4 Classically Canadian Getaways
From the Ex to the Stampede, here are some getaway ideas for your great Canadian summer.
Floating fun down a lazy river
By Ken Hegan
Camping? Fishing? Climbing some big dumb mountain? All lame compared to floating down the Penticton river channel on a hot summer day. I’m serious. Floating is the most fun you’ll have in Canada this summer.
Here’s how to become a channel-floating master:
1. Head to Penticton, B.C., a semi-arid desert town in B.C.’s Okanagan wine region. Best time to float: mid-June through Labour Day weekend, between 1 and 6 p.m. when the sun’s hottest.
2. Buy a floatie (inflatable raft) at Canadian Tire, which bills itself as The Floatie Capital of Canada. Or get a two-person floatie at Save-On Foods on Main Street for $35. Get a floatie with mesh bottoms so you don’t fall through, plus a built-in drink cooler (!) and a can holder by your wrist.
3. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a towel, a cooler bag with drink cans and ice, plus cash or credit card for the bus ($6) or taxi back.
4. The launch site is at 215 Riverside Dr., just off Eckhardt Avenue West on the north end of town. Bury your keys in the bushes…you don’t want to lose them in the water.
5. Floating’s free, though Coyote Cruises will inflate your floatie for $2 or rent you a tube for $6.
…not running with the bulls
By Will Ferguson
Few cities have as strong a built-in word association as Calgary. Say “Calgary” and the next word is almost inevitably “Stampede.” It’s a city and an event steeped in superlatives (how many other attractions would have the audacity to label themselves The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!). The tilt-a-whirl lights of the midway, the thundering of the chuckwagons, the brash bravado of the bull riders and the graceful pirouettes of the women’s barrel racing: Calgary’s annual Stampede is a heady swirl of Western lore.
Like most Calgarians, I have an ambivalent relationship with the Stampede and, as much as I love (and occasional hate) this massive enterprise that takes over the city once a year, it’s worth looking outside the city as well, to lesser known venues off the beaten track. The small-town rodeos of my youth were spent draped over the fences watching the local bronc riders and calf ropers, while eating the melting grit of cotton candy. Every community across the prairies has its own rodeo, but only one allows amateurs the chance to personally injure themselves.
Drive east out of Calgary and you will soon come to Strathmore, Alta., (pop: 12,000) home to Canada’s only “running with the bulls.” Note: with the bulls, not of the bulls. The bulls are run, not through the streets of Strathmore, but in the town’s main corral. There is less raw danger than you get in Pamplona, more camaraderie. Contestants–from as far away as Denmark and Australi— dress up, usually in bright red “bull-enraging” costumes (a myth, of course; bulls are color-blind). The bulls of Strathmore don’t have the elongated sharpened horns you’d find in Spain, but they are still more than capable of flinging someone in the air like a rag doll, and runners have been trampled, head-butted, knocked down–and unconscious.
…channelling a carnie
By Lynn Crosbie
This August, the Canadian National Exhibition will be in its 139th year. And while the rest of you are posting mellow shots of your cottage’s compost heap, I will be, as always, at the CNE (a.k.a. the Ex). Just sweating like a quarter-horse, nauseated by my Tribute to Corn (corn-veg-dogs, the popped sort, and whole butter-slicked cobs) and carrying a deformed Scooby Doo that feels stuffed with flammable Styrofoam onto another terrifying ride.
Because it is the last genuine historical attraction in the city: genuinely terrifying that is! The Ex is like Canada’s Wonderland’s evil homunculus sister where one screams at the probability, not the illusion of disaster. You know that slasher film where a lunatic in a rayon wig is butchering sorority girls, and you feel scared and secure that it is fake?
Scared is all you feel at a carnival that arrives in trucks and is erected overnight by some of the most fearsome looking men and women alive: why should they care if one of the old rusted screws is loose? If a twirling cage is bent and about to snap off the ride’s bar? I once saw a carnie accidentally jam the Spinning Teacups, notice that children were weeping and run away down the fairground.
This is the Ex: a filthy, deafening horror show filled with deep-fried, bacon-wrapped fudge sandwiches, rigged games and a shopping mall loaded with failed inventions (“Please try our vibrating, lemon-scented shoehorn!”).
…enjoying the perfect combo
By Dick Snyder
Most days would start start and end with bagels and smoked meat. Or some combination. That was the essence of Montreal for me as a poor student. The fuel that got me through a music degree at Concordia University back in the 1980s. To this day, I don’t remember my first taste of these delightful treats but I always remember my last. And that keeps me going till next time. (Ah, it’s a long trek from Toronto…)
I was born in Montreal, on the West Island, but grew up in Newfoundland. (Long story.) My first taste of Montreal smoked meat came during a family trip to Montreal when I was 10 or 11. We went to Ben’s, the legendary downtown deli that’s now closed. My father used to hang out there when he was studying engineering in the 1940s. He ate at Schwartz’s and The Main, too, up on the Plateau – the two iconic smoked meat joints I’d read so much about in novels by Mordecai Richler. I think Richler got me hooked on smoked meat and bagels before I’d ever tasted them, come to think of it. He was that good a writer.