My Incredible Vacation

For the last week, I took time off work to spend with my

kids. The first few days were devoted to a “stay-cation” – staying at home but doing things and going places we never have time for typically in our day-to-day lives. We swam until the pool closed, hiked Cranbrook, saw friends, walked through Greenfield Village and lazed around at home.

Then, the three kiddos and I took off for a road trip to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I ran into a friend originally from Canada and boasted that we were planning a trip to Hamilton. He looked at me and said, “Well, you’ve always marched to the beat of your own drum. I don’t know anyone who’s ever gone to Hamilton for a vacation.” Humph.

This was a carefully researched destination and one that was new to us all.Quite simply, Shaya and I discovered the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and decided he must see it. Plus, I am the kind of person who likes to find what is wonderful about every little place. And we certainly did. The surrounding towns that weave throughout Hamilton, the lush breathtaking landscape (waterfront backed by high steep ridge (a.k.a. The Mountain) and everything in between) is certainly worth a visit.

Who cares that it’s not a major destination like Toronto? Sometimes, the least visited locales are the most worth visiting.

Plus, Hamilton is known for its hikeable waterfalls, and we are a hiking family. So we drove three hours north and east into Canada and just fell in love. It was only three days, but the discovery of adventure Рand the closeness between me and my kids Р made us want to stay forever.

Here are some things I discovered I love about Canada. (I’ve always been a Canada-phile, but now I can put words to why.)

1. Canadians are proudly patriotic in a down-to-earth way. We planned our trip to coincide with Canada Day, celebrating the 146th birthday of this northern nation. Everywhere we went, people were either wearing red and white (the colors of the nation) or a shirt that simply said Canada across the front, back, sides or all of the above. I’m not sure how many USA shirts I’ll see tomorrow (though I do know flags will unfurl and fireworks will pop – they had that too, in addition to the personal patriotism).

2. Canadians recycle as part of the normal course of business. In our Courtyard Marriott room, a little blue recycle bin sat underneath the cabinet. In every park and every building, there were garbage cans and recycle bins. It seemed more of a priority than here. (Though I have to say I was disappointed by all the litter along the falls.)

3. Canadians are friendly. Exiting a toy store on Locke Street, a woman who exited alongside us turned to my children and said, “What did you buy?” Shaya showed her the “smencils” and car games in his bag and she showed him the memory game in her bag, for her grandchildren to play with in the trailer, she explained. As she walked away, Asher remarked, “Wow, Canadians are so friendly.” This after three days of constant, “Welcome! You’re from Detroit, eh?” and other friendly conversations that sprung up spontaneously on the street, in the hotel, in restaurants, walking beside the tall ships in the harbor.

4. Canadians do not mow the grass on highway medians. To save manpower and money – and to increase ecological efforts – they’ve planted wildflowers along the highways. I noticed this driving past the Blue Water Bridge and into the heart of Ontario, and a woman explained it to me while there. What a brilliant solution – and it is so beautiful.

5. Canada is home to hockey. (Need I say more?)

6. The canoe is the national symbol of Canada. I have long been fascinated by this concept and by the canoe in general. A symbol of transport and exploration, of self-sufficiency and native pride, the canoe is very Canadian. In the Globe and Mail on Saturday, I read about a couple who has spent summers canoeing from Victoria, B.C. to the far eastern seashore of Canada. It’s taken them six years, and they’ve had two babies in the process, who are riding in the canoe along with their parents, and being portaged along. Only in Canada.

7. Canada claims a national chain restaurant called Cora. This 25-years-and-counting chain restaurant is whimsical, artistic and compelling, especially for children. The kids and I ate breakfast there yesterday and loved it. There are some 125 franchises across Canada and none in the States. The menus boast fruit, fruit everywhere, in colorful array. There are crepes and pancakes with cream and fruit smoothies and just a world of delicious decadence that is fruit-centered. How can you not like this?

8. I love Canada despite poutine. Waiting in line for the French fry food truck at the harbor Sunday, Asher asked what poutine was. (Answer: french fries hot from the grease, doused in gravy and cheese curds.) He got the plain fries. Eliana tried poutine for lunch on Monday. I was underwhelmed. But apparently it’s so native to Canada that it’s now an option on Pizza Hut’s list of pizza toppings.

9. Canada has currency called “looney” and “tooney.” It’s just funny. (The one-dollar coin and two-dollar coin, respectively.)

10. Canada is a lovely land of everyday folks who are welcoming, warm and open-hearted. Need I say more?

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