Canadians, the story goes, aren’t big on public displays of patriotism. We leave that to our American cousins.
But I was practically bursting with pride after riding the Rocky Mountaineer train from Banff to Jasper last month in a coach full of first-time visitors to Canada from half a dozen countries.
They scrambled to photograph the scenery leaving Banff — the towering Rockies, rivers swollen with snow melt, stands of giant spruce and pine.
Their voices bubbled with excitement when they spoke of spotting bears and bighorn sheep in Jasper, of riding at a dude ranch near Calgary.
Much later it occurred to me that they’d experienced just a fraction of what this vast and wonderful land has to offer.
There are countless reasons this Canada Day weekend to wave the Maple Leaf — discreetly, of course. I’ve listed some here. With the exception of the suggestions for Nunuvut and the Northwest Territories, which I haven’t visited, they are places and things I’ve visited or done, and would gladly see or do again.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Icebergs, that fascinating province’s No. 2 attraction. (Its warm and witty people are No. 1.) Twillingate, on Iceberg Alley, is a good bet, but first visit icebergfinder.com/ for the latest sightings.
Nova Scotia: Fortress Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, the largest historical reconstruction in North America. My wife and I planned on a couple of hours and left reluctantly after seven. Dress warmly and bring a brolly — the weather is often the pits.
Prince Edward Island: Breakfast at the Charlottetown Farmers Market, a great place to chat with locals and nibble your way from stall to stall — cheese, smoked salmon omelets, fried rice noodles if you like, and fresh-roasted coffee.
New Brunswick: Already walked on the Bay of Fundy floor at Hopewell Rocks? Head for the pretty village of St. Martin, near St. John, and explore the Fundy Trail Parkway.
Quebec: Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la riviere-Malbaie, in the Charlevoix region, which borders the north shore of the St. Lawrence, east of Quebec City. Book the riverboat tour through a gorge where rock walls rise more than 800 metres.
Ontario: Killarney, on Georgian Bay. Group of Seven artists such as A.Y. Jackson and Franklin Carmichael so cherished the landscape they persuaded the provincial government to create a park to protect part of it.
Manitoba: The Forks, in downtown Winnipeg, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers converge. Walking tours, boutiques and the Explore Manitoba Centre, where Manitoba Tourism and Parks Canada have help desks.
Saskatchewan: Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just north of Saskatoon. Nomadic tribes camped there for more than 6,000 years to hunt bison, gather food and shelter from bitter winter winds. Self-guided walks lead to buffalo jumps, tipi rings and a boulder alignment known as a medicine wheel.
Alberta: The Alberta Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge. Pet an owl, and don’t miss one of their flying demonstrations where fierce-looking raptors are turned loose and called home.
British Columbia: The flower-bedecked capital of Victoria, which celebrates its 150th birthday this year. Visit the easy way with Pacific Coach Lines and BCFerries. Vehicle lineups can be long, but buses are first on and first off, and the 95-minute cruise is past some of the lovely Gulf islands.
Yukon: Dawson City, arguably Canada’s most interesting town. Join a costumed Parks Canada interpreter on an historical walking tour. Have a drink, watch a show or play small-stakes blackjack at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, the only casino I’ve ever enjoyed.
Northwest Territories: Aurora borealis, aka the northern lights. Yellowknife is said to have more than 240 potential viewing nights per year.
Nunuvut: Iqaluit, capital of Canada’s newest territory. Shop for Inuit art, hire a fishing guide, hike to archeological sites of the Thule people.