Destination: Canada

Interview with Arno Kopecky: Sailing the Northern Gateway

Arno Kopecky spent months sailing along a proposed oil tanker route off British Columbia. Eva Holland talks to him about the new travel book that resulted from the voyage.

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New Documentary: ‘Neil Young Journeys’

Jonathan Demme’s third documentary about Neil Young, in select theaters now, features a solo performance Young gave at Toronto’s Massey Hall and footage of Young driving across the Ontario countryside, musing about life and his childhood.

TBEX 2011: Travel Bloggers Take Vancouver

TBEX 2011: Travel Bloggers Take Vancouver Photo of the Vancouver Convention Center by kennymatic via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of the Vancouver Convention Center by kennymatic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This past weekend saw the third installment of the annual Travel Blog Exchange, or TBEX, a travel-focused blogging conference. The 2011 edition took place in Vancouver, B.C., and Jim, Michael and I were all there.

It was my first time at TBEX and I was impressed, first off, by the sheer scale of the event: More than 500 travel bloggers descended on the Vancouver Convention Center for the weekend. Panels and workshops covered everything from SEO and blog monetization to (our favorite) improving your narrative story-telling skills, and each day ended with an after-party or two. It was a busy three days.

Reactions are already pouring in from the bloggers who attended. Michael from Go, See, Write noted the irony of TBEX panelists encouraging bloggers to be more professional—because, he felt, the conference itself was disorganized and unprofessional. Akila of The Road Forks felt that TBEX “lacked purpose and focus,” and she offered some constructive suggestions to tighten things up in future, while Katie at BootsnAll offered a similarly constructive roundup of highlights and lowlights.

Meanwhile, Corbin from I Backpack Canada had a more positive take-away: “There is a future for independent travel writers, there is a future for online blogs, there is a future for a small niche website dedicated to the budget travel & outdoor adventure in Canada.”

For my part, in future conferences I might like to see workshops become a little more tightly focused—maybe with beginner and advanced streams in each discipline to help the panelists zero in on the needs of attendees—but overall, TBEX left me feeling satisfied. Blogging can be an isolating pursuit, and spending three days putting faces and voices to familiar Twitter handles and online personas was a powerful thing.

TBEX 2012 will take place in Keystone, Colorado.

Explore Magazine’s 30th Anniversary Issue

Up here north of the border, Explore (“Canada’s outdoor magazine”) is celebrating 30 years in print. Last weekend I picked up the anniversary issue, a best-of selection of National Magazine Award winners from the last several years, and read it cover to cover—it was packed full of really solid outdoor travel narratives.

I’m not sure how readily available the magazine is outside of Canada, but if you can get your hands on it I’d highly recommend it. Standouts, for me, included “27 Funerals and a Wedding,” “The Story of Bear 99,” “The Boys and the Backcountry,” “Here Be Ogopogo” and “Hammering Away at Eternity.” Unfortunately the stories don’t appear to be available online.

‘Any Bears Around Today?’

‘Any Bears Around Today?’ iStockPhoto

Kim Mance ventured into Canada's remote north looking for polar bears. She didn't anticipate becoming prey.

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Happy Birthday, Alaska Highway

Happy Birthday, Alaska Highway Photo by Eva Holland
Photo by Eva Holland

The road, built in the midst of World War II thanks to fears of a Japanese invasion, turns 68 today. It’s come a long way since its opening to military traffic—when, according to Wired writer Tony Long, it was “a glorified footpath with stretches of unpaved road, murderous switchbacks and no guard rails or shoulders”—but I still think it makes for one of the great North American drives. Here’s to many more road trips yet to come.

Marilyn Monroe’s Forgotten Banff Vacation

Move over, Crasher Squirrel: Banff just got a new tourism mascot. In 1953, Marilyn Monroe injured her ankle on a movie set in the Canadian Rockies and wound up at the Banff Springs Hotel to recuperate. A photographer from Look magazine documented her visit, but only two of his photos ever appeared in print—until last week, when they were released in a new book, Marilyn, August 1953. The Globe and Mail has a selection of photos from the book, all of Monroe in full tourist mode—posing with a taxidermied grizzly or riding a chairlift. They’re very cool, take a look.

Cruise Passengers Rescued from Northwest Passage

The Canadian Coast Guard removed 110 passengers from a cruise ship stranded in the Arctic Ocean this weekend. The ship was exploring the Northwest Passage when it got hung up on an unmapped rock—presumably, we’ll see more of these incidents as the passage becomes increasingly viable, so Canada, keep your icebreakers sharp.

Niagara Falls Tourism: ‘Don’t Go To Toronto’

Yep, they went there. The Falls region has unveiled a new tourism campaign, contrasting an idyllic, natural environment—that’d be Niagara, apparently—with its next-door neighbor, Toronto. The big city is presented as a “crime-ridden, graffiti-laden, gridlocked urban prison,” to quote The Globe and Mail, and visitors are urged to “shake off the city” and visit Niagara instead. Toronto’s acting mayor called the campaign “an unnecessary cheap shot.”

This local TV news spot includes some footage of the ad in question—curiously, the Niagara depicted in it is entirely free of casinos, legions of tour buses, and gridlock all along the QEW.

A Foodie Road Trip Across… Small-Town Canada?

The Globe and Mail’s Ian Brown is on a road-tripping mission to explore the foodie scene beyond Canada’s “big three”—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. He’s been blogging the trip as he goes, and his latest post finds him at a restaurant called Moose’s in North Bay, Ontario, home to 102 flavors of chicken wings. Here’s Brown’s introduction to North Bay:

You pull into North Bay, which is full of interesting people but does not present well, if you know what I mean, you see the Bull and Quench pub, ‘Home of the 1 lb burger’ - think about that - and Indra’s Curry House, next to the Heart and Stroke Foundation office.

You think: Maybe this is my last day on earth. Maybe this is where my heart explodes.

‘Was Canada Too Boring for Queen Elizabeth II?’

Gawker goes there, digging up a series of straight-faced shots from the Queen’s just-wrapped visit to make the point. Of course, we know that Canada is the furthest thing from boring—and I’m betting the Queen would agree.

World Travel Watch: Violence Returns to Medellin, G20 Restrictions in Toronto and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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So Long, Vancouver 2010

The medals have all been handed out and the flame’s been extinguished. Monday saw Vancouver International Airport have its busiest day on record as 39,000 visitors left the host city for home. As for me, I won’t forget joining in the massive red-and-white street party that consumed downtown Vancouver anytime soon—I think my favorite moment had to be seeing a crowd of turbaned Indo-Canadian kids dancing to a bhangra beat to celebrate our victory in men’s hockey, creating their very own wonder of the shrinking planet.

The Big Picture has a top-notch pair of photo essays for your final Olympic Games fix. See you in London?

Video You Must See: ‘The Longest Street in the World’

Video You Must See: ‘The Longest Street in the World’ Photo by purplepick via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Two photographers take a stop-motion walk down Toronto's Yonge Street, a one-time Guinness World Record holder

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Beer Across Vancouver

Beer Across Vancouver iStockPhoto

Jeff Kaczmarczyk got a little lost in the British Columbia city. But maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

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