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(2016 - Winter Issue)


Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known and best-loved writers of biography and popular history.

A native of England, she moved to Canada in 1979 as a newspaper columnist and magazine writer. Twenty years ago she began writing non-fiction books, all nine of which have become bestsellers. They include Reluctant Genius, a biography of Alexander Graham Bell, and Gold Diggers, a history of Dawson City and six men and women who sought to strike it rich in the Klondike. Her latest book, published in fall 2016, is The Promise of Canada: 150 Years—People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country.

The Order of Canada recipient and winner of the Pierre Berton Prize for popularizing Canadian history lives in Ottawa where she’s an adjunct history professor at Carleton University. She still travels extensively and loves to immerse herself in the areas she visits or researches for a book. We met her on an Adventure Canada expedition cruise along the rugged coast of Labrador.


You really like to travel with a Canadian perspective.

I do. When I was researching Alexander Graham Bell, it took me to Scotland where he was born and to Boston where he had his great breakthrough with the telephone. However, the key area was his home in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where he conducted many experiments. And in the North, which I love, the landscape itself became a character for my Klondike book.

What are your favourite places to visit in Canada?

Wherever I’m going next! I love our Ontario cottage but I adore being on the ocean on either side of the continent. I love to see the extraordinary variations in a country that has developed an exceptional cohesion over the past 150 years.

We’re currently sailing up the Labrador coast. What’s the appeal for you?

It’s not just a cruise. Adventure Canada takes you into the experience of living here. With our visit to Moravian communities, we’re getting a glimpse of our history I knew nothing about.

How frequently do you travel beyond Canada?

Quite often. We just returned from Sicily and I’ve spent long periods in Japan. I love India and much of Europe and I go back to England a lot.

Do you have a favourite hotel when you travel?

I like any place that’s close to an outstanding fish and chips shop. But I’m also a sucker for luxury when it’s available.

Do you take much luggage when you travel?

I try to stick to carry-on. As long as I’ve packed some good walking shoes and my Kobo e-reader, I’m good to go. I would feel completely undressed if I didn’t have anything to read.

Is the Internet vital?

More and more. It’s always been part of my recent travels and, without it, I would feel unmoored.

What are your travel beefs?

Airport security, of course. But it’s the day before travel that bugs me most. It’s when I start feverishly making lists and panic that I haven’t finished everything. It’s such a relief to actually arrive at a place.

Any tricks to minimize jet lag?

I normally can’t sleep on an overnight flight so I try to stay awake. On arrival I’ll have a bath and three hours sleep and I’m over jet lag.

Any general travel advice for Canadians?

Do more of it. When you’re outside Canada, you learn so much more about this country because you have a standard of comparison. Other countries do things differently. Some better; some not as well.

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