Tag Archive | "Canada"

City Hopping in Montreal & Toronto

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Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours-Chapel in Montreal’s Old Port. Credit Bart Beeson

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours-Chapel in Montreal’s Old Port. Credit Bart Beeson

By Melissa Coleman

The upcoming warm months are an excellent time to visit Canada, what with the dollar so strong and the prime minister so hip. Its first- and second-largest cities, English-speaking Toronto and French-speaking Montreal, offer a refreshingly international flavor.

Montreal 

Montreal’s bilingual allure is evident the moment you hear the melodic transitions by locals from French to English. The same can be said for the architecture, with French Second Empire buildings side-by-side with English Georgian. This unique heritage is referenced on the license plate, “Je me souviens,” the beginning fragment of the line, “I remember/That born under the lily/I grew under the rose,” a nod to both its French (lily) and English (rose) foundations.

Continue reading …

Melissa Coleman is the author of This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak, a New York Times bestseller and Indie Next Pick for May 2011. It was a People’s Pick in People Magazine, excerpted in O, The Oprah Magazine, and a nonfiction finalist for the New England Book Award and Maine Literary Award. Melissa is a columnist for Maine Home + Design magazine and organizes the Super Famous Writers Series at The Telling Room, a Portland writing center for children and young adults. She lives in Maine with her husband and twin daughters and can be found at www.melissacoleman.com

Melissa Coleman is the author of This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak, a New York Times bestseller and Indie Next Pick for May 2011. It was a People’s Pick in People Magazine, excerpted in O, The Oprah Magazine, and a nonfiction finalist for the New England Book Award and Maine Literary Award. Melissa is a columnist for Maine Home + Design magazine and organizes the Super Famous Writers Series at The Telling Room, a Portland writing center for children and young adults. She lives in Maine with her husband and twin daughters and can be found at www.melissacoleman.com

Banff: Cold & Warm

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Skiing in sunshine at Sunshine, Alberta

Skiing in sunshine at Sunshine, Alberta

Story & photos by Jules Older

I learned to ski in the cold — the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Laurentians of Quebec. I lost a girlfriend by introducing her to my favorite sport when it was minus 20 at Sugarbush, almost gained a divorce by repeating that trick at the same temp at Jay Peak.

The one and only time I’ve refused to buckle up because of cold was at Mont Tremblant on a morning it was minus 39 … at the base. The rest of my colleagues at the UVM Outing Club thought I was a sissy and merrily skied off without me.

Then I moved to San Francisco. Now, I ski the High Sierra, whose name more accurately reflects high temperatures than altitude. Typical chairlift conversation:

Local: Sorry about the cold. It was a lot nicer last week.

Me: How cold is it?

Local: Twenty-six.

Me: Above?

I restrain myself and do not point out that 26 degrees above zero is the ideal, the perfect, the most wonderful temperature to ski. I don’t point out that while he is covered in Gore Tex from his gurgle to his zatch, I’m wearing a zipped-down turtleneck and a vest.

So. I’ve gone from cold to warm. Sure, my blood is thinning and my character shrinking, but really, no complaints.

Banff

Banff

Only now I’m heading back into the cold. Real cold. Deep cold. Banff, Alberta, Canadian cold.

The first time I skied here, it was minus 26. The next time, a balmy minus 15. In the gusting wind atop the aspirationally named Sunshine Village, I thought I was fixin’ to die. Especially my fingers. (More on that, below.)

So, this time I’m prepared. Hyper-warm Helly Hansen Racer jacket. Merino layered Helly Hansen Warm pant. Turtle Fur hood. K2 helmet with closeable vents. Serius serious gloves. A Transpack heated boot bag. Plus, half a carton of hand warmers.

Hand warmers. I’d brought hand warmers the last time, too. Why, then, were my fingers so cold? Because I packed said hand warmers in my carry-on, and TSA declared their potential heat a hazard to flight.  Hand warmers on the no-fly list? Who knew?

Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise

Oh, and maybe my fingers were cold because I was too cheap to buy new hand warmers at a resort shop. Pack yours in your suitcase as I do this time, along with all the rest of my cold-weather gear.

So, did it work?

No idea. When I get to Banff, it’s warm. Yes, 26-degree warm. 26 above.

It feels wrong … but wonderfully, gloriously wrong. And while I’m overdressed for the occasion, the skiing is beautiful.

“The skiing is beautiful” usually means great snow — packed powder, fresh fallen or perfectly groomed. And except for the blizzard that whited out Sunshine just as I reached the top, that part held true.

But in Banff, beautiful skiing has another meaning. With the possible exception of the Italian Dolomites, and with apologies to the scenic glories of Lake Tahoe, this is the most beautiful skiing in the world.

The mountains don’t just surround the town; they encase it. Whether you’re looking at art in one of the many Banff galleries, lunching at Park Distillery or hot-tubbing at the Willow Springs spa, as soon as you step outside, the mountains fill your eyes.

Norquay

Norquay

The view from the slopes of the three resorts — Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay —  are so stunning, you have to stop, gasp, and maybe hide the tear in your eye by pulling out a phone for a photo.

Even the two Fairmont hotels — Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs — are dreams of what a Canadian ski resort should look like. Massive, venerable, stately.

That’s not an accident. With the exception of nearby Jasper, Banff is the only municipality within a Canadian National Park. It’s gorgeous by nature and gorgeous by law — it may not expand its land base, and it doesn’t truck with ticky-tacky.

The protection of the park gives other gifts. The last time I skied here, on the last run of the day, I got ahead of my party on a heavily wooded trail. When I stopped to wait for them, my eyes grew wide. Ten yards in front of me, a large, furry animal with pointy ears swaggered across the trail. I thought cougar and tried to decide whether to grab my camera for posterity or my ski pole for defense. The cat paused in the middle of the trail, gave me a surveying look — Predator? Tourist? Lunch? — then continued her slow stroll until she disappeared into the forest. (I don’t know how I decided it was a she, but I felt that from the start.)

But this cat was no cougar. She was a lynx.

Lynx and cougar, brown bear and black, coyote and wolf, marten and muskrat make Banff their home. And in warm weather or cold, we have the privilege of joining them in the eye-filling beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

cover

SIDEBAR

Skiing Banff 

Banff by the numbers

7,748 acres

360 inches of annual snowfall

334 trails

28 lifts

3 resorts

2 towns (Banff and Lake Louise)

1 park (Banff is Canada’s first national park)

And here’s one more number: Twenty leading ski writers are at their finest in Jules Older’s ski book ebook, SKIING THE EDGE.

 

Jules Older: PhD, psychologist, medical educator, writer, editor, app creator, videographer, ePublisher. Big awards, big adventures, big fun.

Jules Older: PhD, psychologist, medical educator, writer, editor, app creator, videographer, ePublisher. Big awards, big adventures, big fun.

 

Three Reasons to Visit Quebec City Right Now

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intro_photo

Quebec City in winter.

Story & photos by Melissa Coleman

Long the neglected next-door neighbor in the minds of American travelers, Canada has been experiencing an it-moment of late with the November instatement of 44 year-old Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and first lady Sophie Grégoire—a couple whose Kennedy appeal has since been all over the news, not to mention in Vogue.

On top of that, the American dollar has trumped the Canadian loonie for a while now, currently averaging at a 30-percent discount for American visitors.

Should you find yourself seized by a sudden impulse to head for the Great White North? Three reasons why I’d recommend making a beeline for Quebec City, in specific, tout de suite:

1) Old World Charm Without the Jet Lag

Quebec City was founded by the French in 1608, ceded to the British in 1763, and confederated into Canada in 1867. This means a majority French-speaking city with a classic blend of French and British architecture and culture, and a Canadian trapper/pioneer twist.

Vive le Quebec

Vive le Quebec

All just north of the border. From anywhere in the US, Quebec City is generally a shorter and less expensive flight than Paris. Furthermore, from New England it’s an easy drive, and gas is cheap right now. Boston to Quebec (approx 6.5 hours) is near the same driving distance as Boston to Baltimore, or London to France, and likely faster to drive than fly, when layovers are involved.

2) Quebec Winter Carnival 

Winter Carnival brings revelry to even the coldest and bitterest winters, or in the case of milder years like this one, it’s the place to go to find you some winter. Traditionally a time of gathering and feasting before Lent (from the end of January to mid February), Carnaval de Québec was instituted as an annual event in 1955 and has grown to average 500,000 visitors, reaching nearly a million in 2006. Highlights include:

  • Bonhomme, the much-loved snowman mascot/ambassador, and his impressive Ice Castle.
The ice castle

The ice castle

  • Dog sledding, sleigh rides, sledding courses, snow sculptures and numerous family friendly activities at the gated carnival grounds ($15 CAN effigy pass grants access to most activities).
The author with Bon Homme.

The author with Bonhomme.

  • Native foods including maple taffy (warm maple syrup poured on snow to harden and wrapped around a popsicle stick), Caribou (a traditional drink of boiled wine), and Poutine (French fries topped with gravy and cheese curd).
  • The Quebec Hilton, official Carnival lodging, with great views and easy walking distance to town and most activities.
  • Snow Jamboree snowboarding competition (February 12-14, 2016).
  • Snow bath in bathing suits with Bon Homme (February 13, 2016).
  • Upper Town Night Parade along René Lévesque Boulevard and Grand Allée (February 13, 2016)

3) Favorable Exchange Rate

Another bonus about Quebec City is that it hasn’t been overtaken by American food and clothing brands. Many stores and products are unique to Quebec and/or Canada and France. This, along with the exchange rate averaging $1.30, and the ability to visit by car to schlep things home, makes shopping in Quebec City a raison d’être.

Don’t miss:

Marche du Vieux Port

Marche du Vieux Port

One of my favorite places in Quebec, this indoor farmer’s market is a treasure trove of exotic teas, fine cheeses, local meat, fish, and produce, as well as what must certainly be the world’s best maple butter.

 

Quartier Petite Champlain

Quartier Petit Champlain

Touted as the oldest shopping district in North America, the stroll-able cobblestone streets of the Old Town are full of unique shops with Quebec-made items, try Boutique Amimoc for traditional Native American moccasins crafted in Quebec as they have been for centuries.

North of the walled city, this former working class neighborhood is now the place to find hip second-hand clothing, antiques, and curios shops like Rétro Bordello, recently featured in the New York Times.

Holt Renfrew, the iconic Toronto chain, may have closed its Quebec City store recently, but native Simons dates back to a small family dry goods store opened in 1812, and boasts three stores around the city featuring mens’ and womens’ clothing, and of course, ever-popular Canada Goose jackets.

 

Melissa Coleman is the author of This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak, a New York Times bestseller and Indie Next Pick for May 2011. It was a People’s Pick in People Magazine, excerpted in O, The Oprah Magazine, and a nonfiction finalist for the New England Book Award and Maine Literary Award. Melissa is a columnist for Maine Home + Design magazine and organizes the Super Famous Writers Series at The Telling Room, a Portland writing center for children and young adults. She lives in Maine with her husband and twin daughters and can be found at www.melissacoleman.com

 

Melissa Coleman has written for publications including The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler. She is the author of This Life is In Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres and a Family’s Heartbreak, a New York Times bestselling memoir and finalist for the New England Book Award, about growing up during the 1970s back-to-the-land movement. She lives in Maine and can be found at melissacoleman.com.

Active Travels: O Canada!

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The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia.

The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia.

By Steve Jermanok

The favorable exchange rate for the American dollar not only extends to Europe. If you haven’t looked lately, $1 US will now fetch $1.25 in Canada. I haven’t seen an exchange rate like that since I was at an Expos game. If the exorbitant flights to Europe limit your options to the continent, especially if you want to travel as a family, head north. I’m already planning to go to Nova Scotia in early June and Montreal and the Eastern Townships in October. I’ve also just returned from the Canada Media Marketplace in New York, where I learned about all the new travel opportunities in the country. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively around Canada, biking around Niagara-on-the-Lake and Prince Edward Island, hiking in Cape Breton and the glorious Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, savoring the charming town of St. Andrews in New Brunswick and the resplendent beauty of Salt Spring Island in BC, going on such memorable adventures as whitewater rafting down the Klinaklini River in BC, a multi-sport vacation with the family in the Canadian Rockies, or canoeing through Ontario’s remote Wabakimi Wilderness, and loving my time in the cities while vintage shopping in Toronto and eating my way though Vancouver. If you need me to point you in the right direction, I’m happy to help!

Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels

Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels

Snow Flurries: British Columbia Heliskiing

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Fresh tracks with TLH Heliskiing in British Columbia, Canada

Fresh tracks with TLH Heliskiing in British Columbia, Canada

 

by Kim McHugh

(Photos courtesy of Randy Lincks/Andrew Doran — TLH Heliskiing)

The storm clouds made themselves at home in the mountainous valley like a sports fanatic in a La-Z-Boy chair, dropping snowflakes the size of quarters. Normally this would be good news because of the foot of fresh powder, but I am at a heliskiing lodge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia and the inclement weather is preventing the helicopter from taking off.

I sit in the lodge with 40 anxious powder skiers and snowboarders and wait. After an hour the storm shows no signs of letting up and the mood is sullen.This was the last day of a three-day trip to Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa, home to TLH Heliskiing and a luxurious lodge. The two previous days were postcard perfect with deep powder, sunshine and untracked snow, so to be trapped inside spending the day playing billiards was hardly anybody’s idea of a good time.

About the time the moods hit bottom, the storm suddenly quit, the clouds parted like curtains at a Broadway show and the sun beamed. Fifteen minutes later, we were airborne. In another 15 minutes, the 12 passenger, jet-powered Bell 212 helicopter deposited 10 powder hounds and two ACMG certified guides on a ridge about 7,500 feet above sea level somewhere within the boundaries of the Southern Chilcotin Mountains.In front of us stood 830,000 acres of untracked powder, an area of land 100 times the size of Whistler/Blackcomb (two resorts I had visited just days earlier) and 150 times the size of Vail in Colorado.

Making tracks with TLH in BC

Making tracks with TLH in BC

Our guide refreshed our memories about backcountry hazards, and then slipped over the edge, linking 20 turns in the newly fallen snow. Floating through 20 more turns, he reached the bottom and waved for us to follow.
One by one, our group eased into the snow, floating effortlessly on lodge-provided Rossignol skis and Magtek snowboards, whooping and hollering as we turned.

For me, the allure of heliskiing in Canada was a combination of practicality and emotion. At a resort, where access from high-speed lifts and intensive grooming can quickly eliminate untracked powder, in the backcountry, it can remain untouched for days and even weeks. On a purely visual level, I believe no ski area in the western United States compares with the Canadian Rockies in terms of vastness and sheer beauty.

After adjusting my goggles, I pointed my skis downhill and took off. Designed to float through powder and crud, the skis easily negotiated the terrain. Throughout the day the group made its way down runs with names like Playoff, Gun Josie, The Swiss Peaks, Moon Doggie and Cinnabar Ridge, convening at the chopper for the five-minute ride back to the summit.

At lunch, over thick soup and hearty deli sandwiches, we talked about powder as an aphrodisiac, agreeing that we would go to great lengths to find it. Some in our group even chased powder storms to New Zealand and Chile, places where it is winter during North America’s summers.What is cool about a heliskiing/boarding adventure is that it appeals to a wide audience—from experts looking to rack up lots of vertical meters to intermediates wishing to ski or ride helicopter-served terrain perhaps for the first time.

“Since TLH introduced unlimited vertical and a minimum guarantee, less than one percent of our guests have failed to meet their guaranteed vertical,” said Conny Amelunxen, Lead Guide for TLH. “With typical conditions we normally log over 37,500 meters in a week. A few groups every year will log give or take 60,000 meters.”
The big weeks for vertical are normally in March and April when the snow pack is deeper and generally more stable, but January and February can offer some of the coldest, lightest snow. With 375 mapped “runs” and access to several climatic zones in the Coast and Chilcotin Ranges, TLH enables guides to find terrain best suited to its clients.

“Some folks are here for a peaceful week in the mountains, others come for the steeps, and some like exploring new areas for more of an adventure.” added Amelunxen. “With a single group and two guides per machine we can offer so many options.”

At dinner the first night—over wild rice and mushroom soup, a Caesar salad, pan-seared salmon and cheesecake—I discovered that TLH offers several packages, including its Signature, Small Group and Private Platinum experience, which caters to up to ten people. Besides the highly personal attention, one particular aspect of the Platinum package caught my ear—check out the details here. (www.tlhheliskiing.com/heliski-packages/private-platinum/).

 

Tyax 525x350 Chalet AndrewDoran-RandyLincks

Tyax Chalet in British Columbia, Canada

Breakfast each day was a flurry of pancakes, eggs, bacon, French toast, and hash browns accompanied by oatmeal, granola, breads and fresh fruit. Prior to heading out every morning, we were apprised of backcountry hazards, including avalanches. Each of us was given avalanche survival items, including a PIEPS, an electronic device that projects a signal.

If I was swept away in a slide, my chances of being found quickly—and alive—improved considerably by wearing the unit. Although the avalanche danger was moderate, it gave me comfort knowing I had it on. Wearing an ABS balloon system backpack also provide peace of mind.

Moving into the last few runs of the day, I began to get “Elvis” legs, a condition where my muscles were so tired, my legs trembled in an up and down motion. These last runs add 200 turns to my day and I am spent. Later that afternoon, as I packed up and boarded the helicopter for the one-hour flight to Vancouver, I knew this adventure would be forever tattooed in my mind.

Endless runs on a great heli day with TLH in BC, Canada

Endless runs on a great heli day with TLH in BC, Canada

Details:

To book a trip to Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa and TLH Heliskiing, call 800-667-4854, email sales@tlhheliskiing.com or click on www.tlhheliskiing.com.

Season: Late December through April. Typically, the most powder falls in January and March—the busiest months. Make reservations in advance, as the trips will book quickly.
Packages: Packages, which include meals, heliskiing and lodging, are available from three to seven days. January and April represent the best values. Early pre-payment discounts are available. The Whistler Combo package gets guests two days at Whistler/Blackcomb as well as heliskiing.
Pricing: Prices ranges from around $4,900 (CAN) per person for a 3-day package to just under $12,000 (CAN) per person for a 7-day package.
Transportation: Fly into Vancouver on United, Air Canada or Alaska Airlines. Round trip helicopter service is also available from the Pan Pacific Hotels in Vancouver and in Whistler. RT helicopter service is also available from Vancouver or Whistler (additional fee).
Health: You should be in good cardiovascular and muscular shape. Also, altitude sickness is a very real condition. Symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and a raging headache. Doctors recommend drinking plenty of water a few days before arriving at a higher altitude and while you are visiting.
Ability: You should be at least a strong intermediate level skier or snowboarder. Being in good shape is a real plus.
Gear: New, wider all-terrain skis make staying on top of the snow easier, especially for intermediate level people. Guides, who are well trained and ACMG certified, are also excellent at giving pointers. TLH Heliskiing includes the use of skis and snowboards in its packages. Dress in layers, bring goggles and, as an extra safety measure, wear a helmet!
Operators: Bella Coola Heli Sports, 604-932-3000, www.bellacoolaheliskiing.com; Canadian Mountain Holidays, 800-661-0252, www.canadianmountainholidays.com; Great Canadian Heli-skiing, 866-424-4354, http://canadianheli-skiing.com; Crescent Spur Heli-skiing, 800-715-5532, www.crescentspurheliskiing.com; Last Frontier Heliskiing, 888-655-5566, www.lastfrontierheli.com; Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, 800-661-9170, www.wiegele.com; Purcell Helicopter Skiing, 877-435-4754, http://purcellheliskiing.com; Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing, 800-663-7080, www.selkirk-tangiers.com; Whistler Heli-skiing, 888-435-4754, www.whistlerheliskiing.com. Look here as well: www.helicatcanada.com.

 

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Kim McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has been skiing for 40+ seasons. His articles have appeared in SKI, Hemispheres, POWDER, Colorado AvidGolfer, Luxury Golf & Travel, RockyMountainGolfMag.com, The Washington Post, The Toronto Sun, The Denver Post and Tastes of Italia.

Active Travels: Biking the Confederation Trail, P.E.I.

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pei

By Steve Jermanok

Biking slightly uphill outside of Hunter’s River, horse farms replace dairy farms and the velvety green pasture flourishes. Purple lupines line the trail to add their color to the brilliant canvas. I was on my final ride of a three-day bike tour of Prince Edward Island one September, on assignment for Canadian Geographic magazine. Hunter’s River is less than a 15-minute drive from the fabled dunes and red cliffs of Cavendish, the PEI tourist hub made famous by that young girl in braids, Anne of Green Gables. Close to civilization yet far enough removed to relish the solitude (I’ve only greeted one other biker this day), I’m lost in a bucolic setting that has changed little since Lucy Maud Montgomery penned her timeless novel in 1908.

Oh yes, there is one difference. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected the island’s small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. It starts in Tignish on the island’s western tip and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira.
The hum of trains long gone, I hopped on my bike and pedaled through a tunnel of dense pines that effectively blocked out the world. There was not a soul around and the chaos of modernity was replaced with the melody of birds chirping. I was biking into a bygone era, a serene spot where a girl named Anne could have easily grown up without too much duress.
Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels

Steve Jermanok Working as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor at Budget Travel, and regular contributor for The Boston Globe, Men’s Journal, and Yankee Magazine, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1500 articles on 80 countries. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. With his wife, Lisa Leavitt, Steve launched a boutique travel agency, ActiveTravels.com, in May 2012. His clientele includes many people in the travel business, including Steve Kaufer, founder of TripAdvisor (designed his honeymoon to Turkey), and Mark Snider, owner of The Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard and The Nantucket Hotel on Nantucket. You can follow him @ActiveTravels

Québec City’s New France Festival

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Québec City’s New France Festival
Québec City’s New France Festival

Photos by Dave Houser

Towering above Quebec City atop Cap-Diamant, the giant luxury hotel Fairmont Le Chateaux Frontenac is the old walled city’s most famous landmark — viewed here from the sweeping expanse of Dufferin Terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River,  Quebec City, Canada

Crepes, while not unique to French Canada, are a traditionally popular and tasty dish — seen being prepped here at a food stall during the annual New France Festival in Quebec City, Canada.

Authentically costumed participants and spectators alike turn out in droves for the opening evening parade that kicks off the annual New France Festival in Quebec City, Canada.

Each August the 17th century comes to life in Quebec City as the New France Festival  opens with a gala evening parade featuring larger than life costumed characters depicting historic figures from the city’s early colonial days, Quebec City, Canada.

Seen here performing at the 2012 New France Festival in Quebec City, the quartet Le Vent du Nord has been described as a leading force in Quebec’s progressive folk movement.  Quebec City, Canada.

Rejean Brunet takes up the accordian while performing in concert with the Quebec progressive folk quartet Le Vent du Nord at the 2012 New France Festival in Quebec City, Canada

The customs and costumes of 17th century French Canada go public in a big way during historic Quebec City’s New France Festival.  The annual fest draws more than a quarter-million visitors for five days of non-stop music, food and performing arts events, street entertainment, parades and fireworks, Quebec City, Canada

This year’s New France Festival runs from August 6 to 10, 2014.

 

All images copyright Dave Houser

Story & Photos by Dave Houser

Québec City, the cradle of French civilization in North America, celebrates its 17th century heritage each August with five exiting days of parading, dancing, dining, music, theatre, arts and fireworks officially designated Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France — or the SAQ New France Festival.  Fittingly enough, event sponsor SAQ is the government corporation that controls the sale of alcohol in Québec.

Residents and visitors alike join in the festivities, dressing in period costumes to parade through the cobblestone streets of the historic old walled city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a bastion of French culture and lifestyle as it has been since its founding in 1608.

Celebrations for this year’s 18th annual New France Festival get underway at 7:00 pm on August 6 with the gala Opening Night Parade of the Giants.  Featuring nearly 600 characters, including some 20 way-larger-than-life “giants,” the parade winds its way from the towering copper-topped Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel (clearly the festival visitor’s residence of choice) through the streets of Old Québec.  It’s a rousing start to a wonderfully authentic trip back in time to the earliest days of European settlement in the Americas.

For more information, go to www.bonjourquébec.com.

Black Rock Resort, BC

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Black Rock Resort, BC

Black Rock Resort, BC

by Rachel Dodds

Built in 2008, the Black Rock Resort is set along the rugged rocky Pacific coastline- home to the beautiful Pacific Rim National park and over 22km of sandy white beaches. This area of the world could be described as raw and natural and some may wonder who lives out here let alone visits but there are some gems to discover – Black Rock is one of them.

The area of Tofino and Ucuelet on the western coast of Vancouver Island is now well known. The earliest tourists to the area arrived in the late 1880s. These hardy travelers toured the area on steamships transporting miners and fur traders; however, it was not until a logging road opened access to the area in 1959 that news of the area’s rugged beauty, including long sandy beaches and spectacular surf, quickly spread.  Soon surfers and hippies were pitching their tents and setting up camps on the variety of beaches in the area.  In 1970, Pacific Rim National Park was established and the park soon attracted even more visitors to the area.

With the area being known for its natural surroundings, sustainability rolls off the tongue in this part of the world. Black Rock is a large resort with 133 rooms, and it has been asked if this type of development is sustainable for this area. The resort did originally have a negative image when it first opened as the locals were worried about the scale of a big resort in a small community. Things have changed since then. Now the resort employs 60% of its 135 staff locally providing much-needed year round jobs. The resort attracts mainly older couples or young families and those who care about and want to be one with nature. Over 80 weddings are held at Black Rock Resort every year and weekends year-round are often at capacity. Walking out of the restaurant you are right on the Pacific Rim trail within a minute of access to the rocky beach or cliff top trails. There is no surfer crowd here, and the place is definitely quieter than nearby Tofino, but it is geared to those who want to relax, chill out and unwind.

 

Black Rock Resort, BC

Black Rock Resort, BC

The resort is run by General Manager Adele Larkin who feels more like an old friend than a manager: “We do whatever we can to make things special for you. I want this place to be charming… Without pretense.”

And she does. Traveling here with a 14-month toddler I feel like I have been beautifully taken care of. I expected a crib in room, high chair and child friendly recommendations provided but I didn’t expect every member of staff to smile and engage with my daughter and Adele herself taking a few minutes to play peek a boo with her in the restaurant. Adele loves that young families are staying in the community and clearly loves both the area and the resort. Adele talks about the hotel as if it is part of her family. No wonder Black Rock can boast 37% repeat visitors each year.

Although to the eye Black Rock is not what I would call ‘eco’, the resort practices some wonderful initiatives. Adele’s attitude clearly promotes a responsible mindset and she claims that many ideas come from her staff, not just the top. There is geothermal heating in all common areas and most of the decorative wood is reclaimed from construction. Major efforts have taken place to reduce waste and over 90% of the landscape has been re-naturalized to showcase the rustic feel of this coast. Over $150,000 was spent to retrofit all the property’s lights and now LED lighting saves over $20,000 a year in energy consumption. Efforts are made to be car-free as the resort is close to town. Bicycles are provided free of charge and there are electric car plug ins. Small efforts like motion sensors in washrooms, re-purposed menus as notepads, switching off the propane lobby fireplace and the use of biodegradable room amenities help the environment too.

Fetch restaurant at Black Rock Resort, BC

Fetch restaurant at Black Rock Resort, BC

Almost all possible supplies and food are sourced locally (Vancouver Island) and almost all seafood is Oceanwise and meat grass fed and free range.

“You can’t really talk about sustainability or make any claims to making things better if your food is mass produced,” says Adele.

These eco initiatives are nice but it is the community efforts that make you realize that this is a special place. Adele herself is on the executive board of the local aquarium and local businesses are promoted widely by staff. The aquarium is small but great for children as there are container pools to allow kids to touch the sea life. It’s also one of the few that is catch and release.  Black Rock Resort supports multiple local charities and if you are visiting in spring try to make it around Easter as they organize the community Easter egg hunt. The day before staff do a beach clean up and last year 8,000 eggs were hidden on the beach for the hunt.

The view from Black Rock Resort, BC. Photo by Rachel Dodds

The view from Black Rock Resort, BC. Photo by Rachel Dodds

If you can’t make it in spring and want to avoid the summer crowds, then fall is also an option. Recently seen to be competing with Tofino for the famous storm watching, you can take advantage of a storm watching package which provides an umbrella, generous gift certificate for their delicious restaurant, and a couple of travel mugs to keep your beverage warm while watching the waves crash on the rocks.

Black Rock Resort, Ucluelet, BC

 

Rachel Dodds is the Director of Sustaining Tourism

Rafting the Chilko with R.O.A.M.

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Rafting the  Chilko-Chilcotin-Fraser with R.O.A.M.

Rafting the Chilko-Chilcotin-Fraser with R.O.A.M.

What’s the Deal: The Chilko trip with R.O.A.M. was recognized by Outside magazine as the Best River Trip for 2014.  Not a bad distinction for this amazing eight day expedition.

The Trip: “The Chilko-Chilcotin-Fraser is unmatched in its awesome diversity and enormous stretches of Class IV whitewater. The trip begins with a spectacular flight over the glaciated CoastRange into WilliamsLake. From there, we transfer to the headwaters of Chilko where we spend two glorious nights at Bear Camp, perched at the juncture of ChilkoLake and the ChilkoRiver. Our rafts depart Bear Camp on Monday mornig and this world-class river adventure winds through lush alpine forests, narrow canyons, high desert plateaus and skyscraping hoodoos, then ends 3,000 vertical feet lower and one week later on the FraserRiver, the lifeblood of Canada’s largest river system. The route runs through Lava, Big John and Farwell canyons and includes the continent’s longest stretch of commercially navigable whitewater.”

 

The Quote: R.O.A.M. says, “We think celebrated author Pam Houston sums it up best:‘What I love most about the river isn’t the challenge of the rapids, isn’t the drop dead gorgeous scenery, isn’t even getting intimate with a place you can’t get to in a car (though I love all those things too). What I love best about being on the river is the way you move through space at a speed humans were meant to move, and the whole day becomes about making your miles, making your meals, making a comfortable, if temporary, home.’”

Details: The trip starts with a flight from Vancouver, two nights at Bear Camp followed by six days of non-stop action down 120 miles of river.

Cost: $2,995 from Vancouver.

Booking: R.O.A.M.

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Glacier Skywalk

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Glacier Sky Walk

Glacier Skywalk

Brewster Travel Canada has been involved with the Canadian national parks since 1892, when the founders, two teenaged brothers, Jim and Bill Brewster, began guiding guests through the Rockies. If they were around today, the Brewster brothers would be in awe of their company’s latest development. Opening in Jasper National Park this coming May is the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. The bird’s eye view provides an unobstructed vista of the glaciers and snowcapped peaks of Jasper, accessible to all. You reach the Glacier Skywalk by a 5-minute coach from the Glacier Discovery Centre.

 

steve1  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

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