UNIGLOBE Donaldson Travel Cambridge's Blog

Go Coastal! 5 Beaches you Can't Miss in Maine this Summer

Summer in Maine defines coastal living. Wood-siding summer homes in nautical colors along miles of beaches begging for you to stroll and dig your toes in the sand, examine shells and driftwood, inhale the cool Atlantic breezes, walk the dog among sandy dunes, and of course, enjoy the sea.

Maine is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, and by mid-summer, they've warmed up enough to beckon swimmers off the sand and into the waves. Here are five beaches you just can't miss on a trip to New England.

1. Old Orchard Beach.

Start with this seven-mile strand that has been welcoming visitors for over 170 years. It has the only beachfront amusement park in New England. You can even reach Old Orchard Beach aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, which stops just steps away from the beach. The 500-foot classic pier is a powerhouse of family entertainment with shopping, arcades, dining, nightlife and concerts and even fireworks!

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It's also the point of departure for fishing, whale watching, and birdwatching tours.

2. Scarborough Beach State Park

For those seeking a little more tranquility, Scarborough Beach State Park has waves that attract local surfers and a wide beach that's ideal for families. Scarborough Beach offers some of the best swimming in New England with water temps in the high 60's through out July and August.

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It's also the nesting grounds of endangered Piping Plovers; visitors help protect them by following bans on dogs, bikes and kite flying April through November.

3. Ogunquit Beach

This beach (pictured top) is ranked among the top beaches in the United States, great for swimming, bodysurfing, and searching for shells and driftwood. It's a 3 ½ mile peninsula of sandy beach and grassy dunes; a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. (There's a footbridge across the river at the midsection of the beach).

You can rent chairs, umbrellas and floats, launch a small boat at the boat ramp, and stroll along Marginal Way, a mile-long cliff walk that extends along the ocean, and pass Marginal Way Lighthouse en route.

4. Goose Rocks Beach

The picturesquely-named beach at Kennebunkport is a wide beach with three miles of soft sand and moderate surf. A barrier reef offshore known as Goose Rocks, visible at low tide, helps protect the soft, white sands of the beach.

This is a perfect spot for you to spread out the beach blankets, chairs and umbrellas for a fun day of sunbathing, relaxing, swimming and combing the shore for sand dollars. An ideal relaxed family day at the beach.

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5. Popham Beach

Finally, Popham Beach is a wilder beach in Midcoast Maine. It's part of Popham Beach State Park, one of Maine's rare geologic landforms. The Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the long stretch of sandy beach. From the beach, you can see offshore islands, such as Fox and Wood Islands, where you can explore at low tide. You can even get a geologic tour of the beach.

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Canada's Top Travel Treasures

Canada celebrates 150 years of Confederation on July 1, 2017. Of the many celebrations, events and legacy builds taking place in Canada this year, one of our favorites is the free admission to Canada's National Parks and historic sites for the entire year.

Parks Canada is inviting Canadians and visitors from around the world to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary at national treasures from coast to coast to coast with free admission to all Parks Canada locations. You can order your pass online or pick up in person at certain locations.

Here is our curated collection of Canada's National Parks and historic sites and nearby experiences that might help inspire you to include the 'true North, strong and free' in your travel plans this year.

L'Anse aux Meadows

In a clever line on the Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism web site, 'even the Vikings came here to get away'.

If you thought Columbus was the first European to reach the Americas, think again. L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland contains archeological evidence of a Viking settlement dating back to around the year 1000 – hundreds of years before Columbus and his first 1492 expedition.

Sod and wood buildings were found, with artifacts that showed the residents involved in smithing iron, knitting, weaving, and carpentry for boat building or repair. It's believed dozens of Viking men and women resided here, but harsh conditions made it unsustainable and the site was abandoned.

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While you're in Newfoundland, don't miss…Cape Spear. The rocky cliffs jutting over the North Atlantic waters make Cape Spear feel like the edge of the world – and it nearly is. This is the eastern-most point of North America. Standing on Cape Spear, you are closer to London, England than you are to Vancouver on the other side of the continent!

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Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

From the harbor, the almost cartoon-bright painted houses look like an artist's interpretation of an historic town. But it's real. The town is both National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's considered the best surviving British colonial town on the continent, with its 18th century planned, gridiron streets, unique shops, restaurants in preserved buildings leading away from the harbor that was the focal point of rich a fishing and shipbuilding economy.

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You can still see majestic and romantic tall ships moored on the town's waterfront, and hear the stories. Especially about the fabled Bluenose. This is the homeport of the Bluenose II, the replica of the original local fishing boat that was undefeated in 18 years as a racing schooner.

While you're in Nova Scotia, don't miss: The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. It's a week-long event held every summer in Halifax celebrating Nova Scotia's Scottish and military traditions. It began to mark the visit of the Queen Mother to Nova Scotia for the first International Gathering of the Clans with bagpipes, highland dancers and military traditions. Hundreds of Canadian and international military and civilian performers makes it the world's largest annual indoor show; granted Royal status by the Queen.

Bay of Fundy National Park

The Bay of Fundy is the site of a record-breaking marine phenomenon, part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve, and a Dark-Sky Reserve. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world – as high as a 5-storey building! Local Mi'kmaq folklore attributed the dramatic tides to a giant whale splashing; it's actually a result of the bay's particular shape. The twice-daily tides see a flow of 115 billion tonnes of water flowing in and out of the bay.

You'll also want to experience local dinosaur fossil finds exposed by the extreme tides, hiking, sea kayaking, tidal rafting, and whale watching, including the rare right whale.

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While you're in New Brunswick, don't miss…Confederation Bridge, part of the Trans Canada highway, connecting mainland New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island since 1997. You'll be driving 13 km across the largest bridge in the world that crosses ice- covered waters.

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Prince Edward Island National Park and Green Gables

Canada's smallest province has one of its most beloved sites. 60 km (37 miles) of Prince Edward Island's signature red rock and sand shoreline. Seven swimming beaches, hiking and cycling trails, and camping grounds join protected white sand dunes, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, and nesting areas for endangered coastal wildlife.

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While you're there, don't miss... Green Gables, the house that was the childhood inspiration for the internationally beloved Anne of Green Gables stories by local author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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Quebec City

Many people say walking through Old Quebec is like a visit to Europe without the jet lag. The only walled city in North America and the oldest city north of Mexico, the historic district of Quebec City, dating from 1608, is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, first city in North America to receive designation.

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Although the magnificent hotel Chateau Frontenac dominates the skyline, perched in Upper Town's 100 meter high cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence, it is a mere hundred or so years old compared with Upper and Lower Towns' 17th century walls, fortifications, Citadel, winding cobbled streets with shops, restaurants, Plains of Abraham.

While you're in Quebec City, don't miss… The Winter Carnival, one of the biggest in the world, and all the more dramatic in snow covered historic streets. There are masquerade balls in the grand ballroom of the Chateau Frontenac, an Ice Palace, snow sculpture parks, a bikini snow bath, day and night parades led by 'Bonhomme' de Neige ('snowman') the ambassador and mascot of the festivities with his red cap and early voyageur knit belt. And plenty of French joie de vivre.

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Rideau Canal, Ontario

This feat of incredible engineering in the early 1800's began with military intent, but nowadays has become a top recreational boating destination. Following the war of 1812 with the United States, British military engineers came up with plans to forge a vital water route for over 200 km (126 miles) from Kingston on Lake Ontario north to Ottawa. Workers labored to carve the waterway through dense wilderness and solid rock of the Canadian Shield. They also built 45 locks to take vessels up and down elevations in the terrain along the way through rivers, lakes and man-made canal.

The Rideau Canal is a glorious boat trip through pastoral plains, cottage communities and remote, sheer rock cliffs all the way to downtown Ottawa and past Canada's majestic Parliament Buildings.

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Don't miss… Boating the length of the canal in the summer months, taking a canoe tour of the Ottawa portion of the canal, or skating on it in the winter. In downtown Ottawa, in the shadow of historic hotel Chateau Laurier and Canada's Parliament buildings, 8 km of the canal becomes the world's longest skating rink every winter.

Wapusk National Park

It's over a 2 hour flight or two days by train from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba, the gateway to Wapusk. For anyone who makes the trip in mid winter, it's worth it to reach one of the last places in the world to see tiny polar bear cubs getting their start in the world.

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Wapusk means 'White Bear', and this part of Canada is known the world over as the polar bear capital. Nearly three million acres of the park are the seasonal home of a thousand polar bears returning from summer roaming through the tundra back to new Arctic ice, joined by moose, wolves, foxes, and herd of thousands of caribou. Polar bears are gorgeous but dangerous; access to the park is only through licensed operators of guided trips to this famous refuge.

While you're in Manitoba, don't miss…Winnipeg's Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opening in 2014 to national and international attention, the museum is architecturally compelling, with geometry and colors based on images of the Canadian landscape. It's also intellectually challenging, highlighting personal stories and stimulating debate about how to define its subject matter.

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Wood Buffalo National Park

The largest of Canada's National Park straddles both Alberta and the Northwest Territories for nearly 45,000 acres – it's bigger than Switzerland! It needs to be that large – it provides enough territory in its muskeg and tundra for the long term preservation of the world's largest herd of free roaming Bison.

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The park is also a UNESCO world heritage site and the world's largest Dark-Sky Preserve. And in spite of its remote location, the park can be reached and visited by car.

Banff National Park – Alberta

Canada's first National Park dates back to 1885, and scenes of the turquoise waters of Lake Louise surrounded by a distinctly Canadian alpine landscape have been famously depicted on postcards sent around the world ever since. Snow topped mountains, glaciers and icefields, the western resort town of Banff, endless all-season outdoor activities and the hot springs that started in all keep visitors coming back to this park in the Rocky Mountains year round. The breathtaking Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise to Jasper National Park further north.

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While you're in Banff, don't miss… a cocktail at the Banff Springs Hotel in the lounge with picture windows over Lake Louise. The view really does make a perfect custom cocktail taste even better!

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

Spearheaded by the Haida Nation to stop destructive logging on their historic lands, Gwaii Haanas now protects an archipelago of 138 (formerly Queen Charlotte) islands off the coast of British Columbia. It totals 5000 square km of land and sea – one of the only places in the world protected from the depths of the ocean in deep fjords to rugged mountain tops. 90% of the land is forest, with mountains draining into dozens of freshwater lakes and salmon-spawning streams. The seas are a 'primary feeding habitat' of humpback whales; Gwaii Haanas is remote and only accessible by boat, sea kayak, or floatplane.

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While you're in British Columbia, don't miss… Victoria Harbour, one of the most picturesque harbors in the country. Originally used by First Nations, the harbor now bustles with recreational vessels and small cruise ships, mooring in the center of this scenic heritage city famous for its continuing British tone. Historic buildings frame the lively waterfront and line the walkable streets. The harbor is the epicenter of thriving eco-tourism and whale watching tour activities.

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Top 5 Souvenirs from Canada

Among the many pleasures of travel is the opportunity to bring home mementos of your journeys, even doubling your pleasure by giving some to loved ones (and the dog sitter.) It works the same in reverse; taking symbolic, beloved, or impossible-to-find-elsewhere local treats when you travel abroad to thank friends and hosts for their hospitality.

BestTrip.TV's producer/host Lynn Elmhirst is Canadian, and here is her list of her most-loved gifts she takes abroad, and recommends as souvenirs to people traveling in Canada.

1. To Satisfy a Sweet Tooth –Maple Syrup

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The maple leaf is of course Canada's national symbol and maple syrup can safely be considered the national food. Canada is the world's top producer of maple syrup.

Visitor's Tip: Spring skiing and maple syrup festivals in 'sugar shacks' in rural communities in Quebec and Ontario are probably the two most beloved early spring Canadian activities.

I got to help tap trees! (You use the back of the axe to tap the spiles into place). Photo BestTrip.TV

It astonishes me when I go abroad that there are people willing to eat a pancake without maple syrup. Imagine that: with a different syrup. In our family, the pancake is really just a delivery vehicle for maple syrup. Only the good stuff will do. 100% pure, and ideally from the source: a local producer at farmer's market. If you've been used to eating maple 'flavored' syrup your taste buds will flinch at the onslaught of deliciousness!

Syrup isn't the only way to enjoy the authentic taste of Canada. Other firm favorites are maple candy, and the maple cookie: a sandwich cookie made of two, maple leaf-shaped shortbread-type cookies with a maple cream filling in the middle.

Tip: Pack them deep in your luggage or I know you will eat them before you get home.

2. To cuddle – A Hudson's Bay Company Blanket

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Founded in 1670 to serve the fur trade, the Hudson's Bay Company is North America's oldest continuously operating corporation.

Visitor's Tip: These days, 'The Bay' is a department store with nearly a hundred outlets in communities across Canada, including flagship stores in historic downtown buildings in major cities like Toronto that are shopping destinations.

The Hudson's Bay Point Blanket harkens back to HBC's roots in the fur trade. High quality wool blankets were traded for furs from First Nations communities, and the blanket, with its vivid, color-fast stripes: green, red, yellow, and indigo on a white background, became rooted in early Canadian culture.

Early Bay blankets have become collector's items, and the Bay now has a whole department dedicated to a line of products in its iconic striped design. Heavy, 100% wool HBC blankets are an investment piece. Like me, you may want to save them for wedding gifts. But the store also carries a line of other HBC products with the iconic stripe pattern that includes fleece throws, wraps, scarves and mittens, totes, house wares like mixing bowls, coasters, and more.

Tip: You can also buy a 7500$ HBC canoe, but you'll have to really plan ahead to get that souvenir home.

3. To Find your Way Home – An Inukshuk

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I think of Inukshuk as like leaving a candle burning in the window for those coming home.

Above the Arctic Circle, the tundra offers few natural landmarks. So from ancient times, Inuit erected stone Inukshuk as landmarks along travel routes, as way finding for hunters, indicating good places to camp, and generally signaling 'we were here' to those who came later.

They may have begun as upright large, single stones (remind you of any other ancient cultures the world over?) But Inukshuk along the way acquired a monolithic human form and deep resonance in Inuit culture. On Baffin Island, there are over 100 inukshuk, and the site has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

More and more, inukshuk are a warm symbol of Canada at home and abroad, second only to the maple leaf. It was the symbol of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and it's on the flag of the territory of Nunavut.

Visitor's Tip: Keep your eye out for powerful and graceful Inukshuk that have sprung up in public spaces across Canada, and also in Canadian spaces abroad; in embassies and consulates, and Canadian projects as a symbol of home.

Tip: Don't just give table-top sized inukshuk as gifts. Making your own and talking about inukshuk is a wonderful and memorable craft day with children and teens.

4. To Warm You Up - Ice Wine

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Ice wine is a case of making lemonade when life gives you lemons. Freezing winters may not be everyone's thing, but when grapes freeze on the vine, life gives enterprising vintners ice wine.

Ice wine can only be produced in countries with wine regions where it gets sufficiently cold. Germany and Austria have a history with ice wine, but Canada's much younger wine industry, with its predictably sub zero temperatures every winter, has become an international ice wine superstar.

For natural ice wine, grapes must fully ripen on the vine, then undergo a hard freeze (−8 °C (17 °F) or colder). It's risky business. Grapes can be lost before harvest, and then the moment it freezes, pickers have to work at night harvesting all the grapes in a few hours before the sun warms them up again.

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Visitor's Tip: If you're in an ice-wine producing region of Canada in the New Year, get in on the action of a local ice wine festival. Sometimes you can even be part of the midnight frozen-grape picking, which is more fun than it sounds.

What makes ice wine special? When the grapes freeze, the sugars and other solids don't freeze, just the water content. So the juice extracted from the frozen grapes is very concentrated. That has two results: a very sweet wine with a balanced acidity - that can only be produced in small quantities. And it's priced accordingly.

Tip: Ice wine's best friend is a simple cheese plate served as a dessert course. Canada has some amazing cheeses too.

5. To Entertain Friends: Anita Stewart's Canada Cookbook

I have a whole bookshelf devoted to cookbooks I've picked up around the world; browsing through them, I can almost trace my travels over the years. They are among my most treasured souvenirs that recall meeting talented and passionate chefs, food producers and foodies, and of course, all those memorable meals.

If that sounds like your relationship with cookbooks and travel too, Anita Stewart's Canada cookbook is one you'll want to add to your destination cookbook collection or give to a favorite foodie.

Anita Stewart is not just a cookbook author, she's also a food activist, founder of Food Day Canada, the largest national culinary celebration in Canadian history, and a Member of the Order of Canada. This cookbook is about local food – where 'local' means the diverse regions, seasons and cultural heritage across the second biggest country in the world. Canada's culinary traditions are centuries deep and rooted in cultures around the world and this book is as good a read as it is a visual indulgence and recipe reference.

Tip: Have a Canadian dinner party where every guest makes one course from a recipe from Anita Stewart's Canada cookbook. And toast your success with ice wine!

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Canada's Northwest Passage: An Epic Arctic Journey with Adventure Canada

Following a route less traveled in the footsteps of intrepid explorers and today's First Nations in one of the last frontiers: the Arctic.

Story and Photographs by travel and sailing journalist Elizabeth Kerr

Knowing that I was setting out on the same route that Franklin took in 1845 somewhat intimidated me. After all, he didn’t make it home. However, once aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavor expedition ship surrounded by 110 like-minded adventurers, 30 experts in every field and a crew that went above and beyond, intimidation quickly transformed into exhilaration.

Needless to say, Franklin did not have access to advanced navigational equipment, cool linens, hot showers, three delicious meals and a variety of entertaining and educational distractions to battle the cold, the boredom, the frustration, the mutiny and his inevitable doom. But I did.

Ocean Endeavour anchored outside Ilulissat.

Finding Our Arctic Footing in Greenland

Franklin started in England. Our adventure started in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where, en route to our ship, I saw my first musk ox!

Although cold and somewhat damp throughout our walk on our first stop, Sisimuit, the sight of Arctic huskies – chained to rocks – and this town of 6,000 quickly reminded me how far I was away from my reality. Striped and polka-dotted dog sleds leaned against porches and dilapidated shacks waiting for passengers.

Ilulissat offered a completely different perspective. Its wooden boardwalk – built to protect the wetlands – provided spectacular views at every turn – and led us to the Icefjord, now a UNESCO World Heritage site and the fastest moving glacier in the world.

This is a view from the boardwalk that takes us to the Ilulissat Icefjord

On an afternoon jaunt, I just happened to turn my head at the right time to cathch this humpback whale entertaining the town of Ilulissat.

Although the trip so far was awe-inspiring, it was Karrat Fjord that welcomed me into its embrace. I felt at peace here and could have happily lingered all day looking out to sea for humpbacked whales or inland to the garden of icebergs that reminded me of a gallery Lauren Harris paintings.

Karrat Fjord reminded me of visiting a live Lauren Harris gallery.

Sightings of Arctic hares at both Kap York and Etah pleased John Houston, a member of the expedition crew, but my takeaway that day was the memory of our singer/songwriter/zodiac driver Kevin Closs singing a sea chanty to distract us from the bitterly cold wind and waves.

It’s been quite a while since we had seen the sun but it certainly boasted it glow on this iceberg somewhere near Etah.

Here we are in Foulks Fjord, lead by John Houston, determined to spot an Arctic hare.

We depart Greenland with its Craylola-coloured houses and majestic icebergs to cross Baffin Bay and head back to Canada.

Following in Franklin’s Footsteps 70 Degrees North

It’s Day 8. We are halfway through the Northwest Passage; there are still lessons to learn and stories to tell. Bad weather prevented a visit to Aujuittuq – Canada’s northernmost civilian community – so we ventured on with a revised itinerary thanks to Denise Landeau, our tireless expedition leader. And so it goes in the Arctic. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. It is an expedition after all.

Over the next few days, I learned more about Canada’s north than any high school history class could offer.

Dundas Harbour, on the south coast of Devon Island, housed one of four abandoned RCMP detachments. For three years, RCMP officers lived with no radio contact and a yearly delivery of provisions. Today, the dilapitated building remains standing along with three graves.

Beechey Island was living proof of Franklin’s demise. The four graves there brought an uncommon silence among us that was thankfully broken by the voice of Ken McGoogan regaling his story of the Northwest Passage.

I can’t begin to describe the emotional wave that comes over you as you stand quietly at the foot of these three graves of Franklin’s crew (Petty Officer John Torrington, Royal Marine Private William Braine, and Able Seaman John Hartnell) on Beechey Island.

After a rather sombre walk through snowflakes and a bitter breeze, we reloaded ourselves into the Zodiacs, ready to go home. Ree Brennin-Houston had other ideas. Heading away from the ship (where warmth, a cup of hot tea and biscuits were waiting), many of us found ourselves surrounded by a flote of beluga whales, disguised so well as to be confused with the low-lying icebergs around them. At one point, we counted 13.

It was hard to tell the difference between the icebergs and the belugas.

Fort Ross was home to the last Hudson’s Bay Trading Post built in the Arctic. After 11 years, it was closed due to ice restricting travel and trade. The main building still stands and is sometimes used as base camp for research scientists and some very brave sailors.

Oh Where, Oh Where are the Polar Bears

It felt important to cross off my Arctic’s Big Five (polar bear, humpback whale, Arctic hare, muskox and beluga) and compare it to my Africa’s Big Five (which I accomplished in 2009). There were high expectations of seeing a polar bear, but they were few and far between, however in the end, we did spot 12, mostly from afar. Check!

This trip also offered sightings of several other mammals including minke whales, harbor seals and a single lemming. Bird-lovers on board spotted nearly 40 species from Arctic terns to Thayer’s gulls. Check, check!

Fort Ross was home to the last Hudson’s Bay Trading Post built in the Arctic.

A Gem from our Past. Hope for the Future.

Every day, geologists, zoologists, naturalists, historians, photographers, documentarians, authors, biologists, and scientists would teach us with immeasurable passion about the region we were so very blessed to explore.

A leader and political activist, a culturalist, an educator, a musician, and two archaeological mentees, all from Nunavit were also present to share their stories and teach us more about the way of life as it is today at 70 degrees north of the equator. Their stories came to life during day visits to Uqsuqtuuq (Gjøa Haven) and Cambridge Bay.

Our visits to Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay were history lessons in themselves. It is truly hard to imagine how people can live, let alone thrive, in these desolate places so far from the many services we take for granted on a daily basis.

Our 17-day itinerary with Adventure Canada was designed to maximize our Arctic experience, jam-packed with knowledge-sharing, story-telling and entertainment. This journey is not for the faint of heart, however for anyone who cares to dare, it will expand your horizons, warm your heart and leave a lasting impact on Nunavit and on you.

Qakuguttauq (See you again soon!)

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Why Canadian Gardens Rock

Not all of Canada's natural wonders are wilderness. Communities across Canada have cultivated oases of trees and greens, colorful flowers, fresh air and serenity in the heart of busy urban centers.

Tara Nolan is a garden and travel writer, author of the best-selling book Raised Bed Revolution and co-owner of popular gardening website Savvy Gardening. She shares her list of favorite Canadian gardens, from west to east.

You don't have to be an avid gardener to appreciate Canada's public gardens. Gardens give residents and visitors a different perspective and experience in a city. The popularity of visiting gardens is astonishing: in any given year, more people visit public gardens in America than go to Disneyland and Walt Disney World combined! Canada's gardens are just as appealing, with engaging activities including some special programming for Canada's 150th birthday.

UBC Botanical Garden – British Columbia

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Not only does the UBC Botanical Garden play host to fabulous food and alpine gardens, the GreenHeart TreeWalk, a highlight of my trip to Vancouver last summer, takes visitors through the treetops of 100-year-old trees along canopy walkways, the highest of which is 23 metres above the forest.

The Butchart Gardens – British Columbia

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Magnificent Butchart garden draws a multitude of tourists, but it’s worth the visit to see the lush, colourful displays, from the Sunken Garden, which is beautiful through every season, to the Night Illuminations throughout the summer. I’ve visited in the fall when the dahlia walk was in full bloom.

The International Peace Garden – Manitoba

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Though a little remote, this garden is unique because it straddles the border with the United States—North Dakota on one side, Manitoba on the other. The message of this garden is one of contemplation and peace. You can even book a campsite to stay for longer than a day. This garden is on my list for a more rugged, outdoorsy trip that involves hiking and biking.

University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden

This 240-acre gem, 15 minutes from Edmonton, features a lovely Japanese garden and a Tropical Plant and Butterfly Showhouse. I made sure to visit the Herb and Sensory Gardens, as well as the Native Peoples Garden to learn more about what indigenous people foraged for and used for medicine, meals and ornamentation. When you visit this garden, time it so you can lunch at the Patio Café.

Toronto Botanical Garden

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This urban garden, nestled among leafy neighbourhoods, is looking at expansion to up its garden game even further. In the meantime, check the schedule for weekly entertainment, visit the bustling farmers’ market on a Thursday and sign up for a yoga class in the garden—it’s good to de-stress while on vacation, right?

Royal Botanical Garden – Hamilton, Ontario

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Not only does the Royal Botanical Garden have multiple sites (the RBG Centre, The Rock Garden, etc.), it also has multiple hiking trails that take you through the wilderness of Hamilton and Burlington and make you forget you’re in a city. Take the kids to the LEGO exhibit and check the schedule for jazz, blues and country music nights in Hendrie Park.

Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park – Quebec/National Capital

A special exhibit has been built to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial: MosaïCanada 150. Expect massive, living sculptures packed full of plants and flowers. There will be 40 on display, representing the country’s history. And admission is free!

Reford Gardens/Jardins de Métis

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This inimitable garden above the shores of the St. Lawrence River will appeal to especially arty types because of the International Garden Festival that invites landscape architects from around the world to design spaces based on a theme. The garden also features a fantastic culinary program. Visit the Estevan Lodge Restaurant to see what chef Pierre-Olivier Ferry, Gold Winner of the Canada Good Food Innovation Award, is concocting from his plant collection.

The Halifax Public Gardens

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If you’re wandering around Halifax, this is an easy garden to get to on foot for a visit—I strolled through last year for the first time and loved its proximity to shops and restaurants. Like Canada, it’s celebrating its 150th birthday. A special website has been put together—check it out for theatre and music events, special tours and more.

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Falling for Small-Batch Spirits in Niagara

Plan a trip to Ontario’s Niagara region, and your list may include the iconic Falls (top photo credit), world-class theater at the Shaw Festival, fine dining inspired by the region’s orchards, most definitely a wine tasting, especially Niagara's famous ice-wine.

Visitors have another way to taste the fruit of those vines in a most unexpected way. BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst Meets the Maker: Master Distiller Geoff Dillon.

Local small-batch distiller Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22 is a true product of Niagara: grape-based, and enhanced by the flavors of 22 other botanicals. Silky smooth, intriguingly complex, using it, my simple gin and tonic was reborn as a sophisticated summer sipper.

But wait… a grape based gin?

Unfiltered Gin 22 is one of three signature spirits Dillon’s launched when they opened their Niagara-region distillery in 2012, along with their Method 95 Vodka, White Rye, and a line of 6 bitters.

Only a year after opening, all three spirits were awarded medals (bronze, silver, and gold respectively) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, ‘the highest you can go’ says proud Master Distiller Geoff Dillon, who seems bashful about such rapid success.

Dillon’s is riding the concurrent waves of a cocktail revolution and the local and crafted food movement. But Geoff attributes innovation – a willingness to experiment to make unique products, like gin from grapes instead of grains – to the attention their spirits and bitters are attracting.

That innovation is at the heart of the Dillon’s distillery. Geoff’s father, Peter, is the botanical expert and experimenter. It’s a natural extension for the environmental chemist and life-long ‘foodie’.

Geoff started a career in finance, but then took a fork in the road to attend the esteemed Artisan Distilling Program at Michigan State University and study with whisky distillers in Scotland in preparation for launching Dillon’s.

‘The science of distilling is pretty easy. The art is hard. Every day is an experiment.’

To craft their award-winning spirits, the father-son team combines the benefits of old school pot stills with modern technology – and source the best ingredients.

Niagara – best known for its wine -- was the ‘ideal’ place to launch a small-batch distillery. Fruit, grapes and botanicals can all be sourced locally.

The grapes they distill come from growers who have surplus. Dillon’s and local vintners are mutually supportive in other ways too. There's long-established wine tourism in the Niagara region. Existing local wineries have embraced the 'new kid on the block'. Dillon's and wineries send visitors to each other, and the result is an even richer Niagara wine and spirits experience.

Tasting

With its stylishly designed tasting room and stacks of ageing barrels, Dillon's is right at home among the area’s scenic vineyards. If you drop by for a distillery tour and tasting, you may well get to meet Geoff yourself. He often conducts the tours.

‘I love the tours, having so much fun with people, educating them… most people don’t even truly know what a distillery IS! It blows people away every time!

‘This opens a whole new world for them.’

Dillon's shared a couple of their favorite cocktail recipes. I added my own tips and serving recommendations to complete your taste-of-Niagara cocktail party.

Dillon’s Spiced Pear Collins

For each drink:

• 1 ½ oz Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22
• 1 ½ oz pear puree
• ¾ oz rosemary & clove simple syrup
• ¾ oz lemon juice
• Soda water
• Sprig rosemary

Over ice, combine Dillon’s Unfiltered Gin 22, pear puree, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled. Pour into a highball or rocks glass. Top with a small splash of sparkling wine or soda water and garnish with rosemary.

Rosemary and Clove Simple Syrup

• ½ c sugar
• ½ c water
• 1 oz whole cloves
• 3 sprigs rosemary

Combine in a saucepan over low heat. When it reaches a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Should make enough for approximately 5 cocktails.

Pear Puree

• 2 pears, peeled and pitted

• 1 ½ oz lemon juice
• 1 ½ t fresh rosemary

Slice the pears and combine with lemon juice and rosemary in a blender. Blend until smooth; gently strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any solids. You will have roughly 1 cup of puree, which makes about 5 cocktails.

Tip: the puree can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then stored in an airtight contained in the freezer to be used for individual cocktails in the future.

Serve this cocktail with room temperature brie and toasted walnuts drizzled with local honey; a magical combination with pear!

Dillon’s Mulled Rye Cider

For 4 Servings:

  • 30 oz apple cider
  • 24 dashes Dillon’s DSB bitters
  • ½ T whole allspice
  • ½ T whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • 1 ½ inch thick slice peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 oz Dillon’s White Rye
  • Fresh apple for garnish

Combine cider, bitters, and spices in a pot on the stove; bring to a simmer and keep on low.
Pour 1 ½ oz Dillon’s White Rye per serving into 4 favorite mugs or cocktail glasses and fill with the mulled cider. Garnish with an apple slice and serve.

Tip: Cut thin discs of apples through the center – equator – of an apple. The resulting slice features the lovely star shaped centre of the apple core.

Serve on game night with a casual supper of ribbons of ham, sliced apples, and Vidalia onions all sauteed together with salt and pepper on fresh buns smeared with coarse mustard.

Cheers!

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Video: Fogo Island Inn: Daring Design meets Ancient Fishing Community

In colorful Newfoundland turn of phrase, you might say that Fogo Island is far away from far away. The island is remote; only accessible by ferries and helicopter flights that defy dramatic weather and waves to drop visitors on a a rocky outpost in the North Atlantic that until recently was a centuries-old, declining fishing community. This is not where you might expect to find a hotel that has won world-wide acclaim for its architecture, experience, social responsibility, and design.

Designer Karen Sealy and BestTrip.TV visited the extraordinary Fogo Island Inn to see what happens when local maritime craftsmanship meets 21st century global design.

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Vancouver may be Canada's most famously 'outdoorsy' major city. Even in a city that drives Canada's vast Asia-Pacific business, athletic wear is more common than pinstripes! Nature thrives right on the city's doorstep: a gorgeous, picturesque harbor and bay, snow-capped mountains surrounding the city, and breathtaking Stanley Park, one of the world's top urban green spaces. For vacationers and cruise travelers in Vancouver, outdoor activities top the list of things to do. Even if you're traveling to Vancouver on business, if you don't take the opportunity to get outdoors, you've missed essential Vancouver.

Luckily, it's not only one of the most enticing big cities to be outdoors, it's easy to get outdoors and get active on a trip to Vancouver.

BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy 'test drives' Vancouver luxury harborfront hotel Westin Bayshore's active travel program. With cycling, run concierge, superfoods, yoga, and fitness equipment loan programs, Ryan discovers there is no excuse to miss enjoying the great Vancouver outdoors.

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The 'Height' of Luxury: Train and Stay in Peru's Andes

South America has its first luxury sleeper train. The Belmond Andean Explorer pioneers a new way to discover Peru on its two-night journeys at altitudes of up to 4,800 metres climbing in the Andes en route from Cusco to Arequipa.

It's one of the world's highest rail routes, and you'll be glued to the large picture windows as the elegant carriages take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery on our planet. Expect to see vast, uninterrupted views of snow-capped mountains, never-ending skies, majestic lakes and herds of alpacas, llamas and vicunas grazing on the altiplano.

Peruvian Touches

The design of the sleeper cars reflects Peruvian culture, mixing vibrant colors with natural tones and large picture windows offering the perfect vantage point of the ever-changing scenery as the train winds its way through the Andes.

The observation car with an outdoor terrace becomes the social hub of the train by night; a place for the train's up to 48 guests to enjoy a pisco sour and dance to live Latin music.

Culinary Heights

Peru's famous chef and culinary ambassador, Executive Chef Diego Muñoz, has been tapped to develop menus. His cuisine takes guests as they travel through the mountains on a simultaneous culinary journey of discovery of Peru’s abundant traditional natural ingredients: fresh fish from the Moquegua coast, trout from Lake Arapa (located in the Puno region), broad beans and lemons from Cusco, mushrooms, beets and corn from the Sacred Valley, Peruvian native potatoes, and quinoa from the Altiplano.

The culinary team transforms them into sensational mouthwatering dishes that carry Muñoz’s signature style, like Alpaca Tortellini, Banana and Pisco Tatin, Arequipean Paw Paw Mostarda and Lima Bean Cappuccino. All enjoyed from the comfort of elegant dining carriages overlooking the region's spectacular scenery.

Exclusive Exploration

The train takes guests from Cusco to Arequipa via Lake Titicaca, on a two night/three day ‘Peruvian Highlands’ itinerary, priced fully inclusive of all meals, an open bar and scheduled excursions, including visits to the archaeological Inca site of Raqchi and the ancient Sumbay Caves.

Stepping off the train, experiences include a private tour of the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable water in the world, and lunch on a private beach with views across to the glacial peaks of La Paz, Bolivia, truly one of the most exceptional locations on earth.

Train and Stay in Peru

In addition to the Belmond Andean Explorer, the company has also opened another hotel in Peru: Belmond Las Casitas, a 20-room property located in the Arequipa region of Southern Peru is set amongst the tranquil beauty of the Andes.

Blending effortlessly with the natural environment, and nestled amongst lush gardens, each individual casita features a private terrace with a heated plunge pool and sweeping views across the canyon. The Samay Spa, built around the energy of the canyon rock, offers treatments using natural ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen garden and hypnotic views of the surrounding canyon, inspiring deep relaxation. Belmond Las Casitas also offers one of the most unique guest experiences in the world – a chance to view the flight of the Andean condors in their natural environment.


Belmond Las Casitas and Belmond Andean Explorer further enhance Belmond’s luxury travel experiences in Peru, now with six hotels and two luxury trains: Belmond Miraflores Park, the stylish city hotel in the quiet neighborhood of the bustling city; Belmond Palacio Nazarenas and Belmond Hotel Monasterio in the heart of ancient Cusco; Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel at the entrance of the Citadel of Machu Picchu and Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, a complete escape in the Sacred Valley. Plus, Belmond Hiram Bingham taking guests from Cusco to Machu Picchu with typical lively Peruvian hospitality.


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The Bicycle's Big Birthday

This month marks a big milestone for the bicycle. We've had two hundred years of two-wheeled travel.

On June 12, 1817, German inventor Karl von Drais took a little ride on his new invention, the 'Laufsmaschine'. His first reported trip, from a castle courtyard in Mannheim to a coaching inn 5 miles away on Baden's best road, took a little over an hour – and changed travel forever.

Reproducing Karl von Drais' First Ride. Image courtesy of City of Mannheim

Von Drais' 'Laufsmaschine' was heavy, awkward, had no pedals, and riders moved it with uncomfortable running/ skating motions of their feet. Laufsmaschine even means 'running machine'.

This does not look fun to ride. (Photo credit)

Travel Game Changer

But it was the start of something that literally moved the world. The patent that Drais filed in 1817 for the earliest form of the bicycle fulfilled the saying 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention'. A volcanic eruption in Asia in 1815 had sent so much ash into the skies that the following year the sun in Europe was blocked, causing crops to fail, and widespread famine. People were forced to slaughter their oxen and horses to feed their families, leaving them with no form of transportation.

In this sad scenario, the earliest form of the bicycle was a game changer. For the first time, humans were their own form of faster-than-walking propulsion. It was the first form of land transportation without using an animal, and set the stage for all future mechanized personal transportation. It not only increased the speed at which humans could travel on their own, it was even faster than available transportation! Drais' first, 5-mile, one-hour trip in Mannheim was twice as fast as it would have taken a traditional horse-drawn coach.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Happily, Drais' invention evolved through the 19th century and the bicycle spread from Germany across Europe and overseas. There were some bumps along the way – literally. Terrible rutted dirt and cobbled roads sent early cyclists onto crowded sidewalks (a controversy that continues today), endangering pedestrians. That resulted in bans of bicycles in its birthplace, Germany, as well as Great Britain, the US, and even cities in India!

Hard to imagine, when today, the bicycle has become such a fundamental part of the local culture and lifestyles of people around the world. The bicycle is the answer to the need for inexpensive, effective transportation in some of the most fascinating, densely populated cities in Asia, where seas of bicycles have become the very image of local lifestyle. And Northern Europe's health and eco-friendly culture is symbolized by city bikes.

The Netherlands has more bicycles than people! Photo: BestTrip.TV

More and more travelers are also choosing to experience destinations by bicycle. The relaxed pace, off-the-beaten track, and health features of cycling journeys answer the call for active, authentic travel experiences.

Cycling tour of Peterborough & the Kawarthas, Canada. Photo: BestTrip.TV

And innovations like E-bikes and power-generating bicycles will keep Karl von Drais' invention moving us into the future.

Celebrating 200 Years of Bicycles

Mannheim and the region have a year-long calendar of activities commemorating the bicycle's birthday, with concerts, exhibitions, bicycle tours, shows and much more. Visit Mannheim's Technoseum for a special exhibition, "2 Wheels - 200 Years," which brings to life the technical development of the bicycle since Karl Drais, to the present cycling culture and the future role of the bicycle in cities. (Top image courtesy Technoseum).

Courtesy City of Mannheim

Courtesy City of Mannheim

And get outdoors and bike! SouthWest Germany is a bicycle rider's paradise, with hundreds of bike routes that pass through beautiful landscapes, from vineyards to castles and the Black Forest to Lake Constance. The ADFC (German Bicycle Club) notes and rates cycling routes; don't miss the region's five-star "Liebliches Taubertal - der Klassiker". The route is one of the oldest in Germany and travels by castles, monasteries and fortresses for 100 beautiful kilometers.

Start your Trip!

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MSC's 'Wonder' at Sea

There's a new Wonder at Sea. The MSC Meraviglia. If your language skills are rusty, that's Italian for 'wonder', and this European cruise line's new flagship is a wondrous destination at sea for five thousand guests. The MSC Meraviglia is the biggest ship to be built by a European ship owner, and also the biggest cruise ship to come into service in 2017.

The 13th addition to the MSC Cruises fleet brought wonder to the northern French port of Le Havre for her christening in a glittering event. Italian screen legend and fleet godmother Sophia Loren, accompanied by a parade of the ship's officers, cut the ceremonial ribbon in a time-honored crescendo of champagne and fireworks.

The MSC Meraviglia is the first of six new ships for MSC's between 2017 and 2020, a massive fleet expansion giving the cruise line the opportunity to introduce innovations in technology, design and experiences.

Here are a few of the unique features on MSC Cruises’ newest flagship we love most:

Entertainment:

Cirque du Soleil's first cruise line partnership: Cirque du Soleil at Sea. The world-renowned entertainment company has created two exclusive shows just for MSC Meraviglia. With two performances six nights a week, guests can enjoy a unique show and dinner or cocktail & show experience.

Design:

The longest LED Sky Screen at Sea in the Meraviglia's Galleria: 262 feet of LED sky creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere in a stunning 315 foot long Mediterranean-style indoor promenade, designed to become the social hub of the ship. It's a round-the-clock display of stunning visuals and effects.

Technology:

The MSC for Me suite of smart features that enhance your cruise: navigation and geo-located wayfinding, a digital concierge for on board, real-time bookings, planning schedules, and tailor-made recommendations to your preferences.

The Emotions immersive gallery is a tunnel of oversized video and photo walls. As you move through the tunnel, you're surrounded by cruise events and you can interact with the walls, searching for you and your loved ones amongst the imagery and experiences.

Family:

MSC shows its roots as a family-owned company in its commitment to kids’ activities and a dedicated family deck area. Furthermore, the technology that is a signature of the ship extends to its youngest guests too: Kids get to participate in MSC for Me, too, with wristbands that enable parents, crew and staff to locate and monitor their kids as they participate in their own programs and activities on the ship.

Luxury:

The cruise line's 'luxury ship within a ship' MSC Yacht Club formula appears on the Meraviglia too, with new features and premium accommodations spanning three decks, with private facilities, available amenities, and butler service round-the-clock.

Dining:

Widest range of dining options and bars on any MSC Cruises ship to-date with 12 dining venues and 20 bars: you'll be delighted to find an authentic American steakhouse, Teppanyaki and Sushi restaurants, and a continued partnership with Italian eatery Eataly.

Accommodations:

Configurations for every type of cruise traveller, including modular staterooms, accommodations for solo travelers and suites in the MSC Yacht Club. The Meraviglia is designed for multi-generation family travel where everyone is comfortable and feels at home.

Following her christening, the MSC Meraviglia departed on her maiden voyage from Le Havre to Genoa, Italy. She spends the summer of 2017 sailing Mediterranean itineraries, including popular Western Mediterranean ports of call Genoa, Marseille, and Barcelona and as well as more unique ports like Naples, Messina in Sicily and Valetta in Malta.

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Sometimes we think that the best travel experiences can only be found in distant, exotic destinations. And they're waiting for you right in your back yard.

Kieran Andrews of Wild Rock Outfitters leads cycling tours in some of the most famous and storied locations in the world. But when BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy asked him about one of his favorite places to cycle, it was at home in Canada in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

In this BestTrip.TV video, Kieran takes Ryan in a two-day cycling journey across rolling hills and scenic vistas to waterfront in cottage country. Ryan gets an insider's introduction to local cycling community favorite trails, views and 'energy stops' (that is, fabulous restaurants!) as well as its network of passionate, connected cyclists.

Start your Trip!

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Grocery Delivery Program makes Hotels more like Home... or an Apartment Rental

Imagine a knock on your hotel door. Instead of a voice saying 'Room Service', you hear: 'Grocery Delivery'. Long stays at hotels just got better for families, business road warriors, and anyone who wants the health, comfort, choice, and even cost benefits of cooking in your hotel rather than relying entirely on restaurants or wasting time trying to find a grocery store in an unfamiliar city.

According to research done by Hawthorn Suites, Wyndham Hotels' extended stay hotels, 2/3rds of us want to cook in hotel rooms. If you're a Millennial, that rises to nearly 90 percent who think it would make hotels feel more like home.

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Rome, GA

So they've partnered with Instacart, a retail delivery service, and Peapod, the leading online grocer in the U.S., to launch a program delivering groceries straight to you in your hotel through a few easy clicks online or on your mobile. Through the hotel's Homemade@Hawthorn site, you can get someone else to pick up your staple breakfast items, your child's must-have snacks, the energy foods you need to stay up late working on the updates for tomorrow's presentation, the ingredients to cook a meal you know your whole family will eat, that vegan dinner for all your friends, or to stay on your own healthy regimen when you're away from home at one of their long stay hotels.

The handy service – currently piloting at eight Hawthorn Suites hotels in the Chicago, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Orlando areas – is the brand's newest offering developed to help long-term guests maintain their routines and feel at home away from home.

Grocery delivery is the next and natural step of an in-suite culinary program that started with curated, chef-selected featured recipes on the Homemade@Hawthorn site. It was designed for hotel living, serving up seasonal, home-cooked recipes from award-winning chefs that can be easily prepared in a fully equipped in-suite kitchen.

Acclaimed culinary minds Chef Hari Nayak – a New York-based chef, restaurateur, author and culinary consultant – and Chef James Rigato – former Top Chef competitor and owner of the award-winning The Root Restaurant & Bar and Mabel Gray in Michigan – were tapped to create a new, summer season of exclusive, easy-to-make recipes designed for hotel living.

Each home-cooked dish – like a decadent pub cheese and ham sandwich, colorful summer pasta with vegetables, and a refreshing watermelon salad – was designed to be easily prepared in 30 minutes or less. And although you may be inspired by the recipes on the website for your travels, they will taste just as good when you also make them at home!

This innovation could tip the scales in favor of hotels over 'sharing economy' apartment rentals that come with fewer amenities and more hassles. Grocery delivery gives travelers access to fresh, familiar, healthier and cost effective food you can prepare yourself in an environment that includes the safety, amenities, locations and conveniences of a hotel.

We think this is a winning travel recipe for long term business travelers, groups of friends and families planning extended stays during the summer holidays or throughout the year.

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Face to Face with the World's Largest Solid Gold Buddha

Most of the time, breaking an historic religious icon does not turn out well. But when workers moving a large and very old but otherwise unremarkable plaster statue of Buddha in Bangkok in 1955 dropped their load, they got lucky. The accident revealed an amazing secret: the plaster with modest inlaid glass decoration was a decoy shell concealing the world's largest solid gold Buddha.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

Hidden in Plain Sight

The design of the Buddha suggests it dates to the 13th or 14th centuries. It's believed when dangerous times were at hand during Burmese invasions in the 1700's, the solid gold statue was plastered over to cleverly hide the magnificent religious treasure in plain sight. In the confusion, dynastic changes, and moves that followed, the Golden Buddha's secret was lost to time. And so it sat under a simple open air roof in the unremarkable Bangkok temple Wat Traimit for hundreds of years – until it was dropped moving it to an indoor location.

Rather than hiding this phenomenal – and phenomenally valuable – discovery, temple officials have kept the Golden Buddha available for public worship at the temple. In 2010, they even opened a new, gold-leaf trimmed chapel to house this priceless treasure.

All photos: BestTrip.TV

That put Wat Traimit at the top of our film crew's must-visit list among the 400 temples in Thailand's capital city. Gold features prominently in Thailand's vivid national palette and design, but being face to face with the world's largest solid gold Buddha is heart-stopping. In ways we didn't expect.

Record Breaking – but Humble

It weighs 5.5 tons. And it's about 83% pure gold. That makes the gold in the statue alone worth about $250 million. The Golden Buddha's seated figure rises 15 feet above kneeling worshippers.

On arrival at the temple, you climb 4 stories of white marble steps leading to the chapel perched at the top overlooking the Bangkok skyline. Once inside, you might expect bristling guards, high tech security, crowds marched past with barely time to take a quick pic. But for a treasure of its worth and historic significance, the Golden Buddha's existence is almost humble.

The author (left) at Wat Traimit. No bare shoulders, no bare knees, and shoes off. Respecting Thai temple etiquette.

The marble and gold leafed chapel sounds extravagant, but it's quite restrained and no more spectacular than many other temple structures in Thailand. The Golden Buddha may be a tourist attraction, but not a tourist trap. Monks, local worshippers and visitors mingle. Instead of a vast hall to maximize visitor numbers (and revenue), the massive statue occupies a small room.

For visitors, that intensifies the experience. The deep reddish gold almost pulses in the way it catches dim light and warms the nearby cool white marble walls. Only a couple of dozen visitors and worshippers are able to fit inside the chapel at any given time. Worshippers place offerings and visitors can join them on a single carpet only a few feet in front of the Buddha.

It may be solid gold, but the temple monks and fellow worshippers interact with the Golden Buddha as they would any other neighborhood temple Buddha.

That might be the most remarkable part of our visit to Wat Traimit. We were expecting to be – as one of our production team said – 'wowed by the bling'. Instead, we experienced a space of beauty and almost simple serenity. As if the Golden Buddha were still hiding behind its plaster mask. Simplicity and serenity, mainstays of Buddhist practice, in the presence of what might be the most valuable and storied piece of solid gold in existence, might be the real treasure of the statue.

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Paul Gauguin Cruises Named Top for Honeymooners

Small ship, South Pacific luxury cruise line specializes in romance.

Brides magazine has named Paul Gauguin Cruises '#1 for Honeymooners'. The cruise line operates the longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific. The 'Paul Gauguin' is a 5+ star, 332-guest idyllic ship that sails to some of the most exotically romantic locations on any honeymoon couples' list: Tahiti, Fiji, French Polynesia, and other once-in-a-lifetime destinations in the South Pacific.

Honeymooners receive a complimentary honeymoon package when sailing with Paul Gauguin Cruises, which includes a special Polynesian blessing ceremony aboard the ship performed by Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins and hosted by the Cruise Director, an in-stateroom celebratory bottle of Champagne, one 8" x 10" photo portrait, and an exclusive pillow gift.

Why wait for the honeymoon? Would you love an unforgettable vow renewal? Or a cruise wedding? For those celebrating a romantic special occasion, Paul Gauguin Cruises also now offers wedding ceremony and renewal of vows packages in a dreamy setting amid the turquoise lagoons and exotic islands of French Polynesia at Motu Mahana, the cruise line's private islet off the coast of Taha'a, or at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, with tasteful, romantic, and inspiring touches of local French Polynesian culture that ensure a one-of-a-kind ceremony.

The 'Number 1 for Honeymooners' distinction is another in a long list for Paul Gauguin Cruises; other awards for the cruise line include: voted #2 in the category of "Top Small Cruise Lines" in the Condé Nast Traveler 2016 Readers' Choice Awards and recognition on the publication's 2016 "Gold List." In addition, the line was voted by Travel + Leisure readers "#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line" and "#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line for Families" in the Travel + Leisure 2014 World's Best Awards. Recently, readers voted Paul Gauguin Cruises "#1 Midsize-Ship Ocean Cruise Line" in the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards 2016.

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Carnival Vista 'Taps' into Home Port Flavors for American Craft Beer Week

The first brewery on board a North American-based ship introduces Miami Guava Wheat Beer.

Carnival Vista's RedFrog Pub & Brewery gets into the spirit of American Craft Beer Week with a limited edition brew inspired by its home port.

Miami Guava Wheat Beer is a uniquely local flavor inspired by tropical South Florida. The beer's light body and palate-pleasing notes of tangy pink guava are not only tropical and refreshing, but include the primary ingredient in Miami’s ever-popular guava pastries.

Carnival Vista's brewmaster Colin Presby, inspired by Miami's access to tropical fruit and thriving Cuban culinary scene to create the brew, tapped into the first keg in a ceremony to launch the beer. Guests can enjoy their favorite beverage and at the same time celebrate the Vista's home port, as well as the American craft brewing tradition and the latest brewing trends.

If craft beer is the beverage you prefer to whet your whistle, but you miss Miami Guava Wheat Beer's limited run at the Vista's RedFrog Pub & Brewery on your next cruise, you can always try one of its three other craft beers. ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA with aromatic, floral and hoppy notes and tropical and citrus overtones; ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, an unfiltered wheat beer with flavors of orange and spices; and FriskyFrog Java Stout, a take on a traditional stout, rich and creamy with hints of coffee, are all brewed only on board the ship.

The craft brewery experience joins the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, the New England-inspired Seafood Shack, Far Eastern cuisine at JiJi Asian Kitchen, traditional high-end steakhouse dining at Fahrenheit 555, and family-style Italian culinary experiences at the ship's Cucina del Capitano.

The Carnival Vista isn't just breaking ground in at-sea brewing. It's also home to a one-of-a-kind SkyRide airborne bicycle ride and also the first cruise ship IMAX Theatre.

Plenty of new experiences to toast with one of those craft beers.

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The Ship that's Changing River Cruising

How do you revolutionize river cruise ships? River cruise ships are limited in length by the navigational requirements of rivers... like the sizes of locks. The design for the AmaMagna, launching in 2019, is game changing. It's twice the width of traditional European river cruise ships.

What makes the double-width river cruise ship a game changer?

The concept has been 'floating' around for a while (pun intended), but AmaWaterways is the first cruise line to pull the trigger on building a double-width river cruise ship.

That opens the doors wide to re-interpret the guests' experience on a river cruise ship. So with the debut of the concept of a double-width ship, AmaWaterways design team has aimed high at maximizing the two times more space available than on a single ship.

The AmaMagna will include:

  • River cruising's first open-water sports platform, complete with zodiac boats, canoes and recreational equipment.
  • Only 194 guests in 97 large staterooms - that's only 30 guests more than single-width ships.
  • Expansive public spaces, including:
  • Dedicated multiple dining spaces including an al fresco, glass-enclosed restaurant.
  • A large heated sundeck swimming pool with whirlpool and sky bar.
  • Expanded spa and fitness area and wellness offerings that will complement AmaWaterways' popular biking and hiking programs.
  • And they're even able to double the ship's width while doubling down on eco-friendly innovation with a more fuel-efficient engine that's also quieter.

Sound familiar? What we're seeing is the best of small-ship/ yacht, luxury ocean cruising... brought to rivers.

Construction on the AmaMagna began in early 2017 and the ship launches in 2019 on Danube itineraries.

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MSC Cruises, UNICEF Partnership Feeds 67,000 Needy Children and Their Families

We're already pretty passionate about travel.  Then when the company we trust with our valuable vacation time and budget makes the effort to do good in our shared world, well, that makes us love travel even more.

European cruise line MSC Cruises has recently reached an incredible milestone for its partnership with UNICEF, raising €6.5 million (that's about $6.9 million USD) through guest donations onboard to support UNICEF.

Those funds have been put to good use.  More than 2 million sachets of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) have been delivered to children in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Malawi. That translates into helping 67,000 malnourished children and their families since 2014.  In addition, MSC has recently delivered 22,000 essential supplies to relief efforts in Malawi.

Focus on Children and Families

MSC Cruises is a family-run company, so, according to executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, the UNICEF focus on the wellbeing of children and their families, and the ability to provide life-saving and life-changing food to children around the world where and when it's most needed, strikes a chord. 

If you've sailed on MSC Cruises, you may have seen their 'Get on Board for Children' fund-raising initiative. MSC Cruises and UNICEF have worked in partnership since 2009 and together established the global initiative to assist malnourished children in developing countries and those affected by crises.

Through encouraging MSC Cruises’ guests fleet wide to make contributions to UNICEF, more than 6,300 children have been treated in Somalia, over 9,400 in both South Sudan and Ethiopia and, most recently, over 41,500 in Malawi. With multiple challenges such as food shortages, flooding, stagnant economies and prolonged droughts, the need for food aid in these countries is enormous, especially for children.

Nutrition plus Supplies for Malawi's Crisis

In Malawi, 54,053 cases of severe acute malnutrition have been recorded this year. As the only corporate partner in the country, MSC Cruises has worked tirelessly to support the area, helping UNICEF to reach over 40% of Malawi’s severely malnourished children.

The generosity of MSC Cruises' guests has been magnified by an additional donation of more than 22,000 essential items delivered directly to Malawi, one of the poorest regions served by the relief effort. In recent years, the country has been devastated by drought, then flooding that has wiped out farms and homes. Over 6 million people, half of them children, are in grave danger of survival.

Executive chairman Vago visited Malawi earlier this year and says he returned even more committed to helping UNICEF's programs in the country.

An MSC cargo ship arrives in Malawi this month with essential goods including mattresses and bed sheets, bicycles, cooking pots, bowls and spoons, and farming tools as well as chalkboards, school pencils, drawing books, toys and puppets for the children.

Participate in the UNICEF Program on Board Ships

MSC Cruises’ guests onboard have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the MSC/ UNICEF program. There are “edutainment” activities for children and their parents. Each week, cruise ship programs include activities like a dedicated UNICEF Day with fun games and a children’s parade, where participating kids receive a leaflet to teach them about malnutrition around the world. They also receive a UNICEF World Citizen passport that is stamped after each educational activity is completed, making them an ambassador for the rights of children across the globe.

So thank you to all the guests and fans of MSC Cruises who have participated in the UNICEF programs, and to MSC for giving guests onboard such a meaningful way to spread their own commitment to families to other families in our shared world. 

Travel can do great things, and we love to share success stories like this.

  

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Polish your Green Thumb on Cunard's First Festival of Flowers Voyage

Feature Film Florist Jenny Tobin Joins Queen Victoria’s Festival of Flowers Voyage; takes guests around the Atlantic Isles, exploring six iconic floral destinations including UNESCO World Heritage site.

Flower arranging and gardening are more popular than ever.  If you love touring the world's most beautiful gardens, in your home town or on your travels, you're not alone.  Experts estimate more people tour gardens every year in the US than go to both of the US's biggest theme parks combined! 

And of course, both gardening and floral arranging are icons of an upscale British lifestyle that luxury cruise brand Cunard is so expert at bringing to life for its guests.   

Leading film and TV floral designer Jenny Tobin will join Cunard cruise line's first-ever Festival of Flowers voyage this summer on Cunard's Queen Victoria, giving guests the opportunity to explore some of the Atlantic Isles’ most awe-inspiring gardens and floral landscapes.

Jenny Tobin is an award-winning florist renowned for her work on blockbuster films such as “Allied” and “Fantastic Beasts, and Where to Find Them,” as well as for her floral arrangements at the most sought-after hotels around the world and even for the British Royal Family. Jenny will be imparting her knowledge, tips and insight into her career to fortunate guests during the voyage, which departs following Queen Victoria’s refurbishment this June.

To mark the voyage, Jenny has created a bespoke bouquet inspired by the tradition and luxury of Cunard, with a bounty of exotic and much-loved flowers. Her choices and reasons for selecting these blooms and greens include:

-          Colored Ranunculus, to add a taste of the exotic and color, inspired by the loveliest of gardens from around the world

-          Scented Genista Flower, for a soft, sweet smell

-          One Garden Rose, to reflect the timeless luxury of Cunard

-          Umbrella Fern for a little pizazz

 “Cunard is known for its commitment to excellence, so I wanted to create a bouquet that reflects its premium nature, beauty from across the world and sense of luxury that runs through everything the brand does. I’m excited to be joining the first Festival of Flowers voyage on Queen Victoria and can’t wait to help inspire those traveling on board, exploring the extraordinary gardens the globe has to offer.”

The Festival of Flowers themed voyage, taking place this year in June, visits six iconic floral destinations, including La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Lisbon, as well as an overnight stay in the floral paradise of Madeira, an island renowned for its endemic fauna, flora and UNESCO World Heritage site-classified landscape.

Additional speakers on the voyage include Gay Search, one of England’s best-known gardening presenters, writers and lecturers, and Christine Wright, National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies demonstrator and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist.

Prior to departure, guests will also be invited to enjoy the floral delights that surround Southampton with an optional pre-voyage stay at luxury hotel Chewton Glen, on the edge of the New Forest National Park.

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Why scramble around outdoors in spring rain or snow for a chocolate bunny or some foil-wrapped chocolate eggs... when you could be in France, watching (and smelling!) chocolate fashion parading down the catwalk? 

That's just one of the delicious experiences BestTrip.TV had when we visited the elegantly-named Salon du Chocolat, an annual event in Paris celebrating all things chocolate. 

The chocolate costumes are not for eating, but most everything else is. You'll find tastings, edible art, and an incredible display of things you never imagined could be done with the world's most popular confection (jewelry! sculpture!). 

Treat your inner chocoholic to the best event ever, in one of the most celebrated culinary and fashion destinations in the world.  And please stop eating your kids' chocolate bunnies. 

Start your Trip!

 

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How the Whole Family can Savor a Disney Vacation: At its Food & Wine Fest

Sometimes grownups need to trade spinning teacups for grownup culinary experiences. How do celebrity chefs, winemaker dinners, beer tasting seminars and irresistible cuisine sound?

All photos: Disney California Adventure

If you think you might want to balance kids' Goofy with your inner foodie, one of the best times of year to visit Disney might be during its Food & Wine Festival, when you can enjoy the park and culinary experiences for kids and adults alike.

The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival jump-starts spring with hundreds of gastronomic adventures and delicious flavors from across the Golden State. It runs this year from March 10th til April 16th (the Florida park has a similar festival later in the year.)

Highlights for the whole, multi-generational family trip include more than a dozen marketplaces open every day, an entire menu of daily culinary demonstrations and tastings, plus beer, wine and spirits seminars, music everywhere, delicious food, and fun crafts created especially for younger guests.

Celebrity chefs scheduled to appear during the Festival include Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn and Keegan Gerhard.

Children ages 3 to 11 may join in the fun with the popular complimentary Junior Chef experience (led by Chef Goofy, and available on a first-come, first-seated basis), and the Jammin’ Chefs, who serve up tasty rhythms with pots and pans that really get cooking with the help of sous chefs Chip ‘n Dale.

Many of the Festival events are included with admission to Disney California Adventure. Guests who want to add the Signature Events may purchase separate tickets at an additional fee for:

  • “In the Kitchen with …” on Saturdays from 6-7 pm: Each Celebrity Chef will lead a 60-minute culinary demonstration and Q&A followed by an autograph session. The experience includes a tasting of some of the prepared dishes.
  • Sweet Sundays on select Sundays from 10:30- noon: A 90-minute culinary demonstration focuses on the sweet side of the culinary arts. Following a light breakfast and a sparkling toast, the Guest Chef for that day will demonstrate up to three recipes. Guests will enjoy samples from the chefs.
  • Winemaker Dinners and Brewmaster Dinners on Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 pm: A four-course dinner features wines and winemakers or beers and brewmasters. Wine or beer selections will be paired with courses created by the Disney Executive Chef Team and each winemaker or brewmaster will speak on the libation and the pairing.

Additional ticketed programs include:

  • Culinary Demonstrations (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Guests will enjoy 30-minute culinary demonstrations presented by local, visiting and Disney chefs. Each demo will focus on a single recipe, ingredient or cooking style. Guests will receive a tasting sample of the dish prepared.
  • Wine, Beer or Spirits Education and Tasting Seminars (presented daily throughout the Festival) – Beverage seminars presented by industry experts will enlighten guests who want to learn more about their favorite spirits. Each 30- to 45-minute seminar will focus on a specific beverage type, region or label, and guests will enjoy tasting samples of some of the beverages discussed.

We think the food festival might be the best way to create delectable memories for the whole family on a Disney vacation.

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Why Inject Adventure Travel Into your Next Vacation

We get it. You really need a break. Downtime. Relaxation. Time to book a vacation so you can… Try a new adventure.

Does 'adventure travel' sound way too energetic, even the opposite of what you need in a holiday? Think again.

Lynn Elmhirst, Executive Producer, Host and Travel Expert from BestTrip.TV, explains why finding a way to leave the beach and make soft adventure part – or all - of your next holiday, whether it's a cruise, multi-generation family vacation, a couples' escape, a girl- or guy-friend getaway, bleisure time from your business trip or business conference, might be the best travel decision you can make. And way better for you than a week on a lounge chair.

Soft adventure is about being active and interacting with the outdoors and nature. It's not about extreme activities that involve intensive training or baked-in danger. Think hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking, spelunking, tree walks, orienteering, photography, bird and wildlife watching, agriculture and rural volunteering - not tagging sharks, climbing Everest, or base jumping!

Tapping into your inner Scout, not SEAL.

Soft adventure vacations are one of today's top travel trends. Some reports say 50% of North American travelers have started choosing soft adventure travel experiences over beach vacations. There are outdoor adventures waiting in some of the world's most beautiful, inspiring places for travelers of every age and most levels of fitness. Cruise lines are getting into the 'action', pun intended, wit active and soft adventure options in ports of call, and even with some ship board activities.

Get active on your next vacation and here are some of the benefits:

Physical Wellness

Fill your 'park prescription': anytime you can be active rather than sedentary, you're doing your body good. Doctors are starting to prescribe 'park prescriptions' to get people moving outdoors, deep breathing clean air, absorbing Vitamin D to reduce the impact of, and even treat common modern ailments, from heart disease to obesity to ADD. And of course you've heard that sitting is the new smoking. Anytime you're moving not sitting, your overall health and fitness is winning. Outdoors just makes it more effective.

And knowing you're going on an adventure on your next vacation can give you motivation to stay on your fitness program at home so you can enjoy the kinds of soft adventures you want to experience when you travel.

Acid Balance: Breathing fresh outdoor, clean air is believed to have an alkaline effect on your body. This can reverse or balance acidity from stress and lower oxygen levels from a more indoor, sedentary life. Ultimately, being active outdoors is a valuable tool to fight impaired fat loss, poor endurance and more unwelcome physical effects and make your body stronger and healthier.

See green to get fit: Getting outdoors is one of the best ways to support your fitness goals. Research shows that when you're viewing the color green (that is, plant life in a natural setting) exercise actually feels easier! So you'll enjoy it and stay with it longer, and it feels less like a 'workout' than play.

Get dirty to get healthy: It's possible our lives have just gotten too… clean. It's time to get down in the muck to strengthen our immune and digestive systems. Contact with soil and the earth is now believed be important to reconnect us to the good bacteria, enzymes and other organisms in soil that helped our ancestors – and can help us – strengthen our bodies against allergies, asthma, chronic digestive problems and support our overall immune systems.

Mental Wellness

Reduce stress, improve your mood and perceived energy: Being active in nature has been shown to realign thinking associated with stress and depression and low energy levels, and viewing natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, releasing endorphins and trigger a purely natural mental 'high'.

Take a hike, grow your brain-power: Memory loss as you age is linked to a shrinking hippocampus in your brain. Guess what? Hiking and walking or similar moderate outdoor activity grows the hippocampus, with just 3, 40 minute walks a week. And brain scans after being active show focused activity in the pre-frontal cortex.

Increase your confidence to deal with uncertainty: The one thing you can always say about Mother Nature is that she isn't afraid to throw you a curve ball. Soft adventures give you low-risk opportunities to grow your problem solving skills when things don't go according to plan, practice staying cool under pressure, and acquire confidence in your ability to cope with life's uncertainties.

Give yourself a sense of accomplishment: Physical adventures give you opportunities to push the envelope of your safe zone and acquire new skills and knowledge outside of your daily routine, especially when they take place in a new environment. When you set yourself a challenge – like getting to the top of a new hill, to the end of a new trail, and achieve it, we get a chemical reward from our brains that creates euphoria. Don't we all need some natural euphoria in our lives?

Personal Growth

Create Memories and Stories: Our earliest ancestors knew the value of group memories and storytelling. Outdoor adventures and challenges create new memories, shared stories, opportunities to learn from challenges and share them. Even tough times create great stories, and fantastic times can give us inner resources to draw on for a lifetime.

Forge new relationships: embarking on challenges, achieving goals and getting those outdoor and physical 'highs' together with other people, can forge lasting bonds, whether it's with family, new friends, or even business colleagues.

Develop Self-Awareness/ Mindfulness: Outdoor adventures, especially ones that keep your body busy, free your mind to reflect on what you're seeing and experiencing, and on big picture 'life' itself. Most of our days are occupied on mentally-heavy work, family scheduling, and multi-tasking. Hiking or paddling or most other soft adventure remove us from our day-to-day mental loads, and let the side of wonder, self-reflection, and interaction with a world that's greater than ourselves take over.

Help the World

A lot of soft adventure travel options involve interacting with the natural and unspoiled world. Increasingly, soft adventure tourism, when it is about responsibly interacting with those natural spaces and resources, wildlife and local / indigenous people, provides one of the only – and best – sources of income to financially support their ongoing protection. The value of adventure travel creates a 'business case' for preserving them from development or other encroachment.

Key words: responsible and soft. Soft adventure isn't just 'soft' on your body, it's ALSO soft on the world around you. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Soft adventure can be transformative travel for you AND for future generations together on this earth.

(Photo: Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam, a shore excursion on our Seabourn cruise.  BestTrip.TV)

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Can Cruise Travel have an Edge? Celebrity Cruises Thinks So.

We don't normally go gaga over ships that haven't launched yet… But this news we just had to share with you. At a cruise industry event last week, Celebrity Cruises announced the first of a new class of ship: The Edge.

The first ship designed entirely in 3-D, in (parent company) Royal Caribbean's Miami Innovation Lab in the world's largest and highest resolution 3-D virtual reality simulator in the world, we think the billion (with a 'b') dollar Edge earns its name.

Imagine this: designers were chosen for their inexperience – inexperience! - with cruise ships and cruising.  Celebrity wanted a truly fresh approach to how to enjoy life at sea.  No preconceived notions, and nothing  was off the table.   New-to-cruise travelers, this could be the ship for you!

Highlights of their revolutionary approach include outward-facing design, a big break from traditional inward-facing design, connecting guests more to the seascape around you and practical, make-life-easy digital innovations – not just gimmicks.

In a Class of its Own: The 'Magic Carpet'

Originally conceived as a tender (small boat to shore) launch but evolved into an engineering feat that is so much more: the world's first cantilevered venue at sea that travels up and down 13 stories on the side of the ship, transforming into different venues on different decks: an al fresco specialty restaurant under the stars, an expansion of the pool deck, a luxury embarkation station.

Then there's…

  • The Resort Deck, encompassed by an outward-facing, untraditionally asymmetrical terraced pool deck nearly 22 feet high that makes the ocean views and landscapes the focal point while lounging poolside.
  • Spectacular martini glass-shaped hot tubs suspended elegantly in the air on the slenderest glass stems and bookend the pool.
  • A larger-than-life artistic mirror installation – an ever-changing, abstract piece positioned above the Pool Bar.
  • The pool deck's oversized sculptural pieces unlike anything we've seen at sea. Dramatic, unique tree sculptures add an air of whimsy and create an intimate setting at night when lit up.
  • The Rooftop Garden, a living, urban playscape designed to awaken the inner-child in everyone, tended to daily by a resident horticulturist, an interactive space, including pop-up live music performances from musicians in the treetop sculptures.
  • The Retreat Sundeck rivaling any high-end resort, with over-water hanging chairs while the water laps beneath your feet or you lay back in the shaded resort-style cabanas and soak up the nearly 240-degree panoramic views on the forward end of the ship.
  • The Retreat Lounge, located just below The Retreat Sundeck and open around the clock, touching the sea on both the port- and starboard sides, and offering seemingly endless ocean views.
  • Edge staterooms with Infinite Verandas, revolutionizing the standard veranda stateroom with the touch of a button, blurring – even erasing – the boundaries between inside and outside. The entire living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge.

Altogether: a uniquely nautical interpretation of a stand-out, stylish, boutique resort… that happens to deliver you to a new port of call every day. 

The head-turning design is matched by technology:

Digital Technology on the Edge

  • 'Frictionless arrival', eliminating the stop-and-go check-in process that frustrates modern travelers, replacing it with a seamless experience harnessing facial recognition software and a system of geofenced beacons.
  • The cruise industry's first–keyless entry using a smart phone.
  • Another cruise-first: stateroom automation allowing guests to precisely adjust lighting, window shades, temperature, and service with a simple touchscreen.
  • Virtual Concierge app harnesses Artificial Intelligence, allowing guests to order drinks, book dinner reservations, or reserve shore excursions.
  • Way-Finding using smart phones with sensors.
  • 'X-Ray Vision' (actually, a system of HD cameras) allowing you to peek behind walls and closed doors of selected locales, like the bridge, the engine room, or even the anchor.

We can't wait to see the Edge come to life.  You won't be able to sail on this ground (wave?)-breaking new ship until December 2018, but you can already reserve your place so you can be among the first to see if you agree: there's real Edge to this new ship.

Start your Trip!

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It may not be the most joyful travel experience you have in Northern France, but for families of veterans, and any grateful citizen, a visit to the World War 2 Landing Beaches in Normandy creates a lifetime of memories.

BestTrip.TV journeyed to the shores on a stormy English Channel to see the remnants of battlefield sites, moving war monuments and memorials to the brave souls from the UK, the US, and Canada who stormed those beaches in a last-ditch effort to free Europe and end the war. 

 

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Nature and Heritage at Jamaica's First UNESCO World Heritage Site

A first for Jamaica and a first for the Caribbean. In 2015, Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains became the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.

The emerald mountains define the eastern part of the island and cover an area of 480 km2. The UNESCO site is 260 km2 within Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

Nature and Biodiversity

It's a rare 'tropical mountain' environment on the steep (nearly 1,000-meter) slopes, with cloud forest, a unique ecosystem that only occurs in 2.5% of the world's tropical forests.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains are a global biodiversity hotspot, one of the world's 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for plant and wildlife species conservation.

The park has 1,357 species of flowering plants; a quarter of them are only found in Jamaica, and 87 are found only within the park.

It is the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere, and the habitat for 200 species of birds including the endangered Jamaican blackbird. It is one of the largest migratory bird habitats in the Caribbean. It's also the home of the Jamaican boa and the threatened rodent hutia.

Culture and Heritage

This is where indigenous Tainos and former slaves fled to escape colonial enslavement. The thickly forested mountains provided the seclusion and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.

Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and supported them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their example influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.

Jamaicans and Visitors

The Blue and John Crow Mountains' designation as a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site was a momentous occasion for Jamaica and Jamaicans.

It was dedicated to the legacy of the Maroons of Jamaica, "strong, cunning and resourceful persons who found ingenious ways to dismantle a system that blighted peoples of the region… They have helped to shape our identity of self, and community."

As a Mixed World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains' one-of-a-kind environment and profound cultural heritage will be preserved for ancestors of the brave Maroons, and for visitors to the country looking for a deeper connection to Jamaica.

To plan your visit, contact  the Office of Park Managers, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust by email at jamaicaconservation@gmail.com; or by phone at (876) 960-2848-9 or (876) 960-8278-9. Photo Credit - Jamaica Social Investment Fund

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