I'm back from my travels...

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As some of you know, I've been in Canada for the last two weeks on vacation/holiday. I was in Halifax, NS for the first week and near St. George, NB in the second, from where I made a couple of trips into the US (to Bangor and Lubec in Maine). My family and I had a great time. I won't bore you with any more details, but here are a few observations:

- Canada is massive! Of course you can tell that from the map but when you're there you appreciate just how big it is and how little of it you can visit in just a couple of weeks. That's not enough time to even see all of Nova Scotia.

- I now know why LEGO is so expensive in Canada. Everything is expensive! With the exception of gas that is, which is about 2/3rds the UK price. The price of food in particular surprised us: bread, cheese, milk, the basics, were about double the UK price. It can't be right that I can buy Canadian cheddar for half the Canadian price here in the UK, can it?

- Tim Hortons is a fantastic institution! Branches everywhere, fast, efficient, good food and great prices. It's almost cheaper to get a toasted bagel and coffee there than it is to buy them in a supermarket. We need something like that here in Europe.

- We have nothing like Sirius XM satellite radio in Europe, it is excellent and made the five hour drive from NS to NB fly by.

My time there wasn't totally LEGO-less. I met Chris McVeigh (aka powerpig) for dinner in Halifax and searched out LEGO in the Bangor branches of TRU, Target and Walmart. The LEGO was certainly cheaper in the latter two, but my suitcase would not permit me to bring much home with me :-(

I'm just about over my jet-lag so will be dealing with the 400+ emails I received while I was away today, and updating the database with new images, etc.

It seems that every time I go away there's some big announcement or other and this time was no exception. SDCC generated a lot of news and I'd like to thank Matthew and kempo81 for posting it in my absence. Thanks too to CapnRex101 for his excellent reviews which have also hopefully kept you engaged over the last two weeks.

I apologise for the downtime over the weekend. The site was behaving intermittently from about 04:00 GMT Saturday to 16:00 GMT yesterday due, it seems, to instability of the host machine of the site's virtual server. Once it had been rebooted, it started to behave.

So, everything's back to normal now, and our regular service has been resumed :-)

44 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

two weeks. it felt like a week
also while you were gone a new argos catalogue was released it has a lot of new lego in it.
and the rest of the summer sets are now on lego.com in the uk.

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By in United Kingdom,

The first week I had Wi-Fi in my hotel so could check in from time to time, on the second I was reliant on the free Wi-Fi in Tim Hortons, the nearest of which was 20 minutes from where I was staying, in the middle of nowhere overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay. Idyllic, but not practical for running a website...

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By in United Kingdom,

Welcome home, Huw! Canada's long been on my list of places to visit, so I confess to a modicum of jealousy...although I had two weeks in Wales, so I can't really complain. ;-)

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By in Canada,

So you liked N.S. You need to come to the west. Alberta and or british Columbia. It will blow you away. I live in England for 5 years. Most in England cannot understand the amount of room here until they see it. A young man from Belgium is here, and the first thing he noticed was the amount of stars he could see on a clear night. Glad you had a good holiday.
MVS 53

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By in United Kingdom,

Welcome back Huw, much like Carlq above, Canada is a one of a long list of places I hope to visit at some point. If you want expensive, try Sweden, I paid almost £8 for a coffee while I was on my cruise a week or two ago!

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ You are right about the room: houses on acres of land, huge trucks and massive parking lots ;-)

But, one disadvantage is that everything is spread out and getting to the next nearest place of significance takes hours and hours...

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm fortunate in that my girlfriend is Canadian and has family there so I've been going there most years sometimes a few times a year since 2005 as we go back so she can visit her friends and family. Though we have skipped the last couple of years due to buying a house here and furnishing and decorating it eating up most our money.

We're actually going back in a couple of weeks time and I suspect I'll notice the cost this time but the thing to keep in mind Huw is that the British pound has lost 30% of it's value against the dollar since around 2008. Back in about 2007 I used to get 2.35 CAD at it's peak to 1 GBP, whilst it's only what, 1.55 CAD to 1 GBP now? I suspect it will be this that made you notice it above all else and keep in mind that the numerical value on salaries in Canada are normally higher to match so most Canadians wont notice it too. Back in 2005 - 2007 it was actually nice and cheap going to Canada as everything cost less than here, but as you say now, the reverse is true because of the dramatic loss in value of the pound. Tim Hortons will be one of our first stops no doubt, but one of my other favourite places to visit is Cora's (http://www.chezcora.com/home) because yes, the food looks exactly as it does on their website and tastes as nice to boot. There's a few other favourites we'll be visiting to eat there too - Montana's, East Side Marios, and my secret guilty pleasure, Taco Bell quesedillas :)

But I have one question Huw given that I'll be there in a couple of weeks - did you spot any Lego related things you can buy/do there but can't get here in the UK? Just wondering if there is anything I should pick up whilst I'm over there. I'm somewhat hoping they get the Series 11 CMF before we do as I'll be there until the end of August so may be able to pick some up over there before I can here though I guess I'll have to wait and see. Are there any Canada/North America exclusive sets/polybags worthy of mention?

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By in United Kingdom,

Welcome back Huw, sounds like you head a great time!

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By in United States,

You should come for a vacation to our house sometime. :P Feel like spending some time in a boring little town in Minnesota, twiddling your fingers and wishing you were back home? :P

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By in Rwanda,

I was in toronto last year and definitely with you on Tim Hortons, a great institution....though I kept calling it graham norton by accident......

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By in United States,

Okay, did you try a Tim Horton's fruit explosion muffin? We actually drove several hours up from Michigan to Canada one day just to buy a box of Tim Horton's fruit explosion muffins, and then drive back. They're that good 0_0.

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By in United States,

@HUW: the reason things like cheese are more expensive there than in the UK is the same reason things like pecans in the USA are so expensive(USA is the worlds biggest producer of pecans by the way) is because Canada and the USA export it around the world so everyone else can have it thereby making the price go up here. It's the same with meats in AUS......it boggles the mind.

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By in United States,

Huw, you even get to Michigan in the US, let me know. I would love to buy you lunch and yes, we have Tim Hortons here too. About 5 of them with in a 10 minutes drive.

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By in United Kingdom,

@xefan: East Side Marios was indeed excellent, as was Jack Asters, where I met up with Chris.

I didn't do a lot of hunting for LEGO in Canada, but did go to TRU at Dartmouth Crossing where they had a massive selection but at a price. There were no polys, other than 30250, available with a Chima purchase, in TRU. Sadly, the Robin's Redbird Cycle offer had ended :(

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By in Canada,

Huw: Now you can understand when we laught at Visitor that tell us they want to visit, Niagara falls, The Rockies, Cabots Trails, CN Tower, Olympic stadium etc. all in a week while driving a rental car. Yes it's big contry, even for us "Locals" it take a lots of times just to visit it from coast to coast. In another way. When i've visited in 2007 England and Ireland with my wife we were suprise by the proximity of every ciities We thought that driving from Dublin to cork will take us only 2H30 it's only 250K apart.. Oh dear we where wrong...

We are planning to go back in UK in 2 or 3 years and I wont do the same error.. I will visit Legoland in Windsor!!!!

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By in United States,

Huh I never knew about any other Lego fans in Michigan before I always thought I was the only one lol. Actually now I live right across the border in Indiana but its still not that far away.

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By in Canada,

Glad to hear that Canada treated you well!

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By in Canada,

I'm glad you and your family enjoyed it! :) And yes, LEGO here is quite pricey.....

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By in Canada,

I'm glad you liked Canada! Come again!

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By in United Kingdom,

@TWWPS, the roads in Canada are indeed excellent and mostly empty. It was a pleasure driving, particularly in my hired Lincoln MKX SUV. Shame the speed limit is so low. I was surprised that nearly everyone sticks to it, even on empty roads. In the UK it doesn't matter how fast you go, 70-80-90 MPH, there's always someone behind you wanting to go faster.

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By in United States,

^ Try driving NYS thruway. You will get honked at even if you are breaking the sound barrier.

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By in Canada,

Just to put things in perspective; just over 40 UK land masses can fit in Canada, yet you still have nearly double our population. That should help explain why there are large distances between (most) major cities. Another perspective would be all of Europe could fit in Canada and we still have the Northwest Territories left over.

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By in Canada,

@Huw: we pretty much stick with the speed limits +-10 to 20 over the limits.. But when you are in denser area.. ( montreal, Quebec or Toronto).. it's getting more and more hectic and speed limits are a "Guide line" But when you are far from big cities everything is a little bit more lay back and slow pace.. People that live in big cities are easy to spot.. they are the only one tailgating every cars in a almost empty road.

OF course in canada we dont have a Richard Hammon or Jeremy Clarkson ( Wont talk for Capitain Slow) trying a super car on our roads ;P

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By in United States,

My wife and I have been wanting to visit Canada. We are in the Midwest (Nebraska to be exact) and it is the same idea. Miles and miles between each major city. It can be quite nice at times, frustrating at others if certain stores aren't nearby. It takes about 8 hours to get to Minneapolis, Chicago, or Denver from where we are located. But luckily we are close to other major cities that have stuff to do/shopping.

As far as driving on roads, I think it is similar here. Everything is so far apart, the speed limits (at least here) are 75 on the interstate so that helps some. We've been wanting to visit Europe for quite some time and I'm sure we'll be in shock about how different it is than here.

Welcome back. Glad the trip was fun.

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By in Canada,

@CapnRex101 You should come visit me when/if you come to Canada.

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By in United States,

I spent last week in Alberta and the previous week in British Columbia. In B.C. the beautiful snow capped mountains and vast forests. In Alberta, many times not a tree in sight, I think they moved them all to B.C. :) Can't beat Tim Hortons, they are everywhere. Canadians are fun, friendly and very polite. Even the buses were polite. Where I would of expected the bus sign above the windshield to say OUT OF SERVICE, it said " Sorry, Out of Service"

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By in Canada,

Glad you had a good time. You're not off the mark when you say LEGO is a bit expensive here. The tax rate can be a bit ridiculous. It would be nice if they lowered it, even if it was just by 1%, so that we don't lose anything like universal healthcare and stuff. Hope you come back for another visit sometime (and come to Toronto, we're the hip and happening! (although you can't beat that beautiful east coast...)!

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By in Canada,

Try the west coast next vacation. :)

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By in Canada,

@Huw, so glad that you enjoyed your vacation. The East Coast is a wonderful place to visit.
My first visit to Canada was during the summer in the mid '90s, and going up to 'cottage country, heading out into a lake in a canoe and watching a beaver dam and osprey flying around, all in complete peace and quiet made me fall in love with the country. Subsequently I moved to Canada from the UK with my Canadian wife in '99 and have loved every minute of living here.
Canada is definitely big! We live outside of Toronto and have seen quite a bit of Ontario and visited the East Coast, although the West Coast is next on our list.

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By in United States,

Canada is the Second Largest Country in the World. Logistics would be massive and logistics effect price. If the TRU's were closer, likely determined by population density, things would be cheaper.

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By in United States,

Oh @HUW I wish I knew! I am a couple hours south of Bangor, would have been great to meet up but glad you had fun!

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By in United Kingdom,

^ That's a shame. The drive there was a bit last-minute: my daughters wanted to go to the Abercrombie and Fitch store :-)

The drive from Calais to Bangor was awfully boring and, at 55mph, slow...

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By in United States,

I'm glad you had a good trip Huw.

I just spent 18 months living on Prince Edward Island and I have to say: Canada is a wonderful place to visit, but not a great place to live. A lot of the things you observed there are things my family noticed too: food is more expensive and everything is farther away. Another big difference for us was the price in gas. It may be cheaper than the UK price, but it's a lot more than the American price. Also, the free health care is not that great. We spent the whole time we were living there on a waiting list for a doctor, and by the time we moved away, we were still somewhere around 500 on that list. Those are just a few of the problems.

Ok, my rant is done.
I would still go back and visit if I had the chance.

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By in Canada,

Statistics as of about 2010 there was 1 Tim Hortons for every 11,000 people in Canada!! and they are still building them. If you come even further east to Newfoundland I think you would find quite the space with only 550,000 people and 4 Cities in an area that is much larger than the UK. You have friendly people, historic sites, Icebergs, Whales, Puffins and LEGO collectors. We are Happy to have you.

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By in United States,

Glad you had fun! I love the East Coast, nicest people in the world, but I think if you get closer to major cities you'll find food prices a lot lower and the speed driven a lot higher. Drive the 401 from Toronto to Montreal (or, like me, get off at the 416 to Ottawa) at night at less than 85mph and little old ladies will be flipping you the bird...

I remember being an exchange student in France and having English students ask me about how much bigger Canada is than the UK. I pointed out it was a 6 hour drive from my home town to my University town. They said they were from Northern England and went to school in London, so it was similar. I pointed out that I didn't even leave my province on this drive...to go from one end of Ontario to the other is a days driving crossing a time zone.

In defense of Canadian Health Care from MaverickDengo's self described rant (quality of which depends on the province you are in), PEI, while a great place, is hardly a major metropolitan area. Like the US, quality and availability of health care improves in the bigger, richer, cities. I worked with Health Canada for a long time, but have worked with US health care for 14 years, and I think if you're middle class or below you're probably better off in Canada.

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By in Canada,

Now all Brickset members know how awesome Canada is!!
The only thing you did not mention was how hard it is to get really good LEGO out north! :)

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By in United States,

everything is expensive to pay for the free healthcare

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By in Canada,

Glad to have you here in Canada - it's good that you enjoyed it. It's certainly a big country, and I would like to see more of it myself. The east coast is one of the better places in the country to see. Of course, that's just a small fraction. The west coast and the rockies are also spectacular. I live in Winnipeg, which is on the prairies and is the only larger city within 800 km of the surrounding area - Minneapolis is the only close big city. The prairies are huge, with long, long drives if you want to get anywhere. In Manitoba, you'd be hard pressed to find a road with a speed limit of over 100 km/h - that's usually the max.

Tims is great, isn't it? Great doughnuts, sandwiches, coffee, bagels, and much more. They should expand overseas!

The nearest LEGO brick and mortar store is the big store at the Mall of America, in Minneapolis - an eight hour drive. Prices are quite higher in Canada (for LEGO) and I guess logistics could be part of that.

Still, glad you enjoyed your time here. I - and the rest of us - hope you visit again.

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By in United States,

Are Canadians the nicest people on the planet? Or what? Gawd you people are nice! Americans aren't happy unless we've got three cars and a gated community to keep other people out. We've got cheap Lego and WAFFLE HOUSES though. Oh and our health care and education money just purchased a 12.9 billion dollar Ford Class Super Aircraft Carrier....Noooo!

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By in Canada,

Glad to hear you had a good time in the Great White North! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BFPt001PYU If you ever make it West, definitely give us a shout. I live in the Queen City, Regina Saskatchewan, and it's a lovely place.

Tim's is a great place. It can be a bit addictive, but well worth it. They are popping up everywhere around here. we've double our locations in the past few years here... oh, sorry, got to go. They're building one in my kitchen now. Laters!

^^ Hey T&T, we should chat neighbour!

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By in Canada,

Glad you enjoyed visiting the Great White North! Just to put things into perspective, my father in law (a Brit from Newcastle) has expressed that you can lose England in Lake Ontario. Yes, our LEGO is shockingly expensive compared to everywhere else, which explains my modest collection. But now that I know the UK is much cheaper, perhaps I will send my father in law a shopping list the next time he goes over!

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By in Canada,

So what you guys are saying is that the only impresive things in any given countries are chains?

Just tried to list the places from Canada and they were all chains. Where is the good stuff, the original, the mom and pop, etc?

Guess I shouldn't ask that on a LEGO fan site that relies mostly on big chains for its supplies...

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By in United States,

Regarding roads in Canada - we recently took a road trip that encompassed a stop at each of the Great Lakes. Our final leg before returning to New York was along the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, entering from Sault Ste. Marie. As evening encroached, we made the mistake of not filling up the tank before Sudbury and had a harrowing journey, making rudimentary fuel calculations based on how many miles our car said we had remaining in the tank vs. how many kms we had left to Parry Sound like we were WWII era pilots or something. Luckily we got there with about a gallon left in the tank! Moral of the story - if you're going to be driving on the TCH at night and you see an open gas station GET SOME GAS!

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