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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Air Canada is on a charm offensive for the holidays. And it just might work.

    It's been a tough year for the airline, especially after it instituted checked baggage fees and its pilots were caught with porn in the cockpit.

    But on Wednesday, the company released a touching video in which two men dressed in pilot uniforms walked into the Maple Leaf pub in London, England and met Canadians who expected to celebrate the holidays away from home.

    One of the men announced that he'd like to buy the bar a round. Not a round of drinks, though — the other man then offered everyone in the bar "round trip tickets to go back to Canada for the holiday season."

    As you can imagine, the Canadians were elated at the news that they'd be going home for Christmas. They hugged the "pilots" and broke out into an emotional rendition of "O Canada."

    The video is a clear attempt to capitalize on the momentum of WestJet's own "Christmas Miracle" video from last year.



    In it, the airline brought personalized gifts to passengers travelling from Hamilton and Toronto to Calgary. The video drew over 36,000,000 views on YouTube.

    (By contrast, WestJet's new "Christmas Miracle" video in which the airline brought gifts to people in the Dominican Republic hasn't drawn quite the same level of attention.)

    We like what WestJet does around the holiday season. But this year, we also have to hand it to Air Canada.

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    A World War II bomb shell has been removed from Stanley Park by Vancouver police.


    The mortar shell was discovered by someone with a metal detector near the​ HMCS Discovery naval base on Deadman's Island Thursday afternoon.


    A Vancouver police bomb squad closed off the part of the park around the facility, which was built during World War II.



    wwii shell vancouver

    Police X-rayed the shell, but could not determine whether it was live or not. It has been removed for further analysis.


    Police have now left and reopened the park.


    Google Map: HMSC Discovery naval base on Deadman's Island in Stanley Park, Vancouver



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    Picture this: You're sitting and drinking a coffee in your Whistler chalet. You're staring out the window at the gorgeous snow-covered trees, and you think: "Why not hit the slopes?"

    So you put on your gear, open the door, and ski on out.

    Yes, dear friends, this Whistler home (currently on the market for a cool $11.9 million) is ski-in/ski-out, meaning you can go right from your property to the runs.

    whistler ski in

    Talk about dreamy.

    The 5,750 sq.-ft. house, designed by well-known Vancouver architect Paul Merrick, features an open concept floor plan and large windows for maximum natural light. If your friends aren't impressed with the ski locker room or nine-person hand cast hot tub, then wow them with the 1,500 sq.-ft. deck fit with a 13-inch concrete fireplace.

    Oh, and the home overlooks the former Olympic Alpine finish line that was used during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    whistler ski in

    Daydream away.

    See more photos:




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    December's HuffPost B.C. Photographer of the Month has a knack for capturing the intimate moments of wild animals. Whether it's baby foxes nursing with their mother, an owl catching a moment of peace, or a baby goat climbing over an adult, Cas Sowa can capture it — and well.

    Sowa grew up in Northern B.C., around Telkwa, and has been practicing photography since the early '70s.

    "Raised dirt poor, the only inspiration was with the natural wildlife and nature," Sowa told The Huffington Post B.C. in an email. He said he took "great interest seeing how all life and nature is an extension of yourself."

    He is always trying to find nature's deeper meanings and express those through his work.

    "Shooting images and creating what a person feels is something that will always be with me," Sowa said. "It’s a challenge that keeps a person inspired."

    See some of Sowa's amazing work:




    More B.C. Photographers Of The Month

    November: Nature photography of Shane Kalyn

    October: Landscape photography of David Chang

    September: Food photography of Joann Pai

    August: Street photography of Donovan Mahoney


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    Hydrogen buses that were once lauded as the future of clean transportation in B.C.are being replaced by old-fashioned diesel power.


    The 20 vehicles were part of a high profile, $90-million plan to showcase hydrogen power during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler.


    BC Transit is now taking bids on the buses and will either sell them off or have them converted to use diesel or other fuel. They have been in storage for several months and each has roughly 200,000 kilometres on the odometer.


    In a written release, BC Transit said it's exploring various options for the hydrogen buses, and its bidding process closes on Dec. 19. It declined a request for an interview from CBC News.


    The decision to kill the fleet has Canada's hydrogen proponents fuming, including Eric Denhoff, President and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association.


    He is highly critical of BC Transit's decision, saying they should have kept the buses on the road as a demonstration project, despite their higher operating costs.


    "Even if there was a bit of additional cost to running these things, you now have to go out and buy 20 new diesel buses to replace them, so I don't understand how the math on that works," said Denhoff.


    He says electric trolley buses also cost more than diesels, but TransLink manages to keep a large fleet of them on the road in order to further other goals, such as reducing pollution.


    A failed experiment?


    Denhoff once served as chairman of BC Transit but, he says, they aren't receptive to new ideas. "I just think management there doesn't like new technology."


    He denies this was a failed experiment, saying it helped proved the technology is viable and kept thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases out of the air.


    The only tailpipe emission from the buses is water, but the hydrogen fuel had to be trucked in from Quebec.


    According to Burnaby's Ballard Power Systems, which manufactures fuel cell engines, Whistler's hydrogen buses cost $1.34 per kilometre to maintain, versus 65 cents per kilometre for diesel-powered buses.


    The federal government contributed $45 million and the B.C. government provided $44.5 million for the manufacture of the buses and to cover some of the capital and operating expenses.


    The Fuel Cell Association says hydrogen powered transport is moving ahead in Canada.


    Denhoff says B.C. is Canada's hub for the industry and it now employs almost a thousand people in the Vancouver area.


    He points to Ballard Power Systems manufacturing thousands of fuel cell engines for use in commercial forklifts, one of the early commercial successes for hydrogen power.


    "We're selling our stuff all over the world and you would think that the management of the transit company would be helping us," he said.



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    2015 is just around the corner and so the team at Cheapflights.ca has gotten out its crystal ball for a peak at the travel year ahead. Read on for our thoughts on what trends will shape where we go and how we travel. And, as a bonus, we've thrown what our team has to say about some unexpected new travel hot spots for Canadians.

    SPORTS AND WELLNESS

    Canadians are going to get their fill of sports in 2015. With the Pan Am Games and Parapan Am Games coming to Toronto and the FIFA Women's World Cup is playing out in six host cities this summer, athletes, media and fans will turn Canada into a three month sports arena.

    Besides giving sports lovers throughout the country great access to world-class competition, this summer of sports fits into the overall increase in attention to health, wellness and active living - and vacationing. More and more travellers are baking "wellness" into their getaways, going out of their way to nurture mind and body on their vacations. While high-end resorts are rolling out high-priced programs such as the newly launched Energy by Four Seasons, bargain hunters will seek out conventional and alternative therapies farther afield.

    Mexico and Costa Rica are rising stars for stress-busting yoga and wellness getaways as well as places to get in touch with your inner athlete (surf camp anyone?). Further afield, Asian countries such as India, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Korea all have well-developed - and reasonably priced - retreats that offer a variety of massages (no, not that type) and spa treatments ranging from fish pedicures to python massages to butt facials and fat-transfer treatments that will give you a bum like Kim Kardashian. She may be doing her best to "break the Internet", but at least you won't be breaking the budget when it comes to looking after your body abroad.

    WEARABLE TECH AND LOCATION-BASED SERVICES FOR TRAVEL GOING MAINSTREAM

    Airlines are increasingly using wearable tech to engage directly with their passengers and provide efficient, targeted service throughout the journey - from check-in to baggage.

    Virgin Atlantic held trials with Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches. Japan Airlines has been ahead of the curve too, equipping staff with smartwatches. In 2015 we'll see a greater rollout of this - in-flight as well as on the ground. For example, the Spanish airline Vueling has partnered with Sony to create the concept of a smartwatch-based boarding pass.

    For the travellers themselves, high-quality wearable cameras such as GoPro and Autographer will continue to fuel social-media networks and mean that every single step of a vacation is documented.

    On-the-go tech also translates to the ability to arrive in a city and find "just-in-time" deals on everything from tours to hotels to meals. This trend is increasing in popularity with budget-minded travellers who are not fixed on a particular hotel or plan and will trade predictability for affordability.

    GREATER SEGMENTATION/PERSONALIZATION ON FLIGHTS


    2015 is all about the "c" word - choice, choice, choice. Be on the lookout for opportunities to personalize and upgrade your flight. Airlines will create special pods in their economy classes giving families and couples greater privacy - if not oodles more legroom.

    The U.K.s' Thomson Airways' newest jets will be featuring booth-style seating at the back of the plane that can accommodate four to six people. Duo-seating includes a third seat that can transform into a table. This follows Air New Zealand's Skycouch, which offers Premium Economy seating at something closer to Economy prices. Closer to home, JetBlue's new Mint class offers personal suites on flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco (with more routes coming) for prices far below traditional first class.

    More airlines will offer the sort of perks once reserved for First-Class flyers. Think the Flying Nannies service and butlers on Etihad Airways' long-haul flights, although butlers for bargain hunters may be a ways off yet.

    We're also betting that hotels will strive to differentiate themselves against peer-to-peer rental sites such as Airbnb with value-added services (concierges for example) and establish themselves as destinations in their own right. Expect more opt-in extras and "value packs" as hotels look to woo higher-spending customers. And the list of extra services will grow and grow from basics like kids go free to pet nannies, helicopter rides, tour tickets, children's activities, hangover butlers and staff to buff your sunglasses and gadgets. At the other end of the scale, sharing-economy accommodation sites will add higher end offering and features to compete with hotels.

    AIRTIQUETTE

    2014-12-04-5938686651_0a8ee09737_o.jpg
    Image: Hey! Don't recline your seats that much (Lars Plougmann used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license)

    With power-up rules at some airports, omnipresent mobile tech, the potential for hacked boarding passes, seat defenders wielded by assertive passengers, the predominance of the in-flight selfie (taken with the near-ubiquitous selfie stick) and carry-on meals that often pack an odour punch all creating flash points for passenger conflict, we are expecting "Airtiquette" to be a major issue in 2015.

    Airlines will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to air rage. Flight crews will be on the lookout for trouble and ready to bring in official help when they need it. However, to get ahead of issues, the airlines will get proactive, adapting the seats on their planes, creating alternate seating layouts, adding dual-level armrests and "smart" pockets to stow devices and charging "stations".

    CELEBRATING FOOD

    Food has always been part of both travel and celebrations but, increasingly, travel has become a way to celebrate cuisine. 2015 is a landmark year in this regard as the idea of a formal restaurant turns 250. The birth place of dinning out was (where else?) Paris. The year was 1765. The restaurateur was Monsieur Boulanger. And the house specialty was soup.

    Fast forward to today and celebrity chefs, online reservations and reviews and a more mainstream "foodie" mentality have turned dinning into entertainment at home and on vacation. Cooking (and even extreme eating) shows spotlight the cuisine of cities and cultures around the world, making everything from destination cooking classes to celebrity chefs tours (on land and on cruise ships) and a renewed emphasis from airlines on food and beverage ready to be front and centre in 2015.

    Along these same lines, expect sustainability and traceability to be high on the menu next year. Expo Milano 2015 will be the largest worldwide event ever, running from May 1 to October 31, drawing 22 million visitors from 130 countries (a billion people online) for food festivals and cultural celebrations.

    DESTINATIONS


    TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

    2014-12-04-Tortola.jpg
    Image: Tortola (Gail Frederick)

    Disney is coming to this Caribbean sailing mecca. Not the Magic Kingdom but rather the cruise line. This is not the first line cruise line to make Tortola a port of call, but the negotiation to bring Disney to town (and woo more visits by other cruise lines - most notably Norwegian) has spurred construction of the Tortola Pier Park. The plans call for expanding the docking to accommodate larger ships and adding restaurants and shops to the waterfront, with Phase I slated for completion in early 2015. There are even reports of a taxi academy to improve passenger service.

    Tortola has long been a launching point for charter sailing adventures, offering access to the BVI's protected waters, lovely anchorages, scenic snorkeling and diving and fun boating bars. However, we are already seeing signs of a new boost in popularity particularly with Canadians. It looks like classing up the waterfront and building out the infrastructure will put Tortola on the chart for more than just the hands-on sailing crowd. And Disney's marketing machine is just getting started!

    BALI, INDONESIA

    2014-12-04-Bali.jpg
    Image: Pura Taman Ayun, Mengwi, Bali (Sean Hamlin)

    Canadian are starting to catch on to Asia and Australia's newest budget destination of choice. Bali is a postcard perfect Pacific island undergoing a boom of growth in new hotels and resorts at price points to meet every budget.

    From serene beaches and iconic temples to an array of spas and a sizzling club scene, Bali has pretty close to everything under the sun. Its appeal is such that, rumour has it, "The Bachelor" will be taking some dates there in the upcoming season.

    Flights from Canada. are becoming more frequent and affordable, but the eye-popping deals are from the host of bargain airlines out of Australia promising flights for well under $100.

    ICELAND


    2014-12-04-Iceland.jpg
    Image: Iceland (Nick)

    It's hard to be sure whether Walter Mitty, Wow Air or volcanos have done the most to out Iceland on travelers to-do lis. All we can say is that we it expect it to be a red hot (maybe even molten hot?) travel spot for 2015.

    Iceland moved into a leading travel role when Ben Stiller hurls himself downhill on a skateboard past a sweeping mountainscape in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". This was a rare case of Iceland starring as itself rather than a fictitious land, awakening millions of viewers to its rugged beauty.

    Insiders say, however, that tourism started its recent upswing in the wake of the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which made global headlines for causing the cancelation of more than 100,000 flights thanks to its ash clouds. While that volcano captured worldwide attention, the spewing of another volcano, Bardarbunga, this last August sparked a different flight trend - eruption sightseeing flights. Online videos of the Holuhraun Lava Field once again put Iceland center stage, showing it as a place like no other.

    The one thing holding Iceland back as a destination, however, has been the expense. And now, rounding out the trifecta, we have Wow Air. This budget airline, based on Iceland, has now started to offer flights from the East Coast to Reykjavik starting at $99 each way. Look for other airlines to respond to the pricing pressure. And for opportunities to lay over for free for few days in Iceland on your next trip to Europe.

    MALTA


    This historic island nation, part of the British Commonwealth, is a popular beach destination for Europeans. However, it's garnering increased attention on this side of the pond as well after the Jolie-Pitts bestowed the highest honour on the nation when they had a working honeymoon on the island of Gozo, filming "By the Sea".

    And, if the Hollywood effect isn't enough, Malta is likely to get the royal treatment in 2015 as well. The Duchess of Cambridge was due to make her first solo overseas visit to the republic to mark 50 years of independence in September but pulled out due to severe morning sickness. Our U.K. experts predict that she will instead visit in with Royal Baby No. 2 in tow.

    And, for the royal sweep, the Queen and her three heirs (Charles, William and George) are expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta next November.

    LITHUANIA

    Lithuania will adopt the Euro on January 1, 2015, bringing the Baltic country into the single-currency club. There'll be no more messing around with litas. Prices are expected to rise - in line with other countries that joined the Euro - but visitors can expect plenty of bang for their buck.

    Its beer is legendary, its cuisine hearty, cheap and local (tying into the Sustainable food trend) - Cepelinai (potato and meat dumplings) and Balandėliai or Little Doves (minced-meat-stuffed cabbage leaves) are national dishes. Its coast - the Curonian Spit - is UNESCO-listed and balmy in the summer time. And its culture comes with a side order of quirky.

    Užupis is a bohemian, independent republic with a 12-man army and a statue of Frank Zappa (they tore down their statue of Lenin and replaced it with Zappa in the mid-1990s). Visitors to the independent country will be rewarded with a stamp in their passport, one of the best souvenirs for travellers.

    THE ALPS

    Topographically speaking, we'll all be high in 2015. July will be 150 years since the first Matterhorn ascent and Zermatt is celebrating with open-air performances, festivals and sporting events. The Hörnli Hut, the starting point for a Matterhorn climb, will reopen after being refurbished. This 101-year-old Matterhorn mountain lodge stands at 3,260 metres above sea level.

    As "The Sound of Music" marks its fiftieth year, Austria will be alive with the sounds of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's gem. Salzburg will host exhibitions, tours and sing-alongs.

    And finally, the "Frozen" juggernaut will show no sign of slowing down in 2015. The global phenomenon may be set among the Scandinavian fjords, but with the Peak Walk in its infancy intrepid travellers can feast their eyes on the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau feeling just like Anna when she conjured up her ice kingdom.

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    TORONTO - All three parties welcomed a decision Friday by former New Democrat Joe Cimino to turn down $58,000 in severance that he was entitled to receive after serving just five months in the Ontario legislature.

    "I have notified human resources with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that I have no intention of accepting the severance allowance that was afforded me," Cimino said in a statement.

    Cimino shocked everyone, including fellow New Democrats, when he quit suddenly in late November, citing personal issues for resigning the seat he won June 12.

    All members of provincial parliament are eligible for six months' severance pay for any term under four years, but Cimino said he had no idea he would entitled to such a large payout.

    "I was unaware that I would be eligible for any severance upon my resignation as MPP until after I resigned in writing, and was notified of the entitlement," he said. "As such, I did not plan on the funds when making the very difficult decision that I did."

    NDP Leader Andrea Horwath admitted a $58,000 severance after five months' work would raise a lot of eyebrows among taxpayers.

    "I'm pleased to hear that Joe did the right thing and decided not to take the severance package," said Horwath. "We respect his need to put his family and his health first."

    Liberals and Conservatives also praised Cimino's decision, saying the severance packages are meant for politicians who are defeated, not for those who quit after just a few months on the job.

    "In this unique circumstance, I would commend him for doing the right thing," said Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.

    "I do personally applaud Joe," said Progressive Conservative Bill Walker. "I think that he has done what he feels right in his heart, and as long as he's happy with it then I think that's good."

    All three parties have agreed to look at changing the rules for severance pay after learning about Cimino's eligibility, but Duguid said the payouts are meant to compensate for the fact MPPs do not have a pension plan.

    "It'd be nice if people knew that we don't, because I think they assume we have these gold plated pensions," he said.

    Horwath agreed the severance criteria for provincial politicians should be changed to prevent any situations similar to Cimino's in the future.

    "I look forward to seeing any legislation the goverment brings forward to review the rules around severance for MPPs," she said.

    Premier Kathleen Wynne has until May 20 to call a byelection in Sudbury, which could cost Ontario taxpayers up to $500,000.

    Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter


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    For many children, going to your first professional sporting event with your parents is a rite of passage and an exercise in family bonding. But with the average ticket price for a family of four getting more and more expensive (between $200 and $500 depending on the league), it's getting harder for families to share that experience.

    Fortunately, there are a few money-saving strategies you can use to get your family to the game.



    Take Advantage of Family Nights and Special Sections
    Many teams offer Family Nights where families can get meals, tickets, and souvenirs at discounted rates. Some teams also offer sponsored sections for families to buy tickets at reasonable prices, so make sure to check with your local team to see what deals they offer.

    Attend College, Farm Team, or Minor League Games
    They may not be the superstar athletes you see on TV today, but they could be the stars of tomorrow. Don’t discount teams or players that aren’t yet pro, because they’re almost there! Plus the games are often held in stadiums or rinks closer to home turf (as opposed to travelling into the downtown core). The games are just as competitive as the pros, but the ticket prices are a lot cheaper.

    Ask Friends or Employers with Club Seats or Season Tickets
    Often offices use sports tickets as client or employee rewards, so don’t be shy to ask your boss if they have any spare tickets kicking around. Also, it's typically impossible for season ticket holders to attend every game, so call up people you know who have them and work out a deal for a couple of games.

    Look Online for Cheap Tickets
    Many sites like Craigslist, Kijiji and Stub Hub offer great deals on second-hand tickets. This is especially true for regular-season tickets featuring lesser opponents that season ticket-holders and other fans may be trying to unload.

    Buy Tickets Strategically
    If you ask ticket brokers, when you buy your tickets matters much more than where you buy your tickets. Jack Groetzinger from SeatGeek.com told Time Magazine that prices for rivalry match-ups drop significantly from when they first go on sale. So if you can wait long enough you might be in luck. If your team has already played a bunch of games at home, you’re likely to find cheaper tickets for the next few home games as prices drop as teams get deeper into home games. Finally, look out for games with lesser opponents in larger venues, along with games featuring divisional opponents your team plays more often as they are unlikely to sell out are also more affordable

    It Matters Where Your Team Plays and Whether They are a Winner
    Whether or not your team is headed to the playoffs affects ticket prices greatly. Basement-dwelling teams are much more affordable than those at the top of their conference. But beware — the market a team plays in can also affect ticket prices. For example, The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs in years, but they play for a hockey-loving city, which ensures they have the most expensive tickets in the league ($631.13) win or lose, so check ticket prices in markets where interest is lower.

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    Your love for winter defies explanation. Your friends and family can’t quite explain it, but you know that deep down, you’ve got an incurable case of winterlust. The first snowfall of the year sets your heart racing, and from that point until the spring thaw, you’re like a kid in a candy store. No temperature is too frigid, and no winter sport is too extreme. You’ve been known to wear shorts in January, and let’s not even get started on how you feel about Frozen.

    But even then, it can be hard to fully express what the sights and sounds of winter do to you. This list is for you. Because during the winter, you can’t help but do the following:

    You take your snow angels VERY SERIOUSLY.

    2014-12-05-PatrickStarSnowAngels.gif

    VERY. SERIOUSLY.

    2014-12-05-BandBSnowAngel.gif

    Do you want to build a snowman? Yes. Constantly.

    2014-12-05-BuildASnowman.gif

    And if you’re not down to build a snowman, snowball fights are totally your thing.

    2014-12-05-SnowballFight.gif

    You’ll never stop trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue.

    2014-12-05-SvenSnowflake.gif

    You’re a sight to be seen once you strap on your skates.

    2014-12-05-BladesofGlory.gif

    And that includes hockey.

    2014-12-05-KnucklePuck.gif

    You’re always the first to jump into a pile of untouched snow.

    2014-12-05-DogSnow.gif

    And sometimes, you’re gone for hours.

    2014-12-05-DogTunnel.gif

    You always have the best winter gear.

    2014-12-05-LukeHoth.gif

    Although your friends may not always appreciate it.

    2014-12-05-WinterGear.gif

    And it doesn’t matter if you’re a snowboarding master…

    2014-12-05-SnowboardTrick.gif

    A ski champ…

    2014-12-05-Skiing.gif

    Or none of the above.

    2014-12-05-SnowboardFail.gif

    Because you are winter.

    2014-12-05-SnowMiser.gif

    Everyone knows your motto.

    2014-12-05-Winteriscoming.gif

    And the cold never bothered you anyway.

    2014-12-05-Frozen.gif

    If you can relate to some (or all) of the above Winterlust symptoms, then it’s time for you to seek out the ultimate Winterlust cure by visiting Alberta this winter! You’ll be glad you did.

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    At this point in human history, we have more smartphone apps than we could possibly know what to do with. Plenty of them are designed to help you waste time while waiting in an airport, while others help you tap into your creative side, and others still are genuinely useful tools for your everyday life. When it comes down to apps that are both practical and amazingly clever, there are a select few that make the cut for personal mobile device users. Here are five essential ones to download, sure to help you simplify a complicated world:



    24me: Smart Personal Assistant
    What if you could centralize all the essential things you use on your smart phone and computer? One place where you can see what’s shaking on Facebook and other social networks, get your mail, pay bills, appointment reminders, errands, and birthdays? 24me is a one-click stop where you bring all your online bits and pieces together. It takes a bit of work initially to link in your most used sites, email provider, and so forth, but you’re rewarded with a tool that keeps you organized on a universal level.

    Evernote: One Workspace
    Technology is wonderful, isn’t it? But the sheer volume these days is a bit overwhelming and then we still have some of old-school habits, like keeping a things-to-do list on paper and tearing articles from your favourite magazines. Evernote is like having a single notebook where you can keep everything, from photos and handwritten notes, from a virtual scrapbook of web articles to grocery lists. And it’s searchable.

    Key Ring: Tame your cards
    It’s great that there is so many loyalty programs and that just a swipe of a coded card will get you into the gym, but it’s time to stop the card madness. With this app, all of your loyalty card info goes onto your phone, neatly organized and easily accessible. Scan and store library cards, gift cards, all points and loyalty cards. When you are at the airport, for example, to get your frequent flyer miles, your card info can be scanned off your phone. Plus there are coupons and special offers you’ll get based on the companies you use most.

    1Password: Puts Passwords in Their Place
    How many times have you had to reset a password for a site because you’ve forgotten what it? It can drive a person to madness. This app puts all your passwords together under one master code. Logging into websites is now lightning fast and effortless. Signing up for new sites is even easier because 1Password generates super secure passwords and then saves them. The app synchs, or shares your passwords, with all of your electronic devices so you never have to go digging for them again.

    Expensify: Expense Tracker
    Come tax time, you’ll be grateful for the Expensify app. Once upon a time, an old shoebox was the place of choice for receipts, then there were software programs that could easily add up numbers and provide us with the data we needed. Expensify is the next big leap in managing expenses. Using your phone, just take a photo of your receipts and app will organize them. It’s ideal for business travellers who need to generate expense reports and for anyone who wants to monitor their spending.

    To claim your own piece of timeless design, be sure to check out the various models offered at Toyota.ca.

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    Ken Nicholson calls it "The most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. People come from all over the world to see the goats on the roof."

    Nicholson is a self-professed hippie, one of many on Vancouver Island. He's also a business owner and like many business owners around the central part of the island, he has benefitted from the "ridiculous" goats atop the Coombs Country Market.

    More than one million visitors arrive every year to see this accidental tourist attraction. The goats first appeared 40 years ago, when the Coombs market was built by Norwegian immigrants who had grown up with sod roofs and wanted to bring that feature to their adopted country. When the grass started growing higher than expected, a family member suggested that goats be recruited to serve as lawnmowers on the roof that is about eight feet above ground.

    Even before the Internet age, word of animals doing odd feats spread quickly. The Coombs market became one of the most bizarre destinations in Canada. While the goats may now seem gimmicky and old-fashioned, Nicholson's T-shirt shop, Coombaya, is anything but. It's irreverent, wacky and unique.

    The store is among the many that run alongside and behind the main market building. Coombaya has been operating for 20 years and Nicholson has embraced the marketing opportunities the goats present. He's planning to launch Coombstock, a music festival inspired by Woodstock and whose logo features a goat on a guitar handle in place of the bird that adorned the symbol of the historic 1969 gathering.

    Visit Vacay.ca for More Photos of Vancouver Island

    Renovations to the stalls surrounding the market will push Coombaya down the road in 2015 to a colourful storefront facing the Alberni Highway (also called Highway 4 and is part of the Trans-Canada Highway). The market itself will continue to operate, providing local food products to residents and treats to visitors who want to snack on something while craning their necks to catch sight of the half-dozen or so goats chomping away.

    If goats on a roof are Vancouver Island's manmade phenomenon, the surf is this idyllic setting's most sensational natural wonder. Surfers from afar discovered Tofino en masse following the paved extension of the Trans-Canada Highway to the Pacific Coast in 1971. It's along this route that Colin Kearns saw opportunity. Similar to how Nicholson and other entrepreneurs around Coombs have leveraged the goats on the market, Kearns has taken advantage of the popularity of Tofino as a surfer's destination.

    His Island Surf Co. was established in 1998 but it struggled in its initial location in downtown Qualicum Beach, a community of about 9,000 people along the shore of the Strait of Georgia. The waterway separates the island from mainland British Columbia and visitors most often travel between the two land masses on BC Ferries.

    "I kept driving by on this highway and I said to myself, 'I've got to be here,'" Kearns told me as we walked through his surf shop, which may be one of the few of its kind that's worth a visit even if you're not in the market for a board. "There is so much traffic going on the way to and from Tofino, and those are my customers. I knew if I could get a spot here that it would work and fortunately the opportunity came up."

    What makes Island Surf Co. unique is the products inside. It is one of the few surf shops in the world that sells a wide range of top-quality brand-name surfboards. Most often, consumers will have to go directly to a Hobie or Bing store to shop for those brands, but Kearns -- a competitive surfer from South Africa -- has a decades-long relationship with many of those companies and has been able to stock his walls with an array of boards. Many of the boards are hand-crafted works of art and that fact gives Island Surf Co. the atmosphere of a gallery.

    I've never surfed but after coming into the store, learning about the sport and spending time being dazzled by the boards, I want to give it a try.

    Another watery wonder in this part of Vancouver Island is the bioluminescence that occurs beneath dark, moonless skies. Biologist Patricke Walsh has made a hobby of guiding tourists at night through the harbours around Parksville. On his tours, Walsh paddles a canoe through the water that is pitch black except for the beautiful dashes of illuminated organisms, which flit by at high speed. Stellar sea lions congregate on rocks, barking at the stars while Walsh makes note of the mysteries of the bioluminescence. The phenomenon is most often caused by a chemical reaction. An enzyme produced by the aquatic creatures encounters oxygen, causing the light to appear. The bioluminescence could be a defence mechanism for species like plankton, Walsh says.

    His tours occur during the summer and fall and the best time to participate is in the days preceding the monthly new moon. That's when the sky is darkest and the chance of seeing the bioluminescence peaks. Guests on the two-hour Coastal Revelations tour also have the chance to snorkel along the shores of the Strait of Georgia, where simply splashing the water can allow you to see the organisms beneath the surface glow in front of your eyes.

    Like Kearns and the Graaten family who started the Coombs market, Walsh is a transplant to Vancouver Island. He arrived from Ontario and found both the lifestyle and climate of British Columbia appealing.

    "As someone who is interested in science and the natural world, I find it fascinating," he says. "There's always a lot to do and a lot about the environment to discover."

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    The Tundra Lodge in northern Manitoba doesn't look like much from the inside.

    Its lounge has a drab grey carpet, green couches that look like hand-me-downs, and chairs that might be more suited to the waiting room at a small, regional airport.

    But unlike most hotels, here it's what's on the outside that counts.

    See, the Tundra Lodge is a hotel on wheels that takes guests deep into the province's polar bear country, where they have up-close encounters with the Arctic animals now being threatened by climate change.

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    Guests here pay up to $7,695 to spend three nights in the mobile hotel, which takes them into polar bear habitat at the start of the viewing season, according to the website for lodge operator Natural Habitat Adventures.

    They can also spend two additional nights in the town of Churchill, a tourist destination that has developed a reputation as the "polar bear capital of the world."

    The lodge is parked every September on a section of land on the shore of Hudson Bay, where ice forms; that draws the animals at the start of the bear-viewing season, the company said on its website.

    Every guest has their own room with a private window, and there's also an outdoor viewing area with a mesh floor where you can come even closer.

    Additionally, guests have a chance to see the Northern Lights, "if [they're] lucky," states the site.

    The next booking dates available are in October 2015.

    Here are some more photos of the Tundra Lodge.

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear rover

    polar bear rover

    polar bear hotel

    polar bear hotel

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    "Martinique is not for tourists; it is for travellers." says our guide as we make our way through the winding, hilly roads of this French/Caribbean island.

    Martinique is to France, as Hawaii is to the U.S. This island "outpost" is a district of France, and its approximately 400,000 inhabitants live under French law. Proud to have been anointed the safest Caribbean island in recent years, the island has a distinctive French flair which is uniquely blended with the island culture.

    Peak travel times from Canada are December to March. Flights are direct from Montreal (Air Canada), or through Miami (American Airlines). The island is also busy during July and August, when French families take their summer break holidays. French is the official language of Martinique, with Creole as the unofficial, more casual language.

    Most cruise lines visit Martinique, with Disney the latest to announce their Wonder ship will begin stopping there early 2016. Entering Martinique is a breeze compared to many Caribbean islands. Passport control is quick and easy and there is only one luggage belt. Upon leaving the airport, you can either rent a car, or take a "Collective Taxi." Many people rent as cars drive on the North American side, but due to the extremely hilly roads, it is recommended that you hire an automatic transmission car.

    There is surprisingly only one resort chain in Martinique; Club Med, who established their first club here in the 1969. Throughout the island there are locally owned, smaller hotels and boutique resorts, all of whom have their own particular charm.

    An additional option in Martinique is the over 500 units available for rental through Airbnb. There are many vacation home options available on the island.

    There are fantastic natural and historic sites for families to visit, including the Emerald Estates, which is a natural regional park, opened just five years ago, as a "Green educational tool." Its goal is to preserve and promote the natural and cultural history and conservation of the island.

    Fort St. Louis is a working military fort located in Fort de France. Opened to the public only since July 2014, guided tours take visitors through the working fort which was built originally in the 1600s, but added to in the 1800s. A special feature of the fort is the hundreds of iguanas, who originated there due to a zoo which was built in the fort in the 1950s. The zoo was dismantled, but 30 of the iguanas escaped and have continued to add to their numbers.

    No trip to Martinique is complete without trying the local specialties. A spice mixture called "Colombo" is a blend of seven different spices and has the taste of a rich, milder curry. It is used predominantly on chicken, but you can also find it on shellfish and other dishes. Bite-sized fried cod fritters are a typical appetizer before a meal, and octopus is served frequently, either grilled or deep fried. Cod came to Martinique originally from Canada, who was trading it for sugar cane. Thanks to the French influence, desserts are chocolate, whipped cream pastries and other confectionaries. Bananas au gratin (banana served with melted Swiss cheese) is tasty alternative.

    There are 11 rum distilleries on the island, and of particular note is the Clement, where guests can stroll through displays, homesteads and working machinery, as well as inhale the scent of thousands of barrels aging rum, soaking in a big part of Martinique's history. Martinique, c'est magnifique.

    This article originally ran in the Metro News.

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    Last week's penultimate episode of "Republic of Doyle" was the perfect way to wind down the series.

    The Doyles, Leslie, and Des, who were all suspects in a Barbara Warrick's death, were the focus. As interrogations went on, it was kept simple and stark and just like when you can appreciate a loud and crazy song being stripped down, so too was "Body of Evidence." Watching "Doyle" get an unplugged treatment in the station house, with the spotlight solely on the characters, was a perfect and powerful way for us to gear up for the two-hour adrenaline-fuelled series finale we're guaranteed to get.

    Because that "going out with a bang" adage is tailor-made for "Doyle. " As far as viewers being satisfied with how it all winds down, series star and creator Allan Hawco told me last month that it's all good. "I'm not gonna be a dick about it. There's going to be some kind of closure."

    Hmm, was I to parse the "some kind" part of his explanation or just leave it alone? I of course asked, but naturally he couldn't give anything away. Hawco did say that "the series ends in a way that I think people will be very surprised by," but he did concede that fans will be "satisfied one way or another."

    In the back-to-back final episodes, "Judgment Day" and "Last Call," it's Jake's murder charge that takes centre stage as the Doyles try to clear his name. Jake has 48 hours before turning himself in and he and Mal take on a case that winds up being linked to his own. They soon discover who ordered the former mayor dead but in order to get the proof they need, an unsavoury arrangement needs to be made. Either way, it seems like a lose-lose for Jake. Seems.

    Leslie puts her entire future in jeopardy to save her boyfriend, while Des and Tinny's future together is a question mark, at best. But please. This is "Doyle" we're talking about. It's not all doom and gloom thanks to the series' trademark wit and Hawco was likely being modest: fans will love how it all winds down.

    Aside from the cast and crew of the beloved six-season series, for many viewers the toughest character to say goodbye to won't be the GTO (though, admittedly, hearing the tires on Jake's car for the last time will be sad); rather, it's the city of St. John's, which has looked gorgeous in all its years, that might be missed most. The series was like an homage to the Newfoundland city without it being rammed down our throats, and it's been beautiful to see. But let's be serious, I think it's all but guaranteed that this isn't the last we've seen of the Doyles.

    Hawco did leave me with one last tidbit. They had just picked the final song of the series for the last moment of the season mere days before we chatted: "The song, when you hear it, it'll be, 'Of course.'" And he was right. It couldn't have been more perfect -- though admittedly, I would have loved if they brought back Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" because, honestly, what a ride it's been.

    The two-hour "Republic of Doyle" series finale airs Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m./8:30 p.m. NT on CBC.



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    gastown steam clockThe Gastown steam clock is one of Vancouver's most popular tourist attractions. So when it was removed for repairs in October, the spot seemed a bit ho-hum to Ian McKinnon, whose office is across the street.

    After a few weeks, a silver-covered object was placed in the clock's location, but nothing happened.

    "We thought that it was just the clock wrapped up, ready to be unwrapped," McKinnon told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview Tuesday. "We thought, 'This is kind of boring.'"

    On a lark last week, McKinnon and his colleagues bought a recorder from a dollar store, grabbed a broken clock from the office, and taped it up to the silver column along with a note: "Enjoy the new Gastown clock! Please blow on whistle to simulate hooting sound. Wipe hooter after use."

    gastown steam clock

    gastown steam clock hooter

    Passersby thought the "replacement" was a hoot (pun intended).

    But that's not the end of this story.

    McKinnon went home that night and discovered that silver thing was actually an art installation that had been crowdfunded by people in the neighbourhood.

    The “Make it Rain” tower, designed by architects Jennifer Newsom Carruthers and Tom Carruthers, is covered in a mirror-like material that reflects the lights and movement around it. It even uses the clock's original base and spits out steam periodically.

    "If you look at the artists' resume, it's amazing. These are fantastic people," said McKinnon.

    "I felt like a big old dirtbag, such a loser."

    So a contrite McKinnon returned to the site around midnight to take it down. Except there was a woman there taking photos of people using the "hooter" — and she wouldn't leave.

    Finally, McKinnon "sucked up some courage" and walked over to move his handiwork from the tower to a nearby tree.

    That's when the woman introduced herself — as one of the artists, Jennifer Newsom Carruthers.

    "That was horrifying," McKinnon admitted.

    gastown steam clock
    Artist Jennifer Newsom Carruthers snapped this photo of Ian McKinnon nervously waiting to remove his "vandalism."

    But Newsom Carruthers said she probably would have left the broken clock, hooter, and note on her public artwork.

    "We're interested in that response. It's there for people to react to it in whatever way they see fit," she told HuffPost B.C.

    "He didn't just vandalize this thing by taking a key or scratching the surface; he did something quite thoughtful and quite funny. So I wasn't too bothered by it. But I was quite touched that he felt the need to come back and take it down once he realized it was crowdfunded and a lot of people put a lot of time and energy into it."

    Since then, social media users have shared a chuckle over the hooter clock. And look, McKinnon and Newsom Carruthers even parted ways with a selfie in front of the relocated "vandalism."

    gastown steam clock selfie

    Besties!

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    There's never been a better time to visit Canmore's food scene.

    So many restaurants in the quiet mountain town are doing remarkable things, from serving up eclectic menus chock full of seafood and game meat, to offering some of the best poutine, brunch, and coffee to be found in Alberta.

    We asked our readers to share their favourite Canmore restaurants and tell us what they like about each establishment.

    From casual to high-end dining, we've compiled some of the best eating to be done in Canmore.

    So, next time you're visiting Alberta's Rocky Mountains, make sure to work up an appetite and then pay a visit to one these recommended restaurants.



    Are there any places we missed? Share your favourite recommendations with us in the comments below!


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    It's good to have friends. Especially when they have helicopters and will fly you to the mountains to skate on frozen lakes.

    Bradley Friesen is one such friend. He has been a helicopter pilot for almost 25 years, and often takes passengers to find remote — and spectacular — places to skate.

    One of these expeditions took place last Sunday, when Friesen took friends Derek Popke and Brett Draney up to a mountain between Vancouver and Pemberton with their skates in tow.

    And the resulting photo — which Friesen took from above, while in his helicopter — is pretty incredible.

    bradley friesen photography

    "We went looking to see how things were freezing," Friesen, from Vancouver, told The Huffington Post B.C. "We went exploring and found a piece of ice that [my friends] skated on."

    It's not the first time that Friesen has helped passengers play on high-up, frozen ponds. Previously he took up 10 guys and their hockey gear.

    bradley friesen photography

    He's even flown up a figure skater.

    bradley friesen photography

    And Friesen's work has garnered plenty of attention in the past.

    Molson Canadian used some of his camera footage for its #AnythingForHockey commercial.

    Friesen also made waves with this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in which he dumped glacier water on pro hockey player Paul Bissonnette — from his helicopter.

    Even his apartment has spread online.

    "If you Google me, anything that sounds kinda strange — except for being an international gun smuggler/attempted murderer — is me," he said.

    (H/T Vancouver Reddit)

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    Move over, Canadian Rockies. It's time to shine a spotlight on the stars.

    San Diego-based photographer Jack Fusco has created a stunning new timelapse video for Travel Alberta, opening up his camera lens to capture the wondrous beauty of the starry sky over Banff National Park.

    "Chasing Starlight - An Adventure in the Canadian Rockies" features the night sky over Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Lake Peyto, Vermillion Lakes and other locations around the park.

    “There’s a certain feeling that you get from standing under a truly dark sky for the first time,” Jack wrote on the Travel Alberta YouTube page.

    “Although it’s hard describe the exact feeling of awe that’s felt, it’s an experience that doesn’t leave you. In fact, it’s something that can change you. It can make you forget about sleeping when the sun has set and instead readies you for an adventure. This timelapse is about capturing the adventure of chasing star filled skies and the feeling you get from experiencing it. I hope it inspires people to find their own adventure chasing the stars.”

    Check out the video above. We're sure It'll have you packing your bags for an evening mountain adventure in no time!

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    Winter is coming.



    And though many Canadians dread it ...



    Some incredible things can happen.



    Like a frozen water sprinkler.



    Or water guns filled with ice.



    Or boiling water turning into an icy cloud.



    And windrows ...




    Which suck big time.




    You can skate on a frozen street ...



    Or play shinny in hockey heaven.



    You can fix yourself a cold drink ... with no effort at all.



    Or just grab one out of the "fridge."







    You can build the coolest DJ booth ...



    Or you can be shaken by an ice quake.



    You can blow bubbles of ice ...



    Or see them come up under the surface of Lake Abraham:

    lake abraham ice cp

    You can run up lots of kilometres without travelling very far.



    You can be a fish out of icy water.



    You can sleep in an ice hotel.

    hotel de glace quebec

    And as the winter ends, you can watch a river form outside your home.



    Who knows, we might see more icy miracles this year!



    So cheer up, Canadians, and have a happy winter!



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    There are many reasons to get your kids involved in sports from a young age. It can help with their social skills, boost their self-esteem, give them an understanding of rules and discipline, teach them about teamwork and best of all, help them stay fit and burn off that seemingly endless supply of energy. But sports teams can be intimidating for both youngsters and their parents, especially if it’s a full-contact sport where competition is fierce. If you’re looking to ease your kids in gently, consider signing them up for one of these family-friendly sports leagues — or better yet, sign up with them!



    Dodgeball
    While the idea of having an opposing team throw speeding balls at your child doesn’t sound too appealing off the bat, dodgeball is actually the perfect sport for the whole family because it doesn’t involve much organization, the rules are easy to follow (Rule #1: Dodge the Balls), and it’s loads of fun for kids and adults alike. Sports involving throwing and catching are especially good for kids between the ages two and five because it helps them develop motor skills.

    Running
    As adults we’re well aware of the benefits of a daily run, but can you get kids involved at an early age too? Good news is you can since kids of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, can participate in running activities and clubs. According to the Road Runners Club of America, kids aged five and under should only run up to 1.5 km and will likely lose interest unless you involve some sort of game. However, kids over six can safely run a 5K, provided you let them go at their own pace and walk when they need to. Teenagers are welcome to participate in a 10k or half marathon, but full marathons should only be run by adults over 18.

    Soccer
    Soccer can be a very competitive sport, but most cities offer a ton of leagues that cater to any age or skill level, even very young kids. To find a soccer league that will work for your family, look for one that is centred on having fun. For younger children, the focus should be on learning basic soccer skills, and making new friends, not listening to long lectures from coaches or competing in heated matches. Many recreational soccer leagues will have several levels that can work for all ages of your family.

    Racquet sports
    Wouldn’t it be great to be the parent of the next Venus Williams? Then perhaps it’s time to get your kid involved in one of the many kids tennis clubs in your area. Tennis, pickleball, badminton, squash and racquetball are all games that most kids can pick up as early as three years old. Plus by doing so at a young age, it’ll help them develop excellent hand-eye coordination and athletic skills.

    Tee -ball, softball, and baseball
    America’s favourite sport caters to all ages with its variety of games: Tee-ball for the very young, softball for the older kids and baseball for the super athletic. Little league softball and baseball teams are a great way to get your kids introduced to sports, teach them hand-eye coordination, athletic skills like running and catching as well as the principles of sportsmanship. Teams are available across Canada for kids who are four and up.

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