21 Great Canadian Holidays

by 21 Canadians who know and love their land

CATHY WISMER,W. O. Mitchell April 1 1970

21 Great Canadian Holidays

by 21 Canadians who know and love their land

CATHY WISMER,W. O. Mitchell April 1 1970

Max Ferguson:
I HAVE a great fondness for the ocean, perhaps because of some prenatal influence of being born in Ireland. Just 10 years ago I discovered the spectacular highlands of Cape Breton. The west-coast people say, "Well, we have the Rockies,” but these highlands, which are nowhere near the height of the Rockies, offer a dazzling view of rugged cliff and and ocean. There’s only a narrow guard rail that separates you from the sea and the cliffs.

Cape Breton is Switzerland for the Swiss and Scotland for the Scots. Most European people can find some part of their homeland in this island. For me, it’s everything. Coming from a concrete jungle such as Toronto, or any big city, it hits you all the more. You can be 20 miles outside Toronto and still see private-property signs. Cape Breton has no such thing.

Our summer place is a 50 year-old house perched up on a hill high above Neil’s Harbour, a small fishing village on the northeastern tip of the island. When I leave Toronto at the end of June, I never want to see the city again. The summer is long and slow with no pressing plans. There's some mowing to be done around the cottage or some painting but I get that out of, the way the first week. Then it’s just drifting around, digging for clams and hunting oysters, swimming and exploring.

The Cabot Trail is a beautiful paved highway that takes you on a great circle through the northern part of the island. But we've found that it’s much more interesting to travel the dirt roads. There are all kinds of little explorations that you can take — we’ve discovered beaches and interesting little places down by the water that perhaps the tourist who stays on the highway never sees.

If nothing else, Neil’s Harbour is one place where commercialism hasn't reared its ugly head.

Dalton Camp:
GRAND LAKE in New Brunswick has been my summer home and office for 25 years. My roots are deepest here. My Loyalist forebears were driven from the colonies during the "trouble,” took up land grants and settled near Grand Lake along the Jemseg and Saint John Rivers. I pack up everything in Toronto as soon as the summer comes and set up my office in a small cabin next to the cottage. Every morning starts with a mile jog. then there’s tennis, swimming, sailing, touch football. For me, Grand Lake will remain one of those rare places where I can find the freedom and privacy to enjoy work, recreation and personal renewal.

W.O. Mitchell:
ALMOST 10 YEARS ago I discovered the North Okanagan, unspoiled coniferous jungle, mirrored with lakes — the largest, a sprawling H-shaped Shuswap. Here we found our own lake — Mabel — part of the Shuswap system but not of the lake itself. I suppose my Saskatchewan childhood had made me more vulnerable than most because the prairies are compounded of the philosopher’s elements of earth, air, fire and damn little water. I fell instantly in love with Mabel — 30 miles long and two wide — fed at her south end by the Shuswap River, which flows out again where my sons and I built our cabin. We manage to spend July and August there, and through the foothills winter in Calgary I often dream of her. It’s like breaking off a warm and humming fragment of August again and again.

The name of Mabel has never held much magic for me — like Helen, for instance — yet Mabel caused us to build an 18 foot planing sloop, a runabout, to acquire a canoe, a floating patio boat, a skiff, a surf board. Helen launched 1,000; six isn’t bad for a girl named Mabel. She has a lot of lovely things going for her: the anguished waterfalls of the Shuswap chuck below our cottage, the pale ghosts of Indian pipe carpeting the forest’s ferny floor, gold and blue Septembers, the sad soprano of floating loons, arrowing ospreys, and her own brand of Shuswap perfume: Sawmill No. 5 drifting blue from burners like inverted badminton birds abandoned all over the North Okanagan.

This part of Canada is a fine trap, too, for grandchildren; their parents bring them to engineer sand castles and lie belly down to peer over dock edges at swarming minnows. All grandparents should have a cottage in the Shuswap country, equidistant from Spokane — Calgary — Vancouver. We reach Mabel by the trans-Canada and the Rogers Pass, a seven-hour drive through the world's loveliest mountain scenery. For me, it's an annual rendezvous with the spring salmon coming up the Fraser, the Thompson and the Shuswap in August. A half hour with a 20-pound spring salmon in the pool below our cottage is my notion of an orgy.

The Shuswap country encircles with a living and green environment, with its own rhythms of season and growth, antidote for the precise geometry of the city possessed by rigid concrete, asphalt, glass and plastic; no threat here of being turned into a mechanistic ant. It is a place where a man can knit together again his own sacred and individual self. This is the magic of the green element in which Canada is so rich, and which seems to be valued so little.

Three years ago we looked out over the lake and saw that Mabel Mountain, on the other side, had been senselessly scarred in a logging operation during the winter; there could not have been more than a $10,000 profit, a hell of a low price for infecting Mabel with a ringworm patch. She is threatened now; there are plans to choke the Shuswap with dams, to divert the Monashee Mountain flow from the Shuswap Lakes and into the Okanagan. Though carelessly hasty, without investigation of the ecological results, the plan is politically and pragmatically practical, affording water for a pulp industry and a distillery downstream. Thousands of miles of recreational shore line will become mud flats jack strawed with felled trees; the salmon run will die; millions will lose a chance to spend vacation days in the living whole. Both ants and men are great totalitarians and engineers. To hell with the poetry of earth; Mammon pays better than God.

Jean Béliveau:
I ENJOY A fishing trip just for the thrill of catching a few and being with my friends. I’ve been going for almost 20 years with a fellow from Quebec City, Jacques Côté, owner of a dairy. Until two years ago, I used to go to his private fishing lodge. 100 miles north of Quebec City (he was the first to introduce me to fly fishing and trout fishing). Now that the property has been sold, we fish at Manicouagan. The biggest fish I ever caught was a seven-pound Quebec red trout (Arctic char). It took 10 to 15 minutes to land.

I’m no expert fisherman, but I do like trout fishing: it’s a sporty fish and good to eat. Even a small 12-incher can give you a mighty good fight.

I enjoy a nice, relaxing sport like fishing because I’m so active during the winter. I enjoy it as much as a good baseball game. Patient? I am a quite patient fisherman, but let’s say I’ve seen a lot of fishermen who are more so. Put me in the medium category. Hockey superstar Jean Béliveau is captain of the Montreal Canadiens.

Susie Kosovic:
I DIG QUEBEC CITY for its food and European atmosphere. I like to get away from everything and relax, wander down the old streets. In a way, it reminds me of England (I’ve been in Canada only 12 years). I think you retain a certain sentimentality for the place you grew up in. When you find an association, you cling to it. I find a similar atmosphere in Quebec City because of its age and the buildings. The food is another matter — I just dig eating. French-Canadian cooking is much heartier than French cuisine.

When I go to Quebec City, I usually stay in a tiny place called the Old Homestead. It’s very old-world European, almost like a rooming house, and faces the square right next to the Château Frontenac. (I’ve stayed at the Château as well, but I prefer the quaintness of the other. ) If you try to speak French, the people are generally very friendly and helpful. When I eat, I usually go to the Continental for a mixture of French-Canadian and French cuisine.

For a quainter Quebec atmosphere. I’ll eat at the Vendôme, a small old-fashioned building just below the Château. For me, Quebec City is an escape from people; I enjoy the anonymity of no one knowing who I am. I can forget about the fashion world and the up-front image, and wander the streets in a pair of jeans and T-shirt.

Nancy Greene:
MOUNTAINS are my kind of holiday. Hiking and skiing in British Columbia give me a chance to get away from things both summer and winter. You can stand on top of a mountain. look down into the valley and the smog, and wonder why anybody is down there. Somehow, you feel you’ve escaped.

When you’re in the mountains you can also put things in their proper perspective. There’s nothing phony. That’s one of the things about Hans Gmoser’s ski resort at the Bugaboos. You’re in a lodge with 30 other people, in an isolated area. The only way in and out is by helicopter. The helicopter flies to a peak, drops six people 10,000 feet above sea level and flies away. It’s gone in a split second, dropping out of sight into the valley; the sun is shining on powder snow — it’s a great feeling. Helicopter skiing is the ultimate, if you can afford it (boy, it’s expensive!).

Hiking in July and August in the Garibaldi range can be just as beautiful, with the snow gone and flowers at their peak. I really think to enjoy an area or a sport you have to share it with someone. Skiing and climbing are two sports where comradeship is very important. I heard someone say that a climber’s rope is like an extension of his hands. Two climbers linked by a rope are tied together by much more than a rope — it’s the experience they share. That’s why I climb.
Nancy Greene Raine twice won skiing’s World Cup for Canada.

Ma Murray:
WELL, YOU KNOW my time is short at 82 — I’m too old to holiday. So every day in Lillooet is a holiday for me. We’re a little bit of Switzerland tucked away between two mountain ranges in British Columbia. You should visit us — we’re only four hours from the post office in Vancouver and it’s a black-top road all the way.

I’ve been living around the province for 58 years and there’s still no place like Lillooet. We’re a sort of semitropical place in the mountains where the temperature gets up to 110 during the summertime. Lillooet is about 400 feet above the Fraser River. The rises along the side, or “benches” as we call them, look as if some giant like Paul Bunyan took his big hands and scooped a lot of mud out of the Fraser and threw it up on the side. But on those benches we’ve got lots of mountain streams for irrigation and you can just grow anything. You could take plain gravel, and water it good, and you grow cantaloupes and tomatoes. I've seen tomato plants grow 24 inches in 24 hours.

There’s some history, too — Simon Fraser discovered Lillooet (then known as Cayoosh) in 1808 and in 1823 the Hudson’s Bay people arrived. The white men came in and began consorting with the Indian women and now it’s the oldest spot in BC or the west where we have integration.

If you’re thinking of visiting Lillooet, we have two or three nice (not big) hotels. We have a nice dry climate (700 feet above sea level) and lots of sagebrush for sagebrush honey on toast. And when you taste that sockeye salmon right out of the river, you’ll know you’re living! Ma Murray is the editor and publisher of the Bridge River Lillooet News.

Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien:
MY HOLIDAYS are my weekends spent at Lac Nominingue, Quebec, in the summer and Knowlton, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, in the winter. Our summer home on Lac Nominingue has been there for more than 100 years (the lake was given to my great-great-grandfather by Curé Labelle). Now we own just half of the lake and 60 cottages on the other half. It's one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen, with stretches of sandy beaches 1,000 feet long. At Knowlton, our winter weekends are filled with skiing. Quebec TV executive Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien was a key planner of Expo 67.

Randy Bachman:
ANY VACATION time I have. I spend in Winnipeg. Playing in rock concerts all over the United States and Canada gives me all the traveling I want; it’s nice to go home to Winnipeg. It’s a city where you make your own things happen. My wife and I will go to a steak house for dinner, see a play at the Manitoba Theatre Centre or go to a symphony (we get some good guest performers such as Andres Segovia). This year, of course, it's going to be especially exciting — because of the province’s Centennial celebrations. That’s one thing I don’t plan to miss. Randy Bachman is singer and lead guitarist with The Guess Who rock group.

Pauline Julien:
You MUST remember that what you call Canada is, in my opinion, composed of two countries: Quebec and its neighbor, Canada. In Quebec, my favorite spot would be Percé in the Gaspé Peninsula. The people are foolish and mad, lovable, delirious characters. There’s plenty of sunshine, softened sometimes by fog and warm temperatures.

In terms of a Canadian holiday, I would choose Resolute in the Northwest Territories. There’s a certain strangeness living above the Arctic line. People spend much time alone and tend to be more philosophical. I’m also fascinated by the phenomena of the north — reflected suns in the sky (one morning, I actually saw three suns) and the fantastic colors of the aurora borealis. I also like the Eskimos and their way of life. They are a warm, friendly people who can have “un échange humain” without words. Perhaps what impressed me most was the white vastness and loneliness of the north — something that has a strange and demanding quality, even at 60 below. I’d almost compare my feeling for the north to the fever for the sea. Pauline Julien is a Quebec singer and separatist.

Gordon Lightfoot:
I'VE CROSSED the country six times, seen the Alaska Highway, watched a 60-mile gale at Cape Spear, Newfoundland. I've been to Baffin Island with the Eskimos, eaten their seal meat, been ice-fishing. But my favorite spot is the Maritimes.

In the summer, it’s beautiful — especially Prince Edward Island. The whole north shore faces the Gulf of St. Lawrence and you can walk on it forever. You can also buy a two-pound lobster for a buck and a half from some roadside stand. The island is jammed during the summer, with four-hour lineups to get on the ferry. What you must remember is to book a motel room six weeks ahead.

If you like watching people, this is the place, but you won’t find them in the pubs because there aren’t many. Charlottetown is not a pub-crawling town. I don’t think there is even a restaurant that serves wine with meals. There is one nightclub and it has “an act” — a drummer and a piano player. Dig beer? The Charlottetown Hotel has a beer hall for ladies and ladies and escorts.

I guess I just like being in PEI. Even though it’s not the most moving experience I’ve had, a Maritime vacation is the grooviest.
Gordon Lightfoot is a folk singer and composer.

Pierre Berton:
THERE IS, for me, no more exciting odyssey in Canada than the 1,800-mile camping trip by car and trailer from Edmonton to Dawson City via the Alaska Highway. My family and I did it in 1962 and the kids have been clamoring for a repeat performance ever since. It can be done easily in three weeks — return journey and all, with time for stopovers.

There is no road in all the world like the one that leads across Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. Here are odd surprises and unexpected diversions: valleys 20 miles across, gorges chopped through granite walls as if by a giant meat cleaver, glacial fans five miles wide, cornflower lakes ringed by ice-cream mountains, a vast forest ocean veined by dark, brooding rivers, and tinseled waterfalls chiseling their way through mile-high walls of naked rock.

Those pilgrims who make the journey for the first time remark on several things. First, though they expect grandeur, they are really astonished by the color: hills of flaming fireweed, jeweled lakes of bright I mint-green, long ridges of soft, misty-blue and sheets of water — such as Kluane Lake — where as many as seven colors from rose to emerald can be discerned.

Then there are the extremes of hot and cold: on that last 60 miles into Dawson City one drives along the razor’s edge of a mile-high ridge, well above the treeline, where patches of snow can still be seen and the flora is totally Alpine. But on the Liard, not far from the Rapids of the Drowned, you can bathe in a steaming pool at 150 degrees, where the vegetation seems subtropical and the white violets are the size of pansies.

Finally, there’s the light: at 11 p.m. the sun is shining. At midnight it’s almost as bright as noon. There is no twilight.

It’s a remarkable trip. No country in the world has any thing like it. It’s a history and a geography lesson rolled into one, and science, too: moose, lynx and bear cross your path. The geological story of the land is written on the face of the mountains. Glaciers that go back to the Ice Age cap the peaks. And at the end, the brave little ghost town of Dawson City where, on the banks of many a graveled creek, you can still dip your pan into the black sand and find the greenish glitter of real gold. Pierre Berton is an author, journalist and radio and television personality.

Allan King:
THE BEST holiday place I ever went to was a summer camp. I was just six years old. It was a little house at Robert’s Creek on what’s now called “the sunshine coast of British Columbia.” It’s about 30 miles from Vancouver, on the Strait of Georgia.

For me, it was a very special kind of place. We lived in the cottage or slept in tents. Every day we’d walk three miles to the beach; we swam and fished. My friend and I used to start at the sea and fish our way up to the mountains, catching 30 or 40 trout on the way. We’d fish with alder branches, whittled down to make fishing rods, and then we’d take another branch and cut it into a fork and hook the fish through the gills until we had about a dozen of them. When I was 18, I worked in a logging camp in the same area. (In fact, my next film will be on logging camps; it arises from the memories I have of the marvelous landscape, beautiful atmosphere, great trees — almost like a tropical forest, with great Douglas firs and cedars.) We used to make bows and arrows out of the cedars. In all, those were six or seven very precious summers.

This year I think I’ll go north and recapture the thrill of canoeing, lighting a bonfire, cooking potatoes on the beach. You remember the very special pleasure of toasting a marshmallow and how you were careful to get it browned all the way around, all kind of sweet and charcoaly. I guess security is what it’s really all about. No matter where I travel, the only really beautiful landscape (the one I respond to) will always be that stretch of the west coast.
Allan King is a film maker, acclaimed for Warrendale and A Married Couple.

Mel Hurtig:
THE INGREDIENTS I require for a good holiday: Rocky Mountain air, good hiking trails, a place where there is no TV, no radio and no telephone, seclusion (meaning as few human beings as possible), one bottle of vermouth, several of gin (for before dinners) and a case of Scotch (for after), an enormous open fireplace and a big suitcase full of old clothes and new books. Lastly, an old-fashioned bed — the kind you climb up on to and roll down into, beneath the blankets and quilts, just after you’ve thrown the windows open. You do this last bit quickly because it’s damn cold in the mountains after dark. And you think about those people down east, sweltering through the hot night. If you practise, it is possible, after a long day walking along mountain streams and hiking up spooky valleys, across glaciers and up and down game trails . . . it’s just possible back at the cabin to sober up before dinner with two or three very cold and dry martinis.

From May to October I get to the mountains several times each year. The best time to go is June or September when there are more animals than people. If you have lots of money, look good in a bikini, or if you love championship golf courses, you should probably stay at one of the famous resort hotels in Banff or Jasper. If you want to experience the mountains ... if you want to unwind back far enough so that words like reality, perspective and values begin to mean something . . . then you probably shouldn’t.

You can wear out your thesaurus and drop such names as Mistaya, Sunwapta, Athabasca and Peyto until you’re blue in the face without really describing the mystique of the Rockies between Banff and Jasper. Here there is almost no history. To hike or climb in this other world is to experience the supreme knowledge of freedom and the ultimate loneliness.

I’m not going to tell you about all the beautiful secluded spots where you can hide away in the mountains — just in case you all decide to come. I'll mention only one, because it’s close to the highway (58 miles north and 1,800 feet above Banff) and you'll probably see it anyway. If by now you haven't heard about Bow Lake, Num-ti-Jah Lodge and old Jimmy Simpson, then you don’t know much about Canada. On second thought, better not go. You may decide you don’t ever want to leave. MelHurtig is an Edmonton book seller and publisher.

Gerry Gallagher:
As AN IRISHMAN, I see Canada in a different light. When I came here in 1951 I could hardly visualize the tremendous size of Ontario. It astonished me when I realized that I could drive 300 miles for three days and still be inside a single province.

The thing I find most fascinating about Ontario is the people, the greatest asset of all. My job takes me to remote places in the north. I spend my nights talking to bush pilots and Indians at the Hydro camps, drinking beer and listening to their tales. I also like sitting in the pubs in Cochrane and Kapuskasing, talking to the French Canadians. We talk about the weather, I buy them a drink and then we get into their stories. If you go to Atikokan, you can hobnob with the miners in an atmosphere that’s just like an old-time Hollywood movie set.

When my family goes on vacation, we usually go to Port Elgin, an ideal place for small children. There are miles of sandy shoreline in the Bruce Peninsula. And even on my holidays, I like to meet people. Gerry Gallagher is president of Local 183, International Laborers Union.

Arthur Hailey
MY GREATEST joy is seeing a country or a place through the eyes of my children. I usually try to combine a business trip with a week for vacation so I can bring my family along. Our trip last year combined Washington, D.C., and Detroit (I’m working on a novel about the auto industry) with a look at the Rockies. I wanted the children to see some of the background for the book.

Our Canadian visit includes one of my favorite vacationing spots, Banff. I’m very fond of the place — I was there when I was a young pilot cadet and have been back several times since. I like both the winter and the summer there. The weather tends to be a little spotty, but if you have four or five days, you can usually get one good day.

The last time I had visited Banff, the hotel that I was staying in burned down. There was quite a fuss about it in the papers as I had left my manuscript for Airport in my hotel room. After I saw the fire was contained temporarily, I went back in and got the copy manuscript (I never carry an original with me). Actually, I only had one copy of the chapter I had been working on. Of course, if I were a reporter I wouldn’t let too much accuracy spoil a good story. The next day, every newspaper wrote of my gallant return to a burning hotel to save my manuscript.
Arthur Hailey is a best-selling novelist, whose most recent success was Airport.

Stan Leonard:
I’VE SPENT five summers at a little place called Rivers Inlet, about 300 miles north of Vancouver. That’s where the tyee salmon run. You fly in by float-plane and spend a week on a large tug. The boat, owned by a British Columbia salvage company, has nine staterooms and a deck large enough for several small fishing boats.

Another thing that makes it so nice is having a chef on board — the food is out of this world! We have steak, roast beef, turkey but, amazingly enough, very little seafood. It is not really the standard diet.

Groups of 12 to 16 people take the two-hour flight in every four days — people from all over the world. And what makes the fishing fun is our annual pool. Everybody puts in $15 and the guy who catches the top fish gets a pretty reward—several hundred dollars. There’s also a daily pool of five dollars. And the fish are big: last year’s top fish weighed 5-1/2 pounds.

It’s not the gambling that’s important, though; it’s the people you meet. Fishing lets me get away from golf for a while. Sure, you talk a little golf, but you’re with different people and the conversation is usually about other things. Through the years you become so closely associated with golf and golfers that it’s just golf, golf, golf. It’s kind of nice to talk about something else.
Stan Leonard is a top Canadian performer on the international pro-golf circuit.

Ed Mirvish:
I’VE NEVER had a cottage and I’ve traveled very little through the country. I don’t take holidays. Everything I want from a holiday I can find in Toronto. Now I’m in the restaurant business, meeting people from all over the world, I find my opinion of the city much the same as theirs. They love it.

Of course, you can’t impress New Yorkers with the Toronto-Dominion Centre but you can show them such things as the Kensington Market, Markham Village, the islands and our great residential areas. I don’t have much leisure time but, when I do, I usually walk through the St. Lawrence Market and Baldwin Street, or sit in the middle of University Avenue and watch the traffic. These places appeal to me; they have color.

I only hope we’re smart enough to leave them as they are. We need oases of warmth and color. I enjoy people; I don’t have a strong need to get away. I can have a holiday in the middle of two million people. "Honest Ed” Mirvish is a merchant, theatre owner, restaurateur and entrepreneur.

Leonard Marchand:
THE OKANAGAN Lake area in British Columbia is where I spent my childhood and I’m still very attached to it. Even though I’m living in Ottawa now, I like to go back as often as I can.

I grew up on an Indian reserve of about 700 people, camping and living in the outdoors most of my life. I used gas lamps and backdoor privies until I left home 15 years ago. We had a lot of pheasant and deer on the reserve, which made for good hunting.

When you’re living out in the country like that, you really don’t know how great it is until you’ve been away from it for a while. I guess I’ll always be more of a cowboy than a politician. At home, I used to help run a small ranch, riding almost every day. I still like to ride and keep a horse. Education and aspiration may have taken me away from reservation life and the Okanagan, but deep family roots will always bring me back. Leonard Marchand is the Liberal MP for Kamloops-Cariboo.

John Bassett:
THE SIX COUNTIES southeast of Montreal (the Eastern Townships) have every ingredient for a happy holiday. There’s easy transportation, unspoiled countryside, good inns, excellent food and wine — and the mature liquor laws of Quebec. In the summer, you and your family can sail, ride, play tennis or golf. In the winter, it is one of the better ski areas in Canada. The country around Lake Memphremagog and North Hatley (where we spend our summers) is historically significant for its early American settlers. There are still many families of the third and fourth generations of these settlers living in the area.

The one element the Eastern Townships can offer more than any other holiday area in Canada is the social mingling of French, English and American people. Perhaps for this reason, it has become my favorite vacation spot. John Bassett is the publisher of the Toronto Telegram,

Elaine Bedard:
MY IDEA of a vacation is on a boat in the Thousand Islands. There are so many places you can go, so many extraordinary houses to look at and marinas to party at. We usually cruise with our friends in something like a convoy, partying all along the way. On certain islands belonging to the Ontario government, you can anchor, have a campfire, cocktails and a swim around the boat. Of all the places we visit, I enjoy Alexandria Bay and Gananoque, Ontario, both charming and with good restaurants.

During the summer, we take the boat from Montreal down to the islands and dock at a marina near Kingston or Gananoque. If we have to go back to the city, we commute by car.

For me, the Thousand Islands is always a new adventure with boats, sunshine and water. Most places you can visit twice and see almost everything. You can go to the Thousand Islands 10 times and still find something different. Elaine Bedard, our cover girl, is a busy radio and TV personality and fashion model.