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Scottsdale, Ariz. the ultimate desert destination

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Scottsdale, Ariz. the ultimate desert destination

According to some dream interpreters, dreaming of being in a desert is one of the most beautiful and serene dreams that you can have. And, sand reflects your creative and artistic abilities. Many people find that the desert connects them on a spiritual level, and there’s no disputing the health benefits of this arid climate. With all the natural light, vitamin D strengthens your immune system, teeth and bones, and also lifts your spirits.

Scottsdale Arizona

SENSATIONAL SCOTTSDALE

There certainly is an element of mystery, and a dream-like quality, that entices many to the sunny, winter weather of Arizona. Part of the greater Phoenix area, Scottsdale is sometimes described as the desert version of Miami’s South Beach. Initially founded in 1894 as a farming community, artists and writers discovered this unique landscape, and began visiting in the early 1900s. As the popularity of the area grew, it paved the way for the first resort, which opened 1909. Today, Scottsdale is a much-revered tourist haven, and home to some of the top resorts in the United States.

Old Town Scottsdale is known as the west’s most western town. Up until 20 years ago, there were wooden sidewalks and a barbecue joint on every corner. Today, the town has retained it’s historical charm and there’s lots to explore. In February you can still grab a ride on the pony express.

Old Town Scottsdale

BEYOND THE WILD WEST

From JoyRides AZ, you can book a golf cart and tour historical sites like the Little Red School House, now the home of the Scottsdale Historical Museum, as well as the Rusty Spur, the city’s first, and longest running, saloon, and the still-operating Cavalliere’s Blacksmith Shop, which is housed in an adobe building from 1909.

At the Western Spirit Museum, you can learn more about the regional history and view rare artifacts. Around town, there’s a plethora of turquoise jewellery stores, cosy cafes and Native American craft shops, as well as dozens of art galleries.

GET YOUR FEEDBAG ON

With close to 100 restaurants, Old Town is also a great place to discover a variety of dining options, and not just steak and potatoes. Try Diego Pops, a stylish diner where they serve modern Mexican fare (think brussels sprout nachos). Be sure to try their pretty pink prickly pear margarita – a local specialty.

Arizona might not be top-of-mind when you think about wine, but a stop at Carlson Creek Vineyard’s tasting room will prove otherwise. You might visit Craft64 to sample some great Arizona craft beers on tap, but make sure that you also stay for the wood-fired pizza.

For upscale American fare, visit that award-winning Citizen Public House, and try the pan-seared scallops with a cola gastrique, served over roasted sweet corn grits.

The Waterfront District is built along a major canal, lined with palm trees, art sculptures and fountains. Grab a table on the waterfront patio at the trendy Olive & Ivy, where Mediterranean meets California cuisine. Across the street is the Scottsdale Fashion Square – the largest mall in Arizona.

DESERT LIFESTYLE

For a birds-eye view of the desert, book a hot air balloon ride. Keep you eyes open for wild burros and javelinas (wild boars).

Take a hike in the 30,500-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, located just 15 minutes outside of the city. Here, you can fully appreciate the desert landscape. Make your way through palo verde groves, cacti and creosote bushes to reach breathtaking summits.

Discover more than 50,000 desert plants at the Desert Botanical Garden. If you visit before May, 2019, check out Electric Desert, a stunning light and sound show, which turns the desert and the garden’s fauna into a living art installation.

REST AND RELAXATION

Scottsdale offers up a wide selection of resorts for all tastes and budgets. For the ultimate in R & R, try the recently renovated Phoenician, with its large day spa, multi-pool complex, and world-class 18-hole golf course.

The Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is also a multi-pool property. The arching entryways, fountains and floral walkways are reminiscent of Spain’s exotic Andalusia region.

If you prefer a smaller, boutique setting, the newly-constructed Mountain Shadows also has an 18-hole golf course. Initially opened in 1959, the original hotel was popular with Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor (check out their photo collection). With gorgeous views of Camelback and Mummy Mountains, it’s easy to see why.

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

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Just-right cruising with Viking

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Just-right cruising with Viking

By Ann Metcalf

Large ocean liners can accommodate up to 7,000 people, and a new one is currently under construction that will accept 9,500 passengers – and that doesn’t include the crew. They’re like floating cities that off er everything from pools, spas, casinos, entertainment, restaurants and more. When you want to disembark at a desired location, it can be a very long process. And because of their size, these ocean liners often port in areas that are a fair distance from a city centre or tourist attraction.

Founded in 1997, Viking has grown from four ships to more than 60 river cruise vessels. The size of their fleet has afforded them the opportunity to negotiate prime docking rights in European cities. If you’ve never been on one of their river cruises, you owe it to yourself to book one. Unlike the huge ocean liners, you dock in major cities and have the freedom to walk off , and on, at your leisure. Most river cruise ships accommodate less than 200 passengers.

In 2015, Viking applied their award-winning philosophy, along with their exceptional attention to detail, with the christening of their first ocean ship – the Viking Star. The fleet now includes five ships, with a sixth launching next year, and four more scheduled to set sail by 2023.

These small ships accommodate just over 900 passengers, and all suites have a veranda. Add approximately 450 crew, and you’re getting first-rate service. And, because of their size, they can navigate rivers and oceans. While itineraries are available for the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Alaska, and North and South America, a Scandinavian journey reflects the company’s heritage.

INTO THE MIDNIGHT SUN

This popular cruise departs from the UK in late June. From the Greenwich port, you make stops in Edinburgh, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and then travel to six ports in Norway. It’s the perfect time of year, and as you get nearer to the Arctic Circle, round the- clock sunshine lights up your experience.

Viking includes a tour in each port for on-board passengers. Optional tours are also offered for those with specific interests. On the ‘Into the Midnight Sun’ cruise, you may opt to go sea fishing in Lofoten, harvest king crabs on safari in Honningsvag, or break bread with a local family in Tromo. Sea kayaking, wildlife hikes, Husky treks, and visits to maritime museums, are just some of the available tours – all rated by activity level. Bergen, Norway

PURE BLISS

When you have a day at sea, or if you choose to stay put and enjoy the amenities on the ship, the relaxed luxury will have you rejuvenated in no time. Try a Swedish massage, followed by the spa circuit, which includes a hot tub, a steam room, a snow grotto, and a salt-water pool that provides a lounging area, with jets coming at you from all directions.

DINING OUT – OR IN

Because each state room includes a veranda, sometimes just staying put while you traverse through the fjords, marvel at the mountains, enjoy a glorious sunset (or the all-night sun), is simply perfect. You have a birds-eye view of some the most spectacular landscape you’ll ever see, so order in room service – it’s all included.

But don’t deny yourself a broader gastronomic experience at the four on-board restaurants, including Italian (try the ribeye), and The Chef’s Table, which alternates themed menus every two nights.

When it’s done right, you just know it – and Viking does it right.

vikingcruisescanada.com

 

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Travel: Czech Republic

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Travel: Czech Republic

A 100-year Celebration

By Kate Robertson

Old Tower Square, Prague

The Czech Republic has experienced its share of upheaval over the past century. Czechoslovakia gained its independence following the collapse of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Then, in late February of 1948 the Czechoslovak coup d’état took place when the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (with Soviet backing) assumed undisputed control over the government, marking the onset of communist rule for the next four decades. In late 1989 the nonviolet Velvet Revolution lasted one month, one week and five days, and signified a restoration to democracy in Czechoslovakia and the collapse of the communist regime. A self-determined split of the federal state of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia took place on January 1, 1993.

Sculpture work at Prague Castle

The 20 years of independence between the two world wars was an amazingly rich period for the nation, and became one the main centres of modern European life. This year, the Czech Republic is celebrating 100 years since it gained that independence in 1918.

HISTORICAL PRAGUE

Prague is Czech’s vibrant, historical capital, and its one of the most visited cities in Europe. Hit, accidentally or not, by American fighters in 1945, there were many civilian casualties and damages to homes and historical sites. An amazing 866 hectares of the old city are UNESCO protected for their gothic, renaissance and baroque mix of architectural wonders.

To best explore the city’s must-see attractions, wear comfortable walking shoes (the cobble-stoned streets are endless), and be prepared for crowds. Start at the enormous, beautifully reconstructed Prague Castle. A guide can fill you in on lesser-known facts, like when President Havel (leader after the Velvet Revolution) climbed through a window onto a balcony of the presidential palace, along with members of the Rolling Stones, to address the public, when nobody could find the key to the door.

Charles Bridge

Take a stroll across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town (13th century) to view the Astronomical Clock, as well as the Jewish Quarter. On the border of Old Town and New Town (don’t be fooled by the name, it was established in the 14th century), you will find the iconic golden-roofed National Theatre, where you can purchase tickets to a play, ballet or opera. Theatre, and the arts, are extremely important to the Czechs, as it has helped them survive the hardships of the different regimes.

COUNTRY CHARM

To learn more of the Czech Republic’s rich history, head to the Skoda car factory, which is located in Mlada Boleslav, about an hour from Prague. Known as one of the best selling Czech brands in the world, their museum will give you insight into how the company started. Apparently, two bicycle manufacturers merged in 1905, along with a heavy equipment manufacturer and, together, they started to produce cars. Take a tour of the factory to see the production line. Amazingly, a car can be completed here in just 24 hours.

Ajeto Glassworks

The country-side is filled with picture-book, half-timbered houses, barns and green pastures. World famous, Bohemian glass-making started in this area back in the 13th century. The special sandstone that was found here was perfect for glass-making. Take a tour of Ajeto Glassworks, and watch the artists melt the glass in 1,200-degree (Celsius) ovens, before expertly blowing it into the final product.

At the Museum of Glass and Jewelry, in nearby Jablonec, you’ll soon see why this area became an imperial centre for costume jewelry and glass products, which were much-desired by people from all over the world.

Spend the night in historical Liberec at the Clarion Grand Hotel Zlaty Lev, with its period furnishings and crystal chandeliers.

Dark beer goulash and dumplings

CAVORTING WITH CARNIVORES

Czechs love meat. Beef tartare is a common appetizer. If you’re adventurous, try some of their different cuts, as well as organ meats. For the less courageous, stick with hearty, traditional dishes, like roast duck served with dumplings and purple cabbage, goulash stew with thick dark beer, schnitzel with potato salad, or svickova – a sweetish, creamy vegetable sauce served over a piece of beef sirloin.

For Prague fine dining, visit the Michelin, award-winning Alcron Restaurant (in the Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel), or for a rowdier atmosphere, try La Republica restaurant and beer bar.

Czech beer poured with lots of head

BREW SPECIALISTS

Czech has a long history of brewing, and beer is plentiful. Czechs fondly refer to it as their ‘water’ or ‘liquid bread’, and don’t really acknowledge it as an alcoholic beverage. To taste a local favourite, order Rezane – a mix of a dark and light beer.

Close to the Prague Castle is the Strahov Monastery craft brewery. Monasteries have a long history of beer brewing. The monks at Strahov do a fine job with brews like the Anti- Depressant Dark Lager – the name says it all.

Czech beer is served with a lot of head. Locals like the taste of the foam and consider it a sign of a good beer. Cheers!

Jested Tower, Liberec

czechtourism.com

Kate Robertson can be contacted at kateflyingsolo@gmail.com

Photography, Kate Robertson

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Home exchanges 101

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Home exchanges 101

One of the features in our Aug./Sept. 2018 issue, “Loving Frank,” is about a home exchange managing experience editor Allan Britnell recently had in Chicago. (The home was an early Frank Lloyd Wright design.) Here’s a sidebar from that piece on home exchanges.

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One of the ways we’ve been able to travel so much on a magazine editor’s income is by using home exchanges for our accommodations. Last summer, we spent a month travelling through England and France and only had to pay for one night’s hotel accommodations.

Direct exchanges are the most straightforward: You stay in my home for X-number of days, and I’ll stay in yours for the same period of time. The other option is a “non-simultaneous” exchange. The two parties agree to swap homes, but not at the exact same time. This is a great option for people with vacation homes as they can retreat to the cottage while guests are using their primary home.

No money changes hands between homeowners; you simply play the monthly or annual fees (starting as low as $10 a month) that that the various home exchange websites charge. Some sights, such as LoveHomeSwap.com, include a “points” system where members can use accumulated points in lieu of an actual exchange. We stayed in London last year on points while our Chicago hosts used our home, allowing us to “bank” the visit until this spring.

There is a bit of work clearing out personal items and prepping for your guests’ arrival, and if you’re booking multiple exchanges you’ll need to someone come in to change the linens and tidy up between guests, but the cost savings on accommodations far outweigh any minor inconveniences.

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The hardest part is the time spent searching out locations online and trying to coordinate timing (thank you again Mehnaz!), but we’ve found the experience to be far more rewarding than simply saving money on hotels. Owners usually leave a “house guide” outlining how to operate various household items (ranging from the TV remote to where the fire extinguishers are), that also includes recommendations for where to eat, shop, and sights and attractions that most tourists would miss. We’re often in contact with our hosts/guests during our stays sharing updated details, and we’ve keep in contact with many of the families we’ve exchanged with.

We’re lucky enough to live in a nice part of Toronto (nestled between High Park and the Humber River), close to shops and restaurants, and a short walk from the subway. It also helps that our house was designed and decorated by my wife, Mehnaz Malik, of NatariDesign.com.

If, like Frank Lloyd Wright, you’ve built your home to be a showcase for the quality of your work, then you may well draw attention from the owners of Tuscan villas, wild western spaces, Caribbean condos, or anywhere else you might like to spend your down time.

Then again, if you’re like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes and living in a perpetual jobsite, home exchanges might not be for you!

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August/September issue coming soon

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August/September issue coming soon

Our next issue is with the printer and should be landing in mailboxes shortly. We kept our managing editor, Allan Britnell, busy on his summer vacation working on the two main features in the issue. One is about a road trip he took with his family to Chicago early in the summer. But the Britnell family doesn’t stay in hotels when they travel; they’ve avid fans of home exchanges. In this case, they had the chance to stay in a home designed by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Those of you with the travel bug who are looking for an interesting and affordable way to explore the world will want to take note of his sidebar, “Home Exchanges 101,” where he explains the ins and outs of swapping homes.

I know he also went abroad later in the summer, travelling to Denmark and Spain. (The guy likes to travel!) While there he took more notes and photos of some of the unique building practices and designs he spotted that we’ll include in another travelogue in an upcoming issue.

The other feature in this issue, “Building an Envelope,” obviously enough looks at the various components of the building envelope, covering everything from foundations to roofing materials.

Finally, I’m very pleased to welcome aboard our newest columnist, Manny Neves of Hardcore Renos. We profiled Neves back in our February/March issue where readers learned of his unusual route to the business that starts with a filmmaker’s eye and includes a lifelong passion for architecture. Going forward, in each issue of the magazine he’ll explore a topic of concern for contractors in his piece, “What’s on Manny’s Mind?!?”

Of course, we’re always interested to hear what’s on your mind as well. Send your ideas, comments, and suggests to Allan at allan@renocontractor.ca.

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Around The Globe: International Design Influences

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Around The Globe: International Design Influences

The top five destinations inspiring Canadian interiors

From Cuba’s impact on Hemingway’s literary works, to Van Gogh’s oil paint masterpieces depicting Japanese traditions, world travel has been inspiring people for centuries. Travel inspires art, industry, and innovation, but there’s one unexpected way travel also influences the world: decorating the home.

According to new research from Booking.com, Canadians are taking decor ideas home with them from their vacations. Almost half of all travellers are inspired by the chance to stay somewhere new, and eager to take on interior design work in their own homes upon their return.

“Most Canadians start by taking a piece of art home with them from their travels, or a soft furnishing like pillow covers or curtains,” says Nuno Guerreiro, regional manager of Canada for Booking.com. “The majority are inspired by local designs and new cultures, but over half of all travellers are actually motivated by the interior design of their holiday accommodations—this way, they’re able to recreate the experience of being on vacation in their own homes.”

From Mediterranean colours to northern comforts, Canadians are looking beyond Pinterest for their next home decor project. Here’s a look at the top five destinations inspiring Canadian travellers to redecorate, and how you can bring the other side of the world into your own home:

1 – Santorini MEDITERRANEAN BLUES The sun, sand and seaside views in Santorini make it the perfect inspiration for a relaxing home oasis. Adding bold royal blues to a Canadian home will call to mind a breezy, beach vacation in the sun, while white walls and furniture will remind travellers of Santorini’s unique seaside architecture. Plus, accents like mosaic tiles and beach-wood patterns truly brighten a room, transforming living areas into a Greek haven.

For an authentic taste of Santorini style, travellers can get inspired by the Kima Villas Suites. The resort’s infinity pool, combined with stunning coastal views, will have you craving the style in your own home.

2 – South Africa COUNTRY FARMHOUSE A country farmhouse, like those common in South Africa, is the ideal inspiration for city-dwelling travellers looking to transform their homes into a quiet retreat. Using warm earth tones and textural accents, plus elements like wood panels, ceramic and patchwork fabric, Canadians can revamp even the busiest home into a tranquil, pastoral oasis.

The Orange Grove Farm in beautiful South Africa is an ideal destination for an in-depth look at this design style, with accents and a private terrace  overlooking a working wine and olive farm.

3 – Copenhagen SCANDINAVIAN SIMPLICITY Scandinavian design is already a popular trend in Canadian homes and is gaining more and more momentum with a recent surge in popularity (thanks, Ikea!). A natural inclination for hygge, the “newlydiscovered” Danish trend of living a cosy, charming and content way of life; natural light, simple design and minimalist decor are at the foundation of this utilitarian design—no clutter allowed. Travellers looking to embrace this lifestyle need only add a few simple decorations to complete the look.

A great place to discover the modern, simplistic designs in Scandinavia is the Woodah Hostel in Copenhagen, where there’s a place for everything and  everything is in its place.

4 – Kyoto JAPANESE ZEN Japanese author and organizing consultant, Marie Kondo was onto something—Japan’s impeccable organization, Buddhist faith and minimalist decor are the perfect way to bring Zen into your home. The peaceful decor trend focuses on form and function, using neutral tones to improve tranquility. Plants and manicured trees are a must, adding to a toned-down atmosphere.

Find your inner (home) Zen with inspiration from the hotel Nazuna Kyoto Aneyakoji Tei, where a welcoming energy flows through glass floors, gardens and strong wooden accents.

5 – Canada COSY SKI LODGE Canadians know how to make the most of a cold winter, so it’s no surprise that a cosy ski lodge is one of our top inspirations for home decor. Warm colours, real wood elements and a fireplace stacked with crackling logs will bring a feeling of warmth and comfort to any home.

Not just any ski lodge will do here—the beautiful Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler offers the ultimate inspiration for Canadian home relaxation.

SOURCES
kimavilla.com, orangegrovefarm.co.za, woodah-hostel.com, nijo-nazuna.jp, westin-whistler.com

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Travel: Behind The Scenes

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Travel: Behind The Scenes

Check out the softer side of Vegas

By C.A. O’BRIEN

While the flashy side of Las Vegas still shines glaringly bright, try taking a counter intuitive approach to fully appreciate its wild west history and wild desert landscape. Vegas is definitely a city of contrasts.

If it’s been a few decades since you last visited, you’ll notice some big changes. Since the 1960s, Las Vegas has experienced incredible growth. Between 1990 and 2000 (alone), the population almost doubled – an increase of 82.5 per cent.

With this type of development in an arid, southern Nevada location, one can’t help but wonder how water is supplied to the thousands of hotel rooms, homes and businesses in the area. Operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, you can gain a better understanding of the journey that water takes at the Las Vegas Springs Reserve. Here, 180 acres are also dedicated to nature walks, displays, events and activities.

CORDIAL RECEPTION

Hospitality is at the core of any Las Vegas experience, and they do it up right. Not into gambling? Not to worry. Most hotels offer incredible spa experiences that are richly luxurious, with skilled practitioners who will ensure that you receive the highest level of care and attention. The Sahra Spa & Hammam at The Cosmopolitan Hotel, and the ESPA Spa at the Vdara Hotel & Spa, are sure bets – and you’ll love every glorious minute.

Sahra Spa & Hammam – image courtesy of the Cosmopolitan Hotel

STAR-STUDDED DINING

A glass is seldom half empty in Vegas, and here dining out is a heightened gastronomic experience. The best performers go to Vegas to strut their talents, as do the best chefs. Touted as one of the finest restaurants in the United States, chef Charlie Palmer and his team serve up a unique menu format at the Aureole restaurant in Mandalay Bay, along with the option of trying multiple wines throughout dinner. From a selection of more than 3,000 bottles, the wine team pours, and tags, each glass to denote the producer, variety and vintage before they are presented to your table.

Located in the Aria Resort & Casino, the Bardot Brasserie recently opened for lunch. Chef Michael Mina has put a modern spin on a Parisian influenced menu.

The Cromwell is now being billed as one of Vegas’s prime boutique hotels. Emmy award-winning celebrity chef, Giada De Laurentiis, shares her spectacular Italian cuisine at the restaurant bearing her name. When being seated at GIADA, ask for a table by the window for a panoramic view of the Bellagio fountains and Caesars Palace.

The Primrose Restaurant at the newly launched Park MGM (formerly the Monte Carlo) is a casual interpretation of time-honoured elegance. Feature walls of framed works of art are different in each guest room.

Hoover Dam – image courtesy of Sundance Helicopters

NATURAL WONDERS

For one of the most spectacular experiences, book a helicopter ride over the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Sundance Helicopters offers a tour option that includes a champagne breakfast in the canyon – there’s nothing quite like it.

The breathtaking desert landscape shows its true colours with hues of red, rust, pink and mauve. Explore the city’s unexpected side at the Red Rock Canyon, and then stop for dinner in a more-suburban setting at the Andiron Steak & Sea.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

BYGONE DAYS

You may have an ingrained image of the Vegas that was. At the Neon Museum, you can walk through a retired graveyard of old signs in various states of disrepair (some have been restored), that depict long-forgotten joints – from classy to tawdry.

Located on Fremont Street, the downtown Container Park is an open air shopping centre and entertainment venue constructed of repurposed shipping containers. Boutiques, food vendors, a performance stage and a children’s playground, cater to the whole family.

The Neon Museum – image courtesy of Neon Museum

THE BEST OF THE BEST

When it comes to entertainment, Las Vegas is the recreation hub. Canada’s own Cirque du Soleil evokes powerful images, along with exceptional ability and talent at tailored performances. You can choose from a handful of themed Cirque shows performed at various venues. MJ ONE is an electrifying tribute to the king of pop, and The Beatles LOVE celebrates a musical legacy.

From Elton John to Celine Dion, from comedy to magic, and from night clubs to jazz bars, there are few places in the world that offer so much – all in one place. Las Vegas is the epicentre of all things outstanding – talent, food, hospitality and luxury.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve – image courtesy Las Vegas Springs Preserve

 

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Decor Expert: Suitcase Splurges

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Decor Expert: Suitcase Splurges

Souvenir shopping & packing tips during your summer travels

By: Kimberley Seldon

For many of us, marvelling at and sampling local crafts, furnishings, and foods is a major part of the whole travel experience. If you’re like me, you’ll agree that nothing compares with the satisfaction of buying at the source. Here are some of my favourite suitcase splurges—those little gems that pack easily and forever remind you of a favourite destination.

  1. ORIGINAL ARTWORK should be at the top of every traveller’s shopping list. Unframed works of art such as oil paintings and photographs are nearly indestructible, fit easily into suitcases, and carry fond memories for years to come. You may want to sign and date the back of the artwork; noting the trip’s purpose (a honeymoon, retirement, big birthday) and details about the purchase. This way you’ll maintain an accurate record of your experience that future generations will enjoy.
  2. POTTERY AND PORCELAIN are worthy (though fragile) take-home choices. French Barbotine, Spanish Majolica, and Japanese Aritaware (or Imari) can be called into practical service once home, or simply enjoyed on display. Wrap the more delicate pieces as carry-on items for travelling home.
  3. ANTIQUE BOXES made of wood with inlaid marquetry or fashioned from exotic materials, such as tortoiseshell or shagreen (shark’s skin), are widely available and easy to transport. Larger antique boxes were a precursor to the laptop; allowing travellers to keep stationery, ink, and quills close at hand when far from home. Today’s collectors look for boxes that once held toiletries, stationery or tea.
  4. SERVING TRAYS lay flat amid folded clothing and are always welcome gifts back home. Regional examples might be made of tole (painted metal), acrylic, wood, pewter, or silver, depending on locale. Consider a trip to the local grocery store where you may find good-looking trays at a fraction of the price of gift shops.
  5. VINTAGE TEXTILES and local fabrics are easily found at antique shops, markets and local shops. Once home, remnants may be framed or used to create decorative pillows.
  6. DISHTOWELS AND BEDDING fashioned of linen, cotton, or hemp are also readily available and easy to transport. Vintage examples often feature embroidered details or monograms and work beautifully as guest towels. When purchasing bedding, consider that European beds are typically smaller than North American equivalents. Consider adding a hem or cuff to the perimeter of vintage bedding, in order to increase its overall size.
  7. LOCAL DELICACIES such as jam, pâté, cookies, and tapenade can be savoured for weeks following a trip. I search for beautiful sugars wrapped in unusual packaging, infused with lavender, or decorated with fanciful details to give away as hostess gifts once I’m home.
  8. CHANDELIERS, SCONCES, AND LANTERNS from Europe, Africa and Asia can easily be re-wired to meet North American safety standards or converted to candle use. A large 10-light chandelier may set you back about $300 to re-wire; a pair of sconces, somewhere around $40 to $50.

Happy travels.

Photography By: Simon Burn

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7 reasons to visit Holland in 2018

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7 reasons to visit Holland in 2018

Leeuwarden
Leeuwarden, that charming 10th-century town located in Friesland state, has been selected the European Capital of Culture for 2018 and the former royal residence has lots planned to celebrate its selection. The biggest attraction will be performances by the Royal de Luxe, the world-renowned French mechanical marionette street theatre company that uses giant figures to wow the crowds. Leeuwarden also has 50 major projects and hundreds of community initiatives planned throughout 2018.

Keukenhof Garden Show
The annual Keukenhof Spring Garden Show — an enormous floral spectacle — is held between March 22 and May 13 and people from all over the world come to admire the breathtaking display of over seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. If you’ve never been, book a ticket with KLM or Air Canada because this is the most beautiful garden show in the world.

Alkmaar Cheese Market
The Alkmaar Cheese Market reopened on March 31 and will stay open until Sept. 29. The market, located in northern Holland about 30 minutes from Amsterdam, is where you’ll get to see 2,200 giant cheese wheels on display. These cheese markets date back to 1365 in Waagplein, the only town with a scale big enough to weigh the giant chess wheels at the time.

Gouda Cheese Valley
If you’re visiting Alkmaar’s cheese market, you might want to extend your stay and tour the Gouda Cheese Valley, where most of the cheese consumed by the Dutch — they pack away 15 kilos each a year — is produced. The cheese valley is made up of Gouda, Bodegraven, Reeuwijk, Woerden and Krimpenerwaard, and each town has a long history with the creamy product. Cheese first arrived in Holland in the Middle Ages.

National Mill Day
Don’t miss National Mill Day (May 12-13). On that day, 950 windmills and watermills open their doors to visitors and the lineups are usually long. The iconic windmills have played a major role throughout Dutch history in reclaiming land and processing raw materials. Some are quite beautifully decorated inside and out.

Cycling Kinderdijk’s Windmills
Speaking of windmills, you can see the greatest collection of Dutch windmills in Kinderdijk while cycling along a route that passes right in front of them. There are 19 windmills in Kinderdijk and the cycle path also cuts through some charming Dutch towns. Cycling in The Netherlands is easy and all areas have well-marked bike trails.

Heritage Days
On September 8-9, you can get free admission to about 4,000 historical buildings during Heritage Days. Just about every city in The Netherlands participates and you’ll get to see some real treasures in places like The Hague, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Maastricht.

For more information, visit https://www.holland.com/global/tourism.htm

Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. http://www.travelife.ca/

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The best countries for stretching the Canadian dollar

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The best countries for stretching the Canadian dollar

Going on vacation doesn’t have to be expensive; here are four countries where your Canadian dollar will go the distance.

There’s a misconception that travelling is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right amount of planning and preparation, you can easily visit new destinations every year. The key to success is finding a spot that fits your budget.

There are many countries and exotic locations where the Canadian dollar won’t go as far as you would like so doing your research before booking a flight is important. Looking for ideas? We’ve rounded up some amazing countries that will stretch your dollar as far as possible.

Indonesia

Between the unbelievable beaches, the luxurious resorts and friendly people, Indonesia is a great spot for your next vacation. The flights will be on the pricier side but once you get there the cost of living is much lower than many other countries, which means your money will go farther. Ubud, Seminyak, Canguu and Kuta are the most popular cities for tourists.

An inexpensive meal in Indonesia is roughly $3 a person. You could even get away with spending $20 a day if you budget properly.

Hungary

Looking to travel to Europe but don’t want the price tag? Eastern European countries are very affordable for Canadian travellers. Known as the Paris of the East, Budapest is home to some of Europe’s most spectacular architecture. This popular city is best known for its thermal baths and nightlife but the skylines and culinary wonders are definitely underrated.

An inexpensive meal averages about $8 per person. When planning your budget, look to put aside between $20 to $45 per day.

Belize

This small country is quickly gaining popularity with Canadians, especially after WestJet introduced direct flights. Belize is a popular spot for divers and snorkelers because of the many different species of marine life. You may also be familiar with the well-known wonder, the Great Blue Hole. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation or one filled with adventure, you will find it in Belize.

An inexpensive meal in Belize will set you back roughly $4.75 per person. It can be easy enough to get away with spending $60 to $70 per day during your stay.

Portugal

If you’re looking to combine beautiful beaches with stunning architecture, than Portugal is a must on your travel list. There are direct flights to Lisbon from Toronto almost year-round, making it an easy destination to get to. Spend a couple of days exploring the history of Lisbon before heading down the coast to the Algarve to enjoy the beaches.

An inexpensive meal in Portugal is roughly $13 in a restaurant. If you are willing to rough it a bit, tourists can get away with an $80 to $100 per day budget in Portugal.

Madisyn is a freelance writer and social media obsessed traveller based out of Toronto. Always looking for her next adventure but glued to her phone, you can contact her at madi@therestlessworker.com or visit her at www.therestlessworker.com

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