THE WINTER SUN SPECIAL
T o r o n t o
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
I s s u e
ISSUE 8 • ESCAPISM • 9
firstname.lastname@example.org CEO AND PUBLISHER
E D I TO R I A L
Katie Bridges EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
Taylor Newlands COPY EDITOR
David Ort CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Matthew Hasteley SENIOR DESIGNER
Brianne Collins STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY
Kailee Mandel COVER PHOTOGRAPHY
Jon Sufrin Michelle Jobin
David Horvatin Nick Valsamis ADVERTISING
Made possible with the support of Ontario Media Development Corporation. ontariocreates.ca
N ADDITION TO the onslaught of festive music, boatloads of mulled wine and mounting pressure to make nice with your in-laws, the holiday season also brings with it the requisite need for self-introspection. With a new calendar year on the horizon, it’s a time to take stock of how far we’ve come, what we’ve acheived (or if we’re feeling negative, what we haven’t) and what we’d like to see more of in 2020. One thing that never changes for us is the desire to see more of the world and go on even more adventures. In fact, travel is the one thing that’s not beholden to a barometer when we start soul searching – globetrotting is a bottomless bucket list that will never be complete because there is always more world to see or destinations to revisit with aplomb. However, if we had to add some jet-setting resolutions to our calendars, we’d start by saying yes more to experiences that take us out of our comfort zone. Whether that means visiting more of your own backyard during your precious weekends or finally booking that big transatlantic trip that you've been going on about for the last five years, there’s no time like the present. In our Winter Sun Issue, we’ve rounded out the year with some travel inspo from both ends of the spectrum. From the picturesque pitons of Saint Lucia (p. 34) and the magical coral reefs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (p. 50) to our round up of the world’s best slopes to ski (or snowboard and snowmobile) down (p. 38), we’ve got the spots to make you reconsider your Netflix subscription. Whether your holiday is filled with lazy days and leftovers or a suitcase-stuffed travel itinerary, we inspire you to make 2020 a year dedicated to even more adventure. ◆
Emily Buck LEAD DEVELOPER
AJ Cerqueti CHAIRMAN
Tim Slee PRINTING
◁ Get your weekly dose of Escapism, direct to your inbox. just visit: escapism.to/newsletter
© Twenty Two Media Group 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this magazine is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Twenty Two Media cannot accept responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. If you submit unsolicited material to us, you automatically grant Twenty Two Media a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in all editions of the magazine. All material is sent at your own risk and although every care is taken, neither Twenty Two Media nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be held liable resulting for loss or damage. Twenty Two Media endeavours to respect the intellectual property of the owners of copyrighted material reproduced herein. If you identify yourself as the copyright holder of material we have wrongly attributed, please contact the office.
In the Frame Just Landed The Escapist
26 ◆ In Transit ◆ Avalon Waterways 32 ◆ Short Stay ◆ Quebec City, Q.C. 34 ◆ Long Stay Saint Lucia
C OV E R S TO RY
38 ◆ It’s All Downhill From Here
EXCURSIONS 50 ◆ Yacht More Do You Want?
Don’t know the difference between St. Moritz and Blue Mountain? We solve your snowy indecision with a guide to the best global ski hills.
Private yachts sailing around the Caribbean might sound like a trip for the rich and famous, but we hop on board a TradeWinds catamaran for a taste of luxury.
Place Your Tibets
If the Dalai Lama calls it home, it’s good enough for us. We explore Dharamshala, one of the most spiritual sites in India, nestled in the Himalayan foothills.
A Hui Hou, Hawaii
From post-apocalyptic scenery and lava eruptions to precious poke and other tasty seafood finds, we find out what’s happening on Hawaii’s Big Island.
79 ◆ The Straight and Narrows
On a trip to Utah’s national parks, we find ourselves between a rock and a rock, as we delve into the open air playground in winter. 92
Like a Local
In the Frame
IN THE FRAME • DEPARTURES • 15
IN THE FRAME
The wide-ranging scenes in Christopher Cauble’s Yellowstone capture the park’s expansive, captivating beauty. [
In the Frame by escapism is presented in association with:
different species of conifers are part of Yellowstone’s diverse plant ecosystem.
NO PICNIC BASKETS HERE YELLOWSTONE: A LAND OF WILD AND WONDER BY CHRISTOPHER CAUBLE At nearly 9,000 square kilometres, it can be di�icult to get anything more detailed than an overview of the world’s oldest national park. In his new book, published by Riverbend,
Cauble zooms in on the park’s wildlife and natural beauty. He ably captures Yellowstone’s rugged strength and fragile interdependent connections. $36.15 amazon.ca
IN THE FRAME • DEPARTURES • 17
LEFT: Up from 24
animals in 1902, the thousands of American bison add 10-17 per cent to their numbers each year. Managing this population is one of the park’s greatest challenges.
IN THE FRAME • DEPARTURES • 19
BELOW: The Grand
Prismatic Spring is both the largest spring in the U.S. and the most photographed feature in the park.
20 • DEPARTURES • IN THE FRAME
can sustain speeds up to 70 km/h over long distances. Yellowstone is in the middle of their range from Mexico north to Canada.
In the Frame by escapism is presented in association with:
serious demands of big mountain athletes looking to conquer deep snow and steep lines in the backcountry, The North Face’s FUTURELIGHT™ fabric is a truly revolutionary way to stay dry inside and out. Plus, this hardwearing line of clothing is made with sustainability in mind, using recycled fabrics.
THE NORTH FACE Though the retail brand has grown in its 50 plus year lifespan, The North Face has never lost sight of its humble beginnings and commitment to the spirit of
adventure. Starting out life as a climbing equipment store in San Francisco in 1966, the brand has grown and evolved, developing cutting-edge technology to help its legion of loyal customers face the elements in style. Their new, most advanced breathablewaterproof technology is no exception. Designed to meet the
The Ritz London is up for sale and Airbnb Experiences adds animal adventures. These are the travel stories we’re following.
BABES ON A PLANE If a martini and an eye mask are key components of your flight-survival kit, this news is for you. Japan Airlines quietly made it easier for passengers to book a seat away from the wailing wee ones. When you go to pick your assignment, the map will be marked with an infant icon to note where parents plan to try and pacify their children under two. The system isn’t totally guaranteed – parents who pay with points or book through a tour operator won’t show up on the chart. It only works for bookings made through the JAL website and will not display if the aircraft changes.
ABOVE: The largest
GREET THE MET From a single Roman sarcophagus and several dozen European paintings, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has grown over a century and a half into one of the world’s great art museums. To mark their 150th anniversary, the Manhattan landmark will put on a Making the Met, 1870-2020 exhibition to showcase 250 works that represent important points in the Met’s storied history. The British gallery has been renovated and will reopen with newly donated decorative arts and design pieces. Special programming will stretch over the entire year, but April 13 is the big commemoration and the weekend of June 4-6 will see a roster of public events.
art museum in the U.S., the Metropolitan Museum contains over two million works in its permanent collection
PUTTIN’ UP THE RITZ - FOR SALE
Piccadilly: The name of one of London’s oldest roads comes from ‘piccadills,’ the lace collars popular in the 16th century
Do you have a billion dollars lying around? That’s what it will take to own a prime piece of London’s hotel history. Word is that the Barclay Brothers have hired Jones Lang Lasalle Inc. to offer the prestigious property in Piccadilly to a select list of purchasers. Buyers will be keen to hear that a neighbouring building – which could accommodate 50 new rooms in the future – will be part of the package. And if putting on a Ritz-branded bathrobe is also on your life list of travel goals, we’ll have to see what changes the new owner makes to the world-famous property.
JUST LANDED • DEPARTURES • 23
FED UP WITH FEES Did you notice a frustrating hidden fee show up on your most recent hotel booking? At their recent Explore ’19 conference, Expedia announced that they are fighting back by dropping hotels who charge extra resort or facility fees down the ranking of search results on their website and also Hotels.com. In some cases, especially in competitive markets like Las Vegas, the additional fees can be more than the flat room rate. Expedia competitor Booking.com fired the opening salvo in this battle with hotels by starting to charge commissions on added fees in May 2019.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Airbnb Experiences’ newest category connects world wanderers with over 300 animal species, offering responsible ways for travellers to observe, play with and care for animals. And it all happens alongside biologists, conservationists or fellow animal lovers. Featured experiences include afternoon tea in Loch Lomond with Hamish the sheep, a paddleboarding lesson in Fort Lauderdale with Mr. Beaches the corgi and a walk with a wildlife conservationist in South Africa to spot penguins. World Animal Protection helped craft the animal welfare policy.
Are you someone who thrives in a crowded coffee shop or bustling co-working space? Super 8 by Wyndham has a new room-arrangement offering for you. They’re piloting a room layout, called Room8 in select locations starting in early 2020. The idea is that separate sleeping spaces for
guests can enjoy afternoon tea in Loch Lomond with Hamish the sheep as part of the new animal experiences category that allows travellers to play with and care for animals while they’re on vacation
up to four guests are clustered around a shared common room. They hope this hostellike configuration will appeal to groups who want an open dining space complemented by entertainment options like vintage arcade games and foosball tables. Candice Buttars, an undergrad design student, created the idea with help from HGTV host Alison Victoria.
FEATURED EXPERIENCES INCLUDE AFTERNOON TEA WITH HAMISH THE SHEEP
24 • DEPARTURES • THE ESCAPIST
Push your boundaries without all the stress and anxiety. Taylor Newlands has an easy plan to make your next flight as hassle-free as possible.
SMART SERENITY Use these apps to make your phone an away-fromhome guru.
MINDFULNESS APP Find meditations – guided and silent – in varying lengths and for all types of meditators. Their five-day intro is perfect for your next trip. FABULOUS An all-rounder for lifestyle improvement. Achieve your health goals, whether you want to sleep better, exercise or be more productive.
UMANS ARE CREATURES of habit. Every day, I wake up at the same time, take the same route to work, stop in at the same local coffee shop (for the same order) and then plop down at the same desk. Apart from the risk of boredom, it’s safe and comfortable. I travel to get out of that routine and to do, see or eat something that’s unfamiliar to me. While being one of the most thrilling things a tiny human can do on this great big Earth, travelling breaks the needle on my internal Geiger counter for stress. When heading to another country, you’re removed from that familiarity and comfort. Add in the grogginess of jet lag, not being able to speak the local language and forgetting your toothbrush, and you have the perfect recipe for an anxiety attack. After having more than one experience thoroughly ruined by stress, I’ve set out to take a different, more deliberate approach to vacationing. We all hate getting to the airport three hours early. It’s
annoying and tedious and frankly, I probably just don’t like being told what to do. But it does feel a lot better to arrive early, shop around the terminal, read a book and grab a bite to eat, rather than racing down the 401 with spicy armpits screaming at my Uber driver to “step on it” because I’m about to miss my flight. If your destination is in another time zone (especially to the east), head off the jet lag by adjusting a clock a week in advance and try to go to sleep and consume your caffeine on your destination’s schedule. A melatonin pill before you take off can help with an on-board nap, but avoid this when flying during the day. Hydration is another key component of my relaxation regime. I’ve often been plagued with a “stress” migraine that was somehow magically cured by a glass of water. Spoiler alert: I was just dehydrated. I still experience the unavoidable stress of travelling, but now that I make an effort to take better care of myself, my trips feel a lot more like vacations. ◆
CALM This app is all about relaxation. From soothing sounds, to guided meditations and sleep stories, all of its features will help you unwind and chill out.
Melatonin: The hormone that tells our body it’s time to go to sleep. Properly timed, doses as small as 0.5 mg can reduce jet lag. Closer to 5 mg helps put you to sleep.
26 • DEPARTURES • AVALON WATERWAYS
A ROOM WITH A VIEW Wake up to a beautiful scene every morning with beds that face wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. They also open up so you can lounge in your suite and feel like you’re on an open-air balcony. Marble countertops, plush towels and your choice of mattress firmness complete the luxe experience.
Andrea Yu cruises Europe’s rivers with Avalon Waterways and discovers activities and historic sites at each stop.
WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT On Avalon’s Active & Discovery sailings, you can take your pick from a handful of activities at each destination. Tour secret spots of a 15th-century castle, canoe through quaint waterways or taste wine made from grapes grown on 1,000-year-old stone terraces.
APP-HAPPY Keep your travel plans organized with the AvalonGO app that puts your flights and transfers in once place. The app also includes GPS-navigated maps for each destination along with food and shopping suggestions so you can explore without draining your data.
© Germany Tourism Board
ESPITE WIDELY HELD impressions, cruises don’t have to involve enormous ships, hordes of guests and cheesy on-board entertainment. There’s a whole other category that might appeal to those eager for on-the-ground experiences. River cruises combine a traveller’s desire for exploration and discovery with the convenience of having your room follow you through multiple cities and scenic destinations. That means you see a ton of different locations and there’s no need to keep packing and unpacking your luggage or navigating various modes of transit to get from one town to the next. Like traditional cruise ships, you’ll cover longer distances while you’re sleeping, making it a pretty efficient mode of travel. But unlike larger vessels, you’re never out at sea for days on end so there’s always something interesting to peer out to. Avalon Waterways specializes in river cruises and their European itineraries are among their most popular routes. With plenty of unique destinations along rivers like the Rhine, the Rhône and the Saône, river cruises in Europe combine bustling cities with idyllic countrysides in one continuous itinerary. One of Avalon’s best European routes is their nine-day Active & Discovery on the Danube. Starting in Budapest and ending in Linz in northwestern Austria, this cruise strikes a good balance between kicking back, getting active and appeasing your inner history nerd. There are a host of included activities at each stop for you to choose from, like kayaking excursions, guided tours of historic castles and wine tastings. But if you choose to simply soak in the view from your comfy room a little longer, we don’t blame you at all. ◆
28 • DEPARTURES • HOT SHOTS
KATIE BRIDGES IN THE AZORES, PORTUGAL
HOT SHOTS Team escapism shares some of our favourite travel photos from the past few months. Follow @escapismto on Instagram to see more.
My cheesy dreams came true this fall when I had the chance to visit the “Green Island”, a.k.a. São Miguel, to explore the Azores’ dairy scene. Free-range cows – who behaved like guests at a spa, sashaying unhurried across an all-you-can-eat grass buffet – dangled off the mountains in every direction. Read the full story in the latest issue of our sister magazine, foodism.
ANDREA YU IN BRYCE CANYON, UTAH Agoraphobic nature lovers will be happy to hear that Utah’s national parks are blissfully quiet in the winter. Without the usual crowds of peak season, it was a breeze to snap this beautiful shot (pg. 79) of Bryce Canyon National Park’s iconic hoodoos covered in a dusting of snow. Sure, it was cold, but I’ll take the sub-zero temps over selfie-snappers any day.
TAYLOR NEWLANDS IN MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE It might seem like an unlikely place to find fantastic fare, but Manchester is on its way to becoming a really cool foodie destination. At the Crown Tavern, we dove into fresh oysters and a shrimp cocktail before scarfing down a juicy steak salad and a zucchini, corn and feta pizza. For an outdoor enthusiast like me, Manchester makes the perfect stopover to grab some grub on the way to one of the dozens of nearby ski hills.
RUB A DUB TUB
Our Honeymoon Club level room was clean and simple with extra touches to enhance comfort, like a spacious walk-in shower, a double sink and a very comfy king-size bed. The fridge is stocked with local beer like Red Stripe, plus wine, champagne and a full bar rail. The balcony, with its huge tub, is the real draw. Prudes needn’t worry about privacy since all outdoor spaces come equipped with a curtain. However, we personally recommend doing a swift robe drop and settling into a soak with perfect views of the ocean – and a glass of the other type of bubbles.
From here in town to sunny Montego Bay and icy Reykjavik, we revisit three hotel classics.
PROVISIONS IN PARADISE There’s no need to bring granola bars to Sandals Montego Bay. With 20 restaurants across two properties, you can try a different cuisine every night. Grab pastries and ice cream from Café de Paris, spice things up at the Jerk Shack on the beach or enjoy traditional ackee and saltfish at Cucina Romana. Don’t miss Soy Sushi Bar, a.k.a. the best sushi we’ve ever had at an all-inclusive. Or catch a dragon boat over to Sandals Royal Caribbean for authentic fare at stunning offshore spot Royal Thai. Pair your meals with all the Robert Mondavi wine and premium liquor you want.
SANDALS MONTEGO BAY This flagship resort in Montego Bay dates back to 1981, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the modern, 5-star property. The Jamaican operator was the first all-inclusive resort to offer à la carte restaurants back in the 1980s, and the chain of hotels is still sticking to its culinary roots in 2019. The 5-star Global Gourmet programme brings restaurant-quality dining to the world of all-inclusive resorts. Guests can use the “stay at one, play at two” privilege, which allows them to visit and dine at nearby Sandals Resort, Sandals Royal Caribbean (accessible by free shuttle service). Rooms from $725. sandals.com/montego-bay
RIGHT: With its elegant-casual vibe, Butch’s Steak and Seafood fits the general theme of elevated dining at Sandals Montego Bay
ROOM SERVICE • DEPARTURES • 31
INTERCONTINENTAL YORKVILLE TORONTO Just a short walk from St. George station on Bloor Street sits the unassuming, but super classic, Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville hotel. In addition to a king-size bed with a pillow-top mattress, living area and executive work desk, our Deluxe suite offered us great views of the ROM and the University of Toronto from its bay window. Though the eight-storey accommodation opened way back in 1989, its recent renovation, which sees introductions like the plush blue sofas, heavy purple drapes and metal accents, is meant to give a more boutique feel for guests. Rooms from $244. toronto.intercontinental.com
IT’S NINE O’CLOCK ON A...WEDNESDAY If you’re visiting the Intercontinental on a Wednesday, hotfoot it down to Proof Bar. Live piano music provides the perfect backdrop to soak up all those hotel lobby vibes while sipping on a rosemary-infused gin and tonic at the bar. If you don’t already have a booking at one of the excellent dining destinations in the ’hood, make a reservation at Signatures restaurant. The menu features dishes from chef Emmett Brett’s team including a duo of pheasant, grilled centre-cut pork chop or Canadian salmon. Plus, the hotel will be reviving its igloo program this winter.
REYKJAVIK KONSULAT HOTEL Located in a building that housed a high-end department store in the early 20th century, history and style are steeped into the Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel. Lush velvet and leather furniture, vintage-inspired decor and old photographs of consul Thomsen’s family who originally opened the department store (and inspired the hotel’s name) add refined character to this hotel. Reykjavik is a small and walkable city from pretty much anywhere, but the Konsulat’s location in the city’s oldest quarter adds additional character and charm. Rooms from $400. reykjavikkonsulathotel.is
FIT FOR A CONSUL The upscale vibe of the Konsulat continues into its 50 guest rooms and suites. Tufted leather accents abound (headboard, desk chair, sofa), enhanced by a mid-century modern aesthetic. Standard rooms have a standing shower complemented by an abundance of marble and gold fixtures. Blackout curtains come in handy for the long stretches of daylight when you’re visiting in the summer. As in most hotels in Iceland, breakfast is included with your stay and takes no shortcuts. Expect a buffet of cold cuts and traditional cured fish (smoked salmon and herring) along with pastries and a few hot items (eggs, sausages).
sheeting stands in for blocks of ice to make the igloo at Yorkville’s Intercontinental
BLACKOUT CURTAINS COME IN HANDY FOR THE LONG STRETCHES OF DAYLIGHT DURING REYKJAVIK’S SUMMERS
Katie Bridges heads to Quebec’s capital city and details a whirlwind itinerary that combines glimpses of history with cutting-edge gourmet experiences.
BY AIR: Flights
from Toronto to Jean Lesage Airport take around 1.5 hours. Fly from Pearson with WestJet or AirCanada or with Porter from Billy Bishop (all around $300 return). Downtown is about a 25-minute drive from YQB. BY LAND:
Quebec City is an eight-hour drive up the 401. Via Rail is an option, but be prepared for a 10+ hour journey.
FROM VIEILLE TO VOGUE
Be one of the first guests to stay at Monsieur Jean, which opened in late September on Rue Pierre Olivier Chauveau. This chic addition to historic Upper Town is walking distance from most attractions and offers guests floor-to-ceiling views of the St. Lawrence River. Decor here is playful but moody with signs of Monsieur Jean (the hotel’s omnipotent, namesake host) scattered across the property in flourishes of royal blue. Head across the chequerboard tiles in the lobby to the cubbyhole filled with books and board games, or get yourself some bedtime reading from the short story machine.
City – the province’s capital – is the oldest French speaking community in North America
Yves Tessier / Tessima
With arguably more history packed inside its old city walls than anywhere else in Canada, Quebec City is the long-weekend trip you’ve been meaning to take. Visitors will be rewarded with old-world charm that feels like you’re an ocean (and not a one-and-a-half-hour flight) away from Toronto. Horse-drawn carriages trotting down cobblestone streets will sneak into the photos you snap – but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a cosmopolitan hub with more than just tourist trappings. The 400-year-old city has a thrilling food scene and nightlife that will keep you up later than expected.
SHORT STAY • DEPARTURES • 33
FRENCH IMMERSION IN HISTORY
Dedicate time to unpacking the history of this oncestrategic fortress, the only walled city north of Mexico. Start at the star-shaped citadel and see for yourself how the city got its name from the Algonquin word “Kebec,” meaning “where the river narrows.” Terrasse Dufferin has the best views of Château Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel. Next, head to the nearby Plains of Abraham, Canada’s most important battlefield, where the British defeated the French in a short but pivotal battle in 1759. Don’t miss Quartier Petit Champlain, the oldest (and dare we say, cutest) commercial district in North America. If you don’t feel like taking the Breakneck Stairs, Quebec’s oldest staircase, ride the funicular to the shopping row.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham: This battle in the Seven Years’ War, which began on 13 September, 1759, was fought just outside the walls of Quebec City. Visitors can now tour the whole site.
GOURMAND’S GUIDE From bistros to burgers, here’s where to eat, drink and be merry in Q.C.
SAINT-ROCH’S RANGÉE DE RESTAURANT
Beyond Quebec’s old city walls lies the working class neighbourhood of Saint-Roch. What was once a run-down district has seen a Queen-West-esque transformation in recent years, with young professionals calling it home and visitors making the twenty-minute trek to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Le Clocher Penché is a bustling brunch spot with an impressive wine list and stellar plates of pasta. Down the road, L’Affaire est Ketchup is a small operation delivering big flavours – the only menu is handwritten on a chalkboard and their adventurous French cuisine (sweetbreads, bison) is whipped up in a tiny kitchen consisting of two electric stoves. ◆
LE SAM BISTRO ÉVOLUTION This upscale bistro lets you get up close and personal with the Fairmont Château Frontenac. Snag a seat in the sunny conservatory and watch tourists traverse the boardwalk as you sip classic cocktails and dig into life-changing courses like the Gaspesian lobster tail on tagliatelle.
Jean, a brand new boutique hotel in historic Upper Town, is blessed with stunning views of the St. Lawrence River
UNPACK THE HISTORY OF THE ONLY WALLED CITY NORTH OF MEXICO
LE CHIC SHACK This home for 100 per cent Canadian-beef burgers, in Place d’Armes, is worth the wait. Go all out and order housemade poutine with local cheese, and shakes made with Laiterie De Coaticook’s oldfashioned ice cream. Top tip: spike your milkshake.
CHEZ MUFFY Inside the Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel, they offer diners a lavish farm-to-fork menu – two can share ($120) a mix of decadent dishes like oysters and duck foie gras torchon. Snuggle up to the fire at this historic warehouse which dates back to 1822.
LONG STAY Michelle Jobin discovers what makes this gem of the eastern Caribbean supernatural.
Lush, green, bursting with life and dotted with hot springs, Gros Piton and Petit Piton are volcanic spires that flank Jalousie Bay. Gros Piton draws hikers that love a challenging climb and stunning views. Or, soak in the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site from Sugar Beach, where you can relax or take a dip and snorkel in the clear waters between the peaks.
DRIVE-IN VOLCANO AND SULPHUR SPRINGS
Ever wanted to walk into a (dormant) volcano? Or play in the mud? Saint Lucia has you covered. In Soufrière, the Sulphur Springs park is home to the world’s only drive/walk-in volcano. If you don’t mind the odour (because, sulphur), you can marvel at the volcanic remnants, indulge in a therapeutic mud bath, then wash it all off under a cascading waterfall.
SAINT LUCIA ROOTS AND SOUL FESTIVAL
Nightlife is always lively around Rodney Bay, but music lovers will want to time their visit for August, when the Roots and Soul Festival is on. The main stage at Pigeon Island National Landmark draws big reggae, hip hop and R&B artists from the Caribbean and around the world like UB40 and Tarrus Riley, but feels more relaxed and intimate than many other festivals.
REST STONEFIELD VILLA RESORT
Hidden in the tropical rainforest of Saint Lucia’s west coast, this boutique gem is all about rejuvenation. Overlooking the Pitons, each of the 17 private villas has a rustic-yet-luxe feel and a private plunge pool. Take the free shuttle to Sugar Beach or head to a yoga class for extra relaxation. The open-air Mango Tree restaurant offers wellness-focused local dishes plus a spectacular view. Rooms from $433.
This Canadian-owned resort on Labrelotte Bay boasts spacious villas with private pools from beachside right up into the surrounding hills. There’s a Mediterranean feel here, but the friendly vibe is all Saint Lucian. Windjammer’s expanse of white sand leading up to the Carribean plus premium dining options, spa and other amenities make it perfect for travellers of all ages looking for an all-inclusive getaway. Rooms from $216.
JADE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Boldly designed, a bit new age-y and ripe for romance, Jade Mountain rises over Anse Chastanet beach and is ideal for an adults-only holiday. Individual “sanctuaries” are accessible by private suspension bridges, opening up (literally, there’s no fourth wall) to infinity pools and a breathtaking vista. Active types can go jungle biking at Anse Mamin or snorkeling at the crystal-clear waters of Anse Chastanet beach. Rooms from $1,614.
LONG STAY • DEPARTURES • 35
EAT FRIDAY NIGHT FISH FRY
Whether it’s at Gros Islet in the north or Anse La Raye further to the southwest, Lucians take this tradition very seriously. On Friday night, street parties are where you want to be for great music, cold drinks and the freshest seafood. Load up a plate with grilled dorado, conch (lambi), lobster and whelks, all caught by local fishermen and served alongside fried bakes, breadfruit and rice.
Allen Susser: Credited as one of the inventors of New World Cuisine (a blend of Caribbean, American and Latin), Susser has raised the island’s dining scene.
CASTRIES MARKET, ANTILLA BREWING COMPANY
Open since 1894, this open-air market is especially busy on Saturdays and brimming with flavours like local spices and banana ketchup (but also plenty of tchotchkes). Go early, skip the souvenirs and head straight to the freshfruit vendors. Thirsty after all that? Venture to nearby Point Seraphine and the Antilla Brewing Company for excellent craft beer, especially their Passion Fruit IPA that is perfectly refreshing in the heat.
RIGHT: Stonefield Villa Resort, nestled in a tropical rainforest on the west coast of Saint Lucia, offers guests uninterrupted views of the Pitons
OPEN SINCE 1894, CASTRIES MARKET IS ESPECIALLY BUSY ON SATURDAYS AND BRIMMING WITH FLAVOURS AND SPICES
JADE MOUNTAIN CLUB
To go with the eye-catching beauty of the resort itself, James Beard Award-winning chef Allen Susser designs a “brave new world of tropical flavours” for guests. Inspired by abundant local seafood and produce, as well as flavours from throughout the Caribbean, “Jade Cuisine” is an experience for all the senses. In an island famous for views, Jade Mountain stands out. The resort is home to a cocoa plantation, so their chocolate lab creations and local rum pairings are not to be missed.
38 44 50
Global Ski Hills Dharamshala, India
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 57
Big Island, Hawaii
IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE Whether you’re a skiing show-off or an alpine amateur, we show you which hills to head for this winter.
The world’s highest ski resort (China)
The year the Winter Olympics began
ITH AN ENDLESS number of settings for shredding the slopes, deciding on one location for your ski getaway can feel like an impossible task. While the mountains of Europe may be calling your name, there are just as many great options that don’t even require you to leave the continent or country. (Hey, some are just down the road!) To alleviate your off-piste puzzle, we’ve outlined some snowy suggestions for every kind of skier, breaking down the ideal trip for beginners, big trip-takers, daredevils and diversifiers looking past a pair of poles. Whether you’re seeking out double black runs or just double rum and Cokes at the bar, we’ve got the destination for you. >
Current world record for fastest skier
RIGHT: Copper Mountain, a ski resort located in Summit County, Colorado, hosted the World Cup tour in 1976
SKI HILLS AROUND THE WORLD • EXPERIENCES • 39
> ASPEN & TELLURIDE, COLORADO For the ultimate ski vacation Colorado is practically synonymous with skiing – and for good reason. The state boasts 300 days of sunshine and, on average, 762 cm of snowfall per year. If those aren’t perfect conditions for hitting the slopes, what are? Did we mention that the incredibly lengthy ski season in Colorado lasts from mid November all the way through to mid April? And best of all, the range in runs allows for every skill level skier to relish the five months of optimal skiing. As the name suggests, Buttermilk – in Pitkin County, Colorado – is a smooth, uncrowded hill that’s a great option for beginners and families; and a top spot for tearing up the terrain park. For two miles, a series of parks stretches from the top of Little Teaser to the bottom of the mountain, including jumps, logs, rails and a super pipe. With 70 years of skiing history, Aspen Mountain is a tried and true staple for black diamond runs. Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Aspen Mountain Powder Tours will take you to the backside to carve through plenty of fresh pow. Those well-versed in the world of skiing and snowboarding can head to Aspen Highlands for the steep, big-mountain and bowl-skiing experience. At Snowmass, there are enough trails to never ski the same one twice, but if you do get through them, there’s also a skating rink in the village. After a long day (or morning) of hitting the slopes, the après ski scene starts as early as 2 p.m. There are a number of ski-in-skiout restaurants and bars right on the slopes, like Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands. Down at the base of the mountains there’s even more on offer. At the W Hotel’s rooftop Wet Deck, guests can warm up in the heated pool or hot tub with a cocktail. If your goal is to get away from the crowds and enjoy serene, scenic skiing, minus the lift lines, Telluride is the resort for you.
ST. ANTON, AUSTRIA
For the après-skier If you’re the type of winter sport enthusiast that shows up at the hills just to join in for the party afterwards, St. Anton is your ski destination. Located in the eastern Austrian portion of the Alps, St. Anton has been
ABOVE: St. Anton is an Austrian village in the Tyrolean Alps that is often referred to as the “cradle of alpine skiing” for its pivotal role in the sport
known for its lively nightlife scene since the 1960s when the region first became known as the après capital of the Alps. Some of St. Anton’s most notable bars date back to its heydays. Krazy Kangaruh, which opened in 1965, was taken over by Austrian skier Mario Matt in 2009 and he has updated the bar for a newer generation of skiers. Just across the way, MooserWirt starts the party at 3 p.m. with Europop dance tunes and pints of beer (apparently the bar pumps out 5,000 litres of brew a day). These bars are located at the base of
the Galzig lift so you can go from slalom to stein in a matter of minutes. For a lower-key night out, head to Underground on the Piste. While a free shot of schnapps accompanies each drink purchase during Happy Hour, things quiet down for dinner hour (which is only open to those staying for a meal). Settle down and enjoy fondue and an à la carte menu accompanied by live music. Evening entertainment aside, St. Anton is still a worthwhile place to challenge hardy skiers, with 340 kilometres of slopes and some of the snowiest weather in all of Europe. The region continually invests in its ski infrastructure, installing lifts to link neighbouring slopes and opening a resort and concert hall, the Arlberg1800, in 2018.
SKI HILLS AROUND THE WORLD • EXPERIENCES • 41
LEFT: Big White Ski Resort, located on the highest summit in the Okanagan Highland in British Columbia, receives 750 cm of annual snowfall
opened Woodview Mountaintop skating circuit is a 1.1-kilometre loop with great views over the Niagara Escarpment. Or head to Blue Mountain Village for shops, bars and restaurants to dine and imbibe. And if winter pampering is more your style, visit the nearby Scandinave Spa for its hot-cold-relax hydrotherapy cycle to re-energize and rest.
BIG WHITE, B.C.
THE NEWLY OPENED WOODVIEW MOUNTAINTOP SKATING CIRCUIT HAS GREAT VIEWS OVER THE NIAGARA ESCARPMENT BLUE MOUNTAIN, ONT.
Big White Ski Resort
For the beginner Those dipping their toes into the snow for the first time can head just a few hours north to Collingwood to test their skills on Blue Mountain. Among the relatively flat terrain of Ontario, this 1,480-foot hill is the best skiing you’ll find in the province. Among its 12 lifts and 42 trails, there are excellent routes and programs for budding bunnies to practice. Blue Mountain’s Newbie Program is made with complete beginners in mind, along with those that have been away from the slopes for a long time and require a refresher. Allday drop-in lessons, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., take the pressure off your vacation schedule and let you pick up the basics on your own time. Programs for both youth (13 to 17)
and adults is reassuring for grown-ups that might be deterred by the prospect of skiing alongside pee-wee learners. Once you’ve got into the swing of things, amp up your game on one of 30 night-lit trails (the slopes will be significantly quieter after dark) or catch some air in a freestyle program which includes jumping, a half-pipe, rails and slope-style skills. Otherwise, if you’ve concluded that skiing Also known as a skimobile, a isn’t your jam, worry snowmobile is a not. There are plenty motorized vehicle of activities here that travels across snow and ice. The that won’t require earliest model traversing inclines. was patented in If you prefer ice to Manitoba in 1911. snow, the newly
For the multi-sport lover While the idea of shoop-shooping down white snow mountains is the ultimate goal for most ski-bums, some of us want to take part in a pursuit that doesn’t involve poles. If you’re looking for something more wow than snow plough, this is the ideal location to engage in some alternative activities like snowshoeing or ice skating. About an hour’s drive outside of Kelowna B.C. (which is a scenic adventure in itself ), sits Canadian ski mecca, Big White. The resort, which opened in 1963, has a mountain summit of 7,608 ft. Plus, with over 38 acres of night skiing, it’s western Canada’s largest resort night skiing area – meaning that there’s more than one way to hit the slopes. Head to the Happy Valley Adventure Park, where you’ll find the Big White Tubing Park, with six specially groomed lanes for sliding down the hill. Gentle slopes for families in addition to faster lanes for thrill seekers ensure that everyone can get involved – plus it’s fully lit for night tubing. For those looking to gain some distance, snowmobiling is a great way to fly through British Columbia’s backcountry, either on your own or doubled-up with a friend. With an engine to power you through the forest across all that “champagne powder,” it’s a great way to experience everything Big White has to offer without the subsequent aching limbs. Prefer a more rustic mode of transport? Horse-drawn sleighs and dogsledding options are available. If you’re looking for more of a workout, the resort has plenty of activities to get your heart pumping. Big White is home to the only ice climbing tower in >
42 • EXPERIENCES • SKI HILLS AROUND THE WORLD
LEFT: St. Moritz, a picturesque resort town in Switzerland’s Engadin valley, has been featured in James Bond movies like “The Spy Who Loved Me”
park-inclined, or if you simply need a break from the terrain, there are more than enough downhill ski trails to keep you occupied. Mt. Iwaki’s highest run starts at 921 metres and you can choose between gentle slopes or steep courses to make your way down.
THE ALPS, SWITZERLAND
> North America, so don a pair of crampons and try to pick your way to the top of the 60-foot ice summit.
AOMORI SPRING SKI RESORT, JAPAN For the halfpipe hero For some snow enthusiasts, the rush of racing down a challenging run with the wind in your face and a puff of powder flying up behind you is enough to get the blood pumping – but for others it can be, well, a bit pedestrian. Anyone can get from the top of the hill to the bottom, but the terrain park is where the real style and skill comes into play. It’s where snowboarding and skiing becomes an art form. There are plenty of places to get some air, but our pick is Aomori Spring Ski Resort on Mount Iwaki. Japan might seem an unlikely
spot to find world class ski and snowboard conditions, but the country is home to mountains aplenty and has become known for its perfect powder. From beginner boxes to giant jumps, Aomori’s terrain park has everything you need to start your shredding journey, advance your skills or just get creative and have some fun. The small-medium jump line offers an opportunity to get just a taste of air time while larger jumps and both left A terrain park is an outdoor recreation and right handed hip area with obstacles jumps are there for –like jumps, a challenge. But the half-pipes and rails – that allows skiiers, main event is the 22snowboarders foot super pipe. and snowbikers to If you’re travelling perform tricks. with those a little less
For the bucket list big trip You’ve saved up, emptied out your piggy bank and maybe even hit some dry slopes in preparation for that ‘Big Trip’. But with so many great places to get your shred on, how do you choose? There’s no wrong place to ski in the Alps (Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy and Chamonix in France are both equally desirable), but if you’re looking for twee chalets, snow-capped mountains and rolling meadows that Julie Andrews would be proud to sing her lungs out in, Switzerland is definitely your best bet. The interconnected resorts of Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren offer skiers 200 kilometers of piste to play with and something for all abilities. While there’s no ski slope in Interlaken, it’s a great base from which you can go skiing (with crosscountry options) and snowboarding. Plus, if you’re looking for charm, the Jungfrau Railway is a stunning way to travel around the area. The route runs for nine kilometres between the Bernese Highlands and the Valais in Switzerland and includes Europe’s highest railway station as well as windows carved into a rock face. If you’re seeking luxury, St. Moritz – a historic winter sport resort that’s credited as the birthplace of winter tourism – is the powdery plot you crave. Located in Switzerland’s Engadin valley, the alpine resort town has hosted the Winter Olympics twice and boasts a frozen lake for polo, cricket and horse racing on ice. Plus, its picturesque streets will make you swoon with its Beauty and the Beast vibes. Don’t forget to reward all that physical exercise by gorging on fondue – the local Swiss specialty cheese, vacherin, pairs perfectly with all those hard-earned carbs. ◆
PLACE YOUR TIBETS Born cynic, Jon Sufrin experiences a spiritual awakening on his trip to Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama and site of Tibetan exiles, in the Himalayan foothills.
Roughly the number of Tibetan refugees
KNEW I HAD entered a region of oddballs when dusk hit and I found myself in a café called Pink Floyd – that was the actual name – with two new companions I had just met on a monkey-riddled footpath nearby, and the conversation veered into ayahuasca ceremonies, trances, shikantaza meditation, reincarnation and being taken over by spirits. A region of oddballs indeed – which is probably why I was enjoying myself so much. I came to Dharamshala, India, in part because it’s the home of the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan government in exile. This notso-minor detail makes Dharamshala, which clings to the steep Himalayan foothills in >
The year Dharamshala was annexed by the British
Words by JON SUFRIN
RIGHT: Kalachakra, a Buddhist temple in McLeod Ganj, is decorated with Tibetan prayer flags which can be seen all over the city of Dharamshala
DHARAMSHALA, INDIA • EXPERIENCES • 45
ABOVE: The city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is surrounded by cedar forests and stunning mountain ranges on the edge of the Himalayas
> a miraculous and beautiful fashion, potentially the best place in the world to experience Tibetan culture firsthand. That means, for one thing, Tibetan food, and lots of it: meaty bowls of thukpa noodle soup; steaming cups of yak butter tea (the O.G. of ketogenic beverages); marshmallowy momo dumplings. Then there’s my favourite discovery of all: lapig, a cool, refreshing, spicy mung bean noodle dish served, thankfully, on nearly every street corner in Dharamshala.
Like hordes of others, I also came for the meditation. I was a novice practitioner and wanted to do some deeper exploration, and, well, if India is a converging point for the spiritually minded – which it is – then Dharamshala is a mecca within the mecca for meditation practitioners. Certainly there is something ambient and enlightening about Dharamshala’s surroundings – 1,500 metres in elevation, trees extending to the edge of the horizon and, everywhere you look, monks swaddled in burgundy robes. Dharamshala is basically four towns all put together. The city proper is like most standard Indian cities, which means lots of traffic, crowds and noise. Move a little north
and things start to become more serene at McLeod Ganj, where large numbers of Tibetans – including the Dalai Lama – have conglomerated as they flee persecution from the Chinese government. Wander a bit further north still, past handicraft markets, tea stands, momo carts, guest houses and restaurants, McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamand you’ll stumble shala, headquarters across the villages the Tibetan governof Dharamkot and ment-in-exile. The 14th Dalai Lama fled Bhagsu, which kind of here in 1959 after blend together into the failed uprising one very spiritual, in Tibet. very strange town.
DHARAMSHALA, INDIA • EXPERIENCES • 47
WITH THE HIMALAYAS MAJESTIC IN THE BACKGROUND, AND THE BUTTERFLIES FLOATING ABOUT, THE SERENITY WAS OCEANIC
Amit Kg; Salvacampillo; D. Pimborough; Melissaenderle
It’s where the cafés might be named after psychedelic rock bands and where hippies from around the world come in search of anything related to spirituality, including but not limited to: reiki healing, chakra realignment, zodiac predictions, past life regression, mystical energy or maybe just plain old enlightenment. Anyone wanting to learn about any of that stuff will find some sort of class specializing in it just around the next corner, whichever corner that happens to be. Many people who travel here have a grounding in reality that seems dubious, but the steady flow of curious, open minds gives Dharamkot and Bhagsu a unique, carefree,
be-whoever-you-want-to-be feel. The food and lodgings are as cheap as they come here, and it’s impossible to predict what sort of quirky and unusual character you’ll meet from one hour to the next. These two villages are also home to a few renowned meditation schools, including the very popular Tushita Meditation Centre, which offers a 10-day silent retreat as an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. “Silent retreat” means exactly that: You leave everyday life for awhile, live at the centre and take on a temporary vow of silence. I dropped by Tushita for free meditation classes on most mornings during my stay, and I had good experiences there. But there’s something about the terms “too busy” and “meditation” that don’t seem to mix, and Tushita, as the go-to meditation spot for every tourist in Dharamshala, is a little too “too busy.” By the time I decided I wanted to do a full-fledged silent retreat, I ended up going to Thosamling, a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery located in a small village called Sidhpur, just outside Dharamshala. Yes, it is a nunnery, but anyone of any gender can go to take part in a short-term retreat. I knew I had made the right choice when my driver dropped me off at the edge of a quiet rice field and told me I’d need to walk roughly two kilometres to get to the nunnery. Isolation is, after all, a very rare commodity in India. With the Himalayas majestic in the background, the breeze gently tugging the rice stalks to and fro and with butterflies floating about, the serenity was oceanic. As I edged closer to the nunnery, I’d see a robed nun here and there nestled in some scenic pocket of nature, absorbed in meditation. It was all very Skyrim. >
RIGHT FROM TOP: The Dalai Lama’s presence is felt everywhere; Tibetan yak butter tea; a Tibetan artist paints at the Norbulingka Monastery
> Upon arrival I was told to give up my cell phone without delay. I was happy to do it, since I was here to become more attuned to the moment anyway. I was surprised, though, to discover that students such as myself were also discouraged from reading books or writing in our journals. Of course, we were also told to not speak a word the entire time, barring questions to the instructor during class. The retreat was led by Tenzin Sangmo, a Dutch nun who founded Thosamling in the early 2000s. Her teachings were very secular, free from the New Age mysticism that so easily accompanies spiritual practice. We were taught to sit with our backs straight, with good intentions, and to simply focus on the sensation of our breathing in a gentle manner. When our thoughts inevitably wandered, we were to easily return to focusing on the breath – if and when we remembered to do it. Our days were spent meditating, drinking tea, eating meals and meditating, with some extra meditating in between. We meditated on our breath, but also on the mountains outside, on the image of Buddha and on the sounds of the environment. The most difficult part for me, at first, was figuring out how to spend our two-hour lunch break, since eating only took around 15 minutes. My choices were limited, but I chose to spend this time simply sitting. I’d pick a tree or some other cosy spot and just sit down. I decided I would not care about bugs crawling on me or other minor inconveniences. During these extended sits I had some insights about the nature of boredom. I realized that a lot of the time, when we think we’re bored, we’re really just in withdrawal from constant overstimulation. The modern world has desensitized us to an infinitude of tiny things that can bring joy. I discovered that when I let go of all intentions and expectations, the act of just
RIGHT: Meditation centres are prevalent in Dharamshala, where guests can even opt to take a vow of silence during their stay
sitting became far more interesting than I expected. I was alive, enjoying the clean mountain air in a beautiful site dedicated to spreading peace. I sat and enjoyed the songs of birds, the sounds of a nearby brook and the pleasure of being a very lucky human being indeed. As the retreat progressed, news arrived that the Dalai Lama would be returning to Dharamshala from his world travels shortly. We would have the opportunity to see him, if we wanted, which naturally we did. So I ended up visiting the Dalai Lama at his temple in McLeod Ganj – and while I don’t really believe in auras, the Dalai Lama has an aura. Just being near him feels soothing. I found him underwhelming as an orator; he mostly gave repetitive platitudes about living with compassion. Still, he had an aspect of jovial wisdom about him, and a surprising sense of humour, and I believe as a whole he has done an admirable job at promoting Tibetan culture and ensuring that it will exist despite the forces that threaten to annihilate it. It took me a while to realize this, but I left Dharamshala a changed person. It opened a door in my mind. I have a new mental place I can go when life gets a little screwy. It’s that place I went when I was just sitting at the Thosamling retreat, a place of no expectations. I’ve learned that doing nothing – which does not include the likes of sleeping, resting, reading or walking, since these all constitute doing something – is as important as being active. Yes, having returned from India, I now place high value in literally doing nothing at all, and I will continue doing so for the rest of my life, which probably confirms that I am indeed a bit of an oddball. ◆
WHILE I DON’T REALLY BELIEVE IN AURAS, THE DALAI LAMA HAS AN AURA. JUST BEING NEAR HIM FEELS SOOTHING
DHARAMSHALA, INDIA • EXPERIENCES • 49
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES • EXPERIENCES • 51
Words by KATIE BRIDGES
YACHT MORE DO YOU WANT? Katie Bridges attempts to gain her sealegs and disconnect from modern life on a truly off-the-grid excursion around the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Distance from Saint Lucia, the nearest country
Average temperature in December
Islands and cays make up the Caribbean nation
LEFT: The Tobago Cays, an archipelago in the Southern Grenadines, are comprised of five small islands and extensive coral reefs
’M NOT SURE what’s going to be more of a challenge. A traveller prone to seasickness spending three days and three nights on a boat, or packing for a week away with only carry-on luggage. However, when I see the tiny sixseater plane that’s about to take us from Barbados to the island of Canouan in the Caribbean archipelago of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I’m suddenly relieved that I packed light. When we were told we would be meeting the CEO of TradeWinds, I pictured a serious looking man in a suit who would arrive with pamphlets about his luxury yacht chartering service. Instead, we are greeted by Magnus Lewin, a sunkissed and floppy-haired gentleman wearing shorts, flip flops and a linen shirt. >
> To layer the surprise factor, after a warm introduction, Lewin proceeds to remove his Havaianas and hop into the pilot’s seat – leaving us to climb the wing into our private plane and put on headsets in case we need to communicate during the short but noisy flight. I’ve never been a fan of flying – not least inside a tiny aircraft that seems to feel every bump in the clouds – but 40 minutes later, when we’ve finished soaring over the turquoise water and coral reefs of the Tobago Cays, it’s with a heavy heart that I step onto the tarmac at Canouan Airport. The disappointment doesn’t last long. After whisking through “security” we exit the thatched roof building, jump into a golf cart, and hurtle five minutes down the road to the Canouan Marina, where our luxury catamarans are waiting. The vessels – around 60 feet in length – consist of three bedrooms, a kitchen and living room, an
largely untouched part of the world is restrictive for the average traveller because of the high cost involved with chartering an entire boat – and if you’re not a sailor, once you add on the fee for staff to sail you around, you’re looking at a price point that would make everyone except Leonardo DiCaprio and Elon Musk wince. Which is where TradeWinds comes in. Though Magnus Lewin – our handsome pirate and co-founder of TradeWinds – has been on boats since he was a boy, he knew that sailing wasn’t accessible for everyone. After a series of hospitality jobs and a move to Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swedish-born Lewin launched TradeWinds in 1999, hoping to forge a middle ground between a sailing excursion and luxury hotel. Since then, they’ve welcomed more than 50,000 guests onto catamarans in some of the world’s most exotic places, from the Seychelles to Greece to French
UNLIKE THE BOATS I’VE BEEN ON BEFORE, THIS VESSEL IN NO WAY FEELS LIKE I’M TRAVELLING ON THE TITANIC IN THIRD-CLASS outdoor dining space and a front deck where guests can hang out and sunbathe. Before we’ve even finished our sundowners (Caribbean code for sunset drinks), my phone’s camera roll begins to look like a mosaic of the same sunset picture over and over again. But no matter how many times I try to put my phone away, I am compelled to snap just one more picture until eventually the sun disappears below the horizon. Unlike the boats I’ve been on board before – like a sailboat to Australia’s Whitsundays, which piled 20 backpackers below deck – this vessel in no way feels like I’m travelling on the Titanic in third-class. The cabins on TradeWinds’ luxury yachts are seven feet high, meaning there’s very little ducking involved, plus all suites are equipped with a queen-size bed and ensuite shower. Barring a lottery win, this yacht excursion around the Caribbean was not a trip I thought I would ever take. Visiting this
Polynesia. The week-long vacations allow novice yachtsmen and women to hop aboard and drop anchor in secluded spots that a cruiseliner could only dream of reaching. One such hidden gem is the Tobago Cays, where we find ourselves on day two of our trip. This other-worldly collection of islands surrounded by coral reefs offers some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Caribbean. At first it seems recognizable as some generic embodiment of ‘paradise’ but there is in fact a more concrete familiarity. Petit Tabac, located in the Cays, is the site of Jack Sparrow’s desert island maroon in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Given the character’s legend of escaping from a similar misadventure on the back of sea turtles, I have high hopes for spotting some of my own. With snorkel gear and flippers on, I do an awkward penguin-walk towards the back of the boat (or the ‘stern’ in nautical lingo)
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES • EXPERIENCES • 53
LEFT: TradeWinds takes guests to exotic destinations and secluded spots, like the Tobago Cays, on their luxury fleet of catamarans
and try to stop fogging the mask up with my breath as I impatiently wait for my turn. When it’s time to go, I half-step, half-jump with outstretched fins, wrestling with buoyancy until the Caribbean sea and I can agree upon a state of being. Head submerged, I float easily through the warm water. My track record for snorkelling could best be categorized as always the bridesmaid, never the bride, seeming to have a knack for arriving the day after a school of rainbow fish and dolphins put on a synchronised swimming display just below the surface. Long have I envied PADI-certified scuba divers who vanish into the depths of the ocean on trips like this, getting up close and personal with Sebastian and the gang while I can count the amount of exotic fish and dead coral I’ve spotted on one hand. At first, it seems like I will be thwarted by the same bad luck. But just as I am beginning to feel disheartened, I spot a square of sand twitching on the seafloor. A stingray shuffles to the right, ruining his camouflage and notching up my first spot of the day. Delighted, I start to move away, only to find I am hovering over a leatherback sea turtle, munching on seagrass. I watch the reptile for several minutes, levitating over the seabed, until he rises to the surface to catch his breath. While this isn’t the first turtle I see on my trip (we spot several of the creatures peeking out of the water as we sail), it’s the most special. The archipelago in the Southern Grenadines has such an abundance of coral reefs that there’s really no bad day to get within touching distance of the marine life. It also helps that none of the five small islands comprising the Tobago Cays are inhabited and the marine park is protected by The leatherback a barrier called sea turtle is the Horseshoe Reef. largest of all living Despite my early turtles and the fears, my seasickness fourth-heaviest modern reptile. only catches up with Unlike other marine me once on the trip, turtles, it does not aided by the copious have a bony shell. amounts of wine >
54 • EXPERIENCES • ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
ABOVE: The yacht chartering service recently built two private beach-front villas on the island of Mayreau, as part of its Aqua-Terra program
> Lewin generously shares from his personal collection. No amount of sea air can revive me, nor can the instant but fleeting relief I experience after jumping off the end of the yacht into the warm, but bracing water, be sustained. Following a stunning breakfast of eggs and exotic fruit (which I don’t touch) and black coffee (gimme gimme), we quickly get up to 50 knots on our way to Petit St. Vincent. While half of our group – those sensible enough to head to their cabins after the first bottle – reenact Lonely Island’s ‘I’m On A Boat’ music video, my fellow drinking crew hit the deck as the waves slap the boat. Green around the gills, we finally reach our next stop, gratefully accepting a hangover remedy in the form of a Piña Colada once we’re on dry land. Petit St. Vincent, or PSV as it’s known locally, operates as an eco-friendly boutique resort, so unencumbered by the usual conveniences that guests must raise their flag up a flagpole
to summon staff. With no swim-up bars, loungers or watersports on site, you could be excused for mistaking this for a deserted island. But this, I think as my toes sink into the sand and my breathing recalibrates, is the ultimate luxury – solitude. After travelling to a number of islands like Union Island and Petite Martinique, we reach Mayreau for the finale of our trip. The smallest inhabited island of the Grenadines, with a population of about 271 and only a handful of vehicles, is the site of TradeWinds’ newest project. For travellers like me, who love to be on the water but haven’t quite got their sealegs, the Aqua-Terra program offers the perfect compromise. TradeWinds recently built two private beach-front villas on the island of Mayreau, offering sailors the Petite Martinique is one of the islands of chance to bed down Carriacou and Petite in a luxury suite for Martinique, a depenpart of their trip. dency of Grenada. The founder was a The accommodation French fisherman comes with the same called Mr. Pierre five-star service (with from Martinique. staff on-hand to
cook dinner for guests), only this time you can watch those sapphire waters from the opposite perspective as you laze around the infinity pool. At the time of my visit, Tribu Villas Mayreau was already in the process of expanding with more villas and a beach club on the way. But even once their neighbours arrive, guests staying at the private beach locale will be about as close to serenity as its possible to be. After just a couple of days out of WiFi range I have a bizarre epiphany – I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. Out of the reaches of social media, with a schedule that bobs in and out of focus as gently as the catamaran we are sailing on, there is zero fear of missing out. Every activity here is a reward in and of itself, whether that’s swimming, reading, sipping a beer or simply napping on deck. On our last morning in paradise, I set to work on another arduous to-do list. With al fresco breakfast and gazing out at the horizon checked off, I turn to the final item on my todo list; one last swim back to the boat and, if I’m very lucky, one more turtle encounter. ◆
BIG ISLAND, HAWAII • EXPERIENCES • 57
A HUI HOU, HAWAII Andrea Yu discovers how Hawaii’s Big Island combines tropical luxury with remote, rugged landscapes and stunning vistas.
Volcanoes created the island
Words by ANDREA YU
of the world’s 14 climate zones
Letters in the Hawaiian alphabet
ABOVE: Hydroelectric energy from the Kulaniapia Falls helps to power an off-grid lodge nearby
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
BIG ISLAND, HAWAII • EXPERIENCES • 59
DO VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
The Island of Hawaii made headlines last year after Kilauea, one of its five volcanoes, erupted, causing a series of earthquakes, fissures and lava flows. Volcanoes National Park was the epicentre of the eruptions and has since partially reopened to tourists. Stop into the visitor’s centre to view a short video of the 2018 eruptions. Then gain a better appreciation for its enormity by seeing the recently enlarged crater for yourself. The southern end of Crater Rim Drive is now closed to cars but still open to walking visitors. Stroll for 30 minutes, avoiding sinkholes in the road along the way to the newly formed edge of a volcanic crater.
UMAUMA FALLS ZIPLINE
For the best view of the Umauma Falls, soar over them at up to 100 kilometres per hour on a zip line. This 90-minute experience includes nine zip lines that take you over a series of 14 waterfalls, with the opportunity to swim and paddle board in a private waterfall-fed pool. While it’s not for the faint of heart, zip lining is the closest experience you’ll get to unaided flying and the spectacular scenery of the Umauma Falls makes it well worth facing your fears. A team of guides help secure you to lines and brake your descent as well, making it a good option for first-time zip liners.
ROYAL KONA COFFEE MILL
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
Kona coffee is the region’s best-known export for good reason. Frequent volcanic activity has produced mineral-rich soils for growing flavourful beans. The coffee cherries here ripen at different times of the year so it’s hand-picked at optimal ripeness, contributing to the high quality – and cost. At Royal Kona, guests can take a short selfguided walk through the mill (don’t miss the underground lava tube) with plenty of coffee tastings available at the shop. Try the peaberry – a smaller bean which roasts more evenly for a smoother cup of joe.
LEFT: In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, new eruptions add to the post-apocalyptic scenery
SLEEP HILTON WAIKOLOA VILLAGE
When this resort opened in 1988, it was one of the world’s largest with 1,100 rooms spanning 62 acres, requiring a tram to shuttle guests between different areas. Activities for all ages are endless, making this an ideal spot for families. In the resort’s private salt-water-fed lagoon, guests can snorkel with tropical fish and sea turtles that swim in freely from the ocean. For an upgraded stay, book an ocean-view room in Makai at the Lagoon Tower and wake up to the sound of waves crashing along the rugged lava rock shores of the resort. Rooms from $306. hilton.com
HILO HAWAIIAN HOTEL
While many tourists see Hilo as a point on the way to Volcanoes National Park, this charming town is a worthwhile stop. Stays at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel combine retro charm (it was built in the 1970s) and classic Hawaiian hospitality with recently upgraded furnishings. From your ocean-view lanai (patio), watch locals casting their rods into the bay with Mauna Kea, the highest peak in all of Hawaii, in the background. You’ll also see Coconut Island from your room. Cross the bridge that connects it to town and dip your toes into the ocean, jump off of a small stone tower or simply admire the sunset. Rooms from $219. castleresorts.com
THE INN AT KULANIAPIA FALLS
One of the Big Island’s most stunning waterfalls also happens to have an off-grid eco-hotel perched at its edge, which gets hydroelectric power from the falls. Multiroom family cabins and individual suites have Asian-inspired designs while the main lodge delivers a homey feel (be sure to take your shoes off before entering). After a steep but short trek down a pathway, you’ll reach the base of the falls for a dip or stand-up paddle board excursion. At most times of the day, you’ll have these falls all to yourself. Rooms from $152. waterfall.net
RIGHT: At 62 acres, Hilton’s Waikoloa Village was built with a tram to bring visitors across the property
BIG ISLAND, HAWAII • EXPERIENCES • 61
62 • EXPERIENCES • BIG ISLAND, HAWAII
BELOW: The seafoodheavy menu at Kuleana Rum Shack pairs nicely with their list of rumbased cocktails
EAT KULEANA RUM SHACK
The folks behind the first distillery on Hawaii Island, who are making rum out of Hawaiian-grown sugar cane, have also opened a rum-themed eatery. Their mai tai is award-winning and the food menu combines Hawaiian recipes with fresh local ingredients. The Loco Moco – a fried egg and beef brisket with rice – is a simple Hawaiian classic with wartime origins. For the full experience, book a tour that takes you from Kuleana’s sugar cane farm on the north end of the island to its distillery in Kawaihae, ending with a meal at the Rum Shack.
HILO BAY CAFE
Hawaii boasts a vibrant mix of cultural influences, many of which are represented
in the island’s food. The Hilo Bay Cafe combines Japanese cuisine (sushi rolls, nigiri) with American classics (fish ’n’ chips, burgers) in an upscale environment. The Surf & Turf chirashizushi bowl blends the best of land and sea with a kalbi beef skewer, blue crab and ahi poke on a bed of sushi rice. Nab an outdoor table for your dinner and marvel at the incredible sunsets that cap off nearly every day on the Big Island.
SUISAN FISH MARKET
For a taste of Hilo’s freshest seafood, head to Suisan Fish Market, which also operates as a distribution point for fishermen to drop off their daily catches. Aside from shuttling seafood to restaurants and grocers in the region, Suisan also serves a wide variety of fresh poke with your choice of marinated seafood on rice or salad. Expect a bit of a spicy kick with most options and plenty of
punchy, fresh flavour. If you ask politely, the counter staff will offer you a taster cube of poke to help guide your selection. Everything at Suisan is served to-go but there’s plenty of picnic table seating outside to enjoy your meal al fresco. ◆
GETTING THERE WestJet flies from Toronto to Kona with a stop in Vancouver. To reach the eastern side of Hawaii Island you can also fly from Toronto to Honolulu (via Vancouver) and take a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Hilo. Public transportation is limited on the island but car rentals are abundant and the streets are easy to navigate.
TESTING THE WATERS With a collection of personalized river cruises, Avalon Waterways is making a splash across Europe. Picture the scene. You’re strolling around the streets of Europe – Paris, Prague, Vienna, you choose – traversing its cobbled streets and munching on the prettiest pastries before checking into a charming bistro to knock back yet another glass of excellent local vino. In these fantasies, there’s usually a river in the background somewhere, isn’t there? From the Seine to the Rhône, these meandering fixtures are an essential part of the romance of Europe’s oldest cities. Yet so much of our pilgrimages to the continent are
taken up with walking oh-so-close to these riverways, instead of travelling on them. Avalon Waterways, a river cruise company, has created a boatload of delightfully different and breathtakingly beautiful routes that are making waves with vacationers who want to see the world their way. Their collection of cruise destinations and itineraries don’t just visit the iconic cities like bigger ships do – they also get up-close with the tiny, off-the-beaten-path towns that your guide book won’t tell you about. If you’re new to river cruises, the Danube
is the perfect river to start with, winding and bending its way through 10 countries before emptying into the Black Sea. With nearly 30 routes to choose from along Europe’s second longest river, Avalon has something to float everyone’s boat. No other river in the world flows through four capital cities – Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade – making it a great way to test the waters. Take a six-day Danube Symphony trip and discover a stunning stretch of the river that sails through picturesque and vineyard-clad regions of UNESCO Heritage listed Wachau
AVALON WATERWAYS • PROMOTION • 65
LEFT TO RIGHT: Château Gaillard overlooking the River Seine; Plönlein Square in Rothenburg, Germany; Avalon Waterways guests explore on foot, on water and the view from their open-air balcony onboard
Valley, with its cliff-side fortresses, as it makes its way from Germany to Hungary. Cruise from Frankfurt to Nuremberg on the Heart of Germany tour, soaking up the Bavarian beauty of baroque Bishop’s Residenz and sailing to Kitzingen, the German state’s largest wine-producing area. Or head from the Black Sea to Budapest to experience iconic sights like Constanta and Bulgaria’s ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo, the old city of Belgrade and Pécs, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hungary. Because it just wouldn’t be Europe without all the walking tours and unique experiences that make those lasting memories, Avalon Choice selections let guests experience culture off the boat. Canoe through the Wachau wine region to Dürnstein, cycle around Amsterdam or join a cooking class in Berlin – then head back
to your suite to enjoy the open-air balcony before sinking into a bed facing the Danube. Running from Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary to Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, the Danube is a great way to dip your toes – plus, Avalon is the only Danube river cruise company to offer vacations below $1,200. But there are plenty more tours to blow you out of the water. Travel the Rhine from the Swiss Alps to Holland’s North Sea or spy the wine wonderlands of Burgundy and Beaujolais as you glide down the Saône. Or sail the Ganges and the Mekong in Asia or the Nile in Egypt. River cruising is one of the fastest growing travel styles – and with Avalon’s custom adventures, it’s easy to see why. ◆ If you’re river cruise curious, head to avalonwaterways.ca to find out where you can make a splash on your next vacation.
cruising coupons Head to avalonwaterways.ca to start planning your trip. Use the promo code Escapism100 when booking by January 24, 2020 to receive an additional $200 off per couple on on any European river cruise.
69 79 88
The Intrepid Series
Target Market 92
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Nuremberg Christmas Market, Germany
Like a Local 98
THE CHECKLIST • EXCURSIONS • 69
THE CHECKLIST Whether you’re going for speed or eager for style, these shades are perfect for your next adventure.
SPORTY SHADES REVERB
SMITH: These unisex
MEC: Perfect for
specs tuck neatly under helmets and wick water for those working up a sweat. Each pair comes with a set of rose lenses with 48 per cent light transmission – so only the trails will be blazing. $199.95, mec.ca
runners, hikers and cyclists, these unisex wraparound sunglasses have rubber temple tips. Military-grade fogfree lenses stop things from getting steamy so you can see all the way to the finish line. $39.95, mec.ca
SPOTS AND STRIPES STOWE
MICHAEL KORS: These
angled, rectangular frames will definitely get you spotted. And they’re not just chic – they also provide 100 per cent UV protection for poolside hangs and sightseeing strolls. $135, michaelkors.ca REBA
BAILEY NELSON: Who
said it’s hip to be square? Mix things up with these hexagonal statement shades (with contrasting titanium arms) by the chic, Aussie retailer. $245, baileynelson.com
THE CHECKLIST • EXCURSIONS • 71
FELINE FRAMES ISABELLA
OLLIE QUINN: Step back in time to the swinging
BAILEY NELSON: Are you kitten me? Throwback
sixties with this purrfect pair of goggles, designed to lift your cheekbones and transform you into the supermodel you are. $149, olliequinn.ca
frames don’t come classier than this mix of tortoise shell and metal in an old school silhouette that flatters most face shapes. $175, baileynelson.com
72 • EXCURSIONS • THE CHECKLIST
POLAR(IZED) OPPOSITES QUIN
MEC: These retro wood-look frames have got
SUNCLOUD POLARIZED: Don’t strain your peepers
you covered from outdoorsy pursuits all the way through to more fashion-focused activities. Plus, with deep and polarized lenses, you won’t let glare get in the way. $74.95, mec.ca
staring into the sun. With durable frames and polarized lenses, these unisex shades will stand up to anything you throw at them, including snow, ice and sand. $59.99, mec.ca
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY • PROMOTION • 75
TAKE A HIKE With year-round accessibility, St. Lawrence County’s four-season trails across the Ottawa border should be your next winter getaway.
is a registered trademark of NYSDED
If you’re not a downhill skier, snowboarder or ice skater, it can be easy to write off the winter season for any type of outdoor activities. But there are plenty of excellent outdoor spots nearby that become all the more stunning in our coldest season. Head east to St. Lawrence County in northern New York state, just under a fivehour drive from Toronto and less than two hours from Ottawa. Here, you can discover a stunning network of winter-accessible trails, some of which will suit beginners while others will challenge experienced hikers.
Impressively, there are 12 waterfalls located across St. Lawrence County. These natural wonders become even more epic and breathtaking in the wintertime (think massive ice formations and snow-capped scenery) and it usually takes a short hike of just one to two kilometres to get there. If you’re interested in trying out some winter sports beyond the typical, St. Lawrence County is a great place to do it. Strap on a pair of snowshoes to traverse powdery trails or try cross-country skiing on the Red Sandstone Trail – a six kilometre-
long route that takes skiers alongside river rapids, the Hannawa Falls, a quarry and dam before circling around a small island. Whether you’re an avid outdoorsperson or a casual hiker, St. Lawrence County’s fourseason trails will make you fall in love with winter all over again. And with a wide range of activities and difficulty levels available, it’s an ideal holiday for everything from romantic weekends away to a family trip or an active vacation with friends. ◆ To discover St. Lawrence County’s network of year-round trails, visit the county’s trail map online. Filter based on the activity, trail length and diﬃculty level to find the best trails for you and start planning your wild winter getaway at STLCtrails.com
A WINTER WONDERLAND Get the best out of our snowiest season with fun activities and memorable eats at the Great Canadian Winter Lodge Experience by Niagara Parks. Snow and cold temperatures might send some of us indoors for cover. But we embrace the winter weather wholeheartedly. There’s nothing quite like hearing the snow crunch under your feet while glistening flakes envelop an outdoor scene like a snowglobe come to life. You can get just that experience if you head to Niagara Parks this winter. As part of their Great Canadian Winter Lodge
Experience, they’ve put together a host of incredible activities to help you make the most of the snow. Become one with the forest of flakes by strapping on a pair of snowshoes and embarking on a self-guided trek through one of three trails at Whirlpool Golf Course. These idyllic trails meander through snow-dusted trees that line sections of the golf course with some moderate elevation
changes and scenic vantage points. Prefer to keep things cozy indoors with good food? We don’t blame you. Tuck into an award-winning Sunday Brunch buffet at Queenston Heights Restaurant with scenic views overlooking Lake Ontario. Or head to Whirlpool Restaurant for classic winter dishes and Crock-Pot comforts like hearty chili con carne and Canadian seafood chowder.
NIAGARA PARKS • PROMOTION • 77
Combine the best of the indoors and outdoors on a Sparkling Sunday (Jan 26, Feb 23, Mar 22). There, you’ll enjoy a morning yoga workshop, followed by the iconic Sunday Brunch at Queenston Heights (including a VQA wine Mimosa Bar) and end with a snowshoe jaunt. Or get creative at a MoonGlow Workshop (Jan 12, Feb 16, Mar 15) where you’ll learn how to make a biodegradable floating lantern while enjoying craft cocktails and tunes from a live DJ before talking a mindful walk Thompson Point to release your lantern over a moonlit whirlpool gorge. Maximize your winter experience in Niagara with the Wonder Pass. It lets you save up to 67 per cent off attractions. ◆ Whether you’re a hardy winter warrior or you take pride inside, Niagara Parks’ Great Canadian Winter Lodge is the place to be this winter. Head to niagaraparks.com/winter to learn more.
LET IT SNOW Mark your calendars with these winter-ready experiences and events at Niagara Parks Snowshoeing at Whirlpool Golf Course Weekends from Dec 28, 2019 to Mar 29, 2020. Equipment rentals are available. Sparkling Sundays: Yoga, Brunch, Snowshoe Jan 26, Feb 23, Mar 22. MoonGlow: lantern workshop and mindful walk and release with cocktails and dj Jan 12, Feb 16, Mar 15. Survival of the Slowest animal exhibition at Niagara Parks’ Butterfly Conservatory Feb 15 to May 31. Full Moon Dinner at Whirlpool Golf Course Feb 8.
THE INTREPID SERIES • EXCURSIONS • 79
THE INTREPID SERIES
ELCOME TO THE Intrepid series, the part of Escapism where we jump off the guided tour bus and lace up our hiking boots to trod the lesstravelled path. Our writers face their fears and challenge preconceived notions as they strive to new heights of adventure. This issue, we head to Utah, the state made famous as Mormon HQ. Contributing editor Andrea Yu visits two noteworthy national parks in the state where the breathtaking scenery pushes her to
appreciate the majesty of natural landscapes. In Zion National Park, Andrea swaddles herself in high-tech, waterproof gear and sets out to test her ability to balance precariously on river rocks, made slippery by nearly frozen water as she hikes up a riverbed. The soaring cliffs of a slot canyon do their best to pull her attention away from the task at foot. The snow-covered hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, deserted by the fair-weather tourists, offer more stunning beauty. Turn the page for more on this terrific trip. ◆
THE STRAIGHT AND NARROWS Andrea Yu finds herself between a rock and a rock face while trekking through Utahâ€™s national parks in the winter. Andrea Yu
BRYCE CANYON, UTAH • EXCURSIONS • 81
E’RE HIKING IN the river?” I think to myself as our crew of travellers begins suiting up at the entrance to Zion National Park. I knew I signed up for an active trip – a multi-day tour through some of Utah’s national parks – but I wrongfully assumed the adventure would stick to dry trails. The gravity of the situation dawns on me as we strap on our rented hiking gear: waterproof bib suits with water-tight plastic cuffs, neoprene booties tucked inside those cuffs and water boots with extra-grippy soles. The right fit is integral to help keep me warm and prevent the river water, which is a chilly 3 C on this early December day, from leaking into my getup. I check in repeatedly with the outfitter staff to make sure my laces are tied tightly enough and my straps adjusted just right.
basin 240 million years ago, has been slowly transformed into a deep and narrow slot canyon, thanks to the fast-moving, mineralrich waters of the Virgin River, which have cut through the rock over millennia. It is a geological wonder of epic proportions – unlike anything I’ve seen before – and certainly not like the flat Ontario landscapes I’m used to. Sandstone cliffs soar almost 800 metres above a narrow opening where a river slowly flows through. A brisk, 20-minute walk to our entry point helps get my blood flowing but also has me wondering how I’ll manage as I’m already feeling cold despite all the hiking gear on top of multiple layers of zip-ups and thermals. The moment arrives for us to take our first steps into the water, which is ankledeep and as wide as two lanes of traffic. I breathe deeply and follow my leader who has
SANDSTONE CLIFFS SOAR ALMOST 800 METRES ABOVE A NARROW CANYON OPENING WHERE A RIVER SLOWLY FLOWS THROUGH Once my outfit is complete, I’m handed an armpit-high wooden pole to help with stability and balance during the hike, along with a dry bag for my belongings. As I’m suiting up, I notice a chalkboard in the gear shop which displays the day’s current hiking conditions as a ‘green light’ of sorts for the day’s hikers, advising us that flood risk for the day is low. With barely any vegetation to absorb rainfall, flash floods are common in the park so it’s imperative that hikers check in before embarking on their journey. We take a short drive through the indescribably scenic Zion National Park with its glowing red-rock facades and cliff faces that compel me to take cheesy tourist photos through the shuttle van’s windows at every turn. We find ourselves at the entrance to the Narrows. What was a flat
LEFT: With their vertical shape and multi-coloured layers, Hoodoos display the combination of sedimentary rock formation and later erosion
already crossed the river onto a flat stretch of land across the shallow stream. My heart sinks as I begin to feel ice-cold water seep into the shoes, through the neoprene socks and in between my toes. Despite all the checks and precautions, I must have omitted something – a missed tuck of sock-undercuff, or an incorrect final lacing of my boots. Just a few steps later, I meet our group leader on dry land. “Everyone feeling squishy down there?” she asks. I embarrassingly reveal my supposed hiking wardrobe malfunction, which she responds to with a laugh. Apparently, the shoes were never meant to be waterproof, but more so to give you the grip and traction you Over its 590 sq km (and 1,500 m of needed to traverse elevation change) slippery rock and the park includes wade through the desert, coniferous forest and riparian shallow river. I should riverbanks. It be concerned if I feel attracts 4.3 million water going up past visitors a year. my ankles, she says, >
> as the bib’s plastic cuffs are meant to seal out water. But otherwise, “just keep moving,” she advises. “It’ll keep you warm.” Her words bear out as I soon discover that wading upstream through the river, which is increasing in depth up to my calves and knees, is no easy feat. Like dialling up the traction on a stationary bike, the sheer force of water makes it feel like I’m dragging an extra few pounds of dead weight with me at every step. My trusty wooden pole becomes handy as a fifth limb of sorts to help me traverse the uneven ground and maintain a somewhat solid footing. I quickly learn that the pole serves another important purpose. Sections of the river can be thigh-deep – or even deeper – so I use the pole as a simple tool to measure the depth of water in front of me and ensure I don’t end up swimming instead of hiking.
RIGHT: Contributing editor Andrea Yu gets her feet wet hiking the Narrows, a river trek in Utah’s Zion National Park
freezer baggies). Not unlike the drive in, I feel compelled to take my camera out at every turn of the river. Picturesque pebbled streams lead to stunning red rock overhangs and striations that serve as their own tellings of time, revealing countless layers of colourful sediment from eons past. I snap the very best images my amateur photographer self is able to capture, yet none of them seem to do the scene justice. I don’t think there’s a panorama lens or photo-stitching function that would. The feeling of being sandwiched in between soaring high cliffs that are nearly one-anda-half times the height of the CN Tower is
THE TEMPERATURE IS SO COLD TODAY THAT, IN SHALLOWER AREAS, SMALL PUDDLES OF WATER HAVE ICED OVER, CRACKING UNDER FOOT In deep spots, the sediment-rich waters of the Virgin River pool go from translucent to opaque shades of emerald green. That inspires my cheeky Narrows mantra: “green means do not go.” The temperature outside is so cold today that, in shallower areas, small puddles of water have iced over, cracking under the weight of my foot as I trek along. Yet somehow, about half an hour into the hike, I’m taking breaks to remove layers and wipe the sweat off the bridge of my nose. True to my guide’s wise words, the adrenaline pumping through my veins and the jawdropping scenery have combined to make me forget all about the frigid waters that Not actually a canyon, this national my lower body is park is made up wading through. of huge natural The breaks also let ampitheatres. Instead of a central me snap images on river, the headward my camera (which I erosion happened at have sealed into not a stream’s origin. one, but two Ziploc
indescribable by words or photographs. But I do my absolute best. It was easy to capture photographs without other hikers in the background (although I do snap a few on purpose, just for scale), but I’m told this is a rarity during peak season in spring and fall. I have to take my hiking leader’s word for it, as it’s my first time in the Narrows, but the cold temperatures make our early winter hike a peaceful, crowd-free experience. During some points of the trek, I feel as though I have this meandering river all to myself. It’s a similar feeling the next day when we leave Zion’s epic cliff faces for Bryce Canyon, via Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, which fully lives up to its name. We drive under rugged archways sandblasted through the rock and along winding switchbacks worthy of a luxury-car commercial, as we slowly summit and descend from an elevation. Around us are endless stretches of flat-topped red rock structures among vegetation-free stretches. >
BRYCE CANYON, UTAH • EXCURSIONS • 83
84 • EXCURSIONS • BRYCE CANYON, UTAH
ABOVE: The mountains of Zion National Park loom in the distance behind the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale, Utah
I’m not a snow-seeker and I won’t deny that there were times on this trip when I couldn’t feel my pinky toes. But they were vastly outnumbered by the moments of awe I experienced, being surrounded by Utah’s natural wonders without peak-season travellers in the way. For me, the quiet, cold calm trumps the crowds any day. ◆
GETTING THERE Fly into St. George Regional Airport (via Salt Lake City or Denver on Delta, American Airlines or United) for around $440. You could also fly into Salt Lake City and rent a car to drive to Zion.
> I snap a photo on my phone to send to my family. “Looks like something out of Westworld,” my brother-in-law texts back. Sure enough, we’re just a few hours away from Castle Valley, Utah, where the sci-fi TV series is filmed. It’s nearly sunset by the time we reach the lookout point for our first glimpse of Bryce Canyon. The panorama here contrasts to that of Zion in so many ways, but is no less impressive. Instead of standing at the foot of cliffs, I’m now at the edge of one overlooking a giant amphitheatre filled with thousands upon thousands of hoodoos. The sun is setting quickly with just enough
time for a few quick snaps. But, thankfully, we return to Bryce Canyon the next morning to get a closer look at the geological wonders that have become icons for this national park. Also called a tent rock or earth pyramid, a hoodoo gets its unusual shape thanks to the multiple layers of rock that form it. Striations of harder rock higher up the hoodoo are more difficult to erode than the softer layers below, creating these mysteriously shaped spires. Much like our visit to Zion, once the sunrise passes and the requisite phototakers retreat back to the warmth of their vehicles, it feels like this massive canyon is ours alone to discover. Taking careful steps, this time on snow instead of slippery river rocks, we explore the edges of the canyon on a short hike around the perimeter, admiring how a dusting of snow seems to give these rock spires a magical quality.
Down by the Bay Home to a scenic waterfront, plenty of conservation areas and a growing beverage scene, the Bay of Quinte is the weekend getaway you’ve been waiting for. Ah the winter weekend road trip. It’s just about the best thing you can do to fight the humdrum that comes in with the cold this time of year. Before the holidays hit, it’s a way to gear up for the festive fun, and afterwards a weekend away can keep the good times rolling long into the lull of dreary January and February. When it comes to weekend getaways, Prince Edward County has been the destination on everyone’s lips lately. But while the County is enjoying its time in the sun as a blossoming hotspot, you’d be remiss not to take in all that the larger Bay of Quinte area has to offer. Less than a two-hour drive from the city, this region that spans Brighton through to Quinte West, Belleville and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, is easily accessible and features a full roster of activities. Whether you’re travelling in the dead of winter (winter camping, anyone?) or the heat of summer, there’s always something to enjoy. It’s the year-round weekend getaway destination you’ve been missing. For outdoor enthusiasts, the region is home to eight conservation areas which encompass more than 40 kilometres of
trails, primarily located in Quinte West. A short walk into Presqu’ile Provincial Park, in Brighton, presents a 2.5 kilometre beach for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Right on the shores of Lake Ontario and bisected by the mighty Moira River and Trent-Severn Waterway, you couldn’t ask for a more picturesque location. The combination of scenic nature areas and city scapes means that in one afternoon, you can go from ice fishing, snowshoeing or hiking, straight to sipping on award-winning cocktails at the Lark. This new Belleville spot is co-owned by one of the original resident bartenders from the Drake Devonshire. If brews are more up your alley, stop in at Wild Card or Signal Brewing Company for a cold one. Signal is housed in a fully restored
historic distillery which has roots dating back to the 1800s. Participate in unique, seasonal programming like a pint and a paddle or dogsledding. Prefer to sip on a cider? The region is home to acres of orchards and local makers like Empire Cider and Apple Falls Cider Company have tasty offerings. The first taste of spring in the region happens in late February or early March when sugaring begins at Bata Maples, in Frankford. If you prefer the sweet aroma of fresh-cut flowers, the Instagram-worthy arrangements at Dahlia May Flower Farm’s charming roadside stand are merely a kilometre away from the sugar bush. ◆ Visit bayofquinte.ca/escape to learn more, start planning your trip and for your chance to win a spring getaway to the Bay of Quinte.
In one afternoon you can go from ice fishing, snowshoeing or hiking, to sipping cocktails
BAY OF QUINTE • PROMOTION • 87
Ashley Rae; BKH Photography; Kawarthas Northumberland; Natasha MacDonald; Cruising Canoes
88 • EXCURSIONS • NUREMBERG, GERMANY
SPECIALTIES OF THE HOUSE
NUREMBERG LEBKUCHEN This local almond-based gingerbread cookie can famously be found in facesized form at the market, but they also come in more manageable decorative tins to gift. Chocolate-covered and nuttopped varieties are also popular.
TARGET MARKET We get into the festive spirit by exploring one of Germany’s largest and oldest Christmas markets – the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt.
toys along with more modern gifts like knitwear and leather goods. The Christkindlesmarkt also plays host to two other markets – a children’s market complete with rides and workshops like candle and gingerbread decorating and the Market of the Sister Cities. Here, international vendors share their holiday crafts and traditions with Nuremberg locals and visitors. Scotland, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka have previously taken part. The best way to warm up at the Christkindlesmarkt is a helping from the Feuerzangenbowle – the world’s largest punch bowl which measures 2.5 metres wide and holds 9,000 litres of warm red wine with spices, lemon, orange peel and, of course, a cheery hit of rum.
NUREMBERG GRILLED BRATS If there’s one thing you must eat at the Christkindlesmarkt, it’s their famous grill-roasted sausages. These finger-sized, marjoram-flavoured delights are served three-to-a-bun and eaten with mustard or horseradish.
ATING BACK TO 1530, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt offers traditional German takes on the holiday spirit. Hosted in the city’s Main Market Square, the Christkindlesmarkt boasts nearly 200 stalls which are built of spruce trees from the region. The market begins on the Friday before Advent with the blowing of trumpets, carols sung by a children’s choir and a festive prologue delivered by the Christkindl – an angelic spirit with a crown and curly blonde hair traditionally known as the bringer of gifts in this part of Germany. When browsing the market stalls, some of which have been operating since the late 1800s, expect everything from wooden figurines to decorative stars and children’s
PRUNE MEN These small figurines made of walnuts, prunes and wire were invented by a cash-strapped Nuremberg native in the 1800s as a Christmas gift for his children. They’ve since become an iconic piece of festive decor in the region.
CASH OR CRUNCH
90 • EXCURSIONS • SINGAPORE
20 kilometres of trails and boardwalks that wind along lowland forests and freshwater swamps. You could easily spend a day here communing with nature, but be sure to save time for the TreeTop Walk – a hanging suspension bridge – for a bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy. Admission is free and the reserve is accessible by public transit.
Cash: Sentosa Beach Villas In the resort area of Sentosa, the swishest spot to kick up your feet is at the Beach Villas ($700 a night). Each boasts a rain shower, a freeform tub and a private sundeck. Or grab some friends and upgrade to the four-bedroom Palace with its own lap pool, private sauna room and entertainment room equipped with a karaoke system. Crunch: V Hotel Bencoolen If you’re the type of traveller who’d happily trade space for convenience, the V Hotel Bencoolen ($106) is calling your name. Rooms start at 150 square feet, which is just enough for a queen bed and a slim desk. Located right by the Bencoolen MRT, both the airport and city centre are easy to access. Views are impressive above the 10th floor.
CASH OR CRUNCH
Cash: Ultimate Drive Singapore The spendiest way to see Singapore is from behind the wheel of an exotic sports car. Hop into one of Ultimate Drive Singapore’s luxury vehicles, like a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder or a Porsche 911 Cabriolet ($960/ hr), and cruise the coastline. If you prefer the view from the passenger’s seat, book a Singapore Explorer package which includes a driver that’ll take you on a custom tour. Crunch: Central Catchment Nature Reserve Head just an hour out of the city centre to find a pristine swath of nature that’s home to diverse animal and plant life. Explore over
Crunch: Chinatown Complex Singapore’s iconic dining experience is, thankfully, its most wallet-friendly. Hawker stalls in food-court like centres serve cuisines that reflect the city’s multicultural fabric – Malay, Chinese and Indian eats among them. Must-haves include laksa (noodles in a spicy fish broth), roti and satay skewers. The Chinatown Complex has over 260 stalls – one with a Michelin star – with most dishes from $3-$5. ◆
While Singapore is known for its lavish ways, there are plenty of creative cash-strapped options for spending your time in the Lion City.
Cash: Odette Food meets art at Odette, one of two restaurants in Singapore to receive three Michelin stars in 2019. The modern French eatery, located in the National Gallery of Singapore, is inspired by chef Julien Royer’s grandmother. They serve colourful dishes that merge the traditional with the modern through multi-course set menus (starting at $180) of bay scallops with horseradish cream, ‘beak-to-tail’ pigeon and uni toast.
92 • EXCURSIONS • PORTO, PORTUGAL
LIKE A LOCAL Steve Sintra, Kayak’s country manager for Canada, follows his Portuguese roots and guides us around the city of Porto. CLÉRIGOS TOWER
There are three big teams in Portugal – red, green and blue (Porto). It’s not just a soccer team, it’s a passion, it’s in their blood. The unrivalled energy starts before the actual game at the Dragon stadium. In particular, look for one of the classic rivalry matchups like Porto vs. Benfica or Porto vs. Sporta – these are must-see games.
This local delicacy is a meat-heavy combination. You get a pork cutlet, sliced chorizo and a fried egg on top, all in a sandwich with local garlic and red wine gravy over the top. One of my favourites is from Taberna Yuko, which has a rustic, traditional flair. It’s a very heavy sandwich, so I recommend going in with a partner.
DOM LUÍS I BRIDGE
In the spring or summer, you’ll often see local kids putting on shows. They’ll walk up to the iron bridge and take turns diving (from 30 or 40 feet!) into the river. They’re like local entertainers, so afterwards they’ll come out looking for money from the crowd.
PORT WINE TASTING
That bridge gets you to Vila Nova de Gaia where the port wine tasting happens. I recommend Ramos Pinto, one of the older port wines in Portugal with a ton of history. Not only do you get to taste some great stuff, but they give you a good foundation on the worldwide export business.
THE GIN HOUSE
If you’re still thirsty after your wine and cheese, a new trend in Portugal is gin bars. These are totally focused on the botanical spirit, some with a menu of over 100 bottles, plus classic and inventive cocktails. One of my favourites at the Gin House is a combination of mixed berries and gin. ◆
JeniFoto; Trabantos; Matyas Rehak; Sean Pavone
This is a religious monument in the city centre – the really neat thing is that you can actually climb up to the top and get a 360-degree view of Porto. You can see the Douro river splitting the city and it’s a great place to get your bearings.
If you want a tropical snorkelling escape, need a resort-based reset or are ready for an ice excursion, we have you covered.
Pe r isc ope Up These top snorkelling spots offer stunning sea-life scenes with scuba’s more approachable cousin.
1) JELLYFISH LAKE, PALAU Who says all the best snorkelling happens in the open ocean? This marine lake is located on
Eli Malk island in Palau’s Southern Lagoon region. The namesake population of jellyfish – recently rebounded to 700,000 thanks to conservation efforts – was cut off when the last ice age
ended and glaciers melted 12,000 years ago. Getting to swim surrounded by clouds of stinger-free jellyfish (without predators they evolved that way) is an unbeatable experience.
2) LAGOON OF BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA As if travelling to the underside of the world, in the middle of the South Pacific, wasn’t enough, you should go the extra step and dive underwater for the spectacular view in Bora Bora. In the lagoon, a rainbow
of rare, tropical fish species swim calmly amongst coral gardens – especially at the southern tip – that are an eyecatching attraction in their own right. One spot is so well-suited to fish spotting that it has been nicknamed the Aquarium. Those with more flipper experience will want to join an excursion out into the ocean proper to swim with the large schools of reef sharks.
Blacktip reef sharks usually grow to five feet and, because they prefer shallow water, their distinctive fin tips are a frequent sight. Many have lost their usual skittishness after being fed by dive guides for years.
THE SELECTOR • EXCURSIONS • 95
3) GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA The world’s largest coral reef system has become a concern for conservationists in (and outside of) Australia. Port Douglas is the in-the-know jumping off point for this Wonder of
BlueOrange Studio; Christian Wilkinson; JC Photo; Robin Nieuwenkamp; John A. Anderson; Anna Om
4) BAY OF DONSOL, PHILLIPINES Have you been on a whale-watching expedition that ended in a disappointing glimpse of a distant dorsal fin? This is not that kind of situation. In Donsol, tour boats head out with local fishermen
the Natural World that is as big as Italy. The GBR is 2,300-km long and covers thousands of separate reefs that are teeming with stunning sea life. The truly keen can spring for a multiday, liveaboard tour that maxes out your time in the water. Some tour groups cater to beginners with a float coat at this World Heritage Site. Be gentle with the coral!
as spotters, find the school-bus-sized whale sharks and deposit tourists into the water – equipped with snorkel mask and fins – for the opportunity to swim with these benevolent behemoths. Famously, they can grow to 10 metres long over their 70-year life. No need to panic, these filter-feeders only eat plankton.
Near Venezuela, in the Leeward Antilles, Bonaire is one of the ABC countries. It’s also an overseas municipality of the Netherlands, so expect that locals may speak Dutch as well as English and a creole Papiamentu.
5) BONAIRE Caribbean countries vary quite widely in the quality of snorkelling they offer. Bonaire has been the longstanding king of shallow-water
diving in this part of the world. Nearly the whole island is a giant marine park and the wide variety of fish, sponge and turtle species you can see appreciate the protection. Like other islands, some resorts on Bonaire have private reefs and there are paid
boat tours, but many of the best dive sites are free for everyone to access directly from the shore. Recently, tropical storms have damaged reefs (some are already coming back), so be sure you pick your spots based on upto-date information.
Typical snorkelling kit includes a mask that covers the eyes and a tube that extends above the water. Let your finned feet do the work (some cross their arms across their chest) for calm, easy floating.
O u r Ic e P ic ks
Stop shivering and embrace winter’s glory with everything from a world-record rink to city-size ice sculptures.
1) SKAFTAFELL ICE CAVE, ICELAND What happens when it rains on Europe’s largest
glacier? Ice caves take over as an impromptu stormsewer system. From October to March, visitors don helmets, spikes and carry an ice axe into these magnificent caverns for a guided tour.
The impressively photogenic, natural ice formations are all illuminated in dozens of breathtaking shades of blue. The half-day excursions also go outside for a hike on the far-as-the-eyecan-see glacier.
2) ICE SCULPTURE FESTIVAL, HARBIN, CHINA
3) HÔTEL DE GLACE, Q.C. Starting in early January, guests can cross “sleep on a block of ice” off their bucket list in Valcartier, just 20 minutes north of Quebec City. A full ice-hotel experience ranges from the fantastic sculptures on the bedroom walls to the cocktail glasses in the property’s bar. If you’re not up for staying the night in sub-zero luxury, they also offer a day pass option.
This town in northern China, has outdone the competition with their International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival. Sprawling over 80 hectares, the main attraction (visit in the afternoon or evening) features colourfully lit, actual-size buildings created by artisans who travel from around the world.
Over the 20 years that the sculpture festival has been running, creations have covered everything from palaces to pagodas in a variety of styles. Giant animals and mythical creations also make the list.
4) RIDEAU CANAL SKATEWAY, OTTAWA
In Canada, we like to measure spaces
in ice rinks, not football fields, and 105 NHL ice sheets would fit onto the world’s largest natural skating surface. As well as 7.8 km of skating, there are heated changing huts, food vendors and
access to Ottawa’s downtown core. Like other icy attractions, the Skateway is under threat from rising temperatures – in past years the season has dropped to 30 days from about 50 in the past.
those who want a frosty spa circuit. Six cabins, both on land and balanced on stilts, plus treatment rooms and saunas cluster around a hole cut into the Lule river. Sunbathe on the ice during the day and try to spot the Northern Lights – a relatively easy feat this far north into Lapland – at night.
The sweet fried dough that resembles a beaver’s tail has become a Canadian icon. Now in six countries at more than 100 franchises, the first BeaverTails stand opened in Ottawa forty years ago.
5) ARCTIC BATH, SWEDISH LAPLAND Meant to recall an era when the frigid river waters of northern Sweden were used for floating timber to mills, this is an experience for
THE SELECTOR • EXCURSIONS • 97
Bre ak room & B oa r d Escape from life’s hustle and bustle with these wellness retreats that put a focus on rejuvenation.
1) RANCHO LA PUERTA, TECATE, MEXICO
Giusparta; Frederic Nadeau; Vlad G; Anders Blomqvist; Jeremy Koreski; Grail Springs
Without a beach in sight, Rancho La Puerta brings guests to a serene, 4,000-acre Mexican ranch. Located in a valley at the base of a mountain, rivers wind through marshland, groves of oak trees and 86 casitas serving as lodging. Ideal for active and spiritual travellers, they offer over 50 guided classes, such as aerial yoga, crystal therapy, HIIT and trampoline fitness.
2) GRAIL SPRINGS WELLNESS RETREAT, BANCROFT Eager to hit the reset button close to home? This wellness retreat is located in Bancroft (about a three-hour drive northeast of Toronto) and offers all-inclusive packages ranging from two to 21 nights. In addition to your accommodations, packages include plant-based meals, daily yoga and meditation and access to saunas and
hot and cold mineral tubs. Guests can add juice cleanses, life coaching, mindfulness workshops and spa treatments to personalize their experience. Plus, they offer the unusual opportunity to participate in a meditation circle with horses, including Gracie and Saint Pete. Watch out for bring-afriend specials.
If getting active in nature is part of your idea of wellness, this Vancouver Island resort’s all-inclusive packages will be up your alley. Pick and choose from adventures
4) COMO SHAMBHALA ESTATE, BALI
Offerings from the Grail Kitchen are entirely meat-free and focus on fresh, seasonal produce. Naturally, they offer a juice cleanse. They also buy into the idea that food can control your body’s pH balance.
3) TOFINO RESORT + MARINA, B.C.
such as whale watching, bear spotting, crabbing or prawning. Make time for a visit to Hot Springs Cove, a geothermal, waterfall-fed hot spring surrounded by old-growth forest. Included meals from 1909 Kitchen and the Hatch Waterfront Pub showcase fresh seafood. Paddle boarding and fishing can also be added.
Followers of alternative medicine may find what they seek with Como Shambhala Estate’s Ayurveda programme. On top of meals and accommodations, guests receive one-on-one private sessions with an Ayurvedic consultant, daily hour-long Ayurvedic oil treatments, massages based on the results of your consultation and private, therapeutic yoga classes. Cycling tours through rice paddies and walks around the lush estate complement your stay with a sense of place.
5) TRAVAASA HANA, MAUI It’s no surprise that they know how to do wellness right in Maui. The experience at Travaasa Hana begins with a slice of welcome banana bread when you arrive and continues with a wellrounded roster of included activities such as guided meditations, leimaking workshops, ukulele lessons and traditional bamboo printing. Rooms continue the laidback ethos with large windows and no clocks or TVs. The Wai’anapanapa State Park and Hana Bay are nearby for independent connections with nature.
98 • EXCURSIONS • RED SEA, EGYPT
ITH CLEAR, WARM water and so much marine life, Egypt’s Red Sea is one of the world’s best scuba diving spots. Its southern dive sites are best accessed from liveaboard dive boats, while those closer to the Sinai Peninsula can be reached from nearby resorts. Considered one of the most popular wreck sites in the world, the SS Thistlegorm
teems with more than sea life. Boots and motorcycles – en route to British troops in Africa when the ship was sunk in 1941 by the Luftwaffe – can still be spotted. The dive high season runs from March to May, but shark-spotting is easier in summer. Visitors should note that because of added complexities, PADI requires divers to get a separate certification for wreck dives. ◆