13 REA­SONS WHY CANADA ROCKS

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHITCOMB

The rugged Rock­ies might not seem to share much with the sandy shores of Prince Ed­ward Is­land, and com­par­ing the fer­tile fruit­lands of On­tario with the awe-in­spir­ing Arc­tic is like com­par­ing, well, ap­ples and snow. One thing, how­ever, re­mains con­stant: wher­ever you go in this vast land, you’re sure to find some­thing re­mark­able. Here are

13 of the rea­sons why Canada rocks.

20,000 SHADES OF GREY: BRI­TISH COLUMBIA

In some places, red-breasted robins an­nounce the ar­rival of spring. On the western shore of Van­cou­ver Is­land, it’s the re­turn of the grey whales—some 20,000 of which swim by as they make the 8,000-km (4,970-mi.) trip from the balmy breed­ing la­goons of Mex­ico to feed­ing grounds up north. Whale-watch­ing boats de­part from towns like Ucluelet and Tofino. But since the mas­sive mam­mals fol­low the coast closely, you can also ob­serve them with­out leav­ing land. The peak view­ing time in Pa­cific Rim Na­tional Park Re­serve is from March through May (www.parkscanada.gc. ca/paci­fi­crim).

2 BREAK­FAST OF CHAM­PI­ONS: AL­BERTA

Hun­gry at­ten­dees will be happy to hear that pan­cake flip­ping is as much a part of the Cal­gary Stam­pede as bull rid­ing and bar­rel rac­ing. In fact, an es­ti­mated 200,000 pan­cakes—topped with 454 kg (1,000 lb.) of but­ter and 1,728 l (380 gal.) of syrup—are served at free break­fasts hosted city-wide each July dur­ing the 10-day event. Many also come with a side or­der of en­ter­tain­ment. The tra­di­tion started in 1923, when chuck­wagon driver Jack Mor­ton be­gan invit­ing ran­dom folks to share his morn­ing meal; now it serves as ed­i­ble ev­i­dence of that leg­endary Western hos­pi­tal­ity (www. stam­pede­break­fast.ca).

3 FISH TALES: SASKATCHEWAN

Saskatchewan may call to mind wav­ing fields of prairie grain, yet this land­locked spot has real waves as well. In fact, 100,000 or so lakes and rivers cover about a tenth of the prov­ince, pro­vid­ing some of the best freshwater fish­ing any­where. World record-break­ing bur­bot, north­ern pike and brook trout have been caught here; tro­phy-sized walleyes—Saskatchewan’s of­fi­cial pro­vin­cial fish and its most pop­u­lar game species—also lure in an­glers. Whether you’re pas­sion­ate about fly fish­ing or ea­ger to try ice fish­ing, ex­pe­ri­enced lo­cal out­fit­ters can set you up (www.tourism­saskatchewan.com/things-to-do/fish­ing).

4 BEAR NE­CES­SI­TIES: MAN­I­TOBA

You can see a po­lar bear just by pick­ing up a “toonie”—the two-dol­lar coin. But if you want an up-close look at the planet’s largest land preda­tors, make tracks for Churchill. This tiny com­mu­nity on the western shore of Hud­son Bay is one of the only hu­man set­tle­ments where they can be seen in the wild. Be­cause it sits on a po­lar bear mi­gra­tion route, hun­dreds pass through as they travel to the ice floes in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. Cool Tun­dra Bug­gies—com­plete with over­sized wheels and an out­side view­ing plat­form— take guests to ob­serve them on un­for­get­table day tours (www.ev­ery­thingchurchill.com).

DRA­MATIC EVENTS: ON­TARIO

Shake­speare said “All the world’s a stage,” and Strat­ford—a small city in south­west­ern On­tario named for the Bard’s birth­place— ac­tu­ally feels like one dur­ing its sig­na­ture event. Each year, from April through Oc­to­ber, the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val draws about half a mil­lion the­atre­go­ers to mul­ti­ple venues. Founded in 1953, it had hum­ble be­gin­nings: plays were orig­i­nally per­formed in a tent. From the start, how­ever, the fes­ti­val at­tracted lu­mi­nar­ies from the theatre world. Sir Ty­rone Guthrie was its first artis­tic direc­tor and Sir Alec Guin­ness starred in its in­au­gu­ral pro­duc­tion of Richard III (www.strat­ford­fes­ti­val.ca).

6 COLD COM­FORT: QUÉBEC

What beats walk­ing in a win­ter won­der­land? How about sleep­ing in one? At the Hô­tel de Glace, ev­ery­thing—in­clud­ing the glit­ter­ing guest room fur­ni­ture—is made en­tirely of ice and snow: 30,500 tonnes of it to be ex­act. Its thick walls act like a ther­mos, so you can chill with­out get­ting too chilly; and the ice-block beds, topped with a solid wood base and a com­fort­able mat­tress, an iso­lat­ing bed sheet and Arc­t­i­crated sleep­ing bags, are très cosy. Built anew each year, the Hô­tel de Glace is in Val­cartier Va­ca­tion Vil­lage and open from Jan­uary to late March (www.hoteldeglace­canada.com).

7 CLAWS CÉLÈBRE: NEW BRUNSWICK

She­diac, a cute Aca­dian fish­ing com­mu­nity, bills it­self as the “Lob­ster Cap­i­tal of the World.” Whether or not that’s tech­ni­cally true, this town ob­vi­ously loves the King of Crus­taceans. One is proudly dis­played on its coat of arms; an­other—a 55-tonne whop­per, al­beit made from me­tal—is its main at­trac­tion. More­over, since 1949, it has hon­oured the catch du jour each July dur­ing the five-day She­diac Lob­ster Fes­ti­val. The high­light of the event is a nightly con­test dur­ing which re­cruits at­tempt to crack and con­sume three lob­sters as quickly as pos­si­ble (www.she­di­a­clob­ster­fes­ti­val.ca).

8 CLIFF NOTES: NOVA SCO­TIA

The Jog­gins Fos­sil Cliffs on Chignecto Bay are more than just an­other pretty rock face. After all, they pro­vide an un­par­al­leled look at what life was like 300 mil­lion years ago dur­ing the Car­bonif­er­ous Pe­riod. Some 200 species of fos­silized plants and an­i­mals have been dis­cov­ered here, among them Hy­lono­mus lyelli, the ear­li­est known rep­tile and the first known ver­te­brate able to live en­tirely on land. Cited by Charles Dar­win in The Ori­gin of Species, this 15-km-long (9.3-mi.), tide-washed UNESCO World Her­itage site has been dubbed the “Coal Age Galá­pa­gos” (www.jog­gins­fos­sil­cliffs.net).

9 A RECORD-BREAK­ING BRIDGE: PRINCE ED­WARD IS­LAND

Although P.E.I. joined Con­fed­er­a­tion in 1873, the prov­ince wasn’t phys­i­cally con­nected to the rest of Canada un­til the bil­lion-dol­lar Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge opened be­tween Bor­den-Car­leton and Cape Jouri­main, New Brunswick, 124 years later. Com­prised of al­most 13 km (8 mi.) of cur­va­ceous con­crete, the so-called “fixed link” qual­i­fies as the long­est bridge in the world span­ning ice-cov­ered water. It took a team of more than 5,000 work­ers four years to build this 11-m-wide (36-ft.) engi­neer­ing marvel; mo­torists can cross it in a mere 12 min­utes (www.con­fed­er­a­tionbridge.com).

10 MIXED SIG­NALS: NEW­FOUND­LAND & LABRADOR

The pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal’s lead­ing land­mark, Sig­nal Hill, is crowned by an im­pos­ing stone tower, which was erected to com­mem­o­rate the ar­rival of Gio­vanni Caboto in 1497. The Ge­noese ex­plorer is bet­ter known to an­glo­phones as John Cabot. Coin­ci­dently,

all of the mod­ern-day visi­tors who tweet about the tower or post cell­phone pics of it to Face­book and In­sta­gram owe a debt to an­other trail-blaz­ing Ital­ian, Guglielmo Mar­coni. The ra­dio pi­o­neer ush­ered in the era of global com­mu­ni­ca­tions when he re­ceived the first tran­sat­lantic wire­less sig­nal here on De­cem­ber 12, 1901 (www. parkscanada.gc.ca/sig­nal­hill).

11 A DECIDELY DIF­FER­ENT DRINK: YUKON

More than a cen­tury after the Klondike Gold Rush ended, Daw­son City is still a place where “strange things are done in the mid­night sun.” If you want proof—about 40 proof to be pre­cise—head to the Sour­dough Sa­loon in the Down­town Ho­tel and or­der a Sour­toe Cock­tail. The off-beat bev­er­age has one key in­gre­di­ent that hip mixol­o­gists tend to over­look—namely a de­hy­drated hu­man toe. To be­come a cer­tifi­cate-car­ry­ing mem­ber of the Cock­tail Club, you can drink your shot fast or you can drink it slow, “but your lips have gotta touch the toe” (www. down­town­ho­tel.ca/sour­toe-cock­tail).

12 CE­LES­TIAL SIGHTS: NORTH­WEST TER­RI­TO­RIES

Nei­ther words nor pic­tures can truly con­vey the beauty of the aurora bo­re­alis, a nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non sparked by surges of so­lar and mag­netic en­ergy. You sim­ply have to see the iri­des­cent colours dance across the night sky your­self. An ideal place to do it is the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, where “the great­est light show on Earth” is vis­i­ble about 240 days a year. The ab­sence of light pol­lu­tion in Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park—Canada’s largest na­tional park and the world’s largest Dark Sky Pre­serve— cre­ates top view­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties from mid-De­cem­ber to mid-March (www.parks canada.gc.ca/wood­buf­falo).

13 SINK­ING SEN­SA­TIONS: NUNAVUT

Nunavut doesn’t make head­lines of­ten, but in 2014 the news went vi­ral: after 168 years, the HMS Ere­bus—one of the ships from the ill-fated Franklin Ex­pe­di­tion— had been dis­cov­ered in its icy wa­ters by Parks Canada ar­chae­ol­o­gists. The feat was re­peated in 2016 when her sis­ter ship, the HMS Ter­ror was lo­cated. Sir John Franklin, his crew and both ves­sels dis­ap­peared in 1846 while try­ing to tra­verse the North­west Pas­sage—and gain a lu­cra­tive trade route be­tween the Atlantic and Pa­cific. Find­ing them helps solve one of the world’s great ma­rine mys­ter­ies (www.parkscanada.gc. ca/franklin).

EN­TER­ING THE COUN­TRY

First im­pres­sions count, so the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency makes en­ter­ing the coun­try com­par­a­tively easy. Va­ca­tion­ing cit­i­zens of Bri­tain and most EU or Com­mon­wealth coun­tries need only a valid pass­port and, if trav­el­ling by air, an Elec­tronic Travel Au­tho­riza­tion (eTA). Visas aren’t re­quired; how­ever, a re­turn ticket and proof of suf­fi­cient funds may be re­quested. Amer­i­can cit­i­zens trav­el­ling be­tween the U.S. and Canada must pro­duce a pass­port or other WHTI-com­pli­ant doc­u­ment, such as a NEXUS card (www.cbp.gov/travel). If in doubt, con­sult Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Canada (www.cic.gc.ca).

There are no lim­i­ta­tions on what per­sonal ef­fects can be brought into Canada. Gifts must be val­ued at $60 or less each. Duty-free lim­its for adults when re­turn­ing to Canada after 48 hours or more are 1.5 l (53 imp. oz.) of wine, 1.14 l (40 imp. oz.) of spir­its or 8.5 l (299 imp. oz.) of beer or ale. Adults may also bring up to 200 cig­a­rettes, 50 cigars, 200 g (7 oz.) of to­bacco or 200 to­bacco sticks.

The use of firearms is strictly con­trolled, and the buy­ing or sell­ing of il­licit drugs is se­verely dealt with. How­ever, there are plans to le­gal­ize the use of mar­i­juana across the coun­try some­time this year. When trav­el­ling, pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions should be kept in orig­i­nal con­tain­ers in case cus­toms of­fi­cials want to see them. In the in­ter­est of pub­lic health, re­stric­tions are also placed on the im­por­ta­tion of an­i­mals, plants and foods (www.in­spec­tion.gc.ca).

GET­TING AROUND

Flights op­er­ated by Air Canada (www.air canada.ca) and car­ri­ers like WestJet (www. westjet.com) or Porter (www.fly­porter.com) link many Cana­dian cities. In some air­ports, a de­par­ture tax is levied on top of taxes in­cluded in your ticket price. The na­tional train sys­tem, VIA Rail, of­fers cross-coun­try ser­vice, with con­nec­tions to cer­tain U.S. cities (www.vi­arail.ca). In­ter­city bus ser­vice is also avail­able in some ar­eas through com­pa­nies such as Grey­hound (www. grey­hound.ca). Civic buses pro­vide pub­lic tran­sit in many com­mu­ni­ties; Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary, Ed­mon­ton, Toronto and Mon­tréal, more­over, have ex­cel­lent sub­way and lo­cal rail sys­tems. Taxi ser­vice has been a foun­da­tion in cities and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for many years, how­ever, up­start Uber is avail­able in some ma­jor cities. For many trav­ellers, though, driv­ing is the pre­ferred way to go.

The cor­ner­stone of the na­tional road net­work is the Trans-Canada High­way, which stretches 8,030 km (4,990 mi.) from Vic­to­ria, B.C., to St. John’s, New­found­land, with fer­ries cov­er­ing coastal wa­ters at each end. Cana­di­ans drive on the right and fol­low rules sim­i­lar to those in Bri­tain and the U.S. At in­ter­sec­tions you may turn right on a red light if the way is clear and un­less posted oth­er­wise (ex­cept on the Is­land of Mon­tréal). Speed lim­its, stated in kilo­me­tres, vary but are usu­ally around 100 to 110 km/h (62 to 68 mph) on high­ways and 50 to 60 km/h (31 to 37 mph) in ur­ban ar­eas. Radar de­tec­tors are il­le­gal in most lo­cales. Seat belts are com­pul­sory, and chil­dren weigh­ing less than 18 kg (40 lb.) must be in child re­straint seats. Ev­ery prov­ince and ter­ri­tory, save for Nunavut, for­bids us­ing hand-held elec­tronic de­vices when driv­ing: it will be banned there as well once the new Traf­fic Safety Act comes into ef­fect at the

end of the year. Per­mis­si­ble blood al­co­hol lim­its vary, but drink­ing and driv­ing laws are strictly en­forced na­tion­wide.

Bri­tish and U.S. driver’s li­cences are valid in Canada for up to three months. Car rental com­pa­nies are found at air­ports and in many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. In­ter­na­tion­ally ob­served age lim­its apply, and driv­ers should present an ac­cept­able credit card.

All mo­torists must have ac­ci­dent li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance. Amer­i­cans driv­ing across the bor­der should ob­tain a Cana­dian Non­res­i­dent In­ter-Prov­ince Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Li­a­bil­ity Card, com­monly known as a yel­low card (avail­able from their in­surer in the U.S. only) be­fore leav­ing. Driv­ers should also bring their ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion card, a let­ter of per­mis­sion from the reg­is­tered owner or a rental com­pany con­tract stip­u­lat­ing per­mis­sion for use in Canada.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Even in Canada’s largest cities it is gen­er­ally safe to walk the streets and use pub­lic trans­porta­tion at night. Nev­er­the­less, pru­dent visi­tors will let com­mon sense be their guide and take the usual pre­cau­tions. Be­long­ings left in parked cars should be stowed out of sight. Purses and wal­lets are best kept be­neath outer cloth­ing; pass­ports and other valu­ables stored in a ho­tel safe. To avoid un­nec­es­sary grief if theft oc­curs, keep a list of credit cards and other im­por­tant num­bers in a se­cure place.

In the event of ill­ness or ac­ci­dent, it is re­as­sur­ing to know that Canada’s health ser­vices rank among the world’s finest. Most hos­pi­tals are pub­licly man­aged, their fees set by pro­vin­cial author­i­ties. Non-res­i­dents hos­pi­tal­ized in Canada are charged a daily rate. These dif­fer by prov­ince and can be cost pro­hib­i­tive, so it is im­por­tant to pur­chase travel health in­sur­ance be­fore leav­ing home.

Cana­di­ans trav­el­ling do­mes­ti­cally can typ­i­cally rely on their pro­vin­cial health cov­er­age. All prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries ex­cept Québec have a co­op­er­a­tive agree­ment al­low­ing physi­cians to sub­mit claims for ser­vices in­volv­ing out-of-prov­ince res­i­dents to the lo­cal med­i­cal plan; these are then charged to that res­i­dent’s home plan. Res­i­dents who are re­quired to pay for health ser­vices can sub­mit re­ceipts to their lo­cal min­istry of­fice for pos­si­ble re­im­burse­ment. Ser­vices not cov­ered while trav­el­ling out of prov­ince in­clude am­bu­lances and pre­scrip­tion drugs from phar­ma­cies. Buy­ing sup­ple­men­tary med­i­cal in­sur­ance can al­le­vi­ate these costs.

MONEY MAT­TERS

Canada’s pa­per cur­rency comes in 5, 10,

20, 50, 100 and 1,000 dol­lar bills, which dif­fer in colour but not size. Coins are in

5¢, 10¢ and 25¢ de­nom­i­na­tions; there are also $1 and $2 coins, dubbed the loonie and toonie. U.S. cur­rency is widely ac­cepted at the pre­vail­ing ex­change rate, though you should ex­pect to re­ceive change in Cana­dian funds.

Sales taxes are added to the price of vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing meals and lodg­ings. For starters, there is a fed­eral 5 per­cent Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST). Ex­cept in Al­berta and the ter­ri­to­ries, there is also a pro­vin­cial sales tax (PST), which is some­times com­bined with the GST to cre­ate one Har­mo­nized Sales Tax (HST). This means you’ll pay an ex­tra 10-15 per­cent on top of most ad­ver­tised pur­chase prices.

Au­to­mated teller ma­chines (ATMs) that ac­cept in­ter­na­tional debit cards are plen­ti­ful, and many are ac­ces­si­ble around the clock. Just bear in mind that four-digit PIN codes are con­sid­ered stan­dard—if yours has more, change it be­fore leav­ing home. To min­i­mize trans­ac­tion fees, choose an ATM af­fil­i­ated with your home bank; users of Cir­rus or PLUS net­works can re­search lo­ca­tions on-line. Amer­i­cans who’d rather pay by credit card should note that chip & PIN cards are com­mon­place here; how­ever, trans­ac­tions can of­ten be pro­cessed us­ing the old swipe and sign method, too.

OP­ER­AT­ING HOURS

Most com­mu­ni­ties have branches of ma­jor banks which are open, at min­i­mum, from 10 to 3 on week­days. Banks are closed on le­gal hol­i­days, but ex­change bu­reaus in cities, air­ports and at bor­der cross­ings usu­ally re­main open. Mu­se­ums and sim­i­lar sites are typ­i­cally open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; some close on Mon­day but have evening hours (and of­ten re­duced prices) once a week.

Store hours are gen­er­ally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon­day through Satur­day, though these may be ex­tended on Thurs­day and Fri­day nights; times vary on Sun­day. Shop­ping cen­tres are typ­i­cally open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on week­days, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Satur­day, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sun­day. Su­per­mar­kets of­ten have longer hours. Drug­stores may re­main open un­til mid­night with some 24-hour lo­ca­tions, and con­ve­nience stores some­times op­er­ate 24/7.

Canada’s liquor laws vary be­tween prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, and liquor store hours vary ac­cord­ingly. The sale of spir­its, wines and beer in prov­inces dif­fer, with most be­ing sold in provin­cially-owned or su­per­vised stores, as well as some avail­able in pri­vate shops.

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

The Cana­dian tele­phone sys­tem is iden­ti­cal to the U.S. one and shares the same in­ter­na­tional coun­try code (01). Tele­phone num­bers have a 3-digit area code fol­lowed by the 7-digit phone num­ber (note that in some ar­eas, 10-digit dial­ing is re­quired for lo­cal calls). Toll-free num­bers are pre­fixed by 1-800, 1-888, 1-877, 1-866, 1-855, 1-844 or 1-833. For emer­gen­cies, dial 911; for di­rec­tory as­sis­tance, dial 411; for the op­er­a­tor, dial 0.

Pub­lic phone booths, while in­creas­ingly rare, can be used for lo­cal or long-dis­tance calls. The cost of the former is 50¢; you can pay for the lat­ter with coins, a phone card and some­times a credit card, or by re­vers­ing the charges. In­ter­na­tional visi­tors can typ­i­cally use their own multi­band cell phone but should be mind­ful of high roam­ing and data charges. One way to avoid these is to ask your provider to tem­po­rar­ily add Cana­dian ac­cess to your ser­vice plan be­fore ar­riv­ing. Rent­ing a travel phone or bring­ing an “un­locked” cell phone and then buy­ing a lo­cal SIM card are other al­ter­na­tives.

On-line op­tions such as Skype, Face­Time or What­sApp of­fer cheaper ways to keep in touch. Most ho­tels pro­vide broad­band con­nec­tions or WiFi, at least in com­mon ar­eas. Many air­ports, bus and train sta­tions, ferry ter­mi­nals and li­braries also of­fer WiFi; ditto for count­less cof­fee shops and fast food fran­chises, in­clud­ing those ubiq­ui­tous Tim Hor­tons out­lets. If you are bring­ing a phone charger, lap­top, or any other elec­tri­cal de­vice, be ad­vised that Canada (like the U.S.) has a 110-V, 60-Hz cur­rent. To use 220-V Bri­tish equip­ment, you’ll need a power con­verter plus a plug adap­tor.

ICE HO­TEL, QC • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

TOBIN LAKE, SK • TOURISM SK/GREG HUSZAR PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

CHURCHILL, MB • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

SHE­DIAC, NB • DES­TI­NA­TION CANADA

CON­FED­ER­A­TION BRIDGE, PE • SHUT­TER­STOCK/DAVID P. LEWIS

HMS ERE­BUS, NU • PARKS CANADA

WOOD BUF­FALO NA­TIONAL PARK, NT • NWTT/PETER MCMA­HON

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