Dear Residents of 1906 Prince Edward County Road 2,
Wow. Just wow. I wish I could have met you on Sunday, if only to congratulate you on the best private-residence Halloween setup I have ever seen. You are gifted beyond measure -- or seriously twisted, or perhaps both -- and in a world full of greed, negativity and selfishness your front yard is a beacon of blood-curdling fun. No tricks, just a genuinely terrifying treat.
In short, you give me hope!
Yesterday was no ordinary Wednesday, and not just because it marked the legalization of recreational cannabis consumption in Canada. In fact, as the afternoon unfolded, Oct. 17 became curiouser and curiouser:
Noon: I join my buddy Joel for lunch on Roncesvalles Ave. The bacon on my BLT is burned, the poutine is seriously over-curded, there are jalapeno poppers mixed in with my chicken wings, and 80 percent of our cupcakes are sloppily iced.
2:15pm: As our server searches for the misplaced payment machine, we overhear two diners planning an art exhibit. When one suggests some kind of naughty Banksy knock-off — “Spanksy” or something like that — the other laughs and exclaims, “Are you high?!?” The reply: “Yes, as a matter of fact, I am high.”
2:30pm: While walking home, I witness the near-collision of three exhausted-looking Uber Eats cyclists and a careening Foodera delivery van.
2:45pm: The dentist office calls to confirm my Oct. 15 cleaning. After clearing that up — oh how we laugh — we eventually come to an agreement that teeth are kind of gross.
4pm: The cable company calls to convince me to upgrade my channel package. We spend the next 19 minutes discussing our favourite Black Mirror episodes.
4:19pm: Inexplicably, the line goes dead. I look at my phone and notice I’ve lost both the cell signal and Wi-Fi connection. Suddenly the power goes out, and seconds later I hear the unmistakable wail of air raid sirens. I run into into the front yard, and stare open-mouthed at the sky as a squadron of Zeppelins blocks out the sun while a flock of heavily-armoured flamingos...
4:20pm: I jolt awake to the sound of the ringing doorbell, check the time, leap from the bathtub and hastily don my housecoat. I'm not expecting a visit from Snoop Dogg, but you never know.
4:22pm: It turns out to be the good people from the Save the Children charity. I donate a few bucks after they stop giggling for long enough to explain that opting not to save even a few children is a "total dick move."
4:45pm: When I ask Google to “play Tragically Hip” — it being the first anniversary of Gord Downie’s passing and all — it plays “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” When I ask it to play the Grateful Dead, it plays “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Ween? “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Englebert Humperdink? “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” And so it goes...
4:55pm: I call Google tech support and am put on hold. The music on the line? You guessed it.
5:15pm: How did all these tumbleweeds get into the toaster strudel aisle at the grocery store?
5:30pm: Everyone in the "12 items or less" line is trying to recover their credit-card passwords.
6pm: On my way out of the store I stop to chat with the two off-duty police officers guarding the ice cream. Coincidentally, both are looking forward to the four-week vacations they just booked.
With recreational cannabis consumption set to become legal in exactly one week, this Mostly Amazing series explores 11 places across the land that are best experienced with a buzz.
A gibbous moon hangs over the plump hills of Quebec’s Eastern Townships as my two daughters and I climb the meandering path to National Geographic ObservÉtoiles, marketed as “the world’s first open-air augmented-reality planetarium."
From this glorious vantage point – a 184-seat hillside amphitheatre surrounded by a recently designated Dark Sky Preserve – reality seems to be doing just fine without any digital augmentation. Then again, we have yet to test our smartphone-equipped headsets.
The moment we tilt our heads left or right to activate constellation mode, ObservÉtoiles’s unique appeal becomes apparent. To paraphrase the late Gord Downie, our headsets reveal the constellations one star at a time while overlaying them with mythical figures. These swim into view and fade away as we scan the midnight-blue horizon. (The hour-long presentation actually begins in solar system mode, an astronomer-narrated planetary fly-by that isn’t all that different from traditional planetarium shows.)
Jeremy Fontana, owner of the surrounding Au Diable Vert nature resort, began developing the concept more than two years ago with Andrew Fazekas, a Montreal-based science writer and educator. (Nat Geo brought its marketing muscle to the table as the project neared its June 23 debut.) And while sitting in the million-dollar amphitheatre is definitely a memorable experience, one of the best elements of ObservÉtoiles is that you can relive it at home: All adult guests can keep their headsets, minus the slotted-in smartphones of course.
A few nights later, the horizon is punctuated not by rolling hills, but by condo towers. The lustrous digital constellations, however, remain much the same as my daughters and I make good use of our souvenir. By downloading the free StarChart app to my own device, we’re able to recount much of what we learned about the heavenly bodies above us.
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With recreational cannabis consumption set to become legal in exactly two weeks, this Mostly Amazing series explores 11 places across the land that are best experienced with a buzz.
There’s nothing like the first T-shirt sighting of the season.
Having just arrived from winter-weary Toronto, I pull an abrupt double-take when three sleeveless Kamloopsians stroll into view in early April. They too seem surprised, but not by my woolly sweater. It’s my ride – Tastefull Excursions’ new wine-touring van – that turns their heads.
“Must’ve taken a wrong turn in Kelowna,” one says, referring to the Okanagan Valley, an hour down Highway 97, where 120-plus vintners comprise “the northernmost serious wine region in the world,” according to Travel + Leisure.
It soon becomes clear the magazine should have looked further north. Granted, viticulture is new to the Thompson River basin around Kamloops, with 2010 marking the first vintage year in what’s known as Thompson Country. “Wine region” is a stretch, even with more wineries rumoured to be joining the four already in place.
That’s where the neighbouring Shuswap comes in. The Thompson-Shuswap, as the B.C. Wine Institute calls it, is home to a dozen licensed vintners that are winning awards with rare cool-climate varietals such as Ortega, Maréchal Foch and siegerrebe. Travellers familiar with better-known terroir won’t believe where these grapes thrive – on pine-covered mountainsides and in hoodoo-lined valleys – not to mention the calibre of what’s bottled.
Combine this burgeoning route with an astonishingly active farm-to-table scene encompassing eateries, bakeries, markets and a wide-ranging “Full Circle Farm Tour” guide, and, well, let’s just say my T-shirts have become noticeably tighter.
My tasting tour was inspired by a January visit to Sun Peaks Resort, a 45-minute drive north of "the Loops." I was there for two reasons: To ski the snowy Monashees, and sip my way around the 16th annual Winter Okanagan Wine Festival. I had expected to be charmed by the 10-day event's namesake offerings, but was shocked that labels much closer to Sun Peaks were making such great strides.
"We got into this because we tried the Harper's Trail wines and they blew us away," explains Tastefull Excursions owner Maatje Stamp-Vincent as her 11-passenger Mercedes-Benz pulls away from my hotel. "No one else around here is doing this, so we just went for it."
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