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Cultivating That Human Connection

One of the greatest perks of travel is making a human connection. Travel has the ability to expose you to different ways of living, and it is this exposure that allows us to gain new perspectives and outlooks on life. LeafCanoe recently connected with LeafCanoer, Kathryn Damicone, also known as sociokathy, to talk about what it means to travel and make human connections.

Kathryn is a sociologist by trade, but a traveler at heart, and shares her travel experiences on the blog, Sociokathy. Her travels focus on connecting with people and breaking down cultural barriers. Many of her leaves reflect this desire for cultural understanding, from exploring the history of Dresden in “Destination Dresden“, to experiencing Maui’s local treasures in “Maui’s Must See List.” For Kathryn, whose motto is “helping humans understand humans,” travel is about cross-cultural connections and gaining new perspectives on humanity.

human connection

To get to know her travel philosophy better, we asked Kathryn to share with us her perspectives and experiences with travel.

What is behind “Helping Humans Understand Humans”
“Helping humans understand humans” stems from a simple philosophy that travel is the best way to help people understand human nature. Too often our lack of understanding about other cultures can fuel judgement and fear. When we look at the world through the eyes of only our own culture, our ethnocentric tendencies can shadow the beauty behind the mystery of humankind. I believe that experience and education are the keys to open-mindedness, and what better way to experience life than to travel the world! The more I’ve explored this precious planet, the more my mind has expanded about both myself and others. My love for travel and my love for other cultures merged into a lifelong commitment to help humans understand humans for who they are, not just how we perceive them. I hope to inspire people to travel and experience new cultures for themselves as well. People are mysteriously beautiful, we just have to give ourselves permission to go out there and see it for ourselves.

human connection

What do you look for when you travel?
When I travel, I am always looking for an adventure. I search for a place that I can get out of my comfort zone and learn something new about other cultures, people, which in turn always leads to learning something new about myself.

What’s your travel motivation and goals?
Aside from “helping humans understand humans”, I try to do at least one thing every day that scares me, no matter how big or how small. After all, I’d rather regret something I did than something I didn’t do.

human connection

What has been your favorite travel memory so far?
That is a tough question! I have had so many amazing experiences it’s very hard to narrow it down to only one. But if I had to choose, I would say being in Dresden, Germany in the summer of 2014 when Germany won the World Cup. The game was displayed on a large white sheet that was draped over a concert hall structure. Everyone watched the game along the hill that ran along the Elbe River. Germans (especially the younger generations) are very hesitant to display “pride” in their country, so to see them excited for their country’s success was really exciting.

What leaves can we expect next from you?
Upcoming leaves will include some from Europe and the midwest region of the United States. Europe will include Budapest, various cities in Italy, various cities in Germany, and also Ireland. Midwest region of the US will include cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and the Lake Erie Shores. Stay tuned!

human connection

Read more about Kathryn’s travels in her leaves: “Destination Dresden,” “Maui’s Must See List,” and “Canadian Rockies Summer Guide“. To discover more leafs from other LeafCanoers, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Quebec City Highlights: A Taste of France

If you live in North America, you don’t have to travel all the way to Europe to get a taste of France. Quebec City, located in southeastern Canada, is a city with a history and culture highly influenced by the French. LeafCanoer, daijie, recently shared her Quebec City highlights in her leaf entitled, “Spending New Year in Quebec City.” It’s full of great tips on how to enjoy this French-Canadian provincial capital in the winter months.

Quebec City highlights

One of the oldest settlements in North America, Quebec City, was originally colonized by the French, who ruled the city and its surrounding areas since the 1500’s. It fell under British rule in the late 1700’s, but managed to retain some of its French flavor. Since then, Quebec City has served as the provincial capital of Quebec, the main French-speaking province of Canada. For any visitor to Quebec City, exploring the city is a great way to understand the immense influence the French had on Quebecois culture, and also experience the way the people of the area have reshaped that influence into something distinctly Canadian. For those planning a visit, here are some Quebec City highlights.

Explore the Old Town
The historical part of Quebec City, known as Old Quebec, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, and boasts itself as being the only walled city north of Mexico. With its cobblestone lined streets and old brick buildings, Old Quebec exudes European charm. The whole area is walkable and takes about thirty minutes to walk from one end to the other. From the Old Port, you can take in spectacular views of the Saint Lawrence River, as well as visit shops and restaurants along the riverside promenade. In the Petit Champlain district, you can visit the Place Royale, the site of the first settlement of Quebec. Or if you’re looking for a more low key activity, you can spend the day relaxing on the Plains of Abraham, known to many as Quebec City’s version of Central Park.

Quebec City highlights

Live in style at Le Chateau Frontenac
For another taste of Quebec’s French-inspired history, visit Le Chateau Frontenac, one of the most photographed hotels in the world. The hotel was built in the late 1800’s as a way for the Canadian Pacific Railway company to promote luxury tourism. Overlooking the Saint Lawrence River and Dufferin Terrace, Le Chateau Frontenac is still a popular hotel, with a capacity of over 600 rooms covering 18 floors. Guests to the hotel are treated to the style of Old Europe, with the conveniences and comforts of modern amenities. The hotel even has an indoor pool and fitness spa, which is complimentary to all guests.

Quebec City highlights

Celebrate winter at the Quebec Winter Carnival
This time of year is the perfect time to visit Quebec City. From the end of January until the middle of February, the city participates in the Carnaval du Quebec, also known as the Quebec Winter Carnival. The carnival first began in 1894 as a way for the inhabitants of the city to get through the hardships of winter. Since then, the carnival has evolved into a large city-wide celebration, drawing thousands of tourists each year. This year’s carnival features over 200 activities, including a night parade, snow sculptures, music, dog sledding, and canoe racing. There are also horse-drawn carriage rides, known in Quebec City as carioles, that visitors can take around the Plains of Abraham.

Quebec City highlights

Quebec City is a great starting off point for exploring the rest of French Canada. With its beautiful streets, picturesque skyline, and old European charm, Quebec City has much to offer for visitors to the city.

For more ideas about what to do in Quebec City, check out more of daijie’s leaf, or you can download the LeafCanoe app to share your own Quebec City highlights.

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Why You Need to Visit the Canadian Rockies

Experiencing the great outdoors is something that can be enjoyed any time of year. In spite of the cold winter months, a visit to a place like the Canadian Rockies can be jam-packed with outdoor activities. LeafCanoer, sociokathy’s leaf, “Canadian Rockies Summer Guide,” talks about the many things visitors can do when visiting the Canadian Rockies in the summer. But even in the dead of winter, there are plenty of other reasons to visit the Canadian Rockies.

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Natural Wonders
Majestic snow-peaked mountains dominate the scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Accentuated by bright blue lakes and lush evergreens, this mountain range, running from the Canadian prairies to the Pacific Coast, boasts stunning scenery all year round. The Canadian Rockies’ mountains impress all those who come to visit. From high peaks like Mount Robson and Mount Columbia, to smaller ones like the Snow Dome, these mountains certainly stand tall along the Canadian Rockies’ skyline. Aside from mountains, the Canadian Rockies also serves as the source of many rivers including the Fraser, the Columbia, The North Saskatchewan, the Bow, and the Athabasca Rivers.

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National Parks
The Canadian Rockies consist of five national parks: Jasper, Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Waterton. All five of these parks were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 due to its mountain landscapes. Additionally, they all offer a wide range of activities year-round for visitors of all types.

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Outdoor Activities
For the outdoor enthusiast, the Canadian Rockies is a dream come true. In the summer months, visitors can raft the white water rapids of rivers like the Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers. Alternatively, visitors can stick to dry land activities like rock climbing or hiking. In the winter months, places like Banff National Park offers back country skiing. And if you are of the more adventurous sort, you can try your hand at mountaineering, or even ice climbing.

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Festivals Galore
An abundance of events and festivals fill the calendar for the Canadian Rockies. Winterstart Festival kicks off the season with events in Banff and Lake Louise, running from mid-November to mid-December. Other winter festivals in the Canadian Rockies include Jasper in January, happening in mid to late January in Jasper, and the Winter Magic Festival, happening in the town of Hinton, Alberta in the month of February. The highlight of the spring season is the Canmore Uncorked Food and Drink Festival, a new culinary festival in the town of Canmore. The summer months, on the other hand, are packed with events and festivals, including Performance in the Park at Banff, the Wild Mountain Music Festival in Hinton, and the Canadian Death Race, a challenging adventure race taking place in August in Grande Cache, Alberta.

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Retreat from Urban Living
City life has its perks, but sometimes you need to get away and disconnect. For those who visit the Canadian Rockies, it’s more than just an opportunity to be close to nature, it’s also a retreat from the pressures of urban living. A peaceful hike among the trees, or soaking in the beauty of nature on the banks of Lake Louise can help bring you more perspective on what’s important in life.

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Fulfilling A Challenge
For many who come to the Canadian Rockies, a visit there is also a chance to fulfill a challenge. Whether it involves climbing some of the highest peaks, like Mount Robson, tackling the rapids on the Kicking Horse River, or backcountry camping at Banff National Park, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to challenge themselves and test their limits.

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From hiking to mountain biking, skiing to whitewater rafting, there is always something to do when you visit the Canadian Rockies, no matter what time of year. For more ideas on travel to Canada and to other destinations, download the LeafCanoe app.

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A Food Lover’s Guide to Foodie Calgary

You may not know this, but Calgary has a booming food scene. The third largest city in Canada, Calgary has a population of over 1 million, and offers a variety of activities from shopping to museums, festivals to sporting events. The city attracts over 4.2 million visitors a year. One of the main draws to Calgary is its food scene, which has slowly been gaining an international reputation. Within Calgary’s downtown area alone, there are over 200 restaurants and dining spots to choose from!

LeafCanoer, migrantmuse, recently shared their tips on the Calgary food scene in their leaf titled, “Calgary’s Foodie Guide.” For a taste of what the city has to offer, here’s a food lover’s guide to experiencing foodie Calgary.

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Have a drink
If you’re looking to just whet your appetite, why not begin with a drink? Calgary offers plenty of drink options, both in the non-alcoholic and alcoholic variety. For a daytime drink, there’s Cru Juice, a juice store that sells cold-pressed raw juice. Another popular place is Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar, which offers high end coffee, as well as wine options. Some of the best places to find cocktails in Calgary are Model Milk, where you’ll find unique cocktails mixed with fresh juices and liqueurs, and the Oak Room, which is an old-school style Calgary bar offering weekly live jazz.

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Explore the Beltline
When you’re ready for a meal, head over to the Beltline, Calgary’s main restaurant area. Here, you’ll find places like Corbeaux Bakehouse, which offers French-inspired food, coffee, and pastries, as well as fresh-baked breads. Another restaurant worth visiting is Parc, which also offers French cuisine. This traditional style bistro has a nice selection of charcuteries as well as classic French dishes like steak frites. For more tavern-style dining, head over to Local 510. This is also a great place to hear live music.

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Go local
Locally sourced food has been growing in popularity in recent years, as restaurants and diners become more conscious about the environmental impact of their food. In Calgary, there are a number of restaurants that source their food and supplies locally. The Coup, which offers vegetarian cuisine, uses organic and local ingredients, and makes many of their dishes from scratch. The Beltliner also sources their ingredients locally, and offers a modern interpretation of classic diner food. In addition, Vero Bistro Moderne uses local producers and suppliers to create unique and creative variations of French and Italian cuisine.

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Go global
One of the benefits of Calgary being the third largest city in Canada is its global influences. Here, you can find cuisine from all corners of the world, from Asia to Europe. A popular place for pho, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, is Golden Bell Saigon. And for Hong Kong-style food, many locals head to Calgary Court. Other popular international restaurants include The Himalayan, offering Nepali cuisine; Las Canaria, a casual dining establishment offering Spanish tapas; and Café Momoko, which focuses on Japanese cuisine.

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Go for comfort
If you’re more in the mood for comfort food, there are also plenty of options. LeafCanoer, migrantmuse, recommends 4th spot, which serves classic meals like burgers, tacos, and pastas. For pizza, many visitors to Calgary recommend Gaga Pizzeria, which offers fresh-baked pizzas, as well as homemade soups and sandwiches. For breakfast, a popular spot is OEB Breakfast Company, which has a variety of healthful and flavorful breakfast selections.

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Go high end
On the other end of the spectrum, Calgary has a large selection of critically acclaimed high end restaurants. Some of the top restaurants in the city, according to Calgary’s premier lifestyle magazine, Avenue Magazine, are Blink, Raw Bar, and River Café. Blink offers French-influenced cuisine, while Raw Bar serves Vietnamese-inspired dishes with a modern and creative twist. River Café, located in Prince’s Island Park, focuses on providing a unique dining experience in a unique setting. They offer a chef-created six-course tasting menu.

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Whether you’re looking to explore the local cuisine, or are in the mood to expand your palate globally, there is something for every taste bud in Calgary. This guide to foodie Calgary is just the beginning. For more information on some of these places to eat, check out migrantmuse’s leaf by downloading the LeafCanoe app.

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A DJ laying it down at Igloofest.

The Wintry Festivals of Quebec

The winter may not seem like a good time to visit Quebec, after all, it is freezing cold! But even though temperatures regularly plummet into the negatives, Quebec has a number of unique wintertime festivals to attract visitors. So if you can brave the cold, pack your winter coat and head to La Belle Province for a taste of what makes Quebec such a special place.

Montreal

Montreal is Quebec’s largest city and home to the world’s second largest Francophone community (after Paris). Though lively year round, Montreal’s festive spirit is on full display in the winter.

Igloofest

Igloofest is an annual electronic music festival that takes place outdoors in the Old Port of Montreal. Perhaps the world’s only frozen rave, Igloofest is a wild experience where young revelers and world-class DJs party together in a spectacular setting next to the St Lawrence River. Fitting with its frozen theme, there are ice bars and igloo lounges to keep the crowd entertained and campfires to keep them warm.

The festival takes place over a four-weekend period in January and February, and more than 60,000 people attend annually. Bring warm clothing though, as it’s a long and fun night in the cold.

A DJ laying it down at Igloofest.

A DJ laying it down at Igloofest / Photo credit Miguel Legault.

Montreal en Lumière and Nuit Blanche

In late February, shortly after Igloofest winds down, it’s time for another huge festival, Montreal en Lumière. This ten-day festival celebrates the impending arrival of spring with art exhibits, concerts, carnival rides and theater performances.

Make sure to catch the gourmet food stands and trucks set up around the city during the festival. Famed chefs from Montreal and the rest of Quebec set up shop to serve an array of regional delights.

Montreal en Lumière ends with a bang with the Nuit Blanche or “white night”. For one night only the city puts on almost 200 free art events. Galleries, museums and exhibitions all stay open until at least 2 a.m. and public transportation runs late into the night to accommodate visitors.

The Place des Festivals outdoor events area of the Montreal en Lumière Festival.

The Place des Festivals outdoor events area / Photo credit Frédérique Ménard Aubin


Quebec City

Quebec City, the quaint capital of Quebec, is located three hours from Montreal on the St Lawrence River. It’s North America’s only walled city and its old town is a labyrinth of meandering tiled lanes that are lined with small shops and cafes.

Carnaval de Quebec

Every February for two weeks Quebec City hosts the Winter Carnival or Carnaval de Quebec. This family-friendly event transforms the entire city into a winter wonderland with parades, ice sculptures, concerts and special events for children. Make sure to try the maple taffy!

Bonhomme Carnaval is the mascot for the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Bonhomme Carnaval is the mascot for the Quebec Winter Carnival / Photo credit Laserpdb CC BY-SA

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