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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    We've all suffered a #TravelFail in the airport... some of us are just more vocal about it than others.

    Let some of Twitter's chattier folk show you, in their own words, 13 things you shouldn't do before takeoff.

    13. Show up on the wrong day.

    12. Show up in the wrong place.

    11. Forget your wallet.

    10. Forget your plane battery.

    9. Cross paths with "a gaggle of birds."

    8. Overserve yourself.

    7. Vomit.

    6. Reek of snack chip.

    5. Wear a ponytail.

    4. Realize you're not going to Disney World.

    3. Forget your breath mints (or forget how to spell).

    2. Unwrap those pesky skincare products you bought in Iceland.

    1. Spill your crate of fish.

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    With Thanksgiving under our belt (or did we just loosen it?), holiday season is off to a speedy start.

    Whether you’re totally pumped for winter or just looking to prevent holiday weight gain, there’s no better – and more romantic – winter sport than ice-skating at some of best outdoor rinks in the US.

    Check them out and don’t forget the gloves and scarves!

    Curry Village, Yosemite
    curry village ice rink
    Immerse yourself with nature at the Curry Village ice rink in Yosemite National Park. If ice-skating isn’t something that usually takes your breath away, the stunning views of the Half Dome and Glacier Point totally will.

    Rockefeller Center, New York
    rockefeller center ice rink
    There’s a reason this is one of world’s most famous ice rinks. New Yorkers and tourists ice-skate around this crowded, but lovely rink surrounded by the festive stores and of course, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, which made its annual lighting debut last week.

    National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, D.C.
    national gallery ice rink
    Ice-skate across the National Mall while you’re steps away from some of nation’s historically significant documents including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Decorated with festive lights, the ice rink replaces the Sculpture Garden’s central fountain in the winter.

    McCormick Tribune, Chicago
    chicago ice rink
    With Cloud Gate on one side and Magnificent Mile on the other, ice skating in Chicago doesn’t get better than Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune ice rink.

    Las Vegas Ice Rinks
    las vegas ice rink
    Forget poolside sunbathing and catch your tan at one of the ice rinks in Vegas (at the Cosmopolitan and Venetian) this season as the Strip transforms into a holiday wonderland filled with holiday lights, plays, and festivities.

    Sun Valley Resort, Idaho
    Sun Valley ice rink
    Sun Valley Resort ‘s outdoor ice rink is for those that ice-skate all-year-round. From Olympic and world class skaters to their famous ice shows, the resort is ideal for the holiday fun for the entire family.

    Blue Cross RiverRink, Philadelphia
    Penns Landing - Skating Rink
    If humming to festive music while taking in stunning views of the Delaware River and Benjamin Franklin Bridge isn’t enough, Olympic-sized Blue Cross RiverRink features a Big Santa and a light show every evening that will get everyone in the family into the holiday spirit.

    Pershing Square, Los Angeles
    A white winter may be nothing short of a dream in the City of Angels, but Angelenos can head over to the city's largest outdoor ice rink at Pershing Square.

    Boston Common Frog Pond
    boston common frog pond
    Skate in the country’s oldest public park and arguably the most popular in the city. The Boston Common Frog Pond ice rink hosted their 72nd annual tree lighting last week, but those who couldn't make it can still enjoy the impressive view of surrounding lit up trees on any night.

    Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego
    View of ice skating from our room
    Because nothing screams “Winter, look who’s winning!” more than ice skating (cold!) on a beach (hot!) with views of palm trees and the Pacific Ocean horizon.

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    Florida may be the only place in the world where mermaids are among the state employees.

    Weeki Wachee Springs, about an hour from Tampa, bills itself as " The Only City Of Live Mermaids!" And the exclamation point is well deserved. Not long ago, this Old Florida attraction -- where every day, women dressed as mermaids perform shows underwater -- seemed like it was going to sleep with the fishes.

    The first mermaid show went on in 1947, in an underwater theater beside a massive natural spring that had been partially tamed by a man named Newt Perry. Here's how the story's told on the Weeki Wachee website:

    Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He put a sign out on U.S. 19: WEEKI WACHEE.

    The first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened on October 13, 1947 -- the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. The mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.

    In the ensuing years, Elvis came to visit, as did other celebrities of various stripes (Don Knotts among them).

    The American Broadcasting Company bought Weeki Wachee in 1959; this is described as the park's "heyday" in the New York Times, when there were nine mermaid shows per day and "according to park lore, half a million visitors came each year."

    That number shrank dramatically in the not-so-heydecades that followed Disney World's opening in 1971. In the 2000s, faced with some tough financial straits, Weeki Wachee Springs became a Florida State Park, albeit one with mermaids on the payroll earning about $13 an hour, park spokesperson John Athanason told HuffPost, during a recent visit.

    Story continues below...

    Athanason -- a native Floridian who's been at the park since 2001 -- said there are around 20 mermaids on staff these days, seven of whom were recently hired. One of these is 22-year-old Marissa Perez, wearing a track suit and hanging around the audience area of the underwater theater, who says she tried out twice before being hired.

    "I grew up watching the show as a little girl," she says. "Getting to do it as an adult is a great opportunity."

    Perez and another newly-hired mermaid, 18-year-old Maria Buckner, head off backstage to change into their costumes of colorful bikini tops and custom tails with diving fins worn underneath.

    They reappear in the clear water, which sometimes also contains manatees and turtles visiting from elsewhere in the spring, and always outfitted with discreetly-placed air hoses in order to keep up the illusion of mermaids being indigenous sea creatures. Buckner and Perez are instructed by veteran Crystal Videgar who talks patiently through a microphone that projects into the water. (Athanason says it can take months before new mermaids are ready to debut in Weeki Wachee's twice-daily performance of The Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Andersen tale in which a mermaid falls in love with a prince and give up her tail in the hopes of being with him. Upon his nuptials to another woman she dissolves into seafoam, but though her faith and good actions -- like refusing to take a witch's offer of stabbing the prince to death in exchange for becoming a mermaid once again -- she is, phew, given the possibility of an immortal soul.)

    Then it's time for Videgar and another experienced swimmer to rehearse their upcoming Christmas show. They synchronize swim to Christmas carols, their long hair waving through the water, relaxed smiles on their faces, while another woman in a swimsuit that reads MERMAID across the chest, her air hose in full view, takes on the less glamorous task of scrubbing the plexiglass.

    It's rather astonishing that, even with the pressures of existing near Disney, Weeki Wachee still feels like a kitschy roadside attraction; its nods to commercialism are a small adjoining water park called Buccaneer Bay and a free boat cruise along the Weeki Wachee River, a dining room and some modestly-priced mermaid costumes for sale.

    2012 brought in a reported 268,000 visitors, and Athanason says his goal is to get more people into the park without losing its authenticity.

    "In the 13 years that I've been here, attendance has gone up a little bit each year," says Athanason, who is considering joining up with a reality TV producer or maybe a documentary filmmaker, after having a good experience training Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton in the mermaid arts for an episode of The Simple Life. And they're not alone -- periodic mermaid camps are held, in what seems like it might be an illegal manner, only for women over the age of 30. Younger than that, Athanason explains, and the trainees might take what they've learned elsewhere, to compete with the park.

    Indeed, if Weeki Wachee seems like it hasn't aged a day, and despite the shades of magic, the people who work here are still beholden to the all-too-human laws of nature. Unlike Andersen's mermaids, Weeki Wachee's employees don't turn to foam once they lose their tails. Instead, retired mermaids come back from time to time for special performances. Athanason, who himself is in his mid-40s, says that mermaids do tend to quit their regular duties once they graduate from college or have kids. They know when it's time to leave, he says, explaining that one day it'll be time for him to go as well.

    "When I started, I was like an older brother," he says. "Now dad. When it becomes time for me to be grandpa..."

    But here comes former mermaid Robyn Anderson, who is now the park's assistant manager -- as well as the mayor of the city of Weeki Wachee (pop. 4, down from 12 in 2010).

    "Mermayor," she says, adorned in a green polo shirt, not a mermaid getup, with her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. "Looks great on my resume."

    Anderson, originally from New Jersey, came to Weeki Wachee in 1994. She's survived the accident that took her out of the water, ethics complaints, tussles with regulatory agencies and a near-closure and was instrumental in the deal that made this place a state park -- and she didn't even have to stab a prince to do it.

    "The biggest thing is to stand your ground, fight for what you believe in," Anderson says. "And be true to yourself."

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    The Christmas market originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol and Alsace, but has now spread throughout Europe to become a popular tradition. Generally opened around four weeks before Christmas, the 'Christkindlmarkt' celebrates everything about the holiday season and is guaranteed to evoke a festive spirit in visitors. From one of the oldest German markets to lesser-known gems in Wroclaw and Maastricht, we have compiled a list of our top recommendations. Look no further for unique arts and crafts, gift inspiration and copious amounts of mulled wine, gingerbread and other local specialties.

    1) Wroclaw, Poland


    Wroclaw's Christmas market (or 'Jarmark Bozonarodzeniowy' in Polish), begins on Swidnicka Street and runs through the market place to the old city. Everything from handmade soaps to leather and woollen goods are available to buy here, alongside the traditional Christmas sweets, decorations and souvenirs. Food-lovers can enjoy regional specialities, such as the typical 'Oscypek' hard cheese, and international specialities, such as Hungarian Kolaches or Lithuanian sausages. Visitors can warm up with the Polish version of mulled wine ('grzaniec') served in festive mugs, try their hand ice skating at the outdoor rink, or enjoy the decorative nativity scenes and huge Christmas tree.

    Opening days: 22 November to 22 December

    2) Salzburg, Austria

    Image source:, Salzburg

    The Salzburg Christmas market is centrally located in Residence square, at the foot of the Hohensalzburg fortress in front of the picturesque Salzburg Cathedral. The centrepiece is a 28-metre tall Christmas tree, best viewed when lit up at night time. The market prides itself for the diversity of its items, from objets d'art to tree ornaments, traditional handicrafts and fine baked goods. Mulled wine is popular here, alongside punch, Salzburg pastries and roasted chestnuts. Guests can enjoy performances by Salzburg choirs and children's school groups throughout the festive period.

    Opening days: 21 November to 26 December

    3) Hamburg, Germany

    Image source: R. Hegeler,

    Germany is famed for its Christmas markets, and Hamburg is no exception. The largest and most popular is located in the square outside Hamburg's impressive town hall, boasting the motto "art instead of commerce". It is operated by Roncalli's Circus, with the traditional mulled wine ('glühwein') served by clowns and circus artists. The market boasts a range of products from all over Germany, included gingerbread from Nuremberg and pottery by artists from the Lausitz region. On each of the Saturdays leading up to Christmas, the Christmas parade attracts locals and visitors alike with decorated floats and festive music.

    Opening days: 25 November to 23 December

    4) Leuven, Belgium

    Image source: Sofie Hoste

    Leuven Christmas market consists of 140 stalls in the Herbert Hooverplein and adjacent Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein in the old centre of Leuven. Visitors can expect Christmas lights, a life-size nativity scene, musical performances and fun fair rides. There is even a forest in which children can visit Father Christmas. The stalls sell everything from traditional Christmas items to candles, oil lamps, floral decorations and books. Visitors should not miss the nearby Stella Artois brewery, offering special tours throughout the Christmas period.

    Opening days: 13 December to 31 December

    5) Gothenburg, Sweden

    Image source: Liseberg

    Sweden's largest Christmas market is held at the Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg. The market boasts an impressive 5million Christmas lights, transforming Liseberg into a winter wonderland. Guests can walk through the themed areas, including a medieval camp and a recreated Lapland, complete with Santa, reindeers and northern lights. Besides the 80 traditional Christmas shops and stalls, there is a 'Designtornet' arts and crafts market perfect for finding unique Christmas presents. Visitors can try Swedish candy cane ('polkagrisar'), smoked fish, baked goods or those with a large appetite may want to book a table at the west-coast inspired Christmas buffet.

    Opening days: 15 November to 29 December

    6) Vienna, Austria

    Image source: Ben Burger, Fotolia

    Dating from 1294, the Viennese Christmas market is held against the majestic backdrop of the City Hall. The market is named the 'Vienna Magic of Advent' due to the festive lights adorning the stalls, the City Hall and the trees of the adjoining Rathauspark. Visitors are drawn by the sound of international choirs singing carols and the smell of crystallised fruit, candy floss and mulled wine. Some 150 wooden stalls sell Christmas gifts and tree decorations, while children can enjoy pony riding in the park and arts and crafts in the City Hall.

    Opening days: 16 November to 23 December

    7) Maastricht, Netherlands

    Image source: Magisch Maastricht

    Known as 'Magical Maastricht', this Christmas market can be found in Maastricht's centrally located Vrijthof square, surrounded by churches, restaurants and bars. The centrepiece is a 100-square metre ice rink, where visitors can try their hand at skating whilst surrounded by Christmas festivities. Travellers should also not miss the 60-metre tall ferris wheel, providing panoramic views over the lights of the city. The market specialises in locally sourced items and products, in particular the traditional Dutch pancakes ('poffertjes') enjoyed with butter and icing sugar.

    Opening days: 30 November to 30 December

    8) Nuremberg, Germany


    The Nuremberg Christmas market is famed as one of the oldest in Germany, held annually in the city's central market square since the 16th Century. Many traditions remain intact, such as the official opening of the market by the 'Christkind', who recites a traditional festive prologue on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday. Alongside the widespread grilled sausage, mulled wine and fresh gingerbread, Nuremberg is also renowned for its 'Zwetschgenmännle'. This is a small doll made from dried plums, nuts, raisins, and figs, which makes a popular souvenir.

    Opening days: 29 November to 24 December

    9) Strasbourg, France

    Image source: Pascal Bastien

    In operation since 1570, the 'Christkindelsmärik' in Strasbourg is France's oldest Christmas market. It extends over several streets and squares of the city, in particular the famous Broglieplatz and Münsterplatz. Visitors can choose from a selection of arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, 'Bredele' (traditional Christmas biscuits from Alsace) and the famous chocolate Yule log. The focal point of this market is the 31-metre Christmas tree, adorned with festive lights and capturing visitors' attention in the centre of Kleber-Platz.

    Opening days: 29 November to 31 December

    10) Merano, Italy


    Italy's Merano Christmas market opens its doors for the 27th time this year. This market is famed for its festive atmosphere and picturesque location, alongside the Passer River promenade with an Alpine mountain backdrop. Guests can browse from close to 80 different stalls for their Christmas presents and pick up trademark items such as sheep wool products, wooden toys, felt slippers and woollen socks. Children will love the range of craft and cookery workshops, pony rides and Advent stories.

    Opening days: 29 November to 6 January

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    No, you're not in a dream. This dazzling mountain is called Kirkjufell, and it really, truly exists.




    The mountain is near Grundarfjörður, a teensy-weensy town in western Iceland. With a summit 1,500 feet above sea level, Mount Kirkjufell the biggest landmark in the village of about 900 residents.

    Kirkjufell stands on a little peninsula of its own, a stunning backdrop for the multicolored Icelandic sky.




    To get to Mount Kirkjufell, you'll probably take a day trip by bus from a bigger city in Iceland, like Reykjavic.

    The payoff? An otherworldly journey to see the Northern Lights, starry nights, and some exquisite waterfalls.



    The best time to catch the Northern Lights in Iceland is between September and January.

    If you go to Kirkjufell, our only request is that you post an Instagram. This thing really beautifies a social media feed.

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  • 12/11/13--04:54: Love Letters: Toronto
  • Grace McClure is a Senior Writer for Flightfox, a human-powered travel platform. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario she travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia. After returning to Toronto to join the "real world", she has since run-off to Montreal to be a part of the startup team at Flightfox and learn un peu français.

    Dear Toronto,

    I love you to pieces; each and every beautiful, contradictory and challenging piece. You are your own collage of culture, contrast, and humanity; a medley of different worlds around you. You exist like a global greatest hits album, playing the "best of" tracks from the most exotic, colourful, and chaotic places on earth.

    You delight me with your schizophrenia; your neighbourhoods burst with diversity. Your Kensington Market is eclectic and unafraid, hosting famous street buskers and infamous shops. Your Yorkville is pretentious and corporate, catering to the elite and those maxing out credit cards. Your Dovercourt Park is lonely and uninspired, boasting an unofficial dog park and vacant street parking. But each of your neighbourhoods unite to make up the individual you--unique and certifiably insane.

    Like your personality, you have a roller-coaster of moods. In the winter you are beautiful but temperamental; you can be cruel and unrelenting. In the spring you are quiet but rejuvenated; you delight us with cherry blossoms and intoxicated squirrels. In the summer you are cheerful but broken; your streets become swollen and your air is thick. During the fall you are social but indulgent; you become swept up with exclusivity and red carpets.

    With you, I never knew what to expect. I foolishly misunderstood you. You have so many layers, so much depth; I felt I would never be able to figure you out. I was intimidated and felt under appreciated. After all, you wouldn't even notice if I was gone.

    It was fall. You were busy entertaining the likes of Jake Gyllenhal, Scarlett Johannson and Brad Pitt. You didn't care, so neither did I. I left you in September.

    Our relationship was always a bit tumultuous. You littered my apartment with your scornful yellow parking tickets, while your inconvenient subway lines always made me late. Your inflated rent never let me move out of dilapidated slums, scarring me with irreversible fears of cockroaches and bed bugs. And under your watch I was ripped-off by cab drivers and threatened by crazed strangers.

    Looking back I was irrational and irritated. My departure was premature--something I only came to realize by missing you. I miss your vietnamese subs on Spadina, your $4 caesars at The Lakeview, and running into friends on Bartlett street. I miss buying over-priced drink tickets at your strange weekend festivals, laughing at those in-line to go up the CN tower, and never knowing if it's "shorts weather". Most of all, I miss getting into fights at Korean karaoke, and examining fossils on Friday Night's at the ROM. I miss you on Sundays.

    Today when I reminisce, I automatically daydream about who you are at Christmas. I dream that your chilled streets are buzzing with excitement, your carefully decorated storefronts are opaque with fog, and your 50-foot Christmas tree sparkles inside the Eaton Centre. While drinking street-vendor hot chocolate, I imagine watching those gliding across your massive ice rink in Nathan Phillips Square and following the sea of stiff black coats cascading down Bay street.

    Toronto, I may not have realised this until you let me go, but I love you. I really do.

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    Valencia is rightly famous for its Paella but, for one week only, many of the city's restaurants offer menus at just €20 for lunch and €30 for dinner, using the best of local ingredients.


    The city is an easy hop from London, an ideal weekend destination and, if you're interested in local food, then Valencia fits the bill nicely - it grows rice and vegetables, gets fish and eels from its lakes and has an abundance of seafood. It's proud to trumpet its menus as km zero although kms two or three might be closer to the truth. On my first morning I visit Albufera Natural Park, where the rice is grown in paddies around the lake which once stretched all the way to the city centre. Fishermen would catch eels and bring them to the market - they still ply the slightly reduced waters in the same boats and it makes a pleasant morning's outing. All the restaurants round here serve authentic Paella but I've got a different destination in mind.


    I opt for lunch in the very traditional El Canyar Restaurant, in the centre of town. It's been here since the 1970's but feels much older as its décor hails back to the 19th century. Service is brisk and I have to down a bowl of soup, a dish of langoustines and scrambled egg with cuttlefish before I get to the Paella. It's served traditional style in its own copper pan - mine is big enough for two and constitutes a thin layer of rice with prawns. Earlier I'd been told that a true Paella should consist only of rice, chicken and rabbit, bajoqueta (green beans) and garrofón (butter beans), but I can't complain.


    The river used to run through the centre of town until they diverted it back in the 60's to prevent flooding. The dry riverbed was planted with trees and turned into a huge recreation area and today it's like a green artery dividing the north and south. Valencia must be the only city in the world where this has happened and it's a tremendous idea. At the far end is a cluster of impressive modern structures designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, with the grand name of City of Arts and Sciences. Fortunately it was completed just before the recession hit and I like the huge silo of the Museum of Sciences, particularly when it's lit up at night. There's also the Opera House, an Imax Cinema and Oceanografic, the biggest aquarium in Europe. You can easily spend days here but I have some serious eating to do.


    Dinner is the one star Michelin Restaurante Vertical, on the 9th floor of the Confortel Aqua Hotel 4*. Its huge windows give me a splendid view of the city at night and the tasting menu is both ancient and modern. I like the Royal Beef stuffed with Foie Gras, slow cooked for 72 hours, but best is the Swiss chard risotto topped, with a crispy slice of Iberico ham. Matching wines are served with every course and I'm surprised by how well a Fino sherry works with the raw tuna starter.


    Next day is a walking tour round the old town and I start at the Cathedral dating from the 13th to 15th century. Its greatest treasure is the holy grail, the cup that Jesus supposedly drank from at the last supper. I'm more interested in a glass of Horchata, a legacy from medieval Moorish rule. They brought tiger nut plants, still grown today on the outskirts of town, and the drink is a combination of the ground nuts, sugar and water.


    The beautiful and bustling Art Nouveau Central Market is the best place to try it and it's served with a pastry finger called a Farton to dunk in the drink.


    I'm interested in seeing the tiger nut bushes and am greeted by rows of the small squat plants just outside town. They grow all sorts of vegetables here and I spot a couple of varieties of juicy artichokes. Lunch is in the middle of these fields at La Mozaira, originally a farm but now a rather swish boutique hotel. Of course artichokes are on the menu, served with baby cuttlefish, and they couldn't be fresher. I'm intrigued to that the next course is written as "Burguer Handle with Mushrooms", but it turns out to be minced pigs trotters and is delicious.


    Probably the best dinner I have is at the tiny Q de Barella Restaurant, a short walk from the centre. There are 6 courses - home made cream cheese with bits of mojama, (salt cured tuna), almonds and lupin seeds. Next it's Foie Gras with shavings of daikon. It's followed by a standout black pudding made with squid, the ink colouring the morcilla. Then a huge scallop, on a bed of green beans, with sauce romesco, made with roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic and tomatoes. I'm getting full but eat all my rare pork tenderloin with a parmentier of Sobrassada, spicy sausage from Mallorca. The dessert of Horchata fried bread with cinnamon ice cream is slightly disappointing but I'm past caring by now.


    On my last day I take the bus to the beach and contemplate a swim but am tempted by the tapas at Casa Montaña. They've been in business for 177 years and it shows. There's excellent marinated tuna in 7 spices, goat cheese and honey peppers and, my favourite, cuttlefish with onion. It's still a bright autumn day outside so l amble out to the beach and enjoy 40 winks.


    Reinvigorated, I return to the Caro Hotel for my last supper in their Alma del Temple Restaurant. I get a second wind when Ciriaco, Michelin Guide cocktail maker, serves me a bracing gin and tonic with horchata foam. Food is also excellent here - I start with two roasted scallops served on a bed of shavings of ceps, swimming in a foie gras soup. It's a good combination and I also enjoy a slow cooked soft boiled egg with thin slices of Angus veal on a bed of parmesan crumbs. Next it's a fillet of John Dory served on chopped noodles with prawns, caviar and squid finely diced. The fish is cooked perfectly and the diced squid gives it a satisfying crunch. I wish I could say the same for the skin on the roast suckling pig on mango, but it's still an interesting combination. Finally, the best dessert of the whole trip - peanut sponge filled with dark chocolate cream on a bed of crushed peanuts with coconut ice.

    All these restaurants are taking part in restaurant week and I'm mighty impressed by the imagination of the chefs, the quality of their ingredients and the amazing value for money. Valencia hasn't been on my food map before this trip but now I can't wait to get back - the next restaurant week takes place in mid June and I'm looking forward to exploring some new menus.

    Valencia Tourism has information about the city and Restaurant Week.

    The Valencia Tourist Card offers free public transport and access to the museum as well as other discounts.

    The Caro Hotel is right in the middle of the old town and makes a luxurious base for exploring the city.


    Molca World offers gastronomic packages in Valencia which include cooking lessons with Michelin starred chefs, dining in their restaurants, wine tastings and visits to local markets.

    Turespaña has information about the country.


    All pictures copyright Rupert Parker

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    "Because of the horrors of plague the legends of Mary King's Close have grown and grown over the centuries since 1645. Perhaps the most famous story of a haunting is that of a little girl." - BBC

    When a historic attraction has been featured on a show called Most Haunted and gets its own WikiHow entry for "How to Survive a Trip to Mary King's Close," you're guaranteed a pretty spooky experience.

    the real mary kings close

    Buried under Edinburgh's Royal Mile is Mary King's Close, a 17th century street that was built over as Scotland's capital city grew (although the close's last resident remained on the premises until 1895).

    Perhaps the street's eeriest era dates to the 1645 plague, which left thousands dead and hundreds of plague victims sealed inside Mary King's Close: "In a desperate measure to reduce contamination over 300 plague victims were entombed alive when the close was bricked up until the plague had passed."

    If you take a tour of the underground street as part of the decade-old tourist attraction The Real Mary King's Close, your guide will tell you all about one of those unlucky souls: a little girl named Annie, left alone in a room without her favorite doll. The room, which is noticeably colder than the rest of the site (a possible sign of ghost activity, say some paranormal investigators), is filled with stuffed animals and toys left by visitors for the child's abandoned spirit. (The toys are donated to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.)

    prince charles marys close

    Prince Charles toured The Real Mary King's Close in 2003

    Okay, so Annie's room is pretty creepy. But is Mary King's Close really haunted?

    In May 2008, an infrared camera set up to take souvenir photos snapped a spooky shot that purportedly shows the ghostly figure of a rotund man standing in the street. Paranormal researcher Richard Felix told The Scotsman the photo was "one of the best examples of this kind of phenomenon that I've come across during my career."

    Other visitors report hearing scratching noises coming from a chimney and, according to Scotland Magazine, "Some even claim to have had their hands scratched after placing them inside."

    Need more proof? You'll have to check it out on your own. Once was enough for me

    real mary kings close

    Mary King's Close, Edinburgh via Wikimedia Commons

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    Air travel rarely inspires thoughts of relaxation and calm, particularly during the holiday season, but one major U.S. airport is joining a growing list of airports looking to change that.

    Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest and most delay-prone airports, on Tuesday marked the grand opening of a new addition to help stressed-out travelers relax: a yoga room.

    According to ABC Chicago, the room will allow travelers to unwind by doing yoga and meditating.

    Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tina Sfondeles got a peek of the new yoga room on Tuesday:

    O'Hare is far from the first airport to offer space for travelers to practice yoga. San Francisco International Airport became the world's first to offer the service in 2012 and airports in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Albuquerque and elsewhere offer similar services.

    In addition to the new yoga room, O'Hare's international terminal is also home to XpresSpa, which offers massages, manicures and hot shaves in addition to yoga and the airport is also on the verge of offering "Minute Suite" nap rooms for travel-weary passengers.

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  • 12/11/13--08:52: Most Unique Airport Shops
  • Picture this: You're jostling luggage valets and navigating airport security, heavy suitcases in tow, in a scramble to make your flight. Then suddenly it hits you: You forgot to buy a souvenir for your niece, not to mention a birthday present for the spouse who's been less than content, to put it lightly, about your week abroad.

    Your only option? An airport gift shop. Click here to see where you can shop.

    This used to be bad news. You could tow home a shot glass, T-shirt or—at best—a snow globe emblazoned with the Shanghai skyline. In other words, you might as well tattoo "I completely forgot about you until the very last minute" on your forehead.

    Today, however, there is no need to fear an awkward gift exchange and lukewarm welcome home. Terminals all over the world are upping their game with independent and one-of-a-kind boutiques.

    For a list of our favorite airport shops around the world, click here. —Lisa Cheng

    More from Executive Travel:
    Coolest First-Class Amenities
    Coolest Places for Business Conferences
    America's Best Small Towns
    Best Airports for a Long Layover
    Spectacular Hotel Lobbies

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    Complaining about the cold and plotting escapes to warmer climes is a popular winter pastime. A drop in temperature isn't all bad though, because it means cuddling up to a fire and sipping hot cocoa (or something stiffer). For those across North America and Europe looking to hunker down outside the city for a few days, here are 20 of the coziest countryside getaways to visit this winter.

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    Nothing says "you're so special to me" like booking a room at the local motel, right? Well, it seems the picture of a dimming vacant sign at the motel down the road isn't really how cheaters cheat these days.

    According to dating website (which is a dating site for individuals who are already in relationships), those with a wandering eye aren't afraid to spend a little cash on the guy or girl with whom they are straying. The website reached out to nearly 21,000 of their members to find out which hotel chains were their go-to spots for their, err, extra-curricular activities. High-end haunts Hyatt and Hilton grab the number one and two spots telling us some adulterers are willing to splurge a bit on their misbehaving.

    That's not to say only those with a big bank account have a wandering eye. Budget chains like Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn round out the top five.

    Have a guess which night is the most commonly booked for a little extra-marital hanky-panky? That would be Thursday, just in case you were wondering.

    So, without further ado, we give you the top 10 hotels for cheaters.

    1) Hyatt
    2) Hilton
    3) Sheraton
    4) Comfort Inn
    5) Holiday Inn
    6) Radisson
    7) Courtyard Marriott
    8) Westin
    9) Four Seasons
    10) Best Western

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    Christmas lights have been hung around the world, but few displays rival the stunning light show at Kobe Luminarie.

    The December light festival, held for 12 days in Kobe, Japan, was first held in 1995 in commemoration of the Great Hanshin earthquake that year. The display attractions millions of tourists and local viewers each year.

    Check out photos of this year's display via the Instagram blog.

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    The habits of North American hipsters are already well-documented thanks to Yelp, but what about hipsters around the world? Surely there must be some differentiating factor that separates a hipster in Berlin from a hipster in Sydney.

    Well, not according to Movehub's infographic on hipsters of the world. It seems hipsters' preference for Pabst, pretentiousness and picking kim chi transcends borders.

    The infographic breaks down the favourite interests, eats and drinks of hipsters in several cities and includes a section for "special hipster points." Apparently you're not a hipster in Stockholm until you have a baby and a Boston terrier.

    You can take a look at Movehub's take on the hipsters of the world below. But be warned: plenty of cringe-worthy facial hair lies ahead.

    Hipsters: The World Tour
    Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

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    Deciding to split up from Phil and Kelly happened very quickly, but it had been building up for a while.

    On my last morning in Medellin (2nd October 2013) the three of us were planning to go climb a big rock in a town outside of Medellin. Because it was out of town, and we'd been in Medellin for over a week, I thought it made sense to pack up, and head south after climbing the rock. I suggested this to Phil and his response was "I don't feel like packing my bike, let's just come back here and leave Medellin tomorrow".

    I don't consider packing our sparse belongings any great ordeal, and after our time in Monteria, I was fed up of Phil's desires dictating everything we did and when we did it. Something inside me snapped, and I told him he could do whatever he wanted, I was going to head down into Colombia's famous coffee region.

    I was furious, and very sad, as I packed my bags. I had always hoped it wouldn't come to us wanting to split up, but I had also promised myself not to stay with Phil just to keep the peace when I wasn't enjoying myself. He had Kelly with him therefore I didn't feel any guilt about heading a different direction. It's strange how I have no problem travelling on my own, but I don't like to leave Phil travelling by himself. Maybe because I'm his older sister and feel quite protective of him.

    As I packed I decided that not only was I going to leave Medellin that morning, but I was going to choose a route through Colombia that I would enjoy, and Phil could come meet up with me whenever he was ready. He wanted to go to Bogota to meet some frisbee playing friends of friends, and everyone I had spoken to had only negative things to say about Bogota, so I decided to skip Bogota and the long ride there and back. Everyone I had spoken to had highly recommended the "Eje Cafetero", the coffee region, which was on the way to Ecuador, and that is where I decided to spend my time.

    I tearfully told Phil this, crying being an embarrassing side effect of being angry. I was so upset that I decided to skip the big rock and just head straight to Manizales. I didn't feel like hanging out with Phil that day.

    The ride to Manizales was beautiful. Once I was on the road I started calming down and really enjoyed going at my own pace, with music playing through my Sena headset.

    I found the Mountain House hostel, and they let me park in their garage/restaurant. I had an eight bed dorm to myself. (A nice change to the thin mattress on the floor I'd been sleeping on for the past week!) I spent the evening doing sink laundry and chatting with other guests in the hostel. We haven't stayed in many hostels, but I always enjoy meeting other travellers and hearing about their journeys.

    The next morning I woke up to rain. I booked a coffee tour for the next day when Phil and Kelly would join me and I settled into the lounge area, enjoying the unlimited free coffee and good wifi connection.

    This man had some kittens, in a bag. He tried to sell us one.

    Kelly and Phil arrived late in the afternoon, and we headed out into town for dinner. Since Kelly joined us there there has often been some amount of conflict at meal time. Phil is looking for a large amount of food at the lowest possible price. Kelly wants nice, good quality food, served in a pleasant environment, and is willing to pay more for it. I fit somewhere in the middle.

    I don't mind eating cheap set menus, they are usually quite edible, and sometimes even very good. But I also enjoy eating more "gourmet" food, and I do not have a requirement for a huge plate of food like Phil does. That evening Phil "lost" the argument, and we went to a nice Italian restaurant. We stopped at a grocery store and Phil cooked himself a second dinner when we got back to the hostel.

    Not shown, the unpleasant smell of 3 damp motorcycle travellers

    The next day we were up early for the coffee tour at Hacienda Venecia. They picked us up from the hostel and drove us to the plantation, where we were given a full history of coffee, and sorted, peeled, then roasted our own little piles of coffee beans. The man running the tour gave me a look of death when I asked for sugar. Oops.

    Learning where different coffee comes from

    Phil finds a new place to tie his wristband

    All the possible flavours in your coffee

    Kelly sorts her beans

    Kelly sampling our freshly sorted and roasted coffee

    The red bean is how it grows, we sucked the sweet pulp off the bean, which is then dried, once dried one peels the shell off, and then it is roasted.

    The talk was nearly finished when an English-speaking guy and his Colombian girlfriend showed up. The leader asked Phil to explain what they'd missed. Phil rose to the challenge, and did a better job at explaining it all than the "professional".

    Coffee Guide Phil

    Phil enjoys the roasting aromas

    After another cup of coffee, our guide took us on a tour of the plantation. The tour up to this point had been very interesting and well structured. All that ended when we left our classroom. We followed the guide in silence as he walked us up to the processing plant.
    Coffee beans growing

    Watching the coffee beans dry

    Phil feels the heat of the coffee bean driers.

    Our guide filling a bag of coffee beans for export

    Ready to be sealed and shipped

    He didn't explain much about the fields or the plants. In the coffee bean washing, drying and bagging area he was only slightly more talkative, and then led us to the hacienda itself.

    In case we forgot where we were.

    Apparently they grow coffee and keep peacocks at the plantation

    The Hacienda, or main plantation house

    Phil chills in a hammock on the hacienda balcony

    At this point we were left to wander around the old house, and enjoy the hummingbirds and oranges.

    Flying in for a drink

    Spot the hummingbird

    We were very hungry as it was lunchtime, and had been told lunch would be available, but there was no sign of anywhere to procure this lunch. There was a cooking class taking place in a kitchen, but it was not for us. It was disappointing to end what had started out as a good tour on a bit of a low note.

    This butterfly loved the colour blue, and had a racing number on its wings!

    Did I mention we were hungry?

    In the jeep leaving the coffee plantation

    We ate lunch as soon as we were dropped back at our hostel. That afternoon we were chatting on facebook to our Australian motorcycling friend Tom who we had met in Cartagena. He was nearby and he and I arranged to meet at the Santa Rosa hot springs the next day, while Phil and Kelly headed towards Bogota.

    After a day of being reunited, the Ultimate Ride team split up again, this time for much longer.

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    There is a unique pocket in the world that buzzes with warmth, inner peace and joy. The people are peaceful, with a quiet confidence emanating from their eyes. They smile broadly, and are filled with energetic laughter, friendly gazes and cozy hugs. Welcome to Belize.

    Belize is more than a Birkenstock, barefoot backcountry. When I told people I was going to Belize, they responded in one of three ways: "Where?" or, "Isn't that a sweaty jungle of creepy crawlers?" or, "Where is Belize anyway?"

    So scrap your preconceived ideas of this petite little country, smushed between Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Although part of Central America, both geographically and politically, it refuses to be part of its neighbors to the left. Rather, Belize celebrates a diverse culture; in fact, they're known as the Central American melting pot. With a deep Caribbean influence, you won't find chimichangas here, amigo.


    Photo Shannon Kaiser

    It wasn't long ago that no one knew of Belize. No one knew that the best diving in the world was here, and no one knew how easy and affordable it was to get to, and to stay in. No one knew how nice the locals were, and no one knew they all spoke English. Shatter all your beliefs as we dive deeper in the topic of Belize by debunking five myths about Belize.

    Myth 1: Belize is a Caribbean Island

    You can't blame your sophomore geography teacher for your lack of recall on this one. Belize, although culturally inspired by the Caribbean, is on the mainland of Central America. Its tip reaches out gracefully toward the sea, and although it is a country geographically composed of Central American soil, perhaps most of the confusion comes from Belize hosting many exclusive resorts nestled peacefully on the Caribbean Sea.

    Hatchet Caye, 17 miles off the coast of Placenica, is an exclusive resort with ocean-view cabanas. Snorkeling Belize's barrier reef (the second-largest in the world) is a destination diver's dream.


    Photo Hatchet Caye

    Myth 2: Belize only boasts Bare-Bones Lodges

    Images of Tarzan may enter into your mind when you think of Belize, but Belize is no untamed jungle full of broken down tree houses. Some of the world's best eco-lodges are nestled in the ancient rain forest of this beautiful country.

    The Lodge at Chaa Creek is regarded as one of the world's top eco-lodges, and for good reason.
    Staying at this jungle lodge makes you feel more like a VIP or celebrity than a lonely, lost backpacker. The luxurious, thatch-roofed cottages are expansive and designed to evoke inner peace and a state of constant calm.


    Photo The Lodge at Chaa Creek

    Myth 3: The Cuisine is Latin American

    You won't be gorging on tacos and or chile rellenos here; instead, your taste buds will soar with rich textures and bold flavors. Belizeans enjoy meat pies, lobster fritters, chicken tamales, johnny cakes, iguana and gibnut (a local indigenous species). Everything has a kick; Belizeans love peppers and hot pepper sauce with habaneros and jalapenos -- the hotter the better!
    Guests who stay at the Chabil Mar Villas in Placenia can eat delectable meals on the resort's dock, which extends out into the Caribbean Sea. You will enjoy the breezy balm of the ocean as you indulge in a indulgent feast of exquisitely tender garlic lobster.


    Photo Chabil Mar

    Myth 4: Mayan Ruins Are Not in Belize

    While Guatemalans might tell you that there are no Mayan ruins in Belize, you can tell them to consult their history books. Archaeologists estimate that at the peak of Mayan civilization, one to two million Mayans lived within the borders of present day Belize. Mighty Mayan cities, such as Xunantunich, dotted the landscape, and guests who stay at The Lodge at Chaa Creek can visit the ruins of these amazing cities and explore the country's rich history.

    To see a tour of a famous Mayan ruin, watch the video here:


    Myth 5: Belize is Boring

    Just because Belize borders sleepy neighbors, that doesn't have any effect on the Belizean state of mind. While the long strips of warm, white sand beaches and cheap mojitos could make for a lazy holiday, there is no shortage of activities for the adventurous type. There is almost too much to do -- from caving, to diving, to jungle hiking, horseback riding to climbing Mayan ruins, you will never run out of things to do in Belize.


    Photo Chabil Mar

    If you are craving warm weather and cozy beach time, Belize is a must add to your future travel plans.

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    Bringing local culture and art to new heights

    For most travellers, airports are about making connections between destinations, but I see Toronto Pearson International Airport in a different way. When I walk into the airport, I see a blank canvas and feel a sense of possibility.

    As Toronto Pearson's curator I'm responsible for programming the exhibition spaces at the airport, ensuring that it reflects the vitality of the local arts and cultural community. I curate some exhibitions myself, and for others, I work with local arts, culture and heritage organizations. One of our goals at Toronto Pearson is to connect with our communities, and one of the ways that we do this is by creating opportunities for artists and students. Our biennial juried exhibition and our partnerships with the local arts organizations and the University of Toronto are some of the ways we do this.

    Biennial juried exhibition

    Every two years, I organize a juried art exhibition which allows local artists at any stage of their careers to contribute to the airport's Art and Exhibits Program.

    This year, I received over 420 submissions from 259 artists -- almost triple the number from the last juried show. The panel of three jurors, drawn from the local arts community, spent a day looking and talking and narrowed the submissions down to a final exhibition of 19 photographs, paintings, prints and mixed media works.

    This show allows me to find undiscovered artists in the community. Most of the submissions come from artists whose work I've never seen before. It's a great way for me to get a snapshot of what's happening at the community level. I've given solo or two-person shows to two artists whose work I first saw in one of my juried shows. As part of the juried show there is a Purchase Award. This means that artists who are selected for the exhibition not only have their work seen by thousands of people, but also have the opportunity for their piece to be purchased by the GTAA for our corporate collection.

    Tazeen Qayyum: Holding Pattern (in partnership with the Art Gallery of Mississauga)

    Part of our mandate is to show airport passengers the incredible cultural vitality of our surrounding communities. I invited Stuart Keeler, the Director and Curator at the Art Gallery of Mississauga (AGM), to curate a show for the airport. He introduced me to Tazeen Qayyum, a local artist originally from Pakistan, who had exhibited at the AGM. After visiting the airport -- this time as an artist rather than a passenger -- Tazeen decided that she wanted to create a new project that built upon her previous work but also took direct inspiration from the airport environment.

    This project was made possible by Toronto Pearson's Art and Exhibits Program which provides exhibit space, financial support and access to behind the scenes and secure areas of the airport. This is a great example of the opportunities and inspiration that our program can offer artists.

    Annual University of Toronto Partnership

    Since 2009, I've organized an annual partnership with the University of Toronto's graduate program in Museum Studies. I'm a graduate of this program, which makes this initiative particularly close to my heart.

    Each year I find a content partner and connect them with a group of students from the University of Toronto who curate an exhibition which is installed at the airport. This year, we're working with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

    The program gives students the opportunity to gain real curatorial experience and is a chance for me to give something back to the program that was instrumental in my career. I'm happy that I'm now at the point in my career where I have expertise to share.

    I truly believe that arts and culture connect and engage people and are a vital part of the community.

    The airport is a unique exhibition venue and it allows me introduce the richness and depth of our cultural community to passengers who may not be from the area, or who may not visit museums and galleries. And because every show is developed specifically for the exhibition spaces at the airport, my work is very hands-on and highly collaborative. I'm constantly inspired by the artists, students and organizations I work with, and that's made my seven and a half years as curator at Toronto Pearson fly by.


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    Dr. Mara Mulrooney wants to debunk Jared Diamond’s famous assertion that the people of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, committed “environmental suicide.”

    Mulrooney, assistant anthropologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, spent six years collecting and analyzing radiocarbon dates from around the island in an effort to ascertain how the people of Rapa Nui sustained themselves before and after the time of the first European discovery in 1722.

    Mulrooney claims that the data paints a picture not of resource decimation but rather of “sustainability and continuity.” Mulrooney goes so far as to say that “perhaps Rapa Nui should be the poster-child of how human ingenuity can result in success, rather than failure."

    She does not dispute that the Easter Island inhabitants, known as the Rapanui, destroyed the island’s abundant forests. But Mulrooney argues that deforestation was conducted in order to create agricultural fields and plant much more useful crops, like sweet potato and taro.

    This is not the first challenge to the Diamond school of thought. Archaeologist Terry Hunt and anthropologist Carl P. Lipo argued in their 2012 book The Statues That Walked that the Rapanui were sustainable farming innovators. Mulrooney’s use of radiocarbon dating proves that innovative agriculture was taking place on the interior of the island well after European arrival. Which means lack of food and the anarchy it could have caused were not the reasons the society collapsed. “It wasn’t until well after European contact that we have real evidence of depopulation and major changes on the island,” Mulrooney says.

    Easter Island is only 63 square miles in area and sits over 2,000 miles from the nearest country of Chile. Polynesian settlers reached Easter Island roughly 1,000 years ago (give or take 500 years, depending on whose theory you believe) via canoe.

    rapa nui aerial

    Rapa Nui is famous for the mysterious giant statues -- called moai-- erected on the island long ago, reaching heights above 30 feet and weighing as much as 270 tons. With nothing more than crude tools, Rapanui people erected the statues, moved them around the island, and eventually toppled them all.

    easter island statue

    In his bestselling book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond argues that the people of Easter Island are a perfect example of a society whose lack of forethought and resource-greed led to its demise.

    The first Polynesian colonists found themselves on an island with fertile soil, abundant food, bountiful building materials, ample lebensraum, and all the prerequisites for comfortable living,” Diamond wrote in a 1995 article for Discover magazine.

    But Diamond says the Polynesian society’s “doom had been approaching as people cleared land to plant gardens; as they felled trees to build canoes, to transport and erect statues, and to burn ... The overall picture is among the most extreme examples of forest destruction anywhere in the world."

    Diamond wrote that the erection of the moai, and their increasing size over time, is indicative of a “spiral of one-upmanship,” and likens the practice to Hollywood moguls exhibiting their wealth and power by building bigger and bigger estates. He says Rapanui cannibalism and the practice of living in caves for protection indicates chaos due to resource depletion.

    Diamond sees Easter Island as a microcosmic example of the Earth’s future if devastating resource depletion continues. Mulrooney sees it as an example of human ingenuity in the face of extreme isolation. The answer may be that Easter Island is both, and the takeaway is up to us.

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    WestJet airlines got a lot of different requests from passengers when filming their Christmas Miracle video, but one really stood out.

    A woman in Ontario asked Santa if she could have Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for Christmas.

    "I want Calgary's mayor," she said to Santa at the 1:40 mark in the airline's "Christmas Miracle" blooper reel.

    "I'm not sure I'm even allowed to say anything about that," said Santa after some uncomfortable ho-ho-ho's.

    The video is part of a WestJet Christmas project that asked passengers to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas before boarding their flight to Calgary, where they were surprised by receiving the presents they asked for.

    This isn't the first time someone from the province has summoned Nenshi to head east.

    When the City of Toronto dealt with flooding earlier this year, many citizens on Twitter asked if they could borrow the mayor.

    There's no word yet on the WestJet passenger's Nenshi wish being granted.

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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas is nicknamed the Natural State, and its capital lives up to the moniker. There are plenty of ways for people to experience the great outdoors in and around Little Rock. Plus, many of them are free.


    Want to see Little Rock's namesake geological formation and maybe an armadillo? Slip on some walking shoes and head to the trails that saddle up to the Arkansas River. The trail system loops by The Little Rock and Bill Clinton's presidential center in downtown Little Rock. Farther west, walkers, runners and cyclists can pass the aptly named Big Dam Bridge and spot armadillos in Two Rivers Park. Think of Boston's Charles River Esplanade with a touch of Southern charm (and a slightly different accent). Details: .


    Pinnacle Mountain rises more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the Arkansas River Valley, and it provides hikers with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. The park has a few trails, including 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) summit trails on the east and west sides of the mountain. But those trails get a bit steep toward the top, so the fainter of heart may prefer hiking around the base of the mountain. Details: .


    Arkansas has beautiful scenery, but it also has a history of ugly episodes in race relations. In 1957, Little Rock became the symbol of state resistance to school desegregation. Arkansas' governor and hundreds of protesters tried to stop nine black students known as the Little Rock Nine from entering Central High School. Things got so bad that the students needed the protection of federal troops to integrate the previously all-white school. Today, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site visitor center features a permanent exhibit on the desegregation crisis. Details: .


    The Little Rock area is no Hollywood, but it does have a bit of cinematic history. Across the river from Little Rock in North Little Rock lies the Old Mill, which appeared in the opening scenes of the film "Gone with the Wind." The Old Mill was built in 1933 as a replica of a water-powered mill from the 1800s. These days, the scenic spot is used for picnics and photo shoots. Details:


    Arkansas is perhaps best known as Bill Clinton's home state, so no list of tourist attractions would be complete without something related to the 42nd president. Clinton's presidential center charges admission on all but a few days, but the governor's mansion, where he and Hillary lived for years in Arkansas, is free. The mansion offers public tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but you'll need to call ahead to schedule one: 501-324-9805. Details:


    Follow Jeannie Nuss on Twitter at

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