Debut cruise review: Harmony of the Seas

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My readers have welcomed my contributions over the last year to MtlRestoRap, a Montreal restaurant review site. I’ve heard from many of you and received lots of favourable comments. Same goes for my recent Theatre reviews, all of which can be viewed under the “Reviews” tab up top.

I’m proud to say that today I launch my Travel Reviews with the publishing of my first ever Cruise Review in the formidable Canadian World Traveler magazine. My inaugural article is above or can be read on the online version of the Fall 2019 edition on page 50.

Please comment, like and share as this propels me forward to review more and to share with you.

Getting my thrills zip-lining across the open interior of Harmony of the Seas
Nikki getting the feel of the Flo-rider on the Sports Deck of Harmony of the Seas
Two spectacular ice shows aboard Harmony
A real ’50s style boardwalk with carousel, diner, cafe and bar. In the distance is the horrifying Abyss, an enclosed slide that drops an incredible 10 stories
GREASE the musical was so much fun and so entertaining
Sensational view of 12 levels mid-ship aboard Harmony of the Seas

Beautiful Laurentian bike ride through history on Ptit Train du Nord

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If you’re headed up north with bikes for the day, weekend or vacation you must already have heard of the Ptit Train du Nord recreation path that runs more than 200 kms from St. Jerome to Mont Laurier. Indeed, it is part of the Trans Canada Trail that spans the entire country. Our family has enjoyed the trail for years, choosing different segments most weekends. We used to pull the kids in a bike trailer till they finally managed two-wheelers on their own. What a fun family outing, sometimes lugging picnic lunches, other times stopping at the ice cream or sandwich shops along the way.

I had read about a newly paved section and decided to make that our Labour Day outing so we packed up the bikes and headed up the 117 to St. Faustin-Lac Carré.

The St. Faustin train station was built in 1893

The old train stations at each town are a delight to explore. Well preserved and exhibiting old photos of yesteryear, I can just imagine what it was like to take the voyage by train from Montreal, way up into the Laurentian Mountains. On today’s journey, I imagined my dad’s train ride to St. Faustin station in 1940. He vacationed in Lac Carré at Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, for just $15 a week!

Cantor’s Square Lake Inn, St. Faustin, Qc. Samuel Cantor, his wife Rachel, and brother Myer Cantor bought the Inn in 1935 and owned it together until the death of Myer in 1945. When Rachel died in 1961 the Inn was sold. It burned to the ground one year later, never to be rebuilt.

The St. Faustin-Lac Carré station is a meeting point in the town. The grounds are well groomed with outdoor artistic pieces, playground, a petoncle court and even a metal tree with heart shaped red locks with the names of lovers and their important dates (haven’t seen that since Paris). There is a lovely café and a couple of ice cream shops to suit your taste.

We decided to ride from St. Faustin to St. Jovite, aka Centre-Ville Mont Tremblant, a distance of 12.5 km. The asphalt was smooth as can be and most of the northbound ride was slightly sloped downhill so I enjoyed the breeze and sights without pondering the return uphill trip. In 30 just minutes we arrived at our destination. Along the way we saw beautiful views of the Riviere du Nord which hugs the trail much of its length.

There’s wildlife, farms, lovely old homes and places to stop and relax along the way. We saw butterflies and ducks on this trip. Previously we’ve seen deer.

I decided to explore and take pictures on the slower southbound climb. I hope you’ll enjoy my shots and come and see for yourself.

Many thanks to the good folks who maintain the Ptit Train du Nord and to their sponsors who provide the funding for this magnificent, free recreational gem.

Happy Cycling!

Lovely old Quebec homesteads to see along the Ptit Train du Nord
Riviere du nord, as scene from the Ptit Train du Nord, St. Faustin – Lac Carré
Beautiful colours and gorgeous homes along the bike trail
The views while cycling along the Ptit Train du Nord
Judy and Barry enjoying the warm breeze on the trail
Lovers locks in St. Faustin – Lac Carré
The Millette farm, passed down through the generations
Famille Millette farm equipment preserved for younger generations to explore
Old dam wheel to control water levels along the Riviere du Nord
Plenty of distraction for the little ones along the trail
Barry studying all the trail options in the Tremblant area
Step down into Lac Carré

7 Effective Strategies for Getting into the Best Shape of Your Life

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My brother Barry is an unrelenting work-out fanatic, a seasoned, even professional, travel adventurer and a healthy-lifestyle driven character. He has spent years fine-tuning his control over mind, body and soul. Having dispatched his travel postcards from all corners of the globe for the past decade over 150 friends have repeatedly suggested that he write a book.

After two months of laser-focused effort, he has written and published his first ever book on Amazon, entitled: 7 Effective Strategies for Getting into the Best Shape of Your Life.

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Nicole and Jeremy Nashen with their uncle Barry Nashen on top of Mont St. Hilaire. Nov. 2018.

Good physical health, experiences, and friendships correlate with life satisfaction and overall happiness. However, the population is becoming ever more overweight and sedentary. Barry outlines seven motivators to energize your desire or ambition for feeling great. As you are a unique individual, the motivation that will inspire you may well be different from what will incite your friend. As an illustration, is it goal-setting or music that influences you best? Discover the motivation that sparks your enthusiasm.

“I have written a couple of dozen two-page travel postcards over the past decade. After much encouragement from my readers, I decided that it was finally time to write a book. How much more challenging can it be?”, Barry mused.

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Barry Nashen hiking in Croatia. 2015.

“After two months of concentration during the evenings, I published my first-ever book about motivation, couched in a guide for getting into great physical shape,” he said.

In order to impact the most people as possible with his effort, he has made his book available to download for a mere US$2.99 (or CAD $10.99 in paperback).  “If you enjoy my book leave a heartfelt review,” Barry said. “And it is completely free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!”

The book is only 20 pages, you can easily read it in a half hour.

In Canada:
https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07P8KNW7T/ref=sr_1_1…

In the USA:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P8KNW7T/ref=sr_1_1…

 

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Barry Nashen captures his first Spartan Beast in 2015

“I am certain you will enjoy reading my book,” Barry told me. “It is full of fun facts! And please re-post this request to your FB friends? Imagine if all your out-of-shape acquaintances become fit and healthy thanks to your re-post!”

And what’s next for Barry? “With your encouragement, I am planning on writing another, maybe a mystery novel!”

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Barry Nashen hikes and bikes the Portuguese coast in 2018

Farewell 2018. Hoping for a healthy, peaceful 2019.

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Sunset on the Atlantic. Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. Oct. 25, 2018.

 

As the sun sets on 2018 I chose this photo I shot just eight weeks ago at the southwestern most tip of Europe, Cape St. Vincent, in Portugal.

At this very point, 500 years ago, explorers set out into the unknown as family members waved goodbye, not knowing if they would see their brave, loved ones ever again. Off they went into the cold, rough ocean, not knowing what lay ahead, not quite sure on their course, nor their destination. They saw this exact same setting as we see today.

So too do we head off into the unknown: 2019. We don’t know quite what lies ahead and our destination is not assured. But just like the explorers of centuries ago, we are steadfast and resolute in our direction. We’ve plotted a course for a good year, a healthy year, a peaceful year. We have hopes and dreams just like they did.

Here’s wishing you well in all that lies ahead on your journey, wherever you may be headed. Happy New Year.

Glenn J. Nashen

Portuguese Merry Christmas

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Wishing my friends and neighbours a season of peace and love. Here are some photos on my recent trip to Portugal which suit the season.

Sé Cathedral, Lisbon. Oct. 25, 2018.

 

Monument of Christ the King looms over the rooftops of Lisbon. Oct. 27, 2018.

 

Jeronimos Monestary, Belhem. Oct. 27, 2018.

 

11th century Silves Cathedral. Silves. Nov. 3, 2018.

 

Our Lady of the Rock Chapel looms over the sea at Alporchinhos in the Algrave. Nov. 2, 2018.

Air Transat brings the Israel experience a lot closer

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Celebrating Air Transat service to Tel Aviv with Robert Presser, Glenn J. Nashen and Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman

A whole lot of Quebecers are about to get an incredible experience travelling directly to Israel aboard Air Transat. The Montreal-based airline kicked off its Trudeau to Ben Gurion non-stop service as a sort of birthday bash, marking its 30 years in business and highlighting Montreal’s 375th anniversary. 150 years of Canadian federation, as well as 100 years of Federation CJA.

The event took place in the ultra-modern Montreal Science Centre at the Old Port. There was an interesting mix of politicos, business leaders, young entrepreneurs and community who’s who. English, French and Hebrew-speaking, Kosher or not, young and less young, the audience reflected the multicultural, hip crowd of would-be travelers that Air Transat is targeting.

Airline prez Jean-Marc Eustache, lead off the formalities by saying that they weren’t looking to become mere transporters. The airline’s strategy is to build travel experiences with local partners in Israel to offer excursions, lodging and tours to meet the needs of Quebec couples, families and singles alike. And, publicity will soon begin to promote Montreal and Quebec as a hot tourist destination for Israelis.

Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman was beaming with excitement at the prospect of tens of thousands of Quebecers seeking a taste of Israel. Whether it’s for the food, the wine or the music, for exploring or for religious travel, Israel has it all, said the coolest diplomat Israel has sent to Montreal in modern times. The Israeli Consul for Tourism, Uri Steinberg, said that the relationship between Israel and Air Transat would flourish, like a romance, as they become closer and closer, falling in love with one another. Quebecers will love Israel, he said.

Glenn J. Nashen, Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser at the Air Transat kickoff of bi-weekly direct service between Montreal to Tel Aviv

Montreal City Councillor and Executive Committee member Lionel Perez said that Montrealers will benefit from being five or six hours closer thanks to the direct flights and that Israelis will come in large numbers to enjoy Montreal’s flair, sites and culture. And we have great religious sites to share with them such as the St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Notre Dame Cathedral and eventually a downtown Expos stadium!

The Transat folks created a true Israeli atmosphere, raffling off two free flights for two to Israel, serving spicy, tasty hors d’ouevres and five kinds of humus provided by Alan Serour of Beso Catering. A 5-piece orchestra belted out Klezmer tunes and Israeli wine flowed freely.

Glenn J. Nashen and CSUQ President Henri Elbaz discussing their next trip to Israel aboard Air Transat

It was great to see my old JGH boss Henri Elbaz and his physician wife Dr. Sandy, CIJA chief Eta Yudin, Senator Marc Gold, Hamsptead Mayor Bill Steinberg and his wife Doris, Outremont City Councillor Mindy Pollak, Israel Day Rally impresario Amos Sochaczevski, Israeli commuter-in-chief Dado Ben Brit, community activists Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser and former news anchor Pascale Dery. CSL Insurance and Travel Professional Ruth Cohen will be plugging Air Transat service from her Cavendish Mall headquarters,

Good luck to Air Transat in finally bringing back direct service to Ben Gurion airport after a decades long gap. Here’s to falling in love with Israel!

Shalom Cuba: a smaller, thriving Jewish community

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When you think of Cuba you probably envision beautiful sandy beaches, royal palm trees, Latin rhythm and jazz, rum, cigars, Fidel, communism, old cars and so on. And you’d be right. But would you imagine a small, but thriving Jewish community that once numbered close to 20,000 members, five synagogues, Rabbis and kosher food flown in from Mexico or South America?
This is the short story of my family’s visit to Jewish Cuba a few weeks ago.
Many Jews arrived in Cuba with Christopher Columbus in 1492 and Jewish presence has remained there ever since.
In my post-university years, following Leadership Development training at the Canadian Jewish Congress, I was actively involved in heading up the local committee first for Jews in Arab Lands, and subsequently the Cuban Jewry Relief Committee. This latter group always left me with the desire to visit this intriguing, and somewhat mysterious, community. So my trip to Cuba was essentially a decades long mission on my bucket list sandwiched in between six days at a lovely resort.
As happenstance would have it, while walking through Old Havana, we passed by the old Orthodox Shul. Squished between nondescript, run down buildings, gated and locked, one could easily pass right by, none the smarter. But being the curious types we wanted to know as much as possible about anything and everything that had a hint of Jewishness. We had questions and and we wanted answers.

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Inscription adorning the Sinagoga Ortodoxa Adath Israel in Old Havana (Feb. 2017)

Although the Synagoga Ortodoxa Adath Israel was locked up, an old man wearing a very noticeable Magen David (Star of David) stood outside, answering questions for any curious tourists passing by. For Montrealers, it was like standing in front of Zaida’s or even great-grandfather’s shul on the Main, St. Lawrence Boulevard.
There we met two Jewish Cuban expats, who introduced themselves as ‘Jewbans’. Visiting from Orlando, Florida, on a Family Reunification visa, they were most excited to visit the synagogues of their grandparents and their grave sites in the Jewish cemetery. Their Cuban Jewish patriarchs went back seven generations.
The ‘Jewbans’ told us that their uncle and father had been Bar Mitzvahed in the synagogue we stood in front of, and the one we were about to visit.

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The Nashen Family visiting Temple Beth Shalom, the Grand Synagogue of Cuba (Feb. 2017)

Temple Beth Shalom is also known as the Gran Sinagoga de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba, located in the posh neighbourhood of Vedado. Beth Shalom Synagogue, known by Jewish Cubans as the ‘Patronato‘, is Cuba’s major Jewish community centre.
Designed by famed architect Aquiles Capablanca and founded in 1953, the Gran Sinagoga maintains its striking facade with the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel and a modernist arch rising to the heavens. In recent years, the Patronato has become a crossroads for Jews from all over the world.
In the absence of any antisemitism in Cuba, the doors were wide open and we walked in freely without any questions by anyone. What a great feeling.
Workers were busy renovating the bima (the podium from which the Torah is read) and other areas of the sanctuary. The Shul used to be Orthodox but in recent years became Conservative.
Ernesto Hernandez Miyares approached us and offered to show us a round and answer any questions. Ernesto is the hi-tech expert and secretary of the Shul and didn’t hesitate to proudly show off his unique and lively centre.

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Nearby the Orthodox Synagogue in Old Havana we stumbled upon this gated, closed parkette with a large, brass Menorah. There was no sign or description anywhere? Do you know the story behind this? If so, please leave a comment.

Ernesto is the son of Jewish emigres from Turkey. His wife comes from generations of Russian Jewish lineage. Their 18 year old son was to be making Aliyah in a matter of days. The couple hope to visit him on their first visit to Israel next year. Coincidentally, their son will go to Beer Sheva, Jewish Montreal’s twin city.
In 1959, there were more than 15,000 Jews in Cuba, Ernesto explained. Now, 800 remain in Havana alone, 1500 in all of Cuba.

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The Jewish Federation of Cuba

The Patronato houses the Jewish library, and regular festivals in their communal hall downstairs. Upstairs, they house a small pharmacy for community members and a room outfitted by ORT.  Shabbat services are held every week.

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Cuban Jewish Community President Adela Dworin with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following the funeral of Fidel Castro, Nov. 2016. This photo hangs in the Patronato in Havana. (Glenn J. Nashen, Feb. 2017)

Wonderful photos of celebration and VIP visits decorate a wall. There, one particular shot jumped out at me. It was a portrait of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau alongside the Cuban Jewish community president, Adela Dworin.
Ernesto, and Vice-President David Prinstein recounted how Trudeau made a special visit to the Jewish community during last year’s visit for the funeral of Fidel Castro. I didn’t recall any publicity around such a meeting and took some pride in learning about this.
We thanked our hosts for this special visit and received a nice souvenir for my son, a bracelet displaying “Shalom Cuba”. How fitting.
We were invited to come back and visit again, Next time with Justin Trudeau.
Shalom from Cuba!

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