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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Palm Springs



    This spring break I was dying to get away. Funds were limited, however, so I was looking for something that wouldn't break the bank. Sunshine and heat were a must, however, so I was looking at desert destinations, where the warm weather is basically a guarantee.

    We found a flight out of Bellingham with Allegiant Air to Palm Springs. After taxes, pre-paying for seating, and two checked bags...plus the miserable exchange rate, it didn't end up being that great of a deal (about $400 CAN/person). In the future, I don't think I'll bother flying out of Bellingham. The extra you pay to fly with Alaska or WestJet out of Vancouver is worth it.

    Silly me went and booked the airfares without much consideration for accommodation. I figured that Palm Springs is full of resorts and motels and condos...how hard would it be to find accommodation for a family of four? Boy was I wrong. The week we booked was not only Spring Break, there was also a major tennis tournament happening at the same time. My hopes of finding somewhere economical were dashed as I scoured AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO in the search of something suitable.

    In a moment of desperation, I had a look at the Palm Springs Craigslist and found a listing for a one bedroom condo in a resort in Cathedral City. I quickly emailed the owner and discovered it was her timeshare week that she needed to sell off. Of course, I was wary about booking something through Craigslist, but I was getting nervous that we might be flying down there with no place to stay, so I put my faith in humanity and hoped for the best.

    We truly lucked out. We ended up staying at the Welk's Desert Oasis Resort. It was AMAZING! The rooms were newly refurbished and HUGE. Lots of room for the four of us! The pool was perfect (the kids could touch the bottom everywhere, which made lounging reading my book much more enjoyable for me). There was a recreation centre that had daily activities along with arcade games, a pool table, ping pong and air hockey. And the snack bar beside the pool served food and drinks all day for super reasonable prices. We were a five minute drive from Target and Trader Joes and an easy drive in every direction to all that Palm Springs had to offer.

    I had no idea just how much great stuff there is to do with families in Palm Springs. My kids are pretty happy to just swim in the pool all day, however, it's nice to get out and mix things up. We had an amazing time and I can't wait to go back!

    Here is a list of the places we discovered to play and eat:

  • Children's Discovery Museum: This is a like a mini version of Vancouver's Science World. It was a great way to spend a morning. There was enough to keep my eight- and six-year-old occupied for a good few hours.

  • Living Desert Zoo: This was a full half-day adventure. I was actually surprised at how great this zoo was. Go early, however, as the mid-day heat is a bit much. There's a lot of walking involved, unless you purchase a pass for the tram that will drive you through the park.

  • Palm Springs Village Fest: This night market happens every Thursday. There are lots of booths selling food, crafts, souvenirs etc. We didn't buy anything, but it's a great way to spend an evening, if you are okay with crowds.

  • Fresh Juice Bar: We hit up this place for fresh morning juices and smoothies. A small is big enough for the kids to share.

  • Peninsula Pastries: Oh my God! The pastries here were AMAZING! Fresh croissants baked every morning that usually sell out by noon. Owned by a French couple, this is the REAL deal. Great coffee, too!

  • Fisherman's Market and Grill: Some of the BEST fish tacos I've had outside of Mexico. The kids loved the corn dogs and chicken fingers. Great value and super fresh.


  • You can check out photos from our trip on my Instagram feed!


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    So THAT'S what 2,660 miles of selfies looks like. (Which is, of course, 4,281 kilometres, for us here in Canada.)

    Hiker and photgrapher Andy Davidhazy knew he wanted to document his solo, once-in-a-lifetime journey through the cross-continental Pacific Crest Trail.

    So he decided to take a photo of himself after nearly every mile he trekked.

    The trail — which stretches from the Mexico-U.S. border all the way up to Manning Provincial Park in B.C. — took Davidhazy five months to complete in 2013. In the process, he also lost 50 pounds.

    The resulting timelapse video captures a pretty amazing transformation. (Watch above.)

    "Taking a photo of myself every mile wasn't about the vanity, but rather a way for me to fully commit to the whole hike," Davidhazy wrote on his website. "If I were to skip ahead, everyone else would know it."

    During his journey, Davidhazy ran into all kinds of wildlife, from bears and wolverines to rattlesnakes and scorpions. He also hiked through mountains in temperatures upwards of 40 degrees Celsius, and burned through five pairs of shoes.

    Story continues after slideshow:




    Davidhazy, who lives in Austin, Texas, says he did it for the challenge — and loved it.

    "I never imagined that doing something to seemingly pointless could have such a profound impact on my life," he wrote.

    Watch Davidhazy talk about tackling the trail:

    PCT 2013: Three Key Moments from Andy Davidhazy on Vimeo.



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    By now, we've all heard about the millennial generation. Falling roughly between the ages of 18 and 30 today, this generation is now growing into its peak earning years -- prime time for travel brands to be looking at how they can capture this generation's business.

    However, one trend we're seeing has some travel companies a bit worried.

    Even with the improvement in the job market, the unemployment rate among millennials is still quite high at 13.3 per cent.

    So what are these future travellers doing to find work?

    Good old fashioned networking

    Networking is still one of the most productive way to find a job. Today millennials are using social media networks such as LinkedIn to find contacts at a company and warm introductions. While in-person events are perhaps most effective, job seekers also are sending quick emails of introduction and asking for 15 or 20 minutes of someone's time at the company for which they wish to work. Even if there's not a particular job posting, establishing a connection now effectively open doors later.

    Online Matchmaking

    The first generation to have grown up with technology, millennials are embracing online matchmaking services with open arms.

    New companies like Magnet use data-rich, job-matching technology to connect job seekers with employers based upon skills, preferences and talent needs. Job seekers simply build a profile by uploading their resume or importing their LinkedIn profile. Once the profile is registered, the system immediately provides the candidate with specific job postings that match their skills, qualifications and preferences.

    Magnet was developed by Ryerson University, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Representing 60,000 businesses and over two million jobs. To date, more than 1,500 employers are using Magnet with more signing up.

    Creating Their Own Jobs

    More than any other generation, millennials are also creating their own jobs instead of waiting for their dream job to find them.

    Today, 35 per cent of employed millennials have started their own business on the side, and 72 per cent want to quit their jobs to become entirely independent, according to a study conducted by freelance job marketplace oDesk and Millennial Branding.

    2015-03-31-1427819117-3468003-computer.jpg



    Already, a whopping 27 per cent of millennials are self-employed, according to a 2011 study conducted by the Young Entrepreneur Council and Buzz Marketing Group, and we can expect this number to grow. Many millennials delayed starting a business because of a poor economy, according to a Kauffman Foundation study, but 51 per cent plan to start businesses in the next five years.

    The barrier to entry for starting a successful business is much lower for millennials than for previous generations thanks to the Internet, social media and new technologies.

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    A dog butler and pampering package from a Vancouver hotel are sure to set tongues (and tails) wagging.

    OPUS Hotel in the upscale Yaletown neighbourhood is betting that no dog owner can resist its services.

    The hotel's "bow wow butler" can arrange everything from a doggy birthday cake, to a canine manicure and grooming, or a dog walk from a licenced professional on the city's famous seawall.

    And when your pup needs to be paws-itively spoiled after a ruff day, opt for the "pampered pooch" package which includes a one-hour canine massage or Reiki session (a Japanese form of massage that encourages "self-healing," generally for humans).

    All of this, of course, takes place in a luxurious guest suite while you wait, complimentary drink in hand. (Because of course.)

    pampered pooch opus hotel

    To top it off? Your pet also gets a professional photo shoot to capture his or her best self, and you'll walk away with the images to hang over the dog's castle bed.

    Vancouver is turning out to be quite the hot spot for spoiling pets. Last year, a local design company created a collection of plush trailers for canine companions that retail for upwards of $800.

    Ruff life.

    Check out some puppy photo shoots below:




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    GALIANO ISLAND, B.C. - It must be something in the water!

    Researchers say a fourth baby has been born to an endangered population of killer whales found off the British Columbia coast.

    Researchers and whale watchers spotted the newborn Monday in Active Pass off Galiano Island, a Gulf Island between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

    Michael Harris, executive director for the Pacific Whale Watch Association, said catching a glimpse of yet another baby was a wonderful surprise.

    "We were just basking in the glow of having three babies and then we just found this other one."

    Scientists say it's the fourth calf to be born among the southern residents this season, with three calves in J pod and another in L Pod.

    The southern resident population is made up of three pods — J, K and L — and the latest birth brings the total population to 81 for the rare orcas.

    Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with Fisheries department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, said the baby is believed to be just days old.

    One of the telltale signs of its age were heavy creases, or fetal folds, on the animal, which are developed in the womb and take a few days to fill out, he said.

    Hanson said the new calf's mother still hasn't been identified because the baby was seen with a female that had already had a calf.

    Researchers went from depression a few months ago about the potential for the endangered population to optimism after the new additions, Hanson said.

    In December, the body of a pregnant female from J pod washed up on a Vancouver Island beach.

    "Seeing that much reproductive potential vanish in the population was very distressing. This is encouraging, though obviously the calves have to survive."

    Only about half of killer whale calves born in the wild survive the first six months of life.

    Although Hanson said all the animals appear to be active and robust he's hopeful the odds for them are better.

    The three pods — which are listed as endangered in the United States and as a species at risk in Canada — haven't had a surviving calf for three years.

    Researchers can't explain the baby boom, but Hanson said they're very interested in who the father or fathers might be. Earlier studies suggested most of the breeding was done by the biggest, oldest male, but that animal died a few years ago.

    For the long term, Hanson said researchers hope all the calves are female because there are only about 30 females in all three pods.

    While the whales are one of the best-studied cetaceans in the world, Hanson said researches still have much more to learn about how to help the population rebound.

    "It is a little bit frustrating. When we started into this a dozen years ago we were hoping for maybe some easy answers. I guess that's just part of the natural world as it's not necessarily a simple situation."



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    lake louise

    All those tourists to Banff who ask when Lake Louise gets drained and painted that spectacular shade of blue will be happy to know the answer is once a century just before April 1.

    Tourism Alberta revealed the "little-known community activity" in a news release Wednesday. Early pioneers first painted the famous lake's bottom in 1915, said the group.

    On Tuesday, hundreds of residents gathered to celebrate the re-painting of the tourist attraction with "non-toxic, environmentally friendly paint," said Leslie Bruce, president and CEO of Banff Lake Louise Tourism, in a statement.

    lake louise painted

    To celebrate the momentous occasion, Pantone issued "Lake Louise Turquoise Blue" paint for sale so people can bring the Alberta colour into their own homes.

    "My grandpa painted the lakebed 100 years ago and here I am now. We all have to do our part to make sure this province stays beautiful. I’m just happy I can follow in his footsteps. I hope my own great grandkids will do the same a hundred years from now," said Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen.

    Also, happy April Fool's Day.

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    VANCOUVER - A passenger seaplane made an emergency landing early Thursday not far from the Tsawwassen, B.C., ferry terminal after its pilot began feeling faint.

    Harbour Air says its aircraft was coming into Vancouver from Victoria Harbour when it was forced to make the early landing.

    It went down into some mud flats near the terminal at about 9:30 a.m.

    Harbour Air says there were six people on board, but no injuries were reported.

    The company says the passengers and crew were taken to their destination by another seaplane that was immediately dispatched.

    It says the pilot was examined and released.



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    Since childhood, I have encountered people of all ages who are shocked to hear that I have never eaten meat. That's right, I said never.

    Recently, since becoming a bit of an adventurous traveler, I have been receiving the same puzzled expressions and critical remarks, but not just from strangers. When my husband and I announced our travel plans to visit Argentina and Brazil this past winter, friends and family did not exactly give me votes of confidence.

    The common assumption, it seemed, among those who have never been to South America, is that only carnivores can enjoy the cuisine. Vegetarians, let alone picky ones like myself, could be up for a challenge.

    After experiencing Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro as a hungry tourist, I can now admit that I was naïve to believe I would starve. In fact, I am more than happy to report that the food I ate in South America was hands-down more gratifying than a lot of what I've been served in the North.

    By spending time in Argentina and Brazil, I learned that each country is heavily influenced by Italian culture (it's actually a tradition in Argentina to eat pizza for dinner on Fridays and pasta for lunch on Sundays), and that sushi is popular no matter how far you are from home.

    Healthy living is quite trendy in these places (which should be expected considering the focus on physical beauty), so smoothie bars are easy to find and acai bowls are the snack of choice. Even the steak houses have endless options for vegetarians, including hearty pastas, cheese plates and fresh salads.

    While my success as a traveling vegetarian is notable, I must confess that it was not purely by luck. As someone who thrives on organization, in order to minimize potential frustration, I did put effort into my meal planning before and during our vacation.

    I figured I would share some of my best tips in hopes of encouraging more people with dietary restrictions to journey to places other than all-inclusive resorts or cruise ships with endless buffets.

    Research, research, research. Take full advantage of websites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp. Read tons of reviews about reputable and popular restaurants in your destination of choice. Don't just look for places that are strictly vegetarian, as your meat-eating companion(s) will not approve. Find restaurants that have been rated highly and then jot them down. Once you have a solid list, look up the menus online and see which options best suit your needs and wants. Then discuss with your travel partner(s).

    Make reservations and communicate with the staff. If you'll be visiting a city during its high season, chances are that your preferred restaurants will book up fairly quickly. Do not expect to get a good table at a hot spot by just walking in the door. Make reservations a few weeks in advance, if possible, so you know you'll be guaranteed a good dining experience. Now, some websites may not feature menus, so be sure to email the restaurant and ask about their vegetarian options. One of the best meals we ate in Buenos Aires was at Don Julio, a steak house I had contacted beforehand. The staff assured me (in English) that I would have lots to choose from, and they did not disappoint.

    Don't be afraid to ask. If you do go to restaurants where you haven't made reservations, such as random spots with menus in a foreign language, you may become intimidated. Trust me, I experienced this on several occasions in Argentina and Brazil when I was already "hangry" (hungry/angry). In situations like these, where even the servers don't speak English, you may be surprised at how helpful fellow diners can be. When we came across a lively restaurant in the Palermo area of Buenos Aires, we figured it had to be decent. I ended up asking a complete stranger beside me (a local who was bilingual) to translate the menu. Lesson learned: being social can get you a delicious entrée. Worst case scenario: Just say "no carne" to the waitress and hope she recommends something edible.

    Appear clueless and people will come to your rescue. I think acting like a helpless tourist did the trick when I was trying to decipher a menu in Rio de Janeiro at a take-out place. I was pretty ravenous after flying to Brazil and not eating breakfast, so at lunch time I was on a mission. This take-out place was busy, and I was starting to get anxious, as it was almost my turn to order and I didn't understand the list of choices written in Portuguese. I figured out this place sold crepes, but when I asked the woman behind the counter if she could make me something without meat she gave me that WTF look. Fortunately, a customer in line behind me could sense my vulnerability, and somehow convinced this woman to show me all of the possible crepe ingredients (she pulled out container after container of fillings). I chose my favourites -- mission accomplished -- but I'm sure I came off as very annoying.

    Do not wander endlessly, especially in the heat. If you're in an area of a city where no restaurants look appealing, do not walk in circles for two hours straight in an attempt to find a needle in a haystack. Your travel partner will want to throw you in the river (or at least mine did). Sometimes you just need to accept the fact that you may have to settle for mediocre food when all of the menus are identically bad. In order to minimize drama, order anything slightly appealing as your main course and wait for your next snack or meal to be fully satisfied. Not everything you eat on vacation will be your first preference, but at least you won't be called "a difficult vegetarian".

    Even with the greatest plans in place, traveling to a foreign country with dietary restrictions can be tough and unpredictable. Hopefully these tips will give you a head start and make your trip a little bit smoother. My final advice to my fellow veggies: Embrace the challenge with an open mind and an open mouth.

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    jennifer picard photography

    Jennifer Picard lives on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, a tourist hotspot known for its rugged beauty. The stretch of coastline lies just off the Georgia Strait and is full of little islands, inlets, and forests.

    The breathtaking setting is a perfect complement to Picard's creative portraitures, which caught our eye in highlighting her as our HuffPost B.C. Photographer of the Month.

    Picard let us in on how the Sunshine Coast inspires her, and revealed her all-time favourite photography memory — which will warm your heart, and it doesn't even involve anybody getting married.

    Q: Can you give me a quick overview of who you are and what you do?

    A: I'm a fine art wedding photographer, living in Gibsons on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. One of the things I love doing most is creative editorial shoots for local designers. It’s so much fun because I get to work with like-minded people who excel in a creative environment. It’s my ultimate dream to one day place my creative focus on working exclusively with clients who share my passions for travel, animal welfare, and environmental advocacy.

    Q: How did you get into photography?

    A: I had no clue how to use a camera when I first purchased a DSLR, but I quickly discovered I had a natural ability and creative eye, so I immediately threw myself wholeheartedly in self-teaching. One of the first gigs I got was a photojournalist for the Canadian Animal Assistance Team (CAAT), helping them document disaster relief projects and vaccination clinics all over the world. That experience opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities with my photography, which pushed me to devote myself into making photography a full-time career.

    jennifer picard photography

    Q: How does the gorgeous backdrop of the Sunshine Coast inspire you?

    A: I moved here from Vancouver two and a half years ago and it’s completely transformed not only my photography, but who I am as a person too. I came here looking for a more peaceful and serene life away from the hustle of the city, one that was more simple and that had a deeper, and more intimate, connection to nature.

    I’m constantly inspired living here, living amidst the untouched beauty of the ocean, forest and mountains in my front and back yards. There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of waves every morning, it's a constant reminder of how grateful I am to be able to be a full-time artist in such a breathtaking paradise.

    Q: What sets you apart from other wedding photographers?

    A: I don’t follow trends in the wedding industry, so my work definitely has an original flair to it. My style draws from my love of everything vintage, travel, and nature, which I use together with natural light to help tell an inviting story through dreamy, intimate and candid images.

    jennifer picard photography

    Q: In this day and age, where "anyone can be a photographer" with sharing apps like Instagram and whatnot, how do you find success?

    A: Since it’s so much easier for people to take great looking photos, there’s even more pressure today on professionals, so having a beautiful and simple website that showcases your work, and who you are, is vital — in addition to wowing people as much as possible on all of the social media sites. Being authentic and allowing yourself to step away from the mainstream, seems to be as crucial today as having unique images. Standing out from all of the others is a lot of work, but it’s much easier when you consistently share stunning, original content that speaks to people’s emotions.

    Q: Running your own business — especially as a creative — can be hard. Can you take me through some challenges and how you overcome them?

    A: Running a creative, full-time business is a constant challenge. As it is with any art, you’re constantly having to look deep inside yourself so that you can continue to push your boundaries further and further. Sometimes it’s hard to be motivated, especially when it’s so easy to compare your work to others online. It’s tough when we have the ability to look through millions of images everyday, right at our fingertips, but the immediate love and feedback you get when you share your images up on social media certainly helps with inspiration.

    Q: What's your favourite photography memory?

    A: Before I went on a trip to Africa with the Canadian Animal Assistance team (CAAT), I had an idea that I’d like to somehow help the children in the local communities I was travelling to, which is what inspired me to create the Sunshine Children Camera Project. Before I left, I collected digital cameras that were donated by my local community, which I then handed out to the children of an orphanage I visited in Botswana. 

    I wanted to give them the opportunity to express themselves through photography, which was a creative and artistic outlet they’d possibly never before experienced. I’ve never been a part of a project that was so rewarding as this. Once I returned home, I put on a photo exhibition in Vancouver that showcased the kids' work, with all of the proceeds going back to the orphanage in Africa.

    See more of Jennifer Picard's work below. Interview continues after slideshow.




    Q: What's one thing people underestimate or get wrong about wedding photographers?

    A: I think there’s a big misconception that wedding photographers are paid too much. What people don’t realize though, is that it’s not just the day of the wedding that we’re getting paid for, it’s also for all of the countless hours of editing that comes afterwards. Photographers are also compensated for our years of experience, skills and learning, which together culminate to make your work valuable and in demand. Not only that, but it’s also for the energy we bring to a photo shoot, for our equipment, for upkeep of our websites, and all of that other business stuff that happens behind-the-scenes, to bring everything together.

    Q: What's your advice for someone who would like to get into your industry?

    A: Most important of all is to create your own style of photography, without just mimicking what everyone else is doing. Beyond that, it’s all about patience, passion and perseverance, and believing in what you’re doing.

    Q. What else do you do when you don't have sessions booked?

    A: I love to explore in nature, go on road trips, and travel to fascinating places. My partner and I recently went on an amazing road trip adventure around the entire island of Iceland. It was unbelievable, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Iceland is a photographers dream! We also just returned from a road trip in the Utah desert, where we explored all of their beautiful national parks. We made a quick stop in Arizona, where we found the highlight to our trip in the dream-like wonder of Antelope Canyon.

    Follow Jennifer Picard's work online:

    Website

    Instagram: @jennifertakesphotos

    Twitter: @jenpphotography

    Facebook

    Flickr

    Pinterest



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    "I'm a Scottish man living in Australia making Italian food."

    Sean Connolly is a hard one to catch these days -- the man does run four restaurants, after all. While hopping between his family home of Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand to manage things, he recently took a side trip to Queenstown and added star power to the SKYCITY Gibbston Wine & Food Festival.

    Before setting up for his master class sessions, I got a chance to chat with the MasterChef Australia (and New Zealand) judge. Here are his secrets for success that are actually very handy kitchen tips:

    • Keep it simple and produce-driven. "The less you do, the better it tastes."
    • Cook with virgin olive oil; finish (ie. drizzle, toss) with extra virgin olive oil. Sean is actively trying to get New Zealand olive oils into his restaurants.
    • Agria potatoes make the best duck fat chips. "Straight from the farm, no refrigeration. We don't make the chips if we can't get them."

    Check out the best of the festival, and more around Queenstown, in the slideshow. Then try Sean's very own recipe for a steak tartare that's making mouths water at his restaurant The Grill in Auckland.

    Story continues below slideshow



    STEAK TARTARE
    Serves four

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 320g beef eye fillet, chopped
    • 40g shallots, finely diced
    • 40g pickles, finely diced
    • 8g Italian parsley, chopped
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 60g Dijon mustard
    • 40g capers, finely chopped
    • 32g Yorkshire relish
    • 4g sweet smoked paprika
    • 8ml hot sauce
    • 4g flakey sea salt
    • 40ml extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 heads baby cos lettuce

    INSTRUCTIONS:
    In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the olive oil and cos lettuce. Spoon onto a plate, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lettuce boats.

    Pair with a beautiful Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir.

    Other lesser-known labels to look for while in New Zealand's Central Otago region include Mt Rosa, Waitiri Creek, Valli and Kalex.

    For more good stuff from Sean Connolly check out his easy (potato-free) gnocchi recipe at freshpresse.com.

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    It's nearing road trip season in Alberta once again, which means it's also an excellent chance to check out some of the province's best eats.

    Sure, Calgary and Edmonton both have some excellent restaurants, but we know from experience that sometimes the best places to dine are found off the beaten path.

    We asked our Facebook friends to help us narrow down some of the best places to eat in Alberta's smaller towns and hamlets. We got suggestions for cafes, bakeries and bistros — and even a few places where you can pick up a tasty ice cream or cold drink!

    We've left no stone unturned. From northern Alberta truck stops to southern Alberta grills, there's something on our list to suit every taste.

    Check out the suggestions below and be sure to share your favourite hidden gem in the comments!




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    VANCOUVER - The sound of boat horns and cheering from hundreds of excited onlookers saturated the smoke-filled ocean air as demolition crews sank a former Canadian warship off the B.C. coast on Saturday.

    After years of legal wrangling, the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia successfully sank the former HMCS Annapolis in the waters of Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park off Gambier Island northwest of Vancouver.

    "I'm just elated — it went down perfectly," said society director Larry Reeves shortly after the sinking, which took place on Saturday.

    "It's a huge sense of accomplishment and relief that it's finally over."

    The society acquired the decommissioned destroyer in 2008 with the intention of turning it into an artificial reef, but changing environmental regulations and a variety of legal challenges delayed the project.

    Most recently, the Save Halkett Bay Marine Park Society petitioned the courts to overturn Environment Canada's sinking permit, arguing that paint on the ship's hull contained toxic chemicals.

    But last month a federal court judge dismissed the group's concerns, saying the vessel had not been painted for two decades and that the toxins were not in an active state.

    On Saturday shortly before 1:30 p.m., the staggered roar of 12 cutting charges detonating loudly from the stern to the bow of the ship rang across the relatively calm water.

    The vessel disappeared less than two minutes later.



    annapolis sinking

    The ship will provide habitat for marine life and serve as a destination for recreational divers. Holes were cut into its hull to allow easier access for qualified divers to explore its inner workings.

    "Having the ship here is a real focal point and it raises the awareness of people and it raises their interest in it," said Reeves.

    "It's hopefully going to really highlight what kind of beautiful diverse marine life we have in B.C."

    The HMCS Annapolis served in the Canadian Navy for more than 30 years before being decommissioned in 1998 and sold to the artificial reef society 10 years later.

    Besides the hundreds of people who turned out in person to watch the sinking, others tuned in for the live webcast.

    Viewers included former commanding officers and crew members who had served on the vessel.

    Rick Wall recalled working onboard as the assistant engineering officer between 1978 and 1980.

    He said it was a relief that the vessel was not being scrapped and turned into "razor blades."

    "I hate seeing ships that I served on just going to breakers yards," said Wall. "It's nice that it's actually going to be doing something else.

    "The engineer in me likes that, repurposing something and getting some value out of it."

    The site will be open on Monday once divers finish an underwater safety inspection.

    This is the seventh ship sunk by the artificial reef society in B.C. waters.

    — Follow @gwomand on Twitter



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    blood moon vancouver

    It lasted only a few minutes, but it was still a total eclipse of the moon.

    On the West Coast, early-risers like Jamie Ball were rewarded with the best views of the moon slipping into Earth's shadow on Saturday.

    Ball took these images between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. PT from a gravel field in Vancouver, he told The Huffington Post B.C.

    lunar eclipse blood moon

    blood moon vancouver

    The roughly five-minute movement was the shortest such eclipse of the century, according to NASA.

    A lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth, and moon are almost exactly aligned, with Earth in the middle. As the moon moves into Earth's shadow, it can appear reddish, earning the label "blood moon," explained CNN.

    Saturday's sky show was the third total lunar eclipse of four in a series known as a "tetrad." The last one will happen on Sept. 28, 2015.





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  • 04/05/15--19:13: Tips on Flying with Infants
  • My husband and I took our (then) eight-week-old son on his first flight for a so-called 'vacation' to Florida; Fast-forward six months and he's been airborne 11 times. Now, as mom to a one-year-old and step-mom to a 10-year-old I am far from a parenting expert. But what I am an expert in is flying with kids. Here's how we survived so many excursions with a baby:

    (1) Simplify.
    It seems impossible and perhaps cliché, but less is more. On my first flight with my son I looked like a pack mule hauling everything I might possibly need through the airport. Bad move. In hindsight, it's all about packing only the in-flight essentials. Airplanes are notorious for their tight quarters and when you add a baby to your lap, toys, books, blankets, bottles and (possibly) breast-feeding, every inch of space counts.

    (2) Invest in the right diaper bag.
    Acquiring the right bag for travel might mean buying something specifically for flights. For us, it took trial and error (and four different bags) but I finally found my ideal bag for flights (The Fisher-Price Fast Finder) (for more tips on shopping for a travel diaper bag visit my website: www.familytravelguide.ca). Look for lots of exterior pockets so you can easily reach down under the seat and access key items. We keep antibacterial wipes, baby snacks, a bottle and teething toys readily available in outer pockets. You also want to consider fabric -- since you'll be scanning, swiping, x-raying, cabbing, storing and on-the-flooring your bag you are going to want to wipe it down. Make sure you can give 'er a good clean.


    (3) Make a schedule.
    Similar to how I survive each day at home, schedules help with sanity. If your flight is four hours, for example, know ahead of time how you hope to pass the time. If not, you will be staring at your watch as time drags on (and in the air it seems to move much slower than on land). I break the time up into 20-minute intervals for the first and last hour (take-off and landing) and 30 minute chunks for the remainder. And be realistic -- babies rarely nap when you want them too so don't count on it.

    SAMPLE 3-hour itinerary:
    20 min - Explore seat (after thoroughly wiping down everything)
    20 min - Take-off (feed, hold in lap)
    20 min - open/play with new toy(s)
    30 min - books
    30 min - snacks
    30 min - colour/crafts/eat crayons
    20 min - books
    20 min - new toy
    20 min - landing (feed)
    **if you divert from the above plan -- no biggie. It is just there for peace of mind.

    (4) Make friends.
    When your baby starts to fuss or squeal (despite how cute you think the sounds are, no one else does) you'll want allies. Parenting expert Alyson Schafer talked me through this one: "when you first get to your seat," advises Schafer, "smile and crack a joke about how lucky everyone is to be near an infant." Self-deprication can lead to sympathy when you need it. I've had to ask someone to hold my baby while I used the restroom and you'd be surprised at how eager some people are to play with a baby. A change of scenery (away from parents) can also buy you some quiet time as your kid explores new people.

    (5) Pack extra essentials.
    Delays can happen. So can accidents. During a wicked winter storm my hubby and I were trying to get to New York City with our eight-month-old. Our flights were cancelled and delayed repeatedly for two days until we finally caught a dreaded connecting flight. Needless to say my lack of experience resulted in chasing down another mom begging for spare diapers. Airports and airlines do not carry baby needs. Make sure you have enough (plus multiple back-ups) of items you cannot buy in transit -- special food, diapers, clothes, extra bottles, wipes, baby Tylenol and so on.


    (6) Embrace Type B.
    Can you tell I'm slightly Type A when it comes to all of this? Sleepless nights plagued the lead up to most of my first trips with my babe. Will he cry mid-air? How will he nap without his crib/routine? What if he takes an in-flight dump? Questions flowed like a river through my mind. My solution: toss Type A instincts out onto the tarmac and embrace Type B. Relax and enjoy the journey.

    When all is said and done, you barely even remember the flight aspect of your trip (unless something really funny or stressful happens but then it just makes for a good story down the road). When you think about it, these are the times to travel with your child because it's free. So take advantage of it.

    Let me know if you've found fun, creative ways to travel with your kids. Contact me at www.familytravelguide.ca and comment below.

    xx

    Enjoy the friendly skies

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  • 04/05/15--19:28: Meet the Yukon's Caveman
  • 2015-04-05-1428263570-3842551-NottooshabbyCavemanBillDonaldsoninsidehiscaveabodebyLisaJackson.jpg

    For the past 18 years, "Caveman Bill" Donaldson has lived in a cave above the Yukon River in Canada's North.

    Yup, this is for realsies. His cave is fully equipped with two small LED lights, a woodstove, cooking facilities, and a bed. There are also two dogs who live under his mattress. Outside, Bill operates a small wood-working shop for building and selling customized furniture, as well as a chicken coop.

    "When I first got to Dawson City, I was looking at a bunch of different options," said Bill. "Tent City was going at the time. Around 300 to 500 transient workers set up a camp down by the ferry land. But it was a bit too much a zoo for me. My friend Kevin suggested that there were some caves across here. So I came over, checked them out. And once the river broke, I threw in my canoe and paddled over and moved on in."

    His home is located directly across the river from Dawson City, a small town in Canada's Yukon, which was once the Klondike Gold Rush's epicentre. You can see the outside of Bill's abode from a boat cruise out of Dawson City -- and maybe even see Caveman Bill himself. Or you can watch this short video interview with Bill to get a glimpse into his way of life.

    2015-04-05-1428264675-2642802-CavemanBillDonaldsonstandingoutsidehiscavehomebyLisaJackson.jpg

    Over the years, Bill converted the cave into a home and built furniture for the dwelling.

    "As I lived here longer and longer, of course you just start naturally making it more comfortable," he said. "A friend of mine gave me a woodstove. Then I put in a door, and the next thing you know there's carpet down. And that carpet eventually evolved into a full on floor. I started building more and more furniture."

    "But I manage to do most of what I need by myself. Obviously, some things you've gotta buy, you can't make for yourself. It's kind of hard to cobble together a computer."

    What's most surprising? Bill is just an ordinary guy...who happens to live in a cave. He doesn't preach a "cave dwelling lifestyle" or reject modern thingamajigs. He enjoys watching Dexter on his laptop, has 510 Facebook friends, and bikes into town to visit his buddies. He's well-known around town as a skilled handyman and wood-worker, as well as a celebrated tourist attraction.

    "I think having a more off the grid existence helps you to hone down a lot of the stuff that you don't really need," Bill said. "Electricity-wise, here, I use in a week what probably most people use in a couple of hours. And you don't need to!"

    While cave-dwelling isn't for everyone, Bill certainly gives an opportunity to reflect on our own lifestyles. As Bill's story shows, it's possible to pursue a different way of life - including one that's "off the grid" - and still be a functioning member of society.

    For more photographs and to watch a video interview with Caveman Bill, click here.

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    VANCOUVER - Blue bird days on the ski slopes and expeditions to rivers frothing with spawning salmon could be among the quintessential British Columbia pastimes that vanish in the next century if the province's glaciers maintain their melt.

    Results of a 3D computer simulation reveal in more detail than ever before the magnitude of glacial thawing due to climate change. The study was published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

    It confirms and goes one step further than previous projections on glacial melt, holding up a magnifying glass to specific geography in Western Canada and spurs scientific theorizing about potential localized impacts.

    Researchers anticipate that by 2100, disappearing glaciers may alter how much water is delivered to salmon-spawning beds in the B.C. Interior, and similarly dry up corporate visions of future ski resorts, said study co-author Garry Clarke.

    A near total loss of glacial ice is expected to be concentrated in the Rocky Mountains, said Clarke, professor emeritus with the University of British Columbia.

    "People driving into Banff or Jasper parks will be hard pressed to see glaciers in the landscape by the time this is played out," he said.

    Similar disappearance rates are expected in B.C.'s southeastern Columbia Mountains. But the southern coast mountains may fare better than previously expected, mostly sparing the visually stunning Mount Garibaldi, north of Squamish, B.C.

    Ice caps in B.C.'s northwest, close to the Alaska and Yukon borders, should also survive.

    Researchers spent nearly a decade coding and embedding influential factors into the simulation, amounting to high-resolution representations of the glacial degradation in B.C. and Alberta over the years, said Clarke.

    While the entire region currently sustains 3,000 cubic kilometres of ice, that's projected to degrade between 60 to 80 per cent using the simulation, which charts four possible courses based on standard future climate change scenarios.

    The study projects the maximum rate of ice volume retreat to occur between 2020 and 2040.



    bc glacier melt

    Earlier forecasts using less sophisticated calculus predicted the glacial mass loss would be lower.

    "This is not a trivial amount," Clarke said. "This is in the world-league in terms of how many glaciers we have in our mountains and what the losses will be."

    He said the big unknown is human behaviour — how rapidly the glaciers flow eternally into the ocean depends on carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas additions to the atmosphere.

    It's a "one-way trip" if melt rates worsen or even continue along the current trajectory, he said. But the simulator also showed unexpectedly positive outcomes where some glaciers could outlast the prediction if climate change stabilizes, he added.

    "I thought that we might not even have a possibility of a good result, even if we behaved really nicely," he said. "But this suggests there is a reward for good behaviour."

    Digital pictures of the models at increments from 2010 to 2100 look exactly as if photographed from satellites, but are truer to life because they simulate the physics of ice flow, said Clarke.

    The novel simulator is more sophisticated than other calculators, using technological prowess similar to flight simulation or car racing programs, he said.

    "You've got the physics that describes what's going on. You try to put as much as you can in there. And if you've done a good job, it resembles the system you're trying to emulate," Clarke said.

    The team included factors such as the strength of the Earth's gravity field, the melting temperature of ice, and accounted for precipitation falling as snow or rain depending on elevation.

    But Clarke noted that in some ways, the melt isn't as dire in Canada because the glacial water doesn't sustain huge populations.

    He's hoping the simulator will be adopted by glacier experts in Asia and South America, where people's livelihoods depend on access to water.

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    The family of a long-time B.C. doctor says he was murdered on Thursday while on vacation in the Bahamas.


    Geoffrey Harding, 88, had a long and distinguished medical career that took him across B.C.


    On Thursday, his family received a call from Bahamian authorities telling them Harding had died, stabbed to death in a home-invasion robbery the previous night.


    "We're trying to come to grips with all the issues in front of us," Thor Pruckl, his son-in-law, told CBC.


    "He was an exceptional person, very caring, and there wasn't a wicked bone in his body," Pruckl added. "Incrediby nice person. To have something like this happen to him here is despicable."


    Harding regularly visited the Bahamas since buying property there in the 1960s.


    Harding's family said after starting a practice in rural Saskatchewan, he worked in Vancouver, on Gabriola Island and in Northern B.C. He only retired in the past decade.


    CBC News has contacted police in the Bahamas to confirm details of Harding's death, but have not received comment.


    Bahamanian media reports say a 43-year-old man was arrested late Saturday night in connection with the death, which occurred in the area of Clarence Town, Long Island.



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    Las Vegas is known for its excesses, and it's that skin, sin and decadence that entice more than 40 million people to the city each year. That, and the all-you-can-eat buffets.

    Sin City has truly redefined the culinary and wine experience since the days of the shrimp cocktail specials. Celebrity chefs have turned Vegas into one of the top foodie cities in the world with something to delight everyone's tastes -- including the vegans and vegetarians that make up a growing percentage of the North American population.

    If you follow a plant-based diet, you won't want to leave finding food you can eat and still stay true to your vegan or vegetarian ideals to chance. Here are a few sure bets for vegans and vegetarians on the Las Vegas Strip.

    Zoozacrackers Deli
    3131 South Las Vegas Blvd
    Each restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore offers exceptional vegan and vegetarian menus, and Zoozacrackers Deli is another winner from Steve Wynn, a former vegan. Their coconut based choco-shake is to die for.

    Botero
    3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
    You might be surprised how many steakhouses have comprehensive vegan and vegetarian options, but the gold standard is set at Botero in Encore. The vegan tasting menu at $65 a person offers such delights as heirloom tomato gazpacho, grilled peach panzanella salad and crispy tofu loin. Finish the meal with the rich vegan chocolate cream pie and you'll wish you could shake Steve Wynn's hand personally to thank him for offering such an incredible plant-based menu.

    2015-04-06-1428342744-5869513-VivaLasVeganBoteroBarphotobyRussellMacMasters.jpg

    Slice of Vegas Pizza
    3930 Las Vegas Blvd
    In The Shoppes at Mandalay Place is an Italian joint with a huge vegan menu. From Meatless Meatballs (tender Gardein meatballs topped with fresh marinara sauce and melted Daiya mozzarella shreds) to BBQ Chick'n pizza (topped with Gardein chicken, Daiya mozzarella, sweet BBQ sauce and fresh basil), vegans have a menu to choose from as tantalizing as the regular menu.

    Julian Serrano
    3730 Las Vegas Blvd S
    This upscale small plate restaurant offers plenty of Spanish influenced options for those who eschew meat. Tapas include apple-manchego salad, brava potatoes, jumbo Spanish white asparagus, sautéed padron peppers and a vegan paella. Olé!

    Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak
    3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
    As Botero proves, vegetarian and vegans still dine alongside their meat-eating friends at a steak house. The Craftsteak menu doesn't have as many options for a filling entrée as Botera, but there are plenty of sides that would make up a delicious meal, including the heirloom cauliflower, rosemary fingerling potatoes and creamy risotto.

    Holsteins Shakes and Buns
    3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Their vegan sliders, mini versions of their larger "Urth" burger, are made from vegan patties prepared in house and topped with sprouts, avocado and more veggie goodness. Be sure to pair it with their natural cut fries and of course, a side of their drunken vegan coconut raspberry shake.

    2015-04-06-1428342633-1493828-VivaLasVeganUrthBurger.jpg

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    Miami knows how to do a party

    Miami, a city that's both glamorous and streetwise, throws big, splashy events with a passion. In December, Art Basel Miami is the winter art show for the international crowd. In early March, there's the high energy of Miami International Film Festival, MIFF for short.

    A trip to Miami in March is hardly an arm-twister: you know you can count on warm tropical weather, lots of sunshine and beaches galore. Mix in a little MIFF and you've got a tasty vacay ahead of you. But don't wait until cabin fever sets in to think about packing your party shoes, or you might be disappointed.

    Here's the 1-2-3 on how to do MIFF:

    1. Browse it

    MIFF is a serious film festival that pops with fun. It's a celebration of art, culture, creativity and technical talent, and you don't have to be a cinephile to enjoy it. It has an upbeat vibe, maybe because it's part of the MDCulture program at Miami Dade College. MIFF is the only big international film festival put on by a college or university, and it's run as a charity to support the Miami Dade College Foundation.

    2015-04-06-1428344526-189952-IMG_2135.JPG

    MIFF Opening Night 2015, Olympia Theater, Photo - Lin Stranberg



    Under the directorship of Canadian expat Jaie Laplante, the programming is lively, smart and inspired. It's got all the ingredients -- humour, gravitas, beauty and buzz -- so it's not hard to find movies to see. This year, some 60,000 people watched features, docs and shorts from all over the world at seven venues, mostly clustered around the causeways that link Miami and the south end of Miami Beach.

    In line with its reputation as the world's top showcase for Ibero-American film, MIFF's 2015 Tribute was a salute to Cuba's independent filmmakers, followed by the screening of new Cuban film The Project of the Century, and an onstage afterparty.

    On opening night, the Oscar-nominated Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes), by Argentinean director Damián Szifron, had its Florida premiere in the beautiful old Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center. Afterward, partygoers rocked Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower that was the U.S. Immigration office for Cuban refugees in the 1960s.

    2015-04-06-1428342775-8482167-photo1.jpg

    Freedom Tower, Photo - Lin Stranberg



    2. Plan it

    MIFF's 33rd annual festival runs from March 4-13, 2016. Put it in your calendar. And before deciding what kind of time you want to devote to it, shop the website. Opening night plus party? Individual films plus after-parties? Individual films straight up, no chaser? Or a package, like the programmers' pick?

    Tickets are easy to buy on the website. The schedule is finalized and the tickets go on sale a few weeks before the event. Seats tend to sell out before the festival, so don't drag your heels on this one.

    There are flights from almost everywhere, and booking early helps you get what you want. If you're travelling on frequent flyer points, book now. If you're looking for a discount fare, check regular fare prices, then shop around online for the best deal (usually about four months before the departure date).

    3. Pair it

    Pair up your screenings with a few other Miami must-dos, because why not dial up the fun quotient while you're there?

    Stroll the Lincoln Road Mall before a screening at the Regal South Beach Cinemas. Take a look at 1111 Lincoln Road, the mixed-use car park by Herzog & de Meuron. Then soak up some glitz and glam at The Miami Beach Edition before dinner at one of the hotel's fabulous Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants (reservations are a must).

    If you have a later screening, get over to Enriqueta's, a funky hole-in-the-wall known for the some of the best Cuban sandwiches in Miami. Or check out the massive European invasion of the Design District by Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Dior, etc., and have a bite at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink while you're there.

    2015-04-06-1428338739-5807529-DSC02937.JPG

    Entrance to the Hamam at The Standard Hotel & Spa, Photo - Lin Stranberg



    No matter what, take some time out to relax at what might be the hippest spa hotel ever. The Standard Hotel and Spa, located on Belle Isle along the Venetian Causeway, is MIFF's hotel HQ and one of the top spots in Miami. Take a yoga or pilates class, hit the Hamam, wallow in the mud lounge or laze around your al fresco lunch table at the Lido Restaurant & Grill on the deck overlooking Biscayne Bay. It's like being on the Med. Travel tip: MIFF visitors get 10 per cent off room rates.

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    An experienced snowmobiler described being trapped in a B.C. avalanche as the longest two minutes of his life — and he has video to prove it.

    Curtis Johnson was sledding on a slope by Blue Lake, near Sicamous, with a group of friends when snow suddenly crashed down on him. Johnson, who was wearing a camera on his helmet, was knocked off his snowmobile and ended up buried in the slide.

    The footage he recorded (watch above), and uploaded to YouTube last week, shows the lens covered by snow. Johnson's friends are heard trying to dig him out, and two minutes later, the camera view is cleared.

    "The longest 2 minutes of my life!" wrote Johnson in the YouTube caption.

    One of the friends who rescued him, Gord Bushell, told the Revelstoke Review, that they actually uncovered Johnson's face in a matter of seconds, but it took 10 minutes to completely free him.

    The experienced group had rescue apparatus with them, but Bushell said the experience was still a "wake-up call to how little of a slope can slide," reported the newspaper.

    An average of 11 people die in Canadian avalanches every year, according to Parks Canada. "After the first 30 minutes, the chance of survival for anyone buried by an avalanche drops to 50 per cent, and continues to decrease with every passing minute," said its website.

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