Americas

Canadian Cottage Culture

I ended my last post halfway though the summer. This will be a continuation of summer, but mainly focusing on the fantastic ‘Canadian Cottage Culture’ that I was lucky enough to experience.

While it’s not something I initially think about when visiting a place, and especially as it has been my job all summer, I decided to go on a river cruise in a different town-the 1000 islands, on the St Lawrence River-which was absolutely beautiful. We sailed underneath the bridge linking Canada to the US, past a castle, a statue of St Lawrence himself, the shortest international bridge in the world (not the one same we sailed under!) and many beautiful tree-covered undiscovered islands.

I was lucky enough to actually spend a fair bit of time scattered through the summer in the 1000 islands…as my boyfriend owns one of those thousand islands (clever great grandmother)! ‘Cottage culture’ seems to be a way in Canadian life. During the summer months in Ontario, Canada, thousands of local people escape the heat – as well as the hustle and bustle of city life – by fleeing to their lakeside cottages in the wilderness. Weekends, holidays, spare days, birthdays–any excuse and a Canadian will be uttering the words, ‘We’re off to the cottage this weekend,’ and will always have that calm smile of content on his or her face. This seasonal ritual allows family and friends to spend quality time together and enjoy the great outdoors. For those privileged to have the cottage connection, summer childhood memories will often revolve around cottage time of playing outdoors, in the water, barbecues and campfires. The fresh air, shining water, wind-swept trees, rustic cottages, fishing, watching nature living in its own habitat…why wouldn’t anyone enjoy a cottage weekend? Sure, you have to deal with mosquitoes and bugs, but that’s the extent of your worries. Generally cottages will be in secluded areas, 15 minutes or so from the local village for supplies and there will be no television or internet to remind you of the ‘real world’, cottage time is escape time!

Cottages are often a work in progress, as its owners constantly have to make sure everything is still in working order after Ontario’s brutal winters. As long as you are outside, though, it’s all good! Those lucky enough to have grown up being able to visit a cottage in the summer-whether they rent one, own one, visit a friends or relatives most children who have grown up with this tradition will want to give their own children the same experience, which is why it is only a tiny pocket of Canadians who indulge in this culture. It’s a place of love and childhood memories. It also provides a sense of belonging and thoughts of a simpler life. Relaxing in hammocks, or Muskoka chairs, watching the herons and loons on the water and the hawks on the sky, you certainly do feel like you are living a more uncomplicated life without the worries of city woes.

Due to the near seclusion, it’s also a perfect place to party. You can stay up as long as you want, drink as much as you like and bbq at any hour of the day or night…and the next day just be faced with the cool water to jump right back into and start again. The only time you seem to spend inside is on the chillier nights towards the end of the season and you are all jumbled around the indoor fire (as opposed to the campfire!), but still toasting your marshmallows!

You tend to leave at least a shade redder than arrival and exhausted from all the outdoor activities and drinking but at the same time so refreshed! It’s a great culture, and one that I can’t wait to hopefully be able to revisit next summer!

The end of summer saw free yoga in the park, lakeside picnics, riding Canada’s highest rollercoaster, visits from an English friend and plenty more pong. But as fall has approached the trees have turned glorious shades of yellows, pinks and oranges and the temperature has dropped dramatically (from 40 degrees to 4 in six weeks!) it reminds me once again of how dramatic the Canadian season changes are. It’s been a hot summer (which at times had me begging for winter), but a great one nonetheless, and as always, it’s sped past way too quickly. Now I have to excitement of experiencing my first Canadian winter with traditions and plenty of skating! Here’s to hoping its a cold and snowy one!

Claudia Guest
A traveler all her life, Claudia was born in Germany and raised in England. She regularly visited various countries around Europe and the Americas, but it was when she was 18 that she really discovered her own overwhelming lust for travel. As soon as she finished school, she and two girlfriends backpacked through Italy, Southern France and Spain. Five months later she was back on a plane for a two-week sailing holiday in the Caribbean and a week after returning from that she was on another plane bound for Australia, where she traveled for three months, before going to teach English in Ecuador for four months. From there, she studied at university in England, traveled to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, and then headed to Canada on a work visa, where she is today. This summer, Claudia is working on a tourist cruise boat in Ottawa…yet constantly feels Asia calling her back. Try to keep track of where she goes- or just look up in the sky, where she’s most likely bound for somewhere new!

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    3 Comments

    1. They say it’s going to be a cold Canadian winter this year (Il Nino) Can’t wait!!

    2. How interesting…in Montreal it was completely different. A lot of people tended to stay in the city in spite of the heat, because that’s when Montreal has its biggest and best festivals. Amazing what a provincial border can do to change local culture!

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