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Jane McLean

Canada Travel


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Be Cautious of Ontario's Soggy Spring Conditions

Tuesday April 15, 2014
In the last year, I have started going down stairs like an old lady: clutching the rail, sideways, one stair at a time. Nothing has particularly changed about my ability to negotiate a flight of stairs, but I have had a mental shift in my willingness to take risks of any sort.

So on this morning's walk through our hilly, mucky back woods, I was particularly cautious of the wet slopes and camouflaged obstacles ready to take this middle-aged body down.

Despite utter mindfulness to the hazardous conditions, down I went.

I am relatively unscathed, but others have not been so lucky. Police in several municipalities in Ontario can tell you stories of people acting non-nonchalantly around steep banks and waterfalls and suffering falls. One woman lost her footing at Tews Falls, which is 41 meters high, in Hamilton. Firefighters took 45 minutes to get to her. Amazingly, she endured only a broken ankle.

After heavy snowfall this winter and significant rain in the last week, Ontario trails can be treacherous. So, take care. If you walk like an old lady now, you have a better chance of becoming one.

Do You Like To Go Where Tourists Don't?

Monday March 31, 2014
The touristy spots of Quebec City are really what everyone comes to see. Old Town Quebec is touristy for a good reason - it's gorgeous and unlike anything else in North America. However, Old Quebec can overshadow some other interesting neighbourhoods that are worth visiting.

The Saint Roch area - about a 15/20 minute walk from Old Quebec - is trendy and still growing with many excellent restaurants and shops appealing especially to Gen X and Gen Y crowds. Think along the lines of Gastown in Vancouver or Queen Street West in Toronto.

In addition, more affordable hotels are located in Saint Roch, including TRYP Quebec Hotel PUR, which was refurbished in 2011 and today evokes clean, minimalist chic at rates more affordable comparable hotels in Old Town.

Photo is of view of Saint Roch Church from TRYP Quebec Hotel Pur guestroom.

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10 Things to Know about Toronto Pearson International Airport

Monday March 31, 2014
Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) is Canada's biggest and busiest airport. Though it may have status by the number of passengers it hosts, in terms of amenities, this airport hub tends to fall short. However the airport has been upgrading constantly throughout the 2000's and 2015 will usher in a shiny renovation complete with improved dining options and expedited passenger and baggage processing.

In the meantime, here are some of the things to watch out for and ways to make your time at Pearson as painless as possible: 10 Things You Should Know About Flying In & Out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Visiting Canada in April

Sunday March 30, 2014
Winter finally seems to be melting away in southern Ontario, so the idea of planning some outdoorsy, springtime activity is on my mind.

April is a great time to travel in Canada as warmer weather has arrived but not the peak-season travel costs of summer. Check out Travelzoo for deals to spring ski destinations (which are enjoying a long 2014 season) or tap into a maple-inspired meal at one of the hundreds of sugar shacks open in early spring around Ontario or Quebec. Toronto streets are brimming with action with the arrival of spring temps.

Treat yourself to an urban experience of shopping and theatre and stay at any one of a number of downtown Toronto hotels. Deals abound.

Photo of Cherry Blossom Festival in Vancouver © Connie Coleman / Getty Images

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Old Montreal Awakens in Spring

Friday March 28, 2014
As winter thaws into spring, the streets of Old Montreal start to bustle again. Many businesses in the historic part of Montreal actually shut down during the winter months but by March, most proprietors have dusted off the Bienvenue mats and opened up shop.

That Was Cool!

Tuesday March 18, 2014
We visited the AGO this past weekend to close out March Break with a dose of culture. After easing the kids into their day of unwitting enlightenment with a 40 minute stop at the Hotwheels play station, we decided to immerse ourselves in the real art stuff.

As we meandered, a docent approached our family and asked if we would like to join a short lecture about one of the most popular paintings. Though my daughters were reluctant, we followed our new guide into the Paris Salon gallery - a rich red room outfitted floor to ceiling with a diverse selection of paintings by European artists. One painting in particular consistently gets the vote as the crowd favourite: that of the Marchesa Casati. Her red hair and flirty, defiant stare makes her portrait a standout and for the next 20 minutes my kids were entranced by her story (possibly in part by her description as an early 20th century Lady Gaga). My eldest even uttered at the end, "That was so cool."

So thanks go to that docent who turned a rambling collection of paintings into something comprehensible. The insight she gave us on one painting turned an ordinary visit to the AGO into one that infused my kids with curiosity and wonder about all the other art we encountered that day.

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Ice Cross Downhill: It's as Crazy as it Sounds

Monday March 17, 2014
Some athletes aren't satisfied with just ordinary danger. Take the sport of ice cross downhill, for example.

Sure, ice cross downhill competitors could have strapped on their skates and tried to kill each other the old fashioned way, by playing hockey. Instead, these daring dudes up the risk factor by blistering down steep hills on blades in groups of four, battling for the lead around hairpin turns and sharp verticals.

Every March, the Red Bull Crashed Ice world tour winds up in Quebec City to crown its champions. Cost is free and puts spectators in the heart of Old Quebec City. The 2014 finals take place this Saturday, March 22 at 7:30 pm.

Pubs & Parades: St. Patrick's Day in Toronto

Monday March 10, 2014
As so many other countries do on March 17th, Canada observes the Irish religious and cultural holiday of St. Patrick's Day. Although only Newfoundland and Labrador - a province rich in Irish heritage - takes a stat holiday, the rest of the country pays its respect by consuming large amounts of green beer and staging St. Patrick's Day parades. Photo © Scott McLean

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Fabulous Family Vacations in Canada

Friday February 28, 2014
With a vast expanse of natural lakes, mountains, and forests, a unique French heritage, and an enduring multicultural population, Canada offers an array of family adventures to suit a range of interests and budgets.

Though my daughters are disappointed that my job writing about travel in Canada won't get them to Disneyland, they do give these four fabulous family vacations in Canada two thumbs up.Image of Drumheller "Dinosaur Valley" © Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst / Getty Images

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Chalets of Mont-Sainte-Anne

Thursday February 27, 2014
Early February, we traveled to Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resort, in Beaupré, Quebec, for the third time in as many years. Though getting there is a 9-hour haul from Toronto, we have found the staff at Mont-Sainte-Anne friendly and easy to deal with and we always enjoy a stop in Montreal or Quebec City (20 mins. from the ski hill) along the way.

Instead of skiing, one day my husband and I explored the steep hilly neighbourhoods surrounding the mountain. We were captivated by the diversity of the chalet architecture and charmed by the bold exterior paint colours the owners had chosen.

Part of the joy of visiting a locale more than once is appreciating its more prosaic aspects - like local paint colours.

We look forward to next year's visit; let the journey of discovery continue.

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