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!

CNE 2015 065

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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Explore Wiltshire County with History on your Handlebars

Castle Combe, England

Castle Combe, England

Sevington Victorian School, Wiltshire

Sevington Victorian School, Wiltshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hoopla of the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire, England last summer has reminded me of my unforgettable cycling journey in rural England. It didn’t involve the speed or the distance of the Tour de France, but it opened my eyes to rural England’s peaceful countryside, and afforded me the luxury of travelling at a leisurely pace, with plenty of time to explore on and off the saddle.

History on Your Handlebars is a self-guided cycling tour company based in the historic county of Wiltshire, only 70 minutes south west of London. Wiltshire is home to the world-renowned Georgian city of Bath, the world heritage town of Avebury, known for its ancient mystic stone circles, and the medieval National Trust village of Lacock, location for the films, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Moll Flanders. Lacock’s 16th century medieval Abbey was founded as a nunnery and later became home to William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography. In 1944, the Abbey, along with the 13th century village of Lacock, was given to the National Trust. The Abbey, now a photographic museum, was featured in the first two Harry Potter films. The stable courtyard includes a clock house, brewery, and bake house, and outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the summerhouse with Victorian rose garden and nearby botanic garden.

Wiltshire is known as the Downs because about two thirds of the county lies on chalk. Salisbury Plain, a 300-square mile chalk plateau, has the largest area of chalk and boasts the Wiltshire White Horses, eight horse drawings carved into the chalk hillsides. Stonehenge sits on the Plain and is a popular cycling destination with History on Your Handlebars.

Before departing for my cycling expedition in the English countryside, I indulged in theatre tea at the elegant Fairmont Savoy in London, scored a cheap first-row seat to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Lady in White, and cheered on a pack of cyclists in Brighton Beach, who were swooshing in from London to raise money for the British Heart Foundation.

Once I had squeezed in my evenings of theatre hopping, tube rides to Hampstead Heath and punting on the River Cam in Cambridge, it was time to cap my frenzied bright nights and city lights of London with an overnight sojourn in the country. Here, cows and horses were my neighbours, sunsets were magical, and the sweet smell of fresh air was intoxicating. Cycling in the Cotswolds was a fairytale come true.

It was quick and easy to arrive at my destination. I took the train from London’s Paddingon station, heading southwest to Wiltshire County. Only 70 minutes later I arrived at the quaint Chippenham railroad station. As I walked along the platform I soon spotted a handsome man sporting a white carnation pinned to his shirt. It was Derek, the owner of History on Your Handlebars, just as he had described he would be.

My two-day cycling adventure was nothing short of ideal. Derek personally took me on a two-day tour of the countryside, covering approximately 30 kilometers of easy riding each day. And, it didn’t take long for me to adjust to cycling on the left side of the road! The trips are self-guided with an array of routes. I did this before Google maps and iphone bike mounts arrived on the scene, which certainly would be an advantage for any one of the self-guided tours. It’s a family-run business, and Derek has built cottages on his property for rental accommodation. Ask about babysitting services, too.

My cycling route started in the market town of Chippenham, enroute to the Roman city of Bath. I rode along the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal, spotting bits of bridges, locks and other buildings that used to be the Pewsham Locks. The canal was an important means of transportation of coal and other goods in the late 18th and 19th century. As you leave the path of the canal the countryside opens up to delightful views of the meadows beyond the River Avon. It’s not uncommon to spot pheasants, buzzards, foxes, hares and deer on this stretch of trail. I saw a herd of lambs. It was such a liberating feeling to actually ride my bike into the city of Bath; 11 years earlier I had visited Bath for the first time, but on a Contiki bus tour. This time I had a brush with celebrity. On the way to Bath, in the village of Reybridge, I stopped and stood on a stone fence to glimpse a view of Camilla Parker Bowles’ country home.

When cycling in rural England, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll happen upon the local watering hole. I made the mandatory pit stop for some bitter ale at The George, a quintessential British pub that dates back to the 15th century when it was originally a monastery. The George is located alongside the canal in the village of Bathhampton, between the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal. With my renewed thirst to hop back on my bike, I rode into the village of Castle Combe, “the prettiest village in England” and setting for the Dr. Doolittle film. Here, storybook thatched roof cottages dot the backcountry road landscape. I visited The Manor House Hotel and Golf Club, an elegant destination. Situated on 365 acres, including an 18-hole course, Italian gardens and orchard, this stunning getaway is suitable for royalty (and whoever is lucky enough to afford it).

While riding along a stretch of country road in the village of Sevingon, I stopped to take a picture of what I thought to be a stone church. The sign out front read, “Sevington School”. We decided to investigate and knocked on the door. To my surprise, a woman dressed in period clothing opened the door. Two former school teachers create 19th century Victorian times for primary school student visits. On this afternoon the students had come and gone by the time I strolled by on my bike, enchanted by the schoolhouse. Luckily, we were offered a tour.

My accommodation for the night was at the Church Farm Bed & Breakfast, a charming farmhouse situated between the village of Biddestone and the small town of Corsham (about 8 miles from Bath). Picture the idyllic scene from the movie, The Holiday when Cameron Diaz arrives at the English cottage in Surrey. Only instead of heels and cashmere, I wore sweaty running shoes and a helmet. A short spin along the bike lane in front of the farm, past the horses, was a quaint church and more storybook cottages surrounded by aromatic gardens, poppy and garlic fields. I even had a rock star living nearby. Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason’s home was down the lane from where I was staying.

I slept in a cozy converted barn called the “Garden Room”. In a basket next to my bed was an assortment of chocolate chip shortbread from the Marshfield Bakery in the nearby town of Marshfield, as well as several varieties of tea, including orange, mango and cinnamon, and lemon and ginger. Indulging in buttery shortbread and hot tea was the ideal way to conclude my cycling adventure, before resting my tired legs and counting fluffy sheep. I would need my sleep for the next day’s journey.

Websites:

http://www.historyonyourhandlebars.co.uk/

http://www.churchfarmbandb.com/ http://www.barncottagesatlacock.co.uk/

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock/

http://www.visitbritain.com/en/CA/

 

 

 

 

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Blossoms, Bluebells, Cider and Perry: Herefordshire, England Celebrates Blossomtime

Blossomtime May 3-4, 2015 Photo: Richard Crompton
Blossomtime May 3-4, 2015
Photo: Richard Crompton

Good thing you’re not a teetotaller”, opines Simon Day, proprietor of Once Upon A Tree, award-winning producer of cider, perry and apple juice since 2008, as he pours me a taste of his 2008 Blenheim Orange Limited Edition cider from Dragon Orchard. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize that cider is alcoholic -some as much as 8.5%. What’s more, cider is generally stronger than beer, I’m told. While visiting a few orchards and cider makers in rural Herefordshire county in northwest England, I learned a thing or two about this renaissance beverage, from scrumpy to perry.

 

Herefordshire, a border county between England and Wales, is not only known for its black and white timber framed cottages, Hereford cattle, and natural spring water from the Malvern Hills, but hands down it is England’s apple county. A visit to the Cider Museum in the capital town of Hereford will reinforce that town’s claim to being “The Apple of England’s Eye”.

Hop fields and apple orchards line the low-lying, fertile landscape of the parish towns of the Marcle ridge, including Much Marcle, Putley, Pixley and Little Marcle. The geography makes for ideal growing conditions; protected from the elements by the Black Mountains in South Wales to the west, the scenic Malvern Hills closer to the east, Marcle Ridge to the south, and May Hill to the south east, in the county of Gloucestershire. Herefordshire produces over 70% of cider supplied to the U.K.

At the train station in Ledbury, a historic market town, I’m greeted by my amiable hosts, owners of Little Acre Bed and Breakfast in the hamlet of Much Marcle. They set me up with my bicycle, which will be my mode of transportation for the next day, and show me to my quiet room with an idyllic view of rolling fields and a lone farmhouse in the distance. I could live here in a heartbeat.

After a light nap I’m whisked off to dinner at the local Crown Inn Pub in the neighboring village of Woolhope, tucked away on a narrow, winding, rural lane, sparsely populated by the occasional cottage enroute. It’s so dark here you need to carry a flashlight to make your way to the entrance. It’s St. Patrick’s Day and the area is a buzz with Cheltenham Festival fever, an annual horse jumping race showcasing the best horses from across Europe.

I’m here to taste my first glass of cider. I order Premium Organic cider from Westons Cider, the largest maker of cider and perry in Herefordshire. After my first sip, I’m disappointed to discover that it tastes like beer! I try two other firsts – pork scratchings, which is essentially deep-fried pork rind, and rabbit. I drink the cider to help wash down the tasty, crunchy pork scratchings but it fails to win me over. I hope for better things to come during my tour of Westons Cider the next day.

Westons Cider in Much Marcle has been making cider and perry for 130 years. Perry is made from pears and is sweeter than cider. There is also pear cider, which is a blend of dessert pears and perry pears. Westons, which began as a Hereford cattle farm, is now the largest employer in the region, with over 150 full-time staff.

After my tour, I order lunch at Westons Scrumpy House Restaurant-Cafe. I need some food in my stomach before my cider tasting. The Old Rosie sausages, cider and onion gravy, and creamed potato for £9.75 is a winner. The gravy is made with Stowford Press (sparkling) 4.5%, and the sausages are made with Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy (still) 7.3%. The waitress recommends the Vintage Organic cider (7.3%) to go along with my meal. I’m beginning to like cider.

A tad tipsy from my tasting, I climb on my bicycle and negotiate the narrow, hilly country lane in search of Jean Nowell’s cottage. Jean is one of the founders of The Big Apple, a seasonal Herefordshire apple festival, which just celebrated its 25th year in October. You could say that Jean was born into the cider making business. Her father was a cider maker and she says there was always a barrel in the basement. “We had it when we wanted it.” Now widowed, she and her husband started to make cider after she found an old scratter stone mill in the yard of what is now Lyne Down Cider & Perry. After her husband past she sold the property to Lyne Down and moved into the cottage next door, where she is now.

“It’s a very satisfying thing to do; to plant an orchard and see it come into bearing”, Jean tells me as she offers a glass of her cider; traditional, or scrumpy as it is coined, and goes on to tell me about the annual Blossomtime festival.

At Blossomtime, which is held in Putley during the first weekend in May, about 50 professional and craft cider makers will participate in a peer-judged cider tasting competition. There are orchard walking tours and cycling trails to enjoy the orchards in full bloom, as well as tastings, baked goods, poetry walks, and a performance by the Leominster Morris dancers.

Jean asks me how I like the scrumpy. I reluctantly divulge that it’s too vinegary for me and she admits that it’s for the cider purist. “It’s rough and sharp,” she says. She makes three barrels of it every year; one to give away, one to sell to festivals, and, of course, one to enjoy for herself.

www.bigapple.org.uk

http://www.ciderroute.co.uk/site/index.html

http://www.visitherefordshire.co.uk/

http://www.littleacre.co.uk

http://www.richardcromptonphotography.com/

http://www.onceuponatree.co.uk/

 

 

 

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Vinyasa and Vino with The Wine Ladies at Southbrook Vineyards

Southbrook Vineyards, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Southbrook Vineyards, Niagara-on-the-Lake

I joined The Wine Ladies and several other friendly yogis and wine lovers for an afternoon of yoga, food and wine at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Check out The Wine Ladies’ website for more exciting events, including a 10-day all inclusive Italian adventure in Abruzzo, Italy September 19-29.

View this video, courtesy of The Wine Ladies and freelance photographer Joseph Fiore:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbuFo_07ss0

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151479170203176.1073741837.74962
673175&type=1

http://www.thewineladies.com/

http://www.southbrook.com/

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