For the British traveller, Canada offers relatively good value. At first, prices seem high – but then you look at the exchange rate and they’re comparable to most UK charges. I’ve found eating out here a little cheaper than the US, and while tipping is expected, it’s not forced upon you with every bill, bar tender or server.
However, if you want a quick drink at home you might have to plan a little more than usual – especially in Ontario, where sales of beer, wine and spirits are still relatively heavily regulated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or LCBO. The Beer Store is a commercial outlet licensed to sell 24 packs of beer. Other than that, only a handful of grocery stores and direct outlets like wineries or breweries are allowed to sell.
The rules are set to be relaxed, but it all seems in sharp contracts to Canada’s reputation as a liberal country, promoting free thinking and a laid back approach to life. Earlier in the blog I wrote that Ontario had only just licenced cannabis for sale to the public, the final Canadian region to do so. Several days on, and the queues are still lengthy outside the few shops holding permits.
And yet, the biggest public debate – at least on three local radio and TV stations today – has been about a shocking proposal – to change the slogan on Onatrio’s vehicle license plates. The current moniker – More To Discover – is considered to be outdated and a need of a refresh. It hardly seems like the most pressing political issue, but in some ways reflects a sense of pride in where you live. Remember, almost every vehicles in the area will carry that slogan for years to come. It’s about identity, something Candians are fiercely loyal about.
Before I leave, it’s time for one last snack. The St Lawrence Market is considered to be one of the best in the world, according to the National Geographic Magazine. Fresh produce is sold by the bucketload, and – like all good markets of its kind – many producers ell hot and cold snacks too. There’s everything from maple encrusted bacon sandwiches to more than enough cheese to accompany that heavily regulated win.
It’s time to fly home, and en route, another great piece of Canadian courtesy. I have two separate tickets to travel back through Chicago and onto London, with two separate airlines, bought individually. Normally, this would mean collecting checked bags and having to go through customs again. But the nice lady at Air Canada checks them right through to home.
There’s a slight problem at US Customs, though, whose machines refuse to read my fingerprints several times over. They eventually let me through, presumably because I’m promising to leave the country as soon as I arrive in it.