Real Man Travels Presents: 150 of Our Favourite Canadian Things

Follow along as we list off our favourite 150 Canadian things over 150 days to celebrate Canada Day!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Real Man Travels University: Minnesota Golden Gophers

I’ve always struggled to understand the incredible allure that drives amateur sport that pro sport just doesn’t seem to replicate. The blind loyalty of a fan base that’s unquestioned as they cheer on their own. Their allegiance is predestined by geography, passed on through generations, and built into the fabric of their school’s campus. As an observer it’s been hard to comprehend. That all changed when the Golden Gophers of Minnesota invited us to experience what college football is all about.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Travel
left to right: Sam, Chris, and Mike enjoying the game from the sidelines
Driving to TCF Bank Stadium through the heart of the University of Minnesota campus, there’s no mistaking where you are. Rows of fraternity houses adorned with Greek letters blend into the towering school buildings. Campus buildings that have stood for over a century blend with modern facilities that you would expect from a state school. Students move to and from buildings showing their school pride in simple ways as the area buzzes over tomorrow’s Big10 match up against the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers.

“The Bank,” as it is known, is an oddity in college football. A state-of-the-art, brand spanking new on-campus stadium is something the Big10 conference hasn’t seen since 1960. The home locker room, the biggest in college and professional sports, is visually stunning and boasts 120 cherry-wood lockers. As Jeff, the senior director of TCF Bank Stadium & Outdoor Facilities, toured us through the $300 million stadium, we marveled at every turn.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Travel
Tossing the ball around during a tour of TCF Bank Stadium

When Saturday morning arrived we were giddy with anticipation. The buzz on campus and around the stadium was infectious. We watched Nebraska and Minnesota fans mix together in the stands as we navigated our way to the sidelines to take in the game. What would follow would be one of the most enjoyable football experiences of my life. I’ve watched a lot of football, but nothing the NFL has offered me could compare to what the Golden Gophers of Minnesota delivered that autumn day. A nail-biter of a game that was still very much up for grabs in the final five minutes until a Gophers rushing touchdown with 48 seconds remaining gave them the lead. An interception would serve as an exclamation point as Minnesota ended a 53 year losing streak against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The place went absolutely nuts, and I was hooked on NCAA football.



4th & Goal - 4 Reasons you should experience a Minnesota Golden Gophers home game:

  1. Minnesota is a team on the rise. After back-to-back 3-9 seasons the Gophers are rebuilding their program “brick by brick” under coach Jerry Kill and have earned bowl appearances in each of the last two seasons. They will face Syracuse December 27 in the Texas Bowl on ESPN. 
  2. Pure football experience. Don’t worry about your fantasy football line-up; just enjoy some of the best football on the planet.
  3. Players leave it all out on the field. These are real student-athletes with classes and exams to deal with all week long; but come Saturday they play for their school and their future, not for a pay check.
  4. The Fans. This fan base is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to mingle with. They know their stuff and they keep the stadium rocking for the full 60 minutes.
Golden Gophers Travel
some fans dressed up for the pre-Halloween game


Think your school can outdo the Gophers experience? The Real Man Travels team is currently looking for our next college football experience and would love to hear from you.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Jack Daniel's Barrel Tree Lighting Ceremony

Every once in a while something truly unique happens in your hometown or city. Toronto is never an exception to that rule and this year is the proud host of the Jack Daniel’s Barrel Christmas Tree.



Located at 544 King Street West in front of the marketing firm The Hive (who happen to share a rich history of business with Jack Daniel’s) the barrel tree is constructed out of Jack Daniel’s barrels that are decorated with lights, garland, ribbons and stands approximately 20-30 feet proudly. Sorry to burst all the bubbles of Jack Daniels fans but the barrels are empty!



Scott (@SFRealManTravels) and I (@EdRealManTravel) were lucky enough to be invited to the tree lighting ceremony on December 11th, 2013. At this ceremony we were introduced to a seasonal blend from Jack Daniel’s called Winter Jack. It is a mixed blend of apple cider liqueur (which really takes over the entire taste of the drink) Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whisky and holiday spices. The drink is best served warm and was nice to have after standing in the cold.

While I wasn't a fan of Winter Jack because I’m not fond of ciders, those who are will definitely find joy in this beverage during the winter season. You can find it at most LCBO’s across Ontario.

Many thanks to The Hive (@The_Hive) and Jack Daniel’s (@JackDaniels_US) for inviting us out to the lighting ceremony.



And if you are in Toronto be sure to get a photo of that beautiful barrel tree and share it on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #JDBarrelTree.


Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Loews Toronto Christmas Market


Do you ever get a little nostalgic when watching movies or looking at photos from “Christmases long long ago”? It’s easy to become indifferent about Christmas in the haze of mega-mall shopping and freezing cold temperatures that can leave your spirit meter depleted. Toronto offers the perfect remedy to your blue Christmas with the Loews Toronto Christmas Market.

 

The event recreates a European Christmas market complete with hanging lights, an absolutely massive Christmas tree, live music, a bevy of vendors, comfort food and festive beverages; all amongst the perfectly rustic setting of Toronto’s historic distillery district.



We managed to catch R&B artist Jully Black on stage while sipping Mill Street beers and hot mulled wine by open fires. Delicious aromas of poutine, schnitzel, churros and other treats mingled with the smell of the rustling wood fires to make it a truly sensational event.


The market runs from November 29 – December 15. Make a point to attend as it’s guaranteed to get you in the spirit of this amazing season.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Are you a Gentleman? There's an expo for that.


Want to know what an unadulterated celebration of manliness includes? How about a world record gathering of moustached men? The chance to win free bacon for a year? Cars and motorcycles? A great whisky debate?  Food trucks? A wrist shot contest? Beer and spirit samples? A do your best Ron Burgundy impression contest? Sounds about right to me.

The lads from Real Man Travels will be taking part in all of the above at the Gentlemen’s Expo this coming weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Sounds right up our alley. Yours too? Find tickets and info at http://www.gentlemensexpo.com/. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Five Things to Do in St. John’s, Newfoundland

A post by Scott F

St. John’s is the epitome of a little-big town. A city that, despite its size and majesty, still retains a feeling of coziness that makes visitors feel instantly welcome. While not the easiest thing to do, I managed to (sort of) narrow our experience down to a few key themes, all of which led to our exceptional experience in the heart of the Rock.

George Street

George Street holds the coveted distinction of hosting the “most bars and pubs per square foot of any street in North America.” That’s enough to cause any man to fall on their knees and exalt in Wayne’s World-type fashion, “we are not worthy!” But what really stands out about George Street is that is isn’t as touristy as one might expect. Instead you get a great mix of enthusiastic islanders and dumbstruck mainlanders all out for a good time. We found our way to O’Reilly’s Irish Newfoundland Pub where we were fortunate enough to catch a show by the outstanding Irish Descendants. Naturally, George Street is also the destination for those needing to be “screeched in” as official Newfoundlanders (Christian’s Bar does a fantastic job). Don’t look it up - just pucker up and do it.

REALLY see the Sights

Take in the incredible walk up to and around Signal Hill. There is a fantastic trail that takes you around the hill with stunning views of the city and the ocean. Take the quick drive to Cape Spear, Canada’s most easterly point, and walk the East Coast Trail that winds along the massive cliff overlooking the ocean.








Drink the Beers

Ya’ll knew I wouldn’t forget the beer. We found our way to two breweries during our time in St. John’s, and neither disappointed. Most highly recommended is the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company located on the breathtaking Quidi Vidi harbour. Don’t miss their feature brew, Iceberg, which boasts being made with 25,000 year old iceberg water. A truly refreshing lager, worth its more expensive price tag on warm summer nights. Their Eric’s Cream Ale and 1892 Traditional Ale are also solid selections.

  

YellowBelly Brewery and Public House is a great spot for some good food washed down with fresh beer made on site. St. John’s Stout is the beer to try. Delicious with hints of dark chocolate, coffee and tobacco; definitely worth a session.


Take a Drive just out of Town

The sights don’t end at the edge of town. Bell Island is a short drive a ferry crossing away. Home to a now defunct iron-ore mine, Bell Island feels a world away. Take in the mine tour; our guide was a third generation miner from Bell Island who explained the genuine hardships of life in the mine. Very humbling. Take a drive out to the lighthouse on the Island, as not to miss this:



Petty Harbour was equally worth the short drive. If you're looking for a bite to eat, try Chafe’s Landing of You Gotta Eat Here fame.




Walk

Do yourself a favour and just walk (starting at the top of the hill of course, if you know what’s good for you). The jellybean houses and views of the bay are breathtaking and need to be seen from the vast variety of vantages the city has to offer.



Travelers tip: download the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism app – it’s an valuable resource for attractions, inns, hiking routes, restaurants and a whole lot more.

Long may your jib draw. Avancez!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Steam Whistle Brewery

Steam Whistle Brewery, A Family Adventure?!

     I have been to Toronto many times with my family for different types of Sporting Events or Ice Shows. But had never thought of going on a brewery tour while I was there. Until I heard from The Steam Whistle Brewery Company claiming it was the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" type of brewery (Sadly, no Oompa Loompas). This sounded like the perfect place for the kids to take their dad... 

  I was right! The kids, and even my mom, had a great time. The kids were even lucky enough to pull the actual "Steam Whistle"!! (Jealous)


Three Things I love About Steam Whistle 

  1. The delicious taste of the beer. 
  2. The Steam Whistle Company is as Green as it gets when it comes to saving the planet.
  3. Real Man Travels and Steam Whistle have "founding" similarities. Steam Whistle was thought up on a canoe trip in Ontario around a campfire and that is exactly how Real Man Travels was created.
   Steam Whistles Tour Info

Friday, 25 October 2013

Cask Days - Fresh Beer, Beautiful Venue

A post by Scott F

Toronto has no shortage of beer festivals. Not at all a bad thing if you’re like me and enjoy the chance to try a wide variety of beer amidst a crowd of like-minded, opinionated enthusiasts. Each festival has its own vibe – factors that differentiate each and overcome the ever-present risk of monotony for the regular crowd. Real Man Contributor Ed Arsenault and I got a chance to experience one of Toronto’s most unique festivals, Cask Days, in mid-October.


Cask Days, now in its ninth year, is a true showcasing event for ale brewers. Every brewmaster I’ve met enjoys the chance to experiment, but rarely are they offered a chance to have their creations sampled. Cask Days provides that opportunity. This year’s festival featured 230 beers from 124 breweries. The variety was immense and included everything from the ultra-traditional to the downright weird (such as the Drunken Bunny chocolate milk stout by Half-Pints Brewing Co., pictured below).


Cask-conditioned ales are the earliest form of draft beer. “Conditioning” refers to the final fermentation, which for cask ales occurs in the cask and completes only days or hours before the beer is consumed. The result is a less carbonated, slightly cloudy brew that is as fresh as a beer can be without coming straight from the brewery tap. Cask beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and about as natural as beer can be.

Cask conditioning of beer is not a common practice in the age of beer gas (CO2 and nitrogen) tanks and consistent refrigeration; which is why an event like Cask Days is so unique. It is a tribute a passionate industry that still respects its roots and wants to offer customers a truly unique experience.


One of the festival’s clear advantages is the truly eclectic venue. Hosted at the Evergreen Brick Works, a series of deteriorating heritage buildings converted into a community environmental hub, the heavily industrial location provides an inspiring atmosphere for the event.


The festival also featured fantastic food, including kangaroo sloppy “joeys” (surprisingly good) and fresh oysters from Ceili Cottage of Leslieville. Other vendors included Bar Isabel, Parts & Labour, Hog Town Charcuterie, Tracy Winkworth and Pig Iron Coffee Roasters.

Other unique elements included a blind IPA tasting competition featuring four finalist beers from a selection of 32, vintage arcade video games, solid music and a good selection of ciders.


Two beers from small Quebec micro breweries stole the show for our palettes at the event. Le Trou Du Diable (makers of the humorously named Shawinigan Handshake Weizen Bock) brought a solid Belgian table beer called Petite Buteuse, while Les Brasseurs Du Temp’s Diable Au Corps (translated: Devil in the Flesh) was an amazingly balanced imperial pale ale considering its IBU 100 and ABV 10.


For those beer enthusiasts travelling to Toronto, consider Cask Days a must-attend for your fall schedule. Word to the wise, go on Sunday. We hear Saturday was a little busy for the taste of some. 


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Real Girl Travels - Niagara on the Lake



A Real Girl Travels Adventure:


So another post for Real Man Travels and another great adventure had. This time I actually made it, and I was early to boot!

On Sunday September 22nd at an early morning start time of 8:00am I set out on a highly anticipated adventure to Niagara on the Lake. Along side my best friend we began our 2 hour drive. On the agenda for the day were 4 wineries, and a micro brewery tour and tasting. We were very excited to do this as neither of us had ever been to Niagara on the Lake or to a wine tasting. We were definitely not disappointed.


First stop was Stratus. (@Stratuswines ) As we pulled into the parking lot of our first winery we fell in love with the architecture. The building is made of sustainable materials presented in a uniquely modern and raw way. Aside from the fantastic wines at Stratus, the building and the way the winery is run is very fascinating. No small detail was overlooked. From the recycled materials used in the construction of the building, to the pump-less wine flow technology, to the geothermal heating/cooling, this facility certainly earned its' 2005 LEED certification. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)


While at Stratus we took part in Swirls, Sips, and Hops, where we did a tour of the winery at Stratus, followed by a tasting. After that we walked next door to Oast House Brewery (@OastHouseBeer ) where we had a tour of their red barn facility and a nice sampling of their different beers available. This tour was a fantastic way to take in 2 different tours at once with two distinctly different atmospheres. From Stratus I purchased a bottle of their Stratus 2009 Red (which was on our tasting) and from Oast House, I bought a bottle of their Saison and Biere de Garde.


From Stratus we drove about 2 minutes down the road to Joseph's Estate Wines. (@NiagaraWine ) A family owned and operated winery that opened in 1996 officially. The family feel is definitely present at this facility. It was such a warm and welcoming experience. Our tour guide Joe made you feel like you were a part of the family. With a tour of the vineyard and wine making operations, we ended it with a great tasting. We both left with a bottle of their fantastic ice wine.


Keeping with the family run wineries we made our way to Konzelmans Estate Winery. (@KonzelmannWines) This winery is full of history with the 6th generation of the Konzelmann legacy currently running the business. When we first arrived, it was a very busy place! The tasting room and boutique is where are tour began and we were escorted through the grounds for a full tour of the vineyard and facility. The vineyard boasts a gorgeous view of Lake Ontario with a rolling Toronto city landscape in the distance. Reminds you that this little piece of paradise really isn't so far from home. Following our tour we were treated to a tasting and a lesson in "The 5 S's of Wine Tasting". This lesson is featured in the video at the end of this post. We both purchased 2 bottles from Konzelmann's, one white Pinot Blanc, and one red Pinot Noir. 



After Konzelmann's we went to our hotel to check in. We stayed at The Harbour House Hotel. (@NiagarasFinest ) This boutique hotel is absolutely stunning. Easy to get to, with ample parking, the hotel is situation right by the water with a fantastic view of the harbour. In the lobby you're treated to a complimentary wine tasting, their service was prompt and check in was smooth. There are elevators, how ever Chantelle and I used the stairs more. Our room was adorable with 2 single beds, a fantastic bathroom complete with a walk in shower, jacuzzi tub, and a rubber duck. The beds were incredibly comfortable and the hotel was pleasantly peaceful at night. 



The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to anywhere in town, complete with drop off and pick up, which was fantastic. We took the shuttle to our next tour and tasting at Strewn Winery. (@NiagaraWine ) Here we had a tour of the facility followed by a tasting. Located at Strewn is a fantastic restaurant called Terroir La Cachette (@TerroirCachette ) They use locally grown and raised products which really gives you a true taste of Niagara on the Lake. Our server, Steven, was so knowledgeable about the area, the food we were eating and the wine we were drinking, he really enhanced our entire dining experience. From beginning to end, our tour and tasting at Strewn, followed by our fabulous dinner at Terroir La Cachette, was incredible. 


We finished our night off at a local pub called The Olde Angel Inn. Established in 1789 and rebuilt in 1816 after the War of 1812, The Olde Angel Inn is a great place to go for a local pint and a ghost story or two. We both had a pint of the Angel Inn Lager.

Our Monday morning began with a tour and tasting at Coyote's Run. (@coyotesrun ) This winery boasts some distinct soils that are unique to the area. They grow grapes from both the Red Paw soil and the Black Paw soil. It's amazing the difference in taste that the soils can produce in the grapes. Our tour was conducted by one of the onsite wine makers so we were treated to trying an unreleased Cabernet Sauvignon directly from the barrel. It was delicious! 

Following Coyote's Run we finished off our wonderful winery weekend at Ravine Vineyard (@RavineVineyard ) It was at Ravine that we had one of the most unique vineyard tours; geo-tracking. Along with a guide from Ravine, we set out on a geo-tracking adventure through the entire vineyard. Using a GPS app on my iPhone we were able to locate all of the boxes and learned a little bit about the vineyard with each box we uncovered. It was a definitely a fun way of seeing and learning about the vineyard. Following our geo-tracking adventure we had lunch at the restaurant onsite. This restaurant uses vegetables from the organic garden which is right on site, as well as their own farm raised pigs, and they even bake their own bread. The meal was delicious and had just as satisfying a view of the entire vineyard and surrounding area. 



Also Check out this Awesome Niagara on the Lake Video 


While we managed to take in 6 wineries and 1 brewery there is so much more to do in beautiful Niagara on the Lake. Here are some upcoming events:

• In November, the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake host "Taste the Season," a touring pass event which features a seasonally-inspired VQA wine and food pairing at each of the 27 member wineries.

• In January, we celebrate Icewine with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival, which includes tutored tastings with some of Canada’s leading Icewinemakers, live jazz, Icewine-inspired culinary creations, and an Icewine cocktail competition, as well as a lot of fantastic winery events. We could even get you out picking some Icewine grapes.

• In February, there's "Days of Wine and Chocolate," a touring pass event which features VQA wines matched with chocolate-infused dishes at each of the wineries.

• In May the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake welcome spring with "Wine and Herb," a touring pass event which features different herb-themed food pairing matched to a premium VQA wine selected to highlight the flavour and aroma of the herb at each of the 27 wineries.

Planning a guys weekend? Here are some other great activities that would be great:


● Hitting the greens and enjoying Canada’s largest concentration of golf facilities in one region, including the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, which is North America’s oldest course. Niagara is also home to the Niagara Golf Trail, which includes six great area courses open for public play that are known for their beautiful views, challenging courses and fabulous club houses.



 Packages from transportation partners with great options for the guys, including a Land, Sea and Air package that offers guests the opportunity to ride the Niagara River’s Class 5 rapids in a Jet boat, have an unforgettable Land Rover off-roading adventure and soar over Niagara’s vineyards in a helicopter.

 Fantastic dining options including Barrel Cellar dinners, dinners hosted by the Winemaker, casual food truck fare and more.
There is also a little thing called the Winemakers' Selection Tasting Pass, which allows pass holders  to enjoy one tasting of a Winemaker's Selection wine at each of the 27 Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake any day of the year. Touring passes, which are $27 per person, plus applicable taxes, can be purchased online at www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/winemakers-selections-tasting-pass or by calling Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake at 905.468.1950. You can also buy your passes at any of the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
If you're interested in more information please visit www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com

More links to check out:
http://wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sometimes You Just Need to Party to Relax

Hey folks, Ed here with a short and sweet post.

I recently took a trip with 4 friends down to Memories Varadero in beautiful Cuba. On this trip I came to the realization that sometimes you just need to party to relax. 

I'm not saying it is for everyone, but to unwind from the stresses of life with an itinerary, plans and sights to see sometimes doesn't feel like a vacation at all. Sometimes you just need to indulge in a beer or twenty and really forget life back home.

I truly recommend that in between your gathering of culture and worldly knowledge that you take some time and just cut loose. Dance at 3:00 am on a beach, act like a kid and go down a water slide with a drink, sleep in till noon, drink till 5:00 am and just cut loose. I promise if you are safe about it, you will not regret it!

Here is a short video from my last "relaxing" trip in Varadero Cuba.


Memories Varadero from Ed Arsenault on Vimeo.




Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Canadian Space and Aviation Museum

The Canadian Space and Aviation Museum

“When I was eight years old to be a spaceman was the most exciting thing I could imagine.” - Roberta Bondar

I have a dream! And it is a very important one. I want my daughters to be the best they can be in life. I am sure you have similar hopes and dreams for your child/children.

My plan this past summer was to try and inspire my children to be leaders by taking them to a city that is full of leaders,our nations capital Ottawa.

You maybe wondering why I chose The Canadian Space and Aviation Museum as a place of inspiration for my daughters. Well the museum is host to many exhibits, but my favorite part was dedicated to Great Canadian Astronauts like Roberta Bondar, The first Canadian Woman in space, and Col. Chris Hadfield who just this past year was the Commander of the International Space Station. You can pretend to be an astronaut by playing a giant version of Chris Hadfield's guitar or by sitting on a space toilet.

With amazing planes of all shapes and sizes, and craft workshops to keep the kids happy. Strolling through the museum is a fun way to to teach your kids about the history of aviation and space travel. 

Another bonus that I was not expecting, was the nice playground they had just beside the parking lot, its a great way to burn off any left over energy.












Check out Ottawa Tourism's Website for more info.