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Ensemble Vacations® Winter 2019 INSPIRING YOUR PASSION FOR TRAVEL



Epicentre of Grecian Luxury: MYKONOS Travel like Royalty in FRANCE Exploring Northern ITALY’S ALPS HOW TO HAMMAM Like a Local

THE BEST WINTER VACATIONS BEGIN RIGHT HERE. Are you ready? Are you ready to explore the life of luxury in Mykonos, get up close with wildlife in the Sea of Cortez, or let yourself relax in a local hammam in Turkey? In the winter edition of Vacations® magazine we want to inspire you to start dreaming about your next getaway.

Receive up to $1,500 USD in resort credits at select Palace Resorts in Mexico and Jamaica.

Photo: Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort

Book a 5 to 8 night vacation package at select Palace Resorts, and receive $1,500 USD in resort credits per room, per stay to customize your dream vacation. Start with a round of golf or a relaxing spa treatment; with endless activities available, the choices are yours at Palace Resorts. Whether you swim with dolphins or scuba dive in the deep sea, this dream vacation is yours to build. Resort credit redemption varies by hotel and may be available for use on: spa/beauty salon services, golf, scuba, tours, dolphin swims, gastronomic experiences, and more. The value of the resort credit is based on the length of stay: • 5-8 night packages = $1,500 resort credit • 4-night package = $750 resort credit • 3-night package = $500 resort credit Want to stay even longer? Receive up to $2,500 in resort credits: • 9-11 night packages = $2,000 resort credit • 12+ night packages = $2,500 resort credit Book by: December 16, 2020 (11:59 p.m. MT) Travel: Now - December 23, 2020 How to get this offer: Resort credit will be distributed to guests upon arrival at the time of check-in. Participating hotels

Participating hotels

Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancun

Beach Palace, Cancun

Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, Los Cabos

Moon Palace Cancun, Riviera Maya

Sun Palace, Cancun

Moon Palace Jamaica, Ocho Rios – Runaway Bay

The Grand at Moon Palace, Cancun

Playacar Palace, Riviera Maya

Advance booking required. Non-refundable and non-transferable. Offer limited and subject to availability. Offer subject to change and expire without notice. New bookings only. Not valid on group bookings. Other restrictions may apply. Resort credit will be distributed to guests upon arrival at the time of check-in. Airport transfers to/from the hotel are included. A minimum 3-night stay is required. Resort credit is valued in USD and can be used towards select tours, golf, spa/beauty salon services, romantic dinners, diving packages, Vacation Memories photo packages, and Palace Resorts Wedding Collection. Promotion, prices and applicable services are subject to change without notice. Promotion will not be extended to travellers on: FAM trips, travel agent or employee rates, complimentary, incentive or compensatory stays. Resort credit cannot be exchanged for cash, products or merchandise. There is no cash reimbursement if unused. There is a 16% service fee on all products and services rendered with the resort credit. Some restrictions apply towards golf credits; see front desk for details. Taxes, surcharges and/or gratuity not included. Offer is applicable to all room categories. Inclusions can be changed or withdrawn at any time without notice. There is no cash reimbursement if unused. Credits are issued per room per stay. Blackout dates may apply. For any further details, please see hotel front desk. Quebec licensee. Ontario travel agents are covered by TICO. Mailing address: 6085 Midfield Road, Toronto ON L5P 1A2. TICO registration number: 50018683

Kids and teens stay free at select Palace Resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. At Palace Resorts, the possibilities are endless. Escape to Mexico or the Caribbean and experience your dream vacation with the highest level of all-inclusive amenities and service. These family friendly resorts are truly a paradise for kids and teens. Palace’s littlest guests will enjoy the stateof-the-art Playroom, while teens can explore a world of their own. Book by: December 20, 2020 (11:59 p.m. MT) Travel: Now - December 23, 2020 How to get this offer: Package price will automatically reflect the discount when searching for qualified vacations. Participating hotels Moon Palace Cancun, Riviera Maya, The Grand at Moon Palace, Cancun Beach Palace, Cancun Photo: The Grand at Moon Palace

Moon Palace Jamaica, Ocho Rios – Runaway Bay Playacar Palace, Riviera Maya

Advance booking required. Non-refundable and non-transferable. Offer limited and subject to availability. Offer subject to change and expire without notice. New bookings only. Applicable to wedding and leisure groups of 25 rooms or less. Other restrictions may apply. Package price will automatically reflect the discount when searching for qualified vacations. Airport transfers to/from the hotel are included. A minimum 3-night stay is required. This offer is valid for all kids and teens per reservation. Kids/teens must be 17 or younger at the time of travel in order to qualify. Offer is applicable to all room categories. Minimum and maximum occupancy rules apply per room category. Blackout dates for travel to The Grand at Moon Palace: December 24, 2019 - January 3, 2020. Blackout dates may apply. This offer may be combined with any other offer. Quebec licensee. Ontario travel agents are covered by TICO. Mailing address: 6085 Midfield Road, Toronto ON L5P 1A2. TICO registration number: 50018683 Photo: Moon Palace Jamaica

Editor’s Letter Welcome to the winter edition of Ensemble Vacations®. In this edition, we share travel inspiration stories from around the world. Whether you want to hike in the Himalayas, snorkel in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, or get a taste of the high life in Greece, there is something for everyone in this issue. Check out the Extraordinary Experiences section for a sense of how the rich and famous travel in Greece. From late-night designer shopping to trendy nightlife, Mykonos hits all the right notes for an ultra-chic vacation. Or, if you like the idea of a more traditional luxe vacation, you’ll love the story about the Rhône-Alpes region, a long-time favourite holiday destination for Europe’s royalty. When it comes to adventure, we introduce travellers to new ways to experience some of the world’s best mountain ranges. Our writer shows that you don’t need to be a mountaineer to hike the Himalayas. Also, look in our cruise section for ideas on incredible vacations at sea. If it’s activity you crave, these cruises deliver. For example, on a Holland America Line cruise through the Mediterranean, follow along as our writer and her husband take on mountain treks by day, and then hit the cruise lounges by night. On the Sea of Cortez, join UnCruise Adventures for an unforgettable journey that includes swimming with sea lions and snorkelling with pufferfish. We’ve rounded up some of the best travel experiences to give you ideas and inspiration for your travel plans in 2020. All you need to do is call our travel advisors to start planning your next vacation. Happy travels, Karen Leiva editor@ensembletravel.ca

Vacations® is proud to be NATJA’s (North American Travel Journalists Association) 2017 Gold Award Winner in the Travel Magazine category.

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Winter 2019


10 SPOTLIGHT Valparaiso, Chile



Vacations® HOT LIST Inspired by Cinema


TRAVEL NEWS Going Beyond Ordinary


PACKING LIST Last Minute Gift Ideas


Bahamas Bound

Featured Section


Epicentre of Grecian Luxury: Mykonos Travel like Royalty in France


River Cruising with Kids




Features SOFT ADVENTURE 40 44 48


Walking in the Himalayas Exploring Northern Italy’s Alps Otherworldly Sea of Cortez


Ethical Travel Report: How Sweet it is, Indeed



How to Hammam like a Local

Family Connections Fit for a Cruise

WORLDLY DELIGHTS 64 World’s Finest Food Festivals 66 Eat Well in the Land of Pura Vida 68 Tasting Queensland 70 Coast to Coast Canadian Festivals

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 7

Featured Contributors

RODERICK EIME Roderick Eime has worked as a professional writer, photographer and journalist for more than 30 years during which time he has developed a specialization in small ship and expedition cruising, as well as a keen sense of the environmental, social and cultural impacts of modern travel. He has also received numerous awards and acknowledgements for his reporting and photography. He visited Costa Rica as part of a Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic voyage which highlighted the natural history and sustainable aspects of the country’s tourism industry.

MICHELE SPONAGLE Michele Sponagle is a prolific freelance travel journalist based in Paris, Ontario. In her quest for a good story, she has fished for piranha in the Amazon River, had her fortune told by a parrot in Singapore, and tracked polar bears on foot in northern Manitoba. She has slept in hotel rooms in more than 70 countries. Visiting Turkey was the latest country added to her long list. While there, she hammam-hopped across Istanbul with blissful results, got hooked on pomegranate tea and took photos of nearly every cat that crossed her path in the historic city.

VALENTINA VALENTINI Valentina Valentini is a freelance journalist covering the entertainment industry for Vanity Fair, Variety, Vulture and other publications of that ilk (not all beginning with V). She covers travel and food for Travel+Leisure, BBC Travel, AFAR, Heated, and many more, and her personal essays have published in The Los Angeles Times, Longreads and Refinery29. Her most recent trip to Mykonos was an eye-opener into the opulent holidays to be had on the Greek island.

EMMA YARDLEY Emma Yardley is a freelance travel journalist who lives on a tiny island off the west coast of B.C. Having worked for eight years as a lifestyle editor and columnist in Canada’s busiest newsrooms, she turned her focus to travel in 2013 and hasn’t looked back. This is her first time writing for Ensemble, but her words regularly appear in The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, Edible and Fodors.com. Gentle outdoor adventures, off-the-beaten-path experiences and anything to do with water — be it at the spa or on a riverboat — are her jam. 8 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

Winter 2019



Credits PUBLISHER Ensemble Travel® Group MANAGING EDITOR & ADVERTISING Ingrid Lopez EDITOR Karen Leiva CONTRIBUTORS Karen Leiva Tim Johnson Chris Robinson Isabelle Labrosse Lesley Miskell Maria-Teresa Andreacchi Valentina Valentini Leah Rumack

Michele Sponagle Mariellen Ward Mark Sissons Keph Senett Emma Yardley Liz Fleming Roderick Eime Cinda Chavich

CREATIVE DIRECTION Ingrid Lopez CREATIVE DESIGNERS Cherry Ann Valles, Cinzia Cammisa FOXX Advertising & Design Inc. PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT Joe Viecili, Dalia Shamkhani FOXX Advertising & Design Inc. INSERT CO-ORDINATION Ingrid Lopez PRINT MANAGEMENT Solisco – Creativity in Printing ADMINISTRATION Lesley Miskell PRODUCTION SERVICES Andy Thomas -TURN KEY Marketing Solutions Inc.



Carl Schmitt Franca Iuele

Winter Vacations 2019 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 four times per year on behalf of Ensemble Travel® Group member agencies.

ENSEMBLE VACATIONS® 69 Yonge Street, Suite 1403 Toronto, ON M5E 1K3 (416) 367-3660 To contact our Editor email: editor@ensembletravel.ca


Registration Numbers: vary by agency; see back cover Publication mail agreement: No. 40005027 Printed in Canada. Cover image: Getty Images ©simonbradfield Shipwreck Beach of Zakynthos Photos by Getty Images unless stated otherwise. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 9


SPOTLIGHT Valparaiso, Chile By Tim Johnson

Sun-baked and cheery, each building is painted brightly, and every road looks like a rainbow in Valparaiso.



Walking up and down the hilly streets, the late-afternoon light fading, my shoes slip on the cobblestones and my calves burn, just a bit. I feel like I’m chasing the ghost of Pablo Neruda. The Nobel Prize laureate once lived a furtive life here, bundled away in the basement of a friend, hiding from the authorities. That tale contrasts with what I see around me – sun-baked and cheery, each building is painted brightly, and every road looks like a rainbow. Valparaiso is a city with a long history. Its labyrinth of lanes tells stories from almost five centuries, which echo from the top of the ridge and slide all the way down, along these colourful streets, to the ocean. This UNESCO World Heritage site city, perched at the base of the Andean foothills, is about two hours northwest of Santiago. Arriving by car from Santiago, my day begins in Valparaiso’s neighbouring city, Viña del Mar. Rounding a corner, skirting the coast, a long line of white high-rise resorts perched along a broad beach swing into view. It could be Miami or Tel Aviv. “Everything here is new,” my guide says from behind the wheel, his arm out the window, gesturing beside us, and then ahead. “This is a dynamic city, a young city. You will really notice the difference.”

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We hadn’t made plans to swim, but still, I want to feel the water. I stride onto the seaside in my running shoes, walking stiffly to keep the sand out; meanwhile, beautiful Chileans in bikinis and board shorts are baking all around me. Few brave the waves, save for a few surfers, and soon I feel why. Despite the sun and heat, the water is a bit too refreshing for most. Back in the car, we swing by a few of the city’s best-known buildings, including the art deco-style casino and surrounding, lush gardens, and Wulff Castle, a fairy tale house built right at the edge of the crashing waves, complete with tower and turrets. A few minutes later, we’re in Valparaiso. First stop: Neruda’s home, La Sebastiana Museum House. Sitting on a hilltop – a place that “seemed to float in the air,” he once wrote – the slim, five-storey building has huge windows that take in sweeping views of the colourful hills and the zigzag coast. Eccentric, a communist, a passionate poet – the guide inside tells me a bit about Neruda’s life and how he was once spirited away, from that basement and across the Argentinian border, because of his politics. He later returned to his beloved Chile, eventually reading a poem to a stadium packed with 70,000 spectators. And, as Neruda must have known, Valparaiso is a place built for wandering. After settling into my boutique hotel, housed in a former mansion tucked away on a back lane, I spend the rest of my time on those cobblestones, shopping in Mercado El Cardonal, a century-old covered market whose fresh fruit and veggies spill out the sides to smaller stands. Finally, I feast on fresh salmon, clams, and shrimp, all of it pulled from the Pacific, right there at the end of the street. Downing a big plate of food, impossibly happy, Neruda’s words about this city ring true in my ears – “Valparaiso, what nonsense you are, what a crazy, insane port,” he wrote, “Life has always surprised you.”


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HOT LIST Inspired by Cinema By Chris Robinson

The magic of the cinema can transform background landscapes and cultures into the stars of the movie. Here are some of the top movie destinations from around the world that have inspired travellers over the years.

COMING SOON, LET THEM ALL TALK Luxury cruise line, Cunard, recently hosted Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and a gaggle of celebrity cast and crew on one of its transatlantic sailings. Stars included Meryl Streep and Candice Bergen. Add to the excitement of the sailing, guests onboard were invited to be extras. Look for Let Them All Talk coming to HBO Max in the new year.




THE SOUND OF MUSIC, SALZBURG AUSTRIA This musical of the von Trapp family story picked up an Oscar for Best Picture in 1966 – and along the way made alpine fans of us all. It is estimated that 70 per cent of visitors to Salzburg today come prompted by The Sound of Music, which was shot in and around this beautiful Austrian city.

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JAMES BOND, JAMAICA Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels at his hideaway called GoldenEye on the Jamaican coast, so it is only fitting the Bond movies are often credited with giving vacations in the Caribbean an initial boost. Specifically, the first Bond movie, Dr. No, featured Dunn’s River Falls. Live and Let Die showcased several Jamaican locations that have become touristic hotspots. Even the upcoming Bond movie featuring Daniel Craig was recently filmed in Jamaica.

THE LAST EMPEROR, CHINA This was the first time that The Forbidden City in Beijing had been opened up to a Western filmmaker, and Bernardo Bertolucci made the most of it. The Last Emperor won nine Oscars and showcased the opulence of the Summer Palace. The Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site.



THE MISSION, BRAZIL/ARGENTINA The Mission is a 1980s film starring Jeremy Irons as a Jesuit priest on a mission in South America. He is joined by Robert De Niro, a reformed slave hunter, to try to prevent a remote native tribe from being enslaved. It was shot on location in four South American countries, but the thrilling waterfall scenes helped put Iguazu Falls on travellers’ radars.

OUT OF AFRICA, KENYA The Best Cinematography Academy Award (along with six other Academy awards) went to Out of Africa for its portrayal of the plains of East Africa. Much of it was filmed in Kenya and the flying sequences are breathtaking. The movie follows the life of Karen Blixen played by Meryl Streep, and her true love big game hunter, played by Robert Redford. But the real stars here are the sweeping African landscapes, the wildlife, and the indigenous people. CLASSIC ‘OUT OF AFRICA’ SCENE


LORD OF THE RINGS, NEW ZEALAND Director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to capture the many landscapes of Middle Earth. Over 150 real landscapes were used to bring to life the rich fantasy world of Lord of the Rings. Mount Doom and Mordor were filmed in Tongariro National Park. Hobbiton was set near Matamata and the film set has now become an actual Hobbit village that you can visit.


MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, ANTARCTICA This epic tale from 2005 with emperor penguins in Terre Adélie, Antarctica put The Great White Continent on many bucket lists. Against a magnificent backdrop of vast icy wilderness, March of the Penguins charts emperor penguins as they journey from the ocean to their breeding grounds. The long journey that ensures the survival of their species is simply incredible. And so is the lure of Antarctica where this drama takes place. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 13

Adventure awaits in Central & South America Explore the barrier reef in Honduras. Surf the Pacific swells in Panama. Zip over the forest canopy in Costa Rica. Or simply laze on a scenic beach at any of these exotic destinations. Discover Central and South America with our all-inclusive packages!

Weekly flights from Toronto; New in winter! Vancouver to San Jose & Liberia, Costa Rica

*Per passenger booked roundtrip with Option Plus. Price for a one-way flight, in a standard seat, from Canada to the South.

Option Plus A checked bag, priority airport services and more: add more perks in Economy Class with Option Plus for as low as




TRAVEL NEWS Going Beyond Ordinary By Isabelle Labrosse

More and more travellers are looking to explore the world differently. Whether visiting off-the-beaten-path destinations, being more environmentally conscious, or indulging in one-of-a-kind experiences, here’s what’s new in travel to take you beyond the ordinary.



PLACES LESS TRAVELLED Kensington Tours recently launched new customizable itineraries in the Baltics. Guests will tour markets, beer museums and black balsam bars in Latvia’s capital, trek through the Estonian countryside, and visit Lithuania’s Curonian Spit to witness the mesmerizing navy blues of the sea. Travellers can enjoy privately guided tours for an intimate experience.

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EXPERIENCES Cruisers, get ready for a treat! The 16-day Indonesian Immersive & Great Barrier Reef expedition departing Oct. 15, 2020, aboard Crystal Cruises’ Endeavor yacht will not only be an exploration of Australia’s southern islands and Indonesia’s tropics, but also a celebration of culinary excellence. World-famous chef Nobu Matsuhisa – the mastermind behind Crystal’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar – will be on board to host an array of special events and dining experiences, including three limited-availability chef’s choice dinners. Cooking demonstrations, sake tastings, and floral design lessons complement the program.

For 2020, the Globus family of brands also unveiled new Undiscovered Mediterranean vacations for travellers wishing to explore areas outside the usual tourist destinations. One itinerary, the 8-day Greek Island Adventure, will whisk guests away to lesser-known isles of Greece, including Paros, the “mini-Mykonos,” and Naxos, the greenest of Greek islands, to savour unparalleled views and unhurried villages.


RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL To support conservation and responsible tourism, G Adventures renewed its partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, adding 12 new wildlife-focused tours to its collection. Itineraries include a 10-day Botswana & Zimbabwe Safari taking travellers from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park and Okavango Delta for incredible wildlife viewing, and a 10-day Nepal: Himalaya Highlights tour with an overnight in a Buddhist monastery. This marks the fourth year the tour operator is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, the mission of which is to protect wildlife and empower local communities. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 15

YOUR CRUISE YOUR WAY. Freedom Included. Rules Are Not. FIND YOURSELF. YOUR WAY. How many times have we thought, “I wish we could stay longer?� Avalon makes it easy to seamlessly add days and nights in a variety of destinations before or after your river cruise. We take care of all the details, from ship to hotel and hotel to ship transfers, transportation between cities, superior hotel accommodations, selected meals, and guided sightseeing with plenty of optional excursions and free time to customize your experience. From Budapest to Amsterdam, from Paris to Arles, or from North Sea to Black Sea, you can spend a little or a lot more time getting to know the destinations that call to you.

YOURWAY Start your vacation earlier or stay longer with destination options before or after your Avalon cruise. Begin in Brussels, linger in Vienna, or enjoy a few nights in dazzling Prague. Avalon YourWay lets you add the perfect amount of time on land before or after your Avalon river cruise!

3280 Bloor St. W, Centre Tower, Suite 400, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3, TICO#1893755/50015835


PACKING LIST Last Minute Gift Ideas By Lesley Miskell

With the holidays fast approaching we have travel essentials you can grab for any traveller on your list to make a big impact.




BĒCH LIFE CALI TOWEL bēCH Life Turkish towels are the travel towels that should be on everyone’s packing list. Backpackers, beach bums, and busy moms can rest assured knowing that these pieces will stand up to all the elements while staying soft, stylish and absorbent. $50.00 CAD – bechlife.com

EXP: FEB 29, 2020



Wellness SAJE POCKET FARMACY Give the gift of calm and release with blends designed to support overall wellness. A musthave natural pharmacy for anyone on-the-go, including five of Saje’s most loved remedies for headaches, pains, colds, indigestion, and stress in a travel-friendly carrying case. $59.95 CAD – saje.com or any saje location

RUKO EXPRESS No need to reload channels again! Bring your favourite streaming services to any destination. The Express comes with a remote control that makes finding something to watch a snap. The Hotel & Dorm connect feature allows anyone access from their hotel room with just a wireless connection.

MINDFUL TRAVELLING Through personal anecdotes and meditative insights, discover how to bring the joys of mindful travelling back home in your suitcase – staying open, curious, and present wherever you are. Mindful Travelling is great for anyone looking to connect with the places they travel to. $13.99 CAD – Amazon.ca

$44.99 CAD – Amazon.ca

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 17

For some, it’s sitting down to the first five-star dinner of the trip, and being transported by the rich, unexpected flavors awaiting you. For others, it’s sailing into an exotic, remote port without another ship in sight. And for you, it’s the little things. Discover your moment.

2 for 1 CRUISE FARES and FREE INTERNET inclusive package available

Includes Roundtrip Air fare * plus choose one:

FREE - Shore Excursions FREE - Beverage Package FREE - Shipboard Credit


For more information please contact our travel advisors. Ask About Canadian Resident Rates and our Exclusive Free Pre-Paid Gratuities. *Visit OceaniaCruises.com/terms for details. NOV190131





Some of my favourite holiday memories are from The Bahamas: sunrise yoga classes on Paradise Island, my son’s first time in the sea at Cable Beach, and visiting the extraordinary Baha Mar. Incredible white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water, and sunny days – these are the first things to come to mind when I think about The Bahamas. Despite Hurricane Dorian striking the northern islands, the country’s tourism officials are keen to let travellers know that The Bahamas is ready for you. Read on to find out why now is a really great time to go there.


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ISLAND VIBES The airport in Nassau is just a short ride to the Meliá Nassau Beach All Inclusive or Baha Mar on Cable Beach where you’re guaranteed beautiful white-sand beaches perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Nassau is fun – and safe – to explore. If you are visiting for the day from one of the cruise ships, you’ll find the port is conveniently located in the centre of town. Spend an afternoon of duty-free shopping or visit the Pirates of Nassau museum. You can learn more about the islands’ long history with rum (and pirates) at John Watling’s Distillery. Not far from Nassau is Atlantis, Paradise Island, a fun resort for families with a full waterpark, daring slides and a lazy river. It’s possible to visit Atlantis if you’re coming for the day from a cruise. OUT ISLAND CRUISES There are some great sailings that explore The Bahamas in three or four nights departing from Florida, or five to seven nights from New York. The best part is that the top cruises have access to exclusive islands. On Royal Caribbean International, you spend a day at its private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay. With Princess Cruises, you get beach time at its private resort, Princess Cays in Eleuthera, where there are a lot of fun water activities. If you travel with Norwegian Cruise Line, you’ll enjoy a perfect beach day and barbecue at its exclusive Great Stirrup Cay. Holland America Line has its pristine island sanctuary, Half Moon Cay. BAHAMAS IS READY The Bahamas is as beautiful as ever. Despite devastation in the north, most of The Bahamas, including 14 of the most commonly visited islands, were not affected by the hurricane. Airports, cruise ports, hotels and attractions throughout the Northern, Central and Southern Bahamas are open. These islands include Nassau and Paradise Island, The Exumas, and Eleuthera and Harbour Island. “We would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands,” said The Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar.





Carnival Foundation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation.

When Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas, many cruise lines took immediate action. Carnival Corporation (which includes Princess Cruises and Holland America Line among others) pledged $2 million in funding and support for relief efforts. The donation was pledged on behalf of

Norwegian Cruise Line responded by deploying its ship, Norwegian Breakaway to The Bahamas with relief supplies donated by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. employees and community groups in Florida. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. pledged $2 million in support.

Royal Caribbean International brought relief supplies and 20,000 daily meals prepared by crewmembers to the Grand Bahama Island community. The cruise line deployed containers ships with urgently needed supplies. Royal Caribbean also committed $1 million to Dorian disaster relief and pledged to match every dollar Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 21 of guest and employee donations.

Featured Section




Winter 2019

Mykonos By Valentina Valentini

The international elite descends and depends upon Mykonos for all things luxe – nightlife, dining, yachting and shopping are in abundance on this island cosmopolis. Mykonos might be most aesthetically known for its iconic windmills – the row of 16th-century structures sitting on a hill above town watching over its millions of sun-seeking tourists each summer. Yet Mykonos is also a destination renowned for its luxury offerings: shopping, dining, dancing, spas and decked-out beach cabanas are all on tap to make a high-end holiday possible. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 13

that can be found on the island – Mykonos is always looking to accommodate its guests to the utmost. And if you’re needing a private shopping experience, that can be arranged as well by speaking to a concierge or local service. Despite the close quarters of the town, privacy isn’t impossible. On Mykonos, there is no shortage of luxury hotels and villas that will pamper guests. In fact, their competition only ups the experience for those looking to be treated to exquisite food, amenities, and experiences. Consistently on the top lists for luxe Mykonos hotels is the Myconian Collection, 10 five-star properties, including three coveted Relais & Châteaux properties.


Mykonos – known over the last turn of the century for its nude beaches and laissez-faire attitudes – has established itself in more recent years as a sophisticated hub of international social elite looking to relax by day and party by night. Considering it was christened, in a way, by the globally chic royals, celebrities and style icons, such as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, it’s no wonder the lure of the isle has endured. The airport is currently undergoing a much needed €25 million (approximately C$36 million) upgrade to include two VIP lounges when it opens in 2021. There is also a new private jet service between Spain’s luxe party island Ibiza and Mykonos. Located in the Cyclades group of Greek islands, Mykonos is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea and features white-washed and cobalt blue-topped buildings, typical of Greece. To add to that old-world charm, it has built up an impressive repertoire of indulgent shopping. In town, along the meandering cobblestone alleys is a vast array of clothing boutiques and luxury brands, local jewellers and artists. To name just a handful of the dozens and dozens of shops in Mykonos, expect to find Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Soho Soho, and Enny Monaco. Most of the stores are open from 10 a.m. until well after dark, some even staying open until after midnight to accommodate vacationers from different time zones or just that last-minute dress needed for a special outing. This kind of consideration is typical of the offerings 24 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

The Satori Thalasso Spa at the Myconian Korali is especially decadent, with five pools in warm and dimly lit rooms that smell of eucalyptus and the ocean. They are thalassotherapy pools – from the Greek word “thalasso” meaning “sea,” which is the practice of using seawater and sea products to rejuvenate the body. The therapeutic experience harkens back to ancient Greeks and their belief that the sea is a resource for both cleansing and curing. Each pool has a different temperature, essential oil and hydro massage to enliven the senses. But perhaps most unique in the Korali spa is the Salve-in-terra Therapy, an all-sensory couples’ treatment that involves a full-body clay wrap and a hydro bed in a private room that rains on you just before the session is concluded. Eating on Mykonos is not just a matter of sustenance, but at the high-end restaurants on the island, it’s about satisfying indulgence while balancing health, something that is standard in gastronomic circles of the wealthy. Myconian Ambassador’s main restaurant, Efisia Fine Dining, is named after the Greek word “physis” – the theological, philosophical and scientific term for “nature.” A native of Thessaloniki, Executive Chef Ilias Maslaris takes as much pride in his farm-to-table ingredients and the fishermen’s catch of the day as he does his overall presentation. In fact, the fisherman they work with only supplies fish for himself and Efisia Fine Dining, preferring to keep his secrets on the best fishing spots under his close eye. Dishes are seasonal and fresh, always paying


homage to their Greek roots. The wine list is comprised of some of the best Greek vintners, and even their salt comes from the rocks of the ancient neighbouring island of Delos. Myconian Collection founder George Daktylides rears the lamb on family land. To see-and-be-seen, Nammos Mykonos on Psarou Beach is the ticket to titillating nightlife. A flashy beach restaurant serving local fish and European fare for dinner, Nammos becomes the club to be at after sundown. Make sure to book reservations well in advance, gaining you entry to the bar and club where sightings of celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Bella Hadid, and the Kardashians are known to happen. In Nammos Village, just behind the bar and restaurant, there’s an enclave of luxury boutiques including Gucci, Burberry, and a Dior store, where Kate Moss DJ’d on opening night last year. For a more relaxed but equally swanky evening activity, 180° Sunset Bar above town promises unparalleled – and unending – views of a Mykonos sunset.



If the crowds become too much, day trips to the neighbouring islands of Tinos or Delos are available. Delos is a wonderful dose of culture and history, an uninhabited island that has a museum and ruins of an ancient town that once stood there. Tinos, which is only accessible by boat/ ferry, has dozens of pristine beaches (without the troves of tourists) where you can anchor your yacht for the day. Or there is Thalassaki restaurant, which has a pier where helicopters can land and cater to visitors looking for a relaxed and decadent, meal off-island. Whatever your pleasure – literally – Mykonos can provide.

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 25

SECLUDED SHORES & SUN-WASHED CITIES The Mediterranean’s sapphire seas will lure you in and convince you to stay a while. But beyond the azure waters lie tiny whitewashed villages nestled against sandy shores, marble-clad fortresses, and winding chains of turquoise waterfalls—places loved by locals and untouched by most. Globus invites you to dive deep into the blues of the Mediterranean’s secluded seaside towns and medieval alleyways. Follow us down sun-soaked streets to discover the places where cities, seas, and cultures connect—places you won’t find on other tours or cruises. No one gets you closer to the magic of the Mediterranean.

Dubrovnik, Croatia



11 days | Zagreb to Dubrovnik $3,399* CAD

14 days | Palermo to Athens $4,099* CAD

Based on Apr 19, 2020 Zagreb, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Postojna, Opatija, Croatia–Pula, Opatija, Plitvice, Zadar, Trogir, Split, Bosnia– Herzegovina, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Based on Apr 28 & Oct 20, 2020 Palermo, Italy, Agrigento, Catania, Syracuse, Ortigia, Taormina, Cosenza, Matera, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Lecce, Brindisi, Patras, Greece, Itea, Galaxidi, Delphi, Athens



8 days | Barcelona to Costa del Sol $2,899* CAD

8 days | roundtrip from Athens $2,499* CAD (incl. intra-air)

Based on Apr 7 & Oct 6, 2020 Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Málaga, Costa Del Sol

Based on May 1 and Sep 25, 2020 Athens, Greece, Heraklion, Crete, Naxos, Greece, Paros, Piraeus, Athens

A variety of other Globus Undiscovered vacations available, please inquire.

*Featured prices are per person, in Canadian dollars, land only, based on double occupancy, departure dates indicated (the lowest price available to book), include taxes and fees and intra-vacation flights (Greek Island Adventure). International flights and travel insurance are additional. 3280 Bloor St. W, Centre Tower, Suite 400, Toronto, ON M8X 2X3, TICO#1893755/50015835

Featured Section

Travel like Royalty in

FRANCE By Maria-Teresa Andreacchi

The Rhône-Alpes region is a bustling destination for cyclists and skiers, but this region also caters to a different kind of thrill – luxury travel.



AIX–LES-BAINS There’s a mild chill in the air as I stand facing Lac du Bourget, the largest fresh water lake in France – it’s not cold or unpleasant, the opposite actually, a refreshing breeze that slowly creeps in and around my body as I sit and meditate with an instructor. I’m in Aix-les-Bains, a thermal spa town located approximately 115 kilometres away from Lyon. It’s a hard contrast to the developed city I just came from. Dramatic mountains appear untouched as they dive into the turquoise water. Fresh alpine air adds a touch of tranquility. The town, while occupied, seems empty. I can see why royalty would frequent here; it’s almost as if I have the entire place to myself. “Take a deep breath and relax,” my meditation guide says. “Experience pure serenity.”


28 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

Aix-les-Bains, I soon learn, is deceiving. It’s more than a place to unwind, it’s an important region for gastronomy. I’m now nestled in the mountains, hundreds of metres above sea level, eating at Le Belvédère restaurant. Built in 1882 to attract the attention of Queen Victoria, Le Belvédère is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The panoramic views look more like a movie scene than reality. Faint clouds hover next to me as the sky turns pink and purple. I indulge in wine and steak while watching the sun set between the mountains. I can’t decide what’s more surreal, eating between the French Alps or enjoying the same moment as a queen.


ANNECY My journey through Rhône-Alpes continues, this time over Lac d’Annecy. I’m relishing in a boat tour over Europe’s purest lake. One side of the lake is full of adventure with visitors paragliding through the mountains. The other is a quiet, picturesque backdrop with a private castle – a seemingly obvious characteristic of a medieval town like Annecy. Annecy is a mix of new and old. Its cobblestone pathways and marvelous architecture show a town frequented by the counts of Geneva, while its luxury hotels and delicious restaurants mirror present day. Known as the ‘Venice of the Alps,’ the lake’s crystal clear water streams through winding canals in the main town. Amidst touring the city centre, I stumble upon Brasserie Brunet, a restaurant owned by Michelin-starred chef Laurent Petit. It’s an affordable way for me to indulge in fine French cuisine. I can’t tell the difference, though. The dishes are just as exquisite as the meal the night before. For the moment, I still feel like royalty.



Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 29

Freedom to discover, confidence to explore Save C$100* off per person

+ applicable early payment discounts

Save C$100 off per person from now until March 31, 2020. Combinable with applicable early payment discounts if booked and paid in full before December 18, 2019 for 10% and February 27, 2020 for 7.5%. Not valid on Costsaver, custom groups or any other offers. Subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time. Other conditions apply. TICO #W1583987.




ÉVIAN-LES-BAINS The next day, I find myself floating above Lac Léman in a futuristic catamaran called Évian One. I am heading to Évian-les-Bains, a resort town known for its mineral water of the same name. As we glide along the lake, formed 15,000 years ago from a glacial melt, we’re graced with views of both Switzerland and France.

fountain. But locals and tourists know it’s the source of one of the most famous mineral waters in the world. As I dive deeper into the town and its history, I learn that the water from this spring takes many years to flow down from the mountain top. It’s completely untouched from outside sources, and, when taken from this fountain, is free. I watch a local woman fill her water bottle and I follow suit.

Once in Évian, my group and I tour the town. First, I visit the city hall, a former vacation home of the Lumière brothers. Then I visit the Source Cachat.

Here, my tour ends with dinner at La Table restaurant. Local ingredients fill the menu. At this point, I’m seasoned enough in my royal experience to know whatever I choose will be delicious. As I look around the table, one thing becomes clear, you don’t have to be a king or queen to enjoy the finest luxuries in life.

The Cachat spring is a colourful juxtaposition to the beige stone walls that surround it. To the naked eye, it’s just a

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 31

Ultimate Family Vacations


River Cruising WITH KIDS By Leah Rumack

These days, a child on a river cruise isn’t the rare – or non-existent – sight that it used to be. “That’s my breakfast friend,” my eight-year old son, Benjamin, says breezily as a waitress waves at him across the dining room. Then he gestures toward the cook behind the pasta station. “And that’s my lunch friend.” It turns out that Ben has a lot of friends on this ship. My husband, Jason, Ben and I are taking a summer river cruise down the Rhine with AmaWaterways. As the sole little kid onboard, Ben is something of a celebrity. “Hello, Mr. Benjamin!” his favourite bartender calls out (Ben’s nightly order? A Shirley Temple). While the other kids on this sailing are teens travelling with their extended families, these days, a child on a river cruise isn’t the rare – or nonexistent – sight that it used to be. When AmaWaterways started noticing interest in multigenerational or grandparents travelling alone with grandkids taking off a few years ago, they decided to embrace it. (The minimum age to sail on AmaWaterways is four, but the

recommended earliest age is eight.) All of AmaWaterways’ newer ships, including AmaKristina, our home for the week, have been built with adjoining rooms, more suites and cabins with pullouts to cater to this growing segment. Our 235-square-foot room has a queen bed and a chair that pulled out into a single bed. AmaWaterways also has a partnership with Adventures by Disney, where Disney charters the boats and tweaks the excursions and onboard programming to appeal to groups travelling with younger children. Disney brings some of its own kid-specific programmers, but otherwise, the ship’s staff is the same, which is perhaps why they’re completely unruffled when, upon arrival, Ben immediately jumps into the glass elevator and rides it up and down, waving maniacally, or when he orders a hamburger or hot dog every night and needs his ice cream to be “plain, just plain!” “I am used to this,” laughs our waiter. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 41

“Multigenerational groups love the size of a river cruise ship,” says Brenda Kyllo, Vice President of Strategic Alliances, AmaWaterways. “You’re not losing each other all the time, and everything is so convenient.” We definitely notice this – there’s never any of the “where the heck are you?” stress that we’ve had on ocean cruises. If I can’t find them, there are only so many places my boys can be. They are usually splashing in the small rooftop pool or playing on the life-sized chessboard next to it – and it only takes me about seven minutes to cover the ship from end to end.


The other great thing is that all the shore excursions are included. Each day, there’s usually a biking or hiking option and a couple of city-focused tours – but if you just feel like hitching a ride into town on the tour bus, but then exploring on your own, you can at no extra cost. “Families appreciate the flexibility,” says Kyllo. “I was on one sailing and the mom just took the kids to a park, the dad went on the bike excursion, and the grandparents did something else, but they like knowing they’re all coming together at the end of the day.” We definitely take advantage of this ease – you don’t even need to book your shore excursions in advance, which can be key to dealing with kids’ unpredictable moods. One day, Ben and I go shopping in Cologne while Jason goes on a beer tasting. We all feel like we’re in one of Ben’s storybooks when we visit Riquewihr, a pretty medieval village in France. Jason eventually gives up shouting “Castle Alert!” after we pass the 25th castle on one particularly scenic day sailing through the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While the guided excursions are obviously geared toward adults, judging by the feverish maps Ben draws, and the stories of empires built and lost that he scribbles when we get back to the cabin every night, he’s definitely absorbing the daily history lessons, too. “That’s why we want our sailings to be inclusive,” says Kyllo. “We feel so strongly about the richness experiencing other cultures brings to children.” On the last night of our cruise, Ben sits dutifully in his chinos and collared shirt, munching on his hamburger and waving to all his friends. “Would sir like some wine?” the waiter asks him, brandishing a sparkling flute of Sprite. “Yes, please!” Ben says, and then they fist bump. Hey, why didn’t I get a fist bump?! Guess we can’t all be Mr. Benjamin.


34 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019





Discover the ultimate in luxury from your spacious balcony suite aboard the extraordinary AmaMagna. With five bars, four unique restaurants – including Jimmy’s, a warm family-style dining venue – and an expansive Zen Wellness Studio, the AmaMagna has quickly become the most luxurious cruise ship on the river that appeals to travelers of all ages.

Spacious suites with full balconies

Exquisite, locally sourced cuisine

Inviting public spaces

Please ask our Travel Advisors for complete terms & conditions.

Health & Wellness

How to

HAMMAM Like a Local

Once the place to go to gossip and arrange marriages, today’s Turkish baths give visitors a chance to relax to the max and have good, clean fun. By Michele Sponagle




A trip to Turkey just wouldn’t be complete without a sticky piece of flaky baklava, a cup of Turkish coffee, or heading to a hammam, also known as a Turkish bath. It’s home to a wellness ritual that spans centuries with roots dating back to the Roman and Byzantine times. To get the most out of the experience, take cues from locals who continue to go to socialize and honour religious traditions. Whether you’re battling jet lag or want to understand more about Turkish culture, a hammam is designed to leave you feeling blissful and give you the softest skin you’ve had since you were a baby. Throughout the country, there are different types of hammams catering to locals and tourists. What you choose depends on your budget and your comfort level with being rubbed and scrubbed head-to-toe by a stranger. A traditional Turkish hammam starts with a steamy wet sauna for 10-20 minutes to get a good sweat going and help untie those knotted muscles before you stretch out on a raised white marble slab, which is also heated. Next is a dry exfoliation with a textured mitt to remove dead skin cells, a thorough soaping with a tsunami’s worth of fragrant bubbles, oodles of massaging, and repeated rinsing with warm or cool water poured from large metal bowls or jugs.


Some facilities offer a DIY option. It’s less expensive than having an attendant (usually of the same sex as you, but not always) do all the hard work. If your budget permits, spring for an attendant so you can be babied like a member of Ottoman royalty, lay back and do nothing. It is gloriously indulgent – which is what you’re aiming for during your vacation, right?

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 37

Some hammams have separate facilities for women and men, while others post designated times by gender. Not very many are co-ed, so double-check before you arrive. First-timers often wonder how to cover up during the treatment. It is a matter of personal preference. Depending on the hammam, you can go naked, or use the large, cotton cloth towel provided (a pestemal), to keep everything under wraps. Men don’t usually wear anything underneath, but some women wear swimsuit tops or bottoms (or both). Still unsure? Follow the crowd. In Istanbul, go low or go high. If you’re keen on authenticity, then forget the frills. Try a rustic neighbourhood place like the Kadirga Hammami, built in 1734, where a treatment with exfoliation and foam massage rings in at less than $25. The Çirağan Palace Kempinski hotel offers a luxurious spa setting for a gentler version of a traditional hammam, which may be overly vigorous and uncomfortable for unseasoned Westerners. Treatments start at around $200. Chic or cheap, copy the locals and bask in your afterglow by sipping on mint tea and just chilling. It’s an experience not to be hurried. HISTORIC HAMMAM © ÇIRAĞAN PALACE KEMPINSKI


38 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

cruise to hawaii, unpack once and island hop with Princess





up to

E R!

Get immersed in island life on board and ashore + enjoy up to $85 USD in onboard spending money!†



250 USD


to spend on board!‡

15-day hawaii

15-day hawaii

28-day hawaii

Roundtrip San Francisco Grand Princess ® | Mar 7, 2020

Roundtrip Los Angeles Emerald Princess ® | Mar 30, 2020

Roundtrip Los Angeles Island Princess ® | Apr 11, 2020

Balcony fares from*

3,892 CAD


*Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses of $313 CAD are included.

Balcony fares from*

3,799 CAD


*Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses of $219 CAD are included.

Balcony fares from*

5,368 CAD


*Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses of $312 CAD are included.

*Fares apply to minimum lead-in Balcony categories on a space-availble basis at time of booking. Fares for other categories or sail dates may vary. †Up to $85 USD Onboard Spending Money per stateroom is applicable to first/second-berth guests only. Third/fourth-berth guests are not eligible. Onboard spending money may be used on a single voyage only, is not redeemable for cash, cannot be used in the casino and expires at the end of that voyage. Offer is not transferable and may not be combinable with other select offers or other onboard credits. Onboard spending money is quoted in U.S. dollars and is based on the ship’s onboard currency. Void where prohibited by law. ‡Applications to receive this benefit must be made no later than 14 days prior to the cruise departure date. Offer is valid for eligible military personnel in the U.S. and Canada only. Free onboard spending money is in the form of onboard credit and credit amount is per qualifying passenger and is provided in the operational currency of the vessel. Maximum of two military personnel per booking. This offer cannot be used for casino credits/charges. Offer excludes Travel Agent fares. Offer is combinable with other onboard credit offers. Other restrictions may apply. Eligibility includes active military, retired military and disabled military veterans with proper verification. ©2019, Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. Ships of Bermudan and British registry.

Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 39

Soft Adventure

40 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

Walking in the

HIMALAYAS The Himalayan mountain range runs 2,400 kilometres across the border of India, and through other countries, including Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. By Mariellen Ward

As someone who has travelled extensively in South Asia, I have long been drawn to this region – and, in fact, chose to make the lower Himalayas my home when I moved to India. I now live in Rishikesh and continue to visit the Himalayas elsewhere whenever I get the chance. Here are some favourite memories. NEPAL Though the entire country is mountainous and a famous destination for trekking, you don’t have to be a mountaineer or skilled, high-altitude trekker to enjoy Nepal. There are a lot of less strenuous treks, like the one I did in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu is a big, dusty Asian city. It’s fascinating, but if you prize fresh air and soaring vistas, you need only get on a bus and travel a couple of hours to the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley. I start in Kopasi and walk for about three days, through paddy fields and villages, across suspension bridges and roads, and up and down several hills to stay in eco-resorts and a Buddhist monastery.


Namo Buddha is my final destination. It’s a sacred mountain that’s home to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery with incredible views of the distant white peaks. Walking into the temple for daily prayers is like entering another world. Every square inch is plastered with rich, colourful tapestries and paintings, heady incense fills the air, and the monks sit cross-legged in long rows chanting to the accompaniment of loud vibrating gongs, bellowing conch shells and shimmering cymbals. It sounds like a celestial thunderstorm and gives me shivers. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 41






BHUTAN Visiting Bhutan is a dream come true. In order to preserve their unique culture, this Buddhist Himalayan kingdom has very strict laws in place such as mandating traditional architecture styles and dress codes during working hours. They also restrict scheduled flights into the airport at Paro to very few. The highlight of my week in Bhutan is the hike to Taktsang Palphug Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. This mythic monastery, clinging to the side of a craggy mountain, is the country’s top tourist attraction. But to get there, you have to hike up a steep forest path. I find the altitude in Bhutan very difficult, and gasp for air all the way up, encouraged by my two guides. However, I only make it about three-quarters of the way, to a tea house directly across a chasm from the monastery. “Happiness is a place between too much and too little,” as the saying goes, and I achieve it on that day. 42 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

INDIA My most memorable moment in the Himalayas is the morning of my birthday, a significant one, in Darjeeling. I arrange for a pickup at 4 a.m. with a local tour company to drive to Tiger Hill. The objective is to see one of the most glorious sights that nature bestows: sunrise splashing a myriad of colours across the face of mighty Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, a mighty massif with five peaks. But I am told the chances are slim, that cloud cover had obscured every sunrise for the past two weeks. Nevertheless, we set off, optimistic the clouds would part on my auspicious day, to join dozens of others crammed onto a ledge with a front-row view. And we are not disappointed. As the sun comes up above the horizon on my right, the white wall of the Himalayas, stretching as far as the eye can see on my left, lights up with varying hues of rose, gold, lavender. This is perhaps the best birthday gift I have ever experienced.

It was a bucket list experience for me, and it was

absolutely amazing! Lucia Markson


Travelling solo doesn’t mean travelling alone. Here at Just You - the number one choice for solo travellers in Canada - our worldwide escorted tours bring together like-minded people and are full of truly unforgettable experiences.

Soft Adventure


Northern Italy’s ALPS By Mark Sissons

From the dazzling Dolomites to azure Lake Garda, Trentino lures adventurous travellers to the northern part of Italy. Relatively little known, this is the sunny side of the Alps. 44 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019


When you dream of an Italian holiday, perhaps you imagine exploring fabulous Florentine palaces, cruising Venetian canals, sampling wine at Tuscan vineyards and admiring Roman ruins. But for adventurous travellers, the ideal Italian vacation involves more active pursuits like trekking amid UNESCO World Heritage sites, admiring the pinkish alpenglow at a mountain refuge, or slicing through the waters of an azure alpine lake aboard a speedy catamaran. From the grandeur of the Dolomites to idyllic Lake Garda, Trentino will fuel your appetite for outdoor adventure while serving up generous helpings of la dolce vita. This sunny side of the Alps is Italy’s gateway to mountains, lakes and action sports, and it is best known as a ski holiday destination. In summer, it receives far fewer visitors than its more famous neighbours, making a holiday here refreshingly manageable and relaxing. Summer in Trentino offers epic mountain hiking and biking with dazzling views of the Dolomites. There are options to cruise the crystal-clear waters of its fabled lakes. It also includes picturesque piazzas and a Mediterranean ambiance, making it a superb place to relax, re-energize, and toast your good fortune with a glass of Trentodoc spumante.


Early June is a particularly lovely time to explore Trentino – hiking, sailing, paddle boarding, dining and sightseeing your way through one of Italy’s hidden gems. From the provincial capital of Trento, plenty of options await. Take an easy but spectacular hike to Rifugio Croz dell’Altissimo, surrounded by the breathtaking Brenta Dolomites. Inhale the alpine fragrances while e-biking around Lake Molveno,


considered one of Italy’s most beautiful lakes. Stroll through Fai della Paganella’s Forest Bathing Park. Or soar high over Lake Molveno on a tandem paragliding adventure. A 90 minutes’ drive southwest of Trento brings you to shimmering Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Narrow and ringed by mountains, its shores are covered in olive and lemon groves and lined with resort towns and ruins. Most popular is Sirmione, with Scaliger Castle and remnants of a Roman villa. There is also Riva del Garda, famous for the Ora del Garda, a reliably strong wind that blows every day, making it a world-class sailing, windsurfing and SUP destination. If watersports are not your passion, you can always take the plunge into the magnificent scenery of canyons in nearby Valle di Ledro. Or soak up the views of Lake Garda from the rock walls overlooking the lake during a cliff-climbing class. What Italian adventure would be complete without indulging in the typical cuisine of the region? Fortunately, Trentino doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gastronomic pleasures. Hearty mountain cooking here infuses German and Austrian influences, as one would expect in a border region. First courses range from spätzle to strangolapreti, served with locally cured meats and Trentingrana cheese. Sweets like strudel and Kaiserschmarren follow popular mains like Tyrolean goulash and juniper deer, accompanied by white wines like Gewürztraminer and reds like Lagrein and Teroldego. Hungry yet? You certainly will be by the end of each vigorous day spent embracing the fresh air and fantastic scenery on an outdoor adventure in the magnificent heart of the Italian Alps.


Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 45

P er fect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas


Discover a private destination that totally reimagines what’s possible in a day. A place that’s bolder than any other. At Perfect Day at CocoCay, your family will encounter endless ways to fill your day with one-of-a-kind experiences designed to conquer more unknowns and cultivate more lasting memories at every turn.

Floating Cabanas — Coco Beach Club SM

Daredevil’s Peak SM

Oasis Lagoon SM

BRAGGING RIGHTS EARNED Dial up the thrills with one record-breaking adventure after the next. Plunge down the tallest waterslide in North America, Daredevil’s Peak SM. Take your coolest family photo yet 450 feet up in a helium balloon. Then conquer the Caribbean’s largest wave pool before soaring across 1,600 feet of zip line. When it’s time to recharge, soak up the scene in the largest freshwater pool in The Bahamas, Oasis Lagoon SM. And for the ultimate retreat, find your zen at Coco Beach Club SM opening January 31, 2020, where you can take a dip in an oceanfront infinity pool, indulge in gourmet cuisine and kick back in the first Floating Cabanas in The Bahamas. And when the day is done, the adventure’s just begun on the boldest ships at sea — from 3-night weekend getaways to full blown week long thrill-a-thons. Come Seek the Royal Caribbean ®.

Book a Balcony or Suite on select sailings by December 31, 2019 and receive a complimentary Specialty Dining Experience for Two*


*Specialty dining for two applies to new bookings made November 1 – December 31, 2019 for any 4-night Caribbean or Bahamas sailing departing March 1 – June 30, 2020 in a Balcony or Suite. Offer includes one complimentary specialty dining experience per stateroom for two guests. Offer is valid for lunch for two or dinner for two, one per sailing. Venues vary by ship. Offer is combinable with all offers and promotions, except other specialty dining offers. Offer available to residents of the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. Offer subject to availability and change without notice, capacity controlled, cannot be transferred, and may be withdrawn at any time. Royal Caribbean International reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions, disallow any redemption or inappropriately duplicative submissions, or those that are inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the offer, and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. Coco Beach Club including Floating Cabanas is currently in development and is scheduled to open January 31, 2020; all features and timing are subject to change without notice. Images and messaging for Coco Beach Club may include artistic renderings. Perfect Day and CocoCay are registered trademarks of Royal Caribbean. Perfect Day, CocoCay and Come Seek are registered trademarks of Royal Caribbean. ©2019 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships’ registry: The Bahamas. 19070484 • 10/11/19

Cruise Vacations


Sea of Cortez By Keph Senett

With some of the most remote and biodiverse places on Earth, the Sea of Cortez is also known as the Galapagos of North America.

I’m rocked awake by the gentle juddering of the ship’s engine, a deep sigh after hours spent travelling through the night. Careful not to rouse my bestie, Kim, who’s snoring in the next bunk, I open the cabin door and walk out onto the deck. We’ve dropped anchor, it appears, on Mars. We’re in the middle of the sea, morning-placid except for the trailing ripples left by a low-flying pelican. The rising sun projects a lightshow onto rocky ridges rising from the water and there is not another single living thing in sight. I shake Kim awake, eager to share the view before the sun washes away the Merlot stain in the sky. 48 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

I’ve never been drawn to desert landscapes. I imagined it a desolate, thirsty place of relentless heat and not much else, but when I learned about the Sea of Cortez – a gulf between the peninsula of Baja California and the Sonoran Desert in mainland Mexico – I was curious. What might it be like at the confluence of these opposite environments? Morning coffees in hand, Kim and I climb to the top deck of our ship, UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavor. We gaze out at the volcanic rock, which turns pink and puce and purple in

In the days that follow, we snorkel, kayak, and horseback ride – activities that bring us face-to-face with some of the region’s stunners.


the shifting light. Sea birds – gulls, terns, and grebes – amp up their morning concert and, by the time we’ve drained our mugs, the sky is a pale rosé. A lot has been written about the Sea of Cortez. Writer John Steinbeck visited with a scientist friend in the ‘40s; Jacques Cousteau called it the aquarium of the world. By happy geographic accident, this gulf and the islands it contains are some of the most remote and biodiverse places on Earth, resulting in yet another nickname: The Galapagos of North America. Everything from the terrain to the marine life to the local flora and fauna is strange and wild, and being among them feels, well, like being on Mars. My first taste of the fantastic comes on a shore excursion when during a couple of hours spent beachcombing, I discover an array of astonishing creatures – or rather, their remains. Here, the sea has returned to the shore a spiny pufferfish, the pointy skull of a dolphin, and the inverted sheath of a snake’s shed skin. There are nearly


Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 49

a Bick’s pickle). At the salt pan, our guide reaches down and harvests a taste. Then he pulls out a bottle of tequila and a few limes. “Let’s try it the traditional way.”


That night, we return to the top deck, this time to take in the spectacle of billions of stars, visible in the inky sky. On the way to our cabin, we meet a group of fellow cruisers peering over the rail at a patch of bioluminescence blooming in the water. We stay and watch, marvelling at this darkened place lit magically both from above and below.

900 species of fish in the region, our guide tells us, and around 90 species are endemic, living here and nowhere else. It’s the same with the animals and plants. Baja is a place of living things that could not live anywhere else. In the days that follow, we snorkel, kayak, and horseback ride – activities that bring us face-to-face with some of the region’s stunners. A pufferfish carcass is an amazing thing, but so, too, is a living one floating past looking like a football with a face. A squadron of rays put on a show, leaping in formation. I swim with a school of parrotfish, then dive to get a closer look at the reef. I discover something else: a spiky behemoth camouflaged in the rocks. “Scorpionfish,” the guide chuckles as I splash away. Because we’re visiting in January, we search out grey whales that have migrated south with their young. (November through January visitors might swim with whale sharks.) After a brief overland journey to Puerto Adolfo López Mateos, I realize just how isolated we’ve been. The tiny seaside fishing village feels like Manhattan. We get very lucky. The captain of our fibreglass panga knows the water and the whales well; it doesn’t take long before we’ve found a pod, mothers, and babies together.


The following morning, I get my excursion briefing. “They’re puppies,” the guide says of the sea lion pups we’ll visit, “and like any others, they’ll nip you.” I’m ready to play. We take a skiff to the rocks at Isla Monserrat where fat bulls sun themselves and bark in our direction. I enter the water and can’t help but laugh into my snorkel as an adolescent sea lion torpedoes between my legs, bites at my flipper, then circles back to blow bubbles in my face. On our final day, Kim and I walk the salt flats on Isla San Francisco. We disembark at the beach and head into lowlands surrounded by a horseshoe of rocky cliffs. The plant life is weathered from wind, a patchy carpet of scrub punctuated by overgrown cacti. Despite its plain appearance, the salt flats are teeming with endemic plants – in this case, salt-tolerant succulents like the iodine bush and pickleweed (the piece in my cheek tastes exactly like 50 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019


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Ethical Report Detours

Ethical Travel Report:

How Sweet it is, Indeed By Karen Leiva


Wearing a white beekeepers’ hat and veil, my bare hands are gripping a tray with hundreds (maybe thousands) of buzzing bees. It’s quite a rush. Until I feel something crawling on my finger. My worst fear is not a sting, but rather dropping the tray and sending all these bees into a swarm of confusion. I hold on and take a breath. For such a little insect, they sure do make a big impact – in more ways than one. There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about saving the bees, but Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have been providing a haven for bees on their rooftops and in their gardens for more than a decade. There are more than 40 honeybee apiaries and wild bee hotels on Fairmont properties around the world. Here, at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, there are approximately 250,000 bees on the rooftop producing a lot of honey – about 200 pounds of it every year. In addition to the honeybee apiary, the rooftop’s pollinator 52 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

bee hotel is designed to attract, support and protect indigenous bees by giving them a much-needed habitat. The hotel offers tours that are open to the general public and its guests for a chance to see the bees and learn more about them. The tours are led by a member of the hotel’s Bee Team. So passionate are the staff at Fairmont Waterfront about the bees that they took the project one step further by partnering with expert beekeeper, Julia Common, co-founder of Hives for Humanity, to introduce 27 mason bees houses (these bees are non-stinging and key pollinators) to its garden and across the city. Hives for Humanity works with people from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest areas in Canada. Through Hives for Humanity, the Fairmont Waterfront rooftop garden and hives are currently maintained by people from this neighbourhood. “We have a lot of marginalized people in the



#FairmontBuzz Fun facts about Fairmont’s bees • The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C., is home to 10 colonies with approximately 50,000 bees in each, producing 700 pounds of honey every year. • In 2011, a record-breaking 800 pounds of honey was harvested from Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, one of the world’s first hotel rooftop apiary. SAFARI ENDEAVOUR IN AGUA VERDE

©UNCRUISE ADVENTURES • More than 2,500 honeybees have made their homes at the Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China.

• Bermuda’s bee populations have been dwindling, but Fairmont Southampton hopes to turn that around with the recent introduction of hives.

Downtown Eastside,” says Kristyna Vogel, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Fairmont Waterfront. “Hives for Humanity uses beekeeping and candle making, and all these lessons from around the hive, to help people create a sense of self worth and self esteem. It’s about building skillsets for marginalized people, but mostly it just brings them together. It’s sort of a first step of bringing them back into society.” After my rooftop hotel tour, my bee experience continues at Fairmont Waterfront’s ARC restaurant with a bee-inspired menu. The seasonal Give Bees a Chance menu includes dishes that focus on foods pollinated by bees (bees are responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat). Look for options like cauliflower steak with a hint of harissa and a side of curried cashew ketchup. Plus, there are desserts like burnt honey ice cream that include honey from the Fairmont Waterfront hives, right off the comb – it really doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 53 OBSERVATION HIVE ©FAIRMONT HOTELS & RESORTS

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Cruise Vacations


Connections By Emma Yardley

A river cruise along Portugal’s Douro River provides a platform for this writer to connect with her family’s past and create new memories for the future.


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Thanks to my mom, I’ve always known that obrigada is how women say thank you in Portuguese. Despite being an Anglo-Canadian girl growing up in rural B.C., I also knew that azulejos are multi-coloured, heat-reducing tiles that cover so many Portuguese buildings, and that port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley and served in small glasses. When my mother left her English convent school in 1961, for six months, she lived with the Guedes family on their centuries-old estate, Quinta da Aveleda, just outside of Porto. She was there to help their two daughters, Teresa and Luisa, with their English; the Guedes girls, in return, would share their life with her in northern Portugal. While not much official teaching went on, the cultural exchange forged my mother’s strong connection to the country, which she passed down to me. 56 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

So, when I was checking my itinerary for Portugal’s River of Gold, a 10-day bus-and-boat tour by Viking Cruises, one optional tour jumped off the page: wine tasting at Quinta da Aveleda. I signed up immediately. Arriving in Porto is like stepping back in time. While the Romans settled in the city giving it the name Portus Cale (beautiful port), it was the meteoritic rise of port-wine production in the early 1700s that gave Porto its still-standing-today maze of hilly cobblestone streets, massive riverside warehouses, and colourful, azulejo-covered homes, seemingly stacked one atop the other. For over 1,500 years, the main avenue for moving goods from the fertile, wineproducing Douro Valley to the Atlantic was the Douro River. Traditional, flatbottomed rabelo boats and their 12-man crews made the harrowing (often fatal) journey along the rife-with-rapids river, AVELEDA HOUSE PORTUGAL ©EMMA YARDLEY

up until the mid 1960s when a new highway opened and a set of dams calmed the waters. A handful of these iconic boats still bob in the river on the city’s edge as a floating nod to the past. Our vessel, the state-of-the-art Viking Helgrim, is a far more modern (it launched in March 2019), but was also designed specifically for the Douro – its shallow hull and smaller size (it has 53 staterooms compared to 95 on other Viking Cruises river vessels) fits snugly into the river’s five locks and can nimbly navigate its sharp bends. But before we head up the river into the Douro Valley, where dry terraced vineyards, lush riverside orange groves and olive plantations dominate the landscape, I have an estate to visit. Just a 15-minute bus ride from Porto’s city centre and we’re already surrounded by vast green grapevines, orchards heavy with summer fruit, and lush deciduous forests. The gardens are breathtaking. Since the Guedes family founded the estate in 1671, they’ve been planning the space and adding species collected from their globetrotting travels, basing the main area on an 18th century English garden. “Even now, one of the older members of the family takes care of all the details,” says estate guide Renata Figueiredo. “It’s rare to find the same family taking care of it for 300 years.”

I think about how much time my mom spent wandering these paths, looking at these rows of English roses that, despite seeming out of place in Portugal, still somehow thrived. I also find out that Mom withheld some important facts. The Guedes family, Sara Mello, our Viking Cruises host guide tells us, is “quite a rich and important wine family.” In fact, they produce one of the most popular wines of all time, Mateus Rosé, which sells around two million cases a year; in Portugal, they are considered close to royalty. Suddenly, my mom’s old stories make more sense: how she’d pick up the grandmother from her house by horse carriage to bring her to the Guedes family chapel for nightly mass, or how there were strict protocols on who sits, drinks, and eats when. I wish I could tell her I saw the rambling stone house where she stayed, all covered in flowering vines and romantic balconies – but this trip is one she couldn’t make, having passed away two years ago. “You’re the first visitor I’ve had here that actually has a connection with the family,” says Mello. “Your mother would be thrilled that you’re here seeing this.” Mello has no idea just how right she is.




EMBRACE THE ADVENTURE, ON BOARD AND ASHORE From the majestic fjords of Alaska to the ancient glories of Greece, explore the world and all its marvels on a Holland America Line cruise.

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Terms & Conditions: Fares are based on Promo LG. Featured fares are per person based on double occupancy, cruise or Land+Sea Journeys only. Fares are in Canadian dollars. All savings amounts are included in the fares shown. Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses are included and range from CAD 267 to CAD 273. Subject to availability. For more information about our stateroom categories and suite descriptions, and to view deck plans and for full terms and conditions applicable to your cruise, please refer to hollandamerica.com or the appropriate Holland America brochure. Offers have limited space and may be modified or withdrawn without prior notice. Other restrictions may apply. Ships’ Registry: The Netherlands.

Cruise Vacations

Fit for a

Cruise By Liz Fleming

Eager to explore the fascinating ports of the Mediterranean? Sail aboard Holland America Line’s Koningsdam from Civitavecchia, Italy on a round-trip 12-day cruise. Dine like royalty but hike, bike, kayak, and walk every day – and potentially dance all night too – and you just might come home fitter than you left.


My husband, Jamie, and I have been avid cruise fans since we first climbed aboard a ship more than 15 years ago. We’ve been to Alaska twice, cruised the Caribbean, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, sailed through the Panama Canal, and circumnavigated Bermuda. We have explored Europe on river cruise ships and travelled the Mediterranean on both large cruises and small sailing schooners. This time, we are aboard Holland America Line’s Koningsdam in the Mediterranean calling on ports in places like Greece, Croatia, Italy, and Montenegro. Choosing our shore excursions for this latest trip was a challenge, particularly in Croatia because there are so many great options. Would it be better to hike ancient Dubrovnik’s city walls, immerse in Game of Thrones settings, or grab kayaks, then go snorkelling at Betina Beach? Should we escape the Dubrovnik crowds altogether and bike the Konavle valley? Would we rather hike Krka National Park near Split to see a 17-tier waterfall or take a quad bike adventure through the Dalmatian bushland and then swim at the most beautiful beach on Ciovo Island?


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Every port offers great options, many designed for active guests. Because you can’t control the weather, flexibility is a must. The threat of a storm cancelled a morning beach excursion one day, but the sun later


made a surprise appearance, so after a quick stop for pain au chocolat and drinks to go, we hiked to a nearby beach. Settling ourselves on the sand, we swam and laughed and chatted with the friendly vendors strolling the strip, offering everything from jewelry to tablecloths to acupressure massages. In Argostoli, Greece, we sailed into the caves at Melissani Lake where stalactites hanging high above our small rowboat shimmer in the eerie light seeping through cracks in the rock. One grey morning, we wandered the twisty streets of Korčula, Croatia, stopping to chat with a young jeweller making intricately twisted silver balls to hang in his shop window. When our legs finally complained, we found cafés where we sat and sipped cappuccinos and watched the world wander by – pure bliss.

Choosing our shore excursions for this latest trip was a challenge, particularly in Croatia because there are so many great options.

Jamie is fascinated by land formations – particularly the kind that blow up – and the Mediterranean doesn’t disappoint. Sailing past the smoke-topped Stromboli volcano (just missing its most recent eruption) had fuelled Jamie’s appetite to see one up-close, so we hiked Italy’s Mount Vesuvius. No easy stroll, our trek up the steep mountain pathway was long and hot, but at the top, we found a tour guide who looked like Johnny Depp and cracked jokes like a stand-up comedian. Mixed in with the jokes was enough solid information to satisfy even the most passionate “volcanophile” – well worth the sore calf muscles.


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The most adventurous expedition of our cruise began as we sailed into the harbour in Kotor, Montenegro. We were standing at the railing, chatting with a group of outdoorsy New Zealanders and Australians, when one of the women asked, “Are you hiking to the fortress?” and pointed to what I would have called a chapel, perched high on a cliff above the bay. Fortress? Well, maybe fortresses are smaller and have crosses in New Zealand, I thought. Before the words were out of her mouth, I knew we’d be doing that climb. It wasn’t a volcano, but it was a challenge….and it was Jamie’s birthday. Once ashore, we wandered through the streets of Kotor, accompanied by a seemingly endless parade of purring stray cats, until we arrived at the entrance to the stairs leading up the cliffside. “It’s almost 1,400 steps,” said a heavy, red-faced Brit, panting his way down the last few steps. “Good luck.” 1,400? Nonsense, I thought. It couldn’t be that many steps. It wasn’t. In fact, to get to the ‘fortress’ I thought I’d seen from the ship was less than a third of that. Unfortunately, what I’d seen wasn’t the fortress at all, but rather a long-deserted chapel. The actual fortress – and the goal of our walk – lay another 900 plus steps up the cliffside.


An hour later, sweaty and tired but triumphant, we reached the ramparts of the old Fortress of St. John (Sveti Ivan) at approximately 260 metres above sea level. As we sat on the ancient ramparts and gazed down at Koningsdam in the harbour below reminiscing about our cruise. We’d enjoyed every minute onboard Koningsdam, savouring the specialty restaurants and main dining room. We’d caught every main stage performance, danced in the B.B. King’s Blues Club and Rolling Stone Rock Room, and sang along with the pianists at the Billboard on Board. We’d fallen into bed after midnight every night but were up every morning ready for the next adventure. A cruise is what you make it – and this was definitely one of our top experiences. AERIAL VIEW OF KONINGSDAM ©HOLLAND AMERICA LINE


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Worldly Delights

World’s Finest Food

FESTIVALS By Tim Johnson


TASTING AUSTRALIA Taking place in Adelaide, a lovely riverside city wedged between two of Australia’s premier wine regions (Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale), this annual event in late March brings together the best food and drink options from across South Australia. Browsing food, craft beer, and local wine at the festival hub, Town Square, is a highlight, but this 10-day event also offers a broad variety of other activities. For example, Tasting Australia Airlines spirits participants on day and overnight culinary trips that include shucking fresh oysters by the blue waters of Coffin Bay, or sampling everything from honey and cheese or seafood on Kangaroo Island. And you can learn a thing or two by taking one of the festival’s master classes tasting wine, beer, and spirits. 64 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019



HAWAI’I FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL Food, wine, and cocktails always taste better when you consume them in paradise. Spanning three islands – Maui, Oahu, and the island of Hawai’i – this annual festival, held in October, reflects the food and drink transformation that has swept across the state, putting fresh, local ingredients on the plates of visitors and locals alike. Bringing together more than 150 chefs and culinary and beverage experts, the event celebrates the surprising diversity of gastronomical influences that have impacted this place, from Portugal to Asia (and beyond). Dine on slow-cooked, local beef in Honolulu, taste Iberian treats in Waikoloa Beach, then put your feet in the sand, sip craft cocktails and dine on signature dishes from 13 internationally recognized chefs, right on the beach at Kaanapali, finishing dessert just in time for the fireworks.


Take a drink While food is important, it’s even better when you have a fine glass of something to wash it down. Sample more than 400 rums at RumFest, an annual event in London. Or sip a bouquet of botanicals at Gin World in Washington, D.C. Beer lovers will want to check out Montreal’s Beer Fest, for a chance to sample some 500 brews.

PIZZA FEST This is a place that loves its pizza – born in Naples in the 18th century, legends hold that the dish really got a boost after Queen Margherita visited the city in the 19th century and chose a pie comprised of mozzarella, basil and tomato (the colours of the Italian flag). Now, thousands come here to southern Italy in September for Pizza Fest, where you can sample other traditional recipes at a long line of stone ovens. Try tossing a little dough while learning to create your best pie at a variety of culinary workshops. SINGAPORE FOOD FESTIVAL In this island-city state, the standard greeting in Singapore is “Have you eaten?” Everything from Indian to Chinese delicacies are served up steaming at thousands of tiny stalls in hawker centres across the island, something celebrated in the recent movie, Crazy Rich Asians. And at Singapore’s annual food festival, this culinary obsession is pursued in earnest. Attend events where local chefs serve up staples like chili crab and kaya toast. Sample foods at STREAT, which brings together some of the city’s finest hawker fare to a single spot along Marina Boulevard.


Vacations® • Winter 2019 • 65

Worldly Delights

Eat Well in the Land of

PURA VIDA By Roderick Eime

The tiny Central American Republic of Costa Rica leads the world in sustainable tourism.


Johnny Rodríguez grins broadly as he heaves on the huge lever, crushing a stalk of sugar cane in the rudimentary press. The rich juice runs down into a bucket while the mashed cane is set aside for compost and cattle feed. Here at Playa Blanca on Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula, the Quiroz-Rodríguez family has been cultivating and harvesting the sweet, bamboo-like product for some 50 years at Trapiche Don Carmen. Carmen, Johnny’s sprightly father-in-law, is still helping out while the children look on expectantly, knowing that a sweet treat awaits them. Johnny is proud as punch with his 100-year-old trapiche, a rough wooden mill set up to crush the long juicy stems while his horse, Ricki, hauls the heavy beam attached to the old grinder.

66 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019



Deep in this thickly wooded valley, the 100 per cent organic product is boiled and purified into molasses plugs called tapa de dulce using their own wood-fired stove and handmade mahogany moulds. The process takes place in the yard of the little brick house while Noemí Quiroz, his wife, mixes a sweet concoction of molasses, nuts, coconut, and milk powder served to our group with a broad smile. In recent years, Costa Rica has become the poster child for eco-tourism. When people talk about green and sustainable travel, they often look to the little Central American nation as the template for soothing an ailing environment and creating, arguably, the happiest nation on Earth. Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948, diverting funds to social and environmental programs. To the catch cry of Pura Vida (pure life), the country of around five million inhabitants (colloquially called ‘Ticos’) now punches way above its weight when it comes to such social and economic indexes such as happiness, carbon footprint, and civil liberties.


Later in the day, we are entertained by schoolchildren singing and dancing in traditional costume while a trio of mischievous wild macaws mocks the entire proceedings from their perch high in a massive fig tree. Our picnic complete, we head to the Finca Köbö cacao plantation where we discover far more than humble chocolate. Juan-Luis, our guide, walks us through a tiny section of the farm where 85 different varieties of fruits, spices, herbs and vegetables thrive in the rich soil. The fully organic farm yields such exotic crops as custard apple, noni, cinnamon, turmeric, jackfruit, star apple, and several varieties of citrus and guava. “The noni is full of antioxidants and vitamin C,” he says, slicing the pungent fruit with his pocketknife, “the taste is not nearly as bad as the smell.” Perhaps it is the much-lauded health benefits of the pungent fruit that is indicative of what we must endure to mend our broken world. A little discomfort and perseverance for a better life for all. Pura Vida!


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Worldly Delights

Tasting Queensland: Creative cuisine in a surfer’s paradise By Cinda Chavich

Wild, indigenous ingredients and organic farm-to-table menus are bringing savvy diners to Australia’s Queensland coast, for tasty explorations beyond the beach.


BEACH BIOSPHERE It’s both the laid-back, family lifestyle and local bounty that lured celebrity chef Matt Sinclair from the big city to a beach town along Australia’s Sunshine Coast. “Chefs who have young families have had a big influence on the emerging food culture in Queensland,” the MasterChef Australia contender tells me, serving up South Asian-inspired specialties at his Sum Yum Guys restaurant in Sunshine Beach. “The Sunshine Coast is not the hustle and bustle of the city but it’s the whole package. People are food-obsessed up here — the spotlight is starting to shift away from the larger centres.”

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Sinclair combines local ingredients with Thai, Malaysian and Korean flavours. His grilled “toasty” starter is filled with lemongrass-scented spanner crab salad, the charred kabob of organic Australian Kobe beef short rib is served with roasted rice and sesame cream, and there’s red curry sauce and Thai basil alongside the lightly smoked Moolooaba mackerel. Noosa, the biggest beach town here next to the national park in a protected biosphere, is a place to surf, stroll the rainforest walkways and spy tropical birds and even elusive koalas. It hosts the annual Noosa Food & Wine Festival, one of the country’s top food events with visiting chefs and local producers celebrating the coastal bounty.


WILD AND INDIGENOUS FOODS Beyond the farm-to-table ethos in Australia is a growing commitment to indigenous ingredients. At the elegant Wasabi Restaurant & Bar in Noosa Heads, chef Zeb Gilbert joins forces with chef Alastair Waddell and forager Peter Hardwick of Harvest Newrybar, and aboriginal elder Lyndon Davis, to create a special wild food feast. Davis explains the aboriginal tradition of connecting with the local landscape, hunting, foraging and preserving Australia’s vast array of wild foods from the desert to the rainforest. “We learn to hunt and gather in the right places, and in the right seasons, looking after the smallest to the largest insects and animals,” he says. Today, that means a creative meal that ranges from slivers of local goose breast, drizzled with sweet-and-sour sugarbag honey from native Australian bees, to juicy pearls of pink finger lime atop barramundi that’s been cured in Green Ant Gin and served with sweet sea succulents. SURFER’S PARADISE The busy Gold Coast serves up a more urbane coastal lifestyle, complete with high-rise hotels, casinos and upscale restaurants. A contiguous stretch of beachside communities runs from Surfers Paradise to Broadbeach and Mermaid Beach. I head to the latter for a breakfast of flakey pastries, hearty egg dishes and a blue spirulina latte at Bam Bam Bakehouse, then meet artisan cheese maker Kat Harvey, who sells her French-style St. Billie goat cheese and creamy Tintenbar brie from a micro-shop in a repurposed ATM space. Granddad Jack’s Craft Distillery is making gin flavoured with local lemon myrtle, and you’ll find it in the creative cocktails at the new Burleigh Pavilion beach bar, set in a recently repurposed Art Deco public pool. That’s also the location of Rick Shores restaurant, famed for Ricks’ Fried Bug Roll – a tempura-fried Moreton Bay bug (flathead lobster tail) on a tiny, toasted brioche bun. It’s just one of the unique flavours to discover on a delicious jaunt along the Queensland coast.



Coast to Coast Canadian

F EST I VALS By Mariellen Ward

Though Canada is a vast country with a deep-freeze winter, it doesn’t stop the country from celebrating year-round. In fact, there are festivals of all kinds, from one end of the country to the other, in every season. Some festivals are celebrations of music, while others celebrate unique cultural and natural events. Look out for these festivals across Canada in 2020.

FEBRUARY CARNAVAL DE QUÉBEC – QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC Carnaval de Québec is one of the grandest festivals of Canada, boldly taking place during the coldest month of the year – February. This festival embraces snow and cold and makes winter a fun and magical experience. Bonhomme Carnaval, the festival’s smiling snowman mascot, is a familiar figure to children across the country. Festivities include canoe races on the river, ice sculpture contests, live music, and the legendary night parade.

JUNE ALIANAIT ARTS FESTIVAL – IQALUIT, NUNAVUT Have you ever been to a festival where the sun never sets? The Alianait Arts Festival takes place in late June, in the Canadian Arctic, when the region gets 24 hours of sunlight a day. This unique, alcohol-free festival is dedicated to helping build a healthier Nunavut through the arts. WENDAKE POW WOW – WENDAKE, QUEBEC Wendake, Quebec, is home to the Huron-Wendat First Nation. Its annual pow wow in June is the largest in Eastern Canada. A pow wow is a traditional gathering of First Nations peoples of North America, and nowadays they also showcase their cultural heritage. At Wendake International Pow Wow, expect First Nations dance and drum competitions, cuisine, themed conferences, handicrafts, and children’s activities.

JULY CANADA DAY – OTTAWA, ONTARIO Ottawa is the capital of Canada and all eyes are on this beautiful town on Canada Day. Thousands flock to Parliament Hill to celebrate the biggest Canada Day gathering in the country. Concerts, performances, and exhibitions abound, and it all winds up with a fireworks show that features more than a thousand projectiles and pyrotechnic effects. If you’re lucky, you can take it all in from a boat on the Rideau Canal. CALGARY STAMPEDE – CALGARY, ALBERTA Calgary is sometimes affectionately referred to as “Cowtown”, and the western spirit of the city shines during the Calgary Stampede. It’s one of the biggest and most well-known festivals in Canada with more than one million attendees each summer. Look for chuckwagon races and rodeos, enjoy country music, and barbequed meat. 70 • Vacations ® • Winter 2019

AUGUST ROOTS AND BLUES FESTIVAL – SALMON ARM, BRITISH COLUMBIA For 26 years, the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society has presented the annual Roots and Blues Festival on the third weekend of August. The music festival is located near Shuswap Lake, about halfway between Calgary and Vancouver. For four days, people gather to enjoy the music, of course, plus an international food village, a fun zone for children, an artisan marketplace, and camping in the pristine interior of British Columbia.

SEPTEMBER TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – TORONTO, ONTARIO Every September, the star power in Toronto gets turned way up as Hollywood descends on Canada’s biggest city. Taking over several city blocks, the Toronto International Film Festival is paradise for film lovers and star watchers. If you’re really serious about it, you will buy your pass weeks in advance, slave over the listings to make your choices, and then show up early to galas to take in the action on the red carpet.

OCTOBER CELTIC COLOURS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL – CAPE BRETON, NOVA SCOTIA The Celtic Colours International Festival in Nova Scotia celebrates both the fall colours and the music that’s dear to the hearts of the people of this province. Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia brought their love of music and their fiddles with them, and the fiddlin’ is still going strong. Nine days in October of live music, community suppers, and ceilidhs will have you tapping your toes.









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Ensemble Vacations Winter 2019