A Trail of Chocolate

Kate Jones

While poutine is one of Canada’s must try foods when you visit, my sweet tooth insisted I find the chocolate shops in Stratford. And there were a lot of them to explore. One of the best ways to do this is to go on the Chocolate Trail. The Stratford Chocolate Trail is a bit like a tour, only it’s self-guided and you can visit 27 different places where your six vouchers can be exchanged for treats, gifts, or discounts. Plus, the brochure you get gives a small explanation of all 27 shops. 

If you’re walking from shop to shop like I did most of the time, I recommend bringing a cooler if possible, especially if you buy chocolate. It would also be a good idea to to look at shop times and see if any of them will be closed one day or another. I had wanted to visit Rheo Thompson’s after seeing a play but it was closed so I had come back the next day. Some of the places I visited I’ve already talked about in my top four places to visit in Stratford post, but they were so good I wanted to mention them again. While I won’t talk about all of the places I visited, here’s three that I thought were worth a mention.

One of my favorite places was Rheo Thompson Candies. They’ve been in Stratford for 40+ years, with an assortment of handmade candies with their signature flavor: mint chocolate. They even have mint smoothies you can order right in the shop. Plus, almost all of their products are gluten free and a few are even sugar free. Even better, they ship products across North America so you can have them even in the United States. 

An unexpected place on the list of shops is the Stratford Festival Shop. It was probably the last place I would have thought to visit for chocolate, but they do sell chocolate bars with packaging that looks like a play ticket, which I absolutely loved. Plus, your voucher gives you a discount should you choose to buy it. And, if you prefer to get your chocolate somewhere else, there’s still a lot of cool souvenirs you can buy.

Another cool place on the list is Chocolate Barr’s Candies. At one point, I took a taxi to get to one of the theatres and the driver was kind enough to point out some of his favorite chocolate shops, including Chocolate Barr’s Candies. At Chocolate Barr’s, there’s handmade truffles you can get with a variety of flavors to choose from. Some of them are fairly simple like cherry liqueur and hazelnut truffle, but there’s others like lavender or honey and black pepper. 

There are so many great places to visit with a bunch of sweets, like Scoopers and Kandy Cakes, but my favorite was definitely Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Whichever place you choose to go though, there’ll definitely be something sweet enough to make you glad to walk from place to place.

The Fantastic Four (Shops)

Kate Jones

My first day in town at Stratford was a little overwhelming. A new country, a new group of people, and dozens of new shops and cafes to explore. During the free time I had between shows, talk backs, and workshops, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go first. There were so many different options, ranging from bookstores to cafes to quirky antique shops. Throughout the 10 days I spent in Stratford I managed to visit a good number of shops and cafes, and the four following were my favorites to visit.

Fanfare Books

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One of my favorite things to do back home is to go read books, whether it’s at Barnes & Noble, Half Price Books, or a library. So of course, one of the first places I went to in Stratford was a bookstore. Specifically, I went to Fanfare Books. A fairly large shop, I immediately loved the look of Fanfare. Shelves that reach the ceiling are stacked with books of all kinds, from poetry to fantasy to literary criticism to biographies and graphic novels. I even found a copy of Othello in the form of a comic book. 

There’s a lovely small bookstore feel to the store as you walk around, and it’s a little warm from the door being left open to invite people inside. Some days there’s also a few tables full of books outside the store for passers by to peruse, which was how the books store originally caught my attention. And once inside, the books kept my attention. There was a large range, not only in genre but also in age of the books. Some were older but there also current bestsellers such as Crazy Rich Asians and one of Cassandra Clare’s new books. 

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

My go to sweet shop was actually the place I visited the most, apart from the theatres of course. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory first caught my attention simply because of its name. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, and this place did not disappoint. From the display of fudge to the rows of ice cream and shelves of candy, the RMCF was full of enough sweets that I could have visited everyday and still found something new to try. 

One of my favorites from here was the sangria sorbet, hough I also really liked the peanut butter fudge.. They also had caramel covered apples and seafoam, both of which looked sweet enough to require a large glass of milk. Their fudge collection was also impressive, with at least 10 different flavors. Some of the more memorable ones were double chocolate, vanilla birthday cake, cappuccino, and maple syrup.

The Pulp 

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The Pulp was another one of the places I visited on multiple occasions. Right next to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, it’s a nice spot for a light lunch or afternoon smoothie. While I was there I would usually get smoothies, specifically the creamsicle. It’s very heavy on the banana flavor, but I really enjoyed it. The Pulp also has a nice busy but not crowded atmosphere, with cute decorations and several Don’t Feed the Plants signs that I loved. They also have recycling bins easily accessible, along with paper straws.

Balzac’s Coffee Roasters

The last place on my list is one of Stratford’s many little coffee shops. This one first caught my eye because of its name and I went in simply because the name made me laugh. However once I was inside I quite liked it. The decorations, desert display, and the back patio gave it a quaint kind of feel. While not quiet, it was never loud enough to make it hard to hear. I particularly liked this place because there was a little table I could write at while drinking lemonade. 

Ghostly Guides

Kate Jones

Ghost Tour
Ghost Tour Group

While we were at Stratford we went on a couple of tours, each of them fascinating in their own way, but my favorite by far was the Ghost Tour.

It started right in front of the Edison Cafe, and I waited both impatiently and excitedly. I’d never been on a ghost tour before, and wasn’t quite sure what it meant. I remember wondering if it meant we were just going to hear ghost stories or if it meant we’d hear about landmarks in Stratford by people dressed as ghosts. As it turned out, it was a little of both.

As we waited outside Edison Cafe, two figures walked toward us just as the numbers on my phone turned from 6:59 to 7:00. As they came closer I realized that the two people were extraordinarily pale and wearing clothing that seemed like it belonged to the Victorian era. A man and woman, and the man was holding a guitar. 

The woman introduced the two of them as Euphemia and Edward Elphinstone, two of the ghosts of Stratford. And then the tour started. 

We began with a story of Thomas Edison in Stratford as a telegrapher. Interestingly, it turns out the cafe used to be called Slave to the Grind, but the name was changed to remember Edison. We then moved on, wandering from beside the river to houses with ghosts both benevolent and not. Our tour guides spoke about everything from prisons and post offices to ghost stories and warnings about crossing the street.  

We stopped at the St. James Anglican Church where Euphemia spoke about the nightmare of being buried prematurely, and how it happened enough that special coffins were made. Some had bells to ring, while others had a connection to a phone. Later we stood in front of the Macpherson home where orphans entered in hopes of loving somewhere better. Yet many of them never left. 

However, not all of the stories were quite so grim. One house we visited held a female ghost who would help the house’s mother with her children, protecting them. Each story and moment was highlighted by Edward’s guitar playing, although sometimes it came too soon or too late. While he never said anything, his groans and expressions when Euphemia spoke of Buckingham were enough to keep us all laughing. 

My favorite part of the tour was when we came to the very last stop and Euphemia talked about Jack the Ripper, whom she had given teasing hints about the whole tour. On the steps of the Perth County Courthouse she spoke about the drifter Almede Chattelle before finally bidding us goodbye. 

Canadian Currency

Written by: Raeann Calcutta

So, if you’re on this blog before you go on the study abroad trip (or maybe in your first day or so), you might be wondering: “Hey, what do I do about money?”

Well, it’s not really all that difficult. 

Some places in Stratford will accept American cash. However, even though businesses will accept American cash, they may return your change in Canadian currency, or exchange it at a higher rate than normal. Or, in some events, they may not accept it at all. 

So let’s talk about Canadian currency and how to obtain it for your trip.

Canadian currency is very similar to American currency. They run on bills and coins, much like America does. However, there are a few differences. The first is that all bills are printed on a polymer base plastic instead of paper. The second is that the Canadian economy is more inflated than America’s. A Canadian dollar is worth, roughly, 75 cents USD at the time of this post. This is according to the Bank of Canada’s Currency Converter website, which I’ll link here: https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/currency-converter/. The third is that CAD has no circulating bills under the $5 denomination. That means no $1 bills. Here’s a peek at what some of them look like. 

Canadian Notes
A $10, $20, and $50 Canadian note. Not pictured: $5 note.

So then, how do you pay for things less than $5? You use coins. CAD coins include the nickel, dime, quarter, 50-cent piece (though these aren’t usually circulated, like the American 50-cent piece), loonie ($1), and toonie ($2).

Canadian Coins
From left to right: a nickel, dime, quarter, and loonie ($1 coin). Not pictured: toonie ($2 coin).

So, let’s say that a transaction is going to cost you $6.25. You would give the cashier a $5 note, then a loonie coin, and a quarter. It’s a bit different, but not hard to get used to after you’ve made a few transactions. As for leaving tips, I’ve found that leaving two toonies or a $5 note is the most common acceptable rate. 

As far as exchanging American currency for CAD, you can either do it before you leave through a local bank (credit unions typically won’t offer it, but you’re welcome to try), mail order, or you can do it after you cross the border at the bank in Stratford. I would recommend doing it once you enter Stratford – it’s a lot cheaper and they’ll do it for you on the spot. 

If you would rather not carry cash, then use a credit card. There are credit cards that will allow international transactions with no extra charge. Check your current credit card to see if it’s one of those. If not, then there are plenty to apply for. I used Chase’s Amazon Prime card, for example. However, I’ll recommend carrying some cash. There are some businesses that will only accept cash in Stratford. The local laundromat will only accept coins as well. They’ll give you change for notes, but, as far as I could tell, there isn’t a way to swipe a credit card for change. 

So, all in all, currency isn’t too hard! Just come prepared and you’ll be just fine. 

A side note: remember to exchange your Canadian currency back for American currency when you return! Unless you’re planning to return to Canada soon, it might be nice to have that leftover money for use once you return. 

Happy travelling!

A Poutine Virgin

By: Kirsti Toms

Okay so, I am a major foodie. I mean I LOVE food. A while back I had seen this thing called Poutine on Facebook, on one of the Insider videos, where they post videos all about different kinds of food. I had forgotten all about it until I went to Stratford, and on the tour of the town we were shown the restaurant “Boomers” which sold Poutine.

I instantly was so excited because although for some reason the combination of gravy, cheese and fries sounded super weird to me, I knew I was definitely going to try it before I left Canada. Plus, i knew if I didn’t like it, Boomers sold other gourmet fries so there was absolutely going to be something I was interested in.

When we got to Boomers, It was way smaller than I expected, and it was almost old fashioned. One of the first things I noticed was the fact that there was only one table and it was like a bar, so if it were busy enough, you would be sitting next to a stranger. I thought it was almost a little weird, but then I loved it because it was just another thing showing how close the people in this town were.

I ordered the Poutine with extra cheese ( because I love cheese on a new level). I was already extremely hungry, but when the fries came out I was so excited. I didn’t know what to expect but it was honestly one of the best foods I had tried in a long time, and it was such a great decision on my part. I do not think I will ever be able to go back to Canada and not order Poutine again.

Yet, while I’m stuck back in Ohio, I will definitely be spending my time looking for Poutine on any menus I can find!

In a World Full of Dairy Queens

Desiree Ritchie

In a unique little town, surrounded by nothing but local shops full of curious wonders, I indulged in the corporate castle of all ice cream wonders…that’s right, I went to Dairy Queen. A lot. Was it because I just really needed the overly rich Choco Extreme Blizzard? Was it because I could look out my hotel window and see the Dairy Queen sign waving at me? Yes. The answer is yes- to both. While I am not proud of how many Blizzard Extremes I ate, and believe me, it was a hearty amount, I can say with absolute honesty how satisfied I was at the time.

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There is a point to this post, and that point is, SHOP LOCAL! EAT LOCAL! Stratford is full of locals opening their own businesses such as clothing shops, good eats, and all your plant and mercantile needs (check out Got It Made-it was easily the coolest store I’ve ever seen). After venturing out and taking a leisurely stroll down by the river, some friends and me decided to stop by JENN & Larry’s and let me tell you, it was worth it. Not only did they have a feature ice cream dedicated to the talk of the town’s favorite show, Rocky Horror, but they had every ice cream flavor with any dip you could ask for.

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While I only got one chance to try out JENN & Larry’s (probably because I ate Dairy Queen every other day…), Stratford is home to another ice cream shop called Scooper’s. This post is not intended to call out Dairy Queen, I am a frequent shopper and could prove it by my bank account statements, but when given the opportunity to be in a new place with new experiences and shops, try them! My biggest regret would be eating too much of the same thing and not trying new things. I’ll be back for ya, Scooper’s!

Stratford From A Foodie’s Point-of-view

Lydia Shigley

One of my favorite things about Stratford was all the unique restaurants I could go to. They had an assortment of all different types of food, some I had never even had in the United States. My favorite one was Jenn and Larry’s, which served ice cream. The tiny ice cream shop served all types of ice cream, which had my mouth watering as soon as I walked in. Ice cream is my favorite food and I would eat it all the time if I could. I got a banana split milkshake and was excited to actually have such a unique-flavored milkshake that also tasted delicious.

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The coffee shops in Stratford were another one of my favorite things. I’m addicted to caramel lattes, I’m constantly getting coffee in my town, so I was excited to try new independent coffee shops. The first one I went to was Balzac’s. The interior was gorgeous and had that coffee shop style with wooden counters and brick walls. I got an iced caramel latte which was delicious. The other shop I went to was Revel. While they had a limited menu, I tried out the vanilla latte, which much to my surprise was so delicious, the best I’ve ever had. I was so excited to try a vanilla latte I actually loved (since I’m so picky).

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Lastly, another cool place I went to was Boomer’s. This place was known for their fries, especially their poutine. I had tried poutine at a different restaurant and was excited to try it there, since that’s what Boomer’s was known for. I got the Italian poutine which was fries with tomato sauce, basil, and curds of mozzarella cheese. I’ve never tried anything like it before, I hadn’t even seen anything like it in the United States. It was delicious and I was so excited to try food native to Canada. All-in-all, Stratford was full of unique restaurants where I could enjoy food I had never tried before.

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Money, Money, Money

Sarah Gann

Canadian money doesn’t grow on trees. I mean, American money doesn’t either, but ours is at least made of paper while Canadians use plastic. Throughout my time here in Canada, I’ve been able to adjust to this new currency and chat with Stratford locals to learn some tips and secrets.

Pictured above is the front of Canadian money.

Pictured above is the back of Canadian money.

These two photos contain all of the Canadian money I interacted with. I’m sure there are larger bills, but I’m a broke college student, so the largest bill I had was a $20. One of the things we had to adjust to was the exchange rate, which worked in our favor. One American dollar is currently equivalent to $1.31 in Canadian. Because of the exchange rate, prices seem a little steeper, but they usually are not after you do the math.

Here are some of the interesting things I learned about Canadian money this week:

1.) It’s colorful, which to us makes it seem like Monopoly money. However, our cashier at Harmony explained that being colorful makes it so much easier to tell the denominations of bills apart. To Canadians, American money all looks the same.

2.) As stated earlier, it’s made of plastic, which makes it technically waterproof. However, our waitress at breakfast the first day warned us that they stick together a lot more when they are wet.

3.) Our waitress also warned us not to leave our money out in the heat. One time, a guy left $60 on his dashboard and when he returned, the money had stuck and he couldn’t remove it without ripping off the serial numbers.

4.) Without both serial numbers on the back, Canadian money has no value.

5.) The clear and silver strips make their money extremely difficult to counterfeit.

6.) If you look at the top of the silver strip, the face that is on the currency should appear.

7.) Their money seems to smell like maple syrup.

8.) Our cashier at Harmony also taught us a secret trick for checking if the bills are real. Turn your flashlight on your phone. Hold it out at arms length with the flashlight facing you. Hold the maple leaf of the bill up to your eye. Look at the flashlight along the edge of the light. You should see a dollar sign and the denomination of the bill.

9.) Canada does not have pennies. To account for this, totals are rounded up or down according to typical rounding rules.

10.) Canada does not have singles. Instead, they have a gold one dollar coin and a gold and silver two dollar coin.

11.) Calling them one and two dollar coins shows that you are American. The one dollar coin is a loonie and the two dollar coin is a toonie.

12.) If you want to pay with your credit card, they bring over the machine and you do it yourself.

I’m sure there are many things about this currency I’ve yet to learn, but these tips can get you started.

 

 

Canada as Sonnet 18

Amber Todd

 

Shall I compare Canada to Maple Syrup?

Thou art more sweet and more pure:

Rough Americans do plead to try it one day,

And its the first thing they ask for once they leave the states:

Sometimes too kind the people are,

And often do they worry about us with our strange ways,

And every now and then do Canada dries our eyes,

By chance, for our nature does not taste so sweet:

But thy eternal sweetness is bitter and false,

Nor lose taste of the kindness thats here,

Nor can we bring the bitterness to the sweet,

When in Canada you learn to be of honey

So long as men can taste, and ears can hear,

So long lives Canada, and this gives sugar to thee.

Studying Abroad

 

An extensive amount of social research may have led you to believe that the Canadian population might be happier, nicer, or more polite than the rest of us. Perhaps it is because of their beautiful scenery. Maybe it’s the clean air. Some promise that it’s just universal health care and a distinct absence of mind-numbingly farcical world leaders. Whatever the reason, we’ve been taught to expect held-open doors and apologies when venturing north of the border. As a jaded student of the world’s populace, I packed my duffle and ventured to the quaint Ontario town of Stratford to find the truth.

Stratford has garnered fame among the Canucks for its extravagant Shakespearian theatre festival which has run every summer for over fifty years. Unlike William’s Stratford, however, this one is in Canada. With a budget of just over 60 million dollars for the 2017 festival, the Stratford Festival is the largest non-profit theatre company in the English speaking world. The festival employs hundreds of honest, hard-working Canadians every year. These women and men work tirelessly every season to spread the joy and pseudo-intellectualism of classical theatre. I could not have found myself a more suitable location to witness the fabled etiquette of our sister nation.

What I found in this town may frighten some of my more sensitively natured readers. On the surface, Stratford could be seen by the untrained eye as a shining beacon of hospitality and intellect where the only strife follows the expertly bitten thumbs of Montagues and Capulets. But much like the local dramaturges, my experience allows me to see beneath the surface details. What I found was the seedy underbelly, what a local chef living above The Mill Stone on Ontario St. (he wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) described as “real Stratford”. What, then, is the real Stratford? It is a world of sin, Wal-Mart, and jean shorts.

The first thing that crept up from underneath the façade was a not-so cleverly disguised advertisement of drug trafficking in the city. A sign, placed in the front yard like a good American might place his Jill Stein campaign poster. This was no libertarious exercise of democratic freedom, however, instead it read “Contact: Weed Man”. No wonder a nation so devoid of good Christian value is looking to legalize marijuana this very year. Another incriminating incident occurred in my second day in town, a beautiful 85 degree (somewhere between 10 and 40 degrees Celsius) day by anyone’s standards. I discovered the effects of the mild heat on Stratford’s population to be concerning. Multiple drivers assaulted me with horns and appalling hand gestures as I exercised my God-given pedestrian right to cross the street whenever I want. The heat, as it seems, was quick to melt the sugary and artificial exterior of Stratford’s beauty. In a short time, I had exposed the Canadian psyche.

I fear that my journalistic pursuit has caught the attention of local authorities. As I write these words at the hotel bar, I worry that my work and safety may be in grave danger. The bartender is far too conversational and polite, a poorly concealed attempt by the festival’s board of governors to find out just how much I have discovered. I will remain steadfast in bringing the American people the truth. That is my only duty.

-Andrew Puthoff