A French Canadian known for far-right views has been charged with six counts of murder over the shooting rampage at a Quebec mosque. Suspect Alexandre Bissonnette, who was also charged with five counts of attempted murder, made a brief court appearance and did not enter a plea.
The two Quebec women facing life in prison in Australia after police found more than $30 million worth of cocaine in their suitcases looked like they were having the time of their lives on the way there.
Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace, both in their 20s, spent the last two months on the MS Sea Princess, a massive luxury cruise that takes 2,000 passengers on numerous stops from Southampton in the UK to Sydney, Australia. Tickets for the cruise cost $20,000 each.
11. Salzburg, Austria
Score: 82.5 (tie)
It’s not difficult to see why Salzburg made the list. The beautiful city boasts “mountain vistas, mind-blowing architecture, and so much history,” and the people are “warm and friendly,” our readers gush.
It’s also very family friendly: “It’s like a living theme park, the perfect destination for young kids on their first trip to Europe,” one reader added. Plus, it’s home to the gorgeous Hotel Goldener Hirsch, one of Europe’s best hotels with the most helpful staff around.
11. Budapest, Hungary
Score: 82.5 (tie)
Budapest is “majestic, regal, and breathtaking,” with its “rich history and elegant buildings,” according to our readers. But it’s the “lovely, friendly people,” “courteous drivers,” and “youthfulness” that make the city special.
Our readers suggest heading to the Fisherman’s Bastion to get “a real feeling of local life.” In the summer, don’t miss the chance to mingle with the locals at one of Budapest’s now-famous “sparties,” which are held at the landmark Széchenyi Baths.
9. Seville, Spain
Score: 82.8 (tie)
“Quaint and amazing”—plus “charming, beautiful, and welcoming”—is how our readers describe the historic capital of Andalusia.
“The locals are warm, kind, and full of life,” one reader adds, while another raves that the city “dances to the rhythm of flamenco like no other Spanish city!” See for yourself—and while you’re there, have a meal at the classic and elegant Egaña Oriza, an editor favorite.
9. Savannah, Georgia, USA
Score: 82.8 (tie)
Charm abounds in Georgia’s oldest city, as evidenced by the number of readers who raved about the “animated guides in seersucker suits” and “Spanish moss dripping from the trees.”
Visitors both new and returning also enthused that the “rich tapestry of our country’s history” here made them feel like they’d “stepped back in time.” For delicious Southern fare, “don’t miss The Pirate’s House Sunday Brunch.”
7. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Though Siem Reap is full of “awe-inspiring beauty” and “incredible food and sights,” our readers say that its “people were the best.” One reader added: “It is the resiliency and kindness of the Cambodian people that I will remember.”
While you’re there, stay at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor (pictured), five miles from Angkor Wat, orAmansara Resort, famous for its wonderful staff, beautiful chalets, and location—just minutes from Angkor Archaeological Park.
5. Sydney, Australia
5. Dublin, Ireland
Score: 83.8 (tie)
According to our readers, Dublin is a “vibrant city” that’s a “bibliophile’s dream.”
Apart from being “green, lush, and very walkable,” it’s also “the kind of place you stop in for a drink in a local pub, only to end up chatting with the locals for the next five hours.” Even First Lady Michelle Obama is a fan.
4. Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Several visitors praised this “quaint and special little gem” for embodying Southern hospitality at every turn—so much so that they “would consider living there full time.”
The historic town earned accolades for its blend of “undervalued local culture,” history, and natural beauty, as well as the “incredible food” and Charleston City Market, with its boutiques and art galleries.
3. Victoria, BC, Canada
There’s just so much to do in Victoria, you need at least a week to see it. “Bike on the Galloping Goose, people-watch at Moka House Coffee, sip wine at Beacon Hill Park, go whale watching, and on and on,” one of our readers advises.
“The inner harbor is worth a day wandering around,” another adds. While you’re there, look for the stunning Fairmont Empress Hotel, which is well worth “a walk through, even if you don’t go for high tea.”
1. Melbourne, Australia (TIE)
Score: 86.0 (tie)
It’s no surprise that our readers adore Melbourne: It’s “one of the classiest cities in the world” and boasts an “abundance of parks and fabulous public art.”
Plus, Melbournians are a “friendly bunch,” famous for their “wonderful sense of humor.” And don’t even start with Melbourne’s amazing nightlife, food, and hotels—we told you long ago it was Australia’s capital of cool.
1. Auckland, New Zealand (TIE)
Score: 86.0 (tie)
We must admit, we saw this one coming—and so did you. “The people are friendly, and their humor and view on life is something to aspire to attain,” said one reader. “Such a gorgeous city on the water” with “clear air,” “fresh food,” and “amazing culture,” others raved.
A trip to the Auckland Museum for its Maori collections and “terrific” cultural performances is highly recommended. If you’ve never been to New Zealand, this “clean, youthful, adventurous, beautiful” city is the “ideal starting place” for seeing the country.
NOT New York nor Paris nor Tokyo. Urbanites in Britain’s former dominions should count themselves lucky, according to data from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our corporate cousin.
Its annual “liveability index” puts eight of the taen most comfortable places in Australia, Canada or New Zealand. The index crunches 30 factors related to things like safety, healthcare, educational resources, infrastructure and environment in 140 cities.
Over the past five years urban life has deteriorated somewhat: liveability has declined in 51 places and improved in 31 places.
During that time, the index average has dropped 0.7 percentage points (skewed by cities in conflict areas where survival, rather than living well, is the priority). Interestingly, the top cities have not changed much over time.
The EIU notes that they “tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density.” Hence those of us in London, San Francisco and Shanghai must endure the rat-race, and dream of dwelling amid Viennese coffee houses or Vancouver’s sailing and skiing.
Mihir Garh, Rajasthan
“The fort sits in splendid isolation amid the Thar Desert near Jodhpur. It looks like an enormous sandcastle, a mirage, and is not just a unique place to stay; it’s a shrine to the artistic and architectural traditions of Rajasthan in general and Jodhpur in particular.”
Planet Baobab, Botswana
“Botswana’s Makgadigadi Pan comprises the world’s largest network of salt pans – a thirsty, mirage-inducing landscape of flat, shimmering expanses under hard blue skies. Halfway along the sole tarred road through this arid moonscape, a statue of an anteater towers at the dusty verge. It is a surreal sight, and an appropriate signpost for the distinctive Planet Baobab.”
Prendiparte B&B, Bologna, Italy
“A medieval high-rise turned romantic hideaway, the Torre Prendiparte is unlike anywhere else you’ll ever stay. The living area is on the first two floors and comprises a snug, classically-furnished living room, mezzanine bedroom, and kitchen. Above this is the former jail where you can still see graffiti left by prisoners on the 2m-thick walls.”
Qasr al Sarab, UAE
“Rising from the shifting sands, Qasr Al Sarab appears like a mirage on the edge of the vast Empty Quarter desert. Outside high crenellated walls echo fortresses of old. Inside rooms continue the dream of Arabian Nights with sumptuous fabrics, carved Islamic designs, woven rugs, wooden doors and metalwork lanterns.”
Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
“A stay at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge plunges you into the heart of Tasmania’s wilderness, with luxury that feels as organic as your surrounds. The cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees.”
Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada
“Suspended in the trees on sturdy guide ropes, Vancouver Island’s Free Spirit Spheres look like giant eyeballs peering deep into the British Columbia woodlands. Step inside and the handmade orbs – accessed via spiral rope staircases or slender steel bridges – are lined like comfy boat cabins with built-in beds and cabinets.”
Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
“Göreme has dozens of beautiful cave-hotels but Taşkonak manages to dish up the cave-suites and stupendous views Cappadocia is famous for without breaking your budget.”
Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
“One of few such lodges within the extraordinary 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a Unesco world heritage site.”
Saugerties Lighthouse, New York state, USA
“Saugerties Lighthouse is a historic 1869 landmark that makes a wonderful base for exploring the scenic Hudson valley. It is 100 miles north of New York City, and the red brick building has played a pivotal role in safely guiding steamboats, barges and other vessels safely along the Hudson river over the years. More recently (in the mid 1990s), the lighthouse was transformed into a two-room B&B, providing safe haven of a different sort.”
The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos
“The tree houses erected by conservation group Animo are a thing of architectural wonder, straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. But more extraordinary still is that to reach these vertiginous eyries you’ll have to trek through the fecund realm of the tiger, then catch a series of exhilarating zip lines strung across the forest canopy, before flying into your night’s accommodation.”
Architects: Brendan Callander + Jason Pielak + Stella Cheung-Boyland
Location: Vancouver, Canada
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “garden shed,” I don’t immediately picture a gorgeous, sleek and impossibly well-designed structure. So I thought it was pretty great that for the Woodlands Community Garden Club in Vancouver, Brendan Collander Design and UBC architecture students so excellently thought “outside the shed” when designing this multifaceted and very attractive structure.
Besides its good looks, the Woodlands Community Garden Shed has a lot to offer. The garden’s focal point, the shed serves as a community gathering spot for education programs as well as a practical storage solution for the community garden.
The shed’s unique form extends beyond the aesthetic. Taking into account the angle of the sun for each season and for each time of day, the shed’s geometric design prevents shadows from falling on the garden plots yet provides shade for the central meeting place.
Using no chemicals in the construction materials, the team instead employed charred cedar to protect the wood. What I love is that this charred cedar surface also doubles as a chalkboard, inviting children and educators to write on the walls.
That beautiful herringbone lattice also has a purpose. It is used on the parts of the building that receive the most sunlight. As sunlight hits the lattice, it provides interesting natural lighting inside the shed. The designers also figured that during the summer months, vines could creep up the lattice to offer even more shade to keep the shed cool. Learning about all of these beautiful, functional structures begs the question—why can’t all sheds be this handsome? Everything can be transformed in the hands of designers. Institutional Partners: University of British Columbia, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Woodlands Community Garden Club, City Studio Vancouver, City of Vancouver
From the architect. This garden shed was designed and constructed in partnership by UBC architecture students and the Woodlands Community Garden Club. This structure is the focal point of the garden, and it acts as a gathering spot for local education programs, and as well as a practical storage solution.
The unique form of the shed was designed to prevent shadows from being cast on surrounding garden plots while at the same time shading the central meeting space.The client(s) also requested that the use of chemicals be avoided on site to prevent leaching into the soil. Our solution was to use charred cedar siding as a natural way of protecting the wood.
The charred surface also doubles as a chalk-board wall, providing a surface for children and instructors to write on. In addition to the charred-cedar siding, a herring-bone patterned lattice system was used on the parts of the building that receive the most sunlight. The lattice allows for interior lighting as well as a potential place to grow vines. Seasonal vines would provide further shading to cool the structure in the summer months, while allowing more light into the building when dormant.
Vito Rizzuto was the Steve Jobs of organized crime: charismatic, visionary, and shrewd enough to run a billion-dollar enterprise with tentacles reaching from Montreal to New York, South America, and Europe.
Because of its location along the St. Lawrence river and proximity to US markets, Montreal has always been a major point of entry for drugs, guns, and basically whatever else you can fit into a shipping container.
And for the good part of three decades, Rizzuto had his hand in almost every racket in the city, heading a “consortium” of organized crime which included Colombian cartels, Irish gangs who controlled the city’s port, and Hells Angels who took care of distribution of drugs across Quebec and Ontario.
Rizzuto’s death in December 2013—from natural causes—has left many speculating about his replacement and sources VICE spoke to hinted at a dramatic decline in the Sicilian Mafia’s power in Montreal and Canada since his passing.
With the rise of Haitian street gangs, the imminent release of numerous Hells Angels from prison, and rival Italian factions, there is no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding Vito Rizzuto’s replacement.
Chief among those theories is that the Ontario-based Calabrian mafia, also known as the ‘Ndrangheta, is moving in and getting revenge after having been violently pushed out of the city by Vito’s father in the 1970s.
But this line of thinking is deeply flawed, said RCMP Staff Sergeant Chris Knight, because it assumes that Vito Rizzuto can even be replaced.
“No one’s got the credibility, no one’s got the clout, and certainly no one has the charisma that Vito Rizzuto had—and I’ve met him—to make allies out of enemies. No one has that right now,” Knight told VICE.
Knight has been with the RCMP for 34 years and works with local, provincial, and international law enforcement to monitor organized crime in Quebec.
His squad has seen no sign of rival Italian gangs moving to replace the Rizzuto’s, as certain media and observers have speculated.
“We haven’t seen attempts or power moves from Hamilton or Toronto on establishments or persons here. And we haven’t received any information on the street to that effect either. It’s a myth. I’ve always heard these things about New York and Toronto controlling Montreal but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Antonio Nicaso agrees. He has authored 27 books about organized crimes and acted as a consultant for the government on these. In his most recent book Business or Blood he writes extensively about the final years of Rizzuto’s life and the implications of a post-Vito world.
“I don’t see anyone with the same vision as Vito Rizzuto. His mafia was the real one, not a cheap imitation,” Nicaso told VICE. “Rather than fighting over turf, they are now trying to create a balance of power where different organizations will work together.
So it’s a group of people rather than one person like Rizzuto who was a master mediator capable of striking alliances and reaping huge profits through criminal enterprises.”
What is certain, for both Knight and Nicaso, is that the Sicilian Mafia no longer wield the power they once did in Canada. All signs point to a decentralization and instability—not a replacement.
“Their monopoly or their stranglehold is not what it used to be. It’s greatly diminished. They have lost a lot of power and there have been a lot deaths in the family,” said Staff Sergeant. Knight.
“You’re going to get struggles for street corners like you see in New York. In New York, it’s basically whoever has the biggest gun or the most soldiers gets the street corner for the distribution of narcotics and other organized crime activities.”
In 2010, Vito Rizzuto’s father and his son, both named Nick, were gunned down within months of each other.
The murders took place during a period of intense fighting wherein rival Italian factions, namely New York’s Bonanno family tried to take advantage of the power vacuum created after Rizzuto’s imprisonment in Colorado.
He had been deported and was serving time for his involvement in the triple murder of Bonanno family captains in 1981.
Earlier this month, Raynald Desjardins pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the murder of Sal “the Iron Worker” Montagna.
Desjardins was Rizzuto’s right-hand man during the golden years of his reign and, according to wiretaps, one of the only two non-Italians to be “made” in the Mafia.
Montagna was the acting head of New York’s Bonanno crime family who tried—and failed—to replace Rizzuto as the boss in Montreal. Obviously, their relationship soured and Desjardins’s car was showered with AK-47 fire north of Montreal in 2011.
Two months later, Montagna’s body was found floating in the Assomption River. Desjardins’s case is a salient reminder of just how complex and delicate the balance of power can be for organized crime in Montreal.
The city has seen a period of relative calm in recent months but that doesn’t mean that it’s stable or lasting. Based on the RCMP’s analysis, all signs point to splintering drug turf and increased instability.
“It’s very volatile on the street. Whereas ten years ago, if there’s one thing that Vito Rizzuto had it was the ability to gather people, negotiate truces, and make arrangements that everyone made money. With him being gone, it’s more volatile now.”
Ironically, this volatility is directly linked to the effective police work done by the RCMP who arrested almost 100 suspected mobsters in Project Colisée and pretty much every Hells Angels patch member during Operation Sharqc.
Obviously, these arrests did nothing to curb the demand for drugs and, according to sources who spoke with VICE, all of that demand was absorbed by notoriously unstable Haitian street gangs who are plagued with internal Bloods-Crips rivalries and have effectively replaced the Hells Angels on the street.
Sources also pointed to the fact that the notoriously racist Hells Angels will want their old drug turf back and will not be pleased with the fact that black gangs are now in control. There’s trouble a’brewing in la métropole.
“The Hells Angels will definitely become more and more important, that goes without saying,” said Antonio Nicaso.
Knight agreed: “They’re going to want more territory and more cheap drugs and a monopoly over extortion or illegal gambling. There will be conflict for sure. It’s all about money and power. And the more players you have, the less you have to go around.”
Without Rizzuto’s unifying and stabilizing influence, the current period of relative calm is likely to be short-lived. And in order to survive in a post-Vito world, the Sicilian Mafia will have no choice but to rebrand.
Unlike stereotypes propagated in the media, the Mafia in Montreal isn’t all about guns, drugs, and prostitutes—it’s actually more boring than that.
Last September, the Charbonneau Commission wrapped up.
The inquiry heard testimony from almost 200 witnesses and exposed a massive criminal conspiracy involving the mob, construction companies, unions, and high-ranking municipal employees—a reminder that crime in Montreal was able to fester in an environment of political collusion.
In fact, the findings of the Commission led to the resignation of mayor Gerald Tremblay and to the arrests of Laval’s former mayor and Montreal’s interim mayor on gangsterism and corruption charges, respectively (all of which makes Rob Ford seem pretty benign, Toronto).
“The Mafia is strong and powerful is because they were capable of infiltrating our society and our politicians. What they used to do with the gun, they now do with corruption, relationships, and contracts,” Antonio Nicaso said.
“They are not as strong and powerful anymore mainly because they are not able to replace Vito Rizzuto but without connections to those who hold the power and money, the Mafia would just be a bunch of hooligans.”