Five favourite things about Canada’s favourite spa

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Upon entering the serene stone-walled grounds to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario, it’s easy to imagine stealing away into the transformed secret garden described in famous children’s author Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, The Secret Garden. Built in 1858 by settler Samuel Massey, some locals still call Ste. Anne’s “The Grafton Castle”. Located in Haldimand Hills Township, 80 minutes east of Toronto, Canada, Ste. Anne’s is a picturesque rural retreat offering high end, four-season all-inclusive getaways.

There’s something for everyone at Canada’s favourite spa. Whether it’s lounging poolside devouring a good book, gently swaying in a hammock under the trees, or a dose of horse therapy at the stable, you can customize your getaway perfectly to meet your needs. Here are five favourite things about Ste. Anne’s Spa:
1) Stress Express  You don’t need a car to escape to the seclusion of Ste. Anne’s for the day or overnight. Take the Via train and a Ste. Anne’s employee will greet you at the station in Cobourg before whisking you away to the property; leaving you more time to speed through your mystery or romance novel instead of fighting traffic on the 401.
2) The Main Inn and Cottages – Choose from 16 elegant rooms in the Main Inn or seven unique cottages all within 5 to 10 minutes walking distance to the Main Inn. These rural dwellings are decked out with all the comforts of home, except for a television. And the only tweeting should be from the sounds of birds. From the Farmhouse to Ste. Anne’s newest spa cottage, Vista Lago, you’ll feel at home sweet home. As a special touch, hire a Ste. Anne’s private chef to cook for you in your cottage!

3) Facilities/Gardens – Ste. Anne’s is built on a natural aquifer, which supplies the Inn with all of its spring water. This means the outdoor swimming pool is filled with, you guessed it, spring water. Add the eucalyptus steam room, hot tub, plunge pool, and lap pool. All spring water. The new fitness facility boasts an outdoor endless pool where you can swim against currents and use the underwater treadmill.

Breathe in the fresh country air and explore all 400 rolling acres, which includes walking and snowshoe trails through a cedar forest, a healing herb garden, rose garden, and serenity garden. There’s an outdoor tennis court, bicycles, fitness room, yoga classes, and a shuttle service to the nearby Shelter Valley Pines Golf Course. Let’s not forget the traditional healing spa treatments, which you can request be performed in a garden gazebo, and the Ste. Anne’s Spa signature skin care line made from herbs and botanicals grown on the property. New to the walking trail is the poustinia, a tiny spiritual retreat for meditation and reflection.

4) Farm and Stables/Horse Therapy – Zip up your riding boots and enrol in Ste. Anne’s Equine Program. You’re not the only one who’ll be primping and preening. Book some grooming time with one of the horses and let Stable Caretaker and certified equine coach, Kareylee White show you how to brush its coat and mane, pick its hooves, and massage sore muscles.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, sign up for Morning Muck or Evening Turn-in. Cleaning the stables and leading your horse out to pasture is all in a day’s chores. Ambitious horse lovers can achieve the Learn to Ride certificate, which is the completion of eight horsemanship levels, beginning with grooming your horse and progressing to trotting.

5) The Bakery – Let them eat flourless chocolate cake! The Ste. Anne’s Bakery is only 1.2 km from the Main Inn. Request a lift, or work up an appetite with a scenic walk along the rolling concession roads. As a special treat, Pastry Chef Khushroo offers culinary demonstrations three days a week. Eye popping goodies from banana loaf, butter tarts, and chocolate hazelnut terrine are on display for the taking. Choose from gluten-free desserts, organic meats, and salad dishes with ingredients sourced from the Ste. Anne’s herb garden.

You’ll want to return every season, so don’t forget to ask about the Loyalty Program.

(Originally published September 9, 2013)

Northumberland Tourism

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Fall for cycling in Northumberland County

Switch gears this fall with an invigorating cycling trip in Ontario’s countryside. Autumn is the best time of year to push off on a cycling adventure. Make a day of it or book an overnight stay. What better way to explore the magic of nature as the lush greenery gives way to fall’s vibrant tones of yellow, orange and red, and the sunshine and crisp fresh air keep things comfortable while you peddle.

Cobourg in Northumberland County is only one hour east of Toronto, on Lake Ontario. It boasts some of the best cycling trails in Ontario, including routes on the Waterfront Trail, the Trans Canada Trail and the Rice Lake Ramble. From the rolling Northumberland hills to the flatter terrain of an abandoned CN rail line, there’s a path for everyone to enjoy.

The Greenbelt Route is the newest trail, which cuts through the countryside stretching from Queenston on the Niagara River to the south shore of Rice Lake in the Kawarthas. The inaugural launch of the 475 Kilometre route kicked off in August with the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure 2015, a six-day cycling trek along the newly marked route.

Getting There: Take your bike on the VIA train to Cobourg, affectionately dubbed Ontario’s “feel good” town. Bikes are easily stored in a baggage car for $25 each way. There is only one bike train daily from Toronto and it arrives in Cobourg at 1pm. From the train station it’s a quick 5-minute ride into town to access shops and restaurants, and stock up on energy drinks before hitting the trails. If you take your bike it will be an overnight trip, unless you plan on riding your bike back to the city. The bike train leaves Cobourg daily at 2:21pm for Toronto. Alternatively, take your bike on the Go Train to Oshawa and access the trails from there if you’re up for more distance.

Renting a bike: Green Canoe Outfitters is easy to find at 90 King Street West in Cobourg, a quick 15-minute walk from the Via station.

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Lang Hastings Trail

Suggested bike stops enroute:

You’ll soon discover why cycling in this area is so appealing. The Waterfront Trail takes you along scenic rural concession roads past apple orchards and farms. A quick detour will lead you to the Nawautin Nature Sanctuary south of Grafton, with access to a quiet hidden stretch of the beach. This 13-acre wetland is a must-see stop for birders and nature lovers, and an opportunity to dip your tired cycling toes into Lake Ontario. Deer and rabbit sightings are not unusual.

Above Photos by Jean Simard – Cobourg, Ontario

Moore Orchards: Northumberland has loads of pick your own fruit and flowers farms to invade. Pluck some juicy crunchy apples straight from the tree at Moore Orchards, #12 on the “55 Farm Fresh Destinations” map. There’s plenty of pies, pumpkins, preserves and apple cider for Thanksgiving dinner. But why wait?

Lang Pioneer Village: Explore this outdoor living museum and replica of a 19th century hamlet. The authentic rural experience showcases over 25 buildings including the Keene Hotel where you can visit for tea and snacks. Fall guided tours and historic literary walks are on through mid September.

Westben Arts Festival Theatre: See concerts and live theatre in the outdoor venue, The Barn, and the new Clock Tower Cultural Centre, both in Campbellford.

Ron Windebanks Outdoor Art: Artist Ron Windebanks does a lot of paintings on barn board and displays his outdoor botanical art at his farm in Warkworth. Step inside his barns, converted into a rustic creative space for his art gallery, and explore the country garden, which has more whimsical pieces on display.

Kokimo Candleland: If you’re crazy for candles, stop into the solar powered Kokimo Candleland factory outlet in Castleton. Here you can buy the original handmade candy scented candle and a selection of other scents and accessories.

Cross Wind Farm: This dairy goat farm in Keene, Ontario, is a short detour off the Lang Hastings Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. It’s the spot to stock up on artisan goat products such as milk, yogourt, cheese and soap.

Banjo’s Grill: While in Hastings stop in for homestyle comfort food at Banjo’s Grill, overlooking the Trent Severn Waterway at Lock 18.

World’s Finest Chocolate Factory Outlet: Follow your nose. This diversion in Campbellford will ensure your chocolate cravings don’t get the best of you. Besides, this little cocoa bean from heaven will give you energy to keep the spokes spinning.

Wicklow Way Farm: This organic farm in Colbourne sells every vegetable under the sun. A specialty organic sourdough bread is available from June to September. Pumpkin bread with toasted pumpkin seeds, honey raisin bran, and beet bread are a few of the flavours straight from the brick oven.

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Rice Lake, Lang Hastings Trail

Places to Stay:
Hastings House B&B: Gear it up, Ontario! offers an array of themed guided cycling tours. The Hastings House B&B bike tour is a 33 kilometre flat terrain ride from Peterborough to Hastings on the Lang Hastings trail, formerly the CN rail line, and is part of the Trans Canada Trail. The package includes an overnight stay at the charming Hastings House B&B, once a blacksmith shop built in the 19th century, steps away from the Trent Severn Waterway. Dinner and breakfast is included for only $120.

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Hastings House B&B –  Hastings, Ontario

Ste. Anne’s Spa: Once known as “Grafton Castle”, Canada’s leading destination spa on 400 acres is a luxury getaway worth every nickel. The seasonal Pumpkin Spice Paradise body treatment sounds like the perfect fall “apres cycle” tonic for tired legs and road-weary wanderers. Then head over to the guilt free and gluten free Ste. Anne’s Bakery for a hot drink and a syrupy butter tart, as it’s recently been added to Kawartha’s popular Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. Don’t miss the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Taste-off, at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market on Saturday, September 24th.

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Ste. Anne’s Spa – Grafton, Ontario

After spending time exploring undiscovered country trails, visiting farms and sampling the produce in Northumberland’s towns and villages, one might say, “It’s all downhill from here.” And cyclists know that this is indeed a very good thing.

(Originally published Oct. 1, 2015)

 

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10 reasons to visit the CNE (August 19 to September 5, 2016)

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Maybe it’s the midway madness, the zany food concoctions, or the plethora of international shopping and culture that bring you to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto year after year. Whatever the appeal, Canada’s largest fair has been a crowd pleaser for 138 years strong. Here are 10 reasons to check out the Ex. Not to be missed is the special Time Travel with the CNE website for a captivating photo history of the CNE throughout the years. Cneheritage.com See what has changed and remained the same.

1.) Food – There’s no point in keeping to your diet because once you walk through the Princess Gates your options will include greasy and sugary. With the countdown on to the first day of school, the CNE knows better than to ruin our fun. Corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and ice cream waffles are all CNE staples. Get your barbecue fix at Ribfest by the Bandshell, and head to the Food Building to be overwhelmed by international flavours. New this year is Lick’s Burgers, serving up their popular vegetarian nature burger. And for the more adventurous foodies, Bug Bistro (yes, bugs) serves up The Bug Dog, a hormone-free hot dog seasoned with crispy mustard crickets. Oh, you can add other toppings as well.
2.) Midway – From the games and prizes to the rides, the neon lights and sounds and energy of the midway will take you back to your youth. But who says the midway is only for kids? From the Ferris wheel to the Fire Ball, whatever your thrill threshold; it’s easy to get a ticket to ride.
3.) Warrior’s Day Parade (August 22) – The CNE has always honoured our WWI and WWII veterans in the annual Warrior’s Day Parade, held on the first Saturday of the fair. The CNE is most fitting because it was once the site of Stanley Barracks, which housed British troops, and was later used to train members of the North-West Mounted Police and the military, and for post-war housing. In this, the 95th edition of the parade, the veterans and Canadian Armed Forces marching in the parade are commemorating the 71st anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
4.) Shopping – Shopping at the Ex is like travelling around the globe, but no passport is required. From the International Pavilion to the Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion and the EnerCare Centre, your cultural shopping spree will take you to Peru, Hong Kong, India and beyond.
5.) Music – Admission to the grounds includes concerts at the CNE Bandshell every evening, with headliners such as Alan Frew with The Spoons, Randy Bachman and Jefferson Starship. Mosey on over to the Northern Comfort Saloon to see country bands including Kelly Prescott, Buck Twenty, and Tristan Horncastle.
6.) Canadian International Air Show – Plane spotting doesn’t get any better than this. Always a highlight, and sadly a sign that the Ex is coming to a close, The 67th Annual Canadian International Air Show swooshes (a.k.a. roars) over Lake Ontario Labour Day weekend. Sunglasses, earplugs and SPF lotion recommended. (12 pm to 3pm)
7.) Star Trek: “50 Artists. 50 Years” – The creators of Star Trek were spot on when they predicted everyone would be using communication gadgets in the future.  Trekkie fans can unite at this global art exhibit celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary. Stick around for selfies with your favourite characters. Now, if only William Shatner would make a special appearance. EnerCare Centre, Salon 105 (formerly Direct Energy Building).
8.) Hit List! Aerial Acrobatic & Ice Skating Show – Escape the heat to catch Canadian Olympic medalists, Joannie Rochette (except Aug. 23 to 25) and Elvis Stojko (Aug.23-Aug.25) perform alongside aerial acrobatic performers in two spectacular shows daily in the Ricoh Coliseum. Shows at 2pm and 5pm.
9.) The Great Canadian Water Ski Caper – Head out to the waterfront where expert water skiers splash, flip, spin and barefoot it on Lake Ontario. Two shows daily – 1:30 & 4:30pm, and Sept. 2 to 5 (4:30pm). Also catch the Wakeboard World Championships, August 25-28 (9 am to 6 pm).

10.) CNE Innovation Garage – A grand prize of $25,000 is up for grabs, as 25 young inventors compete in this revolutionary Tech conference and showcase the latest in consumer products. Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen gives a special talk. (Aug. 19-21)

Special rates – Only $6 after 5pm Monday to Thursday

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10 reasons to visit the CNE (August 21 to September 7, 2015)

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Get a free ride on the CNE Express train!

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Maybe it’s the midway madness, the zany food concoctions, or the plethora of international shopping and culture that bring you to the Canadian National Exhibition year after year. Whatever the appeal, Canada’s largest fair has been a crowd pleaser for 137 years strong. Here are 10 reasons to check out the Ex. Also, visit the special Time Travel with the CNE website for a captivating photo history of the CNE throughout the years. Cneheritage.com

1.) Food – There’s no point in keeping to your diet because once you walk through the Princess Gates your options will include greasy and sugary. With the countdown on to the first day of school, the CNE knows better than to ruin our fun. Corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and ice cream waffles are all CNE staples. Dig into some nontraditional choices at Far East Taco in the Food Building for the Baonana Split or deep fried rice pudding at Fran’s.
2.) Midway – The lights and sounds and energy of the midway will take you back to your youth. But who says the midway is only for kids? From the Ferris wheel to the Fire Ball, whatever your thrill threshold; it’s easy to get a ticket to ride.
3.) Warrior’s Day Parade (August 22) – The CNE has always honoured our WWI and WWII veterans in the annual Warrior’s Day Parade, held on the first Saturday of the fair. The CNE is most fitting because it used to be the site of Stanley Barracks, which housed British troops, and was later used to train members of the North-West Mounted Police and the military, and for post war housing. In this, the 94th edition of the parade, the veterans and Canadian Armed Forces marching in the parade are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
4.) Shopping – Shopping at the Ex is like travelling around the globe, but no passport is required. From the International Pavilion to the Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Pavilion and the EnerCare Centre, your cultural shopping spree will take you to Peru, Hong Kong, India and beyond.
5.) Music – Admission to the grounds includes concerts at the CNE Bandshell every evening, with headliners such as Alan Doyle, Foghat, and Rick Springfield. More live bands perform at the Northern Comfort Saloon. The country music bar is hosting acts from the likes of Kelly Prescott and Jaydee Bixby.

6.) Air Show – Always a highlight, and sadly a sign that the Ex is coming to a close, The 66th Annual Canadian International Air Show soars over Lake Ontario Labour Day weekend.

7.) Sherlock Holmes – Mystery fans get an opportunity to test their British sleuthing skills at the Sherlock Holmes exhibit in the Heritage Court Gallery, EnerCare Centre (formerly Direct Energy Building).

8.) Bon Voyage! Aerial Acrobatics & Ice Skating Show – Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform alongside aerial acrobatic performers in two spectacular shows daily in the Ricoh Coliseum. Shows at 2pm and 5pm.
9.) First World War Comes to Life Exhibit – Check out the impressive display of vehicles from the Great War and the Canadian Armed Forces, in the Enercare Centre.
10.) Food Truck Frenzy & Craft Beer Fest – It’s a foodie food truck extravaganza! New this year is the Craft Beer Fest. Eleven regional master craft brewers will be onsite alongside 23 sizzling food trucks serving up authentic international flavours. (August 28-30 only.)
Special rates – Only $6 after 5pm Monday to Thursday

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Pennsylvania Dutch

Yes, that’s Kevin Bacon of Footloose fame standing next to me. My breakfast at the Palomar hotel in Philadelphia was less humdrum than usual after I spotted the A-list celebrity.    There weren’t any other patrons at our side of the restaurant, so as I was nibbling on my poached egg and mixed berries, I had an uncannily clear view of my favourite “Footloose” star, who was sitting a mere 10 feet away, sipping his coffee and reading the morning paper. I finally worked up the courage to ask for a photo, so it’s fair to say I was starstruck by the experience. Turns out The Bacon Brothers would be performing a concert outside of Philadelphia.

Incidentally, Kevin Bacon’s father was renowned architect and urban planner, Edmund Bacon. He was instrumental in designing several of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, and was sometimes referred to as “The Father of Modern Philadelphia.” The six degrees of separation theory was certainly resonating for my debut visit to the city, known as “America’s Garden Capital”.

Branch outside of Philadelphia and discover amish farms, small town charm, gardens and galleries. Take a look at my story in Doctor’s Review magazine. Pennsylvania – DR Oct

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Key Liming in the Florida Keys

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My sailing adventures prepared me well for my journey at the helm of the restored African Queen in Key Largo, Florida. She’s a beauty. (Canal and dinner tours run daily all year.)

Read my story in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles magazine. Cherie Delory-Key Liming in the Florida Keys-CATL, Winter 2014 issue

http://www.fla-keys.com/

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Praha moments in the Czech Republic

Hotel Chateau Hrubá Skála - Bohemian Paradise, Czech Republic

Hotel Chateau Hrubá Skála – Bohemian Paradise, Czech Republic

I knew my inaugural trip to central Europe’s Czech Republic would be a good one when my KLM flight served ice cream on the plane. It was ginger, to boot; my favourite flavour.

I was headed to the Czech Republic to experience an active holiday in the Giant Mountains and Bohemian Paradise. It would include plenty of hiking and cycling and nature, guaranteed to work off the ginger ice cream in no time. But there were also discoveries made in Prague, a city that far surpassed my expectations. While the signature bread dumplings and gravy weren’t to my liking, the city oozes with energy, culture, architecture and history. Dare I say it, but I think Prague, a.k.a. Praha, rivals Paris as a romantic European city.

Once in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, as I walked from Prague Castle towards the Jewish Quarter along weathered, cobblestone streets, I was both amazed and charmed to see vintage Praga model cars, circa 1920s and 30s with what appeared to be tourists as passengers. I took a double take, and it was indeed a sightseeing tour in a sleek, convertible vintage car. It certainly seemed befitting of this elegant city of stone bridges arching over the Vltava River, cathedrals, castles, gold-tipped towers and Gothic church spires. I had already arranged a walking tour of the city, an absolute must-do pursuit. But if I visit again, I’m going to drive in vintage style. No hop on-hop off bus for me. It’s still necessary, though, to stroll to places where the car can’t drive, such as the landmark 14th century Charles Bridge and the intimate narrow lanes and corridors in Old Town Square, and Wenceslas Square, the site associated with the historic student march for democracy on November 17, 1989.

Marionettes in Prague

Marionettes in Prague

Another discovery I made was Prague’s penchant for puppets. Almost everywhere I turned, there were puppet stores and puppet kiosks stocked full of colourful puppets and wooden marionettes dangling from strings. From Pinocchio to Beethoven, marionettes are marvelled in Prague, so it’s no wonder this city has been designated the unofficial capital of world puppetry. There’s a National Marionette Theatre, puppet workshops, and the Puppet Museum. Puppet theatre, evidently, has been a tradition in the Czech Republic for centuries. First, it was targeted to adults as a commentary on politics and society, and it would eventually become children’s entertainment and a vehicle to maintain the Czech language. If you’re passionate about puppets, you may want to plan your trip around the annual World Festival of Puppet Art, which takes place in Prague from late May to early June.

As difficult as it was to leave Prague’s culture and colourful ambiance, I looked forward to my rural escape and change of pace. You can easily squeeze in two or three days in Prague and then head for the hills, literally, for some hiking and rock climbing in the beautiful Bohemian Paradise, and some cycling, hiking and skiing in the Giant Mountains.

Gems, Castles and Bohemian Paradise:

They say opposites attract. When you first set eyes on the Omnia Hotel, it looks like an industrial warehouse; understated in its grey slate and concrete, speckled with splashes of orange accents. But the setting is unquestionably serene. Situated in Krkonoš National Park in the spa town of Janské Láznĕ, this ultra modern low-rise luxury resort doesn’t try to compete with nature. You’re surrounded by fresh mountain air, and birch and linden trees, a mere two hour’s drive from Prague.

Only minutes on foot from the hotel foyer is a bike shop and cable railway lift to Černa horá (Black Mountain), the second highest peak (1,299 m) in the Czech Republic’s tallest mountain range known as the Giant Mountains. Black Mountain is located in the northern region of the Czech Republic, known as Bohemia, on the Czech-Polish border. When the skis are in storage, it’s all about taking on Black Mountain’s hiking and cycling trails. The cable car to the top of the mountain easily fits two passengers and two bikes, and it’s a moderately steep, 10km hike or ride to the bottom. Sněžka is the highest mountain in the Czech Republic (1.602m above sea level).

Bohemian Paradise

Bohemian Paradise

More hiking, cycling, skiing and rock climbing adventures await within a short driving distance to Bohemian Paradise in the foothills of the Giant Mountains. The oldest nature reserve in the Czech Republic, Bohemian Paradise is known for its majestic giant rock formations and castle ruins. It’s also a region known for its mining of garnet in the Bohemian Central Mountains. As garnet is my birthstone, I was thrilled to visit the Garnet Museum in the town of Turnov, in the heart of Bohemian Paradise. I stayed overnight at a castle. Hotel Chateau Hrubá Skála, is a 14th century Gothic castle overlooking the Hrubá Skála Bukovina Arboretum forest park. Situated on a rock platform, high above the treetops, the views from the castle’s courtyard are, well, fit for a King, or Queen.

I visited Liberec, a city surrounded by the Jizera Mountain range. A unique tourist attraction is the cable car to Hotel Jested, at the peak of Jested Mountain. The hotel’s hyperboloid shape looks like it belongs in the neighborhood from the 1960s futuristic space television show, The Jetsons, rather than the backdrop for a ski or hiking vacation in the Jizera Mountains. Dubbed “the hotel and restaurant above the clouds,” this television transmission tower, hotel-and-restaurant-in-one is a Czech national landmark and has won prizes for its unique sci-fi architecture. Once in the restaurant, it was the perfect ambiance to admire the view and enjoy a cup of coffee and slice of apple strudel, Jetsons style.

Don't leave the Czech Republic without eating strudel

Don’t leave the Czech Republic without eating strudel

http://www.czechtourism.com/a/czech-republic/

 

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