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Summer Exploring

Scottsdale, Arizona’s Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona masterpiece, Taliesin West. Photo by Lori Knowles

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona masterpiece, Taliesin West. Photo by Lori Knowles

One of my favourite Scottsdale stops is Taliesin West, an eclectic home in the desert built by Frank Lloyd Wright. I had a chance to explore this odd and interesting creation a few summers ago on a roadtrip through Arizona, and would recommend it as one of the state’s top hits.

Among TW’s interesting features is its architecture, of course, but also the stories that go along with the building’s creation. My tour was given by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original “apprentices” — TW has always been home to FLW’s School of Architecture. This apprentice told of the building of this landmark — how and why walls were built, where they were built, how the lighting was integrated, and so on. He also offered tidbits of FLW’s compelling personality as someone who worked closely with him. All interesting stuff.

If you find yourself exploring Scottsdale this heated summer, pay a visit to Taliesin West.

For more info, go to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s website. For more stories from LoriExploring, visit LoriKnowles.com, and follow @LoriExploring on Instagram and Twitter.

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Austria's alps from the top of Obergurgl, Solden's nextdoor neighbour.

Austria’s alps from the top of Obergurgl, Solden’s next door neighbour.

Salut from Sölden! Last March we explored this monstrous ski resort situated in the Ötztal Valley of the Austrian Tirol.

Back home in North America, we know it for the World Cup ski race it stages on its glacier every October. But Sölden is a lot more than just a glacier — it has more than 70 lifts and 186 miles of ski terrain.

This photo was snapped at the tip of Obergurgl, Solden’s next door neighbour, in the midst of the glorious Tirolean alps.

Our adventures in Sölden have been documented (by two 10 year olds) in the latest Winter edition of SNOW Magazine.

For more on exploring Solden, see www.Soelden.com

 

Lori Knowles

Lori Knowles

 

Lori Knowles is a ski and travel writer/editor based in Toronto, Canada. She is the editor of SNOW Magazine. See past work at LoriKnowles.com or follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Lori Knowles

Lori Knowles

I guess a Tuesday at the start of November is as good a time as any to start planning our 2014/15 ski season–yours and mine. In truth, as someone in the ski biz, it’s been on my mind since July… or earlier. But I’ve waited ’til now to get you revved up, otherwise your engine might burn out.

I hope to tell you the few tidbits I get now and then on new stuff in the European and North American ski markets: new ski lifts, new runs, glades you can’t miss, or an apres-ski experience neither of us can pass up. Let’s see how it evolves. Hopefully the info will help you plan our next ski trips.

I’ll start with some news from a sunny ski area in British Columbia (BC) called Sun Peaks. Here it is, in a photo courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort, taken by Adam Stein:

The Village at Sun Peaks, BC. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks.

The Village at Sun Peaks, BC. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks.

Sun Peaks is in idyllic ski spot in near the Canadian city of Kamloops. Its village is auto-free, its runs flow along a consistent and excellent fallline, and its trees are spacious and not too steep, which gives any ski area an A in my playbook.

Tree skiing at Sun Peaks. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

Tree skiing at Sun Peaks. Photo by Adam Stein, courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

All this you can learn by visiting its website. My news is this: For 2015, Sun Peaks has expanded to a point at which it’s now Canada’s second largest ski area. That’s pretty big — Canada’s largest is Whistler. This season Sun Peaks has grown to more than 4,200 acres of in-bound ski terrain with the addition of two new areas: West Morrisey and Gil’s.

“New runs in the West Morrisey area will be expert ability level and utilize the same aspect as the popular Static Cling and Agitator ski runs,” says a recent press release. “The second section, Gil’s—a popular backcountry ski area at the top of Tod Mountain—will see the area’s vertical double with the creation of a lower ski out back the main ski runs.”

A panoramic shot of Sun Peaks taken from Mt Morrisey. Photo by Adam Stein courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

A panoramic shot of Sun Peaks taken from Mt Morrisey. Photo by Adam Stein courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort.

In short, this expansion just might move Sun Peaks onto your short list of top spots in Canada to visit. I hope so. As I said, the resort is idyllic.

That’s it for today. More tidbits soon — news to help you explore your ski travel options. Let me know how your planning is progressing. I’m @LoriExploring

Lori Knowles is a ski and travel writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. She is the editor of SNOW Magazine. See past work at LoriKnowles.com or follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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The Olympic Rings in Whistler Village.

The Olympic Rings in Whistler Village.

“If you’ve ever dreamed about blasting off to Whistler, B.C., for a three-day blow-out winter visit complete with hard skiing, sumptuous lodging, arts, culture, tasty food and a spa experience that will soothe your screaming muscles, here’s how to do it…”

And so began my 2012 Toronto Sun travel story on Whistler–the one that gives you the goods on skiing hard and playing softly in the soothing arms of the Four Seasons Whistler.

With Whistler’s recent bountiful snowfall and my pending “big family trip” to BC’s most gigantico ski resort commencing in just one week, I thought it might be fun to replay this Sun article. Consider it an enticement to join us in Whistler this season…

LINK: Toronto Sun: High On Luxury in Whistler

 

Lori Knowles is editor of SNOW Magazine and a ski travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can read more of her work at www.loriknowles.com

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SeaWorld Antarctica

SeaWorld Orlando’s Cool New Penguin Attraction: Antarctica

After more than two years planning and preparing, SeaWorld Orlando finally debuted Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin on May 24 — a super-cool new ride and habitat for 200-plus penguins that resembles the Southern Hemisphere’s Continent of Antarctica, including icebergs, high winds and snow caps.

It’s Orlando’s coldest theme park attraction to date…. to read my review, please see my Family Fare piece in the Toronto Sun’s travel section, or visit the Family section of my website, LoriKnowles.com.

Photo by Lori Knowles. Copyright Lori Knowles. All rights reserved.

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My pic(k) of the day:

A remodelled room at Paradisus Punta Cana, Playa Bavaro, Dominican Republic

Paradisus Punta Cana is in the midst of renovating its rooms. Here's a sneak photo. Love the headboard...

Paradisus Punta Cana is in the midst of renovating its rooms. Here’s a sneak photo. Love the crisp use of white, and the art on the backwall.

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the Toronto Sun’s travel section. More stories: www.loriknowles.com 

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Paradisus Palma Real, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Greetings from Paradisus Palma Real on the beach at Punta Cana. I’m seated on the balcony watching the waves lap the shore, the sand as white as sugar. Incense are filling the air with a spicy smoke, and Balinese music is lilting softly on the stereo.

Heaven? You tell me:

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My day has been about water rituals.

First, a run along the beach, with the sun’s rays beating on my back and the beats of Springsteen propelling me forward.

Second, an egg-white omelet stuffed with vegetables for breakfast, and coffee as strong as it is in Spain.

Third, a tour of Palma Real by Paradisus, a Melia hotel they tell me is among the nicest in Punta Cana. As it’s my first time here, I cannot say for sure. What I do know is this: their Royal Service is helpful and nice, and the beds are lose-yourself comfortable.

Fourth, a doze on the beach. Those cabana beds! I’m taking one home with me.

And finally, a water ritual. In the spa. Hot. Cold. Sauna. Steam. I am ready for bed. But wait… there’s a nine-course dinner to come, and then… well, then, it’s rumoured Michael Jackson is in the buidling.

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Aloha. I have discovered for myself yet another Hawaiian treasure: Kona. Not the coffee, though that is good too… but the island. Also known as Hawaii, The Big Island.

I am in awe at how different this island is from the others — Oahu, Kauai, Maui etc. True, they’re all different. But Kona is very different — it’s black, bare and big, with pockets of paradise scattered about. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to experience it.

The photo above is of our first Kona hotel: Hilton Waikoloa Village. Its location about 30 minutes north of the Kona airport is along the Queen’s highway, which ribbons through a blackened wasteland of ancient lava rock–remnants of Hawaii’s working volcano.

The black, desert-like atmosphere of the road is broken only by patches of white coral along the roadside — words written by travellers with the white coral stones lying by the roadside. Messages like “Jenny Loves Fred” or “Burt Was Here in 2012.” I’ll upload a pic when I get a chance.

This Hilton is huge. Indeed, it’s the state of Hawaii’s largest resort… so large, you can take a train or boat between the lobby, the pools, the restaurants and your room. Odd but fun, especially for kids. Here’s a photo:

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There are two pools at Waikoloa. Two gigantic pools with water slides and water falls, and rivers and streams. There’s a dolphin pool in which you can swim with the dolphins… more on that later. And there’s a spectacular trail that snakes for miles along the edge of the ocean with some of the prettiest views on the island.

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The resort also has a massive lagoon that’s full of tropical fish, eels and sea turtles. This lagoon is not stocked… it’s naturally fed by the sea. The sea life chooses to live there. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, sea bikes and snorkel gear from the beachside lagoon shop. My son and I spent hours mostly snorkelling the lagoon, visiting the sea turtles. We counted nine… they are unafraid and friendly.

Our day was improved further still with a trip to nearby Hapuna Beach. It’s a massive state park with a broad, white-sand beach… rare here on Kona. The experience was unforgettable. We rented boogie boards from the resort and used them to body surf the waves. All afternoon. We were so wiped by the end of it, we went to bed at 7 pm!

I love Hawaii.

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can read her stories at www.LoriKnowles.com and follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Aloha once again from Waikiki, where I’ve just hopped off The Surf Bus.

The Surf Bus?

Sounds fabulous, right? The Surf Bus is a daily tour that transports travellers from highrise-happy Honolulu, to the roughness and wildness of Oahu’s North Shore, home of the big surf. Iconic surf spots–Pipeline, Sunset Beach–they’re all there, on the North Shore, along with the pretty little surf town of Haleiwa (pronounced Hally-EVA).

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The Surf Bus picked us up in the bus port of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Sam, our driver, said “Aloha” and invited us aboard. Sam is a descendent of generations of Hawaiians–his great great grandmother arrived from New Zealand ages ago on a whaling ship. Sam’s family has been here ever since.

Filled with passengers from Australia, South America, the US, the UK and fellow Canucks from Brandon, Manitoba, our enthusiastic little bus plunged onto the Honolulu freeway–a surprisingly busy, multi-lane system. According to Sam, Honolulu has the greatest number of highrises in NA after New York and Chicago. The city has 2.5 million cars–enough that if they lined up, they’d wrap eight times around the island of Oahu.

Despite the density and congestion, it takes us only 40 minutes to reach Oahu’s North Shore. Once past Pearl Harbor, the pineapple fields and the Dole factory, the freeway turns to an inland country road.

The Surf Bus passes through Haleiwa first before it drops us at our first point: The North Shore Surf Shop across the road from Shark Cove. There are surfers everywhere–on bikes, on mopeds, in trucks, on foot. They carry their boards under one arm and steer with the other.

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As part of the tour, we’re given bicycles of our own and pedal along a beachside bike path that snakes past several of the world’s most famous surf breaks.

And so we spend our morning, pedalling, pausing, snapping photos. It’s November, the month of The North Shore’s biggest surf; pro surfing competitions are underway. It’s US Election Day–the surfers are taking a break. But they’re practicing on the breaks–massive wave after thundering wave.

Back at The North Shore Surf Shop, we’re fitted with snorkelling gear–also part of the tour. We cross the road to a natural tide pool next to Shark Cove. The pool is protected (mostly) from the gigantic waves crashing against its rocks. The snorkelling is a mix of rough and wonderful–we skim over jagged black rock, spotting prickly sea urchins and yellow-striped fish.

Then it was back on The Surf Bus for a short trip to Haleiwa. On the way we stop to visit Brutus, one of the sea turtles that hangs out on a North Shore Beach:

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The pretty little town of Haleiwa is inland from the surf. A river runs through it. The Surf Bus kits us out with stand-up paddle boards and we paddle the quiet, jungle-like waterway, skimming over giant sea turtles.

We don’t have much time to tour the town. Too bad. Every store is shop- and photo-worthy. We pause quickly to watch kids slurping shave ice:

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And we grab spectacularly delicious shrimp-and-rice takeout from this blue food truck:

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Then its back to Honolulu. We say so long to Sam. My son and I really liked The Surf Bus.

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Sun rising over Waikiki. Photo: Lori Knowles

Hello again from Hawaii, where Day 1 on Waikiki was near perfect.

Our day began with breakfast with Jimmy Buffet. I should say, at Jimmy Buffet’s. His restaurant inside the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber houses the Honolulu Surf Museum, our first stop of the day. And our first stop in an family adventure focused on surfing… finding that iconic Hawaiiain wave.

Curator Mark Fragale offered up a tour… something you can book yourself by contacting the restaurant (see website). Grab a beer from the bar and take a walk with Mark. He’ll track Hawaii’s surfing culture from waaay back, when Hawaii’s royals rode long boards carved out of single trees, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swim champ, popularized Hawaiian surfing, and Gidget did her bubbly best to make every teen in North America want to ‘hang ten.’

The museum is the baby of Jimmy Buffet, who began simply by needing a place to display one of his favourite gifts: the surf board that appeared in that ’70s iconic flick, Apocalypse Now. Here’s a pic of the board, signed by Robert Duvall, and hanging now above Jimmy Buffet’s bar:

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Let’s Go Surfing Now

Next came our first family foray into surfing. We signed up for a group surfing lesson at Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village.

We were met casually by the hotel’s ‘surf stand’ by a laid back team of surfing pros in bright green shirts. Our motley crew included: a Japanese family speaking little English; a Brazilian woman with a broad, happy grin; my nine-year-old, goggle-wearing son; and me… keen, but definitely feeling forty-something.

Kudos to that team for making it all work.

Elijah, our lead pro, taught us how to lie on the board, paddle, pop up on our knees, stand up Ninja-style sideways on the board. It all seemed pretty easy on sand. I was doubtful about how all this ‘ease’ would translate on the Pacific.

But you know what? It did.

Our entire motely little crew stood up on our first wave. Amazing. Those Japanese kids, that Brazilian woman, my goggle-wearing son, even me, the forty-something. We rode those breaks — as small as they were — just like we were Gidget. Golden.

I’d offer a photo, but it was just too wet to take any. I’ll buy some from the pro photographer we took Kelly-Slater-style along with us (!), and post them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with this… My reason the day, as I said at the top, was only “near” perfect:

On my first Hawaiian surfing lesson, I got seasick.

There, I said it. I GOT SEASICK! Evidently, I forgot to keep an eye on the horzion.

But don’t let my admission stop you folks. Every person should try to hang ten at least once in their lives… even if they get seasick. And even if they’re forty-somthing.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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