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How was your Canada Day? Mine was mostly spent relaxing at home with a good book. I also walked on the trails at our local park. Even though the temperature only made it to 18, there were still plenty of families having fun on the beach, and even a few brave people in the water. With my ten-year Canadian anniversary coming up  on Friday, it seems like the ideal time to reflect on my top ten best things about living in Canada.

Long weekends
Long weekends are hardly unique to Canada, but somehow they always seem extra special here. The May holidays signal the beginning of the summer season and are the traditional time to open up your cottage/camp. By Labour Day weekend in September the good weather is coming to an end and it’s time to close everything up and put away the toys. Thanksgiving in October (earlier than the U.S. version) is all about the food and is almost like a practice run for the Christmas season. Don’t always count on getting a long weekend out of Canada Day as it’s always celebrated on July 1st regardless of what day of the week it falls on. Wednesday this year, but next year it’ll be a Friday-I already checked :)

Cottages/camps/cabins
Cottages, camps, or cabins (whether it’s “camp” or “cabin” depends on where you live :) ) seem woven into the Canadian experience.  So many people have good memories of “going to the cottage” as a child and often look to replicate that with their own children. We’re not necessarily talking cottage ownership here. Numerous properties are available to rent, or you might just know a family member or friend with a cottage…

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort, Georgian Bay

Provincial and national parks
Canada has a whole network of national and provincial parks just waiting to be explored for the cost of a day pass. Or if you’re a regular visitor, season passes are available. Canada’s parks are a great place to camp, offering spacious RV and tent sites, and an increasing number of roofed accommodation options.

Lakes
I love being so close to the water. Here in Sudbury, there are over 300 freshwater lakes within city limits, one of which is just a 10-minute drive away for me. Travel a few hours further and I can reach Georgian Bay or the most majestic of the Great Lakes, my beloved Lake Superior.

Sunset over Superior

Sunset over Lake Superior

The Space
England was so crowded; it often felt like everyone was living on top of each other. There’s a lot more space in Canada, not exactly surprising as it has half the population of the UK and is the second largest country in the world. Here I can roam freely on crown land if I choose. There aren’t so many private/keep-out signs and many people don’t bother fencing their properties. I love the feeling of freedom here.

Distinct seasons
If you like some variation in your climate, Canada is the place to be. For sure, the long, cold winters common to many parts of the country can be tough to cope with. But the pay off for this is (usually) a guaranteed beautiful summer giving way to a relatively warm fall with its stunning display of fall colours.

Wanapitei River,

Wanapitei River, close to home

 

The people
Typically, Canadians are tolerant, friendly, and live and let live (apart from when it’s a case of supporting opposing hockey teams perhaps :) ). They also seem to have an unfailingly positive attitude towards life and take pleasure in other people’s successes.

Cost of living
Although there’s not too much difference in day-to-day expenses, I’ve found that some of the big-ticket items–houses, cars (and gas), furnishings, appliances–are considerably cheaper in Canada than in the UK. And although, in relative terms, I still earn less than before I moved here, the money seems to go much further. Here is “Betty,” my summer toy, and I know I’d never have been to afford to buy or insure her back in England.

Betty on a spacious campsite at Killarney.

Betty on a spacious campsite at Killarney.

Driving
Compared to driving in England, driving in Canada–at least in the summer– is a breeze (we’ll leave the topic of winter driving for another day…). Big wide open roads, no roundabouts (or very few), mostly trouble-free commutes–where I live at least. If you live in Toronto, feel free to disagree :) And summer road trips are so much fun.

The wildlife
So long as it doesn’t get too close. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen moose, bears, wolves, turtles, snakes, and our very own groundhog. Okay, perhaps he’s not such a welcome visitor… :)

If you’re already living in Canada, what are your favourite things? Or if you’re planning on moving here, what are you most looking forward to?

As I explained in my previous post, back in 2002 I fell in love with Canada and with the cottage experience. This summer I was able to return to where it all began: Wawanaisa Resort on Georgian Bay. Twelve years on, I was curious to see what — if anything — had changed there and whether this trip could measure up to those amazing memories of my first Canadian vacation.

I was pleased to discover that the resort was much as I remembered it. The Wiltman family, originally from Germany, is still running the resort and Peter and Dorte are just as kind and hospitable as ever. It was fun to catch up after so long.

This time around we stayed in Owl Cottage, one of several 2-bedroom cottages available at the resort. We really appreciated the baseboard heat (even though it was August, the nights were quite chilly) along with the ample cupboard space and big fridge-freezer. As well as the huge amount of food we took with us, I also had way too much fun shopping at Sobey’s in Parry Sound (we don’t have one in Sudbury) and took even more food back to the cottage. Note to Jamie Oliver fans: he–or at least his product range–is available in Parry Sound!

Owl Cottage

Owl Cottage

Peter now helpfully sends out a cottage inventory to renters, so you can easily see which essentials you need to pack. In addition to the items provided in the kitchen, we brought our small grill so I could easily cook my veggie burgers while the guys were barbecuing.

Supper on the deck

Supper on the deck

Wireless internet is now available at the park office if you  feel the need to connect to the outside world. And thanks to some creative cell phone “tethering,” it was also available in Owl Cottage during our stay. I’m not too sure what happened to the TV service though. The only time I switched it on, there were 3 channels all showing exactly the same thing: an England vs. Germany football match! We figured that Peter must have arranged this specially :-)

You can now pay for a boat ahead of time as part of a cottage/boat package, which was what we did. Sadly we didn’t manage to take advantage of it as we were busy doing other things on the one day of really reliable good weather. But the package is a good option for the many families who go there to fish and take their boat out very day.

Evening stroll on the dock

Evening stroll on the dock

We enjoyed some strenuous hiking during the holiday and must have hiked every trail at Killbear Park. We’ve camped there in the intervening years between cottage visits and also experienced a not-so-memorable winter trip which involved lots too much wading in very deep snow. The little convenience store close to the park where I found my spring roll supper is sadly no longer there, but there’s still an assortment of businesses in operation along the road leading to the park. One of my favourites is the Bread and Butter Cafe offering all day breakfast and cold beer. Perhaps not at the same time though…

And what about Parry Sound? We’ve been regular visitors over the years and with the gradual four-laning of Highway 69, it’s now an even quicker option for a summer day trip from Sudbury. Thankfully the town hasn’t changed too much, although the new construction on Bowes Street with all the usual suspects like Walmart and Home Depot coming in seems to have badly affected other businesses. The mall at the other end of town, which used to be a hub of activity, now seems to be almost completely empty.

There used to be plentiful free parking at the waterfront, but options are much more limited now. A huge area has been designated for the use of Island Queen customers only, so everyone else has to squash in where they can. Not a good first impression for tourists. That said, the waterfront is still incredibly beautiful. I love the scenic walk along the fitness trail to the town beach.

Our old lunchtime haunt, the Bay Street Café, is still there, but facing competition from an unattractive Boston Pizza just along the road. A better addition to the waterfront is Bistro on the Bay. I’ve not yet eaten there, but based on its many positive reviews, it’s definitely on the list. And while on the topic of restaurants, I can also recommend Lill’s place on Seguin Street, great for unpretentious home-cooked food and obviously a popular spot for locals as it’s been in business for decades.

Our week at Wawanaisa was so relaxing and just the sort of escape I was hoping for. It definitely proved to be a worthy successor to our previous visit. I hope to be back there someday.

Peace & tranquility

Peace & tranquility

Lake view

Lake view

This summer, my brother-in-law visited from England. During his last stay we took him tent camping at Lake Superior, so this time we thought we’d give him the “luxury camping” experience: a cottage. Planning our cottage trip brought back memories of my first ever holiday in Canada.

It was September 2002 and my first visit here. My husband had stayed at Killbear Park several years before and liked the idea of returning to this area, so we decided to search for accommodation close to the park.  Back then, not so many tourist businesses had their own web sites, but we were lucky enough to find information on a place called Wawanaisa Resort. A small, family-run cottage resort on Georgian Bay, just outside Parry Sound, it sounded perfect for the sort the vacation we were planning.

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort



The weather for those two weeks was just beautiful  – warm, sunny days in the low 20s. Canadians thought we were crazy to swim in those temperatures, but for us, more used to grey, damp British weather, this was perfect.

It was also perfect weather for getting on the water as well as in it. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a motor boat out to Franklin Island –I still have the map of the route, all shriveled up from water damage. The idea of using sun block somehow completely passed us by that day, so we finished our little expedition in triumphant mood, but bright red and very sore.

We also took in some of Parry Sound’s more well known tourist attractions. I enjoyed the leisurely tour of Georgian Bay on Parry Sound’s “big boat” – the Island Queen. I was amazed to see so many tiny trees clinging precariously to the rocks and even more amazed to see that some people had built little cottages on them. The Parry Sound Museum offered an interesting insight into just how difficult life was for the early pioneers, sold on a promise of fertile farmland, only to encounter a very different, harsh landscape.

Parry Sound Museum: Who's stealing the pie?

Parry Sound Museum: Who’s stealing the pie?

In fact, we made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organised (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Meal of the holiday was stopping off for fish and chips along the road to Killbear Park and getting a surprise veggie special thrown into the deal. The store owner apologised for not having any veggie options–he didn’t get much call for them he said–but he did manage to produce some spring rolls direct from his home freezer. So I hope I didn’t steal his supper that night! We picniced on the rocks at Killbear and watched the indescribably beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Killbear Park

Sunset at Killbear Park

We certainly put plenty of kilometres on our hired mini-van during that trip. Instead of the planned visit to Algonquin Park, we changed course at the suggestion of Peter, the resort’s owner, and headed north to Killarney Park: definitely good advice. This also led us to explore Sudbury and North Bay–quite the North-Eastern Ontario tour.

We also made many trips into Parry Sound. We were so badly organized (this always seems to be a theme of our camping/cottage trips) and had to head there almost every day for yet more provisions. We became regular lunchtime customers at the Bay Street Café, right on the waterfront–a beautiful spot.

Beautiful Killarney Park

Beautiful Killarney Park

I completely fell in love with Canada and the whole cottage experience during my visit and cried when we had to go back to England. Twelve years later, now a Canadian citizen, I was lucky enough to re-visit the same resort this summer. Did the magic still exist? Wait for part 2 to find out!

 

 

 

 

How has your summer been so far?

I visited the wolves

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre

DSCF7273 DSCF7282


Hiked to the top of a mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain

Top of Willisville Mountain


Took in some track time

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville

Canadian Motorsports Park near Bowmanville


Sampled some culture

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.

Girl Crazy at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.


And enjoyed some cottage time and lots of hiking!

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

Wawanaisa Resort near Parry Sound

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Killarney Provincial Park

Hiking at Killarney Provincial Park

Here’s to a long, warm fall before winter sets in!