Know Your Neighbor: CANADA!

We all know folks who don’t care to venture far from their backyard, however, Californians are so lucky to be surrounded by many great places, including our northern neighbor: Canada.  A name derived from Kanata meaning “settlement,” “village,” or “land,” a word Europeans settlers used to describe their first settlements.

When I lived on the East coast, I visited Canada twice and only to see Niagara Falls.  I had no desire to know Canada, except to witness the world famous roaring falls.  But since 2006, my travels took a turn when I began dating, and later marrying, a Canadian from Nova Scotia. Trips there increased quite a bit and for good reason, his family lives in Ottawa, so centimeter by centimeter (if you’re reading a map), or kilometer by kilometer (if you’re driving), I was introduced to the northern country, with Ottawa the capital, being our usual destination.  Ottawa and Toronto are beautiful old cities to behold and to tour. You truly feel that you’re somewhere in Europe! Stone buildings, formidable green parks and gentile folk are a welcome experience.

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But when we moved West in 2010, Canadian trips took a detour from the usual, and Vancouver became a closer destination.  A plane can take you there in less than 3 hours from San Francisco and the flight is considered domestic, not international. Also, passing Canadian immigration is a breeze and immigration officials never fail to greet you with a “bon jour,” but if you respond “hello” they speak to you in English from then on.

Vancouver is beautiful. A cold city in the winter, rainy in the fall, yet it is the warmest city in all Canada, and one of the wettest (rain precipitation).  I found that Vancouver has a California feeling and it made me feel “at home.”  Like San Francisco, Vancouver is a seaport city where high rise buildings adorn the skylight, yet the tallest skyscraper, the Shangri-La, is only 62 floors; a mixture of a 5 star hotel, offices, and apartments.  Downtown is very busy just like New York City, with very little street parking and every street sign written in English and French.

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You must take a city tour to get to know it, but minutes away you can go North, where the most popular tourist attraction exists at a 27 acre park: Capilano Suspension Bridge.  The bridge was built in 1889, and stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River.  It’s exhilarating to walk the swinging bridge, a truly great experience to check off your bucket list.  After that, head to Grouse Mountain, where you can dine high up looking at the grandest view of Vancouver you can imagine, or if you prefer, hike the mountain, or use the skyride or ziplines for more adventure.

Their money exchange currently is at 1.01 per 1.00 U.S. dollar, and as far as a typical Canadian meal, I found that none prevailed except for their Poutine (French fries with gravy) and Montreal’s smoked meat at the Schwartz’s, Delicatessen.  Otherwise, they eat what we eat here, so no worries.  Oh and yes, try their coffee from Tim Horton’s, their nation’s coffee house chain although Starbucks is everywhere too.

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A road trip, eh? As a side note, last year we ventured to Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City. A connecting trip that was excellent with the latter city offering Canadian French and cuisine, so your rusty French can be useful when listening and reading menus, dare to speak it if you can.  We didn’t, afraid of being asked to repeat whatever the heck in French we were trying to say, so saying “merci,” “oui,” or “C’est la vie” will work just fine.

Check out these links for your next Vancouver trip: Vancouver: http://vancouver.ca/ Capilano Suspension Bridge: http://www.capbridge.com/ Grouse Mountain: http://www.grousemountain.com/