Air Canada Vacations - Blog
Since March 2008, I have worked as the copywriter for Air Canada Vacations. The blog is a busy place offering articles with travel suggestions and advice.
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London the Great
I’m on an Air Canada Air Bus 333 about halfway across the Atlantic on my way back to Montreal after a few days in London. And to be honest, I’m trying to make sense of my time in the British capital. I’d been to London before but this time I went with my fiancé and he’d never been and somehow that changed things. Things seemed more exciting, more foreign maybe.
We took a long walk through Hyde Park at dusk winding up at Harrod’s, the famous department store and everything, from the ducks and herons to the Memorial Fountain to Princess Diana, was a photo op. Even Harrod’s was subject – all decked out in its Christmas sparkles and lights. Even I had to admit that it was beautiful in the golden light of the sunset.
Supper that night was at the Café Rouge just opposite Door 3 of the department store. I had a delicious bouillabaisse and dry white wine. Feeling very warm and cozy, we continued our walk across the top of St. James’s Park. For fun, we randomly turned left off Piccadilly Road, an action that led to one of my favourite things in all of London – the unexpected discovery.
London is so vast, so ancient, so dizzying, lively and bewildering that sometimes it just all seems a bit too much. But then, when you least expect it, this amazing city rewards the adventurous traveller with something like Shepherds Market, a tiny little square hidden down non-descript streets that is just packet with great delis, book shops, pubs and friendly locals.
Our other unexpected adventure was the bus tour. My fiancé was adamant that this would be the best way to see all the most famous sights in one go. And with a live commentary and free river cruise, how could we go wrong? He was right. We spent an entire day touring all around. I think we saw everything – St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Marble Arch, Piccadilly, The Ritz, Trafalgar… On the south side of the iconic Tower Bridge we found the Bridge House Pub and treated ourselves to a fortifying lunch of Cumberland sausages, mash and gravy and a pint of Guinness – as my grandmother used to say, “That’ll keep body and soul together.”
We were about to call it a day after hopping off at Buckingham Palace when my fiancé suggested we get off at the London Eye for an evening walk along the Thames. London rewarded us again. Stall after stall of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, chocolates, Christmas ornaments and a breathless stream of beautiful gifts stretched along the Embankment, from Westminster to Blackfriar’s Bridge in the most magical Christmas Craft Fair I have ever seen.
So now I’m just that little bit closer to home with most of my Christmas shopping done. We’ve just had a nice meal and my movie is ready to go, and I’m sad to leave and excited to return, to London, my second home.
An alternative gay LA
When researching this article, I really didn’t know what to say about gay LA. Wizard-of-Oz pilgrimages and close-ups on Sunset Boulevard all seemed just a little… too easy. So, what is the Los Angeles that isn’t the world of the silver screen?
Well, let’s start with the obvious. Like most major Western cities, LA has a pretty fantastic Gay Pride Festival. Over 500,000 people flock to WeHo (West Hollywood) in mid-June for a week of debaucherous, flag waving fun. And because this is the city of stars, there’s a top-notch film festival called OutFest in mid-July.
Now, for the not-so-obvious. For those of us who like to shop, and you know who you are, a good alternative to the impossibly over-priced designer boutiques are the three Out of The Closet thrift stores. Mainly gay-owned and operated, these stores donate most of their proceeds to HIV prevention and research. The best of the three is definitely the WeHo store on Santa Monica. It’s chock-full of designer clothes from the nearby Beverly and Hollywood Hills.
Varsity Gay League is even more of an off-the-yellow-brick-road activity. Sports, like rugby, football and volleyball in a gay-friendly environment. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and actually meet people outside of the bars. This is their mission statement from their facebook page: Born from the competitive spirits between Will Hackner and Andrew Oldershaw… Varsity Gay League offers year-round outings for outside-the-box activities, games and sporting events for the active SoCal guy.
And now that you’ve done right by the community, found some new clothes and gotten some exercise, you can treat yourself to the latest manly spa treatment. Hot towel and a straight razor shave. It’s the new retro/vintage movement in men’s care and it truly is a great treat and the closest shave you’ll ever get. The best place for this experience is Baxter Finley’s Barber & Shop, hard wood floors and old-school chairs.
Now you’re ready for that close-up.
This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —
I know whereof I speak.
— Planter’s Punch, The New York Times, August 8, 1908
Before there was rum there was aguardiente de cana, quite literally sugarcane fire-water. On one of his many trips to the Caribbean in the 1570s, Sir Francis Drake, the first man to circumnavigate the globe, tried some aguardiente in Cuba. Fortunately for us, he didn’t like it. To make the fire-water more palatable, he added lime, mint and sugar, making what is arguably the world’s first cocktail and the prototype for the famous mojito.
DARK AND STORMY
1 1⁄2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
Barritts Ginger Beer
And don’t think you can make substitutions. It’s not a Dark and Stormy without Gosling’s and Barrits.
1 part light rum
1 part coconut cream
3 parts pineapple juice
First mixed in Central America, feel free to enjoy a little paper umbrella with this one.
4 parts Havana Club Anejo Blanco Rum
3 parts lime juice
2 tsp cane sugar
The key here is to muddle gently. The mint leaves should only be bruised against the sugar to release the essential oils; not shredded and floating about.
DARK RUM ON THE ROCKS
Do yourself a favour, ask your bartender for a well-aged dark rum on the rocks, perhaps something from Bermudez, the oldest of the Dominican rum distilleries, established in 1852.
3 parts blond rum
1 part fresh lime juice
a little sugar
Shaken over ice and strained, the true Daiquiri is a highball not a slushee. Hemingway didn’t even have sugar in his.
Cheers! And please drink responsibly