Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Travelogue: Canada

This travelogue has been a while in coming. It's not that I've been actively putting it off, it's just that time has a tendency to run away from me. I usually think about this blog every couple of days, but those thoughts often get buried by things like Dragon Age II and applying for jobs.

The bright side of all this procrastination is that I've had ample time to collect my thoughts about today's subject, the delightful country of Canada.

I got married several weeks ago, and my wife and I went to Canada for our honeymoon. It's not an obvious honeymoon destination, and that's one of the reasons I picked it. Also, it was a good sight cheaper than Florida or the Bahamas. I found a little cottage online at this website, and it seemed like the perfect fit.

The border crossing was a harrowing experience for my wife, who had never been out of the country before. It was still a little nerve-wracking for me, even though I had been there with my family several times in the past. There's just something about crossing in to another country that provokes all manner of frantic questions like "what if I accidentally do something wrong?" or "what if I accidentally say something stupid?" or "what if they accidentally find a body in my trunk?'

As it turns out, something must have seemed a little suspicious, because the nice border guard sent us to immigration services. We had to present proof that we were actually going where we said we were going, and that we were actually on a completely harmless honeymoon instead of the Bonnie and Clyde crime spree I had originally planned (my wife shut down that idea pretty quickly, despite my protestations that it would be a real bonding experience)

As an aside, Canadian border guards are very intimidating. The men all have what I like to call "power beards," the kind of beard that looms over you even if the person wearing it is less physically impressive than Gandhi. The women are intimidating too, but that's mostly because they're women.

Thankfully, we were able to prove everything sufficiently, so we went on our merry way. We were hungry by this time, and the car needed gas. This is when we discovered a critically important fact about Canada: everything is more expensive there.

Yes, the U.S. dollar is valued slightly higher than the Canadian one, but that ends up meaning very little. You see, while you may get a couple extra Canadian dollars at the currency exchange, everything in Canada costs LOTS of Canadian dollars.

Allow me to illustrate. We went to Burger King to assuage our hunger, and I ended up paying nearly $17 for both of us. We went to get gas, and I ended up paying $75. That is the largest amount of my own money I have ever spent in one go. By the way, Canadian gas prices may look low in comparison to ours, but don't forget that they charge by the liter. There are more liters in your car than there are gallons.

A few hours later, we finally made it to the cottage we'd rented on the Lake Erie shore (after first showing up at the wrong place and thinking we'd been played because it looked like the address we'd been given didn't actually exist). Lake Erie is beautiful, even in winter. I'd never seen such a vast expanse of frozen water before, and it was wonderful to watch the sun (when it decided to come out of hiding) glinting off the ice.

Since we were on our honeymoon, I don't feel the need or desire to tell you about everything we did. However, I will highlight some of the places we visited and the things we ate.

Most of the towns around us were somewhat small. Simcoe was the largest, and the one we visited most often, because it had the most things to do and see. On our first night there we ate out at a wonderful restaurant ironically named "Boston Pizza." Like everything else in Canada, it was a bit on the pricey side, but the food was delicious. I ordered a small "Spicy Perogy" pizza, a delightful creation topped with bacon, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream. We also visited Hagersville, a somewhat smaller town, but no less enjoyable to walk through. There we ate at "Godfather's," a pizza chain that I later found out exists in the U.S. If you have one nearby, I highly suggest you try it sometime. Not only was the pizza great (the crust was the perfect consistency and the toppings were delicious and gooey), it was one of the most affordable places we ate while in Canada.

Now that I've given you an overview of our experience, I'd like to boil it down a bit by listing some specific things you should know if you're going to visit.

-Canadian Walmarts do not sell fresh food, so don't go there expecting to pick up fruit or veggies.
-If you're looking for alcohol, go to LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) or The Beer Store. Generally speaking, you won't be able to find it anywhere else except in certain restaurants and bars, all of which are required to buy their merchandise from LCBO or The Beer Store.
-Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most Canadians will probably answer them politely.
-Don't take citrus fruit from Canada back to the U.S. It's illegal, apparently.
-If you take any food back at all from Canada, be prepared to declare it at customs.
-American debit transactions don't work in Canada. If you use a debit card, slide it as credit.
-Quite a few Canadian businesses don't accept Visa cards. Most of them do take Mastercard.
-Brush up on your knowledge of Canadian currency. Check out this wikipedia article.
-If you visit during late winter/early spring, be prepared for cold weather and/or snow.

Good traveling,

Direchihuahua

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The Institute for Circular Reasoning by Peter Semple is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.