7 places to go in 2017
Canada’s big birthday party, Africa, Italy, Portugal and more
Canada’s big party
For a good time — stay home. Canada is big travel news this year for visitors from all over the world. The 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations are on from coast to coast to coast. Certainly plan to take in at least one national park or historic site; admission is free all year. Ottawa, featured in our January issue (page 36), will be in full party mode all year as will Montreal, which is celebrating its 375th along with the country’s birthday. This is a great year to visit PEI where it all began in 1867. You’re invited to Vancouver’s $7.5-million extravaganza in July and Calgary will be stomping for Canada at the Stampede as towns across the country get out to flag wave, parade, barbecue and light up the night with fireworks. Stage your own celebrations up at the lake or in the backyard, and invite friends to join you especially American friends who can see what became of those all those United Empire Loyalists who went north — and they can do it on $0.75 per dollar.
Safari perfection in Botswana
Been hoping and planning to go on safari for an elephant’s age? This is the year to do it. In March, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, filmmakers and National Geographic explorers, will open Duba Plains Camp (greatplainsconservation.com/duba-plains-camp) in conjunction with Great Plains Conservation. The 32,000-hectare private reserve in the Okavango Delta is home to lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and “everything in-between.” Five luxury tents on raised platforms offer splendid wildlife views, there’s a chef and butler and a private guide to explore the surroundings via Land Rover. At the end of the day, exchange adventure stories around the fire pit over a glass of wine produced in a vineyard by friends of the Jouberts.
Sedona’s new glitter
Sedona, AZ sits in the centre of a 20-kilometre circle of stupendous red rock cliffs, buttes and mesas so compelling that they inspired Walt Disney’s Fantasia. Once a sleepy desert town known for New Age psychics, UFO visitations and energy vortexes, there’s a new sophisticated gloss on the place. Today, it’s a haven for seekers of good food, healthy spas and fine accommodation as much as for those in search of spiritual renewal. Hiker alert: over 160 kilometres of trails snake through some of the most astonishing vistas outside the Grand Canyon. After the trek there’s good coffee at Java Love and VOC’s Desert Flower Bakery. For a remarkable icy treat, sample an acai frozen fruit bowl at Berry Divine on Hwy 89A. Take in movies and plays and Live at the Met at the intimate Mary D. Fisher Theatre, which also shows indie films and hosts the annual Sedona Film Festival. Old favourites include Pink Jeep tours of the backcountry, fly-overs in the Red Baron’s bi-plane and daily early morning hot air balloon rides followed by a champagne breakfast. Or simply stroll the uptown shops and have your aura read.
Catch a total solar eclipse
Mark August 21, 2017 on your calendar. That’s the day a total eclipse of the sun will race across the US beginning on the Oregon coast and racing southeast until it leaves the continent on the shores of South Carolina. There will be lots of places to view it, including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in the west, and Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas in the east, but if you want to be first, make it Lincoln Beach, OR. It’s a small town of just over 2000 right on the ocean and as you’d expect, hotel rooms are going fast. At that spot on earth, the eclipse begins at just after 9 in the morning with totality at 10:15am. Make sure you’re on time; totality lasts just one minute and 58 seconds. And don’t forget to get the proper glasses. For full instructions, including timing, the path with full and shade areas, and precautions to take to protect your eyes go to eclipse2017.org.
Beach it in Comporta, Portugal
OK, you want a beach vacation this year, but where? PEI could work but there are crowds in July and August, and the weather can be iffy. There are nude beaches at the University of British Columbia and Whistler if that’s your fancy. The Atlantic coast of the US has some terrific sand, but this might be the year you’d prefer to take a “Pasadena” on America. Here’s one that could work. Comporta, Portugal is only about an hour from Lisbon, but it’s emphatically not the Algarve. It’s been compared to Ibiza or Corfu’s Paleokastritsa or the 1960s French Riviera, but it’s none of these. Think creative-laidback-chic. Europeans with an artistic bent love it. There’s but one major hotel and a bunch of smaller ones all with a rustic feel. The beach fronts rice paddies ribbonned with canals. The breeze off the Atlantic is cool as are the vibes.
Santa Fe, NM for enhanced enchantment
Santa Fe, New Mexico is the third largest art market in the US and for that reason alone it has always attracted artists and art buyers. A spate of new galleries offering contemporary work has blossomed around the extensively revamped Rail Yards a couple of blocks south of the Plaza. Also there for your pleasure is the year-round indoor/outdoor farmers’ market in spiffed up new quarters. A huge permanent flea market is housed just across the tracks and around the corner is the innovative Victoria Crown cinema. The VC transforms movie going with beer on tap and a healthy snack pizza bar. Leather sofas invite you to come early, enjoy the food and drink or have it delivered to your armchair in one of eight cinemas upstairs. The concept has been so popular, they’re now opening one in Manhattan. Not all the action is downtown. Meow Wolf (meowwolf.com), supported by local George Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, offers an immense multimedia experience with a wander through a large, old, multi-story house with secret passages, a spaceship and a mystery to solve. Kids and adults are equally enthralled. African home-style dishes at Jambo Café, located in a mall on Cerrillos Road, have become a local favourite as has food from the Midtown Bistro on San Mateo Road. Santa Café and Coyote Café continue with their outstanding offering and ambiance. They’re joined by scrumptious pies at Roof Top Pizza tucked upstairs near the Lensic Theatre on San Francisco. The City Different in the Land of Enchantment has more going on in 2017 than ever.
Find the “real” Italy in Bari
Yes, there’s Florence and Venice and Milan and Naples, but for a taste of the “real” Italy unclouded by hype, Bari’s the place. Located on the Adriatic near the ankle of Italy’s boot, it’s a student town with a youthful sensibility, interesting history — St. Nicholas is buried here — lively waterfront and freshly restored opera house. Teatro Petruzzelli is the fourth largest in the country and one of the most beautiful. It’s also perhaps the least expensive of Italian cities. Many hotels are less than $75 a night. Make a point of taking the street-food tour and plan at least one meal at the Paglionico Vini e Cucina, run by the same family for over a century. The food is classic Italian, the waiters are “brusque but brilliant.” Do have a glass of local primitivo — zinfandel to you — for its depth of flavour. When it comes to communications, bring along a smartphone with a good language app; this is your chance to delve deeply into the culture one word at a time. When your seafood cravings are sated, you’ve filled up on opera and are happy with the improvement in your Italian, grab a ferry from Bari’s ancient harbour to the Balkans, Greece or Turkey.
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