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The Mayan Riviera, grown-up fun in the sun

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The Mayan Riviera, grown-up fun in the sun

After a long Canadian winter, Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is a wonderful sun-drenched getaway. Bordered by the sparkling blue Caribbean, this coastal stretch of the Yucatan Peninsula has some of the whitest sand beaches in the world.

Barcelo Maya Riviera, Photography by Quintana Roo Tourism

Exclusive all-inclusive

With close to 200 all-inclusive resorts and accommodation on the Mayan Riviera, there’s something for everyone. If you’ve never experienced an adults-only resort, the Barcelo Maya Riviera is one of the finest. Opening this past December, this modern, sleek, all-suite luxury resort complex is located on a private, two-kilometre stretch of beach. Little effort is required when ordering a mojito or a margarita at one of the two swim-up pool bars.

Meals and drinks are included in the all-inclusive rate, but make reservations when you arrive to try each of the four à la carte restaurants – French, Japanese, Italian and Mexican. The buffet restaurant features international cuisine. Try the sushi bar, cooked-to-order steak and fish, the ceviche and vegan stations, as well as made-to-order pasta and stir-fry stations.

Barcelo Maya Riviera: main building, Photo by Barcelo Maya Riviera

When you stay at the Barcelo Maya Riviera, you also have access to five other properties in the Barcelo complex, which gives you admittance to a total of 26 à la carte restaurants, five buffets, five pool-side grills and 17 bars, plus activities and entertainment at all six hotels.

The 32,000-square-foot U-Spa Wellness & Fitness Centre includes saunas and steam rooms, a flotation room, a hydrotherapy room, a Swiss treatment room and a beauty salon, as well as 26 treatment rooms for massages, body wraps and facials.

Barcelo Maya Riviera: pool bar and U-spa, Photo by Barcelo Maya Riviera

If you’re so inclined, resort activities are scheduled throughout the day, including beach volleyball, salsa classes and tequila tasting. Nightly shows take place in the performance theatre.

Photo by: Kate Robertson

The bluest of blues

Between the Caribbean Sea, the clear blue skies and the shimmering pools, you’ll bask in this tropical paradise. But, if you’re looking to shake things up a bit, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had on the Mayan Riviera.

The 13th-century, walled Mayan archaeological site at Tulum National Park.

The Yucatan peninsula is known for its cenotes, which are natural sinkhole caves filled with rich mineral groundwater, where you can swim through stalactite and stalagmite formations in a mystical underground world.

Book a catamaran tour to explore local reefs – the snorkelling is amazing. At Cozumel’s Marine Park you will see fish of all colours and, most likely, turtles. The Yal Ku Lagoon in nearby Akumal is a protected ocean inlet that’s full of marine life.

Mayan culture

You won’t want to leave the region without a trip to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. This ancient, walled city is built on a cliff overlooking the ocean – you’ll understand why when you see the view. Here, the Mayans built a civilization that was a prosperous trading centre and was occupied into the 16th century. Today, you can still see intricate carvings and other archaeological details.

Street performers in Playa de Carmen, Photo By Kate Robertson

A bit further afield, but still only a day-trip away, is Chichen Itza. This large pre-Columbian city was also built by the Mayans, and is known for its massive stepped pyramid and well-preserved carvings.

At Playa del Carmen, you can easily spend a day rambling the five kilometre Quinta Avenida pedestrian street for some high-end shopping, as well as regional arts and crafts.

A scuba diver exploring cenotes, Photo By Quintana Roo Tourism

Several Canadian cities have direct flights to nearby Cancun. Let the fun-in-the-sun begin.

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com


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It’s all about the journey, start as you mean to go

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It’s all about the journey, start as you mean to go

There may have been a time when the only prerequisite for an overnight stay was finding a relatively safe place to lie your head. From campgrounds to hostels, your limited, youthful budget dictated your accommodation.

More than ever, and at your moremature age, you now have more choices as to how to spend your travel dollars. There are charming B&Bs, over-the-top villas, and everyone, and their brother, are renting out their homes. While appealing to some, you still have to make your way there, cook meals and navigate on your own.

Uniworld river cruises

President and founder of the Red Carnation Hotel collection, Bea Tollman, acquired Uniworld River Cruises in 2004. By then she had a first-hand appreciation for every aspect of the hospitality business. “I want to ensure every guest is being looked after, and is receiving the very best service,” says Bea Tollman. “I don’t want anything to slip.”

She set out to elevate the luxury river cruising experience. These floating boutique hotels each possess a distinctive theme, often inspired by their destinations, and include original art, sumptuous furnishings and antiques. It was at Bea’s insistence that the rooms wouldn’t look the same. “I didn’t feel inspired by an all-neutral palette.”

Toni Tollman, Bea’s daughter and director of design and projects for Uniworld and Red Carnation Hotels, goes on to say, “Each ship is an extension of the destination in which it sails, making our guests’ onboard experience as memorable as their time spent onshore.”

As an example, Toni mentions one of their newest super ships, the S.S. Bon Voyage, which references its French heritage with polished woods, brass detailing and emerald tones in the bar and lounge areas.

Not only are they fastidious about their sailing destinations, but there’s a great deal of competition as river boat cruising has become extremely popular. “Our guests love returning to experience different ships.” says Toni. “For a completely different onboard experience.”

A gracious reception

Whether you’re sailing down the Rhine, the Danube or the Nile – yes Uniworld recently introduced a 12-day, round-trip excursion from Cairo to Cairo – you’ll be treated like royalty. Hospitality is defined as, ‘the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.’ In this spirit, Bea Tollman continues to inspire those around her, and insists on the best training for all staff, so that guests receive exemplary service. Each detail has been thoughtfully considered and expertly rendered.

Culinary delicacies

Now in her 80s, Bea has combined her passion for food with her passion for people. “My love of fine dining and good food was perhaps slow to blossom,” says Bea. “But, was immediately felt from the heart.”

Her attention to detail took root in the kitchen, having spent her first 15 years there at the Red Carnation hotel chain. Over the years she developed her own specialties, which continue to be signature dishes onboard. Menus are tailored to reflect the destination and itinerary of each ship.

You deserve it

Our tastes change and become more refined as we age. Plus, we have an appreciation for all that we’ve witnessed and lived through. Originality is the finest form of luxury, and when you have a choice as to whether to stay in a cookie-cutter hotel room or a one-of-a-kind decorated room on a river boat, while enjoying spectacular views from your balcony, what’s there to think about?


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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.


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 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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com



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