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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    (Relaxnews) - Crystal Cruises has created an excursion for "Game of Thrones" fans that will take guests to key filming locations in Northern Ireland as part of a cruise along the British Isles.

    In response to the cult-like popularity of the HBO fantasy drama, the cruise line has added a half-day excursion to their seven and 14-day cruise packages that will offer guests a behind-the-scenes tour into the making of the mythical worlds of Westeros and Essos.

    Fans will be able to take photos with show costumes and learn how centuries-old Irish castles and towers are transformed into sets of the fictional medieval lands.

    Northern Ireland has been one of the main shooting sites for the series, along with Iceland and Croatia, all of which have been capitalizing on the show to attract more tourists.

    Along with Belfast, guests will travel to the 18th century Castle Ward, an 820-acre estate that served as pivotal sites for the first and second seasons.

    Participants will learn how special effects were used to transform the castles and try their hand at the medieval sport of archery.

    The excursion is available at $289 for guests booked on a seven-day cruise through the British Isles departing August 24 aboard the Crystal Symphony, as well as guests on the 14-day Ireland/Iceland and New England Transatlantic Crystal Serenity Voyage departing September 5.

    For fans who will be visiting Northern Ireland via terra firma, the tourist board has organized a free "Game of Thrones" exhibition open June 11 to 15, where attendees can also get an up-close look at the show’s costumes and weapons.

    For more info on the exhibit visit Details on the cruise excursion can be found at

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    Stepping out onto a street in Dawson City feels like you're on the set of a snowy western movie. This little town comes replete with swing-door saloons, dancing girls and gambling halls populated by men of the wild and woolly variety. Born during the Yukon gold rush, Dawson City is a charming community with historical sites for tourists, pristine wilderness for the outdoor adventurer and breathtaking beauty for the amateur photographer in all of us.

    While you can get the same cultural experiences, rivers and teeming wildlife in other places, Canada's great white north has an intangible something that makes it truly unforgettable. You get the feeling that here, in this place where there are more moose than people and the sun doesn't set on the summer solstice, anything is possible.

    There's so much room for activities!

    Seeking a truly northern experience, I traveled to Dawson City during winter while the weather was at its north-iest. OK, so not the -40 Ned Stark-approved dead cold of winter, more like the tail end when the warmer weather makes it easy to be outside. I know this is not a popular time to travel north, but baby it should be! You get the unique snow-covered beauty of the Yukon winter and the warm hospitality of the locals all to yourself.

    And the snow-covered beauty is truly so breathtakingly astounding and wild, that you will have to take several moments to compose yourself. The sky seems bigger here, and bluer too and the endless Boreal forest planes stretch out for forever, broken only by the equally endless mountain ranges.


    And the locals aren't just warm; they are downright toasty. By day two, I felt like I belonged in Dawson City, waltzing down the street greeting friends I had met in the bar, supporting bake sales and feeling more part of a community than I ever have living in the fourth largest city in North America.

    Ready, steady, snow!

    I had come to Dawson City to participate in the annual Thaw DiGras festival. That's right; when you think Mardi Gras, think New Orleans, Paris... Dawson City. While equally focused on hedonism and beer as they are elsewhere, the Dawson City festivities have a unique take. We started the day by sampling entrants in the chilli cook-off, then went on to the axe throwing contest which was thrillingly dangerous.

    I tried my hand, but the axes were so heavy that I barely made the target and was happy to escape with all my digits intact. While many of the men had the distance, they couldn't get their axes to peg. Then a very small lady pushed her way through the crowd to much scoffing from the general populace. She took off her coat, and then totally smoked the competition, getting three out of four axes to peg and a bulls-eye!


    From there we migrated to the chainsaw toss which is exactly what it sounds like. Old chainsaws are thrown by participants while the crowd cheers them on. Only when you're this far north does one become expert at throwing a motorized cutting device. I was warned about a wiry older gent who sees the chainsaw toss as a way to single out a new paramour as he likes his women like his coffee (I'm assuming strong and sweet?)


    Getting a little husky

    Thaw DiGras is not just for humans to enjoy, dog sledding, dog pulls and dog shows give our four-legged friends the chance to show off their skills. Along with traditional canine events, there is also the skijor; here a dog will pull you on skis for maximum fun times.


    The humans also got a chance to show off their moves with snowshoe baseball (good luck sliding into first!) and road hockey. If you're looking for something more refined, Yukonians have your back with ice sculptures and the tea boil where teams compete to see who can make a fire and boil tea the fastest.

    The Dawson City Thaw DiGras festival is the most fun you can have with your clothes on (no really, keep your kit on, it's really cold out there) and a truly special experience for any adventure traveler.


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    Travellers who've visited a theme park will know that sometimes you can be too young or too old to go on certain rides.

    Guess this grandma didn't get the message.

    The video comes courtesy of Vodafone, a European telecom company, which launched a campaign to let people experience things for the first time. Case in point: Ria Van den Brand, a 78-year-old Dutch grandma, and her first ever roller-coaster ride, according to Global News.

    Van den Brand is accompanied by her granddaughter, Daisy, off camera, as they ride Formule X at Drievliet amusement park in The Hague, Netherlands, the Daily Dot reports.

    The experience is over just as soon as it starts but Van den Brand's infectious laugh will have you playing the video over and over again.

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    TORONTO - Canada's busiest airport is changing how it deals with extreme winter weather and other disruptions after a deep freeze earlier this year triggered a partial shutdown that slowed travel for days.

    The Greater Toronto Airport Authority has issued a dozen recommendations to improve operations at Pearson International Airport after reviewing the January incident.

    One would have the airport buy more equipment to handle "unusual" winter weather, while another would boost snow and ice removal to give planes better access to gates.

    The airport declared a so-called "ground stop" on Jan. 7 after wind chill readings hovered around the -40 C mark.

    That prevented North American flights from landing for more than eight hours, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

    The GTAA said at the time that the decision was made because of how the cold was affecting equipment and to minimize time outdoors for employees.

    Vijay Kanwar, chair of the agency's board of directors, later apologized for the delays.

    "This review and its actions will help enhance passenger well-being and will improve communications with our passengers," he said Thursday in releasing the results of the review.

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    WASHINGTON - Lots of apps claim they can help you fight jet lag. Now Michigan researchers say mathematical formulas suggest it's possible to adjust to new time zones a bit faster than previously thought, and they created their own free app to help.

    Doctors have long said exposure to light is key. But how much, and when?

    "If you get light in the wrong time or wrong way, it'll send you the wrong direction," said University of Michigan math professor Daniel Forger, who led the research published Thursday.

    A master biological clock, called a circadian rhythm, regulates when we become sleepy and when we're more alert. Travel across time zones and the body clock has to reset itself.

    Light is that clock's strongest regulator. In a study partly funded by the Air Force, the Michigan team used two equations proven to predict someone's circadian rhythm, and with computer modelling calculated different schedules of light exposure for more than 1,000 possible trips.

    It's possible to customize a block of time each day when you should be in light, the brighter the better, and another when you should avoid it, Forger's team reported in the journal PLoS Computational Biology. (It didn't address other potential remedies such as melatonin.)

    An example: Fly from Detroit to London, five hours ahead, arriving at 11 a.m. London time. Generally, it's thought to take a day per time zone to fully adjust. But the study suggests a three-day adjustment schedule, if you can stick with it: On the day after arrival, get light from 7:40 a.m. to 9 p.m.; from 6:20 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. on Day 2; and from 5 a.m. until 7:20 p.m. on Day 3.

    A free iPhone app named Entrain does the calculations. Stay indoors, or stay up later, and it adjusts the advice.

    The app hasn't been tested with travellers to see whether it really helps more than general advice, such as to seek morning light when travelling eastward. But after using it, travellers will be given a choice of submitting their data to a University of Michigan study.

    "Before we really believe it, it has to go through testing," cautioned sleep-medicine specialist Dr. Steven Altchuler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the project. But "there's very little risk of harm if someone wants to try these things."

    Most people adjust fine with general advice, but adjusting faster may be more important if travellers must be at their best for, say, sports competitions or a business negotiation, Altchuler added.

    "I think it makes sense," said Dr. Charles Bae of the Cleveland Clinic's sleep disorder centre. "Anything you could do to optimize your adjustment is welcome, without medications."

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    If you scoff at people who need to check-in full size luggage at the airport, and your “throwback Thursday” pictures on Instagram are always you in front of the Eiffel Tower or Buckingham Palace – chances are you’ve backpacked through Europe.

    The post-graduation Euro trip has become a rite of passage for most young adults. Once they’ve got that diploma in hand, Europe is always the next logical step. Some will go for a few weeks, others the entire summer, or spend an entire victory lap hopping from city to city.

    This trip was a big deal for you. It was probably your first major trip without your parents, and your first time staying in a hostel because you were also on a tight budget – and by on a tight budget, we mean you were broke. Scratch that, you were very broke and Europe was very expensive so you learned quickly that paying to check in luggage was out of the question, and taking cabs anywhere was completely unnecessary.

    Nonetheless, it was still one of the greatest trips of your life. As a result, you've walked away with these 15 badges of honour, these sure-fire signs that you’ve definitely backpacked through Europe (at least once).

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    If you know anything at all about food in Halifax, it's that when you put those words together, they should equal "donair." But the east coast city of 370,000-plus people has been building on its reputation as a hotbed of fresh produce and incredible seafood in recent years, and there are plenty of new restaurants eager to take advantage of the opportunity.

    "Right now, the restaurant scene is as exciting as I’ve ever seen it," says Liz Feltham, cookbook author and former food critic at the Coast, who retired in 2008.

    Feltham points to a young generation of chefs who care about their ingredients, and are focused on presenting simple, clean plates full of flavour, rather than "trick and tarted up stuff." She attributes much of the bounty to the city's two downtown markets, which offer up produce from the Annapolis Valley, as well as newer local livestock options, like sheep, beef and pork.

    The diverse population doesn't hurt either. "For a town this size, we have had an amazing array of ethnic restaurants, influenced by Italians, Greeks, Lebanese — we had at one point on one street two Ethiopian restaurants," says Feltham.

    And as for the beloved donair, that pita sandwich of spiced and browned lamb or beef, hung around a spit and served souvlaki style with donair sauce (evaporated milk with lemon juice), the argument of who makes the best one is defining for Haligonians. Feltham's pick is King of Donair, which claims to have introduced the sandwich to Halifax, though she's quick to state that most pizza places make great ones as well.

    Here are Feltham's picks for the best restaurants currently in Halifax (though it must be noted, she bemoans the closing of Fid and La Perla). Did she miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below:

    The restaurant: Ristorante a Mano
    Where: 1477 Lower Water St.
    Type of food: Northern Italian
    Why: Owned by Maurizio and Stephanie Bertossi, who run some of the best restaurants in town, this most embodies the feel of an Italian trattoria, says Liz Feltham, former food critic for the Coast.

    The restaurant: Cut Steakhouse
    Where: 5120 Salter St.
    Type of food: Steakhouse (obviously)
    Why: "This is the best place to go right now for dress-up dining in Halifax," says Feltham. She points to the polished service and the extra added touch of a little loaf of banana bread to take home that take it over the top.

    The restaurant: Agricola Street Brasserie
    Where: 2540 Agricola St.
    Type of food: French bistro plates
    Why: In the north end of the city, where many young professionals are congregating, Feltham says this spot has traditional plates (like burgers and frites, quiche and sausage) at decent prices.

    The restaurant: Morris East
    Where: 5212 Morris St.
    Type of food: Pizza (and pasta)
    Why: Complete with a wood-fired oven from Italy, this spot offers up both classics and inventive pizzas. Feltham loves it for its consistency, value, atmosphere and service.

    The restaurant: Edna Restaurant
    Where: 2053 Gottingen St.
    Type of food: Eclectic
    Why: Also in the city's north end, this spot's name stands for "eat drink nourish always," and is owned by Jenna Mooers, daughter of Halifax staple Jane Wright, who ran beloved Jane's on the Common until 2012 (she's now transformed it into a catering business). Dishes like beef tartare, braised lamb leg and bouillabaisse are just part of the extensive menu.

    The restaurant: The Wooden Monkey
    Where: 1707 Grafton St.; 40 Alderney Dr. (Dartmouth)
    Type of food: Fresh, local, with many vegan and vegetarian options
    Why: "This is less a restaurant and more a lifestyle," says Feltham. "They have a whole appreciation of environment and green living." Menu options include everything from Digby scallops wrapped in Meadowbrook bacon to nachos to an extensive list of salads.

    The restaurant: Chives
    Where: 1537 Barrington St.
    Type of food: Homegrown dishes with sophisticated edge
    Why: This was one of the restaurants at the forefront of the local food scene, notes Feltham. Dishes like jumbo Cape Breton snow crab ravioli with pork belly, pâté of Quebec foie gras and coldwater shrimp-crusted Atlantic salmon all showcase stunning, nearby ingredients.

    The restaurant: Stories Casual Fine Dining
    Where: 5184 Morris St.
    Type of food: Wild game and seafood
    Why: Though the restaurant is located in the Haliburton Halifax Hotel, "it's come up with an identity of its own," notes Feltham. Dishes include ingredients like duck magret, striped bass and bison tenderloin, demonstrating its dedication to local farmers, foragers and fishermen.

    The restaurant: Saege Bistro
    Where: 5883 Spring Garden Rd.
    Type of food: Bistro
    Why: As the restaurant itself puts it, "You deserve to eat well!" Simple, delicious dishes like lobster mac and cheese, crab cakes and beef tenderloin allow the ingredients to stand out.

    The restaurant: Gio
    Where: 1725 Market St.
    Type of food: Fine dining
    Why: A true hotel restaurant at the Prince George Hotel, Feltham notes Gio has had a few very inventive chefs in a row, and hasn't faltered in producing amazing menus year after year. It's also a bit of a power place — "where you find the city's movers and shakers at lunch," she notes with a laugh.

    The restaurant: Ela! Greek Taverna
    Where: 215 Chain Lake Dr. (Bayer's Lake); 150 Hector Gate (Dartmouth); 1565 Argyle St. (downtown)
    Type of food: Greek
    Why: "It's Greek food done exceptionally well," says Feltham. Dishes include stuffed chicken "koto yemista" and salmon lemonato, as well as their popular platters.

    The restaurant: ChaBaa Thai
    Where: 1511 Bedford Hwy. (Bedford); 1546 Queen St. (downtown); 100 Ilsley Ave. (Dartmouth)
    Type of food: Thai
    Why: "We have a number of Thai restaurants, but when I taste the food here, it doesn't feel like it has been dumbed down for the North American palate," says Feltham. "There's full-on flavour."

    The restaurant: Grand Taj
    Where: 5175 South St.
    Type of food: Indian
    Why: "I've worked under an Indian chef in town, and have been exposed to a lot of Indian food," says Feltham. "This is the place Indians go." Like ChaBaa Thai, she notes the authenticity of the flavours that haven't been compromised at all.

    The restaurant: MicMac Tavern
    Where: 217 Waverley Rd. (Dartmouth)
    Type of food: Comfort food
    Why: "This is the kind of place when you go in there, women serve the food and men bring the beer and that is never going to change," says Feltham with a laugh. "For ribs and steak, it's cheap and you cannot beat it. Day or night, it's packed and it really lives up to its reputation."

    The restaurant: Fredie's Fantastic Fishhouse
    Where: Behind Jungle Jims, 8 Oland Cr.
    Type of food: Fish and chips
    Why: "There are tons of fish and chips spots all over Halifax, and I've tried most of them," says Feltham. "This is my favourite, and it has been for a while. The reason i like it so much is because the owner, Tammy, is a person who is incredibly customer service-oriented,. dedicated to keeping things fresh, consistent and cheap."

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    Some nights, it's not enough to just go out for a drink. Sometimes you need to ride a mechanical bull or paint a masterpiece while sipping a cocktail.

    Vancouver has plenty of venues where barhoppers can not only imbibe, but also be transported to the worlds of gaming, medieval culture or "Twin Peaks."

    There's the Storm Crow Tavern, which calls itself "Planet Hollywood for geeks." The bar offers ales in "Beerbarian" steins and pitchers, and has mead on its menu. The walls are adorned with nerdy sci-fi memorabilia including a shrine to octopus-like monster, Cthulhu.

    Then there's EXP Restaurant + Bar, which describes itself as a "classy restaurant for the grown-up gamer." Drinks include "Hadouken" (raspberry vodka, Hypnotiq, Blue Curacao and soda) and a "Broken Down Mario Kart" (Amaretto, melon liqueur, and bar lime).

    And there's always the epic Black Lodge, a frighteningly accurate homage to the frighteningly amazing "Twin Peaks" TV show.

    Check out photos from theme bars around Vancouver:

    The Bourbon: Save a horse, ride a cowboy! Vancouver's only country bar, located in Gastown, offers a mechanical bull, line dancing and staff dolled up like they're running a saloon. See how long you can last on the bull. Eight seconds is nearly impossible.

    EXP Restaurant + Bar: A video game-themed restaurant and bar on West Pender Street that taps into the gamer in all of us. The walls are decorated with eight-bit Nintendo characters like blocks and ghosts from "Super Mario Bros." One day, the owners hope to allow patrons to play video games in-house.

    The Shameful Tiki Room: Put on your best Hawaiian shirt and step through the dark curtains into tiki madness. Sip on a Mai Tai and dream of Polynesia. There's even live surf music and a ukulele player on the odd night.

    Storm Crow Tavern: Where the cool fear to tread. The Commercial Drive hangout offers a geektastic experience with cards, board games and classic sci-fi on the televisions. It even hosts "Game of Thrones" nights.

    Raw Canvas: Channel your inner Picasso at this Yaletown spot. Put paintbrush to canvas (or tote bag) in their paint pit, and sip on wine at the same time.

    Canucks Sports Bar and Grill: It's not quite the same as being at a game, but given how well the Canucks did this season, that will do just fine. Opened in Septebmer 2013, the Vancouver airport bar has vast amounts of Canucks memorabilia as well as a store for team merchandise.

    The Black Lodge: "Twin Peaks" is never coming back, so you might as well enjoy a detailed tribute to one of the most bizarre and amazing TV shows ever made. The owners of this Kingsway bar have decked it out to look like the setting for David Lynch's show that blended absurd humour with supernatural elements in a Pacific Northwest setting. One of the bathrooms looks just like the otherworldly setting from the show's confounding finale.

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    If you've ever doubted how serious Thailand handles their water fights, you need to stop by during Songkran.


    Fire fighters soak the crowd with their fire hoses during Songkran, Thailand's New Year festival on Silom road.

    For locals, Songkran is known as Thai New Year. It also marks the end of the country's dry season and welcomes the start of the rainy season. For everyone else, it's a national holiday and this year it runs from April 13-15. It's the country's longest holiday according to the festival's official website with festivities lasting as long as a week in cities like Chang Mai.

    A Thai woman on a motorcycle taxi participates in a waterfight during the Songkran water festival on April 14, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.

    The holiday is steeped in Buddhist traditions and is supposed to give Thais a moment to reflect spirituality and pay respect to their elders. As a result, you'll see lots of people making their ways to local temples to pray and cleaning Buddhist figurines and statues in order to bring good luck for the coming year.

    A woman pours water over a Buddha statue at the Songkran and Thai Food Festival held at Wat Buddharangs.

    But that's only part of the festival. The main attraction tourists will likely witness is the massive water fights. During this part, everyone is a fair game for a soaking either by hose, water gun or by buckets filled with ice-cold water. The water fights are meant to symbolize the cleansing and rejuvenation of the body.

    A foreigner gets soaked by a big splash of water during Songkran, Thailand's New Year festival on Silom road.

    Tourists are especially targeted by locals so it's best to bring clothes you don't mind getting wet in. Cameras and electronics will also need to be stashed safety as no one is really safe from a drive-by-soaking. Traveller's looking for a good city to take part in Songkran can't go wrong with a trip to Chang Mai.

    songkran 2014
    Tourists (L) splash water at elephants as people celebrate ahead of the Songkran Festival for the Thai New Year with water battles in Ayutthaya province on April 9, 2014.

    It's regarded as the premier spot, trumping cities like Bangkok and Phuket for fun. That's partially do to the moat located in the Old City, an area dotted with ancient Buddhist temples according to Fest3000.

    songkran chang mai
    A Thai and a foreigner both get attacked with buckets of water on the third day of Songkran, the Thai new year or 'water festival'

    Can't make it to Thailand this year? Not to worry, smaller and more localized versions of Songkran are also scheduled to take place in Cambodia, Laos, Burma and parts of southern China, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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    Tens of thousands of people, including politicians Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark, took in the annual Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver Saturday.

    Vaisakhi, one of the most significant holidays on the Sikh calendar, commemorates the birth of Sikhism, as well as the new year, and the harvest for winter crops in India.

    While the holiday is most prominent in Sikh households originating from the Punjab region of India, Hindus and Buddhists also celebrate the new year.

    Check out the festivities in Vancouver this year:

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    (PRESIDENT FREI BASE, Antarctica-AFP) - As the sun sets, the cloudy sky melds with the glaring white of the frozen terrain.
    Tourists trudging in single file line marvel over blue glaciers in Antarctica, a hip new vacation destination.

    The group paid a small fortune -- $3,000 per head -- for a quick five-hour visit to the frozen continent, arriving by plane.

    "Coming to Antarctica was a dream for me and my wife," American John Reiss, 81, said as he stood beside his wife Sharon, 73.

    "We signed up a couple years ago, but we couldn't get on it, so we went on a waiting list. This year we signed an year in advance and we made it."

    The couple boarded a cruise ship in Florida, where they live, to head to Punta Arenas in the south of Chile, where they caught a two-hour flight to Antarctica.

    - Penguin colonies -

    The tourists visited the island of King George, in the South Shetlands archipelago and the neighboring Russian station of Bellingshausen with its out-of-place Orthodox church.

    They also saw the small Chilean hamlet of Villa Las Estrellas home to just 64 people and colonies of penguins.

    Another option is to tour Half Moon Island, a habitat of seals and penguins that is home to the Argentine base of Teniente Camara.

    There they can sip a hot cup of coffee, send a postcard and get their passport stamped with a picture of a krill, a kind of small shrimp that is the symbol of the base.

    "It was a fantastic experience. The first thing that makes this trip special is being able to visit such a well-preserved, untouched continent," said Canadian Maureen Malone, 69.

    "The second is being able to see the penguins. Everybody loves the penguins. Also, I was able to see around the bases, see how the different countries are sharing the region."

    Tourism is one of the few economic activities allowed by the Treaty of the Antarctic and the Madrid Protocol, which bans mineral extraction on the white continent.

    - Landing on frozen sea -

    The Antarctic draws more than 30,000 tourists per year, from November to March, when there is no problem landing on the frozen sea.

    Most arrive on ships that cross Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean, which has some of the world's worst weather, setting off from Ushuaia in southern Argentina and from Punta Arenas.

    "Ninety percent of the tourists from around the world who come to Antarctica leave from Ushuaia. The cruises last an average of 11 days.

    The cheapest ones cost $5,000. The most expensive, which last 15 days and go to the South Pole, cost $12,000," Brazilian Gunnar Hagelberg, owner of Antarctica Expeditions, told AFP.

    More than 35,350 people will have visited Antarctica by the end of this year -- 1,000 more than last season and 8,000 more than in 2011-2012, according to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators.

    "We carry from 120 to 130 people per season. We have seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number of tourists who want to see the continent," said Nicolas Paulsen, deputy commercial director of the Chilean airline Dap, which offers logistical and tourist flights.

    Paulsen said tourism in Antarctica is rising three per cent more per year than tourism to Chile, which is up seven percent. Most visitors come from the United States, Australia, China, Russia and, more and more, from Brazil.

    "Antarctica is vital for us. It affects the climate, the sea currents. Tourism is important because the more people get to know it, the more they will want to protect it," said Paulsen.

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    One Twitter user has learned her lesson after tweeting a joke about hijacking a plane.

    User @QueenDemetriax_ experienced quite the scare when she tweeted a bomb threat at American Airlines Sunday. The airline's response, which has since been deleted, sent her into a frenzy.

    She even invoked the patron saint of her Twitter account, Demi Lovato, to help her.

    However, American Airlines doesn't have access to the IP addresses and personal details of accounts that mention them, according to Nu Wexler, who works for Twitter.

    Regardless, the girl, whose response to the airline's 'warning' was retweeted more than 15,000 times, seemed pleased with all the attention.

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    The Vancouver Heritage Society has released its top 10 endangered sites of the year, including West End heritage homes.

    And one of them is on the market.

    This 114-year-old house, located at 995 Bute St., is a three-storey fourplex with 4,858 sq. ft. and a listing price of $3,495,000.

    The house has been transformed into four self-contained strata homes with their own meters and a new foundation.

    The 2,366 sq. ft. front home boasts the original living room and dining room, refinished fir floors, a beautiful staircase, an antique oak fireplace, a wrap-around porch, and a rooftop deck.

    Buyers have the option of living in that section and renting out the other three to collect $6,620 per month, or renting out all four for $11,620 per month.

    The house went through a $2-million rebuild and restoration in 2007, and has been featured in Homes & Living magazine.

    Would you live there?

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    What to give the patient who has everything? Well-off Germans in Europe's top economy are increasingly deciding less is more and fasting to cure what ails them.

    High-end clinics specialising in deprivation rather than pampering are all the rage in Germany, one of the homes of the fasting movement, and in some cases it is even covered by health insurance plans.

    Michael van Almsick, 57, is a fasting devotee and, once a year for the last two decades, has spent a month at the Buchinger-Wilhelmi clinic on the shore of scenic Lake Constance on the Swiss border. Van Almsick starts each day with a spartan breakfast comprised solely of herbal tea, has a fruit juice for lunch, takes a two-hour walk in the afternoon and tucks into a thin broth and a bit of honey at dinnertime. He washes it all down with at least two litres of water daily.

    "Try it for a week, just a week. After that you'll see," he says with a smile.

    Van Almsick runs a large public relations firm in Munich which will be promoting concert dates in Germany for the Rolling Stones on their summer tour. He has come to Buchinger-Wilhelmi to tackle a chronic obesity problem and the litany of ailments that accompany it.

    So out goes the medication for hypertension, in exchange for a regimented crash diet. That means no more than 200 to 250 calories per day, about one-tenth the recommended daily intake for a middle-aged adult.

    A 10-day stay at the clinic costs around 2,500 euros ($3,450) in a standard room but can run much more with extras.

    Otto Buchinger (1878-1966), for whom the facility is named, experimented with fasting to treat rheumatoid arthritis, an affliction that forced him to quit his post as a navy physician in 1917 during World War I. A century later, his fasting method is the most widely used in Germany.

    For its proponents, fasting helps prevent heart disease and treat asthma, arthritis, chronic digestive diseases, some chronic respiratory infections and even depression.

    Medical experts warn that like any extreme change in habits, fasting should be practiced in moderation under a doctor's supervision and expectations for dramatic long-term health benefits should be kept in check.

    Few randomised controlled trials with large sample sizes have been completed on the subject. However one published by the Lancet in 1991 established a beneficial effect of fasting on rheumatoid arthritis. Others have pointed to the positive impact of fasting on various health issues.

    "Fasting stimulates the body's own regenerative powers," said Francoise Wilhelmi de Toledo, the managing director of the clinic, which also has a location in sunny Marbella, Spain.

    "The Ueberlingen clinic has been around for 60 years and the Marbella location for 40 years. Each year we have 3,000 to 3,500 patients at each establishment, which means 250,000 fasting cures without complications -- it's not a scientific study but it's a statistical fact," the clinic's chief doctor, Stefan Drinda, said.

    - Heal thyself -
    Respected news weekly Der Spiegel dedicated a favourable cover story to the practice in 2011 and a book on the subject by a former employee of the clinic, Hellmut Luetzner, has sold more than two million copies in Germany since it was published in the 1970s.

    "German society blazed a trail," Wilhelmi de Toldeo said. "You never find anyone any more who tells you that fasting is abnormal."

    In a country that has long embraced alternative medicine, fasting is researched and taught in university hospitals in German cities such as Essen, Jena and Berlin. The Charite hospital in the German capital has offered supervised fasting for 50 years, where patients can undergo a 12- to 14-day programme paid for, at least in part, by their health insurance.

    Less expensive than the Buchinger-Wilhelmi clinic, the Charite programme is within the reach of a broader cross section of society.

    "Herbs, organic nutrition, vegetarian diets, yoga, living healthily -- we Germans are a little obsessed," said Andreas Michalsen, who runs the natural healing department at Charite.

    He noted that the 19th century German Romantics pioneered a "belief in the power of self-healing" and "Lebensreform" (life reform) which advocated a back-to-nature lifestyle as a corrective for rampant industrialisation.

    "The situation we have today of swallowing high-calorie foods at regular intervals -- you have to see that this is something new in the history of human evolution," Michalsen said.

    He said that for all the new medications to treat common modern diseases, many are withdrawn from the market each year due to an abundance of side effects.

    "The older people get, the more you see these health conditions," Michalsen said.

    "I am absolutely convinced that in 10 years, fasting will become more and more important simply because mainstream medicine does not always have an answer to give."

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    California -- the name conjures up beaches, surfers, the Pacific Coast Highway, sun, and of course, Hollywood. But California is also known for its production of top-quality, award-winning wines. We all know that, but how much do we know about California wineries? Here’s an overview of what to expect and what to chat about over that first perfect sip.

    Where is wine country?
    California is a big state -- one of the biggest in the United States -- and its wine country is also pretty big. How big? Try 427,000 acres of vines planted. Those acres cover 1,100 kilometres, range from the Oregon border to San Diego, and include the famous Napa Valley.

    Know your regions
    Within the massive wine country are different regions, which produce different wines based on grape type, weather, and soil. The regions are classified into the Central Coast, North Coast, Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Foothills, and the South Coast.

    Sun, sun, and more sun with a bit of desert thrown in -- that’s the stereotypical image of California. However, the California wine country displays more weather diversity than that. Some regions are more Mediterranean in nature, while others have more continental climates, most with a mild winter (unlike the cold winters needed to create ice wine). What’s more interesting is that the wine country has different soil types. Without going very deeply into the science, what that means is the different soils produce different flavours. This gives California wines their reputation for variety in flavour.

    The big vineyards
    We’ve mentioned Napa Valley regions but there are many of the world’s most famous wineries in California. Think Sonoma, Gallo Winery (a classic for those of us with long memories), Twisted Oak, and Pisoni to name a few. How few? There are more than 3,000 wineries in the region. You won’t be lacking for choice!

    California wine specialties
    California Chardonnay is a world-renowned wine, but there are hundreds of grape varieties grown in the region, according to the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. There are easily more than 100 currently, but some of the more popular ones are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

    Famous vintners
    In California, it would be impossible to keep celebrities from mixing in with the wine industry. Did you know Mario Andretti founded a winery in Napa Valley? It’s called, appropriately enough, Andretti Winery. Other famous winery owners include director Francis Ford Coppola, Madonna, Wayne Gretzky, and Lil Jon. Time to find out what stardom tastes like!

    What else to do there
    California wine country offers more than just winery tours (though why would you want to do more?). From shopping, food, and live music at the Historic Napa Mill in Napa Valley, to taking in the sun and surf at a Santa Cruz beach, you’ll never lack for things to do. Check out the Carmel Beach Festival in Monterey, or play a leisurely 18 holes at a Tri-Valley golf course. When it comes to non-wine-related entertainment in California wine country, the options are as varied as your imagination.

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    A perfect storm of bad weather, workers' rights and immigration issues left over 250 passengers trapped on board a Cathay Pacific flight for well over a day.

    The incident dates back to March 30 when Cathay Pacific Flight CX831 left New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport for Hong Kong. The flight was expected to last 15 to 16 hours and took off without issue but ran into problems as it approached Hong Kong International Airport.

    The surrounding area was in the midst of a severe weather storm which included hail storms, high winds and lightning and meant a safe landing was nearly impossible, NBC News reports.

    As a result, the plane circled in hopes the weather would clear.

    But the storm did not let up and the flight was forced to make an unexpected landing around 11 p.m. local time in the southern city of Zhuhai in China, nearly 65 km away from their intended destination.

    But the 256 passengers still had more obstacles to overcome.

    The airport in Zhuhai lacked immigration and customs officials to process the travellers from the U.S. and as a result no one, save for the crew, was allowed to disembark during the 16-hour layover, Cathy Pacific told

    "When I heard about this I immediately felt sympathy for the passengers and the crew," said Julie Jarratt, a spokesperson for Cathay Pacific, "This was certainly a rare circumstance and one we want to avoid if at all possible."

    By now, the crew aboard the Boeing 777 was mandated to stop working according to the airline's labour laws. A temporary customs office was set up to process the crew members who eventually flew out of the airport early afternoon the next day. Meanwhile passengers had to wait for a replacement crew to come in via a ferry from Hong Kong, the Independent reports.

    Despite being trapped on board the plane, passengers said the airport did what it could to alleviate the situation.

    "The folks at the airport fuelled our plane a couple times and brought over water and food so we could use the bathrooms. We had food and the heating and AC were always on," one passenger told NBC. "All of that helped, but we still couldn't go anywhere."

    After the new crew had arrived, the plane took off around 2 p.m. local time and arrived in Hong Kong roughly an hour later. There, passengers were handed an apology from the airline along with monetary compensation.

    But for some passengers, like Luke Hopewell, who blogged about his experience, say the experience has left him unsure if he'll fly again any time soon.

    "We walked off the plane and Cathay staff were there handing out letters of apology with $HK1000 ($A120) attached for our trouble. I grabbed my updated boarding pass for the flight back to Sydney and spent the next few hours deciding whether or not I could get back on a 777. I’m still wondering that now after the flight."

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    One of Europe's largest airlines is under fire for its latest ad campaign after critics on Twitter have called it borderline "racist".

    Air France's "France Is In The Air" ad campaign currently features 18 visuals, highlighting some of the airline's new developments but also some of the destinations the carrier travels to.

    The airline says the visuals "create an effect of surprise by mixing heritage and modernity, while echoing Air France’s past as a renowned poster specialist. Pleasure, youth and vitality emerge from images of the Moulin Rouge, the French Revolution, the Sun King, master chefs and haute couture," according to the Air France's press release.

    The airline adds that the campaign will air in 12 countries, including Canada.

    Some of the images showcase mostly Caucasian women modelling in attire that tries to capture the culture of destinations the airline serves. For locations like Paris and Italy, the women are fairly nondescript, but destinations like Tokyo, Beijing and Dakar have white women with wild eye makeup, headdresses and modified costumes.

    The ads caught the attention of Asian-American activist, Jenn Fang, who says the ads "fetishistically Orientalist".

    "To sell Air France to my people, you show me a picture of a woman wearing yellowface makeup to mimic the shape of my Asiatic eye, and looking fiercely off-camera as she triumphantly mounts the mutilated carcass of my Chinese culture on her head like a gruesome, blood-soaked trophy."

    The ads also sparked a parody on Twitter, after Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang uploaded a Photoshop document of the ad on Twitter for users to release their own versions of the ad, using the hashtag #FixedIt4UAF.

    This isn't the first time customers have accused an airline of racism. Earlier this year, All Nippon Airways aired an ad featuring one of its pilots dressed in whiteface. The Japanese airline was forced to apologize and pull the TV spot after customers found it offensive to Westerners.

    What do you think of the ads? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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    What if you could sit at Kits Beach or Nelson Park and surf the Internet on your laptop or tablet?

    A Vancouver Park Board Commissioner is hoping to make that a reality.

    Trevor Loke, who became Vancouver’s youngest-ever elected official in 2011, is introducing a motion at Monday's park board meeting that would see free WiFi at some of the city's most popular public spaces.

    “I think people should feel free to have meetings in parks and community centres and beaches and have access to the Internet," Loke, a member of Vision Vancouver, told the Georgia Straight. "I think that there’s no reason business has to happen just in office buildings."

    If his idea is endorsed, next steps will be to ask staff to come up with a timeline and budget, Loke told The Globe And Mail. He says he's confident about getting board support because WiFi in public spaces is part of the city's larger digital strategy that was endorsed last year.

    The initiative has already been successful in other cities such as Quebec City, Denver, and Auckland, Loke told The Vancouver Sun. Chicago also introduced WiFi at five beaches last year.

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    US Airways may have single-handedly redefined the word "blunder" after posting a photo of a model plane being inserted in a woman's vagina on the company's official Twitter account.

    The photo has been removed after lingering for about an hour on its timeline but that didn't stop social media users from screencapping and reposting it.

    Both Buzzfeed and Deadspin have posted the NSFW image in its entirety on their sites. You can head there if you're interested in seeing the photo but be warned: graphic content lies ahead.

    Based on the company's Twitter account, it seemed the airline was replying to two customers under the usernames @ElleRafter and @ThatKATZkat who were unhappy with its service.

    @ElleRafter's conversation took on a similar format before the photo appeared.

    US Airways apologized for the photo and said it is investigating how it made its way to the company's 419,000 Twitter followers.

    The Huffington Post Canada has reached out to the airline for comment and will update the story once they reply.

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    CHIANG MAI, Thailand - The bucolic, once laid-back campus of one of Thailand's top universities is under a security clampdown. Not against a terrorist threat, but against Chinese tourists.

    Thousands have clambered aboard student buses at Chiang Mai University, made a mess in cafeterias and sneaked into classes to attend lectures. Someone even pitched a tent by a picturesque lake. The reason: "Lost in Thailand," a 2012 slapstick comedy partly shot on campus that is China's highest-grossing homegrown movie ever.

    Now visitors are restricted to entering through a single gate manned by Mandarin-speaking volunteers who direct Chinese tourists to a line of vehicles for guided tours. Individual visitors are banned, and a sign in prominent Chinese characters requesting that passports be produced is posted by the gate.

    With their economy surging, mainland Chinese have become the world's most common world traveller, with more than 100 million expected to go abroad this year. In 2012, they overtook the Americans and Germans as the top international spenders, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

    But in Chiang Mai and elsewhere, Chinese tourists have acquired the same sort of reputation for loud, uncouth, culturally unaware behaviour that inspired the term "Ugly Americans" decades ago.

    Many in the tourism industry are delighted by the influx, but 80 per cent of 2,200 Chiang Mai residents polled by the university in February said they were highly displeased with Chinese behaviour. The survey and numerous comments on Thai social media blamed Chinese for spitting, littering, cutting into lines, flouting traffic laws and allowing their children to relieve themselves in public pools. Some restaurant owners complained of Chinese filling up doggy bags at buffets.

    The low point in local-tourist relations here in Thailand's second-largest city was likely a photograph widely seen on the Internet of a person, purportedly Chinese, defecating in the city's ancient moat.

    "Unfortunately, right now, the feeling is very anti-Chinese. In order to bring out such strong feelings in Chiang Mai people, it must be really bad. Generally, Chiang Mai people are quite tolerant of foreigners," says Annette Kunigagon, Irish owner of the long-established Eagle Guesthouse.

    But she and others point out that much of the inappropriate behaviour applies to tour groups rather than individual travellers who are generally younger, better educated and more attuned to local customs.

    Some of the censure smacks of hypocrisy. The Thais themselves are champion litterers and have notched one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world.

    Residents of Chiang Mai, a 700-year-old city rich in cultural traditions, may be particularly sensitive to some Chinese ways, priding themselves on refined, gentle manners and soft speech. Perhaps their most common complaint is how loud the visitors tend to talk. There is also anxiety, reflected in the university poll, that in tandem with the tourists an increasing number of Chinese are buying property, setting up businesses and taking jobs from locals.

    Thais are far from the only people unhappy. Over the past few years, some hotels and restaurant buffets — where guests have filled doggy bags after eating — have made it clear that Chinese are not welcome. Hong Kong Airlines has trained crew members in kung fu to subdue drunken passengers and a sign in Chinese at Paris' Louvre requests that visitors not defecate or urinate on the museum grounds. Widely publicized was graffiti etched into Egypt's ancient Luxor temple reading "Ding Jinhao was here."

    Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang last year said negative conduct had "damaged the image of the Chinese people." The government issued a tourism law mainly to regulate the domestic market but which urges travellers abroad to "abide by the norms of civilized tourist behaviour." It also produced a 64-page "Guidebook for Civilized Tourism" with a long list of "do nots," including nose-picking in public, stealing life jackets from airplanes and slurping down noodles.

    One of the most virulent critics has been Wang Yunmei, who recently published "Pigs on the Loose: Chinese Tour Groups" after six years of travel abroad. While the book drew mostly "nasty" comments from fellow countrymen, Wang says some told her that the book should have come out years ago.

    Some Chinese media commentators say improper behaviour is often an extension of domestic habits. Wang says many Chinese tourists are rural people who recently acquired money through land sales but have little education and speak only their own language. If public toilets don't exist in their villages, she says, they may not know to look for them when the need arises. She also says education has also not kept pace with the rapid rise of the middle class and its growing wealth.

    "It's going to take some years before they behave better. There has been a campaign in China for some time, but these things are still going on," she says.

    Those who are making money off the influx are looking on the bright side.

    "We have talked to many businesses and they are very happy," says Wisoot Buachoom, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Chiang Mai. The gap between the city's high and low tourist seasons has been narrowed because of the Chinese influx, he says.

    Wisoot says several Chiang Mai agencies are working to regulate some of the Chinese behaviour, like insisting on international driving licenses for car rentals. They have also enlisted movie stars to deliver messages about proper conduct while lauding Thailand's attractions on Chinese television.

    "In the past, we had some of the same problems with Westerners coming to Chiang Mai, but now we see very little of this," he says.

    Even on the campus overwhelmed with Chinese tourists, Chiang Mai University Vice-President Rome Chiranukrom calls it "an opportunity, not a threat, a raid." He says the experience has given his students a "reverse culture shock" that will teach them to behave appropriately in other societies.

    "We live in a globalized world and need our students to see the differences with others — and these came right here for us to see," he says.

    Rome notes that 60 per cent of Chinese tourists to Thailand are first-time travellers abroad, coming wide-eyed and generally speaking no foreign language to a place where all signs are in Thai or English.

    "We need to learn to communicate and provide information, and then I believe that many will listen, understand our culture and obey our laws and regulations," he says.

    Rome himself has just started Mandarin lessons.

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