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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    godfrey gao



    Vancouver-raised supermodel Godfrey Gao has been busy in his new gig as the Canadian tourism ambassador for the Chinese market.

    He was back at home over the weekend, filming a new TV spot for Destination Canada's campaign to air in November.

    The Taiwanese-born model and actor shot several scenes at the newly opened McArthurGlen designer outlet mall at the Vancouver International Airport.

    While we're used to his sultry, high-fashion shoots — after all, Gao was the first Asian model to appear in a Louis Vuitton ad — it was fun to see a more casual side of the jet-setting celebrity.

    godfrey gao

    Gao is hosting CTCTV, an online biweekly show to promote Canada as a top destination for Chinese travellers. Each episode draws an average 1.2 million viewers, according to the tourism commission.

    Check out more photos from Gao's latest shoot:




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    When you need a quick getaway -- a real escape -- that's no further than 20 minutes away from a major airport, it's time for a weekend in Montreal, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world. It doesn't get much easier to experience such an appealingly different destination in a very short time. Montreal is a city that's small enough to negotiate easily, cosmopolitan enough to keep you intrigued, and bilingual enough to accommodate most English-speaking visitors. Here are some new finds and old favourites:

    Old Montreal

    Old Montreal is the heart of the city and where, it all began nearly 375 years ago. It's eternally chic and gets more charming each year. The visitor experience keeps pace, you might say: now you can walk the cobblestoned streets and do more than admire the architecture with the Montréal en Histoire app on your phone. Just line up your location with the map for visuals and stories of what's around you. There are downloads involved, so do that with a network connection. If you forget, just wander down to Place Royale and jump on the free WiFi outside the Pointe-à-Callière Museum.

    2015-08-20-1440086985-916004-IMG_3477.jpg

    Pointe-à-Callière Museum Photo: Lin Stranberg


    Bordered by Saint-François-Xavier, Saint-Paul, Saint-Sulpice and de la Commune Streets, the Place Royale hotspot is a public square with a pedigree. It figured prominently in the establishment of New France. Samuel de Champlain set up a fur trading post there in 1605, and it later became the communal square where the king's orders and laws were announced. You can find out more at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. Underground, there's an exhibit-cum-archaeological dig whose layers reveal centuries of the past. The exhibits on the floors above, with their multimedia approach, both entertain and inform.

    The Snow exhibition, on at the museum until January 3, 2016, is an unexpected treat -- as is the sensational pastry at the Maison Christian Faure on the east side of the square.

    2015-08-20-1440088268-5849556-IMG_3472.jpg
    Strawberry shortcake à la Christian Faure Photo: Lin Stranberg


    Pastry chef, glacier and confectioner Christian Faure is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a supreme designation in the French pastry world, and it shows. Housed in a beautifully restored 19th century warehouse and store, his patisserie is an experience not to be missed. Upstairs, he runs an international pastry school for professionals and one-day workshops for serious amateurs, held two Saturdays a month. Classes are small so reserving early is recommended.

    2015-08-22-1440223144-7434426-IMG_3500.jpg
    Dusk on the restaurant deck at Bota Bota Photo: Lin Stranberg


    That floating feeling you usually get after a spa treatment or massage is the real thing at Bota Bota, a former ferry and showboat turned floating spa moored at the Old Port, the revitalized Old Montreal waterfront on the St. Lawrence River. Its five decks have been imaginatively refurbished with 21 treatment rooms, a hammam, a restaurant and, over a walkway to dry land, a lounging garden with swimming pools, a steam room and a waterfall. An ingeniously spawesome way to relax on the river.

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    The terrace at Le Sinclair Photo: Le Sinclair


    You can linger over lunch in Old Montreal on a sympatico terrace restaurant like Boris Bistro, Le Sinclair, or the Terrace Nelligan, a rooftop with a view. A favourite hotel in the area is Le Gault, an artsy 30-room warehouse refurb that manages to be hip and homey at the same time. Bonus: Standout concierge Jonathan Leclerc.

    2015-08-22-1440226431-5298959-IMG_2602.jpg
    Rue Ste-Hélène from the Hotel Gault Photo: Lin Stranberg


    Downtown Montreal

    Further uptown (in downtown Montreal, as the locals say), you'll find the shopping, restaurants, museums and nightlife the city is known for, as well as plenty of big name hotels. Central to everything yet much more chill is family-owned Le Germain Hotel, Montreal's first boutique hotel and still one of the best. Le Germain's warmth and personalized welcome now extends to guests' canine sidekicks as well, with a pamper-ready package of extras like beds, bowls and tasty treats. Woof!

    2015-08-21-1440169064-3023119-4543431579_daf719bff5_b.jpg
    Le Germain is a dog-friendly hotel Photo: Le Germain Hotel


    Outside the McCord Museum just around the corner, you can enter the Urban Forest, an exuberant transformation of a formerly dark and nondescript city block into an out of the blue public space with picnic tables, a piano, "trees" and a glider (on until Sept. 23).

    2015-08-21-1440167866-7692894-IMG_3418.jpg
    The Urban Forest at the McCord Museum Photo: Lin Stranberg


    Further west, you can catch the blockbuster Rodin show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until October 18. There's also emerging artist Michael Williams, an interestingly curated modern collection, and an exhibit of sports equipment by Quebec designers.

    For a walk on the wild side of Quebec cuisine, reserve a table for some nose-to-tail gastronomy at the renowned Au Pied de Cochon. Macho meat maestro Martin Picard, who invented foie gras poutine, (he likes Quebec foie gras on everything, then cooks it with duck fat) opened his restaurant to wild acclaim over ten years ago and it's still going strong.

    2015-08-22-1440262062-5411470-IMG_2664.jpg

    Duck in a can at Au Pied de Cochon Photo: Lin Stranberg



    Don't miss the signature dish, Duck in a Can, a next-level sous vide that combines magret of duck, foie gras, buttered cabbage, garlic, thyme and balsamic meat glaze -- not for the faint of heart or delicate of constitution, but you won't regret it. Eating here is an adventure. Bonus: the excellent wine list.

    Find out more
    Montreal information: Tourism Montréal, Québec Original, MTL
    Montreal travel information: Flight Network
    Montreal restaurant information: Resto Montreal

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    London's Gatwick Airport is now offering tired travellers food to help fight fatigue, balance mood swings and, well, just make them happy.

    CNN reported the airport teamed up with nutritionist Jo Travers to develop healthy dishes designed to bring a smile to travellers' faces.

    "There are certain foods that will help the 'happy' chemicals in your brain to keep flowing," Travers explained.

    And anyone who's been to the airport lately knows travellers can use all the cheering up they can get. Between baggage checks, long security lines and flight delays, getting to your dream destination can be an exhausting journey all on its own.

    From citrus salmon that claims to improve brain function to a falafel and fattoush salad that keeps blood sugar levels in check, many restaurants in the airport are updating their menus to include feel-good-foods.

    Scientists have long studied the connection between diet and mood and it appears that what we eat really does impact how we feel.

    In 2010, researchers in Australia found that teens who consumed an unhealthy diet were 79 per cent more likely to suffer from depression. And countless studies credit carbohydrates and protein for boosting mood-regulating serotonin levels in the body.

    But you don't have to buy an expensive meal in the airport lounge to feel good during your travels. Professional traveller Samantha Brown suggests exploring without an agenda to reduce stress while away from home. And when it comes to your mood, you can pack food too. Below we list 10 foods you can pack for your flight or eat when you land.

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    injured whale fern

    Marine researchers in B.C. are keeping a close eye on a juvenile killer whale with fresh gashes on its side and dorsal fin — believed to have been caused by a boat propeller.

    The six-year-old orca has been identified as A95, also known as Fern, from the northern resident population.

    Researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saw the whale on Saturday in Johnstone Strait.

    The injury is "extensive but superficial," said a news release Tuesday, but the whale was "vigorous, engaged in social activity and apparently behaving normally."

    The scientists were able to assess the wound and the whale's body condition with a drone, which also took images that will help with follow-up assessments.

    fern injured whale

    (The centre took care to note that the drone photos were taken at an altitude greater than 100 feet above the whale, which is allowed under the Species at Risk Act and requires flight authorization from Transport Canada.)

    "Although rare, incidents of boat strikes on killer whales do happen," said Vancouver Aquarium research biologist Meghan Moore. She said Fern's injury is likely to heal but it could have been much worse.

    Boaters are advised to stay at least 100 metres away from whales and dolphins.

    Moore noted that Fern's great uncle, A60, suffered deep cuts from what was believed to be a boat propeller in 2003. The whale has since healed.

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    With constant political news coming out of Ottawa, it's easy to overlook other aspects of Canada's capital city. For example, that it's absolutely gorgeous.

    Toronto-based cinematographer Chris Hau's latest video 'Show Me - Ottawa' does a perfect job at reminding us the city is home to a lot more than just the Duffy trial. In fact, it's packed with historic buildings, museums, and best of all, great food.

    Hau, who's also created stunning travel videos of Toronto, Ireland and Arizona in his 'Show Me' series, covers all of Ottawa's best attractions, from The National Gallery of Canada to the Rideau Canal and Byward Market. And, of course, Canada's Parliament building makes several breathtaking appearances.

    Check out the video above to fall in love with Ottawa all over again.

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    If you're a germaphobe you might want to think twice about taking an airplane, and it's not just because of the food.

    It's safe to assume the washroom won't be the cleanest place, but you might be surprised to find out where else fecal matter can be found on a plane.

    The video above, from Buzz60, claims that some airlines only wash their pillows once a month — yuck!

    The problem is, there is no one regulating how clean airplanes must be. And the airlines basically set their own standards, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    Maybe you should bring your own cleaning supplies with you next time you travel, or maybe consider taking the train?


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    Written by Karen Kwan for AmongMen.com

    A quiet beach, plenty of cocktails and delectable food and just enough culture and activities for when you've had enough of laying on the beach with one another. That's pretty much the essentials for a beach getaway together, is it not? Which makes the friendly island of St. Martin an obvious choice for a easy vacay with your better half.

    Where to stay

    In your frat-boy days, the Dutch side of the island, Saint Maarten, is likely where you'd have preferred--this is where you'll find the party crowd and the club scene--but now that you're seeking travel that's more "keep calm and carry on" rather than Animal House, Riu Palace St. Martin (on the French side of the island) is what you and your GF will adore. As an all-inclusive, you're most difficult decision will be whether you want your margartia frozen or shaken. The beach is a quiet cove that you can easily wade into to cool off from the sun, and you two can focus on relaxing and on each other without EDM blasting on speakers or a rowdy swim-up bar packed with sunburned tourists.

    Where to eat

    If you take all-you-can-eat as a challenge, your appetite and your palate will both be plenty satisfied at the dinner buffet at the Riu Palace St. Martin. A plethora of fresh choices is up for adding to your plate, but it was the veritable mountain of tender lobster and crab that we couldn't keep away from. And if putting together your own plate isn't your thing, the resort has three a la carte restaurants. Go for the lobster risotto at Krystal during your stay; you need some starchy carbs to fuel you for your morning workout in RIU's fitness centre, after all. If you want to have a meal or two off of the property, Grand Case is nearby. This neighbourhood is where you'll find lolos (this is what local independent restaurants are called) where you can dine like a king and queen inexpensively on superb BBQ ribs and chicken Sky's the Limit, which you'll find on Bd. de Grand Case, is one of the best on the main strip and a full meaty meal and a few rum punches and Carib beers will cost you less than $20.

    Where to drink

    Things wind down fairly early on the resort so if you and your honey are looking for some cocktails and people watching, taxi to Blue Martini in Grand Case to their casual outdoor bar. There's an extensive list of cocktails and martinis (cigars are available, too, if that's your thing). Some nights, there's live reggae bands so you can dance the night away under the stars alongside locals and other night-owl tourists.

    What to do

    Once you've finished your beach reads and are itching for some new scenery, pop over to Marigot where you can make the short walk up to Fort Louis and learn some of the history behind this 18-century fort while also being rewarded with a 360-view of the island. Or if you need something to get your adrenaline going, book a rhino safari with Nexus Tours. The 2.5 -hour tour on the inflatable motorized watercraft includes a stop for snorkeling (so bring your waterproof Go Pro) and at the gorgeous Happy Bay (where you may see more than you bargained for--it's a nude beach). And before your flight home, budget in an extra hour on your departure day to make a stop at Maho Beach, which is just a few minutes from Princess Juliana Airport. This is where you can enjoy planes flying frighteningly low to the beach (and watch the risk-taking tourists who choose to stand beneath them getting blown into the water by the plane's jet blasts).

    More Travel Content From AmongMen:

    Walt Disney World For Adults
    How To Live Like A Local On Your Next Trip
    4 Hot Spots For Your First Vacation Together

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    The mayor of North Vancouver paid his own way to test out a unique bike lift in Norway, and hopes it may work in his city.

    Darrell Mussatto visited Trondheim on Wednesday to check out a bike escalator that transports cyclists up one of the town's steep hills.

    Mussatto told a crowd, "Watch out, I might fall off," before hitting the button to activate the lift. (Watch video above.) A group of excited schoolchildren ran up the hill ahead of him, as the contraption transported the mayor and his bike.

    "I wanted to do this for years now and finally found the time to do so," the mayor said in a statement, pointing out that the City of North Van and the Norwegian governments are not paying for anything.

    Mussatto did reach out to local Trondheim officials to ask them for a tour of the operation and the bicycle routes in the town. He also met the lift's inventor.

    The CycloCable was first introduced to the town in 1993 and has attracted recreational cyclists as well as tourists. The current version can carry up to five cyclists at a time.

    "I am hoping that we could put one in operation in our city, perhaps on the west Keith Road hill between Bewicke and Jones," said Mussatto. "It is quite a long hill and a great connection between the lower and central parts of our city."

    City staff completed a preliminary study in 2010 to look at how feasible a bike lift like the one in Trondheim would work to connect Lower and Central Lonsdale for cyclists.

    It concluded that such a device would not be suitable due to the significant cost and the lack of engineering support. Plus it would clash with traffic and public transportation, said staff.

    However, the report did note that Keith Road between Marine Drive and Jones Avenue might be a viable option if more cyclists used the area.

    "I think the next step would be to conduct a proper feasibility study to see if it would actually meet our needs, work in this location and to determine more specific cost estimates. I do not want to speculate on costs until I have more factual information," said Mussatto on Thursday.

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    Lobster rolls, sandy beaches, lighthouses -- Halifax, Nova Scotia, is practically begging to be explored. Here's what (we think) you shouldn't miss:

    2015-08-27-1440701366-8007812-halifax.jpg

    Stay: Set up seaside at the Marriott, which offers beautiful views of the harbour, free Wi-Fi and comfy rooms. The hotel is also within walking distance of many Halifax hot spots and provides an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet including chef-made omelettes (sometimes with lobster), fresh muffins and juices. Yum.


    Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, 1919 Upper Water St., Halifax, 902-421-1700, www.marriott.com

    2015-08-27-1440701503-6674450-halifax2.jpg

    Eat: For the biggest, most buttery croissants ever, visit Two if By Sea Cafe early, lest they sell out (the fresh-baked prosciutto and provolone cheese-stuffed croissant is breakfast bliss). Keep it similarly simple at lunch with an authentic beef donair from Johnny K's (don't forget the sauce).


    Johnny K's Authentic Donairs, 5246 Blowers St., Halifax, 902-420-1010, johnnyksdonair.com

    2015-08-27-1440701662-8682567-halifax3.jpg
    See: Head to Halifax' lively harbour for live music and wooden booths selling poutine, lobster rolls and everything in-between. For a bird's-eye view of the city, trek to the top of Citadel Hill and visit Fort George, a National Historic Site of Canada, or, for a peaceful escape, pop into lush Halifax Public Gardens to meet Diana and Flora, the resident pair of Toulouse geese.

    Halifax Public Gardens, 5665 Spring Garden Rd., Halifax, www.halifaxpublicgardens.ca

    2015-08-27-1440701774-6880206-halifax4.jpg
    Drive: Less than two hours beyond Halifax city limits, you can check out colourful buildings, stunning views and fresh seafood in the charming port town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stay for lunch at South Shore Fish Shack (specifically: nab a seat on the patio and order the melt-in-your-mouth fish 'n' chips).


    South Shore Fish Shack, 108 Montague St., Lunenburg, 902-634-3232, www.southshorefishshack.com

    2015-08-27-1440701900-3864080-halifax5.jpg
    Shop: Biscuit General Store on Argyle Street is chock full of one-of-a-kind knickknacks, frocks and accessories, while Queen Street's so-called Vintage Row boasts several unique shops worth a visit. On Saturday, head to the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market for fresh produce, apple cider, baked goods, jewelry and other handmade objects.


    Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, 1209 Marginal Rd., Halifax, 902-492-4043, www.halifaxfarmersmarket.com



    Hello, Halifax! --Amanda Nunes

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    I just came back from NYC and I wanted to pass on some of my money saving strategies. I saved money on everything from dining, roaming, hotels, attractions to my cell phone bill. It is easy to spend a ton in NYC with the exchange rate and higher Manhattan prices and after many trips I've been able to put more "sweet" into visiting the big apple!

    1. Hotel and Flights: I always stay in boutique hotels because they are awesome. I like to find a place that is on a side street with a hip crowd, fancy cocktail bars, and really dark hallways so I can't get my key in the door. I search the web for the best places and then wait to see which ones have the highest ratings for the cheapest amount of money. Booking your flight AND hotel in Expedia or Travelocity can actually save you money. Or use all the points on your loyalty credit card and save some bucks!

    2. Eating: I LOVE to eat when in NYC and there is no better place to enjoy everything from high to low cuisine. I'll pick the hottest restaurants that I want to hit and then I strategically plan my trip around that meal. Pick one or two expensive places and then eat out at the awesome markets, deli's or grab food at a grocery store and eat it in the park the other nights. You'll average down your overall dining bill but will still hit that hot spot. If you go for lunch instead of dinner you'll save even more but miss some of the beautiful people.

    3. Exercise: I know it sounds crazy but when I'm in NYC I hit up all of the trendy yoga, spin and bootcamp studios. I love going to Chelsea and Tribeca to workout with super models and actors. Who would have known that they sweat too? If you have a Classpass.com app you can book all of these classes for just the $89 a month fee for the app. Or for free you can jog along the great tails and routes or take a stroll along the high line. Just keeping to the streets will burn off calories and save you money in NYC. Make sure you're dripping in designer fitness wear.

    4. Getting Around: Don't take Uber or Taxis - MetroCard it! When you get a MetroCard it's only $2.75 a ride (plus $1 for the card) from LaGuardia on the subway or JFK and the NJ Rail will bring you into Manhattan from Newark for only $12. You can get a 7 day unlimited MetroCard for $30. I spent a total of $28 on travel just by walking or using my MetroCard. That is less than one taxi ride into the city from Newark.

    5. Sights: If you time the museums and art galleries properly you can get in for free. The Moma is free Fridays after 4 p.m. and there are passes so that you pay one fee to be able to visit all of the museums. There are sites with lists of completely free or pay what you can museums that you can hit up for some culture and sexy people watching. Just search for them!

    6. SmartPhone: Leave your phone's roaming off while you are away. The plans that the big Telecom's offer are horrible and using it like you do at home will leave you with a HUGE bill. There will be free WiFi in your hotel, in the museums, department stores and every coffee shop on every corner. Live off of the FREE WiFi and save a ton. Plus if you place your destinations in Google Maps on your phone it will still show you where you are without using any data.

    You'll love the Big Apple even more when you can save time pinching pennies and spend it exploring one of the most exciting cities in the world. Do you have your own tips? Add them in the comments below.

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    When I was nine years old, I took a train from Kingston, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec by myself. I went to visit my grandparents for my birthday and to attend my first NHL hockey game.

    The two cities are just three hours apart, and while the conductor kept an eye on me when he made his rounds, I was very much on my own as strangers sat next to me and got on and off over the course of the multiple stops en route.

    Nothing bad happened.

    2015-08-29-1440852328-7102796-firstsolotrip1979.png
    Image via DadCAMP

    A few years later, my sister would make a journey to visit our grandparents for a visit by herself, too. This time she'd fly on a plane from Vancouver to Montreal. She was six.

    Nothing bad happened.

    So, why was I shocked this week when my parents sent me a last-minute email wondering if my son would like to go and visit them next week on a flight by himself?

    He is eight and has been flying since he was eight months old. He is well-versed in the protocol and routine that is involved in flying. We live in Calgary, my parents live in Vancouver and the flight would be an hour. And still, I was taken aback.

    The more I thought about it, the more I questioned my questioning. I asked a Facebook group of dad bloggers as well as my circle of friends, and virtually all had no problem with it. "It depends on the child," "they get treated like princes," and "I went by myself when I was four" were some of the responses.

    So, I popped over to WestJet's website to see what their unaccompanied minor policies were.

    The policy is in place for kids between the ages of eight and 12. I'd have to arrive 90 minutes before his flight, and I would be required to walk him directly to the gate. From there, an agent would help him board. I'd then have to stay in the airport until the plane was in the air.

    All no big deal.

    At the other end, the agent would walk my son off the plane and to the luggage carousel to meet my parents. Strict ID requirements must be met and a ream of paperwork would have to be completed, but the whole process seemed pretty painless.

    My wife, who I thought might balk, didn't have a problem. My son was eager to go. All I needed was a ticket.

    Now, this is where it gets tricky. WestJet charges $100 plus tax each way for an unaccompanied minor on their flights. So does Air Canada. (Canadians are getting a deal compared to the U.S. There, fees on Delta, American Airlines and United are US$150 each way.)

    Why do airlines charge the fee? Because they can.

    While there is a few minutes of extra work required by an attendant during the flight to watch a UM, they don't actually hire any extra staff to do any of the extra work. Someone just takes him under their wing.

    For this single hour of "babysitting," I'm charged $100. It's a little disappointing. But, just like with the baggage fees airlines have become addicted to, auxiliary revenue streams are all bottom line gravy in this industry, so I'm not surprised to see them add an expensive user fee.

    Even with a 20 per cent seat sale discount on the airfare, my son's ticket to Vancouver for four days would be a few loonies short of $600.

    2015-08-29-1440852353-7816561-zacharieonaplane1024x768.jpg
    Image via DadCAMP

    So, the question changes from "Would you let your eight-year-old fly on a plane alone?" to "Can you afford to let your eight-year-old fly on a plane alone?"

    There might be a cheaper way for you to get your kids on a plane, by using a companion fare. For kids younger than eight, you can pay just a one-way fare if you fly them to their destination, then turn around and return almost immediately. That's one way to get a half-price ticket on WestJet, but more expensive than packing your child on the plane alone.

    In an age where Orthodox Jews balk at sitting next to women on planes, and some people want to ban children from sitting next to men, I'm not worried one bit about my son flying off on his own. I just wish it was cheaper so we could do it more often!

    At what age did your kids first fly on their own? Is it cool to let kids fly alone on planes? Should their be other rules? What do you think of unaccompanied minor surcharges?

    Buzz Bishop is a Calgary dad, broadcaster, and writer. You can find his parenting blog at DadCAMP, you can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

    A version of this post originally appeared on DadCAMP.

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    The best new restaurant in Las Vegas isn't housed in a gaudy hotel on the Strip. Nor is it adorned with the first name of its celebrity chef or a menu with prices that equate to the cost of one of the city's pricey theatre shows.

    It is on East Fremont Street, a downtown district with a sketchy reputation that is the epicentre of a revitalization project. Part of the change in downtown Las Vegas is turning the derelict area into a community, with family-friendly attractions, hip bars and restaurants worth the $20 cab ride from the Strip to enjoy.

    Leading the pack is Carson Kitchen, recently honoured by a local newspaper as the finest new eatery in the city. Kerry Simon, who once ran the kitchen in the city's Hard Rock Cafe, opened Carson Kitchen with the intention of championing local food and bringing a neighbourhood atmosphere to downtown.

    "It's a very different experience cooking and working in a restaurant like this one versus a place where you know you're not likely to see any of the diners again," says Matt Harwell, the eatery's general manager. "It's a challenge to run a restaurant for your neighbours but it's also really rewarding because we can show a different side of Las Vegas and maybe build something new that's for the community and not just for people flying in."

    Carson Kitchen does its best to serve regional and seasonal cuisine, although Harwell admits that in the desert it is a difficult task. The local food comes from about 10 farms, a smidgen of the number other cities in more fertile parts of North America can rely on.

    Chefs like Simon have the talent, creativity and passion to make what they have work. The Carson Kitchen chicken skins ($9) are the best I've tasted. Far from greasy or overly salty, they're like a tasty chip that keeps diners coming back. The other popular item is the bacon jam ($12) and brie, made with caramelized onions and selling in batches of about 40 pounds per day. The menu is small and reasonably priced with no item costing more than $20.

    While Carson Kitchen is a star in the neighbourhood, it's not alone in its artisan or culinary aspirations. Eat is a popular breakfast spot opened by another chef, Natalie Young, who has defected from the Strip.

    At Container Park, bars and restaurants are among the locally owned businesses that have popped up in micro spaces made from refurbished shipping containers. More than 40 businesses are in the park, along with play areas for kids and a stage for entertainers who help bring the community together.

    In a place known for losing your soul as well as your shirt, it's compelling to witness a group of citizens rising to demonstrate what can be accomplished when you go all-in with your heart.

    Food and downtown tour guide Renea Witherspoon credits Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos shoe company, with providing the funding and vision for improving the quality of life in this part of Las Vegas that doesn't receive nearly the amount of tourism revenue as businesses on the Strip. "Tony Hsieh has really done a lot for the community. There's a desire to make life better for the people here and it's started to take shape, especially with the chefs and restaurants we now have in the area," Witherspoon says.

    I ended up taking Witherspoon's tour because a new travel app, Booking Now (from Booking.com), recommends spur-of-the-moment experiences -- as well as accommodations -- based on your user profile. With my interest in the culinary world, the tour was selected for me. That was a good thing, because I would not have discovered this intriguing scene emerging far away from the glitzy part of Vegas. The tour, operated by Nosh, included a stop at Carson Kitchen that convinced me to go back for a full meal. Another highlight of the East Fremeont Street neighbourhood was JinJu Chocolates. Located at Container Park, it is operated by Jin Caldwell, the former chocolatier at both the Wynn and Bellagio hotels.

    Once you're done with the new Vegas cuisine, you'll want to check out a true hidden gem: The Laundry Room. It's a speakeasy with Prohibition-era decor, a fabulous piano bar and top-notch cocktails. The Laundry Room is at the back of the Commonwealth bar and accessible only by text message -- if you're fortunate enough to discover the number to contact.

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    As the largest Canadian member of Virtuoso, we have the enviable task of sending travellers on spectacular luxury vacations. We take that responsibility as a privilege -- to create an experience for someone that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

    In the past, luxury just meant expensive. But as travellers become more savvy and more tourism options become available, the focus has firmly shifted towards experiences. A five star hotel is no longer enough, it has to have a unique history that differentiates it from the next luxury accommodation. Lie-flat seats have become the norm, but a one-bedroom suite really lets you fly in style.

    The changing demands of luxury travellers push the industry to up the ante - to get creative in offering meaningful travel experiences. Here are some exciting trends we're keeping a close watch on:

    2015-09-03-1441286871-9894897-640x450_paragliding7_2.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Six Senses Zighy

    Lavish Accommodations

    Five years ago, this wouldn't even be something I could imagine, but now this is at the top of my vacation list: Paraglide check-in at the Six Senses Zighy in Oman. Gone are the days when a hotel room was merely a place to rest your head. Luxury accommodations are experiencing a renaissance moment, offering extraordinary experiences to go along with your king size bed. We're seeing tremendous interest in hotels in history such as the 13th century Ashford Castle in Ireland, which received this year's Hotel of the Year award from Virtuoso. Immersive accommodation experiences have also been gaining popularity, such as the Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico, which offers accommodations set in the middle of a jungle, spa set on a dry riverbed and award-winning restaurants.

    Luxury in the Sky

    Many elite fliers will splurge to travel first class but having the power to tell the pilot when and where exactly to land a plane a perk in its own class. Private jet charters are rising in popularity, even rapper Jay-Z wants a piece of the pie. Private jet charter services such as Executive Charter Services, offers maximum flexibility with access to 10 times more airports than commercial flights, and options for single passenger jets to parties of 15 or more.

    2015-09-03-1441286940-3223151-slider1.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Executive Charter Services

    Multigenerational Trips

    Family travel is getting an upgrade as multigenerational travel rises in popularity. Grandparents, parents, and young children alike are now going on once in a lifetime trips to places like the Galapagos Islands and elusive African safaris where the adventure accommodates all ages. In the past, families were limited to less luxe travel options as experiences such as safaris had age limitations, but as demand to accommodate several generations in one trip increases, many operators are lifting restrictions and implementing special programs that cater to different age groups.

    Real Life Robinson Crusoe

    If you're looking for complete solitude, there is no better place than your very own private island. Some of these estates are so private that they have restrictions on the waters surrounding the area prohibiting outsiders from entering. Popular destinations include Richard Branson's Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands, which goes for $50,000 a night and David Copperfield's Musha Cay located 85 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas for $32,250 a night.

    2015-09-03-1441287100-2744267-NeckerIsland.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition

    Active/Experiential Travel

    Prepare award-winning dishes alongside celebrity chefs, find yourself face to face with some of the world's most fascinating species or glide past glaciers at the top or bottom of the world are just some of the unique experiences available to niche travellers. Some of our most popular tours are walking and cycling tours that take you off the beaten path and immersed in the local culture. The cycling tour of Vietnam for example, takes you North to South on a 15 day bike ride across the Halong Bay, into local villages, coffee plantations and jungle paths.

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    A once-in-a-lifetime encounter left a kayaker close to tears.

    Michelle Feis and a guide were kayaking near the San Juan Islands in Washington, just south of B.C., when they realized an entire pod of killer whales was coming their way.

    A shaking Feis started taking a video, and the result will take your breath away. (Watch above.)





    Feis wrote on YouTube that she felt an adrenaline rush seeing the animals — including a mother and her baby — and it was "pure luck" that the kayakers stumbled upon the pod.

    "These animals are so special and magnificent," Feis added in an email to HuffPost B.C. "This is the REAL SeaWorld."

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    His portraits are so compelling you can almost hear his subjects tramp through the forest and smell their heaving breath.

    Yet Julius Csotonyi has never seen any of the animals he depicts. Dinosaurs, after all, have been gone a long time.

    "It's really fun,'' said Csotonyi, whose dramatic illustrations of extinct beasts enliven the densest of paleontological papers. "It's the unknown and trying to figure out new things. That's always interested me."

    Csotonyi's work appears regularly in top scientific journals. The Vancouver-based illustrator has brought life to everything from a bus-sized shark to a primitive snake with legs.

    He's worked with Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Royal Canadian Mint and the National Geographic Society.

    He has won paleontology's top illustration award three times.

    "He's one of the people that paleontologists want to work with most,'' said University of Alberta paleontologist Philip Currie.

    Like a lot of kids, Csotonyi grew up drawing dinos.

    But he never stopped. Even when he was working on his doctorate in microbiology, he drew dinosaurs on the side for publications such as Prehistoric Times.

    Then, in 2005, an English publisher preparing a dinosaur encyclopedia called him up. That's when Csotonyi realized he could make a living at it.

    Picturing an animal known only by a few bones, Csotonyi said, is a delicate dance between art and science.

    "You come up with an image that's plausible, but interesting as well.''

    julius csotonyi dinosaurs

    A commissioning scientist will send him photos of fossils and share whatever data might help. Csotonyi comes up with a sketch and a careful back-and-forth ensues to get the dino right and have it doing something believable in the correct context.

    Hints come from all sorts of sources. Environment might suggest colour; scraps of fossilized skin or feathers point to texture; a related species — even one still living — might offer clues.

    "Sometimes ... animals that are closely related to it have certain features that are conserved in a group. We use those to insert what missing parts of the animal may have been like."

    This August, Csotonyi drew on a modern iguana species for an image of an extinct, 60-million-year-old lizard.

    Subjects are posed to emphasize whatever the paper is focusing on.

    "The more of a story the image tells, the better it is."

    What's not shown sometimes says as much as what is.

    "If there are parts that are not known, you can hide parts of the animal's anatomy."

    And imagination is always an asset.

    "I love to try to imagine what it would be like standing in a particular time and make a visual image, where you hold in your head the kinds of trees and plants that would be around, what it sounds like, try to get a visceral feel for what it might be like to stand there.'"

    Check out some of Csotonyi's work. Story continues below:




    Occasionally, Csotonyi revises images once new research comes along. Once, he surmised that a feathered dinosaur from China was red.

    "The next paper that came out on it allowed the researchers to build up a map of the colour patterns — striped wings, a russet crest on its head, dark greys on various parts, he said. That's what's kind of fun about science.''

    Working with an artist such as Csotonyi can help scientists refine their ideas. Theories formed by measuring bones don't always make sense when translated into an image, said Currie.

    ``If you reconstruct an animal a certain way and it turned out it had legs that were just impossibly ridiculous, you may not know that from looking at the measurements themselves. By having the discussions, you're able to see things better yourself.''

    Csotonyi holds an advanced degree in the sciences, but has never formally studied painting.

    So, scientific artist or artistic scientist?

    Don't ask Csotonyi to distinguish.

    "It's just really fun to be able to reproduce something like this and to try to create an image that's not just plausible and accurate, but also makes for an esthetically pleasing image."

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    At the opening of "Love Actually," a narrator remarks on how much love can be witnessed at the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.

    After seeing this video, which was posted to Facebook on Monday, a real life example has been beautifully documented.

    The video shows an elderly man standing in an airport with a bouquet of flowers as he waits for a loved one to arrive.

    An "awww" can be heard in the background when he greets her with a hug and a kiss.

    This is true love.Chris GQ Perry

    Posted by Chris GQ Perry on Monday, 7 September 2015




    The video, which was posted by Facebook user Chris GQ Perry, had over 16 million views as of Tuesday night.

    We've just seen the face of true love. And it is these lovely people.

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    With a relocation to Sweden fast approaching, my partner and I were looking forward to wrapping up work (and packing) and living like it was our last chance to experience the Czech Republic. Who knows if we'll ever be back, and after 16 months in Prague, we wanted to take advantage of a bit more of the country.

    Our last full week kicked off with a Friday night DJ jam at the O2 Arena. David Guetta was fresh from Ibiza and gave the club kids (and us old folks) a good time. And Prague likes to party. We had seen Katy Perry a few months before and, I dare say, Guetta pulled twice the crowd. Easy to get to via downtown metro, it's worth checking the artist schedule during your travel dates.

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    On Saturday we were up and at the second annual RawFest. For the inaugural event we had had to hop on a bus that took us about an hour out of the city. Thankfully it had been worth the drive. Sadly, despite the fest moving closer to downtown - on Štvanice island - in 2015, we were disappointed this time around. We'd have done better to spend the day strolling in and out of Prague's many vegetarian and vegan cafes and restaurants. Secret of Raw (Prague 3), My Raw Café (Dlouha 39, Prague 1), Sweet Secret of Raw (Rumunska 25, Prague 2) and Green Spirit (Prague 1). Any one of these are a worthy, and welcome break, from the meat-heavy Czech cuisine.

    Sunday came and we picked up our rental car at the central station (Hlavni Nadrazi) and pointed our GPS to Chateau Mcely. Only about an hour's drive from Prague, I had been pining to go to this forest retreat for just about the entire time we were in the country. I wasn't leaving without spending a night in one of the 23 rooms.
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    And it was better than I imagined. Everything from the arrival cocktail and lunch on the gorgeous terrace, to the expansive English garden and pretty natural pool, evoked a magical, otherworldly feeling. I can't think of a better break from packing. Before dinner we wandered into the library and observatory that resembles something out of a Narnia novel. Open an ages-old book to find the literary treasures inside, or open a curious door and find an antiquated walk-up to a lookout and take in the surrounding landscape.
    2015-09-07-1441616672-5504382-praguemcely.jpg


    Another unmissable aspect of the eco chic property is it's five star spa. There are a plethora of signature herbal rituals to choose from; each designed to highlight the natural products developed in the Chateau's laboratory.

    Lucky me I had time on Monday morning for their signature scalp massage with St. John's Wort treatment. Just 30 minutes of this powerful essential oil therapy, got me in the right (read: supremely relaxed) state to tackle more boxes once we got back to the apartment in Prague. Note that while Chateau Mcely is the perfect escape for couples, the staff are highly accommodating to children (Princess Festival included). They'll also arrange pick up from Prague's Vaclav Havel airport.

    Ah, Tuesday, we wish we did not have to spend you packing, but at least we got out for a farewell dinner at U Fleku. Their pilsner is brewed on the premises and the outdoor dining area is quintessential Prague. Have the goulash, a beer, and a becherovka. The best.
    2015-09-07-1441616742-8479241-Praguepub.jpg


    By Wednesday we could afford a break and decided to hop on the metro out to Zoo Praha. While I am not a fan of the whole animals-in-captivity thing, this zoo does a fantastic job presenting the argument that their gardens protect individual species, and perhaps entire ecosystems. Worth noting that while Prague Zoo is engaged in breeding, their experts also participate in programs that promote natural habitat conservation. The grounds have an open feel, reminiscent of the Singapore Zoo (my all-time favourite), and the range of species is impressive. 654 at last count!

    On Thursday, once the last of the packing and preparations were wrapped up, it was time to do one more thing we had talked about since moving to Prague 3. In fact, with a clear view (we could likely hit it throwing a stone from our terrace) of the structural oddity that is Zizkov Tower, we don't know why we waited so long. For your records, Zizkov is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.

    Panoramic views of the metropolis can been seen either from the observation deck, or while indulging in a modern gourmet meal at Oblaca restaurant. We simply enjoyed a nightcap at the bar, and it was the perfect way to say so long to the city.

    Friday: Goodbye Prague! It was an honour to be more than a tourist in the Czech Republic.
    2015-09-07-1441617057-6410348-prague.jpg


    Pit Stop: On the drive back to Prague from Mcely, we detoured to Kutna Hora. While the town dates back to 1142 and boasts Bohemia's first Cistercian Monastery, it's the Sedlec Ossuary that attracted us. This small chapel, located underneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, contains between 40,000 and 70,000 human skeletons that were unearthed during the church construction. Ever seen a chandelier made of bones? Well, this is the place to go.

    All images provided via the author's Instagram account.

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    Choosing a cabin for your next cruise can be as fun (and frustrating) as choosing the cruise itself. I'm a big fan of cruising, but I won't cruise unless I can get a balcony cabin -- back of the ship is my preference. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a cruise snob, but a balcony cabin is like sunshine on your vacation -- it makes everything better.

    When it comes to picking your cruise cabin or stateroom (the equivalent of a hotel room on land), start with your options.

    • Inside cabin The smallest room with no outside windows. I have no idea why anyone would choose this cabin -- but so many do!

    • Outside cabin Sometimes referred to as an oceanview room, this cabin faces the sea with a porthole (round window). Often the same size as an inside cabin, but with natural sunlight.

    • Balcony cabin A cabin featuring a veranda or patio with sliding door access. Bliss!

    • Suite A larger cabin, often with separate sleeping and living areas, and often extra amenities and perks. Double bliss!


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    If your cabin is simply a place to sleep and nothing more, by all means pick the most economical option and pour your vacation dollars into something you enjoy your more. If you prefer to see the ocean or sniff the salty air while sipping your morning coffee or nightcap, it's time to own up to your destiny -- a balcony cabin.

    Eight reasons why I recommend cruising with a balcony cabin



    Having a balcony means you're always only a few steps from outside instead of having to travel through corridors, up elevators and then through more corridors before sniffing the salty air of your sea voyage. My partner and I begin our days with coffee on the balcony and finish them there with nightcaps. The fresh air -- enjoyed privately -- relaxes us and lets us connect with each other and only each other. We always leave our patio door open overnight and the sound of the waves lulls us to sleep -- we even dragged our mattress out on the balcony to sleep under the stars on one cruise!

    Years ago, smokers chose the balcony room (for obvious reasons), but in recent years most cruise lines have banned smoking on cabin balconies. Check with your chosen cruise line to ensure your balcony will be smoke-free.

    Privacy Depending on where on the ship you choose your balcony cabin, the private moments you share with your partner here can be the best part of your cruise. Imagine watching the sunrise or sunset in nothing but your birthday suit -- glorious. During the day, curl up with a good book, zone out while watching the wake of the ship or a storm brewing in the distance -- no noisy children or crowded pool deck.

    Outdoor dining Whether you opt for a room service meal or fetch it yourself from the buffet, breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the patio can be a sublime experience -- especially on sea days when public areas tend to be crowded. For an extra-special romantic evening, inquire about the lobster and champagne patio dinner (offered on most cruise lines).

    Space to move Cruise ship accommodations often pale in comparison to their landlocked counterparts. But when you add a balcony into the mix, you add extra space to your accommodations. Once you've picked your cruise, do a Google image search on your ship and the balcony number you're considering to be sure it's free from obstructions and large enough to accommodate at least two chairs.

    The view There's nothing like having the wide open sea at your beck and call. Sunsets, sunrises, terrific storms and everything in between. On a recent cruise, I woke at dawn to watch a water spout (a tornado over water) -- amazing! If your cabin is at the back of the ship (aft) you'll be able to watch as the ship is tied to the dock and when it's set free.

    Cost Balcony rooms used to be a luxury but in a world of mega-ships, most balcony cabins are just another choice. They're often not much more expensive than an outside cabin. Some cruise ships now offer interior balconies overlooking main thoroughfares of the ship. Be forewarned that these cabins can be very noisy though - depending on what part of the ship they're overlooking.

    Quiet time My partner and I enjoy traveling while we sleep, dressing for dinner, dancing the night away and we take advantage of every possible shore excursion. But there's a lot we don't like about cruising too. Crowded pool decks, smoky casinos and loud children - anywhere. A private balcony allows us to hang out together, enjoying what we like and avoiding what we don't.

    Laundry Most cruise lines have very strict guidelines about hanging laundry on balconies. But we've often hung things out over the backs of chairs -- not to mention smelly running shoes after a strenuous hike. Somethings are just meant to be outside.

    So how do you cruise? Balcony cabin, or don't care? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Connect with the GoGirlfriend community on Facebook or Twitter!

    2015-09-09-1441762333-4519069-28ISS_4649_01142_edited.jpg


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    Smash together art, science and engineering and you’ve got Beakerhead. The Calgary-conceived festival is geared up to celebrate its third year with a heap of new programming.

    From Sept. 16 - 20, the city-wide interactive movement will bring together more than 100 collaborators to awe Calgarians with scientific and artistic delights.

    Last years festival brought out over 73,000 attendees—if you’re planning on joining them this year, we’ve rounded up eight awesome attractions that are certain to pique your interest.


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    Smash together art, science and engineering and you’ve got Beakerhead. The Calgary-conceived festival is geared up to celebrate its third year with a heap of new programming.

    From Sept. 16 - 20, the city-wide interactive movement will bring together more than 100 collaborators to awe Calgarians with scientific and artistic delights.

    Last years festival brought out over 73,000 attendees—if you’re planning on joining them this year, we’ve rounded up eight awesome attractions that are certain to pique your interest.

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