Sunday Special – The Great Trail, Canada


HAPPY CANADA DAY! Today, July 1st, is Canada’s birthday. This nation is relatively young and though we do have some interesting historical sites much of the allure of this country comes from it’s vast and varied natural beauty. Canada has rugged coastlines, serene beaches, vibrant cities, quaint towns, majestic mountains, and incredible wildlife. Really it’s to be expected of the second largest country by landmass.  We are 9,985 square km / 3,855 square miles big! That is a lot of country. Many of us Canadians measure distance by hours (driving, flying, etc) due to its sheer enormity. 

So how can one see this very large place? Well there are a number of ways though today we will look at it from the ground up – The Great Trail. Formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail its construction began in 1992. Twenty-five years later the trail now traverses 24,000 km / 14, 900 mi of the country. The world’s largest recreational trails runs from Newfoundland through to BC, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.  Connecting the country it flows through wilderness areas including some waterways, and both rural and urban communities. Spend a day, a weekend or more on the trails. You can explore the wilds of BC or see the urban landscape of Southern Ontario. Perhaps you want to experience the rustic and coastal beauty of the Atlantic Coast. All this won’t be hard to find as 80% of Canadians live within 30 minutes of the trail which makes it accessible. Plan it all at the website above or download The Great Trail app for both iOS and Android. And if you’re are really energetic you can walk the whole darn thing just as  Dana Meise, the first person to complete it did. Or  like Sarah Jackson who was the first woman to complete the trail. Now that is a long walk.

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Cape Spear, Newfoundland. The most eastern point in North America and where The Great Trail begins (mile zero) – Photo credit: Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada, Cape Spear Newfoundland (41321652542)CC BY 2.0

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The restored Kinsol Trestle on BC’s Vancouver Island, part of The Great Trail – Photo credit: VrsmithKinsol-Trestle-From-Riverside-RoadCC BY-SA 3.0

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The Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail) in Manitoba – Photo is Public Domain

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Sunday Special – Quebec City, Canada


I could not let “Q” go by without showcasing Quebec, “la belle province”. On my list of places to see in my own country is the province’s capital of the same name: Quebec City/Ville de Québec (or simply Quebec) and it’s annual winter festival of Carnaval de Quebec. I want to meet Bonhomme, the mascot of Carnaval.

Quebec City, from what I have heard, is a wonderful gem. Overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway the city was settled by Europeans (France) in 1608 with First Nations people living in the areas for centuries before. One of the oldest cities in North America, Quebec also also retains its ramparts around the Old City (Vieux-Quebec) to this day. In 1985 the “Historic District of Old Quebec” was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An annual and much loved event of Quebec City is its annual winter Carnaval, which runs from end of January to mid-February each year. Growing up I became familiar with images of Bonhomme and his bright red toque. Many events and activities are yours to enjoy during this 100+ year old celebration. Some things to look forward to include:

  • The International Ice Sculpture Competition – amazing creations by artists around the globe
  • The Snow Sculpture Competition – its not just ice that gets turned into art
  • Various Night Parades throughout the weeks – with Bonhomme often leading the way
  • The much loved Canoe Race on the icy waters of the St Lawrence where 60 teams in several categories compete
  • Visit Bonhomme’s Ice Palace and the art it houses
  • How cold can ya handle it? Find out by partaking in the Snow Bath with nothing on but your swimsuit
  • Carnaval related shopping, dining, concerts and more
  • Check the website on January 12, 2018 when the official program will be posted
  • Don’t forget to use #CarnavalQC when posting on social media
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Bonhomme!! – Photo credit – Laserpdb, Carnaval Québec 2011, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Ice sculptures at Carnival – Photo credit: Matias Garabedian from Montreal, Canada, Le 60e Carnaval de Québec (12665475763), CC BY-SA 2.0

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Ice canoeing competition at Carnaval de Quebec – Photo credit:  Cephas, Ice canoeing Quebec 2016 2, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mixing Business With Pleasure


My work rarely takes me away on business yet this week was an exception. I decided to attend a one-day course in Victoria, BC – the capital city of the province of British Columbia. Located on the southern end of Vancouver Island it is a quaint city of 85,000 that I find it fairly walkable within its city core. Taxis and public transit are available as well.

Even though this was a work trip I added an extra day (Friday) to explore and invited my BFF Cat to join me. She was cool with checking out the city on her own while I was at my course on Saturday. For one to make their way to Victoria there are a few options. Of course there is flying as they do have an airport, particularly common if you are coming from further away. If you are heading over from Vancouver there is the added option of taking one of the sea planes with Harbour Air (and possibly the quickest option). Though the most common route is taking the ferry. BC Ferries has regular sailings from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry terminals, transporting both vehicles and foot passengers. Being the latter, Cat and I both used Vancouver’s and Victoria’s transit systems to arrive at the respective ferry terminals as both of them are a decent drive away from the cities. 

We had both decided on some of the things we wanted to see and proceeded to head out as soon as we arrived at our hotel. We lucked out that the rain in Greater Vancouver did not reach Victoria and we were able to meander the town without need of umbrellas, at least on the Friday. As both of us had visited here before we had a bit of an idea of where we were going (okay, actually Cat did as her sense of direction is far superior to mine. LOL). Some areas were planned and others were found by chance. I will show you most of the trip by way of photos yet list a few of the places (with links if applicable) that we saw.

  • Fall colours at Beacon Hill Park where we hung out with both peacocks and Canada Geese
  • Admired the First Nation’s totems and buildings at Thunder Bird Park
  • Strolled along the streets of the downtown core, popping into shops and admiring some of the character of the buildings
  • Walked down Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown, snooping around all the cute shops and then took in the rest of Chinatown
  • Stopped in for shopping and tea at Silk Road Tea (my fav – take my money!!)
  • Popped into Munro’s Books, a beautiful store that has served Victoria for over 50 years and started by Jim Munro and his then wife, author Alice Munro
  • Quenched our thirst at two local craft beer breweries: Vancouver Island Brewery and Phillips Brewing
  • Perused the artisan shops at Victoria Public Market (again, take my money!!)
  • Bought some yummy bread to take home at Fol Epi Bakery (Yates St location) 

All in all a good weekend. Not a bad way to spend a partial work weekend (even if it rained part of the time). Victoria, I’ll be seeing you again.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders the World.

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Panorama of Beacon Hill Park

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First Nations totems at Thunderbird Park

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The entrance to Chinatown’s Fan Tan Alley

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British Columbia Provincial Legislative Assembly  lit up at night

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Witches in Victoria! LOL

My Top 5 Favourite Countries


Another Top 5 for ya! This time round will be my favourite countries that I’ve wandered about. This differs from my favorite cities because in many cases I have only seen one city within a country. This in turn does not always give me a feel for the whole nation.  Of the countries listed, I have visited at least two locales, if not more. And as always, this list is in flux as I continue to travel and see more.

  1. IRELAND – How I love this country. It’s lush and green and stunning. I feel comfortable there. I did not think I could love a place as much as Paris yet Ireland swept me away. I want to move here. It is my happy place.
  2. Myanmar – I did not know what to expect from Myanmar really. I had done some research yet still I did not know how it would go. It went with love, that is how it went. Even though I had some tummy issues, was harangued by locals to buy items, and was only so-so about Yangon (though I loved Bagan), I was still mesmerized by this place. When I think of it I am back there with a smile.
  3. India – I dream of returning to India to see more of it. My visit was like a tease even though it was a month long. India plays on all your senses. It is crazy, it is chaotic, it is beautiful, it is loud, it is colourful, it draws you in and I can’t wait for that to happen again.
  4. United Kingdom – For a small island there is plenty to see and do. I just really like the U.K. So much of it is old, it has history (well compare to Canada) which is something I love to learn about anywhere I go. And Scotland has amazing whisky so that should just sum it up. 
  5. Canada – Yes, I know. I was born and raised in Canada. I can (and do) love it. This is a vast and varied country. I have not seen nearly as much as I’d like though that will change. The natural beauty here is some of the best in the world. 

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

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Pub life in Killarney, Ireland

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Myanmar sunset over the Irrawaddy River

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The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India

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Chester Rows in Chester, England. Love the old-world charm

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Canadian West Coast sunset