I want to explore as much of Canada as possible, but since it's the second-largest country in the world, that's an awful lot of ground to cover! In creating this bucket list, I tried to choose places to visit, things to learn, food to eat, and things to do that feel quintessentially Canadian.
1. Attend an NHL game (Go Bruins! ... or Senators, now that I live in Ottawa)
2. See the Northern Lights
3. Celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill
4. See a moose in the wild
5. Learn to ice skate (preferably on the Rideau Canal)
6. Visit Canada's west coast
7. Eat poutine in Quebec
8. Go to the top of the CN tower
9. Learn to make Nanaimo bars (this will be my next blog post!)
10. Be able to have a conversation in coherent French
Now, this list is just a start, so stay tuned for updates as I keep exploring and learning about new things I should do. And of course I'm open to suggestions as well! If you think of something that deserves to be on this list, feel free to let me know :)
The Maritimes. Quiet, peaceful, and most importantly, home. To many, the Maritimes may seem like a funny place to want to visit, given that all of New Brunswick has less people than the city of Ottawa, but for those of us from any of the Maritime provinces, there is no place on earth like it. Never ending forests, thousands of kilometres of coastline, and an abundance of seafood. If you're a true Maritimer, you'll also appreciate the garlic fingers and donairs!
Ah donairs, a Maritime invention not often found outside the four Atlantic provinces. You may know them as Halifax style donairs, or shawarma with Halifax sweet sauce. While Halifax gets all the credit, thanks to them perfecting the meat, I believe Greco in Moncton first invented the unique sauce. As a kid, I never liked it, but now that I don't have access to it anymore, I LOVE it! When we visited in December I even brought some of it back to Ottawa!
While garlic fingers are also from the Maritimes, they seem to be easier to find elsewhere in Canada, or at least something similar to them. They aren't quite as unique as donairs are. They are essentially a garlic cheese bread made with a pizza crust instead of a more traditional bread.
When it comes to seafood, nothing beats being on the coast. From Fundy lobster, to fresh fried clams in Shediac, everywhere you go you can find some of the best seafood in the world. Fundy lobster are famous all around the world! Just last summer as 23 lbs monster was caught in the waters between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The deep, cold water lets them grow to sizes not often found in other parts of the world. All the local shops make it easy to get as well! From Moncton, Fundy is about a 45 minutes drive. To save people the hassle, several lobster shops bring fresh lobster right to the heart of the city. We purchased this guy about a 5 minute drive from where we were staying:
While the foods of the Maritimes may be enough to get some of you to travel there, not everyone loves seafood. For those looking for other reasons to visit, New Brunswick and the other Maritime provinces are truly beautiful places. This trip, we spent most of our touristy time in Shediac, home of the world's largest lobster.
Shediac is pretty much exactly what you would expect an Atlantic coastal town to look like. Colourful buildings, miles of beaches, and boats everywhere you look. Growing up in New Brunswick about 20 minutes from Shediac, I always took this place for granted. For anyone visiting New Brunswick, this could easily be the highlight of the trip, especially if you enjoy spending time by the water. Almost anywhere you go you can find seafood, ice cream, tourist shops, poutine, and many other stereotypical tourist attractions.
As you drive up the coast, you'll find coastal town after coastal town. Some places look just like they did 50 years ago. In a town called Shediac Bridge, you can even find this old school bridge (the town wasn't very creative with their name...)
So next time your looking for a place to visit, consider visiting New Brunswick. While it may be a place that is often overlooked, there are truly some wonderful things to take advantage of around the province.
Every May, hundreds of thousands of tulips burst into bloom and Ottawa kicks off the Canadian Tulip Festival. As a newcomer to Ottawa, I have to admit that at first, I didn't really understand the city's excitement for this festival. However, after a long Canadian winter, and after a little research into the background of tulips in Ottawa, I can safely say that I now share the Ottawan enthusiasm for the Tulip Festival! Plus, it combines two of my favourite things: history and gardening. What's not to love?
Tulips have a fascinating history in the western world, particularly in the Netherlands. In the 1630s, 'Tulip Mania' took hold, with single bulbs selling for outrageous prices, sometimes even 10 times that of a craftsman's annual salary. This economic bubble burst, of course, with huge economic consequences - all because of tulips. These flowers, while more affordably priced now, are still iconic in the culture of the Netherlands.
Canada's history meets up with the Netherlands' very significantly during World War II, for a couple of reasons. Queen Juliana and her two children sought refuge in Canada starting in 1940, with her third child, Princess Margriet, born in Ottawa in 1943. Margriet was the first (and to date, the only) European royal born in North America, and her hospital room was declared extraterritorial so that she would have citizenship exclusively in the Netherlands. On the European front, Canadian forces were the first to cross the Rhine into the Netherlands during the 1945 liberation that marked the beginning of the end of the war.
To show her nation's gratitude after the war, Queen Juliana sent a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada in 1945, and continued to send thousands more every year for the rest of her reign. The tulips began to draw huge crowds every spring, and in 1953, the Canadian Tulip Festival officially began. Today, more than a million tulips bloom in Ottawa every spring, attracting over 500,000 visitors each year.
People had told me about the tulips, but hearing about it and even seeing pictures hadn't prepared me for the incredible number of flowers (over one million!) blooming in the city - what a way to welcome spring! I walked up to the Parliament lawn, along the Rideau Canal, and to the Commissioner's Park by Dow's Lake (among other places). And of all the hundreds of thousands of tulips in around sixty varieties, one stood out as my favourite: the Canada 150. This lovely red and white tulip was developed especially for Canada's 150th birthday and debuted this spring, so excited Canadians (like myself) can buy bulbs this fall and deck out our gardens in time for 2017. So, if you've never checked out the Ottawa Tulip Festival before, mark it on your calendars for next May! Come meet me in Ottawa and prepare to fall in love :)