Canada

Not having really done much in Canada except through a short package tour waaay back in 1997! Well, we don’t really count that one day and night in Vancouver where we transit to the cruise ship, ultimately heading to the US state of Alaska.

Handprint Map CanadaSo what is our story about Canada?

For one thing it’s about the size of the country. Being the 2nd largest country in the world but not having a lot of inhabitable zones meant that the majority of the population are centered in a number of large cities. And while it was the great outdoors that many people come for, our initial foray into this country was focused on the cities as you might see on our country handprint map. Clearly there are reasons to improve this!

But first up, we shall provide you some nuggets of what we experienced in the cities of Canada. Many are listed in the world as some of the top places to live, work and play. So let’s find out really what Mel and Suan thought about,

Toronto

Toronto3
Yep that’s Mel

Named by native Americans, the city was originally called York after the lands around the area was purchased from them.

Toronto2
The old city hall is still around

Surprisingly it is very near to the US border though we would have sworn it felt further. And we only had time spent in the city for a day. And back in the day it was hip to purchase and collect the entire series of Hard Rock Café T-shirts and pins. No prizes for guessing what we did…

Toronto4
Watch TV up there!

While it is not the capital of the country (well it is for Ontario), it sure has the vibes of one. The town center retains a rather English setting, perhaps because the settlers who remained loyal to the crown had fled to make their home here after the conclusion of the revolutionary war of independence of the US.

It was nice to see all of the city from the Toronto TV tower, though the photos we took were too crappy to share…

Toronto1
Yes it was a blazing afternoon

well one thing was for sure, this would be the first of many sky towers we would visit and that comes with a glass panel for those who do not have fear of heights. An important reason why we came here was because the HRC was at the ground floor…

Ottawa

Ottawa1
Parliament Hill

Now this is the capital of the country. Did you know its original name was “Bytown”? Named after a military officer who built the first installation here, if one looks at the geography of the city, one would wonder why it was chosen as the political center.

And there was much consideration behind it, mostly military ones. Not within the scope of this essay to explain, the city was made capital in 1857.

Our journey to this city was but a mere stopover, on our way to Montreal.

Ottawa3
Eternal flame?

The bulk if not our entire short time in the city was spent at Parliament hill. Now recall that Canada is not a republic and theoretically the Queen is still head of state. The Hill as it is fondly called is actual crown lands! And here sits the parliament of Canada in quintessentially European architecture.

Along with the tall and robust looking peace tower the centennial flame burns, with natural gas of Canada of course! And here you may run into Victorian ladies and their brollies strolling the hill. Who knows? You might run into Queen Victoria herself!

Montreal

Montreal 1
A lively Thursday evening

We ended up in Montreal, capital and also cultural center of French Canada. Now this city was founded by French colonists trading fur with the native Americans.

Montreal 2
Full of buskers!

Thus we found out that the French spoken in Canada is quite different from that in France. Some of our tour mates (Vietnamese) could not make of the local French!

Montreal 3
An artistic capital

A more lively city than Toronto or Ottawa, there are cafes and bistros like in France lining the streets. And you can definitely see and feel it on the streets. Being there on a Thursday evening felt like it was the weekend already. Perhaps it was summertime and folks were making the most of what had been a warm and sunny day.

Montreal 4
Fashionable stadium right?

Did you know that the city has a UNESCO title – for design? And indeed it does appear the city is and continues to be a wellspring of art as well. The Cirque du Soleil was founded here by a former performing street artist. Even the Olympic stadium looked so artsy!

Vancouver

This must probably be the most tired we were, for we arrived after a transpacific flight via Taiwan on the way to our inside passage cruise to Alaska (read here).

It’s a relatively young city, incorporated only in the 1886, for before that it was no more than a logging station and small settlement. Today it is bustling with waves of new people migrating to the city turning it into a real estate hotspot. Having arrived in the late evening, we put up in a hotel at the west end. Our room actually had a wonderful view of the city but we were simply too tired to stay out late evening though we did try to explore the area around our hotel (Empire Landmark).

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The next morning, we took a walk along the water to harbor green park to enjoy the relative quiet solitude of the city. It was a pity that we did not fly in earlier to do a little exploring of the city, for we had left for the cruise terminal as soon as we arrived. Perhaps we’ll be back someday for a drive to the Rockies!

Fortunately not everything we saw in Canada were the cities. But at this stage we have to admit that it was only at Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario that we have seen a glimpse of the natural wonders that Canada offers. Click here to read what we saw and did

  • Exploring the Falls, Niagara (here)
  • It’s a large lake Ontario that is (here)

There will certainly be a lot more adventures in Canada to come. The Rockies beckon. The cold of the north intrigues us. Watch this space for updates when we get there!

It was such a long time since we’ve been to Canada!

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