Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Road Less Travelled

I have a friend who deals a lot with the Japanese in his line of work. The Japanese love Canada or parts of it anyway. A Japanese tourist has the following must sees when they come here - Vancouver, Whistler, downtown Toronto, Niagara Falls, PEI.

Quebec City and/ or Ottawa may also be on that list but I cannot remember and I think that maybe one is but not the other.

Why PEI? Because they love Anne of Green Gables. In Japan you can buy prefabricated houses that are replicas of houses from the Anne stories. I'm not shitting you. Just the other day my wife and mother in law took the kids out to Cavendish to check it out and a Japanese woman almost absconded with the boy - she wanted a picture taken with him. Crazy.

That's the whole country to them. They're missing a lot. That's the danger of travel. You can miss the point pretty easily.

If I were a travel agent and had a foreign visitor for whom money and time were no object I would tell them to do the following:

1/ Walk around Montreal for a weekend. Go into as many brew pubs as you can and eat and drink as much as you can. Wear sunglasses or your eyes will give away where you are looking. Pervert.

2/ Drive from Vancouver to Calgary. Spend a couple of days in Vancouver and a couple of days in the Okanagan Valley. Drive across the Kootenays. Make sure you rent a small car so you don't shit your pants.

3/ Go to a hockey game in Edmonton in the dead of winter. Before you go to the game go to the Sherlock Holmes pub. Afterwards go drinking. Don't freeze to death in a snowbank. (I'd say go to a playoff game in Edmonton but your man can't travel back in time).

4/ Go to a junior hockey game at the Sudbury Arena. If you're cheering against the Wolves be prepared to get into a fight.

5/ Drive from Parry Sound to Thunder Bay. Camp along the way. Go to Killarney. Eat at chip wagons. Go underground in Sudbury. Swim in Lake Superior. Try not to get swallowed up by the stars at night. Fish for pickerel on White Lake. Try and find someone who'll let you have a sauna. Marvel at it the wonder of it all.

6/ Go to Kensington Market on a Saturday. Catch a matinee at Graffiti's. Do a pub crawl in Toronto. Do two. Drink regional beers exclusively except when you are at McCarthy's, McVeigh's, PJ O'Brien's and the Dora. Then you can drink Guinness. Go to Gerrard Street for Indian food. That's not pemmican by the way.

7/ Spend a weekend in Niagara on the Lake. Rent a cottage built in the 1800s. Take a bicycle tour of the wineries. If you sober up drive along the Niagara gorge to the Falls. Check them out too.

8/ Rent a cottage on the south shore of PEI by the ferry to Pictou. Go to a lobster supper in a church or town hall. Wander the back roads and look at the old farmhouses, the churches, the harbours, the lighthouses, the red clay cliffs. Buy some lobster and mussels off of the wharf and eat them when you get home. Find Jack's road (pictured), step back in time and drive down it (or better yet, walk it). Take a day in Charlottetown and wander the old town. Go to the Olde Dublin for a pint. Find an Islander to take you out on his boat into the Harbour. Don't drown. You will be drunk. Afterwards pub crawl across Charlottetown. One last hint. You have to call a cab. They don't pick you up if you hail them. Of course, walking for three hours is a good way to sober up. Or so I've heard. Forget about Anne and the rest of the touristy shit. I've been coming here for a dozen years and haven't even been to Cavendish.

9/ Fly into St. John's in the dead of winter. It may take you a few attempts, depending on the fog and whether or not its storming. Try and find a room around Rawlins Cross so you can look out at Signal Hill and out onto the Atlantic. Traipse up and down the streets of St. Johns. Lean into the wind and snow and keep going. Don't be a pussy. Eat and drink and laugh it all off. Don't kiss a cod. Don't get screeched in.

10/ Visit a bathhouse in Toronto and get a rubdown from a handsome man. I would give you an excellent recommendation but frankly its a special place for Andy Grabia and I and I don't kiss and tell. Plus he'd cry like a little girl from jealousy. Because he's like that.

Now that's for starters and I haven't even touched on a thousand places that I have not been.

And yes, you're welcome.


You want to talk about a crazy idea for the Edmonton Oilers? How about a playoff spot? Hmm?

Because I'm getting damn tired of these overpriced, poor quality results we're getting these last few years.

I feel like I'm at the damn Hard Rock Cafe, any single one of them, eating a 15.00 burger that has come right out of a no name box of frozen patties.



Krazy Rick said...

Great article Dog!! I have a number of favorite placesto go in this most beautiful country....
the old highway from Moncton to Saint John that goes through Fundy national Park.
the south shore of Nova Scotia down near Lunenburg.
anywhere on the Gaspe.
driving the badlands near Drumheller, Alberta.
the highway from Banff to Jasper.
but my favorite and the sight I will NEVER forget, is the first time I drove into the mountains from Calgary. just an awesome sight!!!
I LOVE Canada and the Oilers!!


40oz said...

I dont care if this team is struggling, I dont care if this team is overpaid, Im just sick of watching a team with no balls.

matt said...

To the list of things the Japanese love in Canada, I would add Banff. Twice.

To the other Canada list, I would add driving the Cabot trail and wandering Quebec City's old town in deep snow.

ebi said...

Of course, it's all relative.
Stick one of us Canadians in Japan and we'll end up going to all the touristy, typical places and skipping all the gems that Japanese people know about :)

Anyway, I want to say that I'm excited for the upcoming season. But, aside from the new coaches and the switch from a really old goalie to an old goalie, not much has changed. I know there's still time, but come on. Here's to hoping (at least) one of kids break out this season. And Hemsky's included in "one of the kids".

hunter1909 said...

How about waiting for a bus in 25 below farenheit on a Sunday afternoon?

Or better yet, getting thrown off the same bus as a 12 year old after trying to get on by tossing a few pennies in the box, and then seeing the box wasn't already full of money, but instead is empty?

Black Dog said...

Banff, Matt! That's another one. That's exactly right.

ebi - yeah but you have to think outside of the box when you travel, right? read a little, talk to folks who have been there, when you get there, wherever there is, get close to the ground and walk around - that will give you a true sense

KR and Matt - yes to all of those - I've never been though - some day

Downright Fierce said...

I'm leaving to drive down the West Coast to Cali in two days and now you've got me all whistful about the Motherland...

Here's my picks:

- Drive the 6 hours from Edmonton into Peace Country, jump in a boat, rip up the Peace River until you find a decent spot and build the biggest bonfire you can
- Fly to Victoria, rent a car, drive the Island, and then start taking ferries as far out as you can (Hornby Island is a personal fave)
- Visit Yellowknife in the fall and see the Northern Lights (I've never been, but my girlfriend is crazy for it)

Re: the Oilers
Your Hard Rock Cafe analogy is spot on. If it costs that much, it must be worth it... Right? Even if the burger's crap, we can always cling to the nostalgia with which we surround ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Drive from Vancouver to Calgary. Spend a couple of days in Vancouver and a couple of days in the Okanagan Valley. Drive across the Kootenays. Make sure you rent a small car so you don't shit your pants.

Man, I just did this. I can't recommend it highly enough. Awesome drive. There's a point where you come around a mountain as you exit the Kootneys and BAM you just see the line of the Rockies. Gorgeous.

I have a funny story about getting a massage at Radium - first time I'd done that - and not knowing whether or not I was supposed to be wearing a bathing suit. I wanted to ask the girl but massage guy wouldn't go away, so I had to kind of look like a goof.

mattwatt said...

It sure as hell does feel like eating a generic burger, pickles and all.

My personal item to add to the list. Visit Saskatoon on a sunny, summer day. Walk the river valley, see the houses with character, pub crawl through downtown and then end up at whatever bar the locals are attending that evening.

As a Alberta boy, not the biggest fan of Saskatchewan for a few reasons, but god do I love Saskatoon, just a great town.

spOILer said...

Canoe down the Red Deer River through the Badlands.

Get above the Arctic Circle, some way somehow, preferably on a day where they've nailed a narwhal in the local harbour.

Visit Grand Beach north of Winnipeg, if you missed Skaha in Penticton and Wreck Beach in Vancouver.

Anonymous said...

If you pass by Thunder Bay, make sure to make a stop at the Hoito for some Finn pancakes. I miss those so much since I moved out west.

Brad said...

Don't get screeched in?! Don't kiss the cod?!
Did both in Smithers, BC of all places, on Newfie night. I still proclaim myself an honourary Newfoundlander.

Bruce said...

Another outstanding piece, Pat. Thanks for sharing your lvoe of Canada. I've been to a few of the places you mention and enjoyed every one of those experiences. On your recommendation I now want to do the rest.

As for Japanese tourists, Matt beat me to Banff. Lake Louise and Jasper too.

Downright Fierce mentioned the aurora -- which are sensational from Yellowknife even in -43° as I experienced this past January -- but not their connection to the Japanese. There's a whole cottage industry of Japanese tourists coming specifically to "see" the northern lights. They are spectacularly beautiful in their own right of course, but the attraction goes a little, uh, deeper than that. A rather salacious but oft-repeated legend has it that any child conceived under the aurora is likely to be gifted. So there's a lot more than merely passive observation that takes place. :)

Black Dog said...

Thanks Bruce for your kind words and thanks all for sharing your own recommendations and favourites.

Keep them coming.

Now I'm off - tomorrow is the return to Toronto - only 1700km, 500 less than the trip here.

Piece of cake.

HBomb said...

My personal favorite - the drive coming into Radium from the east. Try to come between the rocks past the hot springs in the late evening, just as the sun is setting over the mountains. An absolutely glorious sight. Saw it for the first time when I was six, have seen it three times since.

As for this one:

4/ Go to a junior hockey game at the Sudbury Arena. If you're cheering against the Wolves be prepared to get into a fight.

I'm going to be doing something VERY similar on September 20th. With the following three differences.

- Change "junior hockey" to "CFL".
- Switch "Sudbury arena" to "Mosaic stadium" (aka Taylor Field for the purists)
- Finally, swap out "Wolves" to read "Roughriders"

I already fear for my life.

As for the Oilers - they're certainly not Fatburger (a 10-buck burger that's actually worth ten dollars). However, switch out one topping for another (Malholtra in for Nilsson's 2 million), and suddenly, it tastes a lot better.

hunter1909 said...

Stompin Tom's plywood board.

doritogrande said...


Grand Beach is okay, but if you want a real experience, try the other side of Lake Winnipeg. Gimli beach isn't as famous as a beach, but the township around it oozes Icelandic-Canadian culture.

For stops along this great country of ours:

Try not to get a contact high walking around Birds Hill Park on Folkfest weekend.

As a parent, try to comprehend why your child is making you watch a hockey practice at the community club's outdoor rink, when it's -40, farenheit or celsius. And, furthermore, why he's enjoying it.

Attempt a 1-kilometer or greater portage on a spur of the moment canoe trip.

Fly to Churchill to watch beluga whales from boats. And polar bears from the otherside of a screen door.

grease trap said...

Make sweet love to a beautiful Australian girl in Yellowknife on a work Visa.

Black Dog said...

beauty guys!

G.T. - you supply the Aussie, yeah?

Matt N said...

Merrit Mountain Music Festival (B.C.)

-Girls wearing cowboy hats, flip flops and not much else. Smells like Molson Canadian, firesmoke, MaryJane and ThoseLittleDonuts. I think there is some kind of music, concerty thingy too.