Thursday, April 21, 2011


Guelph's Hillside Festival started in 1984 and is now not only one of the most popular festivals in Ontario, but also a venue for up and coming stars.  It continues to grow and many of its featured stars are now making headlines.  I was the Hillside Festival's official photographer in the year 2000 and the memory is still fresh in my mind.

Through fields awash with Queen Anne's Lace and chicory, pink vetch and white daisies, the old school bus, our transport to the festival, pauses for a moment beside an opening in the trees framed by sunlit leaves. Across the water; the “city” of Hillside where huge blue spotlights illuminate a giant stage and the heavy thud of drums and song reverberate across the lake. The celebration is already in full swing.

“Hillsiders” in sarongs, long-flowered Indian skirts, Turkish balloon pants, and others in more conventional baggy khaki shorts and t-shirts with head wear: straws, tie-dyed cotton and wildflower wreaths, part like the waters of the Red Sea as we trundle by.

In the campsite huddled close to the ground are dome tents, a far cry from the staid squares of my day. Dotted between them the more elegant lines of an eastern shape; tall, slim-waisted with brightly coloured conical hats requiring only a pennant at the pinnacle to place it at the battlefield of King
Henry V.

Early arrivals at the Hillside Festival settle in. On a low canvas chair a bearded youth plucks at the strings of his guitar and hums softly to the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz of bees – and the ever-present mosquitoes of Canadian camp grounds. Blow cool winds, blow. Making bumpy progress through the grass a car emblazoned with stickers from rock festivals past, searches for its weekend's resting place.  Close-by, a couple dripping and cool, emerge from the still waters of Guelph Lake.

“Doin what comes naturally”, that's Hillside. Be it strolling topless, losing yourself in the rhythm, arms up and weaving, body swaying sensuously, or merely slouching on a stool reading a book in the middle of a roaring crowd as an up and coming pop singer Hawksley Workman belts out a melody with lyrics about tarantulas.

One exuberant small boy jumps on a green plastic blow-up couch with its already seated owner who shelters from the sun beneath a Chinese sunshade. Over they go, backwards, legs flailing over green plastic.

From the stage-front, as I photograph the performers, I turn and there behind me is a sight of equal if not more entertainment. A vast sea of dancers, eyes closed and swaying as they savour the moment. Weaving their way through the dancers, a couple waltz by their arms about each other in the old way. One-two-three, one-two-three, the giant cage-like baby carrier on Papa's back sways to the rhythm. Blonde infant with eyes big, round, and blue like cornflowers, swings her head from side to side watching the crowds as her parent dance by.

In the catering shelter the aroma of Lebanese, Jamaican and Asian cooking mingles with the sweet scent of chocolate brownies and the slightly charred smell of corn roasting on a barbeque. The “Sausage Brothers” do a roaring trade in the sun.  And when it rains the servers don souwesters that drip with a loud fizz onto hot coals.

A tall willowy woman serving pakoras to a queue that stretches from one end of the shelter to the other calls for assistance. “Give me a hand Mahommed.” A mischievous Mahommed yells back, “Come on folks, Gill wants a hand”, and the whole shelter explodes in a riot of clapping. Then, when the patrons are satiated and the night is almost done, a wilting Lebanese caterer flops in a chair with his guitar and teases his Jamaican neighbours with a loud rendition of “Day Oh, I want to go home”.

The “Burning Spear” is performing in the Island tent. So off I go to make pictures. Unbelievable. The crowd is huge and loud, packed like sardines in the darkened space. But no problem ... I make my way around to the performers entrance. Into the darkness I plunge, and eventually I stand directly in front of “Burning Spear”. As I watch and photograph, his hands beat a staccato rhythm on the ruby-coloured drums in front of him. His head, a mahogany sculpture with Rastafarian locks trapped in a large hat moves in time to his music.

Just an hour or so before I experienced the same crowd excitement. In Ubaka Hill's Lake tent the crowd went wild as she pounded her drums and sang....powerfully and with great beauty. Obviously exhausted, streaming with the efforts of her labour, she smiled willingly as I photographed her. As she stepped from the stage a man who had been beside me throughout leaped forward. “Do one of the two of us together ... please.” And I did.

For those unfamiliar with Hillside, one imagines that an event such as this is for the young alone, but no so. Men in their 60s kneel on the floor drumming for dancers in the drumming circle. Another musician, salt and pepper beard flowing almost to his waist, drums as energetically. White-haired grandfathers in shorts and Tilley hats duck and weave with the best of them, and women, many of them 60s and 70s stunners, dance as energetically as any of the young. Like me, they close their eyes and remember those halcyon days of youth.

Sticky, hot, humid, a light but bright cloud cover with a sky, dead white. Perfect for the deep saturated colours we photographers crave. Sometime, before the end of the festival the rain will come. Until then ...

A selection of Stars of the past: Barenaked Ladies, Burning Spear, Constantines, Cowboy Junkies, Sarah Harmer, Hawksley Workman, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan, Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 21st April
Text: Hillside 2000
Photos: Hillside 2010

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For anyone exploring the back roads in Ontario, Canada, this strange phenomenon along a forested highway to a small northern country town called Bancroft, is worth investigation. 

Out in the middle of nowhere,  soon after the little village of  Kinmount originally settled by Icelandic immigrants long long ago, there is a display unlike any other.

Shoes of every description, from ice skates, runners, Doc Marten boots, hiking boots, flip flops, Wellington boots, plastic sandals and hundreds upon hundreds of others, are draped over or nailed onto roadside trees.   This is a work in progress as shoes old, new and decrepit are added to this overwhelming display each summer.  One can only marvel at the durability of footwear after years of snowstorms, gusting wind, sun and hail.  One pair of rust coloured slippers seem to have taken on the nobbly appearance of the tree to which they are attached. 

On my last journey through the area, I noticed that the telephone line over the road is now part of this weird "art" extravaganza.  Shoes dangle along the wire's length, dancing in the wind.

How did it all start I wondered.  My husband's elderly Scottish aunt had an answer for such an undertaking.  She'd look at me with a twinkle in her eye and say in her broad Scottish accent,"There's none so queer as folks Anne".

Posted by Anne Gordon on Wednesday, 20th April.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Zealand in the Autumn
Deal of the Month, A 5-Day Bay of Islands tour in New Zealand 
Enjoy a 5-Day Bay of Islands tour with Downunder Travel from $859 per person

Travel north from Auckland to the Bay of Islands to experience all the sights this region has to offer. Highlights include a comprehensive guide to the Bay of Islands history through Maori culture, cruising to the famous Hole in the Rock, relaxing on the beaches amongst the picturesque islands and so much more.

Visit for more information.

Photo courtesy Tourism New Zealand

Moko the Dolphin
Currently featured as one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Heroic Animals, Moko the Dolphin made headlines when she saved two beached whales on the eastern cost of the North Island in the summer of 2008. While human rescuers failed to guide the mother whale and her calf back to deep water, Moko saved their lives by managing to communicate with the pair and lead them back to safety. The bottlenose dolphin sadly passed away last July but fans – many of whom once swam with Moko at Mahia Beach – still leave messages of love on her Facebook page!

Post from Tourism New Zealand
Photo courtesy Tourism New Zealand

Monday, April 18, 2011

Frontiers North have told me that their Adventurer trips to Churchill to see polar bears are such a hit that they've added an extra date. This one is expected to sell out fast. This two-night Adventurer Churchill Town and Tundra program takes place November 12 to 16th, 2011. Visit Frontiers North online to learn more. This newly added departure is tour #66.

I speak from personal experience when I say that this trip is not to be missed.

Photo copyright Daniel Cox

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The wait is over! The dates for the Frontiers North 2011 Bowhead Whales & Walrus of Foxe Basin departure have been confirmed. Join them July 2nd to 8th, 2011 for this thrilling arctic adventure. In addition to boat excursions in Foxe Basin waters in search of walrus, bowhead whales and even polar bears they will also explore Igloolik Island discovering the many Dorset and Thule archeological sites. Through Inuit hosts the group will have the opportunity to learn about the customs and culture of Inuit life. To explore more, visit Frontiers North Adventures online at

Photo copyright Frontiers North

Summer is a wonderful time to visit the Arctic. The snow that blankets the arctic in the winter is gone uncovering a world of things to be discovered. In summer the Tundra is alive with colorful plants and wildlife is abundant in the water as well as on the land. Frontiers North Adventures offers several trips to destinations throughout the Arctic and Sub-Arctic during July and August. Snorkel or kayak with beluga whales in Churchill. Hike to the top of Mount Elu in search of prehistoric-looking musk oxen, or spend your days boating among sea ice in search of walrus and bowhead whales. Find out more about these and other arctic adventures on their website. Or call Adventure Planners toll-free at 1-800-663-9832 or locally / internationally at 204-949-2050 to find the trip that is just right for you.

Photo copyright Mike Macri

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In the words of Henry David Thoreau ...

“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools,
but the gentle touches of air and water
working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time”

and may I add that the hands of a dedicated artist add the magical touch to a work of art in stone.

Melissa Gordon is a professional artist with a B.A. in 3-D Design from
England's Surrey Institute of Art and Design, and an M.A. in Fine Arts from
Canada's Waterloo University. Tucked away in an idyllic setting in northern
Ontario's lake and bear country, is the home and working place of this artist.

For many years she has studied the earth-loving ways and the gentle spirituality
of North America's native peoples. Her belief is that we have much to learn from these people who for thousands of years have inhabited this land and fashioned their lives around honouring Mother Earth and all her creatures.

In a time when the rest of the world seems to be in a headlong rush for
superficial fulfillment, Gordon spends her work days sculpting ceremonial pipes  of rare beauty for an expanding group of people who practise the shamanic  traditions of North America.

Just steps from the York river where a vaporous mist rises in the early morning,  woodpeckers and blue jays, cardinals and finches scramble for seed in one of the  many feeders dancing in front of the windows of Gordon's home. White tailed deer tip toe daintily around a flourishing vegetable garden at sun-up, nibbling  at whatever takes their fancy. In the evening, as dusk settles on the tips of  forest pines and firs, beavers can be seen making their way to a den nestled in  the bank of the river just steps from her door. A water hole, deep and still, is where the artist and her partner swim on hot steamy days.

There is a word that dare not be mentioned in the hearing of the resident hounds. “Squirrels”, even whispered, sets up a murderous clamour between
Namhaste, a sleek black pitbull lab cross, and Daisy Belle, a thieving pug who  recently snatched 13 chocolate brownies from the kitchen table when unobserved.

In the summer, friends gather for drumming sessions in a shaded circle beside  the river. In the dead of winter, Gordon and her partner host winter solstice  events, a delightful experience for all. Through fresh fallen snow, guests make  their way to the celebration site along a winding path lit by ice candles.

Eagle whistles
There is something very special about this small part of heaven tucked away in  Canada's wild north. The creative work of an artist is a spiritual undertaking and this tranquil place serves as an inspiration for Gordon, an artist of consummate talent.

To see more of Melissa Gordon's work visit her web site:

Photos kindly loaned by Melissa Gordon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What says thank you more than flowers? Celebrate Mother’s Day by taking her to the gorgeous gardens dotted throughout Massachusetts. A wonderful opportunity to get outdoors and cure that cabin fever you’ve had all winter, explore the state’s distinguished gardens below:

Boston & Cambridge
The Arnold Arboretum, Cambridge
Of the thousands of flowering plants in the Arboretum, only one, the lilac, is singled out each year for a daylong celebration. Tours of the lilacs, dance performances, picnicking (allowed on this special day only), and family activities make for a memorable day. Be a part of this beloved Boston tradition! Lilac Sunday is May 8, 2011.

Cape Cod & Martha’s Vineyard
Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, Cape Cod
A favorite destination for Mother’s Day, Heritage Museums & Gardens consists of one hundred spectacular acres of labeled trees and shrubs, beautiful flowers and sweeping lawns. There are several miles of passive recreational trails as well as five acres of lawn. Entrance Fees: Adult- $15.00

Mytoi, Martha’s Vineyard
Nestled within Chappaquiddick Island on Martha's Vineyard, the intimate Japanese-style garden, Mytoi, offers natural serenity and a place of contemplation to visitors who venture here. Sheltered by a lovely pine grove, the preserve includes a small pond and island, non-native and native flowers and plants, footpaths leading past a birch walk and stone garden, and a trail winding toward Poucha Pond and the salt marsh. Free to public.

Polly Hill Arboretum, Martha’s Vineyard
The Polly Hill Arboretum, a Martha’s Vineyard horticultural and botanical landmark, was developed by the legendary horticulturist, Polly Hill (1907-2007). Rare trees and shrubs from around the world are set among stone walls, meadows, and fields, including Polly’s famous North Tisbury azaleas, the national stewartia collection, camellias, clematis, crabapples, magnolias, and many more. Admission donation.

Spohr Gardens, Falmouth, Cape Cod
For more than 40 years, these privately owned gardens have been open to the public. The owners, Margaret and Charles D. Spohr began creating this wondrous setting around their home in the 1950s and welcomed the ever-growing number of visitors who heard of its beauty. Five acres of gardens, gracefully wrapped around Oyster Pond, provide the perfect setting for a June stroll. With more than 50 species of flowers, 75 types of trees and 100 varieties of shrubs, this lovely locale is in perpetual bloom. Free to the public.

North Boston
Lynch Park, Beverly
In the summers of 1909 and 1910, President Taft leased the Stetson cottage which stood on today's Rose Garden. Important leaders from around the world came to "Beverly Massachusetts, Garden City and Summer Capitol of the United States". The Rose Garden at Lynch Park was built in 1910 within the foundation of Taft’s cottage with rare plants and shrubs from around the world. This 85-year-old rose garden, modeled after those in Italy, blooms each spring in brilliant pinks, yellows, reds, oranges, purples and white bordered by rolling lawns and lush greens overlooking the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.

Seaside Gardens at the House of the Seven Gables, Salem
The seaside gardens at The House of the Seven Gables capture the charm of colonial America period plantings. The Wisteria Arbor was added in the 1920s and is covered in a variety of wisteria introduced to the U.S. during the height of the China Trade in the 19th century, while the property’s horse chestnut tree dates to 1830 and is one of the oldest specimens on the North Shore. $12.50 for adults, $11.50 for seniors (65+) and AAA members, $7.50 for children (5-12).

Sedgwick Gardens at Long Hill, Beverly
From 1916 to 1979, Long Hill in Beverly was the summer home of noted author and editor of The Atlantic Monthly, Ellery Sedgwick and his wife Mabel Cabot Sedgwick. An accomplished horticulturalist and gardener, Mrs. Sedgwick designed and planted the original gardens. The five acres surrounding the property’s house are laid out in a series of separate garden “rooms,” each distinct in its own way and accented by garden ornaments, structures and statuary. Free entrance.

The Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover
The Stevens-Coolidge Place was the summer home of diplomat John Gardner Coolidge and his wife, Helen Stevens Coolidge. The estate includes a perennial garden, a kitchen and cut flower garden, a rose garden, a French potager garden with brick serpentine wall and a greenhouse complex. Gardens are free, donations are welcome.

South Boston
The Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum, New Bedford
Built in 1834 as a Greek revival mansion, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and its grounds represent the period of New Bedford's history of immense prosperity, due to the whaling industry. The property encompasses a full city block with an historic 19th century wooden pergola surrounded by formal boxwood rose parterre garden, boxwood specimen garden, civic garden and an award-winning woodland walk. On Saturday, May 7 children ages 4 through 10, accompanied by an adult, are invited to create a floral arrangement and card for mom’s special day.

Scituate Wildflower Garden, Plymouth
This award winning garden has been established and maintained by the Scituate Garden Club and open to the public. On the first Saturday of June the club holds its famous Plant Sale on the grounds between it and the Historic Mann House on Greenfield Lane in Scituate. This hidden gem is not to be missed by anyone visiting Scituate on Mother’s Day or any day throughout the year.

Western Massachusetts
Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge
Fifteen acres includes display gardens, an arboretum, and interpretive woodland trail. More than 3,000 species and varieties of plants are exhibited. Mother’s Day Weekend is the 34th Annual Plant Sale-- Calling all gardeners! Get a jump start on the gardening season and choose from thousands of plants, shrubs, and trees – many grown at Berkshire Botanical Garden.

The Botanic Garden at Smith College, Northampton
Founded over 100 years ago, the Botanic Garden at Smith College in Northampton has been painstakingly tended to serve as a living museum to plants native to New England and ecosystems all around the world. It is home to thousands of plants and rare blooms, and is the site contains a number of specialty gardens. Free to the public.

The Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls
One of the Commonwealth's most unusual and enchanting "gardens" is found in Franklin County. The Bridge of Flowers is a former trolley bridge that was originally built in 1908, but became weed-covered 20 years later. In 1929, a plan was implemented to turn the bridge into a garden that would span the length of the bridge. Currently more than 20,000 people per year enjoy its impressive and rich floral beauty from the first appearance of tulips in April through the bloom of autumn mums. Free to the public.

Chesterwood, Stockbridge
Chesterwood is the country home of Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), sculptor of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Memorial in Washington, DC, and The Minute Man, Concord, MA. Chesterwood’s landscape featuring mountain vistas, woodland walks, and perennial gardens is French’s own design.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens, South Deerfield
While this attraction's main claim to fame is its amazing collection of thousands of butterflies, these beauties flutter freely among an expansive 18,400 square foot conservatory filled with tropical vegetation. Magic Wings features a koi pond and a waterfall in its tranquil setting. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for children 3-17 (children under 3 are free).

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Estate & Gardens, Lenox
This elegant home and its gardens were designed by renowned American writer, Edith Wharton, in 1902. The 49-acre property features one of the most significant formal gardens in New England, including an Italian walled garden, French flower garden, and a lime walk lined with pleached linden trees.

Naumkeag, Stockbridge
A property of The Trustees of Reservations, the Choate family summer estate is distinguished by beautifully landscaped grounds originally designed by Nathan Barrett. With its gracious house, magnificent gardens, and panoramic views, Naumkeag is a quintessential country estate of the Gilded Age.

StanleyPark, Westfield
The American Wildflower Society Display Garden Winner of the A.A.R.S. "Outstanding Public Rose Garden" Award, Westfield's Stanley Park offers more than 50 varieties of roses and 2,500 rose bushes. Another popular park attraction is the Herb Garden, which includes numerous varieties of fragrant, culinary, and medicinal herbs as well as large old-fashioned formal perennial gardens.

Three Sisters Sanctuary, Goshen
Located in Goshen, Three Sisters Sanctuary is an outdoor space bursting with gardens, sculptures and landscape art. There are several concept gardens linked together on the grounds, including the imaginative Energy Garden, which features a 15,000 pound, seven foot stone surrounded by crystal-topped stones that lean on a 45 degree angle out towards the universe.

Blog from Ashley Fenton

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Millcroft Inn & Spa
Spring Awakenings
Renew your zest for life with a spring getaway! Get reacquainted over a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates in your guestroom. Enjoy an evening one-on-one in a heritage guestroom or book one of our croft-style rooms with a private outdoor hot tub it's a sure way to turn up the heat! Breakfast included. Find your passion at Millcroft Inn & Spa. Call 1-800-383-3976 or book online today.
From $129 pp plus taxes and grats

Couples Resort
Ontario's 1st & Only 5 STAR, Lakeside Resort
Luxury in Muskoka - Algonquin Park. Come see the difference a 5 Star Resort makes in service. INCLUDED IN PRICE: 5 Course Gourmet Dinner & Breakfast, Jr. Suite with Jacuzzi, fireplace, wood, king bed, private deck on the Lake's edge, gym, billiards. EXTRAS: $10 Corkage Fee. Organic Spa, Horseback, Hiking in Algonquin, Mtn Bikes, Sailing, Boats, ATV's. PRICES: are per person with taxes/fees extra and limited to some days in April.
Midweek $76. Weekends $96. Meals Included.

Algonquin Cottage Outpost and Island Retreat
Private Island Cabin for an Adventure for Two
Paddle to a cozy island retreat for a romantic long weekend on the edge of Algonquin. Follow Tom Thompson's trail from this private island and head out by canoe to photograph, paint and explore the nearby islands, rivers and streams. Take in the stunning sunsets and sunrises from the cabin's two decks or paddle over to the Algonquin Cottage Outpost for a floating sauna. Add a guided moose viewing excursion, fishing day trip down the South River, or choose from a wide choice of excursions from our adventure for two menu.
10% Off During Month of May

Christie's Mill Inn & Spa
Find your Ideal Getaway Package!
Find your ideal Getaway Package and enjoy the savings! But hurry this offer is only available from April 1st to April 17th so call today to reserve your getaway before it is too late! Call 800-465-9966 for reservations or visit online at Christie's Mill Inn & Spa *Applicable to new reservations only 30% discount is only on the accom. portion of the package.

Post from Resorts of Ontario

For details of resort offers, visit

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Diving off Grenada's coast

Known for its superior diving and snorkeling opportunities, Grenada is home to colourful and abundant marine life of large and small fish schools. On your next holiday in ‘the Spice of the Caribbean,’ don a mask and fins and get face to face with the underwater world.

A part of the Windward Islands, Grenada is home to more than 50 dive sites of varying depths and diving abilities, ranging from 20 feet to 120 feet. Beautiful coral reefs, the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean (the Bianca C) and a plethora of marine life including eagle rays, nurse sharks, turtles, sea horses and lobsters can be found here. Whether you’re a novice or master diver, there are dive sites in Grenada suitable for all levels of experience.

“We take great pride in the many spectacular diving opportunities that exist in Grenada and its sister-island of Carriacou,” said Simon Stiell, director of tourism for the Grenada Board of Tourism. We have the utmost respect for the underwater environment and do everything in our ability to ensure that this delicate ecosystem is maintained.”

If you’re simply looking to get a few dives under your belt during the trip, or you want to spend each day out in the water, there are a number of dive companies with different packages on offer. For instance, Grenada Dive Resorts offers diver-dedicated packages at LaSource – the amazing holiday – an all-inclusive resort. Packages include all features of a regular LaSource holiday combined with the professional diver services of Aquanauts Grenada. A variety of special dive packages are also available with True Blue Bay Resort. All dive shops on the island have PADI certified instructors and some also have BSAC and CMAS teachers on staff.

Grenada is home to the world’s first underwater sculpture park, a feature which makes diving and snorkeling here a truly unique experience. Based in Moilinere Bay, sculptures (by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and other Grenadian artists) have been submerged underwater and have helped to regenerate marine life. Snorkel or dive amongst the sculptures exploring Grenada’s underwater world and make sure to bring your camera!

For those who prefer to keep their feet on dry land, there are plenty of activities to occupy the time. Whether you prefer lounging on white sand beaches, hiking through the jungle, or learning how to cook unique Caribbean cuisine, you’ll leave Grenada wishing you’d had just a few more days.

How to Get to Grenada from Canada
Grenada can be reached via Air Canada Vacations that operates a seasonal non-stop flight from Toronto to Grenada (Saturday departure with easy connections from 65 Canadian gateways available at from December until mid-April 2011. New for 2011: Special weekly non-stop summer charters are available with GG Tours ( ) on Sunwing from June 29 through to September 7, 2011. AC operates year round daily flights from Toronto to Barbados (Saturday & Sunday departure from Montreal) with connections on LIAT to Grenada. Caribbean Airlines operate regularly scheduled flights from Toronto to Barbados with connections on LIAT to Grenada. West Jet operates a flight from Toronto to Barbados with connections on LIAT to Grenada year round.

Post from Grenada Tourism

Monday, April 4, 2011

The colours of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls


Packages and Perks Offers Available Online for Travel through May 31st

There really is no better time than spring for a short stay or getaway to Niagara, especially when area tourism operators and accommodations are offering over 200 packages and 88 perks offers online at, for travel from the beginning of April through May 31st.

The Maid of the Mist approaching Niagara Falls
From the famous Niagara Falls to world-class casinos, and from award-winning wineries to charming towns like Niagara-on-the-Lake, spring is the perfect time to visit the Niagara area. The website assists visitors with planning and booking their stay as winter melts away, the sun begins to shine, and the flowers start to bloom.

Visitors to the site will find:

A Perks Card. The card can be downloaded and presented at 88 different participating tourism partners through May 31st. Perks include exclusive discounts and value added offers for accommodations, attractions, shopping, dining, and wineries and wine tours. Perks are redeemable at locations throughout the Niagara Region, in Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Port Colborne and the Twenty Valley.

Touring Itineraries. In order to help with travel planning, detailed suggested itineraries are provided, separated into themes by type of activity (theatre, spa, wine, etc.) and by travel occasion (e.g. couples getaways or girls getaways). These itineraries highlight the best the region has to offer while revealing some of the area’s best kept secrets that will be new even to the repeat visitor.

Travel Packages. Over 200 limited time packages are available for travel until May 31st. The packages combine many different Niagara experiences, and the site has a search function to see package options based on price, travel occasion, choice of destination or by preferred activity. Day and overnight packages are available.

With these limited time offers and travel tools available at, there really is no better time to enjoy a fling in Niagara.

Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday, 4th April, 2011

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It was time for the Grand Entry at the Wikwemikong Pow Wow on Manitoulin Island, sacred place of Canada's native peoples. 

The Grass dancers, as is customary, had prepared the arena with a vigorous foot-stomping dance.  As we watched, men and women drew apart and waited silently.

The compelling voice of the drums and a wild, wailing song sets the procession in motion and they move, slowly, deliberately, into the circle.  As the solemn line, including flag-bearing veterans of World War 11 pass a man and woman in beads, leather and feathers, a fragrant herbal smoke rises from a hand held sea shell.  The mixture of sweet grass and sage smoulders.  The smoke trickles upwards and is brushed towards individuals with a feathery bird's wing.

Reaching a crescendo the drums thunder.  The lead singer's voice soars heavenwards in a wild plaintive cry.  Then, for a moment there is a profound silence.  Women, mesmerized, bob up and down, long leather thongs decorated with beads sway in time to their movement.  The rustle and jingle of silver cones adorning their clothing, whisper in th air.

Close to us a tiny boy with feathered dance bustle affixed to his back moves to a rhythm known since birth.
The silvery tones of an Elder praying in a language melodious but foreign fills the arena.  Repeatd in English, the sheer poetry of the prayer holds the crowd still.

As the Pow Wow progresses, puffs of dust erupt around hundreds of dancing feet.  The heat is intense and an elderly Brave crumples to the ground, overcome.

Standing apart, I revel in the orange, purple, red, indigo and emerald of the costumes.  Their elaborately beaded mukluks, feathered dance bustles, hair ornaments and feathers fascinate me.

To stand close whilst the drummers pour their hearts out in songs both wild and primitive is to feel the pure heartbeat of the Pow Wow.

The arena is filled with whirling movement and in the midst of all the activity the First Nations women move in a dignified bobbing motion around the circle.  The actions of dance participants are governed by an elaborate etiquette and reverence for tradition.  If any man wearing an eagle feather in his head dress were to dislodge it during the dance, all would come to a halt and a special ceremony would ensue before it could be retrieved.  If a whistle blows during an inter-tribal dance, the drummers are surrounded by dancers and singers and the drummers repeat again and again the moment that moved the whistle blower to show his pleasure.

These are people whose pride in their heritage is unselfconsciously made visible for outsiders.  More than 12,000 years ago they made their way across the Bering Sea from Siberia.  They survived and flourished in spite of untold hardships during their journey down through the Americas.

In the past their villages numbered in the thousands.  The people were either hunters or farmers; hunting being the preserve of men and the provision of food that of the women.  There were in those days more bison than could ever be consumed and the land was fertile so the people were strong. 

Out of this nation the ceremony of the Pow Wow has grown.

Post by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 3rd April, 2011

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Scotland's Inverary Castle has its own ghosts

As we approached Tulloch Castle black crows swept in a coordinated mass around the 13th century castle tower shrieking like banshees pursued by the devil. Tulloch Castle’s ghost is a young woman known as the Green Lady. Her place of haunting is Bedchamber 8 and she usually appears when it is occupied by a solitary male.

Not too long ago a petrified guest burst into the castle’s public rooms late at night, sweating, trembling and hysterical. He awoke he said, to find the Green lady kneeling on his chest with her hands tightly clasped around his neck. He insisted on checking out of the castle immediately and subsequently sold his story to the News of the World where it appeared on the front page!

Glamis Castle, childhood home of the late Queen Mother and one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland was described to me by a Scot as ‘really weird’. Its phantoms are many and legendary and include Janet Douglas, wife of the 6th Lord Glamis. Running foul of King James V, she was accused of witchcraft. After a lengthy incarceration in a pit in Edinburgh Castle, she was burned alive on Castle Hill. To this day her spirit haunts the chapel at Glamis; the sun shining right through her transparent figure as she kneels praying in one of the chapel pews.

The crypt in Glamis Castle was for me a particularly eerie place. With its 10 foot thick walls, suits of armour, animal trophies and low barrel-vaulted stone ceiling it is straight out of the Middle Ages and an apt setting for a haunting. In a secret chamber within its walls, the Lord of Glamis and the Earl of Crawford, known as Earle Beardie are said to have played cards with the devil. 300 years after the infamous card game the chamber was sealed but the spectre of Earl Beardie continues to appear.

The 635 year old Caernarfon Castle in Wales has many unexplained ghosts

For those skeptics who believe that disembodied heads floating in mid-air, headless horsemen and drummers, phantom pipers and ghosts are merely a figment of the imagination, read those oft quoted words of the bard William Shakespeare,

“There are more things in Heaven and on Earth than you have ever dreamed of in your philosophy”……

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 2nd April, 2011.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon