I like to sneak in a food post now and again, as it seems that food is my main obsession in life I’ve written before about the delicious pies my husband makes at Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I tried out Dreena Burton’s Festive chickpea tart, complete with traditional cranberry sauce. I loved this so much I’ll be making more to serve up again at Christmas, this time with my favourite, easy gravy from Robin Robertson’s Vegetarian meat & potatoes book.
For snacks and gifts, I’ve made up a big batch of Dreena Burton’s softly spiced nuts recipe (from Eat, drink and be vegan). I’ve always had good comments about these and make them every year – usually several times as they never last very long. And as an alternative to cookies, I tried out Angela Liddon’s famous “Glo Bars”, included in her Oh She Glows cookbook. These were definitely a success. I’m also thinking of trying to make a tunis cake. Tunis cake was always (and still is) part of my family’s Christmas, but I’ve never been able to find them here. So it’ll be fun to try and recreate it.
Of course not everyone will be into my plan for a veggie Christmas dinner A typical Christmas meal in Canada would be turkey with all the trimmings. Canadian Living has a guide to cooking a classic Canadian Christmas menu. Or you could try a menu with more of a French-Canadian flavour, courtesy of Chatelaine magazine. And if you’ve ever watched Christmas Vacation (a Christmas Eve tradition in our house!) and wondered what eggnog is, find out here or here for a egg/dairy-free version.
However you’re celebrating, and whatever you’re eating over the holidays– Happy Christmas!
I really did my best to pretend it wasn’t going to happen, but I can’t put it off any longer. Winter is starting to make itself felt here in Northern Ontario with temperatures already below freezing at night and a few snowflakes in the air. There have been lots of winter prep jobs to do. It’s always a little sad taking down our Canadian flag for the season. But let’s look on the positive side! This winter there will be…
Less snow to clear*
Arranging snow removal can be a difficult business. But our snow plow contractor from last year has already contacted me, so our yard will be taken care of, leaving me with just the deck and steps to clear.
*But probably not less snow
Starting in 2016, Ontario drivers will qualify for a reduction in their car insurance premiums if they have winter tires fitted on their vehicle. My husband has always been insistent that we have winter tires for better safety, so we’ve used them every winter, and I think it’s well worth the investment. I was curious to see how much this would actually save us on our insurance premiums, so had my research assistant (my husband) call up the Cooperators. On our policy that costs about $1000.00 a year, we can expect to save $57.00. Not a huge amount, but every bit helps.
And extra sleep!
This Sunday morning, at least. The clocks go back one hour in all Canadian provinces except for most of Saskatchewan, which doesn’t make the switch to daylight savings time. There are also a few communities in B.C., Northwestern Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut, that skip the change. Judging by most of the comments on this CBC article, most Canadians would be quite happy to follow them.
How do you feel about Canadian winters?
My relatives flew back to England last weekend after a two-week stay. Previous family visits have always involved camping or cottages, but this time we stayed home and enjoyed some Northern Ontario day trips. It being September, we weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise, but we had almost constant sunshine and temperatures into the 20s, at least at the beginning of the fortnight. Here are some of our holiday highlights.
We decided to visit Huntsville to show my Mum-in-law “the Christmas shop”–i.e. Christmas Thyme–and it didn’t disappoint. She enjoyed browsing all the Christmas trinkets and had her picture taken next to a big snowman. It was sad to see though that yet another cottage country restaurant has been taken over by Boston Pizza. The drive along Hwy 3 between Rosseau and Huntsville was really fun and there were pockets of countryside where the leaves had changed colour more than in Sudbury, which was surprising.
We’d never made it to Manitoulin Island with my husband’s family on previous visits, so were determined to get there this time. We made our usual lunch stop at the Anchor Grill in Little Current, where they were in the process of taking down their patio – a sad sight! From there we went on to one of my favourite places on the Island–Kagawong. Normally when we stop at the Bridal Veil Falls there are perhaps one or two cars in the car park. But this was the day when everyone had decided to visit and the place was heaving! Manitoulin Chocolate Works was also on the agenda and–being pretty much the only place open still open on a Sunday afternoon– was doing a brisk trade in coffees.
We took our favourite route to North Bay, which involves a short detour north via Field. This is a great route for anyone who likes their road trips a little twisty with lots of lakes to enjoy. Plus, this being a little further north, the colours were amazing.
Average Joes was awarded meal of the holiday. We decimated our huge portions (Yes, I’m addicted to sweet potato fries…) and lingered at our table after eating, enjoying the view over Trout Lake. Here too, it was patio dismantling time. After a browse round the mall for a little early Christmas shopping, we braved the strong breeze on the waterfront. Bizarrely, the Chief Commanda II had been “parked” for the season, so no fall boat cruises available to enjoy the colours at their peak.
We finished the vacation by watching “Men with Brooms,” a Canadian comedy starring a young Paul Gross and Leslie Nielsen. And filmed in and around Sudbury! I first watched this back in England when it was first released, so it was fun to see it again all these years later. I’m still none the wiser about curling though
It was great to have the opportunity to be a tourist again for a few days and I’m now looking forward to the long weekend and hopefully a little more touring and exploring.
I can’t believe it’s already September. And with the new college semester just underway, family arriving for a visit in less than two weeks, plus negotiating the installation of a new well pipe, it’s definitely a busy time!
The arrival of fall is always a mixed bag: that “back to school” feeling, cooler temperatures, and starting to think ahead to winter prep. jobs. But it’s also the beginning of Canada’s most beautiful season: time to plan some fall drives or hikes and pick the best places to view those spectacular fall colours.
Here in Northern Ontario, I’m spoilt for choice – it’s just a short drive to Killarney Park, French River, Manitoulin Island, AY Jackson Falls, Muskoka… In Ontario, Algonquin Park is probably the most renowned–and the busiest!–spot to see the colours, and is one of the places highlighted by The Weather Network for prime fall colour viewing. Outside of Ontario, their recommendations include Gros Morne National Park and the Cabot Trail, both of which appear on my Top Ten Places I’d like to visit list. Maybe next fall!
Thinking of moving to Toronto or Vancouver? Recent reports on house prices might make you think again. While the housing market seems to have stagnated in many parts of Canada, not so for these two major Canadian cities.
What does $1million buy you in the Canadian housing market?
Where I live: a lakefront mansion
Most of Canada: an extremely comfortable house
Toronto and Vancouver? $1million is the price you’ll pay for the average detached house.
No wonder their many residents are unhappy. Just check out #Don’tHave1Million on Twitter and you’ll get the picture. Frustrations are rising as people are losing out in bidding wars and many house hunters are resigning themselves to becoming long-term renters. And the situation is only expected to get worse.
According to the RBC, a standard two-storey house in Vancouver was selling for $929,000 in January to March of this year. The Canadian average is $455,00. As if this doesn’t sound bad enough, this means that almost 87% of the average household income in the city would be going towards the mortgage, utilities and property taxes. That doesn’t leave you much of a life! Toronto isn’t too far behind: average price of $759,800 and housing costs accounting for 67% of your average income. Lenders typically recommend that not more than 30% of your gross income go towards housing costs.
What does all this mean for new immigrants? With more people unable to buy, that puts more pressure on the rental market in these two cities, making it even harder to find decent rental properties when you first move here. Latest figures back this up showing ever decreasing vacancy rates in Greater Vancouver and Toronto combined with–not surprisingly– the highest rental prices in the country. The average monthly rent for a 2-bedroom unit in Vancouver is now $1345.00, compared to the Canadian average of $949.00.
If you’re looking to get on the Canadian property ladder, you may have some equity to cushion the blow if you’re moving here from Europe and selling your home, but you’ll still need to secure good jobs to feed that mortgage every month.
While it may be tempting to broaden your house search to a wider geographical area and live further out of town, this will likely increase commuting time and impact on your quality of life. Toronto and Vancouver are fantastic in so many ways for new immigrants, but maybe it’s time to look elsewhere and consider Canada’s other large and medium size cities.
As a side note to this, recent reports suggest that the boom out west is finally slowing. Fort McMurray – which at one point couldn’t find enough housing for its huge influx of workers – has seen its unemployment rate double in the last year due to oil sands layoffs. And surprisingly, the unemployment rate in Calgary has recently increased – up 0.5% in July on the previous month. Admittedly this is only one month, but this puts it at a higher unemployment rate than London, Ontario, for the first time in 15 years. Southwestern Ontario has been hit hard recently by manufacturing losses, so it’ll be interesting to see if this is the start of a trend.
Have you been thinking of moving to Toronto or Vancouver? Do these reports make you think differently?
Starting from March 25, 2016, visitors flying into Canada from a visa-exempt country, will need an ETA – Electronic Travel Authorization. Thankfully there’s an easy way to check if you need an ETA by going to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp and selecting your country.
You can already apply for the ETA online, so if you’re planning to travel to Canada next year it makes sense to be organized well in advance. The application process doesn’t seem too arduous. You’ll need your passport details, credit card and email address and will have to enter the amount of money you expect to take with you into Canada. There’s a minimal processing charge of $7.00. The ETA is valid for 5 years, or until your passport expires and will be electronically linked to your passport.
The application form is available in both English and French, and help information is available in other languages at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp
In most cases it should only take a few minutes for your application to be authorized, but if you need to, you can check your application status at https://onlineservices-servicesenligne.cic.gc.ca/eta/applicationQuery?lang=en&_ga=1.151351353.1236358645.1406818214
There are a few exemptions from the ETA:
*anyone with an existing valid visa,
*people arriving in Canada by sea or land where the usual travel requirements apply.
So all in all, nothing too much to worry about here, but definitely something to be aware of if you’re planning a research trip or vacation to Canada in the near future.
The 6-month leniency period, due to end on September 29th, has now been extended to November 9th. Full details are available here.
This was really difficult. How could I possibly narrow this down to ten? But after much agonizing, here’s the list.
Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail is one of the classic Canadian road trips. Cabottrail.com has a great video to give you a flavour of the experience, or you can read an article in National Geographic for a overview of a clockwise trip around the trail.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy on Canada’s east coast really is one of the country’s natural wonder’s. The 270km stretch of bay between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is bursting with UNESCO sites, national and provincial parks, and historic sites. It has the highest tides in the world, over 12 species of whale, and you can also walk on the ocean floor. If those aren’t enough reasons enough to visit, the Bay of Fundy tourism site lists another 49.
I decided this had to be on my list. A 90-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Ontario’s southernmost point is known for its great beaches, warm climate, and its wine. The Pelee Island Winery is the oldest and largest estate winery in Canada. And it produces my favourite red wine, Monarch!
Years ago on a discussion forum I remember a prospective immigrant who had his heart set on living in Port Perry, just north of Oshawa in Ontario. I always wonder what happened to him and whether he made to Port Perry. Since then, I’ve traveled through this scenic town, with its beautiful Victorian architecture, but didn’t have time to stop. I hope to go back next year for the annual Brits on the Lake car show (love vintage cars) and perhaps stay at the Piano Inn.
This is cheating a little as I’ve already been to Algonquin Park. But I don’t really count a brief visit as a crazy tourist in a snowstorm. I want to really discover Algonquin by tackling some hiking trails and perhaps camping there one day too. Fall is the classic time to visit, but the busiest too. So perhaps a spring visit one year before the blackflies make their appearance.
Churchill, Manitoba, on the shore of Hudson Bay, is often referred to as the “Polar bear capital” of the world. It’s one of a handful of places where you can observe these beautiful animals in the wild, in this case from the inside of a tundra buggy. It’s also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately the best time to see the polar bears–October/November– doesn’t coincide with the best time for Northern Lights viewing, which is January to March, so it’s the perfect excuse to visit twice!
Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island
Vancouver, and–just a short ferry ride away–Vancouver Island, are always rated at, or near, the top in best places to live or best quality of life surveys. With their laid-back lifestyle, dramatic scenery, and fabulous climate, it’s not hard to see why. I need to go there – soon!
I know… “The Rockies” is a bit vague. But how do you pick which parts to visit when everything looks so picture perfect? If I ever have the opportunity to head west, I’d be doing lots of research beforehand. Or if I win the lottery I might take the Rocky Mountaineer
B.C. again! I’ve seen the Okanagan region described as the California of Canada. Lakes, hills, wineries, and lots of sunshine makes for a very appealing destination. Many immigrants–not surprisingly- have been attracted to this area. Its largest city, Kelowna, about 400km from Vancouver, is one of Canada’s fastest growing towns.
I always picture Gros Morne National Park, as magical and misty and it’s apparently the case that rain and fog are fairly common conditions for summer visitors. That doesn’t put me off visiting though. This UNESCO world heritage site on the west coast of Newfoundland is known for its dramatic landscape of fjords and mountains and the hiking opportunities look amazing.
Do I have your favourites on this list? If you’ve visited, or are living in, any of these places, do they live up to expectations?
This is the last of my “top ten” posts for now. It’s been a fun month with great weather, and lots to celebrate–ten years in Canada and the launch of “Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide.” My husband is also getting in on the act with the launch of his short story collection today! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer will bring.
When I first moved here, I was a complete camping novice and my earliest tent camping trips were complete chaos. So many things to remember and so much equipment to take. Forgetting the tent pegs is not high on my list of moments to remember…
So it’s great to see Ontario Parks providing more help and information for new campers. Their Learn to Camp programs are a great way for Canadian newcomers to familiarize themselves with the outdoor experience.
And don’t forget that if you’re not too comfortable with the idea of sleeping under canvas, there are various roofed accommodation options open to you in the parks. Happy camping!
I love to travel and have been lucky enough to see lots of Ontario during camping or Corvette trips. Here are some of my favourite places.
Lake Superior Provincial Park
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you may have noticed that Superior always seems to make an appearance. Each time I drive from Sault Ste Marie up to Lake Superior Park (part of the Lake Superior circle tour), I’m completely overwhelmed by the incredible views. Superior never loses its magic.
Many places claim to be the prettiest town or village in Canada. Niagara-on-the-Lake deserves this title more than most. It’s one of the oldest settlements in Canada with the architecture to match, not to mention stunning floral displays and an eclectic mix of stores. Winston Churchill called the Niagara Parkway, which runs from NOTL to Lake Erie alongside the Niagara river, the prettiest Sunday drive and he wasn’t wrong. Venture beyond the historic old town and you’ll find vineyards, orchards, and rolling hills.
I have so many good memories of cottage vacations near Parry Sound. I go back there at least once every summer to stroll along the waterfront trail and enjoyed another stay on Georgian Bay last summer.
Hills of Headwaters
“Hills of Headwaters” is a tourism designation for the communities of Erin, Mono, Dufferin County, Caledon and Shelburne, about an hour north of Toronto. I’ve driven through there many times as a scenic detour from the 400. There are lots of beautiful country properties to gawp at as you pass (many Torontonians have second homes there), fields of grazing horses, beautiful rolling hills, and rivers. I enjoyed a hiking trip to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park and hope to spend more time exploring this area.
Canada’s capital often gets overlooked, but I love the European feel of this clean and green city, home to the Rideau Canal and Canada’s Parliament buildings. I’ve stayed several times at the Marriott Courtyard, which is right downtown with underground parking, and a good base from which to explore the city. There’s a great salsa club close by and so many galleries and museums that I’ve yet to explore.
All my Lake Superior camping trips involve regular trips into Wawa. It’s always a little sad each time we visit as it seems that yet another storefront is boarded up. I have so much affection for this place – for the Canadian Tire where we stock up on the supplies we’ve inevitably forgotten, for the Bargain Shop where I buy fluffy socks and cheap DVDs, and for the surprisingly good restaurants where we treat ourselves to breakfast. With its beautiful lake downtown, quiet sandy beach, waterfalls, and stunning views, I’m sure it’s due a renaissance.
With its twisty roads promising a lake view around every corner, Muskoka is a fantastic destination for road trips. It’s especially beautiful in the fall and a little quieter without the summer crowds. It’s also the cottage destination in Ontario, popular with celebrities, and it was once described in the New York Times as the “Malibu of the North.” Lake Muskoka has a series of cottages known as Millionaires Row; this is the place where the boat houses look bigger than your house. Those of us not in the celebrity club can take a cruise around the Lake on the Lady Muskoka.
Killarney Provincial Park and Killarney village
Killarney Park is one of Ontario’s busiest and most popular provincial parks. If you visit, you’ll quickly understand why. It’s known for “La cloche,” mountains with their distinctive white quartzite ridges, its beautiful lakes and pink granite. There are no electrical camping sites at Killarney, and with several designated quiet areas, it really attracts people who love the beauty and peace of the area such as artists, hikers and canoeists. If you’re feeling energetic, you can tackle “The Crack” (I’ve done this a few times) or set out on the famous “La Cloche Silhouette” trail – typically a ten-day hike (done this…never!). Chikanishing and Granite Ridge are two of my favourite trails for a day visit. Killarney village close by is a picturesque stop for fish and chips on the waterfront or exploring the Lighthouse trail.
North bay has a beautiful waterfront and is one of my favourite places to visit in the summer. The sandy beaches and shallow water are perfect for young children, or if (like me) you prefer your water temperature on the warmer side. I swam there once and it was like stepping into a warm bath! You can cruise Lake Nipissing on the Chief Commanda II, or lunch on the old Chief, now a fish and chip restaurant. It’s also fun to stop off at the always busy Duchesnay Falls trail on the edge of town.
People here talk about “island time,” and there’s definitely a change of pace when you cross the swing bring into Little Current. Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world. There are no large highways or railways and very little traffic generally, so a visit is always a really relaxing experience, even if you’re just there for the day. You’re spoilt for choice for scenic lookouts, beautiful beaches, and quaint towns and villages. One of my favourite stops is the village of Kagawong known for the Bridal Veil Falls and chocolate…
So far I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of Canada and I’m impatient to see more! In my next post I’ll be looking at where I want to travel next.
When I’m out and about, I love to try different eateries. Here are some of my favourites.
White Owl Bistro (North Bay)
I always enjoy visiting North Bay for a stroll on the waterfront, then eating at the White Owl. I love the cosy, classy atmosphere and they have a really interesting menu with choices you don’t typically see elsewhere. Just browsing the current menu makes me feel so hungry… curried avocado kale salad, roasted sweet potato and Portobello panini, Thai wrap…
Spring Basil (Alliston)
Spring Basil was an unexpected find on the return leg of a trip to southern Ontario. If possible, we always like to avoid the main highways and meander on the back roads and this brought us to Alliston, close to Barrie. They have a huge range of veggie choices plus a selection of bubble teas, which I enjoyed trying for the first time.
The Keg (St Catharines)
I typically prefer to try independent restaurants instead of chains, but had to include this one as we’ve had many memorable meals there when visiting the Niagara region. The building is a converted mill, so it’s definitely not your typical Keg. I always used to order tempura snap peas and aspargus, but I think they’ve taken it off the menu now. Please bring it back!
Red Dog Grill (Whitefish Falls)
The Red Dog is popular with tourists and locals and it’s always nice to go back there each summer and chat with the owner. There are quite a few Tex-Mex choices on the menu to match the Mexican-inspired decor, as well as plenty of fish dishes. They also have beautiful artwork for sale displayed on the walls. The stunning local scenery attracts lots of artists to the area and there’s a big art show in Whitefish Falls every year.
Anchor Grill (Little Current)
Travel on a bit further over the swing bridge and you come to Little Current, the gateway to Manitoulin Island. I must have eaten at the Anchor Grill several times each year since I moved here, sometimes as a couple, sometimes with big groups, and the food is always fantastic. My husband is always on the look out for places that serve proper fish and chips (as opposed to fish and fries ) and this place definitely makes the grade. Plus they have always have several interesting veggie choices. If you’re lucky you can grab the prime seats for a waterfront view.
Jak’s is a bit of a Sudbury institution and gets voted “best breakfast” restaurant every year in a local media poll. Friendly, efficient service and a good, unpretentious breakfast and lunch menu. Great for when you wake up feeling lazy (that would be me most weekends ). It’s usually fruit and toast for me, but my husband enjoys some of the heartier options. And although I’ve never tried them, they always have a fabulous array of different sweet pies on offer.
Kinniwabi Pines (Wawa)
Fine dining in Wawa? Definitely! I’d been reading good reviews of the Kinniwabi Pines for years before we finally got around to trying it on the return leg of our Lake Superior Circle Tour. It’s a beautiful restaurant and definitely a “fine dining” experience. It’s a very diverse menu including cuisine from Trinidad, Asia, and Europe. (I’ve eaten at both the #1 and #2 rated Wawa restaurants listed on Trip Advisor, and the Kinniwabi Pines should be #1, no question.)
The Norseman (Huntsville)
My husband and I visited the Norseman for a wonderful anniversary dinner way back before we’d even moved here. We were enjoying a winter vacation in Muskoka and thought we’d try the Norseman as it was close to the cottage resort where we were staying. I don’t think they’d ever had much call for veggie cuisine (at least back then), but the chef rose to the occasion and prepared some delicious dishes. The restaurant is part of the Walker Lake resort, so if you’re too full to move after your meal, you can stay over in one of the lakeside cottages.
Parlour Inn (Stratford)
Last year, we stayed and ate at the Parlour Inn right in the heart of Stratford. Very unusually for us, we actually made a reservation as we knew it would be busy with theatre goers, plus we had our own appointment with “Crazy for You” that evening and didn’t want to be rushing to get there. My dish of the night was a veggie chow mein with tofu. As befits a “vintage inn” (built in the late 1800s), the decor is beautiful with stained glass windows and intricate woodwork. I’d like to return out of season when it’s a little quieter.
Olde Angel Inn (Niagara on the Lake)
Now and then it’s fun to have a taste of the “olde country.” We’ve tried a few different British-style pubs, but my favourite was the Angel Inn. It’s no doubt packed in high season, but provided a quiet cozy spot for dinner during a winter trip. And the log fire was very welcome! Established in 1789 and rebuilt after the War of 1812, it bills itself as “Ontario’s oldest operating inn.” The menu is packed with traditional British favourite such as bangers and mash, Ploughman’s lunch, and Yorkshire pudding.
Next on my list to try is the Garden’s Gate Restaurant in Tehkummah on Manitoulin Island. Look out for a review in a few weeks.