Categorized | Canada, North America

Travel Canada: Ian of Where Sidewalks End

travel Canada - Montreal - bearing the winter's cold

Montreal – bearing the winter’s cold

New month, new set of amazing interviews. Today’s one is a belter. We’ve got none other than Mr Ian Ord Chris Martin (of Coldplay Where Sidewalks End fame) himself on hand to discuss travelling in his native Canada. 

Let’s see what this little Canuck has to say about conquering the northern plains dressed in a Mountie hat and nothing from the waist down.

1. Hi Chris Ian! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Canada?

Greetings! My name’s Ian Ord, and I’ve been on/off travelling for the best part of the past 15 years. I’ve recently started an ‘inspirational travel’ blog, ( which is intended to encourage people to explore the globe off the beaten trail, meet some of the friendly locals from around the planet, and experience much of the beauty the unseen world has to offer.

The trip which started it all for me was in the summer of 1997, when I left home and decided to hitchhike across my native country of Canada. The world opened up very quickly for me, and my life has been an incredible journey ever since. I owe a lot (if not all) of my lifestyle and ‘grown up’ decisions to the experiences I had that summer. Since then, I’ve been back and forth across Canada several times, and although I haven’t been there for some time, I’m especially happy to know where I come from.

travel Canada - Montreal Basillica

Montreal Basillica

2. How does Canada compare to the rest of North America in terms of things to see and do, its food and its culture? Is it very similar to other countries or very different?

Well, Canada’s definitely got some similarities to it’s ‘big brother’ next door. It’s pretty unavoidable, given it’s got the world’s largest unprotected border, in addition to the constant bombardment of television shows and commercials, corporate chains and other trading which happens back and forth across that invisible dotted line. Though even with all the similarities  when comparing good ol’ Canada to the United States of America, there’s definitely a sense of pride which exists all things Canadiana.

Toronto city

Some of Canada’s ‘must-try’ local dishes originate from the french province of Quebec. I would suggest my two favourites include Quebec’s legendary ‘Pountine’ (french fries smothered in a thick gravy, and curd cheese) and the delicious Montreal smoked-meat sandwiches.. YUM! Being such a culturally diverse country, you will find gastronomical delights from all over the world, from Japanese, to Mexican, Italian, to Trinidadian – there’s no shortage of selection, though very few restaurants which will claim to have a fully Canadian menu.

Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich

Culturally, Canadian’s pride themselves on their fine selection of comedians, such as Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Michael J Fox, Russell Peters, Seth Rogan, the list goes on.  Having 2 national languages, including French and English, as well as two national sports, both Hockey and Lacrosse (though Basketball was invented there as well), are all things many Canadians are quite proud of. There’s a fair amount of musicians who are quite popular in Canada as well. Though it seems many of the musicians Canada forces upon the world always seem to be the ones they’re least proud of! Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Avril Lavign, Alanis Morrisette and *shutters* Celine Dion (I believe she’s actually the devil in certain religions) should give you a fairly good idea as to what I’m talking about.

travel Canada - Hockey

Here’s some hockey for ya

Speaking of ‘about’ – to the untrained ear, it’s very difficult to disambiguate Canada from the United States when listening to them speak. In fact.. most Canadians are not very good at it themselves. There are a few key words to look out for which may be a give-away as to where your new north american friend resides. Words with the ‘ou’ sound tend to be emphasized more like the Irish or French OU sound.. almost like an ‘ow’ or ‘oo’. Words such as house, mouse, out, and about will often sound quite funny to one unfamiliar with this difference of dialect. Canadian’s also have a few unique words, such as Toque (a woollen winter hat), Pop (soda), Chesterfield (a couch/sofa), Hoser (a funny insult which doesn’t really have much clout), and Double Double (a coffee from the local chain Tim Horton’s which has 2 creams and 2 sugars).

Please note: I did not grow up in an igloo, or ride dogsleds, while fighting off grizzly bears on my way to work as a lumberjack. My closet, however, did have an exceptionally large collection of plaid shirts.

3. How much money can someone travel around Canada for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?

I’ve done the travelling across Canada both the cheap and the expensive route. A budget should always be based on what you want to accomplish while visiting your destination, and also based on the level of comfort you’re hoping to have. Canada’s dollar is quite strong in the world market, making it less of a budget destination, but there are ways around this if looking to minimize costs. Bus transport is one of the cheapest means of getting around, as internal flights are quite expensive. It is the world’s second largest country, rivalled only by Russia, so distance is taken to a whole new meaning when trying to get around. A short drive to the next major city may be as long as 6 hours, overnight buses are often a good option, as they will save on a night’s accommodation. Hostels are always one of the cheapest places to stay, though couch surfing has become quite popular for many visitors in recent years. Given the cultural diversity, there’s no shortage of good restaurants to choose from which should be able to satisfy anyone’s budget.

Toronto Gay Pride Parade

Some of the most expensive things in Canada will be Transport – flights and train systems are excellent, though they come with a hefty price tag. Nightlife – Canadian’s like to drink, so if you’re trying to get into the ‘spirit’, those bar tabs can add up quite quickly. Food – of course there are options for everyone’s budget, but if you’d like to dine at some of the higher end restaurants, you’ll pay high end prices to match.

Some of the cheap stuff: Street Meat – one of Toronto’s ‘delicacies’ is their BBQ’d sausages found at almost every corner. Cheap, quick and hits the spot. Festivals – on almost any given weekend in most big cities there will be some kind of cultural festival happening. Many of these are free, or have minimal entry costs. A great way to see the diversity, and have some fun. National Parks – if you’d like to experience true Canada, there are 100s of National Parks scattered throughout the great white north. They often have entry fees, but these are minimal for the experience of nature which awaits you within the parks boundaries.

travel Canada - Montreal Nightlife

Montreal Nightlife

4. What are your favourite destinations in Canada and why?

I’m both a big city person, as well as a nature lover, so I’m a toss up between the bustle of places like Toronto and Montreal where I can get my cultural fix, and National Parks such as Banff and Algonquin, which are both jam-packed full of wildlife. Generally speaking, I love the mountains, forest and ocean, so the province of British Columbia is one of my top spots where I’m able to get all three, in addition to the large city life of Vancouver.

Ottawa’s Parliament buildings

5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Canada and why?

Festivals, Festivals, Festivals! From beer festivals, to gay pride parades, to ethnic food fests, to three day outdoor music festivals, to winter activity festivals, to International Film Festivals, there’s no shortage to choose from. Best to do a bit of research prior, if you’d like to do a festival hopping tour from city to city. I love going to as many as I can, but if I had to choose one as my favourite, it would be Nuit Blanche held annually in Toronto in mid October. From dusk until dawn, the city becomes an interactive art display, often with over 150 exhibits set up in the streets, in buildings, in metro systems and anywhere else they can be squeezed into. The streets are filled with millions of wanderers randomly navigating from one exhibit to the next. I have yet to meet someone who was able to see all the exhibits in one night, mind you. This thing’s BIG.

travel Canada - Canadian Rocky Mountains from the Sky

Canadian Rocky Mountains from the Sky

6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?

My favourite part of travelling around Canada has been seeing all the varying ecosystems and landscapes. The small rolling hills of the Maritimes (the Atlantic coastal provinces), to the dense forests in Ontario and Quebec, the desert in Manitoba, the endlessly flat wheat fields of Saskatchewan, the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, and I have yet to see the tundra of the Northern provinces! Being an avid traveller, I also LOVE the cultural diversity (in case you haven’t gathered that already), as I feel you’re able to experience so many parts of the world, sometimes just by walking a few blocks in either direction.


My least favourite things are the long distances between destinations. I think it’s incredible to see and experience how big Canada really is, but after driving across it once (which took more than 70 hours driving time, on well paved, uncontested highways), I told myself once was enough! Then I did it again. In this case, I’m kind of hoping things don’t happen in threes.

travel Canada - basketball

7. What things do you focus on most when you travel blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?

Generally I blog about places to go which aren’t in your generic destination hand-book. As for Canada, I would include good spots to get the chance at wildlife viewings, decent hole-in-the-wall restaurants to try some local dishes, great off the beaten trail accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, or

A short drive to the next major city may be as long as 6 hours, overnight buses are often a good option, as they will save on a night’s accommodation. Hostels are always one of the cheapest places to stay, though couch surfing has become quite popular for many visitors in recent years. I would choose these things as the premise of Where Sidewalks End is all about getting off the beaten trail, and connecting with the locals, and the nature on an more intimate level.

8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Canada without?

A bottle of Maple Syrup. That stuff’s like gold, and can be used as a form of currency or as a bribe to any police officer.

travel Canada - Lacrosse 1

9. If you could have lived anywhere else in the country where would it be and why?

I would love to experience living up in the Yukon territory. The summers have 24 hours of daylight at their longest point, with a sunset that over a few hours turns back into a sunrise, and the winters with their eternal darkness and regular viewings of the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). It’s one of the most pristine and unspoiled parts of the country still, with much rugged nature to be explored. There’s even a chance of spotting polar bears! I doubt I’d survive an entire winter there, mind you, as it can be one of the coldest places in Canada. Me and cold weather don’t see eye to eye.

Signs in public parks

10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone had told you before you started travelling in Canada what would it be?

Bring a tent. Having hitchhiked my way across Canada, I wasn’t prepared for the endless number of incredible campgrounds you can find along the way, and often just ended up ‘roughing-it’ in cute little bed and breakfasts, and sleazy roadside motels.

Thanks to Mr Ord, who we hear will be on tour impersonating Britain’s most hated band leader soon. Cracking tips! Make sure you check in with Where Sidewalks End and follow this pretty man on Twitter

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2 Responses to “Travel Canada: Ian of Where Sidewalks End”

  1. if you come back to Canada for any length of time – i’d love to visit and have you show me around, Ian! great interview!!
    lauren dimarco recently posted..TBEX afterthoughts…who IS a travel blogging hero?My Profile

  2. Ian Ord says:

    Thanks Lauren! You’ve got yourself a deal :) I’ve still got much to see in the United States of America, so the same applies if the tables are turned..
    Ian Ord recently posted..The Elusive Budget Accommodation in Singapore FoundMy Profile


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