Archive for the ‘ Canada ’ Category

 

Quebec City Music Festival

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

In the summer of 2013, I road tripped from Arizona all the way to Québec. I had never been to the province or the city of Québec, so I really did not know what to expect. What I discovered was a part of Canada rich in its European roots…full of history, iconic architecture and a passion for food and entertainment. While I spent nearly two weeks in the province of Québec, my guiding objective was to visit Québec City for the 46th annual music festival.

Earlier in 2013, I attended a Jesse Cook concert in Wickenburg, Arizona, which was fantastic. I will digress for just a moment to say that if you get a chance to see Jesse Cook live…do it. Jesse is a guitarist, composer and producer who is widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in “Nuevo Flamenco” music. The band integrates many instruments that will likely be foreign to you. The sounds are upbeat, soulful and energizing.

Back to the story: I was invited backstage after the concert where I had an opportunity to strike up a conversation with Mr. Cook. During our conversation, Mr. Cook asked me what I did. I proceeded to tell him I was a travel blogger and that I had plans to spend a good part of the summer in the northeast. When he learned of my geographic destination, he suggested that if I could, I really should visit Québec City—that it was one of his favorite cities in the world. This, coming from a well-known musician who has traveled the world, told me it was something I should take to heart.

A few weeks later I was in New York City for a Canadian travel conference where I met tourism representatives from Quebec City. It was fate…I would be going to the French settlement of Québec!

After a few months of road tripping, I had finally made it to Québec City. I stayed at the Hilton Hotel which was located right in the heart of the action…I was able to walk to every venue/stage.  The Hilton was the communications and entertainment hub for all Festival d’été de Québec activities, which meant that I was staying at the same place as all the other media representatives and musicians. The buzz in the hotel was euphoric.

This was the 46th annual Quebec City Music Festival (or Festival d’été de Québec) and so they’re able to attract some pretty big names to the event. This year the headliners included; Bruno Mars, Rush, Weezer, Foreigner, Def Leppard, Emylou Harris, Stevie Wonder and the Black Keys just to name a few. There were many lesser known bands that were quite incredible too, some of my favorites included Lisa LeBlanc, Nomadic Massive and Rod Le Stod.

The festival had more than 300 performances, on 10 different stages, over an eleven-day period. All the stages are located in the downtown area and are within walking distance from one another. You’ll also find an array of street performers throughout the winding streets of Old Town Québec: from a drummer using trash cans and buckets, to traditional French artiste de rue. The city is so alive and bustling with excitement during the festival that the energy is contagious.  The kids will also find plenty of cool activities to keep them busy at Place de la Famille—games, activities, ziplines, live performances. The kids will have a blast.

Québec City is one of North America’s oldest and most splendid settlements. Its picturesque Old Town is a living museum of 17th and 18th century houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and soaring church spires. The architecture in both the new and old parts of Quebec City is quite remarkable.  Overlooking the St. Charles River is the enormous and elegant, Château Frontenac towering above Old Town. There’s more than a glimmer of Old Europe in the sidewalk cafes, classic French bistros and inviting squares. The city’s compact size makes it ideal for walking and exploring all the nooks and crannies hidden throughout.

I was really drawn to Old Town, which is split between the Haute Ville (Upper Town), perched above the St Lawrence River on the Cap Diamant cliffs, and the Basse Ville (Lower Town), where Samuel de Champlain (a heroic figure) established the first French foothold in 1608. Old Town is clustered with museums, mansard-roofed houses and cobblestone streets…all of which beckon visitors to explore.

Québec City goes to great lengths to entertain visitors during the summer music festival. I was so impressed by how well-organized the event was, not to mention the quality of the talent. I would highly recommend making your travel plans soon if the Festival d’été de Québec sounds of interest as hundreds of thousands of folks will descend on the city.

Québec City Music Festival information:

Dates: The 2014 festival is scheduled for July 3-13
Price: Ridiculously cheap…the entire 11-day festival pass is only: $76 CAD
Website: Visit: http://www.infofestival.com/The-Festival

Sudbury secedes from its past; presents a new history

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

This past summer, while attending a travel blogger conference in Toronto, Canada, I had an opportunity to take a trip to Sudbury—a community located in the northeastern part of the Ontario province. As I would soon learn, Sudbury is working its way out of a negative impression that rests in the minds of many Canadians. When I mentioned that I was heading to Sudbury, folks looked at me and said, “Sudbury,” in an animus and questioning tone. Not a single person I spoke with had visited Sudbury in many years, so I tried to remain optimistic about my trip.  The premise for the less than flattering (past) image of Sudbury is explained below.

I have always found that no matter where I travel, there is usually something interesting, exciting or unique to see, do or experience. Sudbury would be no exception.

My journey started with a short flight from Toronto, which was an unexpectedly great start to the trip.  As a road trip blogger, I don’t take to the skies that often anymore—I’d prefer to visit the dentist. I certainly don’t envy my fellow travel writers who log many arduous air miles. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by my flight aboard Porter Air. My flight departed from the downtown Toronto Billy Bishop Airport, which is located on a small island that requires a ferry ride all of 30 seconds or so in duration. As I made my way into the gate area, I noticed that it seemed more like a first-class lounge. I was actually wondering if perhaps I was in the wrong section. I also noticed an inordinate amount of people enjoying refreshments and snacks. After a few minutes, I began to wonder if perhaps the refreshments were complimentary. I saw an employee clearing some of the tables and asked if there was a place I could get some water. They responded by pointing in a general direction to which I promptly headed. What I discovered was a refreshment zone stocked with bottled water, cashews, biscotti, sodas and even espresso machines. It was all included! One of the perks for flying this up-and-coming Canadian airline.

During the flight, we flew over a spectacular area dotted with islands—thousands of them in fact. Actually, to be more precise, 30,000 islands. It was unlike any coastline I’ve ever seen before. I later discovered that this was the Georgian Coast, which I believe is part of Parry Sound, and, is often referred to as the sixth Great Lake. Georgian Bay’s beauty is serene, with towering cliffs, windswept pines, and clear blue water. As we flew over, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it would be to explore some of the islands by kayak.

After arriving at the Sudbury airport, I and three other travel bloggers who were on the same press trip, were escorted to the Radisson Hotel in downtown Sudbury. After having a couple of hours to get familiar with our surroundings, and to freshen up before dinner, we were whisked away to M.I.C. (Made in Canada), a local Canadian eatery and pub. I tried the Pickerel, which I didn’t think I had ever tried before, but later discovered that it’s also known as Walleye, which I had just tried the year before in Minnesota. After an enjoyable dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest up for a bevy of activities in store for us the following day.

Our first stop on a glorious early summer day was La Boulangerie, an artisan bakery and deli where we splurged on croissants, espresso and other breakfast treats. Above the bakery is actually a two room B&B that looked quite charming.

Our next stop was the “Big Nickel,” which as the name implies, is a very large nickel that has become the iconic symbol of Sudbury. Let me rephrase, this nickel is not just large, it’s ginormous! About 30 feet high. The “Big Nickel” is part of Dynamic Earth, a previously working mine that has been turned into a state-of-the-art science and educational center. In addition to an awesome underground tour of the mine, they also had an amazing interactive dinosaur exhibit (click here to see the Vine video).

I mentioned earlier that Sudbury has had a less than favorable impression with folks who were familiar with the town of yesteryear. The reason for the critical opinion was that Sudbury once led the world in nickel mining production, and back in the day, the methods were less than favorable for the environment—as well as the residents. The mining practices required an astonishing amount of fuel to smelt the nickel out of the ore, so nearly every single tree from the surrounding landscape was sacrificed. The fires would burn for long periods of time and the soot that was discharged left a lasting impression on the countryside for many years; as a matter of fact, the rocks in many areas are still black in color from the char.

Today, however, there has been an ongoing concerted effort by local leaders and the mining community to replenish and resurrect the town of Sudbury. All I met were extremely passionate about their town and the positive direction in which it is headed.  For starters, there have been literally millions of trees planted over the past twenty years or so, and now the vegetation is abundant and thriving.

It was fascinating to learn, and, to see first hand, how a single industry could decimate an area, then later become its savior.  Dynamic Earth, for example has turned one of its old mines into a science center that has become an ombudsman for safer and more environmentally friendly methods of mining. Visitors, as well as scientist and engineers, can learn not only about past and current nickel mining methods, but can participate in a host of more traditional science center exhibits.

After the stop at Dynamic Earth, we headed to the other side of town where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at “Curious Thyme’s By the Water.” Our view was equally impressive…that of Lake Ramsey, which is located in the heart of Sudbury. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the largest “city lakes” in the world, and, one of 330 lakes in the area.  After lunch we headed down to the yacht club where we boarded a small sailboat for a cruise around the lake.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we headed back to the Radisson to freshen up before dinner. This evening we made our way to a cool and funky establishment known as, “Respect is Burning (RIB).” It’s kind of difficult to wrap RIB into a descriptive box, and I think that’s part of the charm. You’ll find eclectic artwork adorning the walls. You’ll hear funky music playing by live local musicians. The attitude and vibe from the staff make you feel as though you’re at your cool uncle’s house for a family party. The food is Italian themed, but infused with a zest of cachet that makes RIB an unforgettable experience. You’ll even find the owner/chef making his way to nearly every table to make sure his guests are enjoying themselves. They even have a money-back guarantee in case you are not 100% satisfied.

After a fantastic evening of delicious food and levitating libations at RIB, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s rest as we had another full day ahead.

The science center is located and divided into two separate areas of town. On this day we headed to “Science North,” where they have a planetarium, IMAX theater, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a 4D experience and a whole lot more. There is a robotic replica of the tallest man in the world. You get to see him go from a seated position to his full height of 8’10” tall (click here for Vine video). I’ve been courtside at an NBA game before; this guy would have dwarfed them all! One of the other highlights for me was getting to ride in one of those human gyroscopes (click here for Vine video)…there are three circles and once you strap in, you use your momentum to get all three circles moving in different directions. It was a blast…and, it was amazing how much energy it took. When I got out, I was huffing and puffing. Beyond the plethora of exhibits, the building itself is quite an architectural marvel in how its built into the landscape.

After a half-day at Science North, we made our way to the Laughing Buddha, a local favorite for lunch. (I had to laugh at the creative names of the restaurants we visited). With its intimate interior, unique patio and gastronomic menu, the Laughing Buddha was the perfect end to our introduction to Sudbury.

While there is no question Sudbury will not be the first place you think of when planning your next vacation, it is a place worthy of consideration. If you go, you’ll find easy access to pristine wilderness, some fantastic attractions, and, some pretty decent lodging and dining options.  In addition to Porter Air, you can also get to Sudbury by rail on VIA.

If you’ve ever been to Sudbury before, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best.

For more information on Sudbury, visit: SudburyTourism.ca

CN Tower provides view to behold

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

This past summer, I found myself in Toronto, Ontario for a travel blogger conference. It was actually my first time to both the city of Toronto, as well as the province of Ontario. The most iconic landmark of the city, and certainly one of the most recognizable in the world, has to be the CN Tower. The reason the CN Tower is such a marvel, is not just its design, but its height. Up until 2010, it was the tallest structure in the world, and, it held that title for 34 years. The tip of the tower soars to 1815′, however the observation deck is at just 1136′ (equivalent to a 114 story building)…still a long way up if you ask me. On a nice day, like I had, you can see for miles. The 360 degree views are just stunning.

I often shy away from touristy attractions, but the CN Tower is just one of those “must do” activities when visiting Toronto. In addition to the observation tower, there are a host of other activities to check out. From the relaxing 360 Restaurant that completes a rotation ever 72 minutes, to the extreme Edgewalk. The Edgewalk allows participants to walk outside, onto a ledge, and just hang out. Of course you’re tethered, but what an adrenaline rush that must be. There’s also Legends of Flight, which propels audiences on a 3D journey across a century of aviation history. Finally, there’s Himalamazon, a motion theater ride…complete with dazzling special effects.

If you’ve ever been to the CN Tower, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best.

CN Tower Information:

Website: CNTowner.Ca
Address: 301 Front Street West Toronto, Ontario M5V 2T6 Canada
Phone: (416) 868-6937

The Greatest Road Trip in the Rockies

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Guest Post by: Sharon Mason

The Greatest Road Trip in the Rockies – Tips for Driving the Icefields Parkway

The amazing Icefields Parkway is one of the most jaw-dropping roads in the Rockies, and possibly one of the best drives in Canada. Along the way you will see turquoise mountain lakes, alpine meadows, rocky peaks that touch the sky…and, enormous glaciers.

This road stretches for 228 kilometres, from Lake Louise to Jasper National Park. There is no question as to why it was referred to as the “Wonder Trail” during the early 1800s. It was even named in National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 20 “Drives of a Lifetime.” You can pick up a car rental in Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper and spend the day exploring this amazing route.

How Long Does It Take?

Simply driving the route itself takes three hours, but this does not include any time to stop for fuel, food and photo opportunities. Because there are so many beautiful places to stop along the way, you should allow yourself a full day to explore the Icefields Parkway.

When to Go

Although the snowy winter scenery can be spectacular, driving along the Icefields Parkway in the winter is not advised for those who are unfamiliar with icy-mountain driving conditions. The roads are windy and steep and can be a bit dangerous when frozen. Also, in the winter months the route is sometimes closed for a number of days due to avalanches. If you do choose to drive the route at any time between October and April, check the road report and the weather forecast first.

Summer offers perfect driving conditions on the route, but also brings with it more traffic. During the Canadian summer holiday there might even be traffic jams due to the abundance of tour buses and motor homes along the route.

Your best bet is to visit during the very early or very late summer, such as in May or in September.

Where to Stop on the Way

As you drive the Icefields Parkway you will notice a number of signs along the way directing you to the many attractions. Be sure to check out Peyto Lake, which shines a deep green colour due to the mineral-rich rock particles deposited by the glacier. Mistaya Canyon is also an interesting stop, filled with many intricate rock formations created by the water over millions of years. One of the best natural wonders is the Columbia Icefield, an enormous glacier that covers just over 200 square kilometres. You can even see it up close by taking a rise on the Ice Explorer vehicle.

A practical stop will be the Crossing Resort at the halfway point, as this is the only place to fill up your tank on the route. However, it’s recommended you fill up before the journey, as the prices here are expensive.

What to Bring

When driving the Icefields Parkway you might want to pack a lunch to bring with you, as there are not very many places to stop for food along this rugged mountain road. Also, in the peak tourist season of summer the restaurants will be very crowded. Plus, it is much more enjoyable to get out of the car and go for a short lunchtime hike to find a peaceful place to sit and eat your food.

It is also a good idea to bring a jacket or a sweater with you, even if it is a warm and sunny day. Once you get up into high altitudes amid glaciers, ice-cold lakes and mountain winds, you might start to feel the chill.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should bring your camera on this stunning journey. You might want to also consider bringing a panoramic lens or a camera with a panoramic setting. It is difficult to capture the true enormous scale of the Rocky Mountains on a simple camera lens and a panoramic shot is better at fitting everything in.

Don’t forget to also bring your favorite music, because a road trip is always better with great tunes to listen to as you drive through the scenic mountain roads.

Driving the Icefields Parkway is an unforgettable experience and one of the best road trips in Canada, so enjoy your journey!

About the Author: Sharon Mason is a freelance writer and travel blogger. She recently went on a vacation to the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and maxed out her camera’s memory card taking hundreds of photos along the Icefields Parkway.

Alice Lake Park

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Alice Lake Park is located just north of Squamish, B.C. and is surrounded by towering mountains, dense forests and plenty of grassy areas to kick back and relax. This provincial park is a wonderful recreational area for, fishing, kayaking swimming, biking, camping and a whole more.

I spent the afternoon one glorious day on my way to Whistler…my traveling companion and I had a wonderful time walking around the lake, taking in the sights,and enjoying a lovely picnic. I think there may be been a 15 minute snooze in there too.  I would love to return to Alice Lake to do some camping…the campgrounds looked fairly private for a designated area.  Squamish in general is an amazing place for those who really love the outdoors, there are so many activities and they even have a visitors center dedicated to it.



If you’ve been to Alice Lake before, tell my readers and me what you like best?

Alice Lake Provincial Park Information:

Sea to Sky Park Services
Email: info@seatoskyparks.com
Phone: (604) 986-9371
Park Website: Click here
Map: Alice Lake Map

Vancouver Convention Centre

Monday, October 24th, 2011

I attended a travel blogger’s convention this past summer, which was held at the Vancouver Convention Center located right on the waterfront of downtown.  I’ve been to a number of convention centers and was really impressed with the one in Vancouver…with its innovative design and beautiful setting right on the water surrounded by mountains.

The Vancouver Convention Centre (Center for American spelling) opened in 1987, but was significantly remodeled in time to be one of the venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The opening ceremonial cauldron is right out front, which is a spectacular piece of art and continues to be a draw for visitors.

With the expansion of the Centre, Vancouver tripled its capacity to cover over a million square feet (four city blocks) including pre-function, meeting, exhibition, and ballroom space.



I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the Vancouver, B.C. area and have been able to see the Vancouver Convention Centre from all angles…it’s really an impressive property to visit.  Whether you’re attending a function, strolling downtown, or taking a harbor cruise, don’t miss this architectural marvel.

If you’re interested, you can see my video of Vancouver Harbor.

For more information, visit: Vancouver Convention Centre

Sea to Sky is one Scenic Stretch of Highway

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The “Sea to Sky” highway (technically highway 99) is one of the most picturesque stretches in North America. Sea to Sky runs from greater Vancouver to the mountains of Whistler, with the Howe Sound on one side and forested mountains on the other.  Thanks to the 2010 Winter Olympics, this stretch of highway 99 was greatly improved to handle the influx of traffic.  The drive is meandering and often mesmerizing with the intoxicating natural beauty that flanks on both sides.

Along the way you’ll see rapid rivers, wind sport enthusiasts and cascading waterfalls.  There are plenty of places to pull off and take-in the surrounding beauty.  There are also a number of great hikes and picnic areas along Sea to Sky, from Shanon Falls, Alice Lake, Brandywine Fall, to “The Chief.”

The Sea to Sky is the gateway to British Columbia’s magnificent alpine country of year-round world class outdoor activities.  If you’ve driven the Sea to Sky highway before, let my readers and me know what you like best by posting a comment below.  If you enjoyed this post and video, please hit the “like” button below to share with friends and family.


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Finn Slough’s Patina Gives it Charm

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Finn Slough is an old fishing village situated along the banks of the Fraser River in the southern parts of Richmond, British Columbia.  Despite its blighted appearance; Finn Slough has become a popular tourist destination among artists, photographers, and the curious.

Finn Slough has not aged gracefully, however it’s hundred+ years of decay has added a patina of charm that only time can bestow.

The Village of Finn Slough has approximately thirty residents who live in wooden houses, both floating and built on stilts along the marshy Fraser River bank.  Many of the buildings were built between the late 19th century and 1950s most are quite blighted, while others have been carefully restored. Finn Slough was founded by Finnish settlers who came to Richmond in the 1880s.



Click the following link to see my pictures of Finn Slough.

Click the following link for a Map to Finn Slough. Or, scan the QR code to the right and a map of the Finn Slough area will open up on your phone.

If you’ve been to Finn Slough, leave a comment below and tell my readers and me what you enjoy most?  If you’ve enjoyed this post and video, please share it with your friends by clicking the “like” button below.

I thought it apropos to create a B&W version of the video above…let me know which you prefer?


Queen Elizabeth Park

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Queen Elizabeth Park is the second most popular park in Vancouver, next to Stanley Park, and is home to some of the most beautiful public gardens seen anywhere in the country.   At the center of the park is the Bloedel Conservatory, which is filled with exotic plants, tropical flowers a Koi pond, and, over one hundred free-flying birds of various species. No matter what time of year you go to the park, you’re bound to find something you’ve never seen before.  Features of the park include: several quarries, water features, plaza area, lots of sculptures and a pavilion, which is very often used for weddings.

In addition to the public gardens, Queen Elizabeth park has a number of recreational offerings:

  • Golf
  • Disc golf
  • Lawn bowling
  • Tennis
  • Pitch & putt
  • Tai Chi
  • Nighttime stargazing

Queen Elizabeth Park Information:

Google Map: Click here or, scan the QR code to the right with your mobile phone.
Details: Full park details
Park Map: Click here
Conservatory Admission: Park is free, but the conservatory is $5 for adults and 2.50 for children.

Click the following link to see my pictures of Queen Elizabeth Park.  If you’ve been to the park before, please post a comment below and let my readers and me know what you enjoy most?  If you’ve found this post and video helpful and/or enjoyable, please share the love by clicking the “like” button below.

Vancouver Harbor

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I often tell travelers that if you visit a destination with a harbor, canal system or other waterway…be sure to take a cruise.  When you get off the shore, it’s a whole new perspective.  The Vancouver Harbor is no exception—with wonderful mountain views (often with snow-capped peaks), spectacular skyline, and landmarks such as Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge around every turn of the head.



Vancouver Harbor divides the City of Vancouver with the rest of the Burrard Peninsula…to the north is the North Shore Mountains, which is home to West Vancouver and the City and District of North Vancouver.