In all my explorations of Toronto over the last few years I have learned that in addition to numerous world-class sights and attractions, Toronto has many lesser known nooks and crannies that are full of history, interesting stories and anecdotes. One of the best people to learn from about the twists and turns of Torontos history is Bruce Bell, a well-known author, playwright, actor, standup comedian who is also a passionate historian and has become one of Torontos most well-recognized history experts.The story of how I met Bruce is also quite intriguing: my brother, who happens to live in Austria, was reading a German travel magazine that was featuring a story about Bruce, so he called me up and said that there is this guy that is doing all these neat walking tours through Toronto and thats how I connected with Bruce through a European detour. Over the past couple of years I have taken two of his tours, covering the downtown area and featuring a culinary exploration of Torontos famous St. Lawrence market. I have always enjoyed the experience and wanted to do another tour with Bruce for a while.Well, I figured it was definitely time for more entertaining and informative explorations of Toronto; this time it was going to be Chinatown-Kensington, one of Torontos most vibrant and fascinating neighbourhoods. So I called up Bruce and said lets do another tour. To share the experience I brought out six of my friends and we met yesterday at 6:30 pm at one of Torontos modern architecture icons: the OCAD Building at 100 McCaul Street, just south of the University of Toronto campus. The OCAD Building, I call it the gift box on stilts, is part of the 2004 redevelopment of the Campus of the Ontario College of Art & Design. The Sharp Centre for Design has a unique table top structure which has quickly become one of Torontos most recognizable landmarks.The Grange, undergoing renovation, situated next to the AGOWe met in the Butterfield Park area, surrounded by the stilts holding up the table top of this extraordinary building. From there we headed west into a green space that features Torontos oldest house: The Grange was built in 1817 for DArcy Boulton Jr., a member of one of early Torontos most prominent families who owned about 2000 acres of land in the area. The classical mansion reflects the British architectural traditions of the 18th century. Today, the Grange is owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario and is in the process of being renovated and integrated into the AGOs Frank Gehry-led redesign.After leaving this park we walked north on Beverley Street which features several yellow-brick mansions of some of Torontos most pre-eminent families, the Family Compact the true power brokers of the early 19th century. Families such as the Cawthras and others owned huge tracts of land in what is todays downtown Toronto. The Bolton family even owned a private racetrack near the intersections of Dundas and Beverley and many formal social occasions were celebrated on their enormous estate. We also passed by a former hotel which dates back to 1822, one of the very few hotels left from that era which today is a mens residence.Our stroll took us westwards on Baldwin Street, a street with a mix of imposing mansions, historic apartment buildings and narrow Victorian homes with attractive architectural details and amazingly intricate woodwork. Bruce stopped at a mansion of one of Torontos most influential historic figures: George Brown (1818 to 1880) was a Scottish-born Canadian journalist, politician and one of the Fathers of Canadas Confederation. He was also the founder and editor of the Toronto Globe newspaper which today is known as the Globe and Mail.Bruce enlightened us that George Brown was an important figure in the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed African slaves to escape from the United States to Canada in the 19th century. Ironically, as much as George Brown supported the cause of freeing black slaves, he remained a staunch anti-Catholic. Bruce elaborated that while the United States was characterized by an ongoing conflict between Blacks and Whites, early Canadas conflicts mostly unfolded between Protestants and Catholics. Bruce added that in 1880 George Brown was shot by one of his former employees at the Globe newspaper, a certain George Bennet who had been fired from his job for drunkenness. Although George Brown only suffered a leg injury at the time he died about 6 weeks later from the wound.Just a few steps further west we saw the mansion of Robert Baldwin, a member of the Parliament of Upper Canada and a key public figure around the time of the 1837 uprising of the Toronto population against the entrenched British power structure. The unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 was an uprising against the British colonial government, particularly about the issue of land allocation. Most of the land in and around the old City of York was owned by the Family Compact, a group of extremely wealthy Anglican conservative families that represented Canadas elite at the time. Robert Baldwin was instrumental in establishing Responsible Government, which advocated increased independence from Britain and self-government for Upper Canada.We had finally arrived on Spadina Avenue, the expansive north-south artery that is the centre point of Torontos Chinatown. This historic neighbourhood, one of three Chinatowns within Torontos city boundaries, is centered around Spadina and Dundas and is the largest Chinese shopping area in the city. Old Chinatown is actually one of North Americas largest, not surprisingly as Toronto features the second largest Chinese population in Canada after Vancouver.Recent years have seen a migration of Chinese immigrants to the suburbs which has led to the closure of some of the local restaurants. Many former Chinatown residents, originally from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have moved outside the Citys boundaries and the void has been filled by many ethnic Chinese people from Vietnam. As a result an increasing number of store signs are now in Vietnamese, in addition to the well-established Chinese stores.Goods sold include fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, low cost clothing and general merchandise, all of which are sold at very reasonable prices. Recently there has been a noticeable local increase in Latin American immigrants, testament to the fact that Torontos demographics continue to be in flux.The same story applies even more to Torontos Kensington area, roughly bounded by Spadina Avenue, College Street, Queen Street and Bellevue Avenue. As Bruce explained, it is one of Torontos most ethnically diverse and eclectic neighbourhoods and has been attracting immigrants from different countries of origin for the last 130 years or so. Originally the Denison estate, the Kensington area became a residential area for Irish and Scottish immigrant labourers. The small working-class houses in this historically inexpensive area have been inhabited by successive waves of immigrants from different places. From 1910 onwards, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe as well as some Italians started to stream into the area. The entire Kensington area became known as the Jewish Market, and about 60,000 Jewish residents lived here in the 1920s and 1930s who worshipped in about 30 local synagogues.We stopped at the Minsker Synagogue at 10 St. Andrew Street, home of the Congregation Anshei Minsk, Torontos Downtown Synagogue. Construction of the synagogue commenced in 1922 and was finally completed in 1930. As a result of the out-migration of many of the Jewish residents from Kensington, today it is one of the few synagogues still in active operation in downtown Toronto.
Mountain hiking is an outdoor activity that makes tourists take a trip back and be intimate with nature. Whether in Asia, the Alps, or the Rocky Mountains, it offers the same chills and thrills for outdoor travelers.AsiaThe best mountain hiking spots in Asia takes you to the different hill tribes where you can meet the indigenous people. A trip to Thailands Erawan National Park will allow you to view the most beautiful waterfall in Thailand. Outdoor travelers can find several tribal villages in Erawan which immerses the travelers to the different cultures in Asia.The BA BE Village is a mountain hiking spot in Asia found in the region bordering Vietnam and China. Along with the mountain hiking trip, you can also take a shot cruise through the BA BE Lake. This trip will also take you to the pristine forests as you see different herbal medicines that the natives use. At the end of the trail, you will encounter different hill tribes to give you a rewarding experience. The best feature of this spot is that you can also experience bicycle rides which is a local tradition.EuropeThe spots in Europe are known for unspoiled nature, lots of flowers, and following the trails for a mountain hike to the Alps.The Sumava Mountains in Czech Republic is a pristine spot that features rolling hills and pure rivers. This trail was once a no mans land for the past 40 years. As a national park, the hiking trail will take you nowhere near a human settlement. However, the horses here will delight you.The smallest alpine mountain in the world can be found in Poland. The alpine mountain hike will lead you to easy walks and challenging trails. Its small size allows you to view the different medieval castles giving this trail a historic touch. Aside from castles, it also has olden churches, and different palaces to remind tourists of an almost serene past.Further west to Slovenia, you will encounter different trails for different mountain hikers. The mountain peaks found at the Julic Alps has easy hiking trails where you can find some swimming spots. This combines a challenging yet relaxing experience for outdoor travelers looking to see the top of Eastern Europe.AmericaThe most popular trail in America is of course their greatest mountain range. The Rocky Mountains is mapped out for different trails for various levels of mountain hikers and outdoor travelers.
Attracting droves of tourists every year, Europe promises the ancient, the diverse, and the completely fascinating. Most travelers scurry past the major sites and cram in as much as possible in order to get through a list of 'must sees.' Unfortunately, much is overlooked due to lack of time and money while the infinite unique treasures sometimes hidden for the resourceful traveler remain undiscovered and unappreciated. Not that visits to the key attractions should be dissuaded!On the contrary, I'm simply inviting the European travelers to dig a little deeper into their destination country and find the gems that will make them smile as they recall them even decades later. Remember and celebrate the taste of a fresh German pretzel, the sweet smell of the air in a Tuscan vineyard, or the baby soft petals in a colorful field of Dutch tulips. Savor an entire spectrum of sensory bliss as you skip from one country to the next, searching for that tiny unique detail that you will fondly relish for the rest of your life.Garmisch, Germany boasts of many things the breathtaking Bavarian Alps, perfectly-carved wooden houses with flowerboxes that spill over with color, the delicate edelweiss alpine blossoms, mouth-watering schnitzel, stout German beer, and a myriad of talented local craftsmen. But did you know that at the edge of this quaint, picture-perfect town lies a violent display of Mother Nature? Known in German as the 'Partnachklamm,' it hides behind the old Olympic Stadium and attracts hundreds of hikers each year.So what exactly is the Partnachklamm? In a nutshell, it's a struggle to the death a knock-down, drag-out brawl between the Partnach River and a limestone gorge. The river peacefully runs through the trees until it hits the 262-foot tall gorge. From there the river's personality turns to fury as it slams into the rock walls, throwing its temper tantrum for over 2,300 feet before calming down again and continuing to flow through the Bavarian countryside. Visitors follow a carved-out rock path from the entrance to the gorge and up a gradual incline to experience firsthand what nature is capable of. Don't forget your raincoat, though! You may be able to avoid the mist from the tumbling cascades but the spray from the waterfalls above will most definitely christen you!There are several ways to experience the Partnachklamm, each holding its own delight for the visitor. Late spring through summer will provide a green backdrop on the limestone rocks while the chilly alpine waters almost deafen its company. In colder months, the gorge becomes an enchanting world of icicles and snow. Check first before showing up during the winter, thoughtoo much snow and ice will force the gorge to close for safety reasons. It's also possible to visit during the day or the night daytime offers better views while the warming sunbeams force their way through the foliage.After dark, torch-lit tours are offered, giving the gorge a mystical quality. Regardless of season or time of day, once you've made your way through this hidden natural treasure, continue up the mountain for a robust hike and then relax at the Forsthaus Graseck's restaurant. The food is excellent and the views are breathtaking. While indulging in their cuisine, ponder how you'll get back down take the same path through the gorge or a restful two-minute ride down in the cable car. Either way, a trip to the Partnachklamm is well worth it!
Clear luminous aqua waters and white sands, Mauritius is a real haven of tranquility in the sun. Situated in the South West Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs and is composed of a central plateau with some breathtaking mountain scenery. Covering 1,865 sq kms crisscrossed by rivers, waterfalls and streams Mauritius is an enchanting island. Prepare to be dazzled by its beauty that will entice you to return time and time again.Mauritius has a diverse blend of cultures and religions testament to its 18th, 19th and early 20th century population movements. It is a society which is truly able to flourish in peace and harmony. Visitors to the island will find the Mauritian people they meet to be kind and full of hospitality. The official language spoken is English however most Mauritians speak the real language of the people, Creole- a pidgin language evolved from French masters of the 18th century. French is also widely spoken.Many describe the island as enchanting and a real life tropical paradise and its not hard to see why. The island has the worlds third largest coral reef encompassing a lagoon and several beaches. The natural beauty of the island is impressive and you will be astonished by the mountains, wildlife and nature reserves. If you are looking for a laidback relaxing holiday you can take advantage of the endless number of white sandy beaches and lagoons. Pereybere beach is ideal for soaking up the sun, sea and sand. Between the Grand Bay and Cap Malheureux its one of the best spots on the island. For more active beach activities and sports the Grand Bay beach offers a choice of sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing. On the South East of the island Blue Bay beach is also a popular location for windsurfing, sailing, sunbathing and passing the day away.Enjoy some of your most happy experiences on the island. Whether you are diving, playing golf or exploring the island, this tropical paradise has something for everyone. Mauritius has developed as one of the worlds best destinations over the years. It is a cut above the rest in the Indian Ocean, offering world class hotels and service and is renowned for having top spas and cuisine.The best time to visit for diving holidays is between December and March when aqua waters are at their clearest whilst the Mauritian winter offers a less humid climate between May to November and is a more agreeable time to visit in terms of temperature. Coastal temperatures vary from a low 22˚C in winter up to 34˚C in high summer.Mauritius is also a favourite amongst honeymooners and is a special place to get married. The mechanics of getting married are simple and ceremonies can be conducted on the beach or at selected hotels.Spa relaxation, hospitality, escape and adventure, culture- A holiday in Mauritius is the place to live, breathe and realize your dream holiday!Malachite Travel are specialists in tailor-made holidays to Mauritius.
Barcelonas main airport is located a convenient fourteen kilometers south-west of the city centre at El Prat de Llobregat. It is one of the busiest airports in Spain, not surprising when you consider the variety of low cost flights now available to the area all year round. As holidaymakers begin to avoid the traditional summer holiday months, opting instead for slightly cooler weather for their Barcelona sightseeing, package holiday companies are coming up with great deals on city breaks and weekends away in this fabulous city.So are the facilities at Barcelona Airport keeping pace with the growing tourist traffic passing through each week? Is it really so simple to get from the airport to your city centre hotel, and back again? Booking cheap flights often means sacrificing that lie in or early night to get the best deal, but will you have to pay extortionate cab fare when you get there? The following advice will help you to plan this crucial part of your journey, whatever time your flights, and whatever your budget. All modes of transport are available directly from Barcelona airport, but you may need to book some in advance to make sure you dont miss out.Hiring a car can often be your best option. If you are only staying for a short period you will want to make the most of your time and not spend precious minutes waiting for a bus that will take the long route to your destination. When arriving late at night, or leaving early in the morning, a hire car is invaluable and can ensure you get a little extra rest. It means you dont need to worry about lugging your cases around, and gives you the flexibility to visit some out of town places during your stay that you would otherwise have missed. Most airlines have special deals with car hire companies, so be sure to check when you book your flight. You also need to be sure that your hotel has adequate parking and find out the cost so you dont get a shock at check out.If you are not planning to travel around during your stay, a taxi can have all the same advantages as a car but with less cost. You will also avoid driving in a new country, where the rules and road signs may be unfamiliar, and you may even be on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Taxis can be taken from outside all terminals at Barcelona airport and official taxis are white with a red stripe. Your taxi will take you to downtown Barcelona for around twenty Euros, and you will be there in fifteen minutes, depending on the time of day and traffic. You will be charged an extra euro for each piece of luggage.Between the hours of 6am and 11pm, a half hourly train service will take you from the airport to the Placa de Catalunya for a fraction of the taxi fare. Inside the terminal, follow signs showing a train, which will be signposted to the Placa de Catalunya or the Arc de Triomf. The train ride is fifteen to twenty minutes. Although the train is cheaper than a taxi, if there is a group of you, you may still want to get a cab. It will work out the same price and will drop you right at your hotel. The airport bus operates similar hours to the train, and also drops you in the Plaza Catalunya, as well as making several stops along the way.