This article is from the October 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 2016 oct

The best parts of this Cape Breton experience are the village stops along the way

By Anne Bokma

The world famous Cabot Trail is arguably Canada’s most beautiful drive — a 298-kilometre smoothly paved scenic roadway that forms a loop around the northern part of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. Travellers can’t help but blink in wonder at its blazing technicolour vistas — the shining emerald hues of the hills that roll into the forever distance and the shimmering blues of the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean that border this iconic route.

Yes, you can stay in your car and do the drive in a speedy four hours. But that would be missing the point. The point being to go slow — slow enough to properly store its coastal views and highland scenery in your memory bank.

Life is more interesting off the beaten path and that’s especially true on the Cabot Trail, where three days of stopovers in the villages of Baddeck, Ingonish, Cheticamp and Margaree offer the chance to explore the abundance of beaches, museums, lookouts and trails on this coastal playground which boosts world class hiking, golfing, fishing, whale watching, sailing and kayaking.

Situated along the shore of the Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton’s expansive inland sea, the town of Baddeck, located an hour’s drive from Sydney and three-and-a-half hours from Halifax, is the best start and end point on the Cabot Trail loop — you can travel in either direction (locals argue about whether it’s best to go clockwise or counterclockwise but haven’t reached a consensus). Baddeck became a tourist destination with the1874 publication of the travel guidebook “Baddeck, And That Sort of Thing”, that caught the attention of its most famous citizen — Dr. Alexander Graham Bell — who built his summer home, Beinn Bhreagh, (“beautiful mountain” in Gaelic) in Baddeck because the place reminded him of the Scottish highlands of his youth.

We stayed the night in the Silver Dart Lodge, a charming 90-acre compound named after the aircraft designed by Bell and flown off the ice of Bras d’Or Lake in 1909 — the first powered flight in Canada. The next morning we caught a glimpse of the famous estate where Bell is buried during a peaceful two-hour paddle with North River Kayak Tours before heading north to Ingonish, located at the eastern entrance of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This massive (950 sq km) protected wilderness area is home to a wide range of animals from moose to martens, masked shrew and meadow jumping mice. One-third of the Cabot Trail passes through the park, which offers photo ops by the thousands with spectacular views on its 26 trails that range from easy strolls, such as the Skyline Trail, a level path that leads to a boardwalk built on a dramatic headland cliff with perfect views of the Cabot Trail winding down the mountainside, to hardcore hiking, such as the Franey Trail where you’ll transition from Acadian to boreal forest on the steep ascent and be rewarded with a 360º view of the canyon and coastline below.

This article is from the September 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 Tuscan Country Cooking Class

By Steve Tuck

This June took us back to our very favorite holiday location --- VILLA LE TORRI on Via Poppiano, San Quirico in Collina, near Montespertoli, just Southwest of Florence! This was our second visit --- two full weeks of Heaven! We were there in 2014 and only stayed for one week. Now our new minimum is two! The best testimonial to Gabrielle (the owner) and his “6-star” Villa is the fact that 75 – 80% of his visitors are return guests!!! His best advertising is folks like us --- previous guests who refer others who refer others and the chain goes on. And no wonder, Gabrielle and his wife and Mom and Dad work tirelessly to ensure that your stay is THE vacation you will never forget!

One of my joys in life is cooking. I love to experiment. Of course I have my favorites. Rack of lamb with a good Shiraz, well I don’t think it can be beat. (My wife thinks guests might be tired of my fav, but I haven’t heard any complaints yet!)

But Tuscany is famous for the views, the wine and the cooking!

Much to my delight, Gabrielle has added a weekly Tuscan cooking class right at Le Torri. As soon as I learned, I booked in, along with my good travelling companion, George. (Our wives opted to just come to the dinner we’d create; not partake in the lesson. They vegged by the pool, a great alternative, and they still got to taste the results!) The class is held for 2 to up to 9 people. We were just four ---- perfect, like a private class! The course was in English and was held in the large dining room/kitchen cooking class area on the second floor of the Villa Le Torri. (A room we had never seen before!)

This is a four/five hour hands-on cooking class, and includes the cost of the food and wine and the final dinner we prepared ---- all from scratch! Our chef, Pierpaolo Moroni, made us feel right at ease in the kitchen. We donned our aprons, and started working on the pasta sauce, the tomatoes having been already prepared in boiling water for our peeling and coring. Only the flesh was to be used. Then the cucumbers, onions, carrots, celery, and other ingredients had to be chopped and added to the tomatoes. We also kneaded the ciabatta and once it was baked, we got to taste test it during the lesson! Mmmmmm!

This article is from the August 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 FYng August 2016 Feature Image

By Glenna Turnbull

From barn dances to bake offs, rodeos to midway rides, we all have our own favourite reasons for going to the Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede (IPE) and while those reasons might change as we age, the one thing that has remained consistent throughout the years is the how the fair gives back to the community. As a registered non-profit charity, the IPE will help generate more than $8 million for the local economy this year.

Bryan Burns, who has been general manager of the IPE for the past nine summers, noted that in order to make the event run smoothly, the staff of 125 will be augmented by more than 450 volunteers, giving close to 11,000 hours of their time. And that’s not including the 38 different service clubs who will also benefit from the fair.

“Last year we had 158,238 pass through the gates – it was the second largest attendance record ever,” said Burns, and it’s hoped that if weather cooperates, this year will do even better.

Over the past seven years, from the funds generated through gate receipts, etc., the IPE has been able to hand out more than $35,000 in direct contributions to a charity of its choice, which has ranged from Okanagan Autism to the Vernon Hospice as well as the MS Society, Huntington’s, Prostate Cancer and more. This year’s recipient will be NONA of Vernon. In addition, it has provided more than $14,000 in IPE scholarships and invested over $430,000 in Armstrong/Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation and the IPE Fairgrounds.

For many local non-profit groups and organizations, the IPE offers them an opportunity to earn the lion’s share of their annual operating costs. “We have a lot of groups who come in to do food booths such as the churches,” said Burns who estimated the local Catholic church alone will have well over 100 volunteers working at the fair.

This article is from the July 2016 Issue of Forever Young

By John Kernaghan

2016 July Cape Breton

The estrangement ran for more than 45 years, but when a vagrant Irish heart landed on the shores of Cape Breton, love was restored.

The nine-day Celtic Colours International Festival fanned the embers of musical memories born in weekend trips around Ireland to hear traditional music in small towns and villages in the late 1960s. 

And the finest memory was the night, at a kitchen ceilidh in Portadown, Northern Ireland, when the late Tommy Makem, of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, toasted my Canadian roots with the folk song Four Strong Winds.

That was always going to be a tough act to follow, perhaps accounting for the near 50 fallow years that followed. It was fiddles, harps and spoons, fiddle-dee-dee, bring on the Stones and Zeppelin.

Until, that is, the night at Celtic Colours last October when a mass of musicians jammed at the Festival Club at The Gaelic College, the only institution teaching in the language in North America.

A clutch of fiddles expertly wielded and backed by guitars, pipes, and an organ created a wall of sound that washed across some 700 music fans. If this does not inspire one, one has no pulse.

The tiny dance floor throbbed and heaved as 10-minute jigs and reels thundered through the hall. Be warned, this can be a contact sport at times as whirling bodies careened around the small space.

In sweeter, less aggressive moments, octogenarians danced with teenagers and rural hipsters shared steps with matrons.

This article is from the June 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 2016 June Bordeaux photos

It’s all about the taste

By Paul Knowles

Customer service is always over the top on a Viking River Cruise. If that seems biased – well, I simply report the truth. They’re very good at taking care of their passengers.

And on our Châteaux, Rivers and Wine cruise in the summer of 2015, there were dozens of examples of this. Perhaps the most striking occurred on Bastille Day – a huge French celebration – when on the spur of the moment, the ship’s captain requested and received permission to anchor the Forseti for a few late evening hours off the village of Blaye, in the La Gironde estuary.

The passengers – about 190 in total (a terrific passenger to crew ratio), were invited to the top deck, to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display just before midnight. The crew distributed blankets (after hot days, there can be cool nights on the water), champagne, and chocolate truffles. All of this was a spontaneous decision by the captain, the hotel manager and the program director. It made for a magical night.

That kind of next-level care and attention was also underlined on the evening of Day Six, when all guests were bussed to Château Kirwan, in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux wine country, for a fabulous meal, with matching wines, all prepared and served by the ship’s hospitality staff – the entire restaurant operation had been transported to the Château for the event.

This cruise is an eight-day affair, and it is very much for wine lovers. This is not to say others would not find it pleasant – we shared a table with a couple who don’t drink wine – but the focus is certainly on the delights of the grape.

The itinerary involves short passages along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and La Gironde, stopping at historic towns, châteaux and – of course – wineries of the Bordeaux region. The adventure starts and ends in the city of Bordeaux. We arrived two days before the voyage began, and were not at all sure what to expect of this city. What a fantastic surprise it was!

Bordeaux is a historic city that has undergone a spectacular latter-day restoration. Our taxi driver told us of the days of his youth, when the waterfront area, along the Garonne, was a dismal neighbourhood of ugly warehouses, a district where one went in the evening only for drugs or illicit sex. Then came Alain Juppé, long-time Mayor of Bordeaux and one-time Prime Minister of France. Bordeaux seemed full of citizens ready to praise their Mayor to the sky, crediting him for the successful rejuvenation of their city. The warehouses are gone, the historic buildings are cleaned, the Place des Quinconces public square is amazing, the waterfront attracts thousands of locals who picnic and play… it is an urban miracle, and Bordeaux is a city worth a stay of many more than two days.