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Our neighbors to the North have some very beautiful places to visit, above and beyond the common ones that pop into mind when you say " Canada". Even for a dyed in the wool hockey fan like me can find so much more to see and do in this beautiful country than you could shake a hockey stick at! Canada has many festivals, each celebrating a different aspect of their culture. First, there are the theatre festivals featuring some of the best in theatrical entertainment. There are three festivals featuring Shakespeare: In Stratford, Ontario, (which is a really well done one), Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, British Colombia, and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The English Bard not your cup of tea? There are no less than thirteen other festivals, some available in both English and French, ranging from frothy comedy to dark drama. If you want to do something more active or adventurous, Canada offers plenty of both as well. Toronto is Canada's largest city, and has plenty to offer.
Of course, I would have to give up my hockey fan status if I did not mention that the Hockey Hall of Fame is here, but trust me, it is only one of many, many things to do here. World class fine dining is available in the Distillery District as well as many art galleries to delight the senses. Toronto is also home to the Royal Ontario Museum and the world renowned Toronto Zoo. Oh, okay, it is also the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Montreal is not only home to the NHL's Canadians, it is filled with some of the most beautiful cathedrals in all the world. It includes the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral which is a 1/4 scale copy of St. Peter's in Rome. Montreal also has a Planetarium, a Biosphere and some of the most fabulous architecture anywhere. Ottawa is Canada's fourth largest city, and home of the Ottawa Senators. Its top draw is Parliament Hill, but Ottawa has some of the finest collection of museums that any city could have. These include the Museum of Civilization, the Science and Technology Museum and the National Aviation Museum. Nature lovers will delight at Gatineau Park and there are many festivals year round, including the Jazz Fest in summer and Winterlude in winter. Edmonton is home to the Oilers and has its own museums and parks to brag about, but if it is shopping that you want, Edmonton may just be your Canadian city. The West Edmonton Mall features 900 stores and has its own IMAX Theater and amusement park, including a separate water park for the kids right on site. It's not just moose and hockey players, is it?
Many things are the same too. We tell time the same way, the clocks in Canada tell time the same as the US. We drive on the same side of the road as you do in the US. Currency - Canadian money comes in coins and bills but we have coloured money and our one dollars (loonies) are in coin. We also have the two dollar coin (toonie). Our paper money is steadily being replaced by plastic money so you will still see a mix of bills in paper and plastic. Metric System - You will manage with the old Imperial system but in Canada we use the Metric system: Mainly you will notice Celsius for temperature. Language - Canada is bilingual. This means there are two official languages: English and French. However, we do not all speak French. English is spoken across Canada, even in Quebec and the Maritime provinces where you are most likely to hear French.
In Quebec, French is the official language of the province. Politics - The main Canadian political parties are Liberal, Conservative and NDP. There are smaller parties like the Green Party but what you really need to know is Canada is not a communist country. Smoking/ Cigarettes - You can not smoke in a public area in Canada. This includes indoors at restaurants. No one will ask if you want smoking or non-smoking because it is all non-smoking. Outside you need to stand far enough from public buildings and entrances to avoid having cigarette smoke entering the premises. Littering - Canadians can get upset about littering. Sure there are some messy areas but, litterbugs are not okay in Canada. Many people will get upset with someone who litters. Shoes Off - When coming into someone's home Canadians remove their shoes at the door. Even if they say it is okay to leave your shoes on, should you ask, it really is customary to take them off. I wouldn't have known about this difference in customs but for my Mother living in the US half the year.