First Place Finnish
Travel: Celebrating Finland's 100th anniversary
Rod Mickleburgh returns to the land of his ancestors to discover an almost genetic propensity to fight for social justice and a rather bizarre predilection for odd sports
By Rod Mickleburgh
You may have missed it, but the land of my ancestors recently celebrated it’s centennial. On Dec. 6, 1917, small but mighty Finland officially severed itself from Russia, becoming an independent country for the first time. Russia’s new Bolshevik rulers did not protest. I remember leafing through one of my great aunt’s photo albums and seeing a grainy picture of the raising of the Finnish flag in their small community for the first time. A bit more than two and a half years after independence, my mother was born in the fishing/farming village of Sideby. When I first visited “the relatives” in the winter of 1971, I was given the very room where her birth took place. Under the mountain of blankets my two great aunts supplied, I remember ...
Hello Tokyo, How You’ve Changed
Globe Trot: Tokyo
Returning to Japan's teeming metropolis after a 60-year absence offers a distilled glimpse of technological progress and the immutable Japanese character
By Charley Gordon
(November 22, 2016) In the busy Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo is the Senso-ji Temple, a major attraction.
Thousands of people jam the narrow street leading from the gate to the temple, which is lined with dozens of shops selling just about anything. Not everything sold relates to religion. In fact, there is a store that sells cookies that are made right in front of you by a machine. Japanese, unlike North Americans, don’t eat on the streets but those cookies are a temptation. Hence a sign, in the kind of Japanese English that has always held a peculiar charm:
"This street is not able to eat while walking."
After being away from Japan for 60 years, it was encouraging to see that some things haven’t changed. The Japanese do things their own way, no matter how much Western ...
Pop This! Las Vegas!
Podcast: Pop This!
Packed with miniaturized monoliths and Disneyfied recreations of the Old World, Las Vegas sits at the intersection of generic sin and stand alone silliness, making for a perfect expression of popular culture
Featuring Lisa Christiansen and Andrea Warner. Produced by Andrea Gin.
A sampling of what you might hear in Episode 15: Visiting Las Vegas
I was at a birthday where they had exotic animals.
One had teeth that looked like they were made out of clarinet reeds.
Las Vegas... has a lot of ladies and dudes on the prowl.
And Mariah Carey.
I'm worried that I don't like magic shows or Cirque du Soleil. But I do like food.
Then you have to go to the Cosmo. [The Cosmopolitan] hotel has the best restaurants, and they have nice drinks at the gambling machines.
Go to the Spanish restaurant run by José Andrés.
They have cool old records as wallpaper.
That's what I want. I want the secret Vegas.
Go to the Thomas Keller ...
Hiking back in time on Burgess Shale
The world famous Burgess Shale Slope offers a visually stunning hike that pays off with a teeming selection of rare invertebrate fossils, sealed into the geological timeline by an underwater avalanche of fine mud
By Alan King
FIELD, B.C, -- Science fiction writer H G Wells didn’t know the half of it. Time travel sometimes takes more than imagination and clever engineering; it can take a lot of nimble, arduous footwork, the kind that gets you up to 7,500 feet above sea level.
Unlike Wells’ lucky Time Traveller who was effortlessly transported millions of years into the future where he met some strange life forms, my son Christopher and I went back half a billion years in the other direction to the Burgess Shale -- an ancient fossil bed where the life forms are even stranger. Its location is a swath of scree 11 km up the side of Mount Wapta, a spectacular hunk of geology looming majestically over Field, British Columbia.
The fossils here are from the Cambrian ...
Will Ferguson’s Road Trip Rwanda – The Ex-Press
I told someone I was going to hear Will Ferguson talk about his new book Road Trip Rwanda. “How can he be funny about Rwanda?” was the question.
By Charles Gordon
Good question. Without having read the book, I knew the answer, as anyone who has ever written humour should. He would be respectful of Rwanda — especially Rwanda — and he would make jokes about himself.
Indeed, it turned out that way. In Road Trip Rwanda, Ferguson, a multiple Leacock Award winner, portrays himself as a well-meaning goof, eager to learn but not always getting it, friendly but bumbling. The Rwandan people, on the other hand, get a sympathetic portrayal.
It’s the only way to do it. Even Bill Bryson, who can be much more acidic, tends to give the locals the benefit of the doubt. Occasionally a writer doesn’t do that — I think of some stuff Dave Barry wrote about China, where the main joke seemed to be that China wasn’t like America, and therefore weird — and it’s a mistake.
Highway 17, the road not taken — sadly
Travel: Ontario's Highway 17
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled -- mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
By Charley Gordon
If you’re tired of the predictable travel articles about beaches in Asia, castles in Europe and gourmet food just about anywhere, this is the travel article for you. It’s about good old Highway 17, the one you can drive for four days and still be in Ontario.
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled. This is not because of the scenery, which is often magnificent, or the road itself, which is well-maintained and easy to drive. It is mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
It’s a safe bet that more Torontonians have been to Bangkok than to Sudbury. For them, the north begins around Orillia and ends before North Bay. On their summer travels, they don’t get to ...
A Magical and Mild Adventure in Valencia
An ancient city inside a new one beckons Jay Stone to the surprise-filled birthplace of paella
By Jay Stone
VALENCIA, Spain — We came here by chance, the way people used to travel when they were in their 20s and it was all about moving and a destination was just a name to drop, a place to rest on the road. We came in that spirit. We stayed for the paella.
It was invented here, in this bustling city on the south coast of Spain (the Valencia orange was invented in California). It’s delicious too, although I’m not the one to ask. It was delicious everywhere. I like to think I have good taste in movies, but I don’t have any taste in taste.
So, Valencia: magical, all the more so if you don’t expect anything except a place to stop 3½ hours from Barcelona because 3½ hours is about all you want to do. An old city surrounded by a new one: outside, there’s the famous City of Arts and Sciences — an IMAX theatre, an aquarium, a science museum, an arts complex all in ...
Dispatches from Abroad: The Gentle Yens of Girona
Jay Stone explores an ancient Spanish city to discover a slow parade of humanity on cobble stone streets and the prosthetic digits of Edward Scissorhands
By Jay Stone
GIRONA, Spain -- There's a great lassitude that settles over Spain on a Sunday -- or perhaps, that settles over the visitor to Spain on a Sunday -- that is somehow ideal if you wash up in Girona. It's a medieval city just east of Barcelona whose historic district, all cobbled streets and narrow alleys, were built circa 1000. Little wrought iron balconies are set in the stone walls, and I saw an older couple sitting at a bistro table, having lunch together and each looking at their own cell phone.
The stores aren't open, but the museums are free -- a mixed blessing -- and so you climb the steep steps behind the cathedral to the famous Jewish quarter, or El Call, one of the oldest in Europe. Once again, Jewish people have their historic roots on a hill all the better -- at least in this telling -- to come down ...
Dispatches from Abroad: Dilly Dali-ing in Cadaques
Jay Stone ventures into the Spanish mountains to visit the very real birthplace of the seminal surrealist
By Jay Stone
CADAQUES, Spain -- This pretty-as-a-postcard town lies at the end of a long twisty road up and down a mountain a couple of hours southeast of Barcelona. You wouldn't get here by accident, but it's worth the drive: whitewashed buildings on gently rising hills, tucked around a small harbour with cafes and restaurants that crowd against tiny beaches. Everything is white and blue, cobbled and ancient. You could stay here forever.
To get here, you pass through Figueres, where Salvador Dali was born and lived for a while, and home to a museum dedicated to his honour. Its thin curved corridors are lined with his bizarre constructions -- headless dolls, outlandish jewelry -- and even more bizarre tourists, who arrive in groups to press their noses against glass cases and to take photos of everything that doesn't move. Dali once said that the only difference between ...