Wednesday, 8 September 2010

FISA World Masters, St Catharines Ontario, Canada

Every fourth year FISA holds the World Masters outside Europe, so this year we travelled across the pond to Canada, to meet up with approximately 2,600 other rowers and scullers, a huge number of whom are ex-olympians or ex-world champions, so the standard is pretty high.
One of the difficulties with travelling so far is that you can't take your own boat, so organising boat hire as well as hotels, car hire, and obviously what we were going to wear, was all pretty stressful leading up to the event.
For me the other thing that becomes an issue is food.  What to eat before and after races is always easy to plan at home but being in another country means there is less control, and this was certainly an issue in Canada, where the portion sizes are enormous, everything has a huge amount of salt and sugar, and most things come with chips (apart from these delightful chocolate apple things on sticks, which were just obscene!).  Breakfast in the hotel consisted of 'brown food' - bread, waffles, coffee, peanut butter and cornflakes - nothing that had been alive for a long, long time.  So trips to the supermarket to buy fresh fruit, muesli, snack bars and dried fruit and nuts was high on the agenda on day two!
After racing all day going out for dinner is not so much about a great experience but more about getting food in quickly, in large amounts, so most nights we were fine.  When racing was finally over (and this happened sooner than it should have done due to Hurricane Earl!) it was time for me to take control of dinner plans, to make sure we got some great food.  How lucky were we that one of the best restaurants in the area was only a short drive from our hotel - Treadwell, a restaurant that specialises in 'farm to table' food, with all the ingredients being grown or bred locally, or in the case of the perch and pickerel, coming straight out of the Lake Erie!  The food was amazing and the service just perfect.

One thing Ontario is famed for (apart from a little waterfall that everyone raves about!), is the vineyards.  Although we don't seem to get much of the wine in the UK (something to do with the export laws in Canada apparently), they do make a few good wines, one of which is Icewine - a honeyed, desert wine that is produced from grapes that are frozen on the vine (the temperature has to drop to below 10-13 degrees Celcius), and then picked by hand, sometimes at night.
Hillebrand Winery make one of the best I have tasted (it is not cheap!), and we found the best way to sample it was over lunch in their fantastic restaurant.  If you want to learn about wine making however, do not take their tour - we taught the guide more than he taught us!

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