Sometimes you don’t travel to venture off path or explore the unknown, but rather to retrace the footsteps of those before you. That was the case with our trip to Canada.
Ric and I visited the country of course to see the sights and learn about the culture, but mainly to catch up with a good friend and in memory of Ric’s late grandfather, Eric.
Ever since I met Ric, he’s talked about Canada. As you can imagine, our conversations are constantly filled with questions of ‘where do you want to go next’ and ‘where have you always wanted to visit’. While my answers are always random and often changing, his remains the same: Canada and the USA. He saw a lot of the States last year and saw it a bit more in depth on our current visit, so he was extremely eager to finally venture further north as was I, since the only part of Canada I had seen before is Niagara Falls, which everyone tells me isn’t really Canada.
Ric’s love of the country has been instilled in him from birth. His grandfather lived there for a bit in the 1950s and if history went slightly different, he would actually be a Canuck today. His interest in the country only became stronger in Australia when he made an incredible friend in a Canadian called Kane. So this trip to North America, we had to visit.
Luckily, I only live about an eight-hour drive from the US/Canadian border at Niagara Falls. We spent two days driving up there, taking in the stunning Pennsylvania landscape most of the way and stopping at Watkins Glen State Park, a waterfall I had seen on Pinterest, in New York.
After a night in a random Comfort Inn along the way, we left early the next day to see Niagara Falls. I had only seen the Falls in summer, so it was amazing to see them in the winter, warm misty water fogging up the cold air, creating a really dramatic scene. We only spent an hour on the American side, because we knew we would be back and we were eager to see Kane.
He lives in Port Dover, a few hours away from the Falls. We spent the night at his house and instantly clicked with his family. We drank wine over a bonfire and the next day we went quading. Their whole set up out there is really nice. Lots of land to play with and a really close-knit family to share it with. It was hard to leave and we had to visit again.
So when we left for Toronto a few days later, it wasn’t goodbye, but see you in a couple days.
Toronto is a city that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. We visited the city pretty much completely based on the fact that Ric’s grandfather lived there and loved it so much. But after a day of exploring, I’m sad to admit it wasn’t a city that had crossed my mind before.
I hate comparing places, but this was my feeling in Toronto. I’ve met a lot of Canadians and Aussies who say how similar their cultures and personalities are. On that level, Toronto reminded me of a cold Melbourne. Not too many people, but plenty of things to do. Valued small and individual businesses, rather than commercial. A main stream city, but some really funky areas.
Being there in the winter was especially good, because I visited Canada the way I thought I would. We went ice skating, snuggled up in a cafe with coffee and ate hearty food in the form of poutine. How I went 26 years of life not knowing about poutine is beyond me. Kane’s mom mentioned that we had to try it a few days prior, so we made an effort to do so in Toronto. We visited a place called Smoke’s Poutinerie, which has several locations all over the city and features an array of spins on the Canadian classic.
Traditionally, poutine is fries served with warm brown gravy and pieces of curd cheese. Smoke’s does that but then adds to it. For instance I tried poutine Nacho Grande style served with chilli, cheese, guacamole and sour cream.
Decadent. Indulgent. Insanely delicious.
The rest of our day in the city we spent just wandering around. We visited places like the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it was more important to us to visit places Ric’s mom said were important to Eric, like The Royal York, which the history of fascinated him.
I’ve never been on a trip like that, because my family through its recent history hasn’t been much on the move. I always hear about friends with Polish or Italian roots going on trips to retrace that, but my ancestry is Native American and English, so anything I would trace would be in my own backyard or England about 400 years ago, which we have no record of. I loved seeing Ric follow his grandfather’s footsteps in a foreign country and seeing that meaningful side of a place.
As mentioned, we paid Port Dover another visit. Kane and his girlfriend Jacqui took us all over to places like Long Point, a sandy hamlet that stretches far into Lake Erie, and The Boat House Restaurant in Port Rowan. Visiting Canada is interesting for me because things are similar to the States, but so different. It’s kind of a homey feel that keeps me on my toes. But I love the country, how much open land they have and that the Native culture is still around, because it’s not really in the States.
We didn’t make it too far on our trip home, stopping in Niagara Falls on the Canada side for the night. You really need a full day in Niagara Falls, not to explore the area, because it’s pretty cheese and expensive, but to see the Falls at day and night. They light up at night and it’s something you don’t want to miss if you make the effort to visit there.
After that night, I was ready to get home as we leave for England very soon. How does time manage to go about three times faster during the holidays?