Thursday, 29 August 2013

What is Mosaika?

Mosaika is a light and Sound Show that tells you the story of Canada. It is truly a treat for your eyes and ears.

If you are wanting to see Mosaika live and in person time is running short the last show is on September 7, 2013. If you are going don't forget to grab some drinks, snacks and a chair and head for Parliament Hill. If you show up early you will get a great seat plus you will be treated to some great Canadian Music as you wait.

For those of you that are unable to make it to Ottawa this weekend here is a small taste of what it was like.

For more fun things to do around Ottawa check out Ottawa Tourism's Website

The Rideau Canal Museum

On my recent road trip to Ottawa, I planned my route in hopes that I would be stopping in Smith Falls, Ontario to visit the Rideau Canal Museum, So the kids could maybe learn a few things and have fun,  before hitting the road once again.

Before I get started here is a brief history of the canal: It was constructed in the 1800's and is nearly 220 kilometres long. It is also Ontario's First UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


After hearing "Are we there yet" 34 times we arrived at the locks in Smith Falls, it was beautiful to say the least, it was a perfect spot to relax or have a picnic. The kids were excited because I had told them classified info that there was a "Species At Risk" scavenger hunt with a possible treat at the end. 

We were met by two very nice young ladies that explained the scavenger hunt to the kids and took us to the film room for a short film on the history of the canal.

 The Scavenger Hunt took you from the bottom floor up 4 floors to the Indoor Lookout Tower. (Don't worry there is an elevator.) Each floor had a different theme and different interactive activities. 

It was an excellent way to stretch our legs. If you are ever in Smith Falls you should check it out.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Beer Festivals in Toronto – Different Strokes for Different Folks

We start with a philosophical question: can you love the same thing for different, and in some ways conflicting, reasons? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since attending two major beer festivals in Toronto over the past few weeks: the Toronto Festival of Beer and the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival.

The Toronto Festival of Beer – big, loud, glorious

What do you get when you mix 120 beer brands, loud music and pub food with uncertain weather, a sprawling outdoor venue and 30,000 thirsty Ontarians? The answer is a raucous, sticky mess of good ol’ fashioned fun.

What’s true is that you can’t call this a beer connoisseur event. It’s simply too impersonal (not many brew masters or owners/founders to be seen), too generalized (cider, coolers, mixers, you can find them all) and just too big to gain that distinction.

But here’s the thing: the Toronto Festival of Beer is not trying to be a beer connoisseur event. Sure they have some offerings to attract beer enthusiasts - an impressive number of international brewers, some interesting teaching events and a solid selection of cask and seasonal beer – but the core of this event is really about the party and offering a chance to try a huge selection of beers, in a fun environment, with like-minded people. 

And that’s where it delivers. The selection is enormous and extremely diverse. The music, fast paced and easy to enjoy. The food, plentiful enough to sop up any over indulgence. And the vast majority of people, there for the sole purpose of having a great time.

A few detractors:
  • Long lines: for everything. Bathrooms, sampling tokens, samples, food. You do a fair bit of waiting around. 
  • Cost inconsistency: does a sample cost one, two or three tokens? Does that get you a full sample or half a sample? CONFUSED!
  • Beer inconsistency: we found some warm beer and some that just tasted off. To be expected considering the environment and volume. 
The highlight of the festival was chatting with Nathan from Double Trouble Brewing Co., makers of the fantastic IPA Hops & Robbers and the newer Prison Break Pilsner. These guys embody the independent spirit on Ontario craft brewing and are pretty hilarious on Twitter. Give them a follow.

The Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival – local, quaint, social

Hosted at one of Toronto’s most iconic breweries, the Steam Whistle Roundhouse, this hyper-local festival features only registered Ontario Craft Brewers. Fifteen of OCB’s 31 member breweries were in attendance along with 8 food trucks and a smattering of talented local musicians covering a gamut of genres from punk and rock to one lone guy on a ukulele.

Entering Roundhouse Park we instantly felt the pride. Under the shadow of the Roundhouse you see banners of familiar local breweries and the scene just oozes with the camaraderie and fellowship that makes the Ontario brewing industry so special. There is a complete freedom from competition and great respect between the breweries (as seen when they recommend each other’s brews).

The atmosphere is beautifully laid back and welcoming. No lines or the animosity they create. People leaning against trees or sitting on the grass. We were thrilled to get the chance to chat with brew masters and owners, including the great folks from Grand River Brewing and Neustadt Springs Brewery (home of the very approachable 10w30 Dark Ale, which, when mixed with their Sour Krautlager, forms the delicious Black Raspberry). 

The food selection was stellar. We enjoyed pulled brisket poutine, veal sandwiches, ravioli and fish tacos while just missing out on wood fired pizza. And these gourmet dishes rolled in on wheels.

The similar issue of cost inconsistency found at the Toronto Festival of Beer was also present here. The selection also left something to be desired, as even some local favourites were missing. Amsterdam’s Oranje Weisse was a noted absence despite being one of their more promoted seasonals.

With it’s personal feel and great focus, the Roundhouse festival is an awesome celebration of Ontario beer.

Final ramblings:

For me, the answer to our philosophical question is yes. Depending on what you are looking for you might prefer the hot mess that is the Toronto Festival or Beer or you may be attracted to the local celebration of the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival. If you’re like me, I can show love for both, and am a happy man knowing that beer culture in Toronto is alive and well.

Follow Scott F. on Twitter at

Friday, 16 August 2013

Bruce Peninsula National Park

Imagine seeing the sky just like your grandparents did or Imagine swimming in a grotto like you are the Little Mermaid...

Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the few places that offer this kind of fun. Star lovers will love the Dark Sky Preserve, you will be fully able to appreciate the sky and stars with no interruption of city lights. Mix in some of the clearest waters and  most beautiful landscapes you have ever seen. 

Oh.. Bruce Peninsula National Park also has Yurts which are a Dad's best friend when it comes to camping. Placed right beside Cyprus Lake . It includes a comfy place to sleep, a cart to unload your things, indoor furniture, outdoor furniture and my personal favorites a BBQ and a Key to the only showers in the park! 

Of course there is more! like a Outside and Inside Stoves and great protection from the weather. In the winter you even get a snow shovel! So if you are new to camping or just want to relax more and pack less  this is a great way to do it. Do yourself a favor and indulge in the spoils of the Yurts

We also ventured in to Tobermory and visited the Parks Canada Visitor Centre where they had quite a few things to do like climb a lookout tower and lots of activities inside for the kids and information for the Adults. 

**HINT: Ask about the Junior Explorer Program for cool souvenirs for the kids!**

 While we were in Tobermory we hopped on a Glass Bottom Boat Tour out to Flowerpot Island which is part of Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada

Please Enjoy the pictures below. The scenery was breathtaking and I cant wait to go back! 

With a Yurt you will never ever hear this from your kids

 "Oh great! Dad has to set up the tent. This is going to take forever!!"

 Beautiful Inside and out. You can leave almost everything at home

I forgot the Bowls! Real Dad Stuff!!

Indian Head Cove

A Cave that we swam to and explored was really cool. The top was the perfect setting for a great picture.

Above: Climbing the lookout tower. Below: On Board the boat tour.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Beer Brain Trust: Beaus Knows Beer

My name is Sam, and I'm a diva. Wow, that feels good to get off my chest. My whole life I've been a picky eater, refusing to try new things, and generally living in a small, comfortable box. Lucky for me, it's never too late to change, at least some things. I've begun to push the walls of my comfortable box a tad further; and one of the ways I've found particularly rewarding, is with beer.

We've all been there, staring at a wall of beer on a Friday evening. You've been telling yourself for a while that you were going to try something new. Maybe one of those craft beers everyone's talking about. Only now there's a line forming at the cashier and you're not sure you can pronounce the name of the beer you're eyeing, so what do you do? You go back to your trusty mainstream favourite and get home in time for dinner. I can't blame you - but the good news is - we are here to help. 

When I want to try a new beer and don't know where to turn, I reach out to my "Beer Brain Trust," made up of Real Man Travels contributors Ed and Scott. Ed is the general manager of a sports bar and sees new beers everyday, while Scott has a passion for beer that borders on obsession. It was from them I heard of Beau's Lug-Tread Lagered Ale.

Beau's Knows Beer

When Ed told me about this new beer the name intrigued me. "What does 'Lug-Tread' even mean" I thought as he continued his endorsement. "They use all natural organic ingredients and spring water. It's a flavourful lager with a crisp taste and refreshing finish. Sits light and goes well with plenty of food options, a great all around beer. It's like Mill Street Organic with more flavour." Sure enough about a month later I was facing the oh so familiar Friday night beer shopping dilemma when the unique packaging of a 4 pack caught my eye. With my comfortable box of familiarity threatened, I rationalized that should I not like the beer, I could share it with friends at a weekend BBQ. However, with the pop of a top those plans changed quickly. That 600 mL brown bottle of 5.2% ABV deliciousness didn't stand a chance. Boundaries, pushed. Taste buds, tantalized. Friends at BBQ, beerless.  

Lug Tread owns prime real estate in my fridge these days

 Now I'm not one for tasting notes but here is how Beau's describes Lug-Tread:

"Golden-hued, crisp and finely balanced, Lug-Tread is our tribute to the classic beer of Cologne, Germany. Lug-Tread is top fermented (like an ale) and then cold aged (like a lager) for a lengthy period. This gives our beer some light ale notes complemented by a lager-like crispness. Lug-Tread displays interwoven malt and hop flavours, subtle fruit flavours and a crisp, lingering finish."

Still with me? Good. Now for that in English here's Scott's armchair interpretation:

"Lug tread is a lagered ale, and living up to it's name it provides the best of both worlds; the refreshing, crisp drink-ability of a lager with the mild bitterness most would associate with paler ales. The balance is remarkable. Lager sweetness gives way to dry bitterness with an pleasant, earthy aftertaste. Fruit flavour expresses only slightly and the hops are ever-present but not overpowering. A perfect beer for those who commonly drink lagers but are starting to dabble in more flavourful, hop-forward ales."

A little clearer now? My turn then. It's a Damn. Good. Beer. And clearly I'm not the only one that thinks so. Just take a look at the results of the 2013 LCBO Brewmasters Cup. After working its way through its bracket it captured 58% of the votes in the final 4. Pure domination.

My obsessive personality wanted to learn all I could about this new find, so I went over to to learn more. What I found was a fiercely independent brewery that runs its day-to-day operations like I imagine I would - with family and friends. It sounds like a place where any day could be an episode of "American Choppers" or "Duck Dynasty," but with beer. Makes me like the beer even more.

The lesson here: try new things (especially beer). If you escape your comfort zone every once in a while you might just be rewarded - as I was with Beau's Lug-Tread. I will be heading to Ottawa in September and will be sure to find time for a visit to their brewery in Vankleek, ON; I just hope they let me drive the tractor.



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Confessions of a First Flight

A Post By Ed Arsenault

Travelling is an exciting way to explore yourself and the world around you. Let’s face it, books, videos and pictures just don’t do justice to seeing things live in the flesh. The smells you miss, the sounds you don’t hear and the feelings you experience cannot be mimicked in any way. The first step to getting to stimulate your senses is obviously to save money for travel, but the next step is to board a plane and fly to your destination.

Now I have watched maybe 15 or 30 too many episodes of Mayday (a television show here in North America that recreates airplane crashes and then the investigation process as to why it happened) so I had already built up a fear of flying. I don’t blame it solely on that show, but more of just being afraid of the unknown. I had no idea what it felt like to be suspended in the air, what it felt like to take off and land or worst of all what turbulence felt like. People try to explain it, but until you actually do it, it is still unknown. Pair that up with a fear of heights and you have the makings for a grounded traveller. With that concoction of fear I was late to the travelling game. Well I am happy to say that I had the pleasure of flying for the first time last year at the ripe age of 26, and I must say everything I initially feared vanished quickly.

My first big trip was a 3 night stay in beautiful Varadero Cuba with three of my good Toronto buds (watch out for a blog post coming up recounting this trip soon). The friends I was staying with were there for 5 nights but because of my work schedule I couldn’t join them for the full trip. This meant I would be flying solo to and from Cuba. For those who do not know, the flight from Toronto to Cuba is a mere 3 hours or shorter if there is tailwind. In my opinion a great starter flight.

So there I stood alone at Pearson International Airport after being dropped off by a friend at 4:30am, awaiting my 6:30am flight out. The check in process at that time of day was incredibly quick and painless so I have no real horror story about long lines. I used one of the fancy automated check in machines to get my boarding pass. Simply select your flight, insert the bar code of your passport, select a seat and voila the boarding pass prints up! Then all you have to do is check any baggage, which is also a very simple process. Just wait in line, show your boarding pass, they will weigh your bag(s) and shoot them off to the luggage area and voila again, you’re done.

The check in process being simpler than I thought eased my mind but the closer I got to the gate the more nervous I made myself. While going through security I couldn’t help but think in my head “what if they think I have a bomb? What if they find something I didn’t pack, like a gun or knife?” just complete nonsense really. They didn’t think any of those things and I went through without being examined in the nude – phew. I just had to put all my belongings into a bin so they could be scanned (including my shoes). TIP: Don’t wear hard to lace up footwear and avoid wearing belts and other metal accessories while flying – it makes going through security so much quicker. After the check in and security screens all that was left was to wait to board the plane at the gate.

Before I sat in an anxious state at the gate I decided to grab a coffee and wandered around the airport. All airports will differ on things to do while you wait, but for the most part they all have a restaurant and somewhere to shop. So that’s what I did, I went and browsed at the duty free store. Not going to lie, this mini window shop really calmed my nerves although the coffee probably didn’t help. But after staring at souvenirs and beer for so long I decided to plump my butt down by the gate and do what all my fellow travellers were doing, waiting. All around me were couples napping on each other, friends looking excited to be on a trip together, families trying to herd their kids and old couples reading the paper like being up at 5:00am was no big deal. I sat there alone with my headphones on and just kept on observing those around me.

During my people watching session I started to think “why I am building this to be something that it is not in my head?” Kids were sitting all around me with huge smiles knowing they’d be on a beach in a few short hours, and here I am being a wuss, surely I am tougher than a kid? Well the time to board came and my heart started to pound as I passed my boarding pass to one of the attendants. Then started to beat even faster as I walked down the corridor leading to the planes entrance. The wobbling of the hallway matched the wobbling of my knees. I stepped in the plane and was greeted with a big Hello and Bonjour and directed to my seat. I had a window seat (as per my choice at the boarding pass machine) that had a great view of the wing. In my mind if the wing fails at least I would know right away right? TIP: Pick a window seat so you won’t have to get up every time someone has to use the bathroom.

                                                             The view from my seat

A couple celebrating their 20 year anniversary sat beside me and I explained to them that “I had never been on a flight before so I apologize in advance if I freak out a little”. The wife laughed at me and said I had nothing to worry about while the husband just kind of chuckled. Well shortly after our exchange of words the plane began to reverse to taxi out to the runway. This motion queued up the in flight safety video followed along by the attendants giving emergency demonstrations. Pearson is a large airport so the taxi process took about 10 minutes. Once we reached our runway we were queued up behind 5 other planes all getting ready to take off. Every 2 or 3 minutes we could hear the roar of the engines of another plane taking off and we would move closer to the runway. Finally it was our turn; the plane straightened out and the engines outside of my window began to speed up. I looked over to the couple who were happily reading their novels and then looked back out the window as the plane began to move. What started as a slow motion instantly turned into me being pushed into my seat as the plane accelerated at an intense pace. The plane bobbed up then back down, then bobbed up a bit, back down and just when I thought we’d run out of space to take off with the nose was up and the rest of the plane followed. Just like that we were hundreds of feet in the air over looking Toronto at 7:00am.

To anyone reading this who has never flown; after takeoff it is not all ascent. We must’ve gone up a thousand or so feet in Toronto then levelled off and actually dipped down a bit. The feeling of those moments can be described like going over a hill in a car at a high speed. The first one caught me off guard but after that I felt relatively at ease because I have actually experienced that feeling before. One of my new favourite feelings is actually banking in a plane (turning) while ascending or descending, it is such a fluid motion that I haven’t experienced anywhere but on a plane.  The rest of this flight was relatively smooth sailing. There was some jiggles and quick movements to the left or right (no different than driving on a highway when a semi-trailer passes you) though. Also, we did hit a small patch of turbulence and the plane dipped quite a bit, it had caught me off guard but after levelling off I just smiled about it to the lady next to me. TIP: For the men reading this; when going to the bathroom in a plane, just sit down to pee, you never know when turbulence will get you and you don’t want to walk back down the aisle with wet pants.

The rest of the trip was nice, I got some spectacular views of the United States, especially down by the Keys in Florida (a place I had driven to a few years prior). The weather was clear and sunny, but then again how could it not be when you’re flying above the clouds! After a breakfast served by the flight crew, 3 hours of amazing views, half a novel read and my flight worries diminished we had arrived at our destination. The last thing that was left to experience for the first time was the landing.

The plane descended and we were asked to strap on our seat belts. As we descended closer to land I could spot the planes shadow gliding over the landscape below, dancing across the trees and roadways of Cuba, it was mesmerizing to say the least. Then one of my favourite motions; the plane began to bank to line itself up with the runway. The plane got lower and lower and we could hear the mechanical sounds below us as the landing gear lowered. The plane continued to descend at a quick rate and then the plane bounced as the wheels hit the ground. The plane stayed on the tarmac and the engines roared as they were pushed to their limit in reverse to stop the plane. The plane came to a rolling stop and everyone on board began to clap with joy because we had made it and the plane landed successfully. From there the plane taxied to the area where we would unload. I looked over again at the lady and she said something to me I will never forget. “For a first time flyer you were really calm, I would’ve sworn had you not told me that you had flown many times before”. With that said I wished her and her husband a happy anniversary and we unloaded from the plane. I looked around the foreign airport and smiled as I had survived something I once feared.

Still nervous about flying? Check out this short video on YouTube from the fine folks at the Smithsonian Channel to calm your nerves!

Tell me about your flying experiences in the comment section below, or tweet me @EdRealManTravel, I look forward to hearing from you!