Tag Archives: culture
August 25, 2015

Enjoy 24 hours in Vancouver, Canada

Enjoy 24 hours in Vancouver, Canada
Art Deco Marine Building Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Art Deco Marine Building Vancouver

Quite possibly the most beautiful Art Deco building in the world is in Vancouver. The Marine Building was opened in 1930 and bought by the Guinness family. The walls are engraved with murals depicting sea travel through the ages and quirky ocean creatures. Above the revolving doors enormous Great Blue Herons (or Canada Geese?) fly off in opposite directions. At one time the tallest building not just in Canada, but the British Empire, it’s now, literally overshadowed by the many newer skycrapers that adorn the city.

Downtown Vancouver and Marine Building - photo zoedawes

Downtown Vancouver and Marine Building

I recently spent 24 hours in Vancouver, the urban heart of British Columbia; it could easily have been a week. Here are 10 things to do in Vancouver, especially if you enjoy getting a real feel for the place you stay in.

24 hours in Vancouver

 1. Hop on a Hop-Off Tour bus

View of Vancouver Public Library from Tour Bus - photo zoedawes

View of Vancouver Public Library from Tour Bus

One of best ways to see any city is to take a tour bus. There’s usually a good commentary giving a potted history of the place and you can orientate yourself easily before setting off on foot. With stops all over Vancouver you can spend as much or as little time as you want in each place. I got the  West Coast Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off Bus and, as I had limited time, stayed on it for the whole ride – about 2 hours. I picked it up near my hotel, The Burrard, in downtown Vancouver and it trundled all round the city, including Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown, Coal Harbour, Granville Island and Stanley Park. I fell in love with vibrant Vancouver from my seat on the bus …

2. Stroll around round Stanley Park

Stanley Park Rose Garden Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Stanley Park Rose Garden

Rhododendrons flower in spring and in summer the sensuous scent of thousands of roses wafts through the air. Surrounded by water on almost all sides, Stanley Park is a 1000 acre delight. There’s a 9km Sea Wall path which attracts joggers, cyclists and walkers as well as many trails through the ancient rainforest. A group of enormous Totem Poles proclaim the city’s First Nation heritage and at nearby Hallelujah Point, the Nine O’Clock Gun has boomed out every evening since 1894. The most popular family attraction is the Vancouver Marine Science Centre, with over 70,000 sea creatures from the Amazon to the Arctic, including beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, turtles, sealions and crocodiles. There are stupendous views from Prospect Point and beaches all round.

Inukshuk sculpture by Alvin Kanak Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Inukshuk sculpture by Alvin Kanak

3. Explore the origins of industrial Vancouver in Gas Town

GastownSteamClock Vancouver LeonardG

Photo LeonardG

Ever seen a steam clock? No. neither had I until I came to Vancouver. Well, in Gas Town, you can see one. It looks Victorian but was actually put up in the 1970s. Every hour it tootles out the Westminster chimes and sends up jets of steam. Gas Town was the site of the original industrial development in the 1800s; timber and the ease of access to the waterways of Canada ensured its success. There are plenty of older buildings which contrast to the glassy skyscrapers, some great bars and cool restaurants plus lots of independent shops to browse around.

4. Get a flavour of Vancouver on a foodie tour

Fancy a huge plate of burritos and banana bread for breakfast? Or maybe a smoothie made from freshly-cropped microgreens? The best chocolate chip cookies in Canada (allegedly!)? Vancouver is a city that loves its food. I don’t mean likes its food, I mean LOVES its food. From exquisite Chinese dim sum via fresh local seafood, Italian pizzas to hearty steaks, food is the tasty key to Vancouver living.

Fresh oysters and seafood at Boulevard Oyster Bar Vancouv

Fresh oysters and seafood at Boulevard Oyster Bar

I can highly recommend taking a food tour with Jenn from Tours by Locals. She took us on a two-hour romp from breakfast to lunch across downtown Vancouver. We filled up on a huge selection of Mexican-inspired dishes served by delightfully camp Patrice at the wonderfully OTT diner Elbow Room Cafe. This was followed by a tasting of organic fruit and vegetable juices at achingly cool Krokodile Pear. Most bizarre yet compellingly modern was the scifi looking Urban Cultivator where rows of fridges produce ‘microgreens’ which are made into a huge variety of smoothies including Garden of Eden and Morning Sun. We ended up in at the Musette Cycle Caffe which serves excellent light lunches and snacks, including these scrumptious chocolate chip cookies.

Vancouver Musette Cycle Cafe chocolate chip cookies - photo zoedawes

Musette Cycle Cafe chocolate chip cookies

5. Get on your bike

Cycle City Tours Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Cycle City Tours

Well, maybe not yours but there are plenty of cycle hire shops around the city and it’s very easy to get about. If you have a guide book and a map, just take off and peddle, secure in the knowledge that is probably the most bike-friendly city in Canada. There are many bike lanes and everyone seems generally courteous. I went on a Cycle City Tours bike ride with fellow travel blogger Lucy Dodsworth (read her account of Vancouver food and art here) and Sarah Sheehan from Destination BC.

City Cycle Tour Vancouver - photo zoedawes

City Cycle Tour Zoe, Lucy and Sarah

Our guide, co-owner Josh took us on a fascinating journey past the verdant Law Courts, Marine Building, via Canada Place and along the Waterfront. We stopped off a various places to admire the intriguing public art and take in the ever-changing harbour landscape. We passed the enormous Totems in Stanley Park and Josh showed us the Stanley Great Blue Heronry next to the tennis courts. Cycling beside English Beach we saw many people sunbathing and a few swimming and paddling. You can choose more strenuous routes or a gentle ride enjoying the ever-changing scenery.

Cyclist at English Bay Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Cyclist at English Bay

6. Look down on Vancouver

Seaplane tours Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Seaplanes in Vancouver Harbour

Seaplanes, or floatplanes, take commuters, business people and sightseers up, up and away at regular intervals. You can book a short flight by plane or helicopter above the bay or go much further. (I fulfilled a lifelong ambition when I took a return flight in a seaplane from Campbell River to Knight Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest; stunning scenery en route and great fun taking off and landing on water.) If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground then you can get an overview, not just of Vancouver, but the whole country with a virtual aerial tour from coast to coast with FlyOver Canada.

7. Take a ferry, boat, zodiac or kayak round Vancouver Harbour

False Creek from Granville island Vancouver - photo zoedawes

False Creek and Aqua Bus

Vancouver Harbour is one of the loveliest in the world and the best way to see it is from the water. It’s a working waterway but has plenty of pleasurable ways to view it. I got the colourful little Aqua Bus over to Granville Island. Even on this very brief trip I saw a huge number of craft from speed boats departing to find somewhere to waterski, bigger ferries heading off around the coast, smaller ferries carrying passengers around False Creek, tour boats full of tourists hoping to see whales, yachts setting sail in the brisk breeze and plucky kayaks weaving in and out of all this traffic.  The biggest attraction is being able to see Vancouver’s impressive architecture from the water; gazing up at those fabulous sky-scrapers is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Join Kathryn Burrington to see even more of Vancouver.

8. Mooch about a Museum

Museum of Vancouver and Space museum - photo Bobanny

Museum of Vancouver – photo Bobanny

There’s a museum to suit every interest and all ages in Vancouver, from the world-renowned Museum of Anthropology, with its enormous collection of aboriginal artefacts housed within a sensational building, via the Police Museum, Koerner Ceramics, Bill Reid Rotunda, Neon Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery and Maritime Museum to the quirky Museum of Vancouver, with its iconic metal crab sculpture outside and superb collection tracing the history and culture of this part of British Columbia through thousands of objects and into the future with the HR MacMillan Space Centre next door.

9. Find a café and watch the world go by

Caffé Artigiano barrista Josh

Caffé Artigiano barrista Josh making perfect coffee

After all this sightseeing and culture, it’s good to relax. Vancouver loves its coffee and the cafes are more than a ‘culture’; they’re a way of life. This is no 9-5 city; it buzzes all day and night and the cafes are used to meet friends, have business meetings, as informal offices or somewhere to catch up on news. In the uber-cool Caffé Atrigiano, top barrista Josh (yes, popular name) creates a great cup of coffee (top quality fresh Arabica beans) whilst the beautiful people sip and chat.

10. Get a Vancouver City Passport

Vancouver Trolley Bus company - photo zoedawes

Vancouver Trolley Bus company

The Vancouver City Passport gives great discounts and free entry to many of the attractions, museums, galleries, eateries and tours mentioned here, as well as dozens of others. The guidebook has some useful info and background details on the experiences. It’s valid for 2 adults, cost $20 (at time of visit) and can save you loads of money and time.

Explore Canada media group Sandbar Restaurant Vancouver

Explore Canada media group Sandbar Restaurant Vancouver

I ended my 24 hours in Vancouver having a superb seafood meal with my fellow travellers at Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on quirky Granville Island. Not only is the food delicous and the staff friendly, the view from False Creek is an ever-changing portrait of this fun, funky, fantastic city which managed to steal my heart in just one day in late spring.

Vancouver Harbour British Columbia Canada - photo zoedawes

Vancouver Harbour BC Canada

Gary Bembridge shares more top tips for Vancouver here.  I was on a Travelator Media trip, staying at the quirkiliciously hip Burrard Hotel in downtown Vancouver as a guest of Destination Canada. Find out more about awesome British Columbia here.

Burrard Hotel garden Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Burrard Hotel garden

Add this exciting city to your bucket list NOW – you’ll love it.

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Top 10 Things to Do in Vancouver BC - photo zoedawes

July 15, 2015

5 must-see cities in Italy

5 must-see cities in Italy

There are hundreds of interesting, historic, vibrant villages, towns and cities in Italy. Their very names resonate in our shared cultural knowledge – Rome, Venice, Florence, Bologna and so many more. Here are five other fascinating places to add to your list of ‘must-see’ cities in which to enjoy a luxury holiday in Italy.

Milan

Castello Sforzesco Expo Milano Italy - photo zoe dawes

Castello Sforzesco and Expo Milano

Nowhere near as alluring as Rome, the vibrant city of Milan is fashion-crazy and has many attractions for a short stay, especially this year for Expo Milano 2015. Top of the list has to be Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ on the refectory wall of 15th c Santa Maria delle Grazie convent. (Don’t make my mistake and just turn up expecting to get in to see it! You must to book in advance.) Make sure you go inside the magnificent ‘Il Duomo’ which is truly impressive. Look out for the rather gruesome statue of St Jerome with his flayed skin flung over his shoulder like a macabre wrap. Nearby is the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a cathedral to fashion and uber chic. Home to all the luxury fashion labels, the beautiful ones parade around looking stylish as only the Italians can. Order a Campari at Camparino and look out for Borsalino’s the renowned hat-maker. Leave time to wander round the Renaissance Castello Sforzesco, originally owned by the ruling Visconti family and now home to some seriously impressive artworks, including Michelangelo’s last piece sculpture, the unfinished ‘Rondanini Pieta’.

Search out Trattoria Burlagio for a delicious lunch with the Milanese – I loved it!

Genoa

Genoa-Genova Italy - Collage by DanieleDF1995

Genoa-Genova – collage by DanieleDF

Crucial to Italy’s seafaring might, Genoa (Genova) has been an important maritime port for thousands of years. The Greek and Byzantine empires based their navies here and the powerful Lombardy families gave it prominence in the Middle-Ages, gaining serious strategic importance during the Renaissance. Christopher Columbus was a native of Genoa and donated 1/10 of his income from the discovery of the Americas for Spain to Genoa for the relief of taxation on food. Garibaldi left from here to conquer Southern Italy. The Port area gives a flavour of the city’s ongoing relation to the sea with its ancient lighthouse, modern marina and annual Boat Show. There are a number of impressive edifices including the Porta Soprano (East Gate), near where Christopher Columbus was born, 13th c San Lorenzo Cathedral, Palazzo Ducale and the huge fountain in the Piazza de Ferrari.

Naples

Neapolitan Pizza Margherita Naples - photo Valerio Capello

Neapolitan Pizza Margherita – photo Valerio Capello

I visited Naples many years ago when, as a teacher, I accompanied a group of rowdy school kids around the city during a cruise aboard SS Uganda – and I long to return. It’s got a raucous, edgy, rawness to it that other more sedate Italian cities lack. Renowned for its food, pizza is at its best in Naples. I still remember the flavours of a simple Margherita, with slightly charred crispy crust, fresh tomato base, curves of mozzarella and a scattering of basil leaves served at a rickety table in a narrow backstreet.  One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Naples oozes history.  The Archaeological Museum, housed in a lovely building, has many treasures from the nearby sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There are plenty of luxurious palaces and castles to explore including medieval Castel Nuovo, Sant’Elmo, imposing Palazzo Real and Castel Capuano, now used as a courthouse, plus lots of attractive churches. Piazzas, parks and promenades provide places to walk and sit. Find a little trattoria off the beaten track, order a local dish, a glass of crisp white wine and follow up with a Neapolitan ice-cream – perfect …

Palermo

Palermo Siclly - collage by DanieleDF1995

Palermo – collage by DanieleDF

I’ve never been to Sicily but as an ardent fan of ‘Montalbano’, the Sicilian detective and Giorgio Locatelli, the exuberant chef, I feel I know the island and will certainly visit one day. My father went once and talked of baking hot streets, sand-coloured buildings slowly crumbling in the relentless sea air, Roman and Arabic ruins, all with a laid-back air of ennui, laced with a very faint dash of menace. It sounded exotic and enticing. Mount Etna provides a fertile land of luscious citrus fruits, abundant vines, walnuts and – aubergines. Palermo’s port is a busy hub of ferries, container ships, cruise liners, excursion boats, luxury yachts and fishing boats. The city has a wealth of galleries, museums, villas and of course, churches. Top of my list would be the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, with its comprehensive collection of Sicilian art, housed in the Palazzo Abatellis. One day …

Bolzano – South Tyrol

 South Tyrol Italy - photo zoe dawes

Piazza Walther Bolzano

Also known as Bozen, Bolzano is the capital of Italy’s most northerly region, German-speaking South Tyrol (Alto Adige/SudTyrol). The impressive Dolomites gaze down onto the city, giving it a strong Alpine atmosphere. The open space of the Piazza Walther (named after a medieval troubadour) is the perfect place to grab an expresso and do a little people-watching. With its combination of Italian style, Germanic orderliness, Gothic and Baroque architecture, Bolzano is a delight for all the senses. The 15th century Cathedral has beautiful mosaics and down the road you can marvel at the well-preserved ‘Iceman’ in the Archaeological Museum. The colourful street market displays local South Tyrol food delicacies, including speck, mountain cheeses and fragrant honey. Alto-Adige is famous for its top-notch wines. Make sure you try the Gewürztraminer – like drinking the scenery in a glass.

Dolomites from above the city of Bolzano - phot zoe dawes

The Dolomites from above the city of Bolzano

This article on cities in Italy is written in collaboration with Original Travel.

June 28, 2015

Paloma Faith wows at the ASUS Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith wows at the ASUS Eden Sessions
Paloma Faith at Eden Project - photo The Eden Sessions Twitter

Paloma Faith at Eden Project – photo @TheEdenSessions

 

“We’re here at the Eden Project and we’re ready to go! I’m completely blown away by this place. Met Tim Smit today – what a guy. This place is the future …”  There was no doubting the enthusiasm of quirky songstress Paloma Faith for her ASUS Eden Sessions concert in the unique setting of the Eden Project. Nor was there any doubt about the welcome she was given by the 6000 of us who enjoyed her music so much on a clear June night in Cornwall.

Paloma Faith and band ASUS Eden Sessions Eden Project

Paloma Faith and band – ASUS Eden Sessions

Paloma belted out many of her hits from the past six years, accompanied by two fab backing singers dressed in 1950s frocks, and a splendid band. She wore a gorgeous Nicolas Jebran mini-dress which seemed to be made from thousands of sequins and flourescent orange bands that glittered and shone as she danced around the stage.

Paloma Faith - Eden Sessions Concert

Paloma Faith – photo Eden Sessions

Before the evening kicked off I went into the Arena for a pre-concert interview about the new ASUS Transformer Book Chi, the Eden Project and Paloma Faith. ASUS, a computer hardware and electronics company, is sponsoring the Eden Sessions and had invited four of us ‘lifestyle’ bloggers to the concert.

We had to move from the Arena when the Eden Sessions’ first act, Liam Bailey, started his sound checks and it got a bit noisy. My video interview took place in the quietest corner we could find in the Eden Project! I talked about the versatility and elegance of the ASUS Chi. I’ve got the 10″ version so it’s easy to carry about, has a really strong aluminium body, is extremely thin and looks very stylish.

ASUS Transformer Book Chi Zoe Dawes

ASUS Transformer Book Chi

However, its best feature is that the screen splits from the keyboard so it can be used EITHER as a laptop OR a tablet. For a blogger this a real advantage; tablets are all very well but it’s not easy write at length on them. I’m getting into making short videos so the camera is a big plus as is the large memory (64GB), perfect for storing lots of photos and videos.

ASUS Eden Sessions interviews with Zoe Dawes

Video interviews before and after ASUS Eden Sessions

Once the interview was over, we had a delicious dinner in the Med Terrace Restaurant and then out into the arena for the concert. As you can imagine, the front area was heaving so a few of us pushed our way towards the back where the raised bank meant we got a great view. I’m not a huge fan of big crowds, but everyone was really friendly, all ages and just out for a good  time.

Eden Sessions audience Paloma Faith concert

Eden Sessions audience

Singer-songwriter Paloma Faith, from East London, was named Best Female Solo Artist at the BRIT Awards this year. Her 3rd album, A Perfect Contradiction, got to number two in the UK charts and went double-platinum. Her distinctive voice had been compared with classic soul singers such as Etta James and Billie Holiday, as well as more contemporary artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse.

Paloma Faith singing Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith – photo Eden Sessions

Her most successful song, ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ took on a huge resonance as thousands sand along and she threw her powerful voice into the sky and brought us all to a resounding climax … (If you haven’t seen her wonderfully steamy video, have a look here.)

I loved her joie de vivre, (belied by the rather poignant lyrics of some of her songs) and she connected to the audience with her humour and obvious delight at performing in this unique concert venue. Singing ‘Can’t Rely On You’ she changed the lyrics to, ‘We’re at the Eden Project, we can rely on you’  and as evening got darker, the huge Biomes behind the stage lit up and changed colour in time to the music. Magical …

Eden Sessions Biomes and Paloma Faith

Eden Project Biomes lit up at night

She finished off the night with a wonderful version of ‘Take Me’ and the resounding applause at the end showed we’d all taken her to our hearts. A fantastic evening of superb musicianship in an exceptional setting – to paraphrase Paloma, that’s The Truth AND Something Beautiful …

Paloma Faith in concert at Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith in concert at Eden Sessions

 

Here’s the video we recorded that evening – hope you enjoy it :-)

I stayed onsite at the YHA Eden Project in one of their ‘Snoozeboxes’, which are containers converted into comfortable en-suite bedrooms, about 15 minutes’ walk from the main entrance.

YHA Eden Project Cornwall - Zoe Dawes

YHA Eden Project Cornwall

It’s excellent value and ideal for a night or two so you can enjoy the concert and have plenty of time to explore the Eden Project at your leisure.

June 16, 2015

Plan your trip to France the easy way

Plan your trip to France the easy way

My very first trip to France was with school to Paris many years ago, where the boys went off and got drunk in a bar that was perfectly happy to serve 15 and 16 year olds. The girls kept wandering off to look in shops and giggle at the handsome French guys. The teachers struggled to herd pupils round sights they weren’t that bothered about seeing and at night went to each other’s rooms to drink cheap plonk and try to unwind … I know that because I was one of those teachers and I vowed one day to return to Paris and see the sights properly, without playing the role of reluctant sheep dog.

eiffel-tower-paris-france

Eiffel Tower – photo France-Voyage.com

It was 20 years before I got back to Paris and this time we did all the sights without student distraction. The Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Tuilleries Gardens, Notre Dame and even out to the glorious Palace of Versailles – all magical and beautiful even with lots of other tourists around. Another time we took the car over and explored charming Northern France, with its lush pasturelands and historic towns. More recently I went to see World War One sites in the footsteps of WW1 poet Wilfred Owen.

wilfred owen house maison forestiere france

Wilfred Owen Maison Forestiere

If you plan a trip to France, you may be wondering how on earth to organise what to see, when to go and where to stay in such a diverse and big country. There are lots of guidebooks and websites, blogs and articles for you to trawl through, but ideally what you want is a one-stop solution, where everything you need to know is all in one place. Well, I came across France-Voyage.com recently and it’s perfect for planning every aspect of a trip to France, whether it’s French chateaux, ancient cathedrals or to follow the Tour de France.

Chateau la Rochefoucauld - photo France-Voyage.com

Chateau la Rochefoucauld – photo France-Voyage.com

As well as lots of information on all the regions of France, it’s a goldmine of practical and cultural tips to help make the best use of time on holiday. Other plus points include:

  • Complete, detailed content for tourists covering the whole country;
  • Daily updates in cooperation with official organisations;
  • Multiple illustrations and virtual tours;
  • Easy planning with creation of tailor-made itineraries and mini-guidebooks;
  • Ease of access via an intuitive, user-friendly interface that works on all devices, from smartphones to desktop computers;
  • Geolocated, personalised mobile interface;
  • Multilingual information giving easy access to foreign tourists;
  • Completely free for holidaymakers.
Cannes beach, cote d'azur, france

Cannes beach – photo France-Voyage.com

My favourite trip to France was staying with my boyfriend on a yacht in Cannes; we spent three weeks exploring the south of France. Antibes, St Tropez, Villefranche, Monaco – evocative names on the French Riviera. The smell of lavender takes me back immediately to that lovely holiday. I’m hoping to return for a long weekend on the Côte d’Azur in the autumn  so decided to use the site to plan a long weekend in the Alpes Maritime. As a foodie I love the tips on regional food as well as recommendations for places to eat and drink. There are helpful suggestions for coastal and inland walks and so much info on each village and town that I think we’re going to need a lot more than a weekend to see it all.

villefranche-sur-mer cote d'azur france

Villefranche sur mer – photo France-Voyage.com

This article was written in collaboration with France-Voyage.com. Check them out and let me know what you think :-)

May 25, 2015

A quintessential corner of Canada in British Columbia

A quintessential corner of Canada in British Columbia
Grizzly Bear - Great Bear Rainforest British Columbia image CTC

Out for a walk in the Great Bear Rainforest – image CTC

I’m going on a bear hunt – (with camera only of course!)

Wide open spaces. spectacular wildlife, exciting sports, contemporary architecture, adventurous cuisine, intriguing history and diverse culture. Everything you can think of when you hear the word ‘Canada’ all in one state – British Columbia. With a population of about 4.5 million and an area of almost 950,000 sq km that’s a lot of country with a plenty of room for manoeuvre.  To be honest, I wasn’t really sure where exactly British Columbia was when I was invited on a Travelator Media trip to #exploreCanada in late spring. A few years ago I had the pleasure of discovering the culinary delights of Montreal and Quebec City on the east coast, and I knew BC was on the other side of the country – that was about it. If you’re not sure either, have a look at this map.

british columbia canada map

British Columbia – maps.com

Whistler for skiers, Alaska Highway for petrol heads, the Yukon for gold diggers, Victoria for Anglophiles and Vancouver for just about everyone. Nature red in tooth, claw, beak and fin can be found here – bears, beavers, eagles, whales, moose, deer and much more. The more I read about Canada’s ‘Adventure Playground’, the more appealing this place became, until now I can’t wait to go …

Hotel Grand Pacific - Victoria Canada

Hotel Grand Pacific and Inner Harbour – Victoria

We’ll be exploring a relatively small but diverse area at the southern end of British Columbia. First stop is Victoria, historic capital on Vancouver Island. Named after Queen Victoria, it’s apparently redolent of ‘olde worlde Englishness’ in the nicest possible way. We’re staying in the elegant Hotel Grand Pacific overlooking Inner Harbour, slap bang in the heart of downtown Victoria. The highlight of our brief visit here will undoubtedly be going out on the Prince of Whales tour in the hopes of seeing orcas, humpback whales, sea lions and eagles.

Orcas in Victoria with Prince of Whales tour - British Columbia Canada

Orcas in Victoria with Prince of Whales tour

From Victoria we transfer to Campbell River and more sightseeing around Vancouver Island. It’s largest island off the North American coast, renowned for its colourful, quirky villages, superb fishing, tranquil forests and deserted beaches. The climate in this part of the world is temperate and on a sunny hillside in the Cowichan Valley (First Nation for ‘land warmed by the sun’) is Blue Grouse Winery; delighted to say we’ll be sampling a glass or two of their wines along the way.

Vancouver Island - image Harbour Air Seaplanes

Vancouver Island – image Harbour Air Seaplanes

Then comes the main reason for going to this part of the world – we’re going to find BEARS. British Columbia has the world’s largest concentration of grizzly bears, as well as black bears and the unique Kermode (Spirit) bears. For three nights I will staying at world-renowned Knight Inlet Lodge where we are almost guaranteed to see grizzly (brown) bears in one of the most remote and spectacular landscapes in Canada.

Dave Campbell grizzly bears Knight Inlet Lodge

Grizzly bears in the river – image Dave Campbell www.knightinletlodge.ca

Knight Inlet Lodge is situated in the Great Bear Rainforest on a river platform; to get there we’ll be arriving by float plane. Not only should we see the bears but hopefully bald eagles and maybe pods of orca whales. In spring the grizzly bears come out of hibernation and I’m crossing fingers and toes that there will be a number of bear cubs. It’ll be photography heaven and yes, I’m definitely after the ‘cute bear’ pic! Find out more about Knight Inlet Lodge here – as you can see it is a very special place!

Grizzly bear cubs Knight Inlet Lodge british columbia canada

Grizzly bear cubs – image www.knightinletlodge.ca

The final destination on this unique Canadian adventure is Vancouver. I’ve wanted to visit this city for many years, since I worked in Hong Kong a few years before the handover from the British to China in 1997. At that time, many colleagues at HSBC were planning to move to Vancouver and from what I heard, it sounded like a beautiful, vibrant and diverse place to be. I’m about to find out …

Cycling in Vancouver

Cycling in Vancouver – image CTC

With just one night at ‘retro boutique hotel’, The Burrard we’ve got to make the most of our time. I’m looking forward to getting a real taste of the city on a foodie tour of ‘Vancouver’s breakfast, coffee and food truck culture’ – sounds suitably quirky! Think I will then need the City Cycle Tour that follows to work off some of that breakfast fare … Our final stop on this whirlwind trip of a lifetime is Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island, where we’ll be able to try some of the fresh seafood for which this area is famous.

Sandbar Restaurant view of Vancouver

Sandbar Restaurant view of Vancouver

Inspired? Discover more about what Canada has to offer at www.keepexploring.ca  Join me from May 29th – June 7th 2015 on my trip to Canada’s two Cities on the Edge of Nature and the Great Bear Rainforest via Social Media including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #exploreCanada for updates – and lots more.

May 18, 2015

Granada – A destination for multisensory discovery

Granada – A destination for multisensory discovery

With city breaks becoming even more popular in 2015 and with travellers eager to pack the maximum amount into the minimum time, new research from American Express has found that holidays that stimulate all the senses are the most fulfilling.

Grenada street art Spain

Grenada street art

There are many destinations in Europe where travellers can fulfil their appetite for travel that stimulates all of the senses – one in particular is Granada, located within a close enough proximity to the Mediterranean to experience the crisp, salty air of the coast and next to the blissfully peaceful Sierra Nevada mountain range. This stunning geographical location combined with the heady scents and tastes of the traditional Arabo-Andalucían cuisine, the beautiful colours and patterns of the city’s surrealist street art, plus views of the stunning Alhambra, make this city in southern Spain an excellent place to indulge the senses.

Alhambra Palace Granada

Alhambra Palace Granada

The research from American Express also showed that while Brits find multisensory holidays the most stimulating, we also have particularly strong noses for travel, with over three quarters (79%) saying that a specific scent has the ability to transport them straight back to a happy holiday. In fact, not only does smell have the ability to create happy memories, but ones that last longer as well; nearly a third of us (31%) say a scent has triggered memories of a holiday they went on as long as 15 years ago.

Sierra Nevada Spain

Sierra Nevada Spain

Amex have worked with Professor Barry Smith, the founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses who commented: “Although sight and taste play a large role in creating memories, physiologically smell is the most powerful sense when it comes to evoking strong, positive memories. Whole scenes of people, places and things can be immediately brought to mind because in the brain, smell is connected to memory and emotion.”

Grenada street art

Grenada street art

With that in mind, Amex Insider Alex Zane travelled to Granada in Andalucia to find out more about all of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that this ancient and exquisite city has to offer.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with American Express.  Discover other sensory European destinations with Amex Insider Alex Zane