27. October 2011
While we may not understand the fascination with reality stars that seem to become famous for no reason, fame itself is no new concept. It seems only natural to pick up a Star, People, or TMZ magazine. Humans have been trading stories about famous people since 1 AD. So don’t worry if you have a more-than-unhealthy love of star chasing. We totally get it. Which is why we’ve prepared this handy guide for your next celebrity-stalking vacation.
It’s really all thanks to TIFF – the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF has been around since 1976. It shows between three hundred to four hundred movies every year, and the stars come out in full force to support and promote their films. Toronto can be a pricey destination for some, especially if you really follow those stars – they tend to eat in rather expensive restaurants like Sotto Sotto (Jake Gyllenhaal), and stay in (surprise, surprise) very expensive accommodations. We suggest booking a beautiful Muskoka cottage and then popping into Toronto for a night or two to star search. It’s only a two-hour drive. Peak time: TIFF takes place during the first two weeks of September every year.
Vancouver is where you go when you want to see the stars at work, not at play. It’s the third largest film and television production center in North America after Los Angeles and New York. Some notable films that were shot in Vancouver include: Jumanji, Final Destination, The Butterfly Effect – and the list goes way, way on. And any true X-Files fan will tell you that the series was at its best when it was shot in Vancouver. The city also hosts the Vancouver International Film Festival, much smaller that TIFF. It shows Canadian and international films, and is a particular supporter of Asian films. Peak time: any time of year to find celebs on projects; first two weeks of October for VIFF.
Third on the list for celeb-spotting, unless you’re interested in locally-famous Quebecois celebrities (then it’s #1!). Quebec has its own star system, so prepare to spot people like Mitsou, Xavier Dolan, and Lara Fabian receiving warm welcomes. If you’re lucky, you might catch Leonard Cohen out on The Main, or any number of thick-necked Montreal Canadiens. Montreal does host a festival of its own, the Montreal World Film Festival. It’s not a big draw for celebs, but you will see a fantastic selection of international films.Peak time: any time of year, likelihood of seeing A-listers: low. World Film Festival occurs end of August.
So you see, you wannabe paparazzi, there’s no need to travel to LA or Cannes just to star search. They’re here, hiding right in your backyard. Now grab your cameras, and get ready to sell those shots to some tabloids!
20. October 2011
From its rich natural beauty to its dramatic falls, plentiful wine, and lively theatre scene, Niagara is a veritable Dionysian dream! There are many wet and wild things to do in the charmingly Canadian rendering of tourism that is Niagara Falls, Ontario—whether it be by land, water, or sky! Almost like a calmly Canadian alternative to Las Vegas, Niagara Falls is a world famous city of thrills where people come to get married, be awed by visual feasts, and shocked by others.
Emptied from the four Upper Great Lakes into Niagara River, a staggering 1/5 of all the fresh water in the world eventually cascades over the falls, and over 12 million people flow into the city every year to see the stunning result . “Horseshoe Falls” is the name of the falls that are generally depicted in pictures of Niagara Falls, but the Niagara Falls also include the smaller American Falls (no Canadian wouldn’t relish their swift observation of this fact!), and the Bridal Veil Falls. TIP: Your Canadian girlfriend will really enjoy you pointing this out to her—before either of you have to join the crowd around the explanatory tourist signs to see what the deal is.
Ah, we must love human nature. For some reason when people look at the falls one of the first things they think about is whether it would be a good idea to jump down them. 15 people have attempted to jump, 5 didn’t make it. In any case, there are many facets of the falls and different ways to enjoy them—beyond the barrel:
A trip to Niagara Falls would obviously not be complete without taking The Maid of the Mist boat tour that comes right up to the foot of the falls, with nothing between you and the awesome power of nature but one of those infamous blue, plastic parkas. In all seriousness, seeing the view of the 13 story falls from below is something you’ll never forget.
For your senses to experience the world’s second largest waterfall in a whole different way, take a Journey Behind the Falls to hear the epic thundering of the Niagara Falls as you descend to observation decks that are literally right behind the falls.
Head over in the evening for a different view of the falls, illuminated with lights and seasonal fireworks.
You can even ride in a helicopter that will swoop you right down along the curve of the falls.
Take an adrenaline racing ride aboard the Whirlpool Jet Boats, which starts just a half-mile from the falls, and builds in excitement as it approaches the Devil’s Hole Rapids, a bend in Niagara River where the water circles before heading downstream. You can also zip over the whirlpool by cable car.
Though you will definitely fall in love with falls, that’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy romancing with some of the many other attractions that Niagara Falls has to offer! Check out our other blog, “Stepping Out of The Mist—Thrills Outside of Niagara’s Falls” to step out of the mist and catch a glimpse of some of the many less thought of things that you can see and do in Niagara Falls!
13. October 2011
With the great thrill of experiencing a world wonder, some spectacular features of Niagara can get muffled amidst the falls’ thundering roar. When you’re done with wet and wild fun at the falls, here are some other Niagara specialties you can whet your pallet with:
Wine & Theatre
When the momentous sublime of the falls become too overwhelming for your senses to process, you can take the edge off of your on-the-edge-of-the-world experience by sipping on some vintage chardonnay on one of Niagara-On-The-Lakes’ very popular wine tours! No, we do not mean ON Niagara Falls—Niagara-On-The-Lake is a historic gem of a city located just 20 minutes away from the falls. It sits on the corner edge of Lake Ontario where the Niagara River empties into the great lake, and is filled with great wineries, theatres, and beautifully well-preserved old mansions and houses. Niagara-On-The-Lake hosts educational wine tours that will take you to the largest underground barrel cellar in Ontario as well as some of the classic family wineries who are cornerstones in the industry. Niagara also annually hosts the Niagara Wine Festival, the largest wine festival in Canada. Along with it comes over 100 events, including winery tours, tastings, concerts, and one of Canada’s largest street parades!
Anyone with Dionysian proclivities should also know that Niagara-On-The-Lake hosts the very popular Shaw Festival, which performs a variety of works of George Bernard Shaw and playwrights writing of or about Shaw’s era. Many elegantly dressed theatre goers stroll their way through the tree-lined, flowery streets to partake in this great festival.
In keeping with its old-worldly class and sensibility, Niagara-On-The-Lake has no chain hotels or oversized lodgings. What it does have is some of the finest cottage rentals in Ontario, some even right on the edge of the beautiful Niagara Lake. Many lodgings here have vintage flair and historic resonance, and you can pretend you are in another time as you take a carriage ride into Niagara’s Old Town or through the city’s flowery streets.
If you’re a golf player, it would be tragic of you to miss out on what is often thought of as Canada’s best golf scene. There are over 40 Niagara Falls golf courses that offer excitement for every level of handicap. You can even experience the history of gold in downtown Niagara-On-The-Lake, which boasts of North America’s oldest golf course, Niagara-On-The-Lake Golf Club, or hear the thundering falls in the background as you golf at the historic Oakes Hall in Niagara Falls.
If your plans to languidly sip world famous wine, watch fine theatre, and play on exquisite golf courses are trumped by little ankle biters, don’t throw yourself in a barrel—Niagara Falls offers a myriad of fun and exciting activities for the whole family. Clifton Hill is a prime family location filled with thrills to compliment the exciting falls, with attractions like Ripley’s Believe or Not and a 53 metre high Niagara Skywheel. Children shouldn’t miss out on the educational and mesmerizing experiences to be had at the Niagara Falls Bird Kingdom, a controlled environment mimicking that of tropical rainforest where they can see and hear more than 300 species of tropical birds, or the Niagara Parks Butterfly conservatory, where over 2,000 butterflies flutter freely about your family.
Have fun falling in love with Niagara Falls, Ontario!
6. October 2011
Maybe you’re taking a vacation to get some extra work done, you know – for the solitude. Or maybe you have a huge workload and have to bring it with you during your family’s annual trip to one of those beautiful Alberta cabins. Either way, it can prove to be rewarding at best or murderous at the very worst. Here are four tips to help you keep your head on.
Don’t Choose an Abandoned Place
Let’s learn from the mistakes of others – don’t choose a location too secluded. It may be tempting to choose a destination so far from civilization that you’re sure not to run into anyone else, but think about your creature comforts. Try and stay close enough to a town that running in to do a few errands doesn’t take the whole day. Saying hello to a real person when you pick up some groceries can make all the difference.
All Work and No Play…
...and you know the rest. The key to a successful work vacation is to stay balanced. Set yourself a schedule that works for you. This could mean working in the morning, and spending leisurely afternoons with your family. It could mean alternating work and play days. However you slice it, make sure to divide your time equally, allowing yourself ample time for both hard work and relaxation. This alternation will ensure that you feel refreshed each time you return to your work, so you can truly reap the benefits of a vacation.
Lugging That Typewriter
Unless you really can’t function without it, we strongly suggest not bringing your typewriter. Try to bring the most easily packable tools that will allow you to get your work done. If the bulk of your work consists of emailing and writing, it might be worthwhile to invest in a tablet, instead of bringing your heftier laptop. If you will need internet access in a place where none exists, look into a 3G-enabled device or a USB modem.
Bring the Family Along
We recommend having the whole family along on a working vacation, with the notable exception of any children possessing psychic abilities. This may severely hamper any progress you hope to make on that manuscript. Having your family members around can make for a great working vacation, but just make sure that they know your work/play schedule in advance and that they’re willing to respect it.
Voila! If you follow the four pieces of advice outlined above, we can almost guarantee you a successful, rewarding work vacation. You can be productive and enjoy some downtime in the same trip. We wish you the best of luck, and remember, stay out of room 237.