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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    (Relaxnews) - It takes a lot of primping and priming to look good at 125 years old. Just ask the Eiffel Tower, arguably the most recognizable silhouette in the world, and marks the milestone March 31.

    When Gustave Eiffel built the latticed tower for the World Fair in 1889, it was supposed to be a temporary edifice, to be torn down in 20 years.

    Today, the iconic French landmark is the most visited paid monument in the world, attracting more than 7 million visitors a year, 75 percent of whom are foreign tourists.

    Here are a few fun facts and figures about the Iron Lady:

    1. Strange but true: In a commitment ceremony in 2007, an American woman ‘married’ the Eiffel Tower. Erika La Tour Eiffel (she changed her name) suffers from ‘Objectum-Sexual’ a condition in which people fall in love with inanimate objects.

    2. Aging requires no small amount of cosmetic touch-ups: every seven years, the Iron Lady undergoes a paint job that requires up to 60 tons of paint to protect her from rust.

    3. The Eiffel Tower will shrink and grow by up to 15 cm (6 inches) with the fluctuating temperatures.

    4. Every year, the combined distance travelled by the elevator lifts works out to be about 103,000 km a year -- or 2.5 times the circumference of the Earth.

    5. Did you know: technically it’s illegal to publish photos of the illuminated tower at night. Permission and rights must be obtained from the "Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel.”

    6. The tower is open every day. In a country that shuts down every Sunday, the tower is perhaps the only thing open 365 days a year including Christmas.

    7. After the French, Italians, Spaniards and Americans make up the biggest visitors to the Eiffel Tower.

    8. The tower has its own YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/toureiffelofficielle

    9. Eiffel paid homage to the great French men of science by engraving the names of 72 scientists, engineers and mathematicians on the four sides of the tower.

    10. The nightly five-minute light show, which begins on the hour every hour from nightfall until 1 am, requires 20,000 light bulbs.

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    Reddit user Zonkyslayer took a picture of the Halifax harbour every morning for a year and posted the best ones to the sharing site.

    The results were nothing short of breathtaking.



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    An online petition asking the British Columbia government to repeal a law that critics say will open protected park areas to pipelines and drilling has attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters in just a few days.

    Bill 4, also known as the Park Amendment Act, quietly became law last week. It was introduced in February as a way to clarify recreation, tourism, commercial filming, and "activities related to research" in B.C. parks, reported The Globe and Mail.

    No one objected to scientific studies or showcasing the province's beautiful parks in movies. But the definition of "research" has critics raising the possibility that Bill 4 paves the way for industrial activity including energy extraction and pipeline construction.

    "Keep B.C.’s parks free of industrial activity!" says the petition, hosted by political advocacy site Sum of Us. "Revoke the Park Amendment Act immediately."

    A different online petition, by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, also asks the government to reverse Bill 4 and has collected more than 10,000 signatures and letters.

    "Bill 4 allows for industry (and others) to carry out 'research' in provincial parks related to pipelines, transmission lines, roads and other industrial activities that might require park land," wrote Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law. "It also reduces legal protection for smaller parks."

    He points out that preliminary "research" carried out by mining company Taseko to prepare for an environmental assessment of its now-rejected Prosperity Mine included the drilling of 59 test pits, eight drill holes 50 to 75 metres in depth, and 10 holes roughly 250 metres in depth to collect metallurgical samples. The tests also led to the creation of 23.5 kilometres of exploratory trails.

    In the bill's second reading, according to The Globe, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said: "Let me be clear. These proposed amendments do not allow, promote, or otherwise enable industrial projects in parks and protected areas."

    But the reassurance has not calmed the fears of thousands of Canadians who have been sharing the petitions through their social networks.

    On Saturday, Polak tried to douse those burning concerns, telling The Vancouver Sun that the act is being misinterpreted.

    "Our parks are not open for mining, for pipelines or drilling," she told the newspaper. "The portions of the Park Act that protect against that have not been changed. The only thing that has been changed is to ensure we have the statutory authority to grant park use permits."

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    April Fool's Day is fast approaching, and that means plenty of shenanigans from airlines.

    So, what can we expect for 2014? If past pranks are any indication, consumers are in for a treat, followed by the harsh reality that certain perks may be a little too good to be true.

    It's expected that Calgary-based carrier WestJet will continue its pranks after the success of its last two videos.

    Last year, the airline treated viewers to the promise of its "Furry Family" program, which gave passengers high hopes of flying next to dogs, cats, or even turtles. The video amassed nearly 800,000 views on YouTube.

    In 2012, WestJet also got passengers excited when it joked about introducing "Kargo Kids," a program where kids would ride a "travel toboggan" to a sectioned off area of the plane while adults could fly in peace and quiet. And while that may have just been a prank for WestJet, it didn't stop Malaysia Airlines from introducing child-free flights days later, according to TIME magazine.

    But WestJet isn't the only airline to take part in April Fool's. Last year, Virgin Airlines fooled passengers with the promise of a glass-bottom floor on some of its new planes for the London to Glasgow route.

    What's the best travel-related April Fool's prank you've come across? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @HPCaTravel.

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    PERTH, Australia - Although it has been slow, difficult and frustrating so far, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet is nowhere near the point of being scaled back, Australia's prime minister said.

    The three-week hunt for Flight 370 has turned up no sign of the Boeing 777, which vanished March 8 with 239 people bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. Ten planes and 11 ships found no sign of the missing plane in the search zone in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) west of Australia, officials said.

    The search area has evolved as experts analyzed Flight 370's limited radar and satellite data, moving from the seas off Vietnam, to the waters west of Malaysia and Indonesia, and then to several areas west of Australia. The search zone is now 254,000 square kilometres (98,000 square miles), about a 2 1/2-hour flight from Perth.

    Malaysia has been criticized for its handling of the search, particularly its communications to the media and the family. In something likely to fuel those concerns, the government changed its account of the final voice transmission from the cockpit.

    In a statement late Monday, it said the final words received by ground controllers at 1:19 a.m. on March 8 were "Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero.'' Earlier the government said the final words were "All right, good night.'' The statement didn't explain or address the discrepancy. The statement also said investigators were still trying to determine whether the pilot or co-pilot spoke the words.

    Items recovered so far were discovered to be flotsam unrelated to the Malaysian plane. Several orange-colored objects spotted by plane Sunday turned out to be fishing equipment.

    Those leading the effort remain undaunted, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying Monday that officials are "well, well short'' of any point where they would scale back the hunt. In fact, he said the intensity and magnitude of operations "is increasing, not decreasing.''

    "I'm certainly not putting a time limit on it. ... We can keep searching for quite some time to come,'' Abbott said at RAAF Pearce, the Perth military base co-ordinating the operation.

    "We owe it to the families, we owe it to everyone that travels by air. We owe it to the anxious governments of the countries who had people on that aircraft. We owe it to the wider world which has been transfixed by this mystery for three weeks now,'' he said.

    "If this mystery is solvable, we will solve it,'' Abbott said.

    On Monday, former Australian defence chief Angus Houston began his role of heading the new Joint Agency Coordination Center, which will oversee communication with international agencies involved in the search.

    The centre said Tuesday's search, using 10 planes and nine ships, would focus on less than half of the search zone, some 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 square miles) west of Perth, with poor weather and low visibility forecast. It did not say how far west of Perth the search would be conducted.

    The centre corrected an earlier statement that said a smaller zone of 64,975 square kilometres (25,087 square miles) would be searched on Tuesday.

    "Yesterday's search revealed nothing that was seen or found that had any connection to the Malaysian aircraft,'' Houston told Australia's Seven Network television earlier Tuesday.

    "If we can find any debris anywhere, that will enable the search to be focused much more precisely and the high technology can then come into play,'' he added.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak plans to travel to Perth on Wednesday to see the search operations firsthand.

    Abbott called the operation "an extraordinarily difficult exercise.''

    "We are searching a vast area of ocean and we are working on quite limited information,'' he said, noting that the best brains in the world and all technological mastery is being applied to the task.

    The Ocean Shield, an Australian warship carrying a U.S. device that detects "pings'' from the plane's flight recorders, left Perth on Monday evening for the search zone, a three- to four-day trip. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is co-ordinating the search, said it conducted sea trials to test the equipment.

    Investigators are hoping to first find debris floating on the surface that will help them calculate where the plane went into the water.

    In Malaysia, several dozen Chinese relatives of Flight 370 passengers visited a Buddhist temple near Kuala Lumpur to pray for their loved ones. They offered incense, bowed their heads in silence and knelt several times during the prayers.

    Buddhist nuns handed out prayer beads to them and said: "You are not alone. You have the whole world's love, including Malaysia's.''

    The family members later expressed their appreciation to the Chinese government and the people of Malaysia and the volunteers who have been assisting them. They bowed in gratitude but said they were still demanding answers.

    The comments were seen as a small conciliatory gesture after relatives held an angry protest Sunday at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur, calling on the Malaysian government to apologize for what they called missteps in handling the disaster.

    ___

    Wong reported from Kuala Lumpur. Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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    As two Nova Scotians prepare to appear in court for allegedly committing a sexual act on an Air Canada flight, experts say joining the so-called Mile High Club is more common than one might expect.


    Cynthia Sullivan, director of the Atlantic Flight Attendant Academy, said dealing with passenger promiscuity is part of the academy's curriculum.


    "We discuss the Mile High Club. Often it comes up in a question, but we also have some articles and cite some situations that it can happen, because some people are not familiar with it," she said.


    "It's important that they know about it before they just witness it."


    Alicia Lander, 24, and Jason Chase, 38, are scheduled to appear in Dartmouth provincial court on Tuesday to enter pleas on charges of committing an indecent act.


    Lander was also charged with causing a disturbance, assaulting a police officer and mischief after she and Chase were arrested following an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Halifax in January.


    Sullivan said her students inevitably ask whether she's witnessed such an act.


    "I have," said Sullivan. "It happens more often on longer flights, of course. The transatlantic flights are the most popular, but it happens in business class as frequently or even more so than economy class, for instance."


    How common is it?


    In the early 2000s, Transport Canada conducted investigations into an apparent increase in the number of unruly passengers, but the results did not contain specific information about sexual activity on airplanes.


    Mark Gerchick, an aviation expert who recently wrote an article for The Atlantic called "A Brief History of the Mile High Club," said the best numbers come from travel companies such as Expedia.


    In December, the online travel company surveyed 1,000 air travellers and found that nine per cent of them reported being intimate on a plane at least once.


    Other surveys performed by private companies paint a picture of how common it is for people to join the Mile High Club.


    "Condom makers have taken polls of this and when the question is phrased more in terms of, 'Have you had sex or have you had sexual activity on an airplane?' the numbers tend to be around three per cent," said Gerchick.


    "The fantasy itself does seem to be pretty widespread. Again, public polls sort of indicate something like a third of passengers, I should say male passengers, harbour this, seem to put it on the bucket list."


    Unsurprisingly, when there's demand, there usually is some business looking to step up and supply that demand.


    Dave MacDonald runs an airline called Flamingo Air. The airline is actually just one plane — a 1969 single prop Cherokee Piper based in Cincinnati.


    For $420, passengers get one hour of flight time in a private, curtained-off area of the aircraft.


    "I've got to tell you, it's cute as the dickens," said MacDonald.


    "We take out the whole centre row of seats, we put in big fluffy cushions and you get champagne and chocolates and souvenirs — and of course a very discreet pilot."


    Why on a plane?


    Over 20 years, MacDonald said he has taken thousands of couples on that flight.


    "Aviation has always had that allure. It was always a specialty of adventure and freedom and I think it's probably one of the big contributors to that interest," said MacDonald.


    Of course, there's not much freedom on a packed commercial airliner, but Sullivan believes that close proximity may also be part of what brings two people together — that and alcohol.


    As for the potential legal repercussions of joining the club, that’s complicated.


    According to the Criminal Code of Canada, such an act must be intended to "insult or offend" another person, meaning the act itself is not illegal. But Canadian aviation regulations also come in to play.


    Regulations state that anyone who disobeys orders from the flight crew can be found in violation.


    Sullivan said it's often best to turn a blind eye.


    "Especially if it's a washroom and then you see someone else come out later, one person and then a little while later another — it's really probably too late to do anything," she said.


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    Forget Paris and Rome. A travel website has compiled a list of European destinations that aim to take globetrotters who’ve already been to London -- and bought the t-shirt in Berlin -- on the road less travelled.

    Compiled by Expedia.ca, the list of hidden European gems for 2014 offers alternative destinations that often come with smaller price tags and crowds.

    Instead of Paris, for example, consider taking a detour to Dijon, the mustard capital of the world, the list suggests.

    The area is also home to eight of the 10 most expensive wines produced.

    Lecce, Italy is also described as the "Florence of the South" for offering a Tuscan experience without the crowds. The town is known for its Baroque-style architecture and is also within striking distance of the Adriatic and Ionian seas for beachside lounging.

    Meanwhile, Porto, Portugal was declared the top European destination for 2014 by European Best Destinations earlier this year.

    As the continent thaws and high season approaches, here’s a look at some European travel ideas to take you off the beaten path:


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    It's the first of April and WestJet has announced its commitment to keeping things Canadian with a new feature you didn't even know you wanted: metric time.

    "We recognize that as a Canadian airline we're missing an important component of truly being Canadian and that's a broader adoption of the metric system," said Richard Bartrem, vice president of communications at WestJet Airlines, in a YouTube video.

    "Effective today, we're converting all our scheduled and departure times to metric time. We found some guests were frustrated with a.m. and p.m., missing that important business meeting or ruining the family vacation simply by showing up at wrong time."

    If you're perplexed as to what metric time exactly is, fret not. This is just another one of the airline's April Fool's pranks.

    It should be noted though that metric time is an actual, albeit archaic, form of telling time. The system uses seconds and the base unit with metric prefixes slapped on top. So for example, instead of minutes or hours, you're now working with decaseconds and hectoseconds.

    It works like this: take your time then convert it to military time. Next, multiply the hours by 60 and add the minutes. Then take your total and divide by 1.44 and presto, you now have your flight time in metric time.

    Still confused? Well, Bartem says you shouldn't be: "It's as simple as switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius."

    Sure, sure Bartem. Just let us know when we can really fly next to monkeys and geese in economy class.

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    Let’s face the facts. Not many of us can travel the country on a bottomless budget. The average traveler is most likely going to want to find the best deals and ways to save money. Here are a few tips to help you scratch your travel itch without breaking the bank.



    1. Make major purchases during the off-season
    Whether you’re buying plane tickets or an all-inclusive vacation, making travel purchases during off-season is always cheaper than peak season or holidays. If buying your vacation during the slow months is not an option, plan ahead and make major vacation purchases a few months in advance. Buying tickets for a summer vacations six months prior as opposed to a week before can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

    2. Be food smart
    Before you hand over your hard-earned cash for a five-dollar bag of pretzels and a seven-dollar cone of ice cream, stop and think: Do I really need this purchase? Instead of making it a point to purchase snacks on-the-go or to eat out for every single meal, stock up on some grocery store food to feed yourself before the day starts. Of course, you should definitely try the local foods and specialty dishes, but remember to plan ahead, because it’s easy to become sidetracked by the small indulgences that will chip away at your budget.

    3. Bring travel-appropriate clothes (and avoid over packing)
    It’s not quite practical to bring five pairs of designer jeans if you’re planning on hitting the beach, and why would you pack multiple kitten heels for a hiking excursion out West? Pack smart -- packing light can not only save you money in luggage and transportation costs, but will also save you a lot of time and hassle. All that time spent packing and unpacking could be better spent. After all, time is money.

    4. Research for your trip
    This piece of advice sounds a tad obvious, but doing a little bit of research can do you loads of good. Are there any good deals or coupons on tours? What are some of the locally-known hotspots? Which restaurants in the area are known for their amazing pasta dishes? Knowledge is power, and doing prior research can help you estimate how much of your budget will be allocated for things like entertainment and food and will save you more money in the long run.

    5. Don’t forget key items
    Forgetting to bring essential items such as toothbrushes, phone chargers, or your own shampoo may lead to a hit in your wallet that you never planned. In addition, packing emergency supplies such as Band-Aids, stomach and headache medicine is always a good idea. Bringing your own from home will save you money and effort, and you won’t end up having to scramble and spend well-deserved vacation time searching for travel essentials that you could easily have brought yourself.

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    (Relaxnews) - Adrenaline junkies looking for their next travel adventure may want to consider consulting a new list of extreme destinations for 2014 that includes bungee jumping into the belly of an active volcano in Chile and touring a war zone.

    The adventure travel ideas proposed by Cheapflights aren’t for the faint-hearted. But they may set many a thrillseeker’s heart aflutter with trips that span Fiji, Mexico, Africa, Oman and Bolivia.

    Here's a selection of Cheapflights' adventure travel idea hotspots for 2014:

    Swim with the sharks in Fiji
    fiji shark
    On Beqa Island, divers plunge into the ocean and get to see sharks up close and personal -- that is, without the protection of a cage. Divers can expect to meet largely harmless species like the Tawny Nurse Shark and Blacktip Reef Shark. But here's where the dive description may lose a few people: “The Bull Sharks and the Tiger Sharks however are clearly a class in their own. They are Apex Predators who grow to an impressive size and have a notorious reputation for attacking humans.” Happy diving.

    Volcano bungee jumping in Chile
    volcano chile
    This stunt involves jumping into the mouth of an active volcano from a helicopter, within 700 feet (213 meters) of molten lava, after which you stay suspended upside down traveling 130 km above the simmering crater.

    Cycling the Death Road in La Paz, Bolivia
    death valley
    It’s been dubbed the world’s most dangerous road: a treacherous downhill stretch of 64 km that starts on snow-covered plains and descends to the Amazonian jungle. Oh, and it also includes a 3.6-km drop down a sheer cliff face.

    Base jumping in Mexico
    base jumping
    The Cave of Swallows is deep enough to house a high-rise building and has inspired kamikaze adrenaline junkies to jump into the belly of the earth with a parachute.

    Tour a war zone
    syria war

    Security personnel and onlookers gather at the site of a deadly car bombing Sunday night, in the town of Nabi Othman, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Baalbek, northeast Lebanon, Monday, March 17, 2014.


    This one’s for anyone who’s ever dreamed of being a hard-hitting war correspondent or photojournalist from the trenches. War Zone Tours offers guided tours in areas of conflict and past war zones like Iraq, Beirut and Africa led by ‘High Risk Environment Guides.’

    Sandboarding in Oman
    sandboarding
    Desert sand dunes in parts of Oman can run as high 100 meters. Instead of snow, travelers hit the desert slopes with their boards, toboggans or quad bikes.

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    VAIL, Colo. - Strippers and all-night binge drinking weren't going to cut it for my bachelor party.

    Getting married at 36, I figured my days of debauchery — the few days that ever existed — were long gone. I've been to extravagant bachelor parties in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Miami's South Beach. I even went to one in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. They were tons of fun but not what I wanted before my wedding.

    I wanted to celebrate with my friends, actually spending time with them. Given people's work schedules and young families, we don't get to hang out as much as we used to. Enter Vail. It had everything: skiing, posh hotels and big steak dinners.

    "Vail is not about being wild, it's about having a phenomenal time," says Patricia McNamara, director of sales and marketing at the town's Sonnenalp resort. "Wild and Vail don't go together in the same sentence."

    Perfect.

    As couples get married older, they have more life experience, often can afford more expensive trips and may have been to many of the traditional party cities — more than once. So while Vail isn't exactly known for bachelor parties, it and other ski towns are on a small but growing list of alternative destinations for the soon-to-be wed.

    Before I continue, I need to mention one other unconventional thing: I invited my fiancee and some female friends along. We all love to ski and decided this would be our big Western ski trip of the year. When the guys split off for steak and bourbon one chilly February night; the girls went out to Bol — a fancy bowling alley where they sipped champagne while rolling strikes. OK, I was told they rolled strikes.

    A lot of people were shocked that I would invite my future wife to my bachelor party. But let's face it, we already live together. It's not like this party was meant to be a final few nights out. It was meant to celebrate our upcoming wedding.

    "You don't have to respond to the event in a way that is not true to yourself," says Jamie Miles, an editor at TheKnot.com. "There's no right or wrong way to have a bachelor or bachelorette party. It's up to the couple's personality."

    That was a relief to hear. See, the skiing, eating out and drinking were all fun, but so was one lazy afternoon spent in the lobby of our hotel, the Tivoli Lodge, curled up by the fireplace playing with the two resident dogs, Speedy and Jeepers. It's not the stuff Hollywood dreams up when writing the script for "The Hangover."

    As you get older, "your idea of partying, having a celebratory event changes," Miles says. "You're not 21 anymore."

    For men, the average age for a first marriage is now nearly 29, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's four years older than it was three decades ago. Women have also seen a four-year increase in average marrying age, to 26.

    There are still plenty of trips to Las Vegas, but as I asked around, I found lots of folks — at least those who could afford it — flying off to unusual spots.

    When Heath Ward of New York City got married in May 2013, he decided to hold his bachelor party in Iceland. He and his friends wanted to go snowmobiling on a glacier.

    "We had all been to Vegas together multiple times. Nobody was excited for that anymore. Everybody was past that point in their lives," says Ward, now 29. "People would rather spend money on something that's a little more worthwhile."

    Eric Morrow also went to Vail in March with a dozen friends, his future brothers-in-law and future father-in-law. Most of his friends already like to ski and this was the perfect low-key trip for him.

    "I don't love a lot of attention," says Morrow, 30. "It's kind of awkward going to a strip club with your future father-in-law."

    Everybody seemed to get more out of it than the old-style bachelor party, he says. And this way, "When we're tired, we'll go to sleep."

    That sounded familiar. Yes, we had a few late nights on our trip, but by the end everybody was exhausted. Two friends actually fell asleep at the spa one afternoon. So on one of the final nights, instead of trying to get in one last trip to the bar, we were in bed by 9:30 p.m. And I'm completely fine with that.

    ___

    Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.


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    If this winter has left you feeling rough around all your edges, then perhaps you're in need of a spring tune-up. Dry skin, feet like sandpaper, a parched, winter-assaulted face? It’s time to get buffed and beautiful again.

    And make no mistake: This is not the exclusive domain of the ladies in the house. The modern man has equal opportunities for getting gorgeous, too. Floral wallpaper, chintz, dressing rooms draped in pastels and pretty fluffy slippers are out of fashion. The new breed of spas shows the love to both genders with décor that is neither too feminine nor too manly – more comfy and welcoming than anything else.

    Conde Nast Traveler magazine found recently that 35 per cent of all spa goers are male. And the spa industry is expecting that number to climb in coming years. Guys tell themselves spa treatments are necessities and therapeutic, while the gals are more inclined to admit they love some pampering and luxury.

    And today’s spas are going deeper than just the outside layers of beauty. They're beefing up their fitness offerings, so that a day at the spa can be a booster to the entire body. Aerial yoga, kettle bell workouts, or lap dance classes, anyone? That’s the way fitness is heading.

    But there’s still plenty of old-school pampering available. Hot springs and thermal baths are making a big return, from historic bathing complexes in Budapest to family soaks in a mineral pool, set outdoors amid the splendour of the Rockies near Banff.

    No matter how you choose to shed the ravages of winter, you’ll be a better woman – or man for it. Here’s where to set your sites, both near and far:


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    It's not exactly a case of Rome burning while Nero fiddled, but classical violinist Itzhak Perlman was certainly left fuming after an Air Canada employee at Toronto's Pearson Airport who was to assist the disabled musician abandoned him.

    CTV News reports Perlman -- who needs either crutches or a mobility scooter to get around after contracting polio as a child -- arrived Monday afternoon in Toronto for a charity concert when he encountered the problem.

    Perlman told the news outlet he had been traveling to Toronto for more than four decades and it was the first time anything like that happened to him.

    "I was met by somebody at the doors of the airline and he says, 'I'm here for you,'" Perlman, now back in New York City, told the news outlet during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. Perlman said the person was at first reluctant to carry Perlman's handbag but did so. From there he accompanied Perlman in an elevator down.

    When the attendant and Perlman approached a second elevator the musician said the attendant said, "'That's where I leave you.'" When Perlman asked what he was supposed to do with the handbag, Perlman said the attendant said, "'It's not my problem that you chose to carry an extra bag. You're not paying me for this. I'm not your personal assistant. I have other flights to take care of.'"

    The Air Canada attendant then left Perlman, who said he felt as if he was in the "Twilight Zone area in the Toronto airport," before customs. Nobody came to Perlman's aid, leaving the musician to put bags on his knees and his violin on top of said bags. "I just kind of drove down the elevator, I had my crutches and so on," Perlman said.

    Even more incredulous was the brief conversation Perlman said he had with the assistant who revealed his father was in a wheelchair following a hit-and-run accident. "It's not he's like a stranger to this kind of a problem and yet he just said, 'That's not my job here, I'm leaving you.'"

    As Perlman added to the Toronto Star, "As I was going through the airport on my scooter alone, I was looking around and I kept seeing these signs that said, ‘Welcome to Canada.’ And I just thought, 'Oy.'”

    "We find this very concerning as it’s not at all representative of Air Canada's policies to take care of customers with disabilities,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "We're looking into this regrettable situation. We will be in contact with the customer to discuss this matter and offer our apologies." The airline added they see 25,000 wheelchair requests monthly at Pearson Airport.

    "Well I think this time it didn't work," Perlman said in response to the statement. "I don't know what was on his mind, but I was left alone. I was left alone."

    Perlman says the benefit concert at Roy Thomson Hall helped him get over his anger at the airport arrival situation. According to Roy Thomson Hall's official site the Sing For The Children concert featured Perlman and Brooklyn-based cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot with proceeds supporting Chai Lifeline Canada, an organization assisting children battling serious illness.


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    It's said April showers bring May flowers, but why wait an extra month when you can enjoy fascinating flora now?

    If patience is not your forte and you need your dose of pretty flowers now, make a trip to Hitachi Seaside Park in Japan.

    hitachi seaside park spring photos

    Located less than two hours from Tokyo, the public park sits in the city of Hitachinaka in the Ibaraki Prefecture. Every April, the 190 hectares of park space transforms into an ocean of blue flowers. Locals call it the "Nemophila Harmony" after the baby-blue nemophila flower.

    hitachi seaside park

    hitachi seaside park

    The park also features roughly a million daffodils and over a hundred varieties of tulips. Talk about your flower power!

    hitachi seaside park

    hitachi seaside park

    If a trip to Hitachi in the spring is out of the question, don't worry. The park is always a visual treat no matter what time of the year it is. The park shifts to hues of red as well as green in the summer and come fall, it becomes a giant palette of orange.

    hitachi seaside park

    hitachi seaside park

    hitachi seaside park

    So what's the best way to view the park? Well, there are always plenty of people walking around but if you're looking to see a bit of everything, there are bike paths and a giant Ferris wheel that gives a great overview of the area.

    hitachi seaside park

    hitachi seaside park

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    A commercial airline pilot from the United States was arrested a week ago at the Calgary International Airport after he was caught trying to clear security with a loaded firearm.


    Joshua Petty White, a pilot for SkyWest Airlines, failed to declare that he had the gun in his carry-on luggage as he passed through the checkpoint on March 28, Lisa White, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed on Thursday.


    The CBSA criminal investigations unit believes White also illegally smuggled the gun into Canada when he arrived in Calgary the previous day.


    The pilot was taken into custody and charged under the Customs Act and the Criminal Code before being released on a $4,000 bond.


    The airline told CBC News that White has been put on administrative leave “while full investigations are completed internally and by authorities.”


    White’s next court appearance is set for April 29. 


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    If you're looking for a nice view after your hike, consider a trip to Mount Roraima.

    mount roraima

    Having a hard time seeing it? Look closer.

    mount roraima

    Closer.

    mount roraima

    There you go.

    mount roraima

    This geological beaut sits between Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana and functions as a natural border between the South American countries. It's real claim to fame though is its 400-foot tall cliffs that look fairly intimidating from the ground.

    mount roraima

    You're probably thinking, "you must be a fool to try to hike that!" Well, Sir Everard im Thurn wasn't so much as fool as he was a British colonial explorer who carved a hiking path back in 1884. It's still one of the more popular paths hikers and backpackers take today to reach the 31-square-kilometre summit.

    mount roraima

    mount roraima

    The hike takes about two days starting in Pemón village of Paraitepui, part of Canaima National Park in Venezuela. From there, expect to pay a entrance fee to climb the area if you're without a tour guide and a five hour trek before the first camp site.

    mount roraima

    mount roraima

    Aside from the awe-inspiring views, hikers are rewarded with a unique ecosystem once they reach the top, like the meat-eating pitcher plant and bromelaids. The area's also rich in culture, with locals regarding the mountain as a place in their myths and folklore, according to Atlas Obscura.

    mount roraima

    And with views like these, we can't blame them.

    mount roraima

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    LONDON - Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who acknowledged last year that she had occasionally used cocaine, was denied permission to board a flight to the United States over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy said.

    The embassy did not disclose the reason for refusing Lawson entry into the United States.

    Embassy spokeswoman Lynne Platt said Thursday that Lawson was stopped from travelling Sunday and had subsequently been invited to the embassy to apply for a visa. She said such applications were generally handled "routinely and expeditiously."

    Lawson tweeted Saturday that she was going on vacation, but she also has worked in the U.S., where she co-hosted TV cooking competition "The Taste."

    British citizens need visas to work in the U.S. but not for a vacation.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection said privacy laws meant it was "not at liberty to discuss an individual's processing." It said U.S. authorities may refuse passengers admission for various reasons, including drug use and "moral turpitude."

    The agency said 366 people a day were refused entry to the U.S. in 2013, of almost one million daily travellers.

    Lawson, author of "How To Be A Domestic Goddess," has had a turbulent year in which her personal life was scrutinized in the media.

    In July she divorced art collector Charles Saatchi after he was photographed grabbing her throat outside a London restaurant.

    In December she testified at the fraud trial of two former aides, and told the court she had used cocaine a handful of times. She denied claims by the defendants that she was a regular drug user.

    "I promise you ... regular cocaine users do not look like this," said Lawson, who is known for her voluptuous figure.

    Police later said they would not be investigating Lawson.

    Lawson's co-host on "The Taste," chef Anthony Bourdain, tweeted that he was "absolutely mortified with embarrassment over the cruelty and hypocrisy of U.S. actions" over Lawson's travel.

    Bourdain told The Associated Press in an email that Lawson was "the most focused, non-party, sober person I know. How this could happen — to her, of all people — is beyond me."

    A spokesman for Lawson declined comment.

    She is not the first British celebrity to fall afoul of U.S. immigration officials. In 2008 the late singer Amy Winehouse, who had a marijuana arrest and well-publicized problems with alcohol and drugs, was refused a visa to perform at the Grammy Awards.

    Singer Lily Allen was denied a visa the same year, shortly after she was arrested over an altercation with photographers.

    ___

    Associated Press Writers J.M Hirsch and Beth Harpaz contributed to this report.


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    For some, Kanamara Matsuri is Japanese for "Festival of the Steel Phallus," but to everyone else, it's known as Japan's annual penis festival.

    At first glance, the scenes from Kanamara Matsuri seem like something out of an X-rated movie. Giant phallic-shaped statues, ornaments and even treats are all on display on the streets near the Kanayama shrine in Kawasaki, Japan.

    The festival is held on the first Sunday of April and falls on April 7 this year. It's a tradition that dates as far back as Japan's Edo era in the 16th century.

    Back then, prostitutes would gather outside the shrine to pray for good business and protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

    Over time, the festival has shifted in meaning and now celebrates the easy delivery of babies and long-lasting marriages. It also helps raise funds and awareness for HIV research, according to Fest 300.

    While there's no shortage of phalluses during Kanamara Matsuri, the main event is the mikoshi parade in which women and men dressed as women carry three penis sculptures down to the Kanayama shrine.

    Of the three, there's the omikoshi, a giant pink penis altar and the Kanamara Fune Mikoshi, an even bigger steel penis altar.

    The Kanamara Fune Mikoshi is steeped in Japanese lore.

    Legend has it that an evil demon possessed the vagina of a young woman, giving it sharp teeth after she refused its advances. The toothed vagina then castrated the woman's first two fiancés who tried to have sex with her on their wedding nights.

    The woman turned to a blacksmith for help. The blacksmith devised a plan: he would create a steel penis.

    The demon, still possessing the vagina, fell for the trap when it bit down on the steel penis and broke all its teeth, protecting all future fiancés' penises.

    Check out some NSFW photos from past Kanamara Matsuri events in the gallery below:

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    I have a saying: when you have a knotty problem, widen the circle of brains working on it and see what happens. Often this means collaborating with others that have seemingly divergent interests. But solutions will undoubtedly emerge.

    The market for wood and paper products is fiercely competitive these days. With a shrinking demand for paper products due to digitalization, changes in market demand due to events like the U.S. housing crisis, and growing global wood fibre players like Brazil and Russia competing with Canadian forest products, companies must walk a tightrope through this landscape to succeed.

    Governments and forest companies often work together to ensure the profitability of the forest sector in their countries and provinces. Case in point: when the U.S. housing crisis began in 2007 and gained momentum in 2008, forest companies and the British Columbia government rolled out a strategy to reduce reliance on the U.S. housing market and diversify through an aggressive campaign to grow the demand for wood products in China, and more recently in Japan and India, for home and building construction. And it is working.

    Market diversification for lumber matched with a weak dollar and a slow recovery in the U.S. housing market has meant that the B.C. forest economy is rebounding. This is what happens when you widen the circle to solve a knotty problem.

    There is another interesting thing that happened in B.C. In the 1990s, destructive logging and an unresponsive forest industry prompted protests, blockades and international market campaigns from Greenpeace and others. These led to reputational risk and brand damage, with major wood and paper buyers cancelling their contracts or steering clear of products from the region.

    There is a fabled quote from those days where a logging executive says, "No one wants to buy a 2 x 4 with a protester attached to it."

    This defined the problem: how do we reinstate the social licence to operate and log in a place that is world-renowned for its forests? It began with a coalition of environmental organizations, led by Greenpeace, and an alliance of forestry companies to form the Joint Solutions Project (JSP) as a means to collaboratively work toward solutions.

    Today, industry, the B.C. government, First Nations, companies and Greenpeace all support 50 per cent conservation of the region and are committed to finishing the job this year.

    British Columbia's Joint Solutions Project is just one example of how different parties with a vested interest in a successful forest industry and healthy forests can come together to solve forest problems.

    Another excellent example is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system. In the late 20th century, governments were touring the world touting the environmental sustainability of their forest regulations, yet their legislation had no environmental teeth. At the same time, protests and boycott campaigns were forcing some logging companies to begin voluntarily enacting better practices, yet there was no way for customers to verify if these voluntary actions were environmentally sustainable.

    Very quickly this became a problem for everyone involved. Environmentalists wanted the marketplace to recognize good behavior as a means of growing the green product market. The forest industry realized that even if they did the "right thing," they weren't credible enough on their own to be rewarded, and measurements of success weren't consistent. Indigenous communities were being left out of decision-making on their lands. And, globally, consumers were waking up to the need for forest protection and greener forest products.

    The solution? Those involved put their heads together and created an internationally recognized independent forest verification system that would meet the bar for environmental and social responsibility. As a result, the FSC certification system is the only credible mark of responsibility because it was created and continues to be governed jointly by the forest industry, environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, indigenous groups and civil society.

    It is these kinds of early adopters of solutions-based collaboration that the rest of the forest industry, governments and others are looking to for solutions to forest-based conflicts in other parts of the world that is creating reputational and economic risk.

    It is imperative that there be public leadership on forest issues in Canada. As energy projects take more and more prominence in Canada's forest regions, unless the forest industry can demonstrate its ability to innovate and shift quickly to meet changing global demands, it will be left in the public policy dust, condemned to a slow decline and risk becoming obsolete with a rusty chainsaw in hand.

    That is the knotty problem of the forest industry today that requires more brains and more collaboration. Greenpeace has been holding out its hand across the aisle to the forest industry for many years. While some have been scared, they have nevertheless taken up with us to collaborate. Ask them and what you'll hear is that it's been worth it, both in terms of brand value and marketplace certainty.

    See for yourself. Greenpeace's Forest Solutions report offers an insider's look at our collaborations in forest regions around the world.

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    Art isn't scary, and it isn't just for the rich: that's what a small but determined group of Vancouver artists, curators, and gallery owners are out to prove.

    Leading the pack are two unique art shows happening this month: The Postcard Show and CARDED!

    Saturday marks the fourth volume of The Postcard Show, which features the original work of artists on — you guessed it — postcards. After the work is presented, each piece is sold in a silent auction with a starting bid of $10, with increasing increments of $5.

    "I'm trying to basically rid the art world of its elitism," curator Paulina de la Paz told The Huffington Post B.C. "There's a kind of accessibility to the art. It's just not [about] seeing that high art."

    Artists can create as many postcards as they like, using whatever method they choose: painting, drawing, origami, textile, scratch, or something else entirely.

    "It's basically to allow younger artists or curators like myself to have more opportunities," explained de la Paz. "And to be able to exhibit in various galleries around Vancouver."

    The Postcard Show is travelling to Mexico City later this year, and de la Paz hopes to take it to Berlin in 2015.

    In a similar fashion, CARDED! is having its sixth annual instalment on April 26 at Hot Art Wet City.

    The show features the work of 50 artists reproduced onto 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch trading cards. The art is displayed at the gallery, and then the audience can buy random packs of the cards for $5. They're invited to trade their cards with others to end up with their perfect combination.

    "It's really about engaging art audiences in a way that they're not used to being engaged," Hot Art Wet City owner Bentzen told HuffPost B.C. Bentzen co-produces CARDED! with Jim Hoehnle.

    "Getting people into a gallery is sometimes a challenge. Making it fun and accessible is an easy way to get people out [and make them] realize that it's not what they think it is — a gallery can be a fun place to go."

    Story continues below slideshow:


    Bentzen and Hoehnle started CARDED! in 2009 after the success of Hot One Inch Action, which started in 2004. That show, which takes place each fall, reprints art on one-inch buttons.

    While the independent scene takes the lead on making art more accessible, there are larger initiatives aiming to introduce it to the masses.

    The Canadian Art Foundation and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver are hosting Vancouver Gallery Hop, a day of free art talks and tours, on April 12. And the Vancouver Biennale started last month, celebrating art in what is perhaps its most accessible form: out in public.

    Public art is in abundance in Vancouver, whether it's a bunch of red umbrellas hanging from trees, a large golden tree by famous artist Douglas Coupland, or a "custom-knitted sweater" billowing over the city's waterfront. Even Banksy is taking notice.

    But perhaps what makes projects like CARDED! and The Postcard Show so different is that they allow fans to actually take works home.

    "That's where this gallery has come from, is [that idea of] getting art into people's hands for less money," Bentzen said.

    Neither The Postcard Show nor CARDED! are new to the city, but they are still being discovered by Vancouverites who realize that all they need to appreciate visual art is a pair of eyes.

    "For a long time, people expected that you had to have a fine art degree to understand [the work]," Bentzen said.

    "But there's a shift now to a bunch of people willing to check it out and realizing, 'Hey, I don't have to understand it. I just have to look at it. If I like it, I like it, and that's fine, and if I don't, that's also fine.'"

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