Where the pros go: Canada's top travel writers pick their favorite destinations

Take a hike

Our West coast pal Judi Lees, author of Vancouver:The Ultimate Guide, has been travel writing since 1985, but she and her husband aren’t yet ready to just flop on a beach. Instead, they prefer to unwind with a self-guided walking trip through Tuscan hill towns, organized by Winnipeg-based Randonnée.

The trip combines enticing scenery, friendly locals and fascinating culture. And, after walking an average of 10 to 23 hilly kilometres per day, Lees and her husband can happily justify gourmet meals washed down with fine local wines. Highlights of the journey include leisurely picnics overlooking leafy vineyards, listening to Gregorian chants in a 12th-century abbey, Brunello wine tastings in Montalcino and a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pienza.

While you’ll definitely break a sweat on this adventure, the hiking isn’t that demanding. Your luggage is moved for you; your accommodation and most meals are booked; and you are given directions and maps. The season is March to November. You walk on your own, but if you encounter a problem, you can call for help. Bring good hiking boots and rain gear and brush up on your Italian as you’ll mingle more with the locals than you would on a guided tour.

Randonnée’s eight-day walk in Tuscany costs about $2,095 per person. It includes seven nights accommodation, all breakfasts, five dinners, maps, route descriptions, luggage, client transfers and emergency support. To book, call 1-800-465-6488 or go to

Family time

As one of Canada’s busiest family travel writers, I (Kate Pocock) am constantly searching for deals that might offset the cost of braces, prom dresses and college tuition. My ideal family destination is one that will entice my three kids to get to know the local culture. But like many parents, I’m also looking for a safe environment that caters to kids of all ages with good swimming, interesting activities, kid-friendly staff and sleeping quarters that offer a little privacy for both kids and adults.

My family and I found all of this and more at the Casuarina Beach Club on the south coast of Barbados (246-428-3600; “I don’t keep my playroom open all day long like some other resorts,” says Sonia Cole “Bonnie” Wilson, a former nursery school teacher who manages the resort. “I want families to spend time with each other.” To that end, she’s put a ring of cribs under trees around a small wading pool so that babies can nap while parents paddle with toddlers. A wonderful idea.

Hotel activities include cycling with Bonnie to watch the sunrise, learning Caribbean dance steps and watching hawksbill turtles nest on the beach. The resort, boasting acres of gardens, has just won this year’s World Legacy Award from National Geographic Traveler and Conservation International.

The best deal is a studio with a kitchenette, television and a garden view. It’s ideal for two adults and two children. Air Canada Vacations ( offers weeklong packages starting at just $1,339 per adult; kids 2 to 11 pay airfare only, which starts at $559. Another $187 (U.S.) gives you seven buffet breakfasts and three dinners. You can book the trip through any travel agent.

Part 1: Belly up and golf unlimited Part 2: Take a hike and family time Part 3: Desert oasis and roughing it

From the November 2004 issue.

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