Nepal | August 11, 2020

6 unusual things to do in Canada

The Himalayan Times
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Canada is more than just its great mountains, wild moose-spotting road trips and craggy-coast good looks. Its endless variety of landscapes might keep you busy the first few days but what would a traveller look for beyond the great outdoors? Its captivating culture will engulf you; from west to east, a foodie’s paradise your palates would be thoroughly refreshed and thriving cities with their own artistic flair will surprise you. But if you’re looking to weave stories out of adventures for years to come here are a few places that you must check out.

  1. Venture into the woods

If snuggled in a sphere suspended atop the forest canopy of Vancouver Island in the middle of nowhere is what excites you then a visit to the Free Spirit Spheres is a must. It’s part Middle Earth fantasy and part childhood dream, you’ll find large wooden orbs suspended from the trees. Take the spiral staircase and short suspension bridge leading up to them and enter into the sphere to experience nature from a different perspective.

Designed to look vaguely like enormous nuts or seeds, the cedar and spruce spheres borrow from and collaborate with the surrounding environment. The spheres are made of fibreglass and wood, and borrow heavily from sailboat construction methods. Inside the curving walls complete with portholes for windows, space is maximised with fold-out tables and mirrors, curved loft beds and benches, and tiny appliances. Touted as ‘the ultimate tree-house experience,’ these Free Spirit Spheres can be rented overnight.

  1. Brace yourself

Mazes and labyrinths reached its zenith as a form in Renaissance England, more as a device for
entertainment than serious purpose. Today VanDusen Garden in Vancouver is one of only six in North America.

It carries on the tradition of Elizabethan hedge mazes in North America. The maze is made of 3,000 pyramidal cedars — Thuja occidentalis ‘Fastigiata’ to be specific was planted in the autumn of 1981 and slowly grown into the form of the maze one finds today.

Named after local lumber magnate and philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen, this garden is open to the public every day of the year except Christmas. In addition to the maze, the gardens cover 55 acres and displays plants from around the world. There is an observation terrace from which the less adventuresome visitor can view the maze and the struggles of its confused occupants.

The Enchanted Forest, British Columbia. Courtesy:

  1. For your eyes only

A book collector’s dream, The Monkey’s Paw in Toronto has the world’s first ‘Biblio-Mat’, a
random book vending machine.  All of the books lining the shelves of Stephen Fowler’s bookstore are ones you couldn’t possibly find anywhere else. He opened The Monkey’s Paw in March 2006 and since then it has been a haven for antiquarians, complete with
medical drawings on the wall and a stuffed crow on a typewriter.

The unusual store, named after a horror short story by author WW Jacobs, has a diverse range of old books. Fowler selects each book to fit these categories: the beautiful, the arcane, the macabre and the absurd. For some its charm may be the custom-made Biblio-Mat, a vending machine that will dispense a randomly selected vintage volume for $2, a surprise you might want to see for yourself.

  1. Fairytale escape

An old world fairytale-land with over 350 fairy folk figurines hidden amongst 800-year old cedars is something that will surely lure you in. Artist Doris Needham and her husband Ernest needed a place to put her hand-sculpted cement creations, so they bought a forest in British Columbia and filled it with enchanted figures from fairytales and nursery rhymes.

When Rogers Pass opened, traffic began being diverted through the Needhams’ unusual haven; one just cannot drive by and resist dragons and pirates lurking on boulders and behind trees, dwarves and fairies sharing the pools at the foot of waterfalls, or the adorable Candy Cane house.

The forest is full of twists and turns, each corner revealing a new small cottage, or a favourite
nursery character sitting on a wall, full of whimsy. Take the Nature Walk, a 2-km walk through the lush Canadian forest, where you’ll discover many trees, including an 800-year-old cedar grove. They boast over 350 figurines, a pirate ship, and the tallest tree house in British Columbia. The forest itself is a beautiful site, with beaver ponds for boating, 800 year-old
cedars, salmon spawning and moose and caribou sightings during migration months.

Hotel de Glace, Quebec City. Courtesy:

  1. Jewel in the crown

As their contribution to Montreal’s 1967 World’s Fair Exposition the United States government
commissioned architect, scientist, and well-known genius Buckminster Fuller to design a pavilion for the Canadian exhibition.

Fuller, who popularised, perfected, and named the Geodesic Dome, designed a 20-storey-tall dome in the fashion of his hallmark design to represent the USA. Done in a full two-thirds sphere, rather than the typical half dome, the massive steel structure was seen and admired by over 5.6 million visitors who went into the dome to see exhibits from actual spaceships from the Apollo missions to American works of art.  The dome’s steel skeleton was fitted with a clear acrylic covering, making the structure look like a massive, glittering jewel.

When the fair ended, the pavilion remained, securing the dome’s place in Montreal’s landscape. This relic of the 67 Expo survived fire and ice; it was reopened and was re-purposed as a museum devoted to environmental action. Today the Biosphere of Montreal remains, a sturdy and beautiful example of ‘Bucky’s’ geodesic architecture.

  1. Work of art

Comprised of 15,000 tonnes of snow and 500,000 tonnes of ice, the Hôtel de Glace is a massive undertaking, a stunning yet ephemeral work of art and architecture entirely built of snow and ice. Every winter, this unique hotel is completely redesigned and rebuilt, offering an unforgettable experience in the only hotel of its kind in North America.

Whether for a guided tour, a Nordic overnight stay, a wedding or a private function, the Hôtel de Glace is sure to dazzle visitors with its unique style and spellbinding décor. Guests can choose to enjoy a cocktail served in a glass made of ice or spend the night in one of the 44 theme rooms and suites and relax in the outdoor hot tubs and sauna.

Every inch of the hotel is created out of ice, including the furniture. To make the rooms more liveable, beds are covered with furs, blankets and sleeping bags tested to arctic temperatures. Although you might not get four-star service, the attraction has seduced over a million people around the world since its opening in 2001. Only 4-km from the north end of Québec City
a visit might just add to your Canada experience.  – Compiled


A version of this article appears in print on November 02, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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