The stampede is over…but the call of the wild goes on

Independent on Sunday, 10 July

The 1897 Klondike gold rush brought thousands to the Yukon. Sarah Barrell follows the trail and discovers the precious metal is coming back

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Toronto: the strait-laced city loosens up

With its striking architecture, thriving arts culture and dynamic dining scene, ‘Toronto the Good’ fully deserves its new ‘good time’ label, says Sarah Barrell.

Everywhere you look in downtown Toronto skyscrapers are rising. This new landscape of chrome and glass, unrecognisable from a couple of years ago, disorientates me as I try to find the ferry terminal. When I eventually make it across to leafy Toronto Island, I’m rewarded with a view back to the mainland of the perfect North American pop-up city, seemingly growing before my eyes.

Read more: Telegraph Travel: 20 October 2010

Stay the night: Hotel Le Bleu, Brooklyn

Independent on Sunday, 22 November 2009

Go over the Brooklyn Bridge for luxury lodgings

This new boutique hotel is a sure sign that Brooklyn is becoming a tourist destination in its own right. Designed by architect Andres Escobar, the nine-storey chrome and glass structure, which opened last year, sits rather uncomfortably above the garages and low-rise factories of Park Slope’s 4th Avenue, the first “full service” hotel in a neighbourhood of scant B&Bs.

It makes the most of its somewhat gritty setting by projecting films (of skateboarders and archive footage of Brooklyn street scenes) on to the hotel’s façade. The roof terrace, however, has the main show: stunning views of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

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24-Hour Room Service: SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, US

It’s no surprise that the wild and whimsical Phillippe Starck is behind the design of Beverly Hills’ newest tourist address. The SLS opened late last year, a complete refurbishment of a former Méridien hotel which could not seem further from its corporate past. I find a towering model of a horse with a lampshade on its head in the foyer and, hanging outside the lifts, digital “oil portraits” of 18th-century gents that morph into monkeys.

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Put a smile on your face. Visit this American town

Ojai, just outside Los Angeles, is California’s own ‘Shangri-La’. Soon British holidaymakers will be seeking out its rejuvenating powers, writes Sarah Barrell

The American dream is alive and well and living outside Los Angeles. An hour and a half from the city that crushes a million dreams, and grants a few of them, there is a little town called Ojai that delivers all the good things in life without demanding more than a smile.

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Stay The Night: Montage Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

The first hotel to be built from the ground up in Beverly Hills for almost 20 years, the Montage, which opened in November, is already positioning itself as a Hollywood grand dame.

For a start, it has managed to bag a huge plot of land in the poshest part of Beverly Hills – near Rodeo Drive’s hallowed boutiques. In return it did the city authorities a couple of favours: the hotel has allowed public access to its lovely lemon-scented gardens, and topped its Spanish colonial-style building with the same terracotta roofs and fanciful gilded cupola as the iconic Beverly Hills City Hall building.

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The Big Question: How did the Rio Carnival become the biggest extravaganza in the world?

Why are we asking this now?

Because the annual Rio de Janeiro carnival – Carnaval, as it known locally – begins today, a dazzling, extravagantly over-the-top celebration of life that draws millions of people on to the streets of the Brazilian city. The benchmark against which all other carnivals are measured, this multi-million dollar affair – which always starts on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday and concludes on Ash Wednesday – is sponsored by the gaming industry and fronted by some of Brazil’s biggest TV stars. The whole country stops to watch, if not in the stands, then on television. It’s Brazil’s equivalent of America’s Super Bowl Sunday, only with significantly more “wardrobe malfunctions”.

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Even at the age of 400, Quebec’s still young at heart

Celebrated as an olde worlde outpost of France, this city is far more modern than it seems at first glance, says Sarah Barrell.

A breaching whale is not an uncommon sight in coastal Canada. But this one blows spume high above the city of Quebec, so there is a collective intake of breath from the thousands of spectators gathered along the waterfront.

This is no wildlife display. We are in the heart of the city and the whale is the animated creation of Quebec’s renaissance man, Robert Lepage. One of the most anticipated highlights of the city’s current 400th birthday celebrations, Lepage’s The Image Mill is a 40-minute movie-cum-sound-and-light show (plus smoke and water), which uses the port’s grain silos as a 600m- long, 30m-high screen.

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