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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Once the snow has really set in, the Rocky Mountains of Alberta truly become a winter wonderland where the colder temperatures transform the stunning mountainscapes into frozen natural artwork. And although it might seem like hiking season is long over, exploring the mountain area by foot takes on another dimension once the rivers and lakes freeze over. With the right equipment, ice walking can be a fun and interesting way to see the sights and take in the fresh mountain air, provided you’re prepared to with warm clothes, proper gear, and a willingness to defy the very laws of nature. Here are some of the coolest spots to walk on water in Alberta.

    Explore ice canyons at Maligne Lake
    Walk beneath a towering frozen waterfall at Maligne Canyon, a popular destination for ice walkers located not far from the picturesque town of Jasper. Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in the Jasper National Park, and exploring it is a humbling experience where giant walls of ancient rock surround you at all points and exemplify the powerful will of nature. The Maligne Canyon ice walk is an easy and quick hike that is suitable for the whole family — even kids — and guided ice walking tours will explain the rich geological history of the area while showing you the best vistas for snapping your holiday photos. You can visit during the day, but nighttime ice walks are also popular, where turning off your headlamp will reveal an impressive night sky that you just can’t see in the city. In fact, Jasper National Park is one of the largest Dark Sky Preserves in the world, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot to stargaze.

    Frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon
    Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular hiking areas in Alberta and that doesn’t end once summer’s over. Winter visitors to the area regularly adorn themselves with hiking boots, ice cleats and poles to do this easy hike, which follows a railed path to traverse waterfalls and diverse landscapes. There’s a slight incline on the way there but it’s totally worth it when you’re rewarded with spectacular views of frozen waterfalls cascading over dramatic mountainside cliffs — don’t forget your camera!

    Grotto Canyon’s Aboriginal heritage
    A quick 10 minute drive from Canmore is the Grotto Canyon, where visitors can wander along a frozen creek bed for an easy 4-kilometre hike in the wilderness of the Rockies. Forest and mountain scenery aside, the real draw of this ice walk is the incredible Aboriginal pictographs that adorn of the narrow walls of the canyon. A guided tour is the best way to learn about the stories and history behind the natural and man-made wonders of this historic area.

    Abraham Lake’s frozen bubbles
    Head off the beaten path and see a sight that will take your breath away at Abraham Lake, a natural wonder located on the David Thompson Highway. While renowned for its pretty turquoise tint in the summer, Abraham Lake is even more famous in the winter for its frozen bubbles, which result from methane gas being trapped in ice as it tries to reach the surface of the water. It’s possible to view the lake from the shoreline, but if you want to venture out on the ice and really explore it, it’s recommended you hire a local guide, as the ice can be unpredictable.

    For the truly adventurous: Ice climbing in Waterton
    If an easy hike through the canyon just isn’t going to satisfy your thirst for adventure, consider heading south to the stunning Waterton National Park where there are over 40 different spots where experienced ice climbers can take a thrilling scramble up a frozen mountainside. Ice climbing is a fantastic way to explore the mountain wonderland in the winter, but bear in mind that it’s a dangerous activity that requires the right equipment and training. (It also requires you to be totally rad, but that’s more of a suggestion than a formal requirement.) To reinforce that sense of ruggedness, ice climbing guides are not available in the area, making it a fantastic choice for veteran climbers who truly want a one-on-one (and entirely unassisted) connection with the pure majesty of nature in the wintertime.

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    deer ice

    A white-tailed deer found itself in a precarious situation when it got stuck on a frozen B.C. lake.

    Conservation officer Ken Owens suspects that coyotes or wolves chased the buck onto Duck Lake, northeast of Kelowna, on Friday morning.

    "The lake was frozen with probably about two inches [thick] or less," he told The Huffington Post B.C. Owens and two other officers worked to rescue the deer, and their effort was captured in some amazing photos.

    deer ice

    deer ice

    As a safety precaution, they used a flat-bottom boat to navigate the thin ice. The officers then shot and sedated the animal with a tranquilizer.

    "It's cold; hypothermia can set in pretty quick," Owens said. "Deer, they get out on the ice with their hooves [and] they go like Bambi."

    When the animals slip, they can often split their pelvis, he explained. Owens said that can be "pretty tragic," but this deer was not injured.

    deer ice

    He said swift calls from the concerned public allowed officers to act quickly and save the deer, who he guessed would have otherwise been killed come nightfall.

    The deer was eventually released back up in the mountains.

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    Destination B.C. is using 3D virtual reality technology to entice tourists to the province. 

    It spent approximately $500,000 to develop two virtual adventures of trekking through the Great Bear Rainforest and frolicking with sea lions.

    The provincial tourism agency said it is the first travel organization in North America to promote tourism using this technology.

    Last week, it showed the videos to 80 travel influencers in New York and Washington D.C. and it will next roll out the experiences at trade shows and conferences around the world in early 2015.

    Lindsay Meredith, a professor of marketing at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, said this is the next step for tourism marketing. 

    "Destination B.C. are right on the money with this one, mainly because you can jam a lot more attributes in a hurry, and that one attribute might just be the one that sells the ticket to your resort," said Meredith.

    This type of advertising is also cheaper in the long run, he said.

    "Whenever you're doing something like a tourist centre, you're into a very expensive proposition," he said.

    "Bricks and mortar are a really killer for your bottom line. If you can go to a technological presentation or a 3D fly-through, you cut costs."

    Destination B.C. runs six visitor centres, which it said are still vital for tourism. These centres provide information to tourists who have already arrived at the destination and need information, it said, as compared to the 3D experience which can be used to draw visitors to the province. 

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    Even though you're surrounded by people, it's easy to feel alone in a big, bustling city like Vancouver — especially around the holidays.

    Determined to change that is a group of anonymous people who call themselves the #VanKiss elves. You've probably seen their work.

    Their #VanKiss project, where they erect mistletoe poles around Vancouver's West End neighbourhood, is in its third year.

    "We hope that this project will stimulate connections and encourage people to participate," one founder told The Huffington Post B.C. in an email. "Ideally, the project will create a stronger sense of place and foster a greater sense of belonging within our community."

    This year, they set up 32 mistletoe locations, a major bump from last year's 10. Some places are hidden and secluded, while others are on busy street corners.


    A photo posted by Amy Joy Bracamontes (@amyjoyalvarado) on

    "This project is about sharing a special moment with people around us, not the creators of the project," he said, explaining why they choose to remain anonymous. "The mistletoe is just a prop; it is the people who participate that make this project unique and special."

    The group constructs, paints, and installs all of the mistletoe brackets themselves. In 2012 and 2013 they paid for all of the materials, too; this year they were approached by some random admirers who offered to help fund the initiative.



    So, it's safe to say the project has struck a chord in the hearts of Vancouverites.

    "We liked the idea of urban mistletoe because it is free, fun, and captured the joy of the holidays," the elf said.

    "When we were constructing the original two mistletoe brackets [in 2012], we added the #VanKiss sign as an afterthought. We love that the hashtag reinvents this tradition and makes it more relevant, accessible, and shareable on social media. Before we could even finish installing the first mistletoe bracket, someone was taking a photo."

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    World renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has left his mark on Vancouver in a big way.

    Weiwei's latest work, "F Grass," was unveiled Wednesday as part of the 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale. Located in Coal Harbour's Harbour Green Park, "F Grass" is made up of industrial cast iron spikes made to look like grass. When put together, they form a calligraphic "F."

    ai weiwei vancouver

    The piece, which will be on display for the next year, represents the relationship between the individual and the collective, says a Biennale press release. Individually, each blade of grass seems small; put them together and they create something vast. This is a familiar theme for Weiwei and can be seen in his famous 2010 Tate Modern work, "Sunflower Seeds."

    "F Grass" is about 50 sq.-m. in area and about 20 centimetres high, Weiwei told Nuvo magazine.

    ai weiwei vancouver

    The piece is also about the "resilience of the human spirit," another fitting theme for a man well-known for his political views. He rebels against the Chinese government's censorship and control, expressing his opposition through his work as well as his Twitter account.

    Ai was arrested in China in 2011, reports Metro News, and though has since been released, he is not allowed to leave the country.

    "F Grass" sits on the ground, meaning the full scope of it can only be seen from above. As the Biennale explains:

    It also refers a central theme in Ai’s recent work, that of the "grass mud horse." Because of a similar pronunciation, the word “grass” in China has become a tongue-in-cheek substitute for the f-word. The Chinese character for grass is "cao" and can be found in words "Caochangdi," the district in Beijing which houses Ai’s studio, and "caonima" which means alpaca.

    Over the past several years, the alpaca has become the face of "grass mud horse" a popular Chinese Internet meme. Pronounced roughly the same way as a common obscenity, the “grass mud horse” has become a widespread symbol of defiance. Youtube channels and online communities spin tales about the grass mud horse’s battles with "river crabs" — a phrase phonetically similar to “censorship.” Ai embraces the "grass mud horse" as a vehicle to prod the government while underscoring the essential absurdity of its systematic censorship.

    The Vancouver Biennale is a non-profit organization that curates large-scale art in public spaces. This year has already brought work from Brazilian sculptor Hugo França and Brazilian street artists OSGEMEOS.

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    Gary Anderson is someone who likes to get things done right. So when the former Alberta rancher and businessman decided to build a home on Vancouver Island, he went all out. Way out.

    Anderson, 55, and his wife developed 43 acres of oceanfront property into a jaw-dropping 16,216 sq.-ft. home with seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms, a concrete tiled roof, solar-heated infinity pool, outdoor pizza oven, and 10 granite patio/decks.

    Oh, and a helipad.

    victoria willis point helipad

    "We have very famous people that live on the island, and it was just a dream of mine that came to me that you need a helipad," Anderson told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview. "If we sell it to a rich person that has these Lear jets and helicopters to fly back and forth, they don't want to get in a car and go, they just want to get into their home."

    This month, Anderson listed the property, which he's dubbed "The View," for $11.5 million. But he and his wife didn't plan on building a stunning house only to sell it.

    "My goal at first was to just build a home for us; we didn't want a really big home," said Anderson. "Everybody we talked to said, 'You really need a home to fit the property.' And because the property is 43 acres, to build a little home on it really doesn't make sense."

    It became a fun challenge for the couple, who lived first in an RV, and then in a two-bedroom suite above the on-site workshop.

    "It's kind of my dream. You want something in life that's done well. I always like big projects. Everything I've done, I've done big. I farm big, I kind of ranched big. We did construction on a big scale," explained Anderson.

    "I lay awake at night dreaming of how to make it better."

    After almost four years, it's hard to see how the home could get any better. The helipad isn't even the most impressive amenity.

    An infinity pool optimizes the unobstructed views of Saanich Inlet, easily making you forget that you're only a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria.

    Anderson actually flew in a top pool designer from Los Angeles to create the breathtaking vantage point. (Check out this aerial video of the property.)

    victoria willis point pool

    "I'm very fussy and I like things done right," said Anderson, who moved from Alberta to B.C. in 2010. "I didn't skimp on anything. Everything is top line."

    Anderson is proud of the fine details — from Swarovski crystals on the chandeliers, to the custom wrought-iron electric gates, to the warming drawers in the kitchen. Not to mention a master bath with a TV, fireplace, and, ho-hum, another ocean view.

    victoria willis point bathroom

    A 3,600 sq.-ft. workshop garage includes vehicle and motorbike lifts for any automotive buff, an RV bay, in-floor heating, and even a welder plug-in.

    But Anderson will be OK to leave his baby behind, as he and his wife (who have nine children between them) do some travelling. Then they'll likely do it all again.

    "We'll either buy another one or build another one," said Anderson. "I'll stay busy, maybe do condos or something else."

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    Is it possible that Earth became even more beautiful in 2014? While we typed away on our computers, sat in meetings and generally spent a lot of time inside, our planet continued to show off, and we may not have noticed.

    So that's why we're thankful for these photographers, who were able to capture some incredible images. Keep scrolling down to see 15 photos from nature that really blew our minds this year.

    1. Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, in Bolivia

    salar de uyuni

    2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    grand teton national park

    Source: Reddit

    3. Vancouver as seen from Mount Seymour

    mount seymour

    Source: Reddit

    4. A remote area near the Arizona/Utah border

    arizona utah

    6. A frozen Zanskar River in India

    frozen zanskar river

    Source: Reddit

    7. The pools and travertines of Pamukkale, Turkey




    5. The aftermath of a bushfire near Lennox Head, Australia

    bushfire lennox head australia

    Source: The Huffington Post

    6. This abyss near Lagos, Portugal

    abyss lagos portugal

    Source: Reddit

    7. The slow-moving Kilauea Volcano on Big Island in Hawaii

    fire with tree right

    Source: The Huffington Post

    8. These mountains in New Zealand

    new zealand

    Source: Imgur

    9. This shot of a lake along the Trans-Canada Highway in B.C.

    bc alberta photo

    10. This full-circle rainbow near Perth, Australia

    full circle rainbow

    Credit: Colin Leonhardt/Birdseye View Photography

    11. Glacier National Park in Montana

    glacier national park montana

    Source: Imgur

    12. Mining from the air near Kalgoorlie, Australia

    mining kalgoorlie australia

    Source: The Huffington Post

    13. Lake IJsselmeer in the Netherlands

    lake ijsselmeer

    Source: The Huffington Post

    14. The Fremantle area in Perth, Western Australia as seen from the air

    fremantle perth western australia

    Source: The Huffington Post

    15. Lake Louise in Alberta

    lake louise


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    It's hard not to love the holiday season. It's the perfect time of year to come together with friends and family and take some time away from work. While the holidays are a joyous time of year that are meant to bring family and friends together to celebrate, the holiday season marks one of the most costly times of year for travel and hotel bookings. These high travel prices can hinder the ability to really enjoy yourself and a lot of people wonder if there is a way to take a holiday vacation or visit family without completely breaking the bank. Is it really possible to find a good deal on a holiday getaway?

    Absolutely! I've put together a list of local cities that are seeing the steepest hotel price drops this holiday season, to help you find the best deals. Whether you're visiting family or taking a well-earned vacation, use this as a guide to find the best deals and deepest savings.


    Whistler, known as a local premiere ski destinations, offers visitors crisp air, fresh powder, and stunning views. If you're looking to enjoy the outdoors this holiday season, you're in luck! This British Columbian ski and snowboarding haven is seeing our steepest price drop, compared to 2013. Those looking to travel to Whistler can expect to see up to a 20 per cent hotel price drop, so grab your skis and some hot coco and head over to this snowy escape. While you're there, check out Whistler's famous "Fire & Ice" show, held every Sunday starting December 14, where athletes flip and twist through a burning ring of fire and finish off the show with a spectacular fireworks display.


    Located in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, Mont-Tremblant is the perfect mountain resort town for those traveling to the Eastern part of Canada. The city is known for its extravagant mountain resorts, luxurious restaurants, and endless beauty. Sounds like it might be out of your price range? That's where you're wrong! Mont-Tremblant is also experiencing a 20 per cent year over year hotel price drop, making this opulent resort town perfectly accessibly for a holiday get away with family or friends. If you happen to find yourself in Mont-Tremblant for New Year's Eve, stop by the base of the mountain's South Side to watch the torchlight descent, followed by the eye-popping snow show presented by the Tremblant Ski School and Mont-Tremblant Ski Club.

    Quebec City

    This year, Santa Claus is giving the gift of savings! If you're looking to become one of Santa's little helpers this Christmas season, but don't feel like travelling all the way to the North Pole, look no further than Quebec, which is showing an 11 per cent drop in hotel prices compared to 2013. Starting in early December, Old Québec is transformed into a real-life Christmas village, a scene straight out of A Christmas Carol. Take a stroll around to take in the enchanting lights and decorations, or do some holidays shopping at the Christmas Market at the Old Port. With all of this holiday cheer, it's no surprise that Québec City has been ranked among the world's top 10 destinations for celebrating the Holidays.


    Whether you're visiting family or are looking for a festive getaway, Winnipeg offers a multitude of different activities to celebrate the holidays. The city is experiencing a 10 per cent hotel price drop compared to 2013, so it's easy to score a great rate on a hotel room this season. For a light show to last a lifetime, the Canad Inn's Winter Wonderland, a Winnipeg family tradition, offers visitors a festive seasonal drive-through light display each December and January featuring more than one million lights and over 26 different themed areas along a 2.5 km route.


    Who doesn't want to wake up on Christmas morning and see snowflakes falling outside of their window? If you're looking for the magical white Christmas we all wish we could have, Banff is the place for you. This quiet mountain town, which is nestled in the Canadian Rockies, is experiencing a 9 per cent hotel price drop from last year, making it a great getaway destination if you're looking to relax. Banff is not only known for its mountainous surroundings, but is also famous for its hot springs. Take a dip then go for some shopping at the Banff Christmas Market for beautiful handcrafted gifts along with live entertainment and delicious food.


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    "I don't think there's such thing as a perfect photo or a perfect moment — but that hasn't stopped me from going after it."

    Those are the words of Whistler-based meteorological photographer David McColm, an engineer who spends most of his time these days capturing the expansive landscape around him.

    david mccolm photogrpahy

    McColm is featured in the third episode of "The Beyond Series," a Whistler Blackcomb production that highlights the work of local professionals.

    McColm specializes in gorgeous time lapses and has photographed everything from Whistler's gorgeous terrain, to its surrounding mountaintops, to the aurora borealis.

    david mccolm photography

    "I like seeing the environment, the sky, in a different way," he says in the video. "It kind of brings the universe back into more perspective. You sort of get a sense of, 'We're pretty small here and that's pretty cool.' It's mind-blowing."

    See more of his work:

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  • 12/18/14--22:07: Canada by Cargo Bike
  • Before opening Allo Vélo (a bike boutique and café in his Montreal neighborhood of St.-Henri -- Lamar Timmins toured many countries around the world, but never took the opportunity to explore his home country of Canada. So when TrioBike -- a Copenhagen-based manufacturer he distributes across North America -- announced the arrival of a brand new, lightweight cargo bike in late 2014, a seed was planted.

    Also known as bakfiets (Dutch for "box bike"), these inventive, pedal-powered vehicles have roamed the streets of Copenhagen and Amsterdam for decades, but Allo Vélo is among the first companies bringing them to this side of the Atlantic.

    The endless possibilities of a cargo bike

    "In the bike industry, timing is everything," Lamar explains. "And with fall being a slow time of the year, I contacted TrioBike and pitched them the idea of using their new design for a cross-Canada tour, from Montreal to Vancouver."

    This would be the first time anyone attempted such a vast distance on a cargo bike. But Lamar saw it as the perfect way to show people across the country what a cargo bike is, and what it is capable of. The mission was a simple one: "I wanted to inspire individuals, families, and businesses to consider the endless possibilities of a cargo bike."

    Once TrioBike provided their blessing, they shipped him a model direct from the factory, giving him two weeks to prepare. He did some research online, drawing up a rough itinerary, and learning what to expect in each region, but knew he would be reliant on his iPhone for the logistical details of his trek.

    The bike arrived from Copenhagen on Oct. 1, and Lamar hit the road to Ottawa the next morning, aiming to arrive in Vancouver before his 27th birthday, just 37 days later.

    Packing it light and packing it right

    "My goal was to not break the bank and buy all sorts of new gear, although I knew this sort of trip would require some specific garments adaptable to the cold, rain, perspiration, and inside pressure from my body temperature," he said.

    Luckily, Lamar had a good friend who worked at Arc'teryx in Montreal, and was more than happy to lend him some synthetic underlayers (which are breathable, quick-drying, and antimicrobial), as well as provide plenty of tips around solo camping in cold conditions.

    While the cargo bike afforded the ability to carry additional gear, Lamar knew that every pound would count. He packed a duffle bag with a Poler Stuff one-man tent, a MEC inflatable mattress, and a -7°C-rated North Face sleeping bag; opting not to pack cookware for the additional weight, attraction of wild animals, and extra time needed to cook his own meals.

    Another essential item was a solar battery charger, which allowed him to charge his phone, camera, and bike lights every single night.

    Relying on the kindness of strangers

    When it came to getting a good night's sleep, Lamar utilized three different options: motels/hostels, camping (sometimes with permission, and sometimes without), and free "hosted" accommodation (from sites such as Couchsurfing or Warm Showers).

    "Motels were the most convenient option, but could really bite in your budget," he said. And in some towns, hunters or truckers booked all available rooms by 5 p.m., something Lamar found out the hard way, forcing him to scramble for a place to pitch his tent.

    While camping was easy on the wallet, it required a great deal more preparation, especially during inclement weather. "Eventually I got into a very efficient routine for finding a suitable spot, setting up camp, and then departing the next morning."

    However, Lamar attributes the most memorable parts of his voyage to Warm Showers, a site designed to connect touring cyclists with hosts in cities worldwide.

    "Not only does it ease your expenses, but being on the road can be very lonely. It's a great feeling to be welcomed to a warm home, hot shower, home-cooked meal, and a comfortable bed." Many of the hosts even met Lamar along the highway to help carry his gear, or cycled several miles with him to ensure he wouldn't get lost.

    Burning over 6,000 calories a day

    A typical day for Lamar would begin at 7:30 a.m., with a bowl of nutrient-rich oatmeal and hemp seed. He would then ride for seven to eight hours, often pedalling over 200 kilometres, with several stops for refuelling.

    "Food was definitely an issue for me, because I was burning over 6,000 calories a day, so my body was constantly playing catch up." Any opportunity Lamar had to eat something, he would. In between meals, he would consume snacks on an hourly basis (like a Clif Bar or piece of fruit).

    It wasn't always easy sailing, and there was more than one occasion when Mother Nature nearly got the better of him. Lamar recalls shouting out in anger during one particularly tortuous day climbing steep hills in the cold, driving rain outside Sault Ste. Marie. In another instance, he spent two days stranded at a gas station in Maple Creek, Sask., after snow squalls and 70 km/h winds made cycling impossible.

    Blog continues after slideshow:

    Connecting and promoting with Instagram

    Knowing he was under pretty severe time constraints, and would often run into areas with limited Wi-Fi/data, Lamar decided to keep it simple and focus on promoting the entire trip on Instagram.

    "That way, I could engage directly with followers in every city I visited, and their comments made it clear that people were really rooting for me. I even had invitations for dinner, or a meet-up at a café or bar."

    Where possible, Lamar would update his Facebook page and blog, and his partners (TrioBike, Modacity, and Momentum) were also sharing news on their own social media outlets.

    Pre-orders for the new TrioBike have just started shipping. As an incentive, they are offering free shipping across North America on all TrioBike Cargos and accessories until Dec. 31, 2014.

    A Canada-proof cargo bike

    After putting 4,000 kilometres on the TrioBike Cargo, Lamar's faith in its versatility paid off, and he can safely say that it is a Canada-proof cargo bike. The lightweight frame, Gates Carbon belt drive, Shimano 11-speed internal hub, and Schwalbe tires made it ideal for conquering our country's challenging terrain. And amazingly, with regular visual checks, Lamar had zero maintenance issues over the length of his journey: the belt drive remained tensioned, and he didn't have a single flat tire.

    While Lamar doubts he will revisit this particular path again, it has certainly whet his appetite for touring by cargo bike, and his mind is already planning the next big adventure. The challenges and experiences acquired from this trip have inspired him to consider a tour of Africa -- from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa.

    But first up will likely be an East Coast trek -- from Montreal to P.E.I. -- ideally with a few friends. "Canada is a beautiful country, and there's no better way to see it than by bike," Lamar reflects. "This was, by far, the most challenging journey I've ever done. Mother Nature was both kind and twisted. It brought me to a whole new level of endurance, both physically and mentally. It truly was an experience of a lifetime."

    To view the full collection of photographs taken by Lamar, please click here.

    Chris Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service consultancy focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography and film. Follow him on Twitter: @modacitylife.

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    It's the closest I've ever come to being sent to jail.

    "Maybe if you're lucky he will ask you to marry him and then you could live here," she menaced from across the desk.

    The immigration officer was as large as she was angry and had spent the last ten minutes threatening me with an ambiguous mixture of deportation and incarceration upon my re-arrival at the Barbados airport.

    Palm trees swayed casually in the breeze outside, carefree vacationers trundled off to seaside resorts. In the tiny interrogation room, her stare raged. I tried to suppress adrenaline, tears and a spray of inappropriate laughter at the idea of being asked for my hand in marriage under duress, in the Caribbean, during what was supposed to be a fantasy year on the beach.

    A few months ago, in my old life as a radio producer in Toronto, my long-term boyfriend and I walked to brunch in matching unisex Converse; we split the rent. A model of modern equality. But now, I was being likened to a knocked-up 1950s debutante. And I was buying into it: submissive, scared, contemplating marriage for the first time in my life -- and as a legal salvation, rather than a blissful shindig.

    All this because I chose to escape my job at the public broadcaster -- a string of crappy short contracts in a toxic environment -- for a year of adventure and professional opportunity in the Caribbean.

    So what a crazily fantastic exit I'd found. Pressing the eject button and landing on tropical shores felt like a dream come true.

    "We're doing this for work experience -- and the chance to snorkel daily," I'd say, trying my best not to barf when friends and family suggested I was "following a boy."

    Why couldn't they see that becoming an international freelancer would improve my CV, too? Didn't they see we made this decision for both of us? And that learning about life in another culture is just, well, an important life experience and awesome?

    But these questions were long gone in the seemingly shrinking airport interrogation room as I began to calculate my best chance for another escape, this time from an immigration disaster.

    The tropical temporary home where I'd been living for six months was just a few minutes' cab ride down the white beach. Its balcony faced a shore lined with blooming hibiscus, our life there set to the push and pull of the waves. It felt so, so far away.

    Sweat trickled on my tailbone. I bit my lip and completed transformation into an Eisenhower-era desperate housewife: I cried for the immigration officer. So not behavior of a confident global journalist. How had I let this happen?

    Little had I known that by mustering the courage to step into a new phase of my career, I'd be jet-setting my identity as a woman back by about six decades. In the past few months of traveling between the various Caribbean islands my boyfriend and I jaunted to (some for work, others for fun), I went from filling out the "Occupation" field of the Barbados immigration card as "Journalist" to "Homemaker/Journalist," and then finally, sadly, to simply, "Homemaker." Really. From modern young professional to domestic dependent in three easy steps.

    My status as an independent freelancer on the island was legal, technically, but that didn't really matter. The immigration officers found it dubious and wielded freakish power over my life. If I wanted to continue realizing my dream, I had to find a way to fit more clearly into one of the boxes on their paperwork.

    We discovered early on that the easiest way for me to get back and forth across borders was to stroke my boyfriend's arm, declaring I was a little [insert giggle] unmarried housewife [insert "aren't we so naughty" look] and to keep my occupation as a writer and radio producer a filthy secret. To be, officially at least, a kept woman. A hit to my ego as an independent woman, but a manageable cost -- or so I thought.

    It seemed alright at the time. I treated it like a joke. Ha ha, I am pretending to be the little lady around the house! Maybe I should put on my pearls whilst I sear this roast!

    Then came the onslaught of folksy tips on how I should be better feeding and caring for my man. The neighbor asking why I hadn't washed the dirty dishes -- the ones piling up while I was writing. The Stepford Wives-ish influence of other expat ladies, all too happy to be kept women that organized fundraising events and worked on their muscle tone and golden crisp tans, took on a powerful appeal.

    I'd stare at drafted query letters with a crumpled brow as waves smashed against the coral outside our balcony, sending salt and sand spraying in through our window. I needed to sweep it all away so no one could judge me as a negligent housekeeper again. Pitches could wait.

    And yet it was all a joke, right? My kept-womandom was just a joke, a gag to skirt the immigration bureaucracy while living the dream escape.

    But finally, as a pseudo-criminal/hot mess in the airport immigration room, even tossing my personal and professional identity out the airplane window and identifying as a "homemaker" was no longer enough. Someone in a uniform was saying that maybe I'd be lucky enough to be asked for my hand in marriage. Submit to a retro convention of wifery and keep living the life I was living or hold on to my precious ideals but get deported from the country and/or possibly thrown in the slammer.

    And it wasn't because of a chauvinist boyfriend or an uninformed view of the world or, heck, even a lack of strong Caribbean lady role models -- of course there were plenty of amazing local women I learned from. For example, this immigration officer doing her job like a boss. (Respect.) It was a much bigger problem: that out there in the big wide world, I was not seen as a person, only as plus-one to a man. And for some reason, I believed it.

    Moving home to North America now felt like an escape to the promised land. No more snorkeling but, hey, I could do whatever I wanted while remaining unmarried! Ah, to be seen as an individual again. Forget the beach and its prison threats, I wanted to tongue-kiss the snow-covered ground.

    But now, here we are in my paradisical North American getaway from retro expectations of women, and yet there's GamerGate, and yet Emma Watson speaking about feminism at the United Nations results in sexualized threats, and yet all sorts of people are equivocating campus rape, and yet even computer scientist Barbie needs a man to help her, and yet this Slate calendar of the year in outrage is jammed to the brim with reasons it's still so, so crappy and hard to be a woman all over the world. Here and on tropical islands and in farther flung places, too. For women this burden is real, this is still happening. I learned that even more acutely once we moved to Nigeria for a year, where life is even harder for women, where "the Chibok" girls remain lost.

    And yet, my boyfriend globetrotted the whole time with impunity. Never hassled, never questioned, never threatened with marriage or sexually harassed or asked why he hadn't washed the dishes.

    You'd think I'd be angry, discovering there is no real escape for women like me and many others whose experiences are infinitely more traumatizing, life-stunting and sad than mine.

    But I'm not angry, I'm excited. Because we're talking about it now on front pages and year-in-reviews and tweets and in conversations with our moms. That means that we're recognizing the extent to which bias against women seeps into our lives here and abroad. And that means we're one step closer to change, the greatest escape of all.

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    Thinking about starting a travel blog? What you need to know before getting started:


    About a year ago I hit "submit" on my very first travel blog post. I'd spent most of my adult life traveling to many destinations and amassed hundreds of stamps in my passport over the years. Writing about my travel adventures and experiences seemed like a logical, and even easy, next step.

    So what happened next?

    My blog concept was too general and I'd made some serious mistakes during the initial technical set up process. I spent months and dollars, fixing these mistakes and learning a lot in the process. The good news is that there is a lot of helpful information available from bloggers who have found great success. The best advice I can give is to get the foundation of your blog right from the beginning for the best chance at travel blogging success..

    Here are five things I wish I knew before starting my travel blog Planet Blue Adventure

    Don't write a word until you've identified a niche

    Identifying a compelling niche is the best way to grow traffic quickly. Over the past year I have been tracking how people find my site. You are able to see what keywords people enter when they find your site on Google or other search engines, and this information is super powerful as you create your content calendar and keywords for the year.

    The vast majority of people will find your site by searching for super specific things. Things like "Best taco restaurant in Des Moines," "How much is a shuttle transfer from key west to Miami?"

    Start with a self-hosted Wordpress site

    Wordpress is hands-down the best blogging platform. Free and easy, you don't need a big budget or a degree in programming to make it look good.

    Move off the free platform and onto the paid platform. If you want to be taken seriously as a blogger, this is a must.

    Pick a good host, I love Host Papa a green energy company a local company. Go with a local host for more personalized service.

    Spend time growing your travel blog social media accounts.

    This may seem like busy work up front, but growing and actively engaging on social media is a great way to establish your new travel blog brand.

    Use your blog's name for all social media properties, as this is your brand. If you're ultimately going to be working with travel brands on hosted press trips, your social media numbers will matter.

    Post regularly to social media, share other bloggers content and engage early with brands and destinations you'd like to cover. Social media is a free and easy way to begin developing valuable relationships.

    Post prolifically, at least in the beginning

    While there is no set rule for how often you should publish content, a good rule of thumb is to post a few times a week always at the same time. Get a schedule going that your readers are used to.

    Plus, in the beginning it's all about generating content that is shareable and will rank well with the search engines.

    Learn the basics of SEO.

    Each day, the majority of visitors to my travel blog reach it via tweets, facebook and organic search. Organic search means that the terms on which they are searching are found on my site, and my site is slowly ranking higher on these terms.

    Learning how to research good keywords is important in SEO. Pick keywords that don't have a ton of competition and are fairly specific. Use a plug in to help, I really like Wordpress SEO by Yoast.

    Be sure to include keywords in your title, URL, a few times in the article and as the title of all images on the post.

    This will get you started generating organic traffic, which is extremely important.

    Travel blogging is fun and can also be a great opportunity to support your wanderlust. Dedicate time to set a strong foundation from the start for the best opportunity for success!


    Blogging Basics 101

    Social Media Today 101 blogging Tips for Beginners

    Inc. The Benefits of Guest Blogging


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    Don't spend the night sleeping on an airport floor because you've been stranded in Winterpeg, or by Calgary's five feet (and counting) of snow.

    Hotel search analyzed every hotel within two kilometers of Canada's five most notoriously weather-delayed airports, to help grounded travellers stay in the ideal airport hotel during the nightmare of holiday delays.

    Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport -- Winnipeg, MB
    Courtesy: The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel

    The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lakeview

    Rating: 90
    Distance to Airport: Directly across from the terminal building

    - 24-hr room service
    - Blue Marble Restaurant
    - Café Grand

    - E-concierge to check airport departures/arrivals & print boarding passes
    - iPad in the room to connect with airport information, family, and hotel services
    - Power station for personal electronic devices
    - Fitness center

    Toronto Pearson International Airport -- Mississauga, ON
    Courtesy: Hilton Hotels & Resorts

    Homewood Suites by Hilton Toronto Airport Corporate Centre

    Rating: 90
    Distance to Airport: Free shuttle (2km)

    - Fully-equipped kitchen in-room
    - Free hot buffet breakfast
    - Free dinner & drinks (Mon-Thurs)
    - 24-hr convenience shop

    - Laundry service & coin laundry
    - Free printing
    - Fitness center & indoor pool
    - Free shuttle service anywhere within 8km of hotel

    Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport -- Dorval, QC
    Courtesy: Marriott International, Inc

    Montreal Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel

    Rating: 89
    Distance to Airport: Inside airport, near U.S. departures terminal

    - Bijou Resto Bar
    - Hotel breakfast
    - 24-hr room service
    - Local restaurant delivery

    - Mobile check-in
    - Fitness center, indoor pool & whirlpool
    - Full-service spa

    Calgary International Airport -- Calgary, AB
    Courtesy: Delta Hotels & Resorts

    Delta Calgary Airport Hotel

    Rating: 81
    Distance to Airport: Inside airport, directly across from terminal building

    - YYC Lounge
    - Compass Restaurant
    - North 51° Steakhouse
    - Room service

    - Access to airport shopping
    - 24-hr fitness center
    - Indoor pool & whirlpool

    Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport -- Ottawa, ON
    Courtesy: Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport

    Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa Airport

    Rating: 88
    Distance to Airport: Free shuttle (1km)

    - The Garden Grille & Bar
    - Room service (evening)
    - Pavilion Pantry convenience store

    - Laundry service & coin laundry
    - Free printing
    - Fitness room & indoor pool

    For more travel inspiration, check out our blog trivago checkin

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  • 12/22/14--14:00: 10 Travel Gems of Geneva
  • Geneva is small city with a big heart. With a population of only 200,000, it is the world's capital of peace. While many visitors come to Switzerland's second largest city for business, there is plenty to offer travellers seeking a vacation. This year, Geneva was voted Europe's leading city break destination.


    (Photo: Switzerland Tourism)

    More than 20 years ago, I visited Geneva as a backpacker. So when I recently returned, I saw it through grown-up eyes. Geneva is small enough to walk around and see the sights, yet packed with shops, museums, galleries and other attractions. The transit is efficient and clean, it is easy to get from the airport to city centre by rail (it's free!), and is a jumping-off point for adventures in the mountains. In fact, there are many reasons to visit Geneva.

    Here are some of my favourite Geneva Gems:

    1. Cuisine

    When you think of Swiss cuisine, fondue and raclette probably comes to mind. Due to its international community, Geneva is renowned for its international cuisine, from traditional French to Italian to Indian. For a gastronomic adventure, some acclaimed restaurants with notable chefs to try include: Le Flacon (1-star Michelin), modern cuisine and chic décor (located in Carouge district); Rasoi by Vineet ( 1-star Michelin), modern Indian cuisine (Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, centrally located); and La Cigogne, refined cuisine "dictated by the market, inspired by the seasons,"and staff who know everything about Swiss cheese and the 350 wines they list (centrally located in the Old Town).

    2. Palais des Nations

    The Palais des Nations, formerly the headquarters of the League of Nations, is a magnificent property that houses the United Nations European office, and is situated on a sprawling park with a magnificent view overlooking Lake Geneva and, in the distance, the Alps. Much peace-making and humanitarian history has been made here.


    (United Nations, Palais des Nations)

    3. Wine

    A small industry, it is said Swiss love their wine so much they keep it to themselves. If you wish to try Swiss wine, you must go to Switzerland! Wines from Lake Geneva Region, in particular, are excellent. While I tend to like reds, I prefer the whites from this region.

    4. Bains des Pâquis

    A unique city beach located on Lake Geneva, this is a favourite spot for locals from all walks of life, from bankers to students, to unwind. Open all year round, you can have a massage, sauna or hammam -- and enjoy the lake view. During the winter months, enjoy a fondue at the restaurant. During the summer, swim or sunbathe at the beach. Regardless of your budget, there is something for everyone.

    5. Chocolate Workshops

    There is nothing like Swiss chocolate! After all, the Swiss invented milk and white chocolate. Try a chocolate-making workshop. I had the opportunity at Stettler Chocolates, a boutique laboratory, where I made a "chocolate pot" (marmite), special for Geneva's Escalade festival.


    (I made this small chocolate pot!)

    6. International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum
    Breaking away from traditional museums, this one offers a unique interactive experience focused on humanitarian history and efforts. Geneva is the birthplace of the Red Cross movement, so this is an important museum for the city. Located across from the UN.


    (photo: Alain Germond)

    7. CERN

    Geneva has had many firsts and the birth of the World Wide Web at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is one of them. Located partly in Switzerland and France, CERN is also where the God particle was recently discovered. CERN gives special tours for the public, but they are in high-demand so you have to book months in advance. Or, just check out its Globe of Science and Innovation.


    (Collider 100m underground)

    8. Carouge

    Bohemian district of Geneva, once part of the Kingdom of Sardina and, as such, you can still experience the Italian influence in the architecture and food. The annual Christmas Market is a must!


    (Christmas Market, Carouge)

    9. Escalade

    An annual celebration of Geneva's victory over the Savoyard soldiers on the night of December 11, 1602. There is a torch-bearing procession of locals dressed in period costumes through the streets of the old town. Many restaurants have special menus for the occasion and families get-together to celebrate over food and the famous "chocolate pots."



    10. People

    The locals, who are mostly French-speaking, were pleasant and helpful, especially as I fumbled with my French. I felt welcomed. And, well, the best travel experiences are often about the people.

    I took a piece of Geneva home in my heart.

    Resources: Geneva Tourism and Switzerland Tourism

    This article was originally posted at


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    A driver put a little too much pedal to the metal on Sunday when his Lamborghini sped out of control on Highway 99.

    Luckily the driver, who CTV News reports is a 26-year-old male, was not injured. Unluckily for him, the incident was captured on another car's dashcam and posted to YouTube on Sunday.

    According to the Surrey Now, RCMP have not said if street racing charges are being pursued.

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    Amidst the flurry of lavish holiday parties and last minute holiday preparations eight Toronto chefs gathered last night at Templar Kitchen to host an event in support of The Children's Breakfast Club.

    Organized by Chef Matt Blondin (The Food Dudes), participating chefs included Leonie Lilla (The Farmer's Daughter), Tyler Cunningham (Whippoorwill), Jonny OC (The Beverley Hotel), Coulson Armstrong (Canoe), Dave Mottershall (Loka Snacks), Cory Vitiello (The Harbord Room) and Graham Pratt (The Gabardine).

    Collaborating for a plate swap, each chef threw their signature dish into a hat to be drawn by another chef. The multi-course tasting menu featured the newly interpreted dish, giving diners a fresh spin on a charitable dinner for a deserving organization that serves approximately 4,000 meals each week in the Greater Toronto area.


    Fluke, meyer lemon, tapioca, sepia, dill from Coulson Armstrong interpreted by Matt Blondin.


    Leonie Lilla plates her interpretation smoked trout rye & blood waffle, juniper lardo, elderberry, buttermilk from Graham Pratt.


    Arctic char, chermoula vinaigrette, arugula, pommes Maxime from Dave Mottershall by Tyler Cunningham.


    Jonny OC plating duck tea with bourbon wash poured over liver, apple butter, squash tortellini, chestnut from Tyler Cunningham.


    One last moment to take a photo, Coulson Armstrong interprets Leonie Lilla's vol-au-vent forestier with veal sweetbreads.


    Grilled octopus, pork jowl, smoked celeriac, salt cod, cauliflower, romesco from Jonny OC, by Dave Mottershall.


    Venison hip, carrot, tonka bean granola from Matt Blondin by Cory Vitiello.


    Prune custard, cardamom, walnut, ginger, molasses & oats from Cory Vitiello by Graham Pratt.

    "During the holidays it's really easy to get wrapped up in the chaos, especially as a chef. It's nice to take a moment and give back to a worthy cause with a great group of chefs," said Mottershall of Loka Snacks.

    The Toronto Plate Swap was the final event December's Winter Chef Series presented by The Food Dudes and Danny Gunam, Chef Blondin says the group plans to feature more events in early 2015.

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    Giving the gift of travel: The Top Ten Travel Gifts that Keep on Giving


    Just in time for the gifting season we've rounded up our favourite travel products that are sure to last well beyond the holidays and add a little (or a lot) of luxury to your tripping for the new year ahead. A little something for everyone on your list:


    1. For the Adventurer - Rimowa luggage has been the choice of true travellers and adventurers for over 100 years. Known for its ability to hold up to even the longest of journeys and rudest of baggage handlers, this luggage will last beyond a lifetime!


    2. For the Business Traveller - Plaza Premium Airport Lounge Pass . With 700 lounges worldwide, this membership card is a gift that will continually remind the recipient how thoughtful and generous you are, no matter what airport they find themselves waiting in next year.


    3. For the Family - The gift of Kid & Coe: vacation rentals the whole family can enjoy. Travel with kids isn't easy -- but booking a Kid & Coe property means vacation starts as soon as you reach your destination. Each home has been selected with families in mind and include kid-friendly amenities, from cribs to high-chairs and plenty of room for play. Some favourites are a family home steps away from Amsterdam's greatest museums, complete with a swing in the living room, and a sprawling barn on Lake Michigan with a jacuzzi for parents and a teepee for little adventurers.


    4. For the Loved One Who Has Everything - the Gateway Card with Exclusive Resorts is a great way to give the gift of luxury travel at a fraction of the Club's lifetime membership fees. It provides cardholders with 21-days of travel to be used over the course of three years. In addition to providing access to the club's portfolio of more than 300 two to five-bedroom privately-operated residences spanning 75 destinations, cardholders enjoy personalized pre-trip planning and in-residence services including daily housekeeping and dedicated on-site staff. The Gateway card can be purchased by Canadians for the same amount in CAD as is quoted in USD ($32,500), reducing the purchase price by approximately 15 per cent.


    5. For the Budding Travel Blogger/Photographer - Nikon D5300 delivers professional quality photography that can be shared while on the road using the built in Wifi feature. We love how it even shoots clearly in dim restaurants or around campfires. The large LCD screen swivels 180° so you can hold the camera overhead to shoot over a crowd, or down low to capture that perfect vista. Plus, at only 480g, it's compact and lightweight enough to easily accompany you on a day trip or longer getaway.


    6. For Your Fashionable Friend - DL Sunglasses. Sure to flatter every face, these light-weight, gender-neutral glasses will take the wearer from the streets of New York to the beaches of Bali. Because so much time and effort went into carefully editing a collection of foundation shapes that are both timeless and flattering to every face, you can't go wrong! And at a price-point that won't break the bank, you may want to consider picking up a pair for yourself while you're shopping.


    7. For the Special Lady in Your Life - Ela Accessories. We have fallen for the Ela Scandi Tote. A soft leather, light-weight travel companion ideal for storing all your important travel essentials while on the road. We love the innovative 'lazy zipper pocket' that can be accessed from both exterior and interior making it secure (zips on both sides) but very convenient for the user.


    8. For the Wandering Nomad - Hobes. Footwear basics that are made by hand and designed to withstand the test of time and trends. The perfect one-stop shoe that works for all occasions -- a travellers dream!


    9. For Your Lover - A quick and sexy getaway with Air Canada Vacations. Couples who book a four-night stay (or more) to any destination in the USA or Nassau, Bahamas from now 'til January 5, 2015, receive a complimentary Air Canada Vacations-branded ZÜCA suitcase*. Züca is the James Bond-style luggage line best-known for its unique packing pouches that stack like drawers; plus, a genius design where the suitcase doubles as a seat.

    *Travel must be completed between February 1 and June 30, 2015.


    10. For the Aesthete - "Get a Room!" gift card from Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the boutique hotel specialists. The cards are available in any amount from $50 and up, and can be used to book stays at any of Mr. & Mrs. Smith's collection of more than 950 hand-picked boutique hotels around the world. The perfect gift for the stylish traveller, the gift cards are presented in a smart black pop-out box.


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    TORONTO, ONTARIO -- The temperatures dipped.

    It's below freezing, there's no end to the falling white powder and, to boot, slogging through slush isn't your idea of a dream holiday shopping romp.

    Enter Toronto's acclaimed PATH -- the subterranean shopping mall with its warren of interconnecting paths that lets busy shoppers stay underground the second they step off the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) from select downtown stations and head into a haven of shops, bars and cafes.

    Billed as one of the largest continuous underground path systems in North America (Montreal RÉSO takes kudos as number one), the PATH is Toronto's answer to "we don't like the cold." While the CN Tower and the Toronto International Film Festival tend to get the attention of most visitors -- and most Torontonians see it as nothing more than a warm route to work -- the PATH is one of those not-so-hidden gems that is actually a major tourist draw. I had one friend who told me about his cousin from England who wanted to see the PATH, this wondrous labyrinth of commerce -- a city below a city -- that he had read about in the travel section of a local newspaper. There was nothing like this in the United Kingdom, he declared, and it was the first thing he wanted to explore when he arrived in the city.

    Located in Toronto's financial district, the main artery lies west of Yonge Street and east of University Avenue, between Queen Street West by the Eaton Centre and Union Station on Front Street. Here, the cluster of skyscrapers you see outside have a hidden underground city. The major commercial hubs that all interconnect in this secret Willy Wonka world of the underground include Commerce Court, the Royal Bank Plaza, TD Centre, Brookfield Place, the Richmond Adelaide Centre and the big daddy, First Canadian Place, which boasts the largest retail in the PATH.

    My favourite time to visit is when the shops open at 10 a.m. and I prefer a light jacket, nothing heavy because I don't want to overheat. I pack extra big collapsible fold-out bags to store my shopping bags too.

    Have a Plan B When Exploring the PATH

    Now for the logistics, my fave start point is at St. Andrew transit station where I head east to the TD Centre. I stock up on cash by one of the ATMs at this Mies van der Rohe-designed beauty and spot some popular "street" sales where vendors display discounted items on the gleaming floors outside of their PATH stores.

    There are plenty of Canadian-made shops like Danier for leather, Reitmans for women's apparel, or the Running Room for jogging gear so I go inside for a look-see. Find cute colourful stationery and Christmas cards by Papyrus.

    Now with a few bobbles already purchased I head north through those drafty doors catching the minimal sunlight streaming off King Street onto the concourse. It's the only semblance of what's happening outside and it looks nasty with the piling snowdrifts. I smile knowing it's toasty inside and continue into to the mother bastion of underground shops: First Canadian Place.

    The pinnacle of Corporate Canada with its white-marbled facade, home to the BMO headquarters, has maintained a chi-chi-ness since first opening in the 1970s. So don't expect anything else. There are prized bespoke shops for the guys, boutiques for the gals, and fine jewellery shops catering to the moneyed set.

    With over 80 tenants, this pinnacle of consumerism combined with corporate toil is indeed the heart of Toronto's PATH. It's time to grab the handy "Holiday IT List," a gift guide distributed throughout FCP's common area. Check the little sign holders by the corridor and tick off the places of interest.

    By now it's mid-morning. I check out the number of bags I'm carrying and realize I need more kiddie gifts. Over at Birks, Winnie the Pooh, Canada's beloved bear, sports a matching red stocking cap and sweater in a delightful Swarovski pendant necklace. The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer book, beautifully illustrated by Erwin Madrid in its 50th anniversary edition this year, is seasonally jolly so I purchase a few copies at Indigo Spirit, another Canadian brand.

    In between the store visits, I enjoy people watching. The common area is brilliantly dressed in holiday decor. As the office workers mill around during their lunch breaks, there is also some great free concerts by the building's Waterfall Stage.

    Story by Ilona Kauremszky, Senior Writer. To read the full story on, click here.

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    While December may in fact be "the most wonderful time of the year," it can also be one of the most stressful.

    As the year winds down, we often find ourselves spending more time toasting to the holidays or rushing around buying perfect gifts and less time at the gym or getting a good night's rest.

    All of this fun and merrymaking can leave us feeling run down, or even worse, flat out sick.

    So if you're one of the millions of people across the country preparing to board a flight this week, here are a few ways to avoid getting sick or stressed out while travelling.

    Calm your nerves with Lemon Balm Tea

    Lemon Balm Tea is proven to boost healing and calm your nerves. I've relied on this for years to also induce sleepiness after long-haul flights.

    Once way to enjoy Lemon Balm tea is to brew it. Simply place two teaspoons of fresh lemon balm or one teaspoon of dried lemon balm into a mug and fill with boiling water. Let it steep for between five and 10 minutes and enjoy!

    Alternatively, you can purchase Lemon Balm candy or lozenges, which are ideal for travelling.

    Stay Hydrated While Flying

    We've all heard this before, but the importance of staying hydrated while flying cannot be stressed enough. The simple reason you can easily suffer from dehydration on airplanes because air in an airline cabin is usually much dryer than air on earth.

    Pack a reusable water bottle and make sure it's full at all times. Many airports these days have filtered drinking water stations where you can fill up. On long-haul flights ask the flight attendant to fill your bottle instead of giving you water in a small plastic cup. This way you'll have water available on hand the entire flight.

    Pack Healthy Snacks While Traveling

    Oftentimes fresh, healthy food options can be expensive and difficult to find in airports around the world. And a day of eating rich, heavily processed foods will leave even the healthiest person feeling lethargic.

    The simple way to avoid this is to pack your own fresh, healthy snacks. A bag of fresh nuts, including almonds and peanuts, are my go-to snack item while travelling. I also gather an assortment of savoury and sweet granola bars and eat them throughout the day.



    Finally, a hearty meal that travels well is hummus, vegetables and crackers. Grab a pre-packaged tub of hummus, cut up peppers, celery and broccoli and grab a package of crackers or chips and a healthy meal mid flight!

    Don't Forget the Wipes!

    Finally, especially during the winter holiday season, a little antibacterial action goes a long way. I love antibacterial hand wipes and carry them with me everywhere.

    Use them before eating or drinking to protect yourself from unwanted germs. Also consider wiping down your arm rests and tray when you board your flight. We all know how dirty airplanes can be, so it's a good idea to take maters in to your own hands!

    How do you stay healthy while flying? I'd love to hear your tips! Leave me a comment below.


    Webmd: Keeping Healthy While Flying
    FDA: Consumer updates: Staying Healthy While Abroad


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    It's been 10 years since her life-and-death struggle, but tsunami survivor Christine Lang says it's still as fresh in her memory as the day it happened.

    On Boxing Day, 2004, a 9.1 magnitude megathrust earthquake off the Indonesian coast sent a wall of water racing toward Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

    Lang was on the island of Ko Phi Phi, just south of Phuket, Thailand, shopping on Main Street with Rubina Wong, her brother's girlfriend, when suddenly everything changed.

    "A Thai woman holding a bucket of water started screaming," she said. People started running inland. From where we were, we could not see the ocean. We could not see the beach so we had absolutely no idea what was going on. Nobody was saying run this way, come here, or it’s a tsunami."

    "I thought it was a terrorist attack because there was a horrific noise and it sounded to me like airplanes and I thought maybe the Island was being attacked, so I looked to the sky. It was perfectly clear, perfectly blue and sunny."

    Lang said she and Rubina started running inland in the same direction as everyone else, when she noticed very shallow water racing into the island, but so strong and fast that she could no longer lift her feet to run.

    Rubina had gone down a side street. Lang never saw her alive again.

    "At that point I could no longer move and the next thing, I saw a massive black wall of water, not like a cresting wave, a black wall of water, maybe three to four stories high coming toward the island, she said.

    "And then it just blasted me right off my feet, and I was tumbling in the wave. I didn’t go up, I didn’t go down. It was like being tossed in a massive washing machine with the entire contents of the island. I didn’t have any sensation except for complete, utter fear."

    Trapped underwater

    Lang said she became trapped underwater between debris with the surface just above her face. The more she struggled, the tighter she was pinned.

    "I could not reach the surface and I thought I was definitely going to die there and I thought, 'I came here on my Christmas vacation to die,' and then I got really angry and the next thing that happened was there was another wave, and it blasted me out of my trap between the debris," she said.

    Lang said she was tossed in the wave, not knowing which way was up, or down.

    Story continues below slideshow:

    "And my next memory, I was being torpedoed along the surface of the water and I thought, keep my arms close to my body, keep my legs tight together because I was being hit by random objects."

    Lang said she must have blacked out because the next thing she remembers is waking up underwater.

    "The water is now motionless and black, and I knew I was down deep because I could feel the pressure in my head and in my nose. So I looked up and from a distance, I want to say 40 or 50 metres, I could see at the top, there was a small circle of light streaming down," she said.

    "And in an instant I started swimming through the motionless water, random objects again hitting me and I made it to the surface of the water."

    "I took my first breath, was bashed down into the water again, got back up and pulled myself onto a floating door and I could see that the whole island was flooded and a lot of buildings were gone." 


    Lang said she could see a house not far away and a man on its roof.

    "I made it my mission to climb over floating debris to the balcony of this house to refuge. There was a Thai man on the top of the roof and a Thai woman and he pulled me up onto the roof and from there I could see the one hotel on the island," she said.

    Eventually Lang said she could see the water start to slowly drain back to the ocean and she started climbing over twisted debris and rooftops to the hotel where someone pulled her onto a balcony.

    "There were lots of injured people there. Survivors helping survivors," she said.  "They were pulling bodies into the first and second floors of the hotel. There were people with horrific injuries. There was blood everywhere. There was blood all over me."

    Lang said she managed to make it to the rooftop of the hotel and get a first-hand look at the devastation.

    "And it honestly seemed like it was the end of the world. I had no idea what was going on," she said.  "What had happened to the rest of the world? What had happened to Phuket? What had happened everywhere else?  We were completely cut off without power,.Everything was down." 

    Lang said she remembers every detail as if it just happened.

    "The whole experience is very vivid," she said. "It’s like a movie in my head. Your brain doesn’t forget that. It doesn’t seem like ten years at all."

    Lang said she learned that day to never take life for granted.

    "I was given an opportunity to save my own life," she said. I’ve had ten bonus years really. I feel like I could have died a hundred times over that day.

    Lang's brother survived, but Rubina Wong did not. Wong's distinctive tatoos helped Lang's brother identify her body in Thailand.

    When the numbers were in, and the counting was done, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami had killed more than 220,000 people in 14 countries.

    Lang said she'll not return to Thailand on this, the 10th anniversary, to what she still remembers as a graveyard, but she will go down to the ocean in Vancouver today and pray for the souls of those who were lost.

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