Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Locals Know" Marketing Campaign

Iconic images of Canada have been overplayed, while many travellers and even locals are not aware how beautiful and surprising Canada really is. Unfortunately tourism officials used only these cliché images to tout Canada worldwide and locally… Until 2009 -

When a surprisingly fresh tourism campaign of Canada started.
Using photos and video submitted by Canadians to YouTube and to the Canadian Tourism Commission directly, this 2009 campaign highlights the best hidden travel gems across the country, such as

· A secluded canyon in Thunder Bay, Ontario
· A sparkling cobalt lagoon on B.C. ’s Sunshine Coast
· Desert sand dunes in Alberta

Recently touted in Forbes as one of the world’s top 10 travel campaigns, the CTC’s highlighting of Canada’s hidden gems have a timeless, placeless quality, underscored by the tag line, “Where is this?” While Canadians are accustomed to photographs of the Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls and red-coated Mounties on Parliament Hill, there are amazing tourist sites that people might not know they exists in their home province.

Locals Know – Canada
The campaign gained popularity among travellers that are doing increasingly more online research. Fans have uploaded more than 2,000 “secret spots” onto the interactive website, which received 1.1 million page views – all within the first month. Clearly, tourists are seeking out trusted word-of-mouth recommendations.

Maps, Maps, Maps

WORLD OF MAPS, 1235 Wellington St, Ottawa

The map-seekers here, from military personal heading to the arctic to diplomats trying to pinpoint distant postings around the globe, say more about this city than a tour of the Parliament Buildings.

Usually the store caters to more common travellers. On any Saturday morning, you will often hear customers swapping advices on tourism sites and hotels to stay in New Zealand, or the best restaurants in Munich, while browsing guides and maps along the walls.

The store also has a special printer which allows you to pick any quadrant of the
earth and get a custom-made map. All the staff is well-travelled: the owners were even spending a year circling the globe before they settled 1994 in Ottawa.

If armchair travelling is more your style, you can purchase an old-fashioned globe with a bar hidden inside.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Dunes Gallery, PEI

One of the best spots in Prince Edward Island:
The Dunes Gallery combines outstanding art, delicious food and drinks, a shopping paradise for crafts from Canada and Asia, exciting architecture, beautiful, lush gardens and friendly hosts. It was there where I discovered the works of one of the world’s best jewelry designer and goldsmith, Eve Llyndorah.

I found the Dunes Gallery by chance.
In the middle of nowhere, potato-fields right and left, I dosed along a small country road between Charlottetown and the Prince Edward Island National Park. Suddenly I detected huge, really huge, flags ahead. Curious, I slowed down, wondering what such big flags are announcing. “Dunes Gallery” I read, when pulling into the parking lot. Well, what really caught my eyes and made me stopping were a Martini glass pictogram and the word Bar & Restaurant.

I yearned for a coffee and something good to eat. The coffee was outstanding (and I am really a connoisseur when it comes to Java), but the food was not only delicious, it was comparable to that of a 5-star restaurant!

I gave myself lots of time to wander the gardens, watched pottery crafters working, admired Eve Llyndorah’s magnificent jewelry art (and learned she lives on her own island in southern BC), marvelled at the exotic sculptures and browsed through books and gifts, before I settled on the roof top garden to “smell the roses” and enjoy the sunset colours of the sky.

It’s a heavenly experience and alone worth the drive to PEI. Next time I bring even more time to enjoy this place.

Baddeck, Cape Breton and Alexander Graham Bell

Come and you will love it:
Baddeck, once a ship-building centre, is now known as a lovely holiday spot at the Bras d’ Or Lakes. It is also the site of “Beinn Bhreagh”, Alexander Graham Bell's 243-hectare estate.

Bell and his wife Mabel, first arrived in Cape Breton in 1885 on holiday and fell in love with these beautiful surroundings. "I have traveled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland but for simple beauty, Cape Breton rivals them all," declared the inventor of the telephone.

There is a terrific museum in Baddeck devoted to Bell's life and achievements that besides the telephone included an iron lung, the hydrofoil and one of the first airplanes - the first ever to take-off in Canada.

The Bells spent 35 summers at their estate (their descendants still own the property) and Alexander and Mabel are buried on top of the local mountain.

Don't miss:
The Best of the Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive
Highland Village Museum
Orangedale Railway Station Museum
Rita's Tea Room
St. Peter's Canal National Historic Site
Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre

Alex Michael Memorial Pow Wow
Big Pond Festival
Feis an Eilein (Festival of the Island)
Highland Village Day
Glenora Distillery
Canada’s only single malt whisky distillery, not far from Baddeck, offers distillery tours and free ceilidhs (celtic music) daily until mid October
The cosy restaurant and Hotel invite for an overnight stay (and to enjoy tastings). Sit in the lovely courtyard, complete with a running brook, or walk and photograph the scenic grounds.

Iceberg Alley

Newfoundland's Iceberg Alley is the only place in the world where you can see majestic icebergs floating their way down the Atlantic Ocean from Greenland. Best time of the year to see icebergs is between April and June.


The Iceberg Finder website shows you their exact positions. Popular places to experience the icebergs are St. John's & Cape Spear, Bonavista, Witless Bay, Twillingate, La Scie, St. Anthony, Point Amour, Battle Harbour and Cartwright.

Icebergs calve from Greenland’s west coast glaciers and float often for over a year before reaching the northern and eastern shores of Newfoundland.
Only 1%-2% of the more than 40,000 icebergs travelling from Greenland make it down to Ice Berg Alley. Often icebergs are over two and three stories high, and hide 90% of their mass below the water.

Many local companies offer boat tours along the coast to catch a closer experience with the majestic ice mountains. Bring your camera, lots of films!, sunscreen and sunglasses as well as a wind/rain jacket.

For kayak adventurers these currents are treasured as best spots in the world. It provides paddlers with the ultimate (but dangerously) close encounter with these grand and glorious ice sculptures, often accompanied with whale sightings. Will Gadd, an adrenalin junky from Alberta even climbs these icebergs - the ultimate in dangerous "sports".

Sailors are always respectful of Iceberg Alley. Full-sized icebergs have been dangerous obstacles for ships. Iceberg Alley is where the Titanic met its resting place in 1912.

Unfair Olympia treatment of Native Canadians

Racism and imperialism at the Vancouver Olympia Organizing Committee?

Imagine you own a business logo or a symbol that was used for centuries in your country and by your ancestors. One day a “foreign association” comes along and uses your logo/symbol in order to generate a lot of money with your intellectual property – without even asking you or paying you any royalty.
Would you sue them? Or just give in and watch how they rake in millions with your symbol?

Another scenario:
You are a young artist and you are to perform at the “foreign association’s” opening ceremony of a worldwide event. The rights to broadcast at this event are sold for mega millions to TV and radio stations all over the planet.

However, before you can perform you have to sign a five pages long contract that says:
  • You will not be paid for your performance at the opening ceremony
  • Your are a volunteer
  • You have NO rights to revenues for you artistry
  • You have to bring your dancing regalia and drums to the event at your own cost
  • You must send a photo of yourself in your dancing outfit
  • You are bussed in to entertain white people. After that, go home to your reservation! And don’t even think that you can stay in the city and enjoy any sport events...
Unfair you say?
Well, that’s exactly how the VANOC, the Vancouver Organizing Committee treats the artists that perform for them.
Big press releases tout Native Canadians as hosts, friendly welcomes of native chiefs are printed.
Former National Chief Fontaine was very polite (or erred) with his welcoming words years ago and for sure he did not know the content of the contracts then. He said:

“The 2010 Winter Games represent a turning point in our history. For the first time in Olympic history, Indigenous Peoples are full partners in hosting these Winter Games and we will work closely with the four Host Nations to ensure there are lasting legacies for our people.”
Lil’wat Chief Andrew added:
“Most of Canada’s history has been written in hundreds of years. Our peoples have shared these lands for thousands. We look forward to welcoming the world here for an authentic Aboriginal experience in 2010.”
(from VANOC's website).

Despite all this cant, the Olympic organizers use native land, their art, symbols, music and performances to make a lot of money.

Searching VANOC’s website for the Aboriginal Youth Gathering and their performance at the opening ceremony, it says: "Sorry, we could not find any matches for "Aboriginal Youth Gathering"

Symptomatic ??? Or just an error of the webmaster?

BTW: Canada and the United States are the only countries that refuse to sign the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book Review: Malak's Canada

Moving from Montreal to Canada’s Capital I did not like this city, in fact, I found it dull and ugly. But everywhere I saw brilliant photographs of Ottawa.I visited the photo museum for an exhibition and learned about this artist who must have loved Ottawa, to celebrate it in such beautiful images: Malak Karsh.
In his latest coffee table book the reader does not expect less then prefect images of Canada’s nature and beauty. But not only this: they also show again his love to Canada and introduces the reader to the diversity of landscapes and the soul of the country in this journey through all provinces.

“Canada: The Land that Shapes Us” explores our magnificent country in 105 colour and 30 black-and-white images. Karsh captures the vast beauty that is Canada. From the quaint fishing villages of Atlantic Canada to the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, Malak offers a unique visual portrait of the people and places that make up this remarkable nation. Most importantly, however, this book is a beautifully designed retrospective of a photographer's lifelong love and work.

About the Author
Malak has had photographic exhibitions at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Ottawa Congress Centre, in the Netherlands and many other countries. His awards include the Order of Canada, the Whitton Award, the CAPIC Lifetime Achievement Award, Photographer of the Year and the National Film Board's Gold Medal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Covered Bridges in New Brunswick

Almost every year the number of wooden covered bridges declines, as weather, wear-and-tear, neglect, and wilful destruction take their toll. Despite the odds, preservationists persist in trying to save these old wooden truss bridges as they are a part of our built heritage. A few have been carefully dismantled and then reassembled in a new location for tourists to admire.

When the population and prosperity of an area increased, roads and bridges were built to connect communities to each other and to more distant markets. By the 1830s, covered bridges were appearing. During the heyday of covered-bridge building in Canada, several hundred were built in New Brunswick.

Only 64 are still remaining in the province, the most famous one passes over the Saint John River in the town of Hartland. Initially an open bridge in 1901, it later became, at 391 m (1,282 ft.), the longest covered bridge in the world.

John and Stephen Gillis, the authors of "No Faster than A Walk", believe that familiarity with the covered bridge and knowledge of the efficiency of the wooden truss may well have been
imported into New Brunswick with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in the 1780s.

Covered wooden truss bridges had been built in medieval Europe, and Italian architect Andrea Palladio had explained the mechanics of the truss—a structural frame that exploits the rigidity of the triangle—in his sixteenth-century "Treatise on Architecture". Nonetheless, covered-bridge building in New Brunswick became popular only until after they appeared in the United States.

As people believed that a wish, made while driving through a covered bridge would come true, covered bridges were referred to as “wishing bridges.” Because they offered a secluded spot for romance, they were also called “kissing bridges

Book Review: Wings Across Canada

One hundred photographs of forty historic planes, "Wings Across Canada" is a retrospective of Canada's aeronautical technology.

The famous “Silver Dart“ completed the first flight in Canada in 1909, soaring less than a kilometre, and bringing the nation into the dazzling new world of aviation.
The Curtiss JN-4 Canuck recorded more firsts than any aircraft in Canada: first to be mass-produced, exported in large quantities, and used for military, airmail and survey flying. Bush planes are among the country's greatest aviation achievements, Curtiss HS-2L, an aerial workhorse, the Noorduyn Norseman could land and take off in tight spots on floats, skis or wheels.

The all-metal de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, the Avro Lancaster, the most successful heavy night bomber of the Second World War, the first aircraft in the world built specifically to fight forest fires, the Canadair CL-215 ...

From the eccentric Fairey Battle to the lethal-looking CF-18, from modern airliners that have no defects (and no character) to the classic North Star (which had both in plenty), here is the ultimate line-up of the aircraft that have served Canadians in the last century.

This book does not compare the planes, or claims that all are "classics" in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it is a celebration of a love affair with aircraft that all served a purpose in their own time.

Take flight with this soaring read about the story of Canadian Airlines International from its start flying into the bush to its growth into an international airline.

About the Author
Peter Pigott is the author of several aviation books such as Flying Canucks: "Famous Canadian Aviators", and Gateways: "Airports of Canada".

Peter Pigott chronicles the development of these pioneer landing strips into vital gateways for travel they are today. Canadian airports offered a home base for air aces, bush pilots, Charles Lindbergh and excited tourists. In Gateways, readers will learn how RCAF Liberators hunted for U-boats, how the Avro Arrow soared briefly at its pinnacle, and the story behind C.D. Howe's transcontinental airline.

This is an amazing book packed full of information on the Canadian airline industry.
It also covers the history of Canadian Pacific Airlines in-depth, and has a wealth of photos I've never seen anywhere (including a CP Air Boeing S.S.T.) It is a "must have" book for anyone who is interested in Canadian Airlines, CP Air, PWA etc.

Wings Across Canada
An Illustrated History of Canadian Aviation
Peter Pigott

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights

Several cultures have their own folklore surrounding the lights. An Algonquin Indian myth held the lights were the souls of ancestors dancing around a fire.

Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) are present year round, especially between August and March. Longer nights and earlier nightfall contribute to their sightings. Active solar winds are common during this period, which gives the sky a wonderful glow.

This magical phenomenon begins at nightfall. Often green, sometimes purple or red, the lights start dancing on a starlit backdrop. Witness the greatness of the universe. At times, it will seem as if the rays touch the ground and you could almost catchits beauty.

In mid-August, a shower of shooting stars join in the dance along with the northern lights. Up north is very little light pollution, therefore it is easier to find an excellent place to gaze the sky.

Many tourist destinations in Canada's north, such as

are offering special tours and there is even more than one Aurora forecast website. Google Images counts more than 600,000 photographs of these fascinating northern lights.

The Japanese fascination with the lights also has its own myth:
Conceiving a child beneath the lights will bring good luck. No wonder: more than 20,000 Japanese visitors travel every winter to Yellowknife.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eastern Canada Heritage Towns

Lunenburg, NS
Old Lunenburg has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 400 buildings are part of the designated area, an exceptionally well preserved example of a North American colonial settlement. The building that best illustrates Lunenburg's distinctive style is the Morash house at 55 Montague Street.

It was built in 1876 and features Lunenburg's famous dormer windows, which are larger and finer than traditional dormers, attributed to Joseph and Salomon Morash. Some dormer windows covered two stories while others opened on to nearly a whole room.
Most of Lunenburg's handsome residences are painted in the same colours as the fishermen's boats and some of their architectural features illustrate superstitions attributed to seamen.

Aylmer, QC

Aylmer has a wealth of some 500 heritage houses and buildings - the greatest number in Canada’s National Capital region - many of which were built before Confederation.

Aylmer Road is the region’s last remaining heritage highway and still retains its original character with green spaces, unspoiled by high-rise buildings and car dealerships.

Aylmer’s early settlers, and those that followed, left a rich past. Their legacy is seen in Aylmer’s impressive public buildings, splendid stone mansions, elegant brick houses, charming wood frame homes and solidly crafted log cabins. A heritage tour is an excellent way to educate and sensitize to the architectural gems that survived in this town.

Tour Canada's Most Eastern Vineyards

Nova Scotia Wineries - not only Canada's but North America's most eastern vineyards. From the warm shores of the Northumberland Strait to the fertile Annapolis Valley, over 70 grape growers with more than 550 acres in 7 regions across the province are dedicated to wine.
Since twenty years, several thriving vineyards are producing award-winning wines, that can be tasted and tested during the popular wine tours from May to October.

The earliest vines in Nova Scotia were planted i
n 1611 by Champlain’s hardy band of settlers. Today these internationally successful varieties chosen by vineyard owners include:

  • Marechal Foch
  • Baco Noir
  • Seyval Blanc
  • L’Acadie Blanc

Jost Vineyards on the northern shores of the province produced the first icewine outside of British Columbia and Ontario to be lauded as the Best Ice Wine in the country at the All-Canadian Wine Championships.

Attend a wine appreciation event, hosted by the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission: “Annual Port of Wines Festival” and the “Wine and Spirits Showcase”, or book a reservation at one of the many Halifax restaurants that are famous for their wine cellars, such as Seven, Gio, Chives Bistro, Da Maurizio, Onyx or Wolfvilles Blomidon Inn.

Even better: enjoy a leisurely tour of all Nova Scotia wineries, with lots of tastings. Most wineries are open year-round, not only during the Fall Wine Festival and some wineries participate at the Ice Wine Festival.


Monday, November 23, 2009

St. Lawrence River Whales

Impressive Mammals are swimming in the St. Lawrence River.  Every summer hundreds of  Whales are coming from the Atlantic Ocean and share the waters of the St. Lawrence River with Belugas and Seals.  They come here for the abundant food provided by the Labrador Current, a cold water current from the Arctic that travels up the St. Lawrence all the way to the Saguenay Fjord at Tadoussac.

Whales arrive in the spring to eat the plentiful food and depart in the fall, once they have fattened up! The more food a whale eats, the thicker its layer of fat, or blubber, becomes. When it returns to the Atlantic for the winter, the whale will live off its stored fat.

Whale Watching

For a long time, little was known about the whales of the St. Lawrence until about thirty years ago, when researchers began studying them in earnest and whale-watching became a popular activity.  Some whales make impressive leaps into the air, much to the delight of heir human audience.  Others exhale a spectacular plume of spray at the surface of the water, before taking a deep breath and diving in search of more food.

Hunted for centuries for their blubber, whales are still being followed by people in boats trying to get a good shot - now using cameras instead of harpoons! 

However you don't need to board an expensive zodiac, whales are easily to observe from the shore at sunrise or after sunset.  Observe St. Lawrence Belugas in Sainte-Marguerite Bay all summer long.  Walk to the lookout to see if you can spot the whales!  From May to October many
 types of Whales are abundant, especially in the area between Tadoussac and Rimouski.

Threads to the Whales through Oil Pipeline: