Castlegar, BC: Heritage and Culture of the Russian Doukhobors

Super Natural British Columbia, Canada.There's really nothing like it! Having lived in the West Kootenay area between 2 small towns for years - Trail, with its Italian heritage, and Castlegar, with its Russian Doukhobor heritage - the West Kootenay area provides a wealth of culture for visitors of all ages.

The Russian Doukbobors migrated to Castlegar in the early 1900s, prior to and just after the establishment of a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station in the town. By 1913, there were approximately 5,000 Doukhobors in the West Kootenay area, many of whom settled into Castlegar and its surrounding lands. After the Great Depression ended in 1939, the Doukhobor population in Castlegar had grown to 10,000 residents.

Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park
One of the coolest ways to experience the Doukhobor culture in Castlegar is by visiting Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park along the confluence of the Kootenay and the Columbia Rivers. This one-of-a-kind nature experience includes a suspension bridge, a 1930s Russian Orthodox chapel house, sculptures and a cemetery, along with 2 hectares of forested paths to explore at your leisure. Zuckerburg Island Heritage Park is open seasonally from May to September. But if you're visiting the area in October, there's always a popular, and some say scary, haunted house on Zukerburg Island!

Doukhobor Discovery Centre
Another great way to experience more of the local Russian culture is by visiting the Doukhobor Discovery Centre across from the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Here you can wander around to view some of the early 1900s carriages, and then check out more than 1,600 items tracing the history of this vibrant way of life in the centres museum. It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the traditional Doukhobor culture. The Doukhobor Discovery Centre is open seasonally from May through September.

Linotype Wapiti by Carl Sean McMahon
Beyond learning about the heritage and culture of the Russian Doukhobors, Castlegar is also home to the Kootenay Gallery of Art, the Castlegar Station Museum (the old CPR railway station mention above), and to the super popular Sculpturewalk, which has gained Castlegar the nickname of being the Sculpture Capital of Canada. And don't miss summertime fun at Millennium Park with its swimming ponds and a concession stand.

For more information on the beautiful city of Castlegar and its proud Russian heritage - where Russian language classes are still provided in local schools today - visit And one of my personal favourites when visiting Castlegar? Kelly's Doukhobor Borscht. Got to have it, and it's gluten free!! It's just like having to visit the 'world famous' Colander Restaurant in neighbouring Trail, BC, don't miss out!!

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

On a 500-hectare estate only 45 minutes outside of Paris in Maincy, France, lies the magnifique Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte - a quintessential example of 17th-century baroque architecture and elegance. 

17th-Century Opulence
While not as widely known as Fontainebleau or Versailles, the 41,000 square-foot Vaux le Vicomte showcases an array of lavishly decorated apartments and bedrooms, a stunning double-height Grand Salon with embellished ceilings painted by Charles Le Brun, and its signature formal French garden with 26 ponds. Of course, there's also a moat and a carriage house full of period carriages.

A Brief History of Vaux le Vicomte
Designed in 1653 by famed architect Andre le Notre, Vaux le Vicomte was built for Nicolas Fouquet, the soon-to-be Superintendent of Finances for France. His extravagance in building his masterpiece came to the attention of politician Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who claimed Fouquet had embezzled his fortune. On August 17, 1661, Fouquet threw a lavish party in honor of King Louis XIV, which included spectacular fireworks. The plot worked as only 2 weeks later, Fouquet was arrested and Colbert became the finance minister.

"On 17 August, at 6 o'clock in the evening, 

Fouquet was king of France;

at 2 o’clock in the morning, he was nothing.” 

- Voltaire

After Fouquets' arrest, the entire contents of Vaux le Vicomte were auctioned off. Eventually, Vaux was abandoned for 30 years and was again auctioned off in 1875, which is initially when it's elegant restoration started. The Fouquet coat of arms is a squirrel, based on an Angers dialect translation of the word foucquet, meaning squirrel. I mention this because you'll see this little critter displayed throughout the chateau. 

Celebrating Vaux le Vicomte Today
Today visitors are welcome to step back in time to experience Vaux le Vicomte at its 1600s prime. On Saturday from May through the end of September, guests can enjoy a magical Candlelit Evening complete with a pop-up restaurant in the garden and a period character walking tour. There's also family dining and am exquisite champagne and macaron option.

How to Get to Vaux le Vicomte
From Paris, it's easy to take a 1-hour train ride on Line P from Paris Gare de L'Est while disembarking at Verneuil l’Etang. There's a cash-only shuttle available to the chateau. There are also coach tours available through Paris CityVision.  

The Ultimate Way to Visit Vaux le Vicomte
If you'd like to see the chateau in a unique way, consider taking a hot air balloon ride high above the beautiful French countryside. Or, the ultimate and most extravagant way to visit Vaux le Vicomte is by helicopter. Imagine being whisked out of Paris on a private helicopter, landing at the chateau at dusk, savoring a gourmet 3-course dinner, to be followed by a limousine transfer back to Paris. What could be more romantic??

On Sunday, June 3rd, 2018, Vaux le Vicomte will once again play host to it's extremely popular Grand Siecle luncheon and fashion show event. Visitors can join in on the fun by renting period costumes, or just enjoy watching the carriage promenades, falconry and entertainment including minuet performances.

Jean de la Fontaine is offering unique underground river tours, April through November, and an exhibit of movies filmed at the famed chateau, running from September to November - both in honour of the 50th anniversary of Vaux being open to the public.

For more information or to make your reservation, visit Vaux le Vicomte and be sure to take advantage of their 10% discount on a Day Visit admission.

Want to read more: Check out what to wear in Paris:Tres Chic Little Black Dress and 9 Reasons to See Van Gogh & Monet in France!


Oh, to be in Paris!

Visiting Paris in the springtime has always been a dream on my travel bucket list. In the mean time, I'm going to savour these delicacies from Angelina... and the Top Things to do in Paris, oo-la-la!


7 Travel Tips & Advice for Traveling with Celiac Disease

7 Travel Tips & Advice for Traveling with Celiac Disease

1. Do your homework. If you'll be eating meals at a hotel or a resort, you need to find out if the chefs/servers will practice due diligence to ensure your food safety.  How? Email the hotel manager and ask. If not, you need to choose another hotel.

2. When eating out, use the words Celiac-friendly meals instead of asking for gluten-free meals. 

3. If you're traveling to a foreign country where you're very concerned about your gluten free food choices, consider purchasing an allergy card like this one available on Amazon.

4. If you're flying, always carry a fairly decent amount of gluten free snacks with you in your carry-on bag and in your suitcase. 

  • Buy a few bigger boxes of things that you can easily divide up. 
  • One of my lifesavers every morning was gluten-free instant oatmeal. In India, I used bottled water to mix it and ate it cold every morning. Then I'd grab a banana from a market. 
  • And if you have GF left overs that you brought with you, you can simply leave them behind in your hotel room before you return home.

5. Depending on the length of the flight, many airlines still provide gluten-free meals at no cost, if requested in advance. This was a gluten-free meal selection on board a  train in India.

6. Gluten-free associations in your destination city or country can be a great reference. Ask for a list of GF restaurants/bakeries. 

7. There's gotta be an app for that: I've see many out there that list GF restaurants, but I haven't tried one yet, have you?

Check out this great resource: Is This Gluten Free??