Q: Can you suggest any beautiful villages to visit?
-- J. Miller, Brampton
A: There are so many places that can rightfully use the term "beautiful."
In France, a group called Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (meaning "the most beautiful villages of France") recognizes spots they deem worthy of the title. Currently 162 villages are listed on its website france-beautiful-villages.org.
Two of these are near Lyon. Time seems to have stood still in the lovely walled town of Perouges and the quaint medieval town of Balazuc.
Perouges has an ancient fortress church and winding streets lined with 14th-and 15th-century stone houses. Balazuc is perched atop craggy cliffs overlooking the winding Ardeche River. Its stone streets are lined with pretty window boxes and dainty shops.
There is even a book on the latter -- The Stones of Balazuc: A French Village Through Time by historian John Merriman.
Other countries, including Belgium and Japan, have similar organizations.
Closer to home, there is the Association of Beautiful Villages of Quebec. Currently 38 villages in 11 regions are lauded as the most beautiful (see beauxvillages.qc.ca). These include L'Anse Saint Jean in the heart of the Saguenay fjord and Sainte Rose du Nord, considered the "jewel of the fjord."
Q: My girlfriend and I will be taking a road trip to Halifax, N.S. She's in charge of the logistics and getting us there but I've been given the task of finding things to do. Is it reasonable to plan a half-day to visit the Pier 21 National Historic Site? She and I are both immigrants to Canada who arrived by ship.
-- M. Steiner, Niagara Falls.
A: Since 1996, Pier 21 has been a National Historic Site and the former ocean liner terminal is now Canada's National Museum of Immigration. One in five Canadians have a connection to Pier 21, where over 1 million immigrants arrived between the 1920s and 1970s, when the facility closed. A half-day visit is certainly warranted. I think everyone who visits Halifax should put this museum on their must-see list as it provides a fascinating glimpse into our country's history.
Pier 21 offers several resources to those interested in retracing family history, including an online ship arrival database and photos. Workshops and programs are regularly scheduled. For information, see pier21.ca. The museum is also seeking immigration stories. To find out how to contribute, click on the website's share link and "tell us your story."
Q: I'm new to checking travel information online and would appreciate any tips to get started on websites that are good for accommodations.
-- N. Naigle, Scarborough
A: Beside traditional guidebook publishers such as Fodor's (fodors.com ), which has online hotel reviews from experts and readers (called Fodorites), there is the enormous and ever-growing online world. TripAdvisor and Expedia.ca are good places to start. I typically head to these portals for quick guest/reader feedback. Expedia compiles a massive list from their huge database and lists hotels by price and availability. Once you click on the hotel of interest, you'll find a list of feedback and star ratings to consider. Tour operators, hotels and travel companies keenly rely on the exposure and feedback it obtains on review sites like TripAdvisor.
Hostelworld.com is another popular website that posts guest reviews of hotels, B&Bs and hostels worldwide.
Q: My parents moved to British Columbia and want me to visit. I know it's not out of the country but do I need a current passport for airline identification? Mine has expired. Can I use any other identification?
-- S. Kemp, Pickering
A: The Canadian Transportation Agency reports Canadian citizens travelling by air within Canada need either a piece of valid, government-issued identification that includes a photograph and the passenger's name, date of birth and gender (such as a drivers' licence), or two pieces of valid, government-issued identification without photographs showing the passenger's name, date of birth and gender. The name on the identification must match the name on the boarding pass. The best bet to avoid airport hassles is to obtain a new passport. For passport renewal information see ppt.gc.ca and click on "apply or renew."
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