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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    Growing up, many kids have a stuffed animal they cling to when things get hard.

    But six-year-old Keifer McConnell has been clutching his stuffie named Lammie for reasons most children don't have to experience.

    "Lammie has been with our little dude since he had surgery when he was 4.5 months old," said mom Melissa McConnell. The toy was a gift from Keifer's hospital roommate.

    McConnell was born with Trisomy 4P, a rare genetic disorder that affects around 100 children worldwide. The condition can cause a multitude of health problems from seizures to developmental delays. For McConnell, it means a heart defect.

    keifer mcconnell lammie

    On Thursday, Keifer and his family were on their way to Kansas to meet other families whose children also have Trisomy 4P. Lammie was packed in Keifer's bag at the Seattle airport as usual, but he never made it on the plane.

    "Keifer took it out of his bag [waiting at the gate], and I didn't know," McConnell told HuffPost B.C. "We got on the plane, and it was gone."

    The family, who live in Victoria, B.C., immediately phoned the airport's lost-and-found, but no luck.

    "He's so sad. He keeps asking me if Lammie's ever going to come home — if we're ever going to see him again," McConnell said on the phone from Kansas.

    Desperate to find Lammie, McConnell posted a photo of the pair on her Facebook page on Thursday afternoon, asking people to spread the word.

    Just hours later, friends who were also flying out of Seattle to Kansas traced the McConnells' steps through two gates and the food court — and found him.

    "Keifer cried when I told him Lammie had been found and was on his way 'home' to him," McConnell said. "Because home for Lammie is wherever Keifer is."

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    No one can resist a good swing, especially not this baby bear.

    The cub and its mama wandered into Caroline Pickett's backyard in Coquitlam, B.C. on Thursday. She said it's common to see bears in the area, but this time the wee one took great interest in the tree swing. (Watch video above.)

    The baby bear plays with the swing for a while, despite mom's efforts to move it along. Must have been time for dinner or a bath!

    Pickett told HuffPost B.C. the pair stayed for about half an hour before moseying away.

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    (Photo: Hello BC)


    B.C.'s backcountry offers some gorgeous opportunities for camping but there's so much to choose from.


    James Brittain, senior tent designer with Mountain Equipment Co-op, shared a few pointers on how to keep stress levels low while you plan your trip. Step one, he says, is to reserve your spot early.

    "The ones that go quick are obviously by the water, so if you want to get that site, you need to plan ahead and head out early — like lunchtime, rather than the end of the day," Brittain told HuffPost B.C.

    But be flexible and consider other nearby sites if Plan A doesn't work out, he said.

    "It's kind of the whole point of camping... it's a little adventure. So if it doesn't go the way you planned, just embrace it and move forward."

    Brittain also emphasized putting some thought into getting to your campsite once you've chosen one.

    "Ideally, you'd want a four-wheel-drive car with good clearance — it's not necessarily driving up the pitch straight to the site," he said. "Think of how you're going to get your gear from your car, because even if it's only a few hundred metres, it can really turn into an epic if you weren't expecting it."

    And of course, don't neglect to check the weather ahead of time, so you can pack appropriately for the conditions you'll be camping in. (Safety first, folks!)

    With a little help from MEC and top picks from Destination BC, we've compiled a list of the province's best camping spots — including a place you can sleep at the base of the Canadian Rockies, and another where you can marvel at the northern lights on an evening hike.





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    With its parks and gardens and elegant architecture, Niagara-on-the-Lake has always been a fashionable place, but no one could accuse it of being hip. That may be about to change.

    There's never been a shortage of reasons to visit NOTL. It's graced with lush vineyards and wineries, a romantic atmosphere, world-renowned theatre -- and now, an international film festival.

    2015-06-25-1435241022-4700593-DSC03151.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The Niagara Integrated Film Festival

    The Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF), at only two years old, is still flying under the radar. And that's good news for anyone who plans to visit next June. NIFF has spectacular settings, big names and international connections, but it's still early days for this event, so it's small enough to be intimate and unpretentious. The concept's a winner: great food, film and wine at the start of summer in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

    NIFF was born from the experience of Bill Marshall, one of the founders of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which is now the leading public film festival in the world. He and his wife, Sari Ruda, conceived NIFF as the ultimate approach to seeing films. "This festival integrates wine and food, municipalities, and technologies with the big screen," he said.

    This year's festival ran June 18-21, showcasing narrative and documentary feature and short films from Canada, U.K., the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe, screened at wineries and movie theatres from Beamsville and St. Catharines to NOTL and Niagara Falls.

    2015-06-25-1435241656-9161957-DSC03163.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The programming is smart and the lineup is lively. There are Filmalicious evenings, pairing film, food and wine; the Niagara Rises Series, with Niagara filmmakers; Mondo Wacko, a selection of edgy films; World's Smallest Film Festival, a cash prize competition for one to three-minute shorts based on a single theme and shot entirely on a mobile device, and Industry Day, an affordable conference with tips and insights from film and TV pros.

    I opted for the Opening Gala and a Filmalicious event, both at the beautiful Peller Estates. Sipping bubbly at sunset in the vineyard, chatting with filmmakers and friends, the strains of a jazz trio in the background, was something like a scene from a movie -- a prequel to the elegant table d'hôte dinner and wine served amid the casks in the cellar.

    2015-06-25-1435242327-6030131-DSC03159.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg, courtesy of John Matlausch

    U..K director James Kent was there for the Canadian premiere of his moving Testament of Youth and on hand for drinks, dinner and a post-screening Q&A. The Filmalicious evening delivered more of the same, this time with U.S. director Kevin Pang and Chef Curtis Duffy in for the screening of For Grace, a powerful documentary about the chef and his drive to create his Chicago restaurant, Grace, awarded three stars from Michelin.

    2015-06-26-1435319343-5299453-DSC03235.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The Club at White Oaks

    NOTL has a big selection of hotels and B&Bs but this year, lured by the NIFF visitor discount, I stayed outside of town at the White Oaks Resort & Spa. It turned out to be a smart choice. Just across the hotel lobby is the full awesomeness of the Club at White Oaks, where the sprawling sports and fitness facilities are open to hotel guests. My head-clearing, muscle-lengthening Pilates reformer class with instructor Linda Graham was the way I'd like to start every day. Spoiler Alert: This club may ruin other hotel gyms for you forever.

    2015-06-25-1435242751-5425893-DSC03181.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg

    The hotel knocks it out of the park when it comes to pleasing guests. A golf course and new outlet mall are just across the road, and you can call someone to pick up your purchases and deliver them to your room. André Plouffe, the resort's Chef Concierge and Head Butler, behaves like he's there just for you. He'll arrange whatever you like -- winery tours, rental bike deliveries, show tickets, car service -- and make it look easy.

    The Shaw Festival

    Since the Shaw Festival first began in 1962, no spring, summer or fall trip to Niagara could be complete without a visit to the theatre. The Shaw Festival is a must. This year's playbill includes Sweet Charity, Pygmalion, set in modern-day London, and a new version of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea.

    2015-06-25-1435243830-6091489-Starcatcher_2485_DC.jpg
    Photo: David Cooper, courtesy of Shaw Festival

    I caught a matinée performance of the wonderful Peter and the Starcatcher, directed by Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell, at the Royal George Theatre, built a hundred years ago to entertain WWI troops in training at Camp Niagara.

    Where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario

    Niagara-on-the-Lake is a walking-around kind of town and a dazzler in summertime. I took a stroll past the shops and flowers of Queen Street, dropped into Balzac's for a cup of tea with old friends, and we walked down King Street together to the waterfront at Queen's Royal Park. With an old timey feel and a film set gazebo (built in the 80s for The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken), it's a storybook greenspace with sweeping views of the Great Lake, the Toronto skyline, and Fort Niagara across the river in Youngstown, New York.

    2015-06-25-1435240340-4151237-DSC03216.jpg
    Photo: Lin Stranberg

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    If this doesn't make you feel a little love for Vancouver, we don't know what will.

    U.S. filmmaker Todd Hayward and his two daughters were in town last week to cheer on the United States at the FIFA Women's World Cup, which is being held at BC Place.

    The girls, who live in Virginia, had never been to Vancouver before. So, in between matches, the family went exploring — and dad filmed it all.

    "Little did they know, they would discover a place where ancient rainforests meet a modern city... a land where soaring mountains meet endless skies," Hayward wrote in the YouTube description.

    His daughters, 10 and 6, don't speak during video, but they really don't need to.

    The footage shows the wide-eyed girls having a blast in Stanley Park, Capilano, Granville Island, English Bay, Cypress Mountain, and more.

    "They loved it. They were really sad to leave," Hayward told HuffPost B.C. over the phone.

    He added the family didn't have time to visit every place they'd wanted to see, but we just say that's all the more reason to come back.

    (And we'd be happy to have you.)

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    MERRITT, B.C. - Mounties expect to recommend charges after a tour bus slammed into a tow truck and a car in British Columbia's Southern Interior, sending dozens to hospital and snarling traffic on Saturday.

    B.C. Emergency Health Services said two people were airlifted to hospital in serious condition and about 36 others suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

    The crash happened just before 10 a.m. on the Coquihalla Highway near Brookmere, B.C., about 40 kilometres south of Merritt.

    Wendy Georgenson said the tow truck was just hooking onto the car when the bus crashed into it. Several people were standing around the truck at the time, she said.

    "That's where one guy broke his leg. One guy was holding his ribs and puking. They were screaming. It was mayhem," she said. "Then the bus hit the railing and it was like out of a movie. It was just horrible."

    An employee at Universal Coach Line in Richmond, B.C., confirmed one of its tour buses was involved in the crash, but declined to give further information.

    RCMP Cpl. Chris Newel said an investigation is in its early stages but charges are pending.

    "They are gathering evidence that maybe this could have been avoided, and we will take it from there," he said.

    Newel said the car's driver had called for a tow truck after crashing into a deer. The car was pulled over to the side of the highway when the truck arrived.

    The truck driver was outside talking to the occupants of the car when the bus struck, he said.

    Newel said the RCMP received reports that the tour guide was ejected from the bus and fell into the creek below the highway.

    The guide and tow truck operator suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, while the car's driver and passenger were also injured, he said.

    Newel said there were 30 people on the bus and many sustained minor injuries.

    Interior Health said 25 people, most with non-life-threatening injuries, were admitted to hospitals in Kelowna, Kamloops and Merritt, B.C. Patients were also being accepted in Hope, B.C.

    About a dozen ground ambulances and four air ambulances responded to the scene. Merritt Fire sent tents and a command vehicle.

    C.J. Hodgson said she was travelling southbound at around 10:30 a.m. when she passed a tour bus with severe damage to its front end.

    "The front third or so of the bus is either ripped off or smashed in. It's wide open. You can see into the bus," she said.

    She said the hoods of a tow truck and a small car were smashed in and the air bags were inflated.

    Hodgson said the bus appeared to have crashed into a highway railing and a handful of people were looking over it at the drop below. Another group of people were standing on the road.

    "It's a big drop. If they're looking for something other than their belongings, that's scary," she said.

    Drive B.C. said northbound traffic at Exit 250 reopened about eight hours after the accident, just after 6 p.m. Southbound traffic had also been reduced to a single lane earlier in the day.

    Kyla Guido said she saw a tour bus with a smashed windshield and at least two passengers lying on the road when she drove by the scene earlier Saturday.

    Guido said the tow truck was sideways on the highway with damage, and a small red car also appeared to have significant damage.

    (The Canadian Press, CHNL, CFJC)

    — By Laura Kane in Vancouver




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    Sticks and poop are pretty much all you need to survive a Canadian road trip with kids, according to Vancouver-area filmmaker and dad Matthew Clarke.

    "If you find them a stick, that's pretty much good for an hour. Sticks are amazing," he explained. "The only thing with a stick is, if you're going to bring it back into the car, you want to make sure it's short enough that it won't reach the other kid."

    Clarke is one of those parents who detonates the minefield of raising kids with humour, even turning it into a hit YouTube series called "Conversations With My 2-Year-Old."

    Just in time for dreaded exciting summer family vacations, he's working with Travelocity.ca to share survival tricks, and the best road trips to take from Vancouver with kids.

    "The main thing is to keep your expectations in check," said Clarke, who has a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Having a schedule and booking hotels in advance helps, he said, but be prepared to throw it all out the window when travelling with young kids.

    "They’re not really like sane people. You're carting around insane people around the country in your small enclosed vehicles. So just acknowledge that and be OK with that," he explained, plugging the Travelocity app as an easy way to find and book hotels on the go.

    matthew clarke"You’re not necessarily going to get everywhere on schedule. And that’s OK — that’s the whole point of the road trip."

    Sure, it's easy to turn on a movie or hand the kids an iPad, but "save those for when you really need them," said Clarke.

    As cheesy as it sounds, he suggests singing, making up jokes, or listening to a music playlist that you made yourself. "It's nice to have something planned like that so you're not just listening to the 'Frozen' soundtrack over and over again." (Amen.)

    Driving eight hours straight with children is impossible, so Clarke suggested stopping every hour or two.

    "The great thing about travelling through B.C. is there are tons of places to pull off and stop. You can actually savour those moments and take your time."

    On a recent stop at Glacier National Park, Clarke discovered that Parks Canada provides booklets to kids with maps and treasure hunts. "And one of the things was recognizing different types of poop — which they were super into. And then I got super into [it], and I didn’t expect to be that excited about poop."

    Here are Clarke's picks for fun road trips near Vancouver with kids:




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    TORONTO - An Air Canada flight landed safely at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Sunday with a suspected tire problem.

    Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick says the plane returned as a precautionary measure when a tire appeared to rupture on takeoff.

    He says the Boeing 767, which was en route to Istanbul, landed normally.

    The aircraft had to be towed to the gate because of the tire.

    Fitzpatrick says they are working on getting the 208 passengers on their way as quickly as possible.

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    If you're the kind of person who enjoys getting a bit more out of your travels by reading a book based on the place you're going, then this is the list for you.

    In the infographic below, travel site Fly Abu Dhabi has put together an infographic of books that suit a wide variety of summer destinations, from Greece to Jamaica to the U.S.

    And we have to say, their picks are pretty spot on. While of course it's impossible to encompass a whole country in a novel, the books on this list are all worthy reads in and of themselves, so even if you're not getting away this summer, reading one of these might make you feel like you did.

    Oh, and for all you non-readers out there? The chart also lets you know if there's a movie version of the text for your researching pleasure.

    Do you have any books you loved reading while in a particular country? Let us know in the comments below.

    what to read on vacation


    ALSO ON HUFFPOST


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    On July 1, people across the nation will be celebrating Canada's birthday with fireworks, BBQs and Canada Day parades, while others may be taking in all the sites and natural wonders this great country has to offer.

    We've put together some of our favourite photos to make you proud to be Canadian. Take a look!

    Peggy's Cove Village Lighthouse, Nova Scotia






    Athabasca Glacier, Alberta

    "Climbing ice at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, while the aurora goes nuts" | Photo By @paulzizkaphoto #HashtagAdventure

    A photo posted by #HashtagAdventure (@hashtag.adventure) on






    Rainbow Range, British Columbia

    Amazing #BC #RainbowRange #Canada #camping #mountains #RoyalNorth photo by @julescrawf

    A photo posted by The Royal North Company (@royalnorthcompany) on






    Old Quebec City, Quebec





    Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Territory





    Baffin Island, Nunavut

    Photo by our Founder and CEO @solindblad: “Midnight in the Arctic.” #Arctic #BaffinIsland

    A photo posted by Lindblad Expeditions (@lindbladexp) on






    Torngat Mountains National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador





    Banff National Park, Alberta
    lake louise
    (gino sta.maria / Flickr)

    Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick





    Niagara Falls, Ontario
    niagara falls
    (Jordan Confino / Flickr)

    Polar bears of Manitoba
    polar bear
    (alex berger / Flickr)

    Cavendish, New Brunswick
    cavendish
    (Andrew Codrington / Flicker)

    Red Sandstone Cliffs, PEI





    Canadian Rockies, British Columbia

    Taking in the endless views of the Coast Mountain range near Bella Coola. Photo: @kalumko #exploreBC #explorecanada

    A photo posted by Destination British Columbia (@hellobc) on




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    Everyone has their favourite treats at the annual PNE in Vancouver. From cotton candy and mini donuts to hamburgers and corndogs, the fair is not a place to be calorie-shy.

    The PNE runs Aug. 22 to Sept. 7 this year, and the midway promises some untraditional twists sure to get your eyes (and waistlines) popping.

    Check out the new offerings from a donut burger to chicken strips fried in red velvet cake batter:




    What are you looking forward to trying the most?

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    On July 1, we Canadians find ourselves especially proud to live where we do. In B.C., we're feeling extra appreciative of our province and its untamed mountain ranges, sapphire-blue lakes, and roaring coastline.

    We've rounded up some of your photos shared with us on Instagram (hash-tagged #huffpostbc) that really capture the gorgeous wilderness of the West Coast.

    Without further ado, here are 21 photos that prove B.C. embodies true north strong and free.











    First class travel for my friend for Puerto Rico @ottoint

    A photo posted by Jeremy Koreski (@jeremykoreski) on













    What for it...

    A photo posted by Michael Bain (@theplaidshirt) on





    maybe today i'll slip away

    A photo posted by kimm (@talltreescoldseas) on









    I wanna run away, anywhere out this place, just you and I... #thisinstagramlife #thejumpingang

    A photo posted by Alex Barrera (@arch_barrera) on









    outer city limits

    A photo posted by Tage Stenner (@tagestenner) on





    It's been a while since I've visited this guy...

    A photo posted by Tamara R (@t2rae) on





    Today's lunch time adventure on the #UBC campus: Museum of Anthropology

    A photo posted by Josie Baik 백승민 (@baiktobasics) on









    Wherever you go.

    A photo posted by Nhi Le (@noyocreative) on









    It's that bridge again. #lynncanyon w/ @liannerymer

    A photo posted by Nhi Le (@noyocreative) on













    Respect nature

    A photo posted by Jeremy Koreski (@jeremykoreski) on





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    It's that time of year when the Canada Line is filling up with tourists and their luggage, and the Gastown cobblestones are teeming with fanny-packed, camera-wielding, steam-clock admirers.

    It's summer tourist season in Vancouver.

    After touring Stanley Park, the aquarium, and Granville Island, they inevitably get the urge to take a piece of the gorgeous city home with them.

    So what souvenirs do they choose? Check out the video above to find the surprisingly common answer.

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    CALGARY - A bomb threat believed to be a hoax prompted WestJet to divert a Vancouver-to-Toronto flight to Calgary on Wednesday night.

    WestJet said flight WS722 landed safely and the 30 passengers and five crew members on board exited the aircraft via stairs.

    The airline said it had diverted the Boeing 737-700 "out of an abundance of caution" and later said the flight had been "cleared as safe by Calgary police" and no explosive device was found.

    WestJet said the passengers were to continue to Toronto on other flights later in the evening.

    This was the fourth time in five days that a WestJet flight had been the subject of a threat and it was the fifth such incident involving a Canadian airliner in a week.

    On Tuesday, a WestJet flight with 113 passengers and five crew members landed on a flight from Toronto to Saskatoon landed at Saskatoon following a threat but police say a search of the aircraft found no bomb.

    A WestJet flight en route from Edmonton to Toronto was forced to divert to Winnipeg on Monday night because of an unspecified threat. Six passengers suffered minor injuries during the evacuation.

    Last Saturday morning, a WestJet flight from Edmonton to Halifax landed in Saskatoon after police said a call had been made claiming an explosive device was on board.

    And, last Thursday, St. John's International Airport was temporarily closed because a note was found in the washroom of an Air Canada flight that authorities considered a potential bomb threat.

    In all of the cases, searches of the aircraft unearthed nothing suspicious.

    Police say the investigation is continuing and there have been no arrests.

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    Canadians across the country celebrated July 1 with barbecues, parades, and fireworks. But one group in B.C. went much further.

    About 350 people woke before dawn and started hiking up Mount Seymour in North Vancouver around 3:30 a.m. Once at the top, they greeted the sunrise with our national anthem. (Watch video above.)

    Goosebumps, right?

    Brent Seal, who shot the video, said he cancelled plans to climb Mount Baker in the U.S. to join Chasing Sunrise, the Vancouver-based group that's been organizing these pre-dawn hikes.

    "With each sunrise, we are given a choice to make: we can either stay in bed waiting for life to come to us or we can get up and get after it, chasing what we want," explains the group's website.

    "It's a good time with great people and today was all about celebrating a country we all feel grateful to be living in," Seal told HuffPost B.C. on Wednesday.

    Seal, who works to promote mental health and wellness at Mavrixx, added that this type of adventure and community building is the "best anti-mental illness tool I know of."

    "One of the biggest reasons young people struggle with their mental health is social isolation. Today over 300 young people came together, connected, shared, laughed and sang and none of our lives will be the same."

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    A whole new bird's eye view of Vancouver has opened up in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    A temporary zipline will be thrilling riders from July 2 until later this fall to celebrate the park's 75 anniversary.

    The launch tower is located at the city's highest point beside the Bloedel Conservatory, with the landing point on the other side of the Quarry Gardens. Gravity pulls riders along the 190-metre (600-feet) long zipline, so no motors or engines are needed, said the city.

    The ride will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $14 for youth and $20 for adults, but you can buy advance tickets online for a $2 discount. Repeat rides will cost $5.

    Brides and grooms can ride for free when wearing their wedding outfits.

    The attraction's three parallel lines can carry up to 60 people per hour, said the city. There's no age restriction, but each rider must weight between 27 to 113 kg. (60 - 250 pounds). Only one person can ride at a time.

    A portion of the proceeds will flow back to the Vancouver Park Board to fund other parks and recreation activities.

    Zipline tickets also get you a $2 discount on admission to the conservatory.

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    A WestJet flight from Las Vegas to Victoria, B.C. landed safely after receiving a bomb threat, the fifth aimed at the airline in the last week.

    Flight 1709 arrived at the Victoria airport just before 6 p.m. PT Thursday about two hours after the threat was received, James Bogusz with the Victoria Airport Authority told CBC News.

    WestJet tweeted that the threat was "deemed not credible" but the flight was screened out of "an abundance of caution."







    A total of five threats have been made against Calgary-based WestJet, and one against Air Canada in the past week. All have been hoaxes.

    "Safety remains our top priority. We will continue to be vigilant to keep our guests and our crews safe," WestJet tweeted. "This week’s false threats are all criminal investigations, and we will support investigators as they seek out those responsible."

    However, the National Post reported that there was confusion over which law enforcement agency would take the lead in tracking down the person or people behind the false alarms.

    There's no indication if investigators suspect the same source is behind all the threats, and WestJet cautioned against rumours and speculation.

    Delaying or diverting flights, and using up police resources to search planes for dangerous materials is costly, former FBI investigator Brad Garrett told CTV News.

    He said such threats tend to come from unhappy former workers or clients with a grudge.



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    (Photo: Courtesy Brian Morrison, Tourism Ireland)


    I'd like to set the record straight about Ireland.

    Ireland's food culture gets a bad rep among travellers as being "boring" or "bad," and I'm not sure where this urban myth originates. The truth is, the Emerald Isle is a gastronomic playground for foodies and ale enthusiasts.

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    Above: Foraging for mussels on the Wild Atlantic Way
    (Photo: Courtesy of Tourism Ireland)

    There are loads of farm to fork experiences, culinary institutes, food festivals, award-winning restaurants, and microbreweries to explore. In recent years, upscale Szechuan, Indian, and Thai restaurants have popped up across Dublin, some serving exceptional Irish fusions. There's so much more than meat and potatoes.

    So before you start talking smack about Ireland's food scene, read about these six fabulous foodie experiences. You'll be eating more than crow.

    1. Learn Irish Cookery with a Celebrity Chef

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    Fulvio is one of Ireland's top chefs and food writers, best known for hosting three TV shows and appearing on NBC's "Today Show" and BBC's "Saturday Kitchen." When she's not appearing on the telly or writing award-winning cookbooks, Fulvio teaches people how to make "everyday exceptional" on her 280-acre family farm.

    "We cook everything here, from Italian to Irish to Asian," says Fulvio.

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    Foodies flock to Ballyknocken Guesthouse and Cookery School to learn the art of Irish cookery. Every culinary class has a theme, ranging from Irish baking to "Guinness is Good For You," and part of the classroom experience also involves picking fresh fare from the backyard. You may leave with a few extra pounds, but also some practical cooking skills to use in the kitchen.

    2. Become a Guinness Connoisseur

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    (Photo: Courtesy of Guinness Storehouse)

    The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin has a special experience for beer lovers. For the Guinness Connoisseur Experience, a small group of ale enthusiasts are ushered into a backroom bar, hidden from the public view, for a private tasting. It feels like the Willy Wonka tour of the Guinness factory, minus the Oompa Loompas and chocolate.

    "It's a 75 minute tutored tasting of four Guinness variants," says Eibhlin Roche, media relations manager at Guinness Storehouse. "Our Connoisseurs speak to the different variants of Guinness over time, what foods go well with each, and demonstrates the perfect serve."
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    This workshop, however, involves more than pulling pints. You learn the terminology and science behind Guinness ale-making, as well stories about the family and company. Best of all, tastings usually include Guinness variants not always available at home, such as the Dublin Porter: a special brew based on an original recipe from 1796.

    3. Forage for Food with Wild Kitchen

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    Follow the Burren Food Trail to Wild Kitchen, where Oonagh O'Dwyer leads wild food walks. Growing up, she foraged with her father and quickly inherited a passion for edible wild.

    "Literally all around us, there is wild food," says O'Dwyer. "You just bypass it all the time."

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    On a misty morning, we scavenge in the fields and forests, plucking berries and tasting leafy wild garlic.

    Afterwards, O'Dwyer demonstrates how to prepare and cook the bounty into impressive dishes: from wild garlic pesto to "chickweed" pakoras (chickpeas and Irish seaweed) to salted seaweed chips.The forests and fields just won't look the same anymore.

    4. Go "Session Drinking" at the Burren Brewery

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    "Here, we like the idea of session drinking," says brewmaster, Peter Curtin. "It means you drink lots of pints."

    Curtin owns The Burren Brewery and Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, a tiny coastal town near the Cliffs of Moher. It may be Ireland's smallest microbrewery, but it's mighty. On the second floor of the pub, Curtin brews a handful of malty ales and none are bottled.

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    "You can't get these brews anywhere else but here," he says. "It's difficult enough to keep up with the local demand!"

    When it comes to brewing, Curtin has strong opinions: rejecting hoppy ales ("we're traditionalists"), encouraging patrons to make beer their breakfast ("I describe my stout as a liquid sandwich") and firmly believes in "session drinking."
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    "This is not one of these little tasting panels where we swirl it around and spit it into a bucket," he says. "None of that bullshit here! You only do that after twenty-five pints."

    5. Feast on Smoked Irish Salmon

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    Next door to the Roadside Tavern, Peter Curtin and his wife, Birgitta, operate The Burren Smokehouse, blending the smoking traditions of Ireland and Sweden. The Celtic way "cold smokes" the fish at 30 degrees Celsius, keeping the fire outside. Whereas the Scandinavian technique involves "hot smoking" fish - plain or spiced - at 85 degrees Celsius.

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    "The hot smoke is completely different for texture and taste. The fish gets meatier," said Birgitta. "It goes back thousands of years, to preserve the fish for travelling and wintertime."

    If your tummy is rumbling, order the Roadside Tavern's tasting board. It features hot and cold smoked salmon fresh from Ireland's west coast, each slice marinated with flavours like whiskey and fennel, or mustard seed and paprika.

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    6. A Culinary Journey to Where the Wild Things Are

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    A restaurant with a full-time food forager? You bet.

    An hour outside of Dublin, the concepts of "local" and "seasonal" are taken seriously at The Strawberry Tree, Ireland's only certified organic restaurant. Chef Evan Doyle, expert gatherer and author of Wild Foods, features foods grown on nearby farms or foraged from the surrounding fields and woods.

    Dining involves a five or ten courses, such as a fizzy Wild Berry Soda (below), grilled strip loin of Irish beef, Wild Wood Pigeon, or goat cheese ("fresh from the udder!"). As for dessert, there's an organic chocolate plate.

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    And for foodies can register for the Wild Foods Masterclass with Chef Doyle.

    "It's a one day course," he says. "We go outside for a forage, and learn to gather, cook and preserve using old school methods."

    Bring an appetite: the workshop includes a two course lunch so you can taste the bounty.
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    For more travel inspiration and advice, mosey on over to Eat Drink Travel Magazine. Get more ideas for planning your trip to Ireland from Tourism Ireland.

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    A short flight from Athens or a 30-minute ferry ride from nearby Turkey, the Greek island of Chios is a true hidden gem, boasting picturesque beaches, medieval villages, quaint tavernas and nary a tourist in sight (present company excluded).

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    stay: Located among lush citrus groves in the Kampos region, Argentikon Suites offers the pinnacle of luxury in a setting reminiscent of Tuscany. Behind high stone walls lies a luxe estate with eight spacious and beautifully appointed suites, each with private entrances, stunning garden views and such decadent touches as Hermès bath products. Enjoy breakfast under an arbour of grape leaves at the on-site restaurant, pick fresh grapefruits in the hotel's private orchards, swing by the spa and sauna or simply take a dip in the infinity pool and bask in the Chian sun. Argentikon Suites, Main Street, Kampos, 82100, Chios, www.argentikon.gr

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    see: With southern Chios being the only place on earth where mastic trees grow, the medieval villages of Mesta and Pyrgi (where mastics are still harvested) are a must see. Protected by an armada of stone walls, Mesta was built back in the 14th century as a maze of tunnels designed to keep invaders out. Getting lost in back alleys and dead ends is half the fun as you wind your way to the town centre for a glass of local mestoutsiko wine. Pyrgi, down the road, includes a main square with unusual black-and-white designs etched into the façades of many houses. These elaborate geometric patterns, created by a special carving technique involving layers of black volcanic sand and cement, are entirely unique to Chios.

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    shop: Just down the road from Argentiko, the Citrus Museum and its well-stocked gift shop provide a plethora of tasty souvenirs -- think exotic preserves like chestnut and Chian orange marmalade, traditional spoon sweets and mouthwatering marzipan (scoop up a box of quince and bitter almond "delights," sure to impress). In Chios Town, look for stores selling soaps, sweets and even sodas made from the sweet resin of the mastic tree. Citrus Museum, 9-11 Argenti St., Kambos, Chios, www.citrus-chios.gr

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    dine: There's no better place to sample traditional Chian cuisine than Hotzas in Chios Town. Locals love this 130-year-old taverna for its extensive selection of regional tapas; the handmade pasta and white beans stewed with tomato and bitter orange is swoon-worthy, too. For a meal with a view like no other, visit To Asteri, perched atop a steep cliff with panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and serving up delicacies like rooster in wine sauce and mastic ice cream (bonus: the abandoned Byzantine village of Anavatos is just a few minutes' drive from the restaurant). To Asteri, Kostas Kostalos, Avgonima, www.toasteri.gr

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    Whether you decide to camp out in Kampos or tour the entire island (easily doable in two days, by the way), a visit to Chios is sure to charm. --Serena Matter

    Serena Matter is a lifestyle writer, digital PR strategist and founder of The Wanderlust Report. Follow her escapades on Instagram and Twitter.

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    Rob Lowe has declared victory in his beef with Air Canada.

    Last year, the star of "The West Wing" criticized the carrier for a lack of leg room on a rouge flight between Vancouver and Los Angeles.










    He later tweeted a photo of rouge staffers' outfits, just to prove his point.




    Lowe tweeted, and on Thursday, the airline responded.

    Patrick Khoury, Air Canada's senior director of U.S. sales, told the actor via Twitter that the company brought Business Class seats back to its Rouge flights.




    And that had Lowe ecstatic.




    In a Wednesday news release, Air Canada said it has finished the conversion of its Premium rouge cabin on its Airbus A319 from a three-by-three seat arrangement with a "blocked middle seat" to a two-by two seat formation. It has also added an extra 30 per cent of carry-on space, starting this summer.

    Perhaps the lesson here is to tell Rob Lowe anytime you have a problem with Air Canada. The man gets results.

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