. (So good thing you're afar.)

    Tourists go a-wading through famous St. Mark's Square and take pictures of the beautiful city of canals all water logged.

    Herewith, some examples:

    So, St. Mark's Square is basically a mess.
    venice

    venice

    venice

    People just chillin' in the cold and the rain.

    venice

    venice

    venice

    Canals!



    Acqua Alta in its previous iterations:


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    Edmonton teen Arielle Ostrander is on her way home after being caught in the middle of a harrowing bus hijacking in Mexico.

    The 16-year-old had been visiting her grandfather in Puerto Escondido and had left on a bus early Sunday morning, travelling to the airport in Mexico City to begin her trip home.

    Around 2:30 a.m., the bus was hijacked by several men, who got on board, stabbed the driver, and demanded passengers turn over their possessions.

    “I fell asleep. And then I woke up to slamming doors and yelling and everyone screaming. And there were five Mexican guys who were on the bus and they were just going aisle by aisle, in Spanish obviously, going ‘give me everything, give me everything. I want everything you have.’ They were kicking people, abusing them,” Arielle recalled to Global Edmonton.

    “She called me on her cell phone and I was expecting her to call in the morning as she arrived in Mexico City,” her mother, Stephanie Ostrander, told Metro Edmonton of the call she received in the middle of the night.

    Arielle told Global she tried to keep calm, hiding her purse - which contained her passport, cellphone, airline ticket and health information - behind her back and only answer questions when asked.

    And I just kept telling them ‘I don’t have anything. I don’t have anything,’” she explained.

    “I just focused on my responsibilities because I didn’t want to make a scene. So I just stayed calm and just answered questions.

    The robbery, she told Metro, lasted about 15 minutes. At some point the hijackers attacked and wounded the bus driver, but left the other 15 passengers unharmed, although shaken.

    Arielle and Stephanie remained in contact through phone calls and texts, as the group was taken to the nearest bus terminal in Acapulco to sort out their travel arrangements. The group decided to press on to Mexico City.

    An obviously shaken Arielle sent out several tweets after the robbery, wishing for her mother and to be back home in Alberta.










    "I could have died tonight," she told Metro. "That didn't occur to me until now."

    Stephanie told Metro Edmonton Arielle's Mexico vacation will be the last for anyone in the Ostrander family.

    “I think we are now very clear Mexico is not the country it used to be,” she said. “We’ve all agreed Mexico is over for us.”

    According to CHED 630, Arielle is scheduled to arrive home in Edmonton Monday afternoon.

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    There are six more weeks of winter and probably six more polar vortices to get through before we can reasonably hope for the soul-nourishing rays of the sun to appear again. Instead of fighting the urge to scream about the never-ending season, just submit to the instinct to hibernate. Preferably in one of these cozy, cozy homes.

    The Cabin Is The Coziest Of Home Styles



    Seriously.


    Just Curl Up In Front Of The Fireplace


    Or Bring Some Hot Cocoa And Put Your Feet Up



    Or Maybe Grab A Book And Get Lost In The Written Word


    Wouldn't It Be Great If Your Bed Was In Front Of A Nice Fire?


    Every Good Nap Starts With Wine


    Or Maybe A Nice Long Soak


    You Could Just Stock Enough Wood To Get Through The Rest Of Winter



    Or maybe you'd rather dream about the summer heat.

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    Yesterday, Groundhog Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.

    While we're not quite thrilled with the idea of another month and a half of snow, ice and polar vortex temperatures, why not take advantage of the extra weeks and travel to a winter wonderland?

    Check out these five spots to enjoy the longer winter!

    1. Val Thorens, France
    val thorens
    Val Thorens ski resort in the French Alps was named a top late-winter ski destination by Skyscanner last year. The resort holds the title of being the highest ski resort in Europe at 2,300 meters altitude.

    2. Innsbruck, Austria
    innsbruck winter
    Innsbruck is renowned for being one of the finest winter sport resorts in the world. Innsbruck also offers plenty of cultural activity, from a historic old town to the Imperial Palace.

    3. Telluride, Colorado
    telluride
    Telluride is where the cool kids go to ride out winter. By day, hit the perfect, powdery slopes. In the evening, explore the local hangouts and take in the town's unique atmosphere.

    4. Scandinavia
    northern lights norway
    Pick your favorite Scandinavian country and head there with hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. According to the Telegraph, this winter has proved to be one of the best to view the Aurora Borealis.

    5. Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada
    whistler blackcomb
    North America's largest ski resort will lure you in with its epic lifts and trails, its gorgeous blanket of snow, and its vast array of activities, shops and restaurants. Whistler-Blackcomb makes a great family destination, with plenty of activity for skiiers, snowboarders and those who prefer to stay indoors.



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    I nearly fell into the waves as he spun me around and around. The weather was perfect and the sand was golden in the moonlight. Our friends were gathered on the beach, or also playing in the ocean, and I couldn't have wiped the giant smile off my face if I'd wanted to.

    After visiting so many small, desolate, almost abandoned, beach towns along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coastline, it was a great relief to finally arrive at one that had awesome people, a fun vibe and great weather. Mancora, Peru is a small surf/beach town, filled with the restaurants and souvenir shops that tourism perpetuates. It has a lot of hostels for the backpacker crowd, who flock to Mancora as part of their tour of Peru.

    Welcome to Mancora

    We rode into town and soon found La Posada, a quiet hostel off the main drag where we got two rooms with double beds and private bathrooms for 45 sols ($20) per room per night. Importantly, they had a big, secure garage where we could park the bikes.

    I didn't take any pictures at all in Mancora. Phil only took a couple. This is the closest we got to a pic of the hostel.

    Phil and Tom had been itching to go riding the sandy paths from the second they saw them. No sooner had we checked in then they were pulling all the weight off their bikes and lowering their tire pressure. Having Tom travel with us takes a lot of pressure off me. I don't have to feel guilty for not wanting to ride offroad because Phil has a friend to go with him who is just as enthusiastic as he is.

    Kelly and I decided to wander into town and explore while the boys went off playing on the bikes. We'd wandered down the beach and up and down the main drag, stopped for cheesecake and coffee, and were just on our way back when suddenly we saw Phil riding down the road. We waved and were pretty disappointed that he didn't stop, until we realised he was towing a moto-truck!

    I'll let Phil tell you how he got into that situation:

     

    Load lightened and ready for sand!

     

    Tom and I set out for a sandy ride into a small desert "canyon" that started right by our hostel. We ditched our boxes and extra gear to lighten the load, then set out in the midday sun.

    The ride was also a long overdue farewell for my heavily worn chain and sprockets. No sense in replacing them right before a sandy ride.

    These teeth haven´t been to the dentist in far too long.

     

    Tom takes a top turn.

     

    Fast, fun easy riding!

     

    12km into the ride, we came across a couple gents pushing their "moto-truck" through the desert. It was hot with intense sun, they had no food or water, and were a long way from home. But they did have a rope, so we gave it a go and tied up to my rear rack for a tow.

    Lending a hand

     



    All went well, a couple challenging soft sand spots and first gear the whole way, but before too long we had ridden all the way out of the canyon and through town to their mechanic. That's when the trouble started. It turned out they had no brakes at all, a point that had been missed in the translation (I understood their brakes just "weren't great"). When I pulled off the road to stop, they shot past me. The rope came taut, and I got spun around and thrown to the ground. A quick grab of the rope dragged me along behind the moto-truck, and prevented the disaster of having my bike dragged over top of me. Tom thought the whole crash looked quite spectacular. No good deed goes unpunished...

    Many helping hands, only a couple actually helping.

    Several locals who witnessed the crash came over to help out. The only broken item that really mattered was my shifter. It was bent in to the point of not being able to, well, shift. Several of the men tried to "help" with a pry bar of one sort or another, insisting that they could have it straightened out right quick. At first I was polite: "no, thanks, I think it would be better to take it off first, etc". I really didn´t want to torque too much on my shift lever rod. It has had a lot of use in its life! This post from ADV rider really stood out in my mind at the time. "Nobody cares about your bike as much as you do". If they break something, well, "they were only trying to help". But you are stuck with a hard-to-replace-part.

    In the end I had to get quite firm, physically stopping one guy from "helping". Thanks, but no thanks. After that everyone was much more actually helpful and found me whatever tools they could, lending a hand when needed AND wanted. Everyone was really friendly. After a few minutes of futility I quit trying to bend the lever and just rode back to the hostel in first gear. It had been a waste of time really as I had a spare lever waiting for me in my pannier.

    One of these things is not like the other.

    Back to Jayne:

    Luckily Phil was okay after the moto-truck with no brakes incident (which Kelly and I didn't see). He and Tom came stumbling back in to the hostel covered in dust with giant smiles on their faces.

    There was a table outside a tienda on the main street. We adopted it as our own, and throughout the rest of our stay you could usually find at least one of us sitting outside in the sun with a $1.20 beer in hand. This table was the place to meet people. Everyone in town walked by eventually.

    We met a lovely Canadian lady called Pat, who walked by and stopped to chat every day. She spends time every year in Mancora.

    An Argentinian guy on a V-strom named Julian pulled into town and Phil ran after him and told him about our hostel with great parking. He moved in to the room next door to us. We told him to meet us at our table once he was checked in. That evening he took Kelly and I out to dinner in a very nice restaurant. Kelly had decided that she wanted to treat herself, and I am always up for a fancy meal. Phil and Tom were sure that it would be too little food for too much money, and so weren't interested in eating there. We were thrilled when Julian said he would join us.

    The restaurant was more popular than we expected, and we had to make a reservation for 9pm. A cocktail on the beach killed the time until dinner, and then we enjoyed a wonderful meal, with great conversation and an excellent bottle of wine. So excellent that later Kelly and I were sure that we'd shared a dessert, but to this day cannot remember what it was.

    Julian was only on a short trip up to Colombia and back down to Buenos Aires (in a month!!) and insisted on paying for our dinner. What a gentleman.

    Kelly, Tom, Georgia and I later ate one of the worst meals I've ever been served (in fact the spaghetti alfredo I ordered was inedible, as was most of the other food served) so we really had mixed luck with food in Mancora.

    Phil and Tom were sitting at our tienda table when Tom's Australian friend Georgia, who he'd met a couple of times along his travels, randomly walked by. It turned out she was staying at Kokopelli, one of the party hostels. She and Tom were glued at the hip for the rest of our time in Mancora. The next evening Kelly and I had been out for dinner and were wondering where the boys had got to. We were walking outside of Kokopelli when we heard the unmistakable sound of Phil's booming voice through the wall.

    We went in and found Phil, Georgia and Tom at the bar. We started hanging out there all the time because it had a poolside bar, and was a lot more lively than our quiet hostel around the corner. This, in fact, is a great tip. Book into a cheap, quiet hostel where you can go relax and sleep well, and then go party in the more expensive, happening hostels when the mood takes you.

    At the bar with Tom and Georgia and the lovely English girl whose name I do not remember.

    Kelly was tired from our big night the night before and so Phil took her home. The rest of us took advantage of the many happy hour specials and got talking to the other people in the bar. Darren from Canada, George from England, two sisters who were working behind the bar and a few locals all joined our party.

    We discovered that the volunteer bartenders were not allowed to accept 100 sol notes. This was because of the large number of fake notes around. Tom fell foul of this trend when he was given a fake 50. He didn't realise until he tried to spend it and it was too late. He later used it to bribe a security guard, so all wasn't lost.

    It didn't help that the bank machine in Mancora gave me 200 sol notes. After we left Mancora, I used one to pay for gas and was given a fake 100 as change. I also didn't realise it was fake until I later tried to spend it. Very frustrating!

    The fake note

    You can see the differences when compared to a real one.

    When the bar closed, we headed for the beach, where there were bars pumping music and lots of people. On the way we bought a bottle of rum and some plastic glasses. We all started dancing on the beach, not worried that the tide was coming in and we were getting very wet. I found myself waltzing in the waves with Darren, and then with another English guy called Joe, who was later singing opera for us all. It was a really fun night, that ended at dawn with me, Tom, Darren and Georgia all passing out in our room.

    At about noon there was a knock on the door. It was the lady who owned the hostel. She had realised that there were four people in a room meant for two. She was yelling at me in Spanish, saying we'd have to pay extra. I sleepily said "si, si" and closed the door.

    That evening we discovered a wonderful restaurant in Mancora that ticked all the boxes. It was cheap, it was delicious, and it was near the beach. If ever in Mancora, I recommend you eat here. I had the BBQ swordfish, it was delicious.

    On the road to the beach, across from the taco place. Only wish we'd found it sooner!

    Mancora was great fun, but there are only so many days of partying and drinking cheap beer all day we could take. Kelly really wanted to get to Matchu Picchu before she had to go back to Canada, and so after three nights of partying and new friends, we packed ourselves up and kept heading South.

     

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