Canada 150. Ottawa 2017. Canada's big birthday. How ever you label it, it's a pretty big year. As Canadians, it's a time to celebrate our successes, but also a time to get humble about our mistakes and weaknesses. To see how we can do better, take care of each other, go further.
For me personally, it's been an exciting year here on the blog and at my day job at the National Arts Centre. I cracked 100,000 views on my site. I met Michael J. Fox and Eugene Levy. I reached 10,000 Instagram followers. I worked on the NAC's Canada Day grand re-opening and welcomed His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales.
It's been unbelievably exciting but also unsustainably busy. That's one of my biggest weaknesses, actually: I take on too much because I can't bear to say no. As a result, there were times this year where I didn't think I could keep it all together. I squeaked by on Uber Eats, a couple hours of sleep, and plenty of concealer.
How could I be anything but grateful for all these amazing opportunities? I'm incredibly fortunate to do what I do and I never want to sound like I'm complaining. But to be honest, I needed some me time.
So when Ford Canada asked me to join their #GoFurther150 project and handed me the keys to a beautiful Ford Fusion Sport, I was all too happy to hit the road in search of a little R&R.
In addition to this beautiful car, they treated me to a backpack full of Canadian treats (think ketchup chips, hickory sticks, Coffee Crisp, and ginger ale!) and challenged me to go off the beaten bath in search of an unusual (even unknown) Canadian landmark. Done and done!
Here in Ottawa we're lucky to be surrounded by amazing Canadian heritage sites, so I knew I'd find a gem right here in our own backyard. Sometimes it's the spots nearby that we take for granted, don't you think?
Hubby and I packed up the car and headed to beautiful Perth, Ontario, located just an hour's drive from downtown Ottawa (about 85km).
I've driven through Perth a million times (hello Highway 7) but had never stopped to give this little town the attention it deserves. Perth is located on the banks of the Tay River, and dates back to 1816. That's right, this year the town is celebrating its 201st birthday! The downtown core is full of charming heritage buildings. a riverside park, and an all-local farmers market that punches way above its weight.
And right next to the farmer's market I found the perfect Canadian landmark to celebrate #GoFurther150: a 22,000lb cheese.
Turns out that back in 1893, local dairy farmers and cheese-makers got together to make a 22,000lb block of cheese to send to the Chicago World Fair. They collected milk from 10,000 dairy cows and created a foodie's dream that stood 6 feet high. As a country gal who grew up down the road from a cheese factory (hey there, Maple Dale!), this kinda blows my mind!
Those intrepid cheese-makers loaded it up on a train and off it went to Chicago. What a great way to represent Canada, eh? The Mammoth Cheese was so heavy that it crashed through the floor of its wooden rail car, so Canadian Pacific Railway quickly improvised a special reinforced metal shipping container that was strong enough to support the weight.
Just think: CP's improvised shipping container may very well have even been the first ever metal rail car as we know them today. So the sheer size of the Mammoth Cheese may have forever changed the shipping industry, ha!
Here's yours truly voguing withe the cheese for scale:
This behemoth of lactose and casein became known as The Mammoth Cheese, and in 2009 the town of Perth built a full-size replica next to the farmer's market. It's free to visit so drop by anytime! You can even see a real piece of the original cheese in the Matheson House Perth Museum (no snacking though).
After visiting The Mammoth Cheese, wandering the farmer's market, and enjoying lunch on a riverside patio, we hit the road again and headed to Strathmere -- another local spot we'd never visited (read about it here!).
That little road trip had hubby and I feeling relaxed, recharged, and truly amazed by what you can find in your own back yard if you just go a little further.