No Better than First Class… Right?

I’ve traveled first class about half a dozen times in my life.  Almost every one of them was a fluke.  Like the time I actually wore dressy clothes to travel and was handed a new boarding pass at the gate.  Or the time I somehow managed to pay $200 for a business class seat from Frankfurt to Toronto (best $200 I ever spent!).

I can’t afford to book first class.  I don’t have enough frequent flyer miles to get unlimited upgrades. I’m definitely in the category of “economy traveler”! I’ve spent most of my travel time crammed among 100 of my closest friends!

So when I do get that rare opportunity to sit up front with the ‘important’ people, I handle it with the style and grace of someone with two left feet.

The warm damp cloth comes out, presented to me with tongs. I say thank you and look nervously around at my fellow frequent flyers before nervously patting my face and hands with it.

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I try to act nonchalant when I order my free drinks, as if  I spend my entire life drinking free booze. Then I try to sneak a photo or selfie of me basking in the ‘First Class Glow’.

Then there’s the time both my husband and I get upgraded and despite having just eaten a full meal during the layover, accept the in-flight pasta dinner and eat the whole thing, washed down with as many alcoholic beverages as the flight length will allow.

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You might think that it can’t get any better than that.  But you’re wrong.

I accidentally stumbled across the PRIVATE JET.  All of a sudden, I have somehow stepped it up a thousand notches. I have effectively avoided the pain and hassle of the AIRPORT. That moment when you drive right up to the plane, hop on with whatever you want in your bag: full-sized shampoo, 500 mL of bottled water, nail clippers, a knife.

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This is undiscovered territory. But avoiding security is not even the best part.  The immediate take off.  This 15 minute timeline between arrival at the airfield and airborne. It’s almost too good to be true. How can I ever go back to flying commercial?

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But I have to.  I have no choice. I’m just not rich enough/important enough/frequent enough.

But now, every time I fly, I wistfully remember what it was like to skip the 30 minute security check, the 2 hour wait, the 45 minutes of trying to cram 100+ bodies into a flying metal tube.

A fleeting memory.

The reminder of what I’ll probably never experience again.  But I’d never trade that one opportunity for anything.  For one exciting flight, I got to experience the best form of long-distance travel until we figure out teleportation…

 

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Ukrainian: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Did you know that the largest population of Ukrainians in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia is in Canada?

Although it is suspected Ukrainians came to Canada prior to 1891, but the best documented movement of Ukrainians into Canada happened then as Canada was advertised as a great place to settle for those wanting to escape famine and strife from the Austo-Hungarian and Russian rules.   It’s believed approximately 170,000 Ukrainians came to Canada between 1891 and 1914. Canada was also advertised as a great place to settle and farm by Canada’s Minister of the Interior – hoping for expanded agriculture in the prairies.  This is likely why the largest Ukrainian communities are in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Now, even though Ukrainian immigrants were needed for Canadian agriculture growth, during the First World War, the War Measures Act allowed the government to intern any person who originated from any ‘enemy state’ (sound familiar?).  As a result, about 5,000 Ukrainians were interned in various work camps across Canada.  Some weren’t released until almost 2 years after the war ended. In 2008, the Government of Canada established a $10 million fund called the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund (CFWWIRF) aimed at providing monies to commemorate those who had their liberties taken from them during the war. Some of the projects have included documentaries, monuments and interpretive centres.

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Commemorative plaque and statue at the location of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, Banff National Park. Source: Wikipedia

Another large wave of immigration happened after the First World War when the Canadian government again opened immigration to former citizens of the Austrian Empire.  This saw another 70,000 Ukrainians come to Canada.

Ukrainian Canadians have a very unique culture, distinct from their European heritage and are very proud to protect that culture. The Ukrainian language is still taught in prairie schools, and Ukrainian dance is practiced regularly in these communities. Which I find funny because my Ukrainian husband refuses to dance.  Anywhere! 😉

Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

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Poutine: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

WPhat!?!?  What is this crazy word you speak of?

Poutine is definitely a Canadian food.  I know what you’re thinking.  There’s no such thing as Canadian food.  Even U.S. National Security Advisor Stu Smiley (played by Kevin Pollock) in the movie Canadian Bacon said “First of all, there is no Canadian culture. I’ve never read any Canadian literature. And when have you ever heard anyone say, “Honey, lets stay in and order Canadian food”?”

Poutine is so Canadian, I’ve seen attempts at recreating it here in the U.S. and they have all failed.

Poutine is a French Canadian dish consisting of french fries, cheese curds (squeaky cheese) and gravy. Few dispute the fact that poutine came from Quebec, however many communities in Quebec believe that theirs is the birthplace of the dish.

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Source: Papa Mario’s, Halifax NS

Here in the states, I’ve seen poutine made with shredded mozzarella, and every Canadian I know would tell you that is simply blasphemous.  It has to be curds.  And it has to be brown gravy.

Personally, the best poutine can be found in Kingston, Ontario at a place called Bubba’s Poutine and Pizzeria. Kingston is a college town, with St. Lawrence College, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College giving the downtown core constant attendance. Day and night.  Bubba’s is known as a late night drunk snack stop.  People travel past Bubba’s on their way home from the Ontario Street clubs.  And they pick up what – at three o’clock in the morning – seems like the most amazing food in the world!

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Here’s a recipe if you want to make it yourself:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79300/real-poutine/.

In Newfoundland, there is another dish that is equally as delicious, but has its own twist:  Fries, dressing and gravy.  Instead of cheese curds, they use savoury turkey stuffing!  So delicious!

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Source: Stuffed at the Gill’s Food Blog: http://stuffedatthegills.blogspot.com

O Canada: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Our national anthem!!!!  Of course!!

‘O Canada’ came about in 1880 as a song for Saint-Jean-Baptiste day celebrations.  In French!!!  The English version wasn’t created until 1906.  I honestly thought the English version came first!  I’m learning stuff about my own country doing this challenge! We have sung ‘O Canada’ as our national anthem since 1939 but not officially until 1980 by an Act of Parliament and Royal Assent.

Today we sing it almost always as a combination of French and English.  Here are the lyrics:

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Of course though, the lyrics aren’t always so clear.  Most of my American colleagues only know the first two words and tune of the anthem, and also take it upon themselves to sing said two words to Canadians whenever they see us Canadians.  So now, I continue the song for them!  They sing “O Canada….”  and I sing back “something, something, something!”

Because I love creativity, here’s the song as sung in English by four…. of the same guy.  It slightly creeps me out that he’s looking and smiling at himself while he sings, but it’s a great rendition!

While the U.S. has specific rules regarding the playing and singing of their national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner‘, there are no specific rules regarding how the ‘O Canada’ should be performed. Unofficial etiquette is to start or end any ceremonies with the song, men remove their hats and military members come to attention and salute the flag.

Both countries are obviously extremely proud of their national anthems.  And we know how important they are to each other.  In November 2014, the microphone cut out during the singing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during a Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Nashville Predators hockey game, prompting the entire crowd to complete the song, Canadians and Americans alike. Not long after, to repay the favour, Nashville Predators fans sang the Canadian National anthem at a home game in the U.S.A.!

 

Maple: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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This is an easy one.  Because everyone thinks Canada just consists of a country full of maple trees and we douse everything in maple syrup! Vermont wanted it, but we branded ourselves first! (Take that Vermont).

My American colleagues always ask for two things whenever I travel back to Canada.

These:                                                        And these:

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The Americans call the cookies “Canadian Crack”. They absolutely love them.  The thing I find so funny about the hard maple candies is that it’s not something we buy or eat in Canada.  You can pretty much only find them in souvenir shops and in airports. Because of that, they’re DRASTICALLY overpriced.

But… it’s true, we do love our maple syrup.  Maple syrup is not just for pancakes.  It is a healthier alternative for sweeteners as well. I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, so I’ll let you google and make your own determination. There are some conflicting points out there regarding replacing other sweeteners with maple syrup, especially for diabetics. The consensus seems to be that if you are a generally healthy person, maple syrup can be a better (and tastier)choice.

So. I’d like to share a little story about the Sugar Bush.  Every eastern Canadian kid went to the Sugar Bush for a school field trip when they were growing up. This is where we learned where maple syrup comes from, and then, of course, we get to roll the syrup on a stick in the snow. And eat it.

The sap is tapped out of the maple tree usually from about March to April and then boiled down and evaporated in a Sugar Shack, creating syrup! Here’s a little video explaining the process 😉

Ketchup Chips: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

KYes!  Of course!  How could I not??

Ketchup Chips, although available sporadically through the U.S. as a less flavourful version made by Herr’s, are known as a quintessential Canadian snack. You would think, since Americans put ketchup on EVERYTHING, that Ketchup Chips would be a thing down here in the states.  But for some unexplained reason, Ketchup Chips are not only scarce here, Americans seem to detest them! Buzzfeed asked some of their American staff to taste Canadian snacks, and it seems that Ketchup Chips “taste like a mistake”.

A glorious, dreamy, delicious mistake!

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I will throw out clothes so I can fit bags of Ketchup Chips in my luggage when I’m travelling back home. I will pay $30 for a taxi to take me to where I can get Ketchup Chips. Of all the things that I miss about Canada – Ketchup Chips ranks up there right after my family and friends!

But the trick is this.  Forget those Lay’s Ketchup Chips.  There are only two kinds even worth buying.  The first is the classic Old Dutch Ketchup Chip (not the baked kind – the real chips) and then the President’s Choice Loads of Ketchup Rippled Potato Chips.

These:

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There is so much ketchup flavouring on these chips, it’s almost questionable whether you even need the potato. #sogood.

I still wonder why the stark difference between Canadian and American tastes when it comes to potato chips? We are a lot alike on a lot of things.  So why not Ketchup Chips?

Maybe Canadians actually don’t really know they hate Ketchup Chips because they are so set on loving something Americans don’t.

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought:

American Friend: “Because your tastebuds have frozen off your tongue?”

Canadian Friend: “We’re being patriotic: they’re red like our flag.”

Canadian Friend: “Canadians prefer salty, while Americans prefer sweet.”

American Friend: “Ketchup Chipes are reason number 5751 to be suspicious of Canadians.”

Canadian Friend: “Ew, I don’t like Ketchup Chips. Maybe I’m secretly American.”

So…. what do you think?  Have you tried Ketchup Chips? Would you?  If you’ve tried them, yay or nay? Why do you think there’s such a difference in preference between our two countries?