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Top 5 luxurious cruise ships with the best suite interior

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Top 5 luxurious cruise ships with the best suite interior

Living lavish has its perks, and one can never have more than enough. One of the things that can give you a taste of the high-life is an expedition on a cruise ship. When speaking about cruise ships, it is essential to note the excellent work interior designers are doing to model suites on cruise ships. Doing so ensures that the cruise ship stays on top of the game. Here are some of the top luxurious cruise ships with the best suite interiors;

1. Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity

Top Suite: Crystal Penthouse

Spending just one night in this 1345 square foot space of accommodation is something you will live to remember. The suite has unique floor-to-ceiling windows that allow you to have a clear view of the ocean. The floor is made of natural wood which is then beautifully matched with Italian mosaic tile accents. The suite also comes with elegant pieces of furniture for both the living and dining rooms.

2. Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit

Top Suite: Owner’s Suite

It is no surprise that the owner’s suite on Silversea cruises is on this list. The 1292 square foot apartment at sea has classy and modern furniture and a large wallpaper that matches perfectly with the rest of the room. The suite gives you a unique vibe similar to a first-class penthouse in Copenhagen. The master bedroom is breathtaking. It is home to a queen-size bed that cannot miss a Serta air mattress to help you sleep comfortably through the night.

3. Viking Ocean Cruises

Top Suite: Owner’s Cruise

Viking’s owner’s suite is a work of art. One of the unique things about it is that when guests enter, they get a stunning view of beautiful paintings by great artists from different parts of the world. The 1319 suite comes with a large living room that has a lovely dining area, a wine cooler, and a guest bathroom.

Moreover, the living area adjoins a board room that can sit up to 12 people. The suite also features a balcony that is furnished with lounge chairs and a nook with a well-set sofa. Let us not forget the private sauna with a magnificent oceanic view.

4. Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Top Suite: Regent Suite

The regent suite is arguably one of the most exquisite suites at sea. The suite covers over 2900 square feet. It is characterized by floor-to-ceiling glass windows that offer a great view of the sea. All around the suite, you will find high-end touches of wood and marble. The Regent Suite also comes with Murano glass bowls, limited handcrafted materials and a custom Steinway Arabesque piano that costs over $250,000.

5. Disney’s Magic and Wonder

Top Suite: Concierge Royal Suite

The Concierge Royal Suite is known to provide a fairytale vibe to the guests. For people with kids, this 1029 square feet piece of accommodation is probably the best choice. The suite comes with two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.

Parents can choose to sleep in the room with a queen-size bed while the kids go for the other room with twin beds or the Murphy bed that pulls out in the living room. The suite brings together the Disney spirit for the kids. Elegance is also brought out in this suite as it comes with separate living areas, pantry and whirlpool tubs for the older guests.

Conclusion

Cruise ships have always been known to welcome you to a world of luxury. Spectacular suites that feature glass-walled showers, elegant marble bathtubs, private decks, and first-class services are some of the things that you will find once you step into one of these vessels. Different cruise ships have different suites. You can choose any suite that you would like depending on your taste and preference.

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Yodeling for more

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Yodeling for more

Alpine treasures in Switzerland

There’s nothing quite like the Alps, especially when the mountain range covers 60 per cent of the country, and the culture is built around it. The Swiss rail network makes it easy to travel around Switzerland, dropping you off at historical villages, ancient churches, vineyards, cable cars, sparkling lakes and magnificent restaurants.

Panorama Ridge Trail, Aletsch Glacier Photo By Kate Robertson

Castles and glaciers

Brig is an alpine town located close to the Italian border in the southern Swiss Alps, at the foot of the Simplon Pass. In the old quarter of town, wander the cobble-stoned streets to view historical buildings and the Stockalper Castle – one of the most important baroque palaces in Switzerland. Due to its physical characteristics, Brig was the site of the first man-made road in the Alps, so that Napoleon could move his armies.

Thousand-year-old church in Spiez.

To get out into the mountains, take the train to nearby Morel. From there, hop aboard the cable cars that will whisk you up to the viewpoint overlooking Aletsch Glacier. This is a river of ice that flows for more than 23 kilometres – the longest in the Alps.

Lausanne Cathedral

An easy hike back along the Panorama Ridge Trail will take you past lush grassy slopes that are dotted with wildflowers and grazing cows. There are plenty of benches to take a break and admire the snowcovered peaks in the distance. In Riederalp, before you catch the cable car down, enjoy lunch at Restaurant Derby. Order the schnitzel and a rivella – a beverage made from milk whey. The Hotel de Londres is a lovely place to stay when in Brig.

The painted portal at Lausanne Cathedral

Terraced beauty

Ask for a lake view room at Hotel de la Paix when in Lusanne to catch a glimpse of the dazzling Lake Geneva. With evidence of habitation dating back to 6,000 BC, Lausanne was originally settled by the Romans. Visit the 12th century gothic cathedral, and then stroll street-after-street of aged, red-roofed buildings and fine manor houses, and you’ll gain an appreciation for why this city has long-attracted artists and visitors.

For a different perspective of the Alps, and of France located across the lake, hop aboard one of Compagnie Generale de Navigation’s refurbished steam boats. While sailing, enjoy an aperol spritz as you tour past quaint villages, and the UNESCO vineyard terraces that date back to the 11th century.

Central square in Brig

Dip into fondue heaven

Despite its claim to fame for worldclass ski resorts, Gstaad exemplifies small village charm. Take a horsedrawn carriage ride through the alpine pastures of surrounding farms. Here, cheese is in abundance. To learn more about Swiss cheese making, and the cows’ yearly migration up to the Alps, join a group tour of the Cheese Grotto. Here, you’ll see where 3,000 wheels of cheese are stored – 25 metres underground.

Once above ground, you’re rewarded with the best part. Pick up a fondue backpack, with all the fixings, at the visitor’s centre. Then, make your way over to one of five specially-designed huts that were made to look like a giant fondue pot.

At Romantik Hotel Hornberg, located smack-dab in the centre of the alpine meadows, you’ll have the ultimate fondue experience. In a centuries-old alpine hut, a server dressed in traditional dirndl-style attire will serve you a meat and seafood fondue, followed by a Swiss chocolate fondue – the ambience is off the charts.

Horse carriage rides in Gstaad

Villages, views and vineyards

Grindelwald alpine village is located in the Bernese Oberland region. Hop on another cable car to take you to the First Cliff Walk – a metal suspension path that wraps around the mountains. Prepare for an adrenaline rush, as the trail culminates on a suspended glass observation deck that juts out 45 metres, providing stellar views of the valley below.

In Spiez, located next to Lake Thun, visit the 1,000-year-old church and adjacent Spiez Castle. The neighbouring vineyards contain 60 different grape varietals. Follow-up with a wine tasting at Spiezer Winery. The wine at the castle is aged in a centuries’ old wine cellar in the biggest oak barrels you’ve ever seen.

Aging barrels at Spiezer Winery, Spiez Castle

After a long day, check into Hotel Eden Spiez. Here, you can enjoy a spa experience, complete with an outdoor brine bath, a salt cave, saunas and steam baths before calling it a night.

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

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Barrie and Alliston, just North of the GTA

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Barrie and Alliston, just North of the GTA

Located on the west shore of Lake Simcoe on Kempenfelt Bay, the city of Barrie is a seasonal paradise with waterfront activities in the summer and wonderful skiing options come winter. It’s one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, and is less than 90 minutes from Toronto.

With more than 90 parks and a beach-lined waterfront, this city emits a tranquil atmosphere on one hand, and a vibrant cultural destination on the other.

Residents and visitors are naturally drawn to the 6.7-kilometre trail along Kempenfelt Bay. This easily accessible path is paved and predominantly flat. Along it, you’ll find three beaches, playgrounds, splash pads, restaurants and cafes. It’s the ideal spot for soaking up a summer breeze, and pondering life’s mysteries.

Significant features

Designed by sculptor, Ron Baird, for the 1986 EXPO in Vancouver, the Spirit Catcher was purchased by the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation of Toronto and donated to the Barrie Gallery Project (later the MacLaren Art Centre) in 1987. After some fine tuning to ensure the sculpture’s structural integrity against the strong winds of Kempenfelt Bay, it’s still the centre’s largest piece in their permanent collection. The Spirit Catcher was influenced by the Aboriginal myth of the Thunderbird, who is a messenger that carries dreams and desires to the creator.

Celebrate Barrie kicks off the warmer weather season, followed by Promenade Days and Canada Day festivities. On the first weekend in August, Kempenfest features more than 300 artisans, as well as live entertainment, children’s activities and food demonstrations. Seasonal events also take place at the Barrie Farmers’ Market and the Southshore Centre.

Barrie is home to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, located in the city’s northeast end. The RVH offers cancer care close to home, as well as a variety of specialized health care programs.

Easily accessible via Highway 400 and the GO train, Barrie offers affordable homes, in addition to a heightened quality of life.

Alliston

Alliston is a settlement in Simcoe County, and part of the Town of New Tecumseth amalgamation in 1991, which also includes Beeton, Tottenham and the Township of Tecumseth. The town grew as a commercial centre for the area farmers. Best-known for growing potatoes, the Alliston Potato Festival continues to celebrate its origins on an annual basis.

Located off of Highway 89, Alliston is a mere 45-minute drive to Toronto, via Highway 400 or Highway 27.

Something for everyone

The Nottawasaga Inn and Hockley Valley Resorts are favourite destinations with a wide variety of sporting activities. The Nottawasaga includes a 70,000-square-foot health and fitness centre, in addition to indoor squash, racquetball and tennis courts. At the 300-acre Hockley Valley Resort, winter enthusiasts can access 15 downhill skiing runs, as well as trails for snow shoeing and cross country skiing. The Trans Canada Trail, Mansfield Outdoor Centre and Earl Rowe Provincial Park also provide opportunities for cross country skiing, hiking and biking.

Sample some old-fashioned rock candy at the Museum on the Boyne, and then tour the museum’s collection of buildings, including an 1851 log cabin, an 1858 English barn, a 1914 Agricultural Fair Building and Alliston’s old town jail.

Formerly a farm implement factory, the Gibson Centre is an historical area landmark. This lovingly restored 1889 treasure features a performance hall, gallery space and a cafe. Downstairs in the Mercer Pub, you can enjoy local craft beer while listening to live entertainment.

Alliston, and neighbouring Cookstown, offer quaint, mainstreet shopping experiences. At Tanger Outlets Cookstown, located at Highways 400 and 89, you can shop at more than 100 brand-name/ designer stores, including the Crocs Outlet, the Royal Daulton Outlet, Under Armour and Calvin Klein

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Texas Hill Country, historical hospitality at its finest

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Texas Hill Country, historical hospitality at its finest

Fredericksburg is a small, cosmopolitan city with character and flair, located about an hour’s drive from San Antonio. Here, you’ll find rolling hills, lush vineyards, peach orchards and some of the best art galleries in the United States. A German heritage, along with quaint B&Bs, fabulous dining options and wonderful hospitality, all help to define this area.

Insight Gallery – Photography, Kate Robertson

The Fruits Of Their Labour

Pedernales Cellars, Image courtesy of Fredericksburg CVB/Blake Mistich

The original settlers in Fredericksburg used wild mustang grapes to produce wine. Today, the area is home to more than 40 wineries, and is one of the top wine tourism destinations in the U.S.

At Pedernales Cellar, they cultivate vines that are suited to heat and drought, and specialize in Spanish and Rhone-style wines. Relax with a glass of wine on the deck, while overlooking stunning Texas Hill Country vistas.

Known as the peach capital of Texas, peach stands line the roads from May through August. Fischer & Wieser’s Das Peach Haus is a specialty food company that dates back more than 90 years, Here, you can taste local favourites, including wine, peaches, and their award-winning roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.

A Living Past

Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery & Deli

Fredericksburg was founded by the Germans in 1846. The history of their migration, in order to avoid political upheaval in their home country, can be researched at the Pioneer Museum. A collection of authentic structures take you back to the early days of the German settlement, along with hundreds of artifacts. A walking tour of the historical district provides a first hand appreciation of these significant structures, from fachwerk (traditional German timber-frame buildings), to Texas limestone civil war buildings.

The National Museum of the Pacific War is a six-acre, three museum, world-class complex, and the only institute in the U.S. dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Ocean theatre of World War II. It’s located in Fredericksburg, because one of the Fleet Admirals for the Pacific War, Chester W. Nimitz, was born here.

National Museum of the Pacific War

Take a self-guided driving tour of Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park to see the one-room school that the president attended, the home where he was born and the cemetery where he’s buried, as well as the LBJ Ranch and Texas White House, where President Johnson spent a significant portion of his time in office. Next to the park, is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Dating back to 1918, interpreters are dressed in period clothing to demonstrate historical activities, including blacksmithing and cheese making.

Arts and Culture

Named as one of the top 10 art destinations in the U.S. by Southwest Art magazine, Fredericksburg has more than 20 art galleries and studios. On the first Friday of each month, the local art community hosts a self-guided art walk. It’s a great opportunity to meet artists, hear live music, and sip local wines as you browse through galleries, including RS Hanna and Insight Gallery. Both galleries are housed in beautifully restored historical buildings, and display contemporary art, as well as representational paintings and figurative sculptures with a Western theme.

Texas Hospitality

Photo, (LBJ Ranch) courtesy of LBJ National Historic Park/Cynthia Dorminey

From fast food to upscale options, dining in Fredericksburg is a treat. Start your day at Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery & Deli. Here, you can enjoy hot-from-the oven baked goods and coffee in an old-fashioned diner environment. At Tubby’s Ice House, you can order comfort-food favourites, such as gourmet tacos and pulled pork-loaded fries on their outdoor patio. For a fresh twist try the ‘frose’ – a frozen rose wine slushy. Traditional German fare is served up at Der Lindenbaum and other local establishments.

You’ll receive a cordial welcome at more than 1,000 Bed & Breakfast establishments and short term rentals. Gorgeous antiques augment the Texas-style ranch of Lodge Above Town Creek. Located one block from the main street, you can easily explore the historical downtown core and then come back for a dip in their pool.

At Fredericksburg Herb Farm, guest cottages are designed in the style of Fredericksburg’s Sunday houses. These one-room houses, with a sleeping loft, were built by local farming families to use when they made the trip to town on Saturdays to go to dances, and then to church on Sunday morning.

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

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It’s all a bit GAUDI

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It’s all a bit GAUDI

In 1852, Antoni Gaudi was born in Reus, about 100 km west of Barcelona, the city where his most famous works were constructed. He studied architecture in Barcelona and began his career designing municipal lightposts and newsstands. His reputation grew and he became a world-renowned leader in the Modernist movement. While staying in Barcelona last summer, we were fortunate enough to visit two of his most famous projects, the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló.

SAGRADA FAMILIA
Construction began on Sagrada Familia (the Church of the Holy Family), in central Barcelona in 1882. A year later, Antoni Gaudi took over the project and injected an infusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau design characteristics. By the time Gaudi died in 1926, the project was only one-quarter completed. The still unfinished church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Current projections aim to have the work fully completed by 2026, a century after Gaudi’s passing. The UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts some three million visitors a year.

CASA BATLLÓ
Between 1904 and 1906, Antoni Gaudi completely transformed the home of prominent businessman Josep Batlló into a stunning, liveable work of art. The home, also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracts more than one million tourists a year (including the Britnell family in 2018).

Photos by: Natasha Britnell

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Niagara, the lifestyle boost you’ve been looking for

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Niagara, the lifestyle boost you’ve been looking for

Photography courtesy of Niagara Falls Tourism

Located on the southern end of the Golden Horseshoe, Niagara Region encompasses the cities of St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland, as well as the charming towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Grimsby and Fort Erie. The City of Niagara Falls is a vibrant community that promotes recreation, arts and culture. While urban amenities are in abundance, there’s still a relaxed stillness that comes with living in this beautiful area.

A sight for sore eyes

A drive through the Niagara region is an annual ritual for many, as the orchards are bursting with delicate blossoms on fruit-bearing trees. The Japanese flowering cherry trees, found at the Botanical Gardens, Queenston Heights Park and Kingsbridge Park are expected to bloom by mid-May.

Located along the scenic Niagara Parkway is the Floral Clock, which was constructed in 1950. The clock’s face, complete with working mechanisms, is planted two times per year with 15,000 to 20,000 carpet plants arranged in beautiful designs. It is the second most photographed highlight in the region.

Created in 1967 to commemorate Canada’s Centennial Year, the fragrant Lilac Garden is located north of the Floral Clock and features 200 different lilac varieties in a range of colours.

The Botanical Gardens is located just north of Niagara Falls on the Niagara Parkway. For more than 80 years, visitors have found solace while strolling the gardens. Also located here is the Butterfly Conservatory, and the world-famous rose garden that features more than 2,400 varieties.

The first fireworks’ display took place on September 14th, 1860.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Everyday’s a holiday

View the falls from the water, the air or the ground. To experience the thundering roar, power and mystical qualities of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Niagara Gorge, book a tour through niagaracruises.com.

Less than a half hour drive from the Falls, at the mouth of the Niagara River, is the quaint 18th century town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, often referred to as Ontario’s loveliest town. Home to the renowned Shaw Festival, the town is an eclectic dining, shopping and sightseeing experience. Partnering with Parks Canada, eSkoot Niagara offers historical tours via an eSkooter.

Old Fort Erie, Fort George, Brock’s Monument and Laura Secord’s homestead are just a few of the landmarks that will delight history buffs. The area was also an important stop on the legendary 1800s Underground Railroad.

In addition to slots and gaming tables, Fallsview Casino Resort showcases international performers.

Niagara boasts close to 100 parks and several championship courses, including Legends on the Niagara, Oak Hall Par 3 and the Whirlpool Golf Course, which was designed by golf architect Stanley Thompson and is rated as one of Canada’s most highly rated public golf courses.

Two Sisters Vineyards

Two Sisters Vineyards

Our model home feature in this issue is by Solmar Development Corps. Sales and marketing manager, Angela Marotta, is also CEO of Two Sisters Vineyards, along with her sister Melissa Paolicelli-Marotta. Established approximately 10 years ago, the winery has received many awards and accolades, and was most recently named the ‘Best Small Winery in Canada for 2018’, by the National Wine Awards.

Photography Courtesy of Two Sisters Vineyards

Ideal conditions

Because of the two large bodies of water, Niagara Region is considered to be a moderate climate zone. Southern Ontario is roughly at the same latitude as southern France (Provence). The area’s temperatures make it ideal for growing tender fruit, and the conditions are ideal for ripening many varieties of grapes.

The Niagara Peninsula is one of four recognized viticultural areas by the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) in the Ontario Wine Industry. The European-style vineyards and wineries attract visitors from around the world. Many offer full tours of their facilities, and some have onsite dining, which feature sumptuous menus paired with their own VQA vintages.

Niagara Vintage Wine Tours offers half day, full day and evening tours, paired with gastronomic delicacies.

Morton’s Grille, Marriott Fallsview

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Panama, luxurious vacation destination

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Panama, luxurious vacation destination

Famous for its canal and skyscraper-filled capital city, Panama is becoming increasingly popular for those travellers who are looking for reliable tropical weather, white sandy beaches and mountainous rainforests. The good news is that prices are quite reasonable, and there’s a plethora of luxurious resorts for the ultimate vacation.

DOWN TIME

The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort is located in the Cocle Province, which is just over an hour north of Panama City. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. Start your day here with a golf game on the par- 72, Nicklaus-designed championship golf course. Only hotel guests and private members are allowed, so you won’t feel rushed as you make your way along the emerald-green fairways. If your game’s not up to par, guests also have access to the Cobra Performance Centre, where experts will examine your swing and design a plan to improve your game.

With seven pools and more than three kilometres of white sand beach, your biggest decision will be which palapa umbrella you should settle under. While relaxing, ask the resort’s award-winning mixologist to suggest a fitting libation. They specialize in cocktails using local ingredients like guayacan, which grows in the nearby rainforest. A must-try is their signature tropical mojito, which is served in a banana leaf-wrapped glass, and looks as good as it tastes.

While you may be content to stay put, this region is one of the most beautiful in Panama, filled with agricultural farmland, cloudforest mountains, national parks, jungle waterfalls and colonial towns. Buenaventura’s concierge can help you to arrange tours, which include birdwatching (Panama has close to 1,000 bird species), hiking in the rainforest canopy at nearby El Valle de Anton, or visiting an archeological site that dates back to AD 450.

URBAN ALTERNATIVES

If you’re looking for a bit more action, then The Bristol in Panama City is a good bet. Here, in the heart of the financial district, you can lounge by the pool after you browse the $3 million-dollar private art collection throughout the hotel, featuring works by famous Panamanian and Latin American artists.

For the best of both worlds, check out the recently opened Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort (10 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes to downtown). Located within an exclusive neighbourhood in Panama City, you can enjoy sipping pina coladas and eating ceviche by the pool, while watching the golfers pass by on another Nicklaus-designed golf course. For a nourishing Panamanianstyle massage, visit the spa for a cacao and coffee treatment, which involves a full-body coffee exfoliation and organic cocao wrap.

A walking tour of Panama City’s old town (Casco Viejo) introduces you to historical landmarks, building and plazas, while traversing 16-century cobble-stoned streets. The Panamanian government is investing in the renovation of this district. Still, it’s already home to some of the city’s most charming hotels, cafes and boutiques.

POSITIVELY PANAMANIAN

Designed by Frank Gehry, the BioMuseo reviews the historical creation of the isthmus that formed Panama, and how that affected the course of the earth’s biodiversity. Panama has the most diversified wildlife in Central America with species native to both South America and North America.

No visit to Panama is complete without a trip to the Miraflores Lock Centre, so book a tour to view massive ships squeezing through this 100-year old canal lock. Make sure that you check on the timing of the next ship, so that you can watch the lock in action.

For an up close and personal experience of the canal, a boat tour is the only way. In Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the canal, hop onboard a small lancha, which will whisk you across the Gatun Lake. You’ll pass large cargo ships in transit across the canal, and then travel down small river tributaries, where your eagle-eyed guide will point out local wildlife, including iguanas, sloths, toucans and monkeys. Hang on to your belongings, as these cheeky characters have been known to jump on board.

DISTILLING FLAVOURS

Rum is to Panama, as whisky is to Canada. Visit Hacienda San Isidro to learn how this small sugar cane mill became a leading rum manufacturer of their world-famous Ron Abuelo.

Before you leave, experience a coffee tasting. An expert will advise you of tasting notes and flavours for locally grown blends that include catuai and geisha. And, of course, prolong the memories of your trip to Panama, by brewing up a cup of your favourite blend when you get home.

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

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Churchill, Manitoba more than the land of the polar bears

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Churchill, Manitoba more than the land of the polar bears

Located on the west shore of Hudson Bay, Churchill, Manitoba is known as the polar bear capitol of the world. It is here that approximately 1,000 of the world’s largest land predators make their annual migration. In the fall, they congregate amongst the Krummholz trees, wetlands and moon-like rock formations on the edge of the Hudson Bay, and wait for the ice to become thick enough so that they can venture out to hunt for seals before returning to land again in the late spring. In order to keep the streets of Churchill safe, polar bear guards keep watch around the perimetre of this town to deter any bears that may have lost their way.

ARTS AND CULTURE

In 2017, international artists were invited to Churchill as part of the Sea Walls Festival, which was initiated to protect the world’s oceans. A total of 18 murals were painted on buildings throughout the town. One mural was painted on a plane wreck found along the 30-kilometre length of Churchill’s drive-able road. The sleeping polar bear depicted on the polar bear holding facility is also a must-see. This facility was built in the 1980s as part of a program to protect residents and prevent the killing of problem bears.

At the Itsanitaq Museum, you will find a comprehensive collection of historical artifacts dating back to the Pre-Dorset culture (1,700 BC), as well as contemporary Inuit art depicting daily activities of the north. A stuffed polar bear provides an intimate perspective of the size of their teeth and claws.

Gift shops are filled with northern novelties, including fur lined moccasins and Inuit art. At the Northern Store, you can buy everything from food items to snowmobiles.

NORTHERN FASCINATIONS

Located approximately 2,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and just below the Nunavut border, winters in Churchill are long – lasting approximately eight months. When the ice in the Churchill River starts to move again come spring, the tundra comes alive with arctic wildflowers, and animal and bird migration. Churchill is uniquely positioned on the corner of three biomes – marine, boreal and tundra. As a result, it’s possible to view the flora and fauna particular to each biome within a very small area.

At the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, visitors can take part in an amazing learning adventure. At this comfortable, 84-bed facility, you will share space with active-research scientists. One of their most popular adventures is a five-day Belugas in the Bay program. Churchill is the summer feeding grounds for more than 3,000 belugas – the largest population in the Arctic. Kayaking with these charming, talkative whales, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Also at the centre, you can discover a birding hotspot, where more than 250 species of birds nest, or pass through on their yearly migration. You might see hundreds of snow geese, as well as such rarities as Ross’s Gull and the Bohemian waxwing.

TUNDRA TREKKING

With Frontiers North, you can take a ride in a heated tundra buggy along trails, through tidal flats and permafrost lakes. Expert guides share stories of northern life, in addition to tales about local bear personalities, including the mighty fighter called Scarface Victor, and Dance, so named because of his light-footed sparring maneuvers. Keep your eyes open for arctic fox, hare and polar bears, as they return from their annual hunt on the sea ice.

After the long winter in Churchill, dog-sledding changes to dog-carting with the spring thaw. Charismatic musher, Dave Daley of Wapusk Adventures, takes you on a mile-long trail ride through the boreal forest with 28 enthusiastic huskies. Daley loves to share his heroic, life-anddeath, dog-racing stories.

IN ALL ITS GLORY

To get a birds-eye view of the area, book a tour with Hudson Bay Helicopters. The pilot will point out local hangout spots for caribou, moose and bears. Polar Bears like to rest, and conserve their energy, on the kelp beds.

Churchill is one of the best spots on the planet for aurora borealis (northern lights) viewing. Because it lies directly beneath the Auroral Oval in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s auroral activity for more than 300 nights per year.

In addition to convenient flight access, the train from Winnipeg is set to re-open this spring.

travelmanitoba.com

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

 

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The natural wonders of Collingwood

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The natural wonders of Collingwood

By Cece M. Scott cecescott.com

Incorporated as a town in 1858, Collingwood became a shipping hub for products that were destined for the upper Great Lakes ports of Chicago and Thunder Bay. For more than a century, shipbuilding was the town’s main industry. In 1986 the shipyards were closed, and the waterfront is now a revered leisure destination.

Bring it on

Located on the southern end of Georgian Bay, Collingwood is the gateway to the Blue Mountains, where skiing, snowboarding, shopping and fine dining offer the best that winter has to offer.

Blue Mountain is Ontario’s largest village resort, just 90 minutes north of Toronto and 11 kilometres west of Collingwood. There are 43 ski and snowboard trails, 365 skiable acres and a vertical drop of 720 feet. At the base of the mountain, The Village features more than 45 distinctive restaurants, bars and retail shops. Along with the popular Scandinave Spa, visitors can also enjoy the village’s two onsite spas.

Off-hill winter activities include tennis, the aquatic centre, snowshoeing, and new Woodview Mountaintop Skating Trail at the top of Blue.

With the growing popularity of Winter Fat Biking, mountain bikers can now spin their wheels all year long. Fat bikes use tires that are inflated with less air pressure, which make navigating through snowy terrain a fun way to improve balance and strengthen winter legs.

WHET YOUR WHISTLE

The Whiskylicious festival, running from Feb. 1 to 12, is a whiskey-infused celebration of local food. The outdoor ice bars and culinary pairings are inspired by Collingwood Whiskey – a toasted, Maplewood-finished Canadian blend. Located in the downtown core, the festival is a showcase of signature chef dishes, music, arts and brewers.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the The Apple Pie Trail – and apple pie is just the beginning. Inspired by South Georgian Bay’s applegrowing history, the mighty apple is celebrated with a culinary adventure trail, farms, shopping and local experiences.

Take the five-kilometre trek across southern Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge, and through the trails of Scenic Caves Nordic Centre.

SUMMER THRILLS

The distinctive shoreline and blue waters of Georgian Bay, mixed with the area’s rich marine history, are natural highlights for all types of boaters.

The Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster (Ontario’s first) is a one-km ride through the Niagara Escarpment’s diverse terrain. Drivers can reach an exhilarating 42 kilometres per hour.

Popular golf courses in the area include the 18-hole, par 71 Duntroon Highlands Golf Club, which offers spectacular vistas of Collingwood, Stayner and Blue, as well as the Blue Mountain Golf & Country Club, The Georgian Bay Club and Batteaux Creek Golf Club.

STROLLIN’ ALONG

With 60 kilometres of four-season, well-marked, multi-use trails, touring around Collingwood is perpetually pleasurable. The downtown core is jam-packed with trendy clothing stores, spas, galleries, fine dining, artisan cafes, live music venues, pubs and bars, in addition to dozens of art galleries and studios. Colourful panels and murals are creative reminders of Collingwood’s historical past, spanning more than two centuries.

Visitors and residents are passionate about the The Good Food Stroll – a walking or biking tour that showcases Collingwood’s love affair with food. Much is sourced from local farmers, and includes restaurant pit stops, cafes, specialty food outlets, food markets, cafes and sweet shops.

THE SPIRITS OF COLLINGWOOD

The soil and unique climate associated with this region are key elements in the making of the distinctive wine at Georgian Hills Vineyards. During the winter, visitors can snowshoe through the vineyards and enjoy artisanal cheeses and a glass of wine after their trek.

Collingwood’s craft breweries, include Northwinds Brewhouse & Kitchen, The Collingwood Brewery and Side Launch Brewing Company Inc. (named for the town’s shipbuilding industry).

Meaford is the heart of Ontario’s apple country. Stayner and Thornbury, a short drive from Collingwood, offer eclectic variations of the small town experience, and numerous pick-yourown farms en-route.

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Hokkaido – Japan’s northern delight

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Hokkaido – Japan’s northern delight

Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan — Its early morning and the streets of Hokkaido’s capital are blanketed with a carpet of freshly-fallen snow. An icy wind sweeps down from the fortress of mountains guarding Sapporo and the sun slowly rises from behind the highest peak, fabled Mount Moiwa, into a cloudless, cobalt sky. The Yezo spruce trees in Odori Park bend under the weight of the snow — their branches appear to be bowing in appreciation of winter finally arriving.

From my hotel window, lovely Sapporo looks like a giant Christmas card.

While others may curse winter, it’s actually looked upon as a gift in Sapporo and the other fabulous ski regions of Hokkaido, Japan’s largest prefecture, which is quickly becoming a Bucket List destination for lovers of the sport.

That’s because this beautiful northern island outpost that’s dotted with lots of snow-capped volcanic mountains — six are active — offers skiers some of the best runs and resorts in the world. In fact, this land of fire and ice gets more snow — between 14m and 18m annually — then does competitors like Whistler (11.7m), Val d’Azure (7.82m), Aspen (4.3m) and St. Moritz (4.3m).

The one thing those other ski destinations don’t have, though, is Sapporo.

“You can’t spend all your time skiing. You need to eat, drink and have fun. And Sapporo has plenty of that,” Katsuko Kemanai, a local guide assures me as we set out to explore the city best known globally as the beer capital of Japan.

“All the major Japanese breweries have factories here — Kirin, Asahi, Suntory and of course Sapporo,” says Katsuko, who has been guiding visitors around her beloved city for the last 30 years.

“We even have a beer museum and it’s the most popular museum in our city. I wonder why?” asks the guide with a wry smile.

At the museum, where I get to sample some of the local brew, I learn that Sapporo’s ground water is the best in Japan and perfectly suited for making beer. Hokkaido is also where hops, the key ingredient in beer, flourish in the wild.

After a day of skiing at world-class resorts like Sapporo Teine, Sapporo Kokusai, Kiroro, Asari and Tomamu — all within a short drive of the city — skiers can dine on lots of traditional Japanese cuisine in Sapporo. Hokkaido, after all, is where the famed Raman noodle first appeared and the agricultural prefecture produces most of the country’s food supply.

No wonder Hokkaido is often called the “bread basket of Japan.”

Entertainment is never in short supply in Sapporo. And for those who are looking for some naughty nightlife, Susukino, in Sapporo’s Chuo-ku district, is the place for you. Susukino is said to rival Tokyo’s Kabukicho and Fukuoka’s Nakasu as Japan’s best red light district and, with over 1,600 bars, nightclubs and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you up late.

“Susukino never sleeps,” says my elderly guide, who cautions me “to be careful because the prices in Susukino for food and drink is much higher than the rest of Sapporo.”

No one does winter better than Sapporo, the city that hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics and until recently was in the running for the 2026 Winter Games before withdrawing its bid.

The 1972 Olympics still ranks among the best ever held and are remembered at the city’s informative Olympic Museum, located at the foot of the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium. From the ski run, you get incredible views of downtown Sapporo. There are lots of interactive displays at the Olympic museum and the kids just love this storehouse of history.

Sapporo’s annual Snow Festival in February attracts millions of people each year and during the Christmas season downtown parks are decked out in colourful light displays. A Christmas Market, as good as anything I’ve seen in Germany, dominates Odori Park and has a direct Olympic connection.

“Munich and Sapporo hosted the Olympic Games the same year,” says Katsuko, referring to Munich’s ill-fated 1972 Summer Games, which was marred by a terrorist attack that left 11 Israeli Olympic team members dead.

“Munich and Sapporo became sister cities after that and Munich officials helped set up our Christmas Market,”  the guide says.

From a population of just seven in 1857, Sapporo has grown to almost two million residents, making it Hokkaido’s biggest city and the fourth largest metropolis in Japan.

In 2019, Hokkaido will celebrate its 150th anniversary of statehood and Sapporo will be the epicentre for many of the events surrounding that celebration. Katsuko is quick to remind me, though, that Hokkaido is much older than 150 years.

“Our history dates back to the 10th century when the indigenous Ainu people arrived from Mongolia,” she says. “They were hunters and the area back then was called Yezo.”

The name Hokkaido first appeared in 1868 during the Meiji Era when this vast island frontier was made a prefecture. However, Hokkaido was not officially “united” with the rest of Japan until a high speed train tunnel was completed in 2016 at the southern gateway city of Hakodate, 310km south of Sapporo. The Seikan Tunnel, as it’s known, is 53.85km in length and 23.3 kilometres of this engineering marvel sits under the Tsugaru Strait seabed.

Relics from the Ainu people are scattered throughout Sapporo and some of the best evidence of their ancient culture can be found in concourse displays in Sapporo’s main rail station.

The best place to see all of Hokkaido’s remarkable history is at the Prefecture Museum, housed in the former Prefecture Government Office (parliament), a handsome red brick building from 1888 that dominates the entrance to Odori Park, where a version of Tokyo Tower stands.

The prefecture’s deep agricultural roots are best explored at the Clock Tower Museum (Tokeidai), the former drill hall of Sapporo’s original Agricultural College, which opened in 1878. The clock, made in Boston, was installed in 1881 and hasn’t missed a beat since. The building was moved to its present downtown location a few years ago and stands out from Sapporo’s steel and stone skyline.

Most of the high quality produce grown in Hokkaido ends up on tables in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama and Kyoto.

“The Sapporo ki onion is one of our most prized vegetables,”  the guide says. “The word ki means yellow in Japanese and the onion is very sweet.

Hokkaido also produces the world’s most famous cantaloupes, which sell for upwards of $2,000 each in Tokyo’s boutique food shops. I fork over 3,000 yen (about C$35) to enjoy the incredible taste and it’s money well spent.

“The melon farmers actually put little hats on their cantaloupes so they don’t get sunburn,” Katsuko tells me.

Skiers who like to shop will fall in love with Sapporo’s Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade, which dates back to the city’s pioneer days.

“The literal translation of this shopping arcade is Raccoon Dog Street,” says Katsuko.

The one-km-long arcade is a big tourist draw and features 200 shops, most of which sell Hokkaido souvenirs. Outside one shop stands two fierce looking stuffed brown bears and the guide tells me the beasts thrive in the forested mountains surrounding Sapporo.

“They still wander into the suburbs from time-to-time and cause problems,” said Katsuko.

The roofed arcade starts at Nishi-1-chome and ends at Nishi-7-chome, where the city’s famed Nijo fish market is located.

A small manmade canal sits across from the market and Katsuko tells me it was constructed to bring the daily catch from the Sea of Japan straight to the market. The canal, known locally as the Sosei River, is no longer used as a transport route but does divide Sapporo into east and west sectors.

Two of Japan’s most treasured symbols, the Japanese crane and the sea turtle, make their home in Hokkaido.

Both creatures are symbols of longevity and once you visit Sapporo, you hope to live long enough to visit all the fabulous places on Hokkaido.

JUST THE FACTS

The top ski areas in Sapporo are:

  • Sapporo Teine is 20km northwest of downtown Sapporo and is made up of two interconnected ski areas; Teine Olympia and Teine Highland. Teine Olympia is perfect for beginners and kids, whilst Teine Highland has some awesome steep tree skiing.
  • Sapporo Kokusai is 46km west of Sapporo and boasts a massive 18m of powder per season. While its in-bounds area gets a bit crowded, there is plenty of fresh snow to be found in its backcountry areas.
  • Kiroro is 43km west of Sapporo and is good for a day trip. Kiroro is a modern resort and it scores full marks thanks to its incredible powder.
  • Asari ski resort is near Otaru, also a good day trip from Sapporo. It has great deserted off-piste and backcountry areas. Asari is at low elevation so it’s good for really windy days when the other ski resorts are a bit nasty.
  • Tomamu is another modern Japanese ski resort that has good piste runs and some great off-piste riding. Tomamu is an 100-minute train ride from Sapporo but well worth the ride. Getting there: Fly to Tokyo with Air Canada and then fly to Sapporo with a regional carrier like Japan Airlines or ANA. You can also take the bullet train from Tokyo to Hokkaido.

Information: For more information on Hokkaido, Sapporo and Japan, go to ilovejapan.ca

Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. He is Editor-in-Chief and Senior Writer for TraveLife magazine (Canada) and travelife.ca

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