Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19 Issue

cwtcwt
  • No tags were found...

Now in our 17th year of publishing, Canadian World Traveller explores the culture and history of worldwide destinations, sharing the adventure of discovery with our readers and motivating them to make their travel dreams a reality. Published quarterly, CWT helps sophisticated, independent Canadian travellers choose their next destination by offering a lively blend of intelligent, informative articles and tantalizing photographic images from our World’s best destinations, cruises, accommodations and activities to suit every traveller's taste.

Athens Japan Cruise News Spain Guyana

C A N A D I A N

Traveller

W O R L D

Already 17 Years

Winter 2018-19

Xi’An

warriors, walls & wonder

Come With Us & See The World!


Published by

Welcome to World Traveler

Canadian World Traveller

5473 Royalmount, suite 224

TMR (Montreal) Qc H4P 1J3

American World Traveler

347 5th Ave, suite 1402

New York, NY 10016

Tel, : 1-855-738-8232

www.canadianworldtraveller.com

www.americanworldtraveler.com

info@canadianworldtraveller.com

info@americanworldtraveler.com

Publisher

Michael Morcos

Editor-in-chief

Greg James

Contributing Editor

David J. Cox

Graphic Department

Al Cheong

Advertising Department

Leo Santini

Marketing Department

Tania Tassone

Distribution

Royce Dillon

Senior Travel Writers:

Susan Campbell

Steve Gillick

Regular Contributors:

Habeeb Salloum

Jennifer Merrick

Olivia Balsinger

Natalie Ayotte

Johanna Read

Jasmine Morcos

Ilona Kauremszky

Mike Cohen

Mathieu Morcos

Gregory Caltabanis

Anne-Marie Macloughlin

Daniel Smajovits

Cherie DeLory

Contributors This Issue:

Stephen Smith

Doreen Hemlock

In this issue, we start our world

escapade in Beautiful China by visiting

the best of Xi’an and amongst

many things: the unbelievable Terra Cotta

warriors and magnificent Muslim district.

While in China we head inland to experience

the bustling district of Chongqing

and then to cruise the mighty Yangtze. We

then finish our Asia tour with a wonderful

‘Adventure in Western Japan’ and taste its

bounties from the sea.

Next, we start the European leg of our

journey, we visit Athens and the wonderful

Acropolis and its museum and all the best

this worldly city has to offer before heading

to Prague’s old town square to see the

beautiful and refurbished Astronomical

Clock. Not far by, we take a cruise with

AmaWaterways and visit many countries

and the beautiful scenery along the

Danube from Nuremberg to Vienna. In

Northern Ireland we continue with a

‘Walking Adventure from Londonderry to

Belfast’. We take yet another cruise this

time to the far north. In Norway we join

the Viking Sea and head to the many

coastal communities in the land of the

midnight sun.

Our trip continues, now to Africa and to

the Spanish Canary islands to discover the

little know but wonderful island of Tenerife

and its multitude of offerings. In Uganda

we head to the highlands and find the

Gorillas are doing well and ‘Three New

Gorilla Families are now Habituated’. We

finish this segment to the far south with a

tour of South Africa.

To the Americas we go, in the east we feel

‘the Vibe in Maryland’ in this historic state.

In the west we explore ‘Canada’s First

National Park’ in beautiful Banff and then

to a wonderful retreat in British Colombia

and a time out to relax and recharge in

this natural Canadian paradise. In Central

America we take in ‘A Costa Rica Wildlife

Vacation’ and finally, to Guyana and a

visit to the awesome Kaeiteur Falls.

Happy travels!

Disclaimer: World Traveler has made every effort to

verify that the information provided in this publication

is as accurate as possible. However, we accept

no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience

sustained by anyone resulting from the information

contained herein nor for any information

provided by our advertisers.


Athens

Destination Features

Xi’An - Warriors, Walls & Wonder 8

Exploring Banff - Canada’s First National Park 10

An Adventure in Western Japan 12

Feeling the Energy at the Yasodhara Ashram 14

A for Athens 38

A Northern Ireland Walking Adventure from Londonderry to Belfast 40

Feeling the Vibe in Maryland 54

A Costa Rica Wildlife Vacation 56

A Visit to Guyana’s Kaeiteur Falls 70

3-2-1 Go Tenerife! 72

Cruise News

Viking Cruise

Yangtze Cruise

AmaWaterways Cruise

Stay & Play - 58

Around the World 16

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge

Egypt


8

Xi’An

Warriors, Walls & Wonder

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

Just cannot get enough of China!

With 13 trips and counting, one particular

destination had eluded me for two decades.

Surprising how I never made it here before

as it is one of the most visited cities in China

and part of the classic itinerary that included

Beijing and Shanghai.

But Xi’an was now in my sights and I was

ready.

Both Shanghai and Beijing are great destinations.

They are sophisticated, modern

and worldly, and so is Xi’an. The real difference

is Xi’an is all so cultivated, inviting and

has many centuries of recorded history and

wonderful attractions.

Our time here would bring us to the most

iconic sites, from the famous terra cotta warriors

to everyday life of the local Muslims to

world class shows. In the end, I would have

many fond memories of the city that thrilled

and at times mesmerized me.

Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses

The number one attraction in Xi’an and one

of the top sites in China is nothing less than

the unbelievable Terra Cotta warriors.

Seeing them in magazines and on TV is just

a tease, as seeing them live is amazing. Row

upon row of individual looking soldiers,

generals and horses captivate all who visit.

The story gets even more interesting as our

guide would explain the history. The figures,

date from at least the the late third century

BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local

farmers. They are now a UNESCO World

Heritage site. The Terracotta Army, as it is

known, is a collection of sculptures depicting

the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first

Emperor of China, and was a form of funerary

art with the purpose of protecting the

emperor in his afterlife. It is believed that the

three pits containing the Terracotta Army

held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots

with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses.

Absolutely astounding!

Muslim Street

Our visit to Muslim street was a wonderful

surprise and also something very different

from the Terra Cotta warriors - and even

anything else I had ever seen in China. After


all, this religious group that came here centuries

ago with the silk trade. The first

Muslims came from central Asia when the

silk route first started, and have been a very

important part of the province of Shaanxi

and China.

This rather short street had a carnival

atmosphere with bright and colourful neon

lights, and much shouting and haggling by

merchants wanting your attention to sell

their goods. Vendors sold anything and

everything you could want to eat, and that is

literally the truth as they had many exotic

things such as insects and animal parts I

would never be able to name.

Great Mosque of Xi'an

Still unimaginable, there were actually

mosques here, which is not something I

would usually associate with China. A very

beautiful area with well-kept grounds. The

main buildings looked nothing like you

would see in the Middle East. Instead, to an

untrained eye, it would look just like any historic

Chinese building. Our time here was

fascinating and our interaction with locals

was brief but meaningful, they welcomed us

in with proud smiles.

Xi’an City Wall

Yet another wonder is the historic center of

Xi’an were the fortifying walls, one of the

oldest, largest and best preserved Chinese

city walls. In its time, it was an engineering

marvel encompassing more than 14

sq./km. So massive was the structure that it

was a physical deterrent to its enemies and

the city was never successfully raided.

Features of this fortress are four main gates

on each side of the rectangular structure,

ramparts every 120 meters, a moat and

watch-towers. From the walls one can see

the ancient city to the inner side and the

modern part of the city to the outside.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda

was built in 652 during the Tang dynasty.

Within it, sutras and figurines of the Buddha

that were brought to China from India by

the Buddhist translator and traveler

Xuanzang are housed. Today, the interior

walls of the pagoda also feature engraved

statues of Buddha by the renowned artist

Yan Liben.

Huaqing Palace

Huaqing Palace, also known as the Huaqing

Hot spring, has a long, mysterious past, and

legend has it that it can cure diseases which

attracted many emperors to build palaces

nearby. Visitors can visit an associated

museum.

If you are lucky enough to come during the

period between April and October, you will

be able to watch the musical performance

named “Song of Everlasting Sorrow”, presented

with a backdrop of the Lishan

Mountain and the ponds, pavilions, corridors

and palaces in the background. The

performance is a historical drama with dazzling

lights, beautiful music and dance, lavish

costumes and the grand stage.

Shows galore

Every night we were in Xi’an we were able to

watch live performances. Just like the

numerous shows I had the privilege of

watching all over China, these here would

be incredibly well choreographed and

directed with lots of enthusiastic singing,

lively dance, colourful costumes, and

impressive elaborate sets. Wonderful in person,

they are a joy to relive once I got home

and flipped through the picture and short

videos, I always find a bit of something more

to the show which I originally missed. This

only proves how deep these performances

really are.

Xi’an, the past, now and forever

As China is such a wonderful destination,

immensely fascinating, culturally diverse

with a long and colourful history so it goes

that Xi’an is the same with a back foot planted

in the past and a strong leg stretching out

to the future.

www.tourismchina.org

9

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


10

Exploring Banff

Canada’s First National Park

Article and photography by Jennifer Merrick

WT Photo Library

Astrong odour, which smelled like

peeled hard boiled eggs – a little on

the rotten side—hit us as we entered.

“It’s not me; I had a bath,” joked our Parks

Canada guide, Amar Athwal.

We were at the Cave and Basin National

Historic Site, the birthplace of Banff National

Park and Canada’s federal park system,

which now encompasses over three dozen

parks and 174,000 square miles of protected

lands and waters. And it all came about

because of this pungent odour. Well, more

specifically, of where the smell was coming

from -- the sulphurous, emerald hot springs

along the aptly named Sulphur Mountain in

the Canadian Rockies.

Athwal explained that this area had a long

human history and was known to indigenous

nations for over 14,000 years. Europeans first

discovered it in the late 1800s, when an

explorer slipped in the marsh and discovered

the water was warm.

“I’m sure they followed their noses as well,”

said Athwal.

News of these magical waters travelled to the

capital, and parliament passed an act to set

aside ‘a hot spring reserve’ officially declaring

it ‘for the benefit of all Canadians’, making it

the country’s first protected natural space and

the second in North America (after

Yellowstone). In the 1930s, it was expanded,

encompassing 2,564 sq. mi and became

Banff National Park.

This mountain wilderness reserve proved to

be a benefit not only to Canada but to the

world. Each year, over 3.6 million visitors

from around the globe come to awe at the

stunning alpine landscapes and wildlife.

We experienced both and so much more on

our visit to Alberta; I was even grateful for the

smell, because that made it all possible. Here

were some of the highlights:

Lake Louise

Banff’s most iconic of views is justifiably

famous. The jade green colour of the glacial

lake changes constantly depending on the

light, but is always a jewel set in the towering

peaks that surround it. Close to its shores is

the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury


historic hotel that looks like a castle out of a

fairy tale.

After a leisurely hike along its shores, we

lunched at the Lakeview Lounge, where it was

hard to concentrate on the food with a window

looking out at the mesmerizing views.

About 30 minutes up the mountain was

another unforgettable sight, the 20-dollar

view of Moraine Lake. This glacial lake with its

enchanting aquamarine colour, was the scene

on Canada’s 20-dollar bill from 1969-1979.

Banff Gondola

Hiking up Sulphur Mountain that overlooks

Banff takes close to two hours and is somewhat

arduous, but the Banff gondola lifted us

up above the clouds in a mere eight minutes.

At the top, we strolled along the ridgetop

boardwalk, where the atmospheric mist occasionally

parted revealing glimpses of the

mountain peaks.

In addition to the breathtaking views, there’s

an interpretive centre, a theater, 360-degree

observation deck and restaurants. Choices

included Castle Mountain Coffee for a quick

pick-me-up, Northern Lights for a marketstyled

eatery and Sky Bistro for an upscale

dining experience.

Elk Encounters

Spotting wildlife is a huge draw for visitors,

and park residents include bears, wolves,

bighorn sheep, elk and coyotes. Of course,

not being a zoo, there are no guarantees as

we discovered well into our visit. The big-horn

sheep that often hang out on the top of

Sulphur Mountain by the gondola were

nowhere to be seen. We kept our eyes peeled

as we drove through the park; but as much as

we enjoyed the scenery, not a creature stirred.

Finally, at a scenic lookout point off

Compound Road, I saw a yellow-furred mammal

flitting through the trees. “Look!” I cried

and grabbed a friend’s arm. And there it was

–a golden retriever.

On our last day in Banff, we had yet to see

any of its wild inhabitants. A local shared with

us that one of the best places to spot wildlife

was on the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf

Course. It didn’t take long on our drive to be

rewarded with the sighting of a lone bull with

antlers so wide I half expected it to tip over. But

as the biggest deer species alive at over 700

pounds, he could handle the rack that could

grow over four feet above his head.

While we snapped pictures, he sauntered right

in front of us. Then something amazing happened.

He raised his head and emitted a

sound the likes of which I had never heard

before, a sound that I never would have

expected from an animal this size. Not a deep

roar or a booming trumpeting, but a shrill,

high-pitched banshee shriek. These rutting

calls are called bugles and are only heard

during mating time.

Amazed, I wished him luck as he disappeared

into the trees. He would need it since two minutes

down the road, smack in the middle of

the golf course, we spotted an entire heard of

elk. About a dozen females, a few resting in

the sand traps, and one very large lone bull

stood in front, guarding his harem, ready to

fight any competitors.

Note: this time of year, people have to be

especially careful around these normally

docile creatures. Parks Canada recommends

three bus lengths of space.

Banff Sleeps and Eats

The town of Banff itself has a population of

approximately 7,500 and accommodation

that ranges from the luxurious and historic

Banff Fairmont Springs to bed and breakfasts

and hostels. There’s shopping and a sizable

selections of cafes, eateries and restaurants.

One in particular should be on your list

(unless you’re a vegetarian). Chuck’s

Steakhouse, a western-style restaurant, prides

itself on their steak and for good reason. Their

menu features a range of locally-sourced beef

with an on-site aging room. Our waiter educated

us on various cuts and preparations

available and made recommendations based

on our preferences. In the end, we shared a

family-styled platter of prime, Wagyu and

grass-fed steaks that were grilled to perfection.

We stayed at the Moose Hotel, which was

impossible to miss because of the large sculpture

of a moose in front. Their suites were spacious

and had fully-equipped kitchens and

fireplaces in the living area. Their rooftop pool

was an ideal way to end a day of

mountain exploring, and fitting considering

that it was a hot bath that started

it all.

Getting There and Things to do in Calgary,

Alberta

As most visitors do, we flew into Calgary,

Alberta, and rented a car. It’s a scenic 90-

minute drive from the city to Banff. Parks

Canada also offers a shuttle on summer

weekends, and there are private transport

options for those who prefer not to drive.

Many people go straight from the airport to

the mountains. This is a mistake. Rooted in its

western hospitality, Calgary has come into its

own in recent years with a thriving chef-driven

culinary scene, a creative arts and cultural

community and festivals throughout the year.

Here are just a few ways to enjoy Alberta’s

largest city:

Savour a meal at one of the city’s innovative

restaurants. My favourite dining experiences

were at Bread and Circus, Foreign Concept

and Deane House.

Enjoy a cocktail or two. For a smaller-sized

city, Calgary has made a big name for itself

on the cocktail circuit gaining accolades and

awards in international competitions. Stars on

scene are Proof, Native Tongues, Klein Harris

and Hotel Arts.

Stroll Calgary’s oldest neighborhood.

Inglewood has art galleries, vintage shopping,

nature preserves (including a bird sanctuary)

and great dining.

Visit the pandas at the Calgary Zoo.

Discover the urban pathway along the Bow

River by bike or on foot. Nomad Mobile Gear

Rental outfitters offer tours that show

Calgary’s impressive networks of trail.

And if you happen to be here from July 5 to

14th, join the city’s biggest party –The

Calgary Stampede.

www.travelalberta.com

11

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


12

An Adventure in Western Japan

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

Certainly one of the joys of re-visiting

Japan is that on each successive

trip (this was my 18th visit) there are

still so many amazing places to discover. On

our latest quest in the West, we encountered

both Heaven, in Izumo - the dwelling of the

gods, and Hell in Kannawa - in the hot

springs, called ‘Jigoku’. But throughout our

adventure in Western Japan, it was the small

towns, natural attractions, shrines, local personalities,

accommodations and food that

made just about every moment of the eightday

journey, ‘pop’ with excitement, energy

and enthusiasm.

It all began with a one hour flight from

Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the city of Tottori,

where we immediately set out to visit the

famous sand dunes. The first views were captivating

as before us lay a large, flat plain

with one large dune, about 50 meters high,

on which a procession of people were slowly

climbing the ankle deep sand. We ignored

the signs pointing to the chair lift and the

camel rides, as we wanted to experience this

national, natural treasure first hand. We

trudged over to the dune and then up to the

top where, with dramatic grey clouds overhead,

the scenery of the coast and the Sea of

Japan was a notch above spectacular. And

for the next hour or so we took photos of the

coast, the dunes, the tourists, the colourful

hang gliders and even the camels, as well as

taking time to just sit in the sand, listen to the

waves and feel the breeze. Quite the experience!

And with the Sea of Japan top-of mind, we

headed to the Karoichi Market. The stalls

specialize in selling Beni Zuwai Gani (red

Snow crabs) and huge squid, one of which

was just short of a meter long and selling for

roughly $89.00 U.S. In the grocery section,


there were bags of cherry tomatoes next to

Tottori’s famous, sweet shinko-nashi pears.

For lunch we went to Karokou and enjoyed

Kaisen Don, a large bowl of delicious, fresh,

assorted seafood on a bed of rice, with Miso

soup and pickles on the side.

The next morning, bright and early we were

on the road again, or more accurately, the

rails, as we used our Japan Rail Passes to

continue westward to the city of Izumo in

Shimane Prefecture. Our first stop was the

Izumo Taisha Shrine, one the earliest Shinto

Shrines in the country. And similar to most

Shrines, a Torii gate marks the entrance to

the sacred area, followed by a walkway

through a long forested path. The main

structure, only accessible with special permission

or through Imperiall lineage, is characterized

by ‘chigi’, large scissor-like structures

on the roof, used as a building support technique.

Nearby, Kagura Hall features the

largest sacred straw rope (shimenawa) in the

country, reportedly weighing 5 tons. And

throughout the Shrine, the trees are covered

in ‘omikuji’, white pieces of paper on which

wishes and hopes for good luck, good jobs,

and good relationships are written, and left

to be answered by the Kami, the Shinto spirits.

Back in Izumo, we visited Asahi Shuzo Sake

Brewery and chatted with Eriko Terrada. She

explained that she began her career as an

apprentice and is now the Sake Maker, not

only developing new varieties using different

sake rices, but also designing the labels.

Samples of the products only added to this

enjoyable encounter.

A short train ride took us to Tamatsukuri

Onsen, a hot spring town where we spent the

night at the Hoshino Resorts Kai Izumo, a

boutique ryokan (Japanese Inn) that included

gardens, tatami rooms, hot baths, sake tasting

and for dinner, tasty local dishes. The

word ‘Izumo’ relates to the heavens. So it

was fitting that the evening theatrical performance

told the tale of a god slaying an

evil serpent in order to spare the daughter of

an elderly couple. Afterward the god and the

daughter married, and one of their ancestors

is said to be enshrined at the Izumo Taisha

Shrine. No wonder they call this area ‘the

dwelling of the gods’.

And with ‘heavenly’ thoughts in mind, it was

only natural for our next westward destination

to be Beppu in Oita Prefecture on the

island of Kyushu. We bought one day bus

passes and headed to Kannawa to see the

hot springs and geysers. The town itself is a

great place to wander, with free steamy foot

baths, restaurants where you put on heavy

duty gloves and steam your own dishes,

shrines where you can drink pure spring

water for good health and good luck, and

numerous hot baths where, for a small fee,

you can soak to your heart’s content.

But the main tourist area consists of five sites

(with another two sites, a short bus ride

away). It was ironic that we came to Beppu to

experience the heavenly hot springs in our

hotel (which we did several times a day) but

that we were also exposed to Hell!

The Kannawa area is actually referred to as

‘Jigoku’ or ‘Hell’ and statues of Oni (evil

demons that somehow look kind of friendly)

are there to create that underworld feeling.

Get ready for steaming vents, bubbling mud

and great photo and selfie opportunities,

along with hot springs with names such as

Cooking Pot Hell, Oniyama Hell (where they

breed crocodiles), White Pond Hell (white

boiling waters), Blood Pond Hell (due to the

red-colored clay) and Geyser Hell (where the

hot spring erupts regularly every 40 minutes).

It was a fun and fascinating day.

Once again we took the train westward to

visit the city of Kumamoto. We took a local

bus outside the city and got off at the base of

Mt. Kimpo, amidst a beautiful landscape of

rice terraces, orange orchards and fire-red

maple trees. Our destination was Reigando,

the cave where the great 17th century

swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi spent his

final years composing The Book of Five

Rings, a treatise on swordsmanship and tactics.

I had read Musashi’s biography and

seen the 1954 movie about his life, so this

was a bit of a personal pilgrimage. First you

encounter the Five-Hundred Rakan Buddha

Images. These are stone statues of disciples

of the Buddha and were carved by a man

and his son at the end of the 1700’s. And just

beyond is the cave. You ascend stairs to find

an alter and some signage paying tribute to

Musashi. Outside the cave all you can see

are trees and all you hear are birds. It’s a

very peaceful, meditative place.

However, variety is the spice of life so in total

contrast to our peaceful pilgrimage, we travelled

north to Fukuoka City where we attended

the November Grand Tournament of

Sumo wrestling. What a hoot! In a carnivallike

atmosphere, there are colourful banners

and souvenir stalls selling snacks and drinks

along with Sumo souvenirs. In the stadium

stands, people were cheering loudly for their

favourite wrestlers and holding up signs to

encourage them. We spent four hours watching

the wrestlers parade into the ring, do

their leg stomps, slap their bodies and then

engage in combat for a period that ranged

from several seconds to several minutes. It

was 400 pounds of great fun, repeated over

and over.

We used our Japan Rail Pass one last time for

the return journey to Tokyo. This was a memorable

trip. On most evenings we stayed in

conveniently located business hotels, and

every evening we tried a new izakaya for dinner,

enjoying a delicious variety of food that

ranged from deep-fried Fugu and Oysters, to

yakitori, soba, sashimi and cod roe. And in

each city we drank the local sakes, to truly

get a flavour of the destination.

Many travelers visit Tokyo and Osaka on their

first visit to Japan, but there so much more to

experience on successive visits. In our case

we ran the gamut from Heaven to Hell and

had an exceptional time doing it!

www.ilovejapan.ca

13

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


14

by Jasmine Morcos

Daniel Seguin

This past September, I went through

an unforgettable, life changing journey.

This journey, which was more

than I ever anticipated, started with a stroll

into a forest with a beautiful lake and a stunning

mountain view. I was in Kootenay Bay,

British Columbia, about to embark on a

retreat at the Yasodhara Ashram.

History

The Ashram was founded by Swami

Sivananda Radha, whose vision was to create

a sacred space where people could gather

and grow. Swami Radha’s story began in

1956 after she had been drawn to India and

her guru, Gurudev Sivananda. Before she

returned to Canada, he told her to start an

Ashram there and gave her these words of

advice:

“When you leave here, go where you have

mountains in the back, water in front, and

trees all around. The mountains will give you

strength and energy, the water will calm the

mind, and the trees will offer you protection”.

With these words in her heart, she began

teaching and offering lectures in Montreal

until a group of her most passionate students

convinced her to pack her bags once again

and head to Burnaby, BC. There they bought

a home and started the first ashram in

Canada. However, after several years, she

remembered Gurudev’s advice and searched

for the place he had described. This led her to

the Kootenays in southeastern BC and the

home of the Yasodhara Ashram we know

today.

Programs

Yasodhara Ashram offers many different programs

and packages. Guests can choose to

stay for one day, a week or even for several

months. Regardless of time spent there, they

will enjoy a variety of spiritual and self-development

activities. All meals are included during

their stay.

My Experience

I stayed at the Ashram for three days. Coming

from Montreal with a connection in Calgary I

flew across the Rocky Mountains to

Cranbrook, where I was joined by others. We

then drove more than two hours through the

magnificent Purcell Mountains and arrived in

the late afternoon at the Ashram.

Amy Allcock

Amy Allcock

Tegra Stone-Nuess


There was a snack waiting for us and we

toured the premises-which included the magnificent

new Temple of Light. I was then

escorted to my room that had two single beds

and a warm chalet feel, overlooking a spectacular

view of lake and mountains. While I

did have a private bathroom, it was not

directly attached to the room.

Once settled, our group was given an introduction

to the Ashram, the programs and the

mission.

Yoga Retreat

Every morning before breakfast, we were

guided through a Hatha Yoga routine. The

studio overlooking the lake and mountains

was breathtaking. Each yoga session was

about an hour, where we were talked through

breathing exercises and stretches. During the

later morning and afternoon I attended a

retreat called “Breath: The Invisible Work.” It

was recommended that we bring a journal to

class in order to write down our thoughts and

reflections. The instructor would often ask us

to explore the feelings that were present after

certain exercises.

Although I enjoyed the breathing exercises, it

was not what I had anticipated. I expected

more of a physical workout each day, but the

focus here in this retreat was much more on

self-reflection and breathing.

Satsang

After dinner we went to Satsang, which is a

nightly gathering of people in the Temple of

Light. Everyone is given a booklet containing

the songs for the evening. Some chants are

repeated for 20 minutes and are called

Mantras, which are meant to focus the mind.

Musicians staying at the Ashram are encouraged

to participate and play instruments. At

the end of the session, the Satsang leader distributed

a treat symbolising the sweetness of

the yoga teachings. We shared a prayer

together before consuming.

Karma Yoga

This is a traditional yoga – although unlike

anything I had experienced. Karma Yoga

means selfless service and we had the opportunity

to join in. Participants are assigned a

task such as working in the kitchen, cleaning

rooms or working in the garden. Most of the

group, including myself, worked in the garden.

This activity is a way to give back to the

Ashram, explore the power of work as a spiritual

practice, and promote teamwork. We

were also asked to devote this time to something

or someone that we were grateful for.

Personally this was one of the activities I

enjoyed the most. Working in the garden

where most of the food is harvested gave my

group an appreciation and a purpose to perform

the work well.

Dining

The food throughout the stay was excellent. It

was nutritious, delicious, full of flavour and

beautifully presented. Most ingredients are

either grown on site or are locally sourced.

Guests are able to choose their meals themselves

with a wide variety of selections served

buffet style. The chef is also very accommodating

to dietary restrictions.

Inside the Ashram’s main building, guests are

asked to remove their outdoor shoes and

replace them with indoor wear. As we were

taught during our introductory tour, all meals

were taken in total silence. The purpose is to

be in tune with what we put into our bodies

and to promote mindfulness. For me this was

very challenging as I believe meal time is

where we share thoughts, conversation and

laughter with others. I had difficulty suppressing

the desire to speak with those around me.

Breakfast was served at 8 am every morning,

lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 6 pm. We had

about 30 minutes to eat.

Exploring outside the Ashram

On the second day, we went on a visit to the

East Shore of Kootenay Lake where we had

the chance to visit local artisan shops, go for

a little hike in the Crawford Bay wetlands and

try out a local restaurant, the Black Salt Cafe.

The sun was shining, the weather was great

and we were able to eat on the café’s beautiful

terrace surrounded by many flowers. I was

delighted with the variety of choices on the

menu and I can honestly say I ate one of the

best falafel pita sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. I

was amazed by how fresh and tasty everything

was in this restaurant. I definitely

recommend Black Salt Café to anyone

visiting the area.

After lunch, we went to visit the diverse artisan

shops in this small community. I had heard

about a broom store in Crawford Bay that

produced hundreds of brooms for marketing

of Harry Potter movies. Being a tremendous

Harry Potter fan myself, I was so excited to visit

the North Woven Broom store. Inside this

adorable log barn, we got to meet and chat

with Luke Lewis, the broom-maker himself.

We learned about different styles of brooms

and how each are carefully woven and tied to

many types of handcrafted handles. I challenge

you to leave this store empty handed!

There is something for everyone, from a small

souvenir to a quality broom, you will find

something that matches your budget and size

preference. Shipping is also offered if you

wish to purchase a bigger broom that you

don’t want to carry throughout your trip.

After visiting a few other shops, we stopped at

the Dog Patch Pottery store. We had a demonstration

and small tour by the lovely owner

Lea-Rae Belcourt. Once again it was hard for

me not to purchase anything and ended up

buying a beautiful turquoise jewelry bowl

made on premises. I also purchased some

wonderful greeting cards made by Kari Lehr,

a local artisan.

On our second to last night we returned to

Kootenay Bay for dinner. We went to a restaurant

named the Kootenay Cabin and had the

opportunity to meet the chef. Their mission is

“to foster a greater connection between the

regional farm and our guest’s table; it is the

driving factor in our food, service &

ambiance.” This was a perfect fit with our

experience at the Ashram. The food was

fresh, creative and delicious. Make sure to

check it out if you are in the area, it is worth

the drive. It is right next to the ferry landing in

Kootenay Bay.

My stay at the Ashram was very educational

and enlightening, and this short but meaningful

retreat has given me a new way of looking

at life and experiencing what is often lost in

our rushed and hurried lifestyle.

www.yasodhara.org

15

Amy Allcock

Jasmine Morcos

Jasmine Morcos

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


16

Around The World

(in 22 pages)

The Prague Astronomical Clock

is Back in the Old Town Square!

After months of renovation and repairs (both internal and

external), Prague's time-keeping beauty is back in action. The

polished facade was unveiled in September 2018, drawing

crowds to watch the promenade of moving characters every

hour from 9am to 11pm.

Every hour, hundreds of tourists from all over the world gather

in front of the Old Town Hall to enjoy a fascinating mechanical

performance which in the Middle Ages was considered one of

the wonders of the world. The Prague Astronomical Clock,

which for 600 years has been one of the greatest treasures of

the city, still amazes people with its procession of Apostles,

moving statues and visualization of time like no other instrument

in the world.

www.czechtourism.com

China Tourism Introduces

New Brand Logo

China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) has made

“Beautiful China” the tag line of its tourism and introduced a

new global brand logo. With an overall look as a stamp, the

new logo integrates modern messaging with the ancient

Chinese art form of calligraphy. The hieroglyph in the background

means “travel” in ancient Chinese language, which shows a flag guiding a couple around.

The blue color represents the sky, delivering China tourism’s concepts - vitality, harmony and

green travel. The red color gives tribute to the Chinese civilization that has been going on for

thousands of years. Illustrating an international vision, the “Beautiful China” logo represents

China’s promising and welcoming tourism industry.

Three New Gorilla Families Habituated In Uganda

152 Gorilla Trekking Permits Now Available Per Day.

As interest in travel to Uganda continues to grow, Uganda Tourism

is pleased to announce the successful habituation of three gorilla

families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World

Heritage Site. Following approximately two years of daily exposure

to humans, these gorillas have been incorporated into the country’s

gorilla trekking program, bringing the total number of families available

for trekking to 19 and the total number of gorilla trekking permits

available to 152 per day. This will help meet increased demand

for gorilla trekking permits that Uganda has seen over the past few

years following concentrated marketing efforts in North America and

Europe.

During the habituation process, groups of six to eight researchers

encounter the wild families on a daily basis, continuing until they

become comfortable around humans. The newly habituated gorilla

families are located in the Rushaga, Nkuringo, and Buhoma sections

of Bwindi. Gorilla trekking is managed fully by the Uganda Wildlife

Authority staff with a head ranger and experienced trackers leading

groups into the forest in search of the gorillas. Gorilla trekking permits

are $US 600 per person. For $US 15, participants can also hire

a porter from a local community to assist them during the trek.

Travelers seeking an even more immersive educational experience

can opt for the Gorilla Habituation Program ($US 1,500 per person)

which allows them to join conservationists studying gorilla families

undergoing the habituation process. Participants will locate gorilla

nests and take part in scientific monitoring before continuing on in

search of the gorillas. Since these gorillas are not fully accustomed

to human contact, they do not always come as close as habituated

gorillas, but participants will gain a more in-depth perspective on the

gorillas, their habitat, and their behavior in the wild, as the activity

lasts four hours from the time the nests are located.

www.visituganda.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


18

Good to Go!

Great Travel Gear and Gadgets

Our travel specialists review the best travel gear and gadgets to get you on the go better

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Subscribe

to our print issue at

www.americanworldtraveler.com

www.canadianworldtraveller.com

C o m e W i t h U s & S e e T h e W o r l d!


20

The Intrepid 2019 Not Hot Travel List: Asia Edition

Over-tourism in Asia has become a

major issue, leading to closures of

popular tourist sites, such as the

recently-announced indefinite closure of

Maya Bay beach by the government of

Thailand. Additionally, in the Philippines,

Boracay was sensationally shut down for six

months due to unsustainable tourism practices.

To combat this issue, small group

adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel has

put together its annual ‘Not Hot List’, focusing

on alternatives to travellers’ favorite

Asian destinations by uncovering lesserknown

and more sustainable destinations

for people to visit in 2019.

Intrepid Travel’s Regional Director for

North America, Darshika Jones, said the

second ‘Not Hot List’ was developed in

response to concerns about over-tourism,

with a focus on less-frequently visited destinations

to support the adventure travel

company’s ongoing commitment to

responsible tourism.

“Recently, we’ve seen a number of Asian

countries take a proactive approach to

combat over-tourism. North Americans are

increasingly concerned with over-tourism

and this is about encouraging them to step

away from the familiar to approach this

continent in the most ‘intrepid’ way possible.

Tourism can be a potent force for

good, and we believe the broader the travel

experience, the better. As North

Americans’ interest in traveling to Asia continues

to grow, the more dispersal to lesserknown

regions, the better,” said Jones.

The Intrepid Travel List

The Similan Islands are the new Maya Bay

With Maya Bay no longer a travel option as

of Summer 2018, travellers can still enjoy

the warm blue-green Andaman Sea, blind-


ing white sands and marvelous limestone

oddities when visiting the Similan Islands.

The islands offer a quiet scene, combining

rainforests and pristine beaches with a

touch of history, having been made a

UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. Hit

by the 2004 tsunami, the island Khao Lak

has since recovered and welcomes visitors

to experience the destination.

Komodo is the new Ubud

Once considered the adventurous alternative

to Seminyak, Ubud has flourished in

popularity thanks to its haven of health and

healers. The day trip market means a lessened

contribution to Ubud’s economy and

puts pressure on local infrastructure.

Komodo is a viable alternative for those

travellers who are willing to sail from Bali

through the Indonesian archipelago. And

it’s a place where ancient tribes maintain

their traditions in deep rainforest valleys.

Travellers can snorkel coral reefs, walk

across volcanic black sand beaches and

watch for the legendary and fierce Komodo

dragons.

Bukhara is the new Angkor Wat

Central Asia is still as remote as can be

when it comes to Asian countries. The

‘Stans offer a Silk Road experience rich with

stories of migration, religion and trade.

Uzbekistan’s fifth largest city Bukhara is a

UNESCO world heritage site and the entire

old city center and has more than 5,000

years of human history. There are over 140

monuments and historical buildings to

explore, including Po-i-Kalyan Mosque

which, during its 1,300 years of history,

even survived assault from Genghis Khan.

Ladakh is the new Everest

While Nepal will always be a must-do for

active travellers wanting to challenge themselves,

Ladakh is rising in popularity for its

hiking and breathtaking scenery of the

Indian Himalayas. Travellers can break up

the hiking with river rafting, and visiting

remote villages, monasteries and religious

sites. To really appreciate the quiet natural

beauty of the Ladakh region, some travellers

stay in bustling Delhi before and after

their treks.

Naoshima is the new Osaka

Travellers have long been lured to the iconic

and future-focused cities of Japan like

Osaka. Intrepid Travel has noted a 31%

growth in bookings to Japan from North

Americans in 2018 compared to last year.

The company recommends travellers dis-

cover the southern islands or ‘lost Japan’ as

interest in the country continues to increase.

Naoshima Island has been transformed

from a sleepy fishing community to a world

class art destination with a variety of sleek

and stylish museums. Travellers can cycle

between galleries, outdoor sculptures and

modern architecture. The Southern Islands

also house impressive castles and Japan’s

oldest hot spring baths - Dogo Onsen.

Sumatra is the new Borneo

Sumatra is as exotic a destination as

Borneo, offering national parks and

endemic species. As the world’s sixth

largest island, Sumatra made headlines

earlier this year with the Mount Sinabung

volcano eruption. These geothermal activities

have created surreal landscapes such

as Gunung Leuser National Park, home to

one of the richest ecosystems in the world.

Sumatra is also where travellers have the

best chance of spotting wild orangutans in

Indonesia.

21

About Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel is a global adventure travel company

that has been taking travelers off the beaten

track to discover the world's most amazing places

for 29 years. The company offers more than 1,500

trips in more than 120 countries and on every continent.

Every trip is designed to truly experience

local culture - to meet local people, try local food,

take local transport and stay in local accommodation.

A world leader in responsible travel,

Intrepid’s award-winning tour leaders, small

group sizes and included activities mean they offer

travelers great value for money.

www.intrepidtravel.com/ca

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Southern Tip of South Africa

An Escape & Haven

by Olivia Balsinger

Whenever I get that oh-so relatable

feeling that I need to escape, I think

the southern tip of South Africa. It is

here, on the tip of the African continent,

where I can count on experiencing something

completely different, no matter how many

times I’ve traveled there. Whether it's a brand

new attraction, a hidden gem I have yet to

discover, or even somewhere familiar and

nostalgic, the Cape Peninsula is a personal

haven, bustling with life, tranquility and

adventure.

Perhaps the most recognizable name on the

Cape Peninsula is the major city of Cape

Town. If you have never traveled to The

Mother City, I would suggest starting with the

veritable “must-do” attractions. My first suggestion

would be a visit to Robben Island; you

can catch a tour departing from the Victoria &

Alfred Waterfront — where Nelson Mandela

was held prisoner for 27 years, now a living

history museum. Of course, don’t miss this

chance to snap a quintessential selfie in front

of gorgeous views that feature prominently

the iconic Table Mountain landmark. Want to

explore the beautiful flattop mountain more

intimately? Take a rotating cable car to the its

top for breathtaking vistas of the surrounding

area during a leisurely day in the natural

landscape. For the more active types like

myself, I highly suggest rising before dawn

and trekking up Lion’s Head to watch the sunrise.

Cape Town is also home to some of the

world’s most fantastic beaches which are phenomenal

for people watching, soaking up the

strong Cape Town sun, or testing your balance

on a surf board on sandy Clifton Beach.

The weekends are reserved for trying the

many delicious local food and drink stands in

the city. I tend to favor the Old Biscuit Mill

Market in the colorful Woodstock neighborhood.

There you will find a feast for all the

senses: Jam bands play tunes to sway to as

you taste test favorites such as biltong and

olives from a nearby farm. For a less touristic

market experience, Oranjezicht City Market is

the place to mingle with locals and sample

foods from around the country. For more food

and drink splendor, the first Thursday of every

month in Cape Town is a time the city reserves

for locals and tourists alike to explore galleries,

restaurants, bars and shops until late in

the evening—all for free and open to the public.

There is also the famed Long Street—packed

with restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, shops and

entirely interesting hotels. Speaking of hotels,

on this visit I stayed at The Grand Daddy

Boutique Hotel on Long Street, an ideal location

brilliant for absorbing the Mother City’s

vibrant energy day and night. Housed in a

heritage building that has been operating as

a boutique hotel for more than 120 years,

The Grand Daddy has some serious history to

go along with the bustling vibe. I love the use

of local design and bright colors throughout

the rooms, suites and public spaces in this

see page 24


landmark property. The restaurant of the

hotel, Thirty Ate Eatery, sits on the corner and

serves a unique mix of international dishes—

from schnitzels to the oh-so-Instagrammable

avocado toast. A bar on the roof is the best

place to lounge and sip a local beer while

watching the craze of Cape Town downtown

wiz by below. It is also on the roof that you will

also find the hotel’s most unique sleeping

experience: a rooftop trailer park. No joke:

take the elevator to the roof, looking out on

Long Street with Table Mountain beyond, and

you will see seven authentic Airstream trailers,

each slightly different in their decor but

designed to collectively reflect a South African

road-trip experience. I stayed in the

Winelands trailer and was so content to wake

up feeling like I was camping—in central

Cape Town!

Speaking of getting back to nature, if you are

in town long enough for a day trip, my first

recommendation would be the easy and scenic

two-hour drive to The Grootbos Private

Nature Reserve, down the southern tip. This

luxurious eco-reserve sandwiched between

the mountains and the sea is recognized as a

National Geographic Unique Lodges of the

World. The accommodation at Grootbos is

beautiful, consisting of modern suites with picture

worthy views across all of Walker Bay.

Set on 2,500 hectares of wilderness, it is

home to 100 endangered plant species and is

one of the top spots on the planet to see the

“Marine Big Five,” which is made up of

sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and penguins

(a unique perspective after a game drive at

Cheetah Plains in northern South Africa, spotting

the land equivalent “Big Five.”) I was fortunate

enough to have an unforgettable spotting

of humpback whales, as I flew above the

neighboring Atlantic Ocean in a chartered

1969 four-person airplane. We saw about six

mother whales, lazily floating with their curious

calves nearby. The accommodation at

Grootbos is beautiful, consisting of modern

suites with picture worthy views across all of

Walker Bay. There is much to do, but I especially

recommend a sunset walk along the

beach where you’ll get to explore rock caves,

which the Bushmen of the area once called

home. You can also take a romantic horseback

ride along the mountainous overlooks of

the beautiful waterscape. Perhaps my favorite

activity was the adrenaline-pumping fat bike

tour— a fat bike is an off-road bicycle with

oversized tires that are perfect for the pristine,

untouched dunes of the reserve.

The lodge is entirely tuned into preserving

conservation, culture and local community

and thus every decision made is reflective of

these principles. The Grootbos Foundation,

established by the lodge in 2003, conserves

the Cape Floral Kingdom and uplifts the communities

within through ecotourism, enterprise

development, sports development and

education. I purchased a tree through the

Foundation’s Future Trees Project (profits

given back to sustaining the community) and

planted it in amongst the other milkwoods,

the forest from which Grootbos itself is

named—the “Groot bos” means the big thicket

in Afrikaans. Milkwood trees can live for

hundreds of years and thus I know my physical

contribution will live to see how this

reserve and area continues to flourish.

A mélange of culture, colors, nature and

music, there really is nowhere quite like Cape

Town and its surrounding nature on the planet.

And this is precisely why I return time after

time, to briefly but fully escape.

www.capetown.travel


26

Sporty, Fashionable, and Functional, Helly Hansen has it All

We asked three of our writers to review the latest Helly Hanson

outerwear and here is their response.

Helly Hansen Longyear Parka

Here in Canada, winters are long, and on the

coldest days the temperature can easily drop

down to -20°C. Without a doubt, a good quality

winter jacket is essential to stay warm and

to enjoy outdoor activities. Choosing the right

winter jacket is not always simple but Helly

Hansen has made it easy with its Longyear

Parka. This jacket is excellent for our cold winters

while also being stylish, comfortable and

affordable. On top of shielding you from the

cold, this Parka is waterproof and windproof,

keeping you protected from any of the elements!

It is also very breathable, allowing your

body to stay cool both indoors and outdoors.

The jacket leaves plenty of room for layering

for those who enjoy wearing big knit sweaters

and hoodies. Its many pockets are well situated

and are extremely practical for carrying

items and keeping hands warm!

Being a mid-length jacket, it is suitable and

complementary for all heights while offering

warmth to your legs. This Parka is offered in a

multitude of rich colours, including red, khaki

green, navy blue or black. The zippers are of

great quality and very resistant and the double

zipper situated at the front of the jacket gives

you the option to sit more comfortably. The

zippers around the hand warmer pockets and

the adjustable hood with the faux fur allow

you to play around with your look. The knitted

wrist gaiters provide extra warmth and comfort

while adding an aesthetically pleasing

touch to the jacket. The large buttons on the

front and on the hand pockets of the Parka

are a beautiful finishing touch.

Helly Hansen Stellar Puffy Jacket

This morning I wore my jacket for the first time.

I felt wonderful. The material is soft, fluid and

a perfect fit. The sleeves are just right for

length which is not always the case in most

jackets. I especially like the fact that there is a

lining inside the sleeve with a stretch band

around the wrist. The hood fits perfectly and

does not come too far to the front, so it does

not interfere with the view when you turn your

head. It stays right in the middle like it should.

The pockets are a nice size. I like that they

have nice strong zippers, and when you step

out of the car you have a secure place to put

your keys and your gloves with no worries too

loose them. The zipper is not too bulky and is

a little more feminine. The ban that covers the

zipper snaps over very easily and is also easy

to undo.

When I wear the jacket I don't feel like being

puffy, but rather slim like in my winter coat.

Today the weather was not too cold but I have

a feeling that it will keep me warm under more

severe weather. I just love it!

Helly Hansen Helsinki 3 in 1

As soon as you try on the Helly Hansen

Helsinki 3 in 1 you immediately notice the

quality of the fabric. Breathability is a welcomed

feature for commuters. It is surprisingly

warm considering its light weight which also

makes sliding it on or off effortless. The

numerous pockets on both layers are well

crafted and conveniently located.

Walking in rainy weather isn't a burden thanks

to the hood and its water repelling material.

The easily removable shell makes worrying

about a change in temperature or season a

thing of the past. Overall, Helly Hansen managed

to make another fashionable business

casual jacket that's as practical as it is comfortable.

Whether it is a night on the town, a business

meeting, light actives or extreme sports, Helly

Hansen has you covered.

www.hellyhansen.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


28

A Jaunt Through Qatar with Qatar Airways

by Olivia Balsinger

In Qatar, the dichotomies are unparalleled:

old versus new, tradition versus

innovation, religion versus modernity.

From the world-class metropolis of Doha,

brimming with museums, nightlife and unrivaled

man-made architecture, to the natural

phenomena in the deserts, Qatar maintains

all aspects of its heritage while embracing the

new world.

Whether they are visiting as a stopover on a

Qatar Airways flight or staying as their final

destination, travelers will soon understand

that Qatar and its capital city of Doha is not

merely the “Next Dubai.” Until the discovery

of oil in 1939, Qatar cultivated its greatest

profit from pearl diving. But it has since

grown, flourished and made its own substantial

mark on the map.

And now there is no easier way to get there

than Qatar Airways, the multiple award-winning

airline with direct flights to Doha from

more than 150 destinations on every inhabited

continent. I was actually disappointed

when the flight attendant woke me up as we

were descending into Doha’s dawn on an

overnight from New York City. I was in a

Qsuite, the first of its kind in business class,

which provided me complete privacy, along

with ambient mood lighting and a fully flat

bed. The airline also provides business class

passengers an “a la carte” dining option,

making my constant hunger more manageable.

The stewardess went out of her way surprising

me with champagne before landing

in Doha and I had “Meet and Greet” service

both during arrival and departure. I actually

felt like royalty in the air.

However, once landing in Doha, I was equally

blown away. Indeed, Doha itself has

proven to be a major tourism draw. The city

is significantly smaller than both Dubai and

Abu Dhabi, which allows it to keep its slightly

provincial feel. While travelers can still find

modern high-end innovations, such as Doha

Festival City with an Angry Bird theme park,

Qatar stays true to its heritage in a number of

ways. I visited the Souq Waqif, one of the

most traditional in the Middle East, to find

pearl shops and nooks where men still gather

to chat. Whether eating traditional Qatari

food or getting whimsically discombobulated

in the labyrinth of people watching, the Souq

is not to miss.

Qatar is also equally modern as it is timeless.

The sheer decadence and luxury found within

Qatar’s hotels are reason enough to visit.

Take The Mondrian Doha, for example. The

property’s 270 rooms have views of the manmade

Pearl Island. Here I enjoyed a luxurious

detoxing massage and indulgent swim in

the penthouse pool. The hotel epitomizes

dual elegance and creativity, described as

Alice in Wonderland in real life – the whimsi-

cal architecture by famed Dutch designer

Marcel Wanders. Two Qatari hotspots are

found in The Mondrian, Morimoto Doha and

the bespoke Black Orchid nightclub.

Finally, adventure is everywhere in Qatar.

Few things spike adrenaline more than a

safari in a 4X4 through Qatar’s vast desert,

about an hour and a half ride from Doha city

center. The radio is blasting Arabian-French

techno music as a white Land Cruiser picks

up speed. The experienced guide smiles

slightly mischievously and revs the engine

prior to accelerating through this stunning

natural oasis as the sound of sand descending

down the slopes overwhelms. Q-Explorer

Tours is a professional tour operator that

handles individual and group guided

arrangements, catering to specific itinerary

desires and budgets. In addition to dune

bashing, the company provides many other

opportunities to explore Qatar’s culture, gastronomy

and natural beauty. For a country

small in size, Qatar certainly packs a punch.

www.qatarairways.com

www.visitqatar.qa

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Here’s Why These 10 Adventures Go Beyond The Average Bucket List

by Exodus Travels

Whether you saw the Northern

Lights in Iceland long before it

became all the rage; to walking

the historic Camino de Santiago in Spain; or

taking in the sunrise at Angkor Wat, figuring

out where to head next can be a challenge.

Get away from the heavy traffic in well-trodden

destinations and instead, discover a

whole new world of adventures that truly go

beyond the beaten path. From traversing the

rainforests of Borneo, to discovering the complex

history of Macedonia, here are 10 experiences

by Exodus Travels that will fulfill the

seasoned traveler’s passion for discovery and

adventure.

1. Egypt: Nile Cruise

Egypt is making a comeback and if you want

to experience the beauty of ancient stories,

well-preserved monuments and an infinite

number of antiquities with few tourists around

- the time to go is now. Take in classic historical

sites such as the Luxor Temple and the

Karnak Temple Complex in the Valley of the

Kings, before a relaxing journey along the

Nile on a cruise boat from Luxor to discover

the spectacular Edfu and Kom Ombo temples.

Disembark and sail on a traditional

Felluca for awe-inspiring views of Aswan and

Cleopatra’s unfinished obelisk.

2. Peru: The Lost City of Choquequirao

Escape the crowds on this challenging,

unusual walk through Peru’s mountainous

region. This varied trek lead travelers up

steep paths through dense cloud forests, over

spectacular scenic passes and along ancient

Incan paths to Vilcabamba’s best kept secret;

the lost Incan city of Choquequirao. Machu

Picchu may draw the crowds, but

Choquequirao is larger, untouched and very

secluded. Much of the city is still unexcavated,

but the stonework that has stood the test of

time include ritual baths and temples dedicated

to the sun, moon and the earth spirit

3. Belize: Jungle & Coast Adventure

Belize takes its motto to heart; no shirt, no

shoes, no problem! This laid-back country

with a lively soul is filled with a complex history

and a vibrant local culture. Take a trip

down below to a 'Mayan underworld' cave

system, and swim in sapphire sinkholes. Put

on your snorkels to discover a myriad of

underwater life. On this trip, cross over into

Guatemala to visit two of the world's most

impressive Mayan ruins, Tikal and Uaxactun.

Visit the small laid back town of San Ignacio,

which was once only accessible by boat, to

get a glimpse of the diverse life and culture

that is specifically unique to Belize.

4. Malaysia: Trekking Borneo & Beyond

Borneo is home to some of the most diverse

and beautiful wildlife in the whole of South

East Asia. Start with a visit to majestic Mt

Kinabalu, before heading to the pristine

Danum Valley. A nature lover's paradise,

whose beauty and animals are equalled only

by Sarawak and the World Heritage Mulu

National Park with its immense cave system

and the oldest rainforest in the world. Come

face to face with Orang-utans at the Sepilok

Sanctuary, stay at a bamboo longhouse in

Sabah on a tea plantation, and finish the trip

relaxing at the beach for a chance to spot the

elusive Irrawaddy dolphins.


31

5. Uzbekistan: Uncover the Silk Road

This journey to the heart of Central Asia will

take you back to a time across the centuries.

Explore the city of Bukhara, which is home to

900 monuments, jewelled coloured domes

and fascinating Islamic architecture. One of

the city’s great landmarks is the Kalyan

minaret, known as the death tower, where

apparently many an unfaithful wife met a

dreadful end. Spend a night in the desert by

staying in a traditional Yurt camp and be

regaled stories of the local culture by Kazakh

nomads. Travel to Samarkand, the jewel of

the ancient and modern Silk Road, and still a

major trade centre of textiles, carpets and

works of art in this fascinating country.

6: Madagascar: Wildlife Paradise

The wildlife of Madagascar is one of the

island’s main attractions, and its chief superstar

is undoubtedly the lemur with over 70

species spread throughout. Quite a number

of the native animals cannot be found anywhere

else in the world, such as the

Grandidier Mongoose, Appert’s Greenbull

and the Crested Ibis. There’s a chance to see

the rare Indri, the largest lemur in

Andasibele, while in the cloud forest of

Ranomafana National Park, catch a glimpse

of the elusive rare Golden Bamboo and

Greater Bamboo Lemurs. Madagascar also

boasts some glorious coastlines, so relax on

their white powdery beaches, go snorkelling

or a take simple stroll on the sand.

7. Macedonia: Cultural Journey

A lesser-discovered cousin of the Balkans,

Macedonia has an intense history where

influences from the East and West collide. It is

famous for ancient civilisations, UNESCO

world heritage monasteries and the vibrant

cities of Sofia and Skopje. Ottomans,

Communists and Romans left their mark during

their occupation, which subsequently

imprinted many contrasts across the cultural

landscape of this country. This Baltic state is

also rich in nature with a multitude of national

parks, waterfalls, and famous wine

regions, and travelers will sample locally

grown Macedonian wine in the city of

Tikvesh. Foodies will also enjoy discovering

the coffee culture in Bitola, and the role it has

had on the city in the last few centuries.

8. Italy: Walking the Francigena Way

As trail tourism increases in popularity, The

Francigena Way should be next on your list to

conquer. This historical journey has been

walked by thousands of pilgrims, and was

once the route from Canterbury to Rome. It

begins in the beautiful city of Orvieto, before

walking through Tuscia Laziale, an agricultural

region of fields, olive groves and volcanic

lakes. Following the ancient Via Cassia, pass

through beautiful villages such as

Montefiascone, also known as the city of

Popes and for its fine wine. Many medieval

cities and monasteries fill this path, including

thick forests of oaks, abbey ruins, and secluded

communities. The journey ends in the

Eternal City of Rome.

9. West Greenland: Discover Disko Bay

Polar expeditions have grown in popularity

over the years, as people want to see glaciers

and icebergs in all their glory. This arctic

expedition takes a unique spin as it also journeys

into local Inuit communities living on the

western coast of Greenland. Travelers have

the opportunity to delve into the local culture

within the icy seas. No journey in Greenland

would be complete without a visit to the

impressive Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO

World Heritage Site. There’s a vast amount of

Arctic wildlife on this route, and the best

whale watching can be done on Disko Island,

as its surrounding waters are home to the

humpback, fin, and minke whales.

10. Sudan: Desert Explorer

An underrated destination compared to other

African nations, Sudan is slowing gaining

momentum as an unchartered destination to

visit. It has vast red deserts and believe it or

not, a large number of ancient pyramids.

Built by the rulers of the Kushite kingdoms,

they are smaller compared to Egyptian pyramids

and are extremely well preserved. The

best part is, there are hardly any tourists

around so your chances of taking an unobstructed

photograph of a pyramid is extremely

high. Explore the Temple of Soleb, and

capture images of colonial style railway stations

still reminiscent of British architecture in

the middle of the desert. On top of that,

camp under the stars and visit Nubian villages

in this out of the way itinerary.

About Exodus Travels

Celebrating 44 years, leading adventure tour

operator Exodus has a vast range of adventure

and activity holidays across seven continents,

offering places as diverse and as exhilarating as

Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, the Ice Hotel and

Antarctica. Whether it is solo travelers, couples,

groups or families, Exodus offers an incredible

choice of trips for all ages and activity levels.

Operating in 100+ countries with 600+ tours,

Exodus insists on low impact tourism and contributing

to local communities.

For more information visit:

www.ExodusTravels.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


32

Going Further With

Turkish Airlines

Glowing reviews and exceptional

food are the order of the day for

this up-and-coming airline!

Part of the Star Alliance network, Turkish

airlines (THY) offers service to Canadians

from Toronto and Montreal, and connections

to destinations all over the world

from their hub in Istanbul.

Building on their international reputation,

THY has been climbing the ranks as a top

provider and doing very well in Canada.

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

With 200 destinations, and adding new

ones at a rapid pace, THY welcome travellers

with smiles and a friendly hello,

though often with a charming accent!

To help them usher in this growth, THY

has a massive, world-class training center

in Istanbul with numerous simulators.

Pilots, flight attends and support staff are

all trained well and are ready to go after

their courses are done.

Their aircraft include A330s, A340s,

B777s, B737-800s and B727-800s, all

well maintained and laid-out with the customer

in mind. Each section is designed

with creature comforts taking front and

centre. The seats throughout the plane are

comfortable and the facilities are kept

impeccably clean and organized. Most

Business Class passengers can expect

either fully lie-flat seats or angled lie-flat

seats that brings relaxation to a higher

level.

Comfort Class is Turkish Airlines' premium

economy section is highlighted by slightly

larger seats configured in two-by-three-bytwo

rows, a large video screen and entertainment

system with an iPod outlet and a

laptop power outlet for each seat.

Even passengers traveling in Economy

Class can enjoy an above average trip, as

all passengers enjoy the famed THY complimentary

meal. Though multi-course

meals are provided in Business Class on

extended range flights, all passengers are

treated to the award winning food served

on board. Considering that THY deals

with one of the world’s biggest (maybe the

biggest) catering service and are partners

with Do & Co., there is no surprise in the

quality THY can offer!

www.turkishairlines.com


Contiki Launches Epic ‘7 Wonders of the World’ Adventure

The youth travel brand has put together the ultimate travel itinerary that spans seven continents to tick off your bucket list

Contiki, the original travel company

offering epic global adventures for

18 to 35-year old’s, has launched

an epic 82 day round the world trip, simply

called the ‘7 Wonders’ adventure, that takes

in all New7Wonders of the world – including

the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China

and Machu Picchu. The New7Wonders

resulted from a campaign launched in

2000 by philanthropist Bernard Weber to

select the wonders of the world from a list of

200 existing monuments, with the winners

announced on July 7th, 2007 in Lisbon.

With the launch of their latest adventure

dubbed, Israel & Jordan Uncovered –

Jordan being the home to the ancient site of

Petra – Contiki now offers trips for young

travellers to all seven of the wonders and as

such has been able to create the ultimate

itinerary around the world to witness each of

them.

Starting in Delhi on March 24th, 2019, the

adventure starts with the first wonder, the Taj

Mahal. The trip then moves on to China for

a visit to the Great Wall before heading to

Mexico to explore the Mayan ruins of

Chichen Itza. Travellers then move to South

America to visit Machu Picchu in Peru before

heading on to Brazil, home of the Christ the

Redeemer statue. Then to Petra in Jordan,

home to the giant metropolis of tombs,

monuments, and other elaborate religious

structures that are carved into stone cliffs.

The epic adventure ends in Italy on June

13th, 2019 to see the final wonder on the

list, the ancient Roman amphitheatre known

as the Colosseum.

The ‘7 Wonders’ adventure will see

Canadians visiting nine countries in depth,

exploring their local icons, traditions,

cuisines and cultures – on average allowing

12 days to explore the country where each

popular site is located. The trip is made up

of five of Contiki’s most popular itineraries,

plus its brand new ‘Israel & Jordan

Uncovered’ trip.

The New 7 Wonders travellers will visit

include:

Taj Mahal, India (on Contiki’s ‘Eternal

India’ trip from March 24-April 4, 2019):

The trip kick-starts with a 12-day trip

through India, where young Canadians will

visit the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, the

world’s most recognized mausoleum. The

mausoleum, completed in 1653, was commissioned

to house the tomb of the then-

Emperor’s favourite wife. Bucket-list experiences

don’t end there. In India there’s also

tiger-spotting in Ranthambhore National

Park, rickshawing through the streets of

Jaipur, relaxing beachside in Goa and city

explorations of Udaipur and Mumbai.

Great Wall of China, China (on Contiki’s

‘China Adventure’ trip from April 7-18,

2019): Next stop is Beijing to visit the

Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China

where travellers can explore the watchtowers

and fortresses, and gaze out across the


surrounding valley. Travellers spend 12 days

exploring China, venturing on to Xi’an,

Chengdu, Yangshuo and Shanghai where

they will feast on dumplings and Peking

duck, take part in cooking classes, hang out

with cuddly pandas and explore fascinating

museums and traditional markets.

Chichen Itza, Mexico (on Contiki’s ‘Yucatan

Highlights’ trip from April 21-26, 2019):

The most famous and well-preserved ruins

in Mayan history, Chichen Itza, is next on

the agenda. A tour with a Local Guide will

provoke questions about the Mayan calendar,

the positioning of the sun and the connections

between ruins around the country.

The six-day Mexican adventure continues

with a few days in sunny Cancun, the beautiful

city of Merida and the thriving metropolis

of Mexico City.

Machu Picchu, Peru (on Contiki’s ‘The

Explorer’ trip from April 27-May 17, 2019):

Look out over the Sacred Valley from the

lofty heights of Machu Picchu, the ancient

Incan citadel built in the 15th century. Jump

on a train from Aguas Calientes and enjoy

a guided tour of the site, taking in such

wonders as the Temple of the Three

Windows and Wayana Picchu (the peak you

see in every Machu Picchu ‘gram). Spend

the next few days exploring Cusco’s Spanish

colonial architecture, the capital Lima, plus

a special stay in an Amazonian eco lodge.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil (on Contiki’s

‘The Explorer’ trip from April 27-May 17,

2019): Still on the same trip, you’ll spend

four nights in the buzzing Argentinian capital

of Buenos Aires. The perfect opportunity

for foodies to dive into the Argentine food

scene with steaks, pastries and ice cream on

the menu, before hopping the border at the

thunderous Iguassu falls and wrapping up

in Rio de Janeiro, home to none other than

the fifth Wonder on your journey, the statue

of Christ the Redeemer.

Petra, Jordan (on Contiki’s ‘Israel & Jordan’

trip from May 19-29, 2019): The ancient

city of Petra is one of the most famous

archaeological sites in the world. Explore

the giant metropolis of tombs, monuments,

and other religious structures which are

carved into stone cliffs. Spend 11 days in

Israel and Jordan with unforgettable experiences

like a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee,

a guided tour of Jerusalem, a hike in the

Red Canyon of Eliat, a 4x4 tour across the

Wadi Rum desert and a full day in the

buzzing city of Tel Aviv.

Colosseum, Rome (on Contiki’s ‘Simply

Italy’ trip from June 2-13, 2019): Finish this

epic 82-day journey with a 12-day Italian

vacation. Ticking off top destinations including

Florence, Venice, Sorrento, Milan, The

Riviera and of course, the capital of Rome to

see the final wonder on the list, the ancient

Roman amphitheatre, the Colosseum.

The adventure has a whopping 92 included

meals and in addition to seeing the seven

wonders, is packed full of included activities

for a travel experience with no regrets, such

as a visit to a panda sanctuary in Chengdu,

China, a canopy hike through the Amazon

jungle, a tango lesson in Buenos Aires,

Argentina, 4x4ing across Wadi Rum in

Jordan and a boat trip to the island of Capri

in Italy.

www.contiki.com

35

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


36

Tropical Tidbits

by Sue C Travel

6 Super All-Inclusive Stays in Montego Bay

AMResorts has been very busy offering more

excellent stay and play all-inclusive options

in Jamaica over the past few years. And now

there is something for all ages, styles, budgets,

and accommodation preferences. And

they are ALL all-inclusive! I first stayed at

their original Montego Bay Secrets St. James

and Secrets Wild Orchid - side-by-side

adult-only sister resorts on the same private

beach a few years ago. And I absolutely

adored them. But since then, they have

added sister resorts nearby on the same

great beach peninsula geared to be more

budget-friendly, for all-inclusive family fun.

Sunscape Cove is the higher end escape

while Sunscape Splash features a huge

waterpark, and they also share an excellent

kid’s club program so that parents can enjoy

some adult alone time by the sea. And now,

there is yet another choice of adult-only allinclusive

by AMResorts called Breathless next

door to the twin Secrets! This contemporary

and trendy new brand is aimed squarely at

millennials and the hip and young at heart.

Everything is very modern, sexy, and hightech,

especially in your room where

absolutely everything is controlled by a

tablet. Daily foam parties in the pool with

hot DJ’s and a cool concept they call "Silent

Disco” add to the intrigue. Breathless also

has access to all the additional dining and

entertainment at neighbouring Secrets. But,

if you’re seeking an even higher-level of

adult-only all-inclusive, now there’s the new

boutique luxury brand Zoëtry Montego Bay

on its own beach, a few miles away. There

the focus is on seriously personal pampering,

elevated accommodations, and health

and wellness offerings. There is dining on

site, but guests can also sample all the dining

options at the twin Secrets, though transportation

is not included.

For all AMResorts in the Montego Bay

region, visit:

www.amresorts.com/destination/jamaica

Quebecers Flock to Club Med Turkoise

And Club Med Comes to Quebec!

I’d been to Providenciales in Turks and

Caicos many times (locals call it “Provo”) and

I was well aware that there were scads of

expat Canadians living there, in fact, they

even have a hockey league! And I knew it

was very popular for sun-seeking canucks on

holiday, too. I mean what’s not to love? The

endless pristine miles of soft white sand and

aqua surf that has Grace Bay Beach often

cited as one of the best beaches in the world

is quite simply, postcard perfect. But this past

trip to Club Med Turkoise – also my very first

visit to a Club Med brand resort- I noticed an

interesting phenomenon: almost everyone

spoke French! Quebecois French! I live in

Montreal, so it was like being at home- if only

we had a great beach and no snow!

Apparently, many of the staff are from

Quebec, and word of mouth must have

spread that this place was the ideal gathering

spot for French Canadians. Even the name

“Turkoise” is pronounced with French


37

savoire-faire flair there. Recently redesigned

and totally refreshed, this was the very first

resort on Provo, and it was their presence that

actually led to the building of the airport. It’s

also one of Club Med’s few adult-only

resorts. I really enjoyed the friendly laid-back

vibe and the colourful bungalow village

accommodations are comfortable and

cheery. The entertainment is also very well

done- their “GO”s ( Gracious Organizers)

are really on the ball, and the free trapeze

lessons also get high marks from the guests.

And now it turns out that Club Med really

likes Quebecers, too. In fact, they are slated

to build a brand-new all-inclusive Club Med

ski resort in Charlevoix to open in 2020- the

first of its kind in Canada.

For more visit:

www.clubmed.ca/l/quebec-charlevoix

For more on Club Med Turkoise, visit:

www.clubmed.ca/r/Turkoise

Best Restroom in America Award?

Now you might wonder what is so “tropical”

about this tidbit, but there IS an

important sea, nature and marine life connection.

Sanibel Island – a tropical hotspot

in southern Florida is revered by ‘shellers’

for seashell collecting, but the island is

also known for its vast nature preserves.

The most famous is the 5,200-acre J.N.

“Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge -

home to hundreds of species of seabirds,

and even endangered giant manatees.

Which brings me to the award. The

refuge’s “Learning Lavatories” are so

unique that they garnered “America’s Best

Restroom®” award in the nationwide 2018

contest. Excellence in cleanliness, visual

appeal, innovation, functionality, and

unique design elements were the requirements,

but what really set these public

washrooms apart is that they double as

delightful interactive teaching facilities. Toni

Westland, “Ding” Darling supervisory

refuge ranger says, “I guarantee, there’s

no other restrooms like these in the world

that are so devoted to wildlife conservation

and environmental awareness.” There’s

lots to learn at every turn, and it’s such a

creative way to enlighten folks on the

importance of protecting our natural

resources. And having a captive audience

has its advantages, so they came up with

this motto, “We turn a nature call into a

nature enthrall!”.

Find out more at:

www.bestrestrooms18.com and

www.dingdarlingsociety.org

Easier Access Between the ABC’s

Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao- a terrific trio

of Dutch Caribbean islands all within a

stone's throw from each other - are delighted

to welcome a new way to island-hop

between them. As of January 2019,

Bonaire-based EZAir will join the regional

flight options with 6 to 7 roundtrips between

Curacao and Bonaire per week, and one

daily direct flight between Bonaire and

Aruba. Since there are no ferries between

the ABCs, additional airlift choices and fares

beyond the current carriers are very welcome

indeed.

Visit: www.flyezair.net

Anguilla’s Most Iconic Resort Reopens

I’m happy to report that the lovely little

island of Anguilla has bounced back big

time since it was hit with Hurricane Irma in

2016, but it would not be the same legendry

luxury destination without their most gorgeous,

splurge-worthy property, the 5-star

“Cuisinart Golf Resort & Spa”. (Yes, owned

by the same folks who brought us the

blenders!) It had been closed since the

storm, but now, has finally reopened with all

kinds of fresh, new improvements. Though I

can’t imagine it could be any better than it

was, apparently, it is.

Visit: www.cuisinartresort.com

Award-winning travel journalist

Sue Campbell is based in Montreal but makes it

her business to be on top of everything cool, hot,

and new under the sun throughout the

Caribbean and Latin America.

World Traveler welcomes her as a

regular columnist.

Follow her on

Instagram and Twitter @suectravel

Envisionworks, Inc

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


38

A for Athens

WT Photo Library

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

In going through the alphabet, if you had

to pick a place that has played a vital role

in western civilisation, first and foremost

would be “A” for Athens.

On my third trip to Athens in as many

decades, I would find that Athens has blossomed

into a truly beautiful and attractive cosmopolitan

destination. In every direction, it

was now a clean, organised and welcoming

with wonderful restaurants, hotels, shopping

districts and plenty of attraction for just about

every taste.

Athens

What isn’t there to do in Athens!

The capital of Greece has been in existence

for more than 3500 years and was the heart

of the powerful Ancient Grecian civilization

and empire. The city is visited by thousands of

visitors every year, some drawn by the 5thcentury

BC landmarks, including the

Acropolis, while others want to see the more

modern side.

The city is the engine for the country economically

and as a beacon for the resurgence of

this Mediterranean hub. And it was ripe for

rediscovery!

The Acropolis and museum

The Acropolis is Greece’s top attraction, it is

eternal. Nothing has changed, everything has

changed. From my first trip there in the 80’s,

the site looks similar, but what has changed

are the crowds that are still found looking

around in amazement and awe. It was not

always so, I do remember having the site to


myself and wondering around freely without

the masses, but that is how it goes when a site

has this much of a link to antiquity. Also new

is the museum that houses some of the countries

most valued treasures. So daunting is this

museum that it would days to get through it

all.

The Acropolis has had an associated museum

since1886, with the latest incarnation completed

in 2007. It is truly impressive, with a

whopping exhibition space of over 14,000

square meters, ten times more than that of the

old museum on the Hill of the Acropolis.

Fascinating artwork, equipment, items, clothing

and more are showcased here. Truly a trip

into the past.

The National Archaeological Museum

I had been impressed before with museums,

but this one was beyond imagination. There

are sections that cover all the eras that have

weaved the history of Greece into a tapestry

stretching back through time.

Mycenae, Agamemnon, Plato, and so much

more, it even has a small Egyptian section –

the variety was outstanding. It is the largest

archaeological museum in Greece, and a

home for ancient Greek art. It was founded at

the end of the 19th century and has antiquities

from all over Greece with displays of historical,

cultural and artistic importance.

Amazing Food

One will never go hungry in Greece, and so it

goes that Athens has some of the best restaurants

in the country with something for every

taste and palate. Weather it was Greek specialties,

street foods or international cuisine, I

would find myself feasting like a king; so

much so that I would probably put on lots of

weigh if my trip was any longer. Fresh sea

food is always available and so were wonderful

Greek salads, local wines, traditional and

artisanal beers, and of course, the Ouzo was

always a great way to celebrate the night.

Olympics

The ancient Olympic Games were originally a

festival for the ancient god Zeus that grew into

competitive events like marathons, javelin

throwing, and wrestling matches were added.

The Greek games had their roots in religion

and the athletic competition was tied to worship

of the gods. The legacy of the ancient

games can be found in museums and out in

the city, the buildings and stadiums build for

the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

The Plaka

The Plaka district is full of bars, restaurants,

boutiques, souvenir shops and has a lively

buzz. Visited by both the locals and tourists, it

has a very Greek island feel, even though it is

right in the city center. With its narrow cobblestone

streets, architecture, and tons of people

around, visitors are taken to an exotic place

that offers a glimpse of modern and traditional

Athens at the same time.

Monastiraki flea market

During the week, this area houses an assortment

of clothing and jewelry stores dotted with

some pretty interesting boutiques, especially if

you like vintage records and rare CDs or T-

shirts.

On Sundays, it turns into a giant garage sale,

where people seem to come from everywhere

to lay out their blankets and sell all sorts of

stuff. Monastiraki Square is a lively square in

Athens at all times and at night it is filled with

people of all ages and many street venders

enjoying the warm evenings in this magical,

ancient city.

A+ for Athens

One visit is never enough and to get the best

of this worldly city, one must give Athens time

to live its long history as well as the new vibe

in the arts, fashion and wonderful gastronomy.

www.visitgreece.gr

The Grand Dame

My stay at the Grand Bretagne hotel

would be nothing short of spectacular.

This is, after all, the choice hotel for

diplomats, executives, celebrities and

just about anyone of major importance

that would frequent Athens.

The location is in the dead centre of the

city directly adjacent to the Greek

Parliament and close by to the major

streets, markets and attractions. To my

good fortune, and in a full hotel, I was

on the top floor with a magnificent

view of the surrounding hills. The parliament

was so close that on many

occasions I would watch the changing

of the guard ceremony from my balcony.

Besides the location, this Grand Dame

had it all. Exceptional, well decorated

rooms and suites with marble washrooms,

wonderful restaurants and bars,

indoor and outdoor pools, spa and

wellness center and the list goes on.

With all this, three things really stood

out for me: the physical structure itself

was exceptional on both the outside

and inside, where I could not stop looking

at the wonderful décor and details

of the lobby. The service by the staff

was friendly and world class and finally,

the piece de resistance was the roof

top restaurant that provided panoramic

views of the whole of Athens, and its

iconic Acropolis. Breakfasts were made

a highlight of my day!

www.grandebretagne.gr

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


40

WT Photo Library

A Northern Ireland Walking Adventure from Londonderry to Belfast

Article and photography by Cherie DeLory

Festivals are a good place to kick up

your heels and kick off a grand travelling

adven-ture. This was true for

my debut visit to Northern Ireland last July to

attend Ireland’s largest maritime festival, the

annual Foyle Maritime Festival in Derry-

Londonderry. In anticipation of my trip I was

imagining myself draped in a smart Irish

Fishermans sweat-er made of Aran wool in

celebration of the occasion. After all, Derry-

Londonderry was a host stopover port for the

biennial Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

2017/’18, which coincided with the festival.

I wanted to look my best while the handsome

sailors were on shore leave.

Striking 70-foot yachts sailed into the Foyle

Port in the final leg from New York, before

heading to the finish line in Liverpool,

England. I got to meet some of the sailors,

climb on board for a tour of their close quarters,

and soak up the excitement of the festival,

which ended with the fanfare of a

parade of sail and fireworks to send off the

crews.

The Walled city

No visit is complete to this pretty city on a hill

without “wandering the walls”. Derry-

Londonderry has a small town air, but is the

second largest city in Northern Ireland next

to its capital, Belfast. It’s the only completely

intact walled city in Ireland, totalling about a

mile of atmospheric wall with vistas of the

city beyond the heritage stone. I took a his-

torical tour with Martin McCrossan Walled

City Walking Tour. You could say it’s a city

with a wee bit of an identity crisis. Some call

it Derry, others say Londonderry.

Derry-Londonderry, or Derry as originally

named, is the first planned city in Ireland,

built between 1613 and 1619. The walls

were built to protect the locals from settlers

arriving from England and Scotland, and

would later figure in the Great Siege of

1689. During the planning phase was when

London was added to the name to reflect the

Queen's influence. Derry in year 546 was a

monastic settlement founded by the Irish

monk, Saint Columba, who to this day is one

of three patron saints of Ireland. St.

Columb's Cathedral, circa 1633, is the old-


est building in Derry-Londonderry and home

to the original keys of the city gates, and has

the oldest peal bells in Europe. I wish I’d

heard them ring.

I stayed at the City Centre Hotel. Through my

picture window I could almost reach out and

touch the city’s architectural landmark, the

Peace Bridge. The cycle and foot bridge connecting

the Cityside and Walled City to the

Waterside, over the River Foyle, opened in

2011. On the Waterside of the bridge is

Ebrington Square, a former army barracks

undergoing an ambitious redevelopment

project, which includes a hotel and maritime

museum currently under construction on listed

buildings.

Maritime Heritage

This city’s maritime heritage cannot be

underestimated. During World War II the city

played a critical role as a navy base because

of its large port that could accommodate up

to 130 ships, and its proximity to the North

Atlantic. But most importantly, Derry-

Londonderry is known worldwide for the surrender

of the German U-boat submarines.

While exploring Ebrington Square I enjoyed

dinner and an eclectic craft brew flight at

Walled City Brewery, the only restaurant in

Ireland with a brewery, and it won Best Gastropub

in Ireland 2017. Take time to explore

the walking and cycling trails along the River

Foyle, St. Columb’s Park and Heritage

Trail, and get on the River Foyle for a canoe

paddle with Loughs Agency, a marine and

fisheries outfitter.

History told in ornate stained glass windows

is a must see at the Guild Hall in the town

square. It’s located at the foot of Shipquay

Street, the town’s steepest street. It was even

once used as a waterslide for a charity event.

Browse in Craft Village, a charming cul-desac

off of Shipquay with pastry shops, a vintage

books emporium and artisan gift shops.

The Diamond War Memorial, honouring the

city’s fallen WW1 soldiers, stands at the top

of the street where the four walled city gates

can be seen from one vantage point. I couldn’t

help but notice a hauntingly beautiful

vacant Baroque style building which, up until

2016 when it closed its doors, was the

world’s oldest independent de-partment

store. Austins was open for business in 1830.

Seafood trail

During the Foyle Maritime Festival several

restaurants participate in the Seafood Trail,

making this the ideal time to indulge in fresh

Irish catch of the day. I had a delicious

smoked salmon main with a green pea

puree at Thompsons Restaurant in the Derry

City Hotel. At Browns in Town, I ordered an

Irish staple of champs, buttery mashed potatoes

seasoned with garlic and scallions,

and hake with a green pea puree. The Beech

Hill Hotel wins points for best setting. I

watched a rabbit hop about in the garden

while I enjoyed a delicious duck dish, with

carrot and fennel soup.

The Bishop’s Gate Hotel (circa 1899) in the

walled city has been elegantly restored, leaving

intact Edwardian architectural nuggets

such as the exquisite oak revolving door at

the entrance. Service and dining in the

restaurant is impeccable, making for a

memo-rable last impression before heading

north east to the Causeway Coast.

One of travel documentarian Michael Palin’s

recommendations for Great Railway Journeys

of the World is the route from Derry-

Londonderry to Colleraine. Given that

there’s something about train travel that’s

irresistible to me, I booked my ticket on the

Translink and was on my way to the seaside

resort town of Portrush, earmarked as host

town of next summer’s 2019 Open

Championship. The Royal Portrush Golf

Club’s Dunluce Links is considered one of

the best in the world.

Barefoot in Bushmills

I stayed at the Royal Court Hotel on the outskirts

of town, with dreamy views of the

ocean. Without a car, I could take a fiveminute

taxi, bus, or a 45-minute stroll into

town along Whiterocks Beach, which was the

beginning of a memorable experience

exploring the Causeway Coast.

I purchased a Translink day pass bus ticket

and Dunluce Castle was my first stop. You

can walk amidst the atmospheric ruins, situ-

ated high on a cliff overlooking the

sea. I took a winding staircase up one

of the towers to a lookout and was so caught

up in the maze of masonry that I missed my

bus. As I was waiting for the next bus a

women’s walking group persuaded me to

join them part way. They assured me that I

would be able to continue my journey to

Giant’s Causeway on foot. I’m an active person

and avid cyclist, so this was a challenge

I was prepared to take on. I was a tad weary

upon arri-val to the Giant’s Causeway

Visitor’s Centre about three hours on, but

thrilled with my adventure. I had a unique

perspective, walking barefoot along the

shoreline, a picnic lunch, ascending nature

trails alongside the cliff’s edge, stopping to

stare at cows graz-ing in the field; one that

very few can say they’ve experienced, judging

by the bus loads of tourists.

Next stop was a hop, skip and a swig to the

oldest whiskey distillery in the world, Old

Bushmills Distillery. (Ask about the Giant’s

Causeway and Bushmills Heritage Railway

as a travel option.) Then to Portrush for dinner

and some entertaining summer stock

theatre at the Portrush Town Hall. Needless

to say, I slept well.

A day in Belfast

41

The next day I was off to Belfast via the train

for my final day in Northern Ireland. I

checked in at the newly opened Grand

Central Hotel Belfast, where panoramic

views of the city surrounded by the Belfast

Hills beyond can be viewed from the 23rd

floor Ob-servatory Lounge. I walked everywhere,

to Titanic Belfast across town, on the

site of the shipyard where the RMS Titanic

was built, and to the Botanic Gardens and

Ulster Museum in the Queen’s Quarter near

Queen’s University. Near City Hall, hidden

in the basement of a heritage row house, I

satisfied my indulgence for superior chocolate

with a visit to Co Couture, an award winning

small-batch chocolatier that uses

organic cacao sourced from Madagascar. I

needed more than a day to enjoy this beautiful

city. So many reasons to return to

Northern Ireland.

www.discovernorthernireland.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Atlantic Arctic Indian Pacific Southern Ocean

C r u i s i n g with

W O R L D

Traveler

C RUISING

Cruise News - pages 44 - 45

This Photo: Viking Sky

SECTION

On Top of the World with Viking, Part 2 - page 48

Cruising the Yangtze from Chongqing to the Three Gorges - page 50

Nuremberg to Vienna with AmaSonata - page 52

Adriatic Aegean Mediterranean Caribbean Baltic Black South-China Sea

Danube Main Mekong Moselle Nile Rhine Rhône Saône Seine Yangtze

Come With Us & Sail The World!


44

AmaWaterways Avalon Azamara Carnival Celebrit

C r u i s e N e w s

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Name Revealed

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection announced the name of their inaugural yacht on

December 5th, 2018 at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, France. The

first yacht will be named Azora, meaning “sky blue”, a word of Spanish origin derived

from “azure” and the

color “azul”. Evoking

the beauty of the sky

and the ocean,

Azora is a name that

encourages guests to

immerse themselves

in the color of travel

and experience the

world with The Ritz-

Carlton Yacht

Collection.

www.ritzcarltonyachtcollection.com

Adventure Canada Setting

Sail Back to Ireland

The Ireland Circumnavigation begins in

Dublin on June 9, 2019, when guests will

board Adventure Canada’s 198 passenger

ship, Ocean Endeavour, to sail

around Ireland and experience its friendly

folk, rolling countryside, charming villages,

and rugged seascapes.

Expedition highlights include sailing past the picturesque Skellig Islands, exploring

the beautiful Dingle Peninsula, visiting the mysterious and unique Giant’s Causeway

and the huge Rock of Cashel. The expedition will also include the beautiful Ring of

Kerry, as well as castles, cathedrals, national parks, Irish pubs, vibrant cities and villages,

and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. Guests will also visit Tory Island - a remote

island inhabited by a small Gaelic community of fewer than 200 people with their

own king. www.adventurecanada.com

Cunard Launches New Holistic Spa Concept

Luxury cruise line Cunard announces Mareel Wellness & Beauty: a new spa conceptdeveloped

in partnership with wellness innovator Canyon Ranch, to be rolled out

across its fleet. Mareel will launch exclusively on board the newly-refurbished Queen

Elizabeth this December 2018, closely followed by Queen Victoria and on flagship

liner Queen Mary 2 in November 2020.

Mareel, meaning phosphorescence of

the ocean, is taken from the ancient

Norse language and speaks to the illuminating

light and healing energy of

the sea. The new brand will offer a

holistic approach with an extended spa

treatment menu of mineral-rich seawater

and marine-based experiences as

well as a redesign of the entire spa

facility.

www.cunard.com

Amawaterways Unveils 2020

Preview Brochure with New

River Cruise Offerings

The river cruise industry continues to

experience rapid growth and increased

bookings, and at the forefront of that is

industry leader AmaWaterways. The

recent release of the company’s 2020

preview brochure introduces new land

extensions and itineraries on its awardwinning

ships – including the revolutionary

AmaMagna.

Chartering New Waters

Only a year after her launch, AmaMagna

will cruise new waters and continue to elevate

the luxury of river cruising, expanding

her presence to the lower Danube on

four select departures. The innovative ship

will cruise the seven-night Gems of

Southeast Europe itinerary between

Budapest, Hungary and Giurgiu, Romania

through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia,

Bulgaria and Romania with stops at fascinating

sites such as the ethereal

Belogradchik Rocks and the UNESCOdesignated

Rock-Hewn Churches of

Ivanovo.

AmaMagna will also sail the popular 14-

night Grand Danube Cruise, between

Vilshofen, Germany and Giurgui,

Romania traveling to seven countries and

offering scenic views through the Iron

Gates between Serbia and Romania.

Measuring twice the width of a traditional

European river cruise ship, the luxurious

AmaMagna allows for added personal

space in the large suites (the majority 355

sq. ft. or larger); four tempting dining

venues, including the Al Fresco

Restaurant, Jimmy’s Wine Bar Restaurant,

The Chef’s Table Restaurant and Main

Restaurant; and new enticing amenities,

such as the expansive Zen Wellness Studio

and the innovative Water Sports Platform

complete with the Sundowner vessel for

complimentary tours of the Danube.

www.amawaterways.com

Royal-Caribbean Scenic Seabourn SeaDream Si


y Costa Crystal Cunard Disney Holland America

45

Silversea Spotlights the Authentic Beauty of the Far East with a

Range of Remarkable Expedition Voyages

Part of its industry-leading ultra-luxury expedition offering, Silversea Expeditions continues

to take guests closer to the authentic beauty of the Far East with a number of remarkable

itineraries.The following itinerary sample has been handpicked to illustrate the richness of

Silversea Expeditions’ offering in the Far East in 2019:

The Pacific Ring of Fire and Japan

Silver Explorer departs April 29, 2019, on a 13-day cruise from Apra, Guam, to Kobe, Japan. Highlights of this nature-laden voyage include

active volcanoes, tranquil gardens and possible sightings of dolphins, whales, green sea turtles, colourful Mariana fruit doves and much

more.

Land of the Rising Sun

As graceful as a tea ceremony and as modern as a bullet train, Japan and South Korea are treasure troves of soaring castles, ancient temples

and cutting-edge architecture that beckon to be explored. Silver Explorer answers the call with this 9-day cruise from Kobe to Busan,

departing May 12, 2019.

Semi-Circumnavigation of Sumatra and Java

On March 5, 2019, Silver Discoverer departs Yangon for Bali on a 15-day expedition. On this exciting semi-circumnavigation of Sumatra

and Java, guests will have the chance to climb an active volcano, meet indigenous peoples, and sample local food.

A Kaleidoscope of Culture and Nature in the Banda and Arafura Seas

This Bali to Darwin expedition aboard Silver Discoverer departs March 20, 2019. Guests will be treated to a symphony of unforgettable

sights and experiences, including fascinating encounters with local cultures, an insight into intriguing local history, and the chance to witness

breath-taking scenery and possible wildlife sightings of the iconic dragons of Komodo.

Indonesia by Land and Sea

Sailing June 24, 2019, from Darwin to Bali, Silver Discoverer will spend 15 days exploring a string of Indonesian pearls. Guests will have

a chance to snorkel in the Coral Triangle, marvel at the underwater wonders of Anano Island, and discover the unique customs of the

Torajan people. Another highlight is a visit to Tanjung Puting National Park and Camp Leakey to learn of Dr. Biruté Galdikas' ground-breaking

work with orangutans, as well as possible up-close encounters with these intelligent and threatened animals.

www.silversea.com

Viking to Sail New ‘Greek Odyssey’ Itinerary

Viking has recently announced a new 11-day ocean cruise itinerary, Greek Odyssey, that will allow

guests to explore the ancient empires of antiquity of the Aegean Sea during the quiet season.

Sailing roundtrip from Athens starting in January 2021, the new itinerary features three new ports

of call for Viking, including Volos, Thessaloníki and Nafpilo in Greece, as well as a stop in Ephesus,

marking the company’s return to Turkey.

Sailing on Viking’s award-winning 930-guest all-veranda Viking Sea, guests will journey through

several millennia of culture and history, from Athens, known as the “birthplace of democracy,” to

the island of Crete, home to the mysterious Minoan civilization. Highlights of the new Greek

Odyssey itinerary include:

•Ephesus (Kuşadasi), Turkey: One of the best-preserved cities of antiquity in the world, guests can visit the remains of the Byzantine Basilica

of St. John, take in sights such as the massive Great Theater and the magnificent Library of Celsus.

•Volos, Greece: Now a modern, cosmopolitan port city, this region was once thought of as the playground of the gods. Guests can experience

the stunning scenery of Meteora, where medieval monasteries stand precariously on hilltops, or explore the ancient religious center

of Dion, located on the foothills of Mt. Olympus.

•Thessaloniki, Greece: Greece’s second-largest city offers an exhilarating mix of ancient culture and modern life. While in port, guests

can walk the vibrant waterfront promenade with its many cafés and restaurants, or venture outside the city to the remains of the ancient

Macedonian kingdom of Alexander the Great.

•Nafpilo, Greece: Set between breathtaking mountains and the Bay of Argos, Nafpilo is one of Greece’s most beautiful and romantic port

cities. Guests can discover the charms of its Venetian homes and Byzantine churches, take a drive to Palamidi, an imposing fortress towering

over the city, or travel to the nearby Peloponnese peninsula, an ancient area rich in history.

•Scenic cruising: Mt. Athos: During the one sea day on this itinerary, guests will sail past the majestic slopes of Mt. Athos, a UNESCO

World Heritage Site and the spiritual capital of Orthodox Christianity. Called the “Holy Mountain,” the peninsula’s soaring peaks are home

to 20 monasteries whose monks work to preserve and catalogue a vast collection of liturgical works and art.

www.vikingcruises.com

Hurtigruten MSC Norwegian Oceania Ponant Princess Regent

versea Star-Clippers Uniworld Viking Windstar


On Top of the World with Viking

Part II: We Set Sail

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

extravagant - private planes to view the surrounding

landscape.

Beautiful Bergen

Jet-lag was not enough to deter us from discovering

this little Norwegian jewel. As

Norway’s second largest city, Bergen is a popular

tourist destination and there are many

reasons why. It is charming, clean, and friendly,

and has some of the best looking historical

architecture we would see on our cruise

through the north. The iconic view of the historic

Bryggen wharf is a site to behold. For

years I have seen colorful pictures of this and

finally had the chance to visit this district and

its many small alleyways.

Geiranger and the Fjords

Our first day and our first port of call would be

a highlight of our trip, and getting to

Geiranger was as fantastic as being there. We

would pass through what would be the best

Fjords of our cruise and on this foggy day the

landscape was perfectly mysterious with towering

cliffs and breathtaking waterfalls.

In this part two of our wonderful Viking

cruise, we set sail. Heading straight north

from our base in Bergen, we hugged the

coast to the European lands-end in

Honningsvåg, Norway. From this land of the

midnight sun we navigate our way south to the

mystical land known as the Shetland and

Orkney Islands just before we end our journey

in London.

This memorable cruise would be fascinating,

educational, relaxing and with calm seas,

totally enjoyable thanks to the great efforts of

the Viking management and crew. It is a cruise

where everything works as it should. The

Viking Sea was beautiful, luxurious and comfortable,

and the service was impeccable.

On land, we would participate in all the Viking

shore excursions. There was one included in

every port of call and they were well planned,

easy going, lots of fun and a great way to

meet other like-minded Viking guests to say

the least.

Knowledgeable local guides brought the different

destinations to life and you can be sure

that they covered the most important attractions

and topics. So easy were these outings

that the only stress was keeping an eye on time

and getting to the luxury coaches for scheduled

departures.

A note about booking these optional excursions:

some of the more popular tours fill up

fast and priority is given to guests with a category

of Deluxe Veranda suite or higher. It is for

this reason that once you are confirmed as a

guest, reservations for tours should be done

right away on their well-designed and user

friendly login guest website.

Besides the included excursions, Viking offered

a host of optional outings. At a small cost,

guests had at their disposal the best of the best

at the tip of their fingers including historical

tours, gastronomical tours, cultural encounters

with locals, fishing trips, biking and hiking

through mountains, right up to the most

Here we opted for an extra excursion that

included an adventure that brought us up

through snaking roads to a farm on a plateau.

Getting there was made easier with the aid of

electronic bicycles and although you still had

to make a big effort, it was nothing compared

to a regular bike. Geiranger is an outdoors

persons dream, there were numerous hiking

trails, or kayaking the fjords options and anywhere

you go it was like being in a postcard.

Molde

In Molde we would have yet another amazing

day, this time we would kayak the sea with a

professional outdoorsman. That is right, our

young guide was actually studying to be just

that, going to school and soon to graduate

which made me wonder but then again this is

Norway and most of its citizens have a close

connection to the land.

Our Kayaking was in contrast to our visit to a

newly constructed heritage village. Wooden

buildings were brought in from numerous

Norwegian places and with the addition of

craftsmen from the many ages and characters

in period clothing, this was a great look at how

the people lived and survived in what could be

a harsh land.

Photo: Viking


Tromso and Lofoten

In Tromso and Lofoten we would enjoy quite

village life and we thoroughly enjoyed the

relaxed and unhurried ways of the locals. The

scenery, as always, was picture perfect. This

was evident in the hills, harbors and the beautiful

beaches.

Much of the economic activity here is based on

the sea: in ocean fishing, fish farming, sea

transport and know to a smaller degree,

tourism from the Norwegians themselves and

from foreigners.

NordCapp

The name says it all; this is the northern most

land point in Europe. It is a cold, barren land

but somehow there is life here, as in the hills

we would see many herds of reindeer. On this

leg we would drive from the harbor in

Honningsvåg to the welcome center of Nord

Capp and along the way we would meet up

with the Sami, a group of hardy people that

inhabit the furthest parts of Norway, Sweden

and Finland. The Sami are nomadic and on

his day they would bring their reindeer, set up

tents and demonstrate their ways of life.

Norcapp hall, or Nordkapphallen, was initially

built in 1959, and parts of the building were

placed inside the mountain plateau, including

the cinema and a huge grotto. Today, the

building center is able to accommodate several

thousand guests. NordCapp is also home to

a large globe that marks that visitors are at the

northernmost tip of the European continental

mainland.

The Scottish Islands

Next, we visited a couple of special islands.

Shetland, also called the Shetland Islands, lies

168 km from the Scottish mainland. The capital,

Lerwick, bears evidence of human settlement

dating back 3,000 years, but was officially

founded in the 17th century as a herring

and white fish seaport to trade with the Dutch

fishing fleet. Today, Lerwick is a busy fishing

and ferry port with a harbour that also services

vessels from the offshore oil industry.

The Shetland Islands are also famous for their

breeding of certain animals. Most famous are

the Shetland Pony and Shetland Sheepdog .

The Orkney Islands can trace their history far

back as well. Artifacts found have been dated

to 6820–6660 BC that point to the presence of

Mesolithic nomadic tribes. Now, it is home to

the renowned Highland Park whiskey distillery.

Founded in 1798, Highland Park is one of the

few distilleries to malt some part of the barley

it uses, blending locally Hobbister Moor peat

with heather before using it as fuel. Their

recipe is a winning one, and the whiskey is

fantastic.

The island is also home to the Ring of Brodgar,

a Neolithic stone circle which is part of the

UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the

Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Ongoing excavations by Orkney College have

also uncovered several buildings, both ritual

and domestic. It is amazing to view these

treasures of the past in person – how did they

build them back then?

Edinburgh

For a great view into Scotland’s past and present,

the Royal Mile offers a cobblestoned walk

through time. It leads from Edinburgh Castle

down to Hollyrood House with shops and boutiques

lining both sides. It is an excellent way

for tourists to experience the numerous bars,

try the free tours based on the royal mile and

enjoy the vibe of the city.

All great things come to an end

London would be our last port and it could not

have been a better place to end a delightful

and relaxing cruise. Our Viking Sea made it

right to the heart of the city and docked in

front of the Cutty Sark, two blocks from the

tube and a stones throw from the Royal

Observatory. This, by the way, is no easy feat.

The Sea is the perfect size ship capable of sailing

the Thames River and getting through the

city’s flood barriers.

With much excitement, we were looking forward

to wonderful London but at the same

time we would have to say good-by to our

new-old friend the Viking Sea. She will be in

our hearts and minds as we remember the

wonderful experiences and life long memories

she brought us too.

www.vikingcruises.com

49

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


50

Glittering Skylines to Ancient Treasures

Cruising the Yangtze from Chongqing to the Three Gorges

Article and Photography by Jennifer Merrick

“China has changed so much in the last

20 years,” I kept hearing before my

trip. I was told of megacities, seas of

skyscrapers and high-speed trains in a country

modernizing at breakneck pace.

And they were right. “How could I not have

heard about this place before?” was my

question when we first arrived in Chongqing.

Located in the country’s southwest, this massive

metropolis was where our four-day

cruise along the Yangtze River would set sail.

The city’s night view mesmerized us. Its

brightly lit bridges that crossed the Yangtze

and Jialing Rivers, and the glittering skyscrapers

and modern architecture gave any

of the world’s more famous city skylines a

run for their money. Known for mountains,

spicy cuisine and beautiful women,

Chongqing is one of the fastest growing

cities in the world.

But further into the cruise, we discovered

another side to China, too. At the Three

Gorges (narrow valleys along the middle

section of the Yangtze River), we found a

land of mystic beauty with ancient sites that

brought to mind dragons, emperors and inkbrushed

depictions of mountains and mystery.

Tasty Tour of Chongqing

Given my astonishment at the sheer scope of

this metropolis, I was excited that our cruise

included a day of sightseeing around

Chongqing before boarding.

Our local guide, who called himself Ben,

described a tourist attraction that was our

first stop on the tour.

“A movie set of the Republic of China,” he

started with and then changed his mind.

“No, maybe National China. Yes, we’re

going to National China Movie Town.”

I had no idea what to expect. What it turned

out to be was an open-air living history site

of revolutionary China, with a village of

recreated building and costumed characters

(including General Chiang Kai-shek and

Chairman Mao) from the 1930s and 40s. At

that time, Chongqing was the provisional

capital during the Second Sino-Japanese

War. Think along the lines of Colonial

Williamsburg in Virginia, and you’ll get the

idea what the Chongqing Liangjiang


International Movie City, as it’s officially

known, was like.

There are over 220 historical buildings,

along with photo studios, where you can

have your picture taken in period garb (rifles

and uniforms included); tourist shops and

restaurants. At one eatery, Yida Hot Pot, we

tried the city’s most famous dish.

“Chongqing is hot pot’s hometown,” Ben

explained, and told us that tourists from

around China come to indulge.

The bubbling, fragrant pot of broth on the

table was red and filled with spicy peppers

and seasonings. Surrounding this center

piece was an impressive spread of uncooked

ingredients, some familiar (mushrooms, fish,

shrimp balls, dumplings) and others more

exotic (cow intestine, chicken feet).

“Half the flavour comes from the sauce, half

from the pot,” said Ben. We mixed the sauce

with garlic and onions into our bowls, placed

the food in the hotpot and waited for it to

cook. We then ladled it into our bowls for a

sweat-inducing, flavourful bite (though I

decided to pass on the chicken feet).

Fortified, we set out to explore more of

Chongqing, including a stop at the Three

Gorges Museum. Here, exhibitions gave us

insight into the region with displays of artifacts

from local excavations (with some

pieces dated back to the Six Dynasties, 317-

581 AD), the Three Gorges Dam and the

cultural and natural history of the area.

We had only scratched the surface of this

intriguing city and though I was itching to see

more, we had a cruise to board.

Sailing the Golden River

Sometimes referred to as Mother River or the

Cradle of Chinese Civilisation, the Yangtze

River’s landscape and history are synonymous

with China itself and etched in the

country’s identity. From Chongqing, we

sailed on a four-day cruise that took us to the

Three Gorges, considered one of the most

scenic segments of the river.

We left the bright lights of Chongqing behind

and awoke the first morning in Fuling, a river

town with thousands of years of history,

which we learned more about on a shore

excursion to the Baiheliang Underwater

Museum.

With the change in water level from the dam,

some of the country’s most treasured artifacts

had been at risk of being submerged permanently.

Fortunately, they were preserved at

this innovative museum, which gave us the

opportunity to view these ancient relics both

above and below the water.

A stone fish carving, large enough to lie

down on, greeted us as we entered the

museum. “When the stonefish came out of

the water, people believed there would be a

good harvest,” our guide informed us. It was

just one of many artifacts, dating back over

1200 years, which were used to record the

water levels of the river. After touring the

above-ground portion of the museum, we

descended a very steep escalator that led to

a long tunnel.

We were now under the water.

Along the passageway were portholes, from

which we could see the artifacts. What we

were looking at was the White Crane Ridge

(Baiheliang), so named because of the

cranes that once gathered on the stone.

Measuring over 5200 feet long and 49 feet

wide, it’s considered to be the first ancient

hydrometric station in the world. The extensive

inscriptions and carvings that date back

to 763BC were used to track the water levels,

droughts and floods. UNESCO has recognised

this museum as the only underwater

preservation site that is accessible for nondivers.

Life on board the Yangtze Gold 6 began to

take on a certain rhythm of buffets (a combination

of Western and Chinese) and onboard

entertainment. Highlights included Mahjong

lessons, a Chinese gambling game, which

turned out to be a little like Rummy with tiles,

and Asian craft demonstrations. But my

favourite pastime was simply watching the

scenery roll by from the balcony. Forested

hills changed into towns of white buildings

and then back again; the river widened and

narrowed; and boats large and small passed

us.

Our next shore excursion was at the

51

city of Wanzhou. Like Chongqing, it

surprized me with its sheer size and

stunning skyline. The concert we attended

was a true spectacle with dancers and musicians

from around the world, culminating in

a Chinese performance that featured dozens

of dancers accompanied by a full orchestra

playing with the lit-up skyline of Wanzhou

behind it.

Afterwards, we strolled along the river, where

a light installation bedazzled us with psychedelic

light tunnels and projected images. And

this was only the prelude to the laser show

that awaited us at the end, where we joined

the crowds oohing and aahing as images

appeared out of thin air.

After a night of the futuristic glitter and tech

of a large metropolis, it was a little discombobulating

to wake up in the morning to its

complete opposite. White Emperor City had

a palpable sense of antiquity. Throughout

the dynasties, leaders, artists and poets have

been attracted to this natural wonder, where

the river narrows and the mountains rise

steeply on its shores. Historically, it’s where

east meets west, and was home to several

important historical sites. We climbed the

stone steps of Mingliang Palace, which

housed a temple and shrines to ancient

emperors along with intricate stone carvings.

As remarkable as the artistry was, it couldn’t

compete with the view of Kui Gate. Here was

the entrance of the first of the three gorges,

a view so famous that it appears on the 10

Yuan bank note. With a mist coming off the

mountains that rise high from the curving

Yangtze River, it was so magical I halfexpected

to see dragons emerging out of the

clouds.

This was a China nobody had told me about.

I couldn’t help but marvel at the contrast:

modern cities and ancient lands, mystical

mountains and dazzling skylines, artifacts

that date back two millennials and cities that

have sprung up in two decades. And all of it

experienced on a much too brief four-day

cruise.

www.chongqing-guide.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


52

Nuremberg to Vienna with AmaSonata

by Olivia Balsinger

Irecently had the opportunity to discover

Europe’s powerful Danube River

aboard the AmaWaterways ship,

AmaSonata, which first launched in 2014.

This was my first river cruise and I quickly

understood why this cruising trend is so

popular. AmaSonata offers not only topnotch

amenities, but also has a considerably

relaxed vibe.

True to AmaWaterways philosophy, all daily

excursions were covered in the cruise price,

with the exception of a few optional tours. In

their effort to promote an active and adventurous

lifestyle and attract passengers that

are more physically adept, the excursions

usually consisted of hiking, cycling, and

long walking tours. On this Danube cruise,

for example, passengers had the option to

hike to the hilltop castles in Passau,

Germany, and Durnestein Austria. It also

has longer excursions like a full-day tour of

Salzburg, Austria, or a half-day tour of the

medieval Czech city Cesky Krumlov.

AmaWaterways makes it easy to stick to

your pace by dividing the activities of into

three levels. And now let me tell you a bit

about my adventures.

Nuremberg

I embarked in Nuremberg the first day, settling

into my temporary home-at-sea before

setting out to explore. Nuremberg, a city

marked by its prolific place in history’s most

historical moments, shows its complex layers

on the facades of its buildings; medieval

churches are harmonious, adjacent neighbors

to post-modern buildings. As a powerhouse

of the German Industrial Revolution,

the city had a particularly influential role in

the World War II era, serving as the stage

for Nazi rhetoric to infiltrate the ideology of

Germany’s working class. Desiring to delve

into the thick chapters of this era, I decided

to take the World War II tour offered as an

excursion, which took me to the specific

locations where history was made.

Regensburg

After a comfortable night’s sleep on board,

I woke up the following morning in

Regensburg — a city situated at the northernmost

point of the Danube River, known

to some as the most Italian city north of the

Alps, as well as “Germany’s medieval mir-


acle.” An ancient town with a modern flare,

careening its narrow streets is enough to

recognize its charm, amplified even further

by the marvelous medieval structures (the

best preserved in the country). Missing my

two wheels back home, I opted to take the

Guided Bike Tour to Walhalla — an impressive

Neoclassical building, first conceived in

1807 in order to support the unification of

the German States. Its function is laudatory,

as it serves as a memorial to some of the

most influential people in German history. It

houses some 65 plaques and 130 busts of

famous figures throughout 2,000 years of

history. It was a comprehensive experience

that introduced me to some of the most

prominent people in German culture, all

within a gorgeous interior reminiscent of an

opulent Greek temple with Versailles sensibilities.

Passau

The next day brought our ship to Passau,

where I was again drawn to the option of a

biking tour to both curb my recent indulgence

of delicious Bavarian confections, as

well as cover as much ground as possible.

The tour went from Passau to Erlau.

Highlights included seeing the confluence

of the Danube, Inn, and Ilz Rivers. After

crossing the Ilz Bridge, we rode down the

breathtaking coast of the Danube River,

which brought us to the largely untouched,

pristinely bucolic Donauleiten Nature

Reserve on the southern edge of the

Bavarian Forest. Nestled between steep

wooded slopes on one side and the mighty

waters of the Danube on the other side, the

area seems like an illustration ripped out of

the pages of a fairytale

Linz

We arrived in Linz the following morning —

a town known for its bustling music and arts

scene as well as its cultural institutions, from

the Mozart House to the Lentoz Museum of

Modern Art. It was hard for me to decide

which AmaWaterways activity to take, but,

feeling rather adventurous I chose the long

excursion to Salzburg, a charming city

known for its beautiful baroque buildings,

its religious history, and as the birthplace of

Mozart. Beginning in Linz, we first past the

lakeside town of Munsee, which many know

as the site of the wedding church in the

Sound of Music! When we arrived in

Salzburg proper, a tour of the historic center

gave us some bearings to explore on my

own during free time.

Melk

Melk was our next destination, which is

located next to the picturesque Wachau valley

on the Danube in lower Austria. Here I

visited the marvelous Melk Abbey, which is

one of the largest and most impressive

Baroque monasteries in all of Europe.

Founded in the eleventh century, Melk

Abbey was originally a residence for

Benedictine monks, it now houses a museum

dedicated to its history, with a library

with a fantastic collection of medieval manuscripts

that served as the inspiration for

Umberto Eco’s gorgeous, tragic novel “The

Name of the Rose.”

Vienna

Arriving in Vienna was bittersweet: I was

sad that my journey was coming to an end,

but elated that I had the chance to first

explore romantic Vienna, Austria’s capital.

Following my time onboard, I spent an

entire two days exploring this musical

dreamland, resting my head each night at

the boutique Hotel Grand Ferdinand

Vienna, conveniently located in the center of

the city, walking distance to Stephansplatz,

with panoramic views and a rooftop restaurant.

I especially enjoyed the historic architecture,

in a 20th-century European grandhotel

tradition, providing a unique escape

from the modern day (but with modern

comforts available, of course!)

With the Vienna Pass (with tagline “The

Sightseeing Pass to Vienna”), I enjoyed

many architectural marvels and lush gardens

of the city, making stops at the stunning

Vienna Opera House, St. Stephen’s

Cathedral, as well as the Ringstrasse — a

ringed road rife with beautiful Baroque

buildings, fascinating monuments, and

lovely parks. I explored

53

Kartnerstrasse, not only the most

famous shopping street in all of

Vienna, but home to the best traditional

Austrian pastries!

On Board Experience

Of course, my time onboard was just as fulfilling

as in port, thanks to the quality and

luxury of the AmaWaterways brand. The

ship is large enough that overcrowding is

rarely an issue. The main public areas are

the dining room and the main lounge, both

of which are spacious and well-illuminated

to provide an open and airy setting for quiet

thoughts and quick escapes. Each of its 81

cabins also strive to maximize the living

space, most of them boasting two balconies

— one of which is a French balcony and the

other an adjoining platform that can sit two

people comfortably. The cabins are separated

into nine categories, ranging from

staterooms, from 160 square feet, to suites,

up to 300 square feet. Each cabin also

comes equipped with a flat-screen TV, which

has access to 25 channels. There is also a

mini bar, complementary robes and slippers,

a hair dryer, and an umbrella.

Entertainment is also provided consistently

throughout the day, with a keyboard player

in the Lounge during lunch, at teatime, and

after dinner. At some ports, outside entertainment

may sometimes also come

onboard. The main entertainment venue is

the Violin Deck, where morning pastries,

light lunches, tea goodies, and late night

snacks are served on a bow-shaped buffet

in the middle of the boldly floral, airy room.

There is a panoramic window that provides

lovely views, and plenty of cozy sofas perfect

for conversations or some reading time

along. On the Sun Deck, there is a small

heated pool, with a swim up bar at one

end. In addition to the daily excursions, the

free use of bicycles, wine at lunch and dinner,

and a reliable Wi-Fi signal were all

included in the cruise price, ensuring a hassle

free adventure with AmaWaterways.

www.amawaterways.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


54

Feeling the Vibe in Maryland

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

WT Photo Library

Maryland is a state of contagious

enthusiasm these days and it

doesn’t take long for visitors to

become infected with excitement.

After we flew into Baltimore and spent the

day exploring some of the city’s 200 neighborhoods,

we settled into Minnow, a lively

South Baltimore seafood-cocktail restaurant,

to immerse our taste buds in

“Balmerese”. This term usually relates to

local pronunciations of the name

‘Baltimore’, as ‘Bodimore’ or “Balmer”. In

the city you often hear references to

‘Warshington’, the Nation’s Capital that

lies about a one hour drive west, and the

use of the word “Hon”, a ubiquitous term of

endearment that is short for “Honey” and

serves as a generic nickname for just about

any person.

The annual “Honfest” in June pays homage

to the Hon stereotype where those vying to

win ‘Baltimore’s Best Hon’ contest sport

50’s and 60’s style skirts, cat eye glasses

and feather boas, in addition to either a

prominent beehive hairdo (“the higher the

hair, the closer to God”, according to the

rules) or “a wash and set” (“because it’s full

of hope and hairspray”). And just a

reminder that the movie “Hairspray”,

filmed in the city, was essentially a celebration

of Baltimore culture.

But Balmerese can also refer to that unique

Baltimore state of mind that includes the

beloved Baltimore Orioles (not only the

State bird but also the baseball team),

Baltimore seafood with the emphasis on

crab cakes, Baltimore desserts such as

Smith Island Cake and Berger Cookies,

Baltimore Rye Whiskey, and of course Fort

McHenry where the American National

Anthem was composed by Francis Scott Key

in September, 1814.

Minnow’s reputation was built on local,

fresh seafood. Jake Lefenfeld the General

Manager explained “we don’t want food to

pass through a number of hands. We are

proud to tell our clients ‘that bad boy on


your plate was swimming yesterday’, and

then when we sampled the Salt Cod

Croquettes and the Crispy Oysters, we

knew exactly what Jake was talking about.

But backtracking just a bit, in our exploration

of Baltimore’s neighborhoods earlier

in the day, we had lunch in the Inner

Harbor at the Loch Bar in the Four Seasons

Hotel, where appetizers included fresh

shrimp, raw oysters, crab dip and tuna

poke, along with a nice RAR Bucktown

Brown Ale (there are 90 craft breweries in

Maryland, with Guinness being one of the

newest additions). And then my

Chesapeake Club sandwich arrived, full of

shrimp salad, crab cake, fried oyster, roasted

garlic, aioli, tomato, smoked bacon and

gruyere cheese. Sooo good!

Al Hutchinson, the President and CEO of

Visit Baltimore explained that visitors “want

to feel the vibe and fabric” of the destination

they are exploring and Baltimore’s

neighborhoods are perfect for this. “They

don’t want a cookie cutter experience. They

want to venture out”, and he noted that

there are programs for Baltimore neighborhood

residents to encourage them to

participate in the tourism experience. To

test this out, we visited a few key attractions.

The American Visionary Art Museum is

housed in a red brick building emblazoned

with the colorful words “O say can you

see”. Founder and Director Rebecca

Hoffberger explained how the Museum,

designated by Congress as the national

museum for self-taught art, “is addicted to

visionary thought through the path of intuition”.

She went on to say that ‘the exhibitions

either explain the glorious side of

human beings, or the worst. We throw

down a gauntlet to a theme and bring in

world experts”. Hoffberger, in her honest,

animated style said “we use the museum to

talk with influential people” and over the

years these have included Archbishop

Desmond Tutu, Edward Norton, David

Byrne, David Bowie, Robin Williams,

Tommy Lee Jones and many others.

The Permanent Exhibit in the Museum

includes Hobart Brown-inspired huge tricycle

sculptures of the Pink dog Fifi and Babe,

Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox, Uri Geller’s 1976

Black Cadillac Fleetwood encrusted with

5000 bent spoons, Ron Nicolini’s Giant Bra

Ball made with 18,000 bras, and many

other amusing and thought-provoking

works of art.

While some might comment on the ‘rye’

sense of humor in many of the Museum’s

exhibits, others might just head over to the

Sagamore Spirit Distillery to learn about

Maryland Rye first hand! It started in the

1700’s when Rye was planted in tobacco

fields to re-generate the soil and now, with

a resurgence of interest in cocktails,

Maryland Rye, with hints of caramel, honey,

cinnamon and clove, has become a top

seller in the State and beyond.

Outside the Distillery, we boarded a Water

Taxi appropriately named Billie’s Voice.

The Jazz singer Billie Holiday, while born in

Philadelphia, spent a great deal of time in

Baltimore and the city has pretty well

adopted “Lady Day” as their own. In her

early years, Holiday lived in Fell’s Point,

where our taxi dropped us off, after winging

by historic Fort McHenry.

Fell’s Point brought us face to face with history.

Founded in 1726 by William Fell the

community became an important shipbuilding

center during the War of 1812.

Over the years, waves of immigrants made

their mark in the area and today it showcases

an artistic, funky, relaxed ambiance

with bars, restaurants, fashion and record

stores, mingled amongst 18th and 19th

century row houses.

One of the more notable establishments is

The Horse You Came In On Saloon where

a sign strictly advises “No Service will be

provided to anyone on a horse”. Another

sign notes that this was the poet, Edgar

Allan Poe’s last stop before we was found

in an alleyway on October 3, 1849. He

was taken to a nearby medical college

where he died four days later. There’s no

actual proof that this was “Poe’s Last Stop”

but it adds not only to the mythology,

romance and mystique of the area but also

to the evening ‘ghost’ tours.

In Maryland, the rule of thumb seems to be

‘stay in Baltimore and then hub out to the

other areas’. And there are many. We

explored the Civil War battlefield at

Antietam that relegated September 17,

1862 as the bloodiest day in American history

with 22,717 dead, wounded or missing.

Then we checked out Boonsboro,

founded by one of Daniel Boone’s cousins,

and home to bestselling author Nora

Roberts (a.k.a J.D. Robb). Lunch consisted

of an amazing pizza at Vesta Pizzeria

(owned by Roberts’ son) with a dessert of

delicious, rich ice cream at South Mountain

Creamery, served at a counter right next to

the barn where they keep the cows, and

proof of their motto “From Cow to Cone”.

From there visitors can continue to

Gathland State Park or on to Hagerstown

to follow one of the city culture trails or

head a bit further to Frederick. Here you

can wander along the Riverwalk or explore

the legacy of the Civil War in the downtown

streets. And just outside of Frederick you

can follow the Wine Route and relax with a

chilled glass of Passeggiata XI at the Black

Ankle Vineyard.

Feeling the vibe in Maryland is a natural

transition from arriving as a visitor to quickly

being referred to as “Hon”. It’s a fun,

creative and often times historical experience

where food, culture and community

all play a significant role.

www.visitmaryland.org

55

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


56

A Costa Rica Wildlife Vacation

Article and photography by Johanna Read, TravelEater.net

Iget a good sense of how abundant the

wildlife is in Costa Rica as soon as I

step out of the airport. As I follow my

guide extraordinaire, Emilio Solana, to the

car, he politely says, “watch your step”. I

glance down thinking, “oh, that rock is too

close to the wall for me to trip over.” And

then Emilio says, “that’s a cane toad.” It’s

the biggest amphibian in the whole country,

just hanging out at the airport giving

visitors their first look at Costa Rica’s abundant

wildlife.

As my week in Costa Rica progresses, I

quickly lose track of the number and types

of wildlife we see. I’m fortunate to have

Emilio as my guide, as he’s an expert in

Costa Rican history, geography, culture and

wildlife. He not only names every bird we

see, he can name them just from hearing

their call.

Emilio has his work cut out for him. Costa

Rica has 5% of the planet’s biodiversity

despite only having 0.03% of the earth’s

landmass. That means 850 bird species,

205 mammals, 160 amphibians, 220 reptiles,

1000 fish and 10,000 species of

plants and trees. If you want to see animals

on your vacation, you’ll love Costa Rica. G

Adventures offers small group tours if you’d

rather not travel independently.

The efforts the country has taken to preserve

its plant and animal biodiversity are

astounding. For example, they have

reversed deforestation (the world’s first

tropical country to do so). Over 54% of the

country is forested, when it was only 21% in

the 1980s. A whopping 26% of the country

is protected natural land, 93% of their electricity

is from renewable resources, and

Costa Rica plans even greater measures to

become the world’s first carbon neutral

country by 2121. There’s no need to even

buy bottled water in Costa Rica: tap water

is perfectly drinkable, including for foreigners.

All this makes it an ideal country for a

tropical vacation (or, for those so inclined,

an ideal retirement base).

My travels are based within driving distance

of Costa Rica’s northwest international air-


port, Liberia. My trip begins in the forested

foothills of the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano

and the national park of the same name, in

the province of Guanacaste. The lush

forests are rich with wildlife. Just on my way

to breakfast I see several coatimundis and

a monkey. A cartoon-like toucan and more

coatis hang out near Buena Vista Lodge’s

open air restaurant at lunch.

Buena Vista Lodge is more than a hotel.

Guests can learn about traditional Costa

Rican cooking techniques, try their hand at

making tortillas and other specialties, then

taste their handiwork accompanied by the

country’s excellent coffee.

This eco-resort also encourages overnight

WT Photo Library

and day guests to explore the primary tropical

forest. You can choose from a hike or

horseback ride to a waterfall, flying

through the air on ziplines, walking

amongst the treetops on 16 hanging

bridges, and even ride a ground level water

slide that twists around tree trunks. We see

bright blue butterflies, lizards, squirrels,

monkeys, coatis and enough birds to have

a birdwatcher pull out his checklist. Emilio

identifies them all and tells me about their

lives.

After exploring the tropical forest, everyone

needs a break. Buena Vista Lodge delivers

with natural thermal pools fed by the

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. I try each of the

five differently-temperatured pools, plus the

sauna, and then cover myself with volcanic

mud. I gaze out at the jungle and babbling

brook as the mud dries and try to count the

number of different bird calls I hear.

Another great way to see Costa Rica’s

wildlife is with a wetlands tour. In El Viejo

Wildlife National Refuge, we take a boat

ride on the Tempisque River.

The tidal river is teeming with birds, crocodiles,

turtles, bright green, grey and orange

iguanas, capuchin and howler monkeys,

and several species of bats (Emilio points

out eight long nose bats cutely lined up in

a column on a tree trunk). Costa Rica’s

lizards’ names spark the imagination --

there’s ctenosaurs, green basilisks, and

even Jesus Christ lizards, so named

because of their ability to run on water.

At El Viejo there are even several bird

species not found anywhere else in Costa

Rica, including laughing falcons, roseate

spoonbills, wood storks and great egrets.

Also here, but more difficult to see, are the

breeding pair of Central America’s largest

aquatic bird, the jabirú, plus wild cats and

peccaries, which look a little like a fuzzier

warthog.

Of course Costa Rica’s coast has plenty of

wildlife too. Tamarindo, in Guanacaste on

the Pacific coast, is a great place to base

yourself to explore everything the coast has

to offer. The town has plenty of tourist infrastructure

(you’ll have your choice of gelato

shops) and has several popular beaches.

Animal lovers will want to observe the tiny

animals that live in the tidepools at quiet

Langosta Beach. Kayakers can go birdwatching

in the Tamarindo Estuary and

watch sunbathing crocodiles hope a monkey

swings down close. Huge leatherback

turtles lay eggs at Grande Beach between

November and April.

A sailing trip is another way to see Costa

Rica’s wildlife, as well as its stunning

scenery. Dolphins and whales sometimes

show off for sailors. There are several

snorkelling spots and kayakers can get up

close to the green shores. I was amazed to

see my first pufferfish, covered in polka

dots, while snorkelling.

Wildlife was even abundant at my hotel,

Tamarindo Diria, on a popular beach and

surrounded by shops and restaurants, After

taking a swim in the gentle waves (it’s an

ideal place to learn to surf), I gaze out to

the ocean and notice several iguanas

perched on a wall enjoying the same view.

A beautiful squirrel -- variegated, I later

learn from Emilio -- alternatively poses for

my camera and takes flying leaps between

lounge chairs.

No matter where are you are in beautiful

Costa Rica, it’s difficult not to see wildlife.

And thanks to the country’s impressive sustainability

measures, it looks like that

wildlife will be around for generations to

come.

www.visitcostarica.com/en

57

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


58

Luxury Hotels...Grand Resorts...Charming B&B...Opulent Villas...Quaint C

Stay & Play Section Sweet Dreams Around the World

Seattle Sheraton Goes Grand!

With plenty of hoopla and fanfare last October, the Sheraton Seattle Hotel

became a Sheraton Grand and celebrated its multi-million-dollar renovation

to bring the legendary downtown stay up to the iconic Grand standards. The

galas included VIP parties with bountiful buffets of artisan tapas, pop-up bars

with signature drinks, and even an entire ice wall of champagne! Guests

were also encouraged to participate in the unique immersive experiences

called “The Heart of The City” where you can take photos and videos with

recreated local landmarks and interactive props like the Space Needle and

the storefront of the original Starbucks -founded in Seattle. This initiative is

going global to showcase Sheraton’s commitment to highlighting the best of

local attractions, culture and vibe in its hotels around the world. Guests also

enjoyed the launch of the new Sheraton Club on the 33rd floor for high-end

complimentary food and drink when you book the upscale Club floor rooms.

Other dining on the property includes the stand-alone talk-of-town trendy

Loulay Kitchen and Bar helmed by charismatic culinary force Chef Thierry

Rautureau- better known locally as the “Chef in the Hat”.

The hotel is in a prime location, close to all kinds of other great food and

drink emporiums like Steelhead Diner, and world class shopping is also in

easy walking distance. It’s also a mere five blocks away from the famous

seafront Pike Place Public Market- nine acres of farm to-fork offerings, incredible

fresh fish and seafood, and all kinds of craft shops and unique entertainment.

While in town, do take a tour with Seattle Seaplanes nearby for unparalleled

views of the city and the surrounding region, it’s seriously one of the

best ways to see “The Heart of the City.”

www.sheratongrandseattle.com

bySusan Campbell

Fairmont Empress Victoria

Timeless Royal Treatment

by Susan Campbell

Some things do get better with age. Like

the classic charm and iconic hospitality of

Victoria’s premiere hotel the Fairmont

Empress. You can’t help but be impressed

at the outset when you roll up to this stately

Grand Dame of Vancouver Island stays,

especially if you do so by water- as we did

aboard the new luxury transfer from

Vancouver called the V2V Ferry. This hotel

is seriously Instagram-worthy with a class

and style you just don’t see in hotels anymore.

But even though she was first built

in 1908, this castle-like structure has managed

to retain that iconic old-world elegance

while still keeping up with the

times. Their world-famous afternoon tea

options offer 32 versions for restricted

diets, and their dining room has also

recently won a Wine Spectator Award. We

also enjoyed the local seaweed treatment

pampering in their spa, too.

www.fairmont.com/empress-victoria

New York London Paris Tokyo Hong Kong Bali Rome Thailand Monaco Amsterdam Berlin Ibiza Montreal Tanzania Hawaii Rio

Toronto Buenas Aries Manila Singapore Mumbai Chicago Jerusalem Moscow Egypt Bora Bora China Japan Santorini Osaka Los

Uganda Banff Guangzhou Casablanca Cairo Iceland Orlando Beverly Hills Melbourne Mallorca San Diego Crete New York Londo


ountry Inns...Luxary Safari Camps...Ecolodges...Ice...Cave...Treetop... Hotels

59

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge

by Jennifer Merrick

juicy, tender textures and big flavours.

Surrounded by wilderness with well-maintained

hiking trails, it was easy to succumb

to the lure of the mountains at the resort’s

doorstep or venture a little farther and

explore the popular mountain attractions of

Banff National Park and Canmore.

Hot-warm-cold-rest-repeat. This

outdoor hydrotherapy circuit is the

foundation of the Nordic Spa.

Esteemed for its therapeutic and stressrelieving

properties, it has long been a staple

spa experience in Scandinavia and

Quebec. And now, it can be enjoyed in

Alberta at the Pomeroy Kananaskis

Mountain Lodge.

Located an hour west of Calgary in the scenic

Kananaskis Valley, this resort -- part of

the Marriott Autograph Collection --was

everything a mountain retreat should be.

Their 247 recently renovated guest rooms

and suites were well-designed with large

windows that showed off the jagged peaks

of the Rockies; wood-burning fireplaces and

cozy furnishings combine seamlessly with

modern conveniences; and it has one of the

most comfortable beds I’d ever slept in.

Restaurant choices included the Forte

Restaurant, which featured favourite Italian

dishes, especially the handmade pizzas

done in wood-oven fires, and the Cedar

Room. This more upscale eatery emphasised

regional and seasonally inspired dishes.

It was here I relished my first Albertan

steak, which was justifiably famous for its

But we couldn’t forget the Nordic Spa. With

the exception of the cold plunge (which was

apparently excellent for the body’s circulation

and immune system but tortuous to

endure), every station had its own unique

bliss: three different types of saunas, eucalyptus

and alchemist steam rooms, hot and

warm pools and an exfoliation cabin. The

latter, inspired by the traditional Turkish

Hamman, was an extra touch, designed to

be the last stop, where you’re given salts to

scrub off dead skin.

So here, the prescribed Nordic spa method

was hot-warm-cold-rest-repeat and then

exfoliate. It’s only a recommendation, of

course. Personally, my circuit was: relax in

the hot tub and look at the snow-peaked

mountains while building resolve to jump in

the cold plunge pool. Then stand at the

edge of the plunge pool and count to three

–dip my right toes in –beeline to the steam

rooms. Once again, stand at the edge of

the cold station and count to three – dip my

left toes in -- head straight back to the hot

tub and look at the mountains, vowing to

give up on the cold plunge -- and then exfoliate.

But nevertheless, I emerged from the Nordic

Spa soaked, steamed and scrubbed. And

more importantly, feeling invigorated and

relaxed, which was a perfect combination to

enjoy the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain

Lodge.

www.lodgeatkananaskis.com

Madrid Cape Town Beijing Sydney Vancouver Ecuador Malaysia Crete Stockholm Maldives Peru Miami Shanghai Tahiti Riviera Maya Las

Angeles Barcelona Santiago Washington Jakarta Marrakesh Boston Botswana Copenhagen New Delhi Dubai Sao Paulo Bangkok Auckland B

n Paris Tokyo Hong Kong Bali Rome Thailand Monaco Amsterdam Berlin Ibiza Montreal Tanzania Hawaii Rio Madrid Cape Town Beijing S


Advertorial

Accommodations

Puntacana Resort & Club is the

Caribbean’s leading resort community on

the eastern shore of the Dominican

Republic. Tortuga Bay is member of the

Leading Hotels of the World and the only

AAA Five Diamond awarded hotel in the

Dominican Republic, offering understated

elegance, privacy and unparalleled personal

service. Located at Playa Blanca is

The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club,

guest enjoys all of Westin’s signature

amenities and Don Queco Cigar Bar. Our

Four Points by Sheraton is situated at

Puntacana Village, few minutes away from

Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ).

The Estates

Become a part of our magnificent paradise

community with the purchase of a

vacation home in the elite The Estates at

Puntacana Resort & Club, where Julio

Iglesias, Mikhail Baryshnikov call home.

An exclusive lifestyle of relaxation, excitement

and understated elegance, prospective

buyers can choose among elegant

homes perched above the Caribbean Sea

or overlooking scrupulously manicured

golf courses in Corales, Tortuga, Arrecife,

Hacienda, Hacienda del Mar and Marina.

Home and apartments are also available

at Puntacana Village.

Golf

With 45 holes of championship golf,

Puntacana Resort & Club is the

Caribbean’s premier golf & beach destination.

The P.B. Dye designed La Cana

Golf Course, consisting of 27 holes across

Tortuga, Arrecife and Hacienda, was

declared the number one course in the

Caribbean by Golf Magazine. Designed

by Tom Fazio and set between rocky cliffs,

coral reefs and the expansive Caribbean

Sea, the Corales Golf Course features six

oceanfront holes, multiple lines of

approach and picturesque canyons, making

for an exhilarating experience.

Activities & Spa

Puntacana Resort & Club offers a wide

range of adventures for guests of all ages

including golf, tennis, kite boarding, scuba

diving, horseback riding, fishing and

numerous excursions by sea, land and air.

The leading spa in the Caribbean, Six

Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club

presents a range of innovative packages,

Signature treatments and Asian therapies.

Visit Galerías Puntacana to enjoy an

assortment of shops, restaurants, playground,

and our spirited nightlife.

Dining

Puntacana Resort & Club is home to 6

world class eateries with an indigenously

delectable cuisine. Tucked inside Tortuga

Bay, the AAA Four Diamond awarded

Bamboo blends modern cuisine with

Mediterranean influences. Specializing in

local seafood, The AAA Three Diamond

Award La Yola is located at the Marina. At

La Cana Golf & Beach Club is The Grill,

an American style grill offering views of

the sea. The Westin Puntacana Resort &

Club provides a variety or restaurants and

bars from Ananí to Brassa Grill. Next door

is Playa Blanca, a beachfront tropical

restaurant. Our Dine Around Program

offers the best sampling of our finest culinary

experience. All restaurants offer complimentary

shuttle service within the resort.

More dining options are available at

Puntacana Village.

Corporate Social Responsibility

We believe that in development there

needs to be equilibrium among the economic,

environmental and social components.

Our non-profit Grupo Puntacana

Foundation serves both natural and social

resources, while contributing to the sustainable

development of our Dominican

Republic. These practices have been guiding

principles of our company, and along

with vision, hard work and perseverance,

the key to our success.

Punta Cana International airport

Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ),

built, owned and operated by Grupo

Puntacana, the resort’s developers, and

located within Puntacana Resort & Club, is

just minutes away from check-in at any of

our hotels or private homes. Punta Cana

International Airport (PUJ) has direct service

from 98 different cities around the

world, making Punta Cana the most

accessible destination in the Caribbean.

Our VIP terminals service the needs of

guests flying in private aircrafts.

The Caribbean’s Premiere Golf

& Beach Resort Community

www.puntacana.com


62

A Tranquil Urban Oasis: The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

There are not too many hotels in Tokyo

that offer a speechless view. But we

deliberately left the curtains open at

night so every time we woke up, we could take

in the beauty of that amazing, illuminated,

700 year old Pagoda in the hotel garden.

And while the three-storey Pagoda served as

the crowning visual jewel of the Hotel

Chinzanso Tokyo garden, an earlier walk

revealed other treasures. The stone statues of

Rakan memorialize spiritual practitioners

from the 17th century. The Koshin stone monument,

with Chinese Taoist origins, was made

in 1669 and has never moved from its location.

A 500 year old Sacred Chinquapin Tree

with supports for its branches, is encircled by

a rope called a ‘shimenawa’ to indicate that a

kami, or spirit, resides here. The Shiratama

Inari Shrine is accessible by the forest pathways

that meander through the garden where

seasonally, sakura (cherry blossoms) and

camellias bloom. In fact when the property

was originally acquired in 1878 by Aritomo

Yamagata, a former Prime Minister of Japan,

he named it “Chinzanso” or “mountain of

camellias” after the fragrant flowers that

bloom in hues ranging from white to dark

pink.

The hotel was formerly a Four Seasons property

and has maintained a true Five Star

ambiance that includes the lobby, the hallways,

the rooms and the hotel’s welcoming

customer service. Ms. Ayumi Sanada, the

Assistant Director of Marketing gave us a tour

of the facilities that include 267 accommodation

rooms, 6 chapels, 9 restaurants, as well

as numerous function rooms.

Ayumi-san informed us that on weekends,

there could be up to 40 weddings each day at

the hotel, but that during the week this was a

true ‘urban oasis’ where guests can revel in

luxury and nature but also participate in workshops

that include the tea ceremony, kimono

fitting, Japanese language lessons and a garden

tour. The hotel’s newest activity is the Be

a Samurai program where guests can learn

sword techniques (with optional Samurai costuming)

and enjoy a talk on the teachings of

bushido (the Way of the Samurai).

And to enhance the feeling of ‘getting away’

guests can enjoy ‘YU, The Spa’ that includes a

fitness gym, hot spring and swimming pool.

Some of the treatment rooms have their own

outdoor garden and waterfall.

“Omotenashi” denotes hospitality from the

heart and the Chinzanso has embraced this

as their philosophy. In the accommodation

rooms, from Standard to the ‘View Bath Suite”

(where a round tea-cup bath tub allows

guests to luxuriate as they take in the view of

the garden), specially designed table lamps

from the town of Arita, customized silk sashes

on the beds and original art work on the walls

contribute to the comfort of the spacious

rooms. We visited the Japanese Suite, a

Tatami room for up to six guests, with the traditional

tea burner ‘hidden’ in the floor mats,

a shoji screen hiding the large-screen television,

and an upper floor garden view that

enhanced the serenity of the experience.

The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is about 20 minutes

from Tokyo Station, accessible by the JR

Yamanote Line (train) with a short taxi or bus

ride from the Mejiro Station, or on the Tokyo

Metro (subway) with a short taxi ride or a 20

minute walk from the Edogawabashi Station

along the Riverwalk.

In Tokyo this is tranquility at its best!

www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Gods of Fortune), and a low table in

63

the middle of the room, with cushions

for sitting. The bedding, consisting

of mattresses, futons and pillows would

be laid out after dinner. And one of the

hallmarks of the resort: our very own, private

outdoor hot spring bath.

The Inn also has a ‘public’ hot spring

where, after soaking in the hot, soothing

waters, you can prolong the tranquility with

a visit to a small lobby with massage chairs

overlooking another serene garden, and

complimentary drinks of Sake and lemoninfused

water.

The dinner menu was a reflection of local

seasonal specialties including Shijimi

clams, pumpkin soup, smoked duck, sashimi,

sea cucumber and more. The visual

presentation was stunning!

Sacred Connections at the

Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo

When the Hoshino Resorts KAI

Izumo refers to their location in

Shimane Prefecture, Japan, as

“The Dwelling Place of the Gods”, it’s not

just a clever marketing slogan. But before

we checked into this luxury boutique hot

spring ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn),

we visited two places that would unknowingly

complement the resort’s heavenly

connection.

The first was the Izumo Taisha Shrine, the

first Shinto Shrine in all of Japan, which is

connected with the Japanese creation story

of the gods Izanagi and Izanami and their

offspring: Amaterasu, the goddess of the

Sun, Susanoo, the god of the storms and

Tsukiyomi, the god of the moon.

Not far from the Shrine, in the city of

Izumo, we visited the Asahi Shuzo brewery

Article and photography by Steve Gillick

and sampled some of their excellent sakes,

before hopping on the train to the resort

hot spring town of Tamatsukuri Onsen,

where a short taxi ride took us to the KAI

Izumo.

The stone lantern and brilliant red

Japanese Maple tree in the garden were

the perfect venue for our greeting at the

resort. Once inside, a second garden just

off the main lobby features manicured trees

and a tranquil pond. An indoor bright

orange bridge connects the lobby with an

art gallery, showcasing the works of local

crafts people.

The 24 rooms in the ryokan are classic

Japanese style (Washitsu) with tatami

(straw) mats, sliding doors, an alcove displaying

a statue of Ebisu, the god of

Fishermen and of Luck (one of the Seven

In the evening, the Ryokan staff performed

in ‘Iwami Kagura’, a light-hearted presentation

of local Japanese legends. In our

story, Susanoo the god of the Storms,

recently banished from the heavens, met

an old couple who cried that their seven

daughters had been eaten by the mysterious

serpent Yamata-no-Orochi. Now the

couple’s eighth daughter, Kushinadahime,

was at risk. Susanoo created an extra

strong sake, which caused the serpent to

fall into a deep sleep. Susanoo killed it,

married Kushinadahime, and one of their

descendants is said to be enshrined at

Izumo Taisha Shrine. So ‘the land of the

gods’ story and our experience in the area,

came full circle (with sake thrown in for

good measure).

Yuji Miho, the manager of the Hoshino

Resorts KAI Izumo, noted that the special

connection with the gods in Shimane

Prefecture is mirrored in the tranquil

ambiance of the hotel’s design: the gardens,

the hot spring, the food and even the

evening story telling. An overnight stay here

is a very special experience.

www.kai-ryokan.jp/en/izumo

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


66

The Belle of Belize

Mahogany Bay Village

by Susan Campbell

Belize had been on my bucket list for a

long time, so I was very excited to get

there recently. After flying into

Goldson International Airport, it was a quick

hop with Tropic Air in a tiny little plane to San

Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Though the flight

was short- less then 15 minutes, the view was

glorious below- all stunning aqua seas peppered

with tiny little islands… and I couldn’t

wait to get into that sparkling turquoise

ocean.

We arrived at Mahogany Bay Village quicklyit’s

a mere two miles from the downtownand

I could instantly see why they called it a

“village”. Actually, I heard it referred to as a

“townlet” more often- a new word for mebut

I get it. It’s a sprawling 6-acre community

of accommodations, all with their own

streets. Like a town, there are chic shops,

restaurants, cafes, bars and a standalone

yoga centre and spa as well. And the entire

complex revolves around The Great House, a

two-story grand colonial style mansion that

sits on the edge of a lagoon. That’s also

where you’ll find the pool and you can rent

private cabanas for more luxurious lounging

if you really want to live large. But I must

admit, I was disappointed to discover that the

resort is not on a swimmable sea. The brackish

lagoon surrounding it even has a resident

crocodile! So, swimming is absolutely verboten.

But once I found out that there’s a

complimentary water taxi to their very own

private beach a few minutes away, I was

relieved. We enjoyed a marvelous dinner in

the main dining room that night, and also

enjoyed our breakfast buffet on the Great

House terrace the next day before we took off

to the beach. Food was great, and staff were

super.

Private Island Life

Enroute to our tropical retreat, we passed an

island that’s owned by Leonardo di Caprio

who intends to turn it into an eco-resort this

year. Nice neighbours! Just beyond it, is the

Mahogany Bay Beach Club with a bar/grill

with a rooftop lounge, and plenty of shade

palapas and hammock. The sand is brilliant

white and water calm, clear and inviting. But

my favorite lounging spot was the oversized

daybeds on stilts right in the water. And hav-

ing the staff walk through the waves barefoot

to deliver your snacks and cocktails is really a

trip!

The Stays

Touted as “Belize’s first global luxury branded

resort” the stay options are very eclectic. As

part of the upscale boutique Curio Collection

by Hilton, you can rent hotel style suites, or

you can opt for cottages or even a multi-bedroom

house, some with their own pools,

designed by the Mahogany Group.

Ownership option are also on the table with

customizable Coastal Living branded homes.

And everyone can have their own golf cart!

Seems that golf carts are the transportation

mode of choice for the entire San Pedro population.

They are everywhere! It’s lots of fun

to take them to town for some shopping, dining

or an excursion. I highly recommend the

snorkel trip excursion to Shark Alley, it’s

chock full of stingrays and colorful fish

besides the sharks. And not a crocodile in

sight!

mahoganybayvillage.com

Photo: Vivo Resorts

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Cabos Two Ways

by Susan Campbell

67

Secrets

Multi-generational travel can be a

challenge, in this case one

boomer and two millennials- my

adult daughter and her boyfriend. Though

we all love the same type of trip- sun and fun

in a tropical setting and upscale all-inclusive

luxury- sometimes the vibe of one place is

geared more to one generation than another.

So, we decided to try Los Cabos two different

ways, splitting our time between two

adult-only all-inclusive resorts.

Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort

My past experiences in Los Cabos, I discovered

that there are few resorts with a swimmable

beach because of dangerous riptides

and it can be a tad disappointing not to be

able to immerse in the waves. This was such

a resort, but their infinity pool cresting the

ocean (part of the Preferred Club class of

rooms) was the next best thing. Their main

pool for all guests is more the party pool,

and it is lovely too. There is also a beach bar

on the cliff by the sea which became one of

our favourite spots to hang out.

The resort itself is massive, sprawling along

their golf course and offering 500 guest

rooms with either garden or ocean view, and

some have swim-out access as well. As with

all Secrets Resorts, the stay includes a signature

Unlimited Luxury® package – a la carte,

no reservation dining and bar service in a

wide variety of themed settings. Sadly, we did

not have time to try each restaurant, but we

thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican and the

Italian spots, and the outdoor entertainment

at night around the marketplace square was

above and beyond. The hotel is not walking

distance to Puerto Los Cabos, but they do

offer shuttles to the charming little town.

www.secretsresorts.com/en_us/reso

rts/mexico/puerto-los-cabos

Breathless Cabos San Lucas Spa Resort

and Spa

Located steps away from the downtown core

of Cabos San Lucas, you’ll find Breathless,

one of the new AMResort brands geared

toward millennials. I expected it to be a little

too wild for me, but I was delighted at the

layout. The 169-room resort is separated into

two different buildings- one for accommodations

and one all for entertainment. The pool

and bar in the accommodation building had

a wonderful relaxed vibe and great soft live

music, but if you were in party mode, you

simply headed to the rooftop pool bar in the

other building, and later at night, the toplevel

bar turns into a pumping nightclub.

Dining is mostly seaside, and though their

Unlimited Luxury® offerings are not as extensive

as Secrets- number of dining spots and

bars- it’s more than adequate for the price.

We all really enjoyed both resorts for their

different features, but for me, the highlight of

this spot was that it is right in front of the

famous arches on Modano Beach, and one

of the few safely sea swimmable spots in the

entire region. There is great snorkeling right

off their beach as well.

www.breathlessresorts.com/en_us/r

esorts/mexico/cabo-san-lucas.html

Secrets Breathless Breathless

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


68

The Al Bait Sharjah Hotel Dubai

by Olivia Balsinger

Just 25 kilometers north of Dubai along

the Arabian Coast’s southern peninsula,

yet feeling worlds apart, Al Bait Sharjah

is the region’s jewel that is still most entirely

off the mainstream tourist radar—and thus

right up my alley! It is widely known as the

United Arab Emirate’s cultural hub and is

filled with a historic legacy stretching back

some 6,000 years, intriguing museums and

captivating souqs. It also boasts stunning

mountains on one side and dramatic coastline

on the other, creating a beautifully scenic

picture. Oh and if that isn’t enough, it is

one of the hot new international art destinations.

So it goes without saying that I am

incredibly excited to stay at newly opened Al

Bait Sharjah.

The five-star hotel is a boutique property

with just 53 rooms and suites inside four

converted heritage houses that were once

owned by local families who made an

impact on Sharjah’s history either culturally,

politically or intellectually. The name Al Bait

Sharjah actually translates to “The Home” in

English, and staying here really feels like

sleeping in a really wealthy friend’s vacation

home. The rooms come in a number of sizes

and styles. I loved the Heritage Rooms,

which are each uniquely decorated and

come with a stylish “Asian meets Arabian”

aesthetic. They also look out over a private

traditional inner courtyard filled with greenery

and a water fountain and there are plenty

of cushions and rugs to sit on and stare

out the windows from. The suites are also

sweet (aptly named!) and come with all the

modern comforts you can think of and plenty

of space to move around. I loved the living

room with its traditional rugs, cushions

and lanterns and the minimalist vibe in the

bedroom.

The property is also part of a larger bespoke

historical restoration project known as Heart

of Sharjah, which merges Islamic heritage

with contemporary open design. Beyond the

hotel, Heart of Sharjah is filled with restaurants,

galleries, cafes and atmospheric local

bazaars. There are also plenty of amenities

on the hotel grounds to take advantage of.

Don’t skip a service at the spa, which is a

luxury oasis that offers a range of Middle

Eastern influenced treatments using organic

artisan products. There is also a state of the

art gym on the property with Technogym

equipment and a pool.

For onsite dining there are no less than four

choices, always. Try The Arabic Restaurant if

you want gourmet Emirati fare served family

style; while The Restaurant does a more

traditional international menu. The Cafe is

where to get your caffeine buzz on with a

cup of Arabic or Turkish coffee as well as

some excellent people watching. And finally,

my favorite, having a sweet treat at The

Ice Cream Shop, which creates an array of

homemade flavors that are far from your

generic chocolate and vanilla selections.

The Emirate of Sharjah also hosts a number

of internationally acclaimed events including

the Sharjah Formula 1 Powerboat

Grand Prix, The Dubai World Cup of

horseracing and The Sharjah Biennial, one

of the Middle East’s most prestigious art

events. In an area of the world so modern

and extravagant, The Al Bait Sharjah does a

stellar job at maintaining its authentic, timeless

charm.

Ghmhotels.com/en/al-bait-sharjah

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sands

by Olivia Balsinger

69

The sky opened up—a brilliant

palate of orange and yellow hues,

contrasting the spooky silloettes of

the Red Bushwillow trees. We were enjoying

our “sundowners” after the most epic of

game drives in our Cheetah Plains Electric

Land Cruiser, trading stories about our

favorite safari moment thus far. Mine, hands

down, was when we watched a stealthy

leopard named Hosana crouch in the

savannah, eyeing the prey—an unknowing

impala—just meters away. A bush thunderstorm

was rolling in, creating spectacular

ambiance, as Hosana neared the prize. We

stood in awe, feeling the wrath of nature at

her best.

This moment, along with other scenes of jaw

dropping action, occurred on the Sabi

Sands Reserve with Cheetah Plains lodge.

Nestled between the world-famous Kruger

National Park and the established Mala

Mala Game, Cheetah Plains is a total refurbished

first class lodge, the first of its kind in

South Africa. The first iteration of Sabi Sand

Reserve was formed in 1934, making it the

oldest private game reserve in South Africa,

as well as the first to practice and promote

sustainable wildlife tourism in Southern

Africa. Cheetah Plains, with a soft opening

in early December, is a world class wildlife

splendor and a lodge that is architecturally

unique and impressive.

The lodge boasts three exclusive-use designer

bush houses, each with two lounges, dining

areas, outdoor bomas (picnic areas),

wine cellars, and heated swimming pools.

The lodges take their name from two legendary

leopards of the Sabi Sand region, as

well as a dominant lion coalition: “Mvula,”

“Karula,” and “Mapogo,” respectively. I

stayed in “Karula” with my traveling

cohort—though we enjoyed privately

cooked meals prepared by a renowned chef

and drank wine from our own wine cellar

(and plenty of Gin and Tonics, of course!)

together in the bush house, it was equally

pleasant to be able to retreat to my own

suite when I desired privacy.

You see, the concept behind Cheetah Plains

is that each bush house is connected to four

private suites, featuring luxurious king beds,

private viewing decks, dressing rooms, double

rain showers and baths that open up to

magnificent views of the surrounding African

bush. My suite happened to sit on a mini

watering hole, and so I enjoyed the company

of bathing warthogs and frisky kudu

when indulging in a bubble bath or enjoying

an in-room spa treatment.

Each suite is in harmony between the interior

and the exterior; it seeks to blend the natural

environment resulting in a gorgeous

example of ‘African minimalism.’ Naked

timber and Mohair wool rugs furnish the

rooms against a subdued natural palette,

with hints of luxurious bronze and gold, and

carefully curated art collected from local

South American artists. I was in my own

heaven, feeling dually secluded and pampered.

During my stay, we had access to

our own private game viewing vehicles as

well as designated and knowledgeable local

field guide, Sidds, and tracker, Sam. The

vehicles at Cheetah Plaines are battery

operated, hardly making a sound as the

engine ignites—and more environmentally

beneficial.

Proximity to wildlife is magical at Cheetah

Plains, as there are no fences separating the

bush and suites (except for a small wire preventing

intruding elephants) which really

allows guests to feel they are a part of the

nature. In addition, on game drives we spotted

leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant, zebra,

giraffe and, of course—true to namesake—

cheetah.

www.cheetahplains.com

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


We heard the rush of the massive

waterfall before we saw

it. We were walking down a

rainforest path in a remote national

park, just a small group of visitors with

two local guides, snaking between towering

trees and occasional luminous blue

butterflies the size of my hand.

My heart was pounding. My Guyanese

friend Wesley had told me about

Kaieteur, often called the world’s largest

single-drop waterfall. Its broad waters

plunge off a ledge straight down without

hitting another spot along the way,

falling 741 feet in one swoop – or roughly

the height of a 74-story building.

That’s four times taller than Niagara

Falls on the US-Canada border. Yet

Kaieteur receives only about 8,000 visitors

per year, compared to over 7 million

at Niagara. I was thrilled to be so near.

Wesley and I had set out from the capital

of this former British colony in South

America early morning to board a 17-

passenger plane. The pilot flew 11 of us

more than an hour over miles and miles

of greenery - first plains, then hills and

highlands. The virgin forests below

looked like broccoli plantations, the tops

tufted like florets. Sinewy ribbons of

chocolate-colored rivers sometimes

peeked through the trees.

From the air, we glimpsed some small

waterfalls, but suddenly, as if out of

nowhere, emerged Kaieteur, gushing

down golden-brown, enormous. The

nearly black Potaro River spilled over a

wide cliff, and the water dropped into a

gorge, mists rising and rainbows too. I

gasped, elated.

We circled with the plane, but Kaieteur

retreated into the tropical forest. I was

eager to see it without light reflecting off

the plane window and without the hum

of propellers drowning out nature’s

music.

Within minutes, we landed on a dirt

airstrip, the only plane in sight. Just off

the runway was a small wooden building

with a sign for Kaeiteur National Park.

We meandered over to meet our guides,

Candace Evans and Lincoln Pereira, both

in their 20s and from indigenous communities

nearby.

Candace instructed us to stay on the

trails, and at lookout points, to keep at

least eight feet away from the edge of the

rocky slabs above the gorge hundreds of

feet below us. Kaieteur has no safety

rails, aiming to remain as pristine as

possible. “Please don’t try to prove yourself,”

she requested.

We’d walked only a few minutes when

Candace pointed out something I’d

never seen: “carnivorous” plants. The

reddish groundcover secretes a substance

that attracts mosquitos and other

bugs. “When the insects come, they stick

on, and the plant eats them. So, we don’t

use mosquito repellent here but have it

naturally,” she joked.

Soon, after navigating steps and rocky

paths, I heard it: the rush of Kaieteur, a

strong and constant whir, not threatening

but somehow life-affirming, almost meditative.

We followed the sound. At the first

lookout, I saw the caramel waters pour

over the ample ledge. Two furrows

crossed into a white-capped “V” near the

top, reminding me of a heart, perhaps

the heart of Mother Nature herself.

Our guides told us the dark color of the

water came from tannins in the roots of

the trees by the river, a tributary of the

Essequibo and part of the greater

Amazon basin.

The name, Kaieteur, may well come from

legend, Candace explained. The story

goes there was an old man, or Kaie in

the Patamona language. He was chief of

a tribe engaged in a bitter war with the

Carib tribe. The chief threw himself over

the falls, or Teur, in an act of self-sacrifice

to stop the war. “Don’t repeat yourself,

and say Kaieteur Falls,” or Old-Man-

Falls Falls, she advised. “Say Kai Falls or

Kaieteur.”

In all, we spent about two hours near

Kaieteur, stopping at three lookouts, the

closest one to the water called “Rainbow

View” for the swirls of light that appear in

its mists. Our timing was good: In late

spring and summer, the river hits its peak

flow, expanding to cover more of the

rocky ledge. The waters widen up to

some 390 feet – a distance longer than a

soccer or U.S. football field, bigger than

I’d imagined.

The trails proved a revelation too.

Candace showed us the woody vines

named “cufa,” used to make furniture,

and “capadula,” boiled to make an

aphrodisiac dubbed the local Viagra. We

saw flowers blooming in purple, pink

and white and others jutting out spiky

red. My heart was full.

Others in our group felt similar joy, as we

headed back to the airstrip. “I was telling

my son: The flight alone was worth it for

the view from overhead,” said Shanta

Lall, 57, a homemaker from Guyana on

her first visit to Kaieteur. “This is a

bonus,” she said, after gazing at the falls

head-on, the air moist and fresh.

We stopped at the national park center

for water and snacks, chatting contentedly,

before flying out. A small exhibit

identified the hand-size butterflies I’d

seen as iridescent Blue Morphos, South

America’s largest. We also learned that

Angel Falls – located just west in neighboring

Venezuela – is taller but thinner

than Kaieteur, sending far less water in its

gorge and producing a less powerful

sound.

Wesley was relaxed, proud to share his

country’s top natural attraction with me.

“Coming here,” he said, “you can forget

what day of the week it is, what time of

the day it is.”

On the flight back, we circled Kaieteur

again as if to bid farewell, then descended

from the highlands to the plains and

the city. The excursion took only a morning

but created a memory for a lifetime.


A Visit to Guyana’s Kaeiteur Falls

Article and photography by Doreen Hemlock

71

WT Photo Library

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


3-2-1 Go Tenerife!

Article and photography by Michael Morcos

That is the exact amount, 321, of volcanoes

that reside upon the

Spanish island of Tenerife, which is

astonishing given that it is a relatively small

island. That was lesson number one on a

journey that would prove to have many.

Lesson two, Tenerife is not even close to

Spain, as it is part of the fabled Canary Island

chain in the Atlantic Ocean off of the African

coast and close to Morocco and Mauritania

and is about a three hour flight from the

mainland of Spain.

Lesson number three I found out just getting

off the plane. Yes, there are lovely little

singing canary birds but that is not how this

island chain got its name. In actual fact, they

got their name from the Spanish word for

canine, which translates to a word sounding

like Canary, as wild dogs were found here

many centuries ago. The name stuck.

And that is how our trip would be, every day

we would find out some of the most fascinating

things about this island paradise. We

would venture in every direction to find ever

diversifying climates, breathtaking landscapes,

a colorful history, endless eating

options and laid back, welcoming people.

Anaga Rural Park

On our first full day, we were off to visit the

Anaga Rural Park. It was mere minutes from

our hotel in the town of La Laguna. The drive

alone was worth the venture as we climbed to

dizzying heights along winding roads that

clung to cliff edges. Once there, it felt like a

whole other world. The air was cool and

dense with fog, the trees were heavy with dew

and the mist, when it occasionally lifted,

offered spectacular glimpses of the valley

below.


I would find out later that this micro-climate

we were in was due to the famous trade winds

from the Caribbean that would hit only the

northern part of the island. For that, Tenerife

was a valuable stopover to and from the

mainland to the Spanish colonies.

With many natural trails available for hikers,

this park was an outdoorsman’s delight. The

only thing missing on our short walk through

this ‘enchanted forest’ was Snow White, the

seven dwarfs and mystical little fairytale animals.

Cave Dwellers

Not far away, the scenery would be transformed

into a barren mountainous landscape,

devoid of trees and having, of all

things, cactuses and low lying scrub. This is

Tenerife, and when you are tired of your surroundings,

just drive a few minutes. Amongst

the very rugged and hilly terrain we would

find cave dwellings. These homes had been

dug right into the mountain side, and were

part of a way of life for many as building

material for homes is hard to come by and

expensive.

The cave-homes we walked by were now

mostly used as weekend homes, but we did

meet a man who was enamored by the solitude

and tranquility. He lives a quiet life, gardening

for his produce and enjoying the fresh

air and incredible scenery. He did invite us

into his humble home, which was small and

cluttered but warm and welcoming at the

same time. He even played his guitar and

sang rural folk songs. This was a moment to

remember, so little of this magic is found in

our modern world.

A lunch like no other

With such a packed morning we were due for

a break. Our journey would bring us to ‘the

end of the world,’ or that is how locals looked

at it. We drove up the mountain to make our

way down to the sea and feast at ‘Casa

Africa’. Sounds weird to speak of Africa while

in Spain, but this slice of land is part of the

African continent. Our restaurant break would

be a favorite of mine. It was located directly

across from the ocean with a seated view of

waves smashing the shores. The menu was (of

course) freshly caught fish. Added to that was

delicious local wine and garden vegetables,

and I feasted like a king.

Capital Affair

Although La Laguna was the capital of

Tenerife for many years, it lost its title to Santa

Cruz. La Laguna was built inland to evade

pirate raids and is one of the few cities without

fortified walls for this reason. With the

changing of the times, incoming ships wanted

a direct access to a port to unload goods, and

Santa Cruz was a perfect place.

Santa Cruz might be small but it sure packs a

punch. Among many wonderful attractions

there is Las Teresitas beach which is a wonderful

man made beach and interestingly,

ship loads of sand were brought in from the

Sahara to make it.

How about the world class Adán Martín

Auditorium with a unique signature look like

no other. Then there is the fabulous annual

carnival, with a museum (La Casa del

Carnival) devoted to it and houses many

elaborate and colorful costumes from the

many years it has run.

There is a great pedestrian street to stroll or

enjoy an outdoor meal and there are also

many shopping options including the very distinctive

Spainish store, El Cortes Ingles. Add to

all this a beautiful and well-kept botanical

garden, a new cruise ship port, centuries of

history and a safe, peaceful and easy- going

atmosphere and you have remarkable and

livable city.

The number one island attraction

Parque Nacional del Teide is special place

and to not to be missed. Once again on our

visit we would find a totally unique landscape

that can only be described as being from

another planet. So much so that NASA actually

used this landscape to test its probes

bound for Mars. Our day would bring us to

the very top of Mount Tiede, an active volcano

that is also the highest point in all of Spain.

Ascending this giant can be done by foot,

which would take a few hours. We opted for a

gentle gondola ride that whisked use up in

just minutes.

see following page

73

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19


74

Once on top the air was fresh, as was the

temperature. The views were simply divine.

Many trails in many directions were available

for visitors but the going was rough. First, the

oxygen was thin which made it hard to

breathe, as well as the volcanic terrain that

was extremely uneven and at times quite challenging.

Lunch with a view

Our reward for the strenuous workout was

nothing less than spectacular, as we would

treat ourselves to world class cuisine at the

Parador de las Cañadas del Teide. This

Parador property is part of many delightful

government-owned and run hotels all across

Spain, renowned for their ideal locations, history

of the buildings and for comfortable full

service lodging.

Puerto de la Cruz

For something completely different (again),

we would visit the ever popular Puerto de la

Cruz. There we would find this well-traveled

tourist destination known for a pleasant climate,

amazing surf and the general calm and

peace of a small town atmosphere. In

strolling through this gem, I would find many

historic churches, a wonderful shopping street

and breathtaking ocean vistas. Our night

would bring us to another great meal, this

time a supper at the Restaurante Régulo

where we had local Tenerife cuisine in what is

one of the oldest buildings on the island.

Dragon Tree

One giant stands out in Tenereife. It is not

unique to this island, but the locals are very

proud of their Dragon tree. This is no ordinary

palm tree, but one that grows in a specific

way where the top of the tree pushes out

branches and those branches push out more

branches and so on and where the tree

always looks symmetrical. We had the opportunity

of seeing what is believed to be the oldest

surviving Dragon tree in the world, some

800 years old and looking healthy and

majestic. The best place to experience this

beauty is a La Casa del Drago, where we

would have coffee and samples of exotic fermented

spirits, some of which I have never

heard of, like the liquor of the Dragon tree.

Masca

A highlight of our tour would be to a secluded

and out of the way town of Masca. Close

to the sea and nestled in between mountains,

this small village is authentic and has kept its

charm even when a road was built to help

bring the many tourists who visit there.

Engineering experts have created a route to

one of the most exciting drives I have ever

been on. A true and memorable experience

on its own, the prize was being in a village

most have never heard about until a short

while ago.

Boutique Hotel San Roque

Close by was the beautiful town of Garachico,

with a long history that dates back to colonial

age and was an important stop for ships sailing

to and from the new world, but a deadly

volcano changed this area forever as it

destroyed much of the city. Visiting, we would

find ourselves at the Boutique Hotel San

Roque. This once abandoned hotel fell into

near ruins until a family adopted it, and, in a

short 20 years, brought it back to its days of

glory. Today it is a gem and the pride of the

town.

Monje Winery and Mojo Lesson

Second to last lesson, we would find out that

Tenerife not only grows grapes and produced

wines, it also had some of the most contrasting

grape varieties and wine tastes of any one

small region in the world.

Our trip to the Monje winery was a great

example of this. Owner Felipe Monje would

lead us on a visit through his estate which was

world class on its own and where he had

expanded the wine offerings from the original

four to some 18 different wines.

Loving the atmosphere of being in a winery,

our fun would continue as we would participate

in a contest to produce the best Mojo

(local spicy sauce) all the while sipping wonderful

estate wines. Although we did not win I

did pick up my last Tenerife lesson, I was now

a Mojo man!

www.webtenerife.co.uk

Canadian World Traveller Winter 2018-19

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines