The spotlight’s shining on Canada more these days and it’s easy to see why. It’s got everything going for it; vibrant cities, lively cultural scene, superb food and drink, stunning landscape, impressive wildlife, fascinating history, friendly people and relaxed lifestyle. In other words, Canada’s a country that satisfies your Mind, Body AND Spirit and can have a transformative effect on its many visitors.
Canada – Mind, Body, Spirit Experiences
I first went to Canada on a media trip to Montreal and Quebec City. With its magical combination of Canadian warmth, French-influenced cuisine and historic sights, I was totally won over. Subsequent visits have only served to consolidate my love affair; here are a few reasons why.
Getting up close to a grizzly bear cub at Knight Inlet BC
Through the cool morning mist, a gangly grizzly bear cub appears from the forest and tentatively makes his way across an assault course of rocks to the water’s edge. We hold our breath as he lifts his head and sniffs the air. He seems to stare right out at us, drifting silently in our little boat, cameras held steady, hoping he won’t flee. Seemingly satisfied that there’s no imminent threat, he bends his head and starts to gently turn over stones. Our guide whispers that he’s getting to the juiciest mussels and tiny shrimps that live on the shoreline. Grizzly-bear watching is one of Canada’s most awesome experiences.
The cub’s huge claws pick up a mouthful of marine snacks and we hear the sound of crunching, echoing eerily across the water. A curious beaver lifts his head beside the boat, looks at us in surprise and hastily disappears in a flurry of ripples. A white-headed sea eagle drifts lazily above Knight Inlet as the munching continues and we start to capture the moment on camera – only nothing can truly capture this moment. You just have to be there …
Read More about Bear Watching in British Columbia here: A Digital Detox with Bears in Knight Inlet
Absorbing First Nation traditions in Canada’s Desert Landscape
A distinctive herby scent permeates the air, vaguely familiar. Thyme? Basil? “This is the sage bush, used by Syilx people of the Okanagan Valley for hundreds of years, helping to aid digestion, improve skin problems, flavour food and for spiritual cleansing.” I’m at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos, the hottest part of Canada, on a walking trail through the living history of this area. The scrubby landscape and burning sun are in great contrast to the more familiar image of Canada, yet this area is rich in the traditions of its First Nations. I see teepees made from animal skins and peer inside a Sweat Lodge, trying to imagine what it might have been like to experience the purification ceremony of prayer and healing. The Centre is run by the Osoyoos Indian Band, who keep alive the memory of their ancestors and educate us all in their ways of life.
Read more about Nk’Mip and the Okanagan Valley here: Two Contrasting First Nation Sites in Canada
Feeling on Top of the World in the Rockies
Exhilaration spreads through my body like an electric current. We’ve made it. We’re here, on top of Whistler Mountain in the heart of the Rockies, with the famous Icefields Parkway wending its way in the distance from Jasper to Bamff. I can’t quite believe it. Just over a week ago, a friend and I had set off from Vancouver on an epic road trip in an RV (recreational vehicle = motorhome) through unknown territory with a fair degree of trepidation. With no mishaps and lots of fun, we’d arrived a the highlight of our trip and it was totally awe-inspiring. The Rocky Mountains may not be the highest mountains in the world but they are wonderfully easy to get to, look like you expect mountains to look (ie pointy often with snow on top) and make you feel great just being around them. Uplifting Canada – Mind, Body, Spirit at its most maginifenct.
Read more about the Rockies here: Top 10 Memorable Moments from Canada Road Trip
Discovering the fascinating story of Canada in Ottawa
Sightless eyes gaze down on upturned faces. Bleached wood shows the age of ancient First Nation totems towering above the visitors in the Grand Hall of Canada Museum of History in Ottawa. With its superb view out towards Parliament Hill, this hall offers ‘an introduction to the history, cultures and beliefs of the First Peoples of Canada’s Pacific Coast‘. In the Canadian History Hall, visitors can discover ‘the events, personalities and historical currents that have shaped Canada — from time immemorial to the present day’. Mind, Body and Spirit come together in intriguing harmony in Canada’s capital city. Its low-key charm reflects the country’s identity, with wide open parks, eclectic museums, quirky art galleries and creative theatres, diverse food and drink venues alongside a bustling social scene.
Read more about Ottawa here: Top things to see and do in Ottawa
Eating soul-satisfying poutine in Montreal
Cheese curds and French Fries topped with gravy may be a surprise culinary choice for someone who adores Canadian food and knows its cuisine is outstanding. However, I’ve included it in this list of Canada Mind, Body, Spirit experiences because it is, quite simply, the most satisfying soul food I’ve eaten in all my visits. I was on an eclectic food tour of Montreal and tried a vast array of dishes from around the globe, including Chinese Dragon’s Beard Candy, Vietnamese Banh Mi, Jewish potato latkes and the legendary Hungarian smoked meat sandwich from Schwatz’s Deli but it was the silkily voluptuous poutine from the Montreal Pool Room that stole my heart. Poutine originated in the Canadian province of Quebec in the late 1950s. For many years, it was perceived negatively and mocked but now it’s celebrated as a symbol of Québécois cultural pride. You mustn’t take my word for it – just go there and try it.
Read more about Quebec Province food here: The pleasure of eating out in Quebec City
Finding tranquility on Île d’Orléans in Quebec Province
Crossing the bridge we enter another land, seemingly far away from the quaint lanes of historic Quebec City, yet in reality only a 15 minute drive. We are now in delightfully rural yet highly accessible Île d’Orléans on the St Lawrence River. There are very few tourists and the roads are quiet. We meander past charming farm houses surrounded by orchards and scented fields of fruit and herbs. Tempted by the winery at Sainte-Pétronille, we drive on around the island, past the Parc Maritime in Saint-Laurent to Saint-Jean where I buy a jar of delicious local strawberry jam. Sitting beside the river, gazing out towards the famous Montmorency Falls opposite, higher than Niagara Falls, I can imagine the thunder of the water, yet all is tranquil here in this little slice of Canadian heaven …
Read more about Île d’Orléans here: A trip to Île d’Orleans and Montmorency Falls
Visit Explore Canada to find for more inspiring experiences in this amazing country and check out the hashtag #forglowinghearts
Sponsor Post: Many thanks to Destination Canada for hosting my visits to Canada. All views and photos are my own. I do hope this will encourage you to encounter many Canada Mind, Body, Spirit experiences for yourself. Make sure you get your Canadian Government Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before booking tickets. NB Anyone charging more than $7.50 is not the official government site www.canada.gc.ca/immigration