Happy Canada Day—Bonne Fête du Canada!
For the last two weeks, I have been traveling in Ontario, enjoying the terrific spread of experiences in this rather immense province. So far I’ve traveled to Ontario’s Deep South, its Far East and its Wild West. Hmmm, I wonder where I might travel to next?
For today though—Canada’s national day—I am exploring the stately Canadian capital of Ottawa, which also happens to be in Ontario. I’ve never celebrated Canada Day in Canada (especially with a royal family around) so I am really quite thrilled to be here.
In honour of this foreign holiday, I want to express my gratitude and affection for the country I’m visiting. Now I’m not normally a fan of Top Ten lists—they’re too internet-y and overdone, but with today’s festivities I feel one coming on, so please bear with me. And because Canada does everything slightly different than we do in the states, I herewith present you a list of my eleven most favorite things about Canada.
Top 11 Things I Really Love About Canada
11. Size If countries came in T-shirt sizes, Canada is Triple XL. Canada is the second largest country in the world and mostly empty. The resulting travel experience often involves great distance and monastic silence. I like that. This past week, I realized I had adopted Canadian spatial referencing when I referred to Sault Ste. Marie as “just down the road” from Thunder Bay—more than 600 km apart.
10. Sameness Canada is the only foreign country where I get to speak my native language, use all my electrical devices without adapters, drive on the right, reference popular culture and not have to convert prices or shoe sizes in my head. Canada’s similarities to home make it feel almost like home—like a slumber party at your best friend’s house.
9. Difference Canada is really, really foreign. They have provinces and a parliament, they talk sorta funny, they throw rocks on ice and call it a sport, they drink Clamato juice, they were once in “Grade 7” and not “7th Grade”, they add lots of unnecessary U’s and E’s to their words and put maple leafs on their pennies. Just when you start getting comfortable, thinking you’ve got this country all figured out, Canadians do or say something really weird and you are reminded that in fact, this is a foreign country.
8. Proximity Canada is so close to where I’m from, there was no excuse for me not to travel here. From my house it’s a 10-minute ride to the airport and then a one-hour flight to Ontario. Or I could take the train, drive, or grab a cab across the border. It’s the closest foreign country I could get to and the first one that I ever visited.
7. Wildlife So far in Ontario, I’ve spotted mink, skunk, raccoon, and fox, two black bear, about twelve deer and (no joke) a partridge and a pear tree (separately). Still waiting to see that moose, though I’ve already seen plenty of moose heads mounted on walls (and ate some, yum).
6. Français As a Francophile, I love Canada’s Frenchness. I love that I can hear and speak the language and enjoy all those Frenchy things, such as (but not limited to): good croissants, good bread, art as a national priority, and an appreciation for periodic désordre. I also love that I can stop at a stop sign in two languages, read my cereal box in two languages and give my order at McDonalds to in two languages. Did you know that six and a half million Canadians speak French? Mais oui!
5. The Lakes Ontario boasts around a quarter of a million freshwater lakes and in the whole of Canada there are over three million! I never realized how much I loved a good clean lake until my journey to Ontario, where I fished, swam, and drank in the same lank. Lakes are what this place is about—If you ever have too much time on your hands, try reading through this starter list.
4. Tim Horton’s I’ve never met a doughnut I didn’t eat. I am fascinated that despite the similarities between our two countries, Canada is devoted to doughnuts of a different brand and that they take their coffee “double double” (double cream, double sugar). I’m so obsessed with Tim Horton’s that I visited the very first store in Hamilton, Ontario.
3. Everything If it’s not in Canada, it doesn’t exist. That’s because the whole world is expressed in Canada. Give me ten minutes in Toronto and I’ll find you whatever kind of food you want, whatever kind of music and whatever kind of anything you want. More than ever before this trip has made me realize that Canada caters to all tastes because all tastes live here.
2. Parks Yes, I love Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon back home. I also love the incredible range of national and provincial parks in Canada, some of which are larger than some American states. Canada’s landscapes are its real wealth and nowhere is that beauty more accessible than in the parks. I know that I am especially looking forward to visiting Ontario’s iconic Algonquin Provincial Park. Honestly, visiting Canada’s parks makes me proud to be from North America.
1. Canucks Canadians are so goshdarn nice and polite, it makes me want to apologize every five minutes, just so that I can fit in. In fact, I am afraid I might be due for a bit of culture shock when I return chez soi. Forgive my gross generalization, but Canadians are agreeable, reasonable, even-keeled and genuine. Seriously Canadians, I am loving the chance I have to explore your country, so thank you/merci and Happy Canada Day!