Expo ’98 in Portugal

One of the “must-see” events in Europe next year will be Expo ’98 hosted by Lisbon, Portugal. Building on the UN resolution which declared 1998 the “International Year of the Oceans,” the Lisbon exposition from May 22 to Sept. 30 will showcase the world’s oceans — their past, present and future.

The past will focus on the Portuguese Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries — an era when this small European country was one of the world’s most powerful maritime forces. May 22 is set aside to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s voyage of discovery to India around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. He landed in India 500 years ago, May 22, 1498.

In Lisbon, authorities have razed the unsightly old factories and abandoned storage yards along the Tagus River. Exhibit buildings, Europe’s largest aquarium, apartments for 25,000 people, restaurants, roads, transportation facilities and parks have been erected in their place — lasting rejuvenation to downtown Lisbon. More than 165 countries, including Canada, will be represented at this maritime showcase.

Ships of all shapes, sizes and age will be on display. One highlight will be a regatta featuring 120 of the world’s elegantall ships, another will mark the finish of a round- the-world, 28,000-mile sailing rally.

Lisbon is served from Canada by British Airways, through London’s Heathrow, and with regular charter flights out of Toronto by Portugal’s national airline, TAP. For complete details on Expo ’98, contact the Portuguese Trade and Tourism Commission at 60 Bloor St. West, Suite 1005, Toronto, Ont. M4W 3B8; or phone (416) 921-7376, fax (416) 921-1353.

Eastward bound

Canadians made a record 2.6 million visits to Europe in 1996, according to Statistics Canada. And they spread the wealth — more than $2.4 billion, excluding air fares. Half of the visits were for pleasure only, another 24 per cent reported visiting relatives or friends, 19 per cent were business trips and the remainder listed “other” reasons. Your guess is as good as mine as to what “other” could be.

“With increased target marketing and service to fast- growing provinces such as British Columbia,” says Francoise Ducret of the French tourist office and chairman of the Canadian Chapter of the European Travel Commission, “Europe is gaining a broader appeal to Canadians. For example, Vancouver is now served by non-stop flights to Britain, Germany and France. Plus there are now an abundance of modestly-priced charter flights from Canada to Europe — good news for all concerned.”

Air Canada — a senior

It was 60 years ago that Trans-Canada Airlines, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railways, first took to the air. From that small beginning in 1937 with five aircraft and 71 employees, Air Canada and its five regional airlines now boasts 24,000 employees and 219 planes. And it’s still growing — with a 20 per cent increase this summer in flights to vacation spots in Europe, Israel, Asia and the U.S. Air Canada has also launched four new flights to U.S. destinations: Dallas-Fort Worth, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and Phoenix.

Hassle-free travel

That’s what British Airways is calling its program of transatlantic flights from Toronto and Vancouver to Britain and Europe. “We’ve put together a unique array of travel packages in our newest Package Holidays brochure,” says Malcolm Freeman, BA’s Canadian general manager, “with passengers now able to mix and match while designing their itinerary.”

For example, BA is offering “Europe Air Pass,” a rover- type ticket allowing three to 12 flights within Europe for as little as $120 per flight. They’ve also assembled more than a hundred affordable hotels in France, The Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The packages are reasonable. For example in Paris, hotel rates start at $56 per person, double occupancy.

BA will operate 10 flights a week from Toronto to London’s Heathrow, plus daily direct service to Birmingham, and daily 747 flights from Vancouver to London. New this summer, are daily flights from Montreal to London on the recently-launched 777 aircraft.

A helping hand

Canadian Pacific hotels across the country have embarked on a worthwhile program. “Adopt-A-Shelter” will assist women’s shelters and help battered women start a new life for themselves and their children. Each of CP’s 26 sites will adopt a shelter in their respective cities and assist women and children in setting up new households with donations of goods, services and financial support.

“When you have over 11,000 rooms and you renovate and upgrade them on a regular basis, you have lots of items ideal for donation,” says Ann Checkley-Layton, CP’s vice- president of public affairs. “We hope these goods will make a difference for women and children in need.”

Each hotel will donate items such as sheets, towels, lamps, beds, dressers, dishes and curtains. In addition, CP hotels will donate $150,000 over the next three years to help the Canadian Women’s Foundation administer the Canadian Pacific Violence Prevention Fund and will sponsor a number of violence prevention programs across the country.

Israel in Real Time

That’s the name of Israel’s latest travel guide which proudly boasts it combines “everything you need to know together with everything you never expected to discover” about this beautiful country. It details hotels, restaurants, airlines, archaeological sites and museums and is available free by calling the Israel Government Tourist Office at 1-800-669-2369.

A wee dram of whisky

While it doesn’t start until Oct. 27, Scotland’s first- ever International Scotch Whisky Festival already has over 2,000 bookings. Held in Edinburgh and Speyside from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, the festival is supported by 10 distilleries and will feature ceilidhs, specialty nosings and tastings, distillery visits, guided tours and gala dinners. For further information, contact the International Scotch Whisky Festival, 6A Forth St., Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 3LD, or call the Canadian headquarters of the British Tourist Authority (416) 925-6326 or toll free 1-888-847-4885.

Falling all over themselves

The spectacular nightly light show at Niagara Falls is “switched” on again — enhancing one of the world’s true wonders. The lights are on from now to Aug. 30 between 9 p.m. and midnight; Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 between 8 p.m. and midnight; from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31 between 7 p.m. and midnight, and Nov. 1 to Nov. 20, between 6.30 .m. and 10 p.m.

Feel a chill?

Air Transat Holidays is expanding its Florida program for the coming winter with increased services to Clearwater, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach plus new flights to Sarasota and Fort Myers. Air Transat will now have a total of 30 flights a week to Florida this winter. As well, it added a condo program with stays of one to six weeks. Air Transat’s winter brochure will be available from travel agents in early August.

“Free”-dom to dial

One of the annoyances of staying in hotels around the world are their inflated charges for making local calls from your room. Canadian Pacific Hotels recently announced that guests at their 26 Canadian properties can now make as many local calls as they want — for free.

Floating homes for rent

Egan Houseboats have been operating on Ontario’s Trent- Severn Waterway for over 25 years. The drive-yourself, fully-equipped houseboats can accomodate up to eight passengers for a leisurely cruise along the 240-miles of the Waterway’s scenic lakes and rivers. There are literally thousands of islands and coves in which to anchor, or dozens of towns and villages to visit along the way. Prices start at $399 for a three-day weekend on a six-passenger craft and go up to $599 for a week with the eight-passenger boat. For more information, contact Egan Marine, R.R. 4, Omemee, Ont. K0L 2W0; phone toll-free 1-800-720-3426.

Footprints around the world

Ulysses Books has expanded its list of highly- recommended Footprint guide books with 14 new titles launched this year featuring off-the-beaten-track destinations. The Montreal-based publisher has four new books on South America (Peru, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Galapagos), five on Asia (Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos), plus four new titles on African countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique). Ulysses is Canada’s largest travel publisher with over 80 titles, ranging in price from $24.95 to $49.95. The books are available in major bookstores or by contacting Ulysses headquarters at 4176 St. Denis St., Montreal, Quebec H2W 2M5.

Good grub in the U.K.

Planning to visit England’s West Country in the near future? Write to the West Country Tourist Board, 60 St. David’s Hill, Exeter, U.K., EX4 4SY, for a free copy of The Trencherman’s West Country, a 20-page booklet listing 32 of the best restaurants in the south-west of England. It’s highly recommended by our travel editor.

Free, but fine

Of the “freebie” attractions in the U.K., the British museum with its 6.2 million annual visitors ranks most popular, while Westminister Abbey tops all churches and cathedrals with 2.5 million sightseers. Hampton Court Gardens is the number one visitors choice of gardens with 1.2 million people passing through its turnstyles.

Bowling and beasts

Murray Chambers, an enthusiastic lawn bowler and semi- retired travel agent, is organizing 16-day lawn bowling trips to South Africa, plus visits to the country’s magnificent game reserves. The bowling safaris (via Toronto and Miami) include visits to Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town. Departures are Oct. 29, Nov. 19 this year and March 4 in 1998 with the tab starting at $4,299 (plus $115 departure taxes), per person, double occupancy. For further information, contact Murray at (416) 449-0931 in Toronto or call toll-free 1-800-265-2817.

Dutch treat

Rail Europe has launched the Holland Rail Pass Plus, offering unlimited train travel for three, five or 10 days in the Netherlands, plus free travel on all buses, subways and trams. Cost of the new pass is $142 for three days first class and $81 for second class. For further information, call toll-free 1-800-361-7245. Rail Europe also reports a sales surge of the European East Pass which offers unlimited first-class train travel in Poland, Hungary, Czech republic, Slovakia and Austria. The basic five-day pass costs $269 with an additional five days available for $30.

St. Paul’s 300th birthday

St. Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s magnificent domed church which dominates London’s skyline, celebrates the 300th anniversary of its opening on Dec. 2. Special concerts and displays are scheduled from Oct. 9. Wren began the cathedral following the Great Fire of London in 1666 and it opened its doors for worship in 1697. For further details, call the Canadian headquarters of the British Tourist Authority (416) 925-6326 or toll free 1-888-847- 4885.

Walk on the wise side

It’s the best way to really see what’s around you — rather than whizzing by in a car or bus. Ron and Cindy Maynard have been arranging walking tours for close to 20 years. Their “do-it-by-foot” excursions take in various regions of Canada plus England, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. The walks are divided into easy, moderate and challenging. For a brochure write to: Country Walkers, P.O. Box 180, Waterbury, Vermont 05676-0180 USA; call toll-free 1-800-464-9255.

A seniority “perk”

Visitors 55 years and over qualify for a whopping 75 per cent discount from now to Sept. 30 at the renovated Westin Resort Miami Beach, bringing rates down as low as $75US per night. Formerly the Doral Beach Ocean Resort, the Westin has gone through a multi-million dollar facelift. Just present proof of age license when checking-in to save a bundle. For more details, call toll-free 1-800-937-8461.