As daffodils blossom and birds once again sing in the trees, spring has sprung in many parts of North America. Many folks have weathered a long snowy winter and crave warmth, sunshine on their bare arms and all the outdoor activities that forced hibernation kept from them over the last few months.
I, for one, can never get enough of winter fun. Living in San Francisco, a trip to the mountains is easy but requires some planning and often ice skating indoors has to satisfy my cravings.
In Ottawa, Ontario, workers and students can ice-skate commute (skammute?) on the Rideau Canal Skateway. The 4.8-mile-long, 26-foot-wide frozen canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can rent skates, and warm up spots, cafes and other amenities dot the route. It is of course a popular tourist attraction and the centerpiece of Winterlude, a three-week-long winter festival including ice sculptures, skate clinics and Snowflake Kingdom, a snowy playground wonderland. Continue reading »
Having dinner with close friends who had returned from a week at Whistler, we were regaled with tales of zip lining over the snow, tubing, dog-sledding, skating, skiing and boarding (of course) and a turn on the 2010 Vancouver Olympic bobsled run!
My friend doesn’t do anything unless it is full throttle, so it didn’t surprise me that he had a hankering for extreme speed. It did, however, surprise me when he said his whole body was sore after the less than 2 minute, nearly $150 (Canadian Dollar) ride down the Olympic track. Kitted out, he was placed in the back seat and braced himself to fly down the mountain. Continue reading »
Washington’s San Juan Islands are about as romantic as you can get. They lie in Puget Sound and mark the boundary between the United States and Canada (just beyond them in Canada is an equally gorgeous group of islands called the Gulf Islands), and I was lucky enough to be there recently.
The islands get all the tourism they can handle, but if you take the ferry with your car and go on a weekday you can miss the weekend congestion. If you must go on a weekend and take the ferry from Anacortes (about an hour and a half from Seattle) or from British Columbia, prepare to wait in line a few hours. Locals know to get their car in line for the ferry early, spend time doing something else, and then have a friend drop them at their car before the ferry arrives. Continue reading »
One October a few years ago I spent a couple of days in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. Churchill is famously the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” because so many bears come in to den when the pack ice breaks up on Hudson Bay. In the fall, when Hudson Bay begins to freeze, ice forms first around the spit of land where Churchill sits, and the bears know it. That’s why they gang up here, why thousands of tourists like me come to gawk.
But now there’s a new game in town: snorkeling with belugas. Yep, you can don a dry suit and slip into water that was frozen solid last week and come nose to nose with beluga whales. John Flinn took the plunge and conveyed his experience in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. Continue reading »
2009 has only just begun and few feel capable of predicting how the struggling economy will affect travel, beyond deep discounts. The landscape has changed and we all need to be on our toes to get the best deals. I came across an article on the Baltimore Sun website which offered five helpful New Year’s resolutions for the savvy vacationer:
I will beware of bankruptcies.
I will figure on fees.
I will get an edge through e-mail.
I will diligently monitor the U.S. dollar.
I will plan ahead to get a passport.
Did you know you might be charged for more legroom on flights? Another obvious, but often overlooked issue, the fact that the fluctuating dollar could drastically raise or reduce the cost of a hotel room abroad. Or, that on June 1, tighter border rules take effect. Most Americans returning by sea or land from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean will need a passport, a passport card or other secure document. Check out the article: Vow to make the most of your 2009 travel dollar to find out more about this list of travel tips for 2009.
The place most people think of when hearing about a taste of France in Canada is Quebec, the French-speaking province with cosmopolitan Montreal and the walled old town of Quebec City. But San Francisco Chronicle Deputy Travel Editor Spud Hilton has a different take and a different place in mind: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, an archipelago of eight tiny islands (only three are inhabited) off the coast of Newfoundland that not only offer a taste of France, they are France. Continue reading »
The sinfully-rich Nanaimo bar takes its name from the city of Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. This calorie-laden dessert was first mentioned in local cookbooks in the 1950s. Today the three-layer bars are kept next to the cookies and muffins in most British Columbia cafes.
To prepare the base layer, combine half a cup of unsalted butter or margarine, a quarter cup of granulated sugar, and five tablespoons of cocoa powder in a double boiler over the heat. Add a beaten egg, mix well, and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in half a cup of chopped almonds or walnuts, one cup of grated coconut, and two cups of graham wafer crumbs. Press the soft mixture firmly into an ungreased eight-inch square pan and put the pan in the refrigerator to chill. Continue reading »
The Canadian travel website GoNanaimo.com has come up with a concept that addresses rising fuel prices and climate change. The Nanaimo 50-Kilometer Holiday includes seven self-guided tours within a 50-kilometer radius of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. As gasoline prices go up, vacationing locally becomes more attractive and Vancouver Island has a lot to offer. The 50-Kilometer Holiday includes two walking tours within Nanaimo and five driving/bicycling tours to nearby mid-island destinations. Each tour is carefully crafted with a printable version and map.
The 50-Kilometer Holiday is roughly modeled on the 100-Mile Diet, a lifestyle revolution reconnecting Canadians with their roots, and the concept is applicable almost anywhere in the world. With so much to see and do locally, it’s almost a waste to spend thousands of dollars flying halfway across the world when you could have just as much fun at home. A local holiday is a hassle-free holiday with no borders to cross, no travel insurance to buy, no bookings to make, and no money to exchange. You conserve energy and strengthen community while helping to save the planet.