Shortly after the rate of vaccinated people in Canada surpassed the rate in the United States, it was announced that the Canadian border would open next month for all fully vaccinated Americans, not just those with an essential reason to travel.
But as they say in ads, conditions still apply. There will still be testing requirements, as my colleague Vjosa Isai reported this week, but the federal government is dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement, which made it impossible for many Americans to visit family members in Canada. It will also drop the mandate for mandatory airport hotel stay for air travelers.
For now, at least, the United States isn’t reciprocating: Its land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed until at least Aug. 21. (Though a never fully explained loophole that enables Canadians to enter for any reason, including sunny winter holidays, remains in effect. The restrictions also do not apply to truck drivers, railway crews or ship crews.)
Along with all of this, the Toronto Blue Jays have been allowed to end their exile in the United States, James Wagner reports. And for Canada’s beleaguered tourism industry, there’s now hope that Americans fed up with hanging around their houses since March of last year will pick Canada as the destination for their first escape.
In The Times’ Frugal Traveler column, Elaine Glusac makes the case to Americans that a hop up to Canada can enable them to tour the world with much less jet lag or from the comfort of their family car.
[Read: See the World, in Canada]
Unless you’re a relative newcomer to Canada, you’ll likely know most of the destinations mentioned in her article, such as Quebec City. It clearly wasn’t intended for Canadians, but you may want to forward it to friends or family who live outside of the country.
And before I take a break, I’m going to offer a little travel tip. The relaxation of restrictions means that some of you may find yourself, like I did while on assignment a month ago, driving the Trans-Canada Highway in southern Alberta. When you reach Medicine Hat, there is, of course, no missing the world’s tallest teepee. But this time I ventured further into town to visit the museum and art studio at the former Medalta Potteries factory.
Before Canada signed its first trade agreement with the United States in the 1980s, it was generally the case that factories in the east, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, manufactured most products consumed by Western Canada, which in turn, shipped agricultural products and natural resources the other direction.
But when it came to ceramics, Medicine Hat was the exception. It still calls itself The Gas City after its abundant natural resource. And Mike Onieu, the executive director of The Friends of Medalta Society, which runs the Medalta museum, told me that the combination of abundant natural gas, access to water and clay nearby in southern Saskatchewan meant that Medicine Hat was once home to several pottery factories. The largest of them, Medalta and Hycroft China, shipped not only to Canada but around the world.
If you don’t have a piece of Medalta pottery somewhere in your house, the chances are good that you’ve seen examples at garage sales.
“It was meat and potatoes,” Mr. Onieu said. “Today we try to make everything look very important, but this was just basic stuff.”
It wasn’t all plates and bowls, however. Medicine Hat’s factories once churned out ashtrays shaped like cowboy hats or tiny maps of Alberta, water reservoirs for chickens and decorative plates used as rodeo prizes.
(My wife informs me that I may be the only person on earth who never independently figured out that the Medalta name is a contraction and combination of Medicine Hat and “Alta,” the old postal abbreviation for Alberta.)
Efforts to turn the Medalta plant into a museum stretch back to at least the 1970s and its building is part of a large complex of former industrial buildings that now form a clay district. What finally opened in 2002 was a professionally designed and curated museum, gallery and ceramic arts facility.
Its spaces include a restored beehive kiln, named for its shape, lined with crocks, most sized by the gallon, and water coolers once made there.
Medalta and Hycroft production have also resumed using the original molds and tools, if on a much smaller scale and with modern kilns.
There were only 45 minutes left before closing when I arrived. And that wasn’t nearly enough time to take in the informative and often amusing exhibits.
One bit of advice if you do decide to make Medalta your break from the Trans-Canada. Its location is somewhat obscure depending on where you exit the highway. I made a mistake by following the city’s direction signs to the museum rather than entering the address into my phone’s navigation app. Not only were the signs sometimes difficult to spot, they take you on a roundabout tour, which admittedly was actually scenic, rather than directly to the site.
While I’m off, the newsletter will be in the able hands of Vjosa Isai, who recently became our news assistant in Canada.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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