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Travel News: Chinese Gov’t Requiring Strict Photos for China Visa

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Chinese Gov’t Requires Strict Photo Regulations for China Visa

Lately the Chinese government has gotten very particular on their acceptance of photos on the China visa application. Applicants must adhere to the visa requirements to the letter or risk rejections. Please double check with your passport photo photographer that they are up-to-date with recent regulations. Full details on requirements in the attached PDF here. 

Biggest-Ever Airplane Poised For Test Flights Into Orbit

The world’s largest airplane, designed to reshape space travel by launching rockets mid-air into orbit from 30,000 ft, rolled out of its hangar for the first time last Wednesday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The groundbreaking plane, which looks like two aircraft joined together, is the brainchild of billionaire Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen and his private spaceflight company Stratolaunch. Allen founded the company in 2011 with the goal of making access to low-Earth orbit more “convenient, reliable and routine.” It has the biggest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, coming in 385 ft, longer than an NFL field which is 360 ft in length. The aircraft is 238 ft from nose to tail and stands 50 ft high on its 28 wheels. This is the first time the public has got a look at the spaceplane and now work must begin on testing before its predicted maiden voyage in 2019.

Montreal Ferris Wheel Set For July Opening

Montreal’s new La Grande Roue Ferris wheel will start operating in the Old Port in mid-July. The ride will offer panoramic 60-metre-high views of the river, Old Montreal, downtown and the mountain. The Ferris wheel will operate year-round from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., giving visitors a chance to enjoy a day or evening view from an air-conditioned cabin (heated in winter). There will also be a bar, bistro and coffee shop on site

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Record Number Of Climbers On Mount Everest

Safety concerns are on high alert this year as Mount Qomolangma, more commonly known as Mount Everest, is expected to see its highest number of climbers this year. The mountain is located on the border between Nepal and China and in order to climb it, interested climbers need to apply for a permit from either the Nepalese or Chinese government depending on which side the ascent begins. Unlike previous years, the world’s highest peak which sits at 8,848 meters above sea level, is estimated to receive more than 1000 people this year during the peak season, which is the highest number of climbers ever. The cause of the increasing number of climbers is varied but a lot of it has to do with the increasing popularity of the climb ever since it was opened to the public over 60 years ago. This year alone, the Nepalese government has granted 371 permits, the most it’s ever issued in a single year. A key factor which has caused the growth of the number of climbers may be the portrayal of Mount Everest in popular media. Experienced climbers have noted that the climb is promoted as a fashionable activity rather than what it truly is; a challenging extreme sport which should only be limited to climbers who have had experiences with similar conditions such as the 5,895 meters tall Mount Kilimanjaro. In order to handle the increase of applications, the Nepalese government has imposed more stringent conditions such as instigating a ban on climbers who are younger than 18 or older than 75.

Royal Caribbean Reinstates Corkage Fee for Wine Brought Onboard

Cruise Critic reports Royal Caribbean has reinstated its corkage fee for wine brought onboard by passengers. The $15 per bottle fee will be charged for the opening of any bottle brought onboard by passengers on embarkation day. Wine purchased from the onboard menus or through the line’s Gifts and Gear program and consumed in a public space does not bear an extra charge. Passengers are permitted to bring onto their cruise ship, on embarkation day only, two bottles of wine or Champagne per cabin, up to 750 ml each for consumption during the cruise. Any bottles brought onboard during the length of the sailing will be stored for the duration of the cruise and returned to passengers the night before disembarkation. Royal Caribbean declined to comment on why the line brought back the fee, which it had removed back in 2014.

President Trump To Reverse Cuba Policy

There are many reports circulating that the President plans to reverse the previous administration’s Cuba policy. Business Travel News reports US cruise operators and airlines could lose $712 million in annual revenues if restrictions are reinstated. President Trump is poised to void the re-normalization of US relations with Cuba, according to multiple congressional and advocacy organization sources with direct knowledge of the administration’s intentions reported by numerous news media yesterday. Possible changes Pres. Trump is considering include “reconfirming the licensing structure that would rescind the system that has allowed for easier travel to the country,” many news media outlets report, as well as new regulations for businesses interested in working in the Cuban market; reinstating caps or outright banning imports from the country; and redefining the what it means to be a part of the Cuban government or military, which could affect contracts with the Cuban government. The sources say some of the changes could take effect this month. US businesses have established 26 agreements with the Cuban government from 2015 to 2017, according to ABC News, including airlines and cruise lines as well as telecommunications companies and Google, which hoped to expand internet access in Cuba. The number of US citizens visiting Cuba increased 74% from 2015 to 2016, according to the Cuban Ministry. Trump’s administration is reviewing US policy toward the country’s former Cold War foe.

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Arctic Tourism Groups Forge Guidelines For Community Visits

Five Arctic tourism organizations have joined forces to develop guidelines for tourists visiting Arctic communities. In addition to general advice on how to behave, the organizations presented a template that helps communities to create their own tailored guidelines. The guidelines, which provide travelers with useful dos and don’ts when visiting Arctic communities, were developed with the input of local stakeholders. Included are pointers on everything from cultural considerations to recommendations on what kind of souvenirs to buy. For example, visitors are encouraged to talk to, and not about, the people they meet and to ask before taking photographs of people (‘a hesitation means “no”‘). ‘Think of yourself as an ambassador for your country and your culture, as the locals are for theirs. Politeness and good manners are always appreciated,’ one guideline states. Visitors are advised to respect privacy and private property, and places of religious or cultural significance. Children shouldn’t be photographed or given gifts without their superiors’ permission. Religious or cultural ceremonies shouldn’t be disturbed or photographed without permission. People should avoid walking on graves. The groups that teamed on the guidelines are the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), Visit Greenland, Cruise Iceland, Visit Svalbard and the Northern Norway Tourist Board.

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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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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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Crash Course in Montreal

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Montreal makes a great destination for North Americans looking for a taste of Europe for a long weekend. With a wealth of crepe cafes, sidestreets and cosmopolitan atmosphere, Montreal is a major attraction for those looking for some old world culture not far from home.

WIT Agent Wailana took the morning flight out of Portland via Dallas on American, arriving at 7.30pm in Montreal. The 747 bus takes you straight downtown, where most major hotels and the metro are located.

The best evenings are spent strolling around romantic Old Montreal, with its collection of historical buildings and 17th-19th century architecture. At night the city streets are mostly quiet, and the cobblestones are lit up with the soft glow from streetlights. You can even ride in a pink and white horse carriage!

The old quarter is lovely enough to splurge for dinner—look for the lively Modavie Jazz Bar—but for breakfast and lunch, I recommend heading up to the Plateau and Mile End for some tasty local treats. Snack to your heart’s delight on flaky Lebanese baklava and freshly-cut merguez sausages at the Jean-Talon Marche, the largest outdoor market in North America. Afterwards, beat the heat and sample the tasty microbrews at Dieu du Ciel. For some of the best international food, try one of the delicious menus on the historically immigrant Rue de Saint-Laurent. There’s a plethora of Hungarian meats, Spanish spices, Chinese desserts, and Jewish sandwiches to enjoy here.

Take your goodies up to Parc Mont Royal for a beautiful vista and a picnic. You can usually spy some soccer games, live drum music or circus acts here. Did you know that Montreal is one of the world’s top circus arts destinations? Book a bike tour to explore Montreal’s neighborhoods and history like a local. For a different perspective, head to the Underground City. This 20 mile-network of subterranean tunnels are a labyrinthe of shopping malls, subways, hotels and banks. You can also check out the Grevin Museum downtown for realistic wax images of Michael Jackson, Albert Einstein, Obama and more.

The next major attraction worth a stop is Olympic Park, which houses the Stadium, Insectarium, Jardin Botanique and the Biodome, once the home to the 1976 Olympic summer games and now an environmental museum. Check out the spectacular view in a funicular elevator up to the top of Olympic Tower. Bring your swimsuit to plunge in one of the seven swimming pools at the tower’s sports center.

If you’re lucky enough to be in town during one of the festivals, don’t miss the world-renowned Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs Festival that celebrates comedy, and the International Festival of Beer that attracts breweries from all over the world.

We recommend spending at least 3 nights in Montreal, especially if you’re going to add a daytrip into Quebec City. The capital of Quebec has been lauded as Montreal’s smaller, quainter sister. If you have some extra time you could even go for a day trip to Niagara Falls, Ottawa or New York City. For a special delight during winter, try a unique tour to discover one of the region’s most world-renowned, unique products—ice wine.

If you’re in Montreal this summer, don’t miss the botanical garden for the exhibition of 50 remarkable garden sculptures. For a sneak peak, click here.

Several WIT Agents have traveled to Montreal and beyond. Popular itineraries among our clients include multi-day rail trips from Vancouver to Halifax via Montreal, and New England cruises through the St. Lawrence River. Call us to book your Canada trip today or to find out more about available packages: 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com.

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an old man and his dog

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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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Where in the World is the WIT Client? ~~ Traversing Canada by Train

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Lately we have been booking rail journeys in the Great White North, so we decided to feature this month’s Where in the World is the WIT Client? in Canada! Check out how our clients travel by rail and which options might be right for you.

Popular due to gorgeous vistas, high level of comfort, and spacious car designs, traveling Canada by train often offers a cozier journey and more stunning views than travel by plane. Since a trip will often take a few days, many trains offer accommodations, sleeper cars and meals to their passengers. Peak time to travel is from March to September.

There are also a number of vacation packages on offer that include rail, transfers, accommodation, and city tours together. Call Willamette International Travel and speak with one of our many qualified agents if you’re interested.

photo by Shayne Kaye

Which Route is Right for Me?

There are dozens of train routes all across Canada—the longest one coursing from Vancouver to Toronto. Before choosing a route, consider what you find most valuable in travel—destinations, vistas, onboard service and comfort. Each train is different and each has its own unique offerings. Let’s take a look at five of the most popular.

East Coast: Montreal to Halifax

The route from Montreal and Halifax is more than 1300 km and offers chances to view some spectacular scenery. Passengers are treated to fantastic panoramas of Matapedia Valley, Chaleur Bay, and the countryside of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Fun fact: one train’s sleepers were originally intended for the Channel Tunnel that runs between Great Britain and France.

Ontario and Quebec

The tracks that run through Ontario and Quebec showcase the best of Canada’s culture, traveling from Quebec City and Montreal to Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Passengers can stop and enjoy French-speaking Montreal, wander through the elegant neighborhoods of Ottawa, shop in boutiques in Toronto, or stroll through the charming water town of Kingston. This route is popular with business travelers and tourists alike as its trains are frequently as fast as commercial airlines.

photo by Martin Cathrae

The Canadian: Vancouver to Toronto

Probably the most popular of routes for leisure travelers, the Canadian travels from Vancouver, stopping at the major cities Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and ends in Toronto via a breathtaking transcontinental route. This train takes 4 nights and 3 full days, traversing 5 provinces and 4466 kilometers, and hosting some of the finest sleeper facilities in North America. It departs three times per week and guarantees striking views of the Rockies, the vast Prairie grasslands, and the serene Muskoka Lakes.

The North

This northbound route takes travelers up to the far arctic province of Manitoba and the town of Churchill. It is a popular route for seasonal tourists hoping to catch glimpses of polar bears and the Northern Lights. Passengers can also enjoy the beautiful transition from gentle prairie to stark tundra. The train travels 1,700 km in two days, departing from Winnipeg on Tuesdays and Sundays, and from Churchill on Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Jasper-Prince Rupert

The Jasper-Prince Rupert route is a unique rail journey through the Pacific Northwest and fjord country. Crossing 1160 km, it departs from Jasper, coursing past Mount Robson and the rest of the Canadian Rockies, and through the incredible wild scenery of upper British Colombia. The train departs three times a week from Jasper in Alberta, overnights in Prince George, and continues on to Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast.

Interested in traversing Canada by train? Or just want to get more information about tickets, routes, or discounts? Call us at 503.224.0180 or email our rail specialist at wailanak@wittravel.com.

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