Happy 150th Canada!
Canada is celebrating a milestone, it’s 150th birthday!
It was on July 1st, 150 years ago, that the provinces of Canada (which at the time were Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form one country – Canada. Since then, Canada has seen some changes and nowadays is made up of 10 provinces and three territories.
Over the years, since I’ve moved abroad, I’ve gone back to Canada pretty regularly. But, last summer I was quite fortunate to visit different provinces in Canada, some I had never been to before. It was a spiritual connection to my native country and all the beauty it holds. A country so vast, so unique and so inspiring.
I was born and raised in Ontario, so I’ve been to quite a number of places within the province. The last few times I’ve been back, I’ve had the opportunity to be a tourist in my hometown. It allowed me the chance to see Toronto with fresh eyes and remind myself how great of a city it is. It is a city so diverse and full of life, and I’m so blessed to call it home!
And, not too far north, you have what we’ve always called “cottage country”. Lush forest and peaceful lakes – a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Nowadays I may be accustomed to the seaside, but there is something comforting about sitting on the beach and looking out at the lake with boats anchored not too far from the shore. And as day becomes evening the distant smell of barbecue from homes nearby.
I had never been to New Brunswick, but my cousin was getting married in Saint John so we decided to make a road trip weekend out of it.
New Brunswick was one of the four original provinces that made up the national confederation of Canada back in 1867. Located on the eastern coast, New Brunswick is one of Canada’s three Maritime provinces. I knew that French was spoken in many parts of New Brunswick but what I didn’t know was that it’s the only province that is officially bilingual.
Our first stop in New Brunswick was Saint John, we’d be there for a couple days for the wedding. Saint John is a port city in the Bay of Fundy. It got its name from Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s when he stopped there during a voyage. It was later occupied by the British and for a short time even by American revolutionaries. Saint John also saw many Irish immigrants in the late 18th century.
The architecture of this city dates back to the late 1800s, after the Great Fire of 1877. However, the buildings that line the streets of the different areas of the city really captured my interest.
One of my favorite places to see was the City Market which was built in 1876 and is one of the oldest city markets in North America. This industrial-era style building houses an incredible array of local products and artisan crafts. If you look up, you’ll notice the ceiling looks like a ship’s hull.
One of the oldest structures is the Loyalist House. It was built in the early part of the 1800s and designed in traditional New England Federalist fashion.
Bay of Fundy
We couldn’t leave New Brunswick without visiting the Bay of Fundy. This natural wonder is without sounding cliche – breathtaking! I’ve read that The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides on earth and so we made our way to Hopewell Rocks to see the incredible reddish cliffs that have been transformed over centuries because of the tides.
The time of the tides vary throughout the year, but you can visit the Hopewell Rocks Tourism website to get a rough idea of the times. Walking the ocean floor and seeing the magnitude of the rocks from down below, is an experience that I will never forget.
On our way back to Toronto from New Brunswick we decided to stopover in Quebec City. The last time I visited Quebec City was for my Grade 8 school trip. The strange thing is, it is exactly as I remembered it!
Quebec City is the capital of the Province and rich with history. It sits on the banks of the St.Lawrence River and boasts an unmistakable skyline with the city’s most famous landmarks: the historical Chateau Frontenac and the impenetrable walls of La Citadelle that once protected the old city.
When you wander the streets of Quebec City, especially the historic centre, you can feel a strong European influence. That’s because it is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. The land, once home to an Iroquois tribe, found it’s first foreign settler, French Explorer Jacques Cartier, when he arrived in the 1500s and built a fort on the lands. The settlement was abandoned due to harsh winters and the hostility of the natives. In the 1600s, Samuel de Champlain arrived and a small colony was set up on the shores of the river serving as a port for trading. Over the years, Quebec City and its prime location would bring about battles between the French and English.
The old city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Breakneck Stairs become a bridge to the past, transporting you back in time. If you ignore the modern shops and souvenirs that line the narrow streets, you can almost image what life was like back then.
My summer trip in Canada was capped with a two-week sailing trip around Vancouver Island. I had always wanted to head out West and to see it from such a unique perspective was so special. It didn’t take long to understand why so many people love this province; it captured my heart too!
We sailed and stopped into many places including Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. The city is named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who at the time was also Queen of British North America.
Victoria is definitely more of a modern city but it keeps some of its old world charm through its most famous landmarks like the Legislative Buildings (1897) and the Empress Hotel (1908).
You can also see the culture influences that play a role in this city as well. Chinatown, for example, is the second oldest in North America.
It’s also really important to recognize the presence of the First Nations people in this city, as they were the first settlement here, long before the times of European exploration. Along Victoria’s inner harbour were many First Nations artists selling artisan crafts.
I didn’t hesitate to pick up a dream-catcher from one of the artists as opposed to purchasing a mass produced commercial one in the souvenir shop.
Proud To Be Canadian!
After living abroad for 7 years, going back to your birthplace is always a new experience. In more recent years, I’ve felt a bit of a reverse culture shock and I guess that’s normal. Going back to Canada last summer allowed me to fall in love again with the country, being Canadian and all the things I took for granted growing up there. I’m extremely proud and honoured to call Canada my home. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, taught me and continue to teach me!