Santa Monica: Artsy, chic and classically Californian

The only drawback to choosing Santa
Monica as a base for a Los Angeles
vacation is that you might not want to
go anywhere else.
This small coastal city has classic welcome-to-
California good looks, framed by a long, sandy
beach and the Santa Monica Mountains. The
local scene is artsy, active and casually chic, with
an added shot of surfer and skateboard culture.
There are restaurant choices from beachfront
tacos to Michelin-star dining rooms, plus excellent
cocktail bars. “This is a living, breathing creative
hub. It has that genuine local feel,” says Lauren
Salisbury of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

‘All you wear is a smile’: In one of Europe’s greatest spa towns, I stripped down for wellness

The woman at the entrance to the “textile-free” Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish bath in Baden-Baden, Germany, mentioned this more than once.

All you wear in this neo-Renaissance, 19th-century temple to relaxation and mineral water wellness, located on the edge of the Black Forest, is a smile and your watchband-style locker key.

Our group of three women assured her that bathing in the buff was fine by us as we paid the 35-euro admission. When in Baden-Baden, do as the Romans do — or did. What we didn

Spanish Road to Hog Heaven: Superstar Pigs and the World’s Best Ham

Hog heaven exists, and it’s in Extremadura, a region in a remote corner of western Spain.

If you’ve never heard of Extremadura, you’re not alone. But this home of what connoisseurs call the best cured ham in the world (sorry Parma) is a food-lover’s delight and more. There’s a timeless quality to this uncrowded region of tree-dotted pastures; protected areas for hiking, cycling and birdwatching; Roman ruins; peaceful walled cities and hilltop medieval castles.

And of course, there’s the Jamón

A Month with Carry-On? It Can Be Done

With baggage fee creep and the stress of lost and delayed luggage, carry-on is going to be the only way to fly in the summer of 2024.

For a long weekend or even a week, no problem. But a month?

It can be done.

“Once you start travelling light, you’ll never go back,” says Victoria-based travel writer Kim Pemberton. “I love never having to worry about lost luggage and being able to leave the airport ASAP.”

As a freelance travel writer, I swore off checking bags a long time ago. It wasn’t hard.

First Nations Artist from Victoria Carves His Mark in Germany

Things you don’t expect to see on a hike in the German forest: a 12-metre totem pole carved by one of Canada’s most celebrated Indigenous artists.

What was a monument sacred to First Nations people doing in a clearing in the woods outside the city of Essen, facing a half-timbered, fachwerk-style restaurant?

The Jagdhaus Schellenberg restaurant manager explained the totem pole was the work of Canadian master carver Carey Newman. Surprise number two: Newman lives in my hometown of Victoria, wher

I ate my way through Colombia, from crunchy ‘big booty’ ants to homestyle food-market dishes

Were they big-ass, big-butt or big-booty ants? As I mentally prepared to pop Colombia’s favourite six-legged delicacy in my mouth, the name wasn’t important.

I’d bought a small container of the insects from the edible ant section of a Bucaramanga airport gift shop. The city is about 400 kilometres northeast of Bogota, located in the region that’s home to protein-rich hormigas culonas, a centuries-old traditional food.

With a back end about the size of my pinky fingernail, the roasted, salted a

Exploring the Untouched Beauty of Tofino, British Columbia

Getting away from everything becomes a reality in Tofino, British Columbia.

Located on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, step onto hard-packed sand at one of four main beaches and have the unique experience of feeling like you are at the edge of the world. The next stop across the roiling Pacific Ocean is Japan — or New Zealand, depending on how you face it.

Located within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the district of Tofino is a pristine place of wild natural

Discover Cordoba Spain: a portal into another time

Cross a busy four-lane street in Córdoba, Spain and step into history. The paved walkway narrows to cobblestones to pass beneath the rough stones of the 700-year-old Puerta de Almodovar de Córdoba battlement. The gate is a portal into another time, the entry to an ancient town’s heart where twisting streets can dead end or open into pretty squares. Rows of small, white homes, shops and restaurants, some dotted with ceramic pots of colourful flowers, line the passages.

In the rush to see Seville

New luxury hotel Naturally Pacific Resort Campbell River

Naturally Pacific Resort, a 100-room boutique property located next to the Campbell River Golf Club, could be the “little shining star” that puts Campbell River on the map as a Vancouver Island tourist destination, says general manager Justin Stevens.

The resort opened May 11, in time for the summer travel season.

While outdoor activities have brought visitors to the area for decades, the small Vancouver Island city isn’t the first place that comes to mind for a luxury resort.

“Neither was T

Small cities, big experiences: Explore Europe’s best-kept secrets

While Berlin, Paris, London and Amsterdam often top European travel wish lists for Canadians, why not consider alternate destinations, like Stuttgart, Toulouse, Bath and Haarlem, which offer similar experiences on a smaller scale. Plus, travelling to these locales provides the chance to explore a lesser-known region, always good for a different vibe and travel bragging rights.

What may first catch your eye in Stuttgart are the steep hills covered in neat rows of vines that surround the city.

The Dorian Hotel in Calgary Is Collecting Guests' Confessions

All kinds of things go on behind hotel room doors. At the stylish new Dorian, Autograph Collection hotel in Calgary, Alberta, however, guests are being given the opportunity to bare their souls and disclose what indiscretions went on during their stay — or at any point in their lives.

The Dorian draws its concept from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Irish writer Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century novel about a beautiful young man who bargains his soul to pursue a hedonistic life unscathed, while his hidden

Skijoring Is the Extreme Sport You Didn't Know You Needed

In the wildest show on snow, equestrian skijoring puts carving skiers and galloping horses together for the fastest-growing winter sport in North America.

Snow flies from pounding hooves. Riders on retired race horses pull rope-clutching skiers down a 700-to-900-foot track at speeds up to 40 mph. Skiers tackle jumps and edge around gates to grab for suspended rings in front of cheering spectators just a few feet from the action.

It’s a mixed-gender sport. Men and women compete equally as rider

Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino: Rustic elegance on nature’s edge

I stretched out at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn for the final minutes of a small-group yoga class. Yoga teacher Mallory Stuckel settled lightweight, heated blankets across our bodies, then opened the glass doors of the second-floor yoga studio to the deep, rumbling sound of the surf. Refreshing, cedar-scented air came into the room.

In that moment another Tofino memory was created in a place as treasured for the natural beauty of its magnificent Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere setting as its remo

Why Europe in the off-season may be the best time to visit

Shift a trip to either side of peak tourism summer months – including the increasingly busy period from June to early October – and the payoff is hotel deals, comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds.

From October to March, days are shorter, and the weather may be better suited to enjoying a city on foot rather than lounging at patios. In Lisbon, where the sun shines 290 days a year, the thermometer rarely drops below 15 C. Madrid winter temperatures are around 10 C and spring comes early.

Th

Indigenous Retreat

Indigenous-owned and operated Klahoose Wilderness Resort in British Columbia immerses guests in storytelling, traditions, craftwork and grizzly bear tours.

The grizzly bear was close enough to watch it chewing.

It sat chest deep in the shallow river, gripping a chum salmon in curved claws as long as my index finger. The bear looked almost thoughtful as it stripped the skin from the fish with its teeth.

It was certainly more interested in the salmon than the eight visitors and pair of guides w

Falling for Fun-loving Fredericton

Known as Freddy, or Freddy Beach to locals, Fredericton charmed me from the start — and for more than its funster name.

The provincial capital of New Brunswick, located on the Saint John River (called Wolastoq, meaning beautiful river, by Wolastoqiyik First Nations people), has surprises for visitors who may wonder if a city of 63,000 people can keep them entertained.

I admit to being one of the skeptics.

A chat with a well-travelled tourist in British Columbia about summer getaways got me to

Journey to Japan: What to See, Do, Drink and Eat Beyond Tokyo

Journey to Japan: What to See, Do, Drink and Eat Beyond Tokyo

Japan finally fully reopened to international travellers last fall after more than two years of pandemic-era closure, bringing Canadians closer to realizing their dreams of visiting this fascinating country. Since you’ll probably start your trip with a few days in Tokyo, here are some ideas on how to get around, where to see, do and eat beyond Japan’s exciting capital. National rail network Japan Railways makes it easy to explore mos

Film geeks will adore Morocco

OUARZAZATE, MOROCCO-Like the handful of other homes within the mud-walled village of Ait Benhaddou, Mohamed Kachir’s living room has two things: a vertical loom for weaving the colourful Berber carpets famous throughout Morocco and a portrait of Russell Crowe.

Kachir, 31, a part-time tour guide, was 15 when he first met the star, when Crowe and director Ridley Scott came to “the door of the desert” near Morocco’s High Atlas mountains in 1999 to films scenes for the Oscar-winning drama Gladiator
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Tea-Time Travels: A Magical Multigen Adventure Across the Pond (and a Few in Canada, Too)

Tea-Time Travels: A Magical Multigen Adventure Across the Pond (and a Few in Canada, Too)

Inspired by J.M. Barrie’s play and children’s book about a boy who refuses to grow up, the Peter Pan Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard on the 31st floor of London’s The Shard skyscraper may be aimed at youngsters, but I was just as wide-eyed as some of the kids in the room. Situated beside London Bridge, the 72-storey Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building, one of those things that sounds impressive but is d

What to Do On a Ucluelet Roadtrip

The thrilling, twisting drive to the wild West Coast of Vancouver Island brings you to a T-junction and a question: Turn right to Tofino or take a Ucluelet roadtrip and turn left? Go left for a change.

Locals call it Ukee. You will too before long. Think of Ukee as surf capital Tofino’s scrappy, free-spirited younger sister. Wild and rugged, open-hearted and a bit rough around the edges, the beaches are rocky and the town takes pride in its blue-collar roots.

Ucluelet “is cool because it’s not

Return to nature: Alberta Indigenous tourism experiences

Alberta is home to a growing list of Indigenous tours and experiences

Brenda Holder, owner of Alberta Indigenous tourism business Mahikan Trails, is helping us remember how to drink tea.

All I can think about is getting a bit closer to the robust campfire on this chilly Calgary night, warming my hands on the cup of steaming wild mint tea.

But Holder’s quiet words pull me in. How to drink tea, or our morning coffee, is a skill we’ve lost in our busy lives, she says.

A Métis Knowledge Keeper a

In Kamloops, Rich Culture and Scenic Vistas Are Never Far Away

Paddles dip into the water. The gentle swoosh blends with the traditional song Indigenous cultural knowledge keeper Justin “Sonny” Prairie Chicken sings.

Facing us from a seat in the bow of our long canoe, he plays a flat, round drum painted with eagle feathers. We paddle with his drum and voice, moving easily along the South Thompson River to the gentle rise and fall of his singing in Secwepemctsin, the language of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) people.

We’re heading towards Tk’emlúps, the Secwepemc

The Hidden Joys of Japan's Wintry North

Take a break from the well-trodden tourist routes of Japan and head a couple hours north of Tokyo by train, and you’ll find frozen waterfalls, luxurious steaming outdoor mineral baths, craft sake, and the snow-covered traditional inns of northern Honshu Island, known for their gracious hospitality.

Visitors to Japan often miss out on the picturesque northeastern region of Tohoku and the northwest-coastal city of Niigata, but here in the North the locals are experts at embracing all things snow

20 Best Places to Travel in Canada for 2022: Time for Indigenous Tourism

Vacay.ca Editors and Writers Adrian Brijbassi, Rod Charles, Claudia Laroye, Debbie Olsen, Kelsey Olsen, and Linda Barnard contributed to this report; Brijbassi edited it.

Five years ago, Canada was at the beginning of a series of parties that were akin to a national stroking of ego and pride. The 150th anniversary of the founding of the nation was rich with celebrations and endless events sparked by unprecedented levels of tourism spending, much of it focused on July 1 festivities. It would hav

Tea for Two: “The Garden That Love Built” and Other Romantic Spots in Victoria, B.C.

You may like your tea with a splash of milk, or a dab of honey. I prefer mine accompanied by a generous serving of romance and a compelling story about reunited loves. Known as “the garden that love built,” Abkhazi Garden is a secluded gem in a quiet residential corner of Victoria, British Columbia. Like any good love story, this one has challenges, heartbreak and a sweet ending. Situated on rock outcropping ov

A Perfect Weekend in Tofino, British Columbia

It may seem odd to start a perfect weekend in Tofino, Canada’s surf capital, by facing away from the waves.

But to engage with the soul of this place, begin by acknowledging that this area, consistently voted among the world’s top tourist destinations, is on the traditional unceded territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. The Nuu-chah-nulth peoples have lived on these lands for thousands of years.

Long stretches of beaches with pounding surf, postcard-worthy sunsets and sunrises, and the a

On BC's Sunshine Coast, Going for a Beer Takes on New Meaning When There's a Plane Involved

A bird’s-eye view of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast offers guests embarking on the new Flights to Flights brewery tour a sense of place well before they start sipping. And, as tour leader Douglas Bevans puts it, a floatplane flight, “is just so West Coast.”

Bevans, who runs Sunshine Coast Art Tours, added the six-hour, small-group air and ales experience this year. The $240 per-person price includes ground transportation to three tasting rooms of your choice (with one complimentary flight of

The Meghan and Harry Guide to Vancouver Island

As the Sussex Royals are leaving England, all eyes are on their destination: Vancouver Island, Canada.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit the family royal business in January seeking “a more peaceful life.” And they may have found it on gorgeous Vancouver Island, Canada. Located about 60 miles from the city of Vancouver off the coast of mainland British Columbia, this Pacific paradise has lured the royal couple with gorgeous scenery, lush forests, outdoor recreation on land and water, locally-

Beauty from the Sea

Mermaids have the right idea, I thought, relaxing in an outdoor tub filled with pleasantly hot water scattered with colourful seaweed.

My seaweed bath, experienced at Avacena in Qualicum Beach, smelled pleasantly of the ocean and the essential oils added to the water. The cool strips and pods of green, brown and purple seaweed were slippery, soothing and fun to play with, especially the crab-claw-shaped bladderwrack, which, when popped, released a cool gel for a face mask . The bumpy surface on

Scottsdale Arizona: Made for active and arts-minded travellers

Look between the sagebrush and multi-armed saguaro cactus to discover the Arizona desert is a remarkably colourful garden in spring, with cactus tops crowned in brilliant fuchsia blossoms and orangeade-coloured blooms trailing across thorny bushes.

The seasonal floral show on a morning hike along the Gateway Loop in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale AZ wasn’t the last time I’d encounter the unexpected in this small desert c

Tea With A Twist: Canada's Only Tea Farm

Think “tea” and “Canada,” and curling up by the fire with a cuppa likely comes to mind.

But here’s a twist. Westholme Tea Farm is Canada’s only tea-grower, allowing you to sip Canadian tea in the place where it’s grown, British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

“It’s the most unique tea experience in Canada,” says tea farmer and custom blender Victor Vesely, who owns Westholme with his wife, ceramic artist Margit Nellemann.

A former chef, Nellmann also creates Westholme’s tea and tisane (herbal te

I Love My Fat Cat, But I Dreaded Getting Him on a Plane

We were excited to start a new life in British Columbia. But first we had to figure out how to bring our plus-sized cat with us.

What could go wrong?

I’m an occasional catastrophizer. Facing my first cross-Canada flight with my plus-sized feline, Lance, brought the “cat” part of my condition to the fore.

Planning for the trip involved slightly less preparation than a Sahara trek. My mind pinballed around all the things I couldn’t control, such as the possibility that a 10-year-o

The Jewish influence on Belfast

Some 100 years before there was a Catholic lord mayor of Belfast, a German-born Jew held the office – twice.

Later knighted, Sir Otto Jaffe was a philanthropist, justice of the peace, governor of the Royal Hospital and elected to the top position in Northern Ireland’s capital city in 1899 and again in 1904.

And I am convinced I slept in his Belfast office. Because what’s travel for if not to inspire dreams as you delve into history?

Wouldn’t the great man want a bright corner office? My suite

World’s First Hybrid Cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen Launches in Vancouver

Calling it “a new chapter in maritime history,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam led two days of celebrations marking the Vancouver inaugural of the world’s first hybrid cruise ship, MS Roald Amundsen.

The timing could not have been better for the Norwegian expedition cruise line’s event for its newest vessel. As the Amundsen was welcomed at its Canada Place cruise ship terminal berth by Hurtigruten staff, local dignitaries and about 200 guests, some 100,000 young people were marching in downtow

Santa Monica: Artsy, chic and classically Californian

The only drawback to choosing Santa
Monica as a base for a Los Angeles
vacation is that you might not want to
go anywhere else.
This small coastal city has classic welcome-to-
California good looks, framed by a long, sandy
beach and the Santa Monica Mountains. The
local scene is artsy, active and casually chic, with
an added shot of surfer and skateboard culture.
There are restaurant choices from beachfront
tacos to Michelin-star dining rooms, plus excellent
cocktail bars. “This is a living, breathing creative
hub. It has that genuine local feel,” says Lauren
Salisbury of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

Exploring the Untouched Beauty of Tofino, British Columbia

Getting away from everything becomes a reality in Tofino, British Columbia.

Located on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, step onto hard-packed sand at one of four main beaches and have the unique experience of feeling like you are at the edge of the world. The next stop across the roiling Pacific Ocean is Japan — or New Zealand, depending on how you face it.

Located within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the district of Tofino is a pristine place of wild natural

Discover Cordoba Spain: a portal into another time

Cross a busy four-lane street in Córdoba, Spain and step into history. The paved walkway narrows to cobblestones to pass beneath the rough stones of the 700-year-old Puerta de Almodovar de Córdoba battlement. The gate is a portal into another time, the entry to an ancient town’s heart where twisting streets can dead end or open into pretty squares. Rows of small, white homes, shops and restaurants, some dotted with ceramic pots of colourful flowers, line the passages.

In the rush to see Seville

Discover Cordoba Spain a portal into another time

Cross a busy four-lane street in Córdoba, Spain and step into history. The paved walkway narrows to cobblestones to pass beneath the rough stones of the 700-year-old Puerta de Almodovar de Córdoba battlement. The gate is a portal into another time, the entry to an ancient town’s heart where twisting streets can dead end or open into pretty squares. Rows of small, white homes, shops and restaurants, some dotted with ceramic pots of colourful flowers, line the passages.

In the rush to see Seville

Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino: Rustic elegance on nature’s edge

I stretched out at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn for the final minutes of a small-group yoga class. Yoga teacher Mallory Stuckel settled lightweight, heated blankets across our bodies, then opened the glass doors of the second-floor yoga studio to the deep, rumbling sound of the surf. Refreshing, cedar-scented air came into the room.

In that moment another Tofino memory was created in a place as treasured for the natural beauty of its magnificent Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere setting as its remo

A Month with Carry-On? It Can Be Done

With baggage fee creep and the stress of lost and delayed luggage, carry-on is going to be the only way to fly in the summer of 2024.

For a long weekend or even a week, no problem. But a month?

It can be done.

“Once you start travelling light, you’ll never go back,” says Victoria-based travel writer Kim Pemberton. “I love never having to worry about lost luggage and being able to leave the airport ASAP.”

As a freelance travel writer, I swore off checking bags a long time ago. It wasn’t hard.

New luxury hotel Naturally Pacific Resort Campbell River

Naturally Pacific Resort, a 100-room boutique property located next to the Campbell River Golf Club, could be the “little shining star” that puts Campbell River on the map as a Vancouver Island tourist destination, says general manager Justin Stevens.

The resort opened May 11, in time for the summer travel season.

While outdoor activities have brought visitors to the area for decades, the small Vancouver Island city isn’t the first place that comes to mind for a luxury resort.

“Neither was T

Spanish Road to Hog Heaven: Superstar Pigs and the World’s Best Ham

Hog heaven exists, and it’s in Extremadura, a region in a remote corner of western Spain.

If you’ve never heard of Extremadura, you’re not alone. But this home of what connoisseurs call the best cured ham in the world (sorry Parma) is a food-lover’s delight and more. There’s a timeless quality to this uncrowded region of tree-dotted pastures; protected areas for hiking, cycling and birdwatching; Roman ruins; peaceful walled cities and hilltop medieval castles.

And of course, there’s the Jamón

Why Europe in the off-season may be the best time to visit

Shift a trip to either side of peak tourism summer months – including the increasingly busy period from June to early October – and the payoff is hotel deals, comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds.

From October to March, days are shorter, and the weather may be better suited to enjoying a city on foot rather than lounging at patios. In Lisbon, where the sun shines 290 days a year, the thermometer rarely drops below 15 C. Madrid winter temperatures are around 10 C and spring comes early.

Th

The Dorian Hotel in Calgary Is Collecting Guests' Confessions

All kinds of things go on behind hotel room doors. At the stylish new Dorian, Autograph Collection hotel in Calgary, Alberta, however, guests are being given the opportunity to bare their souls and disclose what indiscretions went on during their stay — or at any point in their lives.

The Dorian draws its concept from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Irish writer Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century novel about a beautiful young man who bargains his soul to pursue a hedonistic life unscathed, while his hidden

Travel 2023: Being a Global Citizen in Hawaii

Escape and find a purpose! In our February/March 2023 issue of Zoomer magazine, we featured “23 Reasons to Travel in 2023”. In this edition, we look meaningful ways to give back when we travel. Click on the link at the bottom of the story for more ideas and inspiration for your next trip. Instead of taking Hawaiian souvenirs home, consider creating memories from what you leave behind. John De Fries, the first native Hawaiian president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, launched the Mālama

A Spicy Obsession for Food

It’s fitting Chaska Indian Restaurant chef-owner Mohit Verma named his place with a word that means “obsession for food” in Hindi. Verma says spices are the flavourful foundation of his cuisine. He closes every Monday to roast and grind them, restocking the kitchen’s large stainless-steel masala dabba, a spice box with containers including mahogany-coloured ground cumin and red- orange chile powder. His modest North Indian restaurant on Cloverdale’s main street in Surrey has a lengthy menu, with

Godfather of Pacific Cuisine

John Bishop was an indifferent 15-year-old student, dreaming of an adventurous life outside his small hometown in Wales when he spied a Royal Navy recruitment poster. There was an enticing promise about seeing the world. Bishop went home and told his mother that was for him. Aghast, his mother worked to convince him going to cooking school a few hours north was a better plan. She promised it would be different from regular school. Working in a kitchen, she said, had benefits. “My mother said you

South Okanagan Intoxicates a First-time Visitor with More Than Wine

Moving to British Columbia from Ontario gave me the keys to a new life — and the wine cellar.

Every bottle I opened in my new home province was a discovery, excellent wines are made here that rarely make it beyond the BC border.

So, it seemed like a good idea to head to the Okanagan Valley to say thank you in person.

The cradle of BC’s wine industry is home to about 85 per cent of the province’s output.

Car travel is considered a safer option during the global pandemic and with provincial he

Our favourite Canadian winery getaways, from Nova Scotia to B.C.

Tasting wine in the place where it’s made and aged while looking across the vineyard that produced the grapes can feel like being on the right side of the velvet rope. Canada’s wineries, from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia, offer experiences beyond the tasting rooms, including award-winning menus and world-class accommodations.

At Covert Farms Family Estate near Oliver, B.C., proprietor and winemaker Gene Covert is full of knowledge when he takes guests on a behind-the-scenes tou
Explore a featured selection of my writing work below.

Food & Wine

Film

Explore a featured selection of my writing about movies below.

Dev Patel’s role in Lion allowed him to ‘dig deeper’

Last time we met, Dev Patel was an 18-year-old unknown actor, enthusiastic, a bit awkward and not quite able to process the prolonged ovation Ryerson Theatre audiences had given Slumdog Millionaire the night before at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“That was amazing,” Patel recalled of that September 2008 evening as he prepared to see how Toronto audiences would react to the world premiere of his latest film, Lion, at TIFF 2016. Lion opens in Toronto Dec. 9.

Slumdog won the TIFF Peop

Canadian makeup artist Donald Mowat

From taming Timothée Chalamet’s unruly hair to transforming Stellan Skarsgård into hulking, hedonistic sadist Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Canadian-British makeup artist Donald Mowat’s work gets the most screen time in director Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune,” opening Oct. 22

Montreal-born Mowat’s world-building creative hand is visible everywhere as prosthetics designer and head of the makeup and hair department on Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic novel.

Mowat and Vi

'The Gravedigger's Wife' wins at Toronto International Film Festival

When Somali-Finnish writer-director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed was growing up in Mogadishu, he’d often see gravediggers waiting outside a nearby hospital on his walk to school.

Memories of men hoping to earn enough money to feed their families by burying the newly dead before sundown inspired his debut feature, The Gravedigger’s Wife. Filmed in Somali in Djibouti, the tenderly moving story of love and devotion follows Guled (Omar Abdi), a man who makes a precarious living from loss.

Guled’s earnings

The 25 Best Canadian Movies Ever

The 25 Best Canadian Movies Ever If you fancy yourself a cinephile, this rundown of great Canadian movies—listed in alphabetical order by film critic Linda Barnard—will have you nodding in agreement. Fall in love with these Canadian movies No matter where or when they are set, Canadian movies tell stories through the diverse prism of our country. They may make you consider what it means to be Canadian. You could even say they bring us closer. You may wonder how I could overlook a beloved movie—o

Interview: Oscar-nominated director Chloé Zhao

Perhaps there’s no group of people better adapted to the challenges of the global pandemic than the van-dwelling migrants who play themselves in “Nomadland,” says the film’s Oscar-nominated director, Chloé Zhao.

Personal apocalypses and fallout from the 2008 financial meltdown already led these American boomers to adopt new ways of living and working. COVID-19 is just one more hurdle, the 38-year-old, Beijing-born Zhao said.

“Nomadland” opens April 9 in available theatres, also streaming on Di

Review: Deragh Campbell Soars As a Woman on the Edge

Is it that Anne is immature and inexperienced? She can talk for hours about sharks with a six-year-old, but two salesclerks offering to help her in a boutique registers as torment.

Anne suffers when she realizes that she got it wrong. Being judged is her great fear and torment. We suspect this isn’t new.

Her mother Barb (Lawrene Denkers) tries to encourage and protect her, skittish about saying the wrong thing that will make her daughter close down, or bolt.

Anne’s drunken maid-of-honour spee

Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet honoured at TIFF virtual gala

The TIFF Tribute Awards may have gone virtual but the sentiments were authentic in an hourlong CTV broadcast from a near-empty TIFF Lightbox theatre Tuesday night.

TIFF Tribute Actor Award recipients Kate Winslet and Sir Anthony Hopkins — she was in the England, he in California — acknowledged those affected by the global pandemic in their video acceptance speeches.

“My heart really goes out all of you who have battled and struggled and continue to struggle through these harsh and painful time

This Movie Goes to 35: Rockumentary ‘This is Spinal Tap’ Marks Anniversary

This Movie Goes to 35: Rockumentary ‘This is Spinal Tap’ Marks Anniversary with Theatrical Re-Release
The first time Brad LaDouceur saw This Is Spinal Tap, it was on a tiny screen with lousy sound at the now-closed Cineplex Odeon Theatres at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. The Humber College radio broadcast student, all of 17, thought Rob Reiner’s 1984 mock rockumentary about a fictitious trio of hopelessly dumb, heavy metal musicians who couldn’t keep a drummer was the “funniest movie I’ve ever s

Halle Berry stars in her her own directorial debut, Bruised

Berry said COVID-19 has slowed down completion of Bruised.
She said the original script that caught her attention a few years ago was about a “25-year-old Irish Catholic girl.” Berry said she loved the story, a classic underdog fight film. “I love to see a film that’s about redemption. I want to see the human spirit soar. I want to see someone rise above obstacles and still be standing at the end of the day.”
She convinced the producers that the story could also be told about a middle-aged Bla

Debut Director Regina King: One Night in Miami…

Regina King felt compelled to complete filming on One Night in Miami… and a global pandemic wasn’t going to stand in her way.
The first-time director told a virtual media conference at the Toronto International Film Festival ahead of the movie’s North American premiere Friday night there were three scenes left to finish when lockdown happened.
Unsure how to safely resume shooting, it seemed the drama’s release would be pushed back. But the spring deaths of Ahmaud Arber,

An Interview With: Albert Shin

“We threw him in the water — and he was cool with it.”

Canadian director Albert Shin wanted legendary filmmaker David Cronenberg to have a worthy entrance for his engagingly oddball supporting role in mystery-thriller Disappearance at Clifton Hill.

Cronenberg plays Walter Bell, an eccentric Niagara Falls podcaster and former rescue diver in the movie, which premiered as Clifton Hill at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Shin has a wetsuit-clad Cronenberg emerge from the Ni

Ten fantastic foodie films

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon hit the road again with The Trip To Greece, available on VOD, starting May 22. The latest in the hedonistic road trip comedy series is sure to spark more than the usual envy as locked-down viewers watch them indulging in Michelin-star feasts on sea-view terraces, the bickering duo carefree behind the wheel as they tour a country we can’t visit. Read our review of The Trip to Greece Glasses of crisp white wines sweat in the heat. There are groans of pleasure over chubb

Canadian Exclusive: Director Angelina Jolie on directing Unbroken

To come in the following days were blanket nomination snubs from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, along with four nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. And then there was the case of chickenpox a week later — complete with a YouTube video that literally went viral — that would sideline her from the film’s Los Angeles premiere.

Zamperini’s suffering is hard to imagine and his story is one tha

Review: Ordinary Love, extraordinary performances

Their lives are routine, but they don’t seem bothered by a life that others may call dull. Their affection for each other — his is teasing, which she finds it amusing although occasionally annoying — is clear. He calls her “kid.” They make love. They laugh at silly things. In short, an ordinary life.

It’s not idyllic. There has been profound sorrow in their past. But they have somehow gotten by.

When Joan finds a lump in her breast, she tries to tamp worry down, while practical Tom insists the

Oualid Mouaness tells story of a boyhood crush and a nation at war in '1982'

It took eight years for Lebanese-American writer and director Oualid Mouaness to get 1982 on to the screen. The film, which stars Lebanese actress and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nadine Labaki, revolves around a boy who is anxious about winning over a school crush. The movie will have its world premiere on Wednesday, September 11 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It's a universal narrative that both Mouaness and Labaki say generates familiarity and empathy, which will help 1982 resonate

Meryl Streep delivers emotional speech at TIFF tribute gala

Meryl Streep serenaded the room with a Joni Mitchell tribute, sweetly warbling “Oh Can-a-daa,” as she accepted an acting award Monday night at the inaugural TIFF Tribute Gala at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Streep, at the Toronto International Film Festival for the North American premiere of director Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, referenced Mitchell’s much-loved classic “A Case of You,” before cracking a joke about the Jumbotron-sized screens flanking the stage.

She then turned serious

Renée Zellweger on looking past tragedy to find ‘so much joy’ in Judy Garland biopic at TIFF

Renée Zellweger credits a “series of shared experiments” with helping her craft her dazzling and often heartbreaking portrayal of singer and Hollywood legend Judy Garland in Judy, having its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Tuesday.

And that included some piano moving.

“It didn’t go very far, I can tell you that,” says Zellweger of trying to shift a heavy piano around a rehearsal studio.

The piano-pushing exercise, along with kicking chairs over — all while singing

Yorkville makes surprise comeback as TIFF party destination

When TIFF Bell Lightbox opened eight years ago, Yorkville’s film fest invitation seemed abruptly lost in the mail.

The chic urban pocket of Victorian houses, restaurants and boutiques north of Bloor St. was the birthplace of the Festival of Festivals in 1976, growing to become the hugely influential Toronto International Film Festival.

But when the Lightbox bowed for TIFF 2010 with theatres and event spaces, you could almost see tumbleweeds blowing down Yorkville’s tony streets as the action s

Helen Mirren revisits friendship with Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

As straight-talking southerner Ella Spencer in senior road trip comedy-drama The Leisure Seeker, Canadian Club rye on the rocks is Helen Mirren’s cocktail-hour usual.

But her request could also be a casting call.

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland plays Ella’s longtime husband, John, and their pairing marks an onscreen reunion for the actors.

The Leisure Seeker, opening Friday, sees Mirren (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role) and Sutherland team for the first time since 1990’s Be

Life-changing role in A Fantastic Woman has trans performer looking ahead

Transgender Chilean actress Daniela Vega says there “are no limits” to the roles she can play.

Take her mesmerizing breakout role of aspiring singer Marina Vidal in director Sebastian Lelio’s Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman, opening Feb. 9.

It’s Chile’s entry in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race and Vega, the country’s first openly trans actress, will be on the red carpet and at the Hollywood awards.

In the film, after her longtime partner collapses in her arms and dies, the grieving Marina

Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell back on the dance floor with Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

His breakout role in the 2000 British smash Billy Elliot saw the 14-year-old newcomer doing some spirited footwork to T. Rex’s “I Love to Boogie” alongside Julie Walters as the dance teacher who encourages his dream to be a ballet dancer.
In 1970s-set Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool — opening Friday — Bell and Annette Bening spin their characters’ first meeting into a sexy exploration of each other via some sinewy dance moves to disco hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”

Bell, now 31, was in town last

Self-isolating upside: A chance to catch up on (or revisit) terrific titles

There’s no pattern to the four I’ve picked to recommend, one from each decade. Some were chosen because they influenced the culture of the time, or filmmakers that followed. I enjoyed watching them again. Perhaps you will, too — and that includes Flashdance. What a feeling, indeed.


The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)


Directed by Bob Rafelson. Starring Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson.


Fair play if you rank Five Easy Pieces above The King of Marvin Gardens

When Trenton — not Toronto — was Hollywood North

One hundred years ago, you’d have to bypass Toronto to get to Hollywood North.

“In Trenton is all the Hollywood we have in Ontario … the only fully equipped motion-picture studio in Canada,” wrote Merrill Denison in a column in The Toronto Weekly Star on Feb. 26, 1927.

For a considerable time, the town about 170 km east of Toronto was the motion picture-making capital of Canada as Trenton’s Film Plant studio churned out more than 1,500 silent films from 1917 to 1934, employing locals in jobs f

Hend Sabri on 'Noura's Dream'

Tunisian actress Hend Sabri has pushed the boundaries again with her return to Tunisian cinema in the drama Noura's Dream, which last week had its world premiere in the discovery section of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival.

Sabri plays a woman trying to navigate relationships on her own terms and find long-­overdue happiness while her abusive, small-time criminal husband, Sofiane (Lotfi Abdelli), is in jail. Noura is struggling to raise their three children while working in a dead-e

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'Maid' in Victoria

A huge hit for streaming service Netflix, the American drama series Maid also gave the picturesque west-coast delights of Greater Victoria the star treatment. In fact, the entire series was shot in and around Victoria, where more than 150 locations stood in for the fictional town of Port Hampstead, Washington. Based on Stephanie Land’s Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, the Emmy-nominated limited series stars Margaret Qualley as Alex, a single mom who leaves an abusive rel

The Livin' is Easy: Summer Music in the City

Summer on the coast always sounds good.

Spread a blanket under the stars, enjoy the vibes of a festival crowd, or settle into a theatre seat and experience why summer in Greater Victoria comes with its own soundtrack.

We love live music in the capital on the coast. In fact, it seems to be everywhere. Listen to world music while finding best from local farmers at a favourite market. An energetic busker always draws an audience on a sunny afternoon in Bastion Square. When the sun goes down, catc

Toronto holidays 2022 | Book today with British Airways

A vibrant metropolis with fantastic art and culture and a wondrous waterfront, Toronto is a magic destination to explore. Reach the top of the seventh modern wonder of the world, the CN Tower, then venture to every corner of the city.


With restaurants and cafes on every street, Toronto is home to Greek town, China town and Little Italy. Visit the lively Dundas Square, reminiscent of Times Square, in the Downtown district. Or wander around the beautiful Edwards Gardens – but watch out for chip

Hope in Harmony

The women move slowly, bent slightly as they tentatively enter the room at Panzi Hospital’s Maison Dorcas aftercare unit, as if making themselves physically smaller might ease the agonizing trauma they have endured.

Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was founded by gynecological surgeon and 2018 Nobel Laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege. It treats war atrocity survivors in a region where rape is a weapon of conflict and leaves women with devastating internal and external i

Home | Royal Roads University

At Royal Roads, our educational approach isn’t just about deep knowledge of subject matter, but about learning an even deeper knowledge of self. Be challenged. Be inspired. Why learn at Royal Roads?

This is a place of life-changing transformation. Our admission policy looks at more than just formal education and qualifications. We see value in lessons learned outside the classroom in your hard-earned experience and professional achievements. Many of our for-credit courses and certificates can b

About Me

I'm a former Toronto Star staff movie writer, now a British Columbia-based freelancer covering travel, food and film. My work appears in a variety of  Canadian and international newspapers, magazines and digital publications.  I'm a National Newspaper Awards recipient (Arts & Entertainment) and have won a number of travel-writing awards.
My custom content clients include The Globe and Mail and The Boston Globe.

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Email: hello@lindabarnard.com

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