Cuba Travel: Wildly weird and wonderful

The Toronto Star | Saturday, March 10th, 2012

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BARACOA, CUBA—While sunning on the beach, I sit up to watch a pig chase a dog across the white sand.

Before coming to Baracoa, my jaw would have dropped at the sight. Now I just shrug my burnt shoulders and snort. If you want five-star hotels and sanitized beaches, Baracoa is not the place for you. As beautiful as this secluded playa is, things here are more. . . feral. Cuba is a country that marches to its own off-beat rhythm. The quirks are subtle at first, but with each passing day I hear them louder and louder — and Baracoa, a town on the northeastern tip of the island, is as wildly weird and weirdly wonderful as it gets. Read on…

Get your wetsuit ready, it’s Gauley Season

The Toronto Star | Thursday, September 29th, 2011

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(Photo courtesy of Rivermen)

FAYETTEVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA—Most travellers buy souvenirs. Me? I bring home bumps and scrapes. Tsetse fly bites, courtesy of Kenya. Infected insect bite on my (ahem) derriere, with love from Bangladesh. Violently-violet bruises and a set of X-rays, memories of Morocco.

So I thought I should stay close to home for a change with a weekend trip to West Virginia. Every autumn, 43,000 people from all over North America descend upon the Mountain State for one reason: rafting the “Beast of the East,” the Gauley River. Read on…

Rockin’ lobster in Maine

The Toronto Star | Thursday, September 8th, 2011

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MT. DESERT ISLAND, MAINE—A charming smile helps, when trying to get onto a lobster boat. That, and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. This winning combination is how I found myself on the Linda Sea out on the Atlantic one fine September day, clumsily trying to put elastic bands on lobsters. I’m sure John would have taken me out on his boat without the bribe of whiskey — a testament to just how charming my smile is, or rather, the good nature of the people of Mt. Desert Island. He appreciated the gift all the same. Read on…