We sent 22 Minutes star Shaun Majumder across the nation, following social-media tips from enRoute readers.
We hosted a huge online contest to decide where Sean should go. It turned out to be one of Shaun’s best months ever. Here are his highlights.
The Spudtini at Globe World Flavours
The reader suggestion: “PEI is known for its potatoes, but the Spudtini at Globe, a popular downtown bar and restaurant, has a twist. Shaun has to go!”
– Kara MacKenzie, Twitter follower
I cozied up to the bar at Globe right after my show at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, across the street. A man in the spotlight tries to avoid the ol’ carbs, but I figured they don’t count in liquid form, so I went for it – I ordered the Spudtini. I expected the bartender to reach behind him for the potato vodka, imagining a fantastical concoction involving a pearl onion, a side of Yukon Gold and sour cream around the rim of the glass, but he disappeared into the kitchen instead. Ten minutes later he emerges with cutlery and a large martini glass filled with Grade A PEI potato whipped to deliciousness with a truckload of garlic, sundried tomatoes, scallions, chives, Reggiano cheese and double-smoked bacon chunks. I’ve never known a more delicious cliché.
132 Richmond St., Victoria Row, 902-370-4040, dinedrinkdance.ca
Ottawa , Ontario
Royal Canadian Mint
The reader suggestion: “I stood in line for hours to see a medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver . Shaun has to go to the Mint because touching a medal is irresistible.”
– John Mendoza, Facebook friend
I’ve always been curious about the Mint, ever since watching Polka Dot Door as a kid. (Remember when they’d look through one of the dots and cut to that “how money is made” segment?) I signed up for a tour with a bunch of people from the U.S., and I couldn’t help but feel pride about the strength of our dollar. I think they should change the pictures on our money to reflect its brawn: Perhaps, instead of a loon, we could have a beaver on steroids flexing like a WWE wrestler? Or a Canada goose pile-driving an eagle? It turns out this particular mint produces investment coins, collector coins and Olympic medals. Did you know Canada is the only country to produce a million-dollar coin? It’s 100 kilos of pure gold, and one of the only five made recently sold for $4-million to a magnate from Dubai who uses it as a coffee table. Now that’s a classy place to set down your beer.
320 Sussex Dr., 800-276-7714, mint.ca
Thunder Bay, Ontario
The Hoito restaurant
The reader suggestion: “The Hoito is a ma-and-pa-type diner that’s served traditional Finnish food continuously for almost 100 years. I’m recommending it to Shaun as my way of welcoming him to the Thunder Bay family.”
– Jen Fidler, Twitter follower
The Hoito is in the basement of a weird old yellow-brick building, so I’ve got to admit, at first impression I was a little worried. But then I opened the door. You can feel the buzz waft out of the place. With its fluorescent lighting, faded yellows and browns and pictures of apparently famous people who’ve been through, it looks like it could be a hundred years old – because it practically is. (And several of the elderly gents I sat next to at the counter could have been at the restaurant’s grand opening in 1918.) After a plate of the largest pancakes of my life – the Finns like them the size of dinner plates – I ordered the kalakeitto, Finland’s answer to chowder: a creamy, beautiful stew with big chunks of fresh salmon, chives and potatoes. My East Coaster’s cockles were warmed.
314 Bay St., 807-344-7081, finlandiaclub.ca
Victoria , B.C.
Orca whale watching
The reader suggestion: “To have the chance to get up close and personal with one of the world’s largest predators is both thrilling and exhilarating. I want Shaun to have great memories he’ll keep forever.”– Rod Clark, Facebook friend and hyper-dedicated contestant; he suggested a whole slew of activities for every town Shaun visited.
I grew up in Newfoundland, so I was a little skeptical about finding whales off-season in Victoria . But our guide was convinced we’d see an orca. I was sitting at the front of the boat, flying, and it was like getting needles in the face the entire trip, but I didn’t care – I had yet to see an orca in my life and I could take the punishment. Off in the distance we suddenly saw a bunch of boats moving slowly toward us. “There!” shouted our guide, pointing, and in between the boats we spotted the black dorsal rising out of the water. There were four orcas in total. They’re so slick in the water compared to the slow, huge humpbacks I’m used to back home.
Prince of Whales, 812 Wharf St., 888-383-4884, princeofwhales.com
The Particle Accelerator
The reader suggestion: “The Canadian Light Source synchrotron, right here in Saskatoon, is the largest science facility in Canada. In my books, that alone makes it worth the visit!” – Robert Blyth, Twitter follower
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Saskatoon”? Why, synchrotron radiation research, of course. I didn’t even know we had a particle accelerator in Canada, but here it is at the Canadian Light Source, in an immense circular-shaped lab full of metal piping on the University of Saskatchewan campus. The facility’s main function is to produce X-rays to look deep into all kinds of things at an atomic level, unlike the accelerator near Geneva where scientists concern themselves more with the workings of the universe. People come from all over the world to do research. In fact, when I went, there was a group from up north there doing studies on the pollution created by the oil sands, and now there’ll be ongoing studies “accelerated” by their experiment. (Good one, Majumder!)
101 Perimeter Rd., 306-657-3500, lightsource.ca
Dinghy Dock Pub
The reader suggestion: “This is unlike any other pub out there. It floats! Getting there is half the fun since it’s only accessible by boat, and the views of small islands and downtown Nanaimo are gorgeous.” – Alexandria Stewart, Twitter follower
When I got to Nanaimo, my hunger and the ferry schedule were perfectly in tune. Out to the Dinghy Dock Pub we went! The ride was a blast – there was a girl singing and playing guitar just for entertainment’s sake. There’s a bit of a pirate theme going on with the decor at this popular weekend joint, which I fully arrrr preciated. (I can picture an act with a parrot on my shoulder playing the straight guy.) I ordered a couple of pints and downed them with some delicious fresh seafood – the fried halibut was as good as back home. Although it’s a jaunt from the dock downtown, you feel like you’re on a mini-expedition. I would bring a sword and eye patch, though, in case you feel out of place.
#8 Pirates Lane, Protection Island, 250-753-2373, dinghydockpub.com