Tag Archives: canada

Happy Birthday! – Canada Celebrates 150 Years

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Canada is celebrating 150 years in 2017!

New York Times lauded Canada as one of its “52 Places to Go in 2017,” and our agents agree! The world’s second-largest country has a wealth of national parks and historic sites to explore. And it’s birthday is just another excuse to go check it out! ALL of the country’s more than 200 parks are offering free admission through the year, from wooded Vancouver Island to the glacial peaks of Banff and on to the swelling surf of Nova Scotia.

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Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, spoke of his hopes to use the celebrations as a time to really connect with Canadians, to promote festivities, patriotism, as well as “moments of reflection.” Here are just a snapshot of reasons to check out the Great North this year:

Montreal

The city of Montreal is turning 375, and throwing a party all year. Brave and dance the cold away at Igloofest, a festive electronic music party in the open winter air. Indulge your inner junk-food junkie with La Poutine Week (Feb 1-7). Vote on your favorite combo of fries, curds, gravy, and a special X topping. Don’t miss Canada Day celebrations over at the Old Port in July, a day of cake, hockey and cannons.

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Toronto

Toronto comes alive with a series of art installations and events. Head down over to the central waterfront to Ice Breakers (January), public art made icicle goodness. The Toronto Symphony (January) is bringing to life some of the country’s long-forgotten heritage composers, from French to jazz to indigenous sounds. The score will be composed and broadcast across the nation.

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Quebec City

Quebec City harks back to its Catholic heritage with Carnaval de Quebec (Jan 27), featuring more than 200 events over 17 days. Night parade or ice sculptures anyone? The Rendezvous Naval 2017 Tall Ships Regatta (what a mouthful!) is a transatlantic race of a fleet of historic tall ships. The expedition will stop in six different countries, including 30 Canadian ports, and unite for a festive celebration in Quebec City (July 18-23). Departing from the UK in April and spends almost two months in Canada before returning to Europe.

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Vancouver

Vancouver goes all out culture-wise with the red carpet event Movie Nights Across Canada (January), an exhibition of Musqueam artist Susan Point at Vancouver Art Gallery (Feb to May) and the theatrical Vancouver Fringe Festival (May to June). Indigenous culture also plays an important role in Canadian history, and the country goes out of its way to honor both Multiculturalism Day and National Aboriginal Day, both in June.

For more events, check out The Star: 150 Ways to Celebrate Canada 150 in 2017.

Been to the Great White North? Tell us about your favorite Canadian adventure in the comments!

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Travel News: Alaska Airlines’ New Premium Class

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Alaska Airlines’ New Premium Class Section Now Available For Purchase
Upgrades start at $15, starting in January fliers will enjoy a seat with extra legroom and additional perks. The airline will debut its Premium Class section for travel on select routes beginning Jan. 5, 2017, as it continues a significant retrofit of its all-Boeing fleet. You can now purchase seats with up to four more inches of space between rows. In addition to four extra inches of legroom, passengers seated in Premium Class will enjoy early boarding, snacks and complimentary drinks. Alaska Mileage Plan MVP, Gold and Gold 75K members will be eligible for complimentary upgrades into Premium Class at the time of booking, or up to 24 hours in advance of travel, depending on status and the fare purchased. With the addition of Premium Class, Alaska’s most loyal customers who aren’t able to upgrade into First Class will see a significantly increased likelihood of getting a seat with more legroom near the front of the cabin. For more information around upgrades for elites see the Alaska Airlines blog: Treat yourself: Alaska Airlines launches new Premium Class. Initial prices for Premium Class seats range from $15 to $79 in addition to base fares and are based on the length of the flight. Seats in the new section can be purchased at the time of booking through alaskaair.com or Alaska’s mobile apps, during check-in, and at the airport.

Chinese Visa Scanning on the United App

On October 20 United Airlines introduced new functionality in their mobile app that makes travel to China easier than ever. Customers can use their iPhone, iPad or Android device to scan their Chinese visa to complete check-in through the United app. This new functionality delivers a convenient channel to provide visa information during the 24-hour check-in window prior to departure. 

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Icelandair Adds New US Destinations And Extra Flights

Icelandair is to increase its seat capacity by 11.5% next year as it continues to build up its network linking Europe and North America. The carrier is adding two new destinations in the US next year, Philadelphia and Tampa, which will take its number of North American routes up to 18 flying through its Reykjavik hub. Icelandair will begin flying to Philadelphia on May 30, 2017 and the service will initially run as a summer-only route which will operate until September 20, 2017. If it is successful, the route may eventually become year-round. Tampa will be added as a new destination from September 7, 2017, operating twice per week, and will complement the existing Orlando route, which runs five times per week. Both services will operate year-round from next September when there will be a daily service from Iceland to Florida. The airline also serves 26 destinations in Europe including five UK airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. Sister carrier Air Iceland also flies from Reykjavik to Aberdeen. 

Ottawa’s Winterlude Festival Set For 2017

In 2017 Canada marks its 150th birthday, with holiday-makers invited to join in the countrywide, year-long celebrations. The main focus for national events will be the capital city Ottawa, where 12 epic months of big, bold, immersive and moving experiences will be on offer. The first major ‘National Partner Event’ of the Ottawa 2017 calendar will be a special edition of the annual Winterlude festival, which will wow visitors over three fun-filled weekends, 3 – 20 February. Next years’ will be the 39th edition of Winterlude, when Ottawa will be transformed into an enchanting city of all things snowy and frozen. Organizers are promising a festival that will be bigger and better than ever, with some 600,000 revelers expected to descend on the capital. The bumper sized celebrations will be centered in and around three downtown locations, all of which will be free of charge to the public.

US Preclearance Expanding To Stockholm In 2019

The United States and Sweden signed an agreement on Friday to expand the preclearance to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. There are other airports wishing to join the program from number of countries. The Swedish government said it hopes the increased ease of travel will have positive consequences in making Sweden a more attractive place for international companies to base their headquarters in. The goal of the so-called Preclearance program is to extend security and thwart the arrival of unwelcome visitors before they reach the US but the advantage for all travelers is to clear Customs before getting aboard the plane, and to avoid long lines upon arrival. The airports embarking on the process to join the program include Bogota, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, Kansai, Milan, Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, and Saint Martin. More than 10 million travelers fly to the U.S. from those airports each year. The program already screens about 18 million travelers per year arriving from 15 airports mostly in Canada, the Caribbean and Ireland.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm at Night

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2015 Tauck in America

Have you seen the latest Ken Burns seven-part epic, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History? Then you’ll love the NEW Tauck New York City Event next year October 1-5, 2015.

Co-created by Tauck and Ken Burns, the Event will feature a keynote address by Ken at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and guests will have a chance to meet and mingle with him. They will also visit the townhouse of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, a wedding present from Franklin’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, which she had designed expressly so that she could move in with them.

Sharing the stories of America’s people, places, and history-shaping events is at the heart of every Tauck U.S. travel experience. Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to learn more about any one of these unique and exclusive itineraries: 

THE TAUCK JAZZ EVENT, 5 days, March 25 – 29, 2015

1An encore celebration of this uniquely American music in New Orleans: Extraordinary live musical performances, small group themed sightseeing, exclusive experiences & a personal appearance by Ken Burns; French Quarter, Preservation Hall, Mississippi steamboat dinner cruise, 4 nights at Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans.

HIDDEN GEMS OF NEW ENGLAND, 8 days

 4NEW! A singular journey through the picturesque region that shaped America: Boston Common & Fenway Park, autumnal colors in the White Mountains, sustainable Vermont farming, Mark Twain’s home, Shaker influence, Saint-Gaudens’ sculptural legacy, New Hampshire wilds & Maine’s ocean views.

 

YOSEMITE AND SEQUOIA: JOHN MUIR’S CALIFORNIA, 8 days

Following Mui3r’s stunning path from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada: Presidio history & the Golden Gate, incredible landscapes in Muir Woods, Sequoia & Yosemite national parks, redwoods, mountains, forests & waterfalls, 2 nights each at Wuksachi Lodge & The Ahwahnee®, 3 nights in San Francisco

 

WONDERLAND: YELLOWSTONE IN WINTER, 9 days, a Small Group Culturious trip

2The world’s first national park at a spectacular time of year: Snow-covered valleys, mud pots, hot springs, ice bridges & ionic geysers, snowcoaches, elk, sheep, bison & wolves, fantasy landscapes in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon & the Tetons, 2 nights at award-winning historic Wort Hotel.

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to speak with any of our qualified agents.

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Mosaïculture in Montreal

 

preparing for the summer sculpture festival

By Wailana

On my recent trip to Montreal in May, I stumbled on the budding treasures of the Mosaiculture exhibition in the Parc Olympique. The exhibit, set to debut in July, was still in its growth patterns. The sprouting ivies and perannuals had barely begun to coil over the black metal frames.

Since 2000, Montreal has hosted the Mosaicultures Internationales every 3 years, and this year 20 countries are competing under a theme of “Land of Hope.” The garden expands over 185 acres and displays nearly 50 sculptures. The Grand Honorary Award and People’s Choice Award will be announced in September.

“Mosaïculture,” writes the competition’s website, “is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colourful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).” The sculptures showcase our planet’s biodiversity in flocks of storks, frogs and toads, rams, dogs, deer and old shepherds.

A 2-day adult admission costs about $28. Visitors can also purchase tickets to the nearby Insectarium or the Botanical Garden.

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May in Montreal

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May may be past, but our memories of it aren’t!

Last week WIT Agent Wailana took a trip to Montreal — she did her sleuthing and checked out the gorgeous parks, funky neighborhoods, and unique cuisine of this laid-back and loveable city. Long dubbed the “Europe of North America,” Montreal has a plethora of foods, sights and activities fit for every type of tourist. Whether you are traveling to Quebec or adding the city to a cruise or rail itinerary, Montreal is a perfect multiday stop of culture and excitement!

Check out her photos in the Gallery.

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Top Montreal Activities Wailana recommends:

– checking out the gorgeous Parc Mont Royal and enjoying the Tam Tam drums on Sundays

– window shopping around the picturesque boutiques in Vieux-Montreal

– catching dinner at O’Noir, where the waiters are blind and you are served a “mystery menu” in pitch darkness

– taking part in one of Montreal’s incredible summer festivals, especially the world-famous Jazz Festival

– taking a walking or biking tour, a terrific introduction into the daily life and hidden gems of the city

– vintage clothes shopping on the Plateau

drinking sangria and munching on crepes

– enjoying the Botanical Gardens on a lazy Saturday

– taking a snack-tour on Saint Laurent and sampling Hungarian sausage, smoked meat sandwiches, and poutine

– gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian? Montreal is a pioneer in innovative food menus, available in their many alternative groceries and eco-friendly restaurants

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While there, Wailana had an opportunity to check out firsthand Fitz & Follwell, an incredible tour operator based in a bike shop just off of Saint Urbain on the Plateau. Since it’s establishment four years ago by bike enthusiast Shea Mayer, F&F has grown rapidly and sets itself above the norm in tour quality and passion. They have a range of affordable tours, from family-friendly bike tours around the highlights of the city, to walking tours that explore Montreal’s history through food. Their tour guides are highly skilled and attentive, and you’ll be in safe hands cruising through the streets with a local historian or professional food blogger. Winter tours are also available. Call Wailana at Wittravel to find more info on this terrific company and to discover which tours are available during your stay in Montreal!

bike tour in Parc Mont Royal

For more about Montreal or traveling to Canada, call us at 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com. Seeking a long trip on the amazing Via Rail? We’ve booked several of our clients on trips from Vancouver to Nova Scotia. As a certified expert on Canadian rail, Wailana can answer all your questions and book a fantastic rail getaway for you and yours!

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Reading List: Montreal

Today WIT Agent is heading out to Montreal, “The Europe of the North.” Stay tuned until next week for some of her insights and tips, and photos from the trip! For now, let’s take a look at some of the great and gritty literature for which Montreal is renowned:

Gabrielle Roy. The Tin Flute. A Montreal classic chronicles the life of a young woman and her  family in the neighborhood of St. Henri.

Kristian and John David Gravenor. Montreal: The Unknown City. A fascinating resource of some of the more saucy and scintillating gems of Montreal’s culture and past.

Melissa Graham. Trans-Canada Rail Guide. A guide to traveling with Canada’s national train network VIA Rail from coast to coast. From Halifax to Vancouver, the guide is complete with routes, maps, transport tips and city guides. (WIT Agent Wailana is a certified expert in Canadian rail. Ask her about the best way and times to travel!)

William Weintraub. City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and 1950s. A vivid depiction of the vibrant city of Montreal.

 We at Wittravel have booked countless clients on their personalized trips throughout Canada. Rail travel is a beautiful and unforgettable way to traverse the country, admire stunning lakes and mountains, and visit some of the great cultural stops along the way, from Vancouver to Quebec City. Call us or email for more information. 

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South, Sunsets, Seattle!

This week WIT agent Wailana is concluding her days aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Today, we take a look at Victoria and the ship herself.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 – At Sea

Another day “at sea” is a terrific opportunity to explore the ship’ services. Besides the onboard spa, fitness center and pools, there are ample activities all around the ship, including:

–       bingo night

–       basketball h.o.r.s.e. tournament

–       watercolor art class

–       presentations by a qualified cultural historian and naturalist

–       music trivia

–       wine tasting

–       and much more

As one of the last days onboard, there was a festive air throughout the ship. The gift shop held sales and the lounges specials and events. Photographers shot scenes of impeccably dressed guests against the backdrop of a fiery sunset.

I took advantage of this day to explore Michael’s Club, the shipboard equivalent to a pub. You can sip on a beer from their worldwide selection, enjoying the lounge with its muted lighting, tasty edibles and live music. I was once again impressed with the general unpretentiousness and high standard of food and service. It was also English-themed trivia night, a hilarious event as the etymology of the word soccer came into question.

Thursday, 6 September 2012 – Victoria, BC

The morning began with a crew talent show and cooking contest. This was a great chance to see all 900+ crew members on stage at once, some of them displaying incredible feats of magic, dance, song, comedy and theatre. It was also a terrific opportunity for the passengers to show our appreciation of the hard work behind the scenes.

After, it was on to late lunch. My number one recommendation on any Celebrity ship is to try one of the specialty restaurants onboard. It’s not that the regular restaurants are inadequate–on the contrary, the main dining area Trellis is a culinary delight each seating—but the attention to detail, quality of ingredients, and presentation are up a whole new level. After the entertainment of the A.M., we headed down to the SS United States, the specialty restaurant focusing on French cuisine. The setting had a very clean and 1950’s ship interior, complete with Jazz lounge music, white polished décor, and porthole windows with wooden panels. You can order courses paired with wine or à la carte and just sample from an array of delicious and masterfully prepared appetizers. The peak of the dinner was the jaw-dropping desserts—but those, readers, I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

Specialty Restaurants: Blu (Aquaclass only), SS United States, Qsine

Disembarkation Time: 6.30 pm

Arrival into Victoria was perfectly timed for the afternoon. The sun sinks down over the harbor and bathes the waters in blue and gold. It’s a lovely 30-minute walk or brief shuttle ride into the heart of downtown. In the summer, street performers line the docks just below the capitol building—jugglers, musicians, traders. I would advise cruise passengers to spend their charming, lamp lit evening in Victoria eating out at one of the yummy restaurants in Old Town.

Embarkation Time: 11.30pm

Conclusion

In the end, cruises are luxury resorts set against beautiful backgrounds. They are opportunities to enjoy some fine entertainment, cuisine, and accommodations. Your activities are designed with a demographic in mind, which changes depending on the route. It is important to remember that, with less than 12 hours in any port of call, less focus is given to the destination and more to onboard experience.

With this in mind, Celebrity Cruises stands out as a luxury cruise line. The service is what makes this ship exceptional. The staff was friendly, amusing, approachable, relatable and accommodating. I am not surprised that the Infinity has the highest rated crew in the entire fleet.

Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com to book a cruise today!

P.S. Wailana’s photographs from the cruise will be appearing on the blog next week, so stay tuned!

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