Ottawa: From Timber Town to Canada’s Capital of Cool

It’s been said that Canadians speak like Americans, spell like the British, and throw in an occasional French word to confuse people. Not quite true, that last bit, since Canada has two official languages, English and French. Although Canadians love little more than arguing about their identity, they mostly agree about their four biggest cities. Montreal is “ben fun,” French/English slang for a good time. Toronto is the nation’s business center while Vancouver is a wonder of natural beauty. As for Ottawa? Well, it may be the best place to discover the Canadian soul. There’s a lot of northern history packed into this city of a million or so, which loves its festivals and bars.

Costumed Actors Once Again Take the Field to Reenact Historic Battles

After two years of pandemic-induced inactivity, the War of 1812 erupts anew the first weekend in August when hundreds of historically costumed reenactors take the field to recreate the Siege of Fort Erie. The 210-year old battle, the bloodiest in Canada’s history, was one of a series of skirmishes along the Niagara River at the end of the War of 1812. America hoped that seizing the British fort might lead to the annexation of Upper Canada. Unfortunately, the US advance into Ontario coincided with Britain’s burning of Washington.

Summer Travel 2022: Pay Your Money and Take Your Chance

Count me among the droves of disappointed summer travelers whose vacations were devastated by long airport lines, canceled flights, indifferent travel agents and lost luggage. My intention was to become acquainted with port wine and fado music in exotic Portugal. Instead, I settled for the intimacy of small-town charms in Iowa, a welcoming Midwestern state that has more attractions than I ever imagined.

Portland’s Whimsical Creativity Trumps Grit and Crime

When I first moved to Portland, Oregon, in the early 1990s, one of my first friends was a man who self-published a high-brow zine about amusement park rides. He eschewed car ownership, although he was happy to ride in mine. When we played Scrabble, he favored long, obscure words over point value. For all of my friend’s quirks, he turned out to be a surprisingly typical Portlander. Those who found Portland too self-consciously hip could laugh at its liberal excesses as immortalized in Portlandia. But these days, Portland has acquired a layer of grit. Homeless camps and boarded-up buildings covered with graffiti dot the whole city. Does the promise of Portlandia live on? For the sake of journalism, I decided to take an unflinching look at my city. Read More


Plane Spotters Share Birdwatchers’ Passion for Things that Fly

Birdwatchers stroll through forests hoping to catch a glimpse of an elusive bird. Plane spotters do the same, only their birds are bigger, louder and arrive on schedule. This isn’t some small group.  Plane spotters have an extensive network of members from all over the world. In Los Angeles, their Facebook Group LAX24R, the official LAX Plane Spotting Community, has over 4,200 members, and that’s just one group for one airport. For most people, plane spotting is just a hobby, something they do for pleasure. It’s mesmerizing to watch 330 tons of metal inbound from an exotic destination gliding gently toward a runway, and being able to capture that feeling is immensely satisfying. For others, it becomes a global pursuit for photos that showcase airplanes and airports.