Aeroplan & Sharp
Look, we know you love Europe. So do we. But trips to Paris, Barcelona, and the like can be a headache to plan for. Days and days of research and packing and booking — and once you get to your city of choice, it’s often sullied by hordes of tourists (and social unrest over said tourists). Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy a taste of the beautiful continent without ever having to cross the Atlantic. Canada has plenty of destinations that are teeming with Euro-inspired flair, but can be visited on extremely short notice. Go on a weekend, or hell, on a whim after work. The following hidden gems are all just a road trip or quick flight from home, but feel a world away.
If you want Western European beer culture, go to…
Oast House Brewers – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Just bordering Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake, Oast House Brewers is a red barn-turned-brewhouse that’s impossible to miss. The place is one big ode to the traditional farm-based brewing facilities of Europe, right down to the cowls on its roof. Oast House’s brewers stay true to those traditions by crafting honest “olde” style and Belgian farm brews, using fine ingredients in small-batch volumes. Enjoy an Oost Indie Bier — a beer style that was popular in the Netherlands in the 1500s; said to be the predecessor to the European IPA — on the brewery’s two-story patio, or German-inspired beer hall. Proost!
If you want to take in the Alps, go to…
Hotel La Ferme – Charlevoix, Quebec
About four hours north of Montreal lies Charlevoix, an idyllic part of Quebec that sits between a breathtaking semi-circular range of mountains and the St-Lawrence river. With its picturesque rolling hills and grazing farm animals, it’s like a mini Alps. The best hotel in the area is La Ferme, based on the site of an old farm, which spreads out across five distinct buildings constructed around a scenic courtyard. Lounge at the outdoor thermal baths at Spa du Verger, then eat your way across the region via the Route des Saveurs, founded 15 years ago as an initiative between farmers and cooks looking to showcase the region’s unique terroir.
If you want Swedish summer festiveness, go to…
Scandinavian Midsummer Festival – Burnaby, British Columbia
In Scandinavia, it’s tradition to usher in the summer solstice — and the season of fertility — with a midsummer celebration. (So important is it, in fact, that it’s said to rival Christmas in the holiday pecking order.) Burnaby’s Midsummer Festival may well be Canada’s largest, boasting two full days of live music, dancing, games, and a real-life Viking raid (think Medieval Times but more Swedish). At the centre of festivities is the raising of Midsummer Maypole (the “Midsommarstången” in Swedish), which, in Norse mythology, represents an axis linking the underworld, earth, and heavens. The event wraps with a Finnish wife carrying contest. Fun for the whole family!
If you want Prague’s spellbinding architecture, go to…
Downtown Galt – Cambridge, Ontario
Photography: Magda Wojtrya
Southern Ontario has a smattering of towns that have endeavoured to protect their architectural heritage, making them look like they’re from a different era. Perhaps the most arresting of the lot is the former town of Galt, now a part of the municipality of Cambridge. The town has a distinctly Old World European vibe thanks to its scenic Main St. bridge, as well as the way its historic buildings were built up directly from the edge of the Grand River — greatly resembling the Gothic architecture you’d catch while ambling through the Czech Republic. Hit up Galt’s farmers’ market (one of the oldest in Canada), catch a show at the Hamilton Family Theatre, and peruse the many unique shops (Reid Chocolates is a must) along the town’s oldest streets. Prague, schmague.
If you want to sunbathe in the Aegean Islands, go to…
Cavendish Beach – Prince Edward Island
With its miles of reddish-orange sands, surrounded by gorgeous dunes, Cavendish Beach will transport you to the Red Beach in Greece. Traverse the walking trails or participate in the park’s interpretive programs on beach ecology and wildlife. Browse the many funky shops along the Cavendish Boardwalk. If you plan to trek there in July, you can two-step all weekend long at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. Or, if you’d rather do none of all that, just park your chair in the sand and soak up the sun. It’s your mini-vacay; you call the shots!
Make your trip simpler with Aeroplan’s booking tool, available to all members, which lets you conveniently book your hotel and car rental together. You’ll also earn four Aeroplan Miles per dollar spent on all cash bookings. Members have access to 250,000 hotels and over 11,000 car rentals worldwide, so they can go and stay virtually anywhere — even if it’s a short trip away from home.