Springing into travel mode

| April 24, 2021 | 0 Comments
Espace pour la vie in Montreal is home to earthly and celestial delights, including Le Jardin botanique, which has more than 20 outdoor gardens. (Photo: Espace pour la vie)

Espace pour la vie in Montreal is home to earthly and celestial delights, including Le Jardin botanique, which has more than 20 outdoor gardens. (Photo: Espace pour la vie)

If spring has you hankering to hit the road, you’re in luck this year. The pandemic isn’t yet behind us, but travel opportunities — both real-life and virtual — are slowly opening up, and the long winter of our discontent will soon be a distant memory. Our suggestions for the coming months won’t take you too far afield, but you still need to check ahead because some COVID restrictions may be in force.

Rainforests and starlight: Travel is all about discovery, and Montreal’s multi-faceted Espace pour la vie is your ticket to new earthly and celestial delights. A walk through the Biodôme is an immersion in five ecosystems, from a tropical rainforest to the sub-Antarctic Islands, including their diverse flora and fauna. Le Jardin botanique is a sensual feast of greenhouses, a tree pavilion and more than 20 outdoor gardens. Renovations mean the Insectarium is closed, but the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan is in full swing, with shows such as Birth of the Planet Earth, which explores the Earth’s origins in the violent beginnings of our solar system. A heads-up: You may want to pack a lunch — at the time of writing, the food facilities at Espace pour la vie were closed because of the pandemic.
And here’s a tip: If you’re looking to commune with more nature while in Montreal, check out the 30-hectare Parc des Rapides on the St. Lawrence River in LaSalle or other outdoor spots.

Zipping along: You could drive across the Ottawa River from Ottawa to Gatineau. Or you could fly. Kind of. Interzip Rogers, originally planned for last summer, is opening this spring just west of the Portage Bridge. Billed as the world’s first interprovincial zip line and promising to offer spectacular views from 37 metres in the air, it will take riders from the departure tower at the Zibi development on Chaudière Island to Zibi’s Quebec site. Riders (you need to be between 32 and 124 kilograms to participate) will zip along at 40 kilometres an hour and can hook up rain or shine, except in extreme weather. Tickets for the eco-tourism activity are $36.99 for adults and $26.99 for those under 14. interzip.ca

Getting the kinks out: Been cooped up for months by winter and COVID-19? An historical walk will work out your physical and mental kinks. The Ottawa Valley offers multiple self-guided tours, including several in North Grenville, about 40 minutes south of downtown Ottawa. There, you’ll spot stone churches, clapboard-clad and log homes, commercial buildings and more dating back to the 19th Century. Learn what’s where at explorenorthgrenville.ca. There are also tours in Perth, Merrickville and pretty much any other spot you look.

Screen time: Long-distance travel remains off-limits for most of us, but we can still expand our cultural horizons by dropping in on international and other film festivals via the internet. South Korea’s Jeonju International Film Festival runs from April 29 to May 8, with films such as Éric Baudelaire’s A Flower in the Mouth, a French/Swiss production that blends the world’s largest flower market in Holland with an adaptation of a post Spanish-flu play by Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello. Canada’s Hot Docs documentary fest is on at the same time, Toronto’s LGBT festival Inside Out, and others, kick off in May, and June is jam-packed with everything from France’s Annecy animation blow-out to the venerable Edinburgh International Film Festival, established in 1947. Find more and keep up to date at screendaily.com

Old-growth perspectives: You’ve never tromped through an old-growth forest? It’s at once exhilarating, humbling and calming. Towering maple, beech and hemlock trees that sprouted long before we did also put our current anxieties into perspective; after all, if they’ve weathered centuries of challenge and change, can’t we survive disruptions? Those magnificent trees (50 hectares of them) along with wetlands, a mixed forest and gigantic boulders strewn by a retreating glacier (65 hectares of those various items) comprise Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre near Eganville, 90 minutes west of downtown Ottawa. The site, which includes 14 kilometres of walking trails, is open year-round, dawn to dusk. It’s free, although there are donation boxes, and washrooms are on-site. It will take about five hours to hike all the trails, including a stop at the lookout where you should keep your eyes peeled for the eagles who once nested in the woods and sometimes still visit. Tip: Other area attractions include beaches and the Bonnechere Caves. shawwoods.ca

Patrick Langston is an Ottawa-area writer who believes Jack Kerouac’s 1957 travel-based novel On The Road should be required reading for everyone.


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