Embrace your love of travel again
ALASKA Into the Wild INDIA Find Your Inner Peace SLOVENIA Europe’s Undiscovered Jewel
The world awaits, and we’re eager to help you travel again. We’ll be there for you to safely explore the beautiful wonders of the world, make new connections and enjoy life at its best. 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. With our expertise, you’ll never feel more connected to the world.
Can you feel it? Hope is in the air this spring and it’s wonderful. People are travelling again, booking vacations with confidence, exploring new places and returning to old favourites. What destinations are currently trending? They are some surprises among the top spots.
Ensemble Travel® Group
CREATIVE DIRECTOR & MANAGING EDITOR Valérie Lenoir
In the waning days of winter, it’s clear that sunshine was on the minds of Canadians with Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Antigua, Bahamas and Barbados getting plenty of tourist traffic. Travellers are also putting their summer holiday plans into gear with trips to Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece ranking high. A pent-up desire for travel means more of us are booking.
EDITOR Michele Sponagle
PROOFREADING Isabelle Labrosse
ADVERTISING Franca Iuele
CONTRIBUTORS Lois Alter Mark, Diana Ballon, Martha Beach, Cassandra Brooklyn, Robin Esrock, Liz Fleming, Emma Gregg, Liz Humphreys, Isabelle Labrosse, Darcy Rhyno, Chris Robinson, Barb Sligl, Amanda Woods
CREATIVE DESIGNER Bertrand Richer Fleur de Lysée
Ensemble Travel® Group CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER David R. Harris
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MARKETING Todd Hutzulak
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Franca Iuele Ensemble Vacations (Spring 2022). All rights reserved, 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.
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. Cover image ©Travel Alaska
Trends are always interesting to watch. They are a true reflection of what people are thinking and feeling. Last year, taking a vacation to get back to nature was hugely popular. In 2022, it’s still a strong movement, but cities are making a comeback, according to the New York Times story, “Travel’s Theme for 2022? Go Big.” After two years of steering clear of urban centres, people want to feel the unique kind of energy you only get in cities and the wealth of choices for things to do. It’s no wonder London, Paris and New York are hot again. Globetrotters are also looking for hassle-free experiences. They want simplicity and stress-free planning. All-inclusive resorts, along with cruises, have become even more popular. They do a great job offering seamless stays with plenty to offer, from an array of restaurants to spa treatments and activities that don’t require a lot of pre-planning to enjoy. When you’re busy, there’s nothing like having all the logistical details of your vacay worked out for you. Your biggest challenge is to get packed and to the airport. Other trends that show staying power are a desire to travel with your family bubble and to engage in enriching experiences, whether it’s wellnessfocused stays to volunteerism. This spring issue of Vacations magazine is very much a reflection of the current trends. In the pages that follow, you’ll find stories from our writers about Northern Ireland, Portugal, France, Greece, a yoga retreat in India, Alaska and a celebratory family trip to Thailand. They tick all the boxes for what’s hot and happening in the world of travel. Plus, you’ll find inspiration for more off-the-radar spots, like Slovenia and New Zealand’s South Island. It’s an exciting time to embrace your love of travel again. See you at the airport! Michele MICHELE SPONAGLE EDITOR EDITOR@ENSEMBLETRAVEL.CA
4 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
UNR IVALED SPACE AT SEA™ The luxury of personal space is central to the promise of An Unrivaled Experience® with Regent Seven Seas Cruises®. It provides the extravagant
freedom guests need to explore and relax to the fullest. As the preeminent
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largest balconies and most spacious suites at sea. Our wide range of specialty restaurants, al fresco and in-suite dining options, exquisite lounges, bars and expansive spaces are perfect to rest and celebrate in, knowing there is never a queue or a crowd and that every detail is taken care of and every amenity is included.
CONTACT YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR TO LEARN MORE
For the latest details on our health and safety protocols, please contact your travel advisor
16 Spring 2022 Detours
What’s Blooming in Travel This Spring
The latest trends from some of our partners.
Worth the Trek
Five fabulous, eco-friendly island destinations you’ve probably never heard of.
Caribbean Without the Crowds
Escape to the tiny island of Barbuda, a natural haven for bird lovers, beach enthusiasts and those who just love to chill.
River of Adventure
A trek to Costa Rica’s secret valley reveals unforgettable natural wonders, thrilling rapids and resplendent birdlife.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Salt of the Earth
Discovering Noirmoutier, the sometime island off the Atlantic coast of France in the Vendée.
Greece 26 Authentic In Peloponnese, slow down and savour the sights, sounds and culture of this off-the-radar region.
Wonder 44 Small Off the coast of Portugal lies Madeira, a largely unknown
destination that feels like a Caribbean island with a European flair.
in the Family 32 AAllmultigenerational trip to Thailand, volunteering to work with elephants and a healthy dose of pampering.
36 Whether it’s humpbacks, orcas, calving glaciers or cheeky Into the Wild
saloon girls, an Alaskan cruise is full of surprises.
40 Six weeks of yoga study and practice in Rishikesh leads to a Finding Calm in India
deepened connection between body and soul.
48 A writer travels to Slovenia, the undiscovered jewel of Central Ride of a Lifetime
Europe, to explore its plentiful charms.
AS SEEN ON TV
Is Calling 52 Winterfell Step into the world of Game of Thrones in the place where it all began – Northern Ireland.
56 Learning to cook with French flair in the Magdalen Islands Lessons From the Sea
with a nod to its cultural roots.
for the Perfect Pinot Noir 60 AQuest wine-loving couple travels in search of the best wines from the cellars of New Zealand’s scenic Central Otago region. Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 7
Featured Contributors The author of hundreds of articles, Nova Scotia-based Darcy Rhyno is in love with food – making it, eating it, writing about it. His nose for a good food story won him a first place and an honourable mention at the most recent Travel Media Association of Canada Awards in the “Best Food and Drink Feature” category. His latest book, Not Like the Stars at All, is a memoir of life in a small, eastern European town at the end of the Russian occupation.
After growing up on an Australian farm, Amanda Woods headed off to the big smoke of Sydney and then the even bigger smoke of London to work as a radio and TV producer. After switching gears to travel writing, she has travelled from Antarctica to the Arctic and been published in a range of national and international titles. When she’s not travelling, Amanda now lives back in the Aussie countryside where she also shares travel tales on her own website, Adventures All Around.
Martha Beach is a freelance fact-checker, writer and editor based in Toronto. Squeezed into her one-bedroom apartment with one-year-old daughter, husband and cat, she enjoys the adventure of talking to new people every day and researching new topics. When she’s not working, you can find her on a yoga mat, chasing her toddling baby, or (more rarely) blissfully curled up with a good book and a cup of strong, milky, sweet chai.
Although she has lived in San Diego for 25 years, Lois Alter Mark hasn’t given up her New York accent or her pizza obsession. A contributing writer for Forbes, USA Today 10Best, Reader’s Digest and The Kitchn, her work (a word she uses with a wink) has taken her from the Arctic Circle to Zimbabwe. She still can’t believe she travelled with Oprah on the Ultimate Australian Adventure and hopes this is the year she gets to fulfill her bucket list trip to Antarctica.
8 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
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TRAVEL NEWS What’s blooming in travel this spring By Isabelle Labrosse
As countries worldwide are loosening restrictions and globetrotters are eagerly getting back to travel, here’s the latest from some of our partners. AIMING FOR THE SKY
© PRINCESS CRUISES
The sixth and final of Princess Cruises’ Royal-class ship, Discovery Princess, has sailed for its maiden season on March 27, cruising the Pacific coast of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Alaska. The 3,660-guest ship features unparalleled amenities and accommodations, including the over-the-top Sky Suite, which hosts up to five guests on the ship’s 18th deck. But the suite’s heightened location is not its best attribute. It also features a 92-square-metre, wraparound balcony offering a dazzling 270-degree panorama. Of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without exclusive amenities such as champagne upon arrival, reserved Princess Theater seating and a dedicated suite experience manager.
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN In an effort to support communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Intrepid Travel has recently reintroduced its Women’s Expeditions with new destinations and experiences, enabling authentic encounters with women relying on tourism to support themselves and their families. A few highlights of the reimagined expeditions include a night in India’s Thar Desert with traditional food and dances by local women, a lesson on the art of henna with Bedouin women in Jordan and a meal at a restaurant providing culinary training to underprivileged single mothers in Peru.
10 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
FROM CLASSIC TO LEGENDARY In 2022, Collette is offering 40 new tours as guests return to travel. Visiting trendy destinations such as Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Iceland, the new tours suit different travel styles, whether you want to explore with a small group (like going off the beaten path from Italy’s Amalfi Coast to Puglia); take part in classic guided travel (like a journey across Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria, including the legendary Oberammergau Passion Play); or focus on one destination (like a five-day immersion in Savannah’s southern lifestyle).
FLOWER POWER Having recently launched its 2022 European season, AmaWaterways is ready for a blossoming spring as travellers are looking to experience exclusive events. This year, one can’t-miss event is the Floriade Expo, a once-in-a-decade horticultural happening held in The Netherlands. From April to October, guests cruising to or from Amsterdam will get to visit Floriade as a complimentary excursion to their itinerary, including the new Best of Holland & Belgium and Rhine Castles & Swiss Alps itineraries. Themed “Growing Green Cities,” Floriade will look at ways to foster greener communities, with stunning gardens, innovative sustainable gardening exhibits, live entertainment and food stalls.
FALL FOR THE GREAT LAKES
© AMERICAN QUEEN VOYAGES
This fall, American Queen Voyages guests can sail on three new Great Lakes itineraries onboard the 202-passenger Ocean Navigator. And for the first time, guests sailing these itineraries will have the option to enjoy evening shoreside excursions with overnights in Mackinac Island, Montreal, Toronto and Quebec City. Plus, during the new 12-day The Scenic St. Lawrence itinerary, the boutique ship will make stops in Port Weller, Ontario and Clayton, New York for the first time, exploring the stunning Thousand Islands.
Words From Our Experts THE LATEST ON TRAVEL INSURANCE Health and safety are always priorities, and travel insurance is the best way to have peace of mind while exploring the world. And with advisories now lifted, travellers don’t necessarily need to seek specific COVID-19 insurance anymore. Instead, Manulife’s regular travel insurance policies with emergency medical benefits will provide fully vaccinated travellers coverage for any unforeseen medical emergency related to COVID-19 at destination (if no advisory for COVID-19 is in effect there). Your travel advisor is a great resource to help you figure out which coverage is best for you.
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 11
HOT LIST Worth the Trek By Emma Gregg
Five fabulous, eco-friendly island destinations you’ve probably never heard of.
here land and sea meet, natural wonders occur. Thanks to their imaginative approaches to sustainability, these remote islands are leading the way to a greener future.
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ISLETAS DE GRANADA, NICARAGUA: BIRDS, MONKEYS AND VOLCANO VIEWS How many of us have dreamt of creating our own island hideaway, tucked among the trees? That’s exactly what drew an eclectic assortment of settlers to the islets scattered around Lake Nicaragua’s Asese Peninsula at the foot of Mombacho Volcano. There are said to be 365 in all – one for each day of the year – including Castillo San Pablo, whose 18thcentury fortress was built to defend the lakeside city of Granada
against Caribbean pirates, and Jicaro, a low-key-luxe haven for birdwatchers and other nature lovers. Rich in vegetation, around threequarters of the islets are occupied – some by private homes, others by restaurants or ecolodges. The most alluring spots are totally off-the-grid with solar panels and natural ventilation. Day trips by boat from the beach southeast of Granada zip you from islet to islet, landing here and there.
PRÍNCIPE, SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE: AN EDEN IN THE GULF OF GUINEA Bilingual in Portuguese and Principense Creole, the little-visited island of Príncipe is every inch an Equatorial hideaway. The smaller partner in the two-island African nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, this lush UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has a three-million-year-old volcano at its heart and lower slopes smothered in wildliferich rainforest. With more endemic species than the Galápagos, this could well be the most biodiverse forest in Africa. For adventurous ecotourists, there are rare turtles, whales and birds to discover. Green turtles hatch on the beaches between November and March, and the migration season for humpback whales is from July to October. All through the year, guided forest walks offer the chance to spot giant sunbirds and the world’s largest canaries, São Tomé grosbeaks. Local conservation projects monitor these precious creatures, and the islanders’ blossoming artisan cocoa-growing and chocolate-making project adds delicious flavour to any visit. EL HIERRO, CANARY ISLANDS: WHISTLES, WIND POWER AND WINE If you hear a melodious whistle in the razorsharp ravines of El Hierro, don’t assume it’s a bird calling to its mate. There’s every chance it’s a pair of local shepherds, having a neighbourly chat. Silbo, a language of tonal whistles, is one of the oddities that make this remote Spanish island intriguing. Early settlers invented it as a means of communicating over vast tracts of roadless terrain and present-day aficionados are keeping it alive. Skilled whistlers claim a vocabulary of more than 4,000 words. Culturally unique, El Hierro, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and Geopark, is also a boutique wine region and a renewable energy pioneer. Its wind turbines and hydroelectric plant are designed to harness and store enough power to supply its entire population of around 11,000. What’s more, light pollution is impressively low in the region. Think beautifully starry nights to admire while sipping a glass of local wine.
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 13
GHIZO, SOLOMON ISLANDS: UNDERWATER MIRACLES AND LOCAL CONSERVATION In the waters surrounding Ghizo, one of the world’s most underrated scuba diving destinations, colourful tropical fish are so abundant that generations of locals have simply taken them for granted. But in recent years, there has been a change. As in many remote island communities, fishermen and scuba divers alike have noticed a decline in certain species, due to overfishing and climate change.
With assistance from the World Wildlife Fund, communitybased conservationists are turning things around. Local fishermen have become citizen scientists, collecting data on the size of fish caught around their idyllic Pacific home. Other new initiatives include an aluminum can recycling project that is cleaning up Ghizo’s seagrass beds – a crucial habitat for manatees. Eco-friendly diving trips are helping, too, by giving the islanders a solid financial incentive to keep the marine environment healthy and pristine. SÃO MIGUEL, AZORES: AN ARTS FESTIVAL INSPIRED BY NATURE
© TREMOR / CARLOS BRUMMELO
When a festival is named after a seismic event, you know it’s out to make waves. Tremor, one of Europe’s most fascinating annual gatherings of experimental musicians and artists, aims to stimulate and inspire. As well as offering freewheeling concerts in the charming town of Ponta Delgada, it takes participants by the hand and leads them into São Miguel’s lush, leafy hinterland landscapes for out-of-town performances and exhibits. Some take place on clifftops, others in lakeside meadows, and each celebrates nature in a different way. For an extra dash of adventure, many locations are kept secret until the day of the excursion.
14 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
It’s a fitting concept for São Miguel, one of the most ecoaware islands in the Atlantic. Even outside festival time, there’s much to discover here, from satisfying forest hikes to boat trips during which wild dolphin sightings are practically guaranteed.
JUST SAY “OUI” TO FRANCE JUST SAY YES! … to rediscovering the world and all its splendours! … to new adventures and memories! … to off-the-beaten-path explorations that invite you to discover you along the way! … to finally checking-off your bucket list! Just say YES and Avalon Waterways will take care of the rest! ACTIVE & DISCOVERY ON THE SEINE
ACTIVE & DISCOVERY ON THE RHÔNE
9 days | roundtrip from Paris $5,749* CAD per person Based on September 5, 2022 departure
8 days | Port-Saint-Louis to Lyon $5,212* CAD per person Based on August 30, 2022 departure
ASK ABOUT OUR CURRENT PROMOTIONS. *Prices are per person, land/cruise or cruise only (cabin Cat E), based on twin-share, departure dates as indicated, include all applicable taxes and port charges. Flights and travel insurance are additional. A variety of other river cruises available, please inquire. 3280 Bloor St. W, #400, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3, TICO#1893755/50015835
SPOTLIGHT Caribbean Without the Crowds By Diana Ballon
© VISUAL ECHO
Escape to the tiny island of Barbuda, a natural haven for bird lovers, beach enthusiasts and those who just love to chill.
A VISIT TO BARBUDA'S MAGNIFICENT FRIGATE BIRD SANCTUARY
y first view of Barbuda was from the front seat of a CalvinAir Helicopter on a short 15-minute ride from its twin island, Antigua, a mere 60 kilometres away. Gazing down on its turquoise waters, deserted pinkhued coral and white sand beaches, and the mostly flat, low-lying tree-covered landscape, was breathtaking. It was a captivating patchwork of green, aquamarine and beige.
with a brief visit to Barbuda, given the easy access. Daily, there are two flights between the two islands as well as a 1.5-hour daily ferry.
After almost two years of being in Canada riding out the pandemic, Barbuda seemed like an idyllic place to visit. I love islands of all types, but this one, which was lesser known and not on the radar of many travellers, seemed special. I was excited to experience it for the first time. Although just over half the size of Antigua, it has just a tiny fraction of the population of its larger neighbour.
Once arriving at the Barbuda Codrington Airport, our small group hit the road. Dodging potholes along a road skirting the island’s west coast, we pass children in flip flops, their knapsacks bobbing up and down on their backs as they rode donkeys. We see horses grazing in the fields and colourful concrete houses with corrugated metal roofs. Those bucolic scenes really showed a different side of Caribbean life – a simplicity and a slower pace not always seen in other more developed destinations. It remains largely unspoiled and that’s at the heart of what makes Barbuda so unique.
This is good news for those seeking a natural haven far from the crowds of tourists and cruise passengers back in Antigua. It is surprising more people don’t combine a trip to Antigua
Our first Barbudan adventure involved boarding a small water shuttle to Codrington Lagoon National Park, stretching about 27 kilometres along the west coast of the island.
16 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
Barbuda also has stunning, secluded beaches rimming the sparkling turquoise waters. They have attracted famous people like Robert De Niro and Wyclef Jean. Others like Eric Clapton and Giorgio Armani have homes on Antigua
nearby. The relaxed vibe, welcoming locals and the ability to enjoy privacy holds great appeal to those used to living in the spotlight. De Niro loves the island so much that he is investing in its hospitality offerings, including Nobu Beach Inn and Nobu Restaurant, which is recognized internationally for its Japanese cuisine. The eatery and hotel are located on the 18-kilometre crescent-shaped Princess Diana Beach (named after the late royal who loved to escape there on holiday). It’s considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, thanks to its silky, powdery sand, calm, clear waters and sheer size. And yet it still feels like you’re far removed from the rest of the world. No towering hotels, no vendors, no loud beach bars. Just pure serenity that feels truly restorative. I was recovering from a knee injury when I visited and I took full advantage of its easy-going, unhurried nature. Though I focused on relaxing, there are more active alternatives
THE BARBUDA EXPRESS FERRY ARRIVING INTO BARBUDA
© ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
© ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
© NOBU RESTAURANT
ENJOY A GOOD MEAL AND BEAUTIFUL BEACH VIEW AT NOBU
BARBUDA PINK SAND BEACH AT CEDAR TREE POINT
© ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
It is home to a bird sanctuary where the largest colony of frigates in the Western Hemisphere live. When I visit in late November, it is prime mating season for these large, magnificent birds. As we approach a cluster of mangroves, I am gobsmacked to see literally thousands of the males with their big red throat pouches inflated like balloons to attract mates perched nearby.
to how I spent my time – relaxing with a book on the beach. Visitors can snorkel, discover the island’s sinkholes and caves, like Darby's Cave, a sinkhole cave with a forest inside, and the caves at Two Foot Bay to see petroglyphs created by the Arawak, the indigenous people who were the original inhabitants of Barbuda as well as other places in the Caribbean. (You may also spot some cool critters, like iguanas, there.) Barbuda is truly a beautiful, tranquil place for a getaway, even if it’s just for a day or two. There aren’t a lot of options for accommodations, but there are luxury beachfront bungalows, villas and some modest hotels. In addition to high-end beachfront homes, new hotels and an 18-hole golf course currently being built, private jets will soon be able to fly in and out of the new Barbuda airport, slated for completion in late 2022. Now is the time to visit. Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 17
River of Adventure A trek to Costa Rica’s secret valley reveals unforgettable natural wonders, thrilling rapids and resplendent birdlife. By Darcy Rhyno
SAVEGRE VALLEY IN COSTA RICA
18 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
t’s the six degrees of separation rule that brings us to a Shangri-La, that fictional utopian valley. As my partner and I soak up a little piece of paradise beneath one of those idyllic Costa Rican waterfalls, we strike up a conversation with another couple. We discover a mutual friend back in Canada and agree to meet for dinner. That evening, our new pals gush about a place of indescribable beauty – secret Savegre Valley and the tiny village at its heart, San Gerardo de Dota. It’s an area unknown to most tourists so it sees very few visitors. I was intrigued. I’d fallen in love with the country so many times already, but was sceptical about their recommendation. I didn’t think anything could top what we’d already seen. I was wrong. The next day, we turn off the Pan-American Highway, about two hours from San José, to tackle the 10-kilometre, nail-biting drive down a narrow, hand-built road. It takes us through verdant cloud forest and thick clusters of trees weighted with mosses, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. The road levels at the base of the Talamanca mountain range at 2,200 metres. Beside it, the Savegre River bubbles up from sources deep in the forest.
HUMMINGBIRD IN FLIGHT
Exploring the village on foot, we pass tidy gardens and a few modest hotels that wouldn’t be out of place in Switzerland to discover small fish ponds filled with fat rainbow trout. This surprising mix of riches makes me think the blissful valley of fiction does exist. To sample locally sourced fare, we choose a riverside restaurant where we order trout salad, a generous bowl with cubes of lightly battered fish accompanied by helpings of vegetables, herbs and cheese piled around a dish of tzatziki.
After lunch, we hike one of the valley’s trails through the surrounding Los Quetzales National Park, stretching out more than 5,000 hectares. I catch a glint of shimmering emerald, a bird named for its vividly tinted plumage – the resplendent quetzal. Treetop walkways give us a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy where some of the park’s 200 bird species, like tanagers and hummingbirds, dart and sing among the mossy branches. That evening, we drive to the coastal town of Manuel Antonio for the second part of a Savegre adventure.
A THRILLING TRIP DOWN THE SAVEGRE RIVER
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 19
© DARCY RHYNO
© DARCY RHYNO
At our private table overlooking the Savegre, we swear we’ll never leave. But when I ask the waiter where the river at our feet ends, he tells us it flows all the way to the Pacific. Between its source and its mouth is some of Costa Rica’s best white water rafting through more magnificent scenery.
ONE OF THE TOP BEACHES IN MANUEL ANTONIO
Leaving my partner to a quiet day on the beach, I head out early the next morning with a local tour company and a family from Seattle. Along the bumpy riverside road, the guides stop to point out spectacular wildlife – rainbowbeaked toucans gobbling small fruit, swallow-tailed kites gliding overhead and iridescent beetles bobbing along branches. We reach our starting point at a swinging bridge deep in the jungle. The family of four hops into a raft with one guide while I’m loaded into the front of ‘a ducky,’ the nickname for a two-person inflatable banana boat. At first, the river is a series of steps down moderate rapids, giving me time to adjust to the exhilarating sensation of tumbling down a tropical river. Suddenly, the channel narrows, shooting through surging class II and III rapids that have me laughing and shouting during the chaotic joyride. Near the end, my guide intentionally bounces the ducky off a rock, dumping us from the boat. I tumble and bump
HILLS AND RAINFOREST SURROUNDING SAN GERARDO DE DOTA
20 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
beneath the effervescent current before popping up and floating into still waters. I stand up next to the guide who hoots and slaps me a high five. We paddle to yet another heavenly Costa Rican waterfall. The guide hands me a snack and tosses bits of pineapple into the water to attract fish. When the family, including two boys ages 8 and 12, later arrives at the falls, we all sit beneath them and enjoy the cool, refreshing water washing over us. I ask the dad about their wild ride in the big raft. The kids are euphoric. “We thought zip lining would be the highlight of our trip,” he tells me, “but the boys said this was even better!” When I tell these visitors from Seattle about the secret place at the mouth of the river, they’re so intrigued that they change their vacation plans and decide to head to San Gerardo de Dota. Like me, they want to add the Savegre Valley to their list of extraordinary experiences. It’s truly Costa Rica’s own special Shangri-La, an unsung paradise.
SOMEWHERE TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
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OFF THE BEATEN PATH
SALT OF THE EARTH Discovering Noirmoutier, the sometime island off the Atlantic coast of France in the Vendée that appears and disappears with the changing of the tides. By Barb Sligl
BOATS AT THE JACOBSEN JETTY
France has long beckoned with its diverse regions, from Provence to the vineyards of Alsace. I’ve biked in the rocky Dordogne Valley, toured the beaches of Normandy, strolled the buzzy streets of Paris, sampled cider and crêpes in Brittany, and sipped the eponymous libations in Champagne and Cognac. Yet I had not heard of Vendée until I read about its “sometime” island, Noirmoutier, off the west coast of France and thought, I must go. 22 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
PASSAGE DU GOIS
© PASCAL BELTRAMI
vast swath of sand, clay-coloured from the seawater still clinging to it, is stippled with figures poking in tidal pools. Barefoot with pants rolled up and buckets brimming with shellfish, clusters of clam diggers and families wander in the sodden landscape on either side of the Passage du Gois, which stretches four kilometres from Île de Noirmoutier to mainland France. As the high tide rolls in, the sliver of land will disappear again beneath the Bay of Bourgneuf.
© BARB SLIGL
Hand-harvested salt was first cultivated here by Benedictine monks in the 5th century. They turned the wetlands into salt marshes.
THE ISLAND’S CHEFS DO WONDERS WITH THE FISH CAUGHT DAILY
© TRENDZ PHOTOGRAPHY
WALKING IN THE FOREST ON NOIRMOUTIER
© ALEXANDRE LAMOUREUX
LE GRAND FOUR RESTAURANT
Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel A Secret Kept describes the Gois as a “cobbled submersible road” – the only way to and from the island (until a bridge was built in 1971). She writes about waiting for the water to slowly recede and cobblestones to reappear, slick with seaweed – “an amphibian road dotted with high rescue poles with little platforms for unfortunate drivers and pedestrians stranded by the upcoming flood.” Struck by this imagery, I set off by bike to see what De Rosnay describes as “muddy ridges of sand” and “waves impatiently licking.” Cycling across the Passage du Gois, I pass tassels of seaweed draped over everything. Once on the flat, windswept, beach-fringed île (a slip of land 20 kilometres long and 7 kilometres at its widest point), I coast by a tapestry of ponds, a mirrored mosaic glinting in the sun. Little white mounds of salt sit on the banks alongside a lousse (a rake-like tool to skim the salt). On a Google map
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© ALEXANDRE LAMOUREUX
BOIS DE LA CHAISE, THE NATIONAL FOREST THAT TIME FORGOT
of Noirmoutier, a cross-hatch pattern of green covers much of the island, like organic hieroglyphics. These are the salt marshes, salterns and rectangular pools that collect salt, known here as the Atlantic’s “white gold.” Hand-harvested salt was first cultivated here by Benedictine monks in the 5th century. They turned the wetlands into salt marshes. It’s believed Vikings attacked the monastery in 799 to get at this precious treasure. Today, there are about 100 salt farmers, cultivating 3,000 œillets to produce three million kilograms of salt a year. I stop at a stall to buy a bag of sel gris, pale-grey crumbs. There’s also finer fleur de sel and herb-flecked salt. It infuses everything on the island, from bonnottes (the world’s most rare and expensive potato grown only here) to salicornia (“salty horn” in Latin), also known as haricot de mer. I taste this “sea asparagus” at a bistro next to the 12th-century Château de Noirmoutier in the island’s largest town, Noirmoutier-en-l’Île. It’s brought to the table in a miniature glass jar, pickled, briny and crunchy. The bright-green succulent grows in the sand and marshes and is foraged by ramasseurs and salt makers. Of course, there’s also plenty of seafood, including Noirmoutier’s Fromentine oysters and those clams dug up at low tide in the bay. In De Rosnay’s book, she describes a classic local lunch – grilled sardines (with a glass of white wine) and a plate of bonnottes sautéed with bacon, butter and coarse salt. After sampling the salicornia and other salty gifts of the surrounding sea, I continue to pedal around the island to soak up its summer-holiday vibe. In the Bois de la Chaise, a shady stretch of gnarly pine trees and ancient oaks, I marvel at idiosyncratic villas, from English manors to Basque chalets. At Plage des Dames, I dismount from my bike and walk the promenade to take photo after photo of the long wooden pier, lighthouse 24 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
and row of wee beach huts on the crescent beach. There’s a residual layer of bygone glamour from when this was the place for getaways among ritzy vacationers in the 19th-century. I spy on a posh, multigenerational family sipping aperitifs on a terrace overlooking the water. The matriarch is impossibly elegant with oversize sunglasses and crisp-white slacks. So French, I think. When I head back across the Gois to the mainland, I ponder how Noirmoutrins measure this road by its rescue poles, not distance, as De Rosnay notes in her novel. I count nine poles along the seabed road, three with platforms to stand on, should one become stranded as the tide rolls in. I clamber up one and picture those first monks scraping their white gold. I linger long enough to see the water lapping closer and closer. It’s time to cycle away, but I feel a hint of sadness knowing that the passage will soon be swallowed by the tide and this “sometime” island will be out of reach again.
Tips From Our Experts HOW TO GET THERE Noirmoutier can be added to many itineraries as a day or weekend trip from Paris (5-hour drive), Bordeaux (4.5-hour drive) or Nantes (1.5-hour drive). In addition to the Passage de Gois, you can cross to the island by car or bicycle via the Noirmoutier bridge, which is open 24/7 and has no toll. If you’re visiting in the summer months, you can also take a scenic ferry that runs daily from Pornic, a 19th-century seaside resort community, to Normoutier’s L’Herbaudière harbour in about an hour.
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OFF THE BEATEN PATH
AUTHENTIC In Peloponnese, the unhurried, leisurely pace of Greek life allows one writer the time to slow down and savour the sights, sounds and culture of this off-the-radar region. By Chris Robinson
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PICTURESQUE COASTAL TOWN OF PYLOS, PELOPONNESE
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RUINS OF OLD TOWN IN MYSTRAS
love Greece. I love the land, the people and the history. I have been visiting Athens, the mainland and the islands for many years. It’s deliciously different from anywhere else on Earth. Some special magic emerges from the quality of the light, the aromas, the food, the warmth of the people and the complex interweaving of civilizations that have laid such a rich patina over the land. So where to go to get off the beaten path, soak up the atmosphere and best enjoy the authentic Greek experience? My last two trips to the country have provided an answer. Go to Kalamata, where the famed dark purple olives come from. Kalamata is a modest-sized town located in the far south of mainland Greece, where the peninsula of the Peloponnese slides into the Mediterranean in three long fingers. Since Homeric times, Spartan, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Ottoman rule have rolled over Kalamata before
it became the first Greek city liberated in the Greek War of Independence. Here, and in the immediate countryside roundabout, it is possible to enjoy the true Greek experience without the throngs. I stayed at a modest inn fronting the fishing harbour, in a room overlooking the Messenian Gulf. The sounds of seabirds blended with the surrounding local bustle. Warm Aegean breezes wafted through rustling palm trees all around. Leaving transatlantic travel schedules behind, my days quickly adopted the more sedate, almost soporific, pace of local life. Beside the fishing boats, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of Greek yogurt, honey and fresh fruit. Strolls along the waterfront promenade followed, punctuated by leisurely stops for coffee and local pastries. The local markets overflowed with fresh produce, colour and loud neighbourly greetings. Everyone knows everyone else here, and after a couple of visits, I felt like I was part of the community, too. As the sun sinks lower across the bay, locals emerge from afternoon naps and the streets become vibrant. Greeks must be among the most sociable people on the planet. It is a delight to mingle with the evening seafront promenade. Each generation has its own style and the human currents ebb and flow throughout the warm, scented evening. Dinner is taken late – very late – and often stretches into the midnight hour as bright stars augment the harbour lights, and the local wines flow freely.
LOCAL SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS IN A SMALL PELOPONNESE TOWN
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It would be easy to sink gently into this seductive way of life as the days melt into weeks. But there are wondrous sights nearby, and I was persuaded by some close GreekCanadian friends to rent a car and explore. The vivid history of Ancient Messene is just 25 kilometres to the north. I wandered amongst ruins of civic buildings, marketplaces,
There are more day trips and wanderings within easy reach of Kalamata. The magnificent Crusader Age castles of Pylos and Methoni to the west of the town are dramatic and imposing.
FORTIFIED METHONI CASTLE IN MESSENIA
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THE STADIUM IN WHAT REMAINS OF ANCIENT MESSENE
Over the mountains to the east of Kalamata lies Mystras – another little-known treasure of the currents of history. This evocative collection of medieval buildings, overlooking Sparta on the flanks of Mount Taygetos, was the unlikely site of a last great artistic flowering of the Byzantine Empire. I started atop the great walled citadel of the Upper City with its views of snow-capped mountains. Walking down from there, cobbled streets led to an exquisite mix of churches, convents and palaces scattered across the slopes below. Inside the churches, colourful icons and dramatic frescoes evoked the creative pulse of the final days of the empire – vivid reminders of the reign of the last Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos, who was killed as Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453. Again, I was often able to soak up the ambience of this UNESCO World Heritage Site virtually alone, save for the chirruping of the omnipresent cicadas.
YOGURT DIP, PITA BREAD, OLIVE OIL AND KALAMATA OLIVES
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There are more day trips and wanderings within easy reach of Kalamata. The magnificent Crusader Age castles of Pylos and Methoni to the west of the town are dramatic and imposing. Rambling around the ramparts and turrets, I often found myself staring down precipitous walls to the thunderous surf below with no barriers to impede me or my imagination. Inside the vast curtain walls, waving fields of wildflowers added natural beauty to my visit. I followed narrow, switchback roads and trails to tiny stone villages perched on the mountainsides above Kalamata. The scents of the mountain herbs and wildflowers were all-pervasive in the summer haze. Sitting under a vinedraped pergola, a final unplanned lunch at a tiny taverna provided a wonderful exclamation point to my visit. My wife and I were the only guests. Over a long and leisurely meal of abundant village produce, we met the owner and his wife and played with their three young children. We were greeted by every passing villager. We took in a view that encompassed the turquoise Messenian Gulf as well as Kalamata far below. We sipped the local red wine. We took deep breaths. We were content to the verge of tears. And yes, we savoured a few more of those plump black olives from Kalamata.
WILDFLOWERS, METHONI CASTLE
© CHRIS ROBINSON
temples, theatre and the impressive stadium – all scattered about a green hillside studded with olive trees. The echoes of Bronze Age warriors, Spartans, Macedonians and Messenians permeated the stones and I was free to roam as I pleased. Best of all, there were only half a dozen other visitors during my visit, so I was able to lose myself in time and space.
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All in the
How to celebrate a milestone birthday? For one writer, the answer was easy: A multigenerational trip to Thailand, volunteering to work with elephants and a healthy dose of pampering. By Lois Alter Mark
y husband, Michael, and I have always encouraged our son and daughter to choose experiences over things. When they were toddlers, we introduced them to travel, starting with annual trips to Disney World, cruising through Europe as they got old enough to appreciate its culture and history, and eventually exploring places like Russia and Dubai. So, when my husband asked me how I wanted to celebrate my 60th birthday, the answer was easy. I told him my wish was to take a trip with the whole family, including the kids’ partners (now spouses). But what would a boomer/ millennial vacation look like? Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand had been at the top of my bucket list since I cried through Love & Bananas, a documentary about the abuse suffered by elephants forced to perform. The film follows Lek Chailert, who founded Elephant Nature Park to provide a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures. I knew I had to support her efforts in some way, and I wanted to do it in person. I also understood that, while this was my idea of vacation bliss, it might not be anyone else’s. To make this once-in-a-lifetime 32 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
A FAMILY OF RESCUED ELEPHANTS LIVING AT THE SANCTUARY
© SAVE ELEPHANT FOUNDATION
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 33
LANTERN FESTIVAL IN CHIANG MAI
trip appeal to all, it also needed a little luxury along with the down and dirty. My family was excited about the idea. I let them plan the whole thing themselves. This way, everyone would have a say and be invested in the trip. Since we were all coming from different parts of the country, we decided to meet at Le Méridien Chiang Mai, where Michael and I would spend a couple of nights before everyone else joined us and we headed to Elephant Nature Park. At the hotel, we were greeted with happy birthday rose petals on our bed and sweets in our upgraded suite. It was a lovely introduction to the warmth we would experience over and over again from the people of Thailand. On Christmas Eve morning, the six of us got picked up by the Elephant Nature Park van for the scenic drive up to the sanctuary. As soon as we spotted the first elephant happily taking a stroll, I knew we had made the right decision to come here. We spent the next three days meeting the elephants, preparing their food, feeding them and helping to clean their shelters. We watched in awe as they went about their day, with moms guiding babies and friends affectionately entwining their trunks. As the matriarch of my own family, I felt such a sense of pride watching my own little herd laugh together while they stacked watermelons and carried buckets of water and shared stories over Thai massages. 34 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
Watching the elephants never got old. Their body language was fascinating and their concern for each other was heartwarming. One of the funniest moments occurred when we were posing for a photo with Lek. As soon as I put my arm around her, one of the elephants pushed it right off and tried to get her away from me. It was such an obvious sign of how much the animals love and want to protect her, and, although we found it hilarious at the time, we often talk about how moving it was. My family is now all fierce protectors of elephants. After the rustic accommodations of the Elephant Nature Park and a four-hour flight, we were delighted to check into the luxurious Belmond Napasai in Koh Samui. It was so luxurious that we couldn’t stop grinning. Each couple had their own villa within our private family compound, complete with an oceanfront pool and a gorgeous communal living room space for hanging out together. We spent four magnificent days enjoying the stunning scenery, the equally stunning resort and each other. We took a boat ride out to a private beach for lunch, stopping along the way to swim and snorkel – two things I would normally pass on. But if you can’t get over yourself in a bathing suit by the age of 60, you’re wasting your precious life. I jumped in and floated on the beautiful blue water next
FAMILY BOAT RIDE OUT OF A PRIVATE BEACH
FINDING JOY IN FEEDING THE ELEPHANT AT THE SANCTUARY
THE LUXURIOUS BELMOND NAPASAI IN KOH SAMUI
As I let go of my own lantern, I silently vowed to create more family moments like these. to my husband, listening to the chatter of the kids, and just feeling free and present. It may have been the greatest gift of all. On our last night in Koh Samui, my family surprised me with a birthday feast prepared by the resort’s chef and served in our own private dining room. Platters of spring rolls, curries and stir fries were passed around. The lavish dinner was topped off with a smorgasbord of coconut-infused sweets. Everything was fresh and popping with flavour. What a very special evening it was – one filled with great conversation, laughter and gratitude. When we returned to Chiang Mai, the staff of Le Méridien welcomed us back as family. We wandered around the city, stopping for amazing foot massages you can find on almost every corner. We gorged ourselves on delicious street food, including pad thai and deep-fried bananas, and sat down for an afternoon snack of mango sticky rice
© LOIS ALTER MARK
STREET FOOD IN CHIANG MAI
– my husband’s new obsession. We bought local artwork at the night market and got to fulfill another of my bucket list items – ushering in the new year at the Lantern Festival, where teamwork was the key to sending our paper lanterns into the sky without setting them on fire. We talked about our hopes for the year ahead and, as I let go of my own lantern, I silently vowed to create more family moments like these. After the kids left on New Year’s Day, Michael and I spent a night at Four Seasons Chiang Mai in one of the private residences. In a perfect world, this is where we’d live. It felt lush and spiritual – the perfect spot to decompress. We relived our trip, marvelling at the fact that no one had argued or complained. Although we had gotten to experience many big moments, we realized the real highlights were the small ones – watching the kids and their partners all bond together and seeing everyone gain selfconfidence as we stepped outside our comfort zones. Travelling to new places and trying new things cemented our connections in deep, intimate ways and gave us memories that, like the elephants, we’ll never forget. We all agree we don’t want our Thailand trip to be literally a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We want to make it a regular occurrence. I can’t wait for our next adventure together. Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 35
Wild Whether it’s humpbacks, orcas, calving glaciers or cheeky saloon girls, an Alaskan cruise is full of surprises for those seeking adventure. By Liz Fleming
THE ICY SPLENDOUR OF GLACIER BAY
imply sailing into the icy splendour of Glacier Bay was enough to convince us that our cruise would be everything we’d hoped for. Surrounded by towering cliffs of ice, my husband, Jamie, and I were almost too overwhelmed by the scenery to remember to take photos of it. As the ship cruised slowly, we became aware of an eerie growling sound coming from the ice. Then what sounded like a cannon shot tore through the frigid air. We watched with our mouths hanging open as a massive skyscraper-sized shard of ice calved from the glacier wall ahead of us. It crashed into the bay, causing an equally massive explosion of water and ice to hurtle skyward. Though 36 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
our ship, the Holland America ms Oosterdam weighed more than 82,000 tonnes, we felt it rock as the waves hit. Welcome to Alaska. If the wild is what makes your heart beat faster, this is the destination for you. As adventurelovers, we’d always wanted to explore this popular northern cruise destination and had already ticked another of the must-see boxes. We’d taken a Zodiac shore excursion out of Juneau aboard a small marine exploration and research vessel in search of whales. Binoculars trained hopefully on the water, we’d been anticipating a long wait, but just as we left the harbour, our
guide shouted, “On your left!” We watched mesmerized as the first humpback whale blew, shooting spray high into the air. Then it broke the surface with its enormous, glistening ebony back. And finally, a magnificent, pictureperfect whale tail rose into the air, then disappeared again back into the water. Had that been all we’d seen that day, we’d have been satisfied, but no, Alaska was just getting warmed up. That whale had brought his buddies and soon a circling pod of humpbacks was raising their tails and spouting in a mad, wild dance.
© REINHARD PANTKE © REINHARD PANTKE
SALOON GIRL AND WAITER AT RED ONION SALOON
© MATT HAGE
© HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
SKAGWAY, THE NORTHERNMOST POINT OF ALASKA’S INSIDE PASSAGE
WHALES MAKING A BUBBLE NET
“They’re making a bubble net,” our guide explained. When humpback whales hunt, we discovered, they work as a pack, circling their prey and blowing out enormous underwater jets of air. The fish they’ve encircled are caught in a bubbly maelstrom from which they can’t escape. When those trapped fish float to the surface, the hungry humpbacks rush in to feast. We’d barely had a chance to sit back down in the boat when black dorsal fins appeared – many black dorsal fins. Perhaps a full dozen. The teamsters of the ocean, the orcas had arrived. Sleek and graceful, the killer whales were prowling Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 37
© HOLLAND AMERICA LINE
EXPLORING ALASKA BY CRUISE SHIP
for their own lunch as the seabirds screamed and wheeled overhead, hoping to pick up any fishy scraps left floating on the waves. After an unbelievable hour of whale action, we headed back to the Juneau harbour, sure that after calving glaciers, bubble-netting humpbacks and prowling orcas, we’d just about wrung every bit of excitement from our holiday. We were wrong. It turned out that the wild in Alaska comes in many forms. “You can call me Essie,” said the saloon girl we met in Skagway, with a swish of her black and red skirt. “Essie X. And if you say that fast a couple of times, you’ll get the joke.” What followed that opening line was a fascinating tour of the Red Onion Saloon, a place where gold rush prospectors with pockets full of gold nuggets once paid a dollar a dance, or five dollars for 15 minutes of heaven in the cramped rooms upstairs. A wall of dolls with china
38 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
Though most of the excitement of an Alaskan cruise happens on shore, life onboard the ms Oosterdam had its pleasures and learning experiences, too. One evening, after a morning kayak trip and an afternoon hike through the Alaskan rainforest, we relaxed in the theatre, listening to a presentation by Rob Scheer, a plaid-shirted, axetoting champion lumberjack. After describing his career as a world-famous feller of trees, he offered his best advice for any visitor to this wild and beautiful part of the world: “Alaska isn’t the kind of girl who’s going to meet you on the porch,” he said. “You have to go right out and get to know her.” Wise words, indeed.
© NK SANFORD / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
ORCA WHALE, ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL PREDATORS
heads sat above the bar, each one representing one of the working girls. If her doll was gone, that girl was busy making her fortune, our guide explained. Business was so brisk, Essie told us, that when those women retired at the end of the gold rush, they were among Alaska’s wealthiest citizens.
HIKE THROUGH THE ALASKAN RAINFOREST
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Europe’s grand capitals and charming villages aboard Rotterdam, our new
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wildlife as we celebrate our 75th anniversary in the Great Land or explore Pinnacle-class ship. Wherever you cruise, award-winning service, unrivaled culinary experiences and the best live music at sea take your journey to new heights.
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Finding Calm in India
A long-time yoga devotee heads to Rishikesh for six weeks to study, practice and find a deepened connection between body and soul. By Martha Beach
40 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
had fallen in love with the practice and philosophy of yoga, and had spent six years seriously studying and practicing at home in Toronto. I’d completed multiple trainings, but my dream was to study in India. So, I had decided to sign up for the 300-hour program at Abhayaranya Yoga Ashram, run by the yoga school Rishikesh Yogpeeth in the foothills of the Himalayas. I was set to leave for India on my first solo trip. I was a nervous wreck, wondering why I’d chosen to fly across the globe by myself.
© ABHAYARANYA YOGA ASHRAM
When I arrived, my jet-lagged self was not ready for the overwhelming crowds, constant honking and diesel fumes of New Delhi. I spent a couple of days there. The extreme change of environment forced me into a mindful, everpresent state. My worries washed away with the waves of wild traffic, foreign tongues and lavish aromas. As I sat in the green-and-yellow tuk-tuks racing through the city, I felt at one with the chaos of the streets and enjoyed the serenity of Lodhi Gardens' pathways. The architecture of the tomb of Isa Khan, a nobleman who died in 1548, was
ABHAYARANYA YOGA ASHRAM
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LODHI GARDENS, NEW DELHI
awe-inspiring with its tall columns and a dome adorned with Persian floral art. I find joy in the small things of the city – stainless steel trays of daal, saag paneer and roti, accompanied by sweet, milky chai, and the hours spent lost among the colourful market stalls. As intoxicating as Delhi was, I was eager to get to Rishikesh, which was a seven-hour taxi ride away on the banks of the sacred Ganga River. Not only is Rishikesh the birthplace of yoga, it’s also an extremely popular vacation destination for Indians and tourists alike. The main road was more like a parking lot, so I switched vehicles and travelled the rest of the way on the back of a motorbike driven by a teen boy who deftly navigated his way through the traffic.
WRITER MARTHA BEACH PLAYING WITH SNOW-WHITE BUNNIES
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© MARTHA BEACH
Eventually, I was dropped off on the side of a shady, treelined road. From there, a sweaty 30-minute hike up the mountain’s well-worn path brought me to the ashram and I settled into one of the cottages on the tiered grounds. Finally, I was somewhere quiet. In awe of the stillness, I listened to bird songs and inhaled the sweet scent of jasmine. Classes began the next morning. Rising at 5 a.m. to the toll of a bell, we started the day with neti pot cleansing, meditation and mantra practice. During breaks, I watched the sun finish cresting around the edge of the mountain. Next, we did a rigorous physical practice lasting until the 9 a.m. breakfast. The cuisine was classic vegan fare made in a large earthen-floor kitchen in massive pots. All 20 of us chanted together and ate in two rows facing
each other while seated on the floor at low wooden tables. We passed spicy pickles and rich ghee up and down the lines as we chatted quietly. The rest of the day contained lectures on anatomy and philosophy, lunch, study and another two hours of yoga practice, followed by dinner and group discussions. I felt comfortable in the repetition, and I settled into the security of my own meditative and physical asana practice. At 9 p.m., I’d head to bed exhausted yet completely satisfied, pondering introspective questions as I fell asleep. For six weeks, I continued this pattern. Occasionally, I hiked to the Patna Waterfall or a nearby temple. Sundays offered the option to venture down the mountain to explore Rishikesh and its fruit sellers, chai stalls, ambling cows and sunbathing dogs. Sometimes, I decided to stay at the ashram to play with two snow-white bunnies or read in a shaded green nook overlooking the main pathway. Often, people from the village farther up the mountain would pass, taking bundles of neem (a natural herb from which oil is made) down, or coming up with their mules laden with rice and other staples from town. On graduation day, I was wrapped into a handmade blue sari with gold trim. I proudly took my diploma back home. I also took home things that were so much more important: a deepened connection with my body and mind, a wealth of philosophic knowledge, an appreciation of Indian culture, a newfound ability to let go of control and to tap into the deep well of stability inside myself.
LAKSHMAN JHULA BRIDGE AND TERA MANZIL TEMPLE, RISHIKESH
Our Experts Suggest EAT, PRAY AND LOVE IN INDIA If you want to indulge your senses and focus on wellness in Northern India but can’t spend six weeks practicing yoga in an ashram, many itineraries can still cater to your needs. &Beyond has an eight-night journey from Delhi to Amritsar and Agra that promises a sensory immersion with intoxicating colours, a delightful cacophony of sounds and vibrant flavours. You’ll explore the Agrasen ki Baoli, a protected monument with incredible serenity, visit the awe-inspiring tomb of Isa Khan, witness a tranquil view of the Taj Mahal at sunset, enjoy a Balinese deep pressure massage and so much more. You can also add a tour of the local ashrams to your itinerary. A visit to these holy places and spiritual hermitages will give you a deep sense of peace and harmony as you spend time in thought in one of the meditation halls. Contact your travel advisor to start planning your wellness journey in India.
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 43
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Off the coast of Portugal lies Madeira, an uncrowded, unhurried and largely unknown destination that feels like a Caribbean island with a European flair.
© JOÃO FARIA
By Cassandra Brooklyn
WALKING TRAIL IN MADEIRA
s I walk along the cliff-side trail, the magnificent Atlantic Ocean spreads itself out before me. To the left, I pass Australian eucalyptus, Himalayan passion fruit, American pine trees and African floral trees, then ginger to my right. My guide, Fabio, describes the scene as a botanical version of a United Colors of Benetton commercial. I see unique and colourful plants from every corner of the Earth. 44 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
My love of hiking and an inability to choose between a Caribbean island getaway and a European vacation has brought me here to Madeira, a little-known Portuguese island. It’s closer to Morocco than it is to mainland Portugal and its location means it not only shares many botanical species with North Africa, but also food, architecture and language.
ECHIUM CANDICANS, COMMONLY KNOWN AS PRIDE OF MADEIRA
Fabio takes me along eight of the island’s 3,500 kilometres of levada trails, which take their name from the levada irrigation canals they follow. I go on to solo hike several 15-kilometre routes that take me up extremely steep mountain trails, through long pitch-black tunnels, past waterfalls and rivers, then down to black-sand beaches and basalt formations – reminders of the island’s volcanic past.
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS CAN BE SEEN YEAR ROUND IN MADEIRA
For easy access to lesser-travelled trails, I rent a small, oceanfront apartment in the small village of São Vicente on the northern shore of the island. I spend mornings watching my neighbours hang clothing to dry in their backyards while locals surf the crashing waves in the distance. Though the capital city of Funchal is only 35 kilometres from where I’m staying, it feels like it’s a world away. I see no sightseeing buses and no other tourists. Other than the sounds of the warm breeze and thundering ocean waves, it is blissfully quiet with virtually no outside noise.
While a few of the more popular trails can get fairly crowded at sunrise and sunset, I usually have the trails to myself, encountering other hikers only every now and then. Thanks to the GPS and route tracking app on my phone, I know exactly where I am, but the rugged and winding trails, the density of the forests and the absence of other people almost make me feel like I’m lost. I breathe in the damp morning air and reach down to feel cold water rushing through the narrow canal. I feel energized, alive and grateful. Silence and serenity are hard to come by these days and I’ve found both of them in Madeira. I relish the moment and don’t want it to end. Though hiking is my main motivation for coming to Madeira, and São Vicente is as close to paradise as I can imagine, I can’t miss out on spending a few days in Funchal, the island’s largest city. As an adventure-inclined traveller, I join a wildlife-watching boat tour. I board a small boat early
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 45
© DUARTE TEIXEIRA
TERRA CHÃ VIEWPOINT IN PORTO SANTO
in the morning in hopes of catching a glimpse of the sperm whales and fin whales that swim in the waters near Madeira. For nearly two hours, I breathe in the crisp, salty scent of the waves while the wind whips through my hair. The view of Madeira from a distance is breathtaking with its sandy beaches, palm trees, vineyards and rocky cliffs. But despite all this beauty, I’m a little disappointed I haven’t yet seen any wildlife. Just when I’m about to give up, there’s a dolphin in the distance. Then two. Then three. Then more than I can count. The captain steers the boat closer and a large pod of dolphins swims next to us. I count at least a dozen bottlenose dolphins dancing along the side of the boat, including a baby. They’re so close I can almost feel them splashing water onto my sun-soaked skin. As I step off the boat back in Funchal, I’m grinning ear to ear and ready to eat.
of ginger cookies – perfectly thin, light, crispy and delicately sweet. Back in Wisconsin, I ration them for months, snacking on them while sipping black tea from one of Madeira’s most historic hotels, Reid’s Palace, known for its elegant afternoon tea experience. These days, I’m back to hiking trails in the state where it feels like winter lasts half the year. I can’t help thinking about and missing the tranquillity and warmth of Madeira. The island felt like a magical garden paradise and I can’t wait to return.
Like mainland Portugal, Madeira is well known for its baked goods, especially its iconic bolo do caco, a soft and crusty bread resembling a large, toasted English muffin, which has been drenched with a generous smear of garlic butter. During my two-week trip, I eat dozens of them – from bakeries, restaurants and cafés. I already know how much I’ll miss them once I go home so when it’s time to leave, I head to the airport with a bag of bolo do caco from a local bakery. During my visit to Fábrica Santo António, a bakery that dates back to 1894, I sample the famous honey cake and several other confections. Ultimately, I decide to buy a tin 46 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
BOLO DE MEL IN A CAFÉ OVERLOOKING FUNCHAL
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Ride of a Lifetime A writer travels to Slovenia, the undiscovered jewel of Central Europe, to explore its plentiful charms.
© MITJA BOZIC - VIR KOBILARNA LIPICA
By Robin Esrock
LIPICA FARM, HOME OF THE LIPIZZANER HORSES
andering the streets and canals of old Ljubljana (say it with me: Yoo-bli-yana), I’m reminded of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Budapest. Yet Slovenia’s capital feels cleaner, compact and more civilized, immaculately maintained with artsy cafés, Old-World architecture, copper church steeples, ample bike lanes and manicured parks. Locals roam about, stylishly dressed in that casual, modern European manner of looking fantastic without much effort. Students bike across the Game of Thrones-ish Dragon Bridge and distinctive Triple Bridge, the public art is impressive, and even the urban graffiti is tasteful. Overlooked by the 900-year-old Ljubljana Castle, the city is a template for any great European capital, but with half the tourists. Canadians know that any country sitting in the shadow of a more popular neighbour is often overlooked. Spare a thought for Slovenia, a small nation in Central Europe within sight – quite literally – of Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. Although located just a few hours’ drive from Venice, Milan, Salzburg, Budapest and Zagreb, many of us would be hard pressed to locate Ljubljana on the map, much less be able to pronounce it. I didn’t expect to discover a fetching historical capital, frosted mountain peaks, sparkling lakes, Adriatic coastline and dense forest. Instead, I came initially for Slovenia’s famous white horses.
KAYAKING ON THE RIVER SOČA, SLOVENIA
48 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
Let me explain. I blame it on The NeverEnding Story. If you’ve seen this iconic 80s fantasy film – or read the
© JOŠT GANTAR
SCENIC LAKE BLED
bestselling book, you’ll know the scene when its hero, Atreyu, struggles to save Artax, his regal white horse, from sinking into the Swamp of Sadness. When Artax was lost, 10-year-old me was devastated. Many blog posts and articles have been written about how that single scene scarred an entire generation. Two decades of travel have inspired me to face my biggest hang-ups head on. I kicked a shark phobia by cage diving with great whites and a fear of heights with a tandem skydive. Now, I wanted to get over the loss of Artax and Slovenia was the place to do it. Tall, muscular and loyal Artax was likely a Lipizzaner, a fabled white horse breed that has dazzled classical riding events and military processions for centuries. Bred for nobility since the late 16th-century, the home of the Lipizzaner is Lipica, a gorgeous Slovenian farm located near the border of Italy. Today, it’s a mecca for horse lovers, tourists and perhaps the odd Gen-Xers like myself coming to terms with their poor choice of 80s movies. I spent a weekend at the stables, learning the long, fascinating history of these magnificent horses, watching public dressage shows, and riding a mare into the dazzlingly lush countryside. As the ghost of Artax rode off into the mythical meadows of my imagination, Slovenia took my curiosity by the reins and enticed me to keep exploring it. I headed for the country’s premier attraction, historic Lake Bled. Sitting at the foothills of the towering Julian Alps, you might have seen images of Lake Bled
PANORAMA OF LJUBLJANA
THE 400-YEAR-OLD ROWBOATS CALLED PLETNAS
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 49
on screensavers, Instagram or any platform hoping to elicit a ‘wow, where the hell is that?’ response. ‘WOW’ got cap-locked the moment Lake Bled came into my view. Framed by mountains, the placid, emerald-coloured water has a small island in the centre with a notable European landmark – a gothic church that was first consecrated in the 12th century and restored to its current state in the 17th century. As comedian Eddie Izzard once quipped: “Europe… where history comes from.” Couples flock from around the continent for destination weddings in one of several grand lakeside hotels, the remains of former royal palaces. Local tradition holds that grooms must carry their bride up the 99 steep steps to the chapel and ring the church bell three times for good luck.
Our Experts Suggest SLOVENIA EXPLORER Kensington Tours offers a six-day Slovenia Explorer itinerary to immerse yourself in the country’s authentic experiences. Spend your days walking the historic streets of Ljubljana on a guided city tour, visiting the Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle and Lipica equestrian park, exploring the 1,000-year-old town of Bled and strolling around its picturesque lake, learning about cheese making and organic beekeeping in the countryside, and much more. The itinerary can be customized to suit your interests, tastes and budget, so be sure to contact your travel advisor to learn more. 50 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
© ALAN KOSMAC
THE MEDIEVAL PREDJAMA CASTLE
Judging by the immense strain I saw on the faces of several young men, carrying someone up those stairs and then ringing a heavy bell is more difficult than it appears. For me, I was content to fall in love with the warm, azure water, the 400-year-old rowboat transportation (called pletnas), and a location so stunning that Hollywood could forego the special effects when it comes to film the next blockbuster fantasy. It’s easy to get around Slovenia, too. South of Ljubljana, I found myself talking to historical reenactors outside Predjama Castle, a striking medieval fortress built into solid rock. It added an authentic touch to legends of outlaw robber-thieves, battling the forces of the invading empire. Back in the capital, I enjoyed its culinary offerings, influenced by the country’s location – outstanding pivo (beer) with a nod to Hungary, memorable pizza and gelato from Italy, and schnitzel and pastry courtesy of Austria. On a glorious summer evening, I was people-watching on the canal banks, and, like most visitors to Slovenia, I found myself regretting I didn’t allocate more time for my visit. More time to explore all-season mountain resorts known throughout Europe for both beauty and affordability, to hike, bike, and discover the country’s waterfalls and world-renowned show caves (i.e. those open and accessible to the public). And more time for fine wine produced from the grapes of ancient vines in the city of Maribor. It’s a common complaint from anyone who discovers this Central European gem, thriving peacefully within the shadow of its more popular neighbours. I raise my glass of pivo and make a toast to Artax. Though we don’t always need an unusual excuse to gallop towards lesser-known countries, it certainly helped me discover a beautiful one like Slovenia.
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AS SEEN ON TV
WINTERFELL IS CALLING Step into the world of Game of Thrones in the place where it all began – Northern Ireland.
© WINTERFELL TOURS - GAME OF THRONES®
By Amanda Woods
WRITER AMANDA WOODS TRIES ARCHERY AT CASTLE WARD
© AMANDA WOODS
s I don my cloak that still has its original HBO tag, I wonder who wore it first. Was it a star? An extra? No matter. What I do know for sure is I’m about to stand in the same spot where Jon Snow, Robb and Bran Stark stood in the archery scene in the very first episode of Game of Thrones (GOT). And I’m going to find out if I can do any better than Bran. When word got out that Castle Ward in Northern Ireland was transformed into Winterfell Castle for the Game
52 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
© GAME OF THRONES
THE DARK HEDGES IN COUNTY ANTRIM
of Thrones TV series, the National Trust property saw more than 12,000 additional people a year come through its gates. Just 40 minutes from Belfast and around two hours from Dublin, the castle in County Down and its grounds were used to film scenes featuring the Lannister Camp, Whispering Wood, the Baelor Battlefield and others. While much of Winterfell Castle was created with special effects, as we step into Castle Ward’s farmyard, it’s easy for my imagination to fill in the blanks. As our ‘Jon Snow’ for the day takes us through the basics of archery, my hands feel like they’re about to freeze in the icy breeze. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to think ‘winter is coming.’ My first arrow goes wide and only manages to hit the target’s straw backing. But when my second attempt is just a few inches off the centre ring, I feel like I might be able to take on those White Walkers after all. Apart from the archery experience are also offered cycling tours to key GOT sites around the castle and the chance to meet Thor, one of the two Direwolf puppies
that appeared in the show’s debut episode. (His co-star, Odin, died in March 2020.) The Northern Inuit dog is now grown-up and huge, but gentle. He’s used to being treated like a star as fans gather around him for photos and pats. Just a five-minute drive from Castle Ward, you can spend the night in the village inn that the actors who played Ned Stark, Queen Cersei, Jon Snow and others called home. The GOT stars were based at The Cuan for weeks while they filmed Winterfell scenes. Along with sleeping in the same beds as the stars, you can dress up like a Stark for a themed-dinner experience. There are around 25 Game of Thrones filming locations to be found in Northern Ireland. Along with taking a day trip from Belfast or Dublin, you can take your time winding your way through the Irish countryside with a Game of Thrones driving tour maps, where you'll see sights like the Glens of Antrim (used as the Vale of Arryn) and Binevenach (which appears as the Dothraki grasslands). In County Antrim alone, you can drive through the spookily beautiful Dark Hedges (which appeared as the Kingsroad), Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 53
© GAME OF THRONES
BINEVENAGH, DOTHRAKI GRASSLANDS
visit Ballintoy Harbour transformed into the Iron Island of Pyke, and see the Stormlands cave where Melisandre gave birth to a shadow baby. And at Steensons Jewellers in the village of Glenarm, you’ll find GOT-themed pendants, cufflinks and earrings from the artists who made the crowns for Cersei and Joffrey, as well as Daenerys’ dragon brooches and Lannister lion pendants.
in a GOT-inspired escape room. Join in the Save King’s Landing game in Belfast’s historic Church Lane where you can race against others to the finish.
For 10 years, Belfast was GOT headquarters and to celebrate the series’ final season, stained glass windows with key scenes from the show were unveiled around the city.
A new, multi-million dollar GOT attraction also opened its doors earlier this year. Half an hour south of Belfast, the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge is where some of the show’s most memorable scenes were filmed, and those huge sets are now part of a Game of Thrones studio tour. Expect authentic and fully dressed sets and original costumes and props from all eight seasons as you walk through the world of Westeros.
Follow the installations around the Maritime Mile past the Titanic Studios before trying to beat the clock
The TV series may be over, but in Northern Ireland, the GOT fun is set to continue for many years to come.
© GAME OF THRONES
54 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
EXPERIENCE THE VERY BEST
From the lively chatter at a local pub to vibrant cities and aweinspiring natural views, discover what magic awaits in the Emerald Isle
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Countryside of the Emerald Isle
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Embrace the pure tranquility found in Ireland’s quaint villages, less-travelled roads and storybook castles.
From history-filled Dublin to the rolling green hills and dramatic coast, experience Ireland’s charms on a journey through the Emerald Isle.
Price based on Oct. 16, 2022 departure
Price based on Nov. 7, 2022 departure
Extraordinary experiences await. For reservations, contact your Trusted Advisor. *Pricing is per person, land only, double occupancy, and varies by departure date.**Visit collette.com/travelprotection for full details of insurance policy and benefits. † If you choose to cancel your tour, a refund will be issued in the original form of payment, minus the cost of the Travel Protection Plan. Other restrictions may apply. Travel Industry Co
WORLDLY DELIGHTS Lessons From the Sea By Darcy Rhyno
© MICHEL NADEAU
Learning to cook with French flair in the Magdalen Islands with a nod to its cultural roots.
LEARNING HOW TO PREPARE LOBSTER AT GOURMANDE DE NATURE COOKING CLASS
ohanne Vigneau secures the corners of two large sheets of parchment paper to her countertop with eight dots of sticky, reduced balsamic vinegar from a squeeze bottle, then drizzles both sheets with the gooey dark liquid. I join the other participants of her Hommage à ma mer cooking class in building a Japanese-inspired salad of tender seaweeds, sesame, crushed wasabi peas and radish slices on one sheet. And we place sliced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes and succulent shoots of locally foraged sea sandwort on the other sheet. Both salads are topped with moon snails sautéed in olive oil and chopped into bite-sized pieces. Earlier, Vigneau led us through the steps 56 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
of preparing this local delicacy, a kind of smooth-shelled northern conch. With those swirls of dark balsamic in the background and the splashes of colourful veg scattered about the parchment frames, these salads begin to resemble works of abstract art. We gather round, scoop up servings onto saucers and dig in to savour their palette of flavours. Vigneau and her team at Gourmande de Nature offer immersive dining and hands-on experiences like this one. Her kitchen also serves as the prep studio for many locally sourced and unique products. Flavoured salts, sugars and
It’s this location on these tiny tufts of land surrounded by the Atlantic that inspires Vigneau and infuses her cooking, her culture and her very identity.
COLOURFUL FISHING BOATS IN THE HARBOUR OF HAVRE AUBERT
JOHANNE VIGNEAU (RIGHT) DURING A GOURMANDE DE NATURE COOKING CLASS
© DARCY RHYNO
butters, chutneys and syrups are sold in their retail shop, located on the south side of Cap-aux-Meules, the main island of Quebec’s Îles-de-la-Madeleine archipelago, made up of a dozen islands, six of which are knitted together in the shape of a fish hook edged with 300 kilometres of soft sand beach. The Magdalenes, as they’re called in English, lie nearly equidistant between Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Hommage à ma mer acknowledges that influence. The name translated means a “tribute to my sea mother.” It has a double meaning. In Vigneau’s case, the sea (la mer) is as much her mother (la mère) as the woman who raised her and taught her to cook. As a child, Vigneau helped her mother prepare meals for a family of 11. Local foods were at times the only ones available. The ocean, the seashore and the garden stocked their cupboard with the fish, vegetables and flavours that define Magdalen Islands cuisine.
It’s this location on these tiny tufts of land surrounded as far as the eye can see by the Atlantic that inspires Vigneau and infuses her cooking, her culture and her very identity.
About 95 per cent of the 12,000 Madelinots, including Vigneau, speak in a local French dialect, so her assistant Denis Lemoine translates her teachings and these memories Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 57
from her past. The French spoken here is somewhere between that of Quebec and of France several hundred years ago. Madelinots are fond of pointing out that inhabitants of each island in the archipelago speak their own unique version of the local dialect. Between courses, Lemoine invites me and the dozen participants I’m just getting to know to sample the shop’s preserved foraged herbs and spices. He pops open some alder catkins collected last winter and encourages us to taste them. Known locally as poivre des dunes, they remind me of peppercorns with a bitter edge and a citrus glow. We crush wild bay leaves, then wild rose petals, between our fingers, and inhale the aromas. A bowl of freshly foraged sea parsley – a convincing substitute for Italian flat-leaf parsley – overflows on the counter in preparation for the next course. Salt cod was once a staple food and an important export for Madelinots. Vigneau remembers her mother hanging it on the clothesline to dry. To cook it, she would soak it in water and mix it with shortening to serve with boiled potatoes. In her daughter’s version, I see the influence of Vigneau’s experiences working with chefs in Portugal and Montréal, where she developed international techniques. For the main course, Vigneau selects a childhood favourite and a very rare treat today. Her father was a fisherman who
SEAFOOD IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE REGIONAL CUISINE
© ILE IMAGIN'AIR
© TOURISME ILES DE LA MADELEINE
ANSE-À-LA-CABANE LIGHTHOUSE, HAVRE-AUBERT ISLAND
regularly supplied the family kitchen with halibut. Today, the halibut steaks she’s gently poaching in olive oil and finishing in a warm oven were carved from a fish caught in a season that lasts less than a day. The white steaks are plated in a frame of yellow curried mussel sauce next to a bright mound of pureed carrots. Once again, Vigneau has painted a glorious local dish using a palette of global colours and flavours. Out here in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at the crossroads of four Canadian provinces, the many influences on local foods date back 500 years. Vigneau fuses many of those influences in dishes that recall a time of teeming oceans and subsistence living for large families. Vigneau uses the word ‘grainages’ to describe the spirit in which she offers her dishes, preserves and workshops. An archaic word from French spoken in the past, grainages refers to a seasonal ritual of berry picking that awakens pleasant emotions by returning to a familiar place with friends and family to resume conversations, breathe the sea air and hold on to the moment with rare bites that brighten our days. We carry our plates of halibut to the communal table, remove our aprons and take our seats. With the working part of the cooking class at an end, we pour the wine, savour the rich flavours and pick up conversations like we’re old friends.
© DARCY RHYNO
TRADITIONAL HOUSE ON THE MAGDALEN ISLANDS
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RECONNECT. REJOICE. RETURN TO EUROPE.
AmaKristina on Rhône River, Avignon, France
Rhine River Valley, Bacharach, Germany
Locally-sourced cuisine at The Chef’s Table
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SLOW TRAVEL Quest for the Perfect Pinot Noir By Liz Humphreys
© CARRICK WINERY & VINEYARDS
A wine-loving couple travels thousands of kilometres in search of the best wines from the cellars of New Zealand’s scenic Central Otago region, home to some of the world’s southernmost vineyards.
SEASONAL FARE FROM THE CARRICK WINERY RESTAURANT
n the twisty roads east of Queenstown, in New Zealand’s South Island, our car snakes around imposing sand-coloured hills ringed by leafy vineyards. My husband, Jay, and I have taken the longest trip of our lives – flying from our current home in Berlin to Tokyo, 60 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
then all the way to New Zealand – in search of some of the world’s best wines. Since we’re big fans of New World pinot noir from California and Oregon, but know close to nothing about New Zealand’s offerings, we’ve come to the Central Otago
© AMISFIELD WINERY & BISTRO
AMISFIELD, A PRODUCER OF PINOT NOIR AND AROMATIC WHITE WINES
region to give their well-regarded versions a whirl. Best of all, the Gibbston subregion of Central Otago is only about a 15-minute scenic drive from activity-filled Queenstown, making it an easy – not to mention gorgeous – stop for a day of indulgent imbibing.
After buying a couple of bottles, we drive 11 kilometres along gently winding roads to our next stop, Chard Farm. We come upon a rose-coloured villa that wouldn’t look out of place in Tuscany, set alongside the sparkling blue Kawarau River. Chard Farm specializes in pinots with grapes from single-vineyard plots. Since owner Rob Hay studied winemaking in Germany and his wife, Gerdi, grew up there, they also make some fantastic renditions of German varieties, including riesling and gewürztraminer, as well as pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
© GIBBSTON VALLEY WINERY
New Zealanders call their tasting rooms “cellar doors,” as in opening the doors to their wine cellars for a tipple, and we decide to investigate the ones especially renowned for their pinots. Our first stop is Amisfield Winery & Bistro, a modern, friendly spot with a striking sloped roof surrounded by the impressive mountains of the Pisa Range. After founder John Darby recently converted Amisfield’s vines to organic, it was named New Zealand’s organic winery of the year in 2020. I sample a selection of their wines and am won over by their distinctive flavours, featuring bright cherry with notes of spice and herbs. These are knockout wines I’d want to drink over and over again.
GIBBSTON VALLEY WINE CAVE TOUR
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 61
© CHARD FARM
VINEYARDS NEAR THE KAWARAU RIVER
All this sipping deserves some sustenance, so we head back up the road for a bite at Gibbston Valley Winery, one of the original wineries to set up shop in the Central Otago region. Gibbston Valley released its first vintage in 1987. Today, they have seven vineyards with their own unique terroirs as well as New Zealand’s largest barrel room (called a “wine cave”). WINE AND FOOD PAIRINGS AT GIBBSTON VALLEY WINERY RESTAURANT
From the beginning, Gibbston Valley has focused on sustainable production, making unfiltered wines crushed by foot. Executive chef Anthony Gradiska takes a similarly sustainable viewpoint in the kitchen with 95 per cent of his ingredients produced in New Zealand. His seasonal menus rely heavy on local veggies that pair perfectly with their delicious wines. I can’t get enough of the roasted baby carrots with honey, feta, dukkah and pickled chili and the wild rabbit lasagna with truffle. But I must save room for their signature dark chocolate and hazelnut mousse with salted caramel ice cream and banoffee (a combination of banana and toffee) mousse.
© GIBBSTON VALLEY WINERY
Fully sated, we drive a mere two minutes east to Peregrine Wines, where I first notice their distinctive and beautiful winery. Its glass structure is reminiscent of the wing of their namesake peregrine falcon in flight, scenically situated with a lake on one side and the ever-present mountains on the other. Below the wing, I enter their bunker-like cellar door to taste not only their delightful pinot noirs – sourced from organically farmed vineyards and made by their talented head winemaker Nadine Cross, but also their tasty riesling, pinot gris and chardonnay. I’m also impressed to learn that Peregrine raises New Zealand falcon chicks at the winery, increasing their numbers before letting them take flight in the wild.
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Though we’ve tried a lot of delightful pinots and now have a car trunk full of wine, we don’t feel done. So, we venture out to one more – Carrick Winery & Vineyards, just 33 kilometres east in the subregion of Bannockburn, on the banks of the pretty Kawarau River. Here, winemaker Rosie Menzies crafts handpicked organic pinots with a strong sense of place. We enjoy our glass with some artisan bread and a terrine with homemade peach chutney, strolling through the vineyards for one last look. As we head back on the short drive to Queenstown, Jay and I are in total agreement: Not only are Central Otago’s pinot noirs worth a trip in themselves, but they’re so good that we’ll need to order another bottle with dinner.
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ENSEMBLE HOSTED CRUISE EXPERIENCE • Featuring a complimentary Ensemble® shore excursion • Peace of mind knowing your Ensemble® Host is on the voyage with you • A private welcome cocktail party 64 • Vacations • Spring 2022 ®
If you’ve ever wanted to live like a local in the Mediterranean, then a Silversea luxury cruise is the way to do it. What makes sailing this region with us so special? Three words. Unparalleled destination knowledge.
CIVITAVECCHIA (ROME) TO ATHENS (PIRAEUS) 11 DAYS | APR 17, 2023 | SILVER MOON
USD Per person, double occupany, cruise only. Vista suite. All taxes and fees included.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) • Naples • Sorrento • Palermo, Sicily • Giardini Naxos (Sicily) • Valletta • Day at sea • Souda Bay (Crete) • Rhodes • Kusadasi • Santorini • Athens (Piraeus)
EXCLUSIVE OFFER $300 USD per person Shipboard Credit on select voyages
This is Alaska as you never imagined. Connect to the people and cultures in remote indigenous villages. Be wholly aware of the rare access you will enjoy aboard our luxury vessels – and the value of protecting this delicate environment.
AUTHENTIC ALASKA 12 DAYS | MAY 6, 27; JUNE 17; JULY 8, 29; AUG 19; SEPT 9, 2022 OCEAN VICTORYTM
USD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. Category D (View Stateroom). Port taxes and fees additional $774.50 per person.
• Vancouver • Canadian Inside Passage • Fiordland (Kynoch Inlet) • Ketchikan • Misty Fjords • Wrangell • Waterfall Coast (Gut Bay) • Petersburg • Tracy Arm • Kake & Frederick Sound • Sitka
EXCLUSIVE OFFER $50 USD per person Onboard Credit PLUS SAVE an additional 10% on select sailings
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 65
Explore one of Europe’s best-loved rivers, the Rhine. Discover the turreted fortresses, grand cathedrals, historic cities, medieval towns and spectacular scenery of the Middle Rhine – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
RHINE GETAWAY | AMSTERDAM TO BASEL 8 DAYS | September 27, 2022 STATE-OF-THE-ART VIKING LONGSHIPS
CAD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. CAT F (Standard river-view). All taxes and fees included.
VIKING INCLUSIVE VALUE • One complimentary shore excursion in every port of call • Free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary) • Visits to UNESCO Sites • Enrichment lectures & destination performances • Beer, wine & soft drinks with onboard lunch & dinner • 24-hour specialty coffees, teas & bottled water • Port taxes & fees • Ground transfers with Viking Air purchase
• Amsterdam • Kinderdijk • Cologne • Koblenz & Rüdesheim • Speyer • Strasbourg • Breisach • Basel
EXCLUSIVE OFFER Book by June 30, 2022 and receive a
$100 CAD per person Shipboard Credit on 2022 & 2023 departures of Rhine Getaway
Journey with Oceania Cruises and discover magnificent wildlife from Alaska to charming towns in Canada. These enchanting voyages will delight your senses.
RADIANT ALASKA 10 DAYS | AUGUST 28, 2023 | REGATTA
CAD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. Veranda stateroom. All fees and government taxes included.
• Seattle • Cruising the Inside Passage • Ketchikan • Juneau • Skagway • Cruising Hubbard Glacier • Icy Strait Point (Hoonah) • Sitka • Cruising the Outside Passage • Victoria • Vancouver
EXCLUSIVE OFFER FREE Pre-paid Gratuities on select departures
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Enjoy OLife Choice with 2 for 1 cruise fares, FREE roundtrip airfare, FREE airport transfers and a choice of one amenity!
Experience medieval architecture, ethereal waterfalls, and an 8-day cruise along the Adriatic Sea in a private, 4-star yacht.
CROATIA & ITS ISLANDS: SMALL SHIP CRUISING ON THE ADRIATIC COAST 12 DAYS | APRIL 2022 - APRIL 2024
CAD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. Taxes and port fees included.
• Dubrovnik • Slano • Mljet National Park • Korčula • Vis • Biševo • Hvar • Bol • Trogir • Split • Disembark Ship in Šibenik • Krka National Park • Zagreb
EXCLUSIVE OFFER SAVE up to $200 per person
Explore the wonders of the Mediterranean on Seabourn’s ultra-luxury ships. Explore countries and cultures that touch your curiosity and heart.
EPHESUS & GREEK ISLAND GEMS 7 DAYS | AUG 7, 2022 | SEABOURN ENCORE
CAD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. Veranda stateroom. Taxes and port fees additional $256.25CAD.
• Piraeus (Athens), Greece • Agios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece • Patmos, Greece • Kuşadası (Ephesus), Turkey • Çeşme, Turkey • Mykonos, Greece • Skiathos, Greece • Piraeus (Athens), Greece
EXCLUSIVE OFFER $150 USD per person ($300 USD per suite) Shipboard Credit on select departures
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 67
There is a side to Alaska the locals enjoy, and Windstar knows the way. We get you closer and away from crowds so you can explore more intimately.
ALASKAN SPLENDORS 11 DAYS | AUGUST 8, 2022 | STAR BREEZE
USD Per person, double occupancy, all inclusive. Category PS. Taxes and fees are an additional $530 USD per person.
• Seward (Anchorage) • Kenai Fjords National Park • At Sea • Sitka • Juneau • Haines • Tracy Arm / Endicott Arm • Wrangell • Misty Fjords • Prince Rupert • Canadian Inside Passage • Vancouver
proof cocktails. Only Windstar Cruises offers you the individual choice to travel All-Inclusive. For only $79 per guest, per day, include unlimited alcoholic beverages, unlimited Wi-Fi and all gratuities. All Windstar guests enjoy complimentary unlimited non-alcoholic beverages including coffee, tea, soda, bottled water and zero-proof cocktails.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER Private Ensemble® Experience Shore Event in Sitka
Explore the world and indulge in luxury with a FREE 2-Category Suite Upgrade, PLUS up to $1,000 Shipboard Credit and 50% Reduced Deposits on select voyages in 2022 and 2023.
7 NIGHT ALASKA 7 NIGHTS | JUNE, JULY & AUGUST 2022 | SEVEN SEAS MARINER® From
USD Per person, double occupancy. H-DLX VERANDA SUITE. Rates include tax & fees, airfare, plus all of Regent’s inclusions. Price based on July 20, 2022 departure.
• Seward (Anchorage) • Cruising Hubbard Glacier • Sitka • Juneau • Skagway • Ketchikan • Cruising the Inside Passage • Vancouver
EXCLUSIVE OFFER FREE 2-Category Suite Upgrade PLUS up to $1,000 Shipboard Credit $200 USD per person Shipboard Credit July 20, 2022 & August 3, 2022 departures
Private Ensemble® Experience Shore Event in Juneau August 17, 2022 departures
68 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
During the summer months and holiday seasons, kids aged 17 or younger sail for as little as $999, inclusive of FREE Unlimited Shore Excursions.
50% Reduced Deposits on select voyages in 2022 and 2023
As you explore the best Alaska glaciers, brace yourself for stunning views and shivers of excitement. From zip-lining through the Tongass National Forest to playing with sled dog puppies in Denali National Park to witnessing the majesty of the rugged mountains surrounding Endicott Arm, adventures abound in Alaska.
7 NIGHT ALASKA GLACIER CRUISE NIGHTS: 7 | SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL’S QUANTUM OF THE SEAS
CAD Per person, double occupancy, cruise only. Category 4U inside. Port taxes and government taxes included.
• Seattle • Day at Sea • Icy Strait Point • Skagway • Endicott Arm & Dawes • Juneau • Day at Sea • Victoria • Seattle
EXCLUSIVE OFFER Book by May 22, 2022 and receive a
$50 USD per stateroom Onboard Credit
One of the most scenic and thrilling cruises is Alaska, and this 7-day itinerary even includes Icy Strait Point and its wilderness experiences.
ALASKA: DAWES GLACIER, JUNEAU & KETCHIKAN 7 DAYS | MAY – SEPTEMBER 2022, 2023 & 2024 NORWEGIAN BLISS $
Get 70% off 2nd Guest + Free Air for 2nd Guest + Take ALL Free at Sea Offers
• Seattle • At Sea • Sitka • Juneau • Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier (Cruising) • Icy Strait Point • Ketchikan (Ward Cove) • Victoria • Seattle
• Free Open Bar • Free Specialty Dining • Free Excursions • Free Wi-Fi • Free Guests (select sailings)
NEW LOWER FARE
USD Pricing is per person, based on Balcony cabin with double occupancy on June 11, 2022 sailing. Government taxes and fees additional $283.48 USD per person. nd *Fare shown above is inclusive of 70% off 2 guest savings. **With savings Guest 1 = $1,999 / Guest 2 = $600
Free at Sea Offers Include:
EXCLUSIVE OFFER Up to $100 USD per stateroom Onboard Credit
Vacations® • Spring 2022 • 69
TERMS AND CONDITONS **
AMERICAN QUEEN VOYAGES
T&C: Offer expires June 30, 2022. Fares listed are per guest in USD based on double occupancy. Single guest occupancy staterooms are eligible for 50% value of savings advertised. Bonus Savings shown is per stateroom, is valid on new bookings on select voyages and cabin categories, excludes group bookings, and payment is due in full at time of booking. Special 10th Anniversary 10% Savings is per person and in addition to lowest promotional Spring Savings Event savings. 10% savings is valid on new bookings only on select voyages, excludes group bookings, and payment is due in full at the time of booking. Fares, savings, and eligible itineraries are capacity-controlled and may be changed or withdrawn at any time. Some voyages operate in reverse and may vary slightly from the published itinerary. COVID-19 vaccination is required for all guests and crew. Masks are not required while on board but are required during embarkation and onshore excursion motorcoaches. American Queen Voyages will provide a free COVID-19 test (Antigen) before embarkation at the pre-cruise hotel. Guests may provide proof of a negative test by a valid third party with results within two days of embarkation. Those that do not receive a negative COVID-19 test or provide proof of a negative test within the timeframe above will not be able to board. Guidance may change at any time without notice based on local regulations. For full terms and conditions, visit AQVoyages.com. Not responsible for errors or omissions. Mention Offer Code: SPRING & 10ANV ©2022 Victory Operating Company, LLC. Ships’ Registry: Bahamas
Use offer code “SAIL200” for savings. Offer valid on new bookings only made between 04/01/2022 - 08/31/2022. Offer valid on new bookings only and can expire earlier due to space or inventory availability. Savings amount will vary by tour and departure date, and is only available on select departures. Space is on a first come, first served basis. Offers are not valid on group, existing bookings or combinable with any other offer. Other restrictions may apply. Promotional pricing may remain in effect after the expiration date.
Offers and fares are subject to change. Visit OceaniaCruises.com/term for details.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
*70% Off second guest but the promotion will be reflected as 35% off the price of the cruise fare for all guests booked in the stateroom. Take All value based on 7-day cruise for Two. 20% Gratuities Apply on: Free Open Bar, Free Specialty Dining, Extra Guests (on select cruises). Restrictions apply. See full terms and conditions for offer and end dates at www.ncl.com/fasoffer. Some exclusions apply.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Upgrade & Explore More offer is capacity controlled and applies to new bookings only made between April 1 and June 30, 2022. Guests will receive a FREE 2-Category Suite Upgrade, up to a Penthouse Suite (Category A), on applicable voyages† as well as 50% Reduced Deposits* and $500 USD Shipboard Credit per person (up to $1,000 USD Shipboard Credit per suite). Availability is limited and restrictions apply — applicable voyages are subject to removal at any time without notice; offer may be withdrawn at any time. Mention “MORE 2022” at time of booking. For complete Terms and Conditions, please visit www.rssc.com/legal/termsconditions. †For applicable voyages and suite categories, please visit RSSC.com/Upgrade-and-Explore-More.
Featured prices are per guest based on double occupancy and are inclusive of Cruise Fare, Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses. Fares are in Canadian dollars. All savings amounts are included in the fares shown. All offers are capacity controlled and may be modified or withdrawn at any time without prior notice. Other restrictions may apply. Seabourn reserves the right to correct errors. Ships’ registry: Bahamas. ©2022 Seabourn.
GENERAL EXCLUSIONS: All fares, savings, offers, programmes and itineraries are subject to change without notice. Any fares shown are per guest, based on doubleoccupancy. Additional restrictions may apply. Silversea reserves the right to correct any errors or omissions. Visit www.silversea.com/terms-and-conditions.html for full offer details and complete Terms and Conditions. This document may contain inadvertent technical or factual inaccuracies and typographical errors. Silversea reserves the right to correct errors and omissions at any time without prior notice, and to cancel any offered product, service, programme, reward, savings, credit, amenity, etc. in the event of any error or omission in the description, including pricing and availability. Due to evolving health protocols, some imagery and messaging may not accurately reflect current onboard and destination offerings, or the public health standards and government requirements that modify or limit these offerings. Onboard and destination experiences, features, itineraries, and guest conduct rules vary by ship and destination and are subject to change without notice. **
The prices are per person, cruise only, based on double occupancy in Canadian dollars, include taxes and were available as of March 21, 2022. They are applicable to new individual reservations only, made at least 180 days prior to departure. The categories indicated above are subject to availability. Onboard credit is per stateroom in USD, has no cash value, is not redeemable for cash, not transferable and will expire if not used by 10:00 pm on the last evening of the cruise. Offer is subject to availability; capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Other restrictions may apply. All references to Royal Caribbean International are: ©2022 Royal Caribbean International. All rights reserved. Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas. For full terms and conditions, contact your travel advisor.
Note: Rhine Getaway price based on CAT F, September 27, 2022 Viking Longship sailing. All prices are in CAD dollars and for CA residents only and are based on double occupancy. Special cruise fares and international air discounts are considered a single offer. International air does not have to be purchased to get cruise offer. Air offers valid on all published Canadian gateways. Prices are based on lowest at time of print and subject to change without notice. Must request offer at time of booking. Pay in full by current cruise and air promotions’ expiration date. Valid on new bookings only as of 4/1/22, subject to availability and may not be combinable with any other offers except Past Guest Travel Credit and Referral Rewards Credit. Viking reserves the right to correct errors and to change any and all fares, fees and surcharges at any time. Additional terms and conditions may apply; see Passenger Ticket Contract at vikingrivercruisescanada.com. Offer expires 5/31/22. CST#2052644-40. $100 shipboard credit per person valid as of 04/01/2022 on 2022 & 2023 Rhine Getaway river cruises. Offer combinable with Past Passenger discounts, and EBD offer. Offer is not combinable with Group Rates, Future Cruise Credit vouchers, FAM, Travel Agent Reduce Rate, Interline, and Wholesale bookings. Limit $100 per person. Shipboard credit must be requested by travel agent at the time of booking. Shipboard credit cannot be applied towards onboard gratuities. No cash value. Shipboard credit offer expires 6/30/2022. CST#2052644-40
Offer is valid on new bookings only for select departures and subject to availability. Bookings are non-transferable; no name changes can be made nor can this offer be applied retroactively. Offer is capacity controlled and may be withdrawn or modified at Windstar’s discretion at any time. Cancellation penalties may apply, please see website for details. Certain restrictions apply. Fuel surcharges may be imposed or increased over time. Any Shipboard Credit will be applied approximately 2 weeks prior to departure and will not show on the booking confirmation until that time. Information contained herein is accurate at time of publication and subject to change without notice. Ensemble Host onboard, Welcome Reception and the Ensemble® Experience shore events require a minimum number of participants (12) and are subject to change without notice. See your Ensemble travel professional for more details and applicable restrictions. Ensemble amenities are not combinable with agency groups or other reduced rates. Unless otherwise stated, prices are in U.S. dollars, per person and based on double occupancy. Ships’ registry: Bahamas.
Please refer to suppliers’ websites for complete details, terms and conditions. Prices displayed are in Canadian or U.S. dollars. They include all government taxes (except HST/GST), fees and port charges if applicable unless otherwise stated. Additional fuel surcharges may apply. Additional agency fee may apply – please ask our Travel Agency for details. Prices stated are per person based on double occupancy and do not include airfare or transfers unless otherwise specified. In cruise bookings, where airfares are included, pre- and post-cruise accommodations necessary due to flight schedules are at the passenger’s expense. Other conditions may apply and may vary depending on the cruise line or tour operator. We are not responsible for errors or omissions. Ensemble Travel® Group makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein and to the best of its knowledge, all information is accurate at time of printing.
70 • Vacations ® • Spring 2022
YOUR VILLA AWAITS
As countries start their slow reopenings, our wanderlust and desire to venture beyond our immediate neighbourhoods will grow, too. Yet, we still must be hyper-conscious of the current situation. With enhanced safety and health measures, thoroughly trained cleaning staff, distanced group arrivals, sanitization packages and more, renting a villa is an ideal option to enjoy an intimate vacation with your family, safely away from the crowds. For more information about the various cleanliness and safety protocols, or to book a stay at one of these villas, contact your trusted travel advisor who is always there for you – before, during and after your travels.
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We’re ready when you are Making your wildest travel dreams come true has always been our focus. We know you’re eager to get back to exploring the world, and we’re here to help you do just that. We hope you enjoy reading through this printed copy of Vacations magazine, featuring stories and images from the world’s most desirable and luxurious destinations. If you’re intrigued by these stories and want to live one of your own, we’re here to design a custom-tailored vacation just for you and help you fulfill your dreams safely and worry-free.