I Backpack Canada » Food http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:58:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 American’s Trying Canadian Snacks For First Timehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/americans-trying-canadian-snacks-for-first-time/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/americans-trying-canadian-snacks-for-first-time/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 11:59:09 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6793 It’s safe to say that Canada has some curious snacks and treats. From the sweet, the salty, to the eyebrow raising. American’s visiting Canada are often surprised that while we’re only a short drive away, that border is actually a gateway to a whole new world of food not available in America. The smart folks at Buzzfeed […]

American’s Trying Canadian Snacks For First Time is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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It’s safe to say that Canada has some curious snacks and treats. From the sweet, the salty, to the eyebrow raising. American’s visiting Canada are often surprised that while we’re only a short drive away, that border is actually a gateway to a whole new world of food not available in America. The smart folks at Buzzfeed Yellow managed to capture that experience. So without further ado, this is “American’s Trying Canadian Snacks for the first time”. Bon Appétit!

 

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Five Canadian Restaurants You Have To Tryhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/five-canadian-restaurants-you-have-to-try/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/five-canadian-restaurants-you-have-to-try/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:55:54 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6784 There’s a lot to be said about travelling across Canada. If you’re a reader of my blog, you know that I’ve discovered some incredible sights that I never would have expected to come across. Wildlife, adventure, music, and more. But travel always leaves me hungry. Along my journeys, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some pretty unbelievable food. From coast […]

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There’s a lot to be said about travelling across Canada. If you’re a reader of my blog, you know that I’ve discovered some incredible sights that I never would have expected to come across. Wildlife, adventure, music, and more. But travel always leaves me hungry. Along my journeys, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some pretty unbelievable food. From coast to coast to coast, there are some fantastic dishes and quirky dining experiences that need to be included on any travel itinerary. So much so that even writing this is making me want to return to some of these fabulous eateries. Damn you poutine and your impossible grip on me!

banquise-poutine

La Banquise

Montreal, Quebec

A couple years ago my (now) fiancé and I took a trip to La Banquise in Montreal where I tasted the most awesome poutine of all-time. The sort of poutine you have dreams about. We all know poutine is best enjoyed with a couple drinks in you. Despite the blur caused from a night out in Montreal, it’s the poutine that remains the most memorable.

La Banquise has a rich history that dates back to 1968. The guys behind the Canadian staple really know what they’re doing. With over 30 types of poutine on their menu, there’s something for everyone. Wieners in poutine? Got it. Steak and onions poutine? Yup! Mexican-taco style poutine? They got that covered. For me it’s all about La Duleton with ground beef and onions, of course combined with one of the many craft beers the place has on offer.

raymonds-restaurant

Raymonds

St John’s, Newfoundland

Enter St John’s Newfoundland, and you’ll quickly find you’re within a stone’s throw of some of the world’s finest seafood and wild game. Restaurant go-ers cheer the growing number of pubs, eatery’s, and restaurants poppping up in downtown St Johns.

The brainchild of Jeremy Charles and Jeremy Bonia, Raymonds continually wins award for its terrific menu which includes Newfoundland Cod, an incredible dish made up of roasted cod with a divine pork shoulder complimented with artichokes, corn, carrot, and pork jus.

In the heart of St John’s, a city with an incredible history, it’s well worth indulging if you ever find yourself enjoying the natural beauty of Newfoundland.

cascata

La Cascata

Niagara Falls, Ontario

From one natural beauty to another – Niagara Falls. Of course a hugely popular destination with tourists, the area has been built up into a region of pure entertainment. Seneca has a host of things to enjoy from enjoying the spa, to watching some of the world’s biggest pop stars, to even playing the slots and tables in the many casinos.

One of the few places in North America where you can gamble in both live casinos and online, I was excited to head out and hit the slots, but with so much to do in and around Niagara Falls it can become tiring, so it was time to fire up the laptop back at my room and let the virtual coins drop on their Full Tilt Slots. And luckily for me, my winnings bought me dinner at La Cascata where I enjoyed the most delightful home style lasagna. Normally when I gamble, I’m left eating crow. But I could get used to this.

The pasta was fresh, uncomplicated, and focused purely on a great taste. The menu offers a traditional selection of pastas as well as steak, seafood, and as you’d expect, an inspired wine menu.

vin-papillon

Le Vin Papillon

Montreal, Quebec

Located in the trendy area of Little Burgundy in Montreal, Le Vin Papillon sits on the famous Notre-Dame Street and not only has an entire menu of excellent dishes and fine wines, but also has the soundtrack to go with it. The sights and sounds and general vibe of this place is borderline addictive.

Offering small vegetable-focused dishes including roasted cauliflower, I found it the ideal setting to kick back with a drink, a bite to eat, and watch live music, as well as even getting involved in wine tastings with some of the country’s most respected experts.

bar-isabel

Bar Isabel

Toronto, Ontario

Nobody does social eats quite like the spanish. Bar Isabel in Toronto, Ontario captures this perfectly. Groups gather together and party well into the night, eating awesome food and drinking plenty of wine or beer. Chef Grant van Gameron took inspiration from the bars of Barcelona and Madrid and planted their culture at Bar Isabel in the Little Italy area of Toronto.

With classic Catalonian dishes such as patatas bravas and jamon croquetas, there are plenty of interesting concoctions for you and your party to dip into. The kitchen is open until 2am every night, keeping the food and drink washing down well into the night.

Have you tried any of these restaurants? Can you think of any other must-eat-at restaurants in Canada?

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How to Become an Honourary Newfoundlander in 5 Dayshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-become-an-honourary-newfoundlander-in-5-days/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-become-an-honourary-newfoundlander-in-5-days/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:10:39 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5352 Newfoundland tends to be a difficult name for many to pronounce, but once mastered, you can’t help but want to say it as often as possible. Newfoundland (pronounced New•fun•LAND – with extra emphasis on the ‘LAND’) is Canada’s most eastern province, chalk full of incredible seafood, maritimes culture, and some curiosities you simply can’t find elsewhere […]

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Newfoundland tends to be a difficult name for many to pronounce, but once mastered, you can’t help but want to say it as often as possible. Newfoundland (pronounced New•fun•LAND – with extra emphasis on the ‘LAND’) is Canada’s most eastern province, chalk full of incredible seafood, maritimes culture, and some curiosities you simply can’t find elsewhere in this great nation. I had the opportunity to explore Newfoundland and some of its many picturesque islands in Central Newfoundland with a born and bred Newfoundlander, Candice Walsh of Candice Does The World, alongside my newfound travel companion, Riley Platt of Riles for Miles. Together, Riley and I were going to find out straight from the horses mouth (aka Candice’s mouth), what it truly takes to become an Honourary Newfoundlander in 5 days.

cod-tongues-1

1. Eat Cod Tongues

While most pubs across North America are all but too happy to serve you french fries, sweet potato fries, or even some chicken wings – out east in Newfoundland, they accompany their beers with something a little different. Who wants those gosh darn salted potatoes when there’s giant cod tongues just begging to be battered and deep fried to perfection. Yes, Cod Fish do in fact have tongues, and I can attest that they’re larger than you’d imagine. Cod tongues are roughly the size of a adult human male’s big toe, squashed down to tongue shape.

One might think that a big slimy atlantic Cod fish’s tongue would taste a bit off, but hand over heart, they were deeeeeeeelish. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, spiced to perfection and the perfect complimentary snack to go alongside an ice cold Newfoundland Beer. I hope their quirky pub grub makes it off the island, because I have been craving to pop some more of those tasty Cod tongues back in my mouth.

quidi vidi beer newfoundland

2. Drink Newfoundland Beer, then drink some more

Newfoundlanders drink the most beer per capita in all of Canada. Perhaps it’s the sporatic weather that changes on a whim, or the fact that they have a wide variety of beer to choose from. Dominion, Jockey Club, India, Blue Star, Black Horse,  While some might complain that all of the local Newfoundland beer have been bought up by the big boys (Labatts, Molson, etc), served cold, there’s worse things to drink.


Local Newfoundland Beer

Beer afficianados will rejoice though, as there is still three local Newfoundland Beers you can sample on the island. I’m speaking of none other than Quidi Vidi Brewing Company, Yellowbelly Brewery, and Storm Brewing. While you’re much more likely to find Quidi Vidi throughout the island, any of the larger liquor stores will carry both Yellowbelly & Storm.


edge-of-world-1

3. Hike to the Edge of the World

One of the coolest hikes you can possibly do, particularly for bragging rights & the stunning vistas, is the Brimstone Head hike on Fogo Island. According to the Flat Earth Society, a slightly kooky bunch who promote all things Flat Earth related, Brimstone Head is one of the four corners of the “Flat Earth”. Whether or not you are a flat earther or a “rounder”, the hike is absolutely breathtaking. Sharp cliffs, pounding waves, strong winds, and a stunning panorama of Fogo Island. It’s a fairly easy hike, and definitely worth it. If you’re curious about the Flat Earth Society I recommend reading Man on the Lam’s post. It’ll give you a couple chuckles.

Be sure to dress appropriately on these hikes. I highly recommend bringing a rain jacket at the very least. After all, it’s Newfoundland. One of the few places where you can experience every season in a day.

kitchen party-1

4. Rock out at a Kitchen Party

We were fortunate enough to get to visit the small town of Twillingate, made famous in the Newfoundland Folk Song, “I’s the b’y“. Driving into town, we blasted the song on the car stereo, as we pulled into the Anchor Inn, a cute little hotel with a fantastic restaurant, a pub, and a weekly kitchen party, which just so happened to be taking place the night we pulled into town.

After a few warm-up drinks at the Anchor Inn restaurant, we made our way down to the pub and pulled into a kitchen party. Despite being 20-30 years younger than most at the party, we were committed to having a time. We filled our table up with beer, grabbed an ugly stick, a wood clacker, and rocked out. After my 10th beer I had enough liquid confidence to hollar up to Karen Churchill, the host of the Twillingate Kitchen Party, and happily informed her that I was eager to back her up with some guitar. She invited me on stage and next thing I know it I’m rocking out on stage, having the time of my life.

screeched in

5. Get Screeched In

This is the official “Become an Honourary Newfoundlander” tradition that has been taking place for years, with the help of a tremendous amount of alcohol. In order to get screeched in the willing participant has to reply to the epic question, “Is ye an honorary Newfoundlander?” with the phrase, “‘deed I is me ol’ cock, and long may your big jib draw.” The ceremony continues as you’re asked to kiss a Cod fish, followed by taking a shot of Screech. What is screech you might ask? Very strong, and very nasty rum. This is usually done in front of a crowd, and accompanied by several more pints and some heavy amounts of laughter. Sort of like the Sourtoe Cocktail, only more fishy. You’re given a certificate at the end to brag to your friends & family about how awesome you are.

I got screeched in at the Kitchen Party in Twillingate, but many insist the best place to get screeched in is at Kristians in St Johns, Newfoundland.

6. A night on George Street

George Street isn’t just famous in Newfoundland, but across all of Canada as being the street that makes St Johns the city with the most Pubs & Bars per capita than any other city in Canada. The Newfoundlander’s know how to party, and a night on George Street will show you exactly how much. People pour out of bar after bar, jumping from dance clubs to pubs to greasy spoons, all in the name of a good time. Cheap drinks, greasy food, one of the liveliest atmospheres mixed with people speaking with their nearly indecipherable accents, and all I can say about George Street, is “Go for it!“.

In the two weeks I spent in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador (note: I haven’t visited Labrador… yet), I was greeted with open arms from some of the warmest people you’ll find in all of Canada. Their unique sense of humour and ability to find a laugh in every situation makes them the type of people you can’t help but want to spend more time with. The culture & scenery that overflows in Newfoundland is hands down one of their greatest treasures. Kissing the cod, drinking the screech, and experiencing such a remote and special part of Canada, that’s the stuff you write home about!

How to Become an Honourary Newfoundlander in 5 Days is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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8 Reasons I Can’t Get Churchill Off My Mindhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/8-reasons-i-cant-get-churchill-off-my-mind/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/8-reasons-i-cant-get-churchill-off-my-mind/#comments Tue, 23 Oct 2012 13:00:13 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5375 This summer I had the opportunity to travel to the mecca of arctic adventures. Churchill, Manitoba – home of the polar bears, the belugas, tundra buggy’s, zodiac adventures, and some of the friendliest Canadians you’ll come to meet. In this small town of less than 1000 people, travellers from all over the world board VIA […]

8 Reasons I Can’t Get Churchill Off My Mind is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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This summer I had the opportunity to travel to the mecca of arctic adventures. Churchill, Manitoba – home of the polar bears, the belugas, tundra buggy’s, zodiac adventures, and some of the friendliest Canadians you’ll come to meet. In this small town of less than 1000 people, travellers from all over the world board VIA Rail in Winnipeg and take the 2 day northbound journey to the edge of the Hudson Bay to find out what goes on this far north. Little did I know I’d be aching to return. These are the 8 reasons I can’t get Churchill off my mind!

churchill-manitoba-flag

The Metis Infinity Flag

1. The Local People

On the northbound train from Winnipeg to Churchill, you’ll hear stories. People warn you to be careful up there. While you should be careful wherever you go, and avoid confrontation with everyone you meet while traveling, those warnings were completely blown out of the water after the first day in Churchill. Between the friendly staff, the locals walking by on the street, and yes, even the beer drinkers at the pub, I didn’t have a single run in with anyone I couldn’t shoot the poop with. The people of Churchill are a friendly bunch and happy to talk travel, wildlife, and adventures. With such a beautiful landscape surrounding the region, locals of every colour, culture, and creed tend to have something good to say about Churchill.

churchill-manitoba-polar-bear

2. The Danger

There’s something exciting, knowing that every time you step foot outside of a house or building, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Traipsing around without a care in the world, could lead you to be a tasty dinner for a full grown polar bear. While it’d be crazy for everyone to carry a gun wherever they went, the people of Churchill have devised a much simpler solution. They don’t lock their doors. Should you come across a big hungry polar bear, run to the nearest house and you’re almost guaranteed to be able to walk right in, and stay until the bear is dealt with. Tour companies like the Tundra Buggy Tours deal with this danger by using custom built giant bus’s tall enough to keep standing polar bears at bay.

churchill-manitoba-beluga-whales

3. The Wildlife

While there are no doubt some dangers when you visit a small town that is more or less surrounded by Polar Bears, fact is, they’re what bring most people up north. I’ll never forget, as I was on a zodiac in the middle of the Churchill River, less than a couple Miles from the Hudson Bay, seeing a Polar Bear enjoying a meal he’d caught at the edge of the water. While Polar Bears are the celebrities up here, the Belugas are a close second in the fame game. Since beluga’s were more friendly to me snapping photos, they win this reason! Be sure to have a good zoom lens if you plan on taking any photos of wildlife – or at the very least a decent set of binoculars. You’ll thank me later!

churchill-manitoba-kayak-tours-beluga

4. The Adventures

If seeing wildlife from afar isn’t enough, the folks at Sea North Adventure Tours can get you closer than anyone to the belugas & polar bears. Between their Kayak Adventures, their Zodiac Tours, & their boat tours, they also offer snorkelling with Belugas, where you get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures. In the small town of Churchill, there is no shortage of adventures to find yourself on. Go off-roading in the Tundra Buggy’s, custom built giant rovers that cruise over land and water in search of Polar Bears. Churchill isn’t just somewhere you can stop over for a day and say you saw it. In order to experience every bit of it, you need to get out of town and see what this place is really all about.

churchill-manitoba-via-rail

5. The Travellers

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe the cold air, the difficulty in getting this far north, or just the spirit of adventure that Churchill inspires within people, but the travellers / tourists that find themselves up here. They’re cut from a different cloth. They’re here for unique reasons. During my brief stay in Churchill I met multiple German backpackers, exploring all that Canada has to offer, I had beers with two women from Minnesota who spent over 2 months kayaking to Churchill, I met a French Canadian student protester who explained to me in his point of view what the big fuss was all about, and a korean student who came up to Churchill on a whim to find work. Those who find themselves up here tend be of the inspirational & interesting variety.

seal-skin-kayak-churchill

6. The History

The Dorset, The Thule, The Dene, The Chipewyan and the Cree Natives had all inhabited this region. Their history, art, and culture can be absorbed at the Churchill Eskimo Museum, home to some knowledgeable staff, and a variety of carvings, and historical findings from the area. They say that it was the Dorset & Thule people who encountered the Vikings in the 11th century. Their people recount how large and strong the vikings were, but how easily they were scared off. If first nations history isn’t your cup, Churchill Fort is a must. Suspected to be built by the stone masons, and home to some incredible british and french colonialism history.

Tundra Pub Churchill Manitoba

7. The Food

Despite the fact that food is difficult to get up north, which in turn makes fresh goods tough to come by, the local Churchill restaurants do surprisingly well. Grab a hearty breakfast at the Seaport Hotel, then work up an apetite for lunch. Gypsy’s Bakery & Restaurant pump out high quality food that keeps everyone coming back. After getting a healthy dose of outdoors and wildlife, stop by The Tundra Inn Pub. This isn’t your average pub grub. Between the quality salads, the massive burgers, the superb pizzas, and their sushi Friday’s, they’ve got plenty to choose from. Hang around after for some live music, billiards, and some good old fashion drinking. A night or two at The Tundra Inn Pub will guarantee you at least a couple of stories to take home.

Tundra House Hostel

8. The Tundra House Hostel

While there are several great hotel deals in the area, I can’t say enough about my stay at the Tundra House Hostel. It’s really more of a house than a hostel, but I think I can speak for many, in saying that when you’re travelling, the revolving door of the “big chain hostels” can sometimes make it hard to meet people. The great thing about Tundra House Hostel is not only how cozy it is, but how easy it is to meet people. After all, the train is only in town a couple of times per week, so you’re guaranteed a few days with other travellers, which is plenty of time to make friendships that can last a lifetime. The beds are outstanding and clean, the kitchen, dining room, and living room are exactly what you’d expect to find in any ordinary house. After a long day of taking in Churchill, unwind in the living room and decompress to the sound of the ticking clock.

Churchill has a way of keeping people. You’ll meet countless locals with the same story. One visit, followed by a second, then they never really left, or at least keep finding themselves back in this unique part of Canada. It reminds me a lot of Dawson City in the Yukon. Slightly closed off from the rest of the world. While accessible to most, the difficulty of getting up there keeps the box stores and the chain restaurants away.  The locals seem truly grateful for each tourist or traveller they meet in their own slice of the tundra. It’s a beautiful thing to see a small town thrive.

8 Reasons I Can’t Get Churchill Off My Mind is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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3 Delicious Montreal Eats You Need to Tryhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/3-delicious-montreal-eats-you-need-to-try/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/3-delicious-montreal-eats-you-need-to-try/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2012 14:09:44 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5275 Montreal is known across Canada as a foodies paradise. With row after row of restaurants, pubs, diners, and bistro’s, you can literally go on a culinary adventure in just a couple of square blocks. While there are countless superb restaurants, I always like to find out what city’s are famous for. Something locals go back to week […]

3 Delicious Montreal Eats You Need to Try is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Montreal is known across Canada as a foodies paradise. With row after row of restaurants, pubs, diners, and bistro’s, you can literally go on a culinary adventure in just a couple of square blocks. While there are countless superb restaurants, I always like to find out what city’s are famous for. Something locals go back to week after week due to brand loyalty, an unquenchable craving, or from sheer addiction. Ask a true local Montrealer this question, and besides Hab’s games, there’s three things you can almost guarantee everyone will agree on.

montreal smoked meat sandwich schwartz's

1. Schwartz’s Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich

Schwartz’s has been serving hungry french and english Canadians since 1928. Besides being a Montreal landmark, it’s known to most as being the last true Montreal Smoked Meat restaurant. Meat is cured for at least ten days then smoked in their brick smoke-house which has 84 years worth of delicious buildup, ensuring a romantic taste of yesteryear finds its way into each slice of this succulent meat.

schwartz's montreal smoked meat

Their most popular dish is the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich. Slice after slice of hot, delicious Montreal-Style Smoked meat, served between a soft rye bread with a squirt of mustard. Space is tight at Schwartz’s, and you’ll often find a line waiting outside, but the wait is always worth it. Trust me!

Pro Tip #1

They say if you want to eat it right, you have to order it a Medium-fat Smoked Meat Sandwich with fries, pickle, coleslaw, and wash it all down with a black cherry soda.

Pro Tip #2

Shwartz’s is a cash-only joint delicatessen. Fill those pockets with some money before you dive into one of the best sandwiches on earth.

la-banquise-poutine

2. La Banquise Poutine

I once wrote about my favourite poutine joint, but with the help of Marie-Julie Gagnon, esteemed Montreal travel writer, I have seen the light. I am no longer a devout loyalist to Chez Ashton’s thrown, I’ve had to hand that title off to La Banquise. La Banquise serves 25 different types of poutine, all of which have their own unique spin on the classic dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

la-banquise-menu

Try La T-Rex, your classic fries, cheese curds, and gravy with hamburger meat, pepperoni, bacon, and diced hotdogs, smothered on top of this classic french-canadian dish. Or get a little exotic, and go for La Taquise, the classic poutine dish served with guacamole, sour cream & tomatoes. My personal favourite; however, is La Duleton, your classic poutine served with hamburger meat & onions.

Pro Tip

Poutine is best enjoyed after a long night of drinking, which is convenient, because La Banquise is open 24 hours a day. Stuff your gut full of one of these delicious poutine dishes before passing out for the night and you stand a much higher chance of being a functional human being in the morning.

montreal-bagel-fairmount

3. The Montreal-style Bagel

While the New York Bagel often overshadows the Montreal Bagel, it is not for good reason. Montreal-style bagels are in a league of their own. They are handmade and baked in a wood-fire oven and consumed by hundreds of thousands of hungry Montrealers each morning.

Preparation is a bit different than the New York bagel. The recipe for Montreal-style bagels is slightly different, and they’re each boiled in water that’s been sweetened with honey. After a quick dip in the water, they’re baked in a wood-fire oven, then coated in either black poppy seed or white sesame seed. You’ll find that Montreal-style bagels are typically smaller than the New York bagel and are often found to be sweeter, due to the honey-water soaking.

Fairmount Bagel Montreal QB

While there are countless bakeries in Montreal serving these bagels, be sure to pop by Fairmount Bagel at 74 av. Fairmont West, in the Mile End community. Fairmount Bagel has been pushing dough through ovens since 1919, and is oddly enough the only type of bagel to have ever made it into space!

Food plays a large part in Montrealers lives. Thankfully, Montreal is one of the most walk-able cities in Canada, giving you ample opportunity to walk off a few of the extra calories you’ll surely find yourself chowing on when you visit this unique Canadian city. Just remember, it’s okay to indulge in Montreal!

Win a Moleskin Notebook Through Twitter

Contest Time! Just RT “I want to win a Moleskin notebook from @ibackpackcanada & @Keep_Exploring! http://goo.gl/4lOYt” #ExploreCanada”

Winners will be drawn at random. Contest ends October 5th, 2012. 

View a Photo of the Prizes!

For more on my adventures with the Explore Canada Cross-Canada Travel Bloggers, check out out Canada Keep Exploring! Special thanks to the folks at the CTC for giving us the opportunity to show us around two of Canada’s most vibrant and cultural cities. 

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Grilled Cheese, Mill Street Beer, A Museum of Shoes, & a Heckuva Timehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/grilled-cheese-mill-street-beer-a-museum-of-shoes-a-heckuva-time/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/grilled-cheese-mill-street-beer-a-museum-of-shoes-a-heckuva-time/#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2012 15:54:42 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4833 Toronto! I somehow end up in this magnificent city at least a few times a year. Despite meandering through it occasionally, I’ve never been back and not found something unique and new to see, do, or try. The Cross-Canada Travel Blogger Tour, put on by the Canadian Tourism Commission, not only gave me the opportunity […]

Grilled Cheese, Mill Street Beer, A Museum of Shoes, & a Heckuva Time is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Toronto! I somehow end up in this magnificent city at least a few times a year. Despite meandering through it occasionally, I’ve never been back and not found something unique and new to see, do, or try. The Cross-Canada Travel Blogger Tour, put on by the Canadian Tourism Commission, not only gave me the opportunity to meet a handful of other incredible writers and bloggers, but opened the doors to a few places in “The Big Smoke”, that I’d never got around to seeing.

In true rockstar fashion, I was swept up by a limo company as soon as I landed in Toronto, and brought to the Cambridge Suites in downtown Toronto. While I’m used to public transport and splitting cabs with fellow airportee’s, I have to admit, having your own driver is something I could get used to. After dropping off my backpack in these luxury Toronto Suites, I promptly grabbed the 505 Streetcar to Chinatown. Chinatown; however, wasn’t my destination. A short walk and I was back in one of my favourite neighbourhoods of Toronto. Kensington Market.

kensington market

Kensington Market

The streets of Kensington Market are filled with local produce, small restaurantes, patios, vintage shops, hand made crafts, and the occasional smell of incense. For those who’ve ever been to Australia, I like to compare this area of Toronto as “Byron Bay”, but without the beach. It’s a gathering place for free-spirits, hip young adults, and people interested in seeing a local side of Toronto.

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Having not eaten in 7 hours, my gut was beyond grumbling. It was screaming at me to feed it. Everything looked so good though, and decision making has never been a skill I’ve excelled at. Mexican? A bakery? Burgers? Pub grub? Then, of the corner of my eye, I gazed upon The Grilled Cheese. I B-lined it there, and ordered the best Grilled Cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

After inhaling a tremendous amount of cheese, I ran into a fellow Cross-Canada travel blogger, Frankie Bird of As the Bird Flies. As someone who’s been to Kensington Market a handful of times I was nominated as leader. In true Canadian fashion, I found beer. Mill Street beer, Steamwhistle & Tankhouse to be exact. The patio of The Last Temptation is one of my favourite spots to people watch in Toronto. The patio & window seating is just high enough to observe a bit of everything going on around you, and the food & drinks are surprisingly easy on the pocket.

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The Bata Shoe Museum

After intros and pitchers of beer, it was time to see some more of Toronto. While we discussed the possibility of the CN Tower, as well as the Royal Ontario Museum, it was the Bata Shoe Museum that won our attention. A museum dedicated to the history of footwear. Thousands of years of it! Hands down one of the most interesting and cute museums I’d ever been to. It also gave me a huge appreciation for the sneakers I wear, and added even more respect to women for putting up with some of the uncomfortable footwear they’ve endured in the past, and continue to occasionally wear today.

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Pimm’s, Gin, & a Filet Mignon

By 630pm the rest of the group had congrugated to the lobby of the Cambridge Suites, and we left as a group to Easy & Fifth. A trendy and unique restaurant located a short old-fashioned elevator ride above one of Toronto’s funnest clubs. It was there that I enjoyed Pimm’s & Gin, tackled a lovely salad, then finished it off with what might have been the tastiest and best cooked filet mignon I’d ever ordered.

For 24 hours in Toronto, we squeezed in a bunch, but we’d only just scratched the surface, and there was more TIFF & Toronto sights, sounds, and eats to take in. All in all, a great way to start off a superb trip catered to showing the world a slice of Toronto.

Grilled Cheese, Mill Street Beer, A Museum of Shoes, & a Heckuva Time is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Toronto Loves Honeybees!http://ibackpackcanada.com/toronto-loves-honeybees/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/toronto-loves-honeybees/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2012 15:41:49 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5226 The shoo-ing of bees is a rather normal thing for most. Who wants to be stung by some little pest? I too am guilty of cursing at those little, fuzzy, yellow & black bugs. While my ignorant hand is swatting the air aimlessly like a fool, there is a pro bee movement that is bringing […]

Toronto Loves Honeybees! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The shoo-ing of bees is a rather normal thing for most. Who wants to be stung by some little pest? I too am guilty of cursing at those little, fuzzy, yellow & black bugs. While my ignorant hand is swatting the air aimlessly like a fool, there is a pro bee movement that is bringing attention to a huge threat to the worlds food supply. Some superb initiatives are taking place in Toronto, forcing many people to put down the fly swatter, and think twice before attacking a curious honeybee.

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Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative

The Toronto Beekepers Co-operative started around 2002 with a small group of volunteers that worked hand in hand with experienced beekepers. The movement for beekeeping in Toronto’s urban core was born. Their goal is simple, to educate the public about the value of bees to Toronto’s landscape and ecosystem. I caught up with the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative at the Live Green Toronto Festival in July, where new recruits and volunteers happily educated curious attendees, both young and old. While most were watching the live music acts, I was drawn to the beekepers white tent and superhero-esque safety masks.

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Local Toronto Honey Products

The Toronto Beekepers Co-operative not only explained the importance of honeybee’s in the environment, something most people are aware of these days, but they also sold local made goods, such as lip balm, hand creams, and yes, jars and jars of honey. They happily showed that there isn’t anything to be scared of with Honeybees. They’re quite peaceful and will only attack if you’re posing a threat to the hive. They have better things to do, like pollinating the worlds food supply and hanging out with their very extended family.

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Fairmont Royal Yorks Grassroots Movement

I had a great grandfather who was a beekeeper in Saskatchewan. He passed away when I was young, but my mother would always remind me how smart of a man he was. He farmed most of his life, made his own batteries, rebuilt a train caboose just because he could, and whenever a part in his vehicle would break down, he’d make a replacement part rather than go out and buy one. Aside from being a jack of all trades, he must have had a sweet tooth, because he kept multiple hives throughout his years.

I always felt that the ingenuity of yesteryear had gone the way of the dinosaurs. That is, until I heard about the success at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto. This “grassroots” movement isn’t just for the alternative lifestylists living off the grid. The Fairmont Royal York is taking a very eco-friendly and local approach to some of the goods and services they offer to their guests.

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The Fairmont Royal York’s Apiary

The Fairmont Royal York has been using the roof of their historical hotel to care for six beehives. With the help of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative they are now using this local on-site honey in many of the dishes they serve to their guests. The success of this first roof-top apiary encouraged other Fairmont Hotels across North America to join the movement. During peak season in the summer, over 350,000 honeybees live and thrive in the six beehives on Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, producing roughly 450 pounds of Fairmont honey per year!

Pro Tip

The Fairmont Royal York has also been growing their own herbs. Order a Mojito at the bar, the crushed mint leaves you find in your glass were literally picked from the roof of the hotel. I should also mention they’re delicious.

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The Fairmonts Homegrown Experience

This eco-friendly, local movement is a superb edition to the Fairmont Royal York’s already astounding hotel. The hotel is conveniently located across the street from Toronto’s Union Station, which worked out perfectly with my cross Canada by VIA Rail adventure. If there’s a place to splurge after being on the Train for hours, it’s got to be in Toronto’s Fairmont. Seeing a big city like Toronto paving the way for more homegrown experiences is something Torontonians should be extremely proud of!

Cities are evolving quickly as more and more people leave the rural parts of Canada to live in a big city. I can’t help but feel like we’re making steps in the right direction. This desire to be a little more self sufficient, a lot more green, and best of all, living in symbiosis with the world around us, including plants, animals, humans, and fuzzy, black and yellow insects.

Big thanks to the folks at Toronto Tourism for helping show off their city, and extra big thanks to the Fairmont Royal York for letting me kick back and explore their hotel for a night. 

Toronto Loves Honeybees! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Fermehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/a-local-quebecois-experience-at-le-massifs-hotel-la-ferme/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/a-local-quebecois-experience-at-le-massifs-hotel-la-ferme/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2012 17:14:00 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5147 Travel has been evolving for generations, but one of the most profound changes in recent years within this massive industry is peoples desire to do no harm, to see the world in the most ecologically friendly way possible without sacrificing comfort and style. While companies strive to make less of an impact by decreasing their […]

A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Travel has been evolving for generations, but one of the most profound changes in recent years within this massive industry is peoples desire to do no harm, to see the world in the most ecologically friendly way possible without sacrificing comfort and style. While companies strive to make less of an impact by decreasing their emissions and making changes to how their business operates, travellers too are choosing accommodations that go above and beyond eco friendly. Places that serve not only local food, but offer a unique experience that simply can’t be found elsewhere. No place is more relevant to this new form of travel than Le Massif’s new 4 season hotel, “Hôtel La Ferme” in Charlevoix, Quebec. After arriving in Quebec City by VIA Rail, I managed to find myself on another train to Charlevoix.

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Montmorency Falls to Charlevoix by “Le Train”

Getting to Hôtel La Ferme  in Charlevoix Quebec is half of the adventure. While driving is an option, to truly take in the experience you’ll want to catch the train. From downtown Quebec City you’ll need to drive, cab, or bus to Montmorency Falls. Be sure to show up early to take in Quebec’s famous Waterfall and snap photos of the small bridge that crosses overtop. If you find yourself above the falls you’ll want to take the Gondola down ($10.39 Round Trip per Adult). Waiting patiently at the bottom of this magnificent vista is Le Train. Le Massif’s luxury locomotive that travels between Quebec City to Baie-Saint-Paul and onwards to La Malbaie.

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The ride north by train to Baie St Paul and La Malbaie includes some impeccable meals made with local Quebec produce along with one of the best views of the Fleuve Saint Laurent (Saint Lawrence River). In true “Cirque du Soleil” fashion, the entire journey is orchestrated with video, music, and a live map of the trains location in Charlevoix. Throughout the entire journey you’ll learn about the history and importance of this region with the help of an array of iPads found on each dining table. After experiencing the sights, sounds, and tastes from the train, disembark at Baie-Saint-Paul – the train literally stops right beside the hotel!

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What sets Hôtel La Ferme apart?

Le Massif’s hotel/hostel/resort hybrid is something completely original and unique to not only Quebec, but Canada. Daniel Gauthier, the man who co-founded the internationally acclaimed “Cirque Du Soleil” is behind this incredible project. This new 4 seasons hotel is home to swiss inspired luxury rooms along with budget friendly hostel dormitory rooms, perfect for a group of friends on a ski getaway or the lone vagabond exploring Charlevoix. The backyard gardens play a large role with Hôtel La Ferme’s restaurant “Les Labours“, which uses produce they grow themselves in all of it’s meals. This new eco-local-friendly hybrid accommodation provides access to some of Baie St Paul’s most beautiful walking trails and some of the best views of the Fleuve Saint Laurent (Saint Lawrence River).

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The idea is to appeal to not only high end travellers looking to relax, but university students and budget travellers. Young adults who want to hit the slopes of Le Massif during the winter while being given an affordable and luxurious room. While these different types of travellers are in separate buildings, they share access to a common lounge, bar, cafe, performance center as well as “Les Labours” – more on it below. The idea is to promote social engagement, and giving equal access to the luxury amenities that are available at Hôtel La Ferme.

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The Hotel Rooms of Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme

Not a single detail has been missed at what is likely to become one of Quebec’s most popular tourist destinations. Between the beautiful Canadiana art, the locally produced blankets that adorn each bed, to the salvaged wood from the Charlevoix area that can been seen throughout the hallways and rooms across the entire complex. Beautiful oak hardwood floors can be seen in each and every room, along with some sturdy hand-made cabinetry. A plasma screen TV, iPod/iPhone ready stereo and a “Nesspresso” machine with pop in espresso capsules can be found in each hotel room.

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Stepping foot into the bathroom is like walking into something you’d expect to see in the TV show “Cribs”. The glass walled shower sports two shower heads, perfect for those who don’t like to shower alone. Don’t forget to try out their luxury soap, shampoo, and conditioner, it will blow that Pantene ProV you brought along out of the water.

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Hôtel La Ferme Reinvented Hostel Rooms

It’s been my experience that the majority of hostels tend to suffer from shoddy bedding, cheap mattresses, loud, squeaky and inconvenient bunk beds, and far too many people crammed into the same room. The folks at Le Massif have replaced “cheap accommodations” in lieu of “budget accommodations”, without sacrificing the quality and craftsmanship seen throughout the rest of the Hotel.

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They’ve completely done away with bunk beds, and instead opted for custom lockable murphy beds that fold out from the elegant wall cabinetry. Each hostel room has a limit of 4 beds, along with 4 large sized lockers to store your personal belongings. A large in-room bathroom with multiple sinks can be found within each room, making that awkward traipse down the hall to a shared bathroom a thing of the past. Each dorm style room includes a plasma screen TV along with an iPod/iPhone ready stereo, perfect for getting ready in the morning or sharing music with newfound friends.

Hostel rates at Hotel La Ferme are going to start at $49. While it’s slightly more expensive than your average dorm rate, keep in mind this isn’t your run of the mill hostel. Dorms will have 4 beds maximum and each will be treated with the same exceptional service as the hotel rooms.

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Local Eats at Les Labours

A hotel dedicated to providing a unique experience in all 4 seasons wouldn’t be complete without meals made with local in-season produce, most of which is grown in Le Massif’s own backyard. These class act dishes are prepared by Chef David Forbes and his incredible team. Their love and passion for providing visitors the chance to taste this magical region of Quebec is second to none. The menu at Les Labours changes with the seasons, giving you a chance to gawk at freshly crafted meals all year round.

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While You’re in Baie-Saint-Paul

While I could go on all day about how much I’m in love with Quebec and completely infatuated by Le Massif, there is more to this region than lounging around in comfy beds and eating delicious local food. During the summer, explore Rue St-Jean-Baptiste and browse through eclectic local artisan shops, sample the local Charlevoix Microbrews then find out why Baie-Saint-Paul is a mecca for painters, performers and artists of all kind. If nature is more your thing, whale watching tours, hiking trails, and secluded beaches along the Saint Lawrence River are all within walking distance.

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Come winter, ski the 770m (2,527 ft) of vertical at Le Massif. During the winterLe Train carries eager passengers from Quebec City (At Montmorency Falls) directly to the mountain, and continues to Baie-Saint-Paul where exhausted skiiers can relax at Hôtel La Ferme. The staff at the hotel informed me that waking up at Hôtel La Ferme in the winter is going to make for a great Canadian experience, as there will be a skating rink right in backyard of the eco-hotel.

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Baie-Saint-Paul is the heart and soul of arts and culture in Canada. The beauty of this region wasn’t just recently discovered, in fact, the infamous Group of Seven often visited the area, setting up their easel’s and painting the dramatic colours of this picturesque Quebecois landscape. The history of the culture and people in Baie-Saint-Paul and the entire region of Charlevoix is something to be truly appreciated. For anyone keen on exploring the province of Quebec, be sure to include Charlevoix & a stay at Hôtel La Ferme in your itinerary.

Special thanks to the folks at Le Massif for helping out and showing me around this great new project that is sure to bring in countless excited tourists.

A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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