On Canada, Camping, and Camping in Canada

16 August 2009

DSC_0042E and I just got back from a wonderful trip up North.  She attended APA in Toronto while I milled around the city and attempted to work.  Then we both spent almost a week in Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park.  Got in some excellent hiking, camping, and kayaking.  Pix will be on my Flickr page soon.

It was an interesting time to be in Canada, as the whole country seems to get a bit of a kick out of our gnashing over health care reform.  Lots of people asked about the city, and they were almost uniformly more informed about our status than people in other parts of the US.  And because it was only the 2nd time I’d been there, I now feel equipped to judge the entire country on my limited experience.  So herewith, some overgeneralizations about Canadians:

DSC_0171First, meet Tom.  Tom runs Doc’s Gas Bar, which I hoped meant Gas & Bar, but didn’t.  It’s the typical rural supply store where in the States you’d find rebel flag hats and lots of cellophane-wrapped “nougat” products for sale.  We came there to buy firewood and ice, and a couple of citronella candles.  On our first stop, Tom was very friendly and asked us where we were from and eventually asked us how we felt about “this guy behind me,” which was the first time I noticed that he had a big Obama poster behind the counter.  I told him that I was pretty thrilled and that it sure as hell was a step up from his predecessor, but then it dawned on me how weird it was that in this otherwise redneck-looking outpost, the man wouldn’t just be a closet Obama sympathizer, but would actually advertise it.  Not even his president (or maybe that’s why it’s safer).  Anyway, here’s E and me with Tom.  As he put it, “White men screwed it all up, and it’ll take a black man to fix it.”

Here are some other thoughts on the trip:

  • In American parks, if you’re willing to hike about 1/4 mile on a trail, you don’t see anyone else; no so in Canada.  People really get out there.
  • Sea kayaking is a lot of fun as long as you’re not in a hurry.
  • I was amazed at how little wildlife we saw.  The parks were pristine, but at night you wouldn’t hear as much as a cricket or frog, and our fauna tally amounted basically to some frogs, lots of squirrels, a couple rabbits, 2 water snakes, and a couple chipmunks.  Kinda disappointing.
  • It’s pretty hard to get decent bourbon in Canada.
  • Stone Orchid Indonesian restaurant in Tobermory is phenomenal and set us up with a full 7-course vegetarian feast on our anniversary (14 yrs, btw).
  • If at all possible, avoid driving on Toronto highways or downtown.
  • If someone offers you an Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, do not accept.  It’s no IPA at all; virtually no hops.
  • On the other hand, the Mill Street Brewery makes a number of very fine beers.
  • I’m really glad we’ve given up backpacking in favor of base-camp-day-hiking.
  • Even though Canadians seem to use their parks more, they’re fairly loud (and yes, I know it was the Canadians by the accent, and yes, I know I’m generalizing, but I cautioned about that).  I mean jeez, people are sleeping in a tent 20 feet from you and you’re going to stay up talking at full volume?  And all parks should ban recorded music at all times.
  • The Harry Potter book recordings make for excellent road-trip listening.
  • My wife is amazingly tolerant.

DSC_0137Great trip, and now work resumes.  Counting my blessings to have the opportunity to travel and relax.  I sure sleep better in that tent.

Weekend Restaurant Roundup

19 May 2009

The folks were in this weekend, and my family is pretty into food.  Sadly, they’re also worried about money, but we tried to get them to live it up a little.  Here’s where we made it:

Friday night:  Eleven 79.  We love this place, and the food was excellent as always, but the service was a little spotty.  The guy forgot the wine, left us alone for too long at once, bread was slow in coming (and burnt once).  But damn they make a great pasta.

Saturday lunch:  Ignatius.  I had the salad with no bacon and corn macque choux.  Great stuff, and they loved theirs.  I was bummed by them a while back because they told me there was no meat in the beans, but it turns out there is. Went to La Divina for dessert.  Heavenly, as always, and the word is they’re opening a 3rd location right down the street from us, on Maple!

Saturday dinner:  After getting the run around from Cochon about table availability, we had a late bite at Ye Olde College Inn.  A surprisingly solid cheese poboy, but the real star was the dessert–fried bread pudding po boy, the winner of the dessert contest at the Po Boy Festival.  Really, really tasty, even to the folks at the table who aren’t willing to kill for bread pudding, as I am.

Sunday:  The highlight for mom was Surrey’s.  It’s my favorite breakfast place, and she’s still gaga over her omelette, which had crawfish and brie or something like that in it.  Me, I’m stuck on the roasted veggie omelette, but I add goat cheese and avocado.  Mmm.  And, as always, I got the grapefruit juice w/ ginger.

Overall, successful meals, and I’m glad to see so many places doing well.  But owners and managers–stay on the wait staff!  Some of them are slacking!

Jersey Dispatch

9 April 2007

Must be nice.

Also, quick observation…  I’ve never lived in the Northeast, but I had a prof in grad school who was from Connecticut.  He would always lecture in question format:  “So the frontal lobe deals with planning, right?”

In NJ, I’ve seen a similar communication pattern.  A waiter says, “Enjoy your meal, alright?  If you need anything else, you let me know, ok?”

Is this a NE thing, or my imagination?

Regardless, thanks to A&G for wonderful hosting; had a very nice time.  Alright?