Vacations - Winter 2022

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WINTER 2022

THE GIFT OF

Travel


The world awaits, and we’re eager to help you travel again. We’ll be there for you— before, during and after your travels.

Our Promise: To be your inspiration, insider knowledge, advice, answers, and right hand. To ensure there’s always a team standing behind you that you can count on. To relieve you from stress so you can fully enjoy your vacation. To create personalized experiences and custom touches just for you. To make you feel welcome, wherever you choose to go.

We're here to be your connection to the world.



Editor’s Letter Our theme for this issue is the gift of travel. It’s a timely topic because the last couple of years have taught us what a privilege it is – one that is not to be taken for granted. Travel has the ability to inspire, to educate, to motivate and to transform. It also has the power to challenge perceptions and beliefs, too, about people and places.

MICHELE SPONAGLE EDITOR EDITOR@ENSEMBLETRAVEL.CA

I’ve always tried to travel with an open mind and open heart. I remember being told that Parisians were not friendly, for example. That was not my experience when I was there for a month. When I stood in front of a map of the Metro subway system looking puzzled, a man at a nearby café left his table to help me decipher the routes. A random encounter with someone who asked me the time in the Latin Quarter turned into a wonderful, afternoon-long hangout session where he took me to his favourite patisseries and bookstores. In Kenya, I met a woman named Cora who was part of a village co-op that made handicrafts for tourists. We hit it off immediately. She was Rubenesque like me and we bonded over how being a larger lady was so revered in her country, but not so much in Canada. She mentioned me how difficult it was to find plus-size clothes locally. When I returned the next day, I gave her a bunch of tops from my suitcase I thought she would like. She gave me the biggest, warmest hug imaginable, and a bracelet she had made as a thank you. I still think of her often, just smile and hope she’s enjoying her new outfits. I’ve been so fortunate to meet remarkable people while globetrotting to more than

70 countries. So many of them have left an impact on me – my guide and her moving words at Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Museum Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, the bellman at a hotel in New York City who has been a friend for more than 25 years, my kitchen tour of Maude, the much-celebrated Los Angeles restaurant, with celebrity chef Curtis Stone (perhaps the most charismatic chef I’ve ever met), and the people who went from fellow travellers to become permanent parts of my life. Each one of these relationships are gifts I would not have had without travel. The idea of what is the gift of travel is so individual. Two people can go to the very same destination and experience it in a very different way. That’s why I’m so proud to feature very personal stories from our writers in this issue of Vacations. They dug deep to share more than their experiences, but their thoughts and feelings, too, from Chris Ryall talking about what travel has meant to his relationship with his kids and Toby Saltzman learning more about First Nations communities in Canada, to Diane Tierney confronting the realities of climate change in Alaska. I hope that these stories will be a gift to you and inspire you to keep seeking new experiences on your journeys. And, of course, Ensemble Travel advisors are always a great resource to help point you on your way and to get you there. Happy travels, Michele

WELCOME TO THE DIGITAL EDITION OF VACATIONS MAGAZINE. In this issue, we have included many interactive features to experience travel from home and hopefully inspire you to travel again, when the time feels right for you. Look for these icons inside the magazine:

Click on them and get access to a variety of videos to watch without leaving the publication.

Sit down, relax and enjoy the ride in our “virtual” magazine! 4 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022


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Featured Contributors LIZ FLEMING The only thing Liz likes better than having a great adventure is sharing it. For 20 years, she’s explored the globe from Machu Picchu and Norwegian fjords, to Bora Bora’s beaches and Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Her work appears in a wide variety of major North American media outlets. The Niagara-based writer is also editor-in-chief of Cruise & Travel Lifestyles magazine and CRACKYL, and hosts Liz Fleming Travels, an iHeartRadio talk show. Her favourite trip to date? She’s loved it all, but camping on the Arctic tundra and exploring the wild beauty of the Galápagos Islands are both high up on her list.

CHRIS RYALL Chris has had his passport stamped from more than 85 countries. The passport stamps represent not just faded ink impressions but a lifetime of indelible cultural interactions and experiences. Whether it’s observing silverback gorillas deep in the Ugandan jungle, planting rice in a mud-filled Thailand paddy field, fishing for king crab in frigid Norwegian waters, feeding sharks in Tahiti, or dancing out of step with village children in Namibia, Chris relishes local and cultural experiences and writing about them for numerous print and online publications. He is a self-proclaimed spa addict and never afraid to donate his body for traditional and innovative spa treatments.

TOBY SALTZMAN Toby follows her heart in pursuit of her passion for culture, art, nature and meeting local people in far-flung lands. Winner of many awards, including two coveted Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards, she seeks out the authentic joy of a place, whether trekking through Patagonia, hiking the Swiss alps, dog mushing in Nunavut, golfing in Monaco, touring vineyards in New Zealand or sailing to exotic ports of call. On her first cruise in 1989, navigating Alaska’s Inside Passage, Toby discovered that great ports are gateways to thrilling adventures. Since then, she has reviewed the world’s most exciting vessels and destinations.

RENÉE S. SUEN Renée is a restaurant and travel writer/photographer who searches the world for memorable tastes and the stories behind the plate. She is a columnist at the Toronto Star and Sing Tao's EliteGen, plus a regular contributor to Toronto Life, Chatelaine and many more. Known for her insatiable appetite, there isn’t any food she wouldn’t eat – from bear in Helsinki and buffalo dung beetles in Thailand, to Tibetan parasitic cordyceps and earth-shatteringly delicious veal lips encountered at now-shuttered Ibai on a three-week, selffunded Michelin star-studded trip through the Basque and Catalonia regions of Spain. Her allergy, however, is to cocoa.

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12 Winter 2022 Detours TRAVEL NEWS

10 What's Trending For 2022 HOT LIST

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Europe's Tiny Treasures

SPOTLIGHT

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Off the Beaten Path in Anguilla

WORLD CRUISES

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Worth the Splurge

Features CANADA

20 Banff Beyond the Slopes 38 True North TOGETHER TIME

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24 For the Love of Travel and Family WELLNESS

28 Spa Time – Better in The Bahamas CRUISE

32 Back to Nature in Alaska SOFT ADVENTURE

42 Step by Step in Ireland EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES

46 Call of the Wild in Botswana CULTURE

52 Hail to a King in the Czech Republic

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Bon Vivant

56 Warm and Bountiful Auvillar 60 The Real Joy of Cooking

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AWAY FROM EVERYTHING. CLOSE TO SUBLIME. LET US TAKE YOU CLOSER TO THE AUTHENTIC BEAUTY OF ALASKA

Revel in the unspoiled wonders of America’s Last Frontier aboard Silversea, the world’s first name in ultra-luxury cruise adventure, and journey with us into a vast land filled with immense beauty and tiny surprises. We’re well acquainted with the unique ports, places, experiences, and cultural touchpoints that together define Alaska’s character. Yet, seasoned as we are, each voyage seems to yield new and unexpected insights into this unique destination, one of the Earth’s most remarkable regions.

RESERVE YOUR SUITE WITH YOUR ENSEMBLE TRAVEL ADVISOR TODAY AND RECEIVE EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS.


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Winter 2022 Credits PUBLISHER Ensemble Travel® Group

CREATIVE DIRECTOR & MANAGING EDITOR Valérie Lenoir

EDITOR Michele Sponagle

PROOFREADING Isabelle Labrosse

ADVERTISING Franca Iuele

CONTRIBUTORS

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Jim Byers Liz Fleming Tim Johnson Laura Paquet Chris Robinson Chris Ryall Toby Saltzman Barb Sligl Michele Sponagle Renée S. Suen Diane Tierney

CREATIVE DESIGNER Bertrand Richer Fleur de Lysée

Ensemble Travel® Group CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER David R. Harris

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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MARKETING Todd Hutzulak

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, CANADA Franca Iuele Ensemble Vacations (Winter 2022), Ensemble Travel® Group. Ensemble Vacations®, Ensemble® Experiences, Ensemble® Exclusive, Ensemble® Hosted Cruises, Ensemble® Villas & Vacation Homes, Ensemble® On Location and Ensemble® Hotel & Resort Collection are all proprietary trademarks of Ensemble Travel® Group. No part of this publication may be reprinted or otherwise duplicated without written permission of the publisher. Ensemble Vacations® is published on behalf of Ensemble Travel® Group member agencies.

ENSEMBLE VACATIONS® 2 Toronto Street, Suite 469 Toronto, ON M5C 2B5 (416) 367-3660 TICO #50022140 Registration Numbers: vary by agency Photos by Getty Images unless stated otherwise.

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DETOURS

TRAVEL NEWS What's Trending For 2022 By Chris Ryall

Reignite your passion for travel in 2022. Whether your reason to travel is wellness, adventure, cruise, transformational or looking for a GOAT (Greatest of All Trips), destinations are ready to welcome back visitors with a smorgasbord of experiences to help you reconnect, relax and rejuvenate. Here are the trends reigniting a passion for travel in 2022. CRUISE SHIPS GO DIGITAL

Your phone or RFID wristband will be a necessary companion for future cruises as a means of increasing a touchless onboard experience. Check-in online, then use your phone and the ship’s app to enter your cabin, turn off cabin lights, make reservations, pay for beverages and help you navigate around the ship. Some cruise lines will say bon voyage to printed menus and daily planners. Don’t worry. Towel animals are still on the housekeeping to-do list.

OCEAN MEDALLION, PRINCESS CRUISES

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© PRINCESS CRUISES

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TOURS GO PRIVATE

Who doesn’t like a tour? Large group tours are becoming a relic of the past due to social distancing concerns. Experience the difference with a private guided tour for your bubble of family or friends. Local guides can cater to the specific needs and requests of their guests rather than a set list of sites and attractions.

PRIVATE FAMILY TOUR IN ANDALUSIA, SPAIN

GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITIES

Travel is most fulfilling when both you and the community benefit. During the pandemic, we supported small businesses and restaurants. Regenerative travel takes this concept abroad by visiting destinations that place value on connections with community and is a catalyst for change. Expect to see more programs from hotels and tour operators offering guests an opportunity to actively participate in local projects.

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MOTHER AND DAUGHTER AT MONTEVERDE INSTITUTE TREE NURSERY IN COSTA RICA

© G ADVENTURES INC.

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THE URGE TO SPLURGE

For almost two years, the travel dreams of many people have been just that – dreams. It’s time to venture tick off destinations from that bucket list and go big. As airlines ramp up their routes again, highly coveted destinations like French Polynesia, Italy, Greece, Australia, Dubai and Thailand are becoming more accessible. And these days, travellers aren’t hesitating to splurge on upgraded airline seats, hotel suites, top-tier resorts, world cruises, upscale restaurants and truly unique experiences.

PALM ISLAND, DUBAI

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NORWEGIAN PRIMA AERIAL VIEW OF SPEEDWAY

Cruise lines are elevating their onboard thrills big time. Hop on BOLT, the first sea rollercoaster, for an exhilarating ride complete with a sea and ship view on Carnival’s Mardi Gras. Or check out the three-level go-kart racetrack on Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Prima. Escape rooms, climbing walls, skydiving and surfing simulators (available on many Royal Caribbean ships) will also keep thrill-seekers satisfied.

© NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

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BIGGER THRILLS ON THE HIGH SEAS

EVOLVING TRAVEL TASTES

ONIGIRI (JAPANESE RICE BALLS)

People are craving more adventurous foods and global cuisine after staying home and watching endless TV cooking shows, TikTok and YouTube videos showcasing dishes like onigiri (Japanese rice balls) and other international foods. Also watch for the rise of “reducetarianism,” an alternative for those not ready to fully leap to veganism, but who want to significantly reduce their intake animal-based products. And the flavour du jour? Expect hibiscus to pop up everywhere.

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© NORDIK SPA-NATURE

HEALTHY PAUSE FOR THE BODY AND MIND AT NORDIK SPA-NATURE

SPAS GET SOCIAL

Forget meeting at a nightclub. Spas are the new social hub for couples, friends and multigenerational families. Nordic-style spas are opening up worldwide, including Canada’s own Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Que., Sensea in Chester, N.S. and Thermëa Spa Village in Whitby, Ont. (spring 2022). Expect to see spas enhancing the guest experience by adding on-site restaurants, bars and multiple relaxation areas.

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DETOURS

HOT LIST Tiny Treasures By Chris Robinson

Four European microstates well worth putting on your travel radar

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ometimes the best gifts are the smallest ones – and this applies equally to the gift of travel. Some tiny, but perfect, minicountries should be on your travel wish list. These are nations where, thanks to historical chance or happy accident, a sliver of independence has been preserved, creating unique and often quirky countries. Four of the six smallest nations in the world are in Europe (the others are tiny Pacific islands) and my quest to visit them was both wonderful and bizarre.

VATICAN CITY At just half a square kilometre, countries don’t come any more micro than this. Yet the smallest country on the planet hosts some of its greatest treasures. In 1984, Vatican City became the only single state to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sistine Chapel with its painted ceiling and The Last Judgement by Michelangelo are simply exquisite, as is St. Peter’s Basilica. It has its own army and football team. Residents drink an average of 54.3 litres of wine a year – the highest wine consumption per capita worldwide. There’s also a one-of-a-kind ATM with instructions in Latin. The Pope’s security is ensured by the colourfully adorned Swiss Guard.

MONACO Where the mountains meet the Mediterranean, and Monte Carlo meets Europe’s elite, this jewel remaining from powerful medieval dynasties glitters in the sunshine of the French Riviera near Nice. The Grimaldi family gained control from the Crown of Aragon in 1419 and still rule the two square kilometres of the country. Surrounded on three sides by France, and only 15 kilometres from the Italian border, this ritzy playground features James Bondstyle casinos that are off limits to locals, luxury yachts and the famous Monaco Grand Prix Formula One racing event. A third of its population are millionaires. Just for a day, I found it fun to indulge in the hedonism of these affluent lifestyles.

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LIECHTENSTEIN Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, this semiconstitutional monarchy is still ruled by the Prince from his castle-in-the-clouds. It is a nation of mountains, picturesque villages and the headwaters of the Rhine River. On a sunny spring morning in the Alps, what better way to explore the sole surviving princely State of the Holy Roman Empire

than strolling along a winding forest trail from the microcapital of Vaduz to the fairytale palace high above the Prince’s domain? I wanted to knock on the gate to say hello, but a friendly guard said His Royal Highness was out that day. Fun fact: it is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world and one of the wealthiest.

SAN MARINO From high up on the castle ramparts on Mount Titano at 739 metres above sea level, I could look down on the entirety of this pocket state. This fragment of medieval nationhood has somehow survived the vagaries of history, including invading barbarians and two World Wars. Saint Marinus founded an independent monastic community on this rugged Apennine mountaintop in 301 A.D., making San Marino the world’s oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic. Surrounded by Italy, and within view of the Adriatic Sea, don’t miss the thrilling walk along the ridge connecting the Three Towers of San Marino. On a clear day, you can see Croatia in the distance. Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 13


DETOURS

SPOTLIGHT Off the Beaten Path in Anguilla By Ensemble Travel Staff

Discover these four local spots to understand why the island is so beloved, from serene beaches to wild habitats

PAMPER YOURSELF AND ENJOY TRADITIONAL FOOD AND DRINKS ON A SECLUDED BEACH

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nguilla offers something truly unique – an island paradise with natural beauty, pristine beaches and warm hospitality far from the crowds of tourists. The best way to explore it is to take the road less travelled, venture off the beaten path to discover something new. These four destinations on Anguilla are well worth including in your vacation plans. PRICKLY PEAR CAY Prickly Pear Cay is a small island located 10 kilometers from Anguilla’s mainland and popular among swimmers and snorkelling enthusiasts looking for a more private experience. The Eastern Caribbean Natural Area Management Programme has classified the cays as wildlands. A boat channel between Prickly Pear East and Prickly Pear West divides the small pair of uninhabited islands. Visitors can swim between the rocky coral reef and shrubs on the Western smaller cay. Marine fauna includes schooling 14 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

goatfish, crabs, lobsters, barracuda, angelfish, nurse sharks and more. Those who love scuba diving will enjoy discovering the several sunken ships in the area. After your swim, watch for nesting birds, a common sight along the coastline. While visiting Prickly Pear, check out Prickly Pear Bar and Restaurant, a local favourite for more than 20 years. The chef-curated menu features BBQ chicken and ribs, freshly caught lobster and crayfish, burgers, sandwiches, salads and beverages to complement your meal. After lunch, consider renting paddleboards, kayaks, snorkelling gear, or a Seabob (also called a water scooter) to round out your secluded day at this picturesque cay. If relaxation is what you’re looking for, then book a cabana, umbrella, or beach massage instead. You can also opt for sunset cruises, sportfishing tours, or bar and beach hopping.


SCILLY CAY After two years of cleanup and rebuilding what Hurricane Irma demolished, Scilly Cay is open again. This familyowned and operated restaurant and private island has been welcoming families for the past 35 years. Located on the eastern part of Anguilla, this offshore cay is not to be missed. The 55-metre-long island is less than half a kilometre from the mainland and accessible by boat from Island Harbour. If you don’t see a boat at the dock upon arrival, just wave, and it’ll be there in a few minutes to pick you up. The serene

and beach beds provide you with all the essentials you need to relax. Don’t miss out on the delectable food available at the island restaurant. Open daily, it serves fresh seafood, grilled meats and tasty rum punches. The bar, always fully stocked with ice-cold beers and spirits from around the world, is awaiting your arrival. Bring a towel and don’t forget your sunscreen as you spend the day snorkelling and enjoying the crystal blue waters.   SCRUB ISLAND

SANDY ISLAND IS A FAVOURITE AMONG VISITORS

waters within the bay are always calm, making it the perfect setting to spend the afternoon snorkelling, swimming, or lounging on a floatie. The restaurant is open for lunch on Wednesdays and Sundays with a live reggae band from noon until 5 pm. Indulge in lobster, crayfish (native to Anguilla), and its famous potent rum punch, considered the best on the island. The lobster is served on a bed of coconut leaves and drizzled in mild curry sauce. The restaurant was built by native Anguillan and former professional tennis player, Eudoxie Wallace. It’s now run by his sons.

With no electricity and plumbing, the island can feel like a remote escape far from the stresses of life. The expansive white-sand beach is an excellent spot for a picnic and swim. Take a short hike over the dunes to find a salt pond where several land birds, waterfowl and shorebirds gather. The island has been identified as an Important bird area by BirdLife International because of the nesting seabirds. You may spot the Caribbean Elaenia, pearly-eyed thrashers and laughing gulls on Scrub Island.

SANDY ISLAND

Continue exploring, and you’ll find the remains of an old plane, several abandoned homes and an old airfield. Snorkel the caves to see beautiful reef fish and nurse sharks. Also watch for whales. Some tourists visiting the western part of the island have been lucky enough to spot them. Be sure to book your boat to Scrub Island in advance.

This small cay off Sandy Ground beach in Anguilla is a popular getaway. Many tourists have called Sandy Island one of the most beautiful places they’ve ever visited. Catch a boat ride at Sandy Ground to the island, where you can spend most of the day feeling like a castaway in paradise. Pristine white sand, beach chairs accompanied by umbrellas

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© ANGUILLA TOURIST BOARD

FRESH SEAFOOD AT SCILLY CAY

© ANGUILLA TOURIST BOARD

DIVE INTO THE SEA CAVES AT MYSTERIOUS SCRUB ISLAND

© ANGUILLA TOURIST BOARD

PRICKLY PEAR BAR AND RESTAURANT

© ANGUILLA TOURIST BOARD

Scrub Island, a British Overseas Territory, is a small, privately owned island off the eastern tip of Anguilla’s mainland.


WORLD CRUISES

Worth the

Splurge By Jim Byers

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SILVERSEA SHIP CRUISING IN ALASKA

© SILVERSEA

Want to see the world? Consider an extended cruise with plenty of attractive perks.


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orld cruises have become the next big thing in YOLO travel, and the numbers are mind-blowing.

Cruise lovers can now take voyages that last nine months and visit all seven continents. Royal Caribbean’s inaugural 274-day Ultimate World Cruise will set sail late in 2023 and visit every continent, including 65 countries and 11 world wonders. Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and other lines also are selling world cruises. Mark Conroy, managing director, The Americas, Silversea Cruises, said the reasons for taking a world cruise vary from marking retirement to major celebrations, like milestone birthdays and anniversaries, to the sheer ease of cruise travel. If you had to buy airline tickets to travel to cities featured on a world cruise, say the Silversea 2024 voyage with 65 ports, you’d almost certainly spend tens of thousands of dollars just on flights. Toss in 132 hotel nights at, say, PENGUINS IN ANTARCTICA

A PERFORMANCE OF GREASE ABOARD HARMONY OF THE SEAS

© ROYAL CARIBBEAN

© REGENT SEVEN SEAS

BREAKFAST IN A MASTER SUITE WITH BALCONY

a modest $200 per night and you’re looking at another $25,000. Then add in your meals and transfers and tours. Looking at the big picture, world cruises are a very attractive, more economical and convenient option by comparison. “People love cruising and people are tired of boredom,” said Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, in an interview last summer. “People are saying ‘I want to go out,’ and they’re spending more on vacations now because they have vacation dollars saved up from 2020 and possibly 2021.” Earlier this year, Silversea’s world cruise for 2023 sold out in less than a day despite a starting price tag of around $91,000. “It was the most successful world-cruise launch in the history of our cruise line,” said Roberto Martinoli, the company’s president and CEO. “This triumph pays SILVERSEA'S LA DAME RESTAURANT

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© REGENT SEVEN SEAS

ADMIRING THE BEAUTY OF THE LANDSCAPE

testament to the strong demand we are seeing in the market, particularly from affluent, sophisticated travellers.”

cruise lines are jostling to promote their ships and the exotic destinations travellers can visit.

Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, said the response to his company’s 2024 World Cruise surpassed expectations as well: “Remarkably, we’ve found that interest hasn’t just come from our past guests. We have seen a strong increase in first-time travellers with Regent, many of whom were keen to book the higher end of our suites.”

Which one is right for you depends, of course, on everything from price to length of time on board the ship to the ports of call along the way. Your style of cruising also comes into play. Royal Caribbean is more family-oriented and uses big ships, while Silversea is high-end luxury and its vessels host less than 400 guests.

World cruises are luxury trips. Some lines may have less expensive rates, but for the three surveyed here prices ranged from $76,000 per person to $350,000 for an over-the-top suite on a longer cruise with a luxury liner. That’s not pocket change unless you’re Elon Musk, but the increasing number of lengthy world cruises clearly demonstrates a strong desire to get away from it all. And

It can be confusing, but here are some hints to help you decide which cruise is right for you. Given the number of world trips being offered over the next few years, this is not an exhaustive list. Note that some cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, allow guests to book specific segments of a world voyage. Also, some listed cruises may already have wait lists.

TAP INTO UNEXPLORED BEAUTY IN BALI

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REGENT SEVEN SEAS

SILVERSEA

CRUISE OPTIONS AND PRICES

The Ultimate World Cruise goes from December 10, 2023 to September 10, 2024, a whopping 274 nights. It begins and ends in Miami on Serenade of the Seas and visits more than 150 destinations and 60-plus countries on seven continents. Rooms listed for roughly $81,000 per person and up.

The 132-night cruise in and out of Miami from January 6 to May 17, 2024 on the Seven Seas Mariner. The ship will visit four continents and 31 countries, as well as 61 UNESCO sites, with prices starting at around $94,000 per person.

The 2024 Far East-West World Cruise departs from and returns to San Francisco, visiting 65 ports in 14 countries over 133 days. Dates are January 15 to May 26 on board the Silver Shadow. Prices start at $103,300 per person.

Serenade of the Seas offers onboard panoramic views and acres of glass to enjoy every angle of the surrounding scenery. Adventures onshore range from a miniature golf course, a chef’s table dining experience, rock-climbing, musicals and more. Capacity: 2,476.

Seven Seas Mariner features balconies for all rooms. The smallest suite is 92 square metres (990 square feet). In addition to a putting green and golf nets, you’ll find shuffleboard, a bocce court, a casino and four lounges. Capacity: 700.

Silver Shadow has one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea. Enjoy complimentary Pilates classes and yoga. Savour fine wines and French gastronomy in La Dame restaurant. The Connoisseur’s Corner club is a great spot for a late-night drink and maybe a cigar. Capacity: 388.

Business Class airfare, pre-trip Gala event and hotel night, deluxe beverage package, Wi-Fi package, wash and fold laundry service, gratuities all included.

Free roundtrip first class air with free transfers, free exclusive pre-cruise gala event and one-night hotel stay, free pre-paid gratuities, free unlimited Wi-Fi, unlimited laundry, including dry cleaning and pressing, unlimited beverages, including fine wines and premium spirits.

Door-to-door personalized journey to San Francisco in business class, bon voyage reception, dinner and overnight accommodation pre-embarkation, one included shore excursion per port, unlimited Wi-Fi.

BONUS: 11 world wonders are featured on the voyage.

BONUS: Exclusive shore excursions included – 442 in all.

BONUS: $1,000 USD onboard spending credit per guest.

Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, Chichen Itza, Antarctica, Machu Picchu, Tahiti, Bali, South Korea, The Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Egypt, St. Petersburg and Scandinavia.

Key West, Cartagena, San Francisco, Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Sydney, Phuket, Mumbai, Jerusalem and Rome.

Kauai, Christmas Island, Samoa, New Zealand, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Alaska and Vancouver.

BAY OF VIRGINS ON FATU HIVA ISLAND, MARQUESAS ARCHIPELAGO

ROYAL SUITE ONBOARD SILVER SHADOW

© SILVERSEA

DESTINATION HIGHLIGHTS

AMENITIES AND PERKS

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

SHIP DETAILS

WHAT TO EXPECT ONBOARD?

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CANADA

BANFF

Beyond the Slopes By Tim Johnson

You don’t have to ski to find thrills in Canada’s most famous mountain town

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and away from reality; and Mount Norquay, the local favourite, with challenging trails and inviting glades. But I’m here for none of it. A slightly wobbly skier at the best of times, I arrive to taste and experience everything else Banff, encompassed by a national park and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has to offer. And it turns out, you’ll find plenty to see and do, beyond the slopes.

STARGLAZE ABOVE VERMILION LAKES AND MOUNT RUNDLE

© PAUL ZIZKA @PAULZIZKAPHOTO

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very winter, the legendary slopes of Banff beckon skiers from around the world. Covered in deep, natural powder and curving through a panorama of Rocky Mountain splendour, each of the “Big Three” ski resorts offers their own version of an alpinist’s paradise – Lake Louise with its Olympic and world championship runs; Sunshine Village, where they whisk you on a gondola ride, up the mountain


For example, there's hunting for ghosts, at one of Canada’s grandest hotels. Canadian Pacific built what’s now called the Fairmont Banff Springs in 1888 as one of Canada’s first railway hotels. Perched above Banff’s main town site, its windows inside the turrets and towers offer sweeping views out over the Bow Valley to the jagged ridgelines of Mount Rundle. To prepare for the tough task of chasing down spirits, I take a relaxing soak in the hotel’s natural hot springs, contemplating my next moves in the mineral pools and waterfalls. My research continues with a massage, where the therapist recounts bizarre and fascinating stories of items being moved around her spa suite by an unseen hand.

TASTING EXPERIENCE AT PARK DISTILLERY

© PAUL ZIZKA, BANFF & LAKE LOUISE TOURISM

If you’re not up for a massage, the hotel has an excellent, small but very informative, museum. It recounts the many lives this luxurious hotel has had. The staff historian will gladly give you more details and share ghostly stories. For example, he tells me about Sam the Bellman, a long-time hotel employee who passed away in 1975, but still comes from beyond the grave to help guests with their bags on occasion. Meanwhile, the Dancing Bride continues to dance eternally in the ballroom after an ill-fated wedding day.

OUTDOOR POOL, FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS

© FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS

WALKING IN THE BOW VALLEY

Sated, I browse some boutiques and appreciate the artwork at a number of local galleries, which line the downtown streets next to the busy ski shops. Canada House is one of the best, reflecting back familiar images and colourful expressions of the natural marvels in this corner of Western Canada and beyond, including Indigenous and Inuit voices. The collection ranges from sculpture and jewellery, to contemporary splashes on canvas. Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 21

© STEVIN TUCHIWSKY @STEVINT

A little spooked and ready for a different kind of spirit, I walk into the main village to Park Distillery. Fashioned as a sort of faux ski lodge, it has fast become a favourite for the après-ski crowd and for some who don’t ski at all. Sitting down for a chat, the young founders recount what makes their beverages better. The water they use in their various concoctions, fresh and cold, flows from six different mountain glaciers. The botanicals in the gin, including spruce tips, are foraged by the owners themselves. I sample a series of spirits, learn about their barrel-aged cocktails and rye whisky, and tuck into some campfireinspired cooking. The menu offers steaks and salmon and even smoked brie, and most of the cuisine is kissed by an open flame.


© MIKE SEEHAGEL / PURSUIT BANFF JASPER COLLECTION

COLUMBIA ICEFIELD SKYWALK

And boasting mountains, forest and national park, the surrounding wilds have so much to offer. A visit to Cave and Basin National Historic Site takes me back to where all of the hubbub here got its start. On this site, Canada’s first national park was born, by accident, when local railway workers started using the thermal hot springs for relaxation after a long day on the job. Next, nearby, it’s time for a short but challenging hike up Tunnel Mountain. Walking right from the town site, the 4.3-kilometre trail – unlike skiing – requires no prior training and is accessible to most levels of fitness. While the winding switchbacks climbing up more than 300 metres definitely

22 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

Finally, I take a drive. Rolling north, I explore the Icefields Parkway, skirting trailheads and waterfalls, passing through three national parks, and curling around the base of some of the nation’s tallest mountains. Up here, I have options: dogsledding, or maybe a skate on the blue expanse of Lake Louise. I’m tempted to keep driving with the charms of Jasper just a couple hundred kilometres up the road. But I turn back to Banff, where a hearty dinner and a cushy bed and so many more adventures await tomorrow.

© TRAVEL ALBERTA

DRIVING ON THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

© FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS

FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS

get my heart pumping, the views out over Banff and the surrounding valley are well worth the effort.



TOGETHER TIME

For the

LOVE of TRAVEL and FAMILY By Chris Ryall

A proud dad reflects on how his love of globetrotting strengthened his relationships with his children and taught them to appreciate cultural differences

24 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022


I

have grown up appreciating and accepting other people and cultures and in turn become more cultured myself. I have you to thank, so thank you, to a truly great dad.” This is what my daughter, Caitlyn, now in her late 20s, wrote in my Father’s Day card a few years ago.

Despite this, our family unit doesn’t usually brim with demonstrative warm and fuzzies. We love each other, of course, but with a mix of stoic English/Irish ancestry. As the kids became teenagers, the family’s sappy genes gradually retreated.

CAITLYN, SCOTT AND CHRIS AT NIAGARA FALLS

It is travel, however, that has been the connective tissue and bonded my family and the relationship I have with my kids.

© CHRIS RYALL

I cherish this card. It sits prominently on my bookshelf along with other cards my son and she have given me. I can’t help but tear up whenever I read their heartfelt sentiments.

My yearning to explore the world started when I was seven and watched the 1963 movie, Jason and the Argonauts. While Jason set out on his voyage with Greek warriors searching for the magical Golden Fleece, scenes of exotic foreign lands whetted my appetite for travel. Greece was my first dream destination.

SCOTT AND CHRIS IN ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND

© CHRIS RYALL

From these humble beginnings, travel has evolved into an integral part of my personal, family and professional life. It has taken me to more than 85 countries on six continents. It is a never-ending desire to explore, experience and learn. It’s my way of experiencing the warm and fuzzies by embracing and immersing myself into the culture.

VISITING GARIFUNA SCHOOL KIDS IN ROATAN, HONDURAS

© CHRIS RYALL

Growing up, my travels were limited to family road trips to Florida mixed with Ontario camping and cottage holidays. Ethnic cuisine was a foreign territory as well. Spice for my dad amounted to just double shakes of salt and pepper.

Whenever I visit a new destination, it stimulates a reflective response in me. What can I learn from this person/culture? How can I share my knowledge and experiences? What does this person need to know about my culture and the country I live in? How can I contribute to a better world? What can I do to leave a positive impression? As a parent, we try and teach our kids about being responsible, compassionate citizens and giving back to the community. I’ve had the privilege to plant rice, do health checks on elephants and volunteer for various cultural activities. Travel can be such a valuable educator and an invaluable tool for teaching my kids to respect other cultures. When the kids were young, I would bring back from my trip dolls or other trinkets reflecting the country’s culture, especially for my daughter.

Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 25


While all of her friends had their collection of Barbie dolls, Caitlyn had handcrafted black Zulu dolls and Hopi Tribe kachina dolls. In kindergarten and older grades, she would bring these dolls for show and tell and other presentations, sharing stories about the cultures that made them.

stayed in everything from budget motels to five-star resorts and appreciate them all. Just as in my travels, they appreciated the differences and learned to adapt to the occasional inconvenience. These days, my daughter has taken the travel bug across the Atlantic Ocean. She now lives and works in Copenhagen. She also got married there. My son resides in Toronto, but is ready to jump on the plane to challenge me in golf anywhere.

Travel has been the catalyst to a stronger relationship with my children in good times and bad. When my wife and I separated, my son and I went on a golf trip to Myrtle Beach a few months afterward. The destination played an important backdrop in a week of fatherson bonding and emotional support through golfing, kayaking, singing at a rock concert and doughnut runs to the Krispy Kreme outlet.

CAITLYN ON HER WEDDING DAY IN COPENHAGEN

© CHRIS RYALL

Family holidays in France, Arizona, Mexico, Canada, United States and other destinations planted the wanderlust seeds in each of them. They have

I’m immensely proud when I see who their friends are both growing up and today. It reflects a gathering of the United Nations – only younger. In another Father’s Day card, Caitlyn wrote: “I am happy to be able to share the love of travel and adventure with you.” Embrace your life and family with healthy doses of travel. It’s the gift that keeps on giving back.

© CHRIS RYALL

PLANTING RICE IN THAILAND


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*Fares are per guest per day and apply to minimum lead-in categories on Regal Princess® 3/26/22 for 7-day Mediterranean with France & Italy cruise only on a space-available basis at time of booking. Fares are non-air, cruise or cruisetour-only, based on double occupancy and apply to the first two guests in a stateroom. Fares and other values quoted as indicated. A refundable deposit is required for all stateroom guests and amount varies according to the cruise length, stateroom type and number of stateroom guests. Please refer to your travel advisor for terms, conditions and definitions that apply to all bookings. 1 Best Sale Ever Terms Certain restrictions apply, please refer to your travel advisor for complete term, conditions and definitions that apply to all bookings. Offer valid 12/15/21 to 3/2/22

Up to $50 USD Onboard Spending Money per stateroom. Offer is applicable to first/second-berth guests only. Third/fourth-berth guests are not eligible. Onboard spending money may be used on a single voyage only, is not redeemable for cash, cannot be used in the casino and expires at the end of that voyage. Offer is not transferable and may not be combinable with other select offers or other onboard credits. Onboard spending money is quoted in U.S. dollars and is based on the ship’s onboard currency. Void where prohibited by law. Certain restrictions apply, please refer to your travel advisor for complete terms, conditions and definitions that apply to all bookings.

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WELLNESS

SPA TIME – BETTER IN THE

BAHAMAS By Ensemble Travel Staff

For the ultimate in relaxation, pamper yourself with treatments from head to toe to get the most out of your vacation

T

he Bahamas is known for its pristine white beaches and remarkable turquoise waters, making it one of the most scenic vacation destinations in the world. Imagine soaking up the sun, listening to the sound of the waves as they roll in. The tranquil lifestyle doesn’t stop there. The Bahamas amplifies its natural calming effects with the most sybaritic spas found anywhere. World-class spas located throughout The Bahamas will help you reach a whole new level of relaxation during your stay. Here are a few highlights to consider.

28 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

THE ULTIMATE PRIVATE ISLAND IN THE BAHAMAS: KAMALAME CAY


THE SPA OF EDEN AT PISHON

© BAHA MAR

The Spa of Eden in Nassau introduces cutting-edge skincare technology to The Bahamas. The spa offers the highest quality of corrective skincare products for an array of skin needs, from smoothing to firming. Its services include clinical treatments, age-perfecting therapies, red carpet services and facial waxing and threading to help you look and feel your best. The Ion Magnum treatment, unique to the Spa of Eden, is a non-surgical procedure designed for weight loss and body sculpting in key areas like arms, abs and thighs.

© COURTESY OF KAMALAME CAY

ESPA AT BAHA MAR Espa can be found at Baha Mar located in New Providence. Espa stands for “education and spa.” Here, each treatment is tailored to the needs of an individual. The pampering offerings include facials, nail and foot care, and body therapies designed to allow you to truly let go of stress and fully relax. Baha Mar is introducing a new INFUZ IV nutrition therapy featuring five IV options and four booster shots that promise to boost your wellness. This treatment is exclusive to Espa and will help you leave feeling energized and reinvigorated. Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 29


© THE WARWICK HOTEL

© GRAND LUCAYAN RESORT

SENSES SPA, GRAND LUCAYAN RESORT

AMBER SPA, WARWICK HOTEL

The Senses Spa at the Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama Island has one of the best fitness facilities in the Caribbean. Their fitness programs include the use of cardio and weight-training equipment, yoga on the beach, personal trainers and classes such as Tae Bo and Pilates. After working out, guests can access the spa facility, a luxurious retreat for indulgent body treatments, sure to rejuvenate tired muscles and restore energy. From the traditional wood saunas to the steam rooms, the spa has everything you need to feel relaxed to the max.

This luxurious spa with a lovely view of Nassau offers massages, facials, body waxing, haircare and nail services ensuring maximum comfort while being taken care of by world-class massage therapists and estheticians. Unique to the Amber Spa is the partnership with Mila d’Opiz Swiss Beauty, which uses natural Swiss plant extracts and glacier water to improve and nurture the skin. Along with high-quality skincare products, guests will enjoy personalized, professional service to enhance their experience.

RED LANE SPA, SANDALS ROYAL BAHAMIAN

© SANDALS ROYAL BAHAMIAN

The Sandals Royal Bahamian is situated in Nassau, New Providence. The on-site Red Lane Spa focuses on luxurious services. Its signature treatments engage the senses to maximize the benefits of each therapy for mind and body. The spa menu is diverse with an array of facials, body treatments, pedicures and manicures. Be sure to bring your partner since there are four different massages available for couples, including the Scents of Love couple’s treatment. It takes you on a romantic journey by highlighting the aromas indigenous to the Caribbean. Your massage therapist will guide you through a serene candle lighting, followed by a massage with warm oil ritual based on your personal preferences. It is the type of bespoke experience you and your loved one will always remember.

THE KAMALAME SPA

© KAMALAME CAY

The Kamalame Spa is a private, island resort on Andros Island. It’s one of the most elegant spa locations you may ever discover. The property’s over-the-water spa makes you feel as though you have your own secluded oasis. Listen to the waves crashing on the beach and feel one with nature as you enjoy a top-notch massage. The spa also offers facials and body treatments with organic OSEA products, rich in nourishing seaweed and essential oils and also free of synthetic parabens and sulfates. This spa retreat is sure to be the highlight of your trip.

30 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022


Vacation Like You Dream It

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CRUISE

Nature

Back to

By Diane Tierney

How an Alaskan cruise helped open my eyes about the devastating impact of climate change

Alaska is a ruggedly handsome destination with majestic mountains, glistening glaciers, lush green forests, and flamboyant wildlife that jumps into action to steal the show when it’s least expected. While my first visit to Alaska about 15 years ago with Princess Cruises was fascinating, it was my second visit in 2019 with Cunard on the newly renovated Queen Elizabeth ship that really opened my eyes to environmental issues the state faces. 32 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

What I saw on TV or read about in the news doesn’t compare to what being there in real life was like – while hiking, kayaking, dogsledding, flight-seeing and other ways to explore. Many of Alaska’s glaciers, which cover about five per cent of the state, have experienced obvious melting. Between 2007 and 2015, the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau has retreated by about 550 metres. I witnessed the melting in action firsthand at the Hubbard Glacier, 320 kilometres north of Juneau. I didn’t have to wait long on the top deck before


HUBBARD GLACIER CALVES INTO DISENCHANTMENT BAY

As strong as Alaska appears to be, it’s clear that its natural beauty needs preservation. A cruise offers a way to see the best of the region, while learning about the threats it faces. For instance, while enjoying a hot toddy on my balcony and admiring the scenery, an ice floe with an adorable sea otter floated past, basking in the sunshine. It was delightful to see this lovely creature in such a cute, comical pose, but it did make me worry about the wildlife. Cruising Alaska also educates you about the fate of whales, bears, caribou, bald eagles, fish, sea otters and more.

ALASKA SHOWS OFF ITS NATURAL BEAUTY

© CUNARD

WHALE WATCHING IN JUNEAU

a three-storey-high wall of turquoise ice crashed with thundering drama. The roar and splash added a whole new 10-kilometre-long level to the experience. Many more chunks of ice along the long wall calved and floated toward us as icebergs. When I learned that glacial melting is a major threat that can cause a rise in sea level and flooding, I could easily see how the volume adds up to billions of gallons quickly. Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the U.S. and temperatures have reached record high levels. Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 33


DRAMATIC FALL COLOURS

A helicopter flight is an exciting way to see much of the spectacular scenery and wildlife all in a single tour. We flew high over snow-capped mountains, skimmed the treetops, and swooped low into the valleys. Below, a mother bear and her cub briefly glanced up at our chopper as if we were just a giant red dragonfly in the sky.

about what would happen if more snow melts. Because of Alaska’s difficult terrain, sleds and snowmobiles are important modes of transportation for keeping communities connected. In the charming towns along my journey, it’s difficult to resist watching the fun lumberjack shows, popping into the saloons for a pint, and poking around the shops for art, clothing, jewellery and souvenirs. But I think it’s especially important to tour local visitor centres to learn more about the history, culture and environment. For example, some have powerful time-lapse videos showing how glaciers have diminished over the past decade – something which stirs up a range of emotions, from sadness to frustration. Guides are well prepared for these reactions and ready to answer questions.

We also flew over Icy Strait to see three more whales, calmly swimming in perfect unison just below the surface. Their size, even from above, is impressive. Bold bald eagles joined us in the air and dive-bombed for food, thanks to their incredible vision. They can fly at speeds of 300 kilometres per hour and can see something as small as a rabbit from more than a kilometre away. Another eagle showed off its fascinating up-and-down dance in the sky to mark its territory. Back on land, we hiked through the dense woods with a guide breathing in the fresh aroma of pine to reach our picnic spot beside a creek. As we ate near the bonfire, we learned how climate change will negatively impact salmon as water temperatures and sea volumes rise. Dogsledding on a glacier is another popular tour although we didn’t take part due to the weather. It got me thinking 34 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

GRIZZLY BEAR CUBS PLAYING ON ADMIRALTY ISLAND

© STATE OF ALASKA / REINHARD PANTKE

On a whale watching tour, our boat sailed near massive whales rising and diving just a few hundred metres away from us. They waved their tails just long enough for us to capture the action on camera. They certainly weren’t afraid of us and I’m glad tour boat traffic is controlled, keeping it to a minimum. We also passed Admiralty Island, near Juneau, where an estimated 1,600 bears live, ranging in size from 180 to 450 kilos. While we watched, a few of these enormous creatures sauntered slowly along on the beach and paddled in the water.


© TRAVEL ALASKA

EXPERIENCE ALASKA FROM THE AIR

Back onboard the Queen Elizabeth, I attended presentations hosted by the cruise line’s experts who can also explain the effects of climate change in detail, including internationally recognized explorers such as Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund Hillary, who shared his inspiring wilderness adventures.

Seeing Alaska by cruise ship with more than 2,000 people had me questioning my travel choice. I wondered whether I was contributing to the problem somehow. Or was I helping by becoming better educated so I could share my knowledge and experience with others? I believe it’s the latter.

HARBOUR SEALS RESTING ON ICE

Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 35


Discover remarkable natural wonders, unparalleled wildlife, and the rich cultural legacy of ‘The Great Land’, as you explore this wild frontier on Queen Elizabeth

I was surprised when I learned the facts. Cruise ships comprise less than one per cent of the global maritime community and the cruise industry has invested more than $22 billion in new technologies and cleaner fuels for ships to reduce air emissions and protect the environment. Companies have committed to reducing the rate of carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 from 2008 levels. (See details about the cruise industry’s environmental responsibility for a cleaner future here from the Cruise Line Industry Association.) I suggest you see Alaska soon so you, too, can be inspired to help preserve this fabulous final frontier in your own personal way. Take a cruise and book as many shore excursions as you can to enjoy it from all angles — sea, land and air — and you’ll witness both the stunning beauty of Alaska and be guided by experts who are not just educated in climate change, but live and breathe it in Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Haines, Icy Strait and Ketchikan.

Our Experts Suggest… Many options allow travellers to combine the luxuries of a hotel with the adventure of a trip through America’s most spectacular wilderness. Cruise ships range in size and luxury, from megaliners to small ships and their accommodations are just as diverse. Options for cruising amenities range from casual to formal, it just depends on the experience you are looking for on your next Alaska getaway. Ask you travel advisor for personalized recommendations based on your needs.

36 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

BALD EAGLE


Witness Unparalleled Beauty. Breathtaking natural wonders and unforgettable Cunard® style await you on our 2022 voyages into The Last Frontier. Queen Elizabeth® is your guide as you revel in the majestic views of the stunning Hubbard Glacier and the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay National Park. Receive Ensemble Exclusive benefits of up to

$200 Onboard Credit per stateroom*

2022 Alaska Voyages Hubbard Glacier

Skagway Haines

Glacier Bay National Park

Juneau Icy Strait Point

Sitka Ketchikan

10 nights

June 4, 2022

Q218N

Vancouver > Glacier Bay National Park > Haines > Hubbard Glacier > Juneau > Sitka > Ketchikan > Victoria > Vancouver 10 nights

June 14, 2022

Q219

Vancouver > Juneau > Hubbard Glacier > Skagway > Glacier Bay National Park > Sitka > Ketchikan > Victoria > Vancouver 7 nights

June 24, 2022

Q220

Vancouver > Glacier Bay National Park Icy Strait Point > Sitka > Ketchikan > Vancouver

>

Destinations in italics are Cruise By/Transit Only * Certain restrictions apply, please refer to your Travel Advisor for complete terms, conditions & definitions that apply to all bookings. © 2021 Cunard. Ships’ Registry: Bermuda.

Contact your Travel Advisor.

Vancouver Victoria


CANADA

TRUE NORTH

A cruise to Newfoundland and Labrador opens the door to a greater understanding and appreciation of First Nations culture

© BARRET AND MACKAY

By Toby Saltzman

38 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

INUKSHUK AND PEOPLE AT TORNGAT MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK


L

ight shining off the windows of the white church beckoned us forth like a welcoming invitation as we sailed into Nain Harbour. By now – after a week of cruising aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour – I’d come to anticipate the warm and genuinely embracing welcome of the people scattered in coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador. And I’d come to realize that, although I’d gifted myself with this cruise to experience new adventures, scenery, wildlife, and a braggers’ list of sites to cross off my list, the true gift had turned out to be my mind-awakening admiration for First Nations people, along with a deep sense of humility I feel to this day. As a former elementary school teacher, I had taught students about Canada’s Indigenous people, and how throughout 9,000 years of history, they have tamed the environment, lived off rivers and lands, and foraged for food. As intelligent

© MICHELLE VALBERG

© MARCEL RENE GROSSMANN

PUFFIN

ZODIAC EXCURSION

as my words seemed back then, I realized how shallow they were once the ship’s daily lecture series began. In Miawpukek, we met Mi’kmaq First Nation Chief Saquamaw Mi’sel Joe, a spiritual leader in his community. He spoke about the importance of preserving his people’s language, culture and traditions. He spoke about their connection to the land: “We must believe two eyes see – see the past and see the future.” The Chief explained how Miawpukek became a model community by ensuring education for its youngsters, reviving their heritage, and helping people get jobs as guides and workers in the area’s growing tourism infrastructure. Every day, as Ocean Endeavour navigated its way to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Red Bay, L’Anse aux Meadows, and the remote Torngat Mountains – onboard

© NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR TOURISM

L’ANSE AUX MEADOWS

Vacations ® • Winter 2022 • 39


experts prepared us to recognize beauty and nature. Professional photographers taught us to take better images. And, on deck, we gathered to spot birds, whales breaching and icebergs floating in the distance. Every evening, local speakers described realities of life in the north. The lounge was hushed when Maria Merkuratsuk, a cultural educator who works with Adventure Canada, appeared. A tiny woman whose face spoke volumes of a life not easily lived, she spoke in soft, barely audible tones. I felt so grateful that she shared stories about her family and the challenges they’ve faced, including how their lives were disrupted when they were forced from their home and resettled in Nain. Though she did not attend school while growing up, she was able to graduate as an adult and go on to get her diploma in social work. Merkuratsuk now promotes cultural preservation among community members by holding workshops on sewing traditional clothing and crafts, and Inuttitut, her first language. Excitement grew as I hopped out of the ship and into the zodiac, seated alongside celebrated author Margaret Atwood for the ride to Nain. Atwood, on her umpteenth Adventure Canada cruise, had become the best hiking companion, pointing out rare wildflower and herb species along the trails, even discovering a chunk of Ramah chert, a rare iridescent

AERIAL VIEW OF RED BAY

grey stone, which she donated to the Torngat Mountains research facility. Living in a small Nunatsiavut community tucked at the base of Mount Sophie, the people of Nain won my heart. Waiting in the harbour to greet us, the mayor was surrounded by a host of townspeople and kids showing off by doing wheelies on their bikes. After visiting the local church and school, and meeting teenage students who spoke about venturing out to schools in the city, I sensed that Nain was on the cusp of cultivating a better life – one where its people experienced a revitalization of their culture. Visiting Hebron magnified the sad story of the sacred Inuit location, Maria Merkuratsuk’s words still echoing in my mind. The Hebron Mission Station, established by Moravian Christian missionaries in the 1830s, was closed in 1959, which led to the local Inuit being forcibly relocated. Today, the church is being restored, and Hebron now serves as the base camp and research station for Torngat Mountains National Park. As the voyage continued along scenic fiords, with views of polar bears rambling on mountain ridges, I thought about the blessings of travel and what it has given me, including a greater culture appreciation and understanding of the First Nations people in this part of Canada.

Our Experts Suggest…

40 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

© MICHELLE VALBERG

CONNECTING WITH NATURE, PEOPLE AND PLACE

ADVENTURE CANADA’S OCEAN ENDEAVOUR

© BARRET AND MACKAY

© DENNIS MINTY

VISIT OF MIAWPUKEK FIRST NATION

For more than 30 years, Adventure Canada has been taking travellers to some of the most inspiring destinations on the planet. They believe that getting people close to nature and immersed in culture can actually transform the way we see the world. Members of Adventure Canada's expedition team share what makes their style of small-ship expedition travel unique.


when you finally come up for air.

Go ahead take a nice, deep breath. Because we intend to make every moment of your Mediterranean voyage a Seabourn Moment. With all ocean-front suites, nearly one team member for every guest, and ships carrying just 264-600 guests. So you’ll enjoy plenty of breathing room to take in how far you’ve come, and start imagining where you want to go.

Contact Your Travel Advisor


SOFT ADVENTURE

Step by Step By Laura Paquet

A celebratory dream trip to hike the scenic trails of Ireland brings two friends closer together

42 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022


STEPHANIE AND LAURA HIKING THE GAP OF DUNDOE

© LAURA PAQUET

W

indy Gap is well named. As my friend Stephanie and I made our way along this rocky mountain path in Ireland’s County Kerry, stiff breezes tangled our hair and bit through our jackets. But after hiking several kilometres uphill, we didn’t feel the cold. What we did feel was proud that we’d accomplished this challenge. Stephanie, who I met more than 25 years ago at work, had suggested doing this walking trip in the southwest corner of Ireland to celebrate her 50th birthday. We’re both half Irish and, while I’d visited Ireland before, Stephanie had never been. It seemed the ideal place to explore together. We weren’t novices to long-distance walking, having participated in fundraising walks over the years. However, when she first mentioned taking a guided tour of Ireland, I wondered whether we could shape up sufficiently to handle up to 15 kilometres a day. It turns out a dream trip is a powerful motivator. We used the next few months to train, walking together weekly. By the time we boarded our flight to Ireland, I felt ready. To get over our jet lag, we first spent a few days in Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city. We took a 20-minute bus trip to Blarney Castle, where the famous stone is rumoured to bestow the gift of the gab. Later, we took a short train ride to the seaport of Cobh nearby to visit the Cobh Heritage Centre, a fascinating museum focused on Irish emigration (including the voyage of the ill-fated Titanic). The next day, Stephanie and I met our walking group at our Cork hotel. We rolled our luggage to the bus and set off to Killarney National Park, about 90 minutes away. Once there, we warmed up with a largely flat walk, while the bus trundled onward to our next hotel. (That’s one of the

THE CHARMING CITY OF CORK

CROSSING WISHING BRIDGE IN THE GAP OF DUNLOE

Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 43


SMOKED SALMON ON IRISH SODA BREAD WITH A DARK BEER

GLENINCHAQUIN PARK

Enjoy these Irish scones slathered with butter, jam or clotted cream alongside a cup of black tea.

Transport yourself to Ireland with traditional jigs and reels inspired and influenced by Celtic traditions.

advantages to booking an organized tour. Your luggage is shuttled between hotels, so you don’t have to slog along mountain paths carrying all your stuff.)

folk tunes I remembered from childhood. The next night, we cheered a troupe of young students performing highstepping Irish dances at a local restaurant.

That easy nine-kilometre stroll through Tomies Wood and the formal rose gardens of Muckross House buoyed our confidence. Our training had paid off, Stephanie and I told ourselves over dinner at our lakeside hotel that night.

By day three, we were both well fed and feeling fit – fortunately, as we face a 14-kilometre hike to Windy Gap. Forgoing the optional shuttles and shortcuts, we dug our walking poles into the trail, puffed past sure-footed sheep and made it to the mountaintop.

Day two saw us hiking 11 kilometres along undulating paths through the Gap of Dunloe, a mountainous corner of Kerry studded with ponds, rocky outcrops and fuchsia trees. Stopping to take photos every 30 seconds or so, Stephanie and I managed the day’s walk with relative ease, and again that night, we congratulated ourselves over well-earned pints and whiskeys. Ah, yes – the food and drink. Since we were walking so much, we rationalized that we could eat and drink with abandon. In our small but luxurious hotels, we slathered sweet Kerry butter on warm scones each morning at breakfast. At lunch breaks along the trails, we devoured smoked salmon drizzled with lemon, along with chunks of dense Irish soda bread. In the evenings, we gravitated to eateries with entertainment. In a Kenmare pub, a harp and guitar duo played Irish

Far below, the white houses of Glenbeigh village looked like tiny dice tossed out on a vast green felt table near Dingle Bay. We caught our breath. We took pictures. And we realized that all those Sunday mornings when we’d laced up our running shoes had been worth it. Windy Gap marked roughly the halfway point of our trip. Other adventures awaited – a bracing walk along windwhipped Rossbeigh Strand, a climb alongside a waterfall sprawling down a mountainside in Gleninchaquin Park, a damp morning of squelching along a muddy track called Old Butter Road, and an afternoon of meandering past jeweltoned shopfronts in Kinsale. After the trip, back in Canada, Stephanie and I kept up our Sunday walks. More than just a way to keep fit, they became a way to stay connected. Deepening our friendship was the best gift our Irish trip gave us. It has already inspired us to make plans for our next adventure on foot.

MUCKROSS HOUSE AND GARDENS

© CHRIS HILL

Our Experts Suggest… Looking for an intimate tour? Strap on your hiking boots and follow one of our private guides to explore Ireland’s rugged, untamed, and remote wild west. Follow a range of trails and green roads (tracks of former horse carts) and meander along rivers, lakes and the Atlantic Ocean through woods and among mountains.


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EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES

Call of the By Liz Fleming

Wild

Baboons, hippos and surprising encounters make a glamping vacation in Botswana’s Okavango Delta truly unforgettable

M

ROOM AT BELMOND EAGLE ISLAND LODGE

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© MARK WILLIAMS

y safari tent was the height of glamping luxury as elegant as any five-star hotel room, complete with marble bathroom, mahogany furnishings and a bed swathed in Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy down pillows. After enjoying a fabulous chef-prepared dinner of antelope in the open-air dining room, I’d been safely escorted to my tent by my guide Jakob. Before he left he reminded me: “Madame, don’t forget the baboon lock. You don’t want them in your tent.” I knew the next morning’s 5 am wake-up call for animal viewing would be a jolt, so I snapped off the light, sank into the pillow and then realized I’d forgotten about the baboon lock. Only the trashed-tent photos passed around the dinner table propelled me out of that cozy bed to set the lock. It was a wise move. Not five minutes later, busy baboon fingers began jiggling at the door. Note to self: believe your guide.

HERD OF ZEBRAS


© MARK WILLIAMS

© MARK WILLIAMS

GAME DRIVE EXPLORATION

BREAKFAST WITH ELEPHANTS

As I lay in the stillness of that Okavango Delta night in the heart of Botswana, living my safari dream, every sound and shadow were magnified. My senses were on high alert – not with fear but with a thirst to drink in every detail of this wildest of places.

cat, silhouetted by the lights on the path outside, was rubbing his face against the wall of my tent. Staying perfectly still, I watched, hoping the itchy lion or leopard or cheetah wouldn’t realize the tent was nothing more than a large canvas lunch bag. Sleep was a bit slower to come after that.

Just as I’d drifted off to sleep, a soft rustling woke me – the sound of fur gently brushing against canvas. An enormous

At 5 am, Jakob knocked on my door and left a thermos of tea. I showered, dressed, sipped the tea and stepped out

Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 47


MOKORO CANOE SAFARI

MOTHER AND BABY BABOON

onto the patio, ready to head to breakfast. The baboons had other plans. There, on the path leading to the dining area, sat a mother baboon and her three babies. Each time I tried to sidle past, Mama B rose to her feet and shrieked, curling her lips back to reveal enormous fangs. She was clearly in charge. I returned to my tent then re-emerged, armed with apples from the fruit basket I’d been given the day before. After showing the apples to Mama B, I wound up and pitched them one by one as far from my tent as I could. My baboon captors scratched, snarled a bit more, then ambled off after the fruit, leaving me the space to scurry down the path. The dining room was buzzing. A pride of lions had killed a cape buffalo the night before and guests were clambering into Jeeps to go watch the feast. My faithful guide Jakob, who’d ensured I was safe in my tent the night before, reminded me of the baboon lock and brought me tea, looked at me with expectant eyes. I could sense him wishing that I not drive off with the others. A new graduate of the camp’s training program, he hoped today was to be his first solo expedition – with me as his first guest. Heading off in the Jeep would have meant squashing his hopes and his plans to take me wildlife spotting along the river. I waved goodbye to everyone and headed to the shore of the river, where the mokoro, a type of flat-bottomed canoe carved from a tree trunk, were beached. When the spring rains flood the Chobe River and turn the plains green, the Okavango Delta becomes one of the best places in Africa for wildlife viewing. While Jakob paddled, I pulled out my camera. Despite the early hour, the sun was hot so I dipped my hand in the cool water, splashed my face and let my fingers dangle in the river for a moment or two. He offered another warning: “Madame, please keep your hands in the mokoro.” He pointed to what

48 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022


HELICOPTER TOUR OVER THE OKAVANGO DELTA

Vacations ® • Winter 2022 • 49

© MIKE ELOFF & CARLIIN MEYER

Belmond Eagle Island Lodge enjoys a privileged position on a private island at the heart of the Okavango Delta. The only inland delta of its kind, it is an oasis of life in the centre of the Kalahari Desert.


I’d thought were a couple of still-furled lily pads. They were, in fact, crocodile eyes. It was the perfect moment to spell out the rest of his expedition rules. “First, do exactly as I tell you – when I tell you. Second, tell me if you see anything, anything at all. Third, never run. The minute you run, you become lunch.” I listened intently since he’d been so right about that baboon lock. As we slipped through the water, I took photo after photo of lazy hippos basking in the shallows to keep their skin from burning and the long-legged water birds that walked fearlessly past them. After an hour or so, Jakob beached the mokoro on a spit of land and we set off into a lush tangle of greenery that opened into a meadow. Suddenly, Jakob whispered: “Don’t move.” CROCODILES HIDING IN THE RIVER

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OPEN-AIR RESTAURANT

© MARK WILLIAMS

HIPPOS TAKING A LEISURELY BATH

My adrenaline surged as I wondered what he’d heard. And then I heard it, too – a sudden thundering of hoofs. In moments, we were surrounded by a herd of zebras. As we stood still, the herd relaxed, lowering their heads to graze, moving nearer to us until their noses could almost have touched our feet. So close we could hear their breathing, the zebras nibbled until suddenly, in one unanimous swirl of black and white, they thundered off again in search of new pastures. Travel is serendipitous and unpredictable – and therein lies its magic. Had Jakob and I joined the others who went to watch the lions feasting, we would have missed that rare moment when the usual barriers between species lowered and we became part of the wild, too, in the heart of the Botswana.


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CULTURE

KING

Hail to a

By Barb Sligl

A gender-bending event in the Czech Republic celebrates folkloric traditions with music, merrymaking and shots of brandy

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SPILBERK CASTLE IN BRNO, CZECH REPUBLIC


© LUKAS ZENTEL

© BARB SLIGL

EVERYONE WEARS TRADITIONAL CLOTHING FOR THE EVENT

THE RIDE OF THE KINGS IN VLČNOV

The bright-blue sky pales against primary colours adorning the houses, horses and villagers of Vlčnov in Moravia. I spot a man in a voluminous white shirt and blue vest embroidered with red-fringed hearts. Then another in pleated-andpuffed sleeves, a woman in a baroque skirt and flamboyant headdress, a girl in a floral kerchief and a boy with a white rose in his mouth. It’s a hot spring day in this southeastern corner of the Czech Republic, but everyone is wearing layers of ruffles and embellishments, from pompom-adorned hats to knee-high leather boots.

in a rite of passage the entire village of just 3,000 inhabitants participates in.

It’s a kaleidoscopic display that seems straight out of a fairytale. It could be, as this is celebration stemming from the legend of a king who escaped capture by dressing as a woman, veiled in ribbons and a rose in his mouth. The folktale has become the Ride of the Kings, an annual festival held for centuries and is now on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. The boy I see with the rose in his mouth, nearly hidden beneath flouncy fabric and astride a flower-bedecked white horse, is the latest king

I’m told that every Czech is a musician and everyone here knows the lyrics of the folk songs. The country’s heritage is steeped in music, from the world-famous compositions of Dvořák to the melodies in these meadowlands of the White Carpathians. This landscape has another UNESCO designation as the Bílé Karpaty Biosphere Reserve, cited for being “rich in traditions and living folklore.” Under the starlit sky with the chorus of music and crickets, it’s a storybook scene that’s only a three-hour drive from Prague.

The weekend-long festivities of Jízda králů, as the Ride of the Kings is called in Czech, include gala ceremonies and an outdoor fete on Saturday night. Live music is played amid búdy, gingerbread-house-like huts, where locals gather and share copious amounts of plum brandy. I join the party in the Moravian countryside at twilight, walking from búda to búda listening to folk singers, fiddlers and dulcimer bands.

© LUKAS ZENTEL

MUSICIANS IN PREPARATION FOR THE PARADE

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© BARB SLIGL

HANDMADE MORAVIAN EMBROIDERY

MORAVIAN MOTIFS DECORATE THE EXTERIOR OF WINE CELLARS

FLOWER GARDENS IN KROMĚŘÍŽ, CZECH REPUBLIC

Our Experts Suggest…

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, famous for his Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’, was passionate about his homeland and its traditional music. Listen to some of his most famous works. The music, dancing and partying continues into Sunday, when girls decorate Vlčnov with handcrafted crepe-paper flowers and boys escort the new king on horseback, reciting poems and calling for gifts from the crowd. A parade forms and more musicians march and perform. There are floats, folk dances and stalls with sweet poppy-filled buns, Frankovka wine, wooden crafts and t-shirts that say “I love Budý” for sale. A woman watching the parade from her front lawn offers me a shot of plum brandy. It’s my third before noon. My new friend and I toast the boyking with the white rose in his mouth. He’s 12 years old but plays the role with solemn grace, flanked by past recruits and two young guards also in women’s clothes. Whatever the 54 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

origins of this springtime procession and ritual, today the 200-year-old celebration in Vlčnov is a joyous social event that everyone looks forward to. The king’s mother and father, his neighbours, my brandy-proffering friend and I are all beaming. Held on the last weekend of May, the Ride of the Kings welcomes thousands of spectators. The popular event has been captured by renowned Czech artists, from 19th-century painter Joža Uprka, who documented Moravia’s folklife, to contemporary novelist Milan Kundera. And the romanticism of the region extends into other traditions and artisanal products, from bobbin lace in Vamberk to blueprint in Strážnice. The indigodye printing technique, modrotisk, uses flora-and-fauna motifs carved in wooden blocks – some of which are 300 years old – and is yet another UNESCO-recognized cultural heritage. I see the modrotisk hearts of Strážnice in the heart-embroidered vests of Vlčnov and folkloric flourishes in a country of storied castles and places of pilgrimage (and many more UNESCO recognitions). Sometimes age-old traditions thrive and feel remarkably relevant, like the genderbending celebration of the Ride of the Kings. The boy-king with a rose in his mouth brings people together and upends expectations of small-town Europe as much as those shots of plum brandy.

MORAVIA HIGHLIGHTS AT A GLANCE From grand castles (an estimated 2,000 country-wide) to great beer, much of the Czech character can be found in Moravia. The capital, Brno, has a legendary dragon (Brněnský drak), a lively university culture and Villa Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, this 1930 must-see monument of modern architecture contrasts all those ancient castles, but overlooks one, too – the 13th-century Špilberk. Nearby are two other don’t-miss castles: Litomyšl, a striking example of Bohemian Renaissance style with sgrafitto (also a UNESCO site, where scenes from Oscar-winning Amadeus were filmed), and Kroměříž, home to the Archbishop’s Château and Gardens as well as elaborate facades and arcades in town (with UNESCO designations for both). The colour continues into the White Carpathians, where Moravian blue (ultramarin modrý) accents and folkloric motifs decorate the exterior of wine cellars built into hillsides. They contain local varietals, such as Pálava, Muškát Moravský and Frankovka. There’s also the Rudolf Jelínek Slivovice distillery, where you can tour and taste 400 years of tradition and enjoy a beloved beer garden in which to sip pivo or try classic dishes like fruit dumplings. Note: anything goes with beer here.


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SLOW TRAVEL Warm and Bountiful Auvillar By Renée S. Suen

© RENEE SUEN

A pilgrimage to the Occitanie region and its enchanting villages in southwest France is a must for gastronomes

PILGRIMS RESTING BY ONE OF AUVILLAR’S COBBLESTONE ROADS

A

m I dreaming? Can melons taste this juicy and sweet? Or are my senses being reawakened after 16 months of seclusion in my cramped Toronto home?

I’ve ruminated over many things, but never about melons, including the exquisite Quercy melons I’m binging 56 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

on while basking in the fresh country air in southwestern France. It’s my first trip abroad since travel has resumed. I’m in Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée to attend the annual Jazz à l’Hospitalet Festival in Narbonne. I’d heard rumors about the region’s incredible culinary scene.


The fruit is part of the bountiful breakfast spread at my luxury B&B, surrounded by undulating hills patchworked with bright yellow sunflowers that’s not far from Auvillar, a tiny village with less than a thousand inhabitants. I have everything from a saltwater swimming pool to an indoor games room at my disposal, but I choose to while away my morning in my suite’s sprawling, sunny lounge to savour some of the freshest local flavours. There are traditional cheeses from local producer La Ferme du Ramier, along with cured meats, pastries and bread, plus fresh sheep’s milk yogurt with homemade preserves.

TRADITIONAL CHEESES FROM LOCAL PRODUCER

© TOURISME TARN ET GARONNE

© TOURISME TARN ET GARONNE

ROSÉ FROM LOCAL WINERY DOMAINE DE THERMES

Though stuffed, I still down fistfuls of tree-ripen Roussillon red apricots purchased from a modern self-serve grocery market near the village’s restored Church of Saint Pierre with an original wall dating back to the 12th-century. Blessed with well-preserved history and contemporary comforts, this is the rejuvenation I didn’t know I needed until I became immersed in it. That’s the charm of Auvillar, lauded as being one of the most beautiful villages in France. Famed for its earthenware and goose quill pens, the former port district is a recognized stopover point on the UNESCO-classified Chemin

© RENÉE SUEN

AERIAL VIEW OF GARONNE RIVER


de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle – a historic route that religious pilgrims have been following since the 11th century on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It’s also the kind of place one goes to escape, relax and take things easy. Here, slow tourism reigns. “This is a real village. It’s not a theme park or tourist attraction, but where you get the true feel of France,” explains Muriel Pelissier-Chambaron, director of the Deux Rives tourist office, as we roam Auvillar’s cobblestone roads.

AUVILLAR'S, PICTURESQUE 17TH-CENTURY CLOCKTOWER

© TOURISME TARN ET GARONNE

She and I are now on an impromptu tour of the Gallo-Roman city, which began as a chance encounter when I asked her for a map and restaurant recommendations. The unexpected hospitality was an incredible welcome after my long hiatus from travel. Like stepping back in time, we visit Auvillar’s charming community-run museums and pass by the village’s small, picturesque 17th-century clocktower. We stop in at attractive red brick- and stone-lined triangular square, Place de la Halle, where Pelissier-Chambaron points out the unusual circular market hall. Built in 1825 strictly out of wood and stone, it used to sell grains, but today, it’s a Sunday-only fruit and vegetable market. We meet weary hikers resting their tired feet on the roadside with Pelissier-Chambaron stopping to welcome them and offering directions to a shaded picnic spot created for travellers to rest during their pilgrimage.

LE FARAT BREAKFAST

© RENÉE SUEN

Celebrated for its unspoiled rolling landscapes and gastronomy, the region of Occitanie was created from the unification of Languedoc-Roussillon and MidiPyrénées. Drinking well shouldn’t be a surprise in this land of vineyards. The area is a global leader in producing wines of origin, including those by renowned independent winemaker Gérard Bertrand, aka the King of the Languedoc, the largest producer of biodynamic wines in the world, from his Domaine de l’Aigle Chardonnay with its white peach aromas to the elegant Clos d’Ora. My favourite is Bertrand’s Clos du Temple, a unique rosé boasting freshness, balance, and scrumptious flavours. Occitanie is also well known for organic farming, so I explore the superior produce at Valence d’Agen’s sprawling Tuesday-only farmers’ market. I find tables overflowing with plump orchard fruits and handsome vegetables (most of which are a product of the rich soils of Tarn-et-Garonne), next to vendors selling fresh truffles and foie gras.

VALENCE D'AGEN MARKET

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© RENÉE SUEN

Knowing how delicious food depends on the quality of its ingredients, I quickly learn how easy it is for gourmands to dine well, and often, in the region. It has 53 Michelinrecognized restaurants all of which are relatively affordable – including the one Michelin star Trama in Puymirol, known for his foie gras hamburger. I’m smitten by how good food and wine is so integral in everyday life. But it wasn’t until my visit to this underappreciated region that I realize the area is inhabited by the friendliest people full of kindness and generosity. I’m reminded it’s possible to find a sense of belonging even when I’m far from home. It shows that, even the staunchest city dweller, like myself, can find comfort in a quaint village in the countryside.


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WORLDLY DELIGHTS The Real Joy of Cooking By Michele Sponagle

© SWINTON PARK COOKERY SCHOOL

A passion for taking classes in kitchens around the world demonstrates how food unites us in an authentic way

YOUNG STUDENTS AT THE SWINTON PARK COOKERY SCHOOL

I

n my family, food was love. What wasn’t said or shown sometimes was often expressed in other ways – pinching pierogies with my mom in preparation for a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve or her putting on a simmering pot of hearty chicken soup when I was sick. The more I travel, I realize kitchens are universal in their ability to bring people together and nurture them through food. I think that is what has drawn me to cooking classes around the world. I see the love and I can taste it, too. In Singapore, I found myself partnered up with a young local woman named Helen at a cooking class offered by AtSunrice GlobalChef Academy. We were there to learn how 60 • Vacations ® • Winter 2022

to make authentic Singaporean curry entirely from scratch. As we prepped our ingredients – ginger, red chillies, shallots, turmeric, garlic and other spices, I asked her what inspired her to sign up for a course focused on local cuisine she already knew. She was quiet for a moment before she told me that she had memories of her mother making the curry paste in their family kitchen. “As a little girl, I’d wake up and know right away what she was making,” said Helen. “I could smell the aromas of the spices wafting through my bedroom and I heard the rhythmic sound of her grinding everything together into a smooth paste with


favourite vendors to get what I needed – onions, chicken and a tin of smoked paprika. It turned out to be great fun.

We were both teary as she spoke. I, too, lost my mom just a few months before my visit to Singapore and before I was able to learn all of her culinary secrets. I nodded and patted Helen’s hand. “Let’s make this the best curry ever – for our moms,” I said. And we returned our attention to the task at hand.

I’ve learned so much about ingredients, too, from my cooking classes. At the Swinton Cookery School in Ripton, located in the heart of Yorkshire, U.K., I made panna cotta for the first time. It passed the jiggle test with flying colours. To see if it’s set, it should have a good wobble. It was topped with rhubarb compote, deliciously sweet with minimal sugar. My instructor talked about a special local rhubarb grown in the dark to boost its sugar content. I was intrigued. That led me to go on a road trip to check out a rhubarb farm

Cooking classes, no matter where I go, help connect me in a meaningful way to people and local culture. At the Central Market Hall in Budapest, I arrived thinking I could

COOKING TRADITIONAL UKRAINIAN DUMPLINGS

jump right into making chicken paprikash. Instead, the instructor handed each of the attendees a piece of paper with a bunch of Hungarian words on it and a stack of forints (the local currency). I was puzzled. “These are the ingredients you need to buy in the market,” she said. “Unless you speak Hungarian, you’ll have to ask locals to help you find them.” This part of the class was both evil and ingenious all at once. This exercise would push me out of my comfort zone and allow me to explore the market. It was intimidating at first. I’m not accustomed to talking to strangers, but it got easier. People were really kind and helpful. Some took the time to walk me over to their

INSTRUCTORS AT SWINTON PARK COOKERY SCHOOL

© SWINTON PARK COOKERY SCHOOL

a mortar and pestle. She died long before I could learn how to make it myself.”

housed in a large warehouse, where the tender stalks are picked by candlelight for maximum flavour. Sometimes a cooking class is just about good fun. At a pastry-focused workshop at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C., I was dabbled with chocolate from head to toe – the fallout of my clumsy attempt at making truffles. Adding to the mess was learning to use an airbrush tool to decorate chocolate desserts – as well as the countertop, the floor and my shoes. It definitely made me appreciate the skill of pastry chefs who make it all look easy. I’m no pro, but when I posted a picture of myself on social media in my white chef hat while holding my certificate Vacations® • Winter 2022 • 61


AUTHENTIC SINGAPOREAN CURRY

Those kudos were premature. I still have plenty of classes I want to take in Canada and worldwide. I’d love to return to the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown and Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa where top international chefs teach you culinary terms like brunoise (cutting ingredients into cubes each one-eighth of an inch) and mirepoix (chopped vegetables used for stews and soups). There are many miles I plan to travel to help me understand how a love of food and sharing connects us all.

FRESH INGREDIENTS AT A BUDAPEST MARKET

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WRITER MICHELE SPONAGLE SHOWING OFF THE RESULTS OF A PASTRY WORKSHOP

© MICHELE SPONAGLE

of achievement presented by the hotel, I received hundreds of likes and comments congratulating me on my new career.


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TO OUR VALUED CLIENTS Leave ordinary behind and let us take you on the adventure of a lifetime, a luxurious sun vacation or a unique cruise anywhere your heart desires. Relieve the anxiety of planning your vacation and focus on the fun of exploring, dreaming and discovering where you will go. Our trusted advisors will guide you through your customized travel itinerary, recommend great locations and even share a few travel tips from their own experience. If you are intrigued by any of the articles presented in our magazine or need assistance with any other travel experiences you are planning, we are ready to design tailored vacations just for you.