Day: November 8, 2020

Journey to an Airbnb tree house: An alternative pandemic vacation

When my girlfriend sent me the Airbnb listing to a tree house at the end of the summer, it looked like the perfect lil getaway amid a never-ending pandemic.

A private forest on 300 acres away from humanity? Yes please. Adorable tree house overlooking a peaceful meadow? Give it to me. S’mores by the fire? Slap it in my face.

Oh would you look at that, a pretty panoramic path.

Juggling vacation days and other commitments, we booked our first vacation together over the Halloween weekend. The countdown was on.

To keep the excitement going, we created a joint playlist on Spotify for the drive up. Having something to look forward to was a welcome change to the unending work-sleep cycle we’ve found ourselves in since work from home started in March.

A gazebo on the property you could hangout in, would make a great spot to hotbox, but Rebecca wouldn't let me.

Port Perry, Ont., can be a two-hour drive from Hamilton depending on traffic, but we were in the historic downtown after an hour and a half.

After checking out a bookstore and a few other spots around town, we got a text from the property manager that our tree house was ready.

Our little treehouse came complete with a little Halloween spirit in the form of a carved pumpkin.

Andrew met us at the main house, hopped on an ATV and led us through a series of trails to where we would spend the next few days. As the tree house emerged through the foliage, we let out an excited shriek. We had found the perfect place to unplug, get high and enjoy nature.

The air was full of blissful silence.

Once we got a rundown of how everything worked, Andrew pointed out the beginning of a hike, and with the words “follow the signs and it’s almost impossible to get lost,” he was gone.

She's beauty and she's grace, she's a pond with a bridge attached.

Rebecca and I dropped our things off on the second storey — the bathroom was on the first and the bed in the loft — and found a lovely welcome gift in the form of a bottle of wine and postcard. There was also a small stereo, loveseat and chair, kitchenette and a chest that doubled as a table. Once I set up my cannabis accoutrement, it felt like home.

Ours was the only tree house on the property, though host Frank also rents out a nearby cabin.

There was plenty of natural beauty to take in, and not just my girlfriend's face.

The property was gorgeous and once we started exploring, it was clear there was plenty to take in. Ponds dotted the area along with places to sit and reflect. The crispness of the air offered a nice balance to the pot cookie I ate before we left.



Something about autumn gave the place an eerie feel that intensified the more we saw and the darker it got. There was a notable absence of wildlife.

The trees were really giving off an eerie autumn energy.

We came across an ominous deflated basketball in the middle of a trail. What does it mean, we wondered.

A warning from a forest dweller to turn back? Perhaps a comment on our deteriorating collective consciousness? We scanned our surroundings, but they revealed nothing. I kept my eyes open for creepy signs.

An ominous deflated basketball we came across on one of the trails. What could it mean?

Later that night we attempted a fire, but with the

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New Europe Travel Bans (And Protests), As Covid-19 Surges

With rising infection rates of Covid-19 across all EU countries, many governments have implemented new travel restrictions this week, leading some groups and politicians to protest.

EU countries are using the European Centre for Disease Control’s ‘traffic light’ system for determining travel restrictions, which this week, labelled all countries as red, except for Norway and Finland–a big change on the week before, where some countries had been orange or green.

Most countries are still opting to keep schools open where possible across Europe (particularly for younger children) to try to alleviate the stress of childcare on parents. Many of the lockdowns are much lighter in nature than those imposed in March and don’t call for a complete ban on movement.

This week, many countries though–such as across France and some Italian regions–opted to take high school down to half classes, or to continue lessons online.

Italy shuts down 4 entire regions

As rates spiked across Italy, many of its regions were put into strict lockdown conditions with the closure of many non-essential businesses across the country.

AP News reported that the northern regions of Lombardy (which includes Milan), Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta and the southern region of Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, will be under increased restrictions for the next 15 days.

This implies the closure of all non-essential stores, take-out only service for bars and restaurants, distance learning for students 12 and over and a ban on leaving hometowns except for work, health or other serious reasons.

Sicily and Puglia, two other southern regions, are now under a second tier of restrictions. The rest of Italy is under a 10 pm curfew with restaurants forced to close by 6 pm.

Whilst Italy reported a record number of Covid-19 cases, many local politicians vowed to fight the enforced national lockdowns, such as the governor of Calabria.

Germany reducing quarantine from high-risk countries

Germany’s rates of contracting Covid-19 are also increasing; the country has doubled the number of patients in intensive care in just 10 days and set a new record of over 21,500 new confirmed cases on Friday.

On 2 November, the country went into lockdown but from 8 November it is changing its travel regulations slightly. Currently, all visitors arriving, who have been in high-risk countries 14-days prior, must take a Covid-19 test and remain in quarantine until the results come back (usually a few hours and the test is free). If the results are positive, they must quarantine for 2 weeks but after 8 November, this period will become 10 days. Anyone else with a negative test must quarantine for 5 days.

Thousands took to the streets in Liepzig on Saturday to protest against the further restrictions of movement.

France imposes Covid-19 testing on all arrivals

As France headed into its second lockdown, the French Health Minister Olivier

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The 4 Best Hotel Sheets

Springing for a pair of hotel sheets brings room-service luxury to your bedroom. Although a stay at a five-star hotel may feel out of reach, hotel-quality bedding is surprisingly easy to replicate at home. The best hotel sheets are made from pure long-staple cotton with at least a 300 thread-count — but the weave type is a matter of personal preference. Some love a percale weave (which Sferra famously uses, whose clients include the Carlyle, the Peninsula, and the Thompson Hotels) while others need sateen (which you’ll find at the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, the Waldorf-Astoria, and the St. Regis).

As for the difference between cotton percale versus cotton sateen, percale is commonly described as “crisp,” and it has that clean-feeling breathability with a cool and dry hand. Sateen sheets, as the name implies, feel smooth and silky and have a bit of a luster. While a higher thread count often gets touted, the best thread-count for percale sheets, according to experts interviewed by Wirecutter, falls around 250-300 for a good-quality set; and around 300 to 600 for sateen. Unsurprisingly, most luxury hotels opted for the higher end of that spectrum, and the choices here do too. However, it’s important to note that thread-count isn’t the most important factor in purchasing a good set of sheets: cotton quality is where you’ll feel the biggest difference.

You’ll often encounter the terms “long-staple cotton” and “extra-long staple cotton.” This refers to the length of the cotton fibers. Short-staple is frequently used for flannel and denim. A long-staple cotton, often used for sheets, is softer and silkier. It’s also stronger, and only gets better with time — so you can imagine how nice extra-long staple cotton must be, especially in bedding. You’ll also run into Egyptian cotton and pima cotton, which are prized for their extra-long-staple fibers. (Pro tip: If the type of cotton isn’t listed by the brand, it is most likely short-staple or upland cotton.)

Ahead, four sets of the best hotel sheets that will make your bed feel like a five-star getaway when you need a staycation.

1. These Luxe 100% Egyptian Cotton Sateen Sheets

Sink into a set of pure Egyptian cotton sheets that have amassed more than 10,000 Amazon ratings for their unrivaled softness and quality. Mayfair Linen’s sateen sheet set is made from long-staple combed cotton for a smooth finish, with a buttery 800 thread count that will fit mattresses up to 18 inches deep. “They are genuinely soft. And I’m obsessed with soft,” one shopper vouched, noting, “The sheets have a nice thick, hotel feeling (but not super thick, I’d say medium thick). I live in SoCal so if they were to thick I’d probably sweat to death.The pockets are very deep and it engulfs my 13″ memory foam mattress. It stays cool, keeps warm and feels like heaven.”

  • Available colors: 26
  • Available sizes/options: 10

2. And These More Affordable 400Thread-Count Sateen Sheets

For a lighter sheet with the same buttery feel as

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England v Iceland in doubt because of travel ban on Denmark visitors over mink Covid-19 fears

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Image caption

Raheem Sterling scored a penalty as England beat Iceland 1-0 in Reykjavik in September

England’s Nations League match against Iceland is in doubt because of the UK government’s new travel ban on non-UK visitors coming from Denmark.

The restrictions relate to concerns over
a new coronavirus strain that has spread from mink to humans.

Iceland are set to play Denmark in Copenhagen three days before facing England at Wembley on 18 November.

“Unlike other travel to the UK, there will be no exemptions to this quarantine policy,” the
guidance says.

Since June, elite sportspeople have been exempt from coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

The Football Association is awaiting clarification from the government. The latest rules, which took effect at 04:00 GMT on Saturday, will be reviewed after a week, the Department For Transport said.

European football governing body Uefa’s coronavirus protocols state that international matches allow for a game to be rescheduled at a date fixed by Uefa, or to be played in a neutral venue if necessary.

BBC Sport has been told rescheduling is not an option. Uefa is understood to be studying the matter.

Under the new rules, UK citizens and visa holders can return from Denmark – but will have to isolate along with all members of their household for 14 days.

That means Danish Premier League stars may also have to isolate for 14 days upon their return if they travel to the country for international duty. That would affect Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, Everton’s keeper Jonas Lossl, Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen, Southampton centre-back Jannik Vestergaard and Tottenham midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who are all in the squad.

It could also affect Sweden’s British-based players who are set to play Denmark in a friendly on Wednesday including Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof, Newcastle full-back Emile Krafth and Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

World governing body Fifa’s rules, issued at the start of the pandemic, allow clubs to withdraw players from international duty if there is a risk of coronavirus infection.

Liverpool are also due to play away at Danish side FC Midtjylland on 9 December in the Champions League.

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Here’s How To Get There

Tourism in the polar regions is nothing new. It’s been available for decades. Historically polar travel, both in the Arctic and in Antarctica, was by cruise ships that sailed along the periphery of the polar icecaps.

Travelers could choose between relatively luxurious cruise ships that travelled through the region before returning to port or “expedition” cruises that allowed travelers to actually make a landfall. The latter ships were often old, converted icebreakers, typically Russian, that had been modified to carry guests.

Over the last decade, polar travel has changed dramatically. First of all, luxury “expedition” cruise ships have been launched by several cruise operators, most notably Ponant, Silversea and Viking.

Additionally, expedition cruising companies have transitioned from old converted icebreakers to luxury cruise ships specially designed to operate in polar environments.

Quark Expeditions, for example, recently launched the Ultramarine, an expedition ship that offers the same amenities and accommodations typical of luxury cruise ships but also comes with two onboard helicopters and a small fleet of Zodiacs.

Global warming has also been a factor in Arctic tourism, opening up new itineraries in the Canadian Arctic and the Greenland coast and making possible, although not reliably so, the transit of both the Northwest Passage across the Canadian Arctic from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Northeast Passage across the Russian Arctic.

Russia has also opened travel in the Russian Arctic to tourists. Moscow historically blocked tourist access to that region for military reasons. Quark now offers an itinerary that traverses the Russian Arctic from Murmansk to Severnaya Zemlya.

It is the poles, however, which have become the ultimate bucket list travel destination. Today, it’s possible to travel to both the North Pole and the South Pole. It’s not cheap. Those two trips will each set you back between $30,000 and $100,000, but it’s a lot cheaper than it used to be. Those journeys will also put you in a very exclusive club. Only a few hundred tourists have traveled to both destinations.

One of the unusual aspects of polar travel is that the geographic position of the poles means that there’s multiple jumping off spots. Travel to the arctic regions typically begins in either Canada, Iceland, Norway (Tromsø) or Russia (Murmansk), while travel to Antarctica typically starts from Chile (Punta Arenas), Argentina (Ushuaia), Australia (Tasmania), New Zealand (Invergordon) or South Africa (Cape Town).

Recently, I sat down with a group of international tour operators to talk about the ins and outs of polar travel, and in particular traveling to the North and South Poles.

According to Wendy Batchelor, VP Marketing of Quark Expeditions:

Interest in polar travel has been growing in the last decade for a number of reasons. For many, the Polar Regions represent the last remaining frontiers to explore. These domains are largely unexplored. The

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6 Common Beach Vacation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

A stressful year calls for a stress-free vacation. That said, vacations can often be more stressful than they’re worth if you don’t plan for them.

Regardless of the locale, a poorly-planned trip will lead to a lot of difficulties. This is especially true if you make your destination somewhere on the beach. We’re going to discuss some beach vacation mistakes in this article, giving you a good idea of how to avoid the most common pitfalls of this sort of family vacation.

Let’s get started:

1. Beach Closures

The beach is always open, right? Nope.

Beach destinations are always liable to close for a number of reasons. Whether there’s some improvements going on, dangerous conditions in the water, or just seasonal closure, you need to check the beach’s schedule before you plan to go there.

Odds are that you’ll get right in and have a great time, but there’s the off-chance that you’ll show up, only to be gravely disappointed.

2. Inclimate Weather

Another failure of otherwise great trips is the presence of awful weather. You can’t always know just how the weather is going to be on your vacation, but you can do a little research to improve your chances of blue skies.

Take a look at the weather reports before you embark as well as the day that you plan on hitting the beach. You can also take a look at historical weather patterns to see if you’re planning your vacation for the rainy season.

3. Parking Struggles

Another stress-inducer is the process of parking, lugging all of your stuff, and finding a place to park your behind in the sand.

The journey could be quick and painless, but many resorts are hotspots for a lot of people and parking can be scarce. In these instances, you can try to arrive as early as possible or else plan your parking in advance. If you have an idea of where you’re going to park, you can better find a way to drop your things early with one of your tripmates and park the car without any added effort.

It might be good to seek out a helpful guide for the area you’re going to. They can typically provide you with parking, planning, and activity ideas.

4. Unexpected Costs

Understand the costs of your trip well in advance of your departure. That way, you can save the money you need to be comfortable while on vacation.

Additionally, the stress of costs adding up over the trip might consume your mind and keep you from having a good time with friends and family.

5. Spreading Your Trip Too Thin

When planning, people often try to squeeze as many exciting activities into their days as possible.

We forget that the point of a vacation is to have a good time, not to be stressed or driving around in the car for most of it. Try to pick the highlights that you want to enjoy and spend a solid amount of time at

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No fear, Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Dept. stepped on Halloween | Letters

Town of Christiansburg’s Halloween event a success

For the last nine months, COVID-19 has changed almost everything that we are involved in each day. On Oct. 31, it was Halloween’s turn. Parents were reluctant to have their children go house to house trick or treating with the possibility of them catching the virus.

The Christiansburg Parks and Recreation Department felt something should be done to help everyone with the Halloween spirit. It organized a drive-through trick or treat at the Recreation Center from 5 to 8 p.m.

The drive-through had ghosts, witches, headless horseman, skeletons and other assorted Halloween figures (I was relieved — I was sure they would have a picture of me, but I was spared).

By the end of the evening, 750 cars with approximately 3,500 treaters had passed through. The event produced many smiles from the kids, and relief from the parents.

A special thanks goes to the Christiansburg Parks and Recreation staff.

(These comments are mine and do not represent the opinions of the town of Christiansburg or the Christiansburg Town Council.)

Christiansburg Town Council member

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Adaptive sports program helps veterans stay connected through outdoor recreation

In the two decades since he retired from the Army because of multiple sclerosis, Karl Smith has dealt with feelings of isolation.

For years, the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran from Falmouth didn’t get out of the house much, not knowing when his stamina and ability to walk would fail him. Last winter, he heard about Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training in New Gloucester, a program started by fellow Army veteran and Olympic biathlete Kristina Sabasteanski. Smith was quickly able to make connections with people and get outdoors for hikes, biking and archery – sometimes using a three-wheel walker and a recumbent bike.

Karl Smith practices archery with Veterans Adaptive Sports Training on Oct. 14. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In March, as the pandemic limited gatherings and forced Mainers to stay home, his connection with other veterans in the program only grew. Though he was unable to get together physically with other veterans for a while, he did not feel isolated.

Sabasteanski kept the group connected virtually, with weekly Zoom chats, which became lifelines for Smith and other vets.

Karl Smith holds a photograph of himself taken in 1969 at his base in Vietnam. In the photograph, 21-year-old Smith holds a puppy. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I think I spent more time talking to other veterans on Zoom than I had before,” Smith said. Talking to others was comfortable and helped Smith accept and “more easily live with” what he describes as a long-standing ambivalence toward his service in Vietnam.

Though Sabasteanski has run VAST for eight years, on the campus of the nonprofit Pineland Farms, the program has been especially important to its members during the pandemic. They kept connected virtually during the first few months of shutdowns, in March and April. When they resumed the program’s weekly activities – including archery, bocce and biking – it was while wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart.

More than 160 veterans took part in the program this fiscal year, down from about 230 the year before, a drop caused by COVID-19, Sabasteanski says. The participants – who come when they can, or want – range in age from about 30 to 91. They include amputees, veterans dealing with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia and a host of other challenges. Activities include archery, cycling, fishing, orienteering, wheelchair basketball and tennis, bowling, disc golf and hiking trips. The program meets every Wednesday, and various other days during the week.

“It’s so important for them to be able to hang out with other veterans and share stories, and joy, doing something fun,” said Sabasteanski, 51. “When the pandemic hit, I thought it was really important to keep people connected.”

The program is funded by a Veterans Administration Adaptive Sports Grant, as well as individual donations, an Avangrid Foundation Grant and by Pineland Farms. The nonprofit Pineland Farms is a 5,000-acre working farm, with grounds that also house education and recreation programs, as well as several businesses.

VAST participants, including Carmine Melito and VAST director Kristina Sabasteanski,

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New Marriott Hotel by KEF Airport

The new Marriott Courtyard hotel.

The new Marriott Courtyard hotel.

A new 150-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel opened by Keflavík International Airport in early October,


reports. Since then, the bulk of the guests have been US soldiers, but the hotel is open to all customers.

We reported in August that a hotel had just been

shipped from China

, and that’s the one that has now opened – made of 78 steel units.

“The operation has gone well during a tough economic situation,” Hotel Director Hans Prins reports. The price is very reasonable, given the quality. The Courtyard Hotels are four-star hotels and among Marriott’s 30 brands.”

“The location is essential,” Hans states. “It plays an important role in how well we’ve performed the first month, and it will play a part in our success in the future. There certainly is need for such a hotel in the area.”

He is optimistic about the future. “I’m very optimistic. The number of foreign tourists will increase again,” he states.

Hans is a Dutchman who has been in the hotel business for 35 years. This is the fifth hotel he opens for Marriott in Europe. Before working for Marriott, where he’s been since 2015, he worked for Corinthia Hotels in St. Petersburg and before that for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in Russia.

“Coming to Iceland felt like home right away,” he states. “The people are very friendly, and the nature is beautiful. I see a great opportunity for the hotel in Iceland.”

Hans is happy to be living in Reykjanesbær and used to living far away from big cities, having been brought up on a farm.

“One of the reasons I accepted this project is my desire to see Reykjanesbær and Keflavík prosper. This hotel will have a positive impact on the community. I have worked in big cities where a single hotel doesn’t make all the difference, but it makes a difference for Reykjanesbær to have the hotel in business,” he concludes.

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UPDATE: Woodstock Recreation Center, Sage YMCA temporarily close after staff members test positive for COVID-19

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The Woodstock Recreation Center temporarily closed its doors Friday until Nov. 13 after three staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the city of Woodstock said in a news release.

“To err on the side of caution, we are implementing a facility closure to ensure the health and safety of all of our members, visitors, residents and staff,” according to the release. “This will also allow time for a thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the building to prepare for reopening.”

The rec center is scheduled to reopen Nov. 14.

Dave Zinnen, director of the city’s recreation department, said two additional employees were identified as having close contact with the three employees who tested positive. One of the contact’s tests came back negative, and the other one does not yet have his or her results. 

“We recommended the rest of the staff to go ahead and get tested because we do work in a very confined area,” Zinnen said.

City Manager Roscoe Stelford said the city does not think any members of the club or residents met criteria to be considered a close contact.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset – or, for asymptomatic patients, two days before being tested – until the time the patient is isolated.

Going forward, Zinnen said the recreation department likely will put more plexiglass between employees. A piece of plexiglass already is set up between the front counter staff and employees, he said.

A “tremendous amount” of safeguards have been put in place for the public because of COVID-19, Stelford said.

This includes changing the check-in process, in which members hold their card directly up to a scanner, so there’s no physical interaction between employees and members, as well as a lot of cleaning and sanitizing as people are done using the equipment. 

Because some classes are not being conducted now, they are able to put workout equipment in more places, Stelford said. 

Two area restaurants – Miller’s Diner in McHenry and Andy’s Restaurant in Crystal Lake – also have announced temporary closures in recent days after employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Both restaurants had continued to offer indoor dining despite increased restrictions ordered by Gov. JB Pritzker. The intensified restrictions that have hit restaurants and bars have not affected fitness centers such as the Woodstock Recreation Center to the same degree.

Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake will be closed for 10 days after receiving three reports of COVID-19, involving both direct and indirect exposures. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to close down the center immediately to undergo deep cleaning,” Man-Yee Lee, spokeswoman for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, said on Saturday. “After swiftly

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