October 07, 2009

Q: Can you tell me about any new green hotels with a wildlife focus? —Lauren Finkelstein, Los Angeles, Calif.

A: “At the 40-suite Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa (emirateshotelsresorts.com; doubles from $1,392, all-inclusive), near Sydney, guests can catch a glimpse of the Peron’s tree frog. Birders love Uruguay’s Estancia Tierra Santa (estanciatierrasanta.com; doubles from $425, including breakfast and dinner) because the ranch is home to nandus and hummingbirds. And safari trekkers may see the Big Five, including lions, elephants, and leopards, while staying at the thatched-roof Bilila Lodge Kempinski (kempinski-bililalodge.com; doubles from $800, all-inclusive), in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.” —T+L associate editor Sarah Kantrowitz

Q: We’re interested in going to Montreal this winter. Where should we stay and what should we do? —Dale Ayers, Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: Winter is a great time to visit the city: hotel rates are low, and outdoor activities are plentiful. Start your trip at the Opus Hotel Montreal (doubles from $229), located on St.-Laurent Boulevard. The 136 colorful rooms have bright walls, vintage photographs, and L’Occitane bath products. Spend an afternoon exploring the cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal, then, for dinner, head to nearby Club Chasse et Pêche (dinner for two $102) to sample dishes such as seared scallops with fennel purée. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider snowshoeing through the Parc Jean-Drapeau, the city’s largest park, or ice-skating at the Quays of the Old Port (quaysoftheoldport.com; rentals from $5).

Q: Do you know of any tour operators offering great land and cruise packages to Alaska next summer? —Jim Healy, Naples, Fla.

A: There are several options: the six-day Kenai Adventure from Off the Beaten Path (from $3,195 per person) brings travelers on daylong sails into Kenai Fjords National Park and hikes through the coastal Sitka spruce forest. Geographic Expeditions (800/777-8183; geoex.com; from $15,860 per person) arranges a 16-day Alaskan Inland Passage excursion with exclusive access into the 3.2 million–acre Glacier Bay National Park via yacht, followed by a stay at the Ultima Thule Lodge, with 12 well-equipped riverfront cabins. And Alaska Tour & Travel (prices vary) creates tailor-made itineraries for the region, with more than 100 land and cruise options, including heli-hiking outings in Denali National Park.

Q: I’ve heard that the TSA is requiring travelers to provide personal information as part of a safety initiative. Is this true? —Mary Young, Lakewood, Wash.

A: Yes, the Transportation Security Administration is rolling out Secure Flight, a vetting program designed to cut down on the misidentification of travelers—in other words, ensuring that you are not confused with someone else who’s on a government watch list. The program’s only immediate effect on your routine will be that you’ll need to provide your name exactly as it appears on your government-issued ID at the time of booking. Airlines may also ask you for your gender and birth date when booking a flight. Secure Flight aims to screen 100 percent of domestic passengers by early 2010 and all international passengers by the end of the same year.

Off the Beaten Path

The Bozeman, Montana-based company specializes in itineraries to destinations throughout North and South America (as well as New Zealand, where it offers a two-week backcountry hiking trip on a half-dozen dates each year). Looking to go to Canada? Their adventurous itinerary stops in three of the country’s national parks—Banff, Jasper, and Yoho—where you’ll spot elk, moose, and golden eagles, as part of its Crown Jewels journey. Their Alaska itinerary features a visit to the Chilkat Eagle Preserve and Glacier Bay National Park. The outfitter now gives guests the chance to stay in a private camp near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, set within the world’s largest stand of ponderosa pines. By day, you’ll trek two miles down into the canyon, tour ancestral Puebloan ruins, and bike local trails, all in the hands of expert guides. Come evening, you’ll stay in your own deluxe walk-in tent, outfitted with a memory-foam mattress and mirrored washbasin.

OPUS Hotel Montreal

Located at the intersection of Rue Sherbrooke and Boulevard Saint-Laurent—equidistant from downtown and the Plateau—this property should have been a slam-dunk when it opened in 2004 as the design-driven Hotel Godin. But after much ado, things fizzled, thanks in large part to the owners’ inability to get a liquor license. Thankfully, Vancouver’s playful Trilogy Group took it over in 2007, and the comfortable, well-sized rooms are now brighter and more colorful (albeit rather generic), and the property—finally!—can serve booze. The vibe is still resolutely young, but the Opus professionalism shines through.

Room to Book: The executive suites, for their extra-large spa baths.

Le Club Chasse et Peche

Set among Vieux-Montréal’s cobblestoned lanes, this eatery is marked only by the antler-and-fish crest hanging outside the door (appropriate, since chasse et pêche means “hunting and fishing”). Inside, the atmosphere is dark and full of disorienting design touches (old-school leather club chairs combine with mod white ceramic birds taking flight from low-hanging glass pendant lights), and the tables are spread through a pair of little dining rooms with an excellent soundtrack overhead (dub and reggae are often on the playlist). The dishes, which pay homage to both gun and rod, are surprisingly light. Try the striped bass with asparagus and sorrel in a risotto-style Parmesan sauce, or the rabbit and lobster gnocchi. In summer, the restaurant also has tables on an outdoor terrace just across the street in the garden of the historic Château Ramezay. The terrace is open only on weeknights, and tables go quickly. Be sure to book in advance.

Alaska Tour & Travel

The tour operator creates tailor-made itineraries for the region, with more than 100 land and cruise options, including heli-hiking outings in Denali National Park.

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