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Articles Archive 2011

January 2011
COLOURS OF THE CARIBBEAN
By Colleen Friesen

I am not a zip-lining kind of gal. I'd rather take photos.

However, I'm also one of those people who feel compelled to collect experiences much like saner people collect stamps... ...read more »


TIMELESS MALTA
By Caroline M. Jackson

Above my pillow, the Maltese lace curtain billowed in the Mediterranean breeze, and beyond the window, a donkey brayed in one of the back lanes and a cockerel heralded the dawning of a new day. Soon the fishing village of Marsaskala would be bathed in a soft, golden light. This, my first morning on the island of Malta seemed idyllic, then, the unexpected happened. My soporific state was shattered by the noise of repetitive volleys of gunshots reverberating off the cubic limestone buildings. I gingerly edged my way onto the flat rooftop of our bed & breakfast lodging to check out the fracas. Unperturbed, a neighbor was beating clouds of limestone dust from her Moroccan carpet, nuns attired in pristine white habits were escorting young orphans to the bus stop. Caged canaries trilled in the shaded courtyard. All seemed to be well with the world. ...read more »


WELSH RAREBITS:
Unusual Places in North Wales

By Margaret Deefholts

Wales, unlike England it's rather staid neighbour, is a land of whimsy.

It is early spring in Llangollen, North Wales and hedgerows like dark eyebrows run along the edges of fields where mother sheep fuss over their newly arrived lambs. Our mini-bus drops our group off at Plas Newydd, a Tudor style house, with a façade resembling rows of black and white dominoes. ...read more »


Pleasing Our Palates in Palau
By Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie

Japanese bentos, spicy Asian, all-American; Palau's multi-ethnic cuisine is pleasing to any foodie's palate and is a direct offshoot of this tiny nation's culture and past. The lush North Pacific archipelago, located between the Philippines and Guam, has seen its share of dictators. It was ruled by Spain in 1686, bought by Germany in 1899, sold to Japan in 1914 and won by the United States after WWII. Finally on October 1, 1994, it gained independence and became a free nation. Although it's enough to make your head spin, coming out of this political game of pass the hot Palauan potato is a culinary line-up that offers a lot more than just spuds. And during our week-long stay, we have the opportunity to sample the fusion of flavours. Here are a few of the recommended eateries. ...read more »


February 2011
LITERARY HAUNTS IN EDINBURGH
By Margaret Deefholts

"Literary Edinburgh is to 'wurrdaholics' what Scotch whisky is to alcoholics," says our guide Angus, his blue eyes twinkling, "T'is intoxicating and addictive!" An observation that would have likely been echoed by the literary giants who lived and worked in Scotland's most invigorating city. ...read more »


'GATOR RIVER
By Lauren Kramer

There's one way to temper your fear of alligators: put yourself in a canoe in the Hillsborough River, 13 miles from downtown Tampa, and paddle through gator-filled swamp. By the end of the journey you'll barely bat an eyelid at the eight-foot-long reptile sunning himself on a log just meters from your canoe. ...read more »


A KICK OF REALITY
Boxing it up in Bangkok's backstreets

By Chris McBeath

The backstreets of Bangkok aren't the most salubrious, but for the traveler who relishes 'the inside track', navigating the winding back alleys will deliver some of the most authentic experiences. And you can't get more real than the local boxing ring where contenders in Muay Thai duke it out with fist, heel, knee and elbow. ...read more »


WAVES, WOMEN & THE WICK
By Jane Cassie

I've never had great balance. Nor am I crazy about dipping into the frigid Pacific. So when my daughter, Emily, suggests we head to BC's West Coast for some surf time, I'm pretty sure she's flipped. In all my years of living, I've never set foot (or body) on a board-and I'm not sure now is the time to try. But I don't want to let her down. Over this past month she's been slammed with exams and pre-wedding pressures. And I feel honored that she's chosen me to escape with. ...read more »


March 2011
CHICAGO'S ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS
By Margaret Deefholts

"Did you know that Chicago was built on a swamp?" my guide Jim Gary asks. We are standing in front of the highest building in Chicago - the 108 storey-high Willis Tower, (once the Sears building) soaring 1,451 feet against the sky. I stare. "You're kidding!" He smiles and shakes his head. "As early as 1873, architect Frederick Bauman, devised a ten-storey building that stood on a broad foundation pad, thereby distributing its weight over the marshland. Twenty years later, architects devised vertical and transverse iron and steel girders as skeletons for supporting brick walls. He waves his hand expansively at the scene around us. "And so, in the late 1800s, the first American skyscraper was born here in Chicago!" ...read more »


THE JARS AND "BOMBIES" OF LAOS
By Irene Butler

Have you ever seen something so bizarre as to defy logic? As my eyes sweep over the vast array of pre-historic stone jars of mammoth proportions - there it is! A mind boggling enigma! What ancient peoples fashioned these vessels, and for what purpose? I am rendered speechless as I run my hand over the rough charcoal-coloured mottled surface of the largest, standing 3 meters in height with a diameter of 2 meters, and estimated to weigh a tonne. ...read more »


SPRING BREAK IN SEATTLE
By Lauren Kramer

I lost my family in a Seattle chocolate factory, somewhere between the coconut curry, the cherry almond and the grey-salted vanilla caramel flavours. We'd come to tour Theo Chocolate in Fremont, and from the moment we arrived, everyone dispersed like the wind, drawn magnetically to the chunks of chocolate tasters all around the store. ...read more »


VIRGINIA CITY WAS ONCE THE RICHEST PLACE IN THE WORLD
By Robert Scheer

It was a disappointingly ordinary looking bedroom, considering its rich history. Some of the most famous men in the world had slept there. I was in Virginia City, Nevada at the Mackay Mansion, built in 1860 by George Hearst, father of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. ...read more »


April 2011
CLEANSING IN COMOX
By Colleen Friesen

There are sojourns, tours, journeys and vacations, but then there is travel of an entirely different sort.

On a recent trip to Fresh Start Health Retreat near Comox, British Columbia, I crossed far out of my comfort zone to spend five days in an entirely different world; the planet of plant-based eating. I spent four of those days drinking nothing but freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. But fear not. I have not become one of those Vegans with a vengeance. ...read more »


ALL STAR WRESTLING, GAMBIAN STYLE
By Chris McBeath

It was a Coca Cola umbrella that first caught my eye. It seemed somewhat incongruous, flailing around in the middle of traditional Africa ... rather like the opening scene from the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. For a moment, I mused if the parent company was taking a stranger-than-fiction moment and propelling it into a larger-than-life television commercial until a sharp, shrill whistle jarred me to reality. ...read more »


GETAWAY TO GANANOQUE
By Jane Cassie

"Welcome to Gananoque," my husband reads, pronouncing it incorrectly, as we cruise beneath the stone and timber archway. "It's actually Gan-an-ock-way," I respond, sounding out each syllable, "and it means 'a place of health'." During this two-day getaway, (while reminding him of the pronunciation at least a dozen more times) we discover that this hamlet, thirty minutes east of Kingston Ontario, lives up to its name. ...read more »


THE WAY OF THE CROSS
Jerusalem

By Margaret Deefholts

We are standing at a lookout point on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and our guide, Carmela, with a theatrical sweep of her hand, announces, "Folks, I give you the Old City of Jerusalem!" A wag among our group says, "Really? You sure you don't want it any more?" ...read more »


May 2011
THE GOLDEN, BUT EPHEMERAL, INCA CIVILIZATION
By Hans Tammemagi

"It's pronounced Sexy Woman," said our guide. She was referring to Sacsayhuaman, an impressive fortress on a hill overlooking Cuzco, Peru, erected over five centuries ago when the Incas ruled. Smiling at her comment, I wandered amongst towering walls made of huge rocks, some weighing more than 100 tonnes. I tried to imagine the religious ceremonies and bloody battles these silent stones had seen. ...read more »


THE PERFECTLY PLEASANT PALOUSE
By Karoline Cullen

A golden glow covers the rolling hills. It is a gentle light, softly bathing the grasses and distant trees. Shadows fill the hollows as evening approaches and birdsong breaks the silence. A deer freezes into a statue, has a short staring contest with us, then bounds up the hill. The landscape is Tuscan in feel, but those aren't grapevines before us and we aren't jet lagged. ...read more »


ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
By Jane Cassie

I'm always up for a good jaunt, but I'm not a fan of major heights, so when Brent, my Sherpa-fit husband, suggests we check out The Tundra Communities Trail, I get a little queasy. For the past four days, we've been in Colorado, exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, where 359 miles (768 km) of hiking trails scroll its 265,770 heavenly acres. A quarter of these routes snake above the tree line and sixty peaks are higher than 3700 m (12,000 ft)-this being one of them. ...read more »


TASMANIA TWO WHEELING
By Cherie Thiessen

We're halfway up a steep grade on a mercifully quiet road just out of Risdon Vale, a suburb of Hobart, Tasmania's capital. It's Day One. We've cycled across the lofty Tasman Bridge with the wind up our noses and the rain down our collars but there are two things we're thankful for: one, today we only need to cycle twenty-nine kilometres, and two, we're 65ers, and we're still pumping. ...read more »


June 2011
A TRIP OF PERFECT DESIGN
"Canoeing the Bowron Lakes."

by Jamie Ross

We paddle slowly along the meandering course of the Bowron River, slipping silently through the marshland. Around every bend new life emerges from the smoky river surface; beavers diving with a slap of their tail, mergansers scurrying to safety, blackbirds squawking from cattail perch and common snipes swooping with whistling wings. Then this huge apparition appears, silhouetted in dawn's light. An enormous head rises from the river, water cascading from dished antlers. A bull moose stands belly deep in the sedge, its body glistening in the soft morning glow. It is the defining moment of our six day Bowron Lake canoe trip, on the last day, when we had scrambled from our comfortable bedrolls in the dark, searching for magical early morning sights. We were rewarded - fifteen moose in all, in the first hour of daylight. ...read more »


INDIA'S EROTIC TEMPLES OF KHAJURAHO
By Margaret Deefholts

In the Judeo-Christian world, the sacred and the profane are polar opposites - the one hallowed, the other obscene; in Hinduism the two concepts meld into one another-indivisible and eternal as the cosmos. Nowhere is this more evident than in the erotic temple carvings of Khajuraho in northern India, where spirituality and sensuality, playfulness and profundity meet in a joyous celebration of life, energy and passion. ...read more »


CONCOURS TOURS D'ELEGANCE AT PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA:
LUXURY AUTOMOBILE EXTRAVAGANZA

By Karoline Cullen

Normally the emerald green swath is a golfer's domain. Instead, on a chilly August Sunday, this ocean-side fairway is bejewelled with ultra-rare, chrome encrusted, spit-and-polished, elegant, luxury automobiles. Dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, most of the cars are restored to impeccable standards. I asked a regular attendee for his estimate of what the cars on display are worth and he replies "About $100 million." It's not just the scent of the sea on the wind -you can almost smell the money. ...read more »


ON OUR OWN
By Gina McMurchy-Barber

Over the last year we've been venturing out on our own-mainly because our youngest son has made it clear that he no longer wants to 'hang out' with us. This foray into the world without children has been fraught with plenty of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead moments-like putting together the new bike rack and learning how to steer a two-person kayak. ...read more »


GETTING MY SEA LEGS AT WEST COAST WILDERNESS LODGE
By Emily Nixon

...read more »


July 2011
AMAZING ALASKA
by Chris McBeath
Barely one per cent of visitors to Denali National Park make it this far into central Alaska. Most stop at the Eielson Visitor Center, take pictures of Mount McKinley, then turn back. But with a few extra hours, you can become one of the rarefied few and find yourself at an early 1900's pioneer cabin at the end of the dirt 'road'. Literally. Next stop? Siberia-500 miles to the east. ...read more »


CHICAGO FOR (ALMOST) FREE
by Margaret Deefholts
There are a couple of things about Chicago that come as a pleasant surprise. Firstly, you don't need a car to get around-buses and L-trains, cover a huge swath of the city and suburbs. They run frequently, are clean and have ample room. A 7-day unlimited transit pass for only US$23 is as close to a freebie as you can get! ...read more »


RIDING HIGH ON HAWAII ISLAND
by Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie
What springs to mind when you think of Hawaii? Relaxing beaches, rolling surf, revitalizing spas? Without a doubt, they're all great forms of tropical R&R. But what about riding the range? Sprawled out between the Hawaii Island's lava Kohala Coast and her moisture-laden Hamakua shores are lush rolling hills that lure many a cowboy (and girl). And today, they're mesmerizing me. But when it comes to the giddy-up-and-go thing, I'm certainly no Calamity Jane. ...read more »


THE BLUEBERRY ROUTE
Looping Quebec's Lac St. Jean

by Rick Millikan
Inspired by previous cycling on Quebec's network of bikeways, my wife Chris and I seek another adventure extraordinaire. Choosing Veloroute des Bleuets, we'll loop 256-kilometers around Lac St. Jean in six leisurely days. ...read more »


August 2011
CAPTIVATING CAPPADOCIA
by Margaret Deefholts
The music is haunting: a solo zurna plays a piercingly sweet melody supported by a soft steady drumbeat. An expectant hush falls on our audience as five men file into the circular arena and bow with arms crossed against their chests, to a "master" standing at one end. They then take their places in a circle. Clad in long flowing white gowns, brown caps on their heads, they begin to twirl, slowly at first and then gaining speed, their skirts fanning out, arms outstretched, eyes closed and heads angled to one side. They are the whirling dervishes of Turkey. ...read more »


COAST AND CANYON, A B.C. CIRCLE ROAD TRIP
by Cherie Thiessen
The snow-cloaked Coast Mountains elbow the Skeena River, dripping long, silvery waterfalls, and there's a tang of cottonwood wafting through the campervan window as we dawdle down Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George. Also known as the Yellowhead Highway, the narrow road invites a slower pace. We pull over to gawk and guzzle tea in our snug little RV. Enclosed like turtles, we're never disappointed with meals, transportation, or hotels. All we need are campsites, and there are plenty to choose from, from scenic provincial and federal parks, to fully serviced, strategically placed private sites. We're giddy with endless choices and wide-open spaces. ...read more »


TRANSFORMED BY A MAYA MEDICINE WOMAN IN BELIZE
by Robert Scheer
The Maya medicine woman smeared a handful of green, aromatic mud onto my forehead, binding it with a strip of cloth, as she had done on the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands. I looked like a mummy in mid-wrap. The "mud" was actually a poultice of ground cacao beans and nine medicinal herbs. Aurora had picked them fresh from her garden, and I watched as she chopped and blended them in her kitchen. She told me the treatment would draw out bad spirits and give me more energy, and I should lie down for 30 minutes while the herbs did their work. ...read more »


CRUISING THE RIDEAU
by Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie
What unique waterway bridges two Canadian cities, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most beautiful places on earth? Answer: Ontario's Rideau Canal. The 202 km (126 mile) channel flows continuously from Kingston to Ottawa, just as it did when it was built back in 1832. The series of lakes, rivers and dams are linked by forty-seven locks at twenty-four stations, most of which are still operated by winches, chains and manpower. During this cruise we travel from Perth to Jones Falls and the entire way are treated to a journey back in time. ...read more »


DRESDEN'S RADICAL RENAISSANCE
by Chris McBeath
For three long February nights in 1945, some 1,100 Allied Forces aircraft dropped more than 3,000 tons of munitions onto the city of Dresden, creating a swirling firestorm that had the force of a hurricane. For eight nights the burning glow could be seen more than 160 km away. And when it subsided, the city's core had been reduced to 15 sq km of smoldering rubble. The story is retold often, largely because it is what makes Dresden's renaissance so remarkable-few other cities have undergone, and are still embracing, such radical transformation. ...read more »


September 2011
HAWAII ISLAND'S NIGHT LIGHTS
By Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie and James L. Wing
Boots, sweaters, mittens -it looks like I've packed for a ski trip instead of Hawaii Island. But no worries-I didn't forget my flip flops. With eleven climate zones to cover, I've come prepared. And during this touring week, I'm captivated by these night light perspectives that span from the island's shoreline to the highest peak. ...read more »


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PUERTO VALLARTA
Margaret Deefholts
I make my way gingerly down a steep cobbled street in Puerto Vallarta's Gringo Gulch, past white-stucco red-tile roofed villas, with crimson or purple bougainvillea spilling across their walls and doorways. The shadows are short, and the sun is fierce. Perspiration trickles down my back, and my hair is plastered to my forehead. But that's fine…I am a child of the tropics, and this is my kind of weather! ...read more »


NORTH WALES: FROM CHESTER TO CRICCIETH
Caroline M. Jackson
My husband and I began our one-week adventure from the walled city of Chester which abuts the English/Welsh border. Drawn by its rural ambience, we sojourned in the little town of Llangollen which nestles in a deep mountain valley carved out by the River Dee. We wandered across its Gothic bridge and indulged in a poke of hot off-the-griddle Welsh cakes. From the nearby wharf we watched families taking horse-drawn narrow boat trips along the Llangollen Canal. ...read more »


PERSIAN PASSIONS
Colleen Friesen
Farzan Safa is an eight-year old Canadian. "I am learning Farsi," he says with a beaming smile. He's never been to Iran, but he knows that the mountains overlooking his North Vancouver neighbourhood look like the Alborz mountains in Tehran. He's looking forward to visiting Iran, "I want to meet my cousins." ...read more »


October 2011
MEMORABLE MELAKA
By Margaret Deefholts
The old man flashes me a toothless grin. "Welcome to Melaka", he says. "And to Medan Portugis kampung. My name is Manuel Rodrigues." Rodrigues is of mixed Malay and Portuguese descent, and his family, have lived in this small village for four centuries. ...read more »


BEAUTY HAS AN ADDRESS - OMAN
By Irene Butler
A sense of tranquility wraps around us as we gaze at white latticed buildings and mosques wedged between charcoal mountains and the royal blue Gulf waters. The heat of the sun is tempered by gentle breezes. Our walk along the seaside promenade is filled with alluring detours; a stop at the fish market to watch the buyer-frenzy over the day's catch, a climb up stone steps to forts clinging to the cliffs - remnants of Portuguese rule. ...read more »


TEXADA ISLAND TREASURES
By Liz Clark
Do boaters have all the fun cruising British Columbia's Gulf Islands? What about we landlubbers who only travel by car and ferry? Exploring from the inside out, my husband and I set about to discover many places of natural beauty inaccessible by boat on Texada, the largest island in the Strait of Georgia ...read more »


UNDERWATER WONDERS OF PALAU
By Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie
"Just take that leap of faith," Loreen Sugiyama says with a cheeky grin. It's easy for her to say. She's not wearing the snorkel. But, reflecting back over this day there are a couple of things I know about my Palauan guide. She's true to her word. And she's all about the adventure! ...read more »


November 2011
TALLINN'S MEDIEVAL HEART
By Jamie Ross
My son and I are seated at a big, rough-hewn wooden table in Olde Hansa, feeling like we are experiencing some sort of time travel, plucked from the 21st Century and transported back into the Dark Ages. The only light in the old tavern comes from hundreds of candles which, while atmospherically appealing, also make it difficult to fully determine what is on our plate. What we are eating is elk steaks, rabbit, bear and boar sausages, cabbage soup and lentils and I'm washing mine down with a goblet of honey beer. It is excellent, if mysterious. Minstrels entertain us, while our serving wench, attired in period garb, tells me that the owners consulted historical experts to see what authentic fare should be put on the menu. ...read more »


CRUISING THE BACKWATERS OF KERALA
By Margaret Deefholts
My son Glenn looks incredulous. He whispers: "Rs.300 for an eight hour cruise? That's less than CA$8.00. Is the boat safe?" I nod and whisper back. "It's not a luxury boat - but yes, it's perfectly safe."

Riyas Ahammed, who heads up the company, is writing up our tickets. "Hurry," he urges, handing them to me, "The boat is leaving in a few minutes." He beams and waves us out of his office. ...read more »


MAGIC IN THE DESERT:
Nevada Beyond The Strip

By Lauren Kramer
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Las Vegas, and those who can't stand it. I thought I fell into the latter group until recently, when I learned that there's way more to Nevada than shopping, shows and the neon lights of the casino-addled Strip. The Nevada desert is a place of beauty, colourful legends, wildlife and handsome cowboys. You don't have to drive far to find yourself surrounded by shimmering mountains, red-hued canyons and perfect silence. The moment you leave The Strip, the state begins to reveal its true face-one without the heavy coat of makeup it wears on Las Vegas Boulevard. ....htm">read more »


OUR CAPITAL'S COLLECTIBLES
By Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie
History was never my thing in school, so when my husband, Brent, suggests that we scout out some museums during this trip to Ottawa, I scrunch up my nose. "It's one cultured city," he says, when scanning the twenty-nine venues. "I'm sure you won't be bored." After just two, he's absolutely right. I'm anything but! ...read more »


RUINAS DEL REY AND EK BALAM
Off the Beaten Track on the Yucatan:

By Chris Millikan
Mysteriously abandoned and forgotten in the jungle for centuries, restored stone cities now reveal the magnificent architecture, artwork and technology of a civilization over 2000 years old. Settled in Cancun's resort zone, we soon re-acquaint ourselves with the Maya, but this time at two lesser-known sites. ...read more »


December 2011
KICKING BACK IN THE KOOTENAYS
By Jane Cassie
Photos by Brent Cassie
"Ready to kick-up more powder?" my husband asks excitedly, when realizing that I've been struck with a case of ski fever. "They say it's all downhill at our next stop." ...read more »


CRUISING UP THE NILE
By Margaret Deefholts
I am dodging objects flying in through my window. The first bundle whizzes by my head; a second one thuds against the ceiling. "Whoa!" I shout leaning out of the window. "Stop! Enough!" ...read more »


TREKKING AROUND THE WILD AND MYSTERIOUS SHETLAND ISLANDS
By Jamie Ross
I sit on the stone wall that protects Burrastow House from the sea, looking out over Vaila Sound. The beautiful twilight Shetland sky of the Summer Dim is blood red, and reflects off the shimmering ocean waters. "Back home we have a saying, red sky at night, a sailor's delight," I say to a young islander who has stopped for a chat. ...read more »


ON THE ROCK OF ST. PETER
By Julie H. Ferguson
When I clambered onto the full flight from Paris to Rome, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to a fellow passenger. I closed my eyes, exhausted after twenty hours of travel. Lunch arrived and my seatmate, a mild-mannered gent, said, "I always chat during the meal-I'm Peter." My heart sank, but I gathered my remnants of energy and replied, "I'm Julie from Vancouver." ...read more »


 

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