Tag Archive | "Canada"

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


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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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.

When the Going was Good: Our 30 Favorite Trips in 2013

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The incredible team that puts together Everett Potter’s Travel Report every week is a well-traveled bunch. So asking our contributors about their favorite travel moment in 2013 produced joy, angst and lengthy answers, as well as the inevitable,  “Just one?”

Herewith are some highlights from our travels in 2013.



Riding a horse out of dense Brazilian rain forest and into a clearing where the Atlantic came into shimmering view, during a modified version of the horseback-and-hiking trek between two of my all-time favorite hotels, Fazenda Catucaba and Pousada Picinguaba. I was with the owner on a scouting mission for what will eventually become a two-day trip from the mountains to the sea (he’s hoping to get it going next year), with stops for gourmet picnics with the fazenda’s homemade cheese and breads and a night of glamping in a safari-style campsite, though virgin UNESCO-protected forests so untouched that we walked much of the way behind state park guides wielding machetes to break a path. – Ann Abel




I’d never really thought of going to one of the country’s biggest cities to unwind by a pool until last winter. My husband, daughter and I wanted to fly off to a beach for a relaxing winter getaway, but her UChicago break was too short. Our solution: we booked a mini-suite at the Four Seasons Chicago and promised ourselves we wouldn’t let the fact that all of Chicago was at our doorstep entice us to get into urban mode. Happily we kept our promise. The hotel’s Roman-columned pool, with a huge Jacuzzi and light streaming in through the skylight and floor-to-ceiling window wall let us forget how cold the Chicago winter was. We ventured out once to walk to one of the museums and take a shopping stroll down Michigan Avenue. But mostly our weekend consisted of lazing on the lounge chairs, swimming in the warm pool, and sipping cool drinks in the graciously-sized Jacuzzi. Oh yes, and enjoying room service. Pina colada anyone? - Geri Bain




By far it was taking my first solo trip with my son to New York City. For his birthday if there was anywhere he could go in the world, where would it be? “New York City,” he said and pointed to it on the map next to his bunk bed. “It’s my favorite place in the universe.” We spent one epic day and night in the city — stayed at the fun and funky Ace Hotel in Midtown (“What’s a record?” he asked while playing with the turntable), hit the NYPL’s Children’s Literature Exhibit, the Nathan Sawaya Lego Art exhibit, rode the subways (“Better than a rollercoaster!”) and had a fancy dinner downtown at Chef Ryan Hardy’s Charlie Bird. And to celebrate the big day? An appearance in the Today Show crowd, a stroll through the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center, lunch and gelato at Eataly and “The Lion King” on Broadway. Even the train rides in and out of the city were a hit. More importantly we got to share our love of travel, discovery, food, people and art  together! – Amiee White Beazley 




Just back from my best travel experience this year–sailing out of my home port, New York City at night (a thrill!) and cruising up the Atlantic coast to Canada on Regent’s Navigator.  All of the stops were fun–Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal, but the real surprise was visiting familiar close-to-home places like Newport and Bar Harbor that I’ve loved on land but found a treat seen from a new perspective, as ports of call.  - Eleanor Berman




Out on the road, every year has its special moments.  The Belgian province of Flanders, just beyond the center of Ypres, is where some of World War I’s bloodiest fighting occurred and where many events of the Great World War I Centenary will be celebrated in 2014.  Standing in Essex Farm Cemetery, beside the mossy bunker of the medical station where Lt. Col. John McCrae, a doctor, penned his poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I gazed out at the lines of headstones and could almost see those long-ago battlefields and hear his famous words: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the headstones, row on row.”  – Monique Burns


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My best travel story of 2013 was staying up Little Woody Creek Valley with a recently-sited mountain lion, in a guest house once visited by Margaret Thatcher. The former Prime Minister happened to die while I was staying there, so each time I went for a walk, I imagined the mountain lion might appear and I’d suddenly find myself having tea with the Iron Lady in the ever after. - Melissa Coleman




One of the most memorable moments of our family trip to Northern California last summer took place during a guided sea kayaking tour of Monterey Bay. Just at a spot where the winds got strong and paddling got a little rough, a rollicking band of sea lions and harbor seals swarmed around us and started clowning around for what seemed to be our amusement.  Seals were playfully nudging our kayaks and diving in between us.  Sea lions pups were leaping out of the water and striking funny poses midair.  It was hard to take our eyes off of them.  Talk about the greatest show on earth! -Jessica Genova




The Andean Explorer, PeruRail’s luxury train service between Cuzco and Puno, is the greatest surface transportation trip I have ever taken in Latin America — and certainly the best choice for traveling to or from Lake Titicaca. The journey is not short — a full day, in fact — but the 10 hours go by quickly. One reason is the excellent entertainment: two different bands and dance troupes, featuring music and folklore from both the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Andean plateau, perform in the morning and afternoon. A leisurely lunch consisting of regional specialties is included in the train fare, as is afternoon tea. Following lunch, the talented bartender in the observation car gives lessons in mixing Peru’s classic cocktail, the pisco sour. The scenic highlight of the journey — best enjoyed from the open-air rear car — is watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca, framed by the majestic peaks of the Bolivian Andes.  The staff provides friendly and attentive service throughout the journey; and given the international make-up of the train’s passengers, there are many opportunities to strike up interesting conversations with fellow travelers from many different countries. Cuzco and Machu Picchu are deservedly the leading tourist attractions in this part of the world; but Lake Titicaca — the highest navigable body of water in the world, and home to the fascinating people who live on the lake’s artificial floating islands — is a very worthwhile excursion. Especially since getting there is now half the fun. – Buzzy Gordon




Return to Brazil – from the toucans flying overhead, monkeys rustling the trees and up-close mists of Iguazu falls from our base at the newish Orient Express Cataratas – to the chic cobblestone streets, stylish boutiques, great dining and fabulous beaches of Buzios – to the always touristy but for a very good reason Christo in Rio, along with climbing up the base of Pao de Acucar / Sugarloaf Mtn. Bring on the Olympics and World Cup! - Cari Gray




You’ve just marveled at Alaska’s great receding Mendenhall Glacier and have heeded the ranger’s suggestion to head to a nearby stream. Even forewarned, you’re still startled by the sight of the bear pushing purposefully through the high grass toward the shallow water.  As if scripted, she enters the stream. Snatches a slow moving, spawning salmon.  And drops it in the grass maybe 15 feet from your privileged perch on a fenced, raised boardwalk built expressly for this moment. Her two cubs join her, but get little of this catch, as the sow bites hungrily into the fish.  You’re so close that you hear the salmon bones crunching.  - John Grossmann




Mall of America…where else can you ride a roller coaster, see a movie, eat in any one of 60 restaurants, witness a wedding in a Vegas-style marriage chapel, shop for Chanel, buy naughty lingerie or a hockey stick and have any part of your body pierced? Minneapolis itself was an eye-opening experience for this admitted New York City snob.  - Shari Hartford




While checking out the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, my husband and I ventured up to the hillside cactus and succulent garden on the campus. Pretty wonderful we thought. And then we discovered the “po.e.tree,” a virtual tree of poems written by visitors and clipped onto a hodgepodge of branches. (See if you can find mine in the pic.) Best part, though, was spotting Moriso Teraoka, a 100th Infantry Battalion Vet who founded the garden in ’88 with a donation of plants and still helps to maintain it with a battalion of volunteers (that’s him hiking up the stairs). Sweet guy for such a prickly project. - Linda Hayes




I’m not one for life-sized, wax replicas of historical figures. But in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River in St. Petersburg, the waxen likenesses of the men who attempted the murder of Rasputin– and of the infamous Siberian “Mad Monk” himself at the end of the table–changed my mind. There, in the dark and creaky basement, the aristocracy will give the huge, fire-eyed peasant poison enough to kill a horse….but not, it turned out, to kill him. Instead, the seemingly indestructible mystic will undergo one of the most bizarre and protracted demises in history. It’s a mesmerizing and memorable stage set. - Dalma Heyn 




Floreana was the highlight of our family trip to Ecuador. Spent one perfect day viewing century-old tortoises, dining at a ranch with descendants of the island’s first settlers, and then snorkeling by ourselves with mega-sized sea turtles and none-too-shy sea lions. -Steve Jermanok




My Best 2013 Travel Moment was witnessing, firsthand, the power of travel to heal. In June, still reeling from the death of my mother and difficult ongoing divorce negotiations, I went to Amsterdam to do two stories for EPTR. Just being airborne gave my spirits a lift; experiencing a healing Watsu spa treatment gave me the first chance to unexpectedly be in touch with my mourning and the gifts of my mother’s life. New vistas, new energy, new perspective and new hope for the future sound like a lot of baggage to put onto a four-day trip, but that’s what happened. Travel expands and travel can help the healing process. I discovered that, and am grateful for it. - Mary Alice Kellogg




I rented an attic apartment atop a house in the Kilburn section of northwest London for two weeks – very basic, but light-filled, quiet and equipped with a small kitchen and bath – and spent my days writing, looking at art, and walking, walking, walking as I discovered areas and aspects of the city that, despite having visited nearly a dozen times before, were previously unknown to me. It was, far and away, the most enjoyable travel experience of my life. - Marc Kristal




Last April, the ski writers association held its 50th anniversary meeting at Mammoth Mountain, in California. The day I arrived it seemed like spring and I was concerned about having enough snow. O me of little faith! The first morning, I awoke and discovered that a storm overnight had covered the mountain and our base area with a blanket of new snow. We skied joyfully the next few days (though it was a tad windy!) On one particular day, I skied with a retired ski writer who spends many of her days in Vermont. She was not just beautiful to watch; she was swift. I had trouble keeping up with her. When I asked how old she was, she said in a conspiratorial voice: “I’m 84, but I don’t want people to know.” I replied: “You’re my hero!” - Grace Lichtenstein




Even though I’ve lived in Paris for years, I hadn’t done a long, comprehensive trip of the Loire Valley chateaux in many years, so it was a huge pleasure to rediscover their magnificence during a week-long trip this past May, the perfect time for visiting this part of France. I especially loved Chenonceau for its fairy-tale elegance and Villandry for its magnificent gardens and history–it was restored by a passionate couple–Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish nobleman, and Anne Coleman, a Pennsylvania steel heiress, who met while studying medicine in Paris. Other great finds were the Restaurant Olivier Arlot in Montbazon and the superb wines of the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups by winemaker Jacky Blot in Montlouis. - Alec Lobrano




I expected to be overwhelmed by Prague’s wealth of baroque, art nouveau, and gothic buildings. But I was speechless when I discovered cubist architecture unique to the Czech Republic. In 1911, Joseph Gočár designed the Herbst department store, now the landmark House of the Black Madonna and the Grand Café Orient where I had a cubist donut. Those prismatic architectural forms also welcomed me, a privileged houseguest, to my friends’ flat. - Julie Maris/Semel




We’re on Rarotonga, a reef-ringed isle in the middle of the South Pacific. Rarotonga has palm trees and beaches and tropical fish, but it’s best known for its church singing. We go to church. The singing is magnificent; harmonies that start with a couple of men in a back pew, then ascend through the pews and climax with the choir. I’m floored with the beauty. That’s the first revelation. The second comes when I notice what one of the choir ladies is doing during the sermon. Happily, Effin Older caught the moment with her Canon. – Jules Older & Effin Older




Tapas crawl in San Sebastian, spiritual heart of Spanish tapas culture. - Larry Olmsted




The highlight for 2013 has to be our July visit to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. This colorful gathering of some 150 artisans from all over the world–Korea, Israel, Mexico, Tajikistan, you name it–lets market-goers get up close and personal with the men and women who bring their wares and sell them on the spot. So you’re free to strike up a conversation with a woman from the Ok Pop Tok weaving collective in Laos, or a wood carver from Mexico who’s been proclaimed a national living treasure. One day we attended a lecture and demonstration of Tuvan throat singing, which turned out to be both fascinating and remarkably moving. (Quick: Can you find Tuva on a map?). Even better, the artisans are given the tools to return home and work in their villages to build solid businesses from their traditional crafts. All in all, we look forward to making it an annual pilgrimage.  - Tom Passavant & Karen Glenn (photo)




The view over Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai must be one of the wondrous in the world, a backdrop of rugged mountains that form the Napali Coast, a dragons’ back covered in green. This is where my wife, daughter and I went on a short voyage on a handmade sailing canoe, crafted and captained by a local guy named Trevor Cabell. Trevor took us snorkeling among 250 pound sea turtles and provided commentary on a 60-something local surfing legend as the guy caught the biggest wave of the day, 50 yards from where we floated. Then Trevor hoisted sail and off we went on a thrill ride across the waves racing into Hanalei Bay. With the extraordinary green background, it was not hard to imagine Polynesians sailing the Pacific and approaching this same shore. Covered in salt spray, we seemed to be  flying over the breaking waves, as Trevor guided the outrigger using his paddle as a tiller. When the canoe finally touched the beach, I realized that what felt like a journey had been merely a two hour trip on the Bay. That’s when you know that the going is good. – Everett Potter


Oscar Wilde sculpture


An unexpected breath of joy in colored stone: A leafy retreat in Dublin’s Merrion Square shelters a beloved memorial to Oscar Wilde, nonchalantly lounging on a massive boulder in a natty green jacket with quilted red lapels and cuffs, looking at his long-time childhood home across the street at 1 Merrion Sq. Nearby, Wilde witticisms, graffiti-like, cover two black obelisks, to wit, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” - Joan Scobey




New York City — where I’ve lived twice in my adult lifetime—once again welcomed me like an old friend in 2013. My husband, Joe, and I explored Manhattan from stem to stern, including a tour of the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid at Pier 86, a stroll along the Highline elevated park and a preview of the poignant and powerful 9/11 Memorial.  We made a delicious detour to Chef Mario Batali’s Eataly, browsed the beautiful book collection at Rizzoli and meandered through Central Park on perfect fall days. You can go home again, even if just for a holiday. - Julie Snyder




My most memorable travel moment of the year was rafting in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A “captain” on the log raft beside us was coaxed into singing the “Banana Boat Song (Day O),” a traditional Jamaican folk song made popular by Harry Belafonte.  The gentle soft crooning combined with the murmuring sound of the mini rapids of the river was soothing. (At least until the person next to me decided to sing along.)  - Gerrie Summers




I was on a ski trip to Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor last March. The nearest hotel was about 20 miles away in the town of Bend. I didn’t relish the idea of driving that far every day to get to the slopes, but then I didn’t know the highway ran straight through the Deschutes National Forest. Massive rocks, towering trees, and sweeping vistas at every turn. Hope to do again soon. – Bill Triplett




Best  Moment:  Standing with my wife in late July afternoon sunshine looking at our new home in an old canal house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht Canal. – Richard West




Paddle boarding with my bride — this was our 25th anniversary celebration — in Condado Lagoon, San Juan. Manatees with Ben Turpin mustaches (Note to 16th-century sailors: You really thought they were mermaids?) kept rising to the surface, where they lingered so we could get a good look at them. From there we went to Roberto Trevino’s Bar Gitano, a tapas bar in the Condado. Who knew they’d have soshito peppers sauteed in olive oil and salt? We polished them off and then drank way too much, but what the hell, great food + a great lady. - Ed Wetschler




This June, I finally understood what local say about Park City, Utah – you come for winter, you stay for summer. I discovered the wonders of mountain biking on terrain I’ve skied so many years. And I dined on Main Street with 2,300 others one summer’s night to experience the resort’s fine cuisine. – David McKay Wilson

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Canadian Rockies & Alaska by Rail & Sea

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Explore Canada and Alaska by rial

Explore Canada and Alaska by rial

Vacations by Rail, the Chicago-based travel company, has just announced a phenomenal 16-day vacation that combines train travel on arguably the best train in North America, Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer, with an Alaskan cruise on Holland America, ending with an Alaskan railroad jaunt from Anchorage to Denali National Park. Coined the Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska by Sea and Land package, board the Rocky Mountaineer and get ready for a soul-stirring train ride through the snowcapped peaks and cobalt blue glacial waters of the Canadian Rockies. You have two days in Vancouver before you board the ms Zaandam for a weeklong cruse on Alaska’s Inside Passage, stopping at Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay before arriving in Anchorage. Spend a day and night in town, before taking your last train on to Denali, home to 20,157-foot Mount McKinley, and your final destination of Fairbanks. 2013 departures are available May 21, June 18, July 16, and August 13 and 27 and prices start at $3,579 per person based on double occupancy.


steveSteve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for OutsideMen’s JournalHealth, 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.

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Hotel La Ferme, Quebec

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La Ferme, Baie St. Paul, Quebec

La Ferme, Baie St. Paul, Quebec

Every day I receive press releases about the next glitzy resort opening, set to make its splashy debut in some corner of the globe. Many of these upscale properties charge in excess of $1,000 a night, your entrance fee to a world of exclusivity. Forget the local community. You’ll be hidden behind gates and fences, where maybe, if you’re lucky, your server that night comes from somewhere inside that country. Sustainability, the buzzword of the 90s and 00s, seems to have been replaced, as of late, by excessive opulence. Then I laid eyes on Hotel La Ferme in Quebec’s Charlevoix region and I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that someone gets it. They have finally built a resort worthy of the new millennium.

When Daniel Gauthier’s wooden barn, the largest structure in Canada, burned to the ground accidentally during a Quebec holiday in 2007, he began to reimagine the property he wanted to create in Baie-Saint-Paul. He ended up housing the 145 rooms and lofts in five separate pavilions reminiscent of farm buildings from yesteryear. The simple wooden exterior of the buildings hides a whimsical and contemporary European décor, where rolling barn doors might open to the bathroom or the family suite might come with comfortable bunk beds for each child. Yet, Gauthier’s next move is what won me over. He added 12 rooms, each with four beds, as his own version of a hostel. Gauthier knows that the nearby ski area, Le Massif, attracts a large crowd of young skiers. He wanted to offer them a great place to stay for only $49 per bed.
There is no separation between Hotel La Ferme and the community. In fact, Gauthier made a mandate that food and craftsmanship should be produced within a 50-kilometer radius of Baie-Saint-Paul, if possible. So that salmon and emu meat was raised locally, the cheeses and bread a Charlevoix specialty, the red beer was brewed just down the road. The wooden trays and “do not disturb” signs in the rooms are manufactured by a group of local artisans who had the misfortune of not graduating high school. On Sundays, from mid-June to mid-October, the hotel invites 20 local farmers to showcase their fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads in a market just outside the lobby.
Yes, there’s a spa with six treatment rooms, a room for yoga, a bar and lounge around a fireplace in the main building, and a café that makes arguably the best café au lait I’ve had this side of the Atlantic. But again, Gauthier, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, chose to be innovative. He has returned to his performing roots by offering a banquet space that can double as a theater, screening room, or dance hall. Since Hotel La Ferme’s opening last June, they have featured many Quebecois performers, including cabaret singers, theater troupes, and DJs.
I love it when a local son or daughter becomes successful and gives back to the community. But in the case of Daniel Gauthier, he did so with class, style, and forward thinking. I’m hoping his ideas catch on with other hoteliers.
steve  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.

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Quebec’s Winter Carnival

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If you love Paris in the springtime, then you’ll adore Quebec City in the wintertime, where, for 17 days, the party never stops.Quebec City’s Winter Carnival is the largest in the world, attracting more than one million people. I was one of those fortunate people to arrive in this fortified city on the first day of the 2013 Winter Carnival. I spent the morning sledding down an ice chute, viewing the impressive ice castle, made from 1600 blocks of ice, eating maple syrup on snow, and playing a human game of foosball. Attached to bars with seatbelts, you slide all over the ice trying to kick the ball into the goal. But the party really started on Saturday night, when top DJs from Montreal and Toronto played a mesmerizing mix of hip-hop and electronica to a crowd of revelers outside the ice castle. Locals carry cane-like red sticks filled with a potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup, which certainly added to the dancing frenzy. When Bonhomme, the popular snowman and revered host of the festivities started to boogie, the crowd went wild.
This is just the start of the 58th edition of the Quebec City Winter Carnival. Still to come is Le Grande Virée, a dogsled race that cruises through the heart of the historic Old City, and the ice canoeing competition, where paddlers sprint across the turgid waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. New this year is a video installation, where filmmakers project images onto four of the iconic buildings in town, creating a 3-D interplay. There’s also a brasserie, serving 25 microbrews from across Quebec. So if you have no plans yet for February vacation week, it might be the time to experience some joie de vivre in Quebec City.
steve    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 atActive Travels.