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TRAVEL SLEUTH - BLAST AWAY THOSE WINTER BLAHS
 
(2014 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



You can change the winter blues today.

Put some vacation thoughts in the ignition, start the engine of your imagination, and within minutes you can blast away the daily humdrum with a new-found fascination for life.

Begin with a search engine. Key in dreamy words such as skiing, spas, cruising and resorting. Add some heavenly destinations and you are likely to find that even just the vacation planning—plus the anticipation of the departure date—can put a bounce in your step for weeks.

Take a look, for example, at these sleuthing results:

Cruise into Cuban History

If you’ve been to Cuba you are fully aware this island-nation has a captivating personality far beyond its dazzling beaches. In many towns, for instance, the Spanish-colonial architecture is still intact from the earliest settlements 500 years ago so a stroll through the streets is a genuine walk back in time. By road, this 109,000-square-kilometre island would take weeks to fully explore, so why not circle it from port to port on board a cruise ship? Canadian company, Cuba Cruise, will take you on a week-long sojourn to Havana, Holguin, Santiago, Trinidad, Punta Frances, and also to nearby Montego Bay, Jamaica. It’s an opportunity to experience the diversity of Cuba in a way visitors rarely see—and all of it comes with the assurance of seamless accommodation, entertainment and services, plus meals that include fresh produce and Canadian beef. Book the cruise as an all-inclusive air/land/sea package with tour operators you recognize such as Transat Holidays and Hola Sun Holidays, or buy it as cruise-only from Montego Bay. yourcubacruise.com

Nature Adventures in Florida

Florida’s complex ecology is not always apparent in the shadow of 19 million residents, several major cities, plus the distraction of 89 million visitors every year. Spend a day in the Keys however, or in the Everglades, or boating on the Intracoastal Waterway and it’s evident that a nature buff gets far more here than expected. If you want even more bird life, sea life, wildlife and plant life, head to the Pinellas County Park System on the Gulf Coast where you can explore Fort De Soto and its five interconnected cays. Totally tranquil and uninhabited, this is the Florida coastline from the beginning of time. Be protective but feel as free as nature as you walk along a sugar-white beach through the mangroves and wetlands, which form a reliable refuge to loggerhead sea turtles, thriving native plants, no less than 328 species of birds—and you. pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

California Spas

Known for the 300 days of sunshine, you can fly directly from Canada to Palm Springs, or drive the 172 kilometres from Los Angeles to reach this glamourland. For sure, when you combine the spas, golf, swimming, tennis, horseback riding, cycling and hiking with the thriving arts scene—plus the sensational restaurants and nightlife in the company of Hollywood screen stars—Palm Springs never fails to make the perfect girls’ getaway. Get pampered and rejuvenated with a sugar rub, a Mediterranean oil massage, a ginger grass bamboo scrub or a Moroccan hydration ritual. At the Spa Resort Casino, the mineral-rich hot springs are pumped into private deep tubs giving you privacy with a pulled curtain. Other amenities include a eucalyptus sauna, dry-heat sauna, a steam room and plenty of ice towels to keep you cool. For even more luxuries, stay at The Willows. This pretty inn is right in the heart of town so it’s within walking distance to cafés and shopping—and the management serves complimentary wine and tapas every afternoon. visitpalmsprings.com

European Retreats

Set in a valley of the fabled Black Forest, the first impression of Baden-Baden is like stepping into a fairy tale. Indeed, it was this exact densely wooded region of southern Germany that inspired the Brothers Grimm to write such 19th-century classics as Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella and Snow White. These characters are woven into the fabric here, however, unlike theme-park fantasies, this is a protected, primordial forest, complete with a subterranean source of hot mineral springs. The town of Baden-Baden is best known as the World Spa in the Black Forest where for at least 2,000 years it has harnessed the healing powers of 12 bubbling springs into two central baths. The first is the Caracalla Spa with its immense Roman-sauna landscape that includes a rock grotto with hot and cold water pools, marble whirlpools, water current channels, an aroma steam bath, and wellness lounge. At the second bath, Friedrichsbad, try the Irish tradition of hot-air bathing in combination with the Roman style. Surrounded by frescoes, you will float in the healing waters on a circuit of 17 stations of changing temperatures. Southern Germany remains a fanciful land of castles and cuckoo clocks, crooked half-timbered cottages and cobblestone laneways. Now picture it all with a dusting of snow. Baden-baden.de/en

March Break Skiing in B.C.

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are an alluring escape from the humdrum of winter to a silent land of a thousand snowy peaks. It’s the place for peace and replenishment—and it’s also the place for hotshots. At the Panorama Mountain Village, for example, future Olympians rip down 1,200 vertical metres of fall-line perfection—and even junior hotshots on Mount Nelson are finding a new adventure of some kind with every descent. This is a resort where you can ski right up to the door of your suite at the Panorama Spring Lodge and where families (and all visitors) can get the PanoPass for unlimited skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, tubing and for tobogganing on every day that the lift ticket is valid. And exhaustion just can’t be an issue. This resort beckons with Canada’s largest slope-side hot pools called the Panorama Springs, so when that replenishment is combined with the countless hot tubs dotted throughout the village, your muscles quickly revive for all of the après-ski relaxation—and for the action. panoramaresort.com

Big Sky, Montana

Here in Montana you can add even more exhilaration to your Rocky Mountains ski experience—and that is with the solar energy of a very big sky. Indeed, it was from this sensation that Big Sky Montana was born. The resort town is only a five-hour drive south from Calgary but be prepared for your vehicle to gradually climb 2,000 metres to the base elevation of what enthusiasts call “the biggest skiing in America.” When combined with the interconnected Moonlight Basin, the skiable terrain is a whopping 2,300 hectares with a vertical of 2,551 metres. Each year, 1,000 centimetres of snow are expected here and Big Sky is consistently ranked one of the top 10 best resorts in North America for the combination of downhill and cross-country skiing, plus snowboarding, ice-skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding and sleigh rides. Accommodation and restaurants are plentiful here and if you’re like many avid skiers you may want to head off to bed early—although on a clear night, all night, there will always be a lightshow in the sky that’s beyond compare. bigskyresort.com

 
 
 
 
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