It's Culture / It's Life / Travel There

A Houstonian’s Guide: Canada in 24 Hours

Whether you grew up watching the Saskatchewan Roughriders and ending drunken nights with heaping plates of poutine or you only know Canada through BuzzFeed lists, the country’s got something to offer you.

Me? I fall somewhere in the middle. No, I wasn’t born there, and I had never been to Canada until a couple weeks ago, but I’ve always adopted my meager 25 percent Canadian heritage overzealously. After all, Canada’s only associated with the best stereotypes (being too nice, having stronger beer, getting too intense about team sports), so I was psyched when I got to meet around 75 French Canadian family members in Windsor, Ontario for the LePage Family Reunion 2K15, y’all.

It was an insanely fun time, and all it took was a plane ticket to Detroit (which is around 20 minutes from the U.S.-Canadian border), a healthy appetite for hops and a need to get away from the Houston humidity. We can all agree on that, eh?

 What you’ll do: Life is what you make it, and so is a trip to the kindest country in the world. For me, my experience was a little different: I spent around 50 percent of my time drinking beer in a series of old barns my family used to work out of, right on the side of a cornfield, pumpkin patch and more farmland than I’ve ever seen in Texas. And, yes, the barn was complete with a Canada-themed man cave. Yes, there were hockey jerseys hanging from the walls. Yes, I took photos.

A Texan's first farm!

A Texan’s first farm! (I wasn’t joking.)

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Much Canada!

Very sport!

Very sport!

The rest of the time was spent drinking at other venues, whether it was wineries or British pubs. For somebody that prefers liquor to wine, I’ve got to admit: touring wineries around Windsor was a gorgeous way to spend a summer day.

Viewpointe Estate Winery, 151 County Rd 50, Harrow, Ontario: This place was beautiful, and it has a sprawling patio where visitors can enjoy wild game lunches and fresh cocktails. It overlooks Lake Erie, so it’s a place you could definitely spend time at. It might be best to call ahead of time, though – their staff was a tad salty that we opted to show up unannounced.

Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery, 7258 County Road 50, Amherstburg, Ontario: I’m not a white wine person, but this winery’s pinot grigio literally tasted as light as air. It’s housed in a beautiful, towering mansion on a rustic plot of land that just screams wedding venue. This is also the place where two of my three bottles of Canadian wine were purchased, and they also sell bubble wrap-lined wine cases for safe travels.

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I mean, come on, Sprucewood. Stop being so freaking beautiful. Also, shoutout to my Uncle Norbert cold chillin’ in the righthand corner.

BRB, just enhancing the Canadian experience via alcohol.

BRB, just enhancing the Canadian experience via alcohol.

Oxley Estate Winery, 533 County Road 50 E, Harrow, Ontario: 10/10, would do again. Generous wine samplings. Gorgeous lawn and terrace (which, for all you Millennials, makes for a great photo-opt area). The service here was awesome, and this place also goes the extra mile by selling packaged Canadian hot sauce and other distinctly non-winery things.

Hamming it up like nobody's business.

Hamming it up like nobody’s business.

Not a wine person? Fear not. There’s also some great Canadian beers you can check out. (Note: Canadian beers are stronger than American beers, but not stronger than Houston beers. I made the mistake of letting my uncle give me a Coors Light, since he wasn’t sure I could handle Canada’s high ABV. Big mistake.)

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Rickard’s Blonde German-Style Pilsner: Super drinkable, but not super unique. It’s a solid blonde that tastes a little doughy, and it’s got this really refreshing quality that’s tough to find in heavy pilsners. It’s steady. This was my go-to beer over the weekend, in-part because of its abundance in the barn. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Steam Whistle Pilsner: I love dry beers, and this was a stellar find. Again, it’s a solid pilsner without too many frills, but that’s what makes it so drinkable over the course of a long night. It isn’t too thick or heavy, and it’s fairly similar to Rolling Rock. Very refreshing, with light lemon notes.

Stiegl Radler (Grapefruit): If only it got warmer in Canada, because they’ll never get to experience how refreshing this brew could be on a 100+ degree day. This is absolutely delicious; it’s light, but not weak, and it strikes a great balance of malty bitterness and drinkable sweetness. I don’t have much to compare this to in terms of Houston brews.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc: The second I got home (and off my international data plan), I searched for places that sell this beer in Houston. It is – no exaggeration – the best beer I’ve ever had. Imagine blending Blue Moon sweet citrus kicks, peach, tangerine and the sweat that drips off Justin Timberlake during concert. Sounds gross, tastes delicious. If you want to try it in Houston, Taphunter lists The Phoenix on Westheimer as a seller.

If there’s one thing you’ve got to try in Canada, it’s poutine. Oh… My… God. My life has forever been changed since I dug into this drunken delicacy. Poutine (pronounced pew-teen), is made up of French fries smothered in thick brown gravy and cheese curds, which eventually melt and create this warm, gooey hangover cure. It’s a B.F.D. in Canada.

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Looks like sh*t. Tastes like Heaven.

So much so, in fact, that when my cousins found out the Texans had never tried poutine, they recruited a sober adult to drive the Millennials to a downtown poutinery to experience the magic.

I wish I could always see these when walking downtown.

I wish I could always see these when walking downtown.

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Finally. WE MADE IT TO THE POUTINERY. (Yes, that’s an actual thing.)

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Just a good ol’ gang of loving, drunk, happy French-Canadians ready to get their cheese curd on.

I’ll never forget you, sweet meal.

Bonus trip: Be sure to hit up Roots, which is basically the Canadian version of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THE UNITED STATES. It’s a clothing store that SCREAMS all things Canada, in the best way possible. I’m surprised that they didn’t have a live moose greet you at the fitting rooms. It’s a definite place to go if you’re in need of some bitchin’ souvenirs that’ll make your Americans friends jealous (i.e. maple leaf tank tops, sweatpants with scenery of the St. Lawrence river printed on them, sweaters built to survive the icepocalypse that you’ll wind up wearing in Texas on a 65 degree day…)

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A quilt store that’s right next to Roots (with strategically-placed flags in case you forgot where you were).

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I was so thrilled that they weren’t printing “FREEDOM” all over their shirts. #winforcanada

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Is this a dressing room… Or a tunnel to a secret part of Canada?

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I may or may not have purchased the pajama set on the left.

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