Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 10: The Toronto Islands finish fine

All eyes were on Toronto last week as the first season of The Amazing Race Canada wrapped up.
Toronto from Harbour Islands (6264452871)
Toronto skyline, viewed from Toronto Islands
The race finished on the Toronto Islands, a small chain of islands in the western part of Lake Ontario, just offshore from the city. Even if you aren't familiar with the islands, you are probably familiar with the Toronto skyline, the shots of which are taken from various spots on the islands.

OSM-Toronto Islands with labels
The Amazing Race Canada concluded on Olympic Island (click map to enlarge)
As the action at the finish line has been well covered, we'll focus on where it all took place, with a visit to the Toronto Islands. While often referred to collectively, the final leg of The Amazing Race Canada actually took place on Olympic Island.

Popular with both Toronto residents and tourists, there is plenty to attract visitors to the oasis of calm on the Toronto Islands.

Toronto Islands view

With no fixed road link from the mainland, the islands rely on ferries, water taxis and other boats for their transport needs. Cyclists are welcomed on the ferries, or you can rent a bike on the islands. You can also rent canoes - boating is popular. It's a friendly and relaxed place to get away.

Please walk on the grass

There are wonderful parks, numerous beaches and all manner of things to keep kids entertained, including a miniature railroad. There's plenty to keep adults occupied too.

Signs in Toronto the Good 2010 (1)

In addition to being a popular recreational destination, the Toronto Islands are home to a small residential community. The Toronto Islands actually comprise the largest urban car-free community in North America (though some service vehicles are permitted).

Toronto islands house 2009
House on Ward's Island
The islands are also home to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). Although the teams didn't use the airport, we think it's close enough to warrant a little coverage! Also referred to as Toronto Islands Airport, YTZ the smallest of the city's two main airports - we've covered Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in previous posts.

Toronto harbour
Toronto Harbour, Toronto Islands and the airport, taken from the CN Tower
There is no public access between the airport and the rest of the island chain. A separate dedicated ferry provides a vehicle and passenger connection from a dock at the foot of Bathurst Street. You can read about how the YTZ airport ferry connection works here.

In 2014, the western end of the island will become accessible to pedestrians with the opening of the Toronto Islands Airport Pedestrian Tunnel. The 800 ft. pedestrian tunnel will have moving sidewalks and elevators at both ends. On the island side, an escalator will also be constructed. The tunnel is already 50% complete.

Porter Airlines.Dash-8.YTZ.2008
Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 landing at YTZ
It's safe to say that The Amazing Race Canada was a smashing success. Canadians from coast to coast tuned into Canada's version of the iconic race, in record numbers. Enthusiasm for the locations visited, disappointment about cities left out and support for the teams themselves brought Canadians together in collective pride.

How exciting it is that a second season has been ordered... we wonder where they will go? We'll be tuned in, as we're sure you will be too.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 9: 1 ferry, no airports!

The excitement continued on The Amazing Race Canada in Week 9 - if you missed the episode, you can watch it, and get full details on the official website.

As far as our coverage goes - as we have focused on the airports visited on the race - we were left a bit stumped as to what to post for Week 9.... as there were no airports involved!

The teams began in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but we had covered Halifax's Airport in our Week 8 blog post).
NL Ferry3 tango7174
On the MV Atlantic Vision ferry, Marine Atlantic,
between North Sydney (Nova Scotia) and
Port aux Basques (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Next, the teams took the ferry from North Sydney to Port aux Basques, on their way to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ferry service in the area is provided by Marine Atlantic.

As a result, during the entire Week 9 episode, there were no airports!

Instead, we did a blog post this week on the 5 Busiest Airports in Canada - with lots of extra trivia and information. Check it out.

We look forward to more Amazing Race blog posts - with airports! - as the race goes into the final stretch...

Go teams go!!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 8: YFB, YHZ

Week 8 of The Amazing Race Canada began in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
City of Iqaluit
Aerial view of Iqaluit, Nanavut, Canada.
If you missed it, our Week 7 blog post last week highlighted many of the unique challenges of air travel in this remote region of Canada, as well as the beauty and culture of this unique community.

So, onto Week 8, as the teams departed from Iqaluit Airport (YFB), and flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of Canada's beautiful Maritime provinces.

As with our most recent Amazing Race Canada blog posts, we will focus on the airport and other items of interest in the region (as there are many different sites doing a great job of recapping the teams and the race itself!).

HFX Airport 3
Halifax's airport has won numerous international awards.
At the beginning of Week 8, the teams arrived in Halifax International Airport (YHZ). It's officially called Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport, named to honour former Nova Scotia Premier, "Honest Bob" (Robert) Stanfield.

HFX Airport 5
Halifax Airport is open and bright.
If you are compelled to visit, chances are you won't get the same transportation pre-arranged as the teams did. And you'll need a transportation plan, as Halifax Airport is located 35 kilometres from the city of Halifax.

But, good news: getting to/from Halifax Airport just got much easier this week!

On September 3, 2013, the Halifax Airport Express shuttle commenced service. The shuttle will operate from YHZ airport to major hotels and universities downtown (and visa versa, of course!). You can even book online. Learn more about the Halifax Airport shuttle here.

This is in addition to the MetroX 320 airport bus. Halifax Airport bus service was introduced when the prior shuttle service closed down in October 2012, and there is definite hope that it will continue, as it offers a very economical alternative. Learn more about the Halifax Airport bus here.

You might also be interested to learn about the unique role the team at Halifax Airport played during 9/11. Just one of many Canadian airports to accept diverted flights and passengers on September 11, 2001, the role played by Halifax's airport was highlighted in a CBC news story on the 10th anniversary.

As it turns out, at the end of Week 8's episode, the teams were still in Halifax (in a bit of a "to be continued" cliffhanger), so we'll pick up our coverage here next week.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 7: YQB, YFB

Week 7 of The Amazing Race Canada took the teams about as far north in Canada as you can go... but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
City Walls 1
Quebec City is Canada's only walled city...
The teams began in Quebec City, which we wrote about in our Week 6 blog post. Before we leave this amazing spot, a few more facts about Quebec City:
  • Quebec City's old town (Vieux-Québec) is the only remaining fortified walled city north of Mexico
  • Vieux-Québec has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • There are lots of things you can do in Quebec City - here are just a few
From Quebec City Airport (YQB), the teams flew north north north to Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Iqaluit Airport's distinctive yellow terminal building
Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut, Canada's largest, northernmost and newest territory, created when the region officially separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999. The teams landed at Iqaluit Airport (YFB) to tackle their challenges for this leg of the race. As so many other sites have detailed the team's activities, we'll focus our attention on the airport.

1928 Sikorsky S-38B at Iqaluit Airport (Source: Polar Pilots)
While tiny, Iqaluit Airport plays an important role as a diversion airport for airlines flying Polar Routes. As such, Iqaluit Airport can handle any type or size of aircraft.

This Douglas C47A 10DK Dakota 3 (DC-3) ran out of fuel and
landed on the tundra about 45 nm north east of Iqaluit in 1975.
Like many arctic plane crashes, the plane is still there
to this day. (Source: Polar Pilots)
Here are a few interesting websites about the aircraft that have landed here, various incidents and the airport's services, including:
Airbus A380 at Iqaluit Airport (Source: Polar Pilots)
Another reason the airport is so important here is that there are few roads in the region. Most travel is by air, although there are some trucks in Iqaluit. The most common form of transport amongst locals is by ATV (during the short summer) or snowmobile (during the very long winters). You may even see some dog sleds if you visit here.

Unless you arrive in winter though, you will find that around town most things are within walking distance.
Bilingual Inuit and English stop sign in Iqaluit.
The sign may say STOP, but if you are intrigued,
you should GO to Iqaluit!
If you are intrigued to the point of considering a visit, check out the Iqaluit Visitor's Guide - it is very well done and contains a wealth of information.

We hope you've enjoyed learning about this destination where the Race passed through. More next week...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 6: YQR, YUL, YYZ, YQB

Another week, another 4 airports! In Week 6 of The Amazing Race Canada, the teams moved between two cities, via two different routes.

Teams lifted off for this leg of the race from Regina International Airport (YQR). We wrote about this airport - and it's transportation issues - in our Week 5 blog post.

Some of the teams connected through Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), Canada's 3rd busiest airport.

YUL U.S. Departures Sector
Just a few teams passed through Montreal's airport...
Too bad the visit was so brief. Named a UNESCO City of Design, Montreal is one North America's liveliest cities, with historical buildings dating from the 17th century. Maybe they will come back?

Other teams connected through Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), not the first visit here during the race!

The destination for the week was the amazing, historic Quebec City.

Bonjour! Welcome to Quebec City Airport!
The teams arrived at Quebec City Jean Lasage International Airport (YQB).

If you visit, you'll enjoy this airport, twice voted Best Regional Airport in North America by the Airports Council International's Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program (2010, 2011). That's a pretty high honour! You'll find a taxi the best way to get into the city from the airport. There is a bus, but it only runs Monday to Friday, a little too inconvenient for most travellers. Fortunately, the taxi ride is short: YQB is just 11 kilometres southwest of the city.

Predictably, upon arrival in Quebec City, the Amazing Race Canada teams were faced with several language related challenges, testing their French language skills, and creativity. Great fun to watch - but don't worry, you can get along here without French (just learn a few words, as a courtesy, and the locals will welcome you.

Historic Vieux-Québec (Old Town) is divided into two parts: the Haute-Ville (Upper Town) and the Basse-Ville (Lower Town).

The fabulous funicular in old Quebec City!
While there are staircases that connect the two (!), most everyone takes the very convenient Funiculaire (Funicular). It's cheap and fun.

One of old Quebec City's amazing murals
(image source: Rambling Traveler, cc on Flickr)
Down below, in Basse-Ville, is where you can find several wonderful murals painted on the sides of old buildings, one of which was featured on the Race (do you think you could have worked out that puzzle of missing pieces, described in French?!). This is also where the teams participated in ice carving, part of the winter culture here.

The stunning Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City
Up above, in Haute-Ville, is the stunning Chateau Frontenac. While this grand hotel only got a walk-on role in the race, it truly is a gem worth visiting, even if you can't afford to stay (try a drink in the little bar overlooking the river).

Whether you stay in the historic old city, or downtown (just outside the city walls, adjacent to the Plains of Abraham the teams visited), you'll find Quebec City to be pedestrian friendly, so no need to rent a car for your visit. Unlike the Amazing Race Canada teams, you will be able to stroll the streets at a leisurely pace...

Au revior!

Source: all photos wiki commons, except where noted

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 5: YXY, YVR, YEG, YYC, YQR

Air Canada Express (7375069012)
Air Canada was one of The Amazing Race Canada's sponsors
Lots of airports touched on the way to the destination for this week's installment of The Amazing Race Canada:

The Douglas DC-3 (CF-CPY) that now serves as a
weather vane at Whitehorse International Airport (YXY).
Whitehorse International Airport (YXY) in the Yukon - we didn't get to say a lot about Whitehorse last week, and the teams left this important Klondike Gold Rush town so quickly this week, but we'd like to recognize Whitehorse Airport as being one of the most interesting northern airports in Canada. Did you know that you can fly here from Frankfurt? Or, better yet, people fly to Whitehorse from Frankfurt?!? Kind of exciting stuff for an otherwise pretty small airport. Oh, yes, btw, the airport's official name is Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) - from Whitehorse, on their way to Regina, teams flew through Vancouver, yet again, this time with two possible itineraries:

A few teams flew via Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
Edmonton International Airport (YEG) - as the race spent so little time here, we thought we'd pause to talk about this airport a bit... This is now Edmonton's only airport: the previous Edmonton City Centre Airport (YXD) has pretty well ceased operations, and will be a museum site only. So, if you fly to Edmonton, leave time for the 25 kilometre trek into the city. The good news is that there is now a 747 Airport Bus that runs to YEG - if you take it, you'll be helping the locals, who are at risk of losing the service if there aren't more users.

Calgary International Airport (YYC) - the teams have been here before...

Regina Airport (YQR) - Regina, Saskatchewan was the destination for Week 5, and eventually everyone turned up here to begin the challenges.
A vintage RCMP Crown Victoria restored and on display at the
RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Fortunately, the teams had vehicles waiting for them, as Regina Airport has a severe taxi shortage (take heed, if you plan to travel here!). After racing off from the airport, here's a bit of what the teams had in store:
Taylor Field at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan
- home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders!
It was an exciting week, with all sorts of surprises in store. We won't even attempt to summarize what happened with the teams (so many others are doing an amazing job at that) - our emphasis on the race is really the airports and the destinations.

Are you as excited as we are about Week 6 and the visit to beautiful Quebec City?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 4: YYC, YZF

This week on The Amazing Race Canada, it was off to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories!

The teams took off from Calgary International Airport (YYC) - which we wrote about in our Week 3 Recap - and flew to Yellowknife. Brr!

The Bristol Monument - on display near Yellowknife Airport.
This Bristol freighter was the very plane that was the
first the land on skis at the North Pole in 1967.
After landing in Yellowknife at the Yellowknife Airport (YZF), the teams had to find Pilot's Monument.
The Bush Pilot's Monument in Yellowknife pays tribute to
the bush pilots who opened up the far north. Bush pilots still
provide essential service to Canada's remote communities. 
Then, the teams needed to find Great Slave Lake. Humorous, as it was frozen over, and more than one person missed the fact that they were just looking at it from atop the Bush Pilot's Monument (great view from up there!).

Then, it was time for an ice cold dip. Yikes!

After a flight in wee teensy planes to Carcross, in the Yukon, the teams had to try their hand at activities related to the Yukon Klondike gold rush. No gold, but a Duchess! (she's a train).
Yes, it's a desert in Canada's North!
Then it was a race across the Carcross desert to the Week 4 Pit Stop. Wow, what a whirlwind!

Image source: wikicommons

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 3: YVR, YYC

The Amazing Race Canada is ticking along, and just gets more exciting (click this link to watch past episodes, if you missed any).

In Week 3, the teams began at the Vancouver Convention Centre (with the amazing living roof, which we wrote about last week), made their way to an internet cafe on Robson Street, used aircanada.com to book their flights.

Then it was off to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) again.

Welcome to Cow Town!

Calgary view from Airport
View of Calgary from the airport
Just a short while later they landed at Calgary International Airport (YYC), Canada's 4th busiest airport. Welcome to Cow Town!

Bronc Twister statue, by Rich Roenisch
Calgary Tower in background
After they landed, the teams hit the ground running. After finding Outlaw, and visiting a cookhouse, the teams learned just how tricky line-dancing could be (aka the dance of death)! It was an exciting segment, as the leaders dropped back, and teams that were behind danced their way into the lead. Fun stuff.

Who do?
Hoodoos in Drumheller Alberta
Then it was off to the Hoodoos outside Drumheller in Dinosaur Valley, Alberta.

Despite it's legendary status as the dinosaur capital of Canada, only one team spent any time with the ancient beasts ("bone by bone") - the doctors assembled a skeleton at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology (this is a seriously cool website, check it out!)

All the other teams chose to ride Linda to the old Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, in nearby East Coulee, to get a back-breaking workout ("lump by lump") - and to get all sooty!

If you watched the show, you already know that they made their way to Horse Thief Canyon (how's that for a name!?!?) and the Week 3 Pitstop.

T-Rex flew Air Canada?

Want to visit Drumheller? If you want to visit Drumheller, there is no airport (what, you think T-Rex took a plane?!). So here are your options:
Final thoughts on Week 3

A few notes as we wrap up this post:
  • The race buzz on Twitter is pretty interesting. The busiest hashtags are: #AmazingRaceCanada and #RaceCDA
  • If you find yourself with time to kill before a flight from YVR, escape to Chester Johnson Park between the International terminal and the parkade, no more than a minute's walk outside. Or, explore the outstanding First Nations art collection, including the famous The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid.
  • On an human note, as the episode was recorded before the Alberta floods that hit the region  recently, the show finished with a segment on what happened, and what people could do to help. We were hoping they'd do that.
  • If you find yourself at Calgary Airport on a layover one day, here are some things you can do, depending on how much time you have: Calgary Airport Layover Ideas
  • There are also good resources on the Travel Alberta website.
All images: wiki commons

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 2: YLW, YVR

Another exciting episode of The Amazing Race Canada last night!

We're pleased a few people found our "clues" to Week 2 and tried our poll. Once again, here are the clues, along with the % of guesses for each, and the correct answer highlighted:
  • A pair of sticks. An enormous tail. A dull edge. (0%)
  • A green hat. An enormous head. A sharp edge. (20%) - CORRECT
  • A pointy head. An enormous elastic. An uneven edge. (0%)
  • A head on a stick. An enormous song. A jagged edge. (0%)
  • A fishy stick. An enormous rope. A smooth edge. (0%)
  • A pair of dimes. An enormous bone. A bumpy edge. (0%)
  • A red jacket. An enormous beast. A razor edge. (80%)

A green hat:
The green roof atop the Vancouver Convention Centre West
Building, The Amazing Race Canada Week 2 pitstop 
(source: BierDoctor on flickr, creative commons licence)
This green "living roof" atop the new West building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. Wasn't that a marvelous pit stop for the end of Week 2? So glorious, so green, and with vistas of Vancouver's core all around! The glimpses of the roof in the Week 2 previews caused us to call it a green hat. Even to Vancouverites, this was special, as we are not aware of an event "up top" on the green space being televised before. The West building, sporting the living roof, was built for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games as the media centre, prior to its legacy purpose as an expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre. The roof is not open to the public.
What is a Living Roof?
What is the Vancouver Convention Centre?
Vancouver Convention Centre Official Website
West Building Image and Video Gallery
West Building Public Tours
Living Roof Video and Bees Video
Living Roof Specifications on Greenroofs.com

An enormous head:
Dragon dance costume similar to those in The Amazing Race Canada
(source: rumpleteaser on flickr, creative commons licence)
We thought this was an obvious clue, as one of the glorious - and huge - dragon heads was shown in the Week 2 preview. We wish more teams had chosen to do the dragon dance during their visit to Chinatown, if only to see the ceremonial chomp of the lettuce repeated!
What is the dragon dance?
Vancouver Chinatown Photo Gallery

A sharp edge:
The Richmond Olympic Oval when The Amazing Race Canada teams
went long track "speed' skating (source: Wikimedia commons)
Ah, yes, the slip, sliding and falling at the Richmond Oval - ouch! While Twitter was alive last night with people joking about skating being used as a challenge for Canadians, we did see lots of non-skaters giving it a go. And suspect there was plenty of black and blue appearing in the days that followed! It was also nice to see the magnificent long track speed skating facility from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics transformed into it's legacy purpose.
What is the Richmond Olympic Oval?
Richmond Olympic Oval Official Website

On the aviation side of things, both airports featured in Week 2 were return visits that we wrote about in Amazing Race Canada - Week 1 - Niagara Falls, YYZ, YVR, YLW.
BTW, we are resisting the temptation to comment on the two taxi drivers who dropped teams off in the wrong spots...

If you missed the episode, you can watch it on the official website above.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 2: What's in Store?

Like you, we wonder about the details of where the teams will go, and what they'll do. Do we know more than you? Only time will tell. What do YOU think?

Where will The Amazing Race Canada go in Week 2? Pick the best set of clues:

  • A pair of sticks. An enormous tail. A dull edge. 
  • A green hat. An enormous head. A sharp edge. 
  • A pointy head. An enormous elastic. An uneven edge. 
  • A head on a stick. An enormous song. A jagged edge. 
  • A fishy stick. An enormous rope. A smooth edge. 
  • A pair of dimes. An enormous bone. A bumpy edge. 
  • A red jacket. An enormous beast. A razor edge.

Record your answer in the poll above... or add your own guesses to the comments section below.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Amazing Race Canada - Week 1 - Niagara Falls, YYZ, YVR, YLW

Niagara falls in Canada
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (source: Wikicommons)
We're a Canadian company, so we are understandably excited to watch The Amazing Race Canada unfold on our televisions, hosted by our very own Canadian Olympian, Jon Montgomery (he won gold in 2010 in skeleton... to call that race amazing would be an understatement!).

Being airport geeks (after all, we are the best people-powered world-wide airport ground transportation information service), we are especially interested in the airports the teams on The Amazing Race Canada will visit during the race.

Needless to say, we loved the Week 1 kick-off show, featuring Niagara Falls, Ontario (aka "the Canadian side") - along with its sister city over the border in Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.A. is the self-proclaimed "Honeymoon Capital of the World." The grandeur of the Falls of the Niagara River attracts millions of tourists every year, there to enjoy everything from the mist of the falls and the sometimes cheesy attractions, to the all natural beauty and hiking opportunities. We certainly saw the beauty last night!

Toronto Pearson International Airport (source: Wikicommons)

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) - serving just under 35 million passengers a year, Pearson was the world's 35th busiest airport in 2012 (how's that for a numerical co-incidence?), and Canada's busiest. By the way, for those that know the airport, if you haven't heard the good news, construction is underway on a rail connection to downtown Toronto, due to open in 2015.

Vancouver International Airport (source: double_feature on flickr)

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) - Canada's 2nd busiest airport served 17.6 million passengers in 2012, the same year it earned the Skytrax award of Best Airport in North America - for the 4th time in a row! Since the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics, YVR has been connected to downtown Vancouver via the Canada Line Skytrain. Next week's race preview showed the teams back here...

Kelowna International Airport (YLW) - serving under 2 million passengers a year, Kelowna's airport is growing by leaps and bounds with numerous innovations. It earned its "international" status when flights to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and several holiday destinations in Mexico were added to it's flight roster. The innovations? YLW's duty free shop features Okanagan wines, ski hosts meet winter flights to help skiers get to the right mountain shuttles, and, in 2013, hosted Canada's first Elections Canada Polling Place in an airport. And, oh, what a gateway to all the Okanagan has to offer, as we saw last night.

We've included links to our transportation guides for these destinations, in case you were so dazzled by the show that you want to visit!!

PS - if you missed the episode, you can watch it online at the official website above.