Cuba ‘Trump-ets’ new American invasion

It was 56 years ago that American-backed insurgents landed on the beaches of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. That invasion was a failure, but, thanks to the recent warming of relations between Cuba and the U.S., there’s a new American invasion taking place. How this one will turn out is anyone’s guess.

Any day that cruise ships are in town, the length of Calle Obispo, the main artery of Havana’s Old City, bustles with American  tourists. They come to explore the host of shops, bars and restaurants that line this picturesque avenue in a city that was once off limits to Americans.

One of the most popular spots along the street is La Floridita, the bar that invented the rum-fuelled daiquiri cocktail that was a favourite of American writer Ernest Hemingway.

Read the rest of the story on TraveLife Magazine’s website.

Earth, wind and water: 10 offbeat experiences in and around Montreal

There’s nothing better than getting outside during a Montreal summer, but if you have already overdosed on festivals and had your fill of celebrating the city’s 375th birthday, we’ve got 10 unique experiences in and around Montreal that will help you get off your couch to try something new.

IN THE AIR

Skydive without a parachute

Unless the engines are on fire, most people would rather not jump out of an airplane, yet there are thousands who strap on parachutes to skydive for fun.

If you’re hesitant to make that jump, the closest thing is to take a leap into the skydiving simulator at SkyVenture, located in Laval’s Centropolis complex.

It’s basically a cylindrical room with a giant fan on the floor that blows air upward with enough force to make you float in the air. Each flight lasts 60 seconds, which is the typical length of a parachutist’s free fall, and children as young as four can do it.

An intro package with two flights costs $68. A four-flight package sells for $93.93, and a 10-flight deal is available for $182.65.

2700 Cosmodôme Ave., 514-524-4000, skyventuremontreal.com

Read the rest of the story on montrealgazette.com.

A new vocabulary for describing travel emotions

The English language is thought to have more words than any other, but when it comes to vocabulary to convey the complex emotions we experience when we travel, it could definitely use a few more.

To overcome this deficiency, English has borrowed words such as the German wanderlust, and we use French to wish people a bon voyage, but there are plenty of other foreign words that we could incorporate to enrich our language even further. In Japanese, they talk about yoko meshi to describe the stress of speaking a foreign language and German has fernweh to describe a yearning for far-off places.

Even with the help of foreign languages, there are still many feelings when we travel for which there are no unique words.

Here are some that we’ve invented that sum up a few of these common travel experiences with just one word.

Read the rest of the story on The Globe & Mail’s website.

Entering Germany’s dragon den on a robot

FURTH IM WALD, GERMANY – For 500 years, this tiny Bavarian town has staged an annual performance of the story of St. George slaying the dragon that has grown from a humble religious procession into a spectacular event that today features the world’s largest walking robot.

On the day I had come to this medieval German town near the Czech border to witness this event, it was grey and rainy. The show would go on, despite the weather, but the thought of spending two and half hours sitting in the rain didn’t sound like fun.

Prior to the start of the show, I visited some of the sights in the town related to the performance. The Drachenhöhle is a museum that explains the long history of the St. George play known as Drachenstich that is staged here each August. It displays old photos from years gone by, antique costumes and models showing how the gigantic dragon robot was built. It also explains how it began as part of the annual Corpus Christi procession, but broke off from the church in the 19th-century as a secular event.

Read the rest of the story on TraveLife.

Walking in the footsteps of Newfoundland’s Viking settlers

After visiting the only known Viking settlement in North America, we learned to appreciate the struggles that the New World’s first immigrants faced a thousand years ago just to find this place and then to survive in its harsh environment.

We hiked out into the low, scrubby landscape at L’Anse aux Meadows, N.L. to visit the remnants of their seaside settlement, but were underwhelmed to see that it was not much more than a small collection of grassy mounds. That disappointment vanished quickly as our Parks Canada guide brought the story of those mounds to life. He explained how the Vikings smelted iron from the bogs to make nails to repair their ships and struggled to survive at that spot for several years until they eventually abandoned it.

Read the rest of the story on Metro.

Taiwan is the “wheel deal” for cyclists

We had only five kilometres left to cycle that day, but it was hot, our muscles were complaining and the long road ahead of us sloped upwards, reminding us that we’d have to work that much harder to get to our final destination.

As we approached the hill in the Taiwanese countryside, we came to a small community of homes. By the roadside, in the merciful shade of a towering tree, was a small Taoist shrine, one of many similar structures found throughout the country.

The small red building, no bigger than a garden shed, was adorned with colourful sculptures of Chinese gods and monsters. Inside was a golden statue of a deity with offerings left behind by worshippers from nearby farms. We didn’t have anything to offer, but we thirstily drank our remaining water and silently beseeched any gods that were listening to provide us with the energy needed to climb that final hill.

Our prayers were answered because, in what seemed like no time, we powered up the slope ahead and coasted the rest of the way to the hotel where the others in our group were waiting. We were able to luxuriate in the pool where our aching muscles could recover for the next day’s ride.

Read the rest of the story on TraveLife magazine’s website.

Montreal: The city of bagels

Ask any Montrealer to name the city’s most iconic foods and without hesitation, they will answer smoked meat and bagels. But what most probably don’t know is how Jewish immigrants brought those foods here and how they managed to endure as favourites.

One Montrealer who knows that history and is keen to share it with locals and visitors alike is Kat Romanow, the Director of Food Programming at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

“Jews have lived all over the world and wherever they’ve settled they’ve taken the cuisine of that region and adapted it to the Kosher food laws — so when we talk about Jewish food, we’re talking about a cuisine that is very diverse,” she explains.

Romanow’s enthusiasm for the community’s history is contagious and the perfect starting point to understand how the city’s 93,000 Jews and their cuisine fit into the story of Montreal.

You can read the rest of the story at the Jewish Chronicle.

Tennis not just for posh tourists in Anguilla

Beneath the impossibly blue skies of the Caribbean paradise of Anguilla, I sat in the shade of a palm tree, watching pairs of teenagers playing tennis on rows of immaculate courts.

These weren’t the offspring of well-to-do vacationers. They were local children who were members of the Anguilla Tennis Academy, the fancy-sounding name of an institution that began 21 years ago with the primary goal of making tennis affordable for ordinary Anguillan kids and teaching them all the life lessons that go along with dedicating themselves to becoming good at a sport.

The academy is the brainchild of Mitchelle Lake who was once a local kid himself, but was able to translate his own skill at tennis into a scholarship at an American university. He wants to use the academy to give a new generation of Anguillan kids the chance to have the same opportunity that he did.

Read the rest of the story on Metro.