By John and Sandra Nowlan

This article is from the April 2018 Issue of Forever Young

feature image april 2018

You have to admire the Dutch for their love of bicycles. The flat terrain of Amsterdam is ideal for bikes and the very fit residents have embraced the two wheeler. One estimate claims there are more than 840,000 bikes for its 850,000 residents. That’s almost four times the number of cars, with 57 per cent of Amsterdammers using their bikes on a daily basis, rain or shine. Exclusive bike lanes are on every street and visitors have to be very careful to avoid collisions. Bicycles have the right of way!

Amsterdam, with its easy access to the magnificent Rhine River, is also a wonderful city from which to begin a river cruise into the heart of Europe. Our ship, like all river ships on the continent has strict length, width and height restrictions to navigate the many locks and low bridges. Many ships have incorporated several clever design features that make them standout in their class.

More than 80 per cent of the rooms of our ship were a generous 200 square feet. Most impressive was the floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows (the “open air balcony”). Our “panorama” windows slid open to allow guests to lie back on the comfortable queen size bed (angled for a perfect view outside) and enjoy the river, its busy traffic and amazing sights along the banks.

Before our river cruise began, we were offered a walking tour of central Amsterdam, a canal cruise along the many waterways of “The Venice of the North” and a new venture, art classes in a gallery that specializes in the work of Dutch master, Vincent van Gogh. After a brief lecture, our group was encouraged to take up brush and palette and create our own “masterpiece” in the van Gogh style. Great fun!

As we began our journey up the Rhine, we marvelled at the little touches that made our ship so special. Our spacious room (lots of storage space) included small sofa, a large screen TV with many channels and movies (including a bow camera and Fireplace Channel) a marble bathroom (larger than on most river ships) with make-up mirror, a night light, an efficient and roomy shower and high-end L’Occitane toiletries.

There’s a comfortable back lounge on the third deck with games, a small library and a high quality coffee machine available 24/7. Our main lounge on Deck 2 was large enough to hold all passengers comfortably for daily excursion briefings and nightly entertainment (on several nights, guest musicians came aboard for concerts).

Each evening the front of the Deck 2 lounge became a bistro, a complimentary alternate dining area for 24 guests that features a tapas-like tasting menu of exquisite small plates (like Smoked Salmon Wrap with Dill and Mustard Cream) accompanied by appropriate wine selections. It was a wonderful experience for us but the excellent servers needed more training to be knowledgeable about the wine they served.

Many ships, like ours, are not totally all-inclusive (bar bills, some excursions and gratuities are extra) but the value for money is very high. At lunch and dinner, the free wine selection is excellent and there’s always a complimentary excursion in each port of call.

Cuisine is a highlight with these small cruise ships and the dining room was bright and spacious with room for all guests. The executive chef told us the emphasis was on fresh, healthy local foods. Like on our ship, there’s a breakfast omelette station with fruit, bacon, eggs and sausage standards. The pastries were fresh (often bought in the towns we visited) and for your cereal the variety of seeds offered (flax, chia, millet, puffed quinoa and buckwheat) was remarkable. There was even honey in the comb, something we’d never seen on a river ship.

Story and photos by Liz Campbell

This article is from the March 2018 Issue of Forever Young

FYng March 2018 Chateau 1912

It has the distinction of being the most photographed hotel in the world. Indeed, it’s the only hotel in the world that has a stamp as well as a coin bearing its image. It’s probably unique too, in having its image on a page of its country’s passport. And this year, this Grand Dame of Canadian hotels is 125 years old.

In preparation for her birthday, the Château Frontenac in Québec City has had an $80 million renovation and refurbishment, which began in 2013. It was important, Robert Mercure, general manager of the hotel explains, that “while we included modern design elements, we had to respect the heritage of the hotel.” After all, he adds, some very important historic events have occurred on this site.

Here, 410 years ago, stood Fort St. Louis, the founding site and capital of New France. Later, Château St. Louis was built on the same spot (the excavated foundations can be visited from the Dufferin Terrace just outside the Château Frontenac).

In the late 19th century, William Cornelius Van Horne, then General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, began building a hotel here, as an elegant stopover for train travelers. Named after Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, the flamboyant governor of the colony of New France 200 years earlier, the Chateau Frontenac, opened in 1893.

During World War II, the Quebec Conferences of 1943 and 1944 were held here. These meetings enabled Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and William Lyon Mackenzie King to determine the course of the Normandy Landings and the final stages of World War II.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded here in 1945. And Québec Premier Maurice Duplessis (1936 -1939; 1944-1959) lived at the Château Frontenac during his mandates. His office is now an elegant library.

The Nouveau Château, as it has been dubbed since the renovation, remains elegant and beautiful, its historic details preserved. The copper roof has been replaced; but it will be a few years before the 36,000 kg of new copper is once again the distinctive verdigris green so familiar on older postcards. Beautiful works of art and souvenirs have been created from the salvaged copper; some of these are for sale in the Galerie d’Art in the hotel lobby.

Eight newly-created, elegant suites in the Château Frontenac honour some of the famous people who have stayed here, or who have had connections with the hotel: Winston Churchill, Pierre and Justin Trudeau (Justin stayed here as a child), Alfred Hitchcock (who filmed some scenes here for his film, I Confess), Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Kelly, Celine Dion (who was actually discovered by an executive from Sony Music while performing here), Theodore Roosevelt, and of course, William Cornelius Van Horne.

Story and photos by Mark Wessel

This article is from the February 2018 Issue of Forever Young

FYng Feb 2018 Vienna Market

When I first visited Vienna in 2016, the city’s promotional theme was ‘Vienna, Now or Never.” It was inspired by the fact that the city had been recognized that year by consulting firm Mercer, as number one in the world for quality of living. So the thought process was that you really should go there to find out what the fuss is all about, or perhaps you never will. Of course, what those crafty Viennese knew all along is that once you experience this achingly beautiful city, you will feel the urge to return from the moment you depart; and that urge will stay with you until you go back again.

Last summer, a little more than a year after my first visit, our 30th anniversary was more than enough justification to both share not only some of my favourite Vienna experiences with my wife Dee-Anne, but also to continue to explore the city’s enticing mix of old an new, with each district possessing its own unique character.

For those who have never visited, Vienna conjures up the image of the city as the birthplace of Mozart (and Marie Antoinette), home of the world class Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Boys’ Choir and arguably, the centre of the classical music universe (although the Germans and Italians may wish to dispute that. And while all of that is true, Vienna is so much more.

But far from being a museum piece, Vienna’s vibrancy stems from the fact that it is constantly reinventing itself and finding new ways to showcase the old with the new. The first time this reality hit home was when we checked in to the grätzlhotel. The whole premise behind grätzlhotel’s unique experiential model, is to transform abandoned stores into hotel rooms. So instead of the stereotypical bricks and mortar of most hotels, grätzlhotel consists of a pod of suites situated in different neighbourhoods throughout the city.

We stayed in the grätzlhotel Karmelitermarkt neighbourhood and in the spirit of what’s old is new again, our lamplighter suite, which was once a lighting store, had been transformed into a tastefully decorated self-contained suite. In addition, blending functionality with art by showcasing some of the former store’s lighting fixtures, we found the suite had much more of an apartment feel to it, with a stainless-steel kitchenette, a full-sized kitchen table on the lower level, and a few steps up, an open concept bathroom and bedroom area.

The great thing about the grätzlhotel concept is that instead of staying in a hotel district as a tourist, you are ensconced in a lively neighbourhood, replete with hip shops and restaurants and as the Karmelitermarktr name suggests, a full-blown farmers’ market every weekend. And because we were staying in a former storefront operation, everything was literally at our doorstep. So on any given day, we would walk over to the bakery for fresh baked goods, I would traipse around the corner while wife Dee was exploring the shops to patronize Brendl, which showcases local microbrews. Or we’d grab a late-night snack and cocktails at Tewa am Markt, the local Israeli restaurant specializing in organic Mediterranean cuisine.

Winter Getaway in Southern France a Culturally Rich Experience

By Dee-Anne Wessel

This article is from the January 2018 Issue of Forever Young

FYNg Jan 2018 Feature Image
Narbonne’s historic core features a network of narrow streets and hidden shops waiting to be discovered.

We’re fair weather travellers. Neither myself, husband Mark or 17-year-old daughter Kate are content to lie on a crowded beach and soak up the sun as we’d much rather be on the move making new discoveries in a temperate climate. Which is why we find ourselves in the idyllic region of Occitanie in southern France with the plan to explore the charming city of Narbonne and its outlying areas before making our way north to vibrant Montpellier, France’s fastest growing city.

Narbonne – A Historic Centre with a Canal Running Through It

We take a relaxing trip aboard a high speed train from Paris and arrive four and a half hours later in Narbonne. Founded by the Romans in 118 B.C., one of the most striking features of the city is the scenic Canal de la Robine that runs through its heart with its inviting promenades and Merchants’ Bridge - an inhabited bridge that is an UNESCO listed sight.

The historic centre of Narbonne is easily explored on foot and our first stop is the Archbishops’ Palace, now home to the museums of archeology and art and history. We climb the 180 steps to the top and are rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the town and surrounding countryside and upon descent take a few moments to contemplate in the peaceful garden adjoining the 14th century cloister.

Next we visit Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur Cathedral, the tallest in southern France whose unfinished nave provides a fascinating insight into ancient construction techniques. We venture below the surface and explore the Roman Horreum where background voices and lights bring the impressive 1st century B.C. warehouse eerily to life. In the centre of town, we view the Via Domitia, part of an original Roman road that was uncovered in 1997.

We’ve worked up an appetite so we head over to Les Halles, one of Frances’s most beautiful covered markets. Inside the iron and glass structure are 66 stalls offering a fantastic selection of produce as well as olives, cheese, meat, seafood, fruit, flowers and wine. Lively, vibrant and open daily it is an important meeting place for locals. “Narbonne is here,” says guide Christophe Cabier.

Narbonne is also a convenient home base for many other excursions. Our adventures include a biking tour with Languedoc V.T.T. Evasion along the Canal de la Robine with magnificent views of the lagoon, coastal ponds, the Mediterranean Sea and a stop at Saint Lucie Island. Guide Hugo Blanquier hangs back with me when I find the return 10 km ride into the wind challenging.>> We visit Gruissan, a medieval fishing village that is built in a spiral around the Barberousse Tower, where we enjoy a guided Segway tour of the harbour, stroll the back streets of the village and walk along the wide, open beach famous for its wind surfing and unique stilt chalets. We stop at the The Saltern of Saint Martin’s Island and wander through the Eco Museum and Boutique before having a simple lunch of fish and meat cooked in a crust of natural salt accompanied by local wines at its rustic outdoor restaur
ant with its stunning views of rosy salt evaporation ponds.

This article is from the December 2017 Issue of Forever Young

When you think about The Salvation Army, what comes to mind? Sure, we know they are there to help those in need, but who exactly are those in “need”?

This past summer, thousands of people who have never been on welfare, never been short of groceries or needed a food hamper, found themselves being helped out by The Salvation Army due to the 2017 floods and fires.

The first stream of new arrivals began flowing through the Kelowna Salvation Army doors on May 5. “We partnered with the Emergency Social Support Services here in the Central Okanagan and opened our doors for those impacted by local flooding,” says Pastor Darryl Burry of the Kelowna branch of The Salvation Army, “so all the month of May and most of June, we were dealing with people impacted with flooding.”

Once the flooding receded towards the end of June, it was just over two weeks later when a whole new group of people found themselves at the doors of The Salvation Army as victims of what turned out to be the worst fire season in the history of B.C. “With the exception of an 18 day gap, we went straight through from May 5 to Aug 26,” notes Pastor Darryl.

“For the most part, when we partner with ESS, they come in and provide for those who cannot go home,” he says, “and our role is to help with emotional support and the immediate things they need. For instance, there were a number of families who had to evacuate very quickly and they fled without enough diapers or formula, so we are able to provide those immediate needs.”

But the biggest help the Salvation Army played over the summer to their new acquaintances was providing emotional support. “We’re able to provide that listening ear because there is a huge fear for them of wondering, will we ever be able to go home again,” notes the Pastor.

“Over the course of the summer, we had more than 3000 people – not just from our local area but from all over the province – come through our doors to register and we had the chance to walk alongside them.”

From the fire victims in Lake Country to those who watched their new condos on Lakeshore Road go up in flames, the shell-shocked faces that arrived at The Salvation Army were not the low income people we usually consider to be those most in need.