A Postcard from China and Japan
What is it about Asia that beckons travellers over and over? Part of the allure of lands like China and Japan lies in how they’ve remained on the cusp of the ancient and the modern; when you visit, you find places that have been untouched by time in the middle of the hustle and bustle of a modern world.

In the heart of Beijing, venture into the Forbidden City, one of the largest and best-preserved palace complexes in the world. Comprised of 210 acres of stunning pavilions, gardens and courtyards, this was home to 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Nearby the 100-acre Tiananmen Square can accommodate up to 1 million people, and is the focal point for rallies and protests.

Tour the city’s maze of narrow streets and alleys in a rickshaw, indulge in authentic dim sum and other culinary favourites, and see a spectacular performance at the Great Hall of the People. Next, visit the majestic Great Wall of China spanning 7,000 miles, built to protect the northern border from barbarians and marauding nomads.

The Temple of Heaven is the stunning architectural pinnacle of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Covering 273 hectares, this was the place where the emperors went to worship and pray for a prosperous harvest. In the early mornings, when the fragrance of old cypresses fills the air, the temple grounds are full of people practicing various forms of exercise.

Dalian is a busy port in the western L?shunkou District. Delve deeper into Chinese history at the L?shun Museum, which houses more than 300,000 historical pieces like the Double-Dragon Bronze Basin of the Song Dynasty, and the earliest known silk Buddhist scripture from Xinjiang.

postcards from afar 3Next, cruise the Yellow Sea to Shanghai, where you can visit the Bund—the former financial hub of colonial Shanghai, and the city’s most notable sightseeing spot. Continue on through the free- spirited French Quarter before your cruise along the East China Sea to Nagasaki, Japan, where you can visit the sombre Peace Park. It’s here where almost 75,000 people lost their lives from the atomic bomb in 1945.

Before departing Nagaski, visit the 19th-century Oura Church, acclaimed as Japan’s oldest Gothic-style wooden Catholic church. End your time in Nagaski with a panoramic view of the city at Glover Garden.

Osaka and Shimizu are your next stops where you can visit Osaka Castle, built in the late 16th century. In Shimizu, enter Nihondaira Athletic Park for a spectacular view of Mount Fuji.

Tokyo will be the last stop of your land and sea adventure. A place where East meets West, this remarkable metropolis is home to the Tokyo Tower and the forbidden Imperial Palace Plaza. Unforgettable.

For more information on this and other ventures in Asia, call Zaneta Rochemont of Cruise Holidays of Clarkson at 905-855-1700.

A Postcard from a European Barge
I always try to keep up with current travel trends, and when a travel venue gets me going, I like to share it. Allow me to tantalize you with the latest travel craze among Canadians: barging! I predict it’s going to become almost as well-loved as river cruising.

Forget the mindset of the rusty old steamboat barges like the African Queen, chugging along the muddy waters in East Africa— barging dates back to the 16th century. It had a different meaning from the travel experience that it is today—history buff passengers will be enthused to learn their barges were once cargo ships drifting along the same winding waterways.

A European Waterways barge, on the other hand, is a different experience altogether—it’s more like a floating luxury hotel. It allows you to discover the soul of Europe along canals, lakes, lagoons and lochs, and gives you the opportunity to experience life there from a unique perspective.

Your barge includes accommodation in air-conditioned, en- suite cabins, gourmet meals, a champagne welcome, open bar, excursions and admittance fees, use of bicycles and barge facilities, local transfers, and the services of an experienced crew. The barges carry from 6 to 22 people, enabling an intimate setting for diverse groups. They’re perfect for families, adult groups and individual couples.

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Once underway, the barge moves sedately from one mooring to the next. Wander along the towpath on foot or by bicycle, or get off at the locks along the way. Accompanying minivans will take you to small villages, farms or places of interest, such as wine tastings in the Loire Valley, Alsace-Lorraine and Provence. In Burgundy and England, hot-air ballooning during dawn or dusk is an exciting option. The air is still, and the light is perfect for drifting along and gazing down at the beautiful countryside.

The barge offers unforgettable meals by chefs whose gastronomic creations are often rated higher than top restaurants. Passengers can shadow chefs as they go scouring for the menu of the day. Ingredients come from local markets, and special dietary requests are happily accommodated.

Themed cruises are also offered. Golf cruises in the United Kingdom and France all have great courses such as Royal Dornock, Wentworth, Sunningdale and Galway Bay, which should be enough to inspire any keen golfer.

For a one-week all-inclusive cruise, prices range from $4,000 to $5,000 (airfare extra). Barge cruising is increasing in popularity, so book early!

For more information call Yvonne Mostowy of Carlson Wagonlit Travel at 905-274-0900. Check out our website at toodaloo.com and our new single ladies information site at womensowntravelclub.ca.