Luxury Sale Leads Into Winter Season at Mirror Lake Inn

October 2, 2015 10:28 am

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – For the first time in its history, the elegant Colonial House at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa in Lake Placid, N.Y., is offering an ‘Ultimate Suite” sale.

To appreciate this event, one must understand that the Mirror Lake Inn has been AAA Four Diamond rated for more than three decades running. That’s longer than any hotel in all of New York State, save one which is located in Manhattan. The Mirror Lake Inn is the only Four Diamond lodging and dining combination in the Olympic village, and in The View Restaurant, the resort is proud to offer the number one restaurant in town, according to the visitors of Trip Advisor.

The Colonial House is just eight years old, and has 11 luxuriously-appointed suites on Mirror Lake. This one-time opportunity now offers a chance to save as much as 35 percent per night.

Suites usually starting at $775 US will be priced starting at $500 US per night, with occupancy limited to October 25-December 3.

Couples and families will find a variety of floor plans to accommodate their needs.

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“We are so proud of the attention to detail and consideration of our guests that our staff put into the Colonial House when they built it,” said Ed Weibrecht, who together with wife Lisa, owns the Mirror Lake Inn. “Now with this attractive pricing we want as many people as possible to experience the ultimate in luxury accommodations with spectacular views of our Adirondack Mountains and Mirror Lake. And of course, our staff takes pride in making you feel perfectly at home with a world class level of service.”

The décor of the Colonial House is rich, and inspired by the Black Forest. All suites feature intricate hand-carved chandeliers, fireplaces, a sofa sitting area and large private balconies or patios with the aforementioned stunning lake and mountain views. Harden Furniture, regional craftsmen, furnished the Colonial House.

The spacious master bath has both a walk-in rain shower and a state-of-the-art pipeless Sanijet tub. Granite counter tops and Travertine tiled floors with in-floor radiant heat add to the luxury experience.

For those traveling with children, family suites in the Colonial House offer a second bedroom and bathroom.

As the Ultimate Suite sale comes to an end, the ski and board season is just getting underway at nearby Whiteface Mountain, site of the alpine skiing events during the 1980 Winter Olympics, and currently ranked fourth in the Northeastern United States by the readers of Ski Magazine.

Considering that the Weibrecht’s middle son, Andrew, captured Olympic silver and bronze medals in alpine skiing in Sochi and Vancouver, respectively, and his medals are on display at check in, the Mirror Lake Inn is a resort for all winter sports enthusiasts.

As it looks at the 2015-2016 winter season, management has certainly kept skiers and riders in mind.

From November 27-December 11, ski package rates are $175 US per person, per night with daily lift ticket for each and lodging in a newly renovated Lookout Room. This collection was part of a $4 million rooms overhaul that impacted 92 units, gives travelers 20 percent more space, all modern technological accoutrements and privacy as well.

The ski package is $186 US from December 12-March 20, and $125 US from March 21 to the conclusion of the season. Again, prices are per person, per night with daily lift ticket for each guest and a stay in a Lookout Room.

All packages are based on availability.

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Emphasizing its unparalleled guest service, for those not on a ski package, Mirror Lake Inn staff always offers its visitors the option of purchasing a lift ticket at the front desk. This eliminates a stop at a mountain sales point. Or log on to, and get the mountain’s best price for single or multiple day lift tickets.
Either way, once you are ready to hit the slopes, the free Whiteface Mountain Shuttle stops hourly at the foot of the hotel’s stairs and delivers you to the base lodge. Or drive the 10 miles (15 kilometers) yourself and consider the option of preferred parking near the base lifts.

The shuttle will return you to the inn at day’s end in time for a world class spa treatment and our complimentary tea and chocolate chip cookies, served in the hotel living room from 3:30-4:30 daily. Ski and board storage is located adjacent to the front desk.

If you prefer other winter activities, dog sledding, a toboggan chute, cross country skiing and snowshoeing abound, as close as frozen Mirror Lake which is just outside your door. Snow shoes are complimentary, first come, first served.

And if you are a skater or hockey player, just walk onto Mirror Lake near our hip pub, The Cottage Café, and use our rinks. No charge.

And speaking of no charge, despite its name, there is never a resort fee at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa.

About the Mirror Lake Inn

The AAA Four Diamond Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa is a luxury lakefront resort in the Adirondack Mountains. The Inn, rated Four Diamond for 31 consecutive years, offers both Four Diamond world-class cuisine and casual dining options, with impeccable service amid awe-inspiring views. Only one other property in New York (located in Manhattan), has maintained the Four Diamond designation longer than Mirror Lake Inn. It is the only property in Lake Placid that combines Four Diamond lodging and dining. The Inn’s renowned Lake Placid spa pampers the body and refreshes the mind with a comprehensive menu of services. The Inn is conveniently located one block from the restaurants and shops on Main Street in Lake Placid.

Beguiled by Belugas and Charlevoix’s Charm – Part 1

October 1, 2015 2:56 pm
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Photos courtesy of Charlevoix tourism.

The colours of autumn are once again upon us, and while many flock to Gatineau Park for a taste of the glory, a short drive east will truly get you away from the fray of life. In about the same time it takes to drive to Oakville, you can be surrounded by Quebec’s divinely stunning Charlevoix region. Everything about this area is astounding. The people, the splendour of nature, the food, the activities and the vibe make it the perfect weekend escape.

For starters, there is the spectacular and almost indescribable natural diversity of Charlevoix.  The area was designated a Word Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989 for very good reason.  The area has a rich variety of ecosystems. Look to one side and there are mountains, with patches of clouds in between the peaks, the smell of salt in the air from the mighty Saint Lawrence River and its magnificent coastline. Then there’s the multitude of trees and vegetation and boundless beauty. Quaint, charming towns and villages populated with people with a joie de vivre and pride for their area are scattered along the coast and in the mountains.

 Charle 4Charlevoix is an expansive territory that owes much of its magnificence to a meteorite that landed in the area some 350 million years ago. The collision resulted in a large crater (56 kilometres in diameter) making it one of the largest inhabited craters in the world.   

Whale watchers will be familiar with Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine as it is a superb area to launch into the Saint Lawrence to experience those giant, graceful creatures.  Any trip to the region during whale season should include a jaunt, there is still time to get out and see them.  Croisières AML will take you out for a three-hour expedition with a biologist onboard to provide interesting facts about the Saint Lawrence, the mammals and the geological and geographical details of region.  It is fascinating and awe-inspiring as the whales come very close to the boat. AML also offers the same experience in a zodiac.  You will see countless whales (if you are lucky, which you probably will be) and literally hundreds of seals. AML will then take you to the Saguenay fjord for an incredible view.

While skiing and whale watching are definitely great things to do in the area, there is much, much more to enjoy and experience.Charle 5

Baie-Saint-Paul and Isle-aux-Coudres

About an hour and a bit from Quebec City, along the 138, head to Baie-Saint-Paul.  You will immediately see why the Group of Seven fell in love with the region.  It is a quaint town with art stores, boutiques and cafes.  It’s worth a stop to look around before heading to Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive Harbour to take the free 15-minute ferry to Isle-aux-Coudres, where you will immediately feel your stress melt away. The island thrives on tourism but it is not touristy in the cheesy, gouging kind of way. Also, the island basically shuts down mid-October for the cold months, so try and book soon.

Jacques Cartier found the island and named it after the abundance of coudres, hazelnuts, he found there.  It is an oasis of a place with a pace that reminds you there is more to life than hustle and bustle.  It is a cyclist’s, runner’s and walker’s paradise. The 24 km circumference of the island offers incredible scenery. There are also paths in the island’s interior that are beautiful as well.  No need to pack your bike, rent from Vélo Coudres.  It has a number of options, including mountain bikes, bicycles built for 2, even quadricycles.Charle 2

As you explore the island, grab a sweet or savoury snack at the Boulangerie. Their bread is phenomenal, as are the pastries and pies. About 10 km down the road, wash it all down at the Cidrerie Vergers Pedneault.  It will provide sweet hit of a different kind. The ice storm of the late 1990s may have been disastrous for many, but one good thing came out of it: ice cider, and it is incredible.  They have a wide variety of other alcoholic ciders, (including apple, pear, plum and Saskatoon berry) but also have non-alcoholic types.  You can also pick your own apples and visit the orchard.

Les Moulins de l’Isle-aux-Coudres is the only site of its kind in Canada and it’s on the island. This museum houses a fully functional watermill (1825) and windmill (1836), as well as a miller’s residence. It’s worth a stop.

Bed and breakfasts abound, as do more resort-type accommodations.  With an indoor swimming pool, ping pong, mini putt, a bar, a beautiful fireplace in the lobby, the Hôtel Cap-aux-Pierres has plenty of ways to keep everyone busy.  It is also the perfect place to relax. The staff has a calming presence, and they do everything they can to make your stay comfortable. The food is incredible. The Osso bucco is fantastic and the full breakfast is a great way to start the day. With two kids under the age of 13 as travel partners, I can say with certainty that the hotel is very accommodating to young palates.

Charle 1Experiencing the tide come in and out can be exciting for the younger set who may not have had the chance to see it before.  It’s amazing too, even if you are big kid. It never grows old.

Anyone curious about the maritime history of the area, and even those who are not, will appreciate a stop at the Maritime Museum of Charlevoix once back on the mainland. It offers a detailed look at the once vibrant schooner history of the area.

On the Road to La Malbaie

Along the road to La Malbaie from Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, about an hour along the scenic highway, you will come to Sainte-Irénée. If you need to
stop for a bite along the way, there is not a lot of choice, but
La Table offers delicious sandwiches and soups made with local ingredients, including lamb. Head up the highway a further 15 kilometres and as you come into Sainte-Irénée, climb up rue Saint Antoine to Les Écuries Entre Monts et Marées for a trail ride in the clouds and a view of the Saint Lawrence in the distance.  In the summer, you can actually ride on the beach but for now and into the winter, you will trail ride in the peaceful surroundings of the mountainous trail.

A ride is a great way to break up the journey to La Malbaie, the perfect homebase as you explore more of the region.

Read Part 2 Here.

Vacation like a VIP

September 8, 2015 1:34 pm
Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya Hacienda Pool

Bret Michaels, international rock star and front man for the popular band Poison has teamed up with the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Mexico to bring you the ultimate in rock n’ roll luxury travel.

Located on the Caribbean Sea, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is a music lover’s paradise. As is the case with the Hard Rock franchise, the entire Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is decorated with paraphernalia from iconic bands and blasts classic rock hits in various locations throughout the resort. Every detail is focused on music, from the guitar-shaped room key to the rock n’ roll-inspired spa treatments. Each guestroom is extravagantly designed to make you feel like a rock star and offers guests an all-inclusive minibar that is restocked daily with premium rums, vodkas and whiskies. The list of amenities is long and the Hard Rock will pamper you.

If you want to avoid children, stay on the adults only side of the resort appropriately named Heaven. Private balconies with hydro hot tubs and lounger hammock areas abound so you can soak up the sun in the privacy of your own space. Also located on the Heaven side is the Hard Rock signature Rock Spa that has up to 75 treatment rooms where one can experience the legendary rhythm and motion massage. The massage is based on a traditional Swedish style and begins with slower rock n’ roll songs playing gently in your ear while the massage therapists use the vibrations, pressures and patterns of the music in their technique. Heaven has a full service private beach, four fantastic restaurants and three lively bars and lounges, including a premium service nightclub with a giant indoor pool.

If you want to live the rock star life and have a few dollars to spare, splurge or blow the budget on the Bret Michaels Rock Star Suite, inspired and co-designed by Bret Michaels himself. It is the largest celebrity branded Rock Star Suite in the Hard Rock International collection (there are locations around the globe). Michaels worked directly with the Hard Rock Design Studio and Tandem Design Team to showcase his personal experience and musical accomplishments. As you enter the suite, you’re greeted with a full-size glass cut-out of Michaels leading a cheering concert crowd and a large display case showcasing the rock star’s Taxicab motorcycle and Rose guitar. The suite is 9,204 square feet and is decked out with a photo booth, private screening room, DJ booth and bar, raised dance floor, Camaro converted billiard table, cowboy hat display, bandana-influenced ceiling décor, multiple lounge areas, a huge rock-inspired bathroom and a master bedroom with a luxurious bathtub that rests bedside. The best feature however, is the roof top terrace which is the entire length of the suite. The terrace obviously comes equipped with a kitchen and dining area, hot tub, fire pit and plenty of places to sun tan!

The point is, this is a place of luxury for people from all walks of life, from the famously rich to those of us still working our way there. The Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya guarantees fun, rock ’n roll and a good time for every one of all ages. Restaurants serving Asian fusion, South American, Mexican or even a pizzeria are there to fuel you up. Private beaches, party pools, family pools, music lessons, Temazcal (an intense Mexican heat therapy cleanse in the dark), children’s activities and a fully equipped gym are all there for your enjoyment and relaxation. Rock the night away or cuddle up in your suite and empty the minibar. Do whatever you want. The key is, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya is hip, cool and there to please.

To book an all-inclusive vacation at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, visit

Discover the Hidden Secret of the Dominican Republic at Casa De Campo

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If you are looking for first class hospitality, gracious service staff, luxurious accommodations and a Caribbean resort experience like no other, Casa de Campo is the place. Located on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic, this spectacular 7,000-acre resort, residential community and tropical playground is a golfer’s paradise and a tourist’s delight. In short, Casa De Campo offers a perfect getaway for families, couples or businesses.


Casa de Campo’s impressive front entrance.

Upon arrival at the hotel, you’ll be greeted with a glass of Moet champagne and given keys to a golf cart and directions to a suite that is both elegant and comfortable. The hotel rooms are large, with marble baths, televisions, excellent internet, refrigerators, daily fresh fruit, towel service and room temperature controls. They have all the modern accessories you would expect from such a luxurious spot. I felt a bit like a kid in a candy shop with all the offerings. Following my first instinct, I quickly headed out to explore the resort grounds in my golf cart. The adventure took me back to my days of being a free-wheeling teen, when I loved to spend afternoons at the local go-cart track. The difference was that these golf carts are quiet and the scenery is spectacular.

Manicured lawns, spectacular private residences, picturesque golf courses and a white sandy beach with illuminating turquoise water compel you to quickly get into decompress-mode. The Minitas resort beach is very accessible and the beach café has superior service, cold beer, great tapas and a large canopy to protect you from the hot afternoon sun.

Back at the hotel, the pool area is immaculately maintained and there is a fitness center with the latest workout equipment and a spa offering a plethora of soothing treatments. Families can take advantage of supervised programs for children and teens.


Seating at one of the resort’s many fantastic pools.

If you love golf you would be in heaven here. I’m not a golfer but my travel colleagues both said that the famed Teeth of the Dog golf course at the resort was one of their all-time best golfing experiences. Aside from golf, Casa offers tennis, beach water sports, river and ocean fishing, horseback riding, polo and clay shooting.

The Casa de Campo Shooting Center is a world-class sport shooting facility with more than 200 different stations. The stations catapult clay targets into the air at different heights, speeds and angles, each one designed to represent the movement of different animals such as pheasants and rabbits. I had never gone clay target shooting before and I have to say I really loved it. The coaches were patient and professional. Your adrenaline gets going each time you line up and hit a moving target.

The Shooting Director and Game keeper  is Gary Salmon, a world renowned specialist in the field whose previous postings included stints at Sandringham, at Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Norfolk, in Suffolk, in  Essex and then for 16 years in Northamptonshire in England. In the shooting and game keeping world, Salmon is widely known and respected and his clients have included some of Canada’s leading business families and two of Canada’s former Prime Ministers.

My clay shooting experience was only slightly surpassed by an invigorating trail ride with one of the estate ranch horses. I thought I was pretty good on a horse until later in the day when I went to watch a local polo match. I am now convinced that although ice-hockey requires a certain level of talent, it is nowhere near the ability and dexterity required to play polo.

Horseback riding, clay shooting and a long swim at the beach all made for a great day. Later, I enjoyed dinner at the resort’s newly renovated signature restaurant on Minitas Beach. We watched the sunset and dined on a mix of delicious seafood, grilled meats, pasta, fresh salads and side dishes. We ended the meal with amazing desserts, all prepared with a distinctive Caribbean flair.

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La Marina, filled with boats and picturesque homes.

Lago Grill offers breakfast, lunch and dinner each day alongside its amazing views of the Teeth of the Dog 18th hole and the Caribbean Sea. I enjoyed several early meals here as I felt the cool sea breezes and listened to a Dominican folk band playing “perico ripiao.” Lago offers a wide variety of salads, home style bread, all kinds of seafood, cassava empanadas, a variety of meats including the famous goat “chivo higueyano” and traditional Dominican stew. You can also enjoy a wonderful meal at La Caña by IL Circo which offers a choice of dining in an air-conditioned indoor area or al fresco on the terrace with views of the pool and garden. Their menu is varied and features selections like salmon carpaccio and turbo fillet, risotto with lobster, porcini skirt steak and some pretty incredible desserts.

Casa de Campo has a port called “La Marina” for ships and yachts. It’s really a small village with private residences, shops and restaurants that you could easily spend at day at relaxing and reading a book. However–nothing beats reading a book on the beach. It’s worth it to take the 30 minute Catamaran trip to Catalina Island, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The Catamaran races along the coast and out into the Caribbean Sea before docking on site at Catalina. Plan to spend a day on this beach under a palm tree. Bring a lunch or buy one from the locals.


The gorgeous Altos de Chavón village and theatre.

Another big draw for visitors is the nearby Altos de Chavón, a replica 16th-century Mediterranean village perched on a rocky outcrop above the River Chavón that is part of the Casa de Campo resort. You’ll need a day to explore the cobbled streets and local merchant shops tucked away in the little courtyards that define this unique place. It was constructed in the 1980s as a living cultural centre for local artists to produce and sell their goods. Dominican architect Jose Antonio Caro and the Italian designer Roberto Coppa worked with Dominican artisans to create the buildings, ironwork, pathways and stone carvings. The Regional Museum of Archaeology is located onsite at Altos de Chavón and is a must stop destination for anyone visiting the area. It features a treasure trove of more than 3,000 artifacts that chart the history and culture of the region’s pre-European societies. You’ll pass a number of restaurants and bars serving local and international cuisines.

We had a fabulous dinner at La Piazzetta, a gourmet Italian restaurant featuring antipasto selections, homemade pasta dishes and a great selection of wines. Then we went to Altos de Chavón’s huge 5,000 seat open-air amphitheater to see the show Kandelá, a musical extravaganza featuring over 50 dancers and two renowned local singers who take you on an incredible musical journey infused with the rhythmic essence of the Caribbean. International stars such as Sting, Carlos Santana, Frank Sinatra, Julio Iglesias and Shakira have also graced its stage.

Casa de Campo has it all, from luxury hotel rooms and villas to a wide selection of exceptional restaurants, the Cygalle Healing Spa, chic boutiques, beaches, horseback riding, golf, sports facilities, a marina and of course, the Altos de Chavón village –with its museums, restaurants, amphitheatre and church. All make for an exceptional experience. Best of all are the abundant smiling staff members who are well-trained in the art of hospitality and are some of the most generous and genuine people you’ll meet. Bravo Casa de Campo.

For more information on the gorgeous resort and bookings, dive into the Casa de Campo website.

Many Shades of Dallas

August 19, 2015 2:00 pm

Photo by Matt Pasant.


Sixth Floor Museum. Photo credit: Sixth Floor Museum

There is an overwhelming feeling in Dallas,Texas that anything is possible. It is a city with guts and spirit, and while Dallas oozes wealth, it is also a city with a big heart, kind people and warm hospitality. It has a very eclectic personality with many different scenes. All in all, it is a fabulous place to visit. Just be sure to rent a car to see it all.

For political junkies, Dallas packs a powerful punch. Obviously, a visit to Dealey Plaza, where John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is a must. Walk the grassy knoll, visit the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (located in the Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the gun that killed Kennedy). It has exhibits on the 60s, Kennedy’s presidency and life, and, of course, his assassination. The space from where Oswald fired his gun is a very eerie spot and will send chills up and down your spine.


George W. Bush Presidential Library. Photo credit: Jennifer Hartley

For a different experience, be sure to hit the newly-opened George W. Bush presidential library. It is a fascinating place, regardless of your political colours. It’s remarkable seeing how Bush views his legacy. The section on the fight against terrorism is prominent, as you might imagine, and the large pieces of the Twin Towers on display are incredibly moving. The crowds seem to congregate in the terrorism section but move along and check out the environmental exhibit and the display on Laura Bush’s work internationally on education. There is a fantastic exhibit on US presidents and baseball that runs until October 4.

Art fanatics will love the well-endowed art district downtown. Dallas is home to the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 blocks. Head up the Reunion Tower to get a fantastic view of it all below. Be sure to get a CityPASS which will save you some money to visit many of Dallas’ sites. While you are atop the Reunion Tower, grab a bite and a drink at Chef Wolfgang Puck’s revolving restaurant Five Sixty.

On that wealth theme, while shopping in a mall may not be on your list of things to do, a visit to the NorthPark Center is unlike any mall visit in Canada. NorthPark has everything from high-end shops like Gucci, Rolex, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade down to H&M and Forever 21 and everything in between like Macy’s. The mall is consistently ranked among the top five shopping destinations in the United States and boasts more than 26 million visitors annually.

There is of course the reality that in Dallas, you are in the Southwestern United States. While Dallas has incredible Tex-Mex food and delicious margaritas wherever you go, it is also one of the best places to buy cowboy gear. Skip the mall for that and hit Pink’s Western Wear instead.

Once you have your boots, break them in on the Katy Trail. It is 6 km in length and follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was known as MKT or the Katy. Stop at the Katy Trail Ice House to break up your walk. It is an outdoor beer garden with 50 beers and its patio has been voted one of the best in the city.

Hotel options vary. You can spend as much as you want of course, but sometimes a medium-priced downtown Sheraton does the trick if you need a comfortable bed for the night, a gym and pool. Bear in mind the downtown is not an evening hotspot, but the hotel is centrally located and an easy place to get to everywhere you want to go.


Pies from Emporium Pie. Photo credit: Emporium Pie

In terms of neighbourhoods worth a visit, check out Bishop Arts. Emporium Pies alone is worth a visit. Don’t settle for one pie. Try two or three types and then wash them down with a visit to the Bishop Cider Company down the street. The shops in the neighbourhood all have an artsy feel so wander around and take in the vibe of the place.

The Deep Ellum neighbourhood is another funky part of town, but in a very different way. It’s hip with great music joints that have launched the careers of great jazz artists in the last century as well as more eclectic, alternative bands from the 20th century. Today, it has again surfaced with an exploding music scene. By day, it has quirky shops, cafes and restaurants. Hit the very Bohemian AllGood Cafe for one of its hearty breakfasts. It was voted one of the best breakfast locations for a good reason. And being the Bohemian kind of place it is, you may get your morning Java in a Christmas mug, if you’re lucky.

For traditional Texan food, the Rustic delivers. It is a restaurant that is popular with locals (always a good sign), with 40 beers on tap and a full stage offering live music in the restaurant’s massive backyard. It has an upscale country roadhouse feel to it with country musicians to boot. Country, both new and traditional, really is popular in the South with the young set and grey hairs alike.

That’s the thing about Dallas. It is urbane, hip, uber-cool and yet fully embraces its Southwestern U.S. identity. It’s well worth a visit.

More than a Winter Wonderland: Lake Placid’s the Place to be this Summer

August 12, 2015 11:58 am
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What kind of traveller are you? Some of us like to lounge by the beach all day while others are constantly seeking an adventure. No matter what kind of summer vacation you are looking for, you can find everything you want and more at Lake Placid.

This destination is famous for being ‘America’s first winter resort.’ It’s the site of not one, but two Winter Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1980, and you can still visit the athletic village today. This area has a rich winter season history, but don’t discount it for your summer getaway!

This area has become a hot spot for fun summer activities and a major draw for summer sporting events like the Ironman, horse shows, as well as rugby and lacrosse tournaments.

For those beach-lovers looking for a great spot to sightsee and soak up the sun this summer, check into the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. Stroll down Main Street and get some shopping done before lounging on the beach bordering Mirror Lake. What a beautiful view! It’s the perfect beach vacation for the whole family. Build sand castles with the kids and then enjoy some time on the water. The resort offers complimentary kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards for the more active beach vacationer. And if mom and dad are looking for a romantic date night, Golden Arrow has just what they need! Relax and enjoy a private Mirror Lake gondola cruise—a truly magnificent and unique way to see the area. Or try the view from above with a scenic flight over Lake Placid! That’s right—board a vessel at the Lake Placid Airport, just a short drive from the resort and you’re off! It’s an amazing adventure for the whole family or maybe just a romantic trip for two.

For those looking to do some more exploring, Golden Arrow is a great starting off point on your way to the golf course, High Peak hiking tour or mountain bike trails. The Adirondack Mountains are an avid golfer’s paradise and the Golden Arrow’s golf packages can help you plan a golfer’s dream vacation. Take your pick from five fantastic courses, including the Whiteface Club & Resort Golf Club, The Lake Placid Club’s Mountain Course or Links Course, the Saranac Inn Golf and Country Club, and Craigwood Golf Course. Grab your clubs and get ready to tee up!

In the spring, summer and fall months, the historic Olympic Lake Placid sites are transformed into mountain biking trails for the adventurous traveller. Whiteface Lodge is the perfect place for those daredevil vacationers looking for nearby adventures. Whether you’re looking for an easy ride or a more challenging tour, the Olympic Cross Country Ski Center has more than 50km of diverse trails. For the more advanced or intermediate rider, the Downhill Mountain Bike Center, located at Whiteface Mountain, offers 2,400 vertical feet of fantastic fun!

And after a long day, you can relax and unwind at the Whiteface Lodge spa. Named one of the Top 100 Spas in North America by Condé Nast Traveler, this spa should definitely be on your list! Spending too much time in the summer sun on your trip? No problem. This spa has some wonderful treatments to rejuvenate your skin. You’ve been busy hiking, biking, and boating, so try the Great Outdoors Facial, meant specifically for those with environmentally damaged skin.

And spa treatments aren’t just for women! Whiteface Lodge has a series of treatments tailored to men. If your skin is suffering from spending all that time in the sun, try the Outdoorsman Facial, developed especially for men to repair and protect skin suffering from windburn, sun damage and over exposure to the elements. Perfect for rejuvenation on a summer getaway! For more information on the Whiteface Lodge spa treatments, click here.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. At Lake Placid, the possibilities are endless. From Rock climbing to horse back riding, fishing to fine dining, there is something for everyone.

Click here for more information about the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and click here to learn more about Whiteface Lodge.

To learn more about Lake Placid’s history, click here.

History, Religion, Geography and Great Food: Majestic Israel Has It All

July 22, 2015 10:00 am

To even attempt to adequately describe Israel is, to put it mildly, a daunting task. While well-known images of the country abound, absolutely nothing can prepare you for the complete amazement or the unexpected emotions you may feel as you explore this magnificent country. Whether you are religious or not, well-versed in Christian, Muslim or Jewish history or theology or not, does not matter. The majesty of Israel will completely envelop you.

You could spend a lifetime trying to see everything and still not feel like you have a handle on Israel. Every space, every part of its 20,000 square kilometres (by comparison, Canada has over 9 million square kms) feels like it has some sort of historical or religious significance to discover. However, even with just a week, you can pack a lot in. For a glimpse of the various sides of Israel, visit Tel Aviv, Caesaria, drive around the Sea of Galilee, swim in the Dead Sea, climb Masada, eat shawarma in Akko (Acre), and of course a stay in Jerusalem is a must.

Israel is an intense place. As one Israeli put it: “In Israel, you can’t get lost. You will either bump into the sea or barbed wire.” That barbed wire reality in this democratic country, (it is the only democracy in the Middle East), is a reminder that Israel has lived through precarious circumstances and because of that continued political situation, there is a certain sense of constant alertness and strength in its people. Out of the vigilance comes an attitude to seize every moment as a gift and live life to the maximum.

Israel_IMG_20150502_151930Tel Aviv-Yafo
In a country steeped in history, Tel Aviv may at first seem out of place. The economic engine of the country, it is a young, lively, wealthy and culturally rich city. Located on the Mediterranean, beach culture thrives as people flock to the coastline whenever they can. On average, there are 318 clear sunny days in Tel Aviv so there is an abundance of opportunities to do so. Outdoor cafés and bars are everywhere. Even though there is the usual hustle bustle of a big city, there is also a more relaxed vibe to day-to-day life than you might expect from a big city.

There are great food markets in Tel Aviv. Visit the Carmel market to get everything from spices to every kind of olive imaginable to delicious, healthy and cheap street food. Tomato salads, hummus, falafels, pita, fresh and pickled vegetables served on little plates and shawarmas are staples in cafés and food stands.

However, if you are looking for a gourmet meal, you are in luck. Over the last 10 years, there has been a restaurant explosion in Tel Aviv. Reserve at the reputable Herbert Samuel restaurant on Koifman Street. With a celebrity chef and price tag that goes along with that, the restaurant is top notch and is worth the extra shekels.

(Wash down dinner with a glass of Israeli wine. There are over 250 wineries in Israel. Israel is a leader in irrigation and its wine and agricultural industries are the proof. Enjoy them both.)

To burn off the incredibly food, explore pedestrian-friendly Rothschild Blvd. The area is known as the White City and is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its Bauhaus architecture — there are some 4,000 buildings built in the Bauhaus or International Style in Tel Aviv thanks to German Jewish architects who immigrated to to the city after the rise of the Nazis. If political history grabs you, stop by Independence Hall on Rothschild, where the Israeli Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948.

Tel Aviv has a vibrant nightlife. Rothschild Blvd is a hot spot but HaYarkon (along the beach) and Florentin (which is a less urbane part of Tel Aviv but is definitely a trendy hot spot at night) are also a few areas to hit when the sun goes down.

While Tel Aviv is a young city, (it was founded in 1909), Jaffa (Yafo), a few kilometres down the beach from Tel Aviv, is over 3,000 years old and is one of the oldest ports in the world. In 1950, the two cities were united under one municipal entity, Tel-Aviv-Yafo.

As is the case with many port cities, the ancient city of Jaffa (called Joppa in the Bible and was supposedly named after Israel_IMG_20150430_140737Japheth, a son of Noah), has had a varied and colourful past. Throughout the centuries the city has been conquered no fewer than 22 times. As an ancient city, it has all the character you expect. It is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments (Book of Jonah in the case of the Old and St. Peter is said to have had his heavenly vision in Jaffa that it would be good to convert Gentiles to Christianity.) Fast forward a handful of centuries, Jaffa was a dismal place. Then in the 1970s and 1980s, artists moved in and since then it has been gentrified. Jewelry stores, painters, musicians have taken over the core, beautiful ancient part of town. A visit to the Ilana Goor art museum is a must to understand the place as it is today. Jaffa port is another great night hot spot and offers a fantastic view of Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, at some point you have to sleep. There are a multitude of hotel options in Tel Aviv. There are beautiful boutique hotels such as the high-end, pampering Norman Hotel. One unique feature of the hotel is that it has a beautiful, long poem, Castle in the Sand, written in 1956 about Israel, etched into its wall. However, there is something spectacular about being on the beach and for that, the Intercontinental David, Tel Aviv is the perfect place. It has an incredibly large pool and bar that overlook the Mediterranean. The hotel’s buffet breakfast puts North American buffets to complete and utter shame.

Caesaria was a section of land along the coast given as a gift by Augustus Caesar to King Herod. He built a massive port with entertainment facilities, bathhouses and temples. Today, there are the incredible remains to visit but there is also the full-functioning Roman theatre with astounding acoustics.

For Christians, it is an important site, because it was where the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate lived. While the crucifixion took place in Jerusalem, Pilate was not a fan of the city and only went three times a year to keep the peace during festive times. Otherwise, Pilate hung his hat in Caesaria. St. Peter converted the first Gentile, Cornelius, to Christianity in Caesaria and it is where St. Paul’s trial began.

Akko (Acre)
Another World Heritage site is Akko (Acre) because of its importance for the Crusader period. Yet Akko is one of the longest continuously inhabited places in the region so its history is long. Visit the Crusader sites of course, but walk through market, visit the beautiful port area and grab a shawarma. The ancient section of Akko is predominantly Arab so you get a feel for an Arab town. (Interestingly, Israel actually has three official languages, Hebrew, Arabic and English and all three are seen on street signs everywhere in the country.)

The Sea of Galilee (which is more of a very big lake by Canadian standards) has towns and villages built around it. The Galilee Israel_IMG_20150502_110152region is where Christ spent most of his three-year ministry. You could spend weeks on the Gospel Trail.

For a taste of the Trail, visit the Mount of Beatitudes (from where Jesus first prayed the Lord’s Prayer, gave his Speech from the Mount and it is the supposed location of the loaves and fish miracle, where Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Magdala, from where Mary of Magalene hailed, is along the road. Tiberias is an interesting stop along the route and a great place to sleep along the Sea of Galilee. The Rimonim Galei Kinnereth Hotel is right on the Sea and a great place to take a breather, reflect on what you see or just relax. It has a fantastic pool that overlooks the Sea.

As you drive along the highway that separates Israel from Jordan (it is the highway that will take you to the Dead Sea), look up to see caves embedded in the mountains where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. In another spot, you can see off in the distance where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights being tempted by the devil. You will pass over the River Jordan, which surprisingly is more of a stream, but still powerful to see. This is just to name a few places. Everywhere you look in Israel there is something significant.

Masada is definitely worth a visit. It has particular importance for Jews as it is a symbol of their resilience and strength. Over 900 Jews took over the fortress on the mountain (a palace built by Herod) and instead of capitulating to Roman control, they killed themselves. You can climb to the top or take a cable car. The view of the desert and the Dead Sea is unbeatable.

Swimming in the Dead Sea should be on everyone’s bucket list. Covering your body with mud and floating on the water is indescribable. It feels oddly disgusting and renewing all at the same time. The Dead Sea Salts are famous for a reason. Your skin is remarkable after a dip.

Sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem is the holiest of the holy. The Jewish and Christian sites are open to tourists. The Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) is open 24 hours. It is incredible to visit it at night when you can have a more intimate experience. Bask in the reverence of the place. Then go back during the day and see what it’s like when packed with little boys having their Bar Mitzvahs, or when hordes of school children are singing, transforming it into a plaza of celebration.

For Christians, to visit locations across Jerusalem where Christ spent his final hours is moving. To visit Mount Zion (the location of the Last Supper), Gethsemane (where Christ prayed until arrested), walking the Via Dolorosa, (the stations of the Cross) followed by a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Christ was crucified, and according to some traditions, buried and where he rose from the dead) is unbelievable.

You will of course notice the beautiful Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine where Muhammad rose into heaven. It is also sacred for Jews and Christians as well. It is breathtaking to see but unfortunately it can be a tricky place to visit.

There is only one place to stay in Jerusalem and that is the Hotel Mamilla. Luxurious, modern, hip and pampering, Mamilla has every amenity you can imagine and it is a mere 10-minute walk to the Jaffa Gate entrance into old Jerusalem and all the staff are incredible. Everything about this hotel is perfect. There are other more famous, historical places to stay, but the Mamilla is a new hotel and in time will no doubt be added to that list.

It is virtually impossible to fully capture the spiritual and emotional side of a visit to Israel, not to mention the culinary experience and the sheer beauty of the country. To see greenery, then desert, then lakes, caves and everything in between including modern life and the marriage of the old and the new in Israel is breathtaking. After you experience the country, you too will view it as the holy land, in whatever way that means to you.

Visit Ottawa Life in the coming weeks for further information on food, restaurants and for a more detailed background on Israeli sites, off-the beaten track.

Reggae and Running: A Unique Pair

July 14, 2015 3:44 pm
Montigo Bay beach

Images courtesy of: Jamaica Tourist Board

When someone says they’re going to Jamaica for a vacation, you automatically think warm weather, beautiful beaches, delicious food and of course Bob Marley. While all those things are true, there’s a new attraction calling people to this gorgeous Caribbean island. The Reggae Marathon, Jamaica’s own premier international marathon event is getting lots of attention with over 3000 amateur and expert runners from all over the world. In 2014, over 150 Canadians made their way down south to participate in the race.

The Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K begin on Long Bay Beach Park which borders Negril’s famous 7-mile white sand beach. The course is mostly flat and is IAAF certified with 10K, half or full marathon options. The best part about the race is that it’s really fun. The race starts at 5:15 am under the Caribbean moon with Reggae music blasting each mile marker from either a live band or pumping out of speakers, encouraging runners to keep the pace. After you cross the finish line, you’re given a medal, coconut water, and of course, a Red Stripe beer. Runners then gather together at the beach bash party and awards ceremony where prizes are awarded. There are prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, place male and female runners channeling the inner Usain Bolt. Even the festivities surrounding the event are a blast! The night before the JHTA throws a bash called, “The world’s best pasta party” dinner at the Couples Swept Away Sports Complex featuring live dance performances and reggae music that you can’t help but dance along to.

Going into its 15th year, the Reggae Marathon will take place on December 5th, 2015. Registration is $100 for the marathon, $95 for the half marathon and $70 for the 10K run. Will you be signing up? Ya mon!



Of course it’s not all about the race! In Negril, you won’t go hungry. Some of the best restaurants in Jamaica border the ocean in Negril. Pushcart Restaurant, known for their modern Jamaican cuisine, is located in the Rockhouse Hotel. This gem features an open kitchen, rum bar, and nightly live entertainment. Then there’s also the true community staple, Cosmos Seafood Restaurant and Bar. They specialize in fresh, local and authentic seafood dishes. Located right in the middle of 7-mile beach, guests often park here for an afternoon to enjoy the view while they dine al-fresco. You can’t miss the action at Rick’s Café! Rick’s is a great spot to grab a drink and watch 100’s of tourists and locals alike jump of one of the many cliffs surrounding the bar and land straight into the ocean only to emerge from the water eager to jump in again!

Negril is home to many beautifully chic hotels. There are lots of options that suit just about any type of traveller. The best bang for your buck, however, is the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa. Located in Montigo Bay, just 40 minutes from Negril, the Grand Palladium has everything one could need! With 7 restaurants, a world class spa facility and one of the largest pools on the island it’s the perfect spot to unwind after race day. If you’re looking to get out onto the blue and turquoise seas for a day, check out Dreamer Catamaran Cruise also in Montego Bay. Explore the coral reefs of the Montigo Bay Marine Park while listening to Bob Marley!

So yes, the post card perfect beaches, innovative cuisine, and all around good vacation vibes have been calling travelers to the island for years but the Reggae Marathon is giving people a new reason to visit!

For more information about the marathon visit:

Let’s Go on an Adventure

July 8, 2015 2:00 pm
Canada's Northern Lights

Canada is a big place. If you’ve ever travelled to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal, you know there is a vast amount of culture that makes each city unique. The same can be said for all of the smaller towns across the country. The only difference is you probably haven’t had an opportunity to explore those places–the magical ones like Baffin Island, the community of Haidi Gwaii and Torngat Mountains National Park. But now you have the chance!

Adventure Canada, founded in 1987, aims to bring travellers to Canada’s “blank spaces,” where remoteness makes the beauty that much more spectacular.  Landscape, wildlife and culture provide a stunning backdrop for the many Adventure Canada expeditions.

unnameExpect to be treated like family while travelling with Adventure Canada. The Swan family founded the company in hopes of creating a small travelling, sharing community.

Cedar Swan, CEO of Adventure Canada, is a second-generation family member who works hard to preserve her family’s touring company and share it with the rest of the country. She shared her favourite travel stories with OLM:

When did you first begin travelling?

As a kid our family spent summers up at our cottage and camping. We all loved the outdoors. My first organized travel experience was on my first Adventure Canada trip, Project Arctic Coast, when I was fourteen. It was a life-changing experience. I knew right then and there that travel, the ocean, and connecting with people and nature was the path for me.

What was it that made you fall in love and dedicate your life to adventure and exploration?

On that first expedition I had the opportunity to connect with many amazing individuals. The collective energy, passion, and dedication of our resource team was an inspiration and a catalyst for my life’s direction. At fourteen years old I was wide-eyed and awed by the power of the environment. I was captivated by the ocean. Standing out on the bow of our ship as we sailed towards the icy horizon was a thrill; I truly felt as if I was at the edge of the world. I felt so small, and that was exhilarating—to be a part of something so much larger than myself.

Please describe the process of developing and implementing a new travel excursion. 

All of our development stems from passion. Whether it is my personal interest in learning more about a given area, people, or story, or brought forward by my team or dedicated guests, these passions all originate from a genuine interest in exploration. Step one is the passion. Step two is the research, which regularly includes the great pleasure of exploring a new place, festival, or event in person. Step three involves testing the market. We have an amazing group of clients that travel with Adventure Canada, we often put out feelers on new concepts for programming. The ones that are received favourably are the ones to which we devote our energy. Step four gets down to the details—this is when we connect with quality guides and local resources, select our accommodations, and build our themes. Step five is a release to the public. All told, the process ranges from about eighteen months through a couple of years.

What is your favourite part of rolling out a new itinerary?

The research is one of my favourite parts of the process. I love learning about new places, people and customs. Having the opportunity to enrich my own understanding of our world and how we connect to the big picture is a wonderful benefit of my work. To then have a platform from which to share this sentiment with inquisitive minds is a great privilege. An inaugural trip also holds a special place for me. As an example, our pilot project with Parks Canada last year to Sable Island was many years in the making. Each day presented so many delights and satisfying moments. The hard work and persistence that went into the development of that groundbreaking itinerary came to fruition in a way that enriched all parties. Everyone involved came away having bonded over the shared enthusiasm and thrill of witnessing the herds of wild horses, observing the worlds largest grey seal colony, and having the intimate opportunity to learn from and spend time with the stewards of Sable Island. It was truly special.

What does Adventure Canada aim to provide clients?

At Adventure Canada, our aim is always to provide quality, fun, safe, educational programs that enrich the world we touch. We provide a platform for discussion and debate. We hope to create an environment where we can expand our compassion for other people and life ways and the natural world in which we are all so dependant.

What is the best part about your job at Adventure Canada?

Family. Adventure Canada is a family business and I have the great pleasure to work with my immediate and extended family. I love that we create a medium where friends, coworkers, hosts, visitors, and guests are all welcomed into this fold. Our guests return year after year, stating that it is the family feel and quality of programming that brings them back. It is an honour to have so many amazing people in the Adventure Canada family.

It is obvious there is a passion for the Canadian Arctic, east coast regions and Greenland. What inspired this passion?

When my father, Matthew Swan, started Adventure Canada back in 1987, he was drawn to the areas of Canada that had “no lights”. Have a look at imagery of Canada at night; even today, we can see vast areas of our country where the where wilderness prevails. Being in the natural environment—the truly wild places—rejuvenates that soul. It can be unnerving at first, and it regularly takes people a few days to be able to unplug from their daily lives and be able to absorb the grandeur of the north. This grandeur can be overwhelming, but it is also transformative; the enormous open spaces, the warmth of the community welcomes, and the light that sparkles on the ice and casts jagged shadows over mountain ranges and allows for life in this fragile northern ecosystem. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a way that allowed me the opportunity to value and appreciate the road less travelled. I love the north.

Do you have a favourite place to travel to?

My absolute favourite is Labrador. In particular the Torngat Mountains National Park, a place that most people in the world are unaware of. At the northern tip of Labrador this is a land of deep fjiords, towering mountains, polar bear, seal, and ice. It is considered the heart of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit homeland in Labrador. There is something about this place, it has a spirit. I feel completely at peace here.

Is there somewhere in the world you need to explore but have not yet?

There are so many places I’ve yet to travel. I’m looking forward to the sensation overload I’ll experience on my first trip to India. I can’t wait for the colours, the smells, the tastes.

For more information on Adventure Canada, click here.

Atlantis is a Warm Weather Water Adventure

July 6, 2015 10:55 am
Aerial AQUAVENTUREMayan Temple (1280x853)

It’s hard not to be taken by the beauty of the beaches on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. A natural reef acts as a buffer, calming the waves that gently crash onto its shores and the sun is said to shine 300 days a year.

Hollywood was an early fan of the island, which has been featured in several movies including two from the James Bond franchise. The Hollywood set has also taken to the beauty of the area building homes on private islands surrounding Nassau and Paradise Island.

The Atlantis resort is a truly dreamy, watery escape that lies across the bridge from the island of Nassau. The striking architecture of the Royal Towers with a 25-storey high bridge-like structure joining the two towers is impressive. For the equivalent of an average family’s yearly total mortgage payments, you can rent a suite as high as a $25,000 a night. At that price, the chances of sneaking a peek of a celebrity guest are increased.

The Royal Towers were the first part of Atlantis to open and were built in a record 18 months. The entrance features a beautiful carving of Poseidon and the doors are 2 storeys high and carved with sea horse-shaped hinges. The doorman insists the doors can close but they stay open unless a hurricane is threatening the island. Once you enter, look up and take in the beautiful frescos that surround the vaulted ceiling. The attention to detail is a real treat.

Further inside, look down to get your first glimpse of the Atlantis aquarium experience. The lower level of the Royal Towers doubles as the back wall of the massive aquarium. Atlantis boasts 14 lagoons, 8 million gallons of salt water and 50,000 fish including sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, goliath groupers, eels and more. To take in all the aquariums, be sure to head to the “dig” tunnels that connect the Royal Towers to the outside aqua adventure park.

To get a closer at the marine life, choose among several hands-on marine experiences, including feeding and swimming with stingrays, snorkeling in the massive Ruins of Atlantis tank which is decked out with artifacts from the fabled lost city and home to sharks and many other fish. Stop by Dolphin Cay to get close up with these perpetually-smiling mammals. All the activities are available for an extra fee and are very popular so be sure to book early.

There are 18 waterslides, a not-so lazy river and 11 pools, although the whole place seems like one huge unending pool. There is so much to see and do that it is easy to overlook the detail that went into making all the ponds, pools and a lagoons. It’s unparalleled and the landscaping is first class. Take time to appreciate the beautiful sculptures sprinkled through the resort. It’s easy to get around. Well-manicured paths connect the 5 hotels, the pools, the stunning marina and Marina Village. Some of the walk can be long but if you’re not up for it, the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service between all the buildings. Leave your wallet in your room as most restaurants, including the poolside locations, do not accept cash. (However, this does not apply to the 2 on-site Starbucks coffee shops.) Paying with your room key is very convenient and you don’t have to worry about losing you Visa in the not-so-lazy river.

The Atlantis Resort is like an exclusive club but it is available for all to experience on a per-day basis. Nassau has a deep-water port that accommodates up to 4 cruise ships a day. A favourite destination for the cruisers is the Atlantis resort. They arrive daily and contribute to the busy, happening vibe of the place. If a relaxed adult-only experience is more your style, stay at the Cove in order to have access to the Cain at the Cove. Exclusively for Cove guests, the Cain at the Cove is a beautifully landscaped pool area with a mini-outdoor casino and restaurant. For a more exclusive experience, rent a beach hut or cabana.

Get a feel for the local scene and wander up and over the bridge to Nassau. It’s an easy 15-minute walk and once you taste the cracked conch, grouper finger, even pork chops and plantains at one of the fish fry shacks under the bridge, you’ll want to be wandering back there daily. It is a culture clash compared to Atlantis and definitely a worthwhile experience.

The Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island is a warm-weather playground, a kind of Disney of water and sun. The white sandy beaches can’t be beat and the water park will keep the whole family busy all day.

Atlantis is a great family destination that will leave you with life-long memories. Prior knowledge of the addition expenses will help avoid a premature coronary at check-out. Here are some things to be aware of:

  • Mixed drinks are $15 US and beer is $8 (except in the Casino where price jumps substantially).
  • 15 per cent gratuity is added automatically to all bills plus the 7.5 per cent VAT tax
  • Meal plans can be purchased before leaving home and run from $99-$160 per person. (Note that gratuities are not included in the price and will be billed to your room. Children 12 and under eat for free with an accompanying adult but again, the room will be charged for gratuities on the value of their meal).
  • A $49 per person, per day resort fee will be added to your bill

A Delicious Weekend in Barbados

June 11, 2015 2:15 pm
photo 2

The sky is clear and the sun is shining. Is there a better way to start off the weekend in beautiful Barbados? The answer is yes—and it happens when I am handed a rum punch upon entering the Radisson Aquatica Beach Resort.

Get ready to unwind by lounging poolside or walking along the beach, both steps away from the hotel doors. The smell of dinner cooking from the hotel’s restaurant sitting on the water’s edge will waft down the beach and have your stomach rumbling. This is the beginning of a weekend full of food and drinks. It is the fifth annual Food, Wine and Rum Festival. Are you ready to dig in?

But first, a little history on the small island. The first stop is at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. Located in the former British Military Prison, the almost two-century-year-old buildings hold collected and documented evidence of Barbados’ cultural, historical and environmental heritage. I learn how the island rose out of slave trade and of the influence British colonies have had on the 300,000 people who live here.

The inspiring stories help to appreciate the true beauty Barbados holds. And the beauty is everywhere!

As I look out the window of the car driven by my tour guide, I see water as blue as the sky and plants as vibrant as photos make them out to be. I am taking a tour of the entire island of Barbados in one afternoon—yes, it only takes one afternoon! Barbados is divided into eight main villages, each distinct in history, entertainment and plantation.

Bridgetown is the most commercial, with a variety of tourist shops and vendors selling everything you can imagine. I pick up some much needed sunscreen I forgot to bring! As we travel north, Speightstown and Holetown offer more shops, art galleries and historical monuments. Holetown is location of the first settlement in Barbados—and also where I’m told Rihanna likes to stay when she visits!

As we approach the east coast, the weather and the plantation begin to change. Waves crash against the rocky shore, a total 180 degress from the calm blue waters I saw out my hotel window in the morning. Sugar cane is everywhere and I start to get excited about the upcoming stop at St. Nicholas Abbey Great House and Distillery.

Barbados is proud to be the birthplace of rum—one of the oldest distilled spirits in the world! St. Nicholas Abbey, located up in the hills of St. Peter, features 400 acres of sugar cane, tropical forest and buildings for rum production. The living quarters on the property are the oldest I have ever stepped into. The Great House was built in 1658 by Colonel Benjamin Berringer and features Jacobean architecture, making it one of only three Jacobean mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere.

The distillery preserves the traditional methods used to produce rum in Barbados. St. Nicholas Abbey takes pride in its use of a traditional recipe, the freshest cane, pot still distillation and its process of barrelling and bottling. The complimentary drink I sip as I tour the grounds tastes of long-standing tradition.

I was able to try a lot of Barbadian rums during the Food, Wine and Rum Festival on the island. The rum seminar with Chesterfield Browne provided a taste test of five varieties of Mount Gay Rum, Barbados’ oldest distillery. As the International Brand Ambassador and Mixologist for Mount Gay Distilleries, Browne is passionate about helping you discover the different aromas and flavours in every sip. He is also excited to share the history of rum on the island. Dating back to 1627, British colonists would cultivate sugar cane and Barbados quickly became a sugar-based economy. The production of rum flourished as the sugar cane by-product of molasses was readily available. Today, rum holds medicinal, spiritual, psychological and social value. There are an estimated 1,000 rum shops across the 166 square-miles making up the island. A good drink is never far away!

Now, it would not be a food festival without a few tastes of Barbadian classics—bring on the flying fish and poached chicken. Marcus Samuelsson had me drooling at his cooking demo. The Jolly Roger served more seafood while we danced the balmy night away on a boat sailing the Caribbean Sea.

Although the boat offered a breathtaking look of the Barbadian coastline at night, the Late Night Supersonic event took the award for best view.

Inside the Concorde Museum, music was jamming and lights were flashing. Asian and Indian dishes, seafood and a Bajan carvery helped fuel the party under one of the world’s only Concorde jets!

The British Airways Concorde G-BOAE was the first supersonic, passenger-carrying commercial airplane. The turbojet-powered aircraft would fly passengers from London, England and Paris, France to Barbados in half the time of a regular commercial plane. It was speedy and it was luxurious!

Although the Late Night Supersonic event was one of the best parties I have ever been to, an honourable mention must be made to my night out in Oistins.

Featuring a hustle and bustle of young locals and tourists alike, Oistins is THE place to go for traditional Barbadian food and fun on a Friday night. Flying fish were flung through the air with chips and coleslaw on the side. I sat down to a plate full of mahi-mahi and ate every last bite. Luckily, Oistins also caters to some activity to work off the food you eat. You can take a walk along the stalls selling souvenirs or get your groove on by a big bandstand with live music playing on weekend nights.

Barbados offers a magical setting combining all of my favourite things: A peaceful, relaxing environment, beautiful views, delicious food and warm smiles from everyone you meet.

I can’t wait to one day return to this deliciously charming island!

Sable Island: A Dream Come True

June 10, 2015 9:16 am
Sable Island Aug 2013 145

All photos © Bill Freedman

Like a lot of people on this tour, I first heard of Sable Island as a child—a storm at sea, a shipwreck, the people perish, the horses survive, swimming to the shores of a desert island.

The story grew in me to become something of a Jungian archetype—a universal story of exploitation, emancipation and ultimate freedom.

Not long after Sable Island was declared Canada’s 43rd National Park in Dec. 2013, Adventure Canada, the tour group for the intrepid, teamed up with Parks Canada to offer its first tours of the Canadian island. Luckily, the inclement waters of the island, known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, are inclined to be friendlier during the long-lit days of the summer solstice.

Off we go!

Boarding the ship feels much like checking in at a summer camp for adults. It is clear at the meet and greet the Adventure Canada staff is stellar—heaping with talent and experience; broadcasters; biologists; photographers; musicians and so much more!

We set sail to the sound of corks firing from bottles in celebration of Adventure Canada’s 25th anniversary. Our ship, the Sea Adventurer, begins its voyage while we toast and sip from fluted glass, bidding farewell to St. John’s and the cheerful neighbourhood houses of the Battery from port side, as heaps of floating ice summon us to sea from starboard. The adventure has begun!

Despite the seasickness, I sleep surprisingly well for being on a boat all night. I am jolted awake by the voice of Stefan, our strident expedition leader, loud and clear over the intercom. He provides the necessary nautical facts and figures. And Stefan is never without a sense of humour, “For those of you who were feeling seasick and wanting to die—a welcome back!”

Sable Island sits still on the horizon. It’s entirely zen. Today, the crescent shaped island is true to its other moniker, the Smile of the Atlantic. Just 300 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia—this feels nothing like Canada.

On the island, a couple of horses mill about, sniffing our pile of gear. They are an important part of the island’s history. It is generally agreed the horses are descendants from Acadian horses seized by the British during the expulsion of the Acadians (1755-1763).

A Boston merchant purchased the horses, transporting them to the island in 1760. The intention was that they would care for themselves, multiply, be periodically harvested and sold.  Due to the conditions of the island, however, these horses live shorter lives than others. The sand in their diet grinds down their teeth, effectively causing them to starve to death. Like Achilles’ choice, it is the price paid to live in glory—wild and free.

There has been much debate over whether these horses belong on the island at all, but Zoe Lucas, Canada’s own Jane Goodall and the woman synonymous with Sable Island, feels assured the herd, currently estimated at about 500, is secure under the aegis of Parks Canada.

Barefoot, we begin our trek towards the largest dune on the island, Bald Dune. With the stark vista of sand ahead of us, I nod in agreement when someone says this could be North Africa.

Noah Richler, a staff member of Adventure Canada, is here 20 years after his father’s visit to the island, which Lucas jokingly described as Mordecai chain-smoking his way up in the wake of dust left behind by Pierre Trudeau bounding his way to the top of Bald Dune.

Lucas tells us it has taken Bald Dune 20 years to inch its way across the island to its present position. It is the island’s hourglass—the movement of each grain of sand to collectively measure the inevitable passage of time.

The ever-changing island currently measures 42 kilometres in length and 1.5 kilometres at its widest point. For the next three days, we will taxi via zodiacs to and from various parts of the island.

Our guides share all there is to know about the persistence, resilience and diversity of the island.

It isn’t just about the horses. The birders in the group are keen to follow Canada’s largest migratory Tern population, along with the tiny  who have chosen Ipswich Sparrowsthe island as their one and only nesting place on the planet. The abundance of seals attracts the circling predators—the Great White Shark is known to contribute to the treachery of the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Every good adventure is, in some way, a story of love. Our time on the island was an extended ritual of bonding. After each visit to the island we shared meals, thoughts, feelings and laughter.

Had we just remained in St. John’s harbour, socializing and participating in the “talks” by the Adventure Canada staff, I would have been sufficiently stimulated—a fellow guest described an Adventure Canada tour as a floating university.

Our adventure together continues well past our days on Sable Island. We cruise through the marine protected area known as the Gulley. At one point we were screeching and hollering like children as dolphins playfully raced alongside the ship.

If our days on Sable Island were the wedding, then the hours we spent in the tiny outpost of Francois (pronounced France-way) are the honeymoon. After an afternoon spent hiking together alongside breathtaking views, we dance up a storm with the town folks in the evening.

The next morning, we wake up in France! Saint-Pierre is exactly as one would expect—a little piece of Europe on this side of the Atlantic. After a most entertaining bus tour winding along the narrow streets, we sit in Les Délices de Joséphine, sipping café au lait, eating gateau and catching up on emails—what a perfect way to wind down an adventure at sea.

After a final evening of showcasing the talent on the ship, we return to where it all began—in St. John’s harbour. There are many wet eyes and long embraces as we sayour goodbyes with promises to keep in touch. Richler’s words continue to resound in my ears, long after the adventure ended, “I like Adventure Canada tours because I always make new friends…”

I can’t say enough about Adventure Canada and the staff. The attention to detail in the pre-tour information package is extraordinary. Click here to learn more about Adventure Canada’s Sable Island tour in June 2016.

By Mona Staples 

Explore the Big Smoke Family Getaway

June 5, 2015 4:02 pm
Toronto's skyline

If thoughts are moving from snow to long days and you are looking for holiday ideas, especially ones not involving a long road trip, load the kids in the car and head to Toronto. It’s one thing to go there for business but to experience the city as a tourist is a whole other experience, especially with kids.

For starters, stay at the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto. The hotel almost has a resort-type of feel, a destination unto itself. It is Canada’s largest hotel with 1,590 guest rooms, four restaurants and bars. The hotel’s best kept secret is the Market Garden Patio, a private oasis for guests to enjoy the hotel’s very own food truck. In addition, live bands perform an “unplugged” set on the patio from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Tuesday to Friday.

The hotel offers a full range of services to keep the younger ones busy, including the Family Fun Zone, Kids Centre and Club 33 Teen Lounge. The Chelsea Hotel is home to the Corkscrew, downtown Toronto’s only indoor waterslide. As the name implies, it is a swirly pool slide that thrills kids of all ages (including those over the age of 10). The pool is open late, well into the night by most kids’ standards, until 10 p.m.

While traveling with kids is fun, sometimes you just need time alone. The hotel offers a reasonably-priced babysitting service. If you want a longer kid-free break, the Chelsea Hotel has a day camp as well.

With your alone time, you can hit the Chelsea’s fantastic gym or take a dip in the over-18 pool. You can also lounge outside on the hotel’s adultonly deck.

While you could easily have a staycation at the hotel, venture out. The hotel has its own designated beach area, so be sure to head to the Chelsea Beach in Toronto Island Park. The beach has every amenity required for a fun and safe day out, including change rooms, a first aid station, a snack bar and a bike rental facility. Best of all, this beach has a Blue Flag rating — an international eco-label awarded to beaches for excellence in water quality. The ferry ride over is fun in and of itself. The hotel will prepare a lunch box full of healthy, kid-friendly meal options for the family to take over.

While you are there on the Island, be sure to hit the Centreville Amusement Park. It will remind you of amusement parks of days gone by. There are 30 rides with something for kids of all ages. There are bumper cars, roller coasters (not huge but still fun), a haunted cable car ride and pony rides. Be sure to slide down the Saugreen Lumber Mill Log Flume Ride for a great thrill. There are games and enough cotton candy to keep your kids wired for days. It’s a fun day outside and a nice addition to the beach time at the Chelsea private beach.

To help explore the city, the hotel has special “show your key and get a discount” at a variety of tourist sites such as Legoland Discovery Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario as well as Ripley’s Aquarium. While the name Ripley’s might conjure up the word gimmick, nothing could be further from the truth. Ripley’s Aquarium is an incredible education centre that will blow your mind with fascinating information on the various aquatic life you see. There are enormous tanks that are at least 30 feet high brimming with fish. Wander through a tunnel that surrounds you with other fish of varying sizes and colours, sharks and manta rays. The experience is breathtaking. It is impossible to get closer to these sea creatures unless you were deep sea diving.

In another part of the Aquarium, there are manta rays your kids can touch and you can watch marine biologists feeding them. The jelly fish section is extraordinary. It’s the best education outing under the guise of fun. If your kids really get into the place, there is a summer day camp available in July and August.

Ripley’s is also just a few blocks from the Hockey Hall of Fame, another great museum to hit. Sure there is the Ontario Science Centre and the Royal Ontario Museum, which are amazing places to say the least, but coming from Ottawa where we are lucky to have phenomenal museums, it’s really a treat to visit places in TO that truly are different from what you can get at home. Ripley’s and the Hockey Hall of Fame are two such locations.

When you are feeling peckish, there are endless possibilities in downtown Toronto but for something that is funky, satisfying and family friendly (which is not always the case with trendy restaurants), head to Wvrst on King Street West. The name, pronounced “verst,” is imperfectly German, but the concept is genius. It’s simple, with just four things on the menu, five if you count the bread: beer, fresh sausages, French fries and dipping sauces. It’s unpretentious, with counter service and communal tables. Plus the beer list is excellent. The guys who started it wanted a place where families could go but at night could transform into a hot spot for hipsters. It succeeds in both.

The Chelsea Toronto Hotel is near it all and makes Toronto a perfect family getaway.

Kick Back at Hôtel Le Germain in Calgary

June 1, 2015 2:07 pm

Photo provided by Groupe Germain Hôtels

Now that ski season is over and the summer holidays have yet to begin, it is the perfect time to head out west for a quick break to replenish your tank, take a deep breath and experience the glory of the Canadian Rockies. It should be de rigueur for every Canadian to bask in the beauty, even if it is for just a short visit. Lucky for us who live in Ottawa, it is entirely possible thanks to a direct, four-hour flight to Calgary.


Photo provided by Groupe Germain Hôtels

Since relaxation is the primary focus, there is absolutely no better place to spoil yourself than with a stay at Hôtel Le Germain Calgary. It is a chic, modern boutique hotel, perfectly located in downtown Calgary and has every amenity you could want. Hôtel Le Germain Calgary is part of the family-owned Group Germain Hôtels, which owns 11 properties in Canada. The Group knows how to do boutique hotels.  And it should—it opened the first one in Canada. The rooms at Le Germain Hotel Calgary are spacious, the beds incredibly comfortable (with goose down duvets and feather pillows) and the décor is warm and calming. From the second you walk into your room, you will feel you have entered your own little oasis. Every detail is perfect. The soft, cotton bathrobe and towels, Molton Brown toiletries and the rainfall shower pamper you to the extreme. The Nespresso machine is a very nice touch.

It’s no surprise Hôtel Le Germain Calgary has won many industry awards, some for its architecture designand some for its overall excellence. It was even rated one of the best places to stay in the world.  Every kudo is deserved.  If you are a foodie, then you will be interested to know the hotel’s restaurant, CHARCUT, has won numerous awards as well and continues to have a reputation as one of the best places to eat in Calgary. That’s saying a lot for a city that knows its meat.

Hôtel Le Germain Calgary is a stone’s throw away from the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, the Calgary Tower and the popular Stephen Avenue pedestrian walk where you can shop, catch a movie or grab a pint or bite in a pub, café or bar. However, best of all, in terms of location, the hotel is a mere hour and a half hour drive to Banff National Park. Before you head out on your Rockies odyssey, enjoy a continental deluxe breakfast that is included in the room cost. (Speaking of freebies, wi-fi is included as well and there is a fully-equipped 24-hour gym on site.)

Weather conditions in the park can differ from Calgary, so check with the front desk before venturing out. Of course, Hôtel Le Germain Calgary, being the place it is, has this information. The staff is outstanding.


Peyto Lake, Alberta.

That first glimpse of the magnitude of the mountains will transport you to a whole other world of wonder as you drive toward magnificence. Take the Icefields Parkway and give yourself a full day to explore. There are hiking spots of all lengths along the Parkway and vista stops that are breathtaking. Peyto Lake, Bow Lake (located just past Crowfoot Glacier) are perfect hiking destinations and doable in a one-day trip. The Columbia Icefield (the largest in the Rockies) is a popular spot but it is farther down the highway. Be forewarned, no matter how much or how little of the Rockies you get a chance to see, you will be left wanting more.

After a day of hiking, experience the ‘Grounding Foot Massage’ back at Santé Spa at Le Germain. In spa talk, this stress-relieving experience is inspired by traditional Thai foot massage and uses ginseng, ginko and even bamboo to help increase circulation.  You get a massage of the lower legs and feet and two-handed palm movements and acupressure with a mahogany stick stimulate the reflex points on the feet. In non-spa speak, it’s just foot paradise. For spa junkies, rest assured, Santé has all the treatments you expect from a top quality spa, and then some.

Pampering and rejuvenating are the only ways to describe the experience at Hôtel Le Germain Calgary.  You will leave refreshed and ready to take on the world again after relaxing your body and mind and after filling your soul with the majesty of the mountains.

ME Milan Il Duca: Shop, Sightsee, Stay in Milan’s Fashion District

May 29, 2015 10:00 am

Planning a trip to Italy but not sure where to stay? You’re in luck because ME by Meliá is opening its first luxury Italian hotel, ME Milan Il Duca, this month.

If you are looking for a spectacular location where you can both shop and sightsee, ME Milan Il Duca is the place for you. Located in Milan’s famous fashion and design district, this luxury hotel is right in the Piazza della Repubblica shopping area and just north of Brera. But the sightseeing doesn’t stop there. ME Milan Il Duca is also near the stunning Quadrilatero della Moda and Corso Como area.

MeMilan-LibraryME Milan Il Duca has brought together some of the world’s most renowned
and respected architects and designers. Formerly the site of l’Hotel Duca di Milano, originally designed by Aldo Rossi, the new ME Milan Il Duca provides a sense of history and culture with a modern twist. The interior, redesigned by Mortini’s Studio, is contemporary and elegant with stunning details from the work of late architects Gio Ponti and Luca Meda, industrial designer Achille Castiglioni and Madrid-based photographer Alberto Van Stokkum.

And if you need a restaurant recommendation, ME Milan Il Duca has it covered. With the first Italian branch of STK, as well as alfresco restaurant, Il Giardino del Duca, this luxury stay has some delicious dining options.
MeMilan-RadioRestaurantTerraceExperienceIn the evening, try the international tapas, sip a cocktail and see Milan from a whole new perspective at the Radio Rooftop Bar—the only one of its kind in the Piazza della Repubblica area. Modelled after the extremely popular ME London bar, this destination offers outstanding panoramic views of the skyline. See if you can spot the new towers in the Garibaldi area!

Update your passport, book your trip and go! Click here for more information.


The Royal Treatment with Paradisus

May 22, 2015 4:01 pm
Punta Cana Gabi Beach

Punta Cana has become one of the most popular year-round tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Its name refers to the cane palms in the region, and literally means “Tip of the White Cane Palms.” Its climate is constant, the temperature warm and the land absolutely beautiful. Located at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Punta Cana is situated at the most eastern tip of the country. It’s hard to believe that the history of Punta Cana really only began in 1969 when investors arrived in the area, purchased just over 50 square kilometres of beach and built paradise. Being at the junction of these two bodies of water with their differing currents, the area has incredible biodiversity and its fine, white sandy beaches are breathtaking.

Located right on that idyllic stretch of beach, and specifically the Bavaro Beach, are the luxury hotels Paradisus Punta Cana Resort and its sister resort, the Paradisus Palma Real. Their extensive and comfortable facilities, lush gardens and tropical mangroves, their wide range of activities and entertainment and the quality of their services make either location the perfect dream holiday. Needless to say, Paradisus All-Inclusive Resorts are par none in luxury, ambiance and cuisine but what makes these two properties in Punta Cana so special? The service, Royal Service actually!!

Both resorts offer a Royal service package which provides its guest with the VIP treatment during their stay. This adult’s only package offers access to private pools with Bali beds, access to the private beach area with a concierge service, complimentary wifi, entry to private restaurants for Royal Service guests only, and access to the Royal Service lounge for private check ins/outs alongside breakfast, international newspapers, cocktails, premium bar and hors d’oeuvres.

If that’s not enough, the best part of the Royal Service package is the exclusive yet discrete Butler Service. All butlers have been certified by the International Butler Academy and are dedicated to ensuring your every vacation need is met. Before your arrival, your butler will send you a preference form via email so they can get a sense of what you’re interested in and help organize any activities if need be. During your stay, your butler will set you up with a cell phone that reaches him/her directly at any time where you can take advantage of a variety of services such as:

  • Personal Resort overview
  • Personalized contents of the in-room mini bar
  • Personalized in-room coffee machine service
  • Luggage packing and unpacking
  • Whirlpool bath preparation
  • Personalized turndown service
  • In-room aromas experience
  • Bali beds & chaise lounge reservation at the private pool and private beach area
  • Delivery of pillow selection from the pillow menu
  • Assistance in planning tours and excursions
  • Preferential spa reservations
  • Preferential dinner reservations for the à la carte restaurants
  • Preferential reservations for golf, tennis courts and other activities
  • Mail and newspaper delivery
  • Personalized wake-up calls

Both Paradisus Palma Real and Paradisus Punta Cana have an extensive selection of restaurants and bars to suit any taste. At Palma Real, the standouts are Aqua which highlights the best in Mediterranean fusion and Gabi Beach, particularly at lunch while taking in the ocean views. At Paradisus Punta Cana, try Fuego for out of this world Latin fusion. After dinner enjoy a cocktail and a dance or two at Avenue bar or Gabi Club bar.

Each restaurant at either property is uniquely innovative and tasty however, the cuisine claim to fame for Paradisus is most definitely Passion by Michelin Star Chef Martin Berastategui. Awarded the 4-Diamond standing by AAA, the Passion experience is like no other. The restaurant is elegantly decorated with a black, white and red colour palate. Guests may choose to dine à la carte or sample Berastategui’s creations and try the chef’s tasting menu which is based on seasonal and local ingredients as well as recipes from his Spanish roots. Each dish is made with care and plated to perfection. Upon your first bite, you’ll realize why Martin has had such a successful career, the food is delicious!

So now that you’ve been treated like a royal and sampled the best cuisine on the island and arguably the Caribbean, it’s time to indulge at the famous YHI Spa. As soon as you step foot into YHI, you feel as if you’ve just entered heaven. It’s a world within the resort that’s tranquil and relaxing on so many levels. Let the spa aromas enchant your spirit and enjoy themed massages, facials, body treatments, or wraps. YHI also provides salon services and access to the fitness club. Be sure to take advantage of the Water Ritual Center where you can enjoy the sauna, herbal steam room, chromo therapy shower, hydrotherapy shower and whirlpool before or after any spa treatment.

Paradisus is a true luxury destination in every regard. Once you arrive, you’ll never want to leave! Don’t worry, your butler can arrange for a longer stay!


Paradisus Punta Cana and OLM are teaming up to bring one lucky family of 4 a dream vacation. Vacation gift certificate includes a 4-night stay at Paradisus Punta Cana for 2 adults and 2 kid. To enter, visit Ottawa Life at Facebook or on Twitter and share your family photo to be entered into a draw for the grand prize. Draw takes place July 1, 2015. The winner will be announced on Facebook and on Twitter. The prize is valid for one year. Blackout dates apply.



Ottawa Life Magazine, its staff, and its owners reserve sole and final judgment as to all matters concerning contests and interpretation of contest rules.

Destination Denver

May 21, 2015 1:00 pm
A view of Downtown Denver from Civic Center Park. PHOTO: STEVE CORNELIUS

The state of Colorado is an obvious destination for skiing and sports enthusiasts but you might not know that the foot of the Rockies is an equally impressive haven for arts and culture. The next time you fly in, don’t hit the highway out of town. Instead, take a trip into the city.

March is the snowiest month of the year in Denver but the sun in the mile-high city melts the white stuff away in no time. It’s midmonth, beautiful outdoors, people are out strolling, joggers clad only in shorts run by and people are sitting on patios having lunch at the trendy refurbished Union Station.

Sunny lunch at Stoic & Genuine in the hip Union Station.
Sunny lunch at Stoic & Genuine in the hip Union Station.

While Union Station continues to serve as an Amtrack station, it is also home to ten incredible restaurants and bars, including the oyster bar Stoic & Genuine. It’s the fourth restaurant in the city for Bravo’s Top Chef Masters contestant and multi award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski. An oyster bar in land-locked, desert-like Denver seems very strange. However, the Denver International Airport is the fifth busiest hub in the United States making it a modern day ‘port’ and debunking the myth that you can only get fresh seafood on the coast.

Denver is actually a foodie’s paradise and I wonder how Denverites can all look so fit living in such a fantastic epicurean culture. The key is their active lifestyle. With 300 days of sunshine a year, they get outside to hike, bike, ski and more. There is also a great vibe to the city and Denverites are warm and welcoming.

There are breweries and brew pubs galore: 33 in the city and 100 in the greater area. Most do not have kitchens but maintain a symbiotic relationship with food truck vendors, allowing patrons to purchase food curbside and bring it into the pubs. Locals and visitors alike benefit from apps for almost everything including finding a food truck, reserving a table at a restaurant or getting a cab home.

It all started in Larimer Square. Today, the historic strip is home to shopping and great dinning.  PHOTO: STEVE CORNELIUS

It all started in Larimer Square. Today, the historic strip is home to shopping and great dinning. PHOTO: STEVE CORNELIUS

Be sure to visit Larimer Square. Saved from demolition by visionary Denverites, the Square harkens back to the city’s first days as a frontier town. Named after General William H. Larimer Jr, the saloons, banks and post office are long gone and in their place are award-winning restaurants and eclectic boutiques.

Along the way, it’s worth a stop at Rockmount Ranch Wear, the inventors of the snap button cowboy shirts. These U.S.-made shirts have a worldwide following that includes celebrities such as Eric Clapton. He’s not alone. Store owner Steve, (whose grandfather founded the store), says there is a host of celebs wearing Rockmount shirts. As his grandfather once said, “The West is not a place, it is a state of mind.”

The Denver Museum of Art (DAM) may hold beautiful works of art, but the building itself is stunning. It is highly recognizable with its ‘crystal’ extension by architect Daniel Libeskind, representing both the peaks and geometric rock crystals found in the Rockies. The museum collections are user friendly and well laid out with a great flow. The American Indian Art Gallery is fascinating as is the permanent collection, which includes works by Frederic Remington, Georgia O’Keeffe and modern artist Nick Cave. It’s so busy here — the locals obviously love the DAM too.

Denver has so many museums and attractions that it is actually impossible to see them all in one visit. For abstract expressionism, a visit to the Clyfford Still Museum is a must. Credited as the father of the American movement, the artist gained notoriety in the 1940s. However, in the 1950s, he removed himself and his work from the public eye. The museum is home to almost all of Still’s body of work from his sixty-year career.

A small sampling of Denver Public  Art.

A small sampling of Denver Public Art.

Another uniquely Denver experience is the American Museum of Western Art. The collection includes 4 floors of an historic downtown brownstone. There is almost not enough wall space to hold this enormous collection. Viewed by reservation-only guided tour, the exhibition allows guests to get close to masterpieces by George Catlin, Charles Russell, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington and more. The museum will foster a new love for the talented artists who recorded the early days of the American West.

Denver’s art is not restricted to galleries. It’s hard not to miss Denver’s Public Art Program, including the enormous blue bear staring into the Colorado Convention Centre. There is the equally large big red chair in front of the public library and the dancing couple behind the theatre district. Started in the late 1980s, the program channels one per cent of the budget of any capital improvement project to an accompanying art installation. Like a game of grown-up “I spy”, rent a bike from one of the 84 Denver B-cycle bike-sharing stations, download the Denver Public Art App and start your own hunt.

Denver is summed up best by local business Infinite Monkey. British ex-pat, Ben Parsons, is a winemaker — a winemaker in Colorado with no vineyard and no pretense. With his feet firmly planted in the art of wine making and his heart set on leaving a minimal environmental footprint, Infinite Monkey does not bottle any of its product. Instead, it is available by the glass on site, for take away in refillable jugs or in single serving-sized cans. The wine is really good and why not in a can? It’s easy to pack for any back-country experience and equally easy to crush and bring back for recycling. It’s a product that just captures the passion for both quality and forward-thinking, pervasive in Denver.

Born as a supply-based frontier town that serviced the mining and ranching industries, Denver has morphed from a gold rush town to a haven for culture, food and drink. There is so much to do and so many restaurants to try. I haven’t even touched on six professional sports teams that call Denver home or the incredible Red Rock’s venue just outside of town that was the chosen site for mega band U2’s 1983 Under the Blood Red Sky concert. Starting in 2016, the city’s new light rail link to the airport will be up and running, making it even easier for tourists to visit the city.

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