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n this issue we start our world tour in Colombia and find ‘Love at First Sight’ in the beautiful seaside city of Cartagena. While in the Caribbean we go island hopping, first to beautiful Dominica ‘The Little Island that could’, then to find some pleasant surprises on the island of Saba. Close by, we indulge in the color and culture of the Dominican Republic and then off to Cuba for some ‘Serendipity in Villa Clara’. Lastly, we board the newly launched magnificent ‘MSC Seaside’ ship for more tropical island discoveries. While still in the Americas, we head on up to California to drive the wonderful coastal highways and immerse ourselves in the famous beaches and warm waves of the Pacific. Still on the theme of the sea, this time in colder climes, we embark on another fabulous cruise for an adventure on the Poseidon Expedition ship that takes us up to Greenland and beyond.
Next, we jet-off to our European leg. Our first stop is Spain where we discover the beautiful and historic town of Granada. In the ancient lands of Greece we step onto the deck of another cruise, Celestyal Crystal, who will carry us to the many beautiful Greek islands to savour the wonderful foods and indulge in Mediterranean culture. Onwards to Africa, where we explore the four corners of Egypt and the region’s incredible history, worldly culture and wonderfully diverse landscape. Heading south, we visit Malawi, the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’, and lastly we enjoy South Africa and its fabulous Eastern Cape region. Heading way east, we find the old quarters of the ultra-modern Chinese capitol of Beijing. To cap off our whirl-wind tour we fly down under to experience the awesome glaciers of New Zealand. Happy travels!
Advertising Department Leo Santini Marketing Department Tania Tassone Distribution Royce Dillon Senior Travel Writers: Susan Campbell Steve Gillick Regular Contributors: Habeeb Salloum Jennifer Merrick Natalie Ayotte Johanna Read Jasmine Morcos Olivia Balsinger Ilona Kauremszky Mike Cohen Mathieu Morcos Gregory Caltabanis Anne-Marie Macloughlin Contributors This Issue: Dwain Richardson Lisa Sonne Elisabeth Easther Disclaimer: World Traveler has made every effort to verify that the information provided in this publication is as accurate as possible. However, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from the information contained herein nor for any information provided by our advertisers.
hy spend days recovering when you can take this homeopathic remedy during the flight and feel fresher upon arrival at your destination. 32 tablets in each packet - sufficient for 45 hours flying time.
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C a r t a g e n a - L o v e a t Fi r s t S i g h t 8 Old Beijing Still Throbs With Life 10
Out of South Africa, Exploring the Eastern Cape 12
MSC Seaside Cruise
T h e B e a c h e s o f t h e Pa c i f i c C o a s t H i g h w a y 1 4
Surprising Saba 32
Po s e i d o n E x p e d i t i o n C r u i s e
Life’s a Beach in Zakynthos 34 Destination Egypt 48 The DR - A Colorful, Cultural Caribbean Destination 66
Stay & Play - 56
M a l a w i - “ Wa r m H e a r t o f A f r i c a ” 6 8 Serendipity in Villa Clara, Cuba 70 Dominica - The Little Island that Could 72
A ro u n d t h e Wo r l d 1 6
L ove at First Sight
Article and photography by Michael Morcos
t is easy to love this beautiful city by the sea. Sunny hot days, wonderful cuisine, Caribbean beaches, an exceptional colonial walled city, welcoming people and the list goes on. It was love at first sight and the romance with Cartagena kept on going. The city was a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and became the main hub for trade between Spain and its overseas empire. Named after Cartagena, Spain, its history can be traced by various indigenous people back to 4000 BC. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
that evokes the traditions and magic of the Iberian country every night.
per come directly from a local fisherman and is sold on the beach.
We took advantage of the variety of fresh local seafood, which were combined with the seasonings, condiments, cheeses and sausages brought directly from Spain.
Speaking of which, the island’s beaches had crystal clear and refreshing water. The rest of the day we would lazy around beach chairs in the shade. But the star feature is definitely the phosphorescent plankton at the ‘Enchanted Lagoon’ which, on a dark, star-free night, glows and shimmers. Swimming with these creatures is alone worth the trip to the Rosario Islands.
Rosario Islands A one hour boat ride brought us to the Rosario Islands which was a great change of pace from the city. The Islands are ideally close to the city and are a scuba and snorkeling diver’s heaven with many well-preserved coral reefs and some wreck-dives to enjoy, scuba divers will find endless adventures.
Carriage ride and Flamenco Show On our first night, we would take horse carriage ride throughout the Historic City, which was a great way to see the old town with a cooling breeze and wonderfully kept streets, followed by dinner at El Burlados de Sevilla – Flamenco Show. Here you will find a menu inspired by Spanish cuisine and the only flamenco show in the city
There is natural aquarium on one of the islands, also known as the Oceanarium and is a great place to visit if you’re not into diving. With dolphins, sharks, and many more amazing species, it’s a fun and educational way to spend some time. We snorkeled for almost one hour and then had an amazing lunch. The seafood available on the islands is fresh and delicious. Our snap-
Old City Tour We would start our city tour at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas that dominants the skyline and overlooks the harbour. Views and tours were plentiful and gives many photo ops. Another interesting stop was the Palace of Inquisition, an eighteenth-century building that was the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Cartagena which now serves as a museum showcasing historical artifacts. The beautiful Customs square and clock tower is the largest square in Cartagena. It was orig-
inally a parade ground and the mansion where Pedro de Heredia, the founder of Cartagena, lived. This is a history buffs dream. Café Havana To enjoy the nightlife of the city, there is a no better place then Café Havana as it has dancing to salsa music with a ten person band belting out the rhythms of Latin America. The wonderful Mojitos were perfect for the moment and served around a gorgeous horseshoe bar surrounded by wood-paneled walls and a ceiling full of whirring fans. It was like a movie set. Restaurants Anyone who visits this corner of heaven will be confronted by a vast array of gastronomical greatness, and houses some of the best restaurants in Colombia. We enjoyed a dinner at Club Pesca which lies over the San Sebastian Fort, a great outdoor setting by the waterfront that specializes in Cartagenian dishes. It serves a fantastic Colombian grown beef with native ingredients and has a modern, fresh kitchen. Our lunch at El Santisimo was sensational. For more than 18 years this restaurant has offered little tastes of Caribbean flavor through provocative recipes influenced by the French techniques. In a city perceived for its color, aroma, land and its people, Candé restaurant typifies the experience by flooding guests with innumerable sensations. With live dances every night and a menu filled with aboriginal influence and colonial architecture, Candé offers you the opportunity to enjoy Cartagena with all your senses. Colombian Paradise Destinations just cannot get better than a visit to Cartagena. This city is filled with fabulous gastronomy, accommodations for every taste and budget, wonderful year-long sunshine and endless miles of sandy beaches. But hurry the word is out, this little Colombian paradise will soon be favorite of the masses.
InterContinental Cartagena de Indias
The InterContinental Cartagena de Indias has an ideal location in the waterfront`s Bocagrande district, one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city. It is also located near the Ciudad Amurallada, a very popular tourist attraction in the city, with an old town, numerous cafes, museums and theaters to visit. Photo: IHG
It is also just a few blocks from the beautiful bay of Castillogrande. This area was a retreat for foreign oil barons in the 1950s, and is now a meticulously planned district lined with private clubs and resorts. A short distance from here is the old town and its unmatched colonial charm and rich history. One of the best features is that the hotel is just a short trip from Rafael Núñez International Airport making it a great location to jump right into your vacation. We were blown away by the great breakfast buffet filled with colorful exotic fruits and juices with a wonderful setting overlooking the pool and beach from the sixth floor of the hotel. Lunches and dinners are delicious, filling and well presented. Happy Hour in the Oceanika Lounge Bar was an experience itself. Our well-appointed room had all the creature comforts one would expect including satellite TV, Wi-Fi services and wonderful all marble washrooms with luxurious rainforest shower. The sunsets were extremely beautiful from the 21st floor, as were the views of the ocean and beach, both night and day. Their spa treatments were also second to none, and I enjoyed a massage that was perfect after a day of tourist-ing. We could also relax in one of the most beautiful swimming pools in Cartagena. An infinity design, it offers a perfect way to enjoy a spectacular sunset on the Sunset Pool Terrace. The InterContinental Cartagena de Indias had all the amenities to make this a comfortable, convenient and magnificent stay and in the heart of it all.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Old Beijing Still Throbs With Life by Habeeb Salloum
Does Old Beijing still exist?” I thought to myself as our taxi sped between towering skyscrapers on the way to our hotel. The efficient and modern spic and span Beijing Airport through which we had just passed, the wide impressive roadways and the modern skyscrapers all around us indicated a 21st century city with no signs of
the past. “Has history disappeared in this city?”, I asked my Chinese acquaintance as the taxi stopped to let us off at the door of an ultra-modern five-star hotel. “It’s still here - just hidden away by this mass of newly-erected structures. You cannot erase history! Just visit our Hutongs!” He assured me. In the days to come, I found that, as my acquaintance had indicated, Old Beijing was still thriving and well. The historic pagodas, palaces and old courtyard-style homes are still there, but tightly encircled by the cement and steel world of our modern age. A great deal of the country’s history is also preserved in the 200 museums that dot this huge metropolis. City officials are making
sure that the rich heritage of China will not be demolished and forgotten. The government, in its renovation of historic landmarks and development of the museums, is ensuring that the past will be kept alive as the city expands. Beijing is fast galloping into the 21st century and its days of bicycle traffic have been replaced by streams of all types of autos; old pavilions and pagoda spires are dwarfed by sky-reaching edifices; the ageold imperial cuisine of the city is being offered along side the MacDonald’s and Kentucy Fried Chicken assembly line foods; old people swap tales over tea while their children spend their time on the internet; traditional Chinese music competes with funk and techno-pop.
narrow streets of the Hutongs. Some of the pleasure of the tour was taken away every time that I looked at the young man peddling our rickshaw. I would think of the men who, in the past, would pull these rickshaws and trot like beasts of burden through the streets. I felt sorry for our bicycle man who, for a few dollars a day peddled, mostly foreigners, through the Hutongs.
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I turned to my fellow rickshaw passenger, “Don’t you think that we are no better than the affluent Chinese or the colonial officials who rode like this and thought of the rickshaw men as no better than horses?” He grinned, “It beats walking!” Our rickshaws made their way to the home of Mr. Wong, one of the Hutong’s residents. The tour officials had arranged for our group to dine on a traditional home cooked meal at his home. Now, as we sat around a table relishing a fine lunch that was prepared by Mr. Wong’s mother, Madam Zhang, I felt happy and content - we were dining on authentic Chinese food. Every one of the dozen dishes that Madam Zhang served, ending with a divine dish of dumplings, were, as the saying goes, ‘finger-licking good’. For me, her home cooking easily put restaurant food to shame. Gracious and generous, always filling the dishes after they emptied, our hosts truly made us feel that we were their guests. Back in the rickshaws and well sated, we were again on our way. Every few minutes, the rickshaw would stop and our guide would explain something about the lives of those who lived in the Hutongs. He explained that about 10% of the homes in the district were privately owned and the remainder rented from the government at very reasonable rates. Yet, amid this unstoppable transformation, there still remain many remnants from the past. Besides the royal monuments, religious structures and mausoleums, old Beijing’s history continues in the Hutongs (a Mongolian name meaning narrow alleyways) with their 1 million inhabitants - a reminder of Old Beijing when it was ruled by Mongolian emperors (1280 to 1368 A.D.). To explore this part of the city, I joined with a group of eight travellers, accompanied by a guide, for a tour by foot and rickshaw of a part of the Xuanw District of the Hutong area - once a part of the Outer City of Old Beijing. Riding two to a bicycle-powered rickshaw, we were soon being peddled through the
Our first stroll was to see a home some two to three hundred years old. The portal of the house, according to our guide, when first built would have been at least a foot above street level. Now, after the street had been paved over and over again through the centuries, it was at least two feet below street level and, hence, is usually flooded during any heavy rain. “Imagine the housewife’s agony of cleaning up after every rain storm. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes!” One of the ladies in our group remarked as we continued our rickshaw journey.
The living quarters of the courtyard-houses in the Hutongs, like the traditional homes in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, are built around a courtyard and could usually house two to three families. There were no toilets inside the houses, but there was a communal outhouse for all the families outside the home. It was a way of life from the past with some modern modifications. He emphasized that in the bygone ages the families living in a home were often relatives, but today, the rooms were usually rented to strangers. “Would that not make easy to have affairs?” A young man in our group smilingly asked. The guide grinned, “Perhaps!” Inside their home, we discussed with our gracious hosts the advantages and drawbacks of living in the Hutongs. They both stated that they loved to live in their home that the family had owned for many generations. To them, family ties and friendships were important - not the material wealth of the modern city. In the words of Madam Zung, “We love our home and we also love to have guests from other countries. This is why we invite tourists like yourselves to our home.” After leaving the pleasant abode of our wonderful hosts, the rickshaws took us back to our waiting bus. As I sat back, I reminisced about the many families still living in these ancient homes without many of the modern amenities. The modern world had encircled them, yet they seemed content. Old Beijing still was a living city.
The next stop was a treat. Before entering the home of Mr. Ien and his wife Madam Zung, a retired school teacher, our guide described the old Hutongs’ homes, like the one that we were entering.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
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Exploring the Eastern Cape
Article & Photography by Jennifer Merrick
ong before I heard the catchphrase bucket list, I dreamt of going on safari. I’d imagine myself driving through the African plains in an open-air jeep, photographing lions, outfitted like Meryl Streep in the movie Out of Africa. Later Robert Redford would shampoo my hair while quoting poetry… (Okay, I digress.) But now, decades later, I finally had the chance to visit this great continent with a dream trip to South Africa’s Eastern Cape, located on the southeastern coast of the country. Our safari at Amakhala Game Reserve was magical with sights of graceful giraffes rambling through the vegetation, so-uglythey’re-cute warthogs darting about with their tails up as straight as antennas and even lions lounging at the edge of the cliff looking into the sunrise --not to mention monkeys, zebras,
water buffalos, wildebeest and the rhinos. These animals roamed through some of the most picturesque landscape I’d ever encountered with emerald green rolling plains that dipped into a large basin lined with red sand cliffs. At the bottom, was the Bushmans River that wound through even more pristine velds. (See the Stay and Play section for more information on the reserve and our accommodation at Safari Lodge). Interestingly, as much as the safari experience lived up to my expectations (with the exception of the missing Robert Redford head massage), there was so much more that I didn’t anticipate on this trip to South Africa. Witnessing rural village life, discovering a wild coastline teeming with marine life and hearing so many different accents spoken in urban centers with
diverse multi-cultural legacies were just as much bucket list adventures as photographing the big five. Touring Mandela’s Childhood Playground “Some of the happiest years of my boyhood were spent in Qunu,” wrote Nelson Mandela in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom. So it was a thrill to see firsthand where his remarkable life began on a Nelson Mandela early childhood excursion with Imonti Tours. Mandela would have been 100 this year, but his heroic legacy lives on in South Africa and throughout the world. In his compelling autobiography, Mandela nostalgically described the veldts and valleys of the village, located in the former homeland of Transkei on South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
“Nature was our playground,” Mandela wrote, and what a scenic playground it is. Greener than I expected, the rural countryside stretched out hill after rolling hill. Some valleys were shallow, while others fell deep into the earth, and I found myself catching my breath, looking down at the pastoral landscape dotted with colourful, traditional round homes, and a river wrapping around it all. Animals were everywhere, and Velile needed to be vigilant to avoid hitting the countless sheep, as well as donkeys, pigs, chickens, dogs and cattle. “Cows are the Eastern Cape traffic lights,” our good-natured guide joked as we came to a stop yet again to wait for the animals to saunter oh-so-slowly to the shoulder. Not that we minded though, since it gave us a chance to snap pics of the Watusi cattle, which looked quite dignified with their distinctive long horns. As we drove down the bumpy roads, Velile pointed out significant places of Mandela’s childhood, like the railway (now in disuse), where he fled to Johannesburg with his cousin to escape an arranged marriage. “I was a romantic,” Mandela wrote in his memoir. “And I was not prepared to have anyone select a bride for me.” Other notable sites included the school he attended, and of course, his village homes, both the modern house Mandela had built when he was released from prison and the site of his childhood home. They’re not tourist attractions in anyway –not even a commemorative plaque, indicating that one of the greatest heroes of our time once resided at these very spots. But Velile brought us as close as possible and pointed them out. The village of Qunu is in many ways the same as it was in the 1920s when Mandela was a child, stick fighting with his peers and sliding down rocks. An elderly villager invited us into a Shebeen, a shanty building, where homemade beer is served, but we needed to move on and so we continued down the bumpy, maze-like dirt roads. “Even Google maps wouldn’t find it,” said
Velile. The picturesque rural landscape captivated us, and it was hard to resist not getting out for photo opps at every turn, but it’s time for our next stop.
Mandela defines his purpose:
“I will pass through this world but once, and I do not want to divert from my task, which is to unite the nation.”
ICAMAGU Institute Cultural Kicks on Port Elizabeth’s Route 67
Dr. Nokuzola Mndende, theologian, founded the ICAMAGU Institute to educate people about the Xhosa culture. Many of the approximately 8 million Xhosa people live in this area, and it’s Mandela’s ethnicity as well. It’s a fascinating culture, as we found out in the next couple of hours, starting with a typical lunch, consisting of samp (maize) and beans, chicken stew and squash.
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape’s capital, is a laid-back town with a layered history, a thriving culinary scene and a remarkable coastline. In town, we found out about Route 67, an initiative to honour Mandela through attractions of gardens, murals, sculptures and other art-based projects, representing the 67 years Mandela spent in politics.
Next, we toured the traditional homes, the same type of round, thatched huts that Mandela lived in, and Dr. Nokuhzola’s son, Andile, explained some of the Xhosa’s beliefs, the core of which embodies a deep respect for the environment. Andile showed us medicinal plants, including a ‘dream plant’, and he demonstrated how the remedy is used. Kneeling on the floor, he placed the plant in a wooden bowl full of water and rubbed a stick between his palms until a frothy broth appeared.
“It’s a journey that celebrates people, heritage and culture,” said Ntina Khozi our guide from Lungston Tours.
“You don’t drink the water itself, just the foam,” explained Andile. “If you’re having trouble with a dream, it will make it clear.”
When I imagined my African safari, I certainly never pictured myself bouncing around in a boat with waves hitting the bow, splashing us with the cold Indian Ocean waters. However, this was not your average African Safari! We embarked on a marine safari with Raggy Charters in the coastal waters off Port Elizabeth in the Algoa Bay, an area that afforded outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. The big five we hunted on this excursion were whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and penguins. No sharks or whales made an appearance, but it didn’t matter a bit because the penguins stole the show, waddling in a line going out to the water from their rocky home on St. Croix Island out to the water. Located four kilometres offshore, the island has 22,000 breeding pairs of African penguins, the largest colony in Africa. Who knew? It was my first time, seeing a penguin in the wild, a bucket list experience I never imagined when I first dreamed of Africa many moons ago.
His mother, a healer, passed down this knowledge to him, which is an important responsibility since, as Andile commented: “Most youth today aren’t interested in preserving the culture.” Nelson Mandela Museum In Umtata, the largest city in the area, is the Nelson Mandela Museum, another interesting stop on our tour. Divided into stages of Mandela’s life: character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator and statesman, the exhibitions encompass photographs and artifacts from his childhood until his presidency. Mandela himself opened the museum in 2000, and it’s a fitting tribute to the modernday hero who dedicated his life to garnering peace for this beautiful country. Quotes line the museum’s walls, including one in which
One compelling installation was a sculpture showing people lining up to vote on the first all-race election in 1994. “Everybody remembers where they were on that date,” said Khozi. Raggy Charters Marine Safari
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
La Jolla Cove Beach - Kanonsky
ou’ll find the most colorful swath of open road in America along its western coast. The Pacific Coast Highway is 1,700 miles framed by golden sands and turquoise waters, bordered by emeralds rainforests and basalt rock formations, and capped off with kaleidoscopic sunsets and indigo night skies. Get ready for the wide variety of West Coast beaches on an unforgettable road trip.
Washington At the most northern edge of the journey is Washington state, a scenic wonderland composed of some of the least-touched natural areas in America. Lake Crescent offers easy swimming and access to boats and paddle boards. A sparking sapphire set amid high-forested mountains that seem to touch the sky, Lake Crescent is named for its sickle shape. It is also famous for its Beardslee trout, a 14-pound fish found only at Lake Crescent.
Rialto Beach offers sea stacks, tidepools, and best of all, solitude. Driving nine miles from WA-110 as it splits west off US-101, you turn right onto Mora Road to head to Rialto Beach, which sits, desolate, across the Quillayute River mouth from La Push. You can walk along the beach for miles without anyone around.
The ominous Black Sands Beach is one of the most amazing and unusual–and accessible–sights on the Lost Coast. It is composed of crumbly volcanic rock and runs along 20 miles south of Ferndale among Mattole Road. The dark sands of this wide beach also serve as the south end of the Lost Coast Trail.
Oregon Dramatic and diverse scenery dominates the shores of Oregon, making it one of America’s most photographed coastlines. Cannon Beach is one of the most picturesque destinations on the coast and it’s home to ever-popular, photogenic Haystack Rock. Walk along the long, sandy beach or just enjoy the view from the door of your beachfront suite; there are plenty of lodging choices. But no matter where you stay, Cannon Beach offers more awe-inspiring views than imaginable, making National Geographic’s list of “one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places.” Oswald West State Park is home to driftwoodladen and surfer-friendly Short Sands Beach. The park is south of Cannon Beach where the scenic coastline rises high above the ocean below, cutting into the mountains.
Stinson Beach is a broad 3.5-mile-long sandy stretch of coastline that’s unusually (for Northern California) congenial to visitors. Although it’s as plagued by fog as anywhere else in the San Francisco Bay Area, on rare clear days Stinson Beach is the favorite destination for San Franciscans seeking some surf and sunshine. Central California The scenic coastline between San Francisco and Los Angeles marries the sparkle of Southern California beaches with the rolling green hills and towering forests of the north. Friendly pets can run free along the 1.5 miles of soft sand and blue water at Carmel Beach. Above the beach, the Scenic Bluff Path meanders through rare Monterey cypress and landscaped gardens to Carmel Point, offering spectacular views of the rugged coastline.
Northern California California’s remote northern coastline showcases charming coastal towns, breathtaking seascapes, and strings of towering redwoods, all leading up to the main attraction-the city of San Francisco. Cannon Beach-Irina Silvestrova
Pfeiffer Beach is the best place to watch the sun set along the Big Sur coastline. In fact, some of the most dramatic views in Big Sur are seen at Pfeiffer Beach (accessed via Sycamore Canyon Rd., about 0.25 mile south of Big Sur) which is one of the most photographed spots, especially at sunset.
Hidden on an isolated stretch of CA-1 in Big Sur, and down an unmarked one-lane road (Sycamore Canyon Rd.), Pfeiffer Beach is not the easiest to find, but you’ll kick yourself later if you miss out on its impressive rock formations, sea caverns, and unusual purple sands, and most assuredly if you pass on the opportune moment to witness the natural phenomenon at Keyhole Arch. For breathtaking views of seascapes, wildlife, and tidepools, stroll the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. There are stairs to take you down to the beach. Although you won’t find moonstone here, you’ll find plenty of agates, and possibly jasper and California jade as surfsmoothed stones. Southern California
Coronado Beach is a gorgeous 1.5 mile stretch of sand set against the background of the famous Hotel del Coronado, where lounge chairs and cocktails are available. The familyfriendly beach considered among the world’s best.
When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway If you’re ready to hit the road (or some waves), the best time for this road trip is late spring to early fall, when the weather is best. If you drive the PCH at the height of the summer season, expect heavier traffic and crowds. The Pacific Coast Highway invites many travelers to the natural beauty of its shores. Pick up a copy of Moon Pacific Coast Highway from your favorite bookseller, pack up the car, and come find out why for yourself.
LakeCrescent - Galyna Andrushko
Adapted from Moon Pacific Coast Highway by Ian Anderson. Copyright © 2018. Available from Avalon Travel, an imprint of Perseus Books, a Hachette Book Group company.
If you’ve ever seen the cult classic film Earth Girls are Easy, you’ll recognize legendary Zuma Beach. Malibu’s classic beach party site, offers surfing, boogie boarding, and volleyball that fills up fast on summer weekends. Crystal-clear water (unusual for the L.A. area) makes it good for swimming. Grab a spot on the west side of CA-1 for free parking, or pay a little for one of the more than 2,000 spots in the beach parking lot. Amenities include a snack bar, boardwalk, and volleyball courts, as well as restrooms and showers. Huntington City Beach, a.k.a. Surf City, USA, delivers waves, bikinis, volleyball nets, and a long bike path. It constitutes 3.5 miles of good surf and a pier in the center of the beach leads into Main Street, where you’ll find the Visitor Information Center and Kiosk, as well as surf shops and rentals, restaurants and bars. Huntington Beach is home to the International Surfing Museum and hosts late July’s U.S. Open of Pro Surfing. La Jolla’s best beach may be found a couple north of La Jolla village. La Jolla Shores is a beautiful stretch of sparkling sand great for families and beginning surfers. There’s a playground for small children as well as swimming and bodyboarding areas designated by checkered flags. On the other side of those flags, beginner surfers may find open space to practice catching rides. More advanced riders tend to head for the north end of the beach. On the other side of the cliffs framing the north end of La Jolla Shores, San Diego’s best waves curl at Black’s Beach. Unless you want to paddle the long way around from La Jolla Shores, you’ll have to carry your board on a hike down the cliffside trail originating at the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Though gorgeous, the cliff-backed beach remains less populated but the reward is a secluded Southern California beach backed by sandstone cliffs. You’re likely to get an eyeful-its seclusion makes Black’s a popular sunbathing spot for nudists.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
A r o u n d T h e Wo r l d
(in 16 pages)
Granada’s Alhambra The Magic of the Thousand and One Nights in Andalusia
Inca Rail Inaugurates Peru’s Most Scenic Train to Machu Picchu Inca Rail launched a new Machu Picchu train this March, the 360° Machu Picchu Train. The train offers some of the most scenic views en route to Machu Picchu, with dome-like high visibility panoramic windows with built-in UV protection. The train carriages will be fully interconnecting, freeing passengers to move between the carriages to an open-air observation area at the centre of the train. By summer, passengers will also able to download a GPS-activated app at the start of their journey, which will provide information on local culture, history and the passing countryside. An onboard trolley service will feature local offerings of a light snack or lunch reflecting the seasons and local regions. The train will carry up to 248 passengers each day on two routes between Poroy and Machu Picchu, and between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
China Tourism Introduces New Brand Logo China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) has made “Beautiful China” the tag line of its tourism and introduced a new global brand logo. With an overall look as a stamp, the
Discover the splendour of the Sultans of ancient Al-Andalus and experience the magical world of the Thousand and one Nights in the gardens and patios of the Alhambra. It is one of the most beautiful monumental sites ever built by man, and Spain’s most visited. The Alhambra and Generalife together form an impressive monumental site, built atop a red-coloured hill that dominates the city and plain of Granada. The Alhambra was once home to the Al-Andalus Sultans and today it is Spain’s most visited monument. Every year, millions of visitors come to admire the exquisite beauty of its many rooms, patios and gardens. Everything in the Alhambra was designed to reach perfection: from the ancient “Alcázar”, or military fortress, to the Royal Nasrid Palaces, decorated in plaster and tile work, with inscriptions from the Koran that evoke the notion of Heaven on Earth. The famous Patio de los Leones (Lions’ Patio) or the Cámara de la Sultana (Sultana’s Chamber) are examples of this poetic architecture that feeds the imagination. Besides its intricate decoration, water is a fundamental element, everpresent and used throughout the site as if it were another architectural tool. The whisper of fresh water from the Alhambra’s numerous fountains and ponds create a cool interior microclimate: you will notice the difference in temperature between this magical site and the rest of Granada. Next to the Palaces, on the slopes of the “Cerro del Sol” (Hill of the Sun) you will find the Generalife. The site is surrounded by intimate gardens that provide a sense of peace and calm, with an abundance of different flowers whose scent will overwhelm you. Here it is well worth taking a moment to sit, rest and enjoy the shimmering tones of light reflected in a host of water features.
new logo integrates modern messaging with the ancient Chinese art form of calligraphy. The hieroglyph in the background means “travel” in ancient Chinese language, which shows a flag guiding a couple around. The blue color represents the sky, delivering China tourism’s concepts - vitality, harmony and green travel. The red color gives tribute to the Chinese civilization that has been going on for
Granada’s Andalusí heritage can also be experienced at the mirador (viewpoint) de San Nicolás located in the old Moorish Albaicín neighbourhood. This is the local people’s favourite spot to look out over the Alhambra, jewel of the Nasrid kingdom. As the sun sets, the palatial citadel is at its very best, seeming to emerge from the mountainside – an imposing image, difficult to forget.
thousands of years. Illustrating an international vision, the “Beautiful China” logo represents www.spain.info China’s promising and welcoming tourism industry. Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
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Intrepid Travel Launches Vegan Food Tours Creating a More Inclusive Travel Option as Vegan Lifestyle Grows Three New Tours Will Spotlight Vegan Culture in the Most Celebrated Food Destinations in the World
n response to veganism growing at substantial rates around the world, Intrepid Travel, the world’s largest adventure travel company, has just unveiled three new tours specifically highlighting vegan food culture in some of the world’s most popular culinary destinations: India, Italy and Thailand. The new tours, departing in 2019, were developed by Intrepid Travel’s experienced destination and food product teams, with insight from a team of vegan influencers from around the world. Each trip will offer delicious plant-based food experiences in
their respective locales and include insider tips on where to find the best vegan eats. Vegan culture in North America has been rapidly growing over the past few years. According to new research by Dr. Sylvain Charlebois at Dalhousie University, 7.1 percent of Canadians now consider themselves vegetarian, and 2.3 percent consider themselves vegan. British Columbians are at the forefront of the movement, with the 2018 research showing that nearly 40 percent of British Columbians 35 and under say they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
demonstration at Tha Kha floating market and preparing a vegan meal under the guidance of a local during an authentic homestay in Chiang Mai.
According to TripAdvisor, food tours are one of the fastest-growing experience categories on the travel booking site, with Canada boasting a 594 percent increase in 2017. Similarly, Intrepid Travel noted a record 28 percent growth in North American bookings on its food-themed trips in 2017.
“While we recognize that it’s not realistic for everyone around the world to adopt a vegan lifestyle, as a responsible travel company that values purpose initiatives and sustainability in all aspects, we feel it’s important to encourage and celebrate vegan cultures and practices around the world as one way responsible travelers can help save our planet,” said Leigh Barnes, Chief Purpose Officer, Intrepid Travel. www.intrepidtravel.com/vegan-foodadventures
About Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel is a global adventure travel company that has been taking travellers off the beaten track to discover the world's most amazing places for 29 years. The company offers more than 1,500 trips in more than 120 countries and on every continent. Every trip is designed to truly experience local culture - to meet local people, try local food, take local transport and stay in local accommodation. A world leader in responsible travel, Intrepid’s award-winning tour leaders, small group sizes and included activities mean they offer travellers great value for money. www.intrepidtravel.com
“Whether you eat a vegan diet, or just want to test the waters, this new line of vegan adventures will offer authentic culinary adventures and experiences you’ll only discover with an Intrepid local leader. Food travel is here to stay, and it’s our responsibility as a leading travel company to provide a range of offerings that can suit all tastes and lifestyles,” said Neil Coletta, Brand & Product Manager, Food Tours, Intrepid Travel. To cater to this growing market and offer more variety in its culinary tours, Intrepid Travel has designed its new line of vegan food tours in destinations that are already known for their culinary scenes. The three new tours include: India Vegan Food Adventure
This culinary adventure to Dehli, Jaipur and Agra showcases why this corner of the subcontinent is one of the greatest places in the world for vegan travelers. The itinerary ventures far beyond the masala dosas and veggie samosas of the high street cafes and includes vegan cooking classes and visits to iconic sites like the Taj Mahal. Italy Vegan Food Adventure
In a country known for its cheese, meats and pizza, Italy is also where some of the world’s most progressive and innovative vegan food experiences can be had. Venturing from Venice to Rome, highlights of the trip include a dinner in Venice’s first vegan restaurant, a farm-to-table vegan feast and two nights in an all-vegan villa in Tuscany. Thailand Vegan Food Adventure
Home to some of the world’s most flavorful cuisine, this tour will highlight the legendary and vegan-friendly cuisine of South East Asia, with activities such as a palm sugar Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
New Zealand’s Gorgeous Glaciers Cool Since the Beginning of Time by Elisabeth Easther Franz Josef Glacier, Photo: Fraser Clements
ome of the world's most accessible and majestic ice formations are in New Zealand, home to more than 3,000 glaciers. There’s something undeniably impressive about glaciers, bodies of ice so dense that they’re constantly shifting under their own enormous weight. Understandably, adventurers are drawn to their beauty, travelling on foot, by ski, or buzzing above them in helicopters to steal a glimpse of nature’s majesty. South Westland’s World Heritage Jewel The bulk of New Zealand’s glaciers can be found inside the 2.6 million-hectare World Heritage Area known as Te Wahipounamu. Comprised of four national parks – Aoraki/Mount Cook, Westland Tai Poutini, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland – this picturesque wonderland is home to outstanding glaciers, snow-fed rivers and air so pure you wish you could bottle some to take home. Admire Tasman Glacier by Boat Tasman Glacier is New Zealand’s largest, and one of the few accessible glacial lakes on earth where you can watch icebergs float around you. Rugged up warmly, visitors set off from Mount Cook Village before zipping across the surface of the lake in custom-made boats. Keep your eyes peeled for giant bodies of frozen water as they fall from the glacial face in a process know as “calving” while your guides explain how these extraordinary formations came to be.
Plane Sailing on Ice Mount Cook Ski Planes’ founder Harry Wigley started flying tourists around Aoraki/Mount Cook and over the glaciers in the 1950s. Necessity led him to invent a special retractable ski that allowed planes to take off from the airfield and land on the snow. The company still takes tourists to the pristine Southern Alps, Tasman Glacier and Hochstetter Icefall. Choose to land on snow or glaciers, or pick the more affordable but shorter scenic flight option. If you’re fit and feeling adventurous, the possibilities include skiing, ice climbing and snowshoe adventures. High Hopes with Fox Guides Heli-hiking on Franz Josef Glacier is an experience to treasure forever – an outing that includes a helicopter ride and a three-hour guided hike through this land of towering peaks and ice of alpine blue. If you’re on a budget, the Fox Trail Terminal Face Walk is an easy two hours (complete with a chance to check out the glacier’s “snout”) accompanied by a guide who’ll share Maori legends and scientific facts. Sky’s the Limit For pure perspective and eye-popping scenery, little beats seeing glaciers from above. Not only does a flight across Tasman, Franz Josef or Fox glaciers give unparalleled views of these natural wonders, you’ll also understand how these masses of ice have carved out spectacular glacial valleys. An Air Safaris Grand Traverse scenic flight takes in all three glaciers, as well as Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, brilliant azure lakes, and the spring and autumn colours of the vast alpine sheep stations. Operating from Tekapo or Franz Josef, the wings of the aircraft are fixed above the windows to allow for maximum viewing.
www.newzealand.com Tasman Glacier, Photo: Glacier Explorers
Copious Commendations for Copa Airlines! by Steve Gillick
he measure of any airline hinges on three key factors:
Convenience refers to the network of destinations that the airline services. Customer Service relates to the ease of working with the airline to book the flight, reserve the seat, facilitate any necessary changes, and even extends to how clients are greeted at the airport check-in and then on the flight itself. Reliability is the factor that often determines whether a client will return to the airline. Did the flight take off and land on time? Was the flight comfortable with satisfactory in-flight service, entertainment and with pleasant flight attendants looking after both comfort and safety? Happily, I can report that my first flights on Copa passed the ‘three factors’ test and even exceeded expectations. On two successive business trips to Panama I learned that I could fly direct from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Tocumen
International Airport in Panama. Tocumen is Copa Airline’s “Hub of the Americas” as it connects passengers with ongoing flights to 31 countries in North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.
the Mileage Plus Frequent Flyer Program. In 2015, Copa Airlines launched its own “Connect Miles” program. Two years later, the airline celebrated its 70th year of operation.
My flights left exactly on time, and I later learned that Copa has won the FlightStats Award as “Latin America’s Most On-Time Airline”, five years in a row. It was also named in 2018 as “the world’s fourth most on-time airline” by OAG (Official Aviation Guide of the Airways). In fact, Copa Airline’s 91.69% on-time reputation has also garnered a few other awards including “Best Airline in Central America and the Caribbean” (Skytrax), “Leading Airline in Mexico and Central America” (2014 World Travel Awards), and “Best Airline in South America” (2018 On-Time Performance Service Awards).
The other side of flying with an airline is to learn a bit about how they treat their staff. In the airline’s Corporate Social Responsibility statement, Copa acknowledges their 9500 employees and the fact that 72% of management openings have been filled internally. The airline boasts benefits such as corporate wellness programs, scholarship programs for the children of employees, free health and immunization services, while the “You Make a Difference” program acknowledges outstanding employee contributions where those recognized get to visit the Boeing Factory in the U.S. and welcome one of Copa’s new airplanes!
As far as the ‘Reliability’ factor, Copa Airlines exceeded my expectations with courteous and prompt responses during the booking process and then ultra-friendly greetings by the staff at the airport check-in at both Pearson and Tocumen Airports. On the flight itself, the service was commendable: comfortable seats (in economy!), an offering of the latest current movies (some still playing in movie theatres) and the food and beverage service that began shortly after the plane reached flying altitude.
Flying Copa was a new experience for me but one that will be repeated in the future with return trips to Panama as well as connections to other fascinating destinations in Central and South America.
Copa Airlines uses the Boeing 737-800 for the 5 hour and 42 minute flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport (and only 16 minutes longer from Montreal’s Trudeau Airport). The Airline joined the Star Alliance in 2012 and partnered with United Airlines to offer Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Going Further With
Tu r k i s h A i r l i n e s lowing reviews and exceptional food are the order of the day for this up-and-coming airline!
Part of the Star Alliance network, Turkish airlines (THY) offers service to Canadians from Toronto and Montreal, and connections to destinations all over the world from their hub in Istanbul. Building on their international reputation, THY has been climbing the ranks as a top provider and doing very well in Canada. With 200 destinations, and adding new ones at a rapid pace, THY welcome trav-
ellers with smiles and a friendly hello, though often with a charming accent! To help them usher in this growth, THY has a massive, world-class training center in Istanbul with numerous simulators. Pilots, flight attends and support staff are all trained well and are ready to go after their courses are done. Their aircraft include A330s, A340s, B777s, B737-800s and B727-800s, all well maintained and laid-out with the customer in mind. Each section is designed with creature comforts taking front and centre. The seats throughout the plane are comfortable and the facilities are kept impeccably clean and organized. Most Business Class passengers can expect either fully lie-flat seats or angled lie-flat seats that brings relaxation to a higher level. Comfort Class is Turkish Airlines' premium economy section is highlighted by slightly larger seats configured in two-by-three-bytwo rows, a large video screen and entertainment system with an iPod outlet and a laptop power outlet for each seat.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Even passengers traveling in Economy Class can enjoy an above average trip, as all passengers enjoy the famed THY complimentary meal. Though multi-course meals are provided in Business Class on extended range flights, all passengers are treated to the award winning food served on board. Considering that THY deals with one of the worldâ€™s biggest (maybe the biggest) catering service and are partners with Do & Co., there is no surprise in the quality THY can offer!
The Top 7 Luxury Gold Experiences in India
s preparations are already underway for next year’s Holi Festival celebrations, Luxury Gold wants travellers to get the most out of the vibrant people, spirituality and cultural kaleidoscope of India. With that in mind, here are the Top 7 Luxury Gold experiences that take place in the inimitable India with an emphasis on local cuisine and wellness.
Leela Palace Udaipur
Called Udaipur’s only modern palace hotel, Leela Palace is an exquisite stop on this journey. Rated the #1 hotel on TripAdvisor in 2017, the 5-star accommodation offers guests sumptuous suites with stunning views of Lake Pichola, an artificial fresh water lake created in 1392 AD. For weary travellers,
the hotel’s award-winning spa offers a unique fusion of Ayurvedic and European therapies to relax and restore the entire body. From high quality skin care products and oils to revitalizing seaweeds and cleansing muds, every desire will be well taken care of. Imperial Rajasthan Tour
Nahargarh Ranthambore Hotel
Nestled in the foothills of the spectacular Aravalli Range, the 5-star Nahargarh Ranthambore Hotel is a deliberately magnificent place to spend a night or two (if you can manage to make yourself leave, that is). Built like a traditional Rajput hunting retreat, the Ranthambore more so resembles an extravagant 16th-century palace from a fairy tale. Complete with three outdoor swimming pools, sprawling Mughal-style gardens, and rooms with individual court-
yards and private terraces with stunning views of the National Park, this hotel is luxury personified. Essence of India with Ranthambore Tour Baradari Restaurant – Jaipur
Designed by Delhi-based architect Ambrish Arora and his team at Studio Lotus, Bardari Restaurant has only been open for two years, but has still amassed a reputation for traditional and authentic cuisine that delights the palate. Alongside delectable dishes like Laal Maas with baati and pan seared kasundi fish are choices for international travellers like pesto pasta and pearl barley risotto. Located at the City Place, a museum housing an amazing collection of works, the sights, sounds and smells of Baradari Restaurant will never disappoint. Essence of India with Ranthambore Tour
of the Taj Mahal sit majestically, the ultimate backdrop for an unforgettable moment on an unbelievable journey. Imperial Rajasthan Tour
Mughal Chamber Hotel – Agra
High Tea at Sukh Niwas – Jaipur
This VIP experience, available only to Luxury Gold guests, sees guests enjoying a High Tea in the private elegance of Sukh Niwas, Jaipur’s City Palace. This grand tea time transpires in a space of pure opulence, with artwork and fantastical architecture everywhere you glance. Most illustrious is the renowned Lalique Peacock table made to order for the Royal Family of Jaipur by the world-famous artist Marc Lalique. Found in a gilded room decorated with walls adorned with gold work from over 200 years ago, the Lalique table is surrounded by other stunning pieces of royal memorabilia making this High Tea a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Imperial Rajasthan Tour
Sprawled over 35 acres of luxurious gardens, and near the Taj Mahal, the Mughal Chamber, a luxury hotel in Agra, is a fitting tribute to the great Mughal builders of the past. Comprised of 233 luxurious suites, guests can enjoy Indian hospitality while enjoying the opulence of an expansive room whose doors open into a private wading pool. The wellness and health spa is almost 10,000 square feet, surrounded by fountains and courts full of greenery, with two swimming pools and 43 spa treatments. A
popular treatment is the Himalayan Clay Body Envelopment, a 90-minute escape that detoxifies, purifies, heals and tones. Classical India with Nepal Tour
Fairmont Jaipur – Jaipur
The 5-star luxury Fairmont Jaipur has an entire vacation’s worth of experiences all located on its own glorious site. From hot air balloon rides to hiking through the famous Aravalli hills, any incredible experience guests can hope to have while in India is attainable once they check in to this opulent hotel. The jewel of the Fairmont might well be the spa, a sanctuary offering a range of therapeutic and rejuvenating massages including traditional Indian massage. A host of delectable restaurants can be found serving authentic cuisine that will delight even the pickiest eaters. ZARIN, the hotel's signature restaurant, serves amazing Indo Persian dishes, while ZOYA prides in offering a dedicated menu featuring authentic Rajasthani cuisine. Everything at the Fairmont Jaipur from the rooms and food to the excursions and wellness offerings will truly amaze guests. Classical India with Nepal Tour Rooftop Tea & Pakoras with Views of the Taj Mahal – Agra
A breathtaking view has the ability to elevate any dining experience, but something about enjoying a refreshing cup of tea with the dazzling Taj Mahal resting in the horizon. Sitting on a rooftop in Agra, guests will have the chance to taste an authentic India favourite, pakoras, vegetables dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried to make fabulous fritters. In the distance, the iconic dome Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Tr o p i c a l T i d b i t s by Sue C Travel
Bopping Around Isla Bonita
Belize has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I jumped at the chance to visit a brand new resort hotel development there recently called Mahogany Bay Village- a Curio Collection by Hilton- it’s the newest destination within a destination complex to be built on Ambergris Cay- Belize’s most touristic island. (See feature in next Stay and Play fall edition on Mahogany Bay Village.) The best way to get to Ambergris Cay and its capital of San Pedro aka “Isla Bonita” is via
Tropic Air from Belize City. It’s a fabulous little airline, the flight takes around 20 minutes and the views are spectacular. San Pedro streets are a crazy colorful mélange of golf carts - the preferred mode of transportationscooters, bikes, a few taxis and trucks… and the main roads have a gazillion hidden speed bumps, so bouncing around facing backwards in the golf cart was more like a carnival ride than a town tour. Aromas ranged from funky to fragrant depending on what you’re passing, and the whiffs of fried fish and seafood also assault your senses as you drive by the multiple food stands and
restaurants. We didn’t spend a lot of time in town but we did dine one night at landmark Elvi’s Kitchen famous for its seafood and Mayan feasts, it’s a must try when there. Visit: www.elviskitchen.com Did I swim with sharks on purpose? You better Belize it!
Sadly, I did not have a chance to fly over the big blue hole that Belize is famous for, but I did get to try the second most famous pastime- snorkeling in Shark and Ray Alley. I thank the folks at Mahogany Bay for arrang-
of the tour operators throw in a bit of chum to attract the sharks (our boat did not,) but they don’t need much encouragement. They make a beeline for every newly arrived boat. I wasn’t really afraid of swimming with this type of shark, I’ve encountered them before, and as our captain said, the worst you can get is a big hickey as they suck in their food like high-powered vacuum cleaners- they don’t bite it outright. But with a frenzy of them circling right beneath my feet I must admit I was a tad intimidated. But then I saw three magnificent rays waiting below and I decided it was worth it. It was. And once we swam on to the reef I actually forgot about them as we explored the gorgeous healthy coral awash in colorful tropical fish. On the way back however I suddenly found myself smack dab in the middle of over a dozen sharks! Thankfully, they simply parted like the Red Sea so I could pass through them without incident. That was pretty cool. Later, we stopped at Caulker Key for lunch and we were joined by a pod of dolphins on our return sail! It was an absolutely perfect day at sea. If you go to Belize, this it is a must do experience. It’s really not scary at all. Visit: www.felicitysailingbelize.com Puerto Rico Is Rising Like a Phoenix
ing our tour with Felicity Sailing; we adored our little luxury catamaran with its great crew. This vessel is ideal for small groups. Now about those sharks.
Contrary to what some might think, the tourism infrastructure of Puerto Rico has bounced back big time. My insider sources have confirmed that the port, downtown San Juan and the Condando areas are more than ready to receive visitors. The beaches are in great shape and the majority of the major hotels have reopened, and a brand new resort Serafina Beach Hotel just opened in March! The downtown core is abuzz with music and nightlife, and the historic attractions are welcoming all. The only major natural attraction still not open to the public yet is the El Yunque National Forest.
A portion of Hol Chan Marine Reserve set upon the second largest coral reef in the world- was once an area where local fishermen would clean their catch. The marine life soon figured out that boats mean free lunch, so nurse sharks and stingrays began frequenting this area en masse. After fishing was banned and the marine park established, snorkel tours began to go there. Some
Miami public relations executive Maite VelezCoutu visited her family there recently, and she says, “Actually I was very pleasantly surprised at what good shape things were in. Nature has done its job, and all the green beauty is back. It’s still a bit ragged around the edges in some parts- but the island is absolutely ready for visitors. I was also VERY excited to see a younger generation of entre-
preneurs popping up and pushing for31 ward in places like Calle Loíza and Santurce. They’ve been busy opening cool new restaurants, trendy bar and shop concepts and areas that were not a ‘must visit’ destination now have new life. That bodes very well for the island’s future!” So plan your visit to beautiful Puerto Rico now, they are eagerly waiting for you. Visit: www.seepuertorico.com Amstar DMC –Terrific Tours & Transfers
As a frequent female solo traveller I’m often asked about my concerns for safety, especially in foreign countries where I don’t speak the language. It’s a fair question, but one thing I’ve learned is to find a reputable tour and transfer outfit that you trust, and use them whenever you can. I found such a company in AmstarDMC. I always check to see if they are operating where I am going, and I have used them all over Mexico, in Jamaica, Costa Rica and in the Dominican Republic. They also operate in Hawaii. I find it worth paying a little more than grabbing a local cabbie to be assured of safe, professional reliable transfers from the airport to the hotel or from region to region. I also use them to book my excursions, because they vet their sub-operators well and use only the most reliable and safety conscious outfits. I have booked amazing experiences with them like whale shark snorkeling in Cancun, rainforest tours in Costa Rica and ruins tours in Tulum. My most recent excursion with them was a cool swim in a bioluminescent bay at night in Falmouth Jamaica. It’s called luminous lagoon and the water was warm as bath water and the effects of the glow in the dark waves surreal. I highly recommend them. Visit: amstardmc.com
Award-winning travel journalist Sue Campbell is based in Montreal but makes it her business to be on top of everything cool, hot, and new under the sun throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. World Traveler welcomes her as a regular columnist. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @suectravel
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Photo by Saba Tourism
by Susan Campbell
Photo by Saba Tourism
I am a tad white-knuckled as our tiny Winair prop plane readies for landing after its ten- minute flight from St. Maarten. The apprehension comes from the knowledge that at a mere 1,300 feet, the runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is one of the shortest on the planet, and it abruptly ends on a cliff perched over the sea! We hit the
ground with a small thud, fishtailed a bit, and then stopped cold, much to our collective relief. This is one of the only ways to get to Saba. The other is a ferry from St. Maarten, but it can be a rough passage at times, so if you are prone to seasicknesstake the plane. Saba (pronounced say-beh) rises out of the Caribbean Sea like a giant Jurassic turtle, ascending from the ocean’s depths with jagged volcanic cliffs crawling up into
emerald slopes and culminating in an ethereal white halo of cloud forest at its highest peak. It’s a Dutch Caribbean island- once part of the now dissolved Netherlands Antilles- and now a special municipality of the Dutch kingdom. But unless you’re an avid diver or hiker, you’ve probably never heard of it. And that’s a shame, because it’s full of surprises. And it’s one quirky little rock.
Photo by Sea Saba
n abrupt arrival
The first surprise is the road. And that’s what they call it “The Road”, though it’s officially named after Josephus "Lambee" Hassell the Dutch engineer who built it despite great odds. In fact, it was called “the road that couldn’t be built.” And it’s easy to see why. Tightly coiled like an asphalt snake, the road winds around to the top with an impossibly vertical tilt. Visitors are best to take a local cab because this road is no easy drive. Along the way you can look down on ”The Bottom” – a checkerboard tablecloth of uniform white houses with red roofs nestled in one of the rare valleys. But this is not really “the bottom” of the island; the port area is the lowest part of the island. Some say the name came from the Dutch word for bowl, which makes more sense given that this settlement is actually halfway up the mountain! Then you continue the climb to reach the “top” settlement which is called Windwardside, and that’s where the majority of commerce, dining, culture, and accommodations are located. At every turn you can see how hard it must have been to eke out an existence on this rocky vertical outpost. Though the volcanic soil is lush and fertile, which makes for growing sustenance fairly easy, getting things from the sea to the hillside communities was very hard. Though you can take a hike down to see it, the view of “The Ladder” from the sea gives you the best perspective on the sheer magnitude of difficulty that they were up against. The ladder is a steep set of 800 steps carved right into the rock from the sea cliff where the ships would unload cargo. “Butlers” would handcart the goods straight up to a small customs house which is actually still standing there. Think pianos, mahogany furniture, and the materials needed to build the huge stone church at one of the island highest peaks called “Zion”. The goods then had to be transported by man and mule through difficult winding trails up to their destination. So one can understand why Zion was renamed “Hell’s Gate”. But Sabans are
known for their grit and determination, and they found all kinds of ways to create a selfsupporting little nation out of this unforgiving tropical outpost. Pastimes and pleasures
Hiking is one of the main draws here, there are many trails, but the most famous is the 1,000 plus steps up to the 2,877 ft. summit of Mt. Pleasant. A guide is highly recommended for all hikes and you can get all the information at The Trail Shop in Windwardside. Diving is also a very popular pastime; the waters surrounding the entire island are a protected marine park and full of resplendent marine life and underwater mountains. I am not certified yet, so I opted for the snorkel trip with Sea Saba. I especially enjoyed swimming with the sea turtles. I saw over a dozen juveniles that come to the shallow area they call “the nursery”. It was an enchanting trip. Dining on this island is also delightful. The specialty being the Saban spiny lobster, and their locally made Saba Spice Rum is out of this world. (The recipe is a secret handed down through the generations.) Saba is also a very arty island, with the most famous artist being Heleen Cornet who has shown internationally. You can see a lot of her work in the Five Square Gallery in Windwardside. You’ll also find a few museums in Windwardside, and the archeological foundation SABARC at the Heritage Centre gives guided history walks. Visitors can also learn how to make glass bead art with workshops at Jobean Glass Cottage, and you can also watch the Saba lace ladies at work at Kakona arts shop Thursday afternoons. This unique lacework was once one of the island’s most important exports, and you can purchase lace souvenirs at the island’s little gift shops. And the Jewel Cottage has a seriously impressive collection of fine handmade pieces using gems from around the world. More surprises
Another surprise you might note is that almost every house has a graveyard in the
garden! The island has been popu- 33 lated with many Irish and Scottish settlers, and the tradition of keeping their dearly departed close to home seems to have stuck there. Also surprising is that this tiny island boasts an extremely highly regarded academic institution that attracts international students. The Saba University School of Medicine has garnered numerous accolades for its very high standards. But for me the biggest surprise of all was the karaoke! Every Friday night, Scout’s Place is the place to be for state-of-the-art equipment, a library of thousands of songs in multiple languages, and special effects like smoke machines- it’s a karaoke lover’s heaven. And it’s very competitive! Each fall they crown the annual “Sabaoke Idol” winner with pomp and circumstance, so better bring your A game because these singers are in it to win it! Where to stay
Most of the hotels are cozy cottage style affairs, except the more upscale Queens Gardens and some very unique boutique properties like Spyglass Villa on a cliff, and Villa Orchid, which is awash in over 200 species of those fragrant flowers. The Pyramid House is also a boutique villa rental, ideal for yoga retreats with a meditation circle ensconced in nature. Then there is Convent Cottage with its amazing interior décor. Once a small home for Dominican nuns- it’s a two-bedroom rental house chock full of incredible antiques and special finds personally curated from owner Mark Johnson’s world travels. I stayed at Julianna’s Hotel; I loved the view from my charming little cottage overlooking the lush cliffs to the sea, and their “Tipsy Goat” pool bar there is also popular spot for local happy hours. I was not there long, but I found a stay on Saba to be indeed like a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to see why the island is dubbed “The Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean. It truly is. www.sabatourism.com
Photo by Saba Tourism
Surprising first impressions
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Life’s a Beach in Zakynthos Article and photography by Gregory Caltabanis
akynthos has gained notoriety in recent years and is beginning to top travellers’ wish lists across the globe - and for good reason. Off the eastern part of the Ionian sea, Zakynthos finds itself well positioned to accommodate all globetrotters wishing to take in Greece’s beauty and many wonders.
Famous for its white sand beaches and deep blue waters, Zakynthos - also known as Zante - is an ideal hotspot for tourists looking to relax with their significant others. Despite the island’s many attractions and sightseeing opportunities, its most famous landmark is undisputedly the Navagio beach. Only accessible by boat, the Navagio is a cove located on the northwest shore and is surrounded by high cliffs, offering tourists some much needed exclusivity. The Navagio is also known as the Shipwreck beach after a freightliner in 1980 - the MV Panagiotis - was abandoned there. To this day, the ship remains buried in the beach for all its visitors to see, highlighting its illustrious past. Over the years,
it’s also been rumoured that the MV Panagiotis was smuggling contraband such as cigarettes and wine before crashing into the cove. As a result, the locals gave the Navagio one of its most famous yet more unknown nicknames: Smugglers Cove. As the Navagio is secluded by nature due to its cliffs, tourists are unable to go on their own and an excursion is required. The tour itself costs 30 euros a ticket, which is a decent fee considering that it gets you there and back. After a thirty minute bus ride, you will then be escorted onto a speedboat that will bring you directly on the Shipwreck beach. Friendly tip: Be sure to go on the second floor of the boat as it is far more comfortable and spacious compared to the main floor. To make matters better, you’ll
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from Zakynthos town, it is more central compared to the previous hotspots and is much easier to get to. Host to a plethora of water sports among other things, there is no shortage of activities. Kalamaki beach which is essentially a continuation of Laganas - is dominated by rock formations and clear blue water. Note: bring your own towel to take in the sun as chairs are largely occupied by the early hours of the morning.
also be able to take in the sun on your way to the beach. Xigia Beach is another one of Greece’s wonderful spots and should be a part of any tourist’s Zakynthos itinerary. Off the Eastern Coast of the island, this beach is naturally divided into two by the surrounding cliffs. The first Xigia beach has seen its popularity rise in recent years and is mostly known for its sulphuric water, as a result of the minerals pouring into it from the cliff. Other than the medicinal benefits of this beach, it is an ideal spot to relax and sunbathe. However, be warned: While the sulphur is good for your skin, it results into a strong smell on the beach. Also, two chairs will run you about 10 euros for the day.
On the other side of the cliff, lies the more hidden version of Xigia Beach. You will need to follow the stairway to get down and could even relax on the cove before descending into the water via ladder. Atop the stairway, there’s a lovely tavern which offers some of Greece’s finest delicacies at a relatively modest price. I would recommend ordering the moussaka and risotto and please - top it off with a chilling Mythos beer. After you’re done eating, you could also sunbathe on the many beach chairs overlooking the water. All in all, it makes for a wholly satisfying experience and is a day well spent.
A final, must-see destination in Zakynthos is Marathonisi - also known as turtle island. Marathonisi, located off Laganas bay, got its name due to its unlikely turtle-shaped formation and acts as one of the nesting homes for loggerhead turtles called Caretta Caretta. It’s important to note that all excursions to this islet are handled by the National Marine Park in order to preserve the turtles’ nesting grounds. With that being said, it’s quite easy to catch a boat from either Laganas or Keris to get there and will cost you approximately 25 euros. Turtle spotting has become a common touristic activity in Zakynthos and is made easier by Marathonisi’s sparkling blue waters. As a whole, Zakynthos offers tourists a bit of everything and has proven to be an ideal vacation spot, be it for the family or even for a lovers retreat. Its wonderful beaches, authentic food and unique excursions on offer ensure tourists could have a relaxing time all-while immersing themselves into the rich, Greek culture. www.visitgreece.gr
After visiting both Xigia and Shipwreck beaches, tourists should also make time to visit Kalamaki. Located a mere 6 kilometres Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
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MSC Seaside, “the ship that follows the sun” -
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This Photo: MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview
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AmaWaterways Offically Welcomes AmaLea to European Fleet
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AmaWaterways has recently christened its newest river cruise ship, AmaLea in Vilshofen, Germany. Sister ship to AmaViola, AmaStella and AmaKristina, AmaLea will sail sevennight cruises on the Danube between Vilshofen and Budapest during the summer and fall before concluding her first season with four Iconic Christmas Market Cruises. The 154-guest AmaLea features AmaWaterways’ exclusive twin balconies– offering panoramic views from both a French and outside balcony. Guests will enjoy gourmet dining onboard, with free-flowing wines at multiple venues including The Chef’s Table; a heated sun deck swimming pool with a swim-up bar; a fitness center and spa; complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the ship; and in-room www.amawaterways.com Entertainment-On-Demand.
Seabourn Launches New Ultra-Luxury Ship, Ovation Seabourn Ovation is the fifth ultra-luxury vessel to join the Seabourn fleet over the past decade, and the second of two ships designed for the line by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany. Like Seabourn Encore before it, the ship features all oceanfront suites with private verandas, along with modern design elements and innovations in keeping with Seabourn’s reputation for understated elegance, as well as one additional deck, newly expanded public areas and a brand-new, al fresco dining venue, “Earth & Ocean at The Patio™”. The ship departed on its maiden voyage May 5, for an 11day Inaugural Mediterranean Spring cruise, bound for Barcelona, Spain.
Signature Land Programmes Silversea Unlocks 9 New Remarkable Experiences for Guests Enabling guests to travel deeper, Silversea unveils an exciting new collection of land programmes in nine breathtaking destinations around the world, named the Signature Land Programmes. Preserving Silversea’s hallmark of luxurious adventure and born from the success of the cruise line’s momentous Couture Collection, the Signature Land Programmes will unlock some of the world’s most spectacular experiences from September 2018. The Signature Land Programmes will be led by Silversea’s experience leaders and will complement select voyages in: Iceland, Sri Lanka, Canada’s Great Lakes, Bolivia, Nepal, Chilean Wine Country, Beijing, Myanmar and Vietnam.
G Adventures Launches New Sri Lanka Itinerary Along the East Coast Another ‘travel first’ as operator expands sailing program G Adventures announces the launch of a new sailing trip along Sri Lanka’s east coast, following the splash made by its industry-first sailing trip along the south coast of the island nation. The first itinerary launched in February this year and is already 90 per cent sold out in its first season. This further demonstrates Sri Lanka’s increasing popularity as a travel destination, with the country also experiencing a tripling of demand for G Adventures’ land-based trips in 2017. The new Sailing Sri Lanka – East Coast itinerary is designed to complement the existing Sailing Sri Lanka – South Coast tour, meaning sailing trips will run in the country throughout the year and give travellers two different options. Trips will travel the east coast from July to September 2018, before heading to the south coast from November 2018 to April 2019. Compared to the south which features more on-land excursions, the east coast is more deserted and secluded, with some of Sri Lanka’s best snorkelling opportunities. Both itineraries are timed for optimal whale-watching and travellers can also take advantage of the two kayaks and two stand-up paddle boards that are always onboard. Both sailing trips take place on a brand new 52-foot catamaran carrying up to eight travellers. The boat was launched this year for G Adventures and has four double / twin cabins with ensuite bathrooms, portholes, and pop-up skylights.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s newest Super Ship, the S.S. Beatrice, has set sail on her maiden voyage along the Danube from Budapest to Giurgiu, with a land extension in Bucharest. Debuting with a fresh, sleek yacht-like design, the S.S. Beatrice is the first vessel in the brand’s award-winning fleet of floating boutique hotels to be upgraded to a Super Ship. “We’re thrilled to continue to offer guests the highest standard in river cruising with the debut of S.S. Beatrice,” said Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld CEO and President. “We’ve seen great success with all of our Super Ships and their level of luxury demonstrates the way forward for the brand. We’re excited to bring all of our ships up to this impeccable standard, with plans to upgrade the River Empress and River Royal to Super Ships in 2019.”
Additionally, the ship offers two new Grand Suites each measuring 310 square feet and a second 390 square foot Owner’s/Royal Suite. Connecting rooms, ideal for friends and families travelling together, have also been added. The S.S Beatrice sails on six itineraries to deswww.uniworld.com tinations including the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Viking’s Ultimate World Cruise New 245-Day Itinerary Is Longest-Ever Continuous World Cruise
“For more than 20 years we have been offering guests the most culturally immersive journeys available in the industry and we are pleased to announce the most extensive itinerary in our history,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “Our World Cruises offer guests the rare opportunity to unpack once and explore dozens of the best destinations on earth – at a value that is unprecedented in the travel industry.”
Viking’s Ultimate World Cruise visits dozens of legendary cities, charming ports and idyllic islands in one epic journey. Included excursions in every port allow guests to immerse themselves in the world’s cultures, and The Viking Way of exploration offers additional, optional excursions that provide unmatched insight into Local Life, Working World and offer Privileged Access visits to cultural institutions. Overnight stays in 22 cities allow guests to delve deeper into destinations; and Viking’s Culture Curriculum® offers additional enrichment on board with regional entertainment and lectures, as well as learning opportunities as part of the Viking Resident program. Full details on the Ultimate www.vikingcruises.com World Cruise can be found on Viking’s website.
Departing from London on August 31, 2019 on Viking Sun®, this grand eight-month journey will mark Viking’s third voyage around the globe and will nearly double the length of the company’s previous World Cruise itineraries. Within the 245-day Ultimate World Cruise itinerary, Viking will also offer guests an option to sail one of two shorter segments during the cruise. Guest can choose between Viking World Treasures, a 127-day sailing from London to Los Angeles that visits 33 countries and 61 ports, or Viking World Wonders, a 119day journey from Los Angeles to London that visits 29 countries and 55 ports. As with all Viking itineraries, guests receive a complimentary shore excursion in each port and free unlimited Wi-Fi; World Cruise guests also receive Business Class airfare and all gratuities and service fees, along with an extensive list of added-value included features in their cruise fare.
Viking has recently announced its most comprehensive itinerary to date with the new Ultimate World Cruise, which will span 245 days, six continents, 59 countries and 113 ports, with 22 port overnights and a full circumnavigation of the globe – making it the longest-ever continuous world cruise itinerary.
The ship offers four dining options all inspired by famous Austrian composers, including Mozart’s, the ship’s main restaurant; Wolfgang’s bar and lounge and newly added Schubert’s and Max’s. For guests seeking an immersive culinary experience onboard the S.S Beatrice, Max’s restaurant offers intimate cooking classes where guests can create local European cuisines alongside the chef. Menu highlights at Max’s include broccoli coleslaw, regional Bohemian bread pudding dumplings and homemade apple strudel. Schubert’s, an 18-seat café located at the bow of the ship, offers guests shared plates from lunch through dinnertime. The cozy Austrian-styled eatery features menus reflecting the cuisine of the ship’s destinations, including brisket bouillon, Wiener Wurst with mustard, and an Austrian Kaiser Burger.
The S.S. Beatrice boasts yacht-style light wood with blue and white finishes throughout. Its renovated lobby features elegant mirrors, marble floors, a white Murano chandelier with blue shades, and a grand staircase made of nickel and black iron – a signature design element of Uniworld’s Super Ships. The ship’s redesigned lounge includes sofas and chairs with hand-made upholstery, a parquet floor and upholstered ceiling panels, solar shades, and new USB ports allowing guests to charge anywhere they are sitting. The artwork throughout the ship includes pieces from Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder and Pino Signoretto.
Uniworld’s S.S. Beatrice Sets Sail on Maiden Voyage
MSC Seaside “the ship that follows the sun” by Anne-Marie Macloughlin
ith a steady increase in holidaymakers opting to cruise the high seas (a projected 27.2 million in 2018 according to data generated by Cruise Line International Association, the cruise lines are paying attention. Launching evermore luxurious liners to satisfy even the most discerning of tastes, these behemoths of the sea provide multi-generational entertainment, luxury and a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they sail the four corners of the globe.
Inspired by Miami beach condo design, the seaside boasts two glass-floored catwalks and a 40m high ‘Bridge of Sighs’ affording guests a stunning ocean view. Panoramic lifts and a waterfront boardwalk further dissolve the separation between guest and ocean. Developed by MSC to fit the needs of today’s cruise guest, this beautiful vessel is aptlynamed as “the ship that follows the sun”. With an itinerary that included Sint Maarten, San Juan and Nassau, I was eager to put the name to the test.
Food and Drink With my only experience of cruising the high seas limited to a brief jaunt out of New York Harbour one balmy November, the siren song of the Caribbean lured me to the MSC Seaside, the newest flagship in the Italian cruise fleet. A brand-new prototype, the Seaside features unique design that brings guests closer to the oceanic experience.
As one would expect, food and drink options are of considerable importance when catering to the global community. The discerning holidaymaker demands cachet in addition to convenience, the buffet experience on board as popular as ever but with more exclusive options on the table. The Seaside’s premium
restaurants can compete with anything a major city can offer. The Butcher’s Cut caters to meat lovers as the name suggests but with seafood and vegetarian options available too. Attentive and knowledgeable staff will demystify the menu and offer the appropriate wine suggestions for your meal, almost psychic in anticipating one’s needs. For someone whose wine knowledge is embarrassingly sparse, I was grateful for the educational experience (and the delicious salmon). The Ocean Cay is a seafood lovers nirvana, the appetizers we ordered staggeringly generous, the goat cheese tarte big enough to be mistaken for an entrée. Again, we were presented with a distinguished wine selection, our server happy to make suggestions for the overwhelmed. The ambience of the Cay is tasteful, low key and intimate, the nautical theme apparent but not stifling. It was strange to remember we were sailing, such
was the effect after dark of a free-standing establishment. Definitely a high point. Bars abound on the seaside, be it an al fresco cooler one desires while soaking up the rays or a seductive cocktail at sundown. The Atrium is a dazzling visual centrepiece spanning three decks that houses several bars and a variety of entertainment including piano bar, DJ and live dance performances from the versatile entertainment staff. As I experienced on every deck, the bar staff are very happy to recommend cocktails, beer or wine as per one’s personal taste. Not a fan of sweet beverages (the Bloody Caesar more my speed), the bar staff created a fiery Bloody Mary which more than made up for the lack of Clamato! For the connoisseur, premium liquor abounds, my Scotch-loving colleague happy with the selection. Entertainment The Seaside has it all; from Broadway-style theatrical magic to movie nights, bingo, dance lessons and themed events, the only “downside” is figuring out which option to choose. Daily schedules are delivered to the cabins to assist with such major decisions. Time constraints dictated some very cunning schedule surfing, the ever-helpful MSC staff available for tie-breakers. My companion and I opted to take in a show at the Metropolitan Theatre, a 900 plus house with state of the art lighting and sound. “Timeless” had been described as a Michael Jackson tribute; so far so good. What we did not expect was a 40 minute multi-genre experience with comedy, steampunk, contortionists, musical theatre, aerial acts and yes, a tribute to The King of Pop in the shape of a supernaturally authentic dancer leading us through some of MJ’s best loved hits. For a more immersive entertainment experience, the nightly themed parties hosted by the Seaside’s animation team are excellent ice breakers. From the decadence of a Great Gatsby themed soiree to the Pirate Party on our final evening (my personal favourite) it makes sense to check in advance for costume inspo. The entertainers are energetic, engaging and talented. Amateurs need not fear the dance floor; the staff are well-trained in com-
municating simple yet impressive moves to the non-professionals among us. Take note: a visit to your local dollar store for cheap and cheerful costume accents prior to sailing is recommended. Al fresco fitness classes are also hosted by the entertainers and a wonderful way to burn off some of those calories and soak up the vitamin D. For more familyoriented endeavours the Doremi club provides peace of mind for parents looking to keep their little ones amused.
with some interesting photo opps; the 43 day we went a 3-foot long iguana was clinging to the side of the wall! The summers are typically hot and humid, on this May day the heat was such that a shady lunch break was in order (and a cold beer). La Cueva del Mar boasted the freshest fish in town. Thanks to my travel companion who has a nose for such things, we enjoyed the best fish tacos in recent memory topped with tangy coleslaw.
Ports – Sint Maarten, San Juan, Nassau
Our final port of call was sunny Nassau, a Bahamian paradise and former pirate stronghold. At one point the scoundrels outnumbered the locals, amongst them the infamous Blackbeard. Luckily, Nassau shows little evidence of its scandalous past but for the curious one may visit the site of Blackbeard’s former residence. There are many tours one may partake in but for those crunched for time, a water taxi ride with an entertaining local guide is a must. For a mere $4 each way we escaped the busy cruise terminal and caught some rays at Cabbage beach, a stone’s throw from the manufactured grandeur of the Atlantis resort where one may rent a sun lounger and umbrella to escape the searing UV rays. If it’s shopping you’re after, non-guests of the resort are permitted entry to the complex where tourist trappings lie cheek by jowl with designer watches and apparel. Taxis are in abundance so we reluctantly left the beach and went souvenir shopping before returning to the Seaside. As with a lot of resorts the ubiquitous made in China tat is overflowing but there are some good local craft stores where we found inexpensive shell jewellery and mini bottles of local hot sauce.
The Dutch/French island of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin was our first stop. The beaches are clean and pebble-free with the option to rent a sun lounger or umbrella for when things heat up. Strolling the boardwalk is the perfect way to get one’s bearings and find a spot for lunch or a cooling cocktail. We stopped at The Lazy Lizard for some delightful blackened chicken and Cajun fries where we were welcomed like family, the open front allowing us to enjoy the charming view as we dined. Local vendors stroll the beach selling their wares including colourful sarongs and jewellery. For those in need of some pampering, al fresco massage and hair braiding is on offer from the friendly islanders. When you remember this tiny island was battered during Hurricane Irma in 2017 it’s hard to fathom when all seems so idyllic; a testament to the tenacity of the islanders and those who came to their aid. Approximately 200 land miles from Sint Maarten lies sunny Puerto Rico (literally, “Rich Port”), a major stop for cruise ships. It’s US status was apparent within minutes of disembarking; CVS and Walgreen pharmacies jostle for space in the busy port. Vendors line the waterfront, wares including ball caps and T’s for that last-minute gift. It should be noted that the shore excursions from the Seaside are sold out fast so make your selections early in order to make the best of your time ashore. Local tour guides are many but all timings and destinations are approximate; be prepared for a long wait while they fill as many seats as possible! History buffs will enjoy a visit to the San Juan National Historic Site featuring the imposing Castillo san Felipe del Morro, a 16th Century Spanish citadel
As we finally set sail for Miami and home, the vacation was not quite over yet. The wonderful crew of the Seaside hosted a Pirate Party to send us on our way, the entertainers in authentic costume as they led the guests into some rousing dance numbers. With the lingering Bahamian vibe of piratical times past still firmly in our minds, where better to connect with one’s inner Blackbeard than on the high seas?
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
It’s All Greek to Me! Sail Greece and Turkey Aboard
Celestyal Crystal Aricle by Olivia Balsinger
ew moments in life prove more blissful thank sitting dozens of meres high the edge of an off-white length in Santorini, nursing a crisp Greek wine, belly full from souvlaki and olives (of course!), as you watch the colors of the sky melt into the Mediterranean below. Yes, this may seem like a scene setting for the climax of a cheesy romantic movie. But, indeed, it was my reality during my recent overnight in Santorini, Greece as part of my seven-day journey on The Celestyal Crystal through Greece and Turkey. Though the company primarily sails 3, 4, and 7-day cruises in the Aegean, guests have the option of combining programs to customize the length of their stay Though I have been fortunate to cruise aboard many luxurious lines, Celestyal stands apart for its commitment to maximizing a guest’s time in port giving travelers as comprehensive understanding and experience of the destination possible. Celestyal Cruises, a Greek owned and operated company, is the company that delivers Greece in the most authentic manner of all its competi-
tion. From the superior service, to the mouthwatering menus, to the the attentive staff and especially to the commitment to showing off destinations, there is really no comparison. Athens
One of the world’s most visited cities, our Celestyal Cruise began in Athens—capital of Greece arguably one of the most important cities in human history. I arrived a few days early, deciding to stay at the NJV Athens Plaza, a five star property part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, within walking distance to Athens treasures (and, bonus points: my hotel room faced the Acropolis!) Both the capital of Greece, the heart of ancient world, Athens has become a prime destination for tourists interested in discovering the roots and the rise of Europe as it is known today; it is the city where Classical civilizations intellectual and artistic though originated; where symposia were held to entice the spread of ideas and healthy debate; where democracy was developed and culture flourished. When you travel there today, you can feel this
almost mythical quality permeating throughout the air; where millennia old structures stand proud against a bustling urban city that is equal parts elegant and edge. The boarding process onto the ship was seamless—it was time to begin my adventure. Santorini
You've most likely heard of the mesmerizing, paradise shores of Santorini island, which for decades has been the primary destination for tourists to experience the idyllic beauty of the Greek Islands. Its beauty is romantic, as it combines a naturally gorgeous landscape with villages that preserve its classical legacy as well as cater to modern luxuries, such as fine dining and truly fabulous shopping. Sparkling turquoise water, beaches with impossible mosaic of sand (such as black, red and white), an active volcano, and spectacular rock formations that provide a sense of tranquil seclusion ensure that, no matter which angle you view it, any picture of the land will be postcard-worthy. But Santorini is not just a feast for the eyes...it is also a feast
tourists everything that one can ask for from an idyllic Greek getaway. Scattered throughout are spectacular views of its whitewashed village architecture, picturesque beaches on the shores of the Aegean, and quaint city centers where one can experience the warm hospitality of the local people. Milos is the perfect destination for those looking for a break from the other comparatively crowded islands in the Cyclades. I enjoyed what was sincerely the swim of my life at the magnificent Firiplaka beach. I took a refreshing dip in the crystalline green-blue seas, and drifted ashore to the silver sand beaches, where I laid back, gawking at the gorgeous colored rock formations that line its coastline. I also visited the picturesque fishing village of Pollonia, which host numerous events dedicated to the arts and music. The area truly feels ass the fishing boats moored by the quay to find that perfect spot on the beach, hidden within the tamarisk tree-lining. Luckily, I also had the time to visit Sarakiniko Beach on the island's north shore, whose north-wind waves result in greyishblue rocks that are famously compared to a moonscape. for the senses! It is home to some of the best restaurants in Greece and boasts wine that rivals the rest of the world and because Celestyal spent a night in port here, I was delighted by the many divers, delicious dishes of the island. During my overnight stay in Santorini, I had the pleasure to visit Oia, which is famous for being the most picturesque village in all of the Cyclades. I was not able to put my camera down, as seemingly every corner of this quaint and colorful village is astonishingly photogenic. The tour ended in Fira, located on the caldera cliffs opposite the island's active volcano. The capital of Santorini and its largest town, some claim that it is here, on the bottom of the Caldera cliffs, where one can truly soak in all of the wonder that is Santorini. Milos
A hidden gem within the Cyclades island group, Milos offers the more adventurous
I spent a day in the life of an Ancient Greek with a visit to Ephesus, a place frozen in time, reliving its extensive, fascinating history by careening through its beautifully preserved ruins—some dating back to the prehistoric ages! Excavations spanning almost a century and a half have marked Ephesus as Europe’s most complete classical metropolis (even though 80% of the city has yet to be unearthed!), allowing modern eyes to see its former glory as the capital of Roman Asian Minor, and the fourth largest city during the Roman period. The highlight of our excursion was a visit to the Terrace Houses, which gives the clearest example of how the diversity of the Mediterranean peoples historically embedded in this area’s ruins. Located on a hilltop, these structures were the “Houses of the Rich,” and gives in-depth insight into the lifestyle and living conditions of the empirical Roman elite. I learned about the brilliant planning and ingenious structure of Roman
domestic architecture, with original frescoes and mosaic cycles intact.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea, and the eighty-eighth largest island in the world. Remnants of its brilliant past arrange themselves like stage props against an aweinspiring coastal landscape. Mythology tells us that it was in the caves of Crete where Rhea hid her newborn Zeus from his titan father, but this mystical air transcends time, and embeds itself in the bustling cities, charming villages, splendid shores, and fascinating archaeological sites. Celestyal cruise excursions brought the exquisite cuisine, delicious wine, and impossibly gorgeous landscapes to life for me, giving me free time to explore the island. Onboard Experience
The Crystal boasts 476 staterooms (317 are outside cabins and 163 are inside cabins.) There are 15 cabin types to choose from aboard the ship, accommodating individual needs and budgets. Staterooms are equipped with air conditioning, telephones, televisions and hairdryers. Passengers may pay for Wi-Fi to enjoy anywhere on board, including their staterooms. For more casual dining, guests may opt for the 9th floor self-serve Leda Buffet for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The two more formal dining rooms on board, The Olympus Restaurant and The Amalthia Restaurant, are that perfect balance of sophistication and authenticity. Especially being a Greek ship and given the destinations of this particular cruise, it is fitting that the majority of the restaurants serve traditional Greek cuisine. After dinner, I would often find myself in the Eros Lounge, relaxing and unwinding among a crowd of fellow passengers. With a martini in hand and the onboard band's melody in the air, I'd reflect on my day of adventures and wander what next is in store.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
A Cool Cruise Never to Forget
Article and photography by Lisa Sonne
n every direction, there is a gallery of icebergs, frozen freshwater sculptures that floated away from a parent glacier hundreds of thousands of years old. I feel like a great polar explorer. The front of my kayak carves through the glistening “frazzle” –a thin layer of sea ice that coated these Arctic waters overnight. The frozen geometric patterns crackle with the plowing bow, and cascading crunching sounds join in as my paddle plunges through and pushes back in this stunning bay.
A group of us – from Canada, Russia, India and the U.S. – are making an excursion from an expedition ship in the largest and deepest fjord system in the world. The Scoresby Sund (Sound) of eastern Greenland is above the Arctic Circle, in a remote, hard-to reach place that is uninhabited and rarely visited by humans. The horizon of waters and whites are of densities and hues that defy any paintbox. This is timeless, raw, gorgeous nature – the same kind of seascapes that the intrepid
explorers braved in previous centuries. Then I look down – and see the modern day “dry suit” I am wearing to keep me waterproof and warm, and the plastic kayak that gracefully tolerates me. I twist as far as I can and between me and an ancient glacier, the MV Sea Spirit floats grandly. The 116-passenger ship has an ice-certified hull and state of the art communications and navigation equipment. Even more important at the moment, when the eight of us paddle back, we can enjoy hot showers, fresh towels, wonderful food, clean clothes, comfy beds, and even an open-air jacuzzi. The famous polar explorers – Shackleton, Stefansson, Peary, Amundsen and Nansen – never had it so good. The “Arctic Sights and Northern Lights” cruise of Poseidon Expeditions is well-named. By day, we see polar bears foraging the steep shores of a fjord and whales spouting. After dark, fantastical swaths of light may swirl in
night skies. The cruise ship may not have casinos or discos but I am happy instead to bet on the weather, and look up to see light dancing with the stars. Our voyage begins and ends in Iceland’s dynamic capital, Reykjavik, and the villages and waterfalls of Iceland’s West Fjords and the Snaefellsness Peninsula with great memories, even if I can’t remember how to pronounce the names: Isafjorour, Grundafjordur, and Dynjandi Waterfalls. Between these beautiful Icelandic bookends, we will cross the Denmark Strait to visit a remote Inuit outpost –Ittoqqortoormiit- at the mouth of Scoresby Sund. Days five to ten are for places without people. As the literature says, “Scoresby Sund is a true Arctic Wilderness and this part of the voyage is a real expedition.” There are named islands and fjords on the maps, but the itinerary is always TBD (to be determined), depending on weather and sea conditions, as well as wildlife
reports and passenger interests. When we head to a place Poseidon has never been (and perhaps no ship has visited), extra excitement burbles onboard. Every shore visit is done with thorough preparation. A team of ship guides land first to set up “perimeters,” where they are posted as armed guards against polar bears, which are dangerous, not cuddly, in their natural habitat. Hikes of varying difficulty are offered, providing Arctic flora and fauna, Thule archeological sightings, and spectacular views. Every kayaking day also gifted diverse highlights like paddling between the pinnacles off Red Island—the red-brown sandstone contrasting dramatically with white, calving icebergs. Another day, a chunk of iceberg thunderously broke off. Although it happened fairly far away, we were in a small bay and within moments, we were cresting over the waves it created when it fell. My favorite kayak experience may have been getting close enough to a large Musk Ox to hear it biting off and chewing the vegetation. We were mesmerized watching it move, with its shambled fur swaying from side to side. The musk ox, on the other hand, stared straight at us and then returned placidly to eating. While at sea, the Russian captain and crew skillfully navigate, while passengers look for whales, visit the bar, settle in the ship’s library of exploration books, or head to the ample amphitheater, with its program of films and lectures like, “Viking Discoveries in Greenland,” “ The Cultural History of Whales and Dolphins,” and “Mammal Identification Tips.” Each crew-member wears multiple hats. Many have deep knowledge-specialties to share, on topics from wildflowers to glaciology. When the crew offers a “Polar Plunge Party” off the back of the boat, a doctor and defibrillator stand by as intrepid / insane participants are roped before jumping, just in case they need to be hauled back in from the frigid sea. Before reason set in, I had just enough time to change from kayaking gear into my swimsuit and be one of the last ones to jump in and earn my Polar Certificate. Fortunately, there were no heart attacks, just good-hearted memories.
The transformations from day to night provided another set of dramatic highlights. I’ve been fortunate to see gorgeous sunsets from cruise boats in French Polynesia, the Galapagos, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, and many countries in Europe, but Arctic sunsets can be in their own class ---beyondPhotoshop colors-- as their bold vibrancy is reflected in waters and icebergs.
After dark, the northern lights may provide a magnetic light display – both in how they draw us out of our lovely, warm suites onto the cold decks to watch and in how they are created. Solar winds send a field of magnetic particles far into space. As some hit the earth’s magnetosphere, they speed up around the north and south pole, then plunge toward earth and collide with the atmosphere, creating energy in the form of light. As we gather on decks for the intermittent show, I love being surrounded by human spirits speaking in different languages, but kindred in our seeking awe. Sometimes there is just reverential silence in the dark, and then a chorus of international oohs and ahs and lots of clicking camera noises. Only some of the dancing colors are visible to the human eye, but more appear through the lens of a camera. When I am not clicking or just staring with wonder, I enjoy standing behind a talented Chinese woman with greater lenses as she takes psychedelic videos of the show. Not every night rewards us, but several do – and with the lights, swirls a sense of wonder and bewitchment. More Polar Exploring For those who want to try out their own exploration fantasies in the Arctic or Antarctic, Poseidon Expeditions offers great polar variety, north and south. Poseidon even offers an icebreaker journey that takes bucket-list travelers straight to the North Pole.
For now, when summer heats up too much, I remember back to the crisp, clean, cold air and striking beauty of the Arctic—as well as dream of someday heading far south and kayaking with penguins.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel
Egypt At the Crossroads of History, Culture & Civilizations by Dwain Richardson
Join us as in these eight-pages as we explore this most beautiful, intriguing and mysteries corner of the world.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
King Tutankhamun's Mask
gypt has been steeped into history for the longest time. Because there has been a lot of interest in Egypt’s history, historians coined the term “Egyptology,” which is the study of pharaonic Egypt. Egyptology spanned the period between c. 4500 BCE and CE 641. How did Egyptology begin? Scholars going with Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt published the Description de l’Égypte (1809–1828); this publication made huge quantities of source materials about ancient Egypt available for Europeans. Did you know that written Egyptian documents dated to c. 3150 BCE? This was the first time that pharaohs developed the hieroglyphic script in Upper Egypt. These scripts provided the source material for Egyptological study. Following the Arab conquest, only the Copts kept the ancient language alive (written in Greek characters). Coptic texts taken Egypt during the Renaissance awakened interest in the Egyptian language. German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher published a Coptic grammar in 1643; European travellers returned to Egypt with antiquities and stories of wondrous ruins. What’s more, Egyptology became an academic discipline in France, England, and Germany. American museums opened Egyptian collections in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The University of Pennsylvania, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum are some of music collections that have done a lot of work in Egypt. On the geographical front, Egypt has two coastlines on the Mediterranean and Red Sea. It borders Libya to the west, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east, and Sudan to the south. Egypt has an area of 1,001,449 square kilometres. The longest straight-line distance from north to south is 1,024 kilometres, and the straight-line distance from east to west is 1,240 kilometres long. The country’s maritime boundaries measure more than 2,900 kilometres of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea. Most of the country is made of desert. Thirty-five thousand square kilometres (3.5%) of the total land area is cultivated and permanently settled. Most of Egypt is located within the desert zone that runs east from Africa’s Atlantic Coast and connects with southwestern Asia.
Four leading geological regions are present in Egypt: Nile Valley and Nile Delta, Western Desert (also known as Libyan Desert), Eastern Desert (an extension from the Nile Valley until the Red Sea Coast), and Sinai Peninsula. Of the geological regions, the Nile Valley and Nile Delta are the most significant areas, though they cover only 5.5% of the country’s total area.
Cairo While you’re in the country’s capital, be sure to visit the following attractions: Great Pyramid of Giza This is the oldest and largest of three pyramids in the Giza complex. It borders El Giza. The Great Pyramid is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is the only structure that has remained intact over the years. The Great Pyramid has three chambers. The lowest chamber was cut into the bedrock, which served as the chamber’s foundation and was left unfinished. The Queen’s and King’s Chamber are the second layer of this structure. Lastly, the upper layer is made of buildings that used to include two mortuary temples to honour Khufu, Egypt’s second pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, three smaller pyramids for Khufu’s wives, a “satellite” pyramid, a raised causeway to join the two temples, and small mastaba tombs. (Mastaba means “house for eternity” or “eternal house.”)
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
This is Egypt’s largest museum. It opened in 1902. Visitors will be greeted with 107 halls, huge statues (on the ground floor level), small statues, jewels, Tutankhamon treasures, and mummies (all on the upper level). Interested in photos? The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities has dedicated a section to photography. And if you like books, periodicals, and other written material, you’ll be able to visit the library. Lastly, the museum dedicates seven sections to treasures and monuments in chronological order. See Tutankhamon’s treasures in the first section. All pre-dynasty and Old Kingdom monuments are found in the second section. The third section presents the first intermediate period and Middle Kingdom monuments. In the fourth, check out the Modern Kingdom monuments. In the fifth section, find all the late period monuments (including those of the Greek and Roman periods). Find coins and papyrus in the sixth section, and sarcophagi and scrabs in the last section.
Great Sphinx of Giza This is a national symbol for ancient and modern Egypt. The sphinx is carved from the Giza plateau’s bedrock. If you look at it carefully, you’ll see that it looks like a lion’s body. The head looks like that of a king or god. The sphinx symbolizes wisdom and strength. Visitors would be pleased to note that the sphinx has been recently restored. You can find the Great Sphinx at the Nile River’s west tip, located near Cairo. While visiting, let yourself be amazed by the many temples that surround the sphinx. Some of these temples contain multiple sphinxes.
Mosque of Muhammad Ali You can see this Ottoman mosque from a mile away. It was built in the nineteenth century and in honour of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali’s oldest son, who passed away in 1816. Architect Yusuf Bushnak completed the structure in 1848. The mosque and citadel are some of many attractions and landmarks in Cairo. Step inside the mosque and you’ll see that its architecture is typical of Turkish style. The mosque has a main dome surrounded by four small and semicircular domes. The minarets are cylindrical and have two balconies and conical caps (you’ll see these on the mosque’s western side). The mosque is made primarily of limestone. The lower storey and forecourt, however, are made of alabaster. The mosque’s western entrance leads to the open courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded by rounded arcades with small domes. You will notice a marbled fountain in the middle of the courtyard,
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
built by Ismail Pasha in 1828. One last detail about the courtyard: Note an iron clock on the western wall, presented to Muhammad Ali by King Louis Philippe (France). The Hanging Church (St. Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church) This is one of Egypt’s oldest churches. The history of this particular church dates back to the third century A.D. Why is this attraction known as the Hanging Church? It is situated above a Babylon Fortress gatehouse, and its nave is suspended over a passage. Unlike most churches that may have as many as ten steps, the Hanging Church has twenty-nine. Be prepared for a long hike up! Once you enter the church, be prepared to see 110 icons. Of these icons, the oldest dates back to the eighth century. The others, however, hail from the eighteenth century. The iconostases within the church are made of ebony and ivory, just like the main altar. The icons depict a number of religious personalities, including the Virgin Mary, the Twelve Apostles, and St. John the Baptist. Khan el-Khalili Care to do some shopping during your stay in Cairo? You’d want to stop by Khan elKhalili. This bazaar district is the city’s main attraction for residents and tourists alike. The bazaar, which was first a mausoleum, used to be the heart of Cairo’s economic activity; sultans would build businesses nearby. Today, most Egyptians run businesses here. Take advantage of buying local products (souvenirs, antiques, jewellery). But there’s more: take a sip of coffee or shisha at one of the many coffeehouses along the strip. If you’re feeling hunger pangs, many restaurants are at your fingertips. If you prefer to buy foods, you’ll come across many food vendors throughout the market.
Sinai Peninsula Ras Muhammed National Park This is the most famous park in the country known for scuba diving. As you dive below the crystal waters of the Red Sea, you’ll see many coral reefs and various species. The sea walls are breathtaking, too. Ras Muhammed National Park became a protected area in 1983. Divers, please note: You cannot dive anywhere you please. You need to dive in selected areas only. Another important tip: Visitors must vacate the premises by sunset. The best places for scuba diving? Shark and Yolanda Reefs.
Both reefs are mountain-like peaks rising from a sandy sea bed spread out below the surface. You can also scuba dive at Satellite Reef if the sea current isn’t too strong.
St. Catherine’s Monastery Its official name is Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai, and is located at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is part of the Church of Sinai, which is a member of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church. Like other churches in the country, St. Catherine’s Monastery teems with iconic art, particularly mosaics. Most of the art is in the form of hot wax painting. In addition to mosaics, visitors will find several liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings. A few other points of note: The monastery has the oldest operating library. St. Catherine City, located around the monastery, is a small town with hotels and swimming pools. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sharm-el-Sheikh This is a city located on Sinai Peninsula’s southern tip and along the Red Sea coastal strip. This is the economic hub for the country’s southern governorate, and includes cities such as Dahab and Nuweiba. You’ll find St. Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai nearby. Most importantly, Sharm-elSheikh is a holiday resort for tourists. Watersport and scientific tourism enthusiasts will appreciate this southern city a great deal: it is possible to do snorkelling and scuba diving, and those interested in species will be happy to note that there are 250 various coral reefs and one thousand types of fish. And let’s not forget the resorts: Aqua Blu Sharm Resort is one of many resorts tourists can choose from for accommodation and meals. For the curious, Aqua Blu is a four-star hotel resort.
Nile River Many boating companies offer cruises along the Nile River. Some companies of note are Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways, and Memphis Tours. Visit the company websites for information on fares and booking. Luxor Located in Upper Egypt and often characterized as “the world’s greatest open-air museum” (characterized as such because the temple complex ruins in Luxor and Karnak are in the modern city). Temples and museums grace Luxor’s east bank. Temples also make up the many attractions Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
in the west bank. In addition, you’ll find two valleys of note—Valley of the Kings and Queens—Tombs of the Nobles, Deir elMedina (workers’ village), and Malkata (palace for Amenophis III, ninth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty). Valley of the Kings This is the place where people constructed tombs for pharaohs and powerful nobles for five hundred years (sixteenth to eleventh century B.C.). Visitors can find this valley on the Nile’s west bank. The valley is divided in two: East Valley and West Valley (most tombs are in the eastern zone). Unfortunately, most tombs are not open to the public, and the tombs that are open may sometimes close whenever restoration work must be done. Only one tomb is accessible to the public in the West Valley. Visitors must have a ticket in hand to see the site. Guides will show you around the tomb, but they cannot talk while visiting inside. Sorry, camera lovers: photography is no longer permitted inside the tomb’s walls. Karnak Temple Complex Come see a mix of temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings at this complex. Construction began during the Middle Kingdom period and continued into the Ptolemaic period. Did you know that Karnak is a common name in popular culture? It’s been the feature location for a number of movie scenes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Mummy Returns. Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile takes place aboard the S.S. Karnak steamship. And a number of music groups, including the British symphonic metal band Bal-Sagoth, make mention of Karnak in songs like “Unfettering the Hoary Sentinels of Karnak.” This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aswan This is another southern city in Egypt. What makes Aswan special? It teems with tourists year-round. In fact, Aswan is an ideal winter destination for many, since the Nile River offers breathtaking views. The river flows through granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves, and tropical plants. And like most Egyptian destinations, Aswan does not fall short of sites or monuments. Interested in visiting the Agha Khan Monastery? Sail across to the Philae Temple. If you want to see more attractions, why not take a trip to St. Simeon’s Monastery? Another feature of this city is culture. Take a bite into local fish produce
at a restaurant while listening to Nubian music. Want to spice up your food? Stop by at a local market and purchase local spices. Up for a tattoo? You can get a henna (flowering plant) tattoo while you’re here. If you want to take a bit of Aswan with you as you return home, be sure to buy souvenirs and African handmade goods at the Aswan Bazaar. Finally, if you ever have arthritis or any type of pain during your stay, you can bury your body aches in the city’s sand. Aswan also has a number of sites for people to relax and rejuvenate. Abu Simbel Temples These are two massive rock temples located in Abu Simbel, a village in Nubia, near the Sudan border. You can find the temples on the western bank of Lake Nasser, 230 kilometres southwest of Aswan. To avoid being submerged by Lake Nasser, the temples were relocated in 1968. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the complex is coined the “Nubian Mountains,” since they run from Abu Simbel to Philae, near Aswan. Two temples await visitors upon their arrival. The Great Temple is the largest. When you arrive at the entrance, you will see a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshipping Ra Harakhti, a falcon head. Step inside the temple and take a look at the layout. It is triangular in shape, as are most ancient
temples in Egypt. The hypostyle hall is characterized by pillars representing Ramses linked to Osiris, the underworld god. This indicates the pharaoh’s everlasting nature. You’ll also see colossal statues; some of them bear a white crown of Upper Egypt, and others wear a double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. A pillared hall follows the hypostyle hall. The pillared hall features various scenes of royalty and victories in past wars. The Small Temple is known for its statues of a king and his queen. Here’s one particularity with the Small Temple: scenes with the queen playing instruments adorn the walls. (The instrument in question is the sinistrum.) Pillars and bas-reliefs depict various scenes with pharaohs, queens, gods, and goddesses.
The Western Desert Siwa Oasis This is an Egyptian oasis sandwiched between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Land Sea in the Libyan Desert. It is one of the country’s most isolated settlements with a population of 23,000.
in the oasis were talented in creating 55 basketry, pottery, silverwork, and embroidery crafts. Dress styles were also of major significance, especially bridal silver and silver ornaments/beads women wore at events. As roads and television services made headway in the Siwa Oasis, all silver ornaments were eventually replaced by gold ornaments. Like most parts of Egypt, the Siwa Oasis has its share of festivals. The Sihaya Festival is by far the leading festival in the area. It honours Saint Sidi Sulayman, the town’s traditional patron. What happens during this festivity? The local men assemble on a mountain to eat, sing songs of thanks to God, and make peace with one another. The women remain in the village and celebrate by singing, dancing, and playing drums. Here’s a brief list of sights you might want to check out as you visit the Siwa Oasis. Mud-brick houses in Shali, an old town Desert sand dunes south of Siwa
Agriculture is the main industry in the oasis, though tourism has become a runner-up in recent times.
Siwa salt lake
With respect to culture, Berber inhabitants
Temple of the Oracle of the Amun
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
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The Safari Lodge at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa
Stay & Play
S w e e t D r e a m s A r o u n d t h e Wo r l d
Article by Jennifer Merrick, Photos: Safari L odge
Hilton Comes to Yunnan Province’s Shangri-La
We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome than the one we experienced at the Safari Lodge on the Amakhala Game Reserve. Less than five minutes after arrival, as we filled out registration forms, we heard someone say. “It’s Norman!” When we looked up, we saw an elephant lumbering up to the watering hole with its big ears flapping as if to wave hello. The animals at Amakhala, a 7500-hectare private conservancy, aren’t usually given a name (it’s not a zoo), but Norman is an exception. This lone bull elephant, pushed out by the dominant male in the herd, has earned a special place in the heart of everyone here, and now mine, too. The reserve, which began in 1999, is a joint conservation effort and has 10 individual lodges each with their own personality, style and comfort level. The Safari Lodge is all about luxury, relaxation and big-five adventure in a comfortable and authentic ambiance.
Hilton Garden Inn Shangri-La is the 13th location of the company’s mid-market brand in China, and the first to bring the Hilton name to Shangri-La in Yunnan Province. Located in Shangri-La’s city center, it features a Tibetan theme in its style and a mix of modern amenities assisting productivity and comfort in each of its 233 guest rooms. Dining options include a noodle bar, international buffets, and a menu featuring Western, Sichuan, Yunnan, Cantonese, and Tibetan cuisine. A 24-hour gym, self-service laundromat, and 24-hour market are provided for the convenience of guests, as is free high-speed WiFi throughout the premises.
Sleeping 24 in 11 safari suites, its four-star wilderness accommodation features private plunge pools, lounge areas, stocked fridges, four-poster beds covered with mosquito nets (though it’s located in a malaria-free zone so it’s not a necessity) and a large bathtub complete with bubbles and sparkling wine on ice. Though even that couldn’t compete with the view we had of impalas and antelope grazing outside. It takes no time at all to get into the rhythm of safari life: coffee, early morning game drive, full breakfast, relax and enjoy the surroundings, lunch, evening game drivebath with aforementioned sparkling wine, dinner.
Marriott Introduces Fairfield Brand in China The game drives were led by professional, knowledgeable guides, and we spotted wildlife ranging from large game, like rhinos, lions and giraffes, to smaller creatures, like African slugs and tortoises. And, of course, we couldn’t forget Norman, who we watched rolling around in the mud, having a grand time, which was exactly what we had, too, at the Safari Lodge on the Amakhala Game Reserve.
Marriott International has opened its third mainland China location of its recentlyacquired luxury brand W hotels, already established in Beijing and Guangzhou, on The Bund in Shanghai. On the property are 374 guestrooms including 35 suites, an indoor/outdoor pool, 5300 square meters of event space with 17 meeting rooms, and a grand ballroom. There will also be five food and beverage outlets, including a contemporary NYC-style bistro, a purveyor of Cantonese cuisine, a destination cocktail bar, and a bar serving the rooftop pool deck, plus a bar that will double as a venue for international DJs on another level of the hotel.
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board rentals, and the property's newest addition, the Dip + Slide water play area. Pool amenities include complimentary towel service and full-service poolside lunch and spa services, Conveniently, both pools are open from sunrise to sunset. I had the opportunity to experience a 50-minute Diplomat Signature Spa Treatment, which I must strongly recommend. Be sure to make your spa reservations well in advance as space is limited. Exclusively designed for The Diplomat, specialty cabanas created by fashion designer Trina Turk are available for rent on the lower floor of the pool deck, providing a relaxing and stylish oasis for the day. We ordered lunch from Playa, a Beachfront Nuevo-Latina restaurant and bar featuring an extensive rum and tequila selection.
The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida by Alexandra Cohen
rom the Atlantic coast to the Intracoastal, the reinvented Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida pays homage to the hotel's storied past as a social hub, with a modern take on design and amenities, including a luxurious spa and more than 10 new culinary concepts. Fresh off a magnificent $100 million transformation, this oceanfront, all-encompassing destination resort is now part of Curio Collection by Hilton, a global set of upscale hotels handpicked for their unique character. We stayed in a gorgeous Oceanview Double Deluxe Room with a balcony, providing a beautiful and completely unobstructed view of the ocean. There are no shortage of exceptional dining options here. Let us certainly recommend breakfast at Point Royal, a coastal restaurant also open for lunch and dinner. This is a
large dynamic buffet filled with almost every breakfast option imaginable, from housemade pastries and an inventive cereal bar, to egg dishes, salads and grains Our first dinner was also at Point Royal, part of famous chef Geoffrey Zakarian's approachable American cuisine, complete with indoor/outdoor seating and a grand yet modern Raw Bar. From the Diplomat seafood platter, a fabulous yellowfin tuna tartare, roasted Maine diver scallops and must try Black Forest meringue pie, this dining establishment is topnotch. The same can be said for Monkitail (https://www.monkitail.com), which won the top spot for Best Hotel Restaurant in USA Today’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards. The menu is a contemporary take on the classic izakaya, featuring sharable small plates and sushi as well as an array of specialty cocktails and saké. Surrounding an open robatayaki kitchen in the heart of the restaurant is a private dining area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean: hot Hamachi, toro caviar, the big eye tuna special, Edamame dumplings, Robitayaki lobster tail, skirt steak and short rib skewers, a duck scrapple bao bun, a tempura shrimp taco, an aged New York strip and broiled sea bass with aioli and snap peas headline some of the choices to go with the fruit loop ice cream and almond joy for dessert.
We were thrilled to discover that The Diplomat partners with the award-winning Boucher Brothers Management to pamper guests during their day on the beautiful Hollywood Beach. We got to spend a day lounging in private daybeds and relaxing on a chaise for a luxurious take on “fun in the sun.” The team from the Boucher Brothers team could not have been nicer in setting us up, and they in fact came back several times over our stay to adjust the umbrellas and make sure everything was okay. Lunch and drinks were available right at our chairs. This service is available daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
In addition to the two beachfront pools, there is also jet skiing, ocean kayaking, paddle-
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Accommodations Puntacana Resort & Club is the Caribbean’s leading resort community on the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. Tortuga Bay is member of the Leading Hotels of the World and the only AAA Five Diamond awarded hotel in the Dominican Republic, offering understated elegance, privacy and unparalleled personal service. Located at Playa Blanca is The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, guest enjoys all of Westin’s signature amenities and Don Queco Cigar Bar. Our Four Points by Sheraton is situated at Puntacana Village, few minutes away from Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). The Estates Become a part of our magnificent paradise community with the purchase of a vacation home in the elite The Estates at Puntacana Resort & Club, where Julio Iglesias, Mikhail Baryshnikov call home. An exclusive lifestyle of relaxation, excitement and understated elegance, prospective buyers can choose among elegant homes perched above the Caribbean Sea or overlooking scrupulously manicured golf courses in Corales, Tortuga, Arrecife, Hacienda, Hacienda del Mar and Marina. Home and apartments are also available at Puntacana Village.
With 45 holes of championship golf, Puntacana Resort & Club is the Caribbean’s premier golf & beach destination. The P.B. Dye designed La Cana Golf Course, consisting of 27 holes across Tortuga, Arrecife and Hacienda, was declared the number one course in the Caribbean by Golf Magazine. Designed by Tom Fazio and set between rocky cliffs, coral reefs and the expansive Caribbean Sea, the Corales Golf Course features six oceanfront holes, multiple lines of approach and picturesque canyons, making for an exhilarating experience. Activities & Spa Puntacana Resort & Club offers a wide range of adventures for guests of all ages including golf, tennis, kite boarding, scuba diving, horseback riding, fishing and numerous excursions by sea, land and air. The leading spa in the Caribbean, Six Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club presents a range of innovative packages, Signature treatments and Asian therapies. Visit Galerías Puntacana to enjoy an assortment of shops, restaurants, playground, and our spirited nightlife. Dining Puntacana Resort & Club is home to 6 world class eateries with an indigenously delectable cuisine. Tucked inside Tortuga Bay, the AAA Four Diamond awarded Bamboo blends modern cuisine with Mediterranean influences. Specializing in local seafood, The AAA Three Diamond Award La Yola is located at the Marina. At La Cana Golf & Beach Club is The Grill, an American style grill offering views of the sea. The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club provides a variety or restaurants and bars from Ananí to Brassa Grill. Next door is Playa Blanca, a beachfront tropical restaurant. Our Dine Around Program offers the best sampling of our finest culinary experience. All restaurants offer complimentary shuttle service within the resort. More dining options are available at Puntacana Village.
Corporate Social Responsibility We believe that in development there needs to be equilibrium among the economic, environmental and social components. Our non-profit Grupo Puntacana Foundation serves both natural and social resources, while contributing to the sustainable development of our Dominican Republic. These practices have been guiding principles of our company, and along with vision, hard work and perseverance, the key to our success. Punta Cana International airport Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), built, owned and operated by Grupo Puntacana, the resort’s developers, and located within Puntacana Resort & Club, is just minutes away from check-in at any of our hotels or private homes. Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) has direct service from 98 different cities around the world, making Punta Cana the most accessible destination in the Caribbean. Our VIP terminals service the needs of guests flying in private aircrafts.
The Caribbean’s Premiere Golf & Beach Resort Community
The Castle in the Rockies by Steve Gillick
he Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is an experience like no other. Located in Banff National Park (Canada’s first National Park, created in 1885), the hotel, built in the classic turn-of-the-century Chateau Style, sits at the convergence of the Bow and Spray Rivers at the foot of Sulphur Mountain, with ‘just-outside-your-window’ views of Tunnel Mountain, Mount Rundle and the Fairholme Range of the iconic Rocky Mountains. Outside the Banff Springs Hotel, near the Conference Centre, stands a statue of Cornelius Van Horne who envisioned the grand hotel in the Rockies that opened in 1888, the same year he became President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The hotel would suffer hard times, including the great fire of 1926 that resulted in a larger structure being rebuilt on the site, but since the re-opening in 1928 and despite a 3 year closure during the 2nd World War, the hotel adapted to the needs of domestic and international travelers through expansion, reno-
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vation and it’s first Winter opening in the 1970’s, making it a year-round destination.
own with over 50 signature experiences plus saunas, whirlpools and a mineral pool.
The exterior of ‘the castle’ is impressive enough but the interior, from the main entry lobby to the shopping arcade, to the accommodation floors, oozes a sense of luxury and care that responds to all generations of travellers looking for a more upscale experience, without it being haughty. For instance, as an alternative to the many fine dining choices in the hotel, there is the Stock Food and Drink restaurant in the lobby that offers delicious, freshly made sandwiches, salads, soups, quiche, coffee, pastries and more, to either eat casually in an adjoining room or take-out and enjoy, along with the views. And I will say that the hotel staff are smiling, friendly, helpful, and make one feel at home from the moment you arrive.
From the nearby Banff Gondola Observation Deck near the summit of Sulphur Mountain, you can see the Castle in the Rockies and appreciate its location and natural setting but you can also easily see that the hotel is within walking distance (1.9 km) to the town of Banff. Along the way you are accompanied by fantastic river and mountain views and then in the town itself there are number of restaurants, bars, shops and the visitor information centre. Clear signage points the way to everything in the area.
I was in a Fairmont room, with a plush queen-size bed and an amazing view of the mountains. Fairmont rooms, Deluxe rooms and Suites are available with a variety of bed types (King, Queen, Double, Twins) and views ranging from the hotel and grounds to the spectacular mountains surrounding the property. The hotel offers seasonal and regularly scheduled activities including a fitness centre, tennis, bowling, skating, wilderness hikes and campfire/marshmallow roasts. Winter downhill skiing is available at nearby Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. For many, the hotel’s award-winning Willow Stream Spa is an attraction on its
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Castle in the Rockies, is a truly unique accommodation experience. William Van Horne noted “Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists” and the result for over 130 years has been, in a word, “Wow”!
OceanZ Aruba Boutique Luxury At Its Best by Susan Campbell
ruba is famed for it sprawling strips of high-rise and low-rise resorts lining some of the world’s best beaches, but as far as avant-garde, boutique stays on this island, there’s never been a lot to choose from. But now there is a new option for an upscale and sophisticated escape at OceanZ Aruba- far from the crowded tourist scene- but close enough to everything so that you never feel isolated. This stunning new complex offers 13 rooms including two incredible oceanfront master suites- all uniquely decorated and each with a different character. The owner Eva Zizzu is a well-known fashion designer from Venezuela (but she has lived on Aruba for many years,) and decided she would like to create the kind of stay that she would seek out when travelling away from her adopted island home. A place where she
could entertain her guests in style, and cater to a discerning clientele that expected more than basic services. So she set out to create curated experiences and elegant extras in her new venture, which is designed to exceed expectations, and she has succeeded. It is indeed stunning at every turn. Though not directly on a beach, it’s close to a secret swimming spot where you’ll find some of the island’s best snorkeling, and they provide transportation as well as everything you’ll need for an ideal beach day out at two popular stretches of sand nearby as well. And the hotel’s location is one of the best places on the island to view spectacular sunsets over the water, which you can also view from their indoor/outdoor glassed-in dining room.
Full breakfast is included in the rate and there is a private chef to cater to your needs plus a trendy bar for excellent signature cocktails. You can enjoy tapas and drinks at their large saltwater infinity pool while you lounge in high style as well. One of the things I like most about this place is that it’s very swanky without the stuffiness you often find in this kind of stay. It really is a refreshing oasis of friendly, and it exudes barefoot luxury at its bes in every way. This spot is also ideal for a small destination wedding, they can take care of every detail from start to finish, and you just have to show up! www.oceanzaruba.com
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
InterContinental Presidente Cancun by Susan Campbell
Landmark Grande Dame
Built back in 1973, this is one of Cancun’s original downtown hotels planned by Mexico’s president of the time Luis Echeverría -ergo the name “Presidente”. This Grand Dame has weathered the years well, and a recent comprehensive update makes it worthy of its reputation as THE upscale anchor of the entire Hotel Zone. At first blush, the vast expanse of lobby in muted earth tones seems more corporate stay than tropical vacation mode. But don’t let first impressions fool you. Though they do excel at large groups, conventions and events, if you simply keep walking right through to the other end, down the stairs, and out into the water circuit area everything changes. Bam! You are instantly hit with an absolutely postcard perfect vision of paradise on arguably the broadest beach in the region. All swaying palms, blindingly
white sand and sparkling turquoise waters flanked by pools, whirlpools, beach bars, and plenty of shade palapas and daybeds. But for me, one of the best features is the wave conditions. I love to float calmly in the sea, but most of Cancun’s narrow hotel strip beaches are battered by big waves- though lovely to look at- they aren’t so much fun to swim in unless you enjoy getting tossed around like a rag doll. I don’t. So, I really enjoyed the placid conditions in their bay. And an additional bonus is that there are no hotels on one entire side, so you aren’t sardined into a constant party scene which is very much part of the appeal there. And with such an expansive beach, it never feels crowded even when the hotel is full. I also enjoy the fact that one of the pools is adult-only for kid-free relaxation.
Activity wise, there’s a full-service watersports centre, while the on-site Ikal Spa offers Mayan inspired pampering treatments. And a brand new urban cultural and nature experience right in the Hotel Zone called Parque Maya Cancun is a must visit for an exciting combination of history, ziplines, mangrove kayaking, ruins exploring, and more…all just minutes away.
Accommodations, Eats, and Activities
www.presidentecancun.com Though all of the hotel’s recently refreshed 300 rooms offer an inviting stay, you might want to upgrade your experience from a classic to an executive room or spacious suite in order to avail yourself of their classy Club Lounge which includes complimentary breakfast, evening drinks and refreshments plus many additional amenities. But even if you don’t, you’ll find plenty of fine food and delightful drinks to choose from on-site. Enjoy healthy fare and Mexican craft beers at trendy little indoor enclave Café Urbano
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
for decadent eats El Caribeño’s big surfside palapa offers an eclectic array of Caribbean cuisine. Right on the sand, Le Cap Beach Club’s outdoor emporium serves up Mediterranean specialities, and the signature cocktails at The Deck Bar are divine. For late night drinks and your caffeine fix, The Epicentre lobby bar is the spot. And you’re also within easy access of all of Cancun’s cosmopolitan downtown dining and nightlife as well.
Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa by Susan Campbell
t wasn’t my first time to Cozumel, but past trips I took the hour-long road transfer from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen and then the ferry across to the island. This time I hopped on a sweet little affordable 20-minute flight on a tiny prop plane with Maya Air from the Cancun airport and was at my resort in no time. Live and learn. More beach time!
An alluring tropical oasis
Set amid a lush jungle on an impossibly aqua sea, Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa has only 218 rooms, but it seems much larger than that as it sprawls along the coast and back into the jungle through green labyrinths. I was thoroughly enchanted with my room, all done in refreshing tropical shades with interesting touches of Mayan décor. So much so, I wouldn’t have left my bed looking out on the aqua waves if it wasn’t for those heavenly hammocks and decadent daybeds beckoning me to come relax closer to the sea. And once on the
beach there, I realized I was in prime snorkeling real estate. A Snorkelers Heaven
I have great memories of snorkeling in Cozumel and have taken a few of the boat trips, but this little rocky enclave off the beach with stairs down into the sea has you immersed in a whirlwind of tropical fish swirling all around you in no time. No boat required. I was in heaven. If you’d rather not get wet to see the fish, they also have clear bottom kayak rentals.
where their luxe spa is located and though I didn’t partake this time, the ancient ritual they offer called Temazcal - a Mayan steam house experience led by a shaman- looks intriguing. Alfredo da Roma Trattoria is their signature dining room specializing in fine Italian, but if you’d rather go casual in an outdoor setting under the tropical stars Faro Blanco and Le Cap Beach Club are the spots to be. They also can set up designer s’mores in an open firepit by the sea at night. Loved that. They also have a homemade candy store on site. Local Culture
Dining and Pampering Delights
After working up an appetite in the water, the huge buffet breakfast in the beachfront palapa El Carabeno hit the spot and a lazy soak afterward in the infinity pool beside it was ideal. They also have deluxe cabana rentals there. Children playing one too many games of Marco Polo began to harsh my chill though, so I simply escaped to their adultonly pool in the tropical gardens. That’s also
Though you might never want to leave this oasis of seaside luxury, the main town is very close, and you can use their coaster bikes to get there and explore the colorful local culture and do some souvenir shopping, too. It’s in an ideal location for the best of both worlds.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
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The Dominican Republic A Colorful, Cultural Caribbean Destination by Olivia Balsinger
ith multiple direct flights per day from both the United States and Canada, the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic allows seamless access to your dream paradise getaway; a mere number of hours transports you to a world of color, of hospitality and of superior hotels, among natural wonder and enriched by fascinating culture. As soon as I touched
down in Punta Cana, I was greeted with a pina colada and a smile, and, consequently, the certainty that I would be enjoying this journey as strongly as the sun beamed down on my shoulders. The new slogan of the Dominican Republic is that the destination “has it all” – and as a recent visitor, I can attest these words ring true. Punta Cana
Punta Cana’s reputation for five-star luxury is well deserved; nonetheless, the destination is certainly more than just highways and resort developments, having truly blossomed into a dining, dancing, and glitzy hub of excitement. One gem of the city’s nightlife is the the Coco Bongo Punta Cana show — an experience not to be missed. More than a disco, this two story dynamic club boasts mind-boggling shows every twenty minutes.
Acts include a Beatles cover band, snippets from the Broadway show “Chicago” and even a dazzling Spiderman show. And I would be remiss to neglect mentioning Punta Cana’s miles of pristine white sandy beaches and Caribbean Sea—a relaxing retreat. Where to Stay: All-inclusive, affordable luxury is located right beside one of the world’s ten most stunning beaches in Bavaro Beach. Barceló Bavaro Palace is five-star accommodation that guarantees the highest degree of rest and relaxation during an island getaway. Paradise surrounds you, in all its natural majesty — from the constant, energizing sunshine, to the cool, crystal clear waters, and the uplifting breeze that sweeps through the lofty leaves of the palm trees. Here I would begin a day of sheer paradise by waking up in one of the hotel’s spacious,
comfortable rooms; 80% of which face the oceans for breathtaking views of the beach landscape. With such a close proximity to the breathtaking Bavaro Beach, the hotel gave me easy access to the best that the island has to offer. The beach is protected by a coral reef, which ensures a perfect, calm current to explore the beautiful water. And after a day of these adrenaline-fueled experiences, unwind I would appreciate unwinding in a comfortable space in the resort’s spa, and refuel in the evening at the casino, clubs and performances. The Westin Punta Cana lines three miles of the Playa Blanca shoreline, with white sand beaches separating the resort paradise from the surrounding turquoise water. Offering everything fun under the Caribbean sun— including two championship golf courses, and a world class spa—this 26-square-mile slice of paradise is the perfect place to check all the ticks on your island-vacation getaway bucket list. Santo Domingo
The colonial city of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, is just 2.5 hours from Punta Cana, and home to some of the best preserved structures of the area’s heritage. One of the largest cities in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo is home to over 4 million people and though as early as five years ago it may have been dangerous to even walk the streets of the city during the day, it has undergone a renaissance of sorts and continues to become safer and more welcoming to tourists. Despite this change being especially prominent in the Colonial City, the authenticity of the heritage and culture have remained remarkably steadfast. New stores and bike tour companies now neighbor an enormous, landmark castle, once owned by the son of Christopher Columbus. It also is home to innovative cultural spaces, such as museum and galleries, with unique additions such as micro theatres and bookstores. There are two main colonial monuments that have been built in the early sixteenth century that have fully restored as museums. I love that the city is alive with
vibrant colors, music and a vast array of delicious, international dining options. Where to Stay: En route to Santo Domingo, the self-proclaimed “most exclusive resort in the Caribbean” is the stunning 7,000-acre Casa de Campo Resort and Villas. Guests can spend their days on the ultra-secluded secluded shores of the nearby Catalina and Saona Islands. Casa de Campo is also home to Teeth of the Dog—the #1 ranked golf course in the Caribbean. There is also superb tennis courts and polo facilities, as well as an expansive list of daily activities, such as water sports and outdoor excursions.
Additionally, Royal Hideaway Hotel is a luxury accommodation conveniently located in the capital of the Dominican Republic. It offers five-star comfort for guests looking to explore the historical and cultural trove that is the stimulating, colorful, and multi-cultural city of Santo Domingo. All of the El Embajdor’s 298 rooms come complete with spectacular views of either the sparkling blue Caribbean Sea, the captivating cityscape of the lively Santo Domingo, or the tranquil scene of the resort’s exotic gardens. Samana
Samana is situated on the northeast cost of Dominican Republic, about a two hour’s drive north from Santo Domingo and four hours from Punta Cana. Samana lies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in the northeastern part of the Dominican Republic. It is formed almost entirely by mountains, whose looming adjacency to the province’s endless beaches, coves, bays, and waterfalls, makes for a picture-perfect backdrop for your island getaway. It is a trove of natural treasures that does not only offer awe-inspiring views, but also the perfect location to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. En route to Samana, you would be remiss to miss Cueva Fun Fun, an eight-hour or so excursion that shows you the highlights of popular activities in the area. The company offers complementary pick-up and drop-off between your hotel, and provides a comprehensive itinerary of horseback riding, hiking, repelling, and, finally, exploring the deep
trenches of the largest cave in the Caribbean comprised of over 28 kilometers of tunnels and underground passages.
Samana is an entirely different world from Punta Cana. Waterfalls and fjords replace flashy five-star nightlife. One of the highlights of the region is Los Haitises National Park, a paradise made of limestone karst plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, all navigable by boat. My adventure cap on—Indiana Jones style—I discovered petroglyphs—fascinating and spooky at the same time, dating back hundreds of years to the time of the Taino people. Where to Stay: The Luxury Bahia Principe Samana, tucked into an unspoiled cliff along the coast, features an adults-only, all-inclusive experience, whose program is guided towards your wellness and self-care. The spa in the luxury Bahia Principe’s Samana is a high-tech haven set against the cliff-side view. It is complete with a Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, tropical storm shower, and dynamic pool. For those truly looking to unwind, take advantage of the resort’s WE Wellness Experience — an exclusive program of intensive care. There is a choice of the different types of therapies offered: WECare for a relaxing experience, WE-Train for sport’s therapy, and WE-Balance, a harmonic senses therapy.
A short ferry ride away is the fantasy getaway that awaits you at the Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, situated on the idyllic island of Cayo Levantado. This allinclusive escape offers an ideal environment to unwind and collect unforgettable memories of otherworldly beauty. The secluded beach setting of Cayo Levantado is an aweinspiring vision of transcendental beauty, and includes the world-renowned, pristine bay of Playa Rincon. It is a setting that awards countless opportunities to become intimate with the gorgeous nature that surrounds you. Whether your trying it for the first time or just shaking off the rust, the resort’s water sport program has options that I very much enjoyed.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Malawi “ Wa r m H e a r t o f A f r i c a ” by Olivia Balsinger
ou can spend an eternity in Malawi and not discover it all. Though it may be small in physical size, this southern African is a fascinating country that is just as culturally diverse as it is geographically diverse. Amidst a mountainous landscape and verdant scenery lies Africa’s third-largest lake: Lake Malawi, a stunning mass of water that is home to a wide array of wildlife and where a plethora of activities take place like swimming, diving and hiking. Though Malawi hasn’t always been recognized as a safari destination, luxury lodges are becoming more prevalent. And I would be remiss to not mention the welcoming, kindhearted people of Malawi—after all, it is nicknamed “Warm Heart of Africa” for a reason. I recently spent a week discov-
ering the magic of Malawi and the following are my recommendations. Kumbali Country Lodge
Just ten minutes away from Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe, at the end of a peaceful treelined road, lies Kumbali County Lodge. Located on a forest reserve and daily farm, the lodge’s 650-hectare property provides a gorgeous setting to enjoy nature walks, exotic bird and wildlife spotting, or guided tours down the Malawi River. A short, rather beautiful walk brought me to Malawi Cultural Village, where I entirely immersed myself in the country’s traditional food, dancing, singing, drumming, and arts & crafts; there is also the Permaculture Center, which offers education on practical solutions
for the growing food crisis on both the national and international level. A perfect stopover for excursions down Lake Malawi, the lodge boasts cozy accommodations in sixteen thatched suits that include ensuite bathrooms and private verandas, as well as world-class cuisine in their onsite restaurant. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
In the eastern region of Malawi, nestled in the Chipata Mountain range is the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, whose miombo forests feed of a vast network of rivers running along a rolling, verdant hillside. The reserve is home to over 280 bird species, making it one of the most important aviary habitats in the country. More recently, in July and August of 2016 and 2017,
Nkhotakota became poised as one of Malawi’s most important wildlife sanctuaries, when it hosted a translocation of 520 elephants and more than 1,400 game animals from areas such as Liwonde and Majete. This historic transfer came after decades of poaching and timber harvested, which left many key mammal species scarce and its natural habitat destructed. Today, however, the 19,000-hectare sanctuary allows for the safe reintroduction of species, and promotes sustainability within the local communities to combat issues of poverty, hunger, poaching, and environmental destruction.
were locally sourced, made either in the village or in Malawi. It is a small camp, catering to fourteen people, with three reed chalets and two walk-in tents. Each chalet comes equipped with an en-suite bathroom, deck with a hammock and a breathtaking view of the placid waters. There is also a dining area with a lounge, where I’d enjoy a refreshing drink under the shade of a baobab tree, and relax after participating in one of the camp’s many activities, such as kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and hiking.
Tongole Wilderness Lodge
Located deep within the woodlands of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the oldest National Park in Malawi, is the Tongole Wilderness Lodge. A model of eco-tourism, the lodge’s commitment to local sustainability and wildlife conservation, as its provision of employment opportunities has brought substantial amount of hope and pride to a deprived part of the country. Billed as one of Africa’s and possibly Malawi’s last remaining pristine, unexploited wilderness, this high-end lodge poised on the forested banks of the Bua River was the perfect haven to call home during my safari. It was a perfect mix of all—I was able to partake the activities offered onsite, such as wildlife safaris, fly fishing, fly camping, and canoe tours. Lodging consists of four luxury riverside suites, with options for a super kingsized bed or two twin beds, perfectly accommodating two adults. The ensuite spaces come equipped with a spacious shower, twin marble basins, and hand-built sunken bath that doubles as a plunge pool.
It is hard to think of what could possibly be “off the beaten path” when it comes to a safari — an event that is itself one of the most unique experiences that someone can treat themselves to during their lifetime. A stay at the Huntingdon House, however, may very well redefine the safari experience by offering lodging that is more akin to a bed and breakfast, rather than the traditional game lodges common to the area. The house was built in the mod 1930s, following the decision of its founder, Maclean Kay, to halt her journey home back to Scotland and begin instead a life in the African paradise that had come to love. Now known as the Satemwa Tea Estate, which also a working tea and coffee estate, the House is still run by Kay’s family. In fact, fourth generation Kays can commonly be seen picking flowers in the garden, or stealing cookies in the kitchen — a touching, familiar aspect that draws visitors to this gorgeous estate throughout the year. Five spacious rooms are yours to choose from—my favorite aspect was waking up to the smell of freshly baked biscuits every morn’.
Situated in the middle of Lake Malawi is an unspoiled, deserted tropical island, whose pristine topography offers an off-the-grid getaway, with accommodations that are both extremely comfortable and inspiringly eco-friendly. The camp ground itself is perched on high, overlooking jagged rocks and tranquil water. It is built of timer, thatch and canvas, and only uses furnishings that
Just of the Shire River, which runs through the western border of Malawi’s Liwonde National Park, sits Mvuu Lodge — an accommodation comprised of eight elegant lodgings where I would rest my head in luxury. Its situation high above the water allows for breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness, where I bore witness to herds of majestic beasts gathering to
feed, drink and frolic. The name 69 Mvuu, after all, does translate to ‘hippo’ in Chichewa, attesting to the high numbers of the animals in the Shire River. Each lodge includes an ensuite bathroom facility, as well as a private viewing platform where you can daydream in the sun, gazing out upon the glistening lagoon. Liwonde National Park
Despite its modest size of 220 square miles, Liwonde National Park in central Malawi is one of the area’s most popular game reserves. And although it does not have the largest number of big game animals compared to other African countries, it is nonetheless a national treasure not to be missed: due to the River Shire flowing along its western border, Liwonde attracts a large number of hippos and elephants, as well as kudu, sable, and bushbuck. There is also an impressive population of elephants, as well as the occasional leopard, hyena, lion, and black rhino spotting — the latter of which was recently re-introduced into the habitat. The park’s smaller size allows for a more intimate safari experience compared to other parks in the area. Liwonde is also a haven for bird enthusiasts, with one of the best year-round bird watching opportunities throughout Central and Southern Africa. Rare species that call Liwonde home include the Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pel’s FishingOwl, Spur-winged Lapwing, Lillian’s Lovebird, and the elusive Brown-breasted Barbet. The park may be accessed via Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe. The most common option for visitors, however, is to travel via chartered plane from Blantyre — a 30-minute journey. Getting There
Though it may feel like an isolated and unspoiled area of the world, travelling to Malawi from North America is actually quite simple. Travelers can fly to Johannesburg on South African Airways (SAA) and then take a connecting flight to either Lilongwe or Blantyre.
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Serendipity in Villa Clara, Cuba
Article and photography by Steve Gillick
he Driver’s Bar in the town of San Juan de los Remedios, in the northern Cuban province of Villa Clara, has a 1950’s retro look, thanks to the mural behind the bar. While they serve beer, mojitos and sandwiches to locals and visitors alike, the Bar is a magnet for curious photographers and art lovers. And luck would have it that as soon as I entered the bar to take some photos, I was greeted by the artist who had been commissioned to paint the mural as part of the restoration of the building in 2014. Roaidi Cartaya
Carbajal was born in Remedios in 1972 and has become a recognizable artist and personality in Cuba for his depictions of life in his home town. As for the 1957 black Dodge Coupe with bright yellow fins that was parked across from the Bar, that’s also one of Carbajal’s projects, where the cars of the 1950’s represent art, design, memories, Cuban history and Cuban culture. But as he was explaining this to me we were interrupted by a loud rumbling of motorcycles as a
number of rough and tough looking men and women clad in leathers and Club colors, parked down the street. The leader, wearing mirrored sunglasses strode directly toward us and I bravely asked “Are you a friendly motorcycle gang or should I be concerned”? His immediate response, accompanied by a charismatic smile, was “Oh we are very friendly”. And after some conversation and laughter, the Club members, who I later learned were award winners at various
international and local competitions, lined up outside the bar for photos. While a chance meeting with a notable artist and then a motorcycle club, within a few minutes of each other, may seem unusual, it’s a perfect example of what travelers refer to as ‘serendipity’: the unplanned occurrence of situations that are both positive and memorable. And in northern Cuba, serendipity comes in all shapes and forms: tranquility, wonderful food, smiling personalities, warm conversations, pink flamingos, music and history. The Province of Villa Clara is located in the very north of central Cuba, not only touching the Atlantic Ocean, but actually including an archipelago or group of some 500 small islands (or Keys or Cayos). The original name of this historical area was, Las Villas or ‘The Cities’, referring to four cities founded in the 16th and 17th centuries, including San Juan de los Remedios which is believed to be Cuba’s third oldest city, dating to 1514. But as Cuba fast-tracks the building of a modern tourism infrastructure in response to the needs of travellers, great emphasis has been placed on the Cayos. A Causeway, known as the Pedraplen, located about one hour’s drive from Santa Clara airport, joins Cayos Las Brujas, Cayo Ensenachos and Cayo Santa Maria, bringing visitors to a part of Cuba that many find irresistible. Case in point, George and Lori from Dieppe, New Brunswick, explained that they spent three weeks at the Dhawa Hotel on Las Brujas in 2017 and returned in 2018 for peace and quiet, sunrise walks on the beach, conversations with the friendly resort staff, and to simply relax and unwind from their busy ‘real-life’ schedules. But the other value-factor for the couple was the food. While some visitors to Cuba have bemoaned the mediocre taste of food in general, it seems that the further East – and North – you travel in the country, the fresher the ingredients become and the better the preparation, presentation and taste of the dishes. And this is accom-
plished through training, international partnerships and the passion and creativity of a growing number of millennial chefs. We visited several properties on the three Cayos and not only were they well maintained and architecturally pleasing to the eye, but the food was quite commendable, from the ‘amuse bouches’ to entrees such as chicken, seafood, beef and pork, and on to the vegetables, salads, soups, and deserts. These hotels included Playa Cayo Santa Maria, Hotel Iberostar Ensenachos, Hotel Valentin Perla Blanca, Hotel Melia las Dunas, and Las Terrazas. And in northern Cuba visitors can also enjoy farm fare at places such as the Hotel Granjita in Santa Clara and El Curujet Restaurant in Finca La Cabana outside of Remedios, where freshly grilled chicken, pork and corn are served with Moros (Beans and Rice), steamed vegetables and fruit for desert (bananas, papayas, pineapple, watermelon, mangoes and more). An ice-cold Bucanero or Cristal beer is perfect on a hot Cuban afternoon but for the cocktail crowd, it’s good to know that aside from Cuban classics such as the Mojito, Cuba Libre or Pina Colada, the cocktail movement is very strong in this part of the country through the efforts of talented, trained mixologists. They say that music is ubiquitous in Cuba and in the north it ranges from the addictive rhythms of Cuban folk tunes, to the iconic songs of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban rhythms and even includes The Beatles and Leonard Cohen. At a festival in the town of La Estrella, the Conga La Salsa Drum troupe entertained the crowds of locals and visitors with their hypnotic beat, and every so often, the drummers would form in a tight circle, beating the drums even harder, feeding off each other’s enthusiasm, and energizing the spectators. The towns and cities in Villa Clara are perfect for exploring and soaking up the local culture. Santa Clara is the capital city of the province, best known for the Mausoleum of
Che Guevara, the resting place of 71 the Cuban revolutionary hero and some of his comrades, as well as the Museo Historico de la Revolucion, where visitors can learn more about Che’s life. Sagua La Grande is a city in the western part of the province. The downtown area was declared a National Monument in 2011 in order to celebrate and preserve the colorful neoclassic, eclectic, modern and art nouveau architectural styles. A walk through the plazas and the streets leads to the Puente el Triunfo, the bridge that crosses the eponymous river that has become a symbol of the city. Caibarien is the town near the southern end of the Causeway. The Old Sugar Mill, now a Museum, provides insight into the sugar cane industry (along with a sampling of freshly squeezed Sugar Cane Juice— with optional rum, of course) but the museum grounds also feature a collection of old locomotives, some which are perfect for photos and selfies. Visitors can even take a short train ride on one of the steam trains and get a glimpse of rural Cuba. A farmer, laboriously tilling the soil with a wooden plough and oxen took the time to wave at me. That’s Cuba for you! As we were heading back to our accommodation on the Causeway, a bright flash of pink in one of the swampy areas reminded us that we were in the UNESCO-recognized Buenavista Biosphere Reserve, where nature-lovers, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts can not only follow hiking trails but also see flocks of American Pink Flamingos, Cormorants, Egrets, Stilts, Brown Pelicans and 270 or so other species of birds and wildlife. Villa Clara is a great area to relax, explore, savour, converse, tap your feet, indulge in history, put on your dancing shoes, or just do nothing. For Cuba first-timers or return visitors, it offers those serendipitous experiences that translate into travel value. www.gocuba.ca
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
Dominica The Little Island that Could Article and photography by Michael Morcos
ominicans are one tough people! They showed an incredible resilience in the face of the worst disaster to ever hit this island nation. This I can say after a trip that showed how the recovery from Hurricane Maria was taking shape right before us. Yes, there were signs of the destruction wreaked on the island, but in certain places you would have to look closely to find the evidence. In the months after the Category 5 storm, the Dominicans have reclaimed their beloved Island.
Dominica is one of the greenest islands in the Caribbean and an outdoor paradise to the active traveler. Mother Nature has a strong hold here, with a deep tropical forest, hidden coves, colonial forts and more. Although tourism has developed more slowly than on neighbouring islands, Dominicaâ€™s mountains, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots make it attractive to adventurers and it is quickly becoming a popular eco-tourism destination.
With so many things to discover we were excited to start our journey. Picard Beach Cottages
Our first stay would be at the fabulous Picard Beach Cottages. Located in the north â€“ west and facing the gentler Caribbean side, the cottages are placed in the heart of the best beaches of Dominica. This is a destination on its own, where guests can relax in tranquility by the sea or in their own rooms.
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The accommodations were ocean front, and I mean that literally. You just cannot get closer to the beach without being in the water. The all natural wood units have a separate bedroom, large washroom, a kitchen, and a living room, but the best part of the cottages is the large shaded patio where you can breathe in that beautiful ocean air and watch the waves roll in. This property is best known as the temporary home of the crew, executives and movie stars during the filming ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean 2’ movie. Each cottage had a name that corresponded to the person that stayed there. Indian River Experience
There is a special vibe that comes with the island life. During this escapade, we would be offered a chance to meet Cobra. A local Dominican, he would lead us into the jungle and discuss the flora and fauna with admiration and passion. It was amazing to watch him in action; he was a strong man and had to be. There were many times he
had to row the boat with many passengers up stream to a bush bar. Once there, we would be treated to wonderful, locally sourced rum and enjoy the superb setting by the river bank and the dense forest with reggae music playing in the background. Cabrits National Park – Fort Shirley
Fort Shirley stands in the north of Dominica and is considered to be the island’s most historic site. In 1802, African slave soldiers took over the garrison and their action helped to put in motion a revolution that eventually resulted in all slave soldiers in the British Empire being made free in 1807. This historical value was an added bonus to the spectacular views that it provided. Thanks to its strategic placement high on a mountain originally intended to spot invading navies, we were treated to a unique look at the bay below.
Visit to Kalinago Barana Aute
This is a local (first nation) tribe, and they are one of the only such people left in the West Indies. Sharing their history and traditions, the Kalinago people offer an interpretation center, snack bar, gift shop, and a tour that begins after crossing a footbridge and following a circular trail on the northern side. The trail leads to a series of small huts (ajoupas) that are located throughout the site, all featuring traditional activities such as canoe building, cassava root processing, basket weaving and herb collection and preparation. A central arrangement of small huts with the main Karbet (biggest hut) is used for cultural and theatrical performances. It is a world of colour and pageantry, where the nation's first people's talent and pride are abundantly on display.
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This was one of the best meals of the trip. The setting was perfect as it sits high on top of a hill overlooking the forest and built in a wooden structure. We feasted on barbecued chicken with vegetables and vast selection of local rum and lots of reggae music. A great island style meal and an experience to remember.
main marina with the ferry port and markets just a few metres from its entrance. It has spacious rooms and wonderful balconies with ocean front views. The hotel underwent many renovations and now has all the modern amenities a traveller could want and has also been able to keep its old world charm. The luxury is coupled well with ideal exposure to Dominicaâ€™s vibrant culture and delicious cuisine.
The hurricaneâ€™s rampage left this hidden cove damaged, but like the islanders, its resilience has helped it rebound. Most of the damaged trees have been cleared from the area and the Emerald Pool has returned to its former splendour.
As the capital and largest city of Dominica, Roseau is small and urban city surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, the Roseau River and Morne Bruce and is the oldest settlement on the island.
Islet View Restaurant
After a short walk along a nature trail, we found this magnificent piece of paradise. A river flows fresh from the mountains and over the 50-foot Emerald Falls plunge into a swirling basin that collects the clear, inviting water. Though it is quite cold, it is also really refreshing. Reggae surprise
The main languages in Dominica were English and some French as this island has changed hands many times in its history. And still, while tourism is such a major industry, there is a multitude of languages spoken. If you can imagine we even heard mandarin in a local eatery run by Taiwanese. However, the most internationally recognised sound was the unmistakable Reggae beat. The music was found in every corner of the island and it was not pushed on to us as tourists, but it is a favourite of the Dominicans themselves. The dress and dreadlocks of many of the locals attested to the culture of the area as well. Fort Young Hotel
This is the best the island has to offer. It is built in an old fort right in the heart of the capital and sits moments away from the
Canadian World Traveller Summer 2018
The city is filled with tourist eye candy, with its combination of modern and colonial French architecture, reggae music playing and the odors and scents of the exotic food wafting through the air. It is a great base of operations, and is close to the second-largest hot lake in the world, Boiling Lake, as well as waterfalls, thermal springs, and scenic plateaus including Morne Bruce, which provides panoramic views of most of downtown Roseau and of the Botanic Gardens at its base. There are also magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea, particularly spectacular when cruise liners are in port. The little island that could
Amazing welcoming people, world class hotels, fabulous local and international cuisine, warm climate, beaches, forests, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, hiking and horseback riding trials and wonderful diving makes this little island the perfect vacation destination. All this without the massive resorts, congestion and overcrowded touristic scenes. Dominica is a paradise island still to be discovered. But be forewarned, many have and come here for a visit and some have stayed and made it home.