Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19 Issue

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Cruise News









Traveller Already 17 Years

Winter 2018-19

X i ’A n

warriors, walls & wonder

C o m e

Wi t h

U s


S e e

T h e

Wo r l d !

Welcome to World Traveler

Published by Canadian World Traveller 5473 Royalmount, suite 224 TMR (Montreal) Qc H4P 1J3 American World Traveler 347 5th Ave, suite 1402 New York, NY 10016 Tel, : 1-855-738-8232 Publisher Michael Morcos Editor-in-chief Greg James Contributing Editor David J. Cox Graphic Department Al Cheong Advertising Department Leo Santini Marketing Department Tania Tassone Distribution Royce Dillon Senior Travel Writers: Susan Campbell Steve Gillick Regular Contributors: Habeeb Salloum Jennifer Merrick Olivia Balsinger Natalie Ayotte Johanna Read Jasmine Morcos Ilona Kauremszky Mike Cohen Mathieu Morcos Gregory Caltabanis Anne-Marie Macloughlin Daniel Smajovits Cherie DeLory Contributors This Issue: Stephen Smith Doreen Hemlock 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.


n this issue, we start our world escapade in Beautiful China by visiting the best of Xi’an and amongst many things: the unbelievable Terra Cotta warriors and magnificent Muslim district. While in China we head inland to experience the bustling district of Chongqing and then to cruise the mighty Yangtze. We then finish our Asia tour with a wonderful ‘Adventure in Western Japan’ and taste its bounties from the sea. Next, we start the European leg of our journey, we visit Athens and the wonderful Acropolis and its museum and all the best this worldly city has to offer before heading to Prague’s old town square to see the beautiful and refurbished Astronomical Clock. Not far by, we take a cruise with AmaWaterways and visit many countries and the beautiful scenery along the Danube from Nuremberg to Vienna. In Northern Ireland we continue with a ‘Walking Adventure from Londonderry to Belfast’. We take yet another cruise this time to the far north. In Norway we join the Viking Sea and head to the many coastal communities in the land of the midnight sun.

Our trip continues, now to Africa and to the Spanish Canary islands to discover the little know but wonderful island of Tenerife and its multitude of offerings. In Uganda we head to the highlands and find the Gorillas are doing well and ‘Three New Gorilla Families are now Habituated’. We finish this segment to the far south with a tour of South Africa. To the Americas we go, in the east we feel ‘the Vibe in Maryland’ in this historic state. In the west we explore ‘Canada’s First National Park’ in beautiful Banff and then to a wonderful retreat in British Colombia and a time out to relax and recharge in this natural Canadian paradise. In Central America we take in ‘A Costa Rica Wildlife Vacation’ and finally, to Guyana and a visit to the awesome Kaeiteur Falls. Happy travels!

At h e n s



X i ’ A n - Wa r r i o r s , Wa l l s & Wo n d e r 8

Cruise News

E x p l o r i n g B a n f f - C a n a d a ’ s Fi r s t N a t i o n a l Pa r k 1 0

Viking Cruise

A n A d v e n t u r e i n We s t e r n J a p a n 1 2

Yangtze Cruise

Fe e l i n g t h e E n e r g y a t t h e Ya s o d h a r a A s h r a m 1 4

A m a Wa t e r w a y s C r u i s e

A for Athens 38 A N o r t h e r n I r e l a n d Wa l k i n g A d v e n t u r e f r o m L o n d o n d e r r y t o B e l f a s t 4 0

Fe e l i n g t h e V i b e i n M a r y l a n d 5 4

Stay & Play - 58

A C o s t a R i c a W i l d l i f e Va c a t i o n 5 6 A V i s i t t o G u y a n a ’ s K a e i t e u r Fa l l s 7 0 3 - 2 - 1 G o Te n e r i f e ! 7 2

A ro u n d t h e Wo r l d 1 6

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge



Xi’An Wa r r i o r s , Wa l l s & Wo n d e r Article and photography by Michael Morcos


ust cannot get enough of China!

With 13 trips and counting, one particular destination had eluded me for two decades. Surprising how I never made it here before as it is one of the most visited cities in China and part of the classic itinerary that included Beijing and Shanghai. But Xi’an was now in my sights and I was ready. Both Shanghai and Beijing are great destinations. They are sophisticated, modern and worldly, and so is Xi’an. The real difference is Xi’an is all so cultivated, inviting and has many centuries of recorded history and wonderful attractions.

Our time here would bring us to the most iconic sites, from the famous terra cotta warriors to everyday life of the local Muslims to world class shows. In the end, I would have many fond memories of the city that thrilled and at times mesmerized me. Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses

The number one attraction in Xi’an and one of the top sites in China is nothing less than the unbelievable Terra Cotta warriors. Seeing them in magazines and on TV is just a tease, as seeing them live is amazing. Row upon row of individual looking soldiers, generals and horses captivate all who visit. The story gets even more interesting as our guide would explain the history. The figures, date from at least the the late third century

BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers. They are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Terracotta Army, as it is known, is a collection of sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, and was a form of funerary art with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. It is believed that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses. Absolutely astounding! Muslim Street

Our visit to Muslim street was a wonderful surprise and also something very different from the Terra Cotta warriors - and even anything else I had ever seen in China. After

all, this religious group that came here centuries ago with the silk trade. The first Muslims came from central Asia when the silk route first started, and have been a very important part of the province of Shaanxi and China.

that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang are housed. Today, the interior walls of the pagoda also feature engraved statues of Buddha by the renowned artist Yan Liben.

This rather short street had a carnival atmosphere with bright and colourful neon lights, and much shouting and haggling by merchants wanting your attention to sell their goods. Vendors sold anything and everything you could want to eat, and that is literally the truth as they had many exotic things such as insects and animal parts I would never be able to name.

Huaqing Palace

Great Mosque of Xi'an

Still unimaginable, there were actually mosques here, which is not something I would usually associate with China. A very beautiful area with well-kept grounds. The main buildings looked nothing like you would see in the Middle East. Instead, to an untrained eye, it would look just like any historic Chinese building. Our time here was fascinating and our interaction with locals was brief but meaningful, they welcomed us in with proud smiles. Xi’an City Wall

Yet another wonder is the historic center of Xi’an were the fortifying walls, one of the oldest, largest and best preserved Chinese city walls. In its time, it was an engineering marvel encompassing more than 14 sq./km. So massive was the structure that it was a physical deterrent to its enemies and the city was never successfully raided. Features of this fortress are four main gates on each side of the rectangular structure, ramparts every 120 meters, a moat and watch-towers. From the walls one can see the ancient city to the inner side and the modern part of the city to the outside. Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda was built in 652 during the Tang dynasty. Within it, sutras and figurines of the Buddha


Huaqing Palace, also known as the Huaqing Hot spring, has a long, mysterious past, and legend has it that it can cure diseases which attracted many emperors to build palaces nearby. Visitors can visit an associated museum. If you are lucky enough to come during the period between April and October, you will be able to watch the musical performance named “Song of Everlasting Sorrow”, presented with a backdrop of the Lishan Mountain and the ponds, pavilions, corridors and palaces in the background. The performance is a historical drama with dazzling lights, beautiful music and dance, lavish costumes and the grand stage. Shows galore

Every night we were in Xi’an we were able to watch live performances. Just like the numerous shows I had the privilege of watching all over China, these here would be incredibly well choreographed and directed with lots of enthusiastic singing, lively dance, colourful costumes, and impressive elaborate sets. Wonderful in person, they are a joy to relive once I got home and flipped through the picture and short videos, I always find a bit of something more to the show which I originally missed. This only proves how deep these performances really are. Xi’an, the past, now and forever

As China is such a wonderful destination, immensely fascinating, culturally diverse with a long and colourful history so it goes that Xi’an is the same with a back foot planted in the past and a strong leg stretching out to the future.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Exploring Banff Canada’s First National Park

WT Photo Library

Article and photography by Jennifer Merrick


strong odour, which smelled like peeled hard boiled eggs – a little on the rotten side—hit us as we entered.

“It’s not me; I had a bath,” joked our Parks Canada guide, Amar Athwal. We were at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of Banff National Park and Canada’s federal park system, which now encompasses over three dozen parks and 174,000 square miles of protected lands and waters. And it all came about because of this pungent odour. Well, more specifically, of where the smell was coming from -- the sulphurous, emerald hot springs along the aptly named Sulphur Mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

Athwal explained that this area had a long human history and was known to indigenous nations for over 14,000 years. Europeans first discovered it in the late 1800s, when an explorer slipped in the marsh and discovered the water was warm. “I’m sure they followed their noses as well,” said Athwal. News of these magical waters travelled to the capital, and parliament passed an act to set aside ‘a hot spring reserve’ officially declaring it ‘for the benefit of all Canadians’, making it the country’s first protected natural space and the second in North America (after Yellowstone). In the 1930s, it was expanded, encompassing 2,564 sq. mi and became Banff National Park.

This mountain wilderness reserve proved to be a benefit not only to Canada but to the world. Each year, over 3.6 million visitors from around the globe come to awe at the stunning alpine landscapes and wildlife. We experienced both and so much more on our visit to Alberta; I was even grateful for the smell, because that made it all possible. Here were some of the highlights: Lake Louise Banff’s most iconic of views is justifiably famous. The jade green colour of the glacial lake changes constantly depending on the light, but is always a jewel set in the towering peaks that surround it. Close to its shores is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury

historic hotel that looks like a castle out of a fairy tale. After a leisurely hike along its shores, we lunched at the Lakeview Lounge, where it was hard to concentrate on the food with a window looking out at the mesmerizing views. About 30 minutes up the mountain was another unforgettable sight, the 20-dollar view of Moraine Lake. This glacial lake with its enchanting aquamarine colour, was the scene on Canada’s 20-dollar bill from 1969-1979. Banff Gondola Hiking up Sulphur Mountain that overlooks Banff takes close to two hours and is somewhat arduous, but the Banff gondola lifted us up above the clouds in a mere eight minutes. At the top, we strolled along the ridgetop boardwalk, where the atmospheric mist occasionally parted revealing glimpses of the mountain peaks. In addition to the breathtaking views, there’s an interpretive centre, a theater, 360-degree observation deck and restaurants. Choices included Castle Mountain Coffee for a quick pick-me-up, Northern Lights for a marketstyled eatery and Sky Bistro for an upscale dining experience. Elk Encounters Spotting wildlife is a huge draw for visitors, and park residents include bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, elk and coyotes. Of course, not being a zoo, there are no guarantees as we discovered well into our visit. The big-horn sheep that often hang out on the top of Sulphur Mountain by the gondola were nowhere to be seen. We kept our eyes peeled as we drove through the park; but as much as we enjoyed the scenery, not a creature stirred. Finally, at a scenic lookout point off Compound Road, I saw a yellow-furred mammal flitting through the trees. “Look!” I cried and grabbed a friend’s arm. And there it was –a golden retriever. On our last day in Banff, we had yet to see any of its wild inhabitants. A local shared with us that one of the best places to spot wildlife was on the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. It didn’t take long on our drive to be rewarded with the sighting of a lone bull with


antlers so wide I half expected it to tip over. But as the biggest deer species alive at over 700 pounds, he could handle the rack that could grow over four feet above his head.

was an ideal way to end a day of mountain exploring, and fitting considering that it was a hot bath that started it all.

While we snapped pictures, he sauntered right in front of us. Then something amazing happened. He raised his head and emitted a sound the likes of which I had never heard before, a sound that I never would have expected from an animal this size. Not a deep roar or a booming trumpeting, but a shrill, high-pitched banshee shriek. These rutting calls are called bugles and are only heard during mating time.

Getting There and Things to do in Calgary, Alberta

Amazed, I wished him luck as he disappeared into the trees. He would need it since two minutes down the road, smack in the middle of the golf course, we spotted an entire heard of elk. About a dozen females, a few resting in the sand traps, and one very large lone bull stood in front, guarding his harem, ready to fight any competitors.

As most visitors do, we flew into Calgary, Alberta, and rented a car. It’s a scenic 90minute drive from the city to Banff. Parks Canada also offers a shuttle on summer weekends, and there are private transport options for those who prefer not to drive. Many people go straight from the airport to the mountains. This is a mistake. Rooted in its western hospitality, Calgary has come into its own in recent years with a thriving chef-driven culinary scene, a creative arts and cultural community and festivals throughout the year. Here are just a few ways to enjoy Alberta’s largest city:

Note: this time of year, people have to be especially careful around these normally docile creatures. Parks Canada recommends three bus lengths of space.

Savour a meal at one of the city’s innovative restaurants. My favourite dining experiences were at Bread and Circus, Foreign Concept and Deane House.

Banff Sleeps and Eats

Enjoy a cocktail or two. For a smaller-sized city, Calgary has made a big name for itself on the cocktail circuit gaining accolades and awards in international competitions. Stars on scene are Proof, Native Tongues, Klein Harris and Hotel Arts.

The town of Banff itself has a population of approximately 7,500 and accommodation that ranges from the luxurious and historic Banff Fairmont Springs to bed and breakfasts and hostels. There’s shopping and a sizable selections of cafes, eateries and restaurants. One in particular should be on your list (unless you’re a vegetarian). Chuck’s Steakhouse, a western-style restaurant, prides itself on their steak and for good reason. Their menu features a range of locally-sourced beef with an on-site aging room. Our waiter educated us on various cuts and preparations available and made recommendations based on our preferences. In the end, we shared a family-styled platter of prime, Wagyu and grass-fed steaks that were grilled to perfection. We stayed at the Moose Hotel, which was impossible to miss because of the large sculpture of a moose in front. Their suites were spacious and had fully-equipped kitchens and fireplaces in the living area. Their rooftop pool

Stroll Calgary’s oldest neighborhood. Inglewood has art galleries, vintage shopping, nature preserves (including a bird sanctuary) and great dining. Visit the pandas at the Calgary Zoo. Discover the urban pathway along the Bow River by bike or on foot. Nomad Mobile Gear Rental outfitters offer tours that show Calgary’s impressive networks of trail. And if you happen to be here from July 5 to 14th, join the city’s biggest party –The Calgary Stampede.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


An Adventure in Western Japan

Article and photography by Steve Gillick


ertainly one of the joys of re-visiting Japan is that on each successive trip (this was my 18th visit) there are still so many amazing places to discover. On our latest quest in the West, we encountered both Heaven, in Izumo - the dwelling of the gods, and Hell in Kannawa - in the hot springs, called ‘Jigoku’. But throughout our adventure in Western Japan, it was the small towns, natural attractions, shrines, local personalities, accommodations and food that made just about every moment of the eightday journey, ‘pop’ with excitement, energy and enthusiasm.

It all began with a one hour flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the city of Tottori, where we immediately set out to visit the famous sand dunes. The first views were captivating as before us lay a large, flat plain with one large dune, about 50 meters high, on which a procession of people were slowly climbing the ankle deep sand. We ignored the signs pointing to the chair lift and the camel rides, as we wanted to experience this national, natural treasure first hand. We trudged over to the dune and then up to the top where, with dramatic grey clouds overhead, the scenery of the coast and the Sea of

Japan was a notch above spectacular. And for the next hour or so we took photos of the coast, the dunes, the tourists, the colourful hang gliders and even the camels, as well as taking time to just sit in the sand, listen to the waves and feel the breeze. Quite the experience! And with the Sea of Japan top-of mind, we headed to the Karoichi Market. The stalls specialize in selling Beni Zuwai Gani (red Snow crabs) and huge squid, one of which was just short of a meter long and selling for roughly $89.00 U.S. In the grocery section,

there were bags of cherry tomatoes next to Tottori’s famous, sweet shinko-nashi pears.

Shrine. No wonder they call this area ‘the dwelling of the gods’.

For lunch we went to Karokou and enjoyed Kaisen Don, a large bowl of delicious, fresh, assorted seafood on a bed of rice, with Miso soup and pickles on the side.

And with ‘heavenly’ thoughts in mind, it was only natural for our next westward destination to be Beppu in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. We bought one day bus passes and headed to Kannawa to see the hot springs and geysers. The town itself is a great place to wander, with free steamy foot baths, restaurants where you put on heavy duty gloves and steam your own dishes, shrines where you can drink pure spring water for good health and good luck, and numerous hot baths where, for a small fee, you can soak to your heart’s content.

The next morning, bright and early we were on the road again, or more accurately, the rails, as we used our Japan Rail Passes to continue westward to the city of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture. Our first stop was the Izumo Taisha Shrine, one the earliest Shinto Shrines in the country. And similar to most Shrines, a Torii gate marks the entrance to the sacred area, followed by a walkway through a long forested path. The main structure, only accessible with special permission or through Imperiall lineage, is characterized by ‘chigi’, large scissor-like structures on the roof, used as a building support technique. Nearby, Kagura Hall features the largest sacred straw rope (shimenawa) in the country, reportedly weighing 5 tons. And throughout the Shrine, the trees are covered in ‘omikuji’, white pieces of paper on which wishes and hopes for good luck, good jobs, and good relationships are written, and left to be answered by the Kami, the Shinto spirits. Back in Izumo, we visited Asahi Shuzo Sake Brewery and chatted with Eriko Terrada. She explained that she began her career as an apprentice and is now the Sake Maker, not only developing new varieties using different sake rices, but also designing the labels. Samples of the products only added to this enjoyable encounter. A short train ride took us to Tamatsukuri Onsen, a hot spring town where we spent the night at the Hoshino Resorts Kai Izumo, a boutique ryokan (Japanese Inn) that included gardens, tatami rooms, hot baths, sake tasting and for dinner, tasty local dishes. The word ‘Izumo’ relates to the heavens. So it was fitting that the evening theatrical performance told the tale of a god slaying an evil serpent in order to spare the daughter of an elderly couple. Afterward the god and the daughter married, and one of their ancestors is said to be enshrined at the Izumo Taisha

But the main tourist area consists of five sites (with another two sites, a short bus ride away). It was ironic that we came to Beppu to experience the heavenly hot springs in our hotel (which we did several times a day) but that we were also exposed to Hell! The Kannawa area is actually referred to as ‘Jigoku’ or ‘Hell’ and statues of Oni (evil demons that somehow look kind of friendly) are there to create that underworld feeling. Get ready for steaming vents, bubbling mud and great photo and selfie opportunities, along with hot springs with names such as Cooking Pot Hell, Oniyama Hell (where they breed crocodiles), White Pond Hell (white boiling waters), Blood Pond Hell (due to the red-colored clay) and Geyser Hell (where the hot spring erupts regularly every 40 minutes). It was a fun and fascinating day. Once again we took the train westward to visit the city of Kumamoto. We took a local bus outside the city and got off at the base of Mt. Kimpo, amidst a beautiful landscape of rice terraces, orange orchards and fire-red maple trees. Our destination was Reigando, the cave where the great 17th century swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi spent his final years composing The Book of Five Rings, a treatise on swordsmanship and tactics. I had read Musashi’s biography and seen the 1954 movie about his life, so this was a bit of a personal pilgrimage. First you encounter the Five-Hundred Rakan Buddha Images. These are stone statues of disciples of the Buddha and were carved by a man and his son at the end of the 1700’s. And just


beyond is the cave. You ascend stairs to find an alter and some signage paying tribute to Musashi. Outside the cave all you can see are trees and all you hear are birds. It’s a very peaceful, meditative place. However, variety is the spice of life so in total contrast to our peaceful pilgrimage, we travelled north to Fukuoka City where we attended the November Grand Tournament of Sumo wrestling. What a hoot! In a carnivallike atmosphere, there are colourful banners and souvenir stalls selling snacks and drinks along with Sumo souvenirs. In the stadium stands, people were cheering loudly for their favourite wrestlers and holding up signs to encourage them. We spent four hours watching the wrestlers parade into the ring, do their leg stomps, slap their bodies and then engage in combat for a period that ranged from several seconds to several minutes. It was 400 pounds of great fun, repeated over and over. We used our Japan Rail Pass one last time for the return journey to Tokyo. This was a memorable trip. On most evenings we stayed in conveniently located business hotels, and every evening we tried a new izakaya for dinner, enjoying a delicious variety of food that ranged from deep-fried Fugu and Oysters, to yakitori, soba, sashimi and cod roe. And in each city we drank the local sakes, to truly get a flavour of the destination. Many travelers visit Tokyo and Osaka on their first visit to Japan, but there so much more to experience on successive visits. In our case we ran the gamut from Heaven to Hell and had an exceptional time doing it!

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Daniel Seguin

by Jasmine Morcos


his past September, I went through an unforgettable, life changing journey. This journey, which was more than I ever anticipated, started with a stroll into a forest with a beautiful lake and a stunning mountain view. I was in Kootenay Bay, British Columbia, about to embark on a retreat at the Yasodhara Ashram. History

With these words in her heart, she began teaching and offering lectures in Montreal until a group of her most passionate students convinced her to pack her bags once again and head to Burnaby, BC. There they bought a home and started the first ashram in Canada. However, after several years, she remembered Gurudev’s advice and searched for the place he had described. This led her to the Kootenays in southeastern BC and the home of the Yasodhara Ashram we know today.

Programs Yasodhara Ashram offers many different programs and packages. Guests can choose to stay for one day, a week or even for several months. Regardless of time spent there, they will enjoy a variety of spiritual and self-development activities. All meals are included during their stay. My Experience I stayed at the Ashram for three days. Coming from Montreal with a connection in Calgary I flew across the Rocky Mountains to Cranbrook, where I was joined by others. We then drove more than two hours through the magnificent Purcell Mountains and arrived in the late afternoon at the Ashram.

Amy Allcock

Amy Allcock

Tegra Stone-Nuess

The Ashram was founded by Swami Sivananda Radha, whose vision was to create a sacred space where people could gather and grow. Swami Radha’s story began in 1956 after she had been drawn to India and her guru, Gurudev Sivananda. Before she returned to Canada, he told her to start an Ashram there and gave her these words of advice:

“When you leave here, go where you have mountains in the back, water in front, and trees all around. The mountains will give you strength and energy, the water will calm the mind, and the trees will offer you protection”.

Yoga Retreat Every morning before breakfast, we were guided through a Hatha Yoga routine. The studio overlooking the lake and mountains was breathtaking. Each yoga session was about an hour, where we were talked through breathing exercises and stretches. During the later morning and afternoon I attended a retreat called “Breath: The Invisible Work.” It was recommended that we bring a journal to class in order to write down our thoughts and reflections. The instructor would often ask us to explore the feelings that were present after certain exercises. Although I enjoyed the breathing exercises, it was not what I had anticipated. I expected more of a physical workout each day, but the focus here in this retreat was much more on self-reflection and breathing. Satsang After dinner we went to Satsang, which is a nightly gathering of people in the Temple of Light. Everyone is given a booklet containing the songs for the evening. Some chants are repeated for 20 minutes and are called Mantras, which are meant to focus the mind. Musicians staying at the Ashram are encouraged to participate and play instruments. At the end of the session, the Satsang leader distributed a treat symbolising the sweetness of the yoga teachings. We shared a prayer together before consuming. Karma Yoga

Amy Allcock

This is a traditional yoga – although unlike anything I had experienced. Karma Yoga means selfless service and we had the oppor-

Dining The food throughout the stay was excellent. It was nutritious, delicious, full of flavour and beautifully presented. Most ingredients are either grown on site or are locally sourced. Guests are able to choose their meals themselves with a wide variety of selections served buffet style. The chef is also very accommodating to dietary restrictions. Inside the Ashram’s main building, guests are asked to remove their outdoor shoes and replace them with indoor wear. As we were taught during our introductory tour, all meals were taken in total silence. The purpose is to be in tune with what we put into our bodies and to promote mindfulness. For me this was very challenging as I believe meal time is where we share thoughts, conversation and laughter with others. I had difficulty suppressing the desire to speak with those around me. Breakfast was served at 8 am every morning, lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 6 pm. We had about 30 minutes to eat. Exploring outside the Ashram On the second day, we went on a visit to the East Shore of Kootenay Lake where we had the chance to visit local artisan shops, go for a little hike in the Crawford Bay wetlands and try out a local restaurant, the Black Salt Cafe. The sun was shining, the weather was great and we were able to eat on the café’s beautiful terrace surrounded by many flowers. I was delighted with the variety of choices on the menu and I can honestly say I ate one of the best falafel pita sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. I was amazed by how fresh and tasty every-

thing was in this restaurant. I definitely recommend Black Salt Café to anyone visiting the area.


After lunch, we went to visit the diverse artisan shops in this small community. I had heard about a broom store in Crawford Bay that produced hundreds of brooms for marketing of Harry Potter movies. Being a tremendous Harry Potter fan myself, I was so excited to visit the North Woven Broom store. Inside this adorable log barn, we got to meet and chat with Luke Lewis, the broom-maker himself. We learned about different styles of brooms and how each are carefully woven and tied to many types of handcrafted handles. I challenge you to leave this store empty handed! There is something for everyone, from a small souvenir to a quality broom, you will find something that matches your budget and size preference. Shipping is also offered if you wish to purchase a bigger broom that you don’t want to carry throughout your trip. After visiting a few other shops, we stopped at the Dog Patch Pottery store. We had a demonstration and small tour by the lovely owner Lea-Rae Belcourt. Once again it was hard for me not to purchase anything and ended up buying a beautiful turquoise jewelry bowl made on premises. I also purchased some wonderful greeting cards made by Kari Lehr, a local artisan. On our second to last night we returned to Kootenay Bay for dinner. We went to a restaurant named the Kootenay Cabin and had the opportunity to meet the chef. Their mission is “to foster a greater connection between the regional farm and our guest’s table; it is the driving factor in our food, service & ambiance.” This was a perfect fit with our experience at the Ashram. The food was fresh, creative and delicious. Make sure to check it out if you are in the area, it is worth the drive. It is right next to the ferry landing in Kootenay Bay. My stay at the Ashram was very educational and enlightening, and this short but meaningful retreat has given me a new way of looking at life and experiencing what is often lost in our rushed and hurried lifestyle.

Jasmine Morcos

Once settled, our group was given an introduction to the Ashram, the programs and the mission.

tunity to join in. Participants are assigned a task such as working in the kitchen, cleaning rooms or working in the garden. Most of the group, including myself, worked in the garden. This activity is a way to give back to the Ashram, explore the power of work as a spiritual practice, and promote teamwork. We were also asked to devote this time to something or someone that we were grateful for. Personally this was one of the activities I enjoyed the most. Working in the garden where most of the food is harvested gave my group an appreciation and a purpose to perform the work well.

Jasmine Morcos

There was a snack waiting for us and we toured the premises-which included the magnificent new Temple of Light. I was then escorted to my room that had two single beds and a warm chalet feel, overlooking a spectacular view of lake and mountains. While I did have a private bathroom, it was not directly attached to the room.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


A r o u n d T h e Wo r l d

(in 22 pages)

Three New Gorilla Families Habituated In Uganda

The Prague Astronomical Clock is Back in the Old Town Square! After months of renovation and repairs (both internal and external), Prague's time-keeping beauty is back in action. The polished facade was unveiled in September 2018, drawing crowds to watch the promenade of moving characters every hour from 9am to 11pm. Every hour, hundreds of tourists from all over the world gather in front of the Old Town Hall to enjoy a fascinating mechanical performance which in the Middle Ages was considered one of the wonders of the world. The Prague Astronomical Clock, which for 600 years has been one of the greatest treasures of the city, still amazes people with its procession of Apostles, moving statues and visualization of time like no other instrument in the world.

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 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

152 Gorilla Trekking Permits Now Available Per Day. As interest in travel to Uganda continues to grow, Uganda Tourism is pleased to announce the successful habituation of three gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Following approximately two years of daily exposure to humans, these gorillas have been incorporated into the country’s gorilla trekking program, bringing the total number of families available for trekking to 19 and the total number of gorilla trekking permits available to 152 per day. This will help meet increased demand for gorilla trekking permits that Uganda has seen over the past few years following concentrated marketing efforts in North America and Europe. During the habituation process, groups of six to eight researchers encounter the wild families on a daily basis, continuing until they become comfortable around humans. The newly habituated gorilla families are located in the Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Buhoma sections of Bwindi. Gorilla trekking is managed fully by the Uganda Wildlife Authority staff with a head ranger and experienced trackers leading groups into the forest in search of the gorillas. Gorilla trekking permits are $US 600 per person. For $US 15, participants can also hire a porter from a local community to assist them during the trek. Travelers seeking an even more immersive educational experience can opt for the Gorilla Habituation Program ($US 1,500 per person) which allows them to join conservationists studying gorilla families undergoing the habituation process. Participants will locate gorilla nests and take part in scientific monitoring before continuing on in search of the gorillas. Since these gorillas are not fully accustomed to human contact, they do not always come as close as habituated gorillas, but participants will gain a more in-depth perspective on the gorillas, their habitat, and their behavior in the wild, as the activity lasts four hours from the time the nests are located.

green travel. The red color gives tribute to the Chinese civilization that has been going on for thousands of years. Illustrating an international vision, the “Beautiful China” logo represents China’s promising and welcoming tourism industry. Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


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The Intrepid 2019 Not Hot Travel List: Asia Edition


ver-tourism in Asia has become a major issue, leading to closures of popular tourist sites, such as the recently-announced indefinite closure of Maya Bay beach by the government of Thailand. Additionally, in the Philippines, Boracay was sensationally shut down for six months due to unsustainable tourism practices. To combat this issue, small group adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel has put together its annual ‘Not Hot List’, focusing on alternatives to travellers’ favorite Asian destinations by uncovering lesserknown and more sustainable destinations for people to visit in 2019.

Intrepid Travel’s Regional Director for North America, Darshika Jones, said the second ‘Not Hot List’ was developed in response to concerns about over-tourism, with a focus on less-frequently visited destinations to support the adventure travel company’s ongoing commitment to responsible tourism.

continent in the most ‘intrepid’ way possible. Tourism can be a potent force for good, and we believe the broader the travel experience, the better. As North Americans’ interest in traveling to Asia continues to grow, the more dispersal to lesserknown regions, the better,” said Jones. The Intrepid Travel List

“Recently, we’ve seen a number of Asian countries take a proactive approach to combat over-tourism. North Americans are increasingly concerned with over-tourism and this is about encouraging them to step away from the familiar to approach this

The Similan Islands are the new Maya Bay With Maya Bay no longer a travel option as of Summer 2018, travellers can still enjoy the warm blue-green Andaman Sea, blind-

ing white sands and marvelous limestone oddities when visiting the Similan Islands. The islands offer a quiet scene, combining rainforests and pristine beaches with a touch of history, having been made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. Hit by the 2004 tsunami, the island Khao Lak has since recovered and welcomes visitors to experience the destination.

cover the southern islands or ‘lost Japan’ as interest in the country continues to increase. Naoshima Island has been transformed from a sleepy fishing community to a world class art destination with a variety of sleek and stylish museums. Travellers can cycle between galleries, outdoor sculptures and modern architecture. The Southern Islands also house impressive castles and Japan’s oldest hot spring baths - Dogo Onsen.


Komodo is the new Ubud Sumatra is the new Borneo Once considered the adventurous alternative to Seminyak, Ubud has flourished in popularity thanks to its haven of health and healers. The day trip market means a lessened contribution to Ubud’s economy and puts pressure on local infrastructure. Komodo is a viable alternative for those travellers who are willing to sail from Bali through the Indonesian archipelago. And it’s a place where ancient tribes maintain their traditions in deep rainforest valleys. Travellers can snorkel coral reefs, walk across volcanic black sand beaches and watch for the legendary and fierce Komodo dragons.

Sumatra is as exotic a destination as Borneo, offering national parks and endemic species. As the world’s sixth largest island, Sumatra made headlines earlier this year with the Mount Sinabung volcano eruption. These geothermal activities have created surreal landscapes such as Gunung Leuser National Park, home to one of the richest ecosystems in the world. Sumatra is also where travellers have the best chance of spotting wild orangutans in Indonesia.

About Intrepid Travel Intrepid Travel is a global adventure travel company that has been taking travelers 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 travelers great value for money.

Bukhara is the new Angkor Wat Central Asia is still as remote as can be when it comes to Asian countries. The ‘Stans offer a Silk Road experience rich with stories of migration, religion and trade. Uzbekistan’s fifth largest city Bukhara is a UNESCO world heritage site and the entire old city center and has more than 5,000 years of human history. There are over 140 monuments and historical buildings to explore, including Po-i-Kalyan Mosque which, during its 1,300 years of history, even survived assault from Genghis Khan. Ladakh is the new Everest While Nepal will always be a must-do for active travellers wanting to challenge themselves, Ladakh is rising in popularity for its hiking and breathtaking scenery of the Indian Himalayas. Travellers can break up the hiking with river rafting, and visiting remote villages, monasteries and religious sites. To really appreciate the quiet natural beauty of the Ladakh region, some travellers stay in bustling Delhi before and after their treks. Naoshima is the new Osaka Travellers have long been lured to the iconic and future-focused cities of Japan like Osaka. Intrepid Travel has noted a 31% growth in bookings to Japan from North Americans in 2018 compared to last year. The company recommends travellers disCanadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

Southern Tip of South Africa An Escape & Haven by Olivia Balsinger


henever I get that oh-so relatable feeling that I need to escape, I think the southern tip of South Africa. It is here, on the tip of the African continent, where I can count on experiencing something completely different, no matter how many times I’ve traveled there. Whether it's a brand new attraction, a hidden gem I have yet to discover, or even somewhere familiar and nostalgic, the Cape Peninsula is a personal haven, bustling with life, tranquility and adventure. Perhaps the most recognizable name on the Cape Peninsula is the major city of Cape Town. If you have never traveled to The Mother City, I would suggest starting with the veritable “must-do” attractions. My first suggestion would be a visit to Robben Island; you can catch a tour departing from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront — where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for 27 years, now a living history museum. Of course, don’t miss this chance to snap a quintessential selfie in front of gorgeous views that feature prominently the iconic Table Mountain landmark. Want to explore the beautiful flattop mountain more intimately? Take a rotating cable car to the its top for breathtaking vistas of the surrounding area during a leisurely day in the natural landscape. For the more active types like

myself, I highly suggest rising before dawn and trekking up Lion’s Head to watch the sunrise. Cape Town is also home to some of the world’s most fantastic beaches which are phenomenal for people watching, soaking up the strong Cape Town sun, or testing your balance on a surf board on sandy Clifton Beach. The weekends are reserved for trying the many delicious local food and drink stands in the city. I tend to favor the Old Biscuit Mill Market in the colorful Woodstock neighborhood. There you will find a feast for all the senses: Jam bands play tunes to sway to as you taste test favorites such as biltong and olives from a nearby farm. For a less touristic market experience, Oranjezicht City Market is the place to mingle with locals and sample foods from around the country. For more food and drink splendor, the first Thursday of every month in Cape Town is a time the city reserves for locals and tourists alike to explore galleries, restaurants, bars and shops until late in the evening—all for free and open to the public. There is also the famed Long Street—packed with restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, shops and entirely interesting hotels. Speaking of hotels, on this visit I stayed at The Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel on Long Street, an ideal location brilliant for absorbing the Mother City’s vibrant energy day and night. Housed in a heritage building that has been operating as a boutique hotel for more than 120 years, The Grand Daddy has some serious history to go along with the bustling vibe. I love the use of local design and bright colors throughout the rooms, suites and public spaces in this

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landmark property. The restaurant of the hotel, Thirty Ate Eatery, sits on the corner and serves a unique mix of international dishes— from schnitzels to the oh-so-Instagrammable avocado toast. A bar on the roof is the best place to lounge and sip a local beer while watching the craze of Cape Town downtown wiz by below. It is also on the roof that you will also find the hotel’s most unique sleeping experience: a rooftop trailer park. No joke: take the elevator to the roof, looking out on Long Street with Table Mountain beyond, and you will see seven authentic Airstream trailers, each slightly different in their decor but designed to collectively reflect a South African road-trip experience. I stayed in the Winelands trailer and was so content to wake up feeling like I was camping—in central Cape Town! Speaking of getting back to nature, if you are in town long enough for a day trip, my first recommendation would be the easy and scenic two-hour drive to The Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, down the southern tip. This luxurious eco-reserve sandwiched between the mountains and the sea is recognized as a National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. The accommodation at Grootbos is beautiful, consisting of modern suites with picture worthy views across all of Walker Bay. Set on 2,500 hectares of wilderness, it is home to 100 endangered plant species and is one of the top spots on the planet to see the “Marine Big Five,” which is made up of sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and penguins (a unique perspective after a game drive at

Cheetah Plains in northern South Africa, spotting the land equivalent “Big Five.”) I was fortunate enough to have an unforgettable spotting of humpback whales, as I flew above the neighboring Atlantic Ocean in a chartered 1969 four-person airplane. We saw about six mother whales, lazily floating with their curious calves nearby. The accommodation at Grootbos is beautiful, consisting of modern suites with picture worthy views across all of Walker Bay. There is much to do, but I especially recommend a sunset walk along the beach where you’ll get to explore rock caves, which the Bushmen of the area once called home. You can also take a romantic horseback ride along the mountainous overlooks of the beautiful waterscape. Perhaps my favorite activity was the adrenaline-pumping fat bike tour— a fat bike is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires that are perfect for the pristine, untouched dunes of the reserve. The lodge is entirely tuned into preserving conservation, culture and local community and thus every decision made is reflective of these principles. The Grootbos Foundation, established by the lodge in 2003, conserves the Cape Floral Kingdom and uplifts the communities within through ecotourism, enterprise development, sports development and education. I purchased a tree through the Foundation’s Future Trees Project (profits given back to sustaining the community) and planted it in amongst the other milkwoods, the forest from which Grootbos itself is named—the “Groot bos” means the big thicket in Afrikaans. Milkwood trees can live for hundreds of years and thus I know my physical contribution will live to see how this reserve and area continues to flourish. A mélange of culture, colors, nature and music, there really is nowhere quite like Cape Town and its surrounding nature on the planet. And this is precisely why I return time after time, to briefly but fully escape.

Helly Hansen Stellar Puffy Jacket


This morning I wore my jacket for the first time. I felt wonderful. The material is soft, fluid and a perfect fit. The sleeves are just right for length which is not always the case in most jackets. I especially like the fact that there is a lining inside the sleeve with a stretch band around the wrist. The hood fits perfectly and does not come too far to the front, so it does not interfere with the view when you turn your head. It stays right in the middle like it should. The pockets are a nice size. I like that they have nice strong zippers, and when you step out of the car you have a secure place to put your keys and your gloves with no worries too loose them. The zipper is not too bulky and is a little more feminine. The ban that covers the zipper snaps over very easily and is also easy to undo.

Sporty, Fashionable, and Functional, Helly Hansen has it All

We asked three of our writers to review the latest Helly Hanson outerwear and here is their response. Helly Hansen Longyear Parka Here in Canada, winters are long, and on the coldest days the temperature can easily drop down to -20°C. Without a doubt, a good quality winter jacket is essential to stay warm and to enjoy outdoor activities. Choosing the right winter jacket is not always simple but Helly Hansen has made it easy with its Longyear Parka. This jacket is excellent for our cold winters while also being stylish, comfortable and affordable. On top of shielding you from the cold, this Parka is waterproof and windproof, keeping you protected from any of the elements! It is also very breathable, allowing your body to stay cool both indoors and outdoors. The jacket leaves plenty of room for layering for those who enjoy wearing big knit sweaters and hoodies. Its many pockets are well situat-

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

ed and are extremely practical for carrying items and keeping hands warm! Being a mid-length jacket, it is suitable and complementary for all heights while offering warmth to your legs. This Parka is offered in a multitude of rich colours, including red, khaki green, navy blue or black. The zippers are of great quality and very resistant and the double zipper situated at the front of the jacket gives you the option to sit more comfortably. The zippers around the hand warmer pockets and the adjustable hood with the faux fur allow you to play around with your look. The knitted wrist gaiters provide extra warmth and comfort while adding an aesthetically pleasing touch to the jacket. The large buttons on the front and on the hand pockets of the Parka are a beautiful finishing touch.

When I wear the jacket I don't feel like being puffy, but rather slim like in my winter coat. Today the weather was not too cold but I have a feeling that it will keep me warm under more severe weather. I just love it!

Helly Hansen Helsinki 3 in 1 As soon as you try on the Helly Hansen Helsinki 3 in 1 you immediately notice the quality of the fabric. Breathability is a welcomed feature for commuters. It is surprisingly warm considering its light weight which also makes sliding it on or off effortless. The numerous pockets on both layers are well crafted and conveniently located. Walking in rainy weather isn't a burden thanks to the hood and its water repelling material. The easily removable shell makes worrying about a change in temperature or season a thing of the past. Overall, Helly Hansen managed to make another fashionable business casual jacket that's as practical as it is comfortable.

Whether it is a night on the town, a business meeting, light actives or extreme sports, Helly Hansen has you covered.


A Jaunt Through Qatar with Qatar Airways by Olivia Balsinger


n Qatar, the dichotomies are unparalleled: old versus new, tradition versus innovation, religion versus modernity. From the world-class metropolis of Doha, brimming with museums, nightlife and unrivaled man-made architecture, to the natural phenomena in the deserts, Qatar maintains all aspects of its heritage while embracing the new world. Whether they are visiting as a stopover on a Qatar Airways flight or staying as their final destination, travelers will soon understand that Qatar and its capital city of Doha is not merely the “Next Dubai.” Until the discovery of oil in 1939, Qatar cultivated its greatest profit from pearl diving. But it has since grown, flourished and made its own substantial mark on the map. And now there is no easier way to get there than Qatar Airways, the multiple award-winning airline with direct flights to Doha from more than 150 destinations on every inhabited continent. I was actually disappointed when the flight attendant woke me up as we were descending into Doha’s dawn on an overnight from New York City. I was in a

Qsuite, the first of its kind in business class, which provided me complete privacy, along with ambient mood lighting and a fully flat bed. The airline also provides business class passengers an “a la carte” dining option, making my constant hunger more manageable. The stewardess went out of her way surprising me with champagne before landing in Doha and I had “Meet and Greet” service both during arrival and departure. I actually felt like royalty in the air. However, once landing in Doha, I was equally blown away. Indeed, Doha itself has proven to be a major tourism draw. The city is significantly smaller than both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which allows it to keep its slightly provincial feel. While travelers can still find modern high-end innovations, such as Doha Festival City with an Angry Bird theme park, Qatar stays true to its heritage in a number of ways. I visited the Souq Waqif, one of the most traditional in the Middle East, to find pearl shops and nooks where men still gather to chat. Whether eating traditional Qatari food or getting whimsically discombobulated in the labyrinth of people watching, the Souq is not to miss. Qatar is also equally modern as it is timeless. The sheer decadence and luxury found within Qatar’s hotels are reason enough to visit. Take The Mondrian Doha, for example. The property’s 270 rooms have views of the manmade Pearl Island. Here I enjoyed a luxurious detoxing massage and indulgent swim in the penthouse pool. The hotel epitomizes dual elegance and creativity, described as Alice in Wonderland in real life – the whimsi-

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cal architecture by famed Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Two Qatari hotspots are found in The Mondrian, Morimoto Doha and the bespoke Black Orchid nightclub. Finally, adventure is everywhere in Qatar. Few things spike adrenaline more than a safari in a 4X4 through Qatar’s vast desert, about an hour and a half ride from Doha city center. The radio is blasting Arabian-French techno music as a white Land Cruiser picks up speed. The experienced guide smiles slightly mischievously and revs the engine prior to accelerating through this stunning natural oasis as the sound of sand descending down the slopes overwhelms. Q-Explorer Tours is a professional tour operator that handles individual and group guided arrangements, catering to specific itinerary desires and budgets. In addition to dune bashing, the company provides many other opportunities to explore Qatar’s culture, gastronomy and natural beauty. For a country small in size, Qatar certainly packs a punch.

Here’s Why These 10 Adventures Go Beyond The Average Bucket List by Exodus Travels


hether you saw the Northern Lights in Iceland long before it became all the rage; to walking the historic Camino de Santiago in Spain; or taking in the sunrise at Angkor Wat, figuring out where to head next can be a challenge. Get away from the heavy traffic in well-trodden destinations and instead, discover a whole new world of adventures that truly go beyond the beaten path. From traversing the rainforests of Borneo, to discovering the complex history of Macedonia, here are 10 experiences by Exodus Travels that will fulfill the seasoned traveler’s passion for discovery and adventure.

1. Egypt: Nile Cruise

Egypt is making a comeback and if you want to experience the beauty of ancient stories, well-preserved monuments and an infinite number of antiquities with few tourists around - the time to go is now. Take in classic historical sites such as the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple Complex in the Valley of the Kings, before a relaxing journey along the Nile on a cruise boat from Luxor to discover

the spectacular Edfu and Kom Ombo temples. Disembark and sail on a traditional Felluca for awe-inspiring views of Aswan and Cleopatra’s unfinished obelisk. 2. Peru: The Lost City of Choquequirao

Escape the crowds on this challenging, unusual walk through Peru’s mountainous region. This varied trek lead travelers up steep paths through dense cloud forests, over spectacular scenic passes and along ancient Incan paths to Vilcabamba’s best kept secret; the lost Incan city of Choquequirao. Machu Picchu may draw the crowds, but Choquequirao is larger, untouched and very secluded. Much of the city is still unexcavated, but the stonework that has stood the test of time include ritual baths and temples dedicated to the sun, moon and the earth spirit 3. Belize: Jungle & Coast Adventure

Belize takes its motto to heart; no shirt, no shoes, no problem! This laid-back country with a lively soul is filled with a complex history and a vibrant local culture. Take a trip

down below to a 'Mayan underworld' cave system, and swim in sapphire sinkholes. Put on your snorkels to discover a myriad of underwater life. On this trip, cross over into Guatemala to visit two of the world's most impressive Mayan ruins, Tikal and Uaxactun. Visit the small laid back town of San Ignacio, which was once only accessible by boat, to get a glimpse of the diverse life and culture that is specifically unique to Belize. 4. Malaysia: Trekking Borneo & Beyond

Borneo is home to some of the most diverse and beautiful wildlife in the whole of South East Asia. Start with a visit to majestic Mt Kinabalu, before heading to the pristine Danum Valley. A nature lover's paradise, whose beauty and animals are equalled only by Sarawak and the World Heritage Mulu National Park with its immense cave system and the oldest rainforest in the world. Come face to face with Orang-utans at the Sepilok Sanctuary, stay at a bamboo longhouse in Sabah on a tea plantation, and finish the trip relaxing at the beach for a chance to spot the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins.


5. Uzbekistan: Uncover the Silk Road

This journey to the heart of Central Asia will take you back to a time across the centuries. Explore the city of Bukhara, which is home to 900 monuments, jewelled coloured domes and fascinating Islamic architecture. One of the city’s great landmarks is the Kalyan minaret, known as the death tower, where apparently many an unfaithful wife met a dreadful end. Spend a night in the desert by staying in a traditional Yurt camp and be regaled stories of the local culture by Kazakh nomads. Travel to Samarkand, the jewel of the ancient and modern Silk Road, and still a major trade centre of textiles, carpets and works of art in this fascinating country. 6: Madagascar: Wildlife Paradise

The wildlife of Madagascar is one of the island’s main attractions, and its chief superstar is undoubtedly the lemur with over 70 species spread throughout. Quite a number of the native animals cannot be found anywhere else in the world, such as the Grandidier Mongoose, Appert’s Greenbull and the Crested Ibis. There’s a chance to see the rare Indri, the largest lemur in Andasibele, while in the cloud forest of Ranomafana National Park, catch a glimpse of the elusive rare Golden Bamboo and Greater Bamboo Lemurs. Madagascar also boasts some glorious coastlines, so relax on their white powdery beaches, go snorkelling or a take simple stroll on the sand. 7. Macedonia: Cultural Journey

A lesser-discovered cousin of the Balkans, Macedonia has an intense history where influences from the East and West collide. It is famous for ancient civilisations, UNESCO world heritage monasteries and the vibrant

cities of Sofia and Skopje. Ottomans, Communists and Romans left their mark during their occupation, which subsequently imprinted many contrasts across the cultural landscape of this country. This Baltic state is also rich in nature with a multitude of national parks, waterfalls, and famous wine regions, and travelers will sample locally grown Macedonian wine in the city of Tikvesh. Foodies will also enjoy discovering the coffee culture in Bitola, and the role it has had on the city in the last few centuries. 8. Italy: Walking the Francigena Way

As trail tourism increases in popularity, The Francigena Way should be next on your list to conquer. This historical journey has been walked by thousands of pilgrims, and was once the route from Canterbury to Rome. It begins in the beautiful city of Orvieto, before walking through Tuscia Laziale, an agricultural region of fields, olive groves and volcanic lakes. Following the ancient Via Cassia, pass through beautiful villages such as Montefiascone, also known as the city of Popes and for its fine wine. Many medieval cities and monasteries fill this path, including thick forests of oaks, abbey ruins, and secluded communities. The journey ends in the Eternal City of Rome. 9. West Greenland: Discover Disko Bay

Polar expeditions have grown in popularity over the years, as people want to see glaciers and icebergs in all their glory. This arctic expedition takes a unique spin as it also journeys into local Inuit communities living on the western coast of Greenland. Travelers have the opportunity to delve into the local culture within the icy seas. No journey in Greenland would be complete without a visit to the impressive Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO

World Heritage Site. There’s a vast amount of Arctic wildlife on this route, and the best whale watching can be done on Disko Island, as its surrounding waters are home to the humpback, fin, and minke whales. 10. Sudan: Desert Explorer

An underrated destination compared to other African nations, Sudan is slowing gaining momentum as an unchartered destination to visit. It has vast red deserts and believe it or not, a large number of ancient pyramids. Built by the rulers of the Kushite kingdoms, they are smaller compared to Egyptian pyramids and are extremely well preserved. The best part is, there are hardly any tourists around so your chances of taking an unobstructed photograph of a pyramid is extremely high. Explore the Temple of Soleb, and capture images of colonial style railway stations still reminiscent of British architecture in the middle of the desert. On top of that, camp under the stars and visit Nubian villages in this out of the way itinerary.

About Exodus Travels

Celebrating 44 years, leading adventure tour operator Exodus has a vast range of adventure and activity holidays across seven continents, offering places as diverse and as exhilarating as Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, the Ice Hotel and Antarctica. Whether it is solo travelers, couples, groups or families, Exodus offers an incredible choice of trips for all ages and activity levels. Operating in 100+ countries with 600+ tours, Exodus insists on low impact tourism and contributing to local communities.

For more information visit:

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


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.

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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 world’s biggest (maybe the biggest) catering service and are partners with Do & Co., there is no surprise in the quality THY can offer!

Contiki L aunches Epic ‘7 Wonders of the World’ Adventure

The youth travel brand has put together the ultimate travel itinerary that spans seven continents to tick off your bucket list


ontiki, the original travel company offering epic global adventures for 18 to 35-year old’s, has launched an epic 82 day round the world trip, simply called the ‘7 Wonders’ adventure, that takes in all New7Wonders of the world – including the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu. The New7Wonders resulted from a campaign launched in 2000 by philanthropist Bernard Weber to select the wonders of the world from a list of 200 existing monuments, with the winners announced on July 7th, 2007 in Lisbon. With the launch of their latest adventure dubbed, Israel & Jordan Uncovered – Jordan being the home to the ancient site of Petra – Contiki now offers trips for young travellers to all seven of the wonders and as such has been able to create the ultimate itinerary around the world to witness each of them. Starting in Delhi on March 24th, 2019, the adventure starts with the first wonder, the Taj

Mahal. The trip then moves on to China for a visit to the Great Wall before heading to Mexico to explore the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. Travellers then move to South America to visit Machu Picchu in Peru before heading on to Brazil, home of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Then to Petra in Jordan, home to the giant metropolis of tombs, monuments, and other elaborate religious structures that are carved into stone cliffs. The epic adventure ends in Italy on June 13th, 2019 to see the final wonder on the list, the ancient Roman amphitheatre known as the Colosseum. The ‘7 Wonders’ adventure will see Canadians visiting nine countries in depth, exploring their local icons, traditions, cuisines and cultures – on average allowing 12 days to explore the country where each popular site is located. The trip is made up of five of Contiki’s most popular itineraries, plus its brand new ‘Israel & Jordan Uncovered’ trip.

The New 7 Wonders travellers will visit include: Taj Mahal, India (on Contiki’s ‘Eternal India’ trip from March 24-April 4, 2019): The trip kick-starts with a 12-day trip through India, where young Canadians will visit the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, the world’s most recognized mausoleum. The mausoleum, completed in 1653, was commissioned to house the tomb of the thenEmperor’s favourite wife. Bucket-list experiences don’t end there. In India there’s also tiger-spotting in Ranthambhore National Park, rickshawing through the streets of Jaipur, relaxing beachside in Goa and city explorations of Udaipur and Mumbai. Great Wall of China, China (on Contiki’s ‘China Adventure’ trip from April 7-18, 2019): Next stop is Beijing to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China where travellers can explore the watchtowers and fortresses, and gaze out across the

ences like a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, a guided tour of Jerusalem, a hike in the Red Canyon of Eliat, a 4x4 tour across the Wadi Rum desert and a full day in the buzzing city of Tel Aviv.

surrounding valley. Travellers spend 12 days exploring China, venturing on to Xi’an, Chengdu, Yangshuo and Shanghai where they will feast on dumplings and Peking duck, take part in cooking classes, hang out with cuddly pandas and explore fascinating museums and traditional markets. Chichen Itza, Mexico (on Contiki’s ‘Yucatan Highlights’ trip from April 21-26, 2019): The most famous and well-preserved ruins in Mayan history, Chichen Itza, is next on the agenda. A tour with a Local Guide will provoke questions about the Mayan calendar, the positioning of the sun and the connections between ruins around the country. The six-day Mexican adventure continues with a few days in sunny Cancun, the beautiful city of Merida and the thriving metropolis of Mexico City.

Colosseum, Rome (on Contiki’s ‘Simply Italy’ trip from June 2-13, 2019): Finish this epic 82-day journey with a 12-day Italian vacation. Ticking off top destinations including Florence, Venice, Sorrento, Milan, The Riviera and of course, the capital of Rome to see the final wonder on the list, the ancient Roman amphitheatre, the Colosseum.

The adventure has a whopping 92 included meals and in addition to seeing the seven wonders, is packed full of included activities for a travel experience with no regrets, such


as a visit to a panda sanctuary in Chengdu, China, a canopy hike through the Amazon jungle, a tango lesson in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 4x4ing across Wadi Rum in Jordan and a boat trip to the island of Capri in Italy.

Machu Picchu, Peru (on Contiki’s ‘The Explorer’ trip from April 27-May 17, 2019): Look out over the Sacred Valley from the lofty heights of Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel built in the 15th century. Jump on a train from Aguas Calientes and enjoy a guided tour of the site, taking in such wonders as the Temple of the Three Windows and Wayana Picchu (the peak you see in every Machu Picchu ‘gram). Spend the next few days exploring Cusco’s Spanish colonial architecture, the capital Lima, plus a special stay in an Amazonian eco lodge. Christ the Redeemer, Brazil (on Contiki’s ‘The Explorer’ trip from April 27-May 17, 2019): Still on the same trip, you’ll spend four nights in the buzzing Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. The perfect opportunity for foodies to dive into the Argentine food scene with steaks, pastries and ice cream on the menu, before hopping the border at the thunderous Iguassu falls and wrapping up in Rio de Janeiro, home to none other than the fifth Wonder on your journey, the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Petra, Jordan (on Contiki’s ‘Israel & Jordan’ trip from May 19-29, 2019): The ancient city of Petra is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Explore the giant metropolis of tombs, monuments, and other religious structures which are carved into stone cliffs. Spend 11 days in Israel and Jordan with unforgettable experiCanadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Tr o p i c a l T i d b i t s by Sue C Travel

6 Super All-Inclusive Stays in Montego Bay

AMResorts has been very busy offering more excellent stay and play all-inclusive options in Jamaica over the past few years. And now there is something for all ages, styles, budgets, and accommodation preferences. And they are ALL all-inclusive! I first stayed at their original Montego Bay Secrets St. James and Secrets Wild Orchid - side-by-side adult-only sister resorts on the same private beach a few years ago. And I absolutely adored them. But since then, they have added sister resorts nearby on the same great beach peninsula geared to be more budget-friendly, for all-inclusive family fun. Sunscape Cove is the higher end escape while Sunscape Splash features a huge waterpark, and they also share an excellent kid’s club program so that parents can enjoy some adult alone time by the sea. And now, there is yet another choice of adult-only allinclusive by AMResorts called Breathless next door to the twin Secrets! This contemporary

and trendy new brand is aimed squarely at millennials and the hip and young at heart. Everything is very modern, sexy, and hightech, especially in your room where absolutely everything is controlled by a tablet. Daily foam parties in the pool with hot DJ’s and a cool concept they call "Silent Disco” add to the intrigue. Breathless also has access to all the additional dining and entertainment at neighbouring Secrets. But, if you’re seeking an even higher-level of adult-only all-inclusive, now there’s the new boutique luxury brand Zoëtry Montego Bay on its own beach, a few miles away. There the focus is on seriously personal pampering, elevated accommodations, and health and wellness offerings. There is dining on site, but guests can also sample all the dining options at the twin Secrets, though transportation is not included. For all AMResorts in the Montego Bay region, visit:

Quebecers Flock to Club Med Turkoise And Club Med Comes to Quebec!

I’d been to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos many times (locals call it “Provo”) and I was well aware that there were scads of expat Canadians living there, in fact, they even have a hockey league! And I knew it was very popular for sun-seeking canucks on holiday, too. I mean what’s not to love? The endless pristine miles of soft white sand and aqua surf that has Grace Bay Beach often cited as one of the best beaches in the world is quite simply, postcard perfect. But this past trip to Club Med Turkoise – also my very first visit to a Club Med brand resort- I noticed an interesting phenomenon: almost everyone spoke French! Quebecois French! I live in Montreal, so it was like being at home- if only we had a great beach and no snow! Apparently, many of the staff are from Quebec, and word of mouth must have spread that this place was the ideal gathering spot for French Canadians. Even the name “Turkoise” is pronounced with French


Easier Access Between the ABC’s

savoire-faire flair there. Recently redesigned and totally refreshed, this was the very first resort on Provo, and it was their presence that actually led to the building of the airport. It’s also one of Club Med’s few adult-only resorts. I really enjoyed the friendly laid-back vibe and the colourful bungalow village accommodations are comfortable and cheery. The entertainment is also very well done- their “GO”s ( Gracious Organizers) are really on the ball, and the free trapeze lessons also get high marks from the guests. And now it turns out that Club Med really likes Quebecers, too. In fact, they are slated to build a brand-new all-inclusive Club Med ski resort in Charlevoix to open in 2020- the first of its kind in Canada. For more visit: For more on Club Med Turkoise, visit:

Now you might wonder what is so “tropical” about this tidbit, but there IS an important sea, nature and marine life connection. Sanibel Island – a tropical hotspot in southern Florida is revered by ‘shellers’ for seashell collecting, but the island is also known for its vast nature preserves. The most famous is the 5,200-acre J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge home to hundreds of species of seabirds, and even endangered giant manatees. Which brings me to the award. The refuge’s “Learning Lavatories” are so unique that they garnered “America’s Best Restroom®” award in the nationwide 2018 contest. Excellence in cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality, and unique design elements were the requirements, but what really set these public washrooms apart is that they double as delightful interactive teaching facilities. Toni Westland, “Ding” Darling supervisory refuge ranger says, “I guarantee, there’s no other restrooms like these in the world that are so devoted to wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.” There’s lots to learn at every turn, and it’s such a creative way to enlighten folks on the importance of protecting our natural resources. And having a captive audience has its advantages, so they came up with this motto, “We turn a nature call into a nature enthrall!”. Find out more at: and

Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao- a terrific trio of Dutch Caribbean islands all within a stone's throw from each other - are delighted to welcome a new way to island-hop between them. As of January 2019, Bonaire-based EZAir will join the regional flight options with 6 to 7 roundtrips between Curacao and Bonaire per week, and one daily direct flight between Bonaire and Aruba. Since there are no ferries between the ABCs, additional airlift choices and fares beyond the current carriers are very welcome indeed. Visit: Anguilla’s Most Iconic Resort Reopens

I’m happy to report that the lovely little island of Anguilla has bounced back big time since it was hit with Hurricane Irma in 2016, but it would not be the same legendry luxury destination without their most gorgeous, splurge-worthy property, the 5-star “Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa”. (Yes, owned by the same folks who brought us the blenders!) It had been closed since the storm, but now, has finally reopened with all kinds of fresh, new improvements. Though I can’t imagine it could be any better than it was, apparently, it is. Visit:

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

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Best Restroom in America Award?

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A f o r At h e n s

Article and photography by Michael Morcos


n going through the alphabet, if you had to pick a place that has played a vital role in western civilisation, first and foremost would be “A” for Athens. On my third trip to Athens in as many decades, I would find that Athens has blossomed into a truly beautiful and attractive cosmopolitan destination. In every direction, it was now a clean, organised and welcoming with wonderful restaurants, hotels, shopping districts and plenty of attraction for just about every taste.

Athens What isn’t there to do in Athens! The capital of Greece has been in existence for more than 3500 years and was the heart of the powerful Ancient Grecian civilization and empire. The city is visited by thousands of visitors every year, some drawn by the 5thcentury BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, while others want to see the more modern side.

The city is the engine for the country economically and as a beacon for the resurgence of this Mediterranean hub. And it was ripe for rediscovery!

The Acropolis and museum The Acropolis is Greece’s top attraction, it is eternal. Nothing has changed, everything has changed. From my first trip there in the 80’s, the site looks similar, but what has changed are the crowds that are still found looking around in amazement and awe. It was not always so, I do remember having the site to

ful Greek salads, local wines, traditional and artisanal beers, and of course, the Ouzo was always a great way to celebrate the night. Olympics The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival for the ancient god Zeus that grew into competitive events like marathons, javelin throwing, and wrestling matches were added. myself and wondering around freely without the masses, but that is how it goes when a site has this much of a link to antiquity. Also new is the museum that houses some of the countries most valued treasures. So daunting is this museum that it would days to get through it all. The Acropolis has had an associated museum since1886, with the latest incarnation completed in 2007. It is truly impressive, with a whopping exhibition space of over 14,000 square meters, ten times more than that of the old museum on the Hill of the Acropolis. Fascinating artwork, equipment, items, clothing and more are showcased here. Truly a trip into the past. The National Archaeological Museum I had been impressed before with museums, but this one was beyond imagination. There are sections that cover all the eras that have weaved the history of Greece into a tapestry stretching back through time. Mycenae, Agamemnon, Plato, and so much more, it even has a small Egyptian section – the variety was outstanding. It is the largest archaeological museum in Greece, and a home for ancient Greek art. It was founded at the end of the 19th century and has antiquities from all over Greece with displays of historical, cultural and artistic importance. Amazing Food One will never go hungry in Greece, and so it goes that Athens has some of the best restaurants in the country with something for every taste and palate. Weather it was Greek specialties, street foods or international cuisine, I would find myself feasting like a king; so much so that I would probably put on lots of weigh if my trip was any longer. Fresh sea food is always available and so were wonder-

The Greek games had their roots in religion and the athletic competition was tied to worship of the gods. The legacy of the ancient games can be found in museums and out in the city, the buildings and stadiums build for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games. The Plaka The Plaka district is full of bars, restaurants, boutiques, souvenir shops and has a lively buzz. Visited by both the locals and tourists, it has a very Greek island feel, even though it is right in the city center. With its narrow cobblestone streets, architecture, and tons of people around, visitors are taken to an exotic place that offers a glimpse of modern and traditional Athens at the same time. Monastiraki flea market During the week, this area houses an assortment of clothing and jewelry stores dotted with some pretty interesting boutiques, especially if you like vintage records and rare CDs or Tshirts. On Sundays, it turns into a giant garage sale, where people seem to come from everywhere to lay out their blankets and sell all sorts of stuff. Monastiraki Square is a lively square in Athens at all times and at night it is filled with people of all ages and many street venders enjoying the warm evenings in this magical, ancient city. A+ for Athens One visit is never enough and to get the best of this worldly city, one must give Athens time to live its long history as well as the new vibe in the arts, fashion and wonderful gastronomy.

The Grand Dame My stay at the Grand Bretagne hotel would be nothing short of spectacular. This is, after all, the choice hotel for diplomats, executives, celebrities and just about anyone of major importance that would frequent Athens. The location is in the dead centre of the city directly adjacent to the Greek Parliament and close by to the major streets, markets and attractions. To my good fortune, and in a full hotel, I was on the top floor with a magnificent view of the surrounding hills. The parliament was so close that on many occasions I would watch the changing of the guard ceremony from my balcony. Besides the location, this Grand Dame had it all. Exceptional, well decorated rooms and suites with marble washrooms, wonderful restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, spa and wellness center and the list goes on. With all this, three things really stood out for me: the physical structure itself was exceptional on both the outside and inside, where I could not stop looking at the wonderful dĂŠcor and details of the lobby. The service by the staff was friendly and world class and finally, the piece de resistance was the roof top restaurant that provided panoramic views of the whole of Athens, and its iconic Acropolis. Breakfasts were made a highlight of my day!

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A Northern Ireland Walking Adventure from Londonderry to Belfast Article and photography by Cherie DeL ory


estivals are a good place to kick up your heels and kick off a grand travelling adven-ture. This was true for my debut visit to Northern Ireland last July to attend Ireland’s largest maritime festival, the annual Foyle Maritime Festival in DerryLondonderry. In anticipation of my trip I was imagining myself draped in a smart Irish Fishermans sweat-er made of Aran wool in celebration of the occasion. After all, DerryLondonderry was a host stopover port for the biennial Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2017/’18, which coincided with the festival. I wanted to look my best while the handsome sailors were on shore leave. Striking 70-foot yachts sailed into the Foyle Port in the final leg from New York, before

heading to the finish line in Liverpool, England. I got to meet some of the sailors, climb on board for a tour of their close quarters, and soak up the excitement of the festival, which ended with the fanfare of a parade of sail and fireworks to send off the crews. The Walled city

No visit is complete to this pretty city on a hill without “wandering the walls”. DerryLondonderry has a small town air, but is the second largest city in Northern Ireland next to its capital, Belfast. It’s the only completely intact walled city in Ireland, totalling about a mile of atmospheric wall with vistas of the city beyond the heritage stone. I took a his-

torical tour with Martin McCrossan Walled City Walking Tour. You could say it’s a city with a wee bit of an identity crisis. Some call it Derry, others say Londonderry. Derry-Londonderry, or Derry as originally named, is the first planned city in Ireland, built between 1613 and 1619. The walls were built to protect the locals from settlers arriving from England and Scotland, and would later figure in the Great Siege of 1689. During the planning phase was when London was added to the name to reflect the Queen's influence. Derry in year 546 was a monastic settlement founded by the Irish monk, Saint Columba, who to this day is one of three patron saints of Ireland. St. Columb's Cathedral, circa 1633, is the old-

est building in Derry-Londonderry and home to the original keys of the city gates, and has the oldest peal bells in Europe. I wish I’d heard them ring.

world’s oldest independent de-partment store. Austins was open for business in 1830.

I stayed at the City Centre Hotel. Through my picture window I could almost reach out and touch the city’s architectural landmark, the Peace Bridge. The cycle and foot bridge connecting the Cityside and Walled City to the Waterside, over the River Foyle, opened in 2011. On the Waterside of the bridge is Ebrington Square, a former army barracks undergoing an ambitious redevelopment project, which includes a hotel and maritime museum currently under construction on listed buildings. Maritime Heritage

During the Foyle Maritime Festival several restaurants participate in the Seafood Trail, making this the ideal time to indulge in fresh Irish catch of the day. I had a delicious smoked salmon main with a green pea puree at Thompsons Restaurant in the Derry City Hotel. At Browns in Town, I ordered an Irish staple of champs, buttery mashed potatoes seasoned with garlic and scallions, and hake with a green pea puree. The Beech Hill Hotel wins points for best setting. I watched a rabbit hop about in the garden while I enjoyed a delicious duck dish, with carrot and fennel soup.

This city’s maritime heritage cannot be underestimated. During World War II the city played a critical role as a navy base because of its large port that could accommodate up to 130 ships, and its proximity to the North Atlantic. But most importantly, DerryLondonderry is known worldwide for the surrender of the German U-boat submarines.

The Bishop’s Gate Hotel (circa 1899) in the walled city has been elegantly restored, leaving intact Edwardian architectural nuggets such as the exquisite oak revolving door at the entrance. Service and dining in the restaurant is impeccable, making for a memo-rable last impression before heading north east to the Causeway Coast.

While exploring Ebrington Square I enjoyed dinner and an eclectic craft brew flight at Walled City Brewery, the only restaurant in Ireland with a brewery, and it won Best Gastropub in Ireland 2017. Take time to explore the walking and cycling trails along the River Foyle, St. Columb’s Park and Heritage Trail, and get on the River Foyle for a canoe paddle with Loughs Agency, a marine and fisheries outfitter.

One of travel documentarian Michael Palin’s recommendations for Great Railway Journeys of the World is the route from DerryLondonderry to Colleraine. Given that there’s something about train travel that’s irresistible to me, I booked my ticket on the Translink and was on my way to the seaside resort town of Portrush, earmarked as host town of next summer’s 2019 Open Championship. The Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Dunluce Links is considered one of the best in the world.

History told in ornate stained glass windows is a must see at the Guild Hall in the town square. It’s located at the foot of Shipquay Street, the town’s steepest street. It was even once used as a waterslide for a charity event. Browse in Craft Village, a charming cul-desac off of Shipquay with pastry shops, a vintage books emporium and artisan gift shops. The Diamond War Memorial, honouring the city’s fallen WW1 soldiers, stands at the top of the street where the four walled city gates can be seen from one vantage point. I couldn’t help but notice a hauntingly beautiful vacant Baroque style building which, up until 2016 when it closed its doors, was the

Seafood trail

Barefoot in Bushmills

I stayed at the Royal Court Hotel on the outskirts of town, with dreamy views of the ocean. Without a car, I could take a fiveminute taxi, bus, or a 45-minute stroll into town along Whiterocks Beach, which was the beginning of a memorable experience exploring the Causeway Coast. I purchased a Translink day pass bus ticket and Dunluce Castle was my first stop. You can walk amidst the atmospheric ruins, situ-

ated high on a cliff overlooking the 41 sea. I took a winding staircase up one of the towers to a lookout and was so caught up in the maze of masonry that I missed my bus. As I was waiting for the next bus a women’s walking group persuaded me to join them part way. They assured me that I would be able to continue my journey to Giant’s Causeway on foot. I’m an active person and avid cyclist, so this was a challenge I was prepared to take on. I was a tad weary upon arri-val to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre about three hours on, but thrilled with my adventure. I had a unique perspective, walking barefoot along the shoreline, a picnic lunch, ascending nature trails alongside the cliff’s edge, stopping to stare at cows graz-ing in the field; one that very few can say they’ve experienced, judging by the bus loads of tourists. Next stop was a hop, skip and a swig to the oldest whiskey distillery in the world, Old Bushmills Distillery. (Ask about the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Heritage Railway as a travel option.) Then to Portrush for dinner and some entertaining summer stock theatre at the Portrush Town Hall. Needless to say, I slept well. A day in Belfast

The next day I was off to Belfast via the train for my final day in Northern Ireland. I checked in at the newly opened Grand Central Hotel Belfast, where panoramic views of the city surrounded by the Belfast Hills beyond can be viewed from the 23rd floor Ob-servatory Lounge. I walked everywhere, to Titanic Belfast across town, on the site of the shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built, and to the Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum in the Queen’s Quarter near Queen’s University. Near City Hall, hidden in the basement of a heritage row house, I satisfied my indulgence for superior chocolate with a visit to Co Couture, an award winning small-batch chocolatier that uses organic cacao sourced from Madagascar. I needed more than a day to enjoy this beautiful city. So many reasons to return to Northern Ireland.

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Cruise News -

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On Top of the World with Viking, Part 2 -

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Adventure Canada Setting Sail Back to Ireland

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The Ireland Circumnavigation begins in Dublin on June 9, 2019, when guests will board Adventure Canada’s 198 passenger ship, Ocean Endeavour, to sail around Ireland and experience its friendly folk, rolling countryside, charming villages, and rugged seascapes. Expedition highlights include sailing past the picturesque Skellig Islands, exploring the beautiful Dingle Peninsula, visiting the mysterious and unique Giant’s Causeway and the huge Rock of Cashel. The expedition will also include the beautiful Ring of Kerry, as well as castles, cathedrals, national parks, Irish pubs, vibrant cities and villages, and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. Guests will also visit Tory Island - a remote island inhabited by a small Gaelic community of fewer than 200 people with their own king.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Name Revealed The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection announced the name of their inaugural yacht on December 5th, 2018 at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France. The first yacht will be named Azora, meaning “sky blue”, a word of Spanish origin derived from “azure” and the color “azul”. Evoking the beauty of the sky and the ocean, Azora is a name that encourages guests to immerse themselves in the color of travel and experience the world with The RitzCarlton Yacht Collection.

Cunard Launches New Holistic Spa Concept Luxury cruise line Cunard announces Mareel Wellness & Beauty: a new spa conceptdeveloped in partnership with wellness innovator Canyon Ranch, to be rolled out across its fleet. Mareel will launch exclusively on board the newly-refurbished Queen Elizabeth this December 2018, closely followed by Queen Victoria and on flagship liner Queen Mary 2 in November 2020. Mareel, meaning phosphorescence of the ocean, is taken from the ancient Norse language and speaks to the illuminating light and healing energy of the sea. The new brand will offer a holistic approach with an extended spa treatment menu of mineral-rich seawater and marine-based experiences as well as a redesign of the entire spa facility.

Amawaterways Unveils 2020 Preview Brochure with New River Cruise Offerings The river cruise industry continues to experience rapid growth and increased bookings, and at the forefront of that is industry leader AmaWaterways. The recent release of the company’s 2020 preview brochure introduces new land extensions and itineraries on its awardwinning ships – including the revolutionary AmaMagna. Chartering New Waters

Only a year after her launch, AmaMagna will cruise new waters and continue to elevate the luxury of river cruising, expanding her presence to the lower Danube on four select departures. The innovative ship will cruise the seven-night Gems of Southeast Europe itinerary between Budapest, Hungary and Giurgiu, Romania through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania with stops at fascinating sites such as the ethereal Belogradchik Rocks and the UNESCOdesignated Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo. AmaMagna will also sail the popular 14night Grand Danube Cruise, between Vilshofen, Germany and Giurgui, Romania traveling to seven countries and offering scenic views through the Iron Gates between Serbia and Romania. Measuring twice the width of a traditional European river cruise ship, the luxurious AmaMagna allows for added personal space in the large suites (the majority 355 sq. ft. or larger); four tempting dining venues, including the Al Fresco Restaurant, Jimmy’s Wine Bar Restaurant, The Chef’s Table Restaurant and Main Restaurant; and new enticing amenities, such as the expansive Zen Wellness Studio and the innovative Water Sports Platform complete with the Sundowner vessel for complimentary tours of the Danube.











Holland America

Part of its industry-leading ultra-luxury expedition offering, Silversea Expeditions continues to take guests closer to the authentic beauty of the Far East with a number of remarkable itineraries.The following itinerary sample has been handpicked to illustrate the richness of Silversea Expeditions’ offering in the Far East in 2019:

MSC Norwegian

The Pacific Ring of Fire and Japan Silver Explorer departs April 29, 2019, on a 13-day cruise from Apra, Guam, to Kobe, Japan. Highlights of this nature-laden voyage include active volcanoes, tranquil gardens and possible sightings of dolphins, whales, green sea turtles, colourful Mariana fruit doves and much more. Land of the Rising Sun As graceful as a tea ceremony and as modern as a bullet train, Japan and South Korea are treasure troves of soaring castles, ancient temples and cutting-edge architecture that beckon to be explored. Silver Explorer answers the call with this 9-day cruise from Kobe to Busan, departing May 12, 2019. Semi-Circumnavigation of Sumatra and Java On March 5, 2019, Silver Discoverer departs Yangon for Bali on a 15-day expedition. On this exciting semi-circumnavigation of Sumatra and Java, guests will have the chance to climb an active volcano, meet indigenous peoples, and sample local food. A Kaleidoscope of Culture and Nature in the Banda and Arafura Seas This Bali to Darwin expedition aboard Silver Discoverer departs March 20, 2019. Guests will be treated to a symphony of unforgettable sights and experiences, including fascinating encounters with local cultures, an insight into intriguing local history, and the chance to witness breath-taking scenery and possible wildlife sightings of the iconic dragons of Komodo. Indonesia by Land and Sea Sailing June 24, 2019, from Darwin to Bali, Silver Discoverer will spend 15 days exploring a string of Indonesian pearls. Guests will have a chance to snorkel in the Coral Triangle, marvel at the underwater wonders of Anano Island, and discover the unique customs of the Torajan people. Another highlight is a visit to Tanjung Puting National Park and Camp Leakey to learn of Dr. Biruté Galdikas' ground-breaking work with orangutans, as well as possible up-close encounters with these intelligent and threatened animals.


Silversea Spotlights the Authentic Beauty of the Far East with a Range of Remarkable Expedition Voyages


Sailing on Viking’s award-winning 930-guest all-veranda Viking Sea, guests will journey through several millennia of culture and history, from Athens, known as the “birthplace of democracy,” to the island of Crete, home to the mysterious Minoan civilization. Highlights of the new Greek Odyssey itinerary include:








•Ephesus (Kuşadasi), Turkey: One of the best-preserved cities of antiquity in the world, guests can visit the remains of the Byzantine Basilica of St. John, take in sights such as the massive Great Theater and the magnificent Library of Celsus. •Volos, Greece: Now a modern, cosmopolitan port city, this region was once thought of as the playground of the gods. Guests can experience the stunning scenery of Meteora, where medieval monasteries stand precariously on hilltops, or explore the ancient religious center of Dion, located on the foothills of Mt. Olympus. •Thessaloniki, Greece: Greece’s second-largest city offers an exhilarating mix of ancient culture and modern life. While in port, guests can walk the vibrant waterfront promenade with its many cafés and restaurants, or venture outside the city to the remains of the ancient Macedonian kingdom of Alexander the Great. •Nafpilo, Greece: Set between breathtaking mountains and the Bay of Argos, Nafpilo is one of Greece’s most beautiful and romantic port cities. Guests can discover the charms of its Venetian homes and Byzantine churches, take a drive to Palamidi, an imposing fortress towering over the city, or travel to the nearby Peloponnese peninsula, an ancient area rich in history. •Scenic cruising: Mt. Athos: During the one sea day on this itinerary, guests will sail past the majestic slopes of Mt. Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the spiritual capital of Orthodox Christianity. Called the “Holy Mountain,” the peninsula’s soaring peaks are home to 20 monasteries whose monks work to preserve and catalogue a vast collection of liturgical works and art.


Viking has recently announced a new 11-day ocean cruise itinerary, Greek Odyssey, that will allow guests to explore the ancient empires of antiquity of the Aegean Sea during the quiet season. Sailing roundtrip from Athens starting in January 2021, the new itinerary features three new ports of call for Viking, including Volos, Thessaloníki and Nafpilo in Greece, as well as a stop in Ephesus, marking the company’s return to Turkey.


Viking to Sail New ‘Greek Odyssey’ Itinerary

O n To p o f t h e Wo r l d w i t h Vi k i n g Pa r t I I : We S e t S a i l Article and photography by Michael Morcos

extravagant - private planes to view the surrounding landscape. Beautiful Bergen

Jet-lag was not enough to deter us from discovering this little Norwegian jewel. As Norway’s second largest city, Bergen is a popular tourist destination and there are many reasons why. It is charming, clean, and friendly, and has some of the best looking historical architecture we would see on our cruise through the north. The iconic view of the historic Bryggen wharf is a site to behold. For years I have seen colorful pictures of this and finally had the chance to visit this district and its many small alleyways. Geiranger and the Fjords

Our first day and our first port of call would be a highlight of our trip, and getting to Geiranger was as fantastic as being there. We would pass through what would be the best Fjords of our cruise and on this foggy day the landscape was perfectly mysterious with towering cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls.


n this part two of our wonderful Viking cruise, we set sail. Heading straight north from our base in Bergen, we hugged the coast to the European lands-end in HonningsvĂĽg, Norway. From this land of the midnight sun we navigate our way south to the mystical land known as the Shetland and Orkney Islands just before we end our journey in London. This memorable cruise would be fascinating, educational, relaxing and with calm seas, totally enjoyable thanks to the great efforts of the Viking management and crew. It is a cruise where everything works as it should. The Viking Sea was beautiful, luxurious and comfortable, and the service was impeccable.

Photo: Viking

On land, we would participate in all the Viking shore excursions. There was one included in every port of call and they were well planned, easy going, lots of fun and a great way to meet other like-minded Viking guests to say the least.

Knowledgeable local guides brought the different destinations to life and you can be sure that they covered the most important attractions and topics. So easy were these outings that the only stress was keeping an eye on time and getting to the luxury coaches for scheduled departures. A note about booking these optional excursions: some of the more popular tours fill up fast and priority is given to guests with a category of Deluxe Veranda suite or higher. It is for this reason that once you are confirmed as a guest, reservations for tours should be done right away on their well-designed and user friendly login guest website. Besides the included excursions, Viking offered a host of optional outings. At a small cost, guests had at their disposal the best of the best at the tip of their fingers including historical tours, gastronomical tours, cultural encounters with locals, fishing trips, biking and hiking through mountains, right up to the most

Here we opted for an extra excursion that included an adventure that brought us up through snaking roads to a farm on a plateau. Getting there was made easier with the aid of electronic bicycles and although you still had to make a big effort, it was nothing compared to a regular bike. Geiranger is an outdoors persons dream, there were numerous hiking trails, or kayaking the fjords options and anywhere you go it was like being in a postcard. Molde

In Molde we would have yet another amazing day, this time we would kayak the sea with a professional outdoorsman. That is right, our young guide was actually studying to be just that, going to school and soon to graduate which made me wonder but then again this is Norway and most of its citizens have a close connection to the land. Our Kayaking was in contrast to our visit to a newly constructed heritage village. Wooden buildings were brought in from numerous Norwegian places and with the addition of craftsmen from the many ages and characters in period clothing, this was a great look at how the people lived and survived in what could be a harsh land.

Tromso and Lofoten

In Tromso and Lofoten we would enjoy quite village life and we thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and unhurried ways of the locals. The scenery, as always, was picture perfect. This was evident in the hills, harbors and the beautiful beaches. Much of the economic activity here is based on the sea: in ocean fishing, fish farming, sea transport and know to a smaller degree, tourism from the Norwegians themselves and from foreigners.

to 6820–6660 BC that point to the presence of Mesolithic nomadic tribes. Now, it is home to the renowned Highland Park whiskey distillery. Founded in 1798, Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt some part of the barley it uses, blending locally Hobbister Moor peat with heather before using it as fuel. Their recipe is a winning one, and the whiskey is fantastic.


The island is also home to the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic stone circle which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.


The name says it all; this is the northern most land point in Europe. It is a cold, barren land but somehow there is life here, as in the hills we would see many herds of reindeer. On this leg we would drive from the harbor in Honningsvåg to the welcome center of Nord Capp and along the way we would meet up with the Sami, a group of hardy people that inhabit the furthest parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Sami are nomadic and on his day they would bring their reindeer, set up tents and demonstrate their ways of life. Norcapp hall, or Nordkapphallen, was initially built in 1959, and parts of the building were placed inside the mountain plateau, including the cinema and a huge grotto. Today, the building center is able to accommodate several thousand guests. NordCapp is also home to a large globe that marks that visitors are at the northernmost tip of the European continental mainland. The Scottish Islands

Next, we visited a couple of special islands. Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands, lies 168 km from the Scottish mainland. The capital, Lerwick, bears evidence of human settlement dating back 3,000 years, but was officially founded in the 17th century as a herring and white fish seaport to trade with the Dutch fishing fleet. Today, Lerwick is a busy fishing and ferry port with a harbour that also services vessels from the offshore oil industry. The Shetland Islands are also famous for their breeding of certain animals. Most famous are the Shetland Pony and Shetland Sheepdog .

Ongoing excavations by Orkney College have also uncovered several buildings, both ritual and domestic. It is amazing to view these treasures of the past in person – how did they build them back then? Edinburgh

For a great view into Scotland’s past and present, the Royal Mile offers a cobblestoned walk through time. It leads from Edinburgh Castle down to Hollyrood House with shops and boutiques lining both sides. It is an excellent way for tourists to experience the numerous bars, try the free tours based on the royal mile and enjoy the vibe of the city. All great things come to an end

London would be our last port and it could not have been a better place to end a delightful and relaxing cruise. Our Viking Sea made it right to the heart of the city and docked in front of the Cutty Sark, two blocks from the tube and a stones throw from the Royal Observatory. This, by the way, is no easy feat. The Sea is the perfect size ship capable of sailing the Thames River and getting through the city’s flood barriers. With much excitement, we were looking forward to wonderful London but at the same time we would have to say good-by to our new-old friend the Viking Sea. She will be in our hearts and minds as we remember the wonderful experiences and life long memories she brought us too.

The Orkney Islands can trace their history far back as well. Artifacts found have been dated

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Glittering Skylines to Ancient Treasures Cruising the Yangtze from Chongqing to the Three Gorges Article and Photography by Jennifer Merrick

spicy cuisine and beautiful women, Chongqing is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Our local guide, who called himself Ben, described a tourist attraction that was our first stop on the tour.

And they were right. “How could I not have heard about this place before?” was my question when we first arrived in Chongqing. Located in the country’s southwest, this massive metropolis was where our four-day cruise along the Yangtze River would set sail.

But further into the cruise, we discovered another side to China, too. At the Three Gorges (narrow valleys along the middle section of the Yangtze River), we found a land of mystic beauty with ancient sites that brought to mind dragons, emperors and inkbrushed depictions of mountains and mystery.

“A movie set of the Republic of China,” he started with and then changed his mind. “No, maybe National China. Yes, we’re going to National China Movie Town.”

China has changed so much in the last 20 years,” I kept hearing before my trip. I was told of megacities, seas of skyscrapers and high-speed trains in a country modernizing at breakneck pace.

The city’s night view mesmerized us. Its brightly lit bridges that crossed the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, and the glittering skyscrapers and modern architecture gave any of the world’s more famous city skylines a run for their money. Known for mountains,

Tasty Tour of Chongqing

Given my astonishment at the sheer scope of this metropolis, I was excited that our cruise included a day of sightseeing around Chongqing before boarding.

I had no idea what to expect. What it turned out to be was an open-air living history site of revolutionary China, with a village of recreated building and costumed characters (including General Chiang Kai-shek and Chairman Mao) from the 1930s and 40s. At that time, Chongqing was the provisional capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Think along the lines of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and you’ll get the idea what the Chongqing Liangjiang

International Movie City, as it’s officially known, was like. There are over 220 historical buildings, along with photo studios, where you can have your picture taken in period garb (rifles and uniforms included); tourist shops and restaurants. At one eatery, Yida Hot Pot, we tried the city’s most famous dish. “Chongqing is hot pot’s hometown,” Ben explained, and told us that tourists from around China come to indulge. The bubbling, fragrant pot of broth on the table was red and filled with spicy peppers and seasonings. Surrounding this center piece was an impressive spread of uncooked ingredients, some familiar (mushrooms, fish, shrimp balls, dumplings) and others more exotic (cow intestine, chicken feet). “Half the flavour comes from the sauce, half from the pot,” said Ben. We mixed the sauce with garlic and onions into our bowls, placed the food in the hotpot and waited for it to cook. We then ladled it into our bowls for a sweat-inducing, flavourful bite (though I decided to pass on the chicken feet). Fortified, we set out to explore more of Chongqing, including a stop at the Three Gorges Museum. Here, exhibitions gave us insight into the region with displays of artifacts from local excavations (with some pieces dated back to the Six Dynasties, 317581 AD), the Three Gorges Dam and the cultural and natural history of the area. We had only scratched the surface of this intriguing city and though I was itching to see more, we had a cruise to board. Sailing the Golden River

Sometimes referred to as Mother River or the Cradle of Chinese Civilisation, the Yangtze River’s landscape and history are synonymous with China itself and etched in the country’s identity. From Chongqing, we sailed on a four-day cruise that took us to the Three Gorges, considered one of the most scenic segments of the river. We left the bright lights of Chongqing behind

and awoke the first morning in Fuling, a river town with thousands of years of history, which we learned more about on a shore excursion to the Baiheliang Underwater Museum. With the change in water level from the dam, some of the country’s most treasured artifacts had been at risk of being submerged permanently. Fortunately, they were preserved at this innovative museum, which gave us the opportunity to view these ancient relics both above and below the water. A stone fish carving, large enough to lie down on, greeted us as we entered the museum. “When the stonefish came out of the water, people believed there would be a good harvest,” our guide informed us. It was just one of many artifacts, dating back over 1200 years, which were used to record the water levels of the river. After touring the above-ground portion of the museum, we descended a very steep escalator that led to a long tunnel. We were now under the water. Along the passageway were portholes, from which we could see the artifacts. What we were looking at was the White Crane Ridge (Baiheliang), so named because of the cranes that once gathered on the stone. Measuring over 5200 feet long and 49 feet wide, it’s considered to be the first ancient hydrometric station in the world. The extensive inscriptions and carvings that date back to 763BC were used to track the water levels, droughts and floods. UNESCO has recognised this museum as the only underwater preservation site that is accessible for nondivers. Life on board the Yangtze Gold 6 began to take on a certain rhythm of buffets (a combination of Western and Chinese) and onboard entertainment. Highlights included Mahjong lessons, a Chinese gambling game, which turned out to be a little like Rummy with tiles, and Asian craft demonstrations. But my favourite pastime was simply watching the scenery roll by from the balcony. Forested hills changed into towns of white buildings and then back again; the river widened and narrowed; and boats large and small passed us.

Our next shore excursion was at the 51 city of Wanzhou. Like Chongqing, it surprized me with its sheer size and stunning skyline. The concert we attended was a true spectacle with dancers and musicians from around the world, culminating in a Chinese performance that featured dozens of dancers accompanied by a full orchestra playing with the lit-up skyline of Wanzhou behind it. Afterwards, we strolled along the river, where a light installation bedazzled us with psychedelic light tunnels and projected images. And this was only the prelude to the laser show that awaited us at the end, where we joined the crowds oohing and aahing as images appeared out of thin air. After a night of the futuristic glitter and tech of a large metropolis, it was a little discombobulating to wake up in the morning to its complete opposite. White Emperor City had a palpable sense of antiquity. Throughout the dynasties, leaders, artists and poets have been attracted to this natural wonder, where the river narrows and the mountains rise steeply on its shores. Historically, it’s where east meets west, and was home to several important historical sites. We climbed the stone steps of Mingliang Palace, which housed a temple and shrines to ancient emperors along with intricate stone carvings. As remarkable as the artistry was, it couldn’t compete with the view of Kui Gate. Here was the entrance of the first of the three gorges, a view so famous that it appears on the 10 Yuan bank note. With a mist coming off the mountains that rise high from the curving Yangtze River, it was so magical I halfexpected to see dragons emerging out of the clouds. This was a China nobody had told me about. I couldn’t help but marvel at the contrast: modern cities and ancient lands, mystical mountains and dazzling skylines, artifacts that date back two millennials and cities that have sprung up in two decades. And all of it experienced on a much too brief four-day cruise.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Nuremberg to Vienna with AmaSonata by Olivia Balsinger


recently had the opportunity to discover Europe’s powerful Danube River aboard the AmaWaterways ship, AmaSonata, which first launched in 2014. This was my first river cruise and I quickly understood why this cruising trend is so popular. AmaSonata offers not only topnotch amenities, but also has a considerably relaxed vibe.

hike to the hilltop castles in Passau, Germany, and Durnestein Austria. It also has longer excursions like a full-day tour of Salzburg, Austria, or a half-day tour of the medieval Czech city Cesky Krumlov. AmaWaterways makes it easy to stick to your pace by dividing the activities of into three levels. And now let me tell you a bit about my adventures.

True to AmaWaterways philosophy, all daily excursions were covered in the cruise price, with the exception of a few optional tours. In their effort to promote an active and adventurous lifestyle and attract passengers that are more physically adept, the excursions usually consisted of hiking, cycling, and long walking tours. On this Danube cruise, for example, passengers had the option to


bors to post-modern buildings. As a powerhouse of the German Industrial Revolution, the city had a particularly influential role in the World War II era, serving as the stage for Nazi rhetoric to infiltrate the ideology of Germany’s working class. Desiring to delve into the thick chapters of this era, I decided to take the World War II tour offered as an excursion, which took me to the specific locations where history was made. Regensburg

I embarked in Nuremberg the first day, settling into my temporary home-at-sea before setting out to explore. Nuremberg, a city marked by its prolific place in history’s most historical moments, shows its complex layers on the facades of its buildings; medieval churches are harmonious, adjacent neigh-

After a comfortable night’s sleep on board, I woke up the following morning in Regensburg — a city situated at the northernmost point of the Danube River, known to some as the most Italian city north of the Alps, as well as “Germany’s medieval mir-

acle.” An ancient town with a modern flare, careening its narrow streets is enough to recognize its charm, amplified even further by the marvelous medieval structures (the best preserved in the country). Missing my two wheels back home, I opted to take the Guided Bike Tour to Walhalla — an impressive Neoclassical building, first conceived in 1807 in order to support the unification of the German States. Its function is laudatory, as it serves as a memorial to some of the most influential people in German history. It houses some 65 plaques and 130 busts of famous figures throughout 2,000 years of history. It was a comprehensive experience that introduced me to some of the most prominent people in German culture, all within a gorgeous interior reminiscent of an opulent Greek temple with Versailles sensibilities. Passau The next day brought our ship to Passau, where I was again drawn to the option of a biking tour to both curb my recent indulgence of delicious Bavarian confections, as well as cover as much ground as possible. The tour went from Passau to Erlau. Highlights included seeing the confluence of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz Rivers. After crossing the Ilz Bridge, we rode down the breathtaking coast of the Danube River, which brought us to the largely untouched, pristinely bucolic Donauleiten Nature Reserve on the southern edge of the Bavarian Forest. Nestled between steep wooded slopes on one side and the mighty waters of the Danube on the other side, the area seems like an illustration ripped out of the pages of a fairytale Linz We arrived in Linz the following morning — a town known for its bustling music and arts scene as well as its cultural institutions, from the Mozart House to the Lentoz Museum of Modern Art. It was hard for me to decide which AmaWaterways activity to take, but, feeling rather adventurous I chose the long excursion to Salzburg, a charming city known for its beautiful baroque buildings,

its religious history, and as the birthplace of Mozart. Beginning in Linz, we first past the lakeside town of Munsee, which many know as the site of the wedding church in the Sound of Music! When we arrived in Salzburg proper, a tour of the historic center gave us some bearings to explore on my own during free time. Melk Melk was our next destination, which is located next to the picturesque Wachau valley on the Danube in lower Austria. Here I visited the marvelous Melk Abbey, which is one of the largest and most impressive Baroque monasteries in all of Europe. Founded in the eleventh century, Melk Abbey was originally a residence for Benedictine monks, it now houses a museum dedicated to its history, with a library with a fantastic collection of medieval manuscripts that served as the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s gorgeous, tragic novel “The Name of the Rose.” Vienna Arriving in Vienna was bittersweet: I was sad that my journey was coming to an end, but elated that I had the chance to first explore romantic Vienna, Austria’s capital. Following my time onboard, I spent an entire two days exploring this musical dreamland, resting my head each night at the boutique Hotel Grand Ferdinand Vienna, conveniently located in the center of the city, walking distance to Stephansplatz, with panoramic views and a rooftop restaurant. I especially enjoyed the historic architecture, in a 20th-century European grandhotel tradition, providing a unique escape from the modern day (but with modern comforts available, of course!) With the Vienna Pass (with tagline “The Sightseeing Pass to Vienna”), I enjoyed many architectural marvels and lush gardens of the city, making stops at the stunning Vienna Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, as well as the Ringstrasse — a ringed road rife with beautiful Baroque buildings, fascinating monuments, and

lovely parks. I explored 53 Kartnerstrasse, not only the most famous shopping street in all of Vienna, but home to the best traditional Austrian pastries! On Board Experience Of course, my time onboard was just as fulfilling as in port, thanks to the quality and luxury of the AmaWaterways brand. The ship is large enough that overcrowding is rarely an issue. The main public areas are the dining room and the main lounge, both of which are spacious and well-illuminated to provide an open and airy setting for quiet thoughts and quick escapes. Each of its 81 cabins also strive to maximize the living space, most of them boasting two balconies — one of which is a French balcony and the other an adjoining platform that can sit two people comfortably. The cabins are separated into nine categories, ranging from staterooms, from 160 square feet, to suites, up to 300 square feet. Each cabin also comes equipped with a flat-screen TV, which has access to 25 channels. There is also a mini bar, complementary robes and slippers, a hair dryer, and an umbrella. Entertainment is also provided consistently throughout the day, with a keyboard player in the Lounge during lunch, at teatime, and after dinner. At some ports, outside entertainment may sometimes also come onboard. The main entertainment venue is the Violin Deck, where morning pastries, light lunches, tea goodies, and late night snacks are served on a bow-shaped buffet in the middle of the boldly floral, airy room. There is a panoramic window that provides lovely views, and plenty of cozy sofas perfect for conversations or some reading time along. On the Sun Deck, there is a small heated pool, with a swim up bar at one end. In addition to the daily excursions, the free use of bicycles, wine at lunch and dinner, and a reliable Wi-Fi signal were all included in the cruise price, ensuring a hassle free adventure with AmaWaterways.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Fe e l i n g t h e V i b e i n M a r y l a n d WT Photo Library

Article and photography by Steve Gillick


aryland is a state of contagious enthusiasm these days and it doesn’t take long for visitors to become infected with excitement. After we flew into Baltimore and spent the day exploring some of the city’s 200 neighborhoods, we settled into Minnow, a lively South Baltimore seafood-cocktail restaurant, to immerse our taste buds in “Balmerese”. This term usually relates to local pronunciations of the name ‘Baltimore’, as ‘Bodimore’ or “Balmer”. In the city you often hear references to ‘Warshington’, the Nation’s Capital that lies about a one hour drive west, and the use of the word “Hon”, a ubiquitous term of

endearment that is short for “Honey” and serves as a generic nickname for just about any person. The annual “Honfest” in June pays homage to the Hon stereotype where those vying to win ‘Baltimore’s Best Hon’ contest sport 50’s and 60’s style skirts, cat eye glasses and feather boas, in addition to either a prominent beehive hairdo (“the higher the hair, the closer to God”, according to the rules) or “a wash and set” (“because it’s full of hope and hairspray”). And just a reminder that the movie “Hairspray”, filmed in the city, was essentially a celebration of Baltimore culture.

But Balmerese can also refer to that unique Baltimore state of mind that includes the beloved Baltimore Orioles (not only the State bird but also the baseball team), Baltimore seafood with the emphasis on crab cakes, Baltimore desserts such as Smith Island Cake and Berger Cookies, Baltimore Rye Whiskey, and of course Fort McHenry where the American National Anthem was composed by Francis Scott Key in September, 1814. Minnow’s reputation was built on local, fresh seafood. Jake Lefenfeld the General Manager explained “we don’t want food to pass through a number of hands. We are proud to tell our clients ‘that bad boy on

your plate was swimming yesterday’, and then when we sampled the Salt Cod Croquettes and the Crispy Oysters, we knew exactly what Jake was talking about. But backtracking just a bit, in our exploration of Baltimore’s neighborhoods earlier in the day, we had lunch in the Inner Harbor at the Loch Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel, where appetizers included fresh shrimp, raw oysters, crab dip and tuna poke, along with a nice RAR Bucktown Brown Ale (there are 90 craft breweries in Maryland, with Guinness being one of the newest additions). And then my Chesapeake Club sandwich arrived, full of shrimp salad, crab cake, fried oyster, roasted garlic, aioli, tomato, smoked bacon and gruyere cheese. Sooo good! Al Hutchinson, the President and CEO of Visit Baltimore explained that visitors “want to feel the vibe and fabric” of the destination they are exploring and Baltimore’s neighborhoods are perfect for this. “They don’t want a cookie cutter experience. They want to venture out”, and he noted that there are programs for Baltimore neighborhood residents to encourage them to participate in the tourism experience. To test this out, we visited a few key attractions. The American Visionary Art Museum is housed in a red brick building emblazoned with the colorful words “O say can you see”. Founder and Director Rebecca Hoffberger explained how the Museum, designated by Congress as the national museum for self-taught art, “is addicted to visionary thought through the path of intuition”. She went on to say that ‘the exhibitions either explain the glorious side of human beings, or the worst. We throw down a gauntlet to a theme and bring in world experts”. Hoffberger, in her honest, animated style said “we use the museum to talk with influential people” and over the years these have included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Edward Norton, David Byrne, David Bowie, Robin Williams, Tommy Lee Jones and many others. The Permanent Exhibit in the Museum


includes Hobart Brown-inspired huge tricycle sculptures of the Pink dog Fifi and Babe, Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox, Uri Geller’s 1976 Black Cadillac Fleetwood encrusted with 5000 bent spoons, Ron Nicolini’s Giant Bra Ball made with 18,000 bras, and many other amusing and thought-provoking works of art. While some might comment on the ‘rye’ sense of humor in many of the Museum’s exhibits, others might just head over to the Sagamore Spirit Distillery to learn about Maryland Rye first hand! It started in the 1700’s when Rye was planted in tobacco fields to re-generate the soil and now, with a resurgence of interest in cocktails, Maryland Rye, with hints of caramel, honey, cinnamon and clove, has become a top seller in the State and beyond. Outside the Distillery, we boarded a Water Taxi appropriately named Billie’s Voice. The Jazz singer Billie Holiday, while born in Philadelphia, spent a great deal of time in Baltimore and the city has pretty well adopted “Lady Day” as their own. In her early years, Holiday lived in Fell’s Point, where our taxi dropped us off, after winging by historic Fort McHenry. Fell’s Point brought us face to face with history. Founded in 1726 by William Fell the community became an important shipbuilding center during the War of 1812. Over the years, waves of immigrants made their mark in the area and today it showcases an artistic, funky, relaxed ambiance with bars, restaurants, fashion and record stores, mingled amongst 18th and 19th century row houses. One of the more notable establishments is The Horse You Came In On Saloon where a sign strictly advises “No Service will be provided to anyone on a horse”. Another sign notes that this was the poet, Edgar Allan Poe’s last stop before we was found in an alleyway on October 3, 1849. He was taken to a nearby medical college where he died four days later. There’s no actual proof that this was “Poe’s Last Stop” but it adds not only to the mythology,

romance and mystique of the area but also to the evening ‘ghost’ tours. In Maryland, the rule of thumb seems to be ‘stay in Baltimore and then hub out to the other areas’. And there are many. We explored the Civil War battlefield at Antietam that relegated September 17, 1862 as the bloodiest day in American history with 22,717 dead, wounded or missing. Then we checked out Boonsboro, founded by one of Daniel Boone’s cousins, and home to bestselling author Nora Roberts (a.k.a J.D. Robb). Lunch consisted of an amazing pizza at Vesta Pizzeria (owned by Roberts’ husband) with a dessert of delicious, rich ice cream at South Mountain Creamery, served at a counter right next to the barn where they keep the cows, and proof of their motto “From Cow to Cone”. From there visitors can continue to Gathland State Park or on to Hagerstown to follow one of the city culture trails or head a bit further to Frederick. Here you can wander along the Riverwalk or explore the legacy of the Civil War in the downtown streets. And just outside of Frederick you can follow the Wine Route and relax with a chilled glass of Passeggiata XI at the Black Ankle Vineyard. Feeling the vibe in Maryland is a natural transition from arriving as a visitor to quickly being referred to as “Hon”. It’s a fun, creative and often times historical experience where food, culture and community all play a significant role.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


A C o s t a R i c a Wi l d l i f e Va c a t i o n A r t i c l e a n d p h o t o g r a p h y b y J o h a n n a R e a d , Tr a v e l E a t e r. n e t


get a good sense of how abundant the wildlife is in Costa Rica as soon as I step out of the airport. As I follow my guide extraordinaire, Emilio Solana, to the car, he politely says, “watch your step”. I glance down thinking, “oh, that rock is too close to the wall for me to trip over.” And then Emilio says, “that’s a cane toad.” It’s the biggest amphibian in the whole country, just hanging out at the airport giving visitors their first look at Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife. As my week in Costa Rica progresses, I quickly lose track of the number and types of wildlife we see. I’m fortunate to have Emilio as my guide, as he’s an expert in Costa Rican history, geography, culture and

wildlife. He not only names every bird we see, he can name them just from hearing their call. Emilio has his work cut out for him. Costa Rica has 5% of the planet’s biodiversity despite only having 0.03% of the earth’s landmass. That means 850 bird species, 205 mammals, 160 amphibians, 220 reptiles, 1000 fish and 10,000 species of plants and trees. If you want to see animals on your vacation, you’ll love Costa Rica. G Adventures offers small group tours if you’d rather not travel independently. The efforts the country has taken to preserve its plant and animal biodiversity are

astounding. For example, they have reversed deforestation (the world’s first tropical country to do so). Over 54% of the country is forested, when it was only 21% in the 1980s. A whopping 26% of the country is protected natural land, 93% of their electricity is from renewable resources, and Costa Rica plans even greater measures to become the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2121. There’s no need to even buy bottled water in Costa Rica: tap water is perfectly drinkable, including for foreigners. All this makes it an ideal country for a tropical vacation (or, for those so inclined, an ideal retirement base). My travels are based within driving distance of Costa Rica’s northwest international air-

WT Photo Library

After exploring the tropical forest, everyone needs a break. Buena Vista Lodge delivers with natural thermal pools fed by the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. I try each of the five differently-temperatured pools, plus the sauna, and then cover myself with volcanic mud. I gaze out at the jungle and babbling brook as the mud dries and try to count the number of different bird calls I hear. Another great way to see Costa Rica’s wildlife is with a wetlands tour. In El Viejo Wildlife National Refuge, we take a boat ride on the Tempisque River.

port, Liberia. My trip begins in the forested foothills of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and the national park of the same name, in the province of Guanacaste. The lush forests are rich with wildlife. Just on my way to breakfast I see several coatimundis and a monkey. A cartoon-like toucan and more coatis hang out near Buena Vista Lodge’s open air restaurant at lunch. Buena Vista Lodge is more than a hotel. Guests can learn about traditional Costa Rican cooking techniques, try their hand at making tortillas and other specialties, then taste their handiwork accompanied by the country’s excellent coffee. This eco-resort also encourages overnight


and day guests to explore the primary tropical forest. You can choose from a hike or horseback ride to a waterfall, flying through the air on ziplines, walking amongst the treetops on 16 hanging bridges, and even ride a ground level water slide that twists around tree trunks. We see bright blue butterflies, lizards, squirrels, monkeys, coatis and enough birds to have a birdwatcher pull out his checklist. Emilio identifies them all and tells me about their lives.

The tidal river is teeming with birds, crocodiles, turtles, bright green, grey and orange iguanas, capuchin and howler monkeys, and several species of bats (Emilio points out eight long nose bats cutely lined up in a column on a tree trunk). Costa Rica’s lizards’ names spark the imagination -there’s ctenosaurs, green basilisks, and even Jesus Christ lizards, so named because of their ability to run on water. At El Viejo there are even several bird species not found anywhere else in Costa Rica, including laughing falcons, roseate spoonbills, wood storks and great egrets. Also here, but more difficult to see, are the breeding pair of Central America’s largest aquatic bird, the jabirú, plus wild cats and peccaries, which look a little like a fuzzier warthog. Of course Costa Rica’s coast has plenty of wildlife too. Tamarindo, in Guanacaste on the Pacific coast, is a great place to base yourself to explore everything the coast has

to offer. The town has plenty of tourist infrastructure (you’ll have your choice of gelato shops) and has several popular beaches. Animal lovers will want to observe the tiny animals that live in the tidepools at quiet Langosta Beach. Kayakers can go birdwatching in the Tamarindo Estuary and watch sunbathing crocodiles hope a monkey swings down close. Huge leatherback turtles lay eggs at Grande Beach between November and April. A sailing trip is another way to see Costa Rica’s wildlife, as well as its stunning scenery. Dolphins and whales sometimes show off for sailors. There are several snorkelling spots and kayakers can get up close to the green shores. I was amazed to see my first pufferfish, covered in polka dots, while snorkelling. Wildlife was even abundant at my hotel, Tamarindo Diria, on a popular beach and surrounded by shops and restaurants, After taking a swim in the gentle waves (it’s an ideal place to learn to surf), I gaze out to the ocean and notice several iguanas perched on a wall enjoying the same view. A beautiful squirrel -- variegated, I later learn from Emilio -- alternatively poses for my camera and takes flying leaps between lounge chairs. No matter where are you are in beautiful Costa Rica, it’s difficult not to see wildlife. And thanks to the country’s impressive sustainability measures, it looks like that wildlife will be around for generations to come.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

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


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Fairmont Empress Victoria Timeless Royal Treatment by Susan Campbell

Seattle Sheraton Goes Grand! bySusan Campbell

With plenty of hoopla and fanfare last October, the Sheraton Seattle Hotel became a Sheraton Grand and celebrated its multi-million-dollar renovation to bring the legendary downtown stay up to the iconic Grand standards. The galas included VIP parties with bountiful buffets of artisan tapas, pop-up bars with signature drinks, and even an entire ice wall of champagne! Guests were also encouraged to participate in the unique immersive experiences called “The Heart of The City” where you can take photos and videos with recreated local landmarks and interactive props like the Space Needle and the storefront of the original Starbucks -founded in Seattle. This initiative is going global to showcase Sheraton’s commitment to highlighting the best of local attractions, culture and vibe in its hotels around the world. Guests also enjoyed the launch of the new Sheraton Club on the 33rd floor for high-end complimentary food and drink when you book the upscale Club floor rooms. Other dining on the property includes the stand-alone talk-of-town trendy Loulay Kitchen and Bar helmed by charismatic culinary force Chef Thierry Rautureau- better known locally as the “Chef in the Hat”.

Some things do get better with age. Like the classic charm and iconic hospitality of Victoria’s premiere hotel the Fairmont Empress. You can’t help but be impressed at the outset when you roll up to this stately Grand Dame of Vancouver Island stays, especially if you do so by water- as we did aboard the new luxury transfer from Vancouver called the V2V Ferry. This hotel is seriously Instagram-worthy with a class and style you just don’t see in hotels anymore. But even though she was first built in 1908, this castle-like structure has managed to retain that iconic old-world elegance while still keeping up with the times. Their world-famous afternoon tea options offer 32 versions for restricted diets, and their dining room has also recently won a Wine Spectator Award. We also enjoyed the local seaweed treatment pampering in their spa, too.

The hotel is in a prime location, close to all kinds of other great food and drink emporiums like Steelhead Diner, and world class shopping is also in easy walking distance. It’s also a mere five blocks away from the famous seafront Pike Place Public Market- nine acres of farm to-fork offerings, incredible fresh fish and seafood, and all kinds of craft shops and unique entertainment. While in town, do take a tour with Seattle Seaplanes nearby for unparalleled views of the city and the surrounding region, it’s seriously one of the best ways to see “The Heart of the City.”

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juicy, tender textures and big flavours.

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge by Jennifer Merrick

Surrounded by wilderness with well-maintained hiking trails, it was easy to succumb to the lure of the mountains at the resort’s doorstep or venture a little farther and explore the popular mountain attractions of Banff National Park and Canmore. But we couldn’t forget the Nordic Spa. With the exception of the cold plunge (which was apparently excellent for the body’s circulation and immune system but tortuous to endure), every station had its own unique bliss: three different types of saunas, eucalyptus and alchemist steam rooms, hot and warm pools and an exfoliation cabin. The latter, inspired by the traditional Turkish Hamman, was an extra touch, designed to be the last stop, where you’re given salts to scrub off dead skin.


ot-warm-cold-rest-repeat. This outdoor hydrotherapy circuit is the foundation of the Nordic Spa. Esteemed for its therapeutic and stressrelieving properties, it has long been a staple spa experience in Scandinavia and Quebec. And now, it can be enjoyed in Alberta at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. Located an hour west of Calgary in the scenic Kananaskis Valley, this resort -- part of the Marriott Autograph Collection --was everything a mountain retreat should be. Their 247 recently renovated guest rooms

and suites were well-designed with large windows that showed off the jagged peaks of the Rockies; wood-burning fireplaces and cozy furnishings combine seamlessly with modern conveniences; and it has one of the most comfortable beds I’d ever slept in. Restaurant choices included the Forte Restaurant, which featured favourite Italian dishes, especially the handmade pizzas done in wood-oven fires, and the Cedar Room. This more upscale eatery emphasised regional and seasonally inspired dishes. It was here I relished my first Albertan steak, which was justifiably famous for its

So here, the prescribed Nordic spa method was hot-warm-cold-rest-repeat and then exfoliate. It’s only a recommendation, of course. Personally, my circuit was: relax in the hot tub and look at the snow-peaked mountains while building resolve to jump in the cold plunge pool. Then stand at the edge of the plunge pool and count to three –dip my right toes in –beeline to the steam rooms. Once again, stand at the edge of the cold station and count to three – dip my left toes in -- head straight back to the hot tub and look at the mountains, vowing to give up on the cold plunge -- and then exfoliate. But nevertheless, I emerged from the Nordic Spa soaked, steamed and scrubbed. And more importantly, feeling invigorated and relaxed, which was a perfect combination to enjoy the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge.

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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


A Tranquil Urban Oasis: The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo Article and photography by Steve Gillick


here are not too many hotels in Tokyo that offer a speechless view. But we deliberately left the curtains open at night so every time we woke up, we could take in the beauty of that amazing, illuminated, 700 year old Pagoda in the hotel garden. And while the three-storey Pagoda served as the crowning visual jewel of the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo garden, an earlier walk revealed other treasures. The stone statues of Rakan memorialize spiritual practitioners from the 17th century. The Koshin stone monument, with Chinese Taoist origins, was made in 1669 and has never moved from its location. A 500 year old Sacred Chinquapin Tree with supports for its branches, is encircled by a rope called a ‘shimenawa’ to indicate that a kami, or spirit, resides here. The Shiratama Inari Shrine is accessible by the forest pathways that meander through the garden where seasonally, sakura (cherry blossoms) and camellias bloom. In fact when the property was originally acquired in 1878 by Aritomo Yamagata, a former Prime Minister of Japan, he named it “Chinzanso” or “mountain of camellias” after the fragrant flowers that bloom in hues ranging from white to dark pink.

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The hotel was formerly a Four Seasons property and has maintained a true Five Star ambiance that includes the lobby, the hallways, the rooms and the hotel’s welcoming customer service. Ms. Ayumi Sanada, the Assistant Director of Marketing gave us a tour of the facilities that include 267 accommodation rooms, 6 chapels, 9 restaurants, as well as numerous function rooms. Ayumi-san informed us that on weekends, there could be up to 40 weddings each day at the hotel, but that during the week this was a true ‘urban oasis’ where guests can revel in luxury and nature but also participate in workshops that include the tea ceremony, kimono fitting, Japanese language lessons and a garden tour. The hotel’s newest activity is the Be a Samurai program where guests can learn sword techniques (with optional Samurai costuming) and enjoy a talk on the teachings of bushido (the Way of the Samurai). And to enhance the feeling of ‘getting away’ guests can enjoy ‘YU, The Spa’ that includes a fitness gym, hot spring and swimming pool. Some of the treatment rooms have their own outdoor garden and waterfall.

“Omotenashi” denotes hospitality from the heart and the Chinzanso has embraced this as their philosophy. In the accommodation rooms, from Standard to the ‘View Bath Suite” (where a round tea-cup bath tub allows guests to luxuriate as they take in the view of the garden), specially designed table lamps from the town of Arita, customized silk sashes on the beds and original art work on the walls contribute to the comfort of the spacious rooms. We visited the Japanese Suite, a Tatami room for up to six guests, with the traditional tea burner ‘hidden’ in the floor mats, a shoji screen hiding the large-screen television, and an upper floor garden view that enhanced the serenity of the experience. The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is about 20 minutes from Tokyo Station, accessible by the JR Yamanote Line (train) with a short taxi or bus ride from the Mejiro Station, or on the Tokyo Metro (subway) with a short taxi ride or a 20 minute walk from the Edogawabashi Station along the Riverwalk. In Tokyo this is tranquility at its best!

Gods of Fortune), and a low table in 63 the middle of the room, with cushions for sitting. The bedding, consisting of mattresses, futons and pillows would be laid out after dinner. And one of the hallmarks of the resort: our very own, private outdoor hot spring bath. The Inn also has a ‘public’ hot spring where, after soaking in the hot, soothing waters, you can prolong the tranquility with a visit to a small lobby with massage chairs overlooking another serene garden, and complimentary drinks of Sake and lemoninfused water. The dinner menu was a reflection of local seasonal specialties including Shijimi clams, pumpkin soup, smoked duck, sashimi, sea cucumber and more. The visual presentation was stunning!

Sacred Connections at the Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo Article and photography by Steve Gillick


hen the Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo refers to their location in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, as “The Dwelling Place of the Gods”, it’s not just a clever marketing slogan. But before we checked into this luxury boutique hot spring ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn), we visited two places that would unknowingly complement the resort’s heavenly connection. The first was the Izumo Taisha Shrine, the first Shinto Shrine in all of Japan, which is connected with the Japanese creation story of the gods Izanagi and Izanami and their offspring: Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, Susanoo, the god of the storms and Tsukiyomi, the god of the moon. Not far from the Shrine, in the city of Izumo, we visited the Asahi Shuzo brewery

and sampled some of their excellent sakes, before hopping on the train to the resort hot spring town of Tamatsukuri Onsen, where a short taxi ride took us to the KAI Izumo. The stone lantern and brilliant red Japanese Maple tree in the garden were the perfect venue for our greeting at the resort. Once inside, a second garden just off the main lobby features manicured trees and a tranquil pond. An indoor bright orange bridge connects the lobby with an art gallery, showcasing the works of local crafts people. The 24 rooms in the ryokan are classic Japanese style (Washitsu) with tatami (straw) mats, sliding doors, an alcove displaying a statue of Ebisu, the god of Fishermen and of Luck (one of the Seven

In the evening, the Ryokan staff performed in ‘Iwami Kagura’, a light-hearted presentation of local Japanese legends. In our story, Susanoo the god of the Storms, recently banished from the heavens, met an old couple who cried that their seven daughters had been eaten by the mysterious serpent Yamata-no-Orochi. Now the couple’s eighth daughter, Kushinadahime, was at risk. Susanoo created an extra strong sake, which caused the serpent to fall into a deep sleep. Susanoo killed it, married Kushinadahime, and one of their descendants is said to be enshrined at Izumo Taisha Shrine. So ‘the land of the gods’ story and our experience in the area, came full circle (with sake thrown in for good measure). Yuji Miho, the manager of the Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo, noted that the special connection with the gods in Shimane Prefecture is mirrored in the tranquil ambiance of the hotel’s design: the gardens, the hot spring, the food and even the evening story telling. An overnight stay here is a very special experience.

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The Belle of Belize

Mahogany Bay Village by Susan Campbell


elize had been on my bucket list for a long time, so I was very excited to get there recently. After flying into Goldson International Airport, it was a quick hop with Tropic Air in a tiny little plane to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Though the flight was short- less then 15 minutes, the view was glorious below- all stunning aqua seas peppered with tiny little islands… and I couldn’t wait to get into that sparkling turquoise ocean.

Photo: Vivo Resorts

We arrived at Mahogany Bay Village quicklyit’s a mere two miles from the downtownand I could instantly see why they called it a “village”. Actually, I heard it referred to as a “townlet” more often- a new word for mebut I get it. It’s a sprawling 6-acre community of accommodations, all with their own streets. Like a town, there are chic shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and a standalone yoga centre and spa as well. And the entire complex revolves around The Great House, a two-story grand colonial style mansion that sits on the edge of a lagoon. That’s also where you’ll find the pool and you can rent private cabanas for more luxurious lounging

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if you really want to live large. But I must admit, I was disappointed to discover that the resort is not on a swimmable sea. The brackish lagoon surrounding it even has a resident crocodile! So, swimming is absolutely verboten. But once I found out that there’s a complimentary water taxi to their very own private beach a few minutes away, I was relieved. We enjoyed a marvelous dinner in the main dining room that night, and also enjoyed our breakfast buffet on the Great House terrace the next day before we took off to the beach. Food was great, and staff were super. Private Island Life Enroute to our tropical retreat, we passed an island that’s owned by Leonardo di Caprio who intends to turn it into an eco-resort this year. Nice neighbours! Just beyond it, is the Mahogany Bay Beach Club with a bar/grill with a rooftop lounge, and plenty of shade palapas and hammock. The sand is brilliant white and water calm, clear and inviting. But my favorite lounging spot was the oversized daybeds on stilts right in the water. And hav-

ing the staff walk through the waves barefoot to deliver your snacks and cocktails is really a trip! The Stays Touted as “Belize’s first global luxury branded resort” the stay options are very eclectic. As part of the upscale boutique Curio Collection by Hilton, you can rent hotel style suites, or you can opt for cottages or even a multi-bedroom house, some with their own pools, designed by the Mahogany Group. Ownership option are also on the table with customizable Coastal Living branded homes. And everyone can have their own golf cart! Seems that golf carts are the transportation mode of choice for the entire San Pedro population. They are everywhere! It’s lots of fun to take them to town for some shopping, dining or an excursion. I highly recommend the snorkel trip excursion to Shark Alley, it’s chock full of stingrays and colorful fish besides the sharks. And not a crocodile in sight!


Cabos Two Ways by Susan Campbell



ulti-generational travel can be a challenge, in this case one boomer and two millennials- my adult daughter and her boyfriend. Though we all love the same type of trip- sun and fun in a tropical setting and upscale all-inclusive luxury- sometimes the vibe of one place is geared more to one generation than another. So, we decided to try Los Cabos two different ways, splitting our time between two adult-only all-inclusive resorts.

Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort

My past experiences in Los Cabos, I discovered that there are few resorts with a swimmable beach because of dangerous riptides and it can be a tad disappointing not to be able to immerse in the waves. This was such a resort, but their infinity pool cresting the ocean (part of the Preferred Club class of rooms) was the next best thing. Their main pool for all guests is more the party pool, and it is lovely too. There is also a beach bar on the cliff by the sea which became one of our favourite spots to hang out.


The resort itself is massive, sprawling along their golf course and offering 500 guest rooms with either garden or ocean view, and some have swim-out access as well. As with all Secrets Resorts, the stay includes a signature Unlimited Luxury® package – a la carte, no reservation dining and bar service in a wide variety of themed settings. Sadly, we did not have time to try each restaurant, but we thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican and the Italian spots, and the outdoor entertainment at night around the marketplace square was above and beyond. The hotel is not walking distance to Puerto Los Cabos, but they do offer shuttles to the charming little town. rts/mexico/puerto-los-cabos Breathless Cabos San Lucas Spa Resort and Spa

Located steps away from the downtown core of Cabos San Lucas, you’ll find Breathless, one of the new AMResort brands geared toward millennials. I expected it to be a little


too wild for me, but I was delighted at the layout. The 169-room resort is separated into two different buildings- one for accommodations and one all for entertainment. The pool and bar in the accommodation building had a wonderful relaxed vibe and great soft live music, but if you were in party mode, you simply headed to the rooftop pool bar in the other building, and later at night, the toplevel bar turns into a pumping nightclub. Dining is mostly seaside, and though their Unlimited Luxury® offerings are not as extensive as Secrets- number of dining spots and bars- it’s more than adequate for the price. We all really enjoyed both resorts for their different features, but for me, the highlight of this spot was that it is right in front of the famous arches on Modano Beach, and one of the few safely sea swimmable spots in the entire region. There is great snorkeling right off their beach as well. esorts/mexico/cabo-san-lucas.html

Breathless Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


The Al Bait Sharjah Hotel Dubai by Olivia Balsinger


ust 25 kilometers north of Dubai along the Arabian Coast’s southern peninsula, yet feeling worlds apart, Al Bait Sharjah is the region’s jewel that is still most entirely off the mainstream tourist radar—and thus right up my alley! It is widely known as the United Arab Emirate’s cultural hub and is filled with a historic legacy stretching back some 6,000 years, intriguing museums and captivating souqs. It also boasts stunning mountains on one side and dramatic coastline on the other, creating a beautifully scenic picture. Oh and if that isn’t enough, it is one of the hot new international art destinations. So it goes without saying that I am incredibly excited to stay at newly opened Al Bait Sharjah. The five-star hotel is a boutique property with just 53 rooms and suites inside four converted heritage houses that were once owned by local families who made an impact on Sharjah’s history either culturally, politically or intellectually. The name Al Bait Sharjah actually translates to “The Home” in English, and staying here really feels like sleeping in a really wealthy friend’s vacation home. The rooms come in a number of sizes and styles. I loved the Heritage Rooms,

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which are each uniquely decorated and come with a stylish “Asian meets Arabian” aesthetic. They also look out over a private traditional inner courtyard filled with greenery and a water fountain and there are plenty of cushions and rugs to sit on and stare out the windows from. The suites are also sweet (aptly named!) and come with all the modern comforts you can think of and plenty of space to move around. I loved the living room with its traditional rugs, cushions and lanterns and the minimalist vibe in the bedroom. The property is also part of a larger bespoke historical restoration project known as Heart of Sharjah, which merges Islamic heritage with contemporary open design. Beyond the hotel, Heart of Sharjah is filled with restaurants, galleries, cafes and atmospheric local bazaars. There are also plenty of amenities on the hotel grounds to take advantage of. Don’t skip a service at the spa, which is a luxury oasis that offers a range of Middle Eastern influenced treatments using organic artisan products. There is also a state of the art gym on the property with Technogym equipment and a pool.

For onsite dining there are no less than four choices, always. Try The Arabic Restaurant if you want gourmet Emirati fare served family style; while The Restaurant does a more traditional international menu. The Cafe is where to get your caffeine buzz on with a cup of Arabic or Turkish coffee as well as some excellent people watching. And finally, my favorite, having a sweet treat at The Ice Cream Shop, which creates an array of homemade flavors that are far from your generic chocolate and vanilla selections. The Emirate of Sharjah also hosts a number of internationally acclaimed events including the Sharjah Formula 1 Powerboat Grand Prix, The Dubai World Cup of horseracing and The Sharjah Biennial, one of the Middle East’s most prestigious art events. In an area of the world so modern and extravagant, The Al Bait Sharjah does a stellar job at maintaining its authentic, timeless charm.

Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sands


by Olivia Balsinger


he sky opened up—a brilliant palate of orange and yellow hues, contrasting the spooky silloettes of the Red Bushwillow trees. We were enjoying our “sundowners” after the most epic of game drives in our Cheetah Plains Electric Land Cruiser, trading stories about our favorite safari moment thus far. Mine, hands down, was when we watched a stealthy leopard named Hosana crouch in the savannah, eyeing the prey—an unknowing impala—just meters away. A bush thunderstorm was rolling in, creating spectacular ambiance, as Hosana neared the prize. We stood in awe, feeling the wrath of nature at her best. This moment, along with other scenes of jaw dropping action, occurred on the Sabi Sands Reserve with Cheetah Plains lodge. Nestled between the world-famous Kruger National Park and the established Mala Mala Game, Cheetah Plains is a total refurbished first class lodge, the first of its kind in South Africa. The first iteration of Sabi Sand Reserve was formed in 1934, making it the oldest private game reserve in South Africa, as well as the first to practice and promote

sustainable wildlife tourism in Southern Africa. Cheetah Plains, with a soft opening in early December, is a world class wildlife splendor and a lodge that is architecturally unique and impressive. The lodge boasts three exclusive-use designer bush houses, each with two lounges, dining areas, outdoor bomas (picnic areas), wine cellars, and heated swimming pools. The lodges take their name from two legendary leopards of the Sabi Sand region, as well as a dominant lion coalition: “Mvula,” “Karula,” and “Mapogo,” respectively. I stayed in “Karula” with my traveling cohort—though we enjoyed privately cooked meals prepared by a renowned chef and drank wine from our own wine cellar (and plenty of Gin and Tonics, of course!) together in the bush house, it was equally pleasant to be able to retreat to my own suite when I desired privacy. You see, the concept behind Cheetah Plains is that each bush house is connected to four private suites, featuring luxurious king beds, private viewing decks, dressing rooms, double rain showers and baths that open up to magnificent views of the surrounding African bush. My suite happened to sit on a mini watering hole, and so I enjoyed the company of bathing warthogs and frisky kudu when indulging in a bubble bath or enjoying an in-room spa treatment.

rooms against a subdued natural palette, with hints of luxurious bronze and gold, and carefully curated art collected from local South American artists. I was in my own heaven, feeling dually secluded and pampered. During my stay, we had access to our own private game viewing vehicles as well as designated and knowledgeable local field guide, Sidds, and tracker, Sam. The vehicles at Cheetah Plaines are battery operated, hardly making a sound as the engine ignites—and more environmentally beneficial. Proximity to wildlife is magical at Cheetah Plains, as there are no fences separating the bush and suites (except for a small wire preventing intruding elephants) which really allows guests to feel they are a part of the nature. In addition, on game drives we spotted leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant, zebra, giraffe and, of course—true to namesake— cheetah.

Each suite is in harmony between the interior and the exterior; it seeks to blend the natural environment resulting in a gorgeous example of ‘African minimalism.’ Naked timber and Mohair wool rugs furnish the Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


e heard the rush of the massive waterfall before we saw it. We were walking down a rainforest path in a remote national park, just a small group of visitors with two local guides, snaking between towering trees and occasional luminous blue butterflies the size of my hand. My heart was pounding. My Guyanese friend Wesley had told me about Kaieteur, often called the world’s largest single-drop waterfall. Its broad waters plunge off a ledge straight down without hitting another spot along the way, falling 741 feet in one swoop – or roughly the height of a 74-story building. That’s four times taller than Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border. Yet Kaieteur receives only about 8,000 visitors per year, compared to over 7 million at Niagara. I was thrilled to be so near. Wesley and I had set out from the capital of this former British colony in South America early morning to board a 17passenger plane. The pilot flew 11 of us more than an hour over miles and miles of greenery - first plains, then hills and highlands. The virgin forests below looked like broccoli plantations, the tops tufted like florets. Sinewy ribbons of chocolate-colored rivers sometimes peeked through the trees. From the air, we glimpsed some small waterfalls, but suddenly, as if out of nowhere, emerged Kaieteur, gushing down golden-brown, enormous. The nearly black Potaro River spilled over a wide cliff, and the water dropped into a gorge, mists rising and rainbows too. I gasped, elated. We circled with the plane, but Kaieteur retreated into the tropical forest. I was eager to see it without light reflecting off the plane window and without the hum of propellers drowning out nature’s music. Within minutes, we landed on a dirt airstrip, the only plane in sight. Just off the runway was a small wooden building

with a sign for Kaeiteur National Park. We meandered over to meet our guides, Candace Evans and Lincoln Pereira, both in their 20s and from indigenous communities nearby. Candace instructed us to stay on the trails, and at lookout points, to keep at least eight feet away from the edge of the rocky slabs above the gorge hundreds of feet below us. Kaieteur has no safety rails, aiming to remain as pristine as possible. “Please don’t try to prove yourself,” she requested. We’d walked only a few minutes when Candace pointed out something I’d never seen: “carnivorous” plants. The reddish groundcover secretes a substance that attracts mosquitos and other bugs. “When the insects come, they stick on, and the plant eats them. So, we don’t use mosquito repellent here but have it naturally,” she joked. Soon, after navigating steps and rocky paths, I heard it: the rush of Kaieteur, a strong and constant whir, not threatening but somehow life-affirming, almost meditative. We followed the sound. At the first lookout, I saw the caramel waters pour over the ample ledge. Two furrows crossed into a white-capped “V” near the top, reminding me of a heart, perhaps the heart of Mother Nature herself. Our guides told us the dark color of the water came from tannins in the roots of the trees by the river, a tributary of the Essequibo and part of the greater Amazon basin. The name, Kaieteur, may well come from legend, Candace explained. The story goes there was an old man, or Kaie in the Patamona language. He was chief of a tribe engaged in a bitter war with the Carib tribe. The chief threw himself over the falls, or Teur, in an act of self-sacrifice to stop the war. “Don’t repeat yourself, and say Kaieteur Falls,” or Old-ManFalls Falls, she advised. “Say Kai Falls or Kaieteur.”

In all, we spent about two hours near Kaieteur, stopping at three lookouts, the closest one to the water called “Rainbow View” for the swirls of light that appear in its mists. Our timing was good: In late spring and summer, the river hits its peak flow, expanding to cover more of the rocky ledge. The waters widen up to some 390 feet – a distance longer than a soccer or U.S. football field, bigger than I’d imagined. The trails proved a revelation too. Candace showed us the woody vines named “cufa,” used to make furniture, and “capadula,” boiled to make an aphrodisiac dubbed the local Viagra. We saw flowers blooming in purple, pink and white and others jutting out spiky red. My heart was full. Others in our group felt similar joy, as we headed back to the airstrip. “I was telling my son: The flight alone was worth it for the view from overhead,” said Shanta Lall, 57, a homemaker from Guyana on her first visit to Kaieteur. “This is a bonus,” she said, after gazing at the falls head-on, the air moist and fresh. We stopped at the national park center for water and snacks, chatting contentedly, before flying out. A small exhibit identified the hand-size butterflies I’d seen as iridescent Blue Morphos, South America’s largest. We also learned that Angel Falls – located just west in neighboring Venezuela – is taller but thinner than Kaieteur, sending far less water in its gorge and producing a less powerful sound. Wesley was relaxed, proud to share his country’s top natural attraction with me. “Coming here,” he said, “you can forget what day of the week it is, what time of the day it is.” On the flight back, we circled Kaieteur again as if to bid farewell, then descended from the highlands to the plains and the city. The excursion took only a morning but created a memory for a lifetime.


A Visit to Guyana’s Kaeiteur Falls

WT Photo Library

Article and photography by Doreen Hemlock

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

3 - 2 - 1 G o Te n e r i f e !

Article and photography by Michael Morcos


hat is the exact amount, 321, of volcanoes that reside upon the Spanish island of Tenerife, which is astonishing given that it is a relatively small island. That was lesson number one on a journey that would prove to have many. Lesson two, Tenerife is not even close to Spain, as it is part of the fabled Canary Island chain in the Atlantic Ocean off of the African coast and close to Morocco and Mauritania and is about a three hour flight from the mainland of Spain.

Lesson number three I found out just getting off the plane. Yes, there are lovely little singing canary birds but that is not how this island chain got its name. In actual fact, they got their name from the Spanish word for canine, which translates to a word sounding like Canary, as wild dogs were found here many centuries ago. The name stuck. And that is how our trip would be, every day we would find out some of the most fascinating things about this island paradise. We would venture in every direction to find ever diversifying climates, breathtaking landscapes, a colorful history, endless eating

options and laid back, welcoming people. Anaga Rural Park On our first full day, we were off to visit the Anaga Rural Park. It was mere minutes from our hotel in the town of La Laguna. The drive alone was worth the venture as we climbed to dizzying heights along winding roads that clung to cliff edges. Once there, it felt like a whole other world. The air was cool and dense with fog, the trees were heavy with dew and the mist, when it occasionally lifted, offered spectacular glimpses of the valley below.

I would find out later that this micro-climate we were in was due to the famous trade winds from the Caribbean that would hit only the northern part of the island. For that, Tenerife was a valuable stopover to and from the mainland to the Spanish colonies. With many natural trails available for hikers, this park was an outdoorsman’s delight. The only thing missing on our short walk through this ‘enchanted forest’ was Snow White, the seven dwarfs and mystical little fairytale animals. Cave Dwellers Not far away, the scenery would be transformed into a barren mountainous landscape, devoid of trees and having, of all things, cactuses and low lying scrub. This is Tenerife, and when you are tired of your surroundings, just drive a few minutes. Amongst the very rugged and hilly terrain we would find cave dwellings. These homes had been dug right into the mountain side, and were part of a way of life for many as building material for homes is hard to come by and expensive. The cave-homes we walked by were now mostly used as weekend homes, but we did meet a man who was enamored by the solitude and tranquility. He lives a quiet life, gardening for his produce and enjoying the fresh air and incredible scenery. He did invite us into his humble home, which was small and cluttered but warm and welcoming at the same time. He even played his guitar and sang rural folk songs. This was a moment to remember, so little of this magic is found in our modern world. A lunch like no other With such a packed morning we were due for a break. Our journey would bring us to ‘the end of the world,’ or that is how locals looked at it. We drove up the mountain to make our way down to the sea and feast at ‘Casa Africa’. Sounds weird to speak of Africa while in Spain, but this slice of land is part of the African continent. Our restaurant break would be a favorite of mine. It was located directly across from the ocean with a seated view of waves smashing the shores. The menu was (of course) freshly caught fish. Added to that was

delicious local wine and garden vegetables, and I feasted like a king.


Capital Affair Although La Laguna was the capital of Tenerife for many years, it lost its title to Santa Cruz. La Laguna was built inland to evade pirate raids and is one of the few cities without fortified walls for this reason. With the changing of the times, incoming ships wanted a direct access to a port to unload goods, and Santa Cruz was a perfect place. Santa Cruz might be small but it sure packs a punch. Among many wonderful attractions there is Las Teresitas beach which is a wonderful man made beach and interestingly, ship loads of sand were brought in from the Sahara to make it. How about the world class Adán Martín Auditorium with a unique signature look like no other. Then there is the fabulous annual carnival, with a museum (La Casa del Carnival) devoted to it and houses many elaborate and colorful costumes from the many years it has run. There is a great pedestrian street to stroll or enjoy an outdoor meal and there are also many shopping options including the very distinctive Spainish store, El Cortes Ingles. Add to all this a beautiful and well-kept botanical garden, a new cruise ship port, centuries of history and a safe, peaceful and easy- going atmosphere and you have remarkable and livable city. The number one island attraction Parque Nacional del Teide is special place and to not to be missed. Once again on our visit we would find a totally unique landscape that can only be described as being from another planet. So much so that NASA actually used this landscape to test its probes bound for Mars. Our day would bring us to the very top of Mount Tiede, an active volcano that is also the highest point in all of Spain. Ascending this giant can be done by foot, which would take a few hours. We opted for a gentle gondola ride that whisked use up in just minutes.

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Once on top the air was fresh, as was the temperature. The views were simply divine. Many trails in many directions were available for visitors but the going was rough. First, the oxygen was thin which made it hard to breathe, as well as the volcanic terrain that was extremely uneven and at times quite challenging. Lunch with a view Our reward for the strenuous workout was nothing less than spectacular, as we would treat ourselves to world class cuisine at the Parador de las CaĂąadas del Teide. This Parador property is part of many delightful government-owned and run hotels all across Spain, renowned for their ideal locations, history of the buildings and for comfortable full service lodging. Puerto de la Cruz For something completely different (again), we would visit the ever popular Puerto de la Cruz. There we would find this well-traveled tourist destination known for a pleasant climate, amazing surf and the general calm and peace of a small town atmosphere. In strolling through this gem, I would find many historic churches, a wonderful shopping street and breathtaking ocean vistas. Our night would bring us to another great meal, this time a supper at the Restaurante RĂŠgulo where we had local Tenerife cuisine in what is one of the oldest buildings on the island.

Masca A highlight of our tour would be to a secluded and out of the way town of Masca. Close to the sea and nestled in between mountains, this small village is authentic and has kept its charm even when a road was built to help bring the many tourists who visit there. Engineering experts have created a route to one of the most exciting drives I have ever been on. A true and memorable experience on its own, the prize was being in a village most have never heard about until a short while ago. Boutique Hotel San Roque Close by was the beautiful town of Garachico, with a long history that dates back to colonial age and was an important stop for ships sailing to and from the new world, but a deadly volcano changed this area forever as it destroyed much of the city. Visiting, we would find ourselves at the Boutique Hotel San Roque. This once abandoned hotel fell into near ruins until a family adopted it, and, in a short 20 years, brought it back to its days of glory. Today it is a gem and the pride of the town. Monje Winery and Mojo Lesson Second to last lesson, we would find out that Tenerife not only grows grapes and produced wines, it also had some of the most contrasting grape varieties and wine tastes of any one small region in the world.

Dragon Tree One giant stands out in Tenereife. It is not unique to this island, but the locals are very proud of their Dragon tree. This is no ordinary palm tree, but one that grows in a specific way where the top of the tree pushes out branches and those branches push out more branches and so on and where the tree always looks symmetrical. We had the opportunity of seeing what is believed to be the oldest surviving Dragon tree in the world, some 800 years old and looking healthy and majestic. The best place to experience this beauty is a La Casa del Drago, where we would have coffee and samples of exotic fermented spirits, some of which I have never heard of, like the liquor of the Dragon tree.

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Our trip to the Monje winery was a great example of this. Owner Felipe Monje would lead us on a visit through his estate which was world class on its own and where he had expanded the wine offerings from the original four to some 18 different wines. Loving the atmosphere of being in a winery, our fun would continue as we would participate in a contest to produce the best Mojo (local spicy sauce) all the while sipping wonderful estate wines. Although we did not win I did pick up my last Tenerife lesson, I was now a Mojo man!