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Best of the chat: Parks Canada answers your camping questions

- August 11th, 2014


With summer well underway, we know many of our readers are looking forward to a camping or cottage trip. To prepare for that summer escape, we held a live chat with Michael Beaudet, Operations Advisor for Parks Canada’s National Information Service to answer all our readers’ questions on everything from setting up a campsite to avoiding unwanted wildlife to visiting the nation’s parks.

Find the top five questions and answers below. For a full chat transcript, see

Q: Can you touch on what options there are for Canadians who want to stay at one of our national parks (camping, yurts, etc.)? – Nicole

Q: What is the best method to prevent bear intrusions when tent camping? I’m motorcycle-camping around the north shore of Lake Superior/Lake Huron so there is no option of keeping the food in the trunk of the vehicle. – DaveM

Q: Although I have quite a bit of family camping experience, rigging a tarp to protect from rain is still a headache. Any secrets? – Dee Hat

Q: We recently had our first camping trip and didn’t have much success with our campfire. We had put some sweet potatoes (in foil) into the fire very early but nothing really happened to them. When we took out, it was still hard and not edible. Any tips on getting a good one going for cooking? – Chris

Q: What best practices do your recommend to introduce camping to young children? (I have 3 under age 6). – Jeff

New York hotel charges guests $500 for bad online reviews

- August 5th, 2014

Before you post that less-than-stellar hotel review online, you may want to check the hotel’s website for their policy on charging for negative reviews.

It sounds unreal, but a hotel in New York state has come under fire for just that. As Page Six reports, the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y. had posted a policy regarding wedding guests on their website, stating “that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not. If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event… and given us a deposit of any kind… there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review… placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

Union Street Guest House’s owner Chris Wagoner said the policy was meant as a joke, though user Rabih Z. said the hotel had emailed him twice in 2013 threatening to charge him $500 for a bad review posted by a wedding guest.


The Union Street Guest House has since edited their website to remove the policy, but this hasn’t stopped the people of the Internet from posting a slew of mocking, negative reviews to the hotel’s Yelp page.


Cocktails with a taste of Canada for the long weekend

- August 1st, 2014
BBQ Caesar.

BBQ Caesar.

Enjoy the August long weekend with a Canadian-themed cocktail from Luksusowa Vodka.

Luksusowa is a luxe brand of Polish vodka made with specially-cultivated potatoes and artisanal water.  The company has created two Canadian-inspired cocktails that both put a new twist on the Canada-favourite Caesar and use ingredients sourced from our country, like maple syrup.

Find the recipes for the cocktails below. Have a great long weekend and drink responsibly!

Maple Glaze.

Maple Glaze.

Maple Glaze – Courtesy Luksusowa Vodka

* 1.5 oz Luksusowa
* 1 tsp. maple syrup
* Orange zest

Pour all ingredients into a stirring glass and stir with cubed ice until cold and balanced. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass and finish it off with a zest of orange.

BBQ Caesar – Courtesy Luksusowa Vodka

* 2-3 oz Luksusowa
* 5 tsp. fresh lemon juice
* 2 tsp. BBQ sauce
* 4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
* 2 pinches of salt
* 2 pinches of pepper
* Tomato juice

Rim a glass with lemon and dip into seasoning. Pour all ingredients into a mixing container. Using a second container, pour the mix back and forth (3-4 times) between the two. Pour into a glass with 2-3 ice cubes and serve.

Battle for title of Canada’s top washroom returns for fifth year

- July 31st, 2014
Valleyview Shell Super Station

2013 winner: Valleyview Shell Super Station, Alberta.

The battle to name the king of all Canadian washrooms has returned for a fifth year.

The contest, sponsored by Cintas, a Canadian company that sells work uniforms and restroom supplies, sees members of the public go online to vote for their favourite public washroom, in hopes of it being crowned Canada’s top porcelain throne-room.

“This contest is fun but it also conveys a critical message that restroom hygiene matters – for good health and good business,” Leslie Molin, Cintas’ senior marketing manager, said in a statement.

Last year’s winner was Valleyview Shell Super Station in northern Alberta. What restroom will reign as Lord of the Latrine this year? See the top five finalists, chosen by Cintas’ team of editors, below and cast your vote at through October 2014.

Patria, Toronto

Patria, Toronto

Patria – Toronto, Ontario

Cintas says: In sharp contrast to Spanish-inspired brown and red hues that string the dining room walls at Patria, the washroom features clean white marble from ceiling to floor, and simple elegant fixtures. Golden faucets and mirror accents give the washroom a regal atmosphere, adding to the overall European experience.

Calgary Zoo

Calgary Zoo

Calgary Zoo – Alberta

Cintas says: Amongst giraffes, hippos, lions and gorillas sit the Destination Africa washrooms at the Calgary Zoo. The park takes visitors across the globe, from Africa to Eurasia, with lavatories to match in each locale. Each circular hut serves as a loo, complete with wall-to-wall tribal décor for a true glimpse into African culture.

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood – Niagara Falls, Ontario

Cintas says: The glamourous décor of the Planet Hollywood restaurant reminds guests of their favourite Hollywood classics, and the experience continues with a visit to their flashy washroom. The ladies’ room mirrors are “framed” with a pair of giant, hot pink, zebra print sunglasses, turning every woman into a star with a glance at her reflection. Meanwhile, in the men’s room, guys are doing a double take when they see what’s staring back at them. Cobalt blue sharks open wide to reveal mirrors between their terrifying teeth.

Shaw Club Hotel

Shaw Club Hotel & Spa

Shaw Club Hotel & Spa – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Cintas says: Style and radiance come together in this lavish loo. Upon entering the ladies’ room, guests are greeted by a modern glass infinity sink and simple stainless steel fixtures. The stalls feature large glass doors which fog up for privacy when the door is locked! Here’s the science behind it: sandwiched between the two panels of glass is a mixture of polymer and liquid crystals. A constant electrical current keeps the crystals in line and the glass transparent. But when the door handle is locked, the current is stopped, the crystals fall, and the glass looks clouded.

Vancouver Airport

Vancouver Airport

Vancouver Airport – British Columbia

Cintas says: Located in the C-Pier, Domestic Terminal of YVR, travellers find a clean, modern place to freshen up during their journeys. The washroom walls are covered in shades of blue, red, and yellow mosaic tiles and wave-shaped blue flooring winds down the curved corridor leading guests to their choice of bathroom stalls. White tile surrounds the hands-free sinks and towel dispensers, creating a cohesive and modern atmosphere.

Itinerary for 2014 MasterChef Caribbean cruise revealed

- July 25th, 2014
MasterChef U.S.A. (Courtesy Fox)

MasterChef U.S.A. (Courtesy Fox)

The itinerary for the week-long MasterChef cruise of the Caribbean has been revealed, and it includes plenty of opportunities to interact with fan favourite contestants like Christina Ha and Alexander Weiss, as well as MasterChef judge Graham Elliot.

The seven-day voyage will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Nov. 8, 2014 and Elliot, plus past winners Ha and Luca Manfe, as well as MasterChef Junior victor Weiss, will be aboard. The winner of the current season of FOX’s hit cooking competition, to be revealed on Sept. 15, will also take part in the cruise.

Alexander Weiss of MasterChef Junior and Lucas Manfe and Christine Ha of MasterChef. (Courtesy FOX)

Alexander Weiss of MasterChef Junior and Luca Manfe and Christine Ha of MasterChef. (Courtesy FOX)

The luxurious Holland America MS Westerdam will be the vessel for the cruise, which will stop at several ports of call, including Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. The ship will return to Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 15.

It has now been revealed that guests can look forward to on-board programming that will include Mystery Box challenges, cocktail parties, meet and greets, and demonstrations. Events include:

  • Christine Ha’s Mac-n-Cheese at Sea Competition – Ha will judge the first-ever Mac-n-Cheese at Sea competition where guests will compete to create their best version of the classic dish.
  • Blind Taste Test with Graham Elliot – A few willing audience members will have the opportunity to test their taste buds with a challenge led by Elliot.
  • Tag Team Sushi – Get a front-row seat to the famous Sushi Tag Team Challenge featuring the MasterChef Stars.
  • Master the Macaroon with Alexander – Learn to master Weiss’ signature dessert.
  • Designer Pasta – Learn how to make authentic, homemade pasta with a demonstration from Manfe.
  • Craft Cocktails – Create craft cocktails with the MasterChef season 5 winner.

“MasterChef fans and food lovers alike are in for an incredible journey with hours of original live programming that both entertains and instructs,” said Vivi Zigler, president of MasterChef’s production company, Shine America, in a statement. “Guests will get to live the MasterChef experience with some of the most skilled and beloved talent from the series, while also honing their own culinary skills.”

Fares for the cruise start at $1,442 per person. For more information or to book your ticket on the MasterChef cruise, visit