Man, we’re one week into February! I have a LOT of catching up to do on That Goan Girl and to be honest, I’ve had writer’s block since I got back from Canada a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed it, I did write about Restaurants in Toronto for every budget and my experience at Langdon Hall, where I had a taste of the food through an 11 course tasting menu.
But here’s the thing. I can write about ONE specific topic pretty quickly. But if you ask me to write about my experience in Canada in general, like many of you have, I don’t know where to begin. Where do I start? How can I describe a month in another country on one page and do justice to it?
As someone who has lived in a tropical country all her life, and whose experience of winter was a lukewarm 18 degrees Celsius, spending the season in Canada was mind-numbing. Have you ever got really bad or good news that just refused to sink into your brain? That’s how I’d describe it! My mind refused to accept the evidence of the snow falling like tiny clumps of powder and the crisp, cold air biting at my cheeks.
Thankfully, you’re not cold ALL the time. While North India sees extreme winters with -15 to -20 temperatures and even Delhi’s winters touch single digit figures, we’re ill equipped to deal with it, and are shivering under layers of blankets, even indoors. On the other hand, unless I was outdoors in Canada, I was warm and toasty all the time – in a cotton tee and track pants at home, and a woolen turtle neck and jeans with thermal leggings when out in the mall and other indoor spaces. In the car, more often than not, I felt hot, even as the mercury dropped to -36 degrees outside the window. Yes, the key to surviving an outdoorsy winter in Canada is to throw all sense of fashion out the window and layer up like an onion.
Speaking of cars, I was amused at how one has to warm up their car for 10-20 minutes before being able to drive it. What do you do in the meanwhile? If it’s a snowy day, you take a long brush out of your car and dust a thick layer of powdery snow off. If it’s a sunny day, yay, head back in and grab a coffee – it tastes SO much better in chilly weather! Sometimes, cars freeze and at one point, our doors were solidly frozen shut, causing us to get in and out through the one door in the front that opened. Ah, winter experiences!
The best way to enjoy the winter in Canada is to get out and do some winter activities – skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding… there’s a lot to be done if you’re an adventure enthusiast. Mississauga, the town I lived in didn’t have a lot of winter activities, and I spent my time trying out various restaurants (no surprise there) and got a bit of sightseeing done. It’s amazing how different Canada looked with a fresh dusting of snow! Almost unrecognizable from my last trip there in summer.
Pristine snow on the sidewalks quickly turns into yucky blackish slush, before melting away. And with the next snowfall, the melted water turns to black ice, making it almost invisible and so easy to slip on. Be sure to wear boots that have a good grip and the thickest woolen socks you find, because you can feel the cold slowly numbing your toes and it could lead to frostbite.
And oh, the trees! They’re all bare, except for the evergreens, aka. Christmas trees, and boy, did they look magnificent with snow on them! And the occasional icicle, of course, but those are a common sight too, clinging to the edges of almost every roof. In summer, the sky was bright until 9 pm, but in winter, as evening drew closer, you’d find it bright at one moment and dark in a matter of seconds, even before 5 PM! Crazy!
The efficiency of Canada never fails to amaze me, and after every snowfall, there would be snow-blowers on the road, clearing the snow to facilitate smooth traffic. I was hoping to be snowed-in.. like in the movies. Naturally, that didn’t happen because we kept having to shovel snow. Okay, I only shoveled snow twice, but my cousin Daren was a pro at it and I was merely making things worse. Try your hand at shoveling snow, if you can! It’s kind of fun as long as you don’t have to wake up and do it every morning like most Canadians.
Possibly the worst thing about Canadian winters is the wind-chill. Freezing cold, strong wind that makes the temperature seem colder than it actually is and literally pricks at you through your gloves and jeans. That, and chapped lips! I’ve never used a chap-stick so many times a day! That 100 bucks I spent on Nivea chapstick was money well spent.
There are a lot of positives about living in a literal freezer. Need chilled beer? Just leave the case outside in the yard and when you crack one open, it’s just short of being icy! I’m not kidding – people ACTUALLY do that!
Like most of you know already, I have a lot of friends and family in Canada, so many of my days were spent indoors, indulging in feasts of epic proportions. To top it off, my trip was planned around Christmas and New Year, so… more food! Also, I did visit a couple of outdoor Christmas markets that really got me in the holiday spirit. I wish I could have taken more photographs, but my fingers were so numb that that they hurt on touching ANYTHING. Even sliding them into the pockets of my jeans made my skin feel raw and painful. Owww!!
Canada may be pretty frigid, but it’s also a beautiful winter wonderland when that snow starts to fall. The climate makes you want to hibernate for 5 months and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate. Then again, it is too breathtaking to waste the entire winter inside. So suck it up, layer up and head on out!