Welcome!

Hi Everyone!

So I’ve decided to do this blog as a bit of a scrap book to record my adventures in Canada, and hopefully give people thinking about going there an idea of what its like. Also webGIS is getting big right now so this seems like a fun way to learn a bit of web design!

Plus everyone does different social things, Facegram, InstaTwit, InBook, Linkeder, Shouting in the Street, etc, and I can’t be assed to remember all those passwords so I’m creating this as a one stop shop, which I can plaster all over the above websites!

I’ll try to add lots of different and interesting things I go along.

Enjoy!

The End, sort of. And some thank-yous

After a busy final day in Toronto, it was time for me to head home. Via St John’s….

Me and Nyssa had a bunch of post camp chores to do, and I had to close down my Canadian bank accounts ready for my return to the UK. I would be bringing some money home with me for university, as well a bunch of Nyssa’s clothes, ready for her to come over in September. We also managed to squeeze in one last drink with Jenn and Romina, before a late night packing session.

I awoke before dawn, and after a tearful parting with Nyssa I made my way out to the airport. My journey included a 12 hour lay-over in St John’s on Canada’s eastern most shores. It’s a new place for me, so I headed out of the airport into town for one last little adventure. To see up close the scenery we all see from the plane, when we’re flying between Canada and the UK.

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Classic Newfoundland scenery.

I sorted my things out after I landed, and headed down into town to take a walk up Signal Hill. It’s probably the biggest tourist attraction in St John’s, and gives a great view over the city and the surrounding coastline. I did a loop up the hill and then along a path that runs bellow the hill along the sea cliffs.

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Really nice day for it….

It was a really nice bit of fresh air and stretch my legs after the first flight, and there was lots of opportunities to learn a little bit about the historic port town, which has played a part in the foundation of modern Canada since the 1700’s. Nowadays the ships entering this harbour are much bigger and modern, they come from the Grand Banks oil fields, which form a key part of the cities economy. Looking at them on the quayside was a potent reminder of a world which I may soon go back into, in a strange way it felt like I was already transitioning into the next chapter of my life. Old knowledge was coming back, stuff that would come in handy when I get to university.

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One of the offshore support vessels (OSVs) loading up in the harbour…

As I made my way back up to the airport I knew I wasn’t leaving Canada forever, Nyssa and the friends I’ve made on this journey have changed my relationship with Canada entirely, but I felt it was definitely the beginning of something new, something I was excited to get started on.

At this point though I think some thank yous are in order. For their help on this trip I’d like to thank:

Michelle Renee and her family
For helping me settle into Toronto at the very beginning of my trip, and making me feel welcome when I had no immediate family and friends in the city.

Mike St.Eve and all the lifties at Whistler Blackcomb
For their support and the opportunities they gave me during my time as a lifty. I was very humbled to receive my I.C.E nomination, and thoroughly enjoyed working at Whistler.

The Canadian Immigration and Citizenship service
Well if they hadn’t changed the rules, I simply wouldn’t have been there for 3 years! So thanks CIC! Oh and I suppose the border force were nice at least!

Jon Chesnut and the Mountain Greeters at Lake Louise
For their support during my time there and, being able to help me see Nyssa at a very important time for us. Also thanks Phil for being a great room-mate!!

All my colleagues at Edgewalk and the CN Tower
All my fellow Guides, Grounds Crew, Imaging Agents, and Booking Agents! They’ve been a true second family to me while I’ve been in Toronto, including those that have left and I’ve been luckily enough to stay in contact with. I will try to stay in contact with as many of you as possible.

Jocanta Sowden
For encouraging me to starting writing this blog in the first place. The process of writing it has been really rewarding, and it’s been a great way to keep my friends and family up-to-date on my adventures I’ve realized that it will be amazing in later life to look back through and help me remember the trip for years to come.

Chris Hall, Jenny Pullon, and Rob Ng
For hiring me, training me, and mentoring me as an Edgewalk guide. Without them taking me on I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunities in Canada that I’ve had, and without their mentoring I would have been so successful as a Guide.

Jocanta Sowden, Andrew Ross, and Jenny Pullen
For their references that I sent in during my Masters application. Without them I would not have had such a strong application and may not have been accepted at Portsmouth.

My Friends back home in the UK
For sticking with me during my years away from home and keeping in touch. Especially those who invested much time and money to fly over and let me drag them up a mountain, or for many miles around Algonquin Park, or up my very tall tower! Or all of those things combined!

Nyssa
For being the best girlfriend I could ever have dreamed of meeting, for loving me despite my flaws, and hopefully because of a couple of them. For being an unwavering source of support through my difficult times, and for giving me some of the best times of my life, with many more to come.

And Finally my family, especially my parents
With my parents support my trip would simply not have been the huge success than it was. They were always available to talk to on the phone and message, and I know for sure that they would have moved heaven and earth to get me home, or come over if I was in need. And that’s before all the practical assistance! They always insisted on bringing me too and from the airport, they forwarded mail, they were always willing to help me out with money, Uncle Phil even stored my snowboard for 3 months, and then he and my mum and dad got it to the airport and brought it home on they’re own trip! I felt homesick much less than I thought during the course of the trip and this was no doubt because I felt always supported, despite being thousands of miles away.

So there you go, I’ve completed my “trip”, made it safely back to the UK, and am now wading through my positions getting ready for my next chapter in Portsmouth, and my 30th birthday! This doesn’t mean the end of this blog though, I’ll still add things if I think they’re interesting, and helpful to anyone thinking about visiting Canada.

Thank you everybody!!!

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The Algonquin Weekender

Before the end of my trip I had just enough time to sneak in one more canoe trip with Nyssa, Kathleen (Nyssa’s sister), and her boyfriend Kurt. This trip was a much more holiday orientated affair, a couple of simple in/out days, with a couple of days of relaxation in between. Our lake of choice was Ragged Lake, about 3 hours journey from the Portage Store down Smoke Lake.

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The route.

We loaded up our canoes and set out in good weather onto Smoke Lake, heading down towards our only portage for the trip, a short 240m that we would also have to do on the way back. Being back in a canoe felt very familiar, it was almost as if we’d never left Algonquin!

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We’re canoeing again!!

We dispatched the portage without too much trouble, although we realized after that the canoe that me and Nyssa had picked was significantly lighter than Kurt and Kathleen’s! I offered to take theirs on the way back! Once we were into Ragged Lake we set about searching for a campsite to settle into. I knew that all the campsites on the lake were booked up over the weekend, so it was important for us to pick one we liked on day one. This would avoid us having to waste time moving the next day. The lake had a cluster of sites altogether, with a few more isolated ones scattered around it’s various bays. I aimed us for South Bay and we found a nice site on the peninsula with only one other campsite visible on the other side of the bay.

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Settled into our spot..

Peninsula campsites are what you want when you’re in Algonquin. The added exposure means they’re a bit more windy, and that helps to reduce the bugs that are around to bite you when you’re trying to do other things. Despite it only being a week after our last trip, the bugs were waaaay less this time, requiring only occasional re-applications of bug spray, and something long sleeved in “Mosquito hour” just around sunset. Sunset on our first night was particularly pretty.

We spent our first chill day sleeping in, swimming and generally relaxing around the campsite. Me and Nyssa ventured out onto the lake for a mosey around, and to find a little bit of firewood. Burning wood from the park itself is sometimes frowned upon, but it’s one of those things that everybody does, and is generally accepted as OK provided you use your head. Our strategy is to use only dead drift wood, it burns best anyway, and a lot of its nutritional value has already returned to the park, via rotting, or the beavers (who chew off the bark and dump the rest). Just remember when you do hit on a “gold mine” make sure it’s not a beaver dam you’re taking wood from!

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Looks like a big pile of wood right?? ….. Wrong!

It was really still on the lake that day and Nyssa got some nice pictures of the scenery reflecting off the lake as we paddled back into the campsite.

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Perfect conditions…

Because we weren’t travelling as much, we’d brought considerably more fresh food on the trip and ate like kings for most of it, baked potatoes went down very well that evening!

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The best way to cook.

The next day we awoke to rain. It had been raining for most of the night and everything was rather damp and not especially warm. We weren’t really in the mood to swim, so instead we decided to try to resurrect our fire from the night before with the small amount of dry wood that we could find lying around. Me and Kathleen made a trip across the bay, and came back with a decent haul that we could chop up and dry off around our fledgling fire.

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Wood drying Tetris…

Fortunately the rain stopped, and we were able to enjoy a steadily dryer day hanging out around the site, mostly drinking. Our tipple of choice was the 200th Anniversary Laguvelan 8 Year Old, peated of course, and “exceptionally fine”. Kurt and Kathleen went for some rum.

Our evening was cut a tiny bit short that night by the arrival of more rain, and the next day we beat a hasty retreat out of the park, back across a choppy Smoke Lake. Despite the slightly sub-par weather we’d had a really great time, and it was great for me to spend some quality time with Kathleen and Kurt before I made my way back to the UK. It’ll be a while before I see them again. I only had 1 day left in Toronto after, so I felt good that we’d crammed in one last adventure, despite having to do lots of admin when we got back!

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Heading home….

The Stroudie Algonquin Expedition

Hot on the heels of my exit from Edgewalk was the arrival of 3 of my closest friends from the UK. Tom, Tim, and Soph were coming over to see Toronto and see one of my favorite places on earth; Algonquin Park! After some prep the 5 of us made our way up to the park, and made an early morning start the next day from Rock Lake.

Our first day was an easy one, we were all getting used to canoeing together, especially in our 3 person canoe, which we’d only had a couple of hours in before the trip, so I’d planned a route which was fairly short. We wound our way down the river into the lake and set out for Pen Falls and our first portage.

 

 

Our first portage was a short one to give the guys a taste of what was to come, we’d spread our kit well amongst our bags, were able to divide up the canoes and paddles nicely, and dispatched the portage without too much trouble. After that we were heading for our first campsite and made great progress down the lake, shaving some distance off our next day! We got to our campsite before lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and enjoying the camping. Me and Nyssa were in a tent, but Soph, Tim and Tom had decided to go with hammocks for their accommodation! I was quite interested to see how they got on with them, especially as a thunderstorm started to roll in that night!

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Getting the fire going in the evening…

We awoke the next day to rain. Mine and Nyssa’s tent was showing it’s age a little and the common consensus from the hammock club was that they’re not insulated and they don’t offer much protection from sideways rain! I was a little nervous, we were quite soggy and I was hoping that the rain wasn’t going to set in for the entire weekend and spoil the holiday. Fortunately the rain cleared up as we were getting ready to go and the sun came out just as we were leaving. Our route for the second day would take us up the Galipo River through Welcome Lake and Harry’s Lake.

 

The route made for a decent workout, as we were paddling against the flow of the river in places, and the wind was annoyingly against us the whole way, but we were rewarded with a great lunch spot at the end of our longest portage of the trip, 2170m!!

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On the beach at lunch time!

We reached our campsite in the early afternoon, which had a huge exposed rock outcrop for us to swim and fish off of, hang out on, and dry things on. We also enjoyed the last of our fresh dinners. From here on out tea would be boil in the bag! We still had plenty of fresh cheese and cucumbers for lunch though, and whisky. The weather continued to hold out for us and we enjoyed a warm evening around the fire.

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Chilling out on the rocks..

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Enjoying the camp fire..

Our third day was the longest of the trip, 4 portages totaling 3000m, and we had to cross a wide stretch of Lake Louisa. The conditions were also much more muddy and buggy than usual… We made good progress however, and had worked out a good system for each portage by now, with everyone playing their part to spread the weight around.

 

Lake Louisa proved easy to cross and we took lunch at a rocky island in the middle of Rod and Gun Lake (in order to escape the mosquitoes). I was really pleased at the progress we’d been making during the trip. We had plenty of time to stop for a lazy lunch, or wake up, pretty much whenever we liked and we were never really under any pressure to get to our campsite, miles away. This day was our longest day of travelling, and we were doing very well, taking a steady pace but not busting a gut.  We dispatched the final portage to arrive at our campsite for the night, and enjoy our hard earned boil in the bag dinners!

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The island on Rod and Gun…

Our forth day was pretty short one. This trip was a holiday after all, so I’d planned a short amount of travelling that we could bang out before lunch and have the afternoon to laze about and enjoy the lake.

 

It was a great lazy afternoon with 95% of the hard work for the trip done. We all took time to swim and wash, and me and Tom tried our hand at some fishing. Me and Nyssa made sure to finish off our bottle of whisky of course! The whisky of choice for this trip was the Ledaig 10 year old! A wonderfully peated dram that goes well with the act of burning anything you can get your hands on, and chop down to size! We stayed up fairly late that night listening to music and watching the fire go down, and we all took time to savor the moment in the wilderness before we returned to civilization the next day.

Our final leg was very short. One average length portage, and a half hour paddle back to the access point and our pick up. We weaved our way around the islands of Cache Lake, and just had time for a quick photo before we headed back to give back our canoes, and drive back to T.O.

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We made it!

It was a really great trip. I really loved taking some of my closest friends out to one of my favorite places in the whole world, and introduce them to Nyssa before she comes over to the UK in September. I was also pleased that I’d struck a good balance between actually going on a journey and still having time stop and smell the roses. It was another great highlight of the last 3 years, and one I will never forget.

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Oh yeah and obviously I had to take them up the tower! 

 

Leaving Edgewalk

As June came to and end it was time for me to leave Edgewalk. My work visa was due to expire which meant no more working, and thus I would have to end my time at the tower. I’d been really enjoying my last few months there; I’d ticked off most of the things I hoped to see on a tour (mostly weather phenomenon), and I been lucky to have some great groups of guests who were as enthused about the place as I am.

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Ya just can’t beat the office space..

As my last day approached I began to get a few pangs of sadness. Everyone at the tower has been very good to me. It’s been a place of acceptance and support for the entire 3 years of my visa, almost to the day, and in recent days I’ve realized its been the closest thing I’ve had to home while I’ve been here.

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Back in my first season.

It was very fitting that I spent my last time up there with Jenn. She’s been with me at the tower from day one, we did our initial interviews and medical together, most of our training together and all those summers full of tours. We closed up on my last day and took some time to take some selfies, take in the view, and talk about the future.

 

The next day a load of us got together for some drinks and it was very humbling to hear messages of support and thanks from everyone, I managed to hold it together as everyone start to leave the party and ended up being the last one to leave in the morning after we went back to Colin’s house for more drinking.

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It’s a thumbs up from us!

Despite feeling very sad about leaving I know that it’s the right time for me to be moving on. My generation there has moved into management or left for greater things, and this is no time in life for me to be treading water.

On Canada Day me and Nyssa made our way over to Trillium park to watch the tower’s firework display. As we watched everything going off I felt glad that I’d made a small contribution, I helped write the book on how to launch fireworks off the tower, so I felt like in a tiny way I’d left a bit of a legacy there for years to come.

The Top (only) 8 things I HATE about Canada.

After last week’s whisky rant, here follows a list of my gripes with this happy-go-lucky nation:

8 – Why is it so far away??

If I’m going to be spending my time divided between my home and here the least Canada can do is be closer to the UK. Instead I have to take about 8 hours out of my day and 400 quid to go between! Soooo rude. Lets face it, Britain gave Europe the 1 finger salute, and Scotland’s already copying, so we may as well get some big chains, push Iceland out of the way, and drag ourselves Wales first into the Gulf of Labrador, the weather would basically be the same anyway.

7 – The Border Force

I know we need to monitor the country’s borders, but you didn’t need to hold me for 3 hours unnecessarily last week, and because of that you made my list!!

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This way to destiny!! (and a long wait….)

6 – Canadian Phone Coverage

Canadian phone coverage is some of the most expensive in the world. In Britain I can pay $35 a month for a free Iphone and like 10 gigs of data, why can’t I here??? You can here the operators whingeing now “Oooh the country’s too big” or ” The infrastructure’s expensive” BOO HOO!! You’re a gigantic corporation Bell, and you Roger, so man up and make it cheaper. Oh but thanks for texting me when I’ve nearly used up my data that’s handy.

5 – Canadian National Railways (CN)

In Japan the average delay for trains last year was 0.6 minutes, and you can travel 500km in less than 2.5 hours. By that standard my train from Jasper to Toronto should have been an overnight, and not 4 days!!! Seriously though, I shouldn’t have arrived 13 hours late, and don’t turn your nose up because the government says you have to let VIA use the track, I’m still your customer, and PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FREIGHT. Just because you built my favorite tower doesn’t mean you get off any lighter here. On the plus side when the train turned up in the PAN – AM opening ceremony I did get to shout “At least this one’s on time!!!” And that got me some laughs, thanks….

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Fun, but tardy…

4 – Not Included Sales Tax

Canada, when I go into a shop with my weird plastic tenner, and I see laundry detergent for $9.99, guess how much I want to pay………………that’s right $9.99!! With the penny change! OH WAIT! YOU DON’T HAVE ANY SODDING PENNIES!!! It’s called a penny jar guys, what am I supposed to put in it?? DIMES???? Get out of here!

3 – Tax Returns

So when I play the guaranteed jackpot CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) lottery every year, WHY should I spend an entire evening at my laptop NOT playing Kerbal Space Program, and filling in stupid online forms to get my money???? In the UK you just ring up the Her Majesty’s Revenue Agency and explain your life story in layman terms and they do it all for you! No wonder you can run the whole thing from an efficient looking, piss tiny, building in Ottawa. Pfft…

2 – Alcohol Laws/Tax, particularly in Ontario.

Seriously guys these law and taxes put people out of business, and allow ole Forty Creek to sneak marzipan into their whisky and claim it’s more pure than Scotch. Come on, have some standards, and help small businesses! Also, if I want to buy my favorite 100% Canadian Rye, I don’t want to have to trek half way across the province to find it!

1- The Banks

Dear all Canadian Banks,

WHY, If I’m giving you all my money, and allowing it to be used as capital to help you to earn millions in profit, WHY should I be charged for you to use it? Some of you, and I’m looking at you RBC, have buildings literally made of gold, and you want to charge me for the privilege of looking after it! Don’t give me that bull about waiving fees if its over a certain amount, in the UK I have 2 accounts with 4 pound between them and I don’t get charged nothing! They are essential facilities, and when I need to buy whisky and maple fudge they won’t always be full! And no I don’t want a free ipad, you consumerist pig!! Or a Samsung equivalent TD, you cheapskates, and your buildings are rubbish!!!!

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BMO doesn’t have any imagination either….

Happy Canada Day long weekend!!!

Thumbs up!

I’ve hung out in worse countries.

 

A very important meeting…

After Ross left I spent most of June being a bit of a hermit, saving money ready for July and my two upcoming canoe trips. Most of my entertainment came from Edgewalk. June was to be my last month working up there, ever, so I’d been experiencing a fresh wave of enthusiasm for the place, just to be out there taking it in.

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Some awesome cloud action..

As July approached I had a very important meeting, my parents had come to town for a few days, and they would be meeting Nyssa for the first time. I wasn’t particularly nervous about this, but nevertheless I did have a few butterflies just as the two were about to meet. Unsurprisingly everything was fine and soon they were all exchanging stories of my drunken behaviour, which seems to be how most people who know me bond when they meet for the first time! Mum and Dad had a few things planned while they were in town, this included a Jays game of course.

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We actually won the game too!!

The next day we headed down to Niagara Falls. The main aim was to visit the American side of the falls which presented a few extra challenges for me. I would need to get my ESTA and be prepared to face the potential wrath of two border protection agencies once again. Getting the ESTA was useful for me as I needed to ensure I got a stamp in my passport at some point near the end of my visa, to allow me to rent a car with my friends in July. The Americans were actually most suspicious of Nyssa when we first arrived, but after we explained how we all knew each other they were pretty nice and we go through the border no problem. The American side of Niagara was pretty nice. It didn’t have the extensive casinos and waxworks that the Canadian side does, and there was a much larger area of park land around the fall, which I really liked. The view of the falls is not quite as good, but you can get close to both sets of falls, and there’s a lookout that extends out over the canyon.

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The view from ‘Merica

My parent’s visit was quite short, but definitely a success, both them and Nyssa expressed how much they liked each other and it was really nice for me to start welcoming Nyssa into the family, as I’d been welcomed with open arms into hers. The real fun starts next month, 3 of my friends are coming over to meet her! (and go canoeing!)

Ross and the tour guide(s)…

Being a professional tour guide helps when your mates come to town and you need to show them what Toronto’s all about. In May Ross passed through Toronto on his way to Vancouver, and starting his working holiday! He was deciding which city to spend the bulk of his time in, and despite wanting to remain impartial, it was hard not to be loyal to Toronto and want him to come back here! Conveniently he’d had picked an AirBnB that was a short walk away from me, so we were able to meet up close by and do a lot of walking around the city. I was keen to show Ross the more cultured parts of the city, so we set out first for Kensington Market, and then after a wander around there we weaved down through the city to the tall building of the Financial District. Despite Toronto’s rich tapestry of culture, they’re still a big part of how the city works, so you can’t really ignore them when you’re showing people around. We finished with some Mexican in the distillery district, which also had a market on, with loads of trinkets to see and buy!

You can’t come to Toronto without going down to Niagara Falls, so me and Ross took a day to go down there as well. On the way we stopped at Forty Creek’s distillery. I like distillery tours, and this one was attractive to me as I’ve never seen a large distillery that churns out thousands of bottles of bottles a year. The tour itself was interesting, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. First the tour guide went meticulously though Forty Creek’s entire product range pretentiously saying how every single one was definitely best in class, and how their whiskys were all not liquors when compared to their rivals like honey Jack Daniels, despite saying their maple “whisky” was basically a 1-1 mix of whisky and maple syrup. We’re were unconvinced. After that we were taken into the distillery itself which as I expected was on a scale unlike anything I’d seen before. We were shown a continuous still 3 floors high, and tanks for various things that were 20,000 litres plus! The original smaller stills were there and I believe the largest is used to make some of Forty Creek’s flagship whiskies. I picked up a bottle of the Confederation Oak in the shop for Joe.

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Perhaps the only one worth buying?…..

Our conversation with the tour guide in the shop after was the most interesting part of tour however. I was interested to know the mash bill (what grains they use) for the whisky, but I was told this was a secret. Fair enough if you’re making secret sauce, but every other decent distillery I’ve ever encountered makes a big thing of what grains they use, holding them up as a reason for the flavor they’re so proud of. A lack of transparency with spirits is never a good thing, and set off alarm bells that only made us probe further. Despite feigning knowledge in the conversation, our tour guide didn’t seem to actually know that much about the product she was saying was the best in the world. She was pretty ambiguous on what Canadian whisky even was, giving us generalizations scotch is from Scotland and bourbon is from America, rye is from Canada, there’s more to it than that. We did glean one thing though. After slagging off our beloved scotch whisky saying that “loads of scotch has artificial flavoring”, our tour guide told us that the distillery sometimes adds a “small” block of marzipan to their whisky! We came away from the conversation slightly shocked, it highlighted a major problem with Canada’s whisky industry. Producers are not required to declare exactly what’s in their products and this allows them to cut corners. Scotch and bourbon are held to exact standards about how their made, and in Canada those standards are not as high, which is a shame. We came away feeling a bit weird, like we’d watched some kind of shocking Louis Theroux documentary. Entertained, but deep down, shocked. It made me think about how I’ve been as a tour guide, people pay attention you, and listen to the facts you say, so it should be a point of pride to know that they’ll go away any perhaps find out that what you say is indeed true. We hadn’t seen much pride on show here, just prepared spiel and a bit of an urge to get us through as quickly as possible, but we did get some free tasters!

Anyway, rant over, after that we headed on to Niagara, in increasingly bad weather. When we arrived in Niagara the viability was zero and we couldn’t even see the falls!! I began to feel like the worlds worst tour guide, we’d already been to a rubbish distillery, and now the falls which I had sold as one of the worlds natural wonders was covered in fog! Nevertheless in pouring rain we soldiered on and ventured behind the falls. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do here as its filled with nerdy geological facts about the falls, and you can get really close to them, feeling the roar in your chest!

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Feeling the power!!

Luckily as the day went on the weather cleared up nicely and we walked along talking in the view and marveling over the tremendous amount of water being moved in front of us. We got back to TO quite late, and it took 2 days to dry my shoes off!

It was great to show Ross around Toronto, and hear him express how he liked it more than he expected. It was an important face to face catch up for me as well as I’m not sure when I’ll see him next. The experience at Forty Creek had also made me appreciate how integral my knowledge is to a good tour at Edgewalk, I hope that the care I take over my facts pays off long after my guests have finished their tour.