Oh! Canada

Featured image: ©istockphoto.com / benedek

Canada, a land of beautiful scenery and congenial spirit, balances energetic city life with a calmer, relaxed lifestyle by the water. And if you ask Billie Pat Dall, sales representative at Bernice Whelan Realty Inc., about the real estate market, she’ll tell you that the area in which she sells (the Lake Simcoe and Barrie area of Ontario) is attractive for buyers who are looking for more space.

Only an hour north of Toronto, Barrie offers luxury homes at more affordable prices than in the city, ranging from $2 million to $20 million. Homes are complete with gourmet kitchens, main floor principal suites, home theaters, wine cellars, sports courts, and pools. Residents who live on the water enjoy charming boat houses with guest suites and tranquil water views.

According to Dall, Barrie is also an ideal area to raise a family, as residents have a wide array of outdoor activities at their fingertips.

“It is a place where kids can ride their bikes down to the beach and then over to one of the many tennis courts or to play basketball, and then back home to swim in their backyard pool. All of this is at your doorstep when you live in this region. There is also the added bonus of only being a one-hour drive away from Toronto, so parents can commute if they work in Toronto and visit for a Jays baseball game, theater or concert,” she explains.

Besides athletic endeavors, the Lake Simcoe region also hosts Canada’s largest camping and country music festival, The Hearts and Boots Festival, and Ontario’s biggest waterfront festival, Kempenfest.

Oakville, located just 45 minutes south of Toronto, boasts a thriving market as well, being one of the most densely populated regions in Canada. Lesley Cumming, sales representative at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, describes Oakville and Burlington as the “home to hikers, bikers, economic trail glazers, casual boaters, and local vendor enthusiasts.”

In Oakville and Burlington, you can find condos situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and 50-plus-acre properties with rolling hills, bank barns, horse stalls, ponds, and paddocks. Locals can head over to lakes, beaches, marinas, and conservation trails to absorb the stunning landscape.

Cumming notes that most new buyers in this region were previously urban dwellers from the Greater Toronto Area, in search of a smaller community with more property space. With varied landscape, cuisine, and population, Oakville and Burlington find a way to keep residents and visitors entertained while also cultivating an at-home feel.

“There is so much that is attractive about our region from the diverse cuisine, our local specialty shops, to our beautiful landscape. We have something for everyone,” Cumming says.

Bruce T. Martin uses photographs as words to create a vivid story about the culture and history of Mayan caves and cenotes of the Yucatan and more.

Photography by Bruce T. Martin

“In 1975, my father gave me a Pentad Spotomatic 35 mm camera, that I still have today,” says Bruce T. Martin, an American Fine Arts photographer. Even early on Martin didn’t pursue other careers or jobs outside of photography. Initially, his interest in cameras and capturing moments sparked when he was studying abroad in Europe 1976 and he’s been studying the art form ever since. Now, Martin explains that he takes a literary approach to his photography. “Images combine like words do in a sentence to tell a story,” he says. “My motivation is to use photography to document our world, explore our perceptions and question our viewpoints. ”

 

Martin grew up in Chautauqua County in western New York where he studied at Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. His connection to photography continued to grow even building a darkroom in his parent’s basement and later began apprenticing for Irving Penn in New York City. “That experience opened my thinking to a whole new world of possibilities,” says Martin. Although the young photographer already had an affinity to landscape photography, his job at the Chautauqua County Office of Planning and Development led to a deep appreciation for architectural structures. One responsibility of Martin’s new job was to “contact the owners of interesting and important architectural structures in the community to secure permission to photograph their homes and buildings.”

 

Gruata Milenio, Yucatán 2012

In terms of style, the photographer has “tried to combine the excellence of many photographers such as the technical mastery of Ansel Adams, the unique viewpoints of Andres Kertesz and the eloquence of Irving Penn, to name a few,” says Martin. However, from a technical point of view, Martin describes his approach as direct. “Positioning my camera in a place where I believe will reveal what I feel is most important to the image … then waiting for or creating the lighting that best reveals the detail and color to express the emotion and purpose of the image.”

As an artist, Martin is always working on a number of projects such as a larger portfolio of Boston cityscape and architecture. A series called “Fragment Landscape” is also in the works and involves overlapping images gathered in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, there has been one persisting project that Martin has been expanding on since 1987.

“I have been working on a project on the Maya of Central America, using historical documents, academic research, and current events in conjunction with my photography and recordings from the field,” according to Martin. The first phase of the project resulted in the book and exhibit, “Look Close See Far, A Cultural Portrait of Maya”, and has now progressed into the next component. “Seeking Sacred Landscapes, Maya Caves and Cenotes of the Yucatan”. Martin describes the project as, “beautiful, mysterious, and compelling.”

The series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” is a combination of images of the Yucatan’s caves and cenotes with archeological, historical, and environmental essays by established authorities, according to the experienced photographer. Martin’s images compel you to look closer at the detail that has formed over the years within nature.

It’s hard to imagine what being in those types of caves would be like, but Martin describes it as a time full of anticipation. “Knowing that I will experience and learn something new each time fills my mind as I begin the descent into these underground chambers.” This experience has been building over the years. When the project first began Martin became interested in many of the Mayan’s core mythology concepts, which later led to his deeper understanding of the culture. “Harmony in life is a daily struggle. With the rapid development of recent years, many contrasting and violent viewpoints have been introduced, so that the Maya and their environment are being overwhelmed,” says Martin. “Surviving these disruptive influences and maintaining their cultural dignity is the challenge for an uncertain future that the Maya now face.”

The series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” is a combination of images of the Yucatan’s caves and cenotes with archeological, historical, and environmental essays by established authorities, according to the experienced photographer. Martin’s images compel you to look closer at the detail that has formed over the years within nature.  

It’s hard to imagine what being in those types of caves would be like, but Martin describes it as a time full of anticipation. “Knowing that I will experience and learn something new each time fills my mind as I begin the descent into these underground chambers.” This experience has been building over the years. When the project first began Martin became interested in many of the Mayan’s core mythology concepts, which later led to his deeper understanding of the culture. “Harmony in life is a daily struggle. With the rapid development of recent years, many contrasting and violent viewpoints have been introduced, so that the Maya and their environment are being overwhelmed,” says Martin. “Surviving these disruptive influences and maintaining their cultural dignity is the challenge for an uncertain future that the Maya now face.”

Through images that help to shape and tell a story, Martin is hoping that the series “Seeking Sacred Landscapes” will attract some attention to these struggles. “With a greater awareness of their issues, a more productive dialogue on the Maya and their land can begin, which will promote cultural diversity, protect their environment and respect for their fading traditions.”

Each part of Martin’s experience pushes him further and enhances his ability as an artist. A journey from architectural to landscape photography has proved there is more than what originally meets the eye, which can be seen in the details of his photos. According to Martin, “Each of these naturally-occurring, organic caverns and cenotes are unique yet similar architectural spaces that overwhelm your perceptions and preconceived notions of the world we live in.”

Cenote Ik kil, Yucatán, 2016.

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Spring 2019.

White Desert itineraries are designed as a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. Each day, field guides suggest excursions and activities for guests to choose from — whether relaxing, such as a gentle trek to view ice wave formations, or challenging, such as technical rock climbing. All photos courtesy White Desert. 

For those wanting to explore Antarctica — and not just from a cruise ship — there is a way to do it without giving up creature comforts. 

By Sarah Binder

Adventure and luxury do not always go hand in hand. In the farthest reaches of the Earth, you might expect to find only one or the other. However, a few times a year, a dozen in-the-know travelers find both — in the interior of Antarctica.
Founded and led by CEO Patrick Woodhead, who helmed the first ever east-to-west traverse of Antarctica in a total of 75 days, White Desert is the first and only luxury camp in the interior of Antarctica. While most travelers to the seventh continent arrive, eat, sleep, and depart on a cruise ship, White Desert flies its guests to a fully functional, eco-friendly luxury camp in the virtually untouched interior, where they experience awe-inspiring and adrenaline-pumping activities.

The idea for White Desert came to Woodhead organically, as he and three teammates waited out a multi-day storm in a small tent during a traverse of the continent. Realizing that travelers may be interested in the “real” Antarctica, Woodhead and his teammates envisioned an old world-style camp that would provide a high level of comfort to intimate groups.
Whichaway camp, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a complete overhaul, boasts six heated fiberglass sleeping pods that house two people each.

Whichaway Camp celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with a compete makeover, including in the old-world, Game of Thrones-style dining room, where guests savor homemade three-course meals.

“There are only 12 guests at one time, and there is a member of staff per client,” explains Richard Godden, White Desert’s client and media relations manager.
“The camp recently has been refurbished with luxury fabric headboards, Saarinen chairs, fur throws, and extended en suite bathrooms stocked with sustainable toiletries, created by our friend and fellow polar explorer David de Rothschild’s Lost Explorer brand,” says Godden. “It might be surprising to guests to have solar-powered hot water!”
In the cozy communal dining room, guests refuel by savoring three-course meals every night, prepared with ingredients from Cape Town by Chef Justine Lindsay, who studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A library and lounge offer the opportunity to recharge electronic devices and relax with a book after a physically demanding ice climb.

“People often have a fascination and curiosity about Antarctica from their school days. It is such a wondrous ‘white desert’ landscape that is in total contrast to what we are familiar with,” explains Marcel Knobil, founder of VeryFirstTo, a website that enables its members to be the first to learn of and indulge in newly launching luxury products and experiences.
“While Antarctica traditionally has been associated with harsh conditions and uncomfortable travel, White Desert’s Emperors & South Pole oozes with indulgent comforts and smooth, luxurious travel,” he says. VeryFirstTo, which also creates its own bespoke travel experiences, connects its interested members to White Desert, as well as offers advice on how to maximize enjoyment of their experience.
White Desert’s expeditions begin in Cape Town, South Africa, arriving at Whichaway Camp via a five-and-a-half-hour direct flight. The Emperors & South Pole itinerary lasts eight nights, at 64,000 euros, all-inclusive, per person. This year, White Desert was offering four of the excursions, all during November and December, the brief window of time suitable for travel to Antarctica’s interior. As of October, two of the four journeys were sold out.
“Clients staying at our camp are the only people who can visit the 6,000-strong emperor penguin colony and their young chicks at Atka Bay, ” explains Godden.
Viewing remote wildlife is just the tip of the iceberg. Each day, clients can select from a number of excursions and activities guided by genuine polar explorers, from exploring iridescent blue ice caves and tunnels to ice and rock climbing, kite-skiing, traversing lakes, and more. The most ambitious guests can take a trip to the South Pole, which entails a six-hour flight from camp, including a fuel stop, in order to reach the lowest place on Earth. There they are treated to a tour of the Amundsen-Scott America research station.
White Desert’s itineraries have sold out for the past five seasons, says Godden, and the company has guided hundreds of travelers, including household names Prince Harry and Bear Grylls, to Antarctica’s interior. The team ensures all of its clients are well-equipped, assisting with last-minute preparations in Cape Town.
“We provide each client with a recommended kit list for their journey; they can either bring existing gear or order our recommendations via our clothing supplier in Cape Town,” says Godden. The team also meets clients and hosts a safety briefing the day before departure.
White Desert not only is cognizant of its guests’ comfort and safety; it also goes to great lengths to protect the continent itself. Going beyond the environmental tourism guidelines outlined in the Antarctic Treaty, White Desert operates under a self-imposed zero-impact policy.
“All human waste is transported out on regular flights and disposed of responsibly in South Africa. A significant portion of the camps is powered by renewable energy, using photovoltaic solar panels for electrical supply and solar water heaters for the shower system,” Godden says. “In addition, White Desert is an accredited CarbonNeutral® company. We offset all emissions through a portfolio of carbon projects for our flights to Antarctica and the associated logisitics once there.”
Providing a high-end experience that leaves a sensistive wilderness intact is no small feat. “The main challenge for providing a luxurious experience and also with the completion of the renovation was the coordination of logistics — to get all of the items to the flight and then bring them in specialized vehicles to the camp,” Godden explains. “The cost per kilogram for cargo is around 14 euros, which means that is very expensive to make it all happen.”

With just six brand-new state-of-the-art sleeping pods at Whichaway Camp, each White Desert adventure is comprised of a small group of 12 travelers. At 20-plus feet in diameter, the sleeping pods also offer a private wash area and toilet.

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