Film Reel

When California Is Really Vancouver

America is world famous for the movies and television shows that they produce and distribute around the world. However should we believe everything that we see?

Many films are set in cities and states around the country such as California or Texas however many are actually filmed in Canada.

Films such as 2005’s Brokeback Mountain– set in Wyoming but filmed on location in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains – or 2004’s Mean Girls – Chicago based but filmed in Toronto – are just two of the many that have had us questioning just where they were filmed.

Meghan Markle’s Suits follows the story of New York lawyers Harvey Specter and Mike Ross but was in fact filmed in Toronto. It is believed this is one of the reasons why Meghan and her husband, the UK’s Prince Harry, relocated to Canada when they first stepped back from royal duties last year.

Netflix’s surprise hit Virgin River is the latest television show trying to convince us that the main character Mel has run away to the quiet town in California when in fact it is being filmed around Vancouver, using locations including Port Coquitlam, Brackendale and Burnaby for their outdoor scenes.

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And it is easy to see why. Vancouver is a home to many stunning outdoor spaces including the ever popular Stanley Park which has 400-hectares of natural West Coast rainforest. The mountains, trails and beaches are the perfect way to spend a day hiking or if you prefer a lazy day head to one of the park’s restaurants such as the Stanley Park Pavilion, a ‘rustic heritage building’ that has space for 200 diners outside and 50 inside.

If you fancy the idea of looking at nature from a different perspective take a trip to the world famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. The 450-foot bridge stands at 230 feet above the Capilano River and offers breathtaking views from every angle.

Once completed why not make your way to the seven suspension bridges of Treetops Adventure? Built in 2004 the bridges were designed so they would not affect the growth of the trees they are in and each viewing platform is attached via a ‘tree collar system’ that does not have any bolts or nails damaging the Douglas-firs, an innovative first.

A visit to the Cliffwalk, a walkway that takes you along the side of the granite cliffs 700 feet in the air, is guaranteed to leave you feeling exhilarated. Although the walkways can be narrow at times – some areas are purely open grated walkways – the views are definitely worth it. Not only can you see panoramic views of the rainforest but also the canyon beneath you.

Although most of the visitors to the area head for the thrilling experiences up above there are also plenty of walks you can do on the ground, allowing you to see the ponds, evergreens and majestic rainforest from the ground up.

Travel an hour north of Vancouver and you will reach the stunning setting of Brackendale. Used for the majority of the outdoor scenes of Virgin River, Brackendale is home to the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in North America. But this is not why people continue to head here for their vacations.

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Just one look at the Squamish River with the Coast Mountains in the background is enough to make you want to up and leave your life behind and spend your day fishing by the river and your evening in The Watershed Grill – said to be the location of Jack’s Bar in the show.

The Coast Mountains run for just under 1,000 miles from the Fraser River Lowlands near Vancouver up to Yukon in the North. Although they look quite peaceful on the television they actually face the Pacific Ocean and have several glaciers, mostly near Mt Waddington, which is the highest point of the range.

Just outside of Vancouver is the final location, Burnaby. Often discounted as a suburb of ‘the main attraction’ of Vancouver, Burnaby is actually a city in its own right and has views, outdoor activities and parks – including Central Park which has walking trails, picnic areas, lawn bowling and tennis courts in the 90-hectares – and The Burnaby Central Railway that has a classic steam train that will take you on a tour of Confederation Park. Currently the track is just under two miles long however this is continuing to be extended.

A trip to the mountains would not be complete without some skiing and Grouse Mountain is open throughout the year – current restrictions permitting. With 26 runs and four chairlifts for both skiing and snowboarding you will never need to wait long before you can head down the slopes. There are some breathtaking views of Greater Vancouver as you head up the lift so make sure you relax and enjoy the trip.

Currently Canada has a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country and all travelers over the age of five has to have proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Many locations are also operating at limited capacity or reduced hours so it is important that you check the websites before you venture out.

Baltimore Maryland

Spend Time Exploring Maryland

Known as the ‘Old Line State’, the ‘Free State’ and even ‘America in Miniature’ Maryland may not be at the top of everyone’s list of places to visit. However if you are a water lover this state is a must visit.

Home to the first railroad as well as the first umbrella factory, Maryland has over 10,460 square miles of land and water meaning it is home to virtually every natural feature – except the desert.

Nicknamed ‘The Old Line’ during the Revolutionary War – 400 soldiers from the First Maryland Regiment assisted General George Washington’s army to escape from a 10,000 strong British army – the state provided support to Washington via the Maryland Line, resulting in the nickname.

Meanwhile, the nickname of ‘Free State’ was awarded to Maryland in 1919 after Congress prohibited the sale and use of alcohol. Many of the state’s citizens were against this prohibition, stating it violated their rights, earning them the ‘Free State’ nickname as an example of their longstanding political freedom.

But what is there to do in Maryland? From water parks, beaches, boat trips and fishing experiences Maryland residents spend a lot of their time connected to the water.

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The state has nearly 50 bodies of water including creeks, rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. And of course there is the Atlantic Ocean. However the largest section of water is the famous Chesapeake Bay. This natural wonder – conceived by the impact of an object similar to an asteroid over 35 million years ago followed by the melting of glaciers – Chesapeake Bay is 200 miles long with widths ranging from 30 miles at the south of the Potomac River to a mere 2.8 miles above the Bay Bridge. The average depth is around 21 feet however there is a deep channel in the center, which goes down to 174 feet.

The area is a haven for nature lovers as well as many birds and animals head to the wetlands, beaches, marshes and waters. It is estimated that around one million waterfowl birds use Chesapeake as a stopover during their annual migration.

It is worth noting that the people who live along the bay are some of the most welcoming you will find in all of Maryland. The towns along the route differ from quiet relaxing areas to vibrant cities.

Made famous by the musical Hairspray as well as hard-hitting crime series The Wire, Baltimore has plenty of attractions on offer to its visitors. As well as civil war memorials and the amazing National Aquarium there is an exciting dining scene to be had.

Whether you are taking a stroll around Baltimore’s Farmers Market and Bazaar in Saratoga Street or exploring the multi-ethnic cuisines in Mt. Vernon there is something for every taste.

Maryland is also home to over 3,100 miles of shoreline meaning there is enough space for everyone to enjoy a socially distanced day at the beach. Many Marylanders head to Ocean City for that stereotypical summer day out. Trimpers is the oldest continuously family owned and operated amusement park in the world and is full of rides that will take you back to a day when the world seemed more carefree.

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However if you are not a thrill seeker make your way to Calvert Cliffs State Park Beach. The natural bay is perfect for those who want to spend the day swimming, hiking or just relax on the sand. The sand beach stretches for a quarter of a mile and is the go-to place for fossil hunters. So far there have been over 600 different types of fossils discovered including megalodon shark teeth, which have been dated back to between 10 and 20 million years.

One of the state’s more historical beaches is Point Lookout State Park Beach that was once home to a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War. To commemorate its past there are several monuments as well as a museum in the peninsula. There has also been many stories of hauntings in the area.

If you have your children with you – or are just a big kid at heart – one of the state’s eight water parks should take your fancy. Hurricane Harbor is home to the Six Flags America water park while the Frontier Town OC Waterpark and Campground has attractions for all ages, including the water park, a western theme park and the High Ropes Adventure Park.

It is not only water that Maryland does well. The state has a plethora of arts and cultural activities including the Downtown Frederick Public Art Trail that highlights the city’s history as well as showcases the amazing talent of many ‘diverse and exquisite artwork’.

It is important to remember that the country is still struggling to contain the on-going Coronavirus pandemic so wherever you decide to visit in Maryland you need to check the destination’s website before visiting. Some attractions have limited hours and social distancing is encouraged throughout the state.

Delta Airplane

Delta And United Airlines Will Permanently Remove International Change Fees 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry in the US in more ways than one. Many major airline companies have begun implementing new policies to help cushion the economic blow that the tourism sector has suffered from within the past ten months of the pandemic. Most recently, Delta and United airlines have announced that they will be permanently eliminating change fees for flights across the globe. 

Throughout the entire pandemic airlines throughout the world and nation have recognized that there would be a major decline in travel, so they began eliminating fees that are typically charged to travelers who change their international flights or cancel them all together. Initially this was just a temporary move so that travelers wouldn’t have to worry about paying more money in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, however, Delta and United realized the elimination of these fees is actually a great thing for consumers and the airlines all together. 

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For Delta specifically, the airline will waive its $200 international change fee for any flight that “originates in the US or between the US, Mexico and the Caribbean going forward, including code-share flights,” according to the company’s announcement. Basic economic fares are excluded and according to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian this elimination has proven to be extremely valuable.

“Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we’re extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends.”  

Delta is going to continue to charge $75 for same-day standby, but the airline is extending its Covid-19 policy waivers which removes change fees for all domestic and international tickets purchased through March 30th of this year. 

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United Airlines also recently announced that they would be eliminating change fees for international flights moving forward. For domestic flights, change fees will also be eliminated but only for flights booked before or on March 31st of this year. The airline wrote a statement in which they claimed that the decision was “made recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever.” 

United initially implemented the no-change fee policy back in August for all domestic flights which inspired a slew of other airlines in America to waive their flight change fees as well. American Airlines became the first US airline to get rid of change fees completely for all flights from North or South America and the airline has also eliminated their fee for domestic same-day standby.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, recently released a statement regarding the choice, stating that the company is “committed to making travel easier for customers who fly on American.” 

It’s expected that other modes of transportation that make up the tourism sector for the US’s economy will also begin to implement policies and waivers of fees like these airlines at least in the beginning of the post-pandemic reopening of the country as a means of rebuilding what was lost within the past ten months.

Travel during Covid-19

Increase in Travel Brings Surge in Covid

The massive increase in travel over the holiday period has brought fresh warnings from public health experts who believe the country should prepare for another increase in Covid-19 cases.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed that they had screened 1.28 million travelers throughout the country’s airports in one day, the highest number of travelers since the country went into lockdown in March. Although this figure is still around half as many as this time last year, more than one million people flew from American airports each day of the six day holiday period.

US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci spoke with CNN about his worries saying, “the reason I’m concerned and my colleagues in public health are concerned also is that we very well might see a post-seasonal, in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s, surge. And, as I have described it, as a surge upon a surge. Because if you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we have experienced as we have gone into the late fall and soon-to-be-early winter, it is really quite troubling.” He continued, “We are really at a very critical point.”

At the time of writing there have been 19,781,718 confirmed cases of coronavirus within America, with 343,182 fatalities. However according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest data, Tennessee, who has recorded 119.7 people infected per 100,000, has become the new center for the most infections. California is second at 95.7 people infected per 100,000.

As a result it is believed that California officials will be extending the current stay-at-home orders in areas where health institutes are struggling to cope. Gov. Gavin Newsom has also expressed his concern over the potential of a new surge of cases, due to the holiday travel.

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Although Newsom confirmed that some hospitals have seen their admissions plateauing, they were preparing to move into a ‘new phase’. Many schools, tents and arenas are being converted into makeshift hospitals however there appears to be difficulties with staffing them.

It has already been confirmed that San Joaquin Valley and Southern California intensive care units are at full capacity and Newsom has confirmed his stay-at-home orders will be implemented where ICUs have fewer than 15% capacity stating, “As we move into this new phase, where we brace, where we prepare ourselves for what is inevitable now … based on the travel we have just seen in the last week and the expectation of more of the same through the rest of the holiday season of a surge on top of a surge, arguably, on top of, again, another surge.”

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer agrees saying, “The sad reality is that all indicators tell us that our situation may only get worse as we begin 2021.”

Meanwhile Dr. Mark Ghaly, State health secretary, continued to encourage people to stay home for New Year’s celebrations to try to curb an increase in cases throughout January. “Things that were, a month ago or two months ago, a low-risk activity today are really high risks because of the level of COVID that’s circulating in our communities.”

Further states have also seen an increase in cases. Both New York City and state confirmed there was a 7.07% positivity rate over a 7-day average over the Christmas period with many experts predicting that if the number of cases continues to increase as they currently are, deaths in America could reach 500,000 by the end of winter.

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And with the new coronavirus mutation discovered in the south of England, officials are monitoring the situation to ensure that the strain does not spread to America, although many experts believe that the variant is already in multiple countries and purely discovered in the UK due to their stringent testing facilities.

As the strain is believed to be up to 70% more infectious, anyone wishing to enter the US who has traveled from the UK must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test within the three days prior to their flight.

Los Angeles health officials have confirmed they are already testing for the new mutation with Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine telling ABC-7 News that he “wouldn’t be surprised that it’s already here.”

It was hoped that the distribution of the vaccine would be in place by now however it is now believed that the start date has been pushed back several months. Operation Warp Speed had announced they expected to administer the vaccine to 20 million citizens by the end of 2020; a target that was not reached after only 1.9 million people received the injection.

President-elect Joe Biden recently confirmed he believed that the pandemic within the US would get worse before we start to see any improvement saying, “One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I’m going to tell it to you straight. I’m going to tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us.”

Las Vegas

New Year’s in Nevada

Only twelve months ago we stepped eagerly into 2020, unaware of what a trying year it would be. It is understandable then that the step from 2020 to 20201 is being treated with trepidation as we struggle to understand what the New Year may bring.

So where should you spend the end of 2020? Nevada is a state that is full of excitement and wonder, whatever time of the year you decide to visit, with the New Year celebrations one of the highlights of the year.

The Las Vegas Strip is one of the busiest, flashiest and exciting areas in the US and December holds many extra activities. As well as the huge fireworks displays that marks the holidays the rich and famous head to the area to party throughout the period. This year may be slightly different, with some businesses still not fully reopened, but there is still fun to be had in the state this New Year’s Eve.

However those looking to plan their holidays in 2021/22, the New Year celebrations in Las Vegas are promising to be one of the biggest yet in Nevada history. The state closes to traffic between Russell and Sahara during the holidays to ensure that Nevada has one of the biggest block parties in the world!

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If you are heading to Las Vegas this year you can guarantee you will have a fantastic time, as there is something for everyone around every corner! Unfortunately there will be no fireworks this year but it is hopeful that 2021/22 will see the return of the bangs and light show that everyone loves.

There are still many parties and events in the region taking place at venues including The Venetian, Sahara Las Vegas and The Cromwell. Many more events are taking place at famous destinations such as Caesars Palace, who are hosting a ticket only event from 9pm, and Area15 where packages start from $300 to $1000 and include seats at a socially distanced table (or a private lounge table depending on the value of your ticket) and drinks as well as music and entertainment.

Reno is one of the most popular places to visit if you are looking for a good time and New Year’s Eve is no different. There are many activities to be found including the NYE Street Party that starts around 10pm and continues to the early hours of the morning. While crowds usually head to Reno Arch and the surrounding areas you can still see the festivities from further afield if you are worried about the large numbers of spectators.

During the party is the famous Downtown fireworks and countdown. Usually lasting around 13 minutes, the display can be seen for miles around due to being launched from 3 different rooftops. However if you cannot make Reno the event is streamed online as well as on television.

Nevada may be famous for Las Vegas and Reno but the state has offerings from towns and counties that are a must visit. Carson City, the capital of ‘The Silver State’, is probably most known for the gold and silver that were discovered there in the 1800s. However the town is home to a plethora of dining, shopping and cultural experiences and while many of the hospitality establishments still have restrictions – as does most of the industry across the country – you will still be able to enjoy a full-packed New Year’s Eve. Casino Fandango, Jimmy G’s and Bodines Casino are just a few of the places that you can head to for an entertaining end to the year.

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For those with families a trip to South Lake Tahoe is the perfect setting. With events such as the Heavenly Holiday New Year’s Eve party at Heavenly Village there will definitely be something for every generation.

The party usually includes a line-up featuring magicians, ice sculptures and live music – as well as DJs – and even has an extra countdown and ball-drop at 9pm for the younger ones.

The area is not just for families though and adult only parties can visit one of the many casinos in the area or even take in some music at the SnowGlobe Music Festival that held at the Lake Tahoe Community College.

With events also held in Mesquite, Lamoille, Sparks and many other towns across the state you are sure to find something to do. Including places that are a more quiet affair, such as Ely where you can explore the Native American ruins before heading to your secluded vacation rental home to celebrate the New Year with your family and/or friends.

However, it is important to remember that this year we are still adhering to restrictions imposed due to the on-going Coronavirus pandemic, including social distancing and limited opening hours. This New Year’s Eve has seen the majority of events turn into ticket only affairs so it is advisable to visit the venue’s website to avoid disappointment.

Travel Ban

UK Becomes Isolated After Latest Travel Bans

With reports that the UK has a third mutated strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly throughout the country, many leaders have banned travel from the stricken country, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the world.

In an attempt to stop the virus spreading throughout the world and causing more havoc on countries that are already under increasing pressure, flights from the country have been banned, stopping anyone from landing on their shores.

This has meant chaos for many who wanted to get away for the festive season or just return home to their families.

Currently more than 40 countries or territories have imposed the ban and it is believed many more are considering joining the list. This means that the majority of flights, ferries and rail travel have been stopped with many restrictions in place until January 6.

This follows moves from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to place over 24 million citizens into tier 4, the UK’s highest level of lockdown. The restriction comes into force from Boxing Day with no news of when it will be lifted, with residents in those areas only allowed to leave their homes for necessities such as food shopping. They are no longer allowed to mix with other households either inside or outside, however they can meet up with one person from another household but this is only outside and at a distance, a move many believe is to help the mental health of many of the people who live alone.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions in place.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also advised that restrictions should be imposed on any international travel from the UK.

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As well as borders being closed movement has been restricted and some countries are enforcing last minute quarantine rules, meaning those that have been able to travel are being contained to one area rather than enjoying their vacation or family time.

The FCO have confirmed they were looking at ways they could support any British nationals who have been affected by the new rules.

The World Health Organization (WHO) have been informed about the new strain of the virus which has seen cases in England increase to levels seen at the beginning of the pandemic. The new variant has also been found in a further six countries.

A report has claimed that scientists believe this new strain will be the dominant variant as it is nearly 70% more infectious than previous variants.

It is still unclear whether the new variant is UK born, there have been reports that it has come from South Africa, however it was UK scientists who first discovered it. Despite the uncertainty, borders around the world have closed to the island after they confirmed it had ‘run wild’ throughout the southern part of the country.

One of the biggest issues with border closures was the French/UK border. Thousands of haulage drivers have been stranded on a motorway near the Kent port of Dover after French officials closed the Channel Tunnel earlier in the week. Although French authorities have since allowed the border to be reopened they have insisted that anyone crossing has a negative Covid-19 test. As these can take around 30 minutes for a result there are still thousands of drivers who cannot get home to their families for Christmas. This has also caused concern about food deliveries to the UK and potential shortages over the coming days.

Elsewhere in Europe Germany has banned any travel from the UK by air, train, road or ship until at least January 6. This does not include freight, mail, medical or humanitarian travel.

Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Russia, Austria and Denmark have also suspended UK arrivals, as have Sweden, Norway, Croatia, Bulgaria, Finland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Luxembourg.

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Meanwhile Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Estonia, Morocco and Slovakia have banned flights from the UK until further notice.

Ireland, the UK’s closest neighbor, has banned all flights until New Year’s Eve although they are allowing Irish residents and any Irish-bound passengers who have been stranded in transit in the UK.

The Middle East has also implemented restrictions on the country – and others – with Israel banning flights from Britain, Denmark and South Africa quickly followed by a ban on all foreign nationals entering the country.

Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey have all banned foreign nationals entering the country and have even banned international flights for the time being. However Iran also took the step to demand any Iranian planes in the UK to return home without any passengers. Jordan and Kuwait have also implemented restrictions on flights.

Countries in Africa have gone slightly further with some countries such as Sudan banning travel from Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa, Tunisia have included Australia in their ban while Mauritius has denied anyone who has traveled within the UK within the last two weeks.

Canada has banned all flights while America, who has had bans in place for the majority of non-US citizens, is still debating on a total ban.

Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Grenada, Chile, Argentina, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Pakistan, India, Japan and Singapore have also implemented restrictions while it is believe many more will make announcements in the coming days.

Negative Covid Test

The US Is Requiring Negative Covid-19 Tests From All UK Travelers 

Any traveler from the United Kingdom coming into the United States will now need to arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result that was taken within three days of their flight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recently released this new requirement along with other restrictions. 

This specific requirement went into effect this past Sunday and applies to any passenger who is currently eligible to fly from the UK to the US; this includes US citizens as well. Airlines are responsible for confirming the negative test results before and after boarding as well. According to the CDC airlines will need to confirm the date that the test was taken, the type of test taken, and that the test was negative. 

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Passengers have the option of either getting the nucleic acid amplification test, or the antigen test, but it must be one or the other in order to actually apply; rapid tests aren’t accurate enough to provide the approval for travel. 

Travelers who may be in a UK airport due to a layover, and who are there for less than 24 hours, are exempt from the rule. Additionally, travelers who have tested positive for the coronavirus and fully recovered with a confirmed negative test within the three months prior to travel are also exempt. 

The passengers who have recently recovered from Covid-19 must have proof of their prior positive test, negative test after their recovery, and a letter from a doctor clearing them for air travel. These requirements come after dozens of other countries around the world banned travel all together from the UK due to the discovery of a new strain of the coronavirus. 

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While the new strain of Covid-19 is also treatable with the slew of vaccines now being made available internationally, it’s thought that this strain is more contagious and severe when compared to the virus we’ve been battling throughout the past year. Individuals who have contracted the new strain often endure a more severe case of Covid, and are much more transmissible to individuals around them. 

The US resisted a total ban on travel between the two nations and initially declined to create any new requirements. It’s also already been discovered that this new strain is in the US, and it’s likely been here since September. 

“While it is known and expected that viruses constantly change through mutation leading to the emergence of new variants, preliminary analysis in the UK suggests that the discovered variant may be more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with an estimated potential to increase the transmissibility of the virus by up to 70%. This additional testing requirement will strengthen protection of the American public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel,” the CDC stated within the new set of guidelines. 

Once individuals get to the US the CDC recommends getting tested three to five days after arrival and self-quarantining for seven days even with a negative test result.

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New Zealand and Australia Work on Travel Bubble

Travel news around the world has not been positive for many this year, but those living in Australia and New Zealand have been handed an early Christmas present.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has confirmed that they will be working with Australia during the first few months of 2021 to implement a travel bubble, meaning people traveling between the two countries will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

The in-principle move has been called a ‘first step’ in the massive task of making international travel normal again, with Australian health minister Greg Hunt saying he believed that the Australian government would ‘absolutely’ be looking to approve the required steps as soon as it was safe to do so.

However, it was agreed by both countries that there was still a long way to go before any definite announcement could be confirmed with Ardern saying, “it is our intention to name a date… in the new year, once remaining details are locked down.”

Ardern continued, “New Zealand currently has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate and lowest number of active cases of OECD countries”.

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However both countries agreed that there were still a variety of concerns and issues that they needed to finalize, including how they would keep passengers from ‘safe zones’ and countries that are still affected by Covid-19 separate. There is also a concern that there will be a ‘flood’ of New Zealand citizens returning home if Australia’s infection numbers increase.

When asked about the policy Hunt confirmed that Australia was happy to move forward and were happy to wait until New Zealand were ready saying, “we understand it may take a few more weeks, but we are working constructively and patiently.

“New Zealand has been a great partner and I have previously spoken with my counterpart in New Zealand, they have done well through the pandemic.”

When the countries are both ready it is believed that they could both benefit from the ‘positive outcomes’ that their pandemic strategies has produced. “That just means more people getting to see their loved ones or people being able to take a well-earned break and that’s good for Australians, it is good for New Zealanders”.

Before Covid-19 exploded around the world – causing the pandemic that many countries, including America, are still trying to get under control – New Zealand welcomed Australian visitors as their biggest visitor market with nearly fifty per cent of their international arrivals coming from the neighboring country.

At the moment Australia has allowed New Zealanders to travel to many areas of their country without insisting on any isolation. However when they return back to New Zealand they have to quarantine for 14 days. Australians are not allowed into any region of New Zealand until this travel bubble has been confirmed.

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Arden had already confirmed that New Zealand was looking at creating a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, again in the first few months of the new year but before the bubble with Australia.

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, has already made plans to visit Auckland airport to he could see what arrangements could be made to accommodate the new guidelines that are in place, saying that the airlines as well as the airport would need the time to get themselves ready for the return of passenger travel.

A statement by Air New Zealand confirmed that the news was a ‘great step forward’.

The airline’s chief executive Greg Foran said, “Our teams are busy preparing for recommencing quarantine-free travel. Safety is obviously a big priority for our airline, and we’ve been working closely with governments, relevant agencies and airports on what is required to keep our customers and staff safe once travel opens up.

“We appreciate people are enthusiastic about travel, and we can assure customers that as soon as it is viable, Air New Zealand will be ready.”

Meanwhile chief executive of Auckland airport, Adrian Littlewood, confirmed that they had already begun to construct separate areas for travelers moving in and out of the country that had now been completed. The airport has also constructed a ‘health management area’ for those who may need treatment, quarantine or isolation.

Littlewood confirmed, “Auckland Airport will be prepared to implement passenger separation once the government is ready to allow quarantine-free travel.”

Hipkins has recently faced criticism for the country’s response to the health crisis following a report that highlighted ‘failures’. The report found that communication and testing issues were high however Hipkins has defended New Zealand’s response saying, “I don’t want to skip over the fact that people have worked incredibly hard to do something that’s unprecedented. When you look at the overall outcomes that we have achieved we can be proud of those. The report highlights where we could have done better – there’s no question the system has been learning as it’s been going along.”

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Visit Idaho – The Perfect Gem This Christmas

Thanks to the vast array of natural resources, scenic areas and wild vistas, it is easy to see why Idaho is known as the Gem State.

As part of the world famous Yellowstone National Park, Idaho is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, families, weekends away or those taking a solo trip to explore both the area and yourself.

From mountain biking and hiking through the scenic areas to white-water rafting and fishing at Big Wood River you can be sure to find something for everyone.

In the summer many are drawn to the area for the camping and beautiful views that can be found in every corner, while in winter the Schweitzer Mountain provides a magical source for skiing, snowboarding and tubing.

There are plenty of places to stay in the state with facilities for every budget, experience and group.

Kellogg is located 70 miles from Spokane and is home to the Silver Mountain Resort. Open throughout the year the resort offers winter sports for every member of the family, and at every level. As well as skiing, tubing and snowboarding you could also visit Idaho’s biggest indoor waterpark, Silver Rapids.

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In the warmer months you can enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities including gondola rides while if golfing is more your thing the Galena Ridge Golf Course is one of the best in the world.

Another mountain resort that is popular with visitors is Burgdorf Hot Springs. Located high in the central Idaho mountains – around 30 miles from McCall – the resort is more ‘off the grid’ than Silver Mountain Resort.

Rather than hotel rooms, Burgdorf has 15 rustic cabins available to rent and being so high in the mountains you can only reach the resort in winter using snowmobiles – during the summer you can drive there easily.

To stay off the grid there is no running water or electricity and with only limited menus it is encouraged that all guests bring their own food. While this may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday, skiing in the area is one of the biggest draws. A day on the slopes can be finished with the second biggest attraction at the resort, the 100 °f swimming pool, fed by a natural hot spring at around 150 gallons a minute.. As well as the large pool there are two smaller, hotter pools as well as a shallow pool for children to play in.

Hot springs are plentiful in Idaho so if a rustic approach is not something you would want to do make your way to Lava Hot Springs in the Portneuf River valley. This quaint little city has grown thanks to the number of visitors that the springs has attracted. The area, including the land and the springs, were formerly part of the Fort Hall reservation until they were sold in the late 1800s to the government.

The previous owners of the springs – the Shoshone-Bannock people – called them the Poha-Ba, the Land of Healing Waters, due to the minerals that were bountiful and known for their healing properties. There are five hot pools, each with a temperature of between 102° and 112°f and also includes an Olympic pool, diving areas, water slides and a Kiddie Cove.

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If you prefer beaches to mountains you need to visit Lake Coeur d’Alene, a 25-mile long natural lake that is full of stunning beaches and beautiful views. Not only does the North Idaho Centennial Trail run along the north shore of the lake the city of Coeur d’Alene is just nearby.

Boating, kayaking, sailing and fishing are popular activities at the lake while many also enjoy swimming in the clear waters.

A trip to Idaho would not be complete without a walk around the botanical garden in what was once the State Penitentiary in Boise’s Old Penitentiary Historic District. The gardens have become a living museum and are home to a vast range of botanical specimens. As well as welcoming visitors the Idaho Botanical Gardens also provides educational programs, entertainment and several community and cultural events. And with over 800 species from 42 families within the 14 different gardens, spaced out around the 15-acre land, it is easy to see why visitors love coming here.

As with every state within the country, Idaho has many museums for you to visit, including the Museum of Clean in Pocatello that looks at how clean is a major factor in our lives. Clean air, clean language, clean politics and clean water are just some of the aspects the 75,000 square foot building looks at via a blend of education and inspiration.

With a mission statement to show how the different aspects of clean affects our lives the museum includes a tour, displays and many artefacts.

The state also has several theme and water parks including the Silverwood Theme Park near Coeur d’Alene which has carnival rides and an original steam train as well as a ‘main street’ full of shops and dining facilities. Although opened in 1998 the park added the Boulder Beach Water Park in 2003, which offers a choice of 65 rides and slides as well as shows and attractions.

Due to the current climate it is worth calling your destinations in advance to ensure that opening hours have not been restricted as well as establishing what Covid-19 rules have been put in place.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Christmas in Colorado

The holiday season is one of wonder, magic and awe.  Where decorations, light displays and snow make anything seem possible and shows the world in a more positive light, something we desperately need at the end of a year that has been full of sadness and despair.

We have been looking at the best states to visit during the festive period and we are sure you will agree that Christmas in Colorado is a vacation you do not want to miss.

Full of snowy peaks, cute towns and bustling cities, the Centennial State really comes into its own during December meaning you can get a dose of the holiday spirit during the most wonderful time of the year.

One of the first places you must visit is Ouray, a town that claims to be the ‘Switzerland of America’.  And you can see why.  Filled with events and festivals all year round, Ouray really comes into its own during the colder months, especially when they hold their very own WinterFest.

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With events including art exhibitions, ice rinks and sledding you will find something to do each day.  They also have some amazing trails including the Ouray Perimeter Trail.  Spanning six miles in length the trail has some stunning scenery whatever the season however if you visit during the snowy weather you are in for some spectacular sights.  As well as four waterfalls and five bridges you can also hike along the different terrains – at some points elevating around 1,600 feet.  It is estimated that this trail could take between four and five hours and good hiking shoes are recommended.

If hiking is not your idea of the perfect way to spend a winter vacation make your way to the state’s capital Denver, where you are invited to the ‘Mile High Holidays’.  The city is full of festive cheer and is host to Christmas markets and events to celebrate the season as well as the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park.  With some of the best light displays you will ever see – including the increasingly popular Mile High Tree that as well as marveling at its beauty from the outside you can step inside the tree and ‘look up’  – Denver is certainly one to put in your ‘must visit’ list.

Known as the ‘gateway to the Rocky Mountains’, Georgetown is the ideal destination for anyone wanting to spend their festive period on the slopes.  As well as skiing the area offers snowboarding and snowshoeing in a multitude of resorts including Copper Mountain, located only 35 miles from Georgetown.  Copper Mountain not only offers all of the activities mentioned – as well as lessons in them all – but also has the Rocky Mountain Coaster.  Taking you through the forest, the 5,800 feet length of track is one of North America’s longest alpine coasters and allows you to view the Ten Mile Range.  The coaster can travel up to 25 miles per hour so it may not be for everyone.

Head back to Georgetown and admire the historic Christmas scene that the town puts on each year.  As well as lights galore the town includes horse drawn wagons, Victorian dressed carolers, shopping and roasted chestnuts. Christmas at the Hamill House offers you the chance to watch a traditional tree lighting, caroling and plenty of food to keep you going until New Year.

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If entertainment, arts and culture as well as highly recommend restaurants is the perfect way for you to spend the holidays make your way to Glenwood Springs.  As well as ice-skating, skiing, snowmobiling and fat biking, the area provides some spa activities, including the famous hot springs the town is named after.  There are currently three hot springs attractions in the area so you have several to chose from.   Whether you prefer historic, natural or the latest place, a trip to a hot spring retreat is a sure fire way to end the year.

One of the most exciting activities to do is to take a trip on the Polar Express™, a train service put on by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and takes you directly from Durango all the way to the North Pole!  Well Colorado’s North Pole.  Find out if you can still hear the bell as the train recreates the family favorite, The Polar Express featuring Tom Hanks.  Once at the North Pole there is so much to see you will not know where to look first.

You can visit Santa’s workshop as well as meet some of his reindeer.  There is also a myriad of characters from the story just waiting to greet you, as are some of his elves who have taken time away from the workshop just for you!  After spending time in the North Pole you will receive hot chocolate and cookies as well as a gift direct from Santa.  The whole trip takes just over an hour and is the perfect treat for any Christmas period.

Whatever you decide to do this holiday season make sure you respect any socially distanced guidelines and rules that have been put in place and have a safe and happy holidays.