Sometime in July of 2012, my husband and I decided to take a summer holiday in Canada. It was quite a complicated travel for me because as a Filipino, I have yet to get the required Visas (tourist and transits) before making our summer leisure a reality. The truth is, filling up forms is one of things I dislike the most. When I see so many blanks to fill up in a form and so many detailed information to share, I always think that I am being interrogated for two reasons: one, why am I ‘Changing my Citizenship’ and second, ‘Explaining a Criminal Record,’ to which neither I am accomplishing. This kind of feeling really riles me up, but on the positive side, I look at it as behavioral activity to practice the virtue of patience.
Canada. The word ‘Kanata’ which means ‘village’ was used by St. Lawrence Iroquoians, the First Nations (one of three aboriginals who lived in Canada) people who lived in the 14th century. In 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier (as directed by the indigenous inhabitants) used the word Canada referring not only to a particular village but the entire area of Stadacona (Chief Donnacona was the then chief of Stadacona located in Quebec City). In 1545, the name Canada as a region has been used in maps and books (Soucre: www.wikipedia.com).
Canada is the second largest country in the world (by total area), next to Russia. It has the world’s largest lake within a lake (Manitou Lake). It has the longest coastline in any country. A home to Hockey sports, Cheese (major producer), large animals like moose and grizzly bears, just to name a few interesting facts about Canada.
Arrival. It was the longest flight in my life so far. From Port Vila, Vanuatu, we flew to Auckland via AirVanuatu airlines, then flew via New Zealand Airlines from Auckland to Vancouver, Canada and flew to two domestic flights from Vancouver to Toronto then Toronto to Moncton via Air Canada, and two and half hours of land trip to reach my husband’s hometown, Petite Rocher, located in New Brunswick, East of Canada. It was a two day flight including lay overs! I am proud to say, I made it through sans airsickness attacks.
The complicated part was, before reaching our destination, we have to transit in another country as there was no direct flight from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Canada, meaning I needed a transit visa. Our first option was to transit in Los Angeles, U.S., to avail of a cheap fare. Upon inquiry by my husband with the US Embassy through email, he was told that since I am a Filipino, I have to go back to Manila to apply for a transit visa because I have to be personally interviewed! Personal interview for a transit visa? Oh yes! with US Embassy! This was not feasible for me considering the expenses it entails flying from Vanuatu to Philippines, not to mention other expenses I will be incurring while in Manila.
Our next option was to transit in Auckland, New Zealand. For Filipinos residing in Vanuatu, applying for a visa with New Zealand Embassy is free although you have to pay a minimal fee for the ‘processing’ as it is course through an agency. However, the flight fare via Auckland may considerably be higher than transiting via L.A. Considering that it was the next best option we had, I applied for my transit visa with NZ Embassy. The period of waiting (10 working days!) for the visa to be released was a worry despite the follow ups I made. I was told by the agency in Vanuatu that the application has to go through Suva in Fiji. The thing was, we already had our approved itinerary on the cheapest fare we had secured (changing flight dates might mean paying higher fare) with the travel agency who was patiently waiting for my visa before allowing us to purchase our tickets. I was running a workshop for UN Women then when I got a call from the agency informing me to check my email regarding my transit visa. It turned out, the officer from NZ Embassy sent her apologies for the late response as she failed to send the transit visa to me the soonest. I have noticed from the dates of the scanned document that the visa has already been approved within five days from my application, and in fact, I was given not a transit visa but a multiple tourist visa instead.
Accommodation. In Moncton, we had to sleep overnight at Chateu de Moncton hotel to get the rest that we needed, mostly mine. This is a three star hotel with good choices for breakfast. My husband’s parents came to pick us up and we went to Costco (membership super marche) first before heading to Petite Rocher where we stayed (hubby’s parents house) for the rest of our summer vacation. I was on jet lagged for almost a week! The other second thing I dislike when traveling. The summer weather in Canada has turned into winter for me due to the sunny but windy during the day and the cold freezing temperature during the nights which I am not accustomed to. But the summer activities which we had ended up to be the most memorable ones for me! We visited the following places, and tourist spots:
Moncton City. This city is located at Southeastern part of New Brunswick. We walked around this small charming city on a cold windy night looking for a place to have our late dinner (I got up late blaming my jet lag). We found this small restaurant, called Alexandria, and ordered Ceasar’s salad and Poutine for dinner. Poutine is a Canadian-French classic food made of French fries and topped with gravy sauce and cheese. It was a delight! In Moncton, I had the chance to visit University of Moncton, one of the largest Canadian-French university outside of Quebec. And shopping in Moncton (on our way back to Vanuatu) with my mother in law was fun especially going from one shop to another at the mall and the depot.
Petite Rocher. A town located in Gloucester county where my hubby and his family resides. The residents of this small town are approximately 92% Francophone. During my stay, I had the opportunity to meet my hubby’s family and his old friends. Petite Rocher town offers a small Japanese Resto where we often go to eat sushi. On weekends we visit the Market Place to enjoy our weekend breakfast and basically to support the local community. I met a few (three families) Filipinos who were selling their produce at this place. During our summer vacay, we attended the painting exhibit of Jeanine Morris; and had the chance to buy one of her paintings. My mother in law and I together with her friends had fun time playing Bingo. It was my first time to play and as a beginner’s luck, I won in the amount of 3,700 CAD to which I only paid 1 CAD (Bingo card) for the jackpot!
Papineau Waterfalls. This is owned and managed by Papineau First Nation. The area boasts of lush green pine trees, wild berries, and wild orchids. It is surrounded by big rock formations where I watched the strong current of waters on an open view. It was the most beautiful waterfall scene I have ever witnessed! We walked along the passable area with my hubby, his brother in law and his god daughter, picking and munching on wild berries. On our way back, we had lunch in a small Indian restaurant where we enjoyed Atlantic Salmon sandwich and Poutine.
Seau Waterfalls. A small waterfalls located in Petite Rocher where my husband used to swim during his childhood days. This is another beautiful waterfall in Petite Rocher. We went down the rocky area and was watching a few people swimming, diving, and listening to the slapping of the waterfalls. The place was magical!
Pokeshaw Park, Gande Anse. This is a communal park which has a beach, and a Pokeshaw Island, a big rock island which is also known as the Bird Island. In here, you can see many birds on top of the rock. The view was spectacular!We walked around the beach and watch the Island from atop.
Shippagan. A town located in Northeastern part of the Acadien Peninsula where approximately 99% of the residents are Francophone. We stopped here to visit a gift shop which sells so many crafts, and beautiful gift items. We also stopped at Passerelle de Shippagan which has a long tranquil river bay.
Phare de Gande Anse. This is a very interesting Lighthouse. The structure and the colors give the lighthouse a very unique character.
Village Historique Acadien. This is located in Riveiere du Nord near Caraquet. This is a huge village which showcase the life of the acadiens from 1770 to 1939, the end of the deportation to the mid century. Inside the village, you can see different dwellings which represent their everyday life. There was a costume dressed interpreter who was bilingual explaining each of the dwelling to visitors, including us.
Caraquet. Another charming town in New Brunswick. We had lunch at L’Oriental Restaurant and enjoyed the lunch buffet.
Festival de Acadien Caraquet. One of the largest tourist attractions in the Atlantic provinces. I was there to witness the 50th anniversary of one of the top Acadien cutural events of the year where the largest crowd meet to celebrate the vibrant Acadien culture. There was so much fun as you see Acadien flags in blue, white and red with a yellow star being waved at the doorstep of each house. In the afternoon, we headed back to Petite Rocher and join the celebrations with residents! There was a live band, many food stands, and stalls selling give aways while both children and adults were dancing and singing! It was indeed a grand celebration!
Getting Visa. This was done on line by my husband in my behalf under category V-1, visitor visa, single entry. All the required original documents were scanned and also submitted on line. Since I was based in Vanuatu then, my husband applied for my visa with the Canadian Embassy in Sydney, the embassy close to Vanuatu. My visa was approved within three days upon application after which the Canadian Embassy requested for my original passport to be sent to their office through paid courier so I can have my stamped visa. My issued visa was good for the duration of five months stay. The visa cost us 80 CAD while surprisingly, the paid courier cost us 120 USD! Only when you are living in Vanuatu, I suppose.