Travel Digest – October 2012

USA

You may have noticed that the USA have recently started advertising on television and putting more money into the Canadian Market. As we are the number one source of visitors to the USA, it’s great that they have been paying attention to their tourism statistics. At a recent event in Toronto, media were given a taste of some of what the States has to offer experienced travellers these days:

Buffalo

Apparently it’s not all cross-border shopping and chicken wings (although they do feature heavily). As it turns out, Buffalo have recently put a great deal of money into developing their historic Canalside district. This friendly, walkable area will host more than 400 events in the next year, and will soon be home to a new Marriott hotel.

Another example of Buffalo’s revitalization is the recently opened Larkin Square in the historic Hydraulics District. There you’ll find a gas station turned into a café, an Airstream trailer selling gourmet sandwiches, weekly live music – and loads of fun and funky places to sit.

Not to be missed is the rebirth of two of Buffalo’s most historic buildings. Fondly named the “Two Grande Dames” by locals, the Lafayette Hotel and the Statler hotel are great examples of mixed-use boutique hotels. Apart from lovely rooms, they’re also home to art galleries and restaurants. Buffalo will also see the long-awaited completion of Darwin Martin House Museum – Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunning Prairie-style complex remains open for tours during construction. For more information, head to www.visitbuffaloniagara.com

North Carolina

This state has recently been making a name for itself as a culinary destination and has a couple of great events coming up in November.

TerraVita Food & Wine Event – Chapel Hill, Nov. 2-3, 2012

The Chapel Hill area boasts a wide selection of traditional and innovative offerings. One great example of this is TerraVita. This festival accentuates the value of green practices and sustainability with tastings of biodynamic and organically grown wines and microbrews. You won’t want to miss dishes from North Carolina chefs dedicated to locally grown, organic products. The event includes an array of classes. www.terravitaevent.com

Highlands Culinary Weekend – Highlands, Nov. 8-11, 2012

Raise a toast and a fork in this impressive resort village, where creative chefs reach new heights. The weekend festivities include a Sip & Stroll, tastings and dinners, cooking demonstrations and the King of the Mountain chef challenge. www.highlandsculinaryweekend.com

For more general information about North Carolina, check out www.visitnc.com

Philadelphia

When you’re thinking of heading down to the states, don’t overlook Philadelphia. Here you’ll find loads of amazing dining, spectacular museums and some beautifully landscaped parks and areas of the downtown.

If you’re there before the end of November, be sure to check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)’s Full Spectrum exhibit: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop displays the works of national and international artists. More than 50 works delve into themes of cultural identity, politics and social issues – to November 25 see philamuseum.org for more.

Another artistic pursuit while you’re in Philly can be found at the Barnes Foundation: the latest addition to the Ben Franklin Parkway, this extraordinary building allows the world’s largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings and African sculpture to be viewed as intended. To accomplish this, architects designed a building that duplicates Barnes’ original gallery layout, while adding classrooms and an interior garden space. The massive building also includes a changing exhibition gallery, conservation lab, auditorium, library, cafe and gift shop. Reservations are highly recommended.

Go to barnesfoundation.org for details.

In the Works: Philly is getting even more exciting: plans are underway to transform an abandoned centuries-old elevated rail line into a so-called “Park in the Sky,” in the spirit of New York City’s High Line or Paris’ Promenade Planteé. Several grassroots organizations are working together to raise the money to rehabilitate the seven-acre Reading Viaduct in the hopes of converting the unused land into a green walkway. Read more at readingviaduct.org  For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visitphilly.com

 

 

CANADA

If you’re considering coming to, or travelling in, Ontario this October to enjoy the spectacular fall colours, check out the special packages on offer at a variety of resorts.  They’re listed at www.resortsofontario.com 

For the skiers amongst you who would like to stay in the east (or come to the east) it’s worth remembering that you can easily combine a vacation in a great city with your days on the slopes. There is a shuttle that can take you from the hotels in downtown Québec City and Sainte-Foy to the Mont-Sainte-Anne and Le Massif ski resorts. The shuttle runs on 15 & 16 December and then continuously from 21 December to 31 March 2013, for a total of 103 days of service. www.toursvieuxquebec.com/en/

The friendly tourism folks from Alberta Tourism were in Toronto last month showing their latest ads (such inspiring photography of a beautiful province) and distributing their new brochures.  They hosted the media at a reception in Toronto’s spacious Roots store as Alberta locations were also used in Roots latest clothing brochure.  We were reminded of a great driving getaway through the Canadian Badlands, taking in the Dinosaur Trail, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the scenic Drumheller Valley, a trip on the Bleriot Ferry and the 11 single-land bridges leading to the hamlet of Wayne and its historic Last Chance Saloon. For these ideas and so many more visit www.travelalberta.com

 Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, North America’s largest rental car brand, is offering a special weekend discount rate starting from $9.99 per day. Enterprise renters can enjoy weekend rates of $9.99 per day ($13.99 in Quebec) on economy and compact cars when renting Friday through Monday at most Enterprise neighbourhood locations in Canada (that means that airport locations are not included). The rate includes 100 free kilometres a day. Similar savings are available on larger vehicles, and unlimited mileage packages also are available at most locations. The programme runs from now to 15 May 2013.

Let us now look far ahead.  It’s still too early to tell whether a spring Polar Bear Photo Safari is in order for Churchill Wild’s Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, but the recent discovery of a large number of new polar bear dens along the Hudson Bay coast by Manitoba Conservation officials make it a distinct possibility in the future. “At this point we do not have enough information on the number of dens, their locations and if there is any potential for a spring Mothers & Cubs Polar Bear Adventure,” said Rick Kemp, Director of Marketing and Communications at Churchill Wild. “But we do know that Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is located in the heart of the newly discovered denning sites, and this bodes well for many exceptional polar bear encounters in the years ahead.”  Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is located 250 km southeast of Churchill, Manitoba, on the Hudson Bay coast near York Factory, and is currently home to Churchill Wild’s Mothers & Cubs summer polar bear adventure. According to Manitoba Conservation officials, the newly discovered polar bear dens are located in an area southeast of Wapusk National Park and east of the Nelson River, a region along the southern end of the polar bears’ range which is not as well-known as Churchill and other areas to the north.  “Churchill Wild is dedicated to providing life-changing polar bear experiences at our remote wilderness lodges,” said Kemp. “Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is without a doubt poised to become a “must see” destination for discerning adventure travel enthusiasts.”  Churchill Wild offers the only fly-in eco-lodge based on-the-ground polar bear tours in the world. Their season runs from mid-July to mid-November with limited space available for adventure packages. They operate Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Eco-lodge on the west coast of Hudson Bay (north of Churchill), and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which is located approximately 40 kilometers east of York Factory on the southern tip of Wapusk National Park. Additional information and booking details may be found at www.ChurchillWild.com or by calling 204 3775090. Also visit their very active Churchill Wild Facebook Page.

EUROPE

We were reminded of the richness of this continent when we received in our office the Europe on Track  RailEurope brochure.  Think of any country – from Ireland, Portugal and Spain in the west; Norway, Sweden and Finland in the north; Italy and Greece and even over to Turkey in the south and east – and there’s a train service.  In  between, there are the old favourites (France, Switzerland and so on) and also Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia.  Think of a city amongst any of those … and chances are you can arrive by train.  To plan your European travels, in any season, visit www.raileurope.ca or call 1 800 361 RAIL for a brochure.


FRANCE

It’s no wonder that France is always on or near the top of the world’s most popular destinations. The videos shown at a recent media reception in Toronto had even seasoned travellers “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” as a group of delegates from several regions in France gathered to remind us of their country’s great pleasures.  They were representing Marseille (due to be a Cultural Capital of Europe in 2013 which will mean a wonderful choice of entertainment), Provence and the Cote d’Azur (exquisite!), Rhone Alps (exquisite!) and Midi-Pyrenees (exquisite!).   So many ancient towns, sporting adventures, galleries and museums, historical sites, cliff-hanging villages, abbeys and churches, gardens and shops, rural and village accommodation and so on, and everywhere, of course, wonderful cuisine and wine. We were also reminded that all major cities and towns in France are linked by rail (see above).  Paris to Lyon, for example, takes 2 hrs. 10 mins. at a cost starting at $68.  Paris to Marseilles on the south coast takes 3 hrs. 20 mins. from $87.  It’s hard to choose just one region, but in the meantime you can enjoy browsing at www.rendezvousenfrance.com 

HONG KONG

“Foodie alert!”  If you love good Chinese food, Hong Kong’s Wine & Dine Festival, due to take place from 1 – 4 November is sure to appeal  In fact, this festival will extend throughout the Hong Kong Wine & Dine month of November with street carnivals, the Festival of Restaurants and wine-and-dine promotions. The city’s top restaurants will share their finest offerings, while for those still in a party mood, the Lan Kwai Fong Carnival (17 – 18 November) will bring together not only food and beer stalls but also arts and crafts, dancers and musicians and other live performers from around the world. And for visitors who miss those dates, a World of Food and Music festival will take place 24-25 November in popular, beach-side Stanley.  For more information visit www.DiscoverHongKong.com/ca.  Bon appétit!

PORTUGAL

The Azores would make a lovely fall getaway, and there are special fares out of Toronto on offer from SATA (airline), Canada.  Discover more at www.sata.pt.