Things To Do In Canada — Fort Steele, BC

Things To Do In BCYou know that ‘someday’ list we all seem to make? The one that just keeps getting longer? Yeah, that’s the one…underneath your coffee cup. Well, I’ve got one too, and I plan on knocking off a few items this summer.

One of the items on my list, aside from stopping in at the Royall Tyrel Museum in Drumheller, is a stop at wonderful Fort Steele, a restored and reconstructed pioneer town situated at the foot of the Great Canadian Rocky Mountains. Not far from Cranbrook, this delightful little town began as a small collection of homes and was driven by gold rush and mineral discoveries until it died out in the early 1900s. One step on the dusty street and you’ll easily lose 150 years or so.

The cars disappear. There’s no loud music, and all signs of modern life seem to melt away. I haven’t been there since I was a young kid, but even then you could feel the stress dissipate. It seemed almost pushed out by a simpler life that somehow envelops you like a favourite childhood blanket.

Read the rest of this post on Travel The Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/things-to-do-canada-fort-steele-bc/

US, UK & Canada — How Hard Is the Recession Really Hitting Us?

US, UK, Canada and the RecessionBecause I work for clients throughout the globe, I’m often asked if the recession has hit us hard here in Canada. I’d like to say yes, but as an outsider watching the US economy and the world as a whole, I’m really not so sure. It has certainly affected us, I don’t think anyone is exempt from it entirely, but I certainly don’t think it has crippled us the way it has so many others.

US and the Recession

The US as a whole seems to have been hit really hard. People are going homeless by the droves, homes are sitting empty, and don’t even get me started on the banks and auto industry. Entire states are going broke and there seems to be no end to the fallout. It’s no surprise that low-income families are feeling the brunt of things and children are experiencing a higher level of stress.

Not everything seems to be going horribly wrong there, however. Some industries seem to be doing quite well. Some people who were fortunate enough to play their cards right also seem to be profiting quite nicely.

UK, Ireland, Europe, and the Rough Economic Waters

Across the big pond, you don’t seem to notice the people dumping their Irish credit cards too quickly or going sour on their mortgages. Their systems have undoubtedly tightened up, but it doesn’t seem to be too serious, or at least not to the point that people becoming homeless like they are in the US. Everyone there seems to be making it through relatively unscathed with a few adjustments in the way they’re doing things.

People seem to travel just as much including the Irish, reward credit cards in hand, having a good time. Of course, many are staying a little closer to home, or going less frequently, but overall, it seems unaffected. Shopping seems alive and well, the housing market has slowed down a bit, but all in all, pretty good.

Canada and the Current Economy

Canada has survived in about the same manner as Europe and the UK. We’ve seen a bit of a slump, but not like the US. Yes, some people here have lost their jobs and their homes, but Saskatchewan has also created a record number of jobs to give it the lowest unemployment rate in the country. In my own copywriting business, I’ve experienced exponential growth because everyone seems to be moving to the Internet either for improved marketing or just to start a business and a new income stream.

Our retail industry is slow, but not as bad as you’d think. Everyone seems to be finding a way to make ends meet. People are changing their spending habits, and considering how out of control this seemed to be, it’s certainly for the better. Those who don’t, well, they’ll figure it out eventually.

I’ve seen entire towns continue to spend until the money dried up then attempt to defend themselves when taxpayers started getting angry. Germany has also seemed to discover what happens when you gamble a little too much.

The way I see it, we’ll all learn and rise from the ashes. Some just take a little longer than others.

(This post can also be found on Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/us-uk-canada-recession/)

The One Thing Saskatchewan Doesn’t Have

Rollercoasters and Other Fun RidesHave you ever been to Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England? Well, if you haven’t, you should definitely check out this theme park in the UK. Of all the theme parks I’ve seen in the UK, this one would definitely top my list of spots to see on a holiday. It’s packed full of rides, all kinds of shows to see, great places to eat and grab something to drink including the treats that theme parks are known for. Then, there’s an awesome hotel to stay in right there.

Cool right? Well, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any amusement parks or theme parks…not permanent ones anyway. I’m not sure why, but I’m thinking that I’d have a pretty good idea after trying to get my skin unstuck from the metal roller-coaster after a ride at -40 during a snowstorm would tell me.

We do get rides, but for those, you’ll want to attend Agribition in Regina or one of the local rodeos or stampedes. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any fun rides though.

Kenosee Superslides Waterpark

Instead of the Infusion or the Avalanche roller-coaster in the UK, which do look like tons of fun, you’ll find Twister, Bonzai, and Kids slides at Kenosee Superslides Waterpark. (You’ll find this exciting place close to Carlyle in Southeastern Saskatchewan). Anyway, tons of fun things to do here too, even if you aren’t quite that adventurous.

There’s tubing and the ‘Lazy Canal’ as well as shopping at the clothing store, sports such as volleyball, and all kinds of special events. Then, you can grab something to eat while you’re there, or enjoy some of the other local attractions in the area including the Bear Claw Casino and all of the events and activities hosted there.

Sundance Hot Air Balloon Rides

There’s absolutely no better way to see the beauty of Saskatchewan than from the calm, drifting serenity of a famous Sundance Hot Air Balloon. For around an hour, you can see the best of Saskatchewan from a 1000 feet in the air. There’s no dealing with busy airports, gates, or trying to sit comfortably in the middle seat. You’ll also enjoy the immense peace and quiet of this form of air travel as well.

Sundance offers ride in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset through most of the year, so you can go when it works best from you. You’ll also want to make sure that you remember your camera so that you can preserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Horse Drawn Sleigh and Carriage Rides in Beautiful Saskatoon

If you like a touch of the old, a horse and carriage (or sleigh ride) around Saskatoon’s Spadina Crescent is perfect. You’ll enjoy a slow and relaxing tour of the city’s best areas just as Saskatchewan pioneers would have a hundred or more years ago. You can even havea fire and warm up to end your trip off nicely. It’s certainly romantic and the kids will love it. Regardless who you bring along, it will be one of those activities you’ll never forget. Mmmm roasted marshmallows. Anyone else craving marshmallows? Now where was I? Oh yeah…

Sadly, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any full-time theme parks like the UK, but the rides it does have are just as special. Try them out for yourself and see.

(This post also appears on Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-doesnt-have/)

UK, US, and Canuck Health Care Systems — Has Canada Really Got It That Bad?

Healthcare in Canada UK USYou remember our little discussion the other day about the differences in financial systems? Yeah, well, I’m still thinkin about the general idea of how different our cultures are. I’ve found the health care debates in the US particularly fascinating. Now, I wonder if Canada has the best idea

Health Care In The UK

The social health care system in the UK seems to be a hybrid between the US and Canadian systems. For instance, it costs them nothing to see a doctor during the day. However, if they’d like a private session after hours, the patient makes the arrangements and pays for the service. Seems fair enough to me. Oh, and like Canada, there’s often a waiting list to get in for some services.

When it comes to prescriptions, UK residents play a flat fee per medication. However, those with a low income can apply for free prescriptions (Now this is something Canada could certainly use!) This all sounds good, but not everything in terms of healthcare is free. For example, women in the UK are getting Botox injections and facelifts to look younger. And, because these are an elective treatment, the costs fall fully on the patient, but they actually aren’t that horribly expensive.

Canadian Health Care

I’ll admit that I’ve spent a lot of time going through the health care system, and I have to say that generally, it’s pretty darn good. Yes, we have a significant issue with waiting lists. And yes, there seems to be a ‘get ’em in and get ’em out’ attitude in some places, but I’ve never been turned away for care. Ever. Even when I panicked as a first time mom, and ran to the emergency for my son’s first cold.

I’ve also paid for elective surgeries and treatments. Unfortunately, this also includes regular, everyday items like birth control pills, even when it was for medical reasons rather than for preventing pregnancy. And like those living in the UK, I’ve considered plastic surgery such as a tummy tuck, which I’m going to have to pay for regardless where we live. It doesn’t bother me though. I mean it’s like choosing between an old Ford Taurus and a Lexus right? Not necessary. Just nice.

I do think that Canada could take a few cues from the US and the UK when it comes to private care.

What Canada Can Learn From US and the UK

In the US, the government wants to offer government run insurance, and it sounds to me like they’ll also have some government run facilities. If you can afford to buy insurance and think a private company can offer your family something better. And, as I mentioned before, doctors can work privately after hours.

Why can’t Canada adopt similar policies? If you want to get in faster, or have an elective surgery, why can’t you pay for it all? You’d get what you want as a patient, the doctors could earn extra money, and it would ease some of the strain on our health care system? Makes sense to me. If you don’t want to pay for it, or can’t afford it, you’re good.

I don’t know. What do you think? Overall, I think Canadians have it pretty good.

(This post also appears on Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/uk-us-canuck-health-care-canada/)

Hey Everyone, Let’s Go Snorkeling…In Manitoba?

Snorkel with the Belugas in ManitobaYep, those crazy Manitobans have lost it. The cold has finally gotten to their brains. They must figure they’re part of the tropics or something. Apparently, when you visit Churchill, known for its polar bears, you can toss on your snorkeling gear, dive into the Hudson Bay, and swim with the belugas.

Oooo Dive into the Hudson Bay? Must be cold enough to freeze your knickers to your backside right? Well, it isn’t warm like it would be in the Caribbean, but it’s certainly warm enough to enjoy.

The whole activity starts every July by the arrival of an estimated 3,000 belugas to the warmer waters of the Bay and nearby rivers. They’ll stay here in order to give birth to their young, feed, frolic, and sing until the middle of August, when they return to their northern home.

If you’d like to witness this for yourself and listen to the beautiful songs of the belugas and their calves, you’ll want to visit Sea North Tours, who offers tours ranging from two to three hours long. A little scared about getting in the water with these graceful animals? Don’t worry. Wildlife and tour experts assure the public that these animals are not dangerous in any way.

The adventure starts out with everyone in wet or dry suits taking a relaxing boat ride out to the whale’s favorite spots. Once there, you’ll be instructed to put on the rest of your gear and hang onto a rope that will allow you to drift along or be pulled gently behind the boat, in the crystal clear water. (You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any gear with you. All of it is available for rent!) This method also makes it possible for non-swimmers to have the same experiences.

The mammal music is stunning, but as remarkable as that is, it isn’t what most people seem to remark about first. One trait that makes these animals so popular to swim with is their level of humanity and interaction.

When they swim upside down and cock their necks to look at you, you can see that they are as interested in you as you are in them. They look at you and communicate so much with their eyes. As Doreen Macri of Sea North Tours says, ‘They are almost speechless when they get back to shore.”

This activity is ideal for almost anyone’s vacation since there’s no age or size limit. You’ll also find this adventure is extremely affordable. If you’d like more information, visit the Sea North Tours website or Travel Manitoba.

Just a few quick notes:

Just because Saturday is 40th Anniversary of 7-11’s Slurpees in Canada, a useless fact for you: Winnipeg consumes more Slurpees per capita than any other city in Canada.

A big thank you to Cathy, Manager of Media Relations at Travel Manitoba for diligently sending info and keeping me up to date on what’s going on in the province. It’s greatly appreciated. You’re a real gem!

(This post can also be found at Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/snorkeling-manitoba/)

How Much Are Canadians Like Their UK Counterparts — A Look at Financial Systems

It doesn’t seem to matter where you live these days, there’s a lot of complaining over high costs and how our financial systems really work. I also know the best way to learn about your world it to look at it from the outside. So, I started to wonder what the real difference is at the ground level. You know, what differences would I notice if I were to move to the UK for instance? After all, our countries can’t be that different. Right?

Canadian and UK Credit Card Deals

I figured if I were going to notice one huge difference, it’d be with my Canadian credit cards. So, I headed to the mbna website to look for the best UK credit card deal. I have to admit that their interest rate of 15.9% was better than ours, which averages somewhere around the 19% mark.

They have low APR credit cards in the UK just like we do here, and the system seems to be exactly the same. Even the application process appeared to be the same. In fact, if I hadn’t seen the little symbol for British Pounds and their phone numbers, I’d have not been able to tell that it wasn’t Canadian.

What I did find interesting, however, was the kinds of credit cards they had. For instance, they had cards that let you support your favorite football team (English football, not our football). They also offered cards that supported charity. I think these are great ideas.

With the football credit cards, you collect points for every Pound you put on the card. Then, when you get enough points, you trade them in for official merchandise and the team receives the money. Charity cards are available too and they work in much the same way.

Of course, we have this kind of thing too, but the money goes back into our own pockets, or we trade them for some cool gadget, rather than giving it to a good cause. Interesting. Does this possibly mean that Canadians are more self-serving than those in the UK?

Mortgages in the UK

It seems that the UK mortgage system isn’t a whole lot different from ours. Anyone with less than perfect credit will find it difficult to get one. And, the housing market seems to be the craps to put it mildly. House prices are falling, and yet they’re giving away fewer and fewer mortgages.

There are a few differences that don’t seem too major, but if you were going to buy a home there, it would make a huge difference. For example, it seems first time homebuyers in the UK have to have 10-15% to put down on their homes. Here, it’s still 5%. Also, those with blemished credit would find it far more difficult to get a mortgage in the UK than they would in Canada. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Canada seems to be moving that way as well.

It seems that the two countries might not be a different in this regards as I thought. But, it certainly seems to outline a difference in the two cultures. Just by looking at the two financial systems alone, it seems that the UK had cut out the needless spending (or just never started). Interesting, and definitely something to consider anyway.

(This post also appears on Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/canadians-uk-financial-systems/)

Qu’appelle River Valley — Where The Land Tells You Its Own Story

Fort Qu'appelle 1910

Fort Qu’appelle 1910

Dividing the province of Saskatchewan from Lake Diefenbaker to the mouth of the great Assiniboine River in Manitoba, the stunning Qu’appelle River (link has a great video of the area!) and its beautiful valley has been the center of many Saskatchewan lives for centuries.

One look and you’ll be in awe of the lay of the land while the kids will be screeching ‘go faster, go faster’ from the back seat. It is definitely the highlight of many road trips.

Qu’appelle Valley — Its History

Historically, both the Hudson’s Bay Company (known as ‘The Bay’ today) as well as the North West Company, which had a post at Fort Esperance, used the river as early as 1781 and 1819 respectively. As a main trading route, many of the goods throughout Canada and Europe during those years came down this river.

The Qu’appelle River Valley was also an important location for the area’s Cree people. The legend says, as a warrior was crossing Echo Lake, he heard a voice call his name. He answered the call by yelling back ‘Qu’appelle’ or ‘who calls’ or ‘who is calling’. The sound he heard was that of his princess who called his name with her dying breath. Many still say they can hear the calls of the two lovers today. (Lebret, Saskatchewan is said to be the best spot for echoes.)

Qu’appelle Valley — The Land

The Qu'appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The Qu’appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The valley was created just after the last ice age. The result of runoff from the glaciers, the fertile land is brimming with native vegetation. Some of the species here are unique to Saskatchewan and the world in some cases. In fact, the area is one of Saskatchewan’s most ecologically sensitive regions.

The water system links Katepwa, Echo, Mission, Pasqua, Round, and Crooked Lakes that come to life from May long weekend until September long weekend. There are tons of places to camp and different events to attend throughout the season. Hiking in the area is fantastic and there are some amazing fishing opportunities all year around.

For me, however, it isn’t the destination that intrigues me as much as the drive. Tons of little back roads and main highways will take you across the river, but they all seem to have one thing in common:

As you approach the valley, you can almost tell something is coming. The roads take you up and down soft river hills and past farmyards that give you a glimpse of life on the farm. My personal favorites are the abandoned farmhouses long since forgotten, but still standing triumphantly against the horizon telling their stories to anyone who will listen.

All of a sudden, you find yourself at the top of a hill and the road all but disappears. You are looking at the hills in the distance (a couple of miles in many spots) with the Qu’appelle River twisting its way through the rugged terrain below. You can see how the water has cut into the land revealing earth than hasn’t been seen for thousands of years. It is like standing on the edge of a cliff and going over knowing you’ll land safely at the bottom.

I will tell you that my favorite ones are the little gravel roads. They have a certain rustic feel that plays my romantic heartstrings and temporarily appeases my hunger for history and culture. Some even wind along the side of the river valley and take you on a quiet scenic tour not many see.

However, I recommend that you not take any of the less traveled roads without knowing for certain which ones to take. Not that you’ll suddenly find yourself without a road at the top of a cliff, but many of them do not take you across the river. You can get lost easily, and with little to no traffic and few farms along the way, it could be a bit tricky finding help. Also, the deep valley also means that cell phone service is patchy at best.

For more information about the area, check out Virtual Saskatchewan’s entry on the Qu’appelle Valley.

(Dedicated to the 4 most loyal readers ever. You guys are the best!)

(This post can also be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/manitoba/quappelle-river-valley-land-story/)