The Naked Truth About Global Warming and Hybrid Car Emissions

In view of recent developments, hybrid cars have become the buzzword in many circles of influence. With the continuing spike of prices of fuel and the increasing concern of various sectors about global warming, more and more people are now turning their attention to alternative technology that is relevant to the demands of the present time. Industry players are now intent in introducing environment-friendly cars that are capable of keeping in step with the demands of modern living.

We are on the verge of witnessing the emergence of the future car – low in fuel consumption, cost, and noise pollution. We are looking at the future of modern transportation with the entry of hybrid cars into the mainstream. This is our response to the pressing need for environmentally-friendly alternative that adapts cutting-edge technology. The hybrid car is basically a fuel-efficient and low-emission alternative to the mainstream petrol-powered vehicle.

With all these interest about global warming, we are now hearing various positions about the dynamics of car emissions. The pollution that automobiles create is recognized by experts as one of the major causes of air pollution. It is also seen as the main reason why we are seeing a major change in our climate. What do we need to know and understand about car emissions? It is important that we have a clear understanding of the problem in order for us to make an informed decision when assessing the importance and impact of hybrid cars.

The environment protection advocacy groups are one in declaring that car driving is the major cause of air pollution. If we come down to the main culprit, we only need to look at one source – gasoline. When your car burns gasoline, pollutants are released through its tailpipe. These include nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and other forms of hydrocarbon. Aside from being released through the tailpipe of your car, these pollutants are also introduced into the atmosphere when the heat from the car engine causes fuel to evaporate.

When these pollutants enter the atmosphere and are exposed to sunlight, ground level ozone is created. This is the most serious element of air pollutants. As a result of this process, nitrogen is trapped in the atmosphere causing water pollution and acid rain. We are not only looking at the deadly effects of elevated amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The condition traps the heat in our atmosphere, causing the earth’s temperature to rise beyond the normal range. This is what constitutes global warming. The process becomes a vicious cycle as more and more pollutants are released into the atmosphere with the continued rise of the earth’s temperature.

There is nothing new about hybrid car and low-emission technology. This concept has been in existence for years already. It has been extensively used in locomotives, buses and even submarines. Hybrid car concept basically refers to the use of combo power source – fuel injection and electricity.

When a hybrid car stops or while it is in idle, it consumes electricity. Once the car picks up speed, it gradually yields its reliance on electric power and transitions to fuel consumption. Further, most of hybrid cars take up stored energy with the recharging of the batteries when you step on the brakes. Most hybrid cars utilize electricity when at city driving and at low speed. It gradually increases its fuel consumption as it slowly picks up speed such as when driving on a highway.

The obvious results of these car concepts are the significant reduction of gas emissions and reduced impact in the environment. This process mitigates the damage that these pollutants can cause on the atmosphere. This why green element is associated with hybrid cars. Low fuel consumptions means reduced impact of global warming.

Montreal – It Has A Lot of Culture

If your interested in experiencing a bit of European culture but don’t want to fly across the ocean then Montreal is the place for you. Situated in eastern of Canada, Montreal is only 1 hour from the New York / US border. It is a short flight from most cities in North America by plane. The train is also an option, all trains arrive at “Bonaventure” Montreal’s main train station, which is situated right in the center of the city.

Montreal is Canada’s second largest city and one of the largest cities in North America. It’s population is close to 4 million people. Over 50% of the population speak french (Quebec’s official language) while around 20% speak English. If you can’t speak french you still will have no problem as most people living in Montreal are bilingual and will switch to English.

The weather in Montreal is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. If you plan on doing a lot of exploring outside then it’s recommended to visit during the summer. The winter can also be fun as downtown Montreal has many shopping malls and metro stations that are connected by underground tunnels. During the winter it’s possible to spend a whole day shopping throughout different parts of downtown without ever stepping foot into the cold. Winter’s bring strong cold winds and quite a bit of snow. It’s not uncommon to see people digging out their cars in the morning after a night of snow.

Montreal is famous for it’s street festivals. Most take place during the summer but you can still find some when visiting in the winter. Two of the most popular festivals are the Montreal World Film Festival and Just For Laughs.

There are many sights to see in Montreal, you can easily spend a month here without seeing everything. Mont Royal park is one of the biggest parks in Montreal, it’s located downtown at the top of Peel Street. There is a long footpath leading to the top, on a hot summer day it may seem like quite a hike but in the end the view is worth it. Montreal’s architecture is very unique, walking through the old part of the city (old Montreal) it’s easy to forget that you are in North America not Europe. Close by to Old Montreal is the financial district with many modern skyscrapers. Notre-Dame Basilica or in french Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal is located in Old Montreal. The Gothic architecture of this church makes it one of the most unique churches in the world.

Getting around Montreal is very easy due to it’s great Metro and Bus network. The Metro runs in a grid pattern with two lines running parallel through downtown. Each station has been decorated by a different artist, so just riding the Metro can seem like a visit to an art gallery. The Metro does not run 24 hours but after each line closes a network of night buses begins to operate with stops outside each Metro station. If you want to visit somewhere in the outskirts of the city there is also a network of commuter trains.

Collocating Downtown – How Will the Olympics Affect You?

With the rapid approach of the 2010 Winter Olympics, hosted right here in Vancouver, Canada, you can’t escape hearing about it. Everyone is speculating on the increase in industry, tourism, commercialism and the stimulation of the Vancouver economy. In fact the city is preparing for tens of thousands of visitors.

All this activity may be great for business, but what will it mean for your colocation services? If you’re collocating in downtown Vancouver, the increase in people could have an ill effect on the availability of your servers. An increase of people will limit your ability to access your servers. There are many reasons for this and you should consider them carefully before deciding to host your servers downtown.

Security

When the Olympics come to town they’re going to bring added security with them. Law enforcement officials will be out in the streets along with people controlling traffic and pedestrians. Because of the influx of people, security will be tightened and it’s likely that there will be security checkpoints along with random security checks.

Of course, these procedures are necessary for the Olympics, but the problem is that these additional precautions will interfere with your ability to get to your servers. Downtown data centers are located in close proximity to the main events of the Olympics. If your sever goes down, the power goes out or if you need to perform any type of procedures on your servers, you will be forced to deal with extra security. When it comes to servers, every minute counts and sitting in traffic for two hours while security guards open everyone’s trunks is the last thing you’re going to want to deal with.

Traffic to Festivals

Throughout the entire Olympic events, there will festivals and events going on every single day. This is in addition to the scheduled sports events. Downtown will be mobbed and getting around will be difficult. If you think Downtown is crowded on a normal day, just wait until the Olympics get here. With so many people coming in for the events and so many people attending, it will be almost impossible to get anywhere. You’ll be gridlocked in traffic, trying to access your server, but not going anywhere.

Even if you chose to use public transportation, you’re still going to have the same problem. Buses and Skytrains will be overcrowded to accommodate the high volumes of people. Anywhere you decide to go will be slow. Not only slow, but crazy as well with the mess of people rushing about trying to get to their destinations on time. When it comes to restoring your servers, these obstacles will waste valuable time that you could be using to restore your servers.

Temporary Hosting from Seattle

Another problem that you might face during the Olympics is the extra servers temporarily filling up the data centers during the Olympics. Businesses coming to Vancouver for the events will bring their servers with them and host them temporarily in Vancouver in order to keep an eye on them and ensure that everything goes well. Having these extra servers in town means there will be an extra drain on your power supply as well as less cooling provided to your servers. Additionally, the data centers are more likely to fill up with people working on their servers, making it more likely for you to run into difficulties.

Collocate Outside of Downtown

If you want to avoid the host of problems that come with collocating in a downtown facility during the Olympics, the best solution is to collocate outside of downtown. Facilities that are located near Downtown, but not right in the heart of the events will offer many advantages over their downtown counterparts.

These facilities are still close enough that you will be able to access your servers when you need them, however you won’t have to deal with the headache of getting to them. Since you’ll be going away from the flow of traffic, commute time will be much shorter and less congested. Additionally, you’ll be away from the parts of town that will have added security, so you won’t be as likely to be stopped on your way. All in all, you’ll have the same advantages of hosting downtown, without the added headache and extra problems that are likely to occur during the Olympics.

Why Hire a Charter Bus?

Top 9 Things to Know

Most of the web sites that you will come across on the internet happen to be networks or national brokers that will typically add a commission of up to 25% to the total cost of your trip.

You can avoid this by checking with the Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration. They have what is called a Safer Company Snapshot that will let you know which charter buses are owned by which company as well as letting you know what the safety rating for a particular company is and even what their insurance and inspection status is.
In the United States and Canada there are around 3,200 regional and local bus companies. There are not any national services that are bus owners.
450 of those companies have obtained certification from the Department of Defense. To do this they must go through quite a rigorous process.
While the airline industry might have web sites that will compare rates from multiple companies simultaneously, there is no such site for the charter bus industry. The best option here is to call each company individually.
Prices do not have a tendency to rise as the date of travel draws near or when there happens to be low availability.
On average, the deposit to secure a reservation is 22 percent, that being said, the current trend is that all of the payment must be made at the time of the reservation.
It is illegal for a driver to drive over 10 hours once they have had 8 consecutive hours of being off duty.
In general pricing is hourly for use locally. For trips that will average up to 300 miles daily, the rates will be charged by the mile.
You can find the customer service ratings for most companies at the Better Business Bureau.

Things to Ask

For longer trips – once the destination has been reached, how many miles are allowed locally and if those miles are exceeded what is the fee?
Does the price that is quoted include tolls and parking?
What is the policy for cancellations?
Who is responsible for the hotel room and food for the driver and is there a set gratuity for the driver of the company?
In the event there is a breakdown, what is the procedure?

Hiring a charter bus can mean that a lot of the stress of traveling is taken off of you. Now you can just sit back and enjoy the trip.

I’m So Thankful

My daughter and I recently returned from a trip to England and even though it was fun and interesting there were so many things that I missed about home. Some of them were rather trivial whereas others had a fairly major impact on our trip. Following are some reminders of things that we take for granted in Canada that were missing in England:

The highway system – Cornwall was particularly challenging. Shoulders are rare and the lanes are so narrow that at times the car was scratched by brambles! When there wasn’t room to pass an oncoming car, one of us had to back up.

Speed Limits – We found very few traffic lights and everyone seemed to think that the round-abouts replacing them were helpful. Unfortunately they slowed everything down. We needed to double our travel times because of them as they took us through so many towns and villages where we were required to reduce to 30 mph.

Face cloths – Hotel staff were confused and sometimes didn’t know how to fulfill our requests for face cloths. At one location, they sent us large hand towels.

Recycling – Empty water bottles and pop cans are just thrown in the garbage and ultimately end up in a landfill somewhere.

Respect for the dead – When visiting a cemetery where my great-grandmother was buried, we were horrified to hear that many tombstones were moved or even crushed to be used as landscaping materials. Also, bodies are buried at different depths so that others can be buried below and above due to lack of space.

Silence – London is CRAZY!!!! Bicycles dart in and out of horrendous noisy traffic cues. Buses are packed with passengers. And there are crowds of people everywhere.

Right of way – Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. Brits therefore need to be very cautious and even then, risk their lives when crossing a street.

Straws – I love to drink Diet Coke but never once was served one with a straw. I was asked if I wanted ice and lemon in the glass which was nice but no straw.

My bed – I had seven different beds in fourteen days – some of which were comfortable and none of which were my own.

Organization – It is rather disconcerting living out of a suitcase and having to pull it everywhere. My closet and dresser drawers were greatly missed.

Year after year we give thanks for the same things over and over again without really thinking about other blessings that we take for granted.

I found that leaving home and entering a new culture provided me with a new perspective and want to do things differently because of that. So, this Thanksgiving I am going to expand my list of blessings to include so many things that I had not previously considered – like straws and face cloths and silence.

Think of ten things that you have in your life for which you have never given thanks and challenge your friends and family to do the same on this Thanksgiving Day! You might be surprised at how your perspective changes.

Driver Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

There are certain behavioral norms that we are used to following in regular interactions with other people. All that seems to go out the window when you are on the road. Road rage is far more commonly discussed these days than driver etiquette, but it’s our manners while driving that are most important.

What exactly should we be doing and how should we be acting while on the road? Here are a few guidelines.

DO

o Leave on time. If you’re rushed and racing to get to an appointment or meeting, you’ll be more stressed out and far more likely to ignore proper driver etiquette which could cause some serious problems.

o Let people pull in front of you. It really won’t delay your journey if you let one or two cars get into the line and you’ll save yourself and someone else a lot of frustration.

o Slow down. Going too fast means you could miss a sign or signal and end up in an accident. This isn’t just about etiquette, it’s also about safety.

o Give advance notice. If you’re going to turn, be sure to turn on your signal ahead of time, not just as you are about to make the turn. This lets the vehicles around you react appropriately.

o Dim your headlights. When coming up on another car, keep in mind that your brights can blind the other driver, whether reflecting in his rearview mirror or shining directly into the oncoming car.

o Move to one side when emergency vehicles come through. It might be tempting to race ahead, particularly if your turnoff is coming up, but keep in mind why they are in hurry and pull over.

o Let buses cut in. They are on a schedule and you’ll be able to overtake them at the next stop, which won’t take much time off your commute, but could make a big difference to those who travel public transport.

DON’T

o Expect people to guess what you’re thinking. It’s important to always let them know with signals what you are about to do. Expecting someone to get out of your way because you’re in a hurry is only going to cause problems.

o Tailgate. There is nothing more annoying than someone who just won’t back off, so move back and keep an appropriate distance between cars.

o Talk on the phone while driving. Studies have shown that you simply don’t have the same reflexes when having a conversation on the phone and using just one hand to drive. Instead, invest in a headless phone system or wait until you can pull over.

o Lose your temper. Take deep breaths or even pull over if you need to. Getting angry and giving in to road rage will only cause more trouble than it’s worth.

o Block cyclists and motorbikes. They might be annoying, but it’s not worth causing problems if they are trying to pass you on the shoulder.

o Drive too slowly. If you are going lower than the speed limit, make sure you move to one side so people can pass you. It’s rude to cause a hold up by driving too slowly.

Being polite on the road is just as important as having good table manners. How you act will affect the people around you and driving etiquette will also affect how you go through your day. Being nice to people is proven to make you feel better and boost morale, so it`s a good way to start the day off right, by letting someone move into the line ahead of you during rush hour.

Facts About Panama

As people search the globe for travel destinations, more people are enjoying Panama tourism than ever before. The country is a very easy trip, especially for people from the United States and Canada and it has an amazing amount to offer even the most seasoned tourist. Panama tourism can take you to the mountains, to the beach, to a rainforest or even to the past. Because of its long-term affiliation with the US, many things about Panama are familiar to Americans, but the beauty of Panama tourism is that no matter from where you come, you can find something exciting and new.

Panama Government

Government: Elected Democracy
Current Head of State: President Ricardo Martinelli
Currency: US dollar (called Balboa) No national paper currency is printed, but there is coinage of the same size and denominations as American coins.
Sales Tax: VAT is 5% (10% for imports)

Panama Geography

Area: 75,990 sq. kilometers
Population: 3,360,000, 2009 est.
Capital: Panamá City

The Infrastructure Panama

Time Zone: GMT-5
Telegram: Available in hotels and main post offices of major cities.
Press: La Prensa, El Siglo and El Panamá América are among the largest daily newspapers.
Mail: Mail to North America takes about a week. Post office hours are Mon-Fri 8:00am – 4:00 pm, Sat 8:00 am – 1:00 pm. For express services, FedEx and DHL are available in most areas. Mail forwarding services are available from locations such as Miami, FL for approx. $25 per month. These services provide an address and regularly forward mail based on a weight charge.
Police: If you are a victim of a crime, report it immediately to the local police, especially if you will be making an insurance claim. The tourist police, or policia de turismo, are better prepared to deal with foreigners and more likely to speak English. Typically they wear white armbands and ride bicycles.
Electricity: 120 volts AC, 60Hz
Emergency Numbers: Police 104, Fire 103, Tourist Police 269 8011), 911 is for medical emergencies only!

Panama Demographics

Language: Spanish (official), English 14%, and is the official second language
Religion: 85% Catholic, 15% Protestant

Panama Communications

Cellular Phone: Roaming agreements exist but most folks buy their minutes on a phone card
Fax: Available at most post offices and hotels
Directory Assistance: Dial 102
National Dialing Code: 507
Telephone: IDD is available. International calling cards are available and widely used. Many Internet cafes also offer VoIP calling as well.

Miscellaneous Facts

Siesta Time: There is no siesta, or midday break in the city. In some areas of the interior in makes sense and is still the custom.
Internet: Internet cafes are common and inexpensive. (usually less $1 per hour) Some restaurants and coffee shops now offer wireless hot spots.
Pets: Have your veterinarian prepare a standard International Health Certificate no more than 10 days prior to travel to Panama. The certificate should include the pet’s name, breed, owner’s name and current country of residency. It should state that the pet is healthy and free of parasites. It should also contain a list of inoculations including type, manufacturer and batch number.
Tipping: 10 to 15 per cent is customary in hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, but it is wise to arrange the rate before the trip.
Smoking: Panama is now a no smoking city. You can smoke out of doors if no one is near and in your home is no one else is present.

Panama Travel

With the continuing growth of Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, Panama tourism has become an easy adventure. With direct flights from both Miami, FL and Houston, TX, Panama is little more than two hours away from the US. Other countries, including several in Europe offer direct flights to Panama as well, connecting Panama tourism with the rest of the world. The US government is very favorable about travel to Panama, listing only a small portion of the border area with Columbia as hazardous for travel.

When you arrive in Panama City (virtually all international flights to Panama come to Panama City), the first thing you will do is purchase a tourist card. This $5 document gives you permission to travel within the country for up to 90 days. Once you leave the airport, there is a variety of travel options to use: city buses, intercontinental buses, taxis, rental cars, airplanes and boats.

City buses – The brightly painted buses of Panama City are nearly tourist attractions by themselves. This is the lowest-priced form of transportation and an interesting cultural experience as well. They are called Diablo Rojos, red devils. Expect them to be crowded and loud.
Intercity buses – The country has a well developed bus system, similar to the Greyhound system in the US. For $30 you can travel from Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica. If you show them that you are over 55 (with an (ID) you will go for $24. This is a great way to see the geographic beauty of Panama. In addition, buses are typical forms of transportation to remote areas such as Boquete.
Taxis – These distant relatives of the US taxi system are now all yellow and will beep their horns to alert possible passengers that they available. Taxis are very reasonably priced and can even be rented hourly or for trips to specific destinations.
Rental cars – Many of the same companies that service the US are in Panama as well. Prices for rentals cars can be reasonable via the Internet but very high in office. The style of driving in the country suggests that Panama tourists be careful when renting cars and strongly consider purchasing the insurance.
Airplanes – The country has a good regional service for Panama tourism. Fees are reasonable and service connects the major destinations within the country such as David, Bocas del Toro, the Pearl Islands and Colon.
Boats – Along the coasts, there is some use of boats for Panama tourism but this is not a widespread. Boats are also not recommended for tourists traveling from Panama to Columbia due to safety concerns at the border; only airplane travel is viable between these two countries.

Panama Attractions

Panama is a country filled with activities. Starting in Panama City with the ruins of the ancient city, the rainforest, the Panama Canal are all an interesting visit. Throughout the country, the Carnival (held near the end of February), numerous fairs, concerts and traditional events dot the country. The country is fanatical about their national baseball league and the Panamanians such as Mariano Rivera who play in the major leagues. Soccer and basketball games are always available to be enjoyed and activities such as swimming, surfing, and fishing add to Panama tourism’s appeal to the sportsman. If you are a truly avid fisherman take a charter out to the “Tuna Coast,” the Panama Pacific where a large number of world records have been set in sport fishing.

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How to Get Around Vancouver

As the third largest city in Canada, Metro Vancouver encompasses an area of almost 2900 square kilometer. Large distances separate city centers within Metro Vancouver. Fortunately, there are a few options available to getting around Vancouver.

Skytrain

Skytrain is by far the easiest and quickest way to get around Vancouver. The Skytrain consists of 3 lines: the Expo Line, the Millennium Line, and the Canada Line, with intersections at select skytrain stops. It spans across Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, and Surrey. Skytrains run frequently, as often as every 2 to 3 minutes during rush hour. Skytrain is unaffected by traffic, unlike busses. There is minimal language requirement in using the skytrain, and tickets are purchased through vending machines. There is a fixed fare price within a particular “zone”, and only when multiple zones are traversed do you need to buy multi-zone fares. This applies during rush hour only.

Bus

The area where the skytrain does not cover, buses come in handy. Several buses run along major roads, often connecting in the east-west and north-south direction. Bus loops are available at each skytrain station to facilitate transfer. The same fare used for skytrain can be used for buses as well. When planning a trip by bus, it may be handy to use Translink’s trip planner that is available online. As with any transportation, give yourself plenty of time in case you miss your intended bus.

Seabus

The seabus connects Downtown Vancouver with North Vancouver via a comfortable ferry. It takes approximately 12 minutes to cross the Burrard Inlet, crossing between Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay. The same fare used for skytrain and bus can be used for the seabus as well.

Service Taxis

Taxi service in Vancouver is not as plentiful as other metropolitan cities in the world. Passengers are required to telephone ahead of time to arrange for taxi pickup. This may not be required in Downtown Vancouver, since taxis are usually “on the lookout” for potential passengers at popular joints. Taxis are relatively expensive compared to other forms of transportation, but it may be your only choice if it is very late or very early in the day. All taxis come with a running meter, and prices are not negotiable.

Car Rental

Driving in Vancouver is relatively hassle-free. Traffic is only busy during rush hours, although a few major streets exhibit high traffic volumes during non peak hours. Streets are wide and easy to drive on, so international drivers do not need to feel intimidated. Car rental is usually affordable, especially if done over a span of a few days. Deals are often available if one does a bit of research beforehand.

Biking

Biking is another way to get around Vancouver. Vancouver is a relatively “green” city, with several dedicated bike lanes and routes available. Vancouver drivers are usually very tolerant towards cyclists. Bike rental is also very affordable. Plan ahead of time the bike routes you want to take to facilitate your journey.

Christmas in Victoria

If you are coming to Victoria soon, here is some information that might make you trip a bit more enjoyable. The weather here has been unseasonably warm floating between 7 and 10 Celsius day time highs (that is approaching 50 degrees F), not bad for winter. We have had our fair share of rain this December, but the more it rains, the warmer it is.

Start your Victoria visit at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. The Festival of Trees is on through January 4th. Visit the magical forest of decorated trees on display throughout the hotel and adjoining conference centre. You are invited to stroll the hallways and vote for your favorite tree with a minimum two-dollar donation. For more information call 250-380-1527. If you are going to the Fairmont Empress, why not make a reservation for the incredible buffet at Kipling’s. This is one of the finest buffets in Victoria and a great way to celebrate the season. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (250) 389-2727

For something unique, take in Molten Obsessions Two from November 24 to December 31, 2004. Starfish Glassworks presents Molten Obsessions 2, hosting the second Pacific Pyros members show which promises to be a diverse and funky exhibit of the group’s efforts. Emerging and established artists are represented. Exciting new work at affordable prices. This is your chance to collect early gems from future stars! Visit 630 Yates Street.

If you have nothing planned for Christmas day perhaps the Annual Christmas Dinner (Dec 25 from 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m) will fill your bill. It is prepared by the Peninsula Christmas Dinner Committee and takes place at the Mary Winspear Centre in beautiful Sidney by the Sea, just 25 minutes from downtown Victoria. For more information call (250) 655-6417 or Email: [email protected] Also contact The Mary Winspear Centre @ Sanscha & Charlie White Theatre Box Office – (250) 656-0275 or http://www.sanscha.com or [email protected]
Peninsula Celebrations Society – (250) 656-4365.

Annual Christmas Celebrations take place at the Butchart Gardens from December 1 to January 6. Tens of thousands of lights brighten the holiday season. This winter wonderland is made even brighter by strolling carollers, children’s entertainers, and a festive brass band. Great food is served up in the Poppyseed restaurant. Butchart Gardens is at 800 Benvenuto Avenue. Phone: (250) 652-4422

For a glimpse of Christmas past, visit Craigdarroch Castle a cast you eyes on a brilliant example of historic Victorian decorations and lights in the 1890’s castle built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir.

Christmas at Craigdarroch is celebrated traditionally with festive music. Tour the lavishly decorated castle, replete with Victorian decorations, hundreds of lights, singers and entertainment.

This year the theme is “A Child’s Christmas” and displays of children’s clothing as well as antique toys and furniture heighten your experience of Christmas in a bygone era.

Plan your visit in advance. Several ticketed events add significance to a Victorian Christmas experience: The Curator’s Dinner and Tour, Sweet Night Music; and Hogmanay, A Scottish New Year’s Celebration. Craigdarroch is open daily: 10am – 4:30pm, however it is closed Christmas Day(Dec.25), Boxing Day (Dec.26) and New Year’s Day(Jan.1). It is located at 1050 Joan Crescent (off Fort Street). Contact the castle at: Phone: (250) 592-5323, Fax: (250) 592-1099 or Email: [email protected]

A very special show is now on at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Be sure to take in The French Masters, featuring works of art by Degas, Delacroix, Gericault, David, and Cezanne. Masterworks of 19th Century French Realism and French Drawings are two separate exhibitions from the National Gallery of Canada that, combined, present over three centuries of French drawings and paintings by some of France’s most prestigious and celebrated artists. This exhibition ends in mid February.

The sixteen masterful paintings included in Masterworks of 19th Century French Realism include Degas, Cezanne, Courbet, Millet, Corot and Daumier. The exhibition features many stunningly landscapes as well as spectacular portraits of ordinary people.

The French Drawings exhibition of over 70 drawings as it surveys the works of French masters art from 16th to the 19th centuries. This extraordinary collection of works includes artists: Callot, Le Brun, Watteau, Fragonard, David, Delacroix, Gericault, Degas, Puvis de Chavannes and Redon. For further information, contact the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria at (250) 384-4101.

The Butchart Gardens are celebrating their 100th birthday and have transformed the gardens into spectacular displays of Christmas lights. As you wander through the glorious paths, the imaginative light shows illuminating the colourful flowerbeds will dazzle you.

Butchart Gardens Christmas Lights

The 12 days of Christmas are displayed with special scenes as you move through each Garden to the jolly sound of carollers singing traditional Christmas songs. If you are lucky, it might even snow, which makes the event even more spectacular. Snow is really rare in Victoria, but it can happen. In Victoria, you generally do not shovel snow, you simply wait for it to melt.

Studying English in Canada

Canada is one of the best places in the world to pursue higher education or to perfect your English at one of the many international languages schools. Why, you may ask?

• International reputation of its educational institutions
• Low cost of living and education fees compares with U.K., Australia, or New York / L.A.
• Major cities in Canada are very safe and have some of the lowest crime rate in the world.
• Great quality of life with many international restaurants, bars, pubs, amazing shopping malls
• Friendly people and diverse ethnicity

While winters can be cold and long they offer a unique experience for anyone who never experienced the Canadian winter and the many outdoor activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, or just tobogganing down the slopes…
Because of the long winter Canadians love to be in the outdoors during the summer months whether biking on the numerous city trails, taking part in the many International festivals, or just hanging out at the beautiful green parks.

OK, you sold me on Canada. What should I do next?

Well here are some links (Google the terms) to government agencies web sites where you can find great information on obtaining a study permit and the procedure to follow:

Citizenship and immigration Canada. Immigration (Quebec)

In order to obtain a student visa you must have been accepted at a recognised school, University, or College in Canada.
Now if you are only planning to take a language course for a short period of time, of less than six months, you do NOT need a study permit. You can always apply for student permit at a later date by travelling outside Canada to the US, or any other Canadian Embassy in the world.

How do I find the right school?

This is a great web site providing a list of schools in Canada (The schools at the top of the list are sponsors and are not any better than any other schools.) studyincanada dot com.

Look at every school’s web site. Read what programs they offer, what set them apart, and what are the acceptance requirements for each program. Ask your friends or anyone you know that studied in Canada.

How do I find the right language school?

There are many languages schools in Canada to choose from. They all offer great English language programs and provide a wonderful experience. First choose the city you will like to study in. Vancouver’s winter weather is less harsh however cost of living is high. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and has a major airport hub. City offers a large selection of schools, and students from major international cities will feel at home. Montreal offers a unique experience of a bilingual city and an opportunity to learn some French and English. Cost of living in Montreal is among the lowest in North America and consequently a very fun city to live in.

In most cases, language schools are privately funded schools though some publicly-funded colleges and universities run their own language schools. Compare the cost of every school, check if they offer any English exams preparation courses. Check if they are located in or close to the city center (downtown)

Medical Insurance

International students in Canada must purchase private medical insurance to cover for unexpected illness or emergency hospital expenses. Most colleges and languages schools will sell student medical insurance at an extra cost. Another option is to purchase medical insurance directly from a travel insurance broker in Canada such as this one.

Accommodations

Some schools offer homestay or short-term residences. Now homestay can be a great experience if you are lucky enough to stay with a nice family which is not always the case and you are not guaranteed to be staying in the downtown area. You can always find short-term or long-term accommodations on Craigslist or you can go with the ones recommended by the schools or people you know.

Transportation

For transportation from and to the airport, it is recommended to visit the airport web site and search for additional information. Off course taxis are always available at every major airport. Public transportation such as buses or trains can take you downtown or to some specific hotels from where you can take a taxi to your specific address and save some money.