In case you didn’t know, yesterday was Canada Day and I’ve been juggling with ideas of what to write for my country’s national holiday. Keeping in mind that I haven’t been everywhere (we are the second biggest country in the world after all), I didn’t feel like I could truly capture the best of what Canada has to offer in terms of sights, activities or culture. I trust that there are several outlets available out there for anyone looking for things to do in Ontario or the best restaurants in Alberta so I’m going a different route. I want to put the focus on the country itself and maybe catch some interest not by listing a top 10 activities or the best national parks but by shedding light on what makes each and every one of the 13 provinces and territories unique and different but also pivotal in the shape that Canada has today.
The youngest territory and 13th division of the country, Nunavut officially became recognized as a territory just 12 years ago. April 1st 1999 is when it took the Northwest Territories spot as the northernmost territory in Canada. Not surprisingly, it’s also the home of the northernmost permanently inhabitable locale in the world; Alert.
Being a rather remote area, it has one of the lowest density of population in the world and yet, if it was a country, Nunavut would be the 15th biggest country in the world; edging out every single European country besides Russia.
Quite surprisingly, mainly due to its geographical location, the Northwest Territories are home of the 13th longest river in the world. The Mackenzie river runs through the territory on a length of roughly 4200 kilometres (just over 2600 miles)
It is also home of the only unshared UNESCO site of the three Canadian territories; Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Yukon is home of the highest mountain in Canada; Mount Logan, which is also the second highest peak in North America.
For some reason, while Yukon has its own international airport in Yellowknife, it only offers direct flights to 3 other Canadian cities (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) one in Alaska (Fairbanks) and to Frankfurt, Germany.
After Vancouver’s winning bid for host of the 2010 winter Olympics, British Columbia became the third province in Canada to host the Olympics. It is also the only place in Canada to have “coffee shops” similar to the ones in Amsterdam. The major difference is that they are not allowed to sell the product; they simply offer a place to use it.
With 5 sites out of 14, Alberta is the province with the most UNESCO sites in Canada. It is also the 5th biggest energy producer in the world and Edmonton, the province’s capital, is where the world’s biggest shopping mall is located; the West Edmonton Mall.
Regina, the province’s capital, is where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recruits train as it is the only training academy licensed to offer training to the RCMP.
All of the province’s boundaries are man-made; setting it apart from the rest of provinces and territories. To be exact, the province is wedged between Alberta and Manitoba, right under the Northwest Territories and above the states of Montana and North Dakota.
The town of Elie, Manitoba, was hit by a F5 tornado in June 2007, the first category 5 tornado to ever touch ground in Canada.
Winnipeg, the province’s capital, inspired the naming of Winnie the Pooh, where it was originally purchased. Not only that but Winnipeg is also the Slurpee capital of the world even though the temperatures are below freezing point for about half of the year.
Ottawa is where, during World War II, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born. As her family fled the Netherlands because of the war, the hospital ward her mother was in was momentarily declared extraterritorial, making it possible for the princess to only have Dutch citizenship.
Although English is commonly used in several areas of the province, French is the province’s official language. This makes Quebec the only province to have French as its official language.
Throughout history, Quebec has attempted to become an independent state on two separate occasions; in 1980 and then again in 1995. Both referendums ended with a majority of Quebecers choosing to remain a part of Canada instead of seceding.
While French communities exist in other provinces and several areas of Quebec use English on a daily basis, New Brunswick is the only province to be officially bilingual; having both English and French listed as its official languages.
New Brunswick is home to four unusual natural phenomena;
– The largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere (and second biggest in the world) is located between two of the province’s islands; Deer and Indian islands.
– The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world and they rise at a rate of 1 metre per hour.
– Due to the force behind the high tides, the Saint John River flows backwards twice every day. The phenomenon can easily be observed as the tide overpowers the regular current, causing it to flow upstream.
– Magnetic Hill, located in Moncton, isn’t as magnetic as its name may imply but drivers can put their cars in neutral and watch with amazement as it drives itself up the hill, without any help from the driver.
Halifax, the province’s capital, is where the first decorated English Christmas tree was located. In 1846, protestant Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King!) tried to reproduce the effect of stars shining through evergreens by placing candles on a spruce.
Nova Scotia was the first settlement north of Florida and named after Scotland.
There are 150 lighthouses in the province; the most in all of Canada
Prince Edward Island
The only province to be considered its own country according to the Travelers’ Century Club because of the distance between it and the mainland; officially making it the smallest province and the only one to be considered its own land.
Newfoundland & Labrador
There are no snakes or poison ivy found on the island of Newfoundland but the province has its own kind of dog and pony (originally named the Newfoundland dog and the Newfoundland pony)
A few “firsts” also occurred in Newfoundland;
– First province to respond to the Titanic distress signal
– First place to have a wireless communication in the world
– First transatlantic flight departed from Newfoundland in 1919
Destination: New Hampshire
Duration: 3 days (May 2008)
Length of the drive: roughly 7 hours
Summer’s back and aside from sun, it also means that it’s the season for road trips! Being that I got my first car last year, I figured a road trip would be a good idea to do this summer and it would have been fun to have someone to do it with but apparently New Hampshire isn’t a top vacation spot for the people I know.
And so I left, all by myself, and headed south of the border. The drive was actually quite enjoyable aside from the ridiculous amount of rain. Almost as soon as I went through customs and reached Vermont, I started enjoying it a lot more as the scenery is so much better from there. To reach New Hampshire from Quebec, you have to drive through the White Mountains area and wow, it’s worth every second of it (as long as you make sure you have enough gas to go all the way since gas stations are not as commonly found as they are in more urban areas). The drive in itself is absolutely amazing and you won’t want to miss a beat of it; rain or shine, it’s worth every moment.
The major attraction of the trip; Mount Washington, was more than worth the drive to the quiet state of New Hampshire and the drive to the summit is such an out of this world experience. It starts with a very dense forest, then rocks everywhere (and mountains all around) and the last few miles are so foggy it’s hard to know if you’re driving in the right direction and not off a cliff. The weather is crazy once you’ve reached the submit and you’re unlikely going to spend more than half an hour up there but it’s still very cool and you can pose next to the ‘official’ submit plate.
The conclusion of my first ever official road trip; a weekend is too short and driving for 7 hours really isn’t that long.