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.

This article is from the May 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 FYng May 2016 Group shot

“For the first time in my life, I’m excited to be at school.”

By Tyler Finley

As his parent’s looked on tearfully, this was the sentiment shared by seventeen-year old Brandon Miller to the community members and volunteers who had gathered to hear his graduation presentation.

Miller is one of 14 students from Central Programs and Services (Central School) in Kelowna who completed the Gateway to Trades program in January of this year. Now in its fifth year, the program is put on in partnership by Okanagan College and School District 23 to provide struggling high school students with exactly what the name suggests – a gateway to a brighter future.

Jim Ingram has been instructing the program since it began. An RV Service Technician instructor at the College, Ingram has witnessed the program’s remarkable capacity to help struggling students get their lives back on track.

“Gateway is about far more than giving students a chance to learn hand skills or the tools of a trade,” he explains. “It’s really about helping them develop life skills and a sense of self-discipline—from getting up in the morning and being in class every day, to supporting their fellow students.”

Central teacher Rob Law re-iterated the value of the peer support element of the program in his address to students, parents, and community members gathered at this year’s graduation ceremony.

This article is from the April 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 2016 april fishing

Where does a nature-loving family take a holiday when canes and walkers slow down their elderly members?

By Keith Dixon

The Ewerts of Kelowna faced that situation after grandpa Albrecht developed mobility problems. They found an unexpected solution just an hour’s drive from their home.

Monica Ewert was enjoying a ride on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway (KVSR) with her son Jordan and her parents, Egon and Hilda Albrecht, when they heard about Agur Lake Camp (ALC). It happened to be the KVSR’s annual ride for ALC, where proceeds of that run were donated to the camp. ALC volunteers were on board the train to explain about the camp to riders. The Ewerts learned that the camp was just a 20-minute drive back into the mountains from the KVSR station. Because it offered wilderness camping for families with a member having a disability it was ideal for them. They headed out immediately to check it out.

The Ewerts drove at least fifteen kilometres over gravel roads used mainly by logging trucks before they arrived at the camp gate. That trip certainly justified the claim that it was a wilderness camp. The air was cooler as they climbed, and the forest grew dense with towering pines and the occasional aspen grove. Arriving at the camp on a single lane driveway they found themselves totally surrounded by nature. There was no sign of human habitation until they sighted the gazebo and the cabins. Beyond those buildings was a glimpse of blue water, Agur lake after which the camp gets its name.

The camp manager was on site. He welcomed the Ewerts and offered them a tour. They inspected cabins, explored trails around the lake and looked for wild life in the marshy hollow. They knew instantly that this was where they wanted to spend their vacation, so booked a cabin on the spot.

This article is from the March 2016 Issue of Forever Young

 fyng march 2016 Frankfurt

 Shoppers are bathed in festive light at the Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany. The season is many months away but river cruises featuring the markets fill up quickly.

A trip for your wish list.

By AJ Williams

It’s a misty day on the Danube as we set sail from Budapest aboard the lovely Viking Jarl. This romantic itinerary is an absolute must during the winter. You might be thinking winter? Are you kidding? Stay with me….I promise it’s worth it!

Europe in the winter is simply magical, and if you think you’ve got Christmas spirit back at home, you really need to up your game and try a river cruise during November or December. The smell of Gluwein fills the air at all of the incredible Christmas markets along the way. If you haven’t been initiated into the world of hot wine, its ability to warm you from the inside out is guaranteed.

The Christmas markets are everywhere in Europe during the season, and each one is a little different. One thing that’s the same: you won’t find any boxed, mass-produced toys or trinkets at any of them. Instead, you’ll shop for intricately hand-crafted ornaments, gifts and clothing that will make you wish you’d brought another suitcase.

Our ports-of-call along the way toward Nuremberg, Germany were truly the best ‘taster’ of European river cruising. After leaving the beautiful sights, spas and history of Budapest, we made our way toward Austria. At Christmas, Vienna is magical, with strands of lighted crystals (Swarovski originated in this area) strung overhead across the streets.

The Viennese coffee houses are legendary and ordering is a bit of a ritual. No paper cups with check-boxes here. The main square Christmas market was fantastic, with the sights, sounds and delicious aromas of the season. While in Vienna, we made sure to take in an opera, and in spite of my husband’s proverbial ‘eye-roll’ at the thought, he enjoyed it immensely. We took in the Marriage of Figaro, which is light, funny and made for a wonderful Viennese memory.

The next day, we arrived in Melk, touring the incredible Abbey, high above the town. Strolling back to the ship, stopping along the way at some of the quaint shops made for a lovely, small-town Austrian afternoon.

Next up – our stops in Germany. Passau was first, and while each day on a Viking cruise, you can enjoy one of the complimentary tours, you can also ‘free-style’ and create your own walking tour, which we did. Off the beaten path, we found the first of many amazing bratwurst and beer lunches. Delicious! If you prefer to relax, it’s fine to stay on the ship also.

In Regensburg, a beautiful, small city, we chose the ultimate ‘guys’ excursion: An optional trip to the BMW factory and a beer tasting at a pub on the way back to the ship. Touring BMW was to me what the opera was to my husband, before I went.