First things first. A toque is a winter hat, known as such only in Canada. The canoe was recently declared one of the seven wonders of Canada. So it stands to reason that Kim Gray and Jennifer Twyman would call their Canadian travel website Toque & Canoe.
Kim is a journalist who has worked for CBC radio and television and a number of national newspapers and magazines over the past 20 years. She has lived in Victoria, Quebec City and cities in between, as well as overseas. Jen, who is based in Calgary, has spent 15 years as a photojournalist; her work has appeared in magazines around the world.
Their website, focusing specifically on Canadian travel was launched, appropriately on July 1 (Canada Day), 2011.
Why did you decide to start Toque & Canoe? Why focus on Canadian travel?
Kim: We launched Toque & Canoe because we’re serious travellers. And as much as we both love international travel, Canada is our priority. We’re Canadians, after all! Launching our own website means we have a vehicle to share our stories with friends, with Canadians everywhere and with people from around the world who have an interest in Canada.
Jen: We wanted to cover Canadian travel culture our way. Toque & Canoe gives us the freedom to do this.
If you could recommend one thing to eat in your hometown that’s unique, what would it be?
Jen: I’ve eaten beef all over the world and it never tastes as good as Alberta beef. So I would say, find yourself a good Calgary steakhouse and enjoy.
What is one place in Canada everyone should visit? Or, alternatively, one thing everyone should do?
Kim: One of the greatest trips a person can have in this country is a visit to northwestern BC’s Khutzeymateen, one of Canada’s only wild grizzly bear sanctuaries.
Jen: Quebec City. In my mind, it’s magic.
Tell us one of the best meals you’ve eaten across Canada.
Kim: My husband and I were prepared a meal by chef Jared Alvey in Calgary at Petite. I can’t tell you exactly what was in that meal, but I can say that hands down, it was the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten (next to my Dad’s lamb and my mom’s blueberry pie).
Jen: Lobster, pulled fresh from the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, cooked at home.
What’s the most valuable piece of travel advice you’ve received?
Kim: Stay open to opportunity. You never know what’s waiting for you around the corner.
Jen: Pack lightly.
What three things do you always travel with, gear-wise?
Kim: My laptop. My mom just finished the biography on Steve Jobs and she says she finally understands why I caress my MacBook. Good pens. I like the disposable Pilot fountain pens. And notebooks: Moleskines are my favourite design.
Jen: My Nikon D200 with two lenses. My backup pocket camera: a Canon PowerShot G12. My MacBook. And my Swiss Army knife (aka beer opener).
Winter is approaching in the northern hemisphere: What are your favourite winter destinations or things to do anywhere in Canada?
Kim: I can’t wait to get to the mountains. Emerald Lake Lodge is as beautiful and remote as a mountain destination can get in the winter—serious storybook material. Also in the Rockies are the Post Hotel, run by two Swiss brothers, and Mount Engadine Lodge.