Just outside Quebec City, David Whitley learns an awful lot about black bears

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On a return visit to Vancouver and Seattle, David Whitley realises that weather plays a bigger part in the experience than he perhaps realised

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If you’ve never spent time in sub-zero climates it’s hard to understand the kind of genuinely bone-chilling temperatures that Saskatoon experiences in wintertime. It’s the kind of cold that makes you want to Google how long it takes to lose a finger to frostbite if you venture out without gloves. And if you’re the kind of genius that not only forgot their gloves but also thought walking around in leggings and boots would be just fine, you quickly discover that no, it’s not.  This is a dry, biting, vicious cold which first numbs your limbs, then makes them burn and ache. And when you finally stagger back indoors you learn that the warmth makes you fear you’ve wet yourself; so oddly liquid is the feeling of your legs rapidly thawing. The strangest thing is that despite the brutal chill, the sun is like a searchlight; Saskatoon is one of the sunniest cities in Canada, its blazing blue skies a confusing counterpoint to its flat and frozen prairie land.

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House and pool 


When I was working full time for The Sunday Times, I wrote several articles about house swapping, but never tried it myself. Then five years ago I took the plunge. A summer holiday in Montpelier followed in the autumn by a few days in Paris and our family was hooked.

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You hear them long before you see them; a high-pitched howling; a yowling wail beyond the firs. As you crunch over the densely-packed snow, eyes squinting in the blinding sun your heart races a little - anxious - what will it be like, will you be able to hold on? What if you fall? But excitement pulses through you because a new adventure awaits just around that crop of snow-capped trees. The howls get louder; you think you're looking forward to this, just wait till you see the dogs.