The Golden Rule of Travel

In a travel email newsletter from Bite-Sized Travel this week, there was a link to a blog post at Outside Online telling Americans to stop telling people that they’re Canadian when they travel. You can read that here. The gist of it urges American travelers to stand up for themselves and their country to Make America Great again. Be proud of where you’re from. They say it makes the traveler lie to people they meet right from the start and it doesn’t fool anyone. (Krista at Bite-Sized Travel says the easiest way to tell an American from a Canadian is to pronounce the letter Z!) It certainly won’t make you any safer traveling abroad.

American travelers pretending to be from Canada is nothing new. It might be an urban myth but I remember hearing that American travelers and backpackers have been sewing the maple leaf on their jackets or luggage even back when I was young, in the 60s and 70s. I’m from Canada so it wasn’t an issue for me. I am what I am. American tourists had a reputation as “ugly”, that is, loud and rude when they travel so people from other countries allegedly didn’t care for Americans. From my limited experience, I can tell you there are loud and rude travelers from pretty much every country, *including* Canada.

Having said that, Canadians do tend to be polite and friendly on the whole. I have a small number of experiences with the perception of where I’m from by someone in a European country when they discover I’m from Canada and not the United States.

The first time came when I was on a school trip to Paris. A few of us were trying to explain to someone in a cafe that we wanted hot dogs but couldn’t quite manage the French needed to make the waiter behind the counter understand. He seemed dismissive and we were getting frustrated. Our French teacher arrived and within the space of a minute, after she explained where we were from and what we wanted, the waiter was all smiles. “Oh, les Canadiennes!” What we got wasn’t quite a hot dog, more of a sausage in a bun but it was served with a smile.

Because the general Canadian English accent isn’t really that different from many of the American regional accents to the foreign ear, I often get mistaken for American and I’m always pleasantly surprised when someone recognizes my accent as Canadian straight off but I do think that my East Coast Canadian accent is a bit more recognizable. I do remember someone asking me a question about products on a shelf in a pharmacy in London that we were both perusing and when she heard my accent, immediately expressed her sympathy. It was about 2 weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. It was very kind of her but I did tell her where I was from but that it was quite frightening to have something like that happen so close to home and there were some Canadians that had died in the towers.

I’ve taken a few bus tours over the years. Most of the time, at least half of the passengers have been from the United States with various other countries represented as well. Sometimes, there have been fellow tourists that have been loud and opinionated and yes, they were from the USA. But there have also been some very lovely passengers from there as well. One older single lady traveling on her own complained through the whole trip. Everyone else sympathised with the other single traveler that was paired with her to share a room (saving that single supplement cost) and the tour guide must have had his work cut out for him. She was from Canada. In stereotypical response, most of the rest of us Canadians on the bus always felt like we should apologize on her behalf! (Canadians have a reputation for apologizing a lot and it’s true, we do!)

One last anecdote: On another bus tour through Italy, a group of 5 or 6 Canadians from Montreal kept themselves to themselves and didn’t join in at all with the rest of the passengers. They used the bus for transportation only and went off on their own all the time while the rest of us mingled and chatted with each other about our own cultures where our respective native languages made it possible. For most of us taking a bus tour, the camraderie between tourist from different countries is part of the fun. So, you see, tourists of all stripes and attitudes can come from any country.

Mainly, though, I haven’t really experienced any difference in attitude in people when they learn where I’m from, one way or the other, though I have had a friend say she’s noticed a thawing from a frosty service person when she’s self-identified as Canadian. It is true that there are a few countries on this planet where the USA is not welcomed and perhaps some travelers feel safer pretending to be Canadians out on the streets. For me, I wouldn’t travel to a country where I wouldn’t feel safe but I’m not an adventurous traveler.

I have had it (smugly) suggested that I am still considered an American because I’m from North America. That person happened to be from Scotland. Right. So, I suggested, it’s perfectly all right to call you European because the U.K. is part of Europe or perhaps I could refer to him as British because he was from the British Isles? That person’s national identity raised his hackles and he insisted that no, he was Scottish. I made my point. He conceded. (In fact, you won’t find anyone from the U.K. agree that they are European, in my experience, and even moreso now since Brexit.)

I think the writer of the Outside blog post is right, American travelers, (or travelers from anywhere) you should be proud of where you’re from and when you travel, just remember the Golden Rule. It all comes down to respect, doesn’t it? If you treat people with respect and use good manners, they’ll respect you in return. Don’t get cranky because things are not the same as at home. You aren’t home! You travel to experience new things. Why would you want them to be the same? If you find that people from other countries assume Americans are rude and obnoxious travelers, prove them wrong and change that reputation.  Travel, enjoy, come home with wonderful memories!

You can see what Krista at Bite-Sized Travel is up to here, and she does a great weekend mailing list with loads of interesting finds about travel, packing and planning and you can also read her blog posts about all the places she’s been and is planning to go.

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Where Have I Been?

Galway Bay, Ireland

Galway Bay, Republic of Ireland

It occurs to me that, while I have posted twice before about travel wish lists (here and here , both fairly similar posts, I’m afraid),  I haven’t really made a post listing all the various places I have visited. I’ve probably posted photos from every country I’ve touched down on, or a good many of them at least but a full list, for my own records as much as anything (and probably more detail than you’re interested in), includes:

Countries:

  • Canada (where I live): I have visited the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, where I live. We’re going to BC again this fall, my husband’s first trip there, and hope to see a bit more of Vancouver Island and maybe outside of the Vancouver area if we have time.  My husband hasn’t been to Ottawa so we really should go there so he can see the capital of his adopted country.
  • United States. We’ve both visited (me alone and us together) the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey (that one’s just mine), Massachussetts. New Hampshire and Vermont were drive-thrus and New Jersey was for a training course so I didn’t see much of it aside from the hotel and training facility, and a little of the countryside on a bus between Parsippany, Newark to Manhattan.
  • United Kingdom including Wales and Scotland but not yet Northern Ireland. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting England to see my fella before we were married but I’d already had a handful of visits there before I even met him, including a couple of bus tours.
  • Ireland (a bus tour, Dublin as part of the tour and also just to see friends, twice to see friends in Cobh including a wedding)
  • France (Paris, twice for me, once for him, and I was also in Nice with day trips both east a little ways and west into Monaco which were part of a high school trip)
  • The Netherlands (We took in Amsterdam and the open air museum in Arnhem)
  • Belgium (Brussels, Bruges)
  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Italy (I’ve been on a bus tour around the country including San Marino, a short visit to Rome as part of my high school trip to Rome, Paris and the south of France and we visited Rome a few years ago)
  • Vatican City (Part of the high school tour,  bus tour of Italy and the two of us together)
  • San Marino (a tiny principality in Italy, we stayed here overnight on the bus tour)
  • Monaco (as a day trip from Nice on the high school tour)
  • Iceland (that was just in the airport, changing flights en route to London)
St Peters and Via Concilliazone

St. Peter’s, Vatican City

In the grand scheme of things, my list of countries I’ve visited isn’t that long compared to how many there are but I have made a lot of repeat visits to the United Kingdom.

 

I won’t go into the wish lists again, you can read through those links above if you have a burning desire to know. I won’t be insulted if you don’t!

I’ll never be able to afford to travel as much as I want but I enjoy what I can do and try to go some different places even if I’ve been to a location before, maybe just a museum new to me or a different day trip outside of a city.  I’ve been to London over a dozen times and *still* haven’t seen quite a lot of the areas such as Notting Hill and much of the East End which has a few really interesting museums and loads of markets.

I’m determined to lengthen that “been there” list a little more before I shuffle off my mortal coil.

Oh: Edited to add: I meant to add this link. I’ve got my own website where I have travelogues written for most of the trips I’ve taken, long and short journeys, here at The Voice of Reason.

Don’t Blame Canada

Halifax skyline

There was a song released some years ago based on the South Park tv show, called Blame Canada. Fun little send up of us Canadians but on the eve of the country of Canada’s 150th birthday, I’d like to state that I’m really proud of being a Canadian. I feel very lucky to live here in one of the best countries in the world. Without getting political, can I just say that my country, the second largest in the world (physically) contains extraordinary scenery and the loveliest people from the west coast to the east coast and all points from the southern borders to the chilly Arctic ocean in the north.

Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

Travel to Canada, you guys. There’s something here for everyone, no matter what your interests are. Just remember, we don’t have snow in the summer, we do say “Eh?”, Timmys (aka Tim Hortons) is a popular coffee chain where you can always get a drink, a light meal and where there’s usually always a toilet if you get caught by chance! We apologize a lot, we talk about the weather because it changes frequently. In one day. Or an hour. We don’t know your cousin who lives in Vancouver or Toronto. You can’t do a day trip from Halifax to Montreal unless you fly.(it takes you the best part of a day to drive there!) In fact, it takes 5 or 6 days to drive from one side of the country to the other. There are whales. There are icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is theatre. There are wineries. Golf? We have golf. Lots of it. Recreated historic fortresses and Open Air historic villages.

If you visit, and I strongly urge you to, take one area, one province or one small region and explore it. There’s too much of Canada to do in one trip. Because I’m not objective, I think you should start on the east with the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Nova Scotia Tourism
New Brunswick Tourism
Prince Edward Island Tourism
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Here is an album of a small sample of some of the photos I’ve taken in this part of the country over the years.

Dalhousie University campus, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Come for the fresh seafood chowder!

Find rustic corners to explore

Nova Scotia’s Bluenose II

Rural Prince Edward Island

Yes, it does snow in the winter sometimes!

The things you find on the way to a toilet

Lepreau Falls, New Brunswick

Lepreau Falls, New Brunswick

We were heading west on Hwy. 1 through New Brunswick on our recent overnight trip to and from the US/Canada border (that’s a story for another time). We’d just passed Saint John and decided we needed to find a gas station to use the public toilets and would fill up the gas tank while we were at it. We came off the highway at exit 86 where a sign indicated there would be a gas station. We turned onto a smaller road and found it. But it turned out that both of their public toilets were out of order! Yikes! That shouldn’t be allowed, it really shouldn’t.

I leaned over and asked the busy cashier where the next one was. He thought a minute and said there was something about 10 minutes down the road but someone else in the queue suggested Lepreau. Ok, that’s good. We started driving and passed a sign for Lepreau Falls and drove over a bridge that was signed for the Lepreau River. We’ve got to be close. But we didn’t see anything that might have a public facility in it. Nothing. No more houses. We turned around and took the little road for the Falls but it looked pretty quiet.

My husband thought perhaps it was a park and might have public facilities. Sure enough we spotted a small shack like building that had potential and to our relief, it was indeed a two sided public toilet (one side for men and one for women, naturally). We parked and availed ourselves.

When I came out of my side of the building, I could hear water running and went to the back of the building where spotted a wooden planked and fenced platform with a picnic table and it overlooked a view of a lovely little waterfall! That, then, was Lepreau Falls.

We went back to have a look and take a few pictures. It was a very pretty place and we noticed on the drive out, there were 2 or 3 more look off points over the the falls and the river, again with picnic tables. I have since discovered this is a provincial park and there is camping nearby as well.

The things you find on the way to a toilet! Little discoveries like this are what make road trips fun!

Impromptu Road Trip!

StAndrews-Map

Well now.

For all my moaning about not having an upcoming trip to plan, one just fell into my lap. It’s only a quick road trip for a “YAY!!” reason but it counts!  We will be organizing a major trip, hoping to do that next year sometime depending on how the savings are mounting up but until we know for sure, I could only do some general websurfing.

I have the first week in August booked off holidays from work. I booked a rental car yesterday morning, and we had a couple of possible day trips or an overnighter to my cousin’s cottage, exploring the south shore of Nova Scotia. Backtracking a bit to June, my husband was informed that his application to be a Permanent Resident of Canada was approved. We’ve been waiting for the official paperwork/certificate to arrive at the office of the Immigration consultant who would then have us in for a meeting to go over the last bits and pieces. We knew that we would have to cross the Canadian border for an official “landing” though we had thought we could actually do it here in Halifax.

Yesterday, I called the office and they said they were just going to call me and tell me they’d received the papers but also to tell me that we couldn’t do the interview in Halifax and we’d have to go to the border after all. That means…road trip!

It’s about a 6 hour drive to the US border at St. Stephen, New Brunswick/Calais, Maine. There is another border crossing a bit further north at Houlton, Maine and it’s about the same amount of driving time. It’s a long way to go to come back the same day so an overnight in a hotel is in order. While looking around, I came across some nice hotels at St. Andrews, New Brunswick and have discovered that it’s a historic old resort town and a lovely little spot.

It’s high tourist season but I did find a nice place and booked it. I discovered today that it’s closer to the border than I thought. I got mixed up with directions on Google maps yesterday but when I double checked today, it’s only about a half hour. That’s great and gives us a little more time to see a bit of the town in the evening. If we leave early, we can get to the border mid afternoon. I don’t know how long it will take there, but, optimistically, let’s say about an hour and we can then be in St. Andrews by about 4 pm. A good few hours yet until sunset with time to walk around and take in the pretty main streets and little shops..

Perhaps a bit more exploring in the morning before heading out on the road again.  A possibly stop in St. John to have a cuppa with a cousin and a stop in Moncton for supper with my best friend and home by dark! It’s a quick trip but it’s necessary to gather up and tie  the red tape in a bow. I don’t think we’ll go into the US and do any shopping this time but another trip might be planned to do that, and visit Campobello Island perhaps.

I’ll write another post later on the town of St. Andrews. It’s quite historic and is one of Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful Towns, in the opinion of this site (though I beg to differ on their inclusion of Niagara Falls. The falls themselves are amazing but the city is neon-tacky. Also, a few of their choices are cities, not towns but that’s being pedantic, I suppose. I heartily endorse the lovely Mahone Bay in my own province)

Proud

In a departure from my usual travel related topics, this post is about pride, in more definitions than one.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto's Pride parade, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Toronto’s Pride parade, 2016

Toronto had their annual Pride parade over the weekend. They have a huge parade, one of the biggest in the world. For the first time ever, a Canadian Prime Minister made history by  participating and marching in the parade and from all accounts and photos, looked like he had a fantastic time. It’s not the first Pride parade he’s marched in, but the first as the Canadian Prime Minster.

He dressed casually, not in a suit, he allowed himself to be doused with water pistol ammunition. And a young man who marched with him  in his group turned out to be a short, gay HIV+ Syrian refugee whose life has probably been saved by immigrating here, considering he had more stacked against him in his former country than just politics.

PM Justin Trudeau and Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash to the right, holding the Canadian flag

PM Justin Trudeau and Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash to the right, holding the Canadian flag

I am proud to live in a country that took on some of the refugees. I am proud that my Prime Minister even went to the airport late at night to greet the first families that arrived and invited at least one refugee who was gay to march in his entourage in the parade. I’m proud that the PM did march in the parade and celebrated with everyone.

Halifax has a fun Pride parade later in the month, in a couple of weeks and I will probably go unless it’s teeming down. In anticipation of Pride Week here, several main intersections downtown and one in Dartmouth have had rainbow panels painted on them. Awesome!

I know that there’s still a lot of negativity towards LGBTQ folks and they are often still targets for violence, even here in Canada and I’m not proud about that but I think,… I hope, little by little it’s changing for the better.

Technology school

Parading in Halifax

Be proud of who you are.

And should you wish to travel to Halifax for the Pride festival, which runs from June 13 – 24 this summer, Check out the website for all of the events happening locally.  In addition to the Parade on the 23rd, there’s the fan favourite Dykes and Divas softball match, a theatre festival, drag shows, a drag queen Bingo night, family barbeques and picnics, concerts, lectures,  a Lip Sync battle, and a lot more.

Five Photos / Five Days – Who lived here

East coastal route HouseDriving along a rural road in the tiny province of Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada, we spied this little house. What made it unusual is that the garden growing in front was very well tended. It’s clear nobody lived there but someone nearby had taken advantage of the extra space to plant their own garden!

I’ve taken up the Five Photos/Five Days Black and White Challenge and one of the “rules” is to nominate someone to take up the challenge as well. I don’t want anyone to feel obligated and since I’ve nominated two already, that’s it on that account. Feel free to take up the challenge if you like!

A Word A Week – Traditional

It’s that time of the week again when Sue at A Word in Your Ear posts a random word for a photo challenge. I can almost never pick just one photo and this is no different. This week’s challenge word is “Traditional”.

I’m lucky to live in a city with lots of history. We are a sea port and Halifax was founded as a military establishment originally. We have a citadel fort on a hill overlooking the city, the fourth structure on that spot since the city was founded in 1749 but it has never fired a gun in aggression or defence.

There is a tradition of firing the gun off at noon every day, though. You could set your watch by it! The fort also has a regiment of infantry foot, a reenactment group representing the original regiment stationed at the fort in 1869 – 1871. They are the 78th Highlanders and there is also a pipe and drum band for the 78th as well. If you visit the Citadel you can see the infantry drills and hear the music of the pipes and drums.

Another tradition that is still kept is a ceremony every summer in front of City Hall, on the spot that has long been a Grand Parade Square (though much smaller than it was when the city was founded). The 78th Highlanders are ceremonially given the Freedom of the City by proclamation of the Mayor. They march from the Citadel down the hill to the parade square for a public ceremony. That’s pretty interesting to watch, as well.

For a number of years, there were Highland Games held in Halifax though they haven’t been held for the last few years. Lack of funding, I fear. Highland Games are a very long standing tradition in Scotland and are also held other places around the world. In addition to the games themselves, you would see music, traditional folk dancing and see lots of booths and displays from the various clans. The town of Antigonish in Nova Scotia still does have a weekend long Highland Games festival and one of these years, I’m going to go.

Here are some photos of local Highland Games and the 78th Highlanders. There’s a video of them in drill formation here.  And there’s a video of one of the participants tossing a caber here. It’s quite something to see.

Freedom of the City for the 78th Highlanders

78th Highlander Drill Team

78th Highlander pipe and drum band

Highland Games – Hammer Toss

Getting ready to toss the caber, a long pole that has to be thrown end over end in a straight line

This is how long the caber is

Clan MacLeod with an impressive set of whiskers

Highland dancing competition

Canadian Passport-to-go

passport_leafI’ve been the owner of a Canadian Passport continually since the early 1990s. I would take it with me into the United States even before they insisted Canadians must have a passport to enter the U.S.A. Up until recently, we had to renew our passport every five years which always seemed ridiculous to me. Most other countries’ passports were good for 10 years and for an adult, that’s sufficient. I’ve always said I’d pay a little extra for a 10 year passport and now it seems I’ve finally got my wish!

My coworker is renewing hers this year and told me that we now have the option to renew for either five or ten years! The current passport fee is a stinging $120 (it was just under $100 last time I renewed, about 3 and a half years ago) but for only another $40, it’s good for ten years (plus the cost of the photo, of course, so you can add another $20 on top of that.). That’s great news and about bloody time, Canada!

Little by little, over the years, the Canadian government has started changing their requirements to make it simpler to get or renew a passport. You used to have to have a guarantor that could only be someone of a specified list of professions like doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, dentists, pharmacists, clergy, etc. who have known you for two or more years to certify that you are the person who is applying for the passport. Now, the guarantor just has to be a Canadian Citizen who has a valid passport or one that has expired less than a year, though the two year familiarity rule still holds.

The next change was not really for the better though it’s an understandable one. The technology is changing and many aiports now use retinal recognition so now, if you wear glasses, you must take them off for the photo or ensure that the frame doesn’t cover any part of your eye or eyebrow whatsoever. Easier just to take them off. Avoids glare as well. The part I really hate is that you can’t smile in the photo anymore. I really hate that. Passport photos are bad enough without being able to at least attempt to soften the “Prixoner in Cellblock B” look with a smile. I suppose, again, it’s to do with your eyes needing to be completely visible. Still sucks though.

My passport isn’t expired until, I think, next year so I will definitely be going for the ten year option.

Online forms to download here
Canadians should probably register here before they travel out of the country. Helps if they need to contact you in an emergency.
Here’s a general “dashboard” for links and resources for Canadian travellers.

Cee’s Black & White Challenge – Abandoned

Cee’s Photography blog issues weekly photo challenges, this one in black and white.

We were driving through the back roads of Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. We’d arrived by ferry and were traveling along the east coastal route, heading for Georgetown (PEI’s original capital) where my cousin lives. As we drove along, I spied this little cottage that looked abandoned and indeed it does seem to be but the garden out front was lovingly tended.

East coastal route House

Prince Edward Island, along the eastern coastal route

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