By Jessica Freeland
Canada – the land of Beaver Tails, ice hockey and maple leaves. If I could describe Canada in one word I would say it is varied. After living in this glorious country I feel satisfied. I have that warm, content feeling similar to when you’ve eaten a Sunday roast dinner. Canada is a beautiful and welcoming country. I would recommend that everyone should go, should the opportunity arise. In the scheme of things I saw such a tiny part of it.
Before I arrived I had no idea how gigantic it is, and I still struggle to comprehend the fact that it is over forty times bigger than the United Kingdom! I certainly will be back.
In the meantime, here are my verdicts for the places that I managed to see:
Thousands of tourists flock to the small village of Tadoussac for one reason – whales. Tadoussac is renowned for its boat tours that travel into the St. Lawrence river in the search of the many species of whale that frequent it. I was so pleased when we saw a Humpback, it brings its tail out like you see in all the distinctive photos. Not that I managed to get a good shot, I was far too slow every single time that they made an appearance!
It was amazing when we were just floating on the water, and you could tell if a whale was below you by all the air bubbles that were rising to the surface!
The most spectacular part of the day was seeing a Blue Whale (yes, that is the largest mammal in the world) . We went on a Zodiac Boat Tour and I would recommend it as it gets you so close to the action. You are kitted out in what I presume a fisherman would wear, and you waddle aboard like a ‘Michelin’ man. Essentially it is just an inflatable boat so you are thrown about as you crash into the waves which is very exciting. As you are so close to the water, the risk of getting a wave in your face is quite high too which is very entertaining when you are not the poor soul who gets hit.
Trying to save money? The hostel in the village was adorable, like a big home. There were people playing the guitar and the piano which made it feel so chilled, and everyone helping out with the washing up made me feel like I was part of a big family!
Quebec by Canadian standards is old, and so for a history student like myself, this was very much appreciated! The Victorian part of town with cobbled streets down to the riverside was lovely to explore. The ornately decorated parliament and the imposing Chateau de Frontenac (the most photographed hotel in the world according to my guidebook) added to the gorgeous architecture of Quebec. The hostel here was in a fantastic location, only minutes from parliament.
I recommend having a wander in the older part of the city. The beautiful basilica reflects memories of Paris’ Notre Dame and actually shares the name. The Basilica is on the Place des Armes, which displays an interesting patchwork of architecture making the square well worth a meander through.
The Old Port was beautiful. The unusually (for a Canadian September) warm weather meant I was able to stroll around the riverside to my heart’s content.
The following morning I went to the top of Mount Royal to see the views over the city which were spectacular. The park itself was beautiful too with all the trees transforming into their Autumnal colours. The old Olympic park offers an alternate view of the skyline; above the swimming pool is the tallest inclined structure in the world and from here you get a view of the city with Mount Royal in the background.
Toronto is arguably Canada’s most famous city and after hearing raving reviews I was eager to make my own mind up. I found the CN Tower a bit overrated, on a clear day you can sometimes see all the way across to Niagara Falls but my luck was not in. I stumbled upon St Lawrence Market which was great, with all kinds of food stalls and the odd tacky tourist shop in between. It was absolutely heaving but a lovely place to wander about and I felt I was experiencing the real side of Toronto.
Going on the Maid of the Mist, certainly was impressive. Wearing their famous poncho we piled aboard the boat and headed into the mist. The boat firstly goes right up close to the American Falls where you can see the walkway where you get the opportunity to get incredibly close (would love to go down there next time I go!).
You then make your way deeper and deeper into the Canadian Falls, which are very impressive. When you’re in their shadow, feeling the spray (and that is putting it lightly) it is breathtaking.
When back on land, I walked up to the top of the Falls. It was phenomenal. The sheer volume of water cascading over the edge every second was unfathomable. I understand the water cycle but I just thought ‘it’s got to run out at some point!’ I loved looking down into the Falls and seeing the tiny Maid of the Mist Boat, made me realise quite how tall they are!
Tremblant is the biggest ski resort on the east side of Canada. I have heard it is equally beautiful during the Summer. I visited at the beginning of the Winter season so saw it in all of its sparkling, snowy glory. The village too is fantastic. I loved its “Alp-style” with the multi coloured roofs – it was all very quaint.
Ottawa is a fantastic city, albeit a small city, I personally thought it offered everything. Not once did I wish that I was somewhere bigger.
Check out one of the many museums, go watch the Sens play Ice Hockey, explore the Parliament buildings or have a stroll around the Byward Market. The only regret I have is not being around for when the canal freezes over, it turns into the world’s largest ice rink!
Technically its just cheese, chips and gravy but it is much more. Head to Smokes Poutinerie for guaranteed deliciousness. I do not know what makes it taste so special but try it and you will understand why it is basically the Canadian national dish.
They are also in competition with Poutine for my favourite Canadian food. Do not fear, it is not an actual Beaver Tail. It is in fact rolled out fried pastry with the topping of your choice.
Whether you buy some there or pick some up from the duty free, I would try some Sortilege – Canadian whiskey with Maple Liqueur. I despise whiskey but this was delicious.
Canada is big therefore getting anywhere is expensive. I personally used Greyhound a lot but there are other coaches that would no doubt offer equally reasonable fares. On the more popular routes they provide coaches with leather seats and wifi which is rather luxurious. I do know of some people who had some trouble with Greyhound but I found them perfect and there are stops all over Canada and America.
If you get the chance to cross the pond and visit Canada, then do it, you won’t regret it.