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I was packing my large Atlantic suitcase (a 28 inch upright). It wasn’t nearly full and it was already pretty heavy. And since Airlines have started enforcing the luggage weight rules, it can get expensive if your bag is over 50 pounds. I had been considering buying the next size down, and I broke down and bought one. I went down to the local mall to the luggage shop. They had a nice Atlantic bag for $109 that had flip out wheels. But the bag was already heavy. I found another that also had the flip out wheels for $129. Then I found a couple without the wheels for $69, but one was pink, and the other a light neon green. Yuck! So I asked the girl that worked there, and she located a navy blue Atlantic bag in the size I wanted for $59. The model is listed as Atlantic Acclaim. It is a 25 inch upright. The features list it as being expandible, but I don’t the 25″ bag is. The 28″ version was expandable I believe. My wife’s 25 inch Atlantic bag is expandable though. We love Atlantic bags. They are great quality and are pretty durable. Any problems that we have had with them, always seem to be fixed in the next generation. They are constantly improving them.
With the bag mostly loaded, it weighs about 40 pounds. I can still fit some stuff in there though. One of the things I packed was a 12 pack of Diet Pepsi wrapped in a plastic bag. These I will drink on the ship leaving empty space and weight to bring stuff home.

Exploring Ontario in the Winter – Bed and Breakfasting at Nicholyn Farms – A Wonderful Weekend Treat by Susanne Pacher

Driving up to the Nicholyn Farms Bed and Breakfast you get welcomed by the hearty and healthy aroma of 2,200 organically raised pigs. This bed and breakfast was our destination for our quick winter getaway and as soon as we drove up the driveway we realized we had picked a great place.

Bed and breakfasts are one of my favourite ways of travelling since every B&B is unique and usually offers a very personal experience that includes a nice interaction with the B&B host and the other guests, much different from the rather anonymous character of the average motel or hotel chain. Wherever I travel, I find that every B&B owner has a unique story to tell, and Nicholyn Farms B&B was another example.

My husband and I must have travelled to more than 20 B&Bs over the last few years as a home base for an enjoyable weekend getaway. We have stayed in many family-run bed and breakfasts all throughout Ontario and almost always had a really positive experience.

Bed and breakfasting in Canada in somewhat different from the United States since Canadian B&Bs are usually smaller, have fewer guest rooms and there is more direct interaction with the owner/ host. Many Canadian bed and breakfasts have between one and three guest bedrooms with most of the owners living in the same house. As a result, bed and breakfasting in Canada is a more intimate experience, it is truly like staying in someone’s house. The United States, on the other hand, features more “bed and breakfast inns”, many of which are quite upscale and located in renovated mansions with a much larger number of guest rooms, almost along the lines of country boutique hotels.

There are a couple of really helpful websites out there for bed and breakfast travel in Ontario and Canada:

- www.bbcanada.com, which provides bed and breakfast listings throughout all of Canada, and

- the Ontario Farm and Country Accommodations Association which lists active farm operations that provide accommodation to travellers.

After I had completed my research on these websites and contacted a number of B&B hosts about availability, we selected the Nicholyn Farms Bed and Breakfast, just about an hour and a bit north of Toronto, for our late January getaway.

We checked in at the Nicholyn Farms Country Market, where Nicholyn Farms sells products made from their own pigs which are raised organically in a bio-secure environment, without growth hormones or antibiotics. At this market, they also sell produce and meat products from other local farmers north of Toronto.

Lynda, the owner, explained that their country market sells a whole range of locally grown meats, such as pork, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, rabbit, goat, cornish hens and even more exotic locally produced varieties such as elk, emu and buffalo. During the growing season they feature fresh certified organic produce from local vegetable and fruit growers, and their popular organic pork products are shipped to people as far away as Ottawa.

At just an hour’s drive from Toronto, Nicholyn Farms was the perfect getaway for us. It is located in a beautifully restored farmhouse whose original portion dates back to 1872. The Van Casteren family completely renovated the farmstead in 1996 and won the top prize for “Most Improved Farmstead in Simcoe County”.

Lynda mentioned that her B&B has hosted guests from all over the world from as far away as the Netherlands, England, the United States, Japan, Australia, Chile and Peru. Many of their European guests stay for 5 days or more since their location is halfway between two major Ontario attractions: Algonquin Park and Niagara Falls, with Toronto easily accessible for day trips.

Our room was the cozy “Forest Room” which was located on the second storey and featured 4 beds, perfect for us 3 overnight vacationers. The space under the roof overlooking the farmland was such a welcome quiet sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Nicholyn Farms features two other guest bedrooms and all the bedrooms have their own private bathrooms.

This morning we sat down to a wonderful homemade breakfast, that started off with a beautiful assortment of fresh fruit, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, green and blue grapes, pineapple, and melons. The Van Casteren’s buy their fruit at a special fruit market and the flavour of the fruit is indeed much stronger and sweeter than the fruit found commonly in supermarkets. Lynda and her trusted assistant Joyce called all of us guests to come out and have a look at a flock of about 20 wild turkeys that were pecking away on the field behind the bed and breakfast.

After our wildlife encounter, we continued with a tasty breakfast of scrambled eggs, organic pork sausages, toast, homemade pancakes, country preserves and muffins. Portions are not measured and as a result we had several helpings of each dish. We had a nice relaxing and very filling breakfast before we set off on our next adventure for today: snowtubing at Horseshoe Valley.

Staying at a bed and breakfast usually makes for a beautiful getaway since you get to relax in the tranquility of a country home and most B&Bs offer a delicous, filling home-cooked meal that will keep you nourished for many hours, allowing you to take full advantage of the activities for the day. It’s a fabulous way to travel.

About The Author

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River.

“Life is a Journey Explore New Horizons”.

The story with photos is published at Stories and Photos (http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_barrie_2.htm)

On the Texas Barbecue Trail by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Among polite society, a few subjects are invariably touchy, threatening to flare into heated debate. Politics. Religion.

And don’t forget to add one more topic to that list if you’re in Texas: barbecue.

Whether you spell it barbecue, barbeque, bar-b-que, or just bbq, one thing’s for sure: barbecue is more than just a meal, it’s a mantra.

At last count, Texas boasted over 1,300 barbecue joints, ranging from side-of-the-road greasehouses with slamming screen doors to sit-down restaurants with beautiful vistas, air conditioning and even (gasp) wine lists. The business of barbecue rings up over a half-billion dollars annually, a cobweb of commerce that connects an otherwise diverse, sprawling state with a common mission: Go forth and seek out good barbecue.

Although you can find good barbecue throughout the South, the Texas variety is different from that in other barbecue capitals. Texas barbecue means beef brisket, basted meats, and tomato-based sauce, or sometimes no sauce at all. The selection varies from pit to pit but in most tradition reigns.

In each region, divided by hundreds of miles, the local barbecue is influenced by other culinary cultures, from Southern to Tex-Mex to Southwest. Cabrito or barbecued goat is often served in the western portion of the state while pork or lamb is a more common offering in East Texas. Cooking styles vary as well. Out on the West Texas plains, barbecue is usually cooked over a slow fire of mesquite wood while in Southern and Central Texas pecan and oak are more common. Farther east, barbecue pits are stoked with hickory. Throughout the state, meals are served with sides of cole slaw, pinto beans, and spongy white bread, often on plates of butcher paper. Dessert, if found at all, is usually a scoop of banana pudding with a dose of vanilla wafers.

Unlike Kansas City and Memphis, Texas has no clearly defined capital of ‘que. But Texas does have what’s sometimes nicknamed the "barbecue belt," a smoky swath that runs through the central part of the state and includes:

Llano: On the westernmost edge of the barbecue belt lies the community of Llano. What makes Llano unique among the central Texas barbecue towns is its cooking style. Most pit masters in this town rely on indirect barbecuing. In a firebox, wood burns down to coals, then it’s transferred to the main section of the pit beneath the meat to impart a delicate smoky taste subtler than ordinary smoking. Don’t miss Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue. From its huge rectangular pits located by the front door to the dining room lined with loaves of white bread and jars of jalapeño peppers, this is the real deal.

Taylor: Taylor calls itself “The Barbecue Capital of the World," home of two legendary barbecue joints separated only by a parking lot and small road at their locations on Second Street. Louis Mueller’s is housed in one of the most authentic barbecue joints in Texas, with an old-fashioned screen door, smoke-covered walls, and giant fans that provide the only cool breeze on a hot summer day. Next door, Rudy Mikeska’s serves its equally fine offerings in a more citified atmosphere. During his lifetime, Rudy Mikeska was the dean of Texas pitmasters. If there was a political function to be held, Rudy Mikeska and his barbecue specialties were there.

Elgin: In Texas, the town of Elgin is synonymous with sausage. The small community, located about 25 miles east of Austin, produces the sausage sold by many barbecue joints through the state. The best known of Elgin’s smokin’ stops is the Southside Market, probably one of the most recognized names in Texas barbecue lore. In business since 1882, the market is known for its Elgin hot sausage, sometimes known as Elgin Hot Guts.

Lockhart: Twenty-three miles south of Austin lies another “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” Lockhart. The test of a real Texan is to know the correct pronunciation of the town’s Kreuz Market. No, don’t say “Cruise.” It’s “Krites,” rhyming with “lights.” Also in town, don’t miss Smitty’s, housed in the building where the original Kreuz Market was located, and Black’s BBQ, which claims to be the oldest barbecue house in Texas continuously owned by the same family. Since 1932 the Black family has been firing up these brick pits every day for lunch and dinner.

Luling: Located east of Austin, Luling is the land of oil wells. No longer a boomtown, today the barbecue restaurants are the ones producing black gold. The best known spot in town is the City Market, a no-frills smoky meat market, with ambiance replaced by plenty of local atmosphere.

About The Author

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the authors of Texas Barbecue and numerous other books on Texas travel as well as the editors of TexasTripper.com, http://www.TexasTripper.com, an online travel guide to the Lone Star State.

editors@texastripper.com




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