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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Canadian women are leading the way when it comes to solo travel, according to a new online study.

    But that shouldn't be a surprise given the study's other results. As it turns out, Canadian women are already among the world's most avid travellers — inspiring other women looking to travel solo as well.

    The findings come from a online survey from The survey polled 6,000 users of the travel booking site, including 500 Canadians, 500 Americans and 1,000 Brits aged 25- 45 who've travelled last month from the United Kingdom, U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany.

    On the survey, 76 per cent of Canadian women said they've travelled solo in the past, placing them for first in a tie with women from Australia. Signs also suggest the solo travel trend is still going strong, at least for the foreseeable future, with nearly half of Canadian women planning their next trip alone within the next 12 months.

    While there are plenty of reasons for travelling by yourself, the majority of Canadian women said they saw it as a chance to escape their daily routines, while 40 per cent of Canadian women say solo travel meant it's time they don't have to play by anyone's rules while abroad.

    “Canadians are prolific travellers, so it’s no surprise to us Canadian women are leading this trend globally,” said Paul Hennessy, CMO, “Our research found travelling solo allows Canadian women to indulge in what seems to be a rare commodity in our fast-paced world: time alone.

    Also of importance were Canadian women's preferences for low-impact excursions, like spa retreats, beach holidays and city escapes as opposed to activity-based trips focused on sports or the outdoors. That could also explain why the majority of women surveyed, say for in Germany, said they were more likely to travel on their own again in the future since they found solo trips energising and refreshing.

    It's a concept Canadian travel writer, Julia Rosien identifies with. The founder of GoGirlfriend says solo travel, despite having a family gives her energy to keep her running in the long term.

    “I love every second of my life but travelling gives me breathing room, it allows me to reconnect with myself and remember what makes me happy. I look at solo travel as a need - it recharges me and helps me do more with my family, my job, my life,” said Rosien.

    Despite the varying rational behind female solo travel, Canadian respondents recommended in order to have a successful solo trips, women should first "be open to new experiences, peoples and cultures", followed by having confidence while abroad and finally, do only what you want.

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    A photographer based in both British Columbia and California has won the prestigious 2014 Scotiabank Photography Award.

    Mark Ruwedel, who nabbed the $50,000 cash prize, has been photographing since the 1980s, including many breathtaking shots of the B.C. coast. Originally from Pennsylvania, he moved to Vancouver in 2000 and then to California in 2002. Though now primarily based in the U.S., Ruwedel still has a home in B.C.'s Refuge Cove.

    "Ruwedel has developed a distinct approach to image-making that draws upon his extensive knowledge of the history of photography and a keen awareness of the debates on the nature of representation associated with the emergence of Conceptual Art in the late 20th century," reads his nominator's statement.

    Story continues below slideshow:

    One of the coveted award's two finalists is also from B.C. Rodney Graham was born in Abbotsford and studied at both UBC and SFU. He has worked as an artist since the 1970s, incorporating photography, film, painting, literature, music, and installation.

    The other finalist is Los Angeles-based Donald Weber.

    The award celebrates outstanding contributions to contemporary art and photography. Aside from the cash prize, the winner gets a curated exhibition during the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival as well as a book published and distributed world-wide.

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    The family of Dave Walker, a Canadian filmmaker who went missing in Cambodia in February, says he was found dead today.

    A statement issued on behalf of Walker’s family says his body was reportedly discovered by a child at the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Cambodian law enforcement officials told the family it appeared Walker had died several weeks ago.

    The statement says a doctor at the site was unable to determine a cause of death and an autopsy will be held to try to determine how and when Walker died.

    Forensic officer Pheng Pich says authorities are waiting on DNA tests before an official confirmation of the body's identity can be made, but he says there are no initial signs of foul play.

    Tith Narong, a senior officer with the Siem Reap provincial police, says friends and acquaintances identified Walker on the basis of his clothing.

    Walker, who was 58, had been living in Cambodia for the past year and a half. He was staying at a guesthouse on Feb. 14, when he stepped out while a housekeeper tended to his room and was not seen again.

    The disappearance baffled family and friends, who said Walker spoke the language, knew the streets and was familiar with the local culture. His phone, laptop computer, passport and other belongings were left behind at the guesthouse.

    Walker and a partner had set up a film company in Siem Reap in July 2012 called Animist Farm Films. They had recently been working on a documentary about the Khmer Rouge regime, which left close to two million people dead.

    Walker grew up in Edmonton but last lived in Toronto, where he studied for a Masters degree at York University in 2009. His family said he has lived and worked in Southeast Asia on and off for years.

    He also co-authored a non-fiction book, called ”Hello My Big Big Honey,'' which chronicles the experiences of Bangkok bar girls and their Western admirers.

    — With files from the Associated Press

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    When it comes to countries, there's hardly a shortage of things to do in Italy.

    Between admiring architecture, brushing up on ancient history and stuffing your face with food and wine, its easy for a small, humble festival to get lost among traveller itineraries.

    But what if there were a festival that combined all three? Enter Processione Dei Serpari — Cocullo, Italy's snake festival.

    cocullo snakes

    A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    The festival goes by a variety of names, including Cocullo Snake Festival, Snake Charmer's Festival or Festival of Saint Dominic, and takes place on the first Thursday of May.

    cocullo snakes
    A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    The festival isn't a celebration of snakes, per se, but a commemoration of the day St. Dominic, the village saint, rid the area of venomous serpents, according to Rough Guides. Think of him as the Samuel L. Jackson of 11th-century Italy, minus the planes and swearing.

    cocullo snakes
    A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    To celebrate St. Dominic's work, the village built a statue to honour him, which they parade around once a year and festival-goers can place money, jewels and snakes on the statue. Doing so gives a person immunity to snake venom of one year, according to USA Today (but we would suggest keeping a spare bottle of anti-venom handy.)

    cocullo snakes
    A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    As for the snakes themselves, they're pretty harmless.

    In fact, they've got no bite at all. Roughly a month and a half before the festival, villagers round up nearby non-venomous snakes and defang them for the ritual. Things kick off around 10 a.m., when participants begin to place snakes on the statue.

    cocullo snakes
    A girl holds a snake during an annual procession dedicated to Saint Domenico, in the streets of Cocullo on May 1, 2014.

    Its said the act is like a slithery crystal ball: if the snakes coil around St. Dominic's head, the village is in for a good harvest. If the snakes move towards the statue's arms, it's bad news for everyone, according to Lonely Planet.

    cocullo snakes
    A statue of Saint Domenico covered with live snakes is carried by the faithful during an annual procession in the streets of Cocullo, in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    So what happens to the snakes afterwards?

    Well, in the past, they were cooked and eaten. Today, they're kept as pets and eventually released into the wild where they regrow their fangs. In place of snake meat, a sweet bread in the shape of a coiled snake if made and passed around which sounds a bit easier to stomach, especially if you're vegetarian.

    cocullo snakes
    Women hold snakes during an annual procession dedicated to Saint Domenico, in the streets of Cocullo in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

    cocullo snakes
    A man holds a snake during an annual procession dedicated to Saint Domenico, in the streets of Cocullo in the Abruzzo region, on May 1, 2014.

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    We know it's getting close to summertime in Vancouver because the annual Honda Celebration of Light has announced this year's details!

    The Vancouver skies will erupt with light on July 26 with team USA, July 30 with team France, and August 2 with team Japan.

    The festival, the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world, attracts up to 400,000 people to English Bay each night.

    It's a great excuse to wrap up in a blanket with someone you love, sit on the beach, and take in this amazing city we call home.

    See you there!

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    The Mirabel airport is no longer economically viable and will soon be no more, says Aéroports de Montréal president and CEO James Cherry.

    The authority launched a call for tenders on Thursday to demolish the Mirabel terminal.

    The airport opened in 1975 under the Pierre Elliott Trudeau administration and was meant to replace the Dorval airport. That airport, and not Mirabel, was renamed after Trudeau in 2004.

    For years, international flights departing from or arriving in Montreal were scheduled out of Mirabel. But at more than 50 kilometres outside of the city, Montrealers quickly grew wary of forking over huge cab fares to travel to and from the airport.

    The airport grew out of favour as a result, becoming a sort of white elephant for the Trudeau administration.

    Mirabel obsolete

    Mirabel eventually became a cargo airport and an airplane testing site for companies like Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney. A couple of the airport's landing strips were kept operational after the terminal building went out of commission.

    Last winter, Bombardier decided to move the testing of its CSeries jet from Mirabel to the United States.

    Although it had starred in several movies over the years, Mirabel Airport's terminal has been vacant since 2004.

    Land worth more than the building

    The building has become irreparably obsolete, said Cherry of Aéroports de Montréal.

    The agency has spent more than $30 million to maintain the building in its vacant state over the past decade.

    Aéroports de Montréal spokeswoman Christiane Beaulieu said in March that renovating Mirabel so that it would be in an operational state would have cost $25 million.

    “The land is worth more than the building,” she said.

    Transport Canada has accepted the request to tear down the Mirabel terminal.

    Mirabel Mayor Jean Bouchard said the demolition would result in a significant loss of tax revenues for the city.

    Most recently, the airport had been used in the Canadian-made zombie apocalypse film Warm Bodies.

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    Celebrating moms should be a daily thing, but let’s face it: Life gets in the way and we forget to tell her how much you appreciate the little things she always does.

    She makes you let her know you’ve arrived safely to your vacation destination and when you’re safely back home. She looks at all your holiday photos on your phone and acts interested. And she tells you to pack a jacket, even if you’re going to Florida in June. Thanks, mom. Really and truly.

    Mother’s Day is just one opportunity to say that. In 1908, it officially took root in North America so sons and daughters could pay homage to the woman that brought them into the world and kissed their boo-boos better.

    This year, send mom packing on her own adventures, but make sure she’s well kitted out, stocked with the latest and greatest travel goodies. Fortunately, the newest crop of gear is ready to go. Here are some tokens of love for the special woman in your life, designed to travel.

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    If you plan on flying with Porter in the future, you might want to pack light.

    The Toronto-based airline will now charge customers $25 for their first piece of checked luggage on domestic flights. Fees will start at $25 and go as high as $28.25 per trip. The airlines says charges will kick in as of May 14 but won't affect anyone who has booked a flight before April 21.

    In the past, Porter only charged for a passenger's second, third and subsequent pieces of checked luggage. Fees for second pieces have increased from the $20 - $23 range to around $35 - $40.25. A third piece of luggage will still cost anywhere from $100 to $115, according to the airline's site.

    Porter is the first Canadian airline to implement the fee for flights within Canada, the Globe and Mail reports. Last year, the airline announced it would charge the same fee to anyone flying to the States.

    “This is something that helps us stay competitive on the routes that we enter,” airline spokesperson Brad Cicero told the paper. “You have base airfares dropping by as much as 60 per cent and other airlines using other methods to generate revenue and we’re looking at opportunities in that area as well.”

    Cicero says he doesn't expect and blowback against Porter and that the fee on U.S. routes showed passengers were willing to travel with less than pay an extra fee. As a result, the number of checked bags on those flights dropped by 25 per cent.

    “We still think that overall we have a pretty outstanding product when you look at the overall value proposition. We don’t ask people to pay for many things compared to other airlines and the airfares on the routes we fly are all pretty competitive,” Cicero told the National Post.

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    If you happen upon a piece of art hanging in an alley or a tree somewhere in Vancouver, chances are you can take it home.

    All the artist would like in return is a picture of where you decided to display it.

    It's all part of a social experiment by Vancouver artist Zebulon Austin.

    With help from Saskatchewan photographer Kristopher Grunert and the COMBiNE Collective of artists, Austin is placing his paintings around Vancouver as a way of giving back to the streets he calls home.

    "We had this idea to start putting interior artwork outside and start giving back to the city," Austin told The Huffington Post B.C. "It was all about being grateful for where we live and making it home — not only inside our home — but bringing the feeling of, ‘This is our home, let’s appreciate it like a home,’ to the back alleys."

    Story continues below slideshow:

    Each time they place a new piece somewhere in the city, they take a photo and post it to Facebook. From there, fans can figure out the location and go grab it — or, of course, just stumble upon it.

    Each piece has a handwritten note on the back that explains the project and what it aims to accomplish.

    zebulon austin

    "As an artist I have a great appreciation for whatever environment it is that I’m in," Kristopher Grunert, who lived in Vancouver for 12 years and still visits frequently, told HuffPost B.C.

    "Basically I’m inspired by the things around me. The goal is to inspire others to look at the environment around them a little bit differently, appreciate it a little bit more. We’re really sort of extending the sort of boundaries of our home from the four walls around us to include the city that we live in."

    They have hung up three paintings so far, and received their first response a few days ago about a work that was left in Gastown. (The whole thing was documented on Imgur by a friend of the lucky recipient.)

    "It's been pretty interesting," said Austin.

    And even though he is a professional artist, giving away some of his work for free wasn't that difficult.

    "I think it’s something that feels really good when you do it. It really connects you with the city," Austin said.

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    One of the worst things you can say to an urban, middle-class member of generation x/y is "there's no Wi-Fi here." I once lugged my computer to a Toronto café only to have the barista tell me that on weekends, they disconnect the router so people can live the slow life. In theory, that sounded nice. In reality, I was annoyed. If someone wanted to disconnect, couldn't they just choose to leave their gizmos and gadgets at home?

    Yet the reaction to this week's news about Parks Canada's plan to install Wi-Fi in more than 100 locations proved some people still want Internet-free zones.

    How would little Johnny ever form a connection with Mother Earth? Bird chirps would be drowned out by business calls. Nature would become a convenient background for a selfie, rather than the main event.

    The announcement went over so badly that the director of visitor experience with Parks Canada, Andrew Campbell, assured viewers on CTV that 4G wouldn't extend to the wilderness.

    My initial reaction was also negative. I re-visited my dream of moving to a wooden cabin (though most of those probably have Wi-Fi by now too). But once my inner Thoreau settled down, I realized wired woods aren't so bad if I can muster the willpower to turn off my phone. On a broader level, I'd rather live in a society that lets me choose how to behave rather than tells me what to do.

    Often lost in the discussion of the techtonic plague is self-control. It's easy to lament "the world today" and feel like a helpless slave to the Web. Yet most times, we're the drivers.

    Sure, our jobs have changed because of technology. There are added responsibilities (join Twitter!) and demands (respond to emails within 30 seconds!) but a lot of us make our digital relationship more toxic than it has to be. I've never been reprimanded because I didn't respond to an email during off-hours. My constant check-ins are mostly habitual -- thumbs grasping instinctually for a touchpad mid-dinner -- rather than a job requirement. I've witnessed countless friends and colleagues tense up when they unnecessarily read email.

    Though parks may be where you go to unplug, many people want Wi-Fi in the wilderness. Campbell said more digital access is "what people have been asking us for," so they listened. We should applaud a government that accommodates our needs and gives us choice.

    The alternative is politicians who decide what kind of lifestyle is best for the population. Alcohol creates many societal woes, but prohibition didn't go over so well. Aside from the fact that humans have an incredible capacity to get what they want anyway (bootleg Wi-Fi that involves forest-dwelling cartels anyone?) many enjoy alcohol in moderation. Seventy-six per cent of Canadians are low-risk alcohol users or do not drink at all (in the U.S., the number is 70 per cent). Yes, humans do possess self-control.

    In North America, our government is still fairly bossy when it comes to booze. Many European countries, such as Switzerland, Germany and England, allow citizens to buy and drink alcohol more freely. Yet Western Europe is not one giant bar brawl.

    In Quebec, where alcohol is sold privately and consumed more publicly, the province has the lowest rate of substance abuse in Canada. The city's mayor just announced some bars will stay open until 5:30 a.m. this summer. I bet that won't turn homebodies into disruptive clubbers.

    When politicians tell us how to behave, they get blowback. Remember New York mayor Bloomberg's attempt to ban sodas larger than 16 ounces? Aside from its technical flaws (nothing prevented big gulpers from buying two 16 ounce sodas) people didn't like being treated like babies.

    A Daily Beast article pointed out that "Portion control is a great idea, when people get to choose it in practice. This means they have control over meaningful choices." Even the health freaks dissented. A group of personal trainers in Michigan wrote a blog post titled "Don't Ban Pop, Learn Self-Control." Instead of incentivizing healthy options, Bloomberg's ban sent the message that Big Brother knows best. Though public health issues might seem harmless, that logic is a slippery slope to Orwell's 1984 where every aspect of life, from language to who we marry, is government-controlled.

    Rather than lament Wi-Fi in parks, we should celebrate the option to use it or not. Mom or dad can respond to a work email on the trail rather than sacrifice a family trip. Those on a digital detox can leave devices in the car. If we use self-control, Twitter doesn't have to be filled with nature selfies. The choice is ours.


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    (KOYTENDAG NATIONAL PARK, Turkmenistan-AFP) - Some eight hours dusty drive from the nearest major settlement, tucked into the eastern corner of Turkmenistan and unknown to the outside world until the second half of the last century, lies one of the most mythical yet least visited spots in the former Soviet Union.

    Turkmenistan's Plateau of the Dinosaurs is the location of one of the most magnificent collections of fossilised dinosaur tracks anywhere on Planet Earth, which only became known to Soviet palaeontologists in the 1950s.

    "Steven Spielberg should have shot 'Jurassic Park' here. Here the tracks of the dinosaurs are real and not made by computers," said Aman, 35, an inhabitant of the village of Khodja Pil at the foot of the plateau.

    On the plateau, some 2,500 dinosaur tracks have been discovered. Some are 40 centimetres long and 30 centimetres wide, others even bigger, measuring 70 by 60.

    A dinosaur five to six metres (16 to 20 feet) tall could take a stride of up to two metres.

    The plateau is renowned for having the longest trackways -- continuous lines of footprints made as a dinosaur walked or ran -- anywhere in the world.

    In places they reach up to 200 metres. It seems improbable that what is now an arid mountain zone could sustain such life but 150 million years ago when these creatures reigned supreme on Earth the eco-system was completely different.

    "Some 145-150 million years ago, there were lakes and marshes and herds of dinosaurs strode along the banks. There were both vegetarian and carnivorous dinosaurs.

    "This sandy marshland quickly silted up and so these prehistoric tracks left their mark forever," said Anatoly Bushmakin, a Turkmen scientist specialising in the plateau.

    Still one of the most isolated countries in the world almost two-and-a-half decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan sees only a trickle of tourists and most visitors who make it out to the Plateau of the Dinosaurs are locals.

    "It is like the dinosaurs were here just recently and if you go up the mountain you can imagine that they are walking away into the distance," said Gulya, 27, a visitor from the nearest large town of Turkmenabat.

    "It's amazing how everyone of us can somehow touch eternity," she added.

    - 'Unique in the world' -

    The Plateau is located deep in Turkmenistan's eastern corner on the border with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Visiting the border region requires a permit.

    A visitor from the capital Ashgabat on the other side of the country needs to fly to Turkmenabat before then travelling south by road some 450 kilometres (280 miles), a bumpy eight-hour journey.

    It was only confirmed in the 1950s that dinosaur tracks existed here, although locals have known about them for much longer, even if they were not quite sure of the origin.

    The name of the nearby village of Khodja Pil means "Miracle of the Elephants" in Turkmen.

    Of course elephants have never existed in Turkmenistan but local legend long had it that the tracks were left by elephants taken by Alexander the Great in his campaigns.

    "What is so unique about this plateau is that here precise tracks of dinosaurs have been preserved and you can even make out the toes and then follow the track even," said Bushmakin.

    "Such a huge number of prints has not been found anywhere else on the planet," he added.

    For all its remoteness, Turkmen officials have some hope of making the area a major draw. The plateau is located in the heart of the Koytendag National Park which is the location of Turkmenistan's highest mountain (Airybaba at 3,319 metres) as well as waterfalls, lakes and caves.

    "Because of this the ministry of tourism in Turkmenistan is preparing a dossier to apply for the Koytendag national park to be declared part of UNESCO world heritage," said the head of the reserve, Mukhamet Imamov.

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    A B.C. man believes he may have spotted a sasquatch in the British Columbia mountains.

    In a video uploaded to YouTube two weeks ago, a large black dot appears to move up a mountain outside Squamish.

    Mr. Lamont, who did not want his first name published, filmed the video about two years ago when hiking the Tantalus Range but never uploaded it until now, according to Global News. He is a wildlife biologist familiar with bears and is convinced what he filmed wasn't one, the outlet reports.

    "The subject was clearly bipedal and was without snowshoes or a backpack and wearing all one coloured clothing," Lamont wrote in the video's description.

    "Movement over this kind of terrain in soft snow without snowshoes would have been very difficult and the distance [travelled] over the given time period would have been very fast for a human without proper snow travel gear."

    What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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    (Relaxnews) - Etihad Airways has raised the bar in luxury travel with the launch of a new three-room apartment that comes with an en-suite shower, double bed and personal butler.

    Aptly called ‘The Residence,’ Etihad has transformed part of its A380 upper deck into a luxurious flying hotel suite -- the first and only cabin of its kind to offer a trio of compartments including a living room space, bedroom and en-suite bathroom, complete with shower.

    A personal ‘Jeeves,’ trained at the Savoy Butler Academy in London, is also on hand to cater to guest whims, while a dedicated concierge team will look after passengers’ travel experience from ground transport to cuisine and amenities.

    One rung down from The Residence is the airline’s First Apartment class, private suites that come with reclining armchairs and full-length beds, as well as a chilled minibar and personal vanity unit and wardrobe.

    The same concept is also available on the airline's B787 aircraft, pitched as First Suites.

    For Muslim flyers, both the new A380 and B787 aircraft will also offer designated prayer areas which will be curtained off and equipped with real-time electronic Qibla-finder, showing the exact direction of Mecca based on the aircraft’s geographical position.

    When it comes to luxury travel, carriers out of the Middle East have the market cornered.

    Dubai-based carrier Emirates offers a luxury private jet service that divides the aircraft into 10 private self-contained suites with lie-flat beds, and a large shower spa that features heated floors, marble accents, and luxury toiletries from Bulgari.

    Meanwhile Qatar Airways is expected to launch later this month a new all-business class flight from Doha to London that will accommodate 40 passengers on a single-aisle A319.

    Check out Etihad’s video of its A380 at

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    The seasons they are a-changing, finally!!

    After this long, hard winter and tepid spring we have reason to celebrate the coming of summer. As Canadians, we often start planning our next summer's vacation some time in October... and well, I thought I had our summer figured out for 2014.

    A chance meeting with the manager of a Charlottetown band offered up a possible course correction. In typical warm and welcoming maritime fashion he extended an invitation to visit his hometown to take part in festivities celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, the meeting that led the Canadian Confederation. A quick search back at home turned up a bevy of commemorative events and anniversary celebrations around the country, all summer long.

    While planning for a summer vacation can be daunting enough, the idea of a long drive often eliminates the option altogether, especially if your family only does one annual getaway. But it can be done if you take the time to plan and make a point of breaking up the drive with stops in smaller known towns and villages to take in the local flavors and sites. We get the kids involved in finding places along the way to stop (although truthfully we've found some of the greatest little roadside stands thanks to nature's call). So this year, plan for a journey, and not a race to the destination, and watch how quickly you'll turn this road trip into a lifetime of family memories... and not the ones they kids will mock you with when they get older!

    Here are our top 5 Canadian adventures for 2014:
    1. PEI2014 - Prince Edward Island Sesquicentennial
    Over 150 events all summer long to help create a legacy for 2014. Province-wide celebrations all summer long will pay tribute to one of the most important events in Canada's history. Events and activities including a main stage for ongoing musical acts (including Shania Twain), folk kitchen parties, historical re-enactments and of course, the musical Anne of Green Gables. Lots to do and see for all ages and stages. And let's not forget the beautiful warm beaches wherever you turn. Did I mention the seafood? More events can be found at




    Photos courtesy Tourism PEI

    2. Festival d'été de Québec (Quebec Summer Festival). Quebec City
    The capital of La Belle Province has a lot to celebrate this year, including their own Confederation festivities. One of the most romantic and beautiful cities in all North America this year marks the 350th anniversary of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec, our own little piece of Europe. At the end of the year the doors will close and not reopen until 2025. After taking in the majesty, you can partake in Canada's largest outdoor music festival July 3rd to 13th. With 1000 artists, 300 shows over 3 venues, there is something for every musical taste (


    Photo Courtesy Festival d'été de Québec

    3. Just for Laughs Festival, Montreal QC
    Who doesn't love a busker and a street carnival? Hailed as the largest comedy festival in the world, this event boasts 1,700 artists from 19 countries as well as 1,200 free outdoor shows. This family-friendly event is so popular you will have to pre-plan to get accommodations anywhere close to the city, but with a great metro system, stay on the outskirts and commute in. Don't forget to bring your walking shoes, some sunscreen and your camera to capture all the colourful people and playful antics (



    Photos courtesy Bonjour Quebec

    4. Calgary Stampede and the opening of the Glacier Skywalk, Alberta
    Our Northern Westerners sure do know how to put on a party! You don't need to be a fan of country music to fall in love, or at least love the locals, in their most elaborate western wear. This year take a side trip to the newly opening Glacier Skywalk on the Icefields Parkway, between Banff and Jasper. Not for the faint of heart, this walkway over a waterfall has a glass floor and sites yet to be seen! And don't forget to leave room for the food -- prairie oysters anyone? ( and



    Photos courtesy Glacier Skywalk

    5. Celebrate! Stanley Park, Vancouver B.C.
    August 24 and 25, 2014 mark the 125th anniversary of one of our nation's most beloved parks -- Stanley Park. The City of Vancouver and local First Nations are putting together a festival that will celebrate and highlight the park's ecology while providing first class free entertainment for fans and families alike including performing arts, art showcases, interactive sports and cultural presentations (




    Photo courtesy

    For more events across the country check out If you have events or favorite summer vacation places that you'd like to share, please comment and share! Follow @lrgfamilytravel.

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    It was the summer of 1998 and my friend and I decided to spend 5 weeks touring the UK and Ireland before heading back to school in the fall. We were 19 and it was the first time either of us had traveled outside of North America. Armed with our 65 litre backpacks and Lonely Planet guides, we were ready for anything.

    During that trip we got lost, rocked up to cities without securing a place to sleep and had no idea how long we'd stay. We let our senses guide us, and at 19, our senses were sometimes more likely to lead us to the best places to party (the only photo I have of Glasgow is a night out on Sauchiehall Street), but I digress. Reading maps, trusting recommendations from other travelers and engaging with locals was the only way to feasibly get around.


    A few years and several stamps in my passport later, I embarked on a 3 month solo trip around South East Asia. Instead of researching ratings on TripAdvisor or sifting through travel blogs -- which didn't exist -- I relied on friends who had traveled the region for recommendations.

    One friend had spent several months as a dive instructor in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and suggested I check it out. She emailed me a step-by-step guide on how to get there, because the travel guides hadn't really picked up on this little piece of paradise yet. So I printed out her directions and tucked them into my bag along with other emails and handwritten notes from friends on things to see and places to stay.

    The directions seemed obscure at first, but she was bang on, and when I arrived to catch a boat from the mainland to Perhentian Kecil -- the smaller of the two islands -- I discovered several other travelers also had notes and emails from friends to help get them there. Forty plus countries and 5 continents later, I still consider this island to be the most beautiful place I've ever traveled.


    Fast forward to 2008 where I was most definitely researching destinations and booking accommodations in advance online. I made plans to spend a few months traveling Morocco, Spain and Portugal and I knew almost exactly how my trip would go before ever crossing the Atlantic. Despite all the digital resources at my disposal, I was still open to recommendations from friends (I still am to this day). My best friend suggested I spend a day in Sitges, a beach town about 20 minutes by train south of Barcelona.

    After an afternoon of lazing on the beach and people watching, I perched my sun-kissed bod at a beach bar and ordered a pitcher of Sangria (as you do). A few moments later a tour group of seniors strolled by smiling and uttering things to me. My command of the Spanish language is pretty basic, so I asked the men behind the bar what they were saying. "They say you are beautiful lady," one announced, giggling. But I knew he was lying, and that "beautiful lady" was probably the extent of his English.

    Then a man a few tables away declared that the bartender, as I suspected, wasn't telling me the truth. He said they were saying how happy I looked, despite being alone. That sparked a conversation with this man who turned out to be David Dalmau, a well-know Catalan artist (enter Woody Allen cliché here).

    Instead of relying on a smartphone to tell me where to go, what to eat, and what to see I spent the afternoon strolling around Sitges with David. He grew up there and was back visiting friends and family before a new exhibition of his work was set to open in cities across Europe. Hearing his stories as we slowly made our way through the village made for a much richer experience. Had I been hunched over flipping through my Twitter feed (as I sometimes do today) we may never have met.

    I now travel with a smartphone and like many of us, I'm completely guilty of being connected while away. It's nice to check-in for a flight on your way to the airport or book hotels on the fly. Yet it's hard to be fully aware of your surroundings while you're so busy capturing them to brag to everyone at home. While travel is a million times easier than it was back in 1998, I'm so grateful to have traveled a few hidden gems before technology made them so accessible.

    Do you ditch your devices when you travel, or do you prefer the ease of having information at your fingertips?


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    California is beautiful. We get it. California has a ton of gorgeous and notable landmarks, too. We get that. We get it so much that we’ve probably seen it all over our favorite movies time and again. The film industry found its home and epicenter in not only the coastal state but nestled in the shiny town of Hollywood. It’s the mecca for creative types and those who appreciate the wild, adventurous world of film.

    If you’re heading out on a tour of sunny California, here are six (out of so many!) of the must-see landmarks in California film lovers and tourists should take in.

    The Golden Gate Bridge

    The Golden Gate Bridge is featured in the opening scene of one of the best televisions shows to ever exist: Full House. If that isn’t enough to lure you to San Francisco and check out the majesty of it, then what will?

    Okay, then: how about the fact that it is almost 77 years old with countless cultural and historical importance? Also, it may have got eaten by a giant shark. Never forget.

    Hearst Castle

    A trip to the Golden State wouldn’t be complete without venturing to Hearst Castle: the inspiration for Orson Welles’ sprawling estate of Xanadu in Citizen Kane.

    It is an honest to goodness castle right on the coast. The expansiveness of the estate is overwhelming, but also indicative one man’s commitment to excess and prestige; proving to be the perfect setting and inspiration for a classic like Citizen Kane.

    Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park

    Do you remember any dramatic scene in Star Trek featuring craggy looking rocks? No? Do you remember that scene in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey when they are meeting Death on similar rocks? Okay, yes, of course you do.

    The Vasquez Rocks are prominently featured in both the joyous world of film, ranging from the pinnacle of sci-fi like Star Trek to comedy fumbles like The Flintstones and comedy cults like Bill and Ted.

    This little slice of ambiguous setting heaven is located in Agua Dulce Springs, in the southern part of the state.

    Beverly Wilshire Hotel

    If you always thought to yourself, “I wonder what it was like to be Richard Gere in that fancy hotel with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman,” then visiting the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Hollywood is just for you.

    Trying to get into the headspace of Richard Gere aside, this hotel is a fascinating intersection of romance and Hollywood razzle-dazzle. It also comes with a sense of history -- the Beverly Wilshire once was home to Hollywood greats like Cary Grant.

    The Bradbury Building

    This architectural marvel from 1893 has been featured in a number of films, television series, and even music videos. Located in downtown Los Angeles, The Bradbury Building was commissioned by a gold-mining millionaire type, Lewis L. Bradbury. But, really, the most important bit is this is where Blade Runner, among others, was filmed! Blade Runner!

    Hollywood Sign

    The pinnacle of Hollywood is perhaps the iconic Hollywood sign. Originally, the sign said “Hollywoodland” and was part of an ad campaign for suburban development in the area. Now it’s the symbol for the film industry and has itself been featured in a number of films, shows, and even songs. You’re one selfie away from being part of pop culture history!

    Want to relive your favorite big screen moments? Check out Visit California’s movie-lover tours to recreate the magic.

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    It's been over 10 years since "Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring" was released, but it feels like yesterday -- at least, it certainly does for former Hobbits Dominic Monaghan (Merry) and Billy Boyd (Pippin). Monaghan and Boyd reunited in New Zealand, the home of the "LOTR," for an episode of Monaghan's nature show, "Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan."

    It's the first time the pair has returned to the "Rings" locale since filming wrapped on the third movie. Watching the two of them explore and discover the wildlife of New Zealand is a treat for "LOTR" fans and non-fans alike: Monaghan and Boyd are like brothers, telling poop jokes and impersonating their "Rings" co-stars Ian McKellan and Ian Holm.

    HuffPost Canada TV spoke with the ex-Hobbits about their time on "Wild Things," the feelings evoked back on the "Rings" set, and whether or not it always gets dirty when they're together.

    HuffPost Canada TV: This episode was adorable and amazingly fun. You can tell you guys have a real friendship. A fellowship, if you will! How much fun did you guys have together?
    Dominic Monaghan: That's great, that's what we wanted to get across. We are close friends and we know each other really well. We were doing something fun, but also something entertaining.
    Billy Boyd: It was wonderful. For me it was great to watch Dom in his element. Ever since I've known him, I've known that he's into animals and the "weird" stuff. It's brilliant and lovely to be a part of it.

    At one point Billy says Dom asked other "LOTR" cast members to guest-star on "Wild Things" first, before he asked Billy. Was that a joke or was that true?
    DM: [Laughs] That was a joke. Obviously Billy is my best friend, and there's no one else I'd rather have come with me. He's always at the top of the list.
    BB: [Laughs] There's no way I would have allowed him to ask anybody else! It's me first, and he knows that. Then afterwards he can make his way down the list.

    What sorts of feelings were evoked when you were back on the "LOTR" set?
    DM: I think we were both quite emotional and overwhelmed by it. I've been back, and Billy's been back (I think), but it's the first time we've been back together. What was beautiful about that was we could look at [one another] and know what each other's feeling. We didn't have to explain. Billy and I have been on a bunch of crazy journeys. It was poignant, and both of us were happy that a place like that has been frozen in time. We actually went behind the bar and served drinks at the Prancing Pony. The Korean and Malaysian tourists were completely flummoxed by us being there. [Laughs]
    BB: There were a lot of feelings. The culmination of it all was in Hobbiton. That was the most obvious moment that we had. To be there again and to spend the whole day ... just strolling around. We'd be like, "Remember being here?" It was a magical thing, for sure. When we filmed the actual films, we moved around a lot. It was funny to go back to a set place. I can't believe it's been over 10 years ... the fastest 10 years ever.

    Your impersonations of Gandalf and Bilbo were perfect. Just spot-on.
    DM: [Laughs] Oh, yeah! We've done that for years, constantly impersonating Pete Jackson, Elijah Wood, and Orlando [Bloom]. Actors are natural mimics. We had talked about it beforehand, and Billy has more of a natural perceived innocence, and I do a pretty mean Gandalf.
    BB: [Laughs] We mastered them. It was good fun. I particularly like Dom's Gandalf eyebrows.

    Do things typically get "dirty" when the two of you are together?
    DM: We tend to get a little silly with one another, and we enjoy breaking the rules. Billy is quite disarming because he looks sweet and innocent. He and I together make each other play a little bit more. One of my favourite things in the world is making Billy laugh.
    BB: When Dom and I are together, it normally ends up there, yeah. [Laughs] We try to start it as high art, but it doesn't stay there for very long. I think we're always trying to make each other laugh, even with the crew and all that. We don't have to try hard for anything ... we really enjoy each other's company. Normally it ends up with us making jokes about poo. No one makes me laugh as much as Dom.

    So what sorts of creatures are you two on the hunt for in this episode of "Wild Things"?
    DM: We go to look for the giant wetapunga, which is one of the largest insects in the world, certainly one of the heaviest. It's like a massive cave-dwelling cricket. We also go to a cave and see a bunch of glowworms - which are cool. I also find one of my top five animals in the world; it's called a tuatara, and it's just like a lizard. It's a reptile that has its own class, and it's a beautiful creature. They can live over 100 years, they have a third eye, the males don't have a penis ... they're a slightly cuddlier version of an iguana.
    BB: You know, I really loved the cave wetas. To go deep underground and see those crazy stalactites and see how long it takes for them to form, that was amazing. It was like something from "Alien"! Thousands of them, just crawling around under there! Nature is so incredible. Life just happens everywhere. We are so egocentric; we think it's our world or something. These things don't even know we exist!

    Billy, are you grossed out by anything in particular?
    BB: Animal-wise, no, not really. I really enjoy them, obviously to a lesser extent than Dom. There's no way I'm going to hold an animal on a stick, that if it bites me I'm going to lose my arm. That's not going to happen. I'll look at it from a safe distance. Dom seems very at home with things, even if that animal could bite your finger off. [Laughs]

    Would you two ever pair up again for another episode of the show?
    BB: I would love to come back! I'll give Dom my bucket list of countries that I haven't been to yet, and then if he can get me there with the promise that a cobra won't take my arm off, then I'll go there with him. I'd love to go to Madagascar.

    What are your thoughts on the success of "Wild Things"?
    DM: I think the show's success is based on having an audience that has gradually become more and more worried about how we're distancing ourselves from the actual world we're living in. There's an audience crying out for knowledge now, because we sit in our rooms on our computers all day long. "Wild Things" watchers are bloody smart, and they don't want to watch "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" or "Honey Boo Boo." They want to learn something, along with being entertaining.

    This particular episode of "Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan" airs on Tuesday, May 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. MT and 8 p.m. CT on OLN and on BBC America in the U.S. You can catch the show every Tuesday.

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    If the idea of waiting weeks to enjoy beaches, sunshine and sandcastles is too long for you, better head to Taiwan.

    Why Taiwan? Well, for one, they've in the middle of their Sand Sculpture Festival which mixes sand, art and beaches all in one 58-day long event. That and you try saying "no" to this face.

    sand sculpture festival 2014

    A visitor walks past a sand sculpture named 'The Journey to Me' made by Netherlands artist Lars Borst during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    Or "no" to this face for that matter.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    Visitors walk past a sand sculpture named 'Marco Polo' during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    This year's event brings over 80 sculptures to northern New Taipei City's Fulong beach. The event has become a big hit with tourists with over 450,000 people in attendance in 2013, according to the Taipei Times. But it's not just locals and travellers coming across the globe to see the collection of sandy works on display.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    Visitors admire sand sculptures on a beach during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    Visitors look at a sand sculpture named 'Not True Wealth' made by Irish artist Daniel Doyle during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    The festival is also a competition, with artists from 17 countries such as India, the United States and the Czech Republic duking it out. Sculptor will be vying for a grand prize of NT$30,000, (CDN $1093), Focus Taiwan reports.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    Visitors walk past a sand sculpture named 'Energy of Universe' by Czech artist Radovan Zivny during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    Visitors walk past a sand sculpture named 'Xuan Zang' during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    This year marks the festival's seventh year at the beach, thanks to its sand.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    A worker sprays glue onto a sand sculpture during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

    The sand at the beach is soft, delicate to the touch and easily manageable after being mixed with water,” Liu Shih-ming, deputy director-general of the administration, told Taiwan Today, adding that it is rated by World Sand Sculpting Academy as the best in Taiwan.

    The festival runs till June 30 and will cost NT$100 (CDN $3.65) to attend.

    sand sculpture festival 2014
    A visitor takes pictures of a sand sculpture named Santa Maria della Salute' during the Sand Sculpture Festival 2014 in Fulong, northern New Taipei City on May 3, 2014.

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    As soon as you’ve finalized your trip, it’s time to hit the App Store and download some of these helpful programs. From currency converters to jetlag timers, you’ll be travelling with a wealth of useful information in your pocket -- just make sure to watch out for those roaming and data charges!

    Packing Pro
    Do you regularly find yourself checking into your hotel room and realizing you forgot your phone charger or socks? Packing Pro can make sure that never happens again. Create a list (there are sample lists on the app you can work off of, or you can create your own) on the app, and simply check items off as you place them in your luggage. Vacation saved!

    JetLag Genie
    Make the most of the time on your vacation by preparing your internal clock so that you can beat jetlag. JetLag Genie helps you gradually get ready for the new time zone you’ll be traveling to. Input your travel date, destination and usual bedtime, and it creates a schedule of alarm clocks so you gradually adjust to your new time zone leading up to your trip. Now you can be fresh and awake when you should be once you arrive.

    Choice Hotels
    Rather than bog down your browser with dozens of hotel-finding websites, use the Choice Hotels app to find, compare, and book over 6,000 hotels across the world. From photos to user reviews, this app wins in terms of sheer volume and ease of use. Streamline your hotel search experience with just one (free!) app.

    No foodie should be without Foodspotting. Want to find the best fried chicken or pho in the city? This app allows you to select specific foods -- like when you’re craving some dim sum at 4 a.m., for example -- and it then provides you with recommendations from locals. Your stomach will be forever grateful.

    Wi-Fi Finder
    For those who want to Tweet, Instagram, or check email while travelling, Wi-Fi Finder is one of the most useful apps when on the road. Instead of constantly checking the wi-fi networks for one that is unlocked, this app will give you directions to the nearest available wi-fi hot spot. With it, you can say goodbye to hefty roaming charges on your cell phone bill, and hello to free wireless access.

    Voice Translate Pro
    It can be nerve-wracking travelling to a foreign country (or Montreal) where you don’t speak the language, but with a translator app such as Voice Translate Pro, you can easily converse with locals. This app features more than 100 languages (including Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, and many more). Simply talk into your phone and the app will both translate and “speak” it in the language you’ve chosen.

    Trip Advisor Offline City Guides
    Forget pulling out a big, unwieldy map to navigate the city you’re visiting. While in a wi-fi zone, download offline maps from Trip Advisor Offline City Guides so you can easily find your way around using your smartphone. The maps also feature ideas of where you should shop, sightsee and eat.

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    Following an extreme winter, Canadians have earned an "amazing" summer, don't you think?

    CTV has announced that "The Amazing Race Canada" will kick off Season 2 on Tuesday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The most-watched Canadian TV series on-record will be a welcome addition to the summer TV lineup.

    "With a new roster of teams and stellar new challenges, 'The Amazing Race Canada' is sure to have viewers racing right along with the competitors, from the starting line to the pit stops and everything in between," said Mike Cosentino, Senior Vice-President, Programming, CTV Networks.

    Back with all-new teams and exciting, edge-of-your-seat challenges, "Amazing Race Canada" vows to amp up the excitement for Season 2.

    Hosted by Olympic champion and Canadian hero Jon Montgomery, Season 1 of "The Amazing Race Canada" raced ahead of the pack with an average audience of 3.5 million viewers each week, and garnered two Canadian Screen Award wins for Best Photography in a Lifestyle or Reality/Competition Program or Series, and Best Writing in a Lifestyle or Reality/Competition Program or Series.

    Montgomery and his infectious grin will be back for Season 2, along with some tougher, more complex challenges. Get your game face on, Canada! It won't be long now.

    Check out this space for further developments and reveals about "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2.

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