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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    So you want to watch your favourite soccer team beat their rivals in the World Cup, but without the pesky cheers from their fans. What's a Torontonian to do?

    Luckily, thanks to the city's numerous neighbourhoods (that aren't shy about putting their preferences right on their street signs), it's relatively easy to find a place to watch the game among friends, no matter the time of day (or night).

    While some areas are completely taken over by the games (we're looking at you, College Street), others are wonderful little pockets of football fever for the duration of the games, from its start on June 12 to the final on July 13.

    Check out this list of places to watch World Cup games, by country, in Toronto, where they'll hopefully be serving geographically appropriate drinks and food. Did we forget your favourite watering hole? Let us know and we'll add it in (unless, of course, you want it to remain your secret).

    Bairrada Churrasqueira
    Team: Portugal
    Where: 1000 College St. (College and Dovercourt); 1560 Dundas St. W. (Dundas and Dufferin); 2293 St. Clair Ave. W. (St. Clair and Keele); 33 Hillcrest Ave. (Mississauga)
    Plans?: Reservations available at all locations for the games on the patios and inside

    Blue Danube
    Team: Germany
    Where: 1686 Ellesmere Rd. (Scarborough)
    Plans?: A giant screen to show Germany's games (check their Facebook page for details)

    Cafe Diplomatico
    Team: All
    Where: 594 College St. (College and Bathurst)
    Plans?: 8 TVs on the patio, as well as an 80-inch TV, a 60-inch TV in the back room (which could be reserved for private parties), an extended patio seating 250 people with a video wall from Friday until Tuesday, as well as a final game street party on July 13. Check out their Facebook page for updates.

    Cafe Frappe
    Team: Greece
    Where: 519 Danforth Ave. (Danforth and Logan)
    Plans?: Showing all games

    Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce
    Team: Germany
    Where: Hosting an event at The Antler Room, 146 Front St. W. (Union Station)
    Plans?: Germany vs. Portugal, in the company of other German-Canadians

    Club Hispano
    Team: Spain
    Where: 3465 Dundas St. W. (Runnymede)

    Club Uruguay
    Team: Uruguay
    Where:101 Freshway Dr. #16 (Vaughan)
    Plans?: Playing all of the Uruguay games, free entry

    Copacabana Brazilian Steakhouse
    Team: Brazil
    Where: 230 Adelaide St. W. (Adelaide and University)
    Plans?: Playing the games, with an option to reserve tables for them

    Duke of York
    Team: England
    Where: 39 Prince Arthur Ave. (Bloor and University)
    Plans?: Taking reservations for the games at all the Duke pubs

    El Cafetal Restaurant & Bakery
    Team: Colombia
    Where: 1006 St. Clair Ave. W. (St. Clair and Oakwood)

    El Rancho
    Team: Latin American countries
    Where: 430 College St. (College and Bathurst)
    Plans?: Showing all the games throughout the World Cup -- check here for their schedule

    Euro Sports Bar and Grill
    Team: Portugal
    Where: 252 Lansdowne Ave. (Lansdowne and College)

    Football Factory
    Team: All
    Where: 164 Bathurst St. (at Queen)
    Plans?: Showing all the games — check out their full schedule of games here

    The Foxes Den
    Team: Switzerland
    Where: 1075 Bay St. (Bay and Bloor)
    Plans?: Will show all the games, but Switzerland for sure

    Team: Netherlands
    Where: 142 Cumberland St. (Yorkville)
    Plans?: Showing all games throughout the pub

    La Mexicana
    Team: Mexico
    Where: 838 Yonge St. (Yonge and Davenport)
    Plans?: Showing all the games

    Le Saint Tropez
    Team: France
    Where: 315 King St. W. (east of Spadina)
    Plans?: Showing France games only with drinks special and special menus

    Lifetime Sports Bar
    Team: POrtugal
    Where: 818 College St. (at Ossington)
    Plans?: Playing Portugal games (as well as others) to a rabid fan base

    Madison Avenue Pub
    Team: All (but a soft spot for USA, apparently)
    Where: 14 Madison Ave. (Bloor and Spadina)
    Plans?: Showing all games throughout the pub

    Murphy's Law
    Team: France
    Where: 1702 Queen St. E. (at Kingston Rd.)
    Plans?: Showing the games on all the TVs

    The Musket Restaurant
    Team: Germany
    Where: 40 Advance Rd.
    Plans?: Seven screens (both indoors and out), with plans to show games throughout the tournament -- especially Germany

    Novo Horizonte Sports Bar
    Team: Brazil
    Where: 1430 Dundas St. W. (Dundas and Dufferin)

    The Office Pub
    Team: USA
    Where: 117 John St. (John and Richmond)
    Plans?: Headquarters for Team USA

    Opera Bob's Public House
    Team: England (they are the home of the Manchester City Supporters Club, after all)
    Where: 1112 Dundas St. W. (Dundas and Ossington)
    Plans?: Showing the games during business hours

    Real Sports
    Team: All
    Where: ACC/Maple Leaf Square
    Plans?: Showing all the games, with special World Cup menus for shared items

    Rio 40
    Team: Brazil (but will be showing all games)
    Where: 1256 St. Clair Ave. W. (St. Clair and Dufferin)
    Plans?: Showing games on four TVs inside, with reservations accepted (though the first game on the 16th is already full)

    Team: England, Brazil, Spain fans are anticipated
    Where: 11 St. Clair Ave. W. (Yonge and St. Clair)
    Plans?: All games playing on the bar's approximately 30 TVs, inside and out

    Team: Netherlands
    Where: 70 Fraser Ave. (Liberty Village)
    Plans?: Showing all games, including on the patio

    Sky Ranch
    Team: Argentina
    Where: 2473 Dufferin St. (Dufferin and Castlefield)
    Plans?: Showing all the games they can

    Tapas At Embrujo
    Team: Spain
    Where: 3465 Dundas St. W. (Runnymede)
    Plans?: During the group stage, all of Spain's games will be featured

    The Dizzy
    Team: England
    Where: 305 Roncesvalles Ave.
    Plans?: Show all the games — as many as possible

    The Feathers
    Team: England
    Where: 962 Kingston Rd. (Kingston and Victoria Park)
    Plans?: Definitely showing the England games for their fans

    Queen and Beaver
    Team: England
    Where: 35 Elm St. (Gerrard and Bay)
    Plans?: No reservations, so get there as early you can for the England games

    West 50 Pourhouse
    Team: All
    Where: 50 Burnhamthorpe Rd. W. (Mississauga)
    Plans?: Whenever the games are on (from 11 a.m. to midnight), the bar will be playing them

    Team: All (but we suspect Germany fans may congregate here)
    Where: 609 King St. W. (King and Bathurst)
    Plans?: Show all the games that have the kick-off before 5 p.m.

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    Father's Day is this Sunday, and it's about time you started planning what you're going to do for number one guy in your life! Going for brunch is all well and good, but to be honest, it's kind of boring. This Father's Day, do something special and fun with Dad -- something that you'll both remember for years to come.

    Here are five local things to do that will really impress him:


    Go Behind The Scenes at YVR
    Take Dad on a one-of-a-kind tour of the Vancouver International Airport, offered this Sunday by the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. Learn about airside operations, wildlife control, runway safety, and airfield equipment as you travel around the operating area of YVR's main terminal in a private 16-passenger van.

    Once the tour is done, enjoy a spot of lunch at the award-winning Globe@YVR restaurant. Tuck into tasty menu items like a half-pound burger with applewood smoked cheddar cheese and tempura fried banana peppers; a pulled pork sandwich with sweet onions and a chili lime aioli; or a fish taco with fresh cod, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, and jalapeño aioli.

    The 45-minute excursion is $30 for adults, $20 for children (16 years and under) and includes lunch. For reservations or more information, call 604-207-5200 or click here.


    Visit The Circus
    Cirque du Soleil recently set up their signature blue and yellow "grand chapiteau" at Concord Pacific Place for another summer run in Vancouver. This time, TOTEM is the show wowing fans, and would be a fun Father's Day outing. You'll be awe-inspired by a dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment, as you're taken on a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind.

    Tickets range from $50 to $145 for adults, and $40 to $135 for children (12 & under). For more information on TOTEM or to purchase tickets, click here.


    Find Adventure
    On Sunday, hop in the car and take a drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway, up to the Squamish area, where you'll find the Sea to Sky Gondola. Outdoor-loving dads will be thrilled to experience this brand new attraction.

    After a 10-minute gondola ride to almost 885 meters above sea level, enjoy sweeping views of the Howe Sound fjord, luscious coastal forest, and surrounding mountains. Then explore the summit, stopping at the different viewing points along the trails. Don't forget to scare yourself silly on the 100-metre-long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.

    The cost for a day pass is $34.95 for adults, $32.95 for seniors, $22.95 for youths 13-18, $13.95 for children 6-12, and children under 6 years old are free. For more information, visit


    Experience Street Food
    If Dad is a bit of a foodie, he will definitely enjoy you taking him on the World's Best Food Truck Tour -- a two-hour culinary extravaganza.

    As your tour guide navigates you through the streets of downtown Vancouver, you'll stop at five amazing food trucks, including the legendary Japadog, uber-popular Mom's Grilled Cheese, and amazing TacoFino. While sampling on their mouth-watering cuisine, you'll learn about the history of the city's food truck landscape and fab stories about the curbside kitchens owners.

    Tickets are $49 for adults, $39 for children. For reservations or more information, visit Vancouver Foodie Tours.


    Bet On The Horses
    This Sunday, take Dad to the Hastings Racecourse to enjoy the excitement of live thoroughbred racing. Don't worry if you're really not into gambling: relax in the sunshine; grab a delicious deep-fried bite to eat; and soak up the electric atmosphere. Oh, and of course, watch the stunning horses zoom around the track. As there isn't an admission fee, you might be able to get Dad a nice gift, too.

    For more information on the Hastings Racecourse, click here.

    Happy Father's Day!

    Images courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Cirque du Soleil, Sea to Sky Gondola, Vancouver Foodie Tours and the Hastings Racecourse.


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    Richard Dunn got stuck overnight in the Las Vegas airport. Good thing he's just about the most awesome person on planet Earth.

    Faced with the prospect of enduring hours and hours alone browsing shuttered stores stocked with earbuds and travel pillows, Dunn did the only reasonable thing: he taped an elaborate lip dub of Celine Dion's "All By Myself."

    And the native of Moncton, N.B., certainly gave it everything he had. He taped his camera to a bag and put it on an escalator for an epic zoom out, according to CBC. He had to sprint back up when he was done so the camera wouldn't tumble down the stairs. He attached his iPhone to a wheelchair and placed it on moving sidewalks for the dolly shots.

    This man is our hero and we strongly think he should consider "Wind Beneath My Wings" for the sequel.

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    In a city where it seems heritage lovers are constantly fighting for the preservation of its older buildings, a new Vancouver condo project has taken a refreshing approach.

    Developer Image Development Inc. took a run-down theatre and used it. Literally.

    The Van East Cinema on Commercial Drive was designed by Bruno Freschi, the same architect behind Science World and the planning of Expo '86. It opened around 1981 and closed in early 2011.

    When Image Development acquired the property, they decided to salvage what they could and incorporate it into a 58-unit mixed condo. The result, Marquee On The Drive, uses 75 per cent of the theatre's previous materials, including the original brick work, steel, and concrete, said a news release.

    Designed by Ankenman/Marchand Architects, Marquee features one and two bedroom units as well as loft-style penthouses, all with nine ft. floor-to-ceiling windows and large decks.

    The city, for its part, is trying to take steps that would help preserve Vancouver's heritage buildings, including two possible new bylaws. One would place a temporary moratorium on the destruction of character homes in the First Shaughnessy district. The other would require that 90 per cent of demolition waste from character homes be reused or recycled, and the same for 75 per cent of homes built before 1940.

    Earlier this month, one of Vancouver's beloved "Hobbit" houses was officially saved with the approval of a rezoning project that includes preserving the quaint home.

    See photos of the Marquee On The Drive:

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    The proposed Vancouver Cat Cafe may have missed its online fundraising mark, but that doesn't mean it's taking a paws.

    Catfe founder Michelle Furbacher (yes, that's her real last name) raised $32,125 of her $50,000 goal. However, the shortfall isn't stopping this cat in its tracks.

    Furbacher announced on the fundraising page that because she chose a flexible-funding option for her campaign, she still gets to keep the donated money (although Indiegogo takes a larger chunk).

    So the Catfe is very much alive. Furbacher's next step, she said, is finding a location.

    A cat cafe is exactly what its name suggests: a cafe where there are cats for you to cuddle and play with. The idea has gained momentum in Asia and Europe, even pawing its way into North America.

    Would you visit Catfe?

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    RIO DE JANEIRO - Workers at Rio de Janeiro's two airports declared a partial work stoppage beginning at midnight Wednesday, on the eve of the opening match of the World Cup.

    Rio's Galeao international airport is expected to be one of the country's busiest during the monthlong soccer tournament. The walkout also would affect Santos Dumont airport, which provides domestic service, including flights to Sao Paulo, where the first World Cup game was being held Thursday.

    Unions representing workers at the two airports including check-in counter clerks, baggage handlers and janitorial staff have been seeking for months raises of at least 5.6 per cent and special bonuses tied to the World Cup.

    A union representative said only 20 per cent of workers would walk off the job for 24 hours initially. The official agreed to discuss specifics of the walkout only if not quoted by name because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

    A labour court in Rio issued an injunction ordering the unions to maintain staffing at 80 per cent of normal levels or face fines of up to $22,400.

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    Incredible footage has emerged of a tourist stopping a charging elephant using just his outstretched hands.

    According to the video's description on Live Leak, the incident takes place in Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand.

    It's unclear what prompted the elephant to charge at the tourist standing just a couple feet away. There is a moment however when the tourist looks at the videographer and then raises his left arm in the air.

    Shortly after, the elephant charges.

    While most people would step out of the way, the tourist instead raises his hands, stopping the animal in its tracks before it turns around and runs away.

    The tourist on the other hand, takes the opportunity to snap a few photos and then turns around to smile for the camera.

    It's unclear if the cameras prompted the elephant to charge but either way, much like elephants, we're sure this is a memory this tourist won't ever forget.

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    VANCOUVER - Pot holes, crumbling pavement and congestion top the list in the British Columbia Automobile Association's fourth annual survey of the province's worst roads.

    The Association says motorists, pedestrians and cyclists identified 1,277 separate stretches of provincial roads they feel are unsafe or difficult to navigate.

    A list naming the 10 worst has been created and the top three are all in, or around, the north Okanagan, including B.C.'s new "worst" thoroughfare, Silver Star Road, near Vernon.

    Pot holes and crumbling pavement are the problems there, with similar issues identified for the second-worst route on the list, Westside Road, southwest of Vernon, while Cosens Bay Road to the southeast, grabs third spot because of concerns about safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

    Most of the roads on the 2014 list have been mentioned before, but BCAA says McKenzie Avenue in Victoria makes its debut in sixth spot because of traffic congestion while Maple Crescent, a residential street in Maple Ridge, east of Vancouver, ranks eighth due to pedestrian and cycling safety issues.

    BCAA says the number of votes submitted for its annual survey tripled this year in what the association believes is an expression of traveller frustration and a desire to offer opinions about the problem.

    B.C.'s top 10 "worst" roads are:

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    Vancouver-based lifestyle blog Poppytalk has launched a limited-edition party and camping collection with Target Canada.

    "We wanted a floral, flowery, light [aesthetic] that could be taken from casual into a more formal environment," Jan Halvarson, who runs Poppytalk with her husband Earl Einarson, tells The Huffington Post B.C.

    They wanted their product to be adaptable, Einarson adds, so that "anybody can buy it, and — whatever you're setting up — you can create an environment with it."

    poppytalk target

    Poppytalk For Target boasts a mix of patterns in bright, happy colours — from a polka dot checkers game to a floral lantern to a striped picnic throw. Basically, those extra little touches for a magical evening in your backyard, at the park, or in the woods.

    After all, as Halvarson says, it's more appealing to roast marshmallows on a floral stick instead of a tree branch.

    Poppytalk was founded in 2005 and is "dedicated to supporting the beautiful, the decayed and the handmade," the website states.

    A clear vision is part of what it takes to run a blog with longevity, says Einarson.

    Halvarson says the most important thing is to "stay true to yourself" and "do what you love."

    Poppytalk For Target hits shelves on June 22. Until then, here's a sneak peek:

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    WestJet's expansion into Europe takes off this weekend with the carrier’s inaugural flight across the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday.

    The Calgary-based airline will fly between St. John's, Newfoundland and Dublin, Ireland.

    Already, the company says 80 per cent of the seats are sold.

    "It's the most successful service from the point of announcement to the point of launch in WestJet's history. So things obviously look promising for future expansion," said spokesperson Robert Palmer.

    "It's a mixture of people buying the tickets, but for the most part there are a lot of people from the Maritimes."

    The flights will be offered until the end of October.

    Europe expansion plans

    With its current fleet of aircraft, WestJet could fly from St. John's or Halifax to cities in England, France and Scotland.

    But the company would likely invest in wide-body aircraft, such as the 787 Dreamliner, to increase efficiency of any future international flights.

    "I would say in the wide-body world, we're going to start carefully with a small number of aircraft and see how it goes," CEO Gregg Saretsky told reporters in May.

    "It's early days, obviously. There's lots of work that needs to be done."

    The upcoming flights to Ireland are a way for the company to feel out the European market and then decide what step to take next, Palmer said.

    "One of our goals is to be a top international airline in every sense of the word. So that's something we look for on our horizon."

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    Haida Gwaii is often touted as one of the most beautiful areas of British Columbia, but its remote location means many of us can't get there to see it in person.

    Thankfully there's Guy Kimola, a photographer who captures the area's beauty for all of us to enjoy. And so, he our B.C. Photographer of the Month for June!

    Kimola was born in Tofino, where he says his childhood "was spent horrifying his mother" by bringing snakes and frogs into the house. He earned a living as a deckhand on fishing boats and then as a carpenter, eventually moving to Haida Gwaii in 1995.

    It was there that he realized "if you spent enough money on a camera you'd be kind of obligated to learn how to use the thing."

    We're sure glad he did.

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    CALGARY - A Canadian cowboy can truly call himself a long rider as he has reached his destination country in an epic horseback journey to Brazil from Calgary.

    Filipe Masetti Leite, 27, who immigrated to Canada from the South American country when he was a teenager, rode out of the Calgary Stampede grounds in July 2012 along with his two horses, Bruiser and Frenchie. He added a third horse to his team, Dude, from a ranch in New Mexico.

    Leite says his ride took him through 10 countries and covered 14,000 kilometres in North, Central and South America.

    "Setting out from Canada's largest rodeo and one of the best in the world was a huge honour," he said in an email.

    "I feel like I'm dreaming," he wrote as he crossed the border from Puerto Kijaro, Bolivia, into Corumba, Brazil.

    Leite said he and his horses crossed Yellowstone National Park, encountered a grizzly in Montana and rode through the Chihuahua Desert in Mexico.

    "This has been the hardest but most gratifying years of my life," Leite said.

    "I hope my journey inspires others to follow their dreams, no matter how hard or crazy it may seem."

    Leite's family returned to Sao Paolo, Brazil, nine years ago and is to meet him at the end of his journey.

    The inspiration for the trip was a similar quest in 1925 by Aime Tschiffely, a Swiss school teacher who rode 16,000 kilometres alone from Buenos Aires to New York City.

    The young cowboy, who has a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, has been documenting his travels.

    His goal was to draw attention to the illegal drug war in Latin America. He said a lot of innocent people are dying and 80 per cent of the drugs are ending up on U.S. streets.

    He may have reached Brazil, but Leite's trek isn't quite over. He still has 2,000 kilometres remaining to his home in Sao Paulo.

    The timing of the trip sits well with him.

    "I love soccer and left in 2012 from Canada just so I could arrive in Brazil for the World Cup."

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    Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon, you and your loved ones have no plans for the weekend and suddenly a flash of inspiration hits: Let’s get out of town! Many great vacation movies (and indeed, many great vacations) were born from a combination of impulsivity and a sense of adventure. Our handy guide will be all the preparation you need for your hassle-free, light-on-luggage vacay.

    Where the heck do we go?

    Heading on a last-minute trip with pals or your family means adopting a carefree attitude. Don’t get hung up on one or two particular destinations, say experts. Think creatively, such as booking a trip to a ski resort in the summertime. For an even cheaper retreat, look for something closer and drive or take the train to a destination only a few hours away. You don’t have to go far to get that "getaway" feeling.

    How do we get there?

    Quickie holiday planning can be stress-free if you look to both traditional and online sources. That means talking to travel agencies such as Flight Centre or CAA, because sometimes last-minute flights can actually be more expensive. And, of course, check out a variety of sites specializing in these sorts of vacations, such as, Red Tag Deals, or YOW deals. If you’re taking the whole family on a last-minute sojourn, take personalities and preferences into account. That means not heading to a crowded city if your kids tend to like wide-open spaces, and avoiding hot, humid climes if it makes Grandma uncomfortable.

    What do we take?

    No matter if you’re travelling with your buddies or your wife and kids, there are two key words: pare down. Consider the basics, like a medical kit (keep fever medication in your carry-on), umbrellas, the right shoes for the destination and some fresh toys or apps for any meltdown moments during your trip. Many frequent travellers also recommend going without checked baggage. It means quicker exits from the airport to the place you really want to be, whether it’s the beach or a music festival.

    How do we have a great time?

    This might not be obvious, but now’s the time for research. After you’ve booked your quickie escape, ensure you’ve downloaded relevant apps, loaded up the Kindle with guidebooks and bookmarked maps on your iPhone. The time from now to your destination should be, at least partially, spent coming up with some sort of a plan. Otherwise you will lose precious hours on your spontaneous holiday doing some not-so-spontaneous wandering. Let the kids take part too. If you’ve only got a week, what are the top three museums they’d want to visit? Highlight one or two top restaurants you’ve just got to try, and let others be fun discoveries. Be in the moment and once you leave yourself open to new experiences and ways of thinking, you’ll be having the time of your life before you know it.

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    Cirque du Soleil must be suffering from that boredom borne of endless success. Decades of acclaim must eventually become a yawn. The desire to lower the bar and take it easy must be powerful. That may be what's happened here. "Totem" is a poorly constructed series of disconnected acts that wow but rarely stupefy. Clowning is poor and visual effects are stunning but infrequent.

    A parade of remarkable (but rarely thrilling) acts take the stage, one after the other, with a rhythm closer to "The Ed Sullivan Show" than traditional Cirque. This revue approach is disappointing not only because the show has no flow, but because it does not build to a climax.

    That is not to say that "Totem" lacks impressive performances. Four acts in particular inspire awe and delight. The show opens with acrobats who actually fly as they shift from one raised horizontal bar to another. Later, a trio of acrobats uses gymnast rings to demonstrate feats of strength and physical dexterity high above the crowd. Much impressive vertical spinning ensues. A great act.

    A very unique act features five women (in exaggerated, Asian-inspired eye makeup) on unicycles two meters high. Each has a stack of metal bowls on her head. They remove the bowls, stack them on one foot (still balancing on the unicycle) and then kick the bowls into the air. The bowls land, one after the other, perfectly stacked as before on each performer's head. The act continues with the performers kicking bowls onto each other's heads. Sensational.

    A trapeze duo allows us to watch the courting ritual between a man and a woman. Each wants, then rejects the other until the inevitable happy ending. The story is told with leaping, swinging, falling and catching. She is lithe and light, he is agile and strong. She falls from the trapeze and he catches her in mid-air. The best routine of the show. Those familiar with Cirque shows will be disappointed to learn this is one of very few aerial acts.

    The show's treatment of world cultures is alarming. Though the dictionary tells us a totem is any symbol of any culture, you just know from the war paint and feather headdress on the show's advertising material that this is going to be one clueless, demeaning salute to North America's first environmentalists, those low-tech nobles, the First Nations.

    We're reminded of this ill-considered symbolism each time a couple of guys in leather costumes and head feathers "paddle" quietly, serenely, nobly around the upstage platform in those ubiquitous canoes. In terms of this show, First Nations seem to be situated, symbolically, somewhere between cavemen and a white guy with a briefcase. Anyone with the audacity to suggest that a Cirque show could use Hollywood stereotypes to display a love for the natural environment would be correct.

    Other noble cultures costumed like the singing dolls at Disneyland's It's a Small World include South Asians (silks and exotic music), Asians (exaggerated eye make-up and exotic music), Spanish (flamenco) and Africans. For the Africans, four performers wear black half-masks and elaborate headdresses, one of which includes a bunch of bananas. That's right. Bananas.

    Conceived by Robert Lepage, the acclaimed opera and theatre director, "Totem"'s theme is unclear. It's as if the director was handed a a set of available acts and invited to somehow connect them.

    Some green people writhe on the stage at the start and a silver-sequined human in a body suit is lowered to the stage. Blue people join the green people and cavort. They return to the stage frequently, between acts. What does all this mean? Who knows.

    A glance at Cirque du Soleil's website says this is about nature and evolution and science and a few other things that are not communicated by the performance. Some visual effects, Lepage's trademark, are very good. The water-skiing element, with the boat headed straight for the audience, works well. Those canoes really do seem to be gliding across water rather than a wooden platform. Unfortunately, these effects are mostly situated too far upstage to make much of an impression.

    Cirque du Soleil's "Totem," directed by Robert Lepage, at the Grand Chapiteau, at Concord Pacific Place, Vancouver, until July 6. Buy tickets here.

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    "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 premieres in about three weeks, and CTV has finally released some of the 2014 contestants.

    The network has revealed three teams that will compete in the next rendition of "ARC": best friends Shahla Kara and Nabeela Barday, Montreal couple Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice and Olympic gold medallists Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson.

    "Amazing Race Canada" producers will have to up the ante to maintain the show's success. Having already been made privy to some Season 2 spoilers (for example, we're 99 percent certain the Race is going outside of Canadian borders this time around), we also have some insider knowledge about who some of the competing pairs are. Spooner and Mikkelson were one of the teams we knew about beforehand -- but, as promised, we didn't spoil for you until CTV made the official announcement.

    "Amazing Race Canada" Season 2 will premiere on Tuesday, July 8 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.

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    We all know Brazil is bustling with soccer fever, but what about those looking for alternatives to all that hype? According to the Tourism Board of Brazil, Brazil is the most visited country in South America and those thinking about a summer getaway -- but without the flag-waving or face-painting -- should consider the following "football-free" events Brazil has to offer this summer, as compiled by the folks at

    1) Festas Juninas (June) - Throughout the month of June, residents from coast to coast will participate in saintly celebrations across Brazil in memory of St. Anthony (June 13), St. John (June 24) and St. Peter (June 29). Not only will Brazilians be paying homage to these famous saints, but they will also be feasting with family and friends while enjoying food, fun and festivities. For a really memorable experience you can visit the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, a 30m tall statue of Jesus Christ that looks over the city with outstretched arms, or check out Campina Grande, Pernambuco, to partake in Brazil's largest Festa Junina festival.


    2) Dia dos Namorados (June 12) - While Canadians praised their sweeties with sweets of their own earlier this year, Brazil will be celebrating its Valentine's Day on June 12. What could be more romantic than celebrating 'Dia dos Namorados', translated as 'lovers day', in romantic Rio or sizzling Salvador. If you do end up in Rio de Janeiro, be sure to visit Arpoador Rock for a sunset that will leave you breathless -- perfect to share with the one you love.


    3) Brasilia Rock Festival (June) - If your idea of fun involves loud and lively, but not in the roaring soccer fan way, check out 'Porão do Rock', the largest music festival in Brasilia, Brazil's capital. Celebrating its 16th season, this concert extravaganza will have you rocking and rolling to local favourites in no time.


    4) Jangadas Regata (July) - If you believe 'the sea is for me', join the many crowds along the Cove of Fortaleza during the annual sailing festivities of Regata da Jangadas in July. And if you're the adventurous type consider a ride on a jangada, a fisherman's boat, for the best view on deck.


    5) Folklore Festival (August 15 - 23) - Every two years, the city of Passo Fundo hosts it famous international folklore festival, one of the largest of its kind in the Americas. Featuring performances from students throughout the day and entertainment from the community into the evening, this festival was originally created to share culture around the world and to promote peace among people. Now that's folk-tastic!



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    A rainforest oasis in the middle of urban Vancouver has trumped U.S., Parisian and Spanish parks to be named the top park in the world by TripAdvisor users.

    Stanley Park, the biggest in Vancouver and the third-biggest in North America at 400 hectares, took the top spot for its 500,000 ancient monolithic cedar, fir and hemlock trees, kilometers of hiking trails, historic landmarks and waterfront views in TripAdvisor’s second annual Top 25 Parks of the World list.

    Activities include hiking, running, wildlife watching, inline skating, and biking, while the area is also home to Canada’s largest aquarium, water parks, miniature railways and tennis courts.

    Stanley Park attracts about 8 million visitors every year.

    “A mini-forest, beautiful gardens, totem poles and scenic walkways make this such a peaceful location,” wrote one fan.

    Overall, the U.S. is the most represented taking eight of the top 25 spots, with the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and New York’s Central Park rounding out the top three places. Garden of the Gods was also named the top park in the U.S..

    Here are the top 10 parks in the world:
    1. Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada
    2. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
    3. Central Park, New York City, USA
    4. Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA
    5. High Line, New York City, USA
    6. Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Perth, Australia
    7. Guell Park, Barcelona, Spain
    8. Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil
    9. Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
    10. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France

    Top U.S. parks
    1. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
    2. Central Park, New York City
    3. Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois
    4. High Line, New York City
    5. Boston Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
    6. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
    7. Balboa Park, San Diego, California
    8. Bryant Park, New York City
    9. Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
    10. Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina

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    Summer is the perfect time for road trips.

    Whether you're going on a quick weekend trip to the cottage or an epic cross-country drive, the road trip is a great way to spend time with family and friends while seeing more of this country. In short, it's a great way to make some great memories!

    HuffPost Canada editor Brian Vinh Tien Trinh is starting a cross-country road trip of his own, driving from Vancouver to Charlottetown over the next few weeks. Here's Brian's faithful chariot in Vancouver.

    We'll be jealously following along from our desks. But it also got us thinking — how many other Canadians have taken on this kind of adventure? We also want you to share YOUR road trip photos and memories with us.

    Add your photos to the slideshow below, share a story in the comments or send us a tweet or Facebook message!

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    Let's get this point out of the way before we go any further: I hate driving.

    I get the appeal of driving. Watching a car roll, top down, along the streets of Toronto is just as eye-catching as spotting someone walking down the sidewalk with their top off.

    And if it isn't the sights that'll grab your attention, the roar of the engine or the screeching of rubber on pavement will at least warrant a turn of the head. At the very least, driving's a practical way to get from point A to point B.

    There's an undeniable sex appeal behind cars. There's a definitive cool factor about getting behind the steering wheel. Simply put, you feel powerful whenever you're driving a car.

    But it's been years since I've experienced it for myself.

    If the Fast and the Furious franchise epitomizes everything desirable about cars and driving, my life is the low-budget Canadian parody destined for a straight to DVD release.

    My first family car was my father's 1988 Corolla. He jokes that didn't depart with it until 2005 when he got pulled over because the police thought it was a safety hazard. The failed emissions tests certainly didn't help his cause.

    My mom bought her first car in 1995, a used GM station wagon that no longer exists. Given the fact that it broke down in 1997, I can't say I'm all that surprised about its fate.

    In 1999, my parents bought another used car, this time opting for a 1995 Toyota Camry. To this day, it still works fine but driving it is akin to eating a vanilla cupcake: a perfectly acceptable experience, but seriously, vanilla? You can do so much better.

    In 2006, my dad also introduced our family to one more car, a 2003 silver Camry, sports edition.

    It was the best.

    Sure, the rear spoiler was unnecessary and made reserve parking a pain, but who cared when you were driving forward? I felt confident driving it, listening to home-made CD playlists with the volume turned up while the windows were down low. It was a car that looked great, inside and out, and in many ways, I felt the same whenever inside.

    Then I crashed the damn thing in the summer of 2010.

    We've moved on since then and I've moved out from the suburbs of Mississauga to Toronto. My dad sold the Camry for scraps in 2013, investing in a 2012 Nissan Altima that reminds me too much of our dearly departed Camry.

    I drive it time to time when I come back to visit, but I walk pretty much everywhere else I go now.

    Despite my love-hate relationship with cars, I think it's still one of the best ways to travel. Between freedom, flexibility and fun, you can't find a better method of travel that beats the car in all three categories.

    It's one of the reasons I'm embarking on a road trip across Canada this summer. I've learned from my time covering the travel beat/ as an armchair tourist that no country offers such a diversity of sights and experiences. I'm fact, the amount of it all can be downright overwhelming.

    Like I said earlier. I hate driving but the thing I hate more than the combo of road rage, gridlock and the pain at the pumps is missing out.

    Part of me is embarrassed that I've never travelled east of Quebec all my life. As for the West Coast, it's been over 20 years since I was last in Vancouver. Another part of me is afraid to admit I've never set foot inside the Praries. Part of me is ashamed that I don't know my country to really appreciate it.

    But I'm hoping to fix this.

    Over the next two weeks, I'll be driving across Canada, accompanied with my friend Talia Ricci and aided with the support of Nissan Canada who've offered me one of their 2014 Rogues to borrow for the trip.

    Will this car rekindle my love with driving? Maybe? Maybe not. That's a story for once I get back, but not the stories you can expect over the next few days. These will be the stories focused around people, places and special things in each of the 10 provinces. (My apologies to the Territories, I'll have to visit you next year.)

    As for this? This post will be the start of a Canadian trying to learn more about the country that's housed and raised him.

    This is the start of the Great Canadian Road Trip.

    Brian Trinh is the Huffington Post Canada's travel/ video editor. He's currently on a cross-Canada road trip with freelance journalist Talia Ricci. You can follow their adventures here or check out their Twitter and Instagram pages below.

    Follow Brian @ProjectBLT and @TalRicci on Twitter or on Instagram here and here

    Road transportation made possible thanks to Nissan Canada.

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    A B.C. ghost town that was built almost overnight in the 1980s and then faded away has back to life in photos.

    Kamloops photographer Chad Graham visited Kitsault last summer and kindly agreed to let us share some of his fantastic shots.

    "It was an amazing trip," Graham wrote on Flickr. "It's a bit of a drive to get there but so worth it to see a piece of modern ghost town."

    The town, located in northern B.C. on the Alice Arm, was constructed by U.S. mining conglomerate Phelps Dodge, according to Kitsault's website. The plan was to mine the ground around the town for molybdenum, a metal used to prevent corrosion.

    The company built more than 100 single-family homes and duplexes, plus seven apartment buildings with 202 suites, according to the site. The town had a hospital, mall, bank, theatre, two recreation centres, pub, pool, and library — the abandoned remnants of which Graham has captured beautifully.

    kitsault ghost town

    kitsault ghost town

    About 1,200 mine workers moved to the town with their families, CBC News reported. But the recession in 1982 led to a collapse in prices, forcing the miners to pack up and leave — just 18 months after the mine opened.

    Last year, a proposal was floated to turn Kitsault into a hub for B.C.'s liquefied natural gas industry.

    See Graham's captivating photos:

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