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Articles Archive 2014

December 2014
CHRISTMAS IN CARTAGENA - COLOMBIA'S SEASIDE HAVEN
by Irene Butler

With Christmas only days away the town's streets are busy with merry local shoppers. Next to our Stil Hotel is a small outdoor bar where men with cold cervasas sit on dozens of plastic chairs. A stone's throw away women rummage through the best display of running shoes ever seen spread on concrete-knock-offs of every major brand. Onward for blocks, sidewalks are laid with electronics, the latest Hollywood blockbuster DVD's, plastic toys, and all manner of gift items. Fresh fruit and savoury food carts feed the masses. My husband Rick and I veer towards the Arepas con Queso stand - not caring if these delectable fried cakes of ground maize stuffed with melted salty cheese are turning our middles Santa-rotund. We stock-pile them for our Christmas Eve feast, along with chicken and potatoes roasted together in a divine herb sauce, a fruit-laden cake, and mucho vino. ... read more »


HAVANA HOPES
by Colleen Friesen

In the English language, we have two different words for two separate concepts; wait or hope. For instance, in Canada I might sit in a hospital's waiting room and think I am only counting the minutes: I am waiting (the odds are, that if I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room, I might be hop-ing as well, but that is considered a separate action). ... read more »


HEMET (AND AREA) HAUNTS
by Jane Cassie

When Old Man Winter makes his annual appearance, my husband and I snowbird south to Hemet, California and The Golden Village Palms (GVP) RV park becomes our home away from home. Although there's more than enough summer-camp-type activities to keep us content, this year we venture beyond this lush playground and discover there's even more just beyond our RV door. ... read more »


ISRAEL BLENDS ANCIENT & CONTEMPORARY
by Lauren Kramer

If you're going to visit Jerusalem, Friday is the day to do it, to best witness the transition from a bustling, vibrant city to one settling down for 24 hours of pure rest over the Jewish Sabbath. It was Friday afternoon when I walked around the Old City of Jerusalem, marvelling at the tall limestone slabs that constitute its ancient, majestic walls. It was winter, which meant the Jewish Sabbath would begin early, at sundown. By 3pm, the city was literally shutting down as people disappeared into their homes for prayer and family meals, buses ceased operation, stores closed their doors soon after lunch and an aura of peace and spirituality descended like a mist over the city. ... read more »


November 2014
POPPY POWER
The Remembrance Flower

by Chris McBeath

As delicate as they appear, corn poppies are an enduring flower. Scattered randomly by the wind, their seeds flourish in freshly turned soil, often turning just-ploughed fields into unexpected seas of crimson. In the shell-shocked and grave-ridden landscapes of Flanders during World War I, those seas became oceans of sudden beauty across the morass of sodden wasteland. ... read more »


WINTER FUN IN QUEBEC
"Enjoy A European-style Winter Wonderland Experience."

by Jamie Ross

Somehow a family ski trip has become an annual March Break tradition - not surprising, since my wife is passionate about skiing. I'm okay with that, with the tiny proviso that every year we experience someplace different, a new unique and charming locale. This year, that would be Quebec, where winter is a season to be celebrated in toques and mitts - whether at the annual Quebec Carnival, with a stay in the Hotel du Glace, skiing the nearby slopes of Mont Ste. Anne and Le Massif, or snowshoeing, camping and ziplining in the Outaouais. ... read more »


WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO:
World Heritage City

by Chris Millikan

Front seats in the pink open-air Trolley Train seem perfect for our narrated city tour. Guide Rosa begins, "Though typical throughout Western Europe, here in the Caribbean Willemstad's colonial buildings are unique." Chugging on along Sha Caprilleskade, she points out wooden boats from Venezuela, 19-kilometers away. Docking together, they form the renowned Floating Market. "Vendors have sold fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, honey and cigars from their boats for decades, a trade handed down for generations." Street level stalls stretching along the block sport red, orange and yellow awnings. ... read more »


HUNTING HEADS IN BORNEO
by Margaret Deefholts

The human skull looking down balefully at me through a wicker framework suspended from the rafters of the Serubah Longhouse in Sarawak is unsettling, but according to our guide, Bong, it embodies a benevolent spirit who protects the community who live here. "They are hospitable towards visitors," Bong adds, catching my apprehensive upward glance. "So don't worry!" ... read more »


October 2014
HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS
City With A Spectral Past

by Lauren Kramer

There's nothing like a ghost tour to send chills down your spine, and if there's one place where a tour like this feels believable, it's New Orleans. People have been drawn to the city for hundreds of years, and many of them have found it difficult to leave, even in the afterlife. On a warm night in April, Rebecca Sell, a guide with Haunted History Tours of New Orleans, warns us what we can expect on our Haunted New Orleans tour. ... read more »


MOLOKAI ADVENTURES
by Cherie Thiessen

"Trust the mules", says Buzzy Sproat soothingly. But before I trust the mules, I have to trust the man himself: a grizzled, grey-bearded muleskinner in signature leather chaps. Nine of us are about to mount a bevy of nonchalant equine relatives and plunge down the tallest sea cliff in the world. ... read more »


PACK UP FOR PARADISE IN PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLICA
"All-inclusive resort a stress-free option."

by Jamie Ross

swaying in the morning breeze. The clear turquoise waters curl gently on the shore. The lounge chairs and grass shelters are empty now, but soon guests will start to wander down, to claim their place in the sun. If you believe that Caribbean cruises would be heaven if only there was more beach time and drinks were included, then here is the place for you: Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. ... read more »


TRAVELLING ON A "TOY" TRAIN
The Blue Mountains of South India

by Margaret Deefholts

The Blue Mountain "toy" train is bound for the town of Coonoor in the Nilgiri Hills of South India. This is one of only two steam-powered locomotives in India, the other one being the Darjeeling Mountain Railway. From Coonoor the journey to Udagamandalam (formerly known as Ootacamund, and popularly shortened to "Ooty"), is powered by diesel-a more prosaic engine than this coal-fired little Puffing Billy. The entire railway line from Metapullayam to Ooty covers 26 km. The train will negotiate 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and cross 250 wooden trestle bridges in about four hours and ten minutes along one of the steepest tracks in India. ... read more »


A TOURIST IN MY OWN TOWN
by Jane Cassie

A few months ago, my husband and I took our grandson, Keegan, to a few Victoria attractions and he loved being a tourist in his own town. Well, now it's my turn. And as a Vancouverite, the options seem endless.

I decide to stretch the sight must-see's into a three-day-long extravaganza, and instead of going solo, ask a few of my favourite people to join me. The first is my sister, a life-long artist, who is the perfect sidekick for teaching me about the city's culture. ... read more »


September 2014
THE ASTOUNDING AMAZON BASIN, ECUADOR
by Irene Butler

Standing at the front of the canoe, our guide Miguel watches for movement along the Cuyabeno River. He points in turn at red-howler monkeys in tree-tops, a Yellow Toucan, and a pair of Harp Eagles! Most unusual is the prehistoric-looking Hoatzin (a.k.a. stinky turkey); its foul odour the result of a digestive systems wherein vegetable matter ferments in its crop... read more »


OFF THE TOURIST TRACK IN AUSTRALIA
by Margaret Deefholts

"Ting! Tong! Ting! Tong!" The mellow notes float down to me from a thicket of eucalyptus trees, but although I crane my neck to peer through the branches I can't track down the songsters. They are Australian bellbirds that I'm told are very hard to spot, so I'm content to merely listen, fascinated... read more »


LEARNING THE 3R'S
by Jane Cassie

BC is home to over 1,500 campgrounds and during this trip we discover that the arid Okanagan is the perfect place to buff up on these basics. Dozens of sites dot the sagebrush hills and tranquil lakeshores, and at Camping and RVing BC Coalition we have a list of choices, photos and campground information at our fingertips-ranging from National and Provincial parks to properties that are privately operated... read more »


RYE AND STROLLING
by Colleen Friesen

It was simple really. We would do a three-day walk around the 1066 Battle of Hastings area in the south of England. We'd stroll over rolling green dales, pop into a castle or two where we'd learn the history about the Battle of 1066 (history that I knew was important, but the details of which I had somehow neglected to fully absorb during my spotty education)... read more »


August 2014
NARROW BOATING IN BRITAIN'S MIDLANDS
by Cherie Thiessen

I should never have had that second cup of coffee! We're inching along about 50' above the A3400 highway and I'm trying to keep my hands steady on the tiller so as not to bump either side of the aqueduct. I figure I have about 1" to spare on either side and why aren't there railings on both sides? We're just leaving Wootton Wawen after exploring its 1100 year-old Saxon sanctuary and this crossing, built in 1813, is by far the most adrenalin pumping of the three aqueducts we encounter on the waterway. Reaching the other end without a bump, I beam proudly as the crew from a waiting canal boat applauds. read more »


ONE HIKE, TEN SIGHTS
by Jane Cassie

We did a lot of hiking when we were first married. But that was a couple of decades and a dozen pounds ago. So, when Brent suggests that we re-connect with Mother Nature's tundra trails, I'm feeling skeptical about conquering the ascent. read more »


LA ROMANA'S CAVE OF WONDERS:
The Nature of the Dominican Republic

by Rick Millikan

"Welcome to the Dominican Republic and La Romana! The mill opposite your cruise ship inspired our city's name. We first exported sugar to Rome or Roma…so our city became La Romana," grins tour bus guide Miguel. "See those pleasant homes? Romana Company provides these to many of its eighteen thousand workers. This mill and cattle ranches once supported our city, La Romana has now blossomed into a resort area. And many, like you, go to explore our Cave of Wonders.." read more »


FROM SURF TO SCIENCE
Hawaii's Hidden Dimension

by Chris McBeath

For many visitors, Hawaii's balmy sunshine, rolling surf and soft sand is the total story but for the curious of heart, the islands' unique and isolated position offers the inquisitive traveler much more. read more »


WAGAH BORDER HIGH JINKS
India and Pakistan Face Off

by Margaret Deefholts

I'm in Wagah, on the Indian side of the border between India and Pakistan, to watch the flag-lowering and gate-closing ceremony that takes place between the two nations at every evening at sunset. It is, as Michael Palin aptly points out, a hilariously campy show of "carefully choreographed contempt!" and it draws tourists from all over the world. read more »


July 2014
VICTORIA ATTRACTIONS FOR BABIES & BOOMERS
by Jane Cassie

Ever since the birth of our grandson, Victoria has been a second home. Although our visits are usually confined to indoor cuddle time, during this trip we decide to take him to a few visitors' haunts. And while strapped into his snuggly, wee Keegan gets to be a tourist in his home town. read more »


A FAIR DINKUM HOLIDAY DOWN UNDER
The Road Less Travelled

by Margaret Deefholts

"Wow! Look at this! It's perfect!" My sister jabs at an advertisement in Australia's The Senior newspaper. The advert by Magic Murray Holidays sounds ideal: a 7-day trip by luxury coach around the Murray River basin in New South Wales and Victoria. Four star accommodation, most meals, and an expert tour guide-all for just $500. It's a deal! read more »


IN PERPETUITY AT PČRE LACHAISE
by Karoline Cullen

I hear a bell. Its persistent peal floats over the trees and echoes off the stones. "Does that ringing mean something?" I ask. My friend starts walking, saying over her shoulder "It's time to go. We don't want to get locked in!" read more »


PORTLAND: A BOOZY, BACCHANALIAN PARADISE
by Hans Tammemagi

Okay, it may be politically incorrect to say this, but I love a tipple, and my throat becomes positively parched whenever I think of Portland, Oregon, that bountiful, boozy burg. Accompanied by three like-minded friends, I recently paid a visit. Our mission was to explore the latest hot, alcohol-fueled trend: urban wineries. What a brilliant concept, I thought, as we made plans to sip pinot noirs and gris, sauvignon blancs and zinfandels without ever leaving city limits. With 14 wineries to choose from, we had work to do. read more »


June 2014
CASCADE CAMPING
by Jane Cassie

Camping, for some keeners, means cramming-in as many adrenaline-surging activities as possible. For me, it's all about roasting marshmallows over an open fire, lying back with a good book and connecting with Mother Nature. And during this three-day trip of Washington's Cascade Loop, I enjoy just that! read more »


TOUR DE LONG BEACH:
Cycling Across Vancouver Island

by Rick Millikan

The ferry-load of vehicles roars past and it's a quiet ride along the highway. Entering Nanaimo's Parkway Trail, we spin through riots of wildflowers and under shady evergreens. After stops to snack on wild blackberries, there's an invigorating swim in Colliery Dam's reservoir. Proceeding refreshed along this woodsy bikeway, a deer leaps from some brush ahead. A trailside pub above Brannen Lake rewards our initial jaunt. We bivouac at a local Eden-like campground. read more »


NATURE, HISTORY ABOUND ON GEORGIA'S SOUTH COAST
by John Geary

Something catches the corner of my eye on the left. I quickly turn my head, and see water ripple where something has just disappeared. Glancing in the direction the ripple seemed to be heading, I'm rewarded with another 'gator sighting as its head pops up, about 10 yards away. read more »


IN HOT WATER - A 6-PACK OF B.C. HOT SPRINGS
by Cherie Thiessen

While eagles overhead check the river for different delights, I'm in Nirvana, wrapped in the springs' soothing mineral waters. How can anything so pleasurable be good for you? Nevertheless, the Kootenay Rockies' hot springs are known for their therapeutic benefits. The mineral content of the waters are widely believed to increase metabolism, accelerate healing, soothe muscles, improve blood circulation and detoxify the body's lymphatic system, not to mention what they do for the soul. On Day 3 of our 8-day circular hot springs tour, my partner. David, and I are already humming. read more »


May 2014
CIRCLE THE WAGONS IN ALBERTA'S BADLANDS
by Chris McBeath

If you grew up in the 50s and 60s, TV shows like Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Rawhide and other spaghetti Westerns were the stuff of Saturday afternoons. "Circle the wagons" was the battle cry and the Lone Ranger - "hiyo Silver!" - was our masked crusader. Today, reruns of these noirs favourites have become so au courant they are driving demand to relive the Wild West as it once was, albeit with a modern twist. read more »


OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IN THE UK:
THE COTSWOLD CAPER

by Chris Millikan

Our Cotswold walking holiday begins in little known Monkton Combe, eight-kilometers from Bath. Settled at the village inn, we examine pre-booked custom itinerary, maps, trail-cards and even transportation vouchers, everything needed for our self-guided explorations. And shouldering daypacks filled with directions, hats, jackets, water, sunscreen and snacks, we take our first walk. read more »


BORNEO'S SHY "DUTCHMAN"
by Margaret Deefholts

The dug-out canoe wobbles, and I instinctively grab onto the sides. Then the outboard motor catches and settles to a low purr and the canoe steadies as it moves forward through the thick, muddy waters of the Kinabatangan river. read more »


MAKING MEMORIES IN MAUI
Forget Romance and Relaxation - This is Maui with the Family

by James Ross

"Why not just sit down?"

I thought it was a reasonable question, but it created quite a stir. The other people taking the lesson with me stopped and stared. I was attempting to master Stand Up Paddle Boarding - a dad trying to keep up with his active children in Maui - but no sooner had I uttered my inane remark then my board slid forward from under me. I landed hard on my back with an exhalation of air, and then slowly rolled into the ocean. My sympathetic family cheered me on. I pulled myself from the water, raised my body unsteadily, smiled meekly at the instructor, and then fell forward toward the bow of the board, tumbling once more into the salty surf, with my mouth half open in a subdued screech. I surfaced sputtering and coughing. read more »


ROMANCE AND FOODIE FUN IN VICTORIA
by Jane Cassie

Succulent beef, doused with a demi glaze. Curry-infused chicken coupled with Jasmine rice. Mushroom ravioli, topped with tomato-parmesan. My husband and I salivate over the amazing spread. "Gotta love this ferry food," Brent says, when he also loads up at the salad bar. read more »


April 2014
THE GULF ISLANDS: AN ARCHIPELAGO SURROUNDED BY WATER
by Hans Tammemagi

As the Queen of Nanaimo chugged into Georgia Strait, the sun sparkled on the waves, fishing boats trolled the waters, a powerful tug pulled a barge on a long line and sailboats floated like butterflies. read more »


RIVETING RELICS AND RUINS BY THE SEA OF GALILEE
by Irene Butler

It's more than the room's cool temperature that sends chills down my spine. The hull of the "Ancient Galilee Boat" my husband Rick and I are gazing upon was the type of boat used by fishermen and for ferrying people and goods on the Sea of Galilee during the time Jesus preached along these shores, which earned it the appellation "Jesus boat". read more »


ESCAPE TO THE TOWNSHIPS
by Karoline Cullen

I chant, "I'm in Canada. Now I'm in the States." as I step back and forth over the line. Then with one foot on either side, I declare I'm in both. At the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which was deliberately built over the international boundary in the early 1900s, I can simultaneously stand in Stanstead, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont. The building's front door and audience seats are in the U.S. while the circulation desk, books and stage are in Canada. read more »


TROLLING NORWAY
by Margaret Deefholts

It is a moment of high drama, and squeezed shoulder to shoulder on the deck the crowd, their cameras clicking furiously, know it. On the port side of the ship is a rubber life raft with a crew wearing orange jackets. Although they wave to us reassuringly, they are an emergency team, poised to take action if needed. read more »


March 2014
DEEP IN THE CANYON
HIKE INTO HAVASUPAI FOR AN OASIS ON THE DESERT FLOOR

by Lauren Kramer

You have to hike 10 long, hot, dusty miles to reach Havasu Creek, but when you finally reach this oasis of fast flowing water on the valley floor of the Grand Canyon you will be astonished by its brilliant, blue hue. You'll wrench your backpack off your tired shoulders and wade into the cool water, gratefully allowing the soft current to wash the desert sand from your skin... read more »


ALONG THE TRACKS OF TIME
by Chris McBeath

Within minutes, the station master calls "All Aboard" and the wood burning British Vulcan engine hisses steam into the morning sunshine, and heralds our departure. Slowly we begin to move, rumbling over the tracks out of the Tanjung Aru Station in Kota Kinabalu towards the steamy Borneo countryside... read more »


IRELAND'S ANCIENT BURIAL MOUNDS
by Irene Butler

We drive from Dublin to the archeological landscape of Brú na Bóinne, with its three major tombs - Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth (with smaller satellite tombs around). At the Visitor's Centre we are swept up in the intrigue of these Neolithic places of ritual, called Passage Tombs, for their long entries into the burial chamber. Cairns were built above each tomb and the mounds encased in kerbstones; many of these gigantic stones bearing chiseled markings. Following the Neolithics (3000 - 2000 BC), the tombs continued to be used in succession by Iron Age civilizations, early Christians, and Normans... read more »


HOME ON THE RANGE - RIDING LA REATA RANCH
by James Ross

I hear the distant thunder of galloping horses. What a beautiful sound. George Gaber, owner and operator of La Reata Ranch, had disappeared on his ATV over the steep hill that backdrops the cookhouse, off to round-up the herd of 24 quarter horses that roam freely over the ranch's 5,000 acres. Guests who had gathered at the corral with their hats, chaps and saddle bags, were chattering excitedly in anticipation of the day's ride ahead. Then all went silent as we hear the beating of hooves and see a rising cloud of dust. The herd comes into view, winding its way down a hillside trail and into the corral in a practiced routine. Some whinny joyfully, shaking their heads and kicking up their hind feet playfully... read more »


HOUSEBOATING ON THE SHUSWAP
by Margaret Deefholts

As I stand on the deck of the "Prairie Princess", a Waterways company luxury houseboat docked in Sicamous, on this mid April day, Mara Lake is a swath of deep blue waters stippled with sunlight. We are about to cast off on a three day cruise along one of British Columbia's most scenic getaways in the heart of the Shuswap... read more »


February 2014
THE SPIRITUAL SOUL OF INDIA: VARANASI
by Margaret Deefholts

In the pre-dawn chill of February we walk along the banks of the river Ganges. The eastern sky, swathed in a chiffon-like mist, is pale mauve, but the waters below our boat are dark and mysterious. The morning air smells of wood smoke, cow dung, spices and marigold flowers. Just beyond the ghat steps, a blind beggar sings plaintively... read more »


ROMANTIC JOURNEY DOWN MEMORY LANE
Twenty-Five Years Young

by John Harris

Having been married for twenty-five years my wife Katherine and I decided to take advantage of beautiful October weather and revisit places that have been a significant part of our lives together... read more »


THREE DAYS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
by Karoline Cullen

Welcome to Washington, D.C. My husband Gary and I are here for three days of museums, monuments and memorials. Many are on the Mall, a two mile long, garden-like, National Park with the Washington Monument in the middle. From there to the West lie the monuments and memorials; to the East, the museums of the Smithsonian Institution and the Capitol Building.... read more »


January 2014
ARIZONA ROCKS!
by Margaret Deefholts

As I stand on the rim of a gigantic circular hollow gouged into the barren earth, a desert wind ruffles my hair and whispers secrets of an event which happened 50,000 years ago to create what lies far, far below my viewing platform: the largest meteor crater on Planet Earth. It is nearly a mile across, 550 feet deep and large enough at its base to encompass twenty football fields while two million spectators would fit comfortably along its sloping walls... read more »


ONBOARD, BUT BACKSTAGE: CRUISING, BEHIND THE SCENES
by Lauren Kramer

Anyone who has cruised in recent years will tell you the same thing: a cruise ship is a floating luxury resort of behemoth proportions, with every onboard amenity you could possibly desire. But it's not until you take a behind-the-scenes tour of a cruise ship that you can begin to understand and truly respect the operations that make this gigantic hotel-at-sea work seamlessly... read more »


TRUE BLUE SNOWBIRDS
by Jane Cassie

When my husband, Brent, asks if I want to go on another RV vacation, I give him two thumbs up -wilderness campgrounds, untarnished landscapes, peace and solitude. Being a back-to-nature-kinda-gal, he has my approval!

"I was thinking about something more civilized," he responds. "How 'bout we try the snowbird thing?"

I'd heard that Mesa and Palm Springs were magnets for these golden rovers but I'm not quite ready for senior summer camp... read more »


DIVING INTO THE DEPTHS OF SOUTH AFRICA
by Colleen Friesen

I looked into Richard's dark eyes. They were as clear and bright as an icy Coke. I heard myself say the words before I knew what I was going to say. "I love you Richard. Do you love me?" Poor Richard. Who knew what sort of confessions he'd heard at the edge of this ancient cliff... read more »


 


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