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(2016 - Fall Issue)


RIDING THE BUSES - Victoria, British Columbia

Our June trip to the west coast began at the Victoria International Airport in the sleepy seaside town of Sidney. For two days, our home base was the Travelodge, which had palm trees growing by the pool and was within walking distance of sidewalk cafés, quirky shops, the waterfront and bus routes.

BC Transit day passes of $5 each got us from Sidney to Victoria (about 45 minutes) and let us hop on and off Victoria’s double-decker public buses at will. Our first lunch at the Red Fish Blue Fish seafood shack on Wharf Street was the perfect start to a couple of laid-back, touristy days before we caught the ferry to Vancouver. Munching our grilled albacore tuna and wild salmon salads, we perched on stools in the hot sun near million-dollar yachts, watched seaplanes land at the inner harbour, and smiled at seals frolicking on the dock. While we did some walking, the buses were handy for hitting the old town shopping district for souvenirs, art and fashion.

More Victoria:

The Fairmont Empress hosts a grand high tea: fairmont.com/empress-victoria

Check out redfish-bluefish.com; attractionsvictoria.com

Bus fares: bctransit.com/victoria/fares; ferry information: bcferries.com

DANCING WITH DINOSAURS - Drumheller, Alberta

A 90-minute drive from Calgary, Drumheller is the “Dinosaur Capital of the World.” Deep in the Badlands of Alberta, the area is home to the educational Royal Tyrell Museum, one of the globe’s top paleontology centres. Staffed by scientists and researchers who spend their careers uncovering secrets from millions of years ago, it showcases more than 160,000 specimens. Visitors can play paleontologist by participating in digs or prospecting for fossils, and take a tour of Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shaped by dinosaur bones and odd formations such as rock-and-sandstone hoodoos towering over ravines and sand dunes, the Badlands evoke the dangerous days depicted in cowboy movies. Keeping the era alive are companies such as Wild West Badlands Tours that take visitors in air-conditioned buses to places like the Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne. Dinosaur Valley Express provides three-hour guided tours of the area in 1920s-style trolleys.

More Drumheller:

Every July, the Canadian Badlands Passion Play re-enacts the story of Jesus in Drumheller’s natural amphitheatre, and encourages the public to join the cast. canadianpassionplay.com

Lothar Malmberg leads 90-minute ghost walks in downtown Drumheller. 

Check out traveldrumheller.com; travelalberta.com

HANGING WITH LEGENDS - Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

A city whose mascot is a 10-ton steel-and-cement moose that guards the Visitor Centre has to be a fun place. And it does not disappoint. Backed by a history of mobsters, madams and miners, the town is a standing ovation to a colourful past and a creative and confident future.

The city’s 46 wall murals depict historical milestones, while the iconic 1920s-era train station now houses a classy liquor store. The Tunnels of Moose Jaw provide theatrical recreations of the days when they were busy with booze- and people-smuggling. Named after a dance hall of that era, the elegant Temple Gardens mineral spa features geothermally heated mineral water from a mile below ground. A narrated Moose Jaw Trolley tour covers the city’s must-see attractions including murals, heritage buildings and residential properties. And on special trips, guides regale visitors with stories of ghosts and murder.

More Moose Jaw:

Inside the Visitor Centre is a Styrofoam replica of Main Street, ending with a Canadian Pacific Railroad train emerging from the wall.

Volunteer city ambassadors keep an eye out for visitors needing information. They hand out brochures, answer questions and report problems.

Check out tourismmoosejaw.ca; tunnelsofmoosejaw.com.


Nestled in the rolling countryside a 20-minute drive from Peterborough, the village of Millbrook is a sleeping beauty destined to awaken to development and crowds.

King Street sports elegant 19th-century buildings populated by a handful of adorable shops. These are owned by Millbrook residents who chat up visitors and delight them with local lore. At the Pastry Peddler, customers are surrounded by cycling art—including hanging bicycles—while they munch on tasty sandwiches and desserts. This is a reminder that the area is immensely popular with cyclists and that Millbrook is a favourite rest stop.

The pièce de résistance for me, however, is the outdoor 4th Line Theatre on nearby Winslow Farm. For 24 years, professional and volunteer thespians have acted out the area’s history. The stage is between two barns and flows into the meadow; the seats are bleachers. Picnic tables under mature trees provide restful lunch spots for ticket holders who can buy food, beer and wine from concessions—or bring their own food.

More Millbrook:

Downtown barber Joseph Longo plays music for customers from his 3,000-CD collection.

Singer Serena Ryder grew up in Millbrook; her mother still lives in the area.

Check out 4thlinetheatre.on.ca and cavanmonaghan.net.

SKIING IN STYLE - Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, Québec

Saint-Sauveur in the Laurentians was my go-to place during ski season when I lived in Montréal, since it was a short hour’s drive north. While I was more focused on shopping and the famous après-ski life, I did fit in a few cross-country days through the sun-dappled woods near our chalet, and downhill days on the manageable ski hills in the area. I also basked in the town’s European charm, including the silver-steepled cathedral on rue Principale.

On a recent summer visit from Ontario, I drifted down memory lane from my home base at the sumptuous Le Petit Clocher B&B. Mandatory activities were strolling along rue Principale and neighbouring streets, browsing through art shops and lunching at a trendy resto-bar. An integral part of the scenery are fashionista bikers lounging around in their bespoke leathers. And a half-day trip to the Abbaye Val Notre-Dame in Saint-Jean-de-Matha yielded some rare Oka Brother Alphonse cheese, aged green tomato fruitcake and caramel spread.

More  Saint-Sauveur:

Mont Saint-Sauveur boasts the largest night-skiing area in the world.

Saint-Sauveur Country Style Weekend (Oct. 8–10, 2016) hosts some of the biggest names in country music.

Check out valleesaintsauveur.com; lepetitclocher.com; abbayevalnotredame.ca

UNCOVERING CANADIANA - Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

With Canada’s 150th birthday coming up in 2017, Charlottetown is the place to be.

The city where the nation was conceived offers unparalleled insights into history. Celebratory events include a tall ships visit as part of a special sailing race and the ScotDance Canada Championship that will see some 800 competitive dancers from around the world.

Perennial events include a walk through downtown Charlottetown, escorted by the Confederation Players—bilingual interpretive guides in full historic regalia. They retell the exciting stories that led to the creation of the country, and re-enact the characters that lived there more than a century ago. And for the past 48 years, the Confederation Centre of the Arts has staged Anne of Green Gables–The Musical.

Among the main PEI attractions have always been grassroots events such as church lobster suppers, where the locals pull lobsters from the sea and serve homemade salads and desserts at long picnic tables.

More Canadiana:

A 30-minute drive from Charlottetown, Cavendish is home of author Lucy Maud Montgomery and her fictional heroine, Anne of Green Gables.

PEI has two lobster seasons: May through June and August to October

Check out tourismpei.com; annemuseum.com

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