HONEY I'M HOME!

Making a triumphant return to the land of her raising, Shania Twain reclaims her throne as the queen of Canada

Swiss miss Shania Twain hasn't been seen much in her homeland of Canada for the last five years -- and now she's making up for lost time.

"I was due for this," says Shania during a stop at Ottawa's Chateau Laurier Hotel. "When you travel the world so much, all you can do is just touch base with your home. Sometimes you feel like you've got to do a major catch-up, and I'm getting the chance to do that now.

"I think this is the first time I've spent several days in one place in Canada in many, many years."

Shania, now living in Switzerland, made her triumphant return to her native country -- she was born in Windsor, Ontario, and raised in Timmins -- at the Juno Awards, a sort of Canadian version of the American Grammys. She hosted the show and won three awards: the Fan Choice Award, Artist of the Year and Country Recording of the Year (for "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" from her latest CD, Up!). Her previous visit was a brief halftime performance at Canada's own Super Bowl, the Grey Cup, last November.

The Junos offered Shania a good chance to make up for lost time on the Great White North's music scene. "This is a chance for me to meet a lot of Canadian artists and catch up with everybody," she explained. "There's camaraderie, I think, amongst Canadian artists when we run into each other around the world. It's great to reunite, and the Junos is one of those places where you get to do that."

One singer she's eager to keep tabs on is rock hitmaker Avril Lavigne, whose career exploded after Shania invited her onstage to sing during her Come on Over tour. Three years later, Avril's first album, Let Go, went on to sell more than five million copies.

"After Avril came up onstage with me and did her thing, a relative of mine who knows her family kept in touch with me on her progress," says Shania. "It's been extraordinary to follow all the record-breaking that she's achieved over the last few years. It's just been great watching her succeed. She's a real Canadian girl, and I sincerely wish her well."

Now that she's back, Shania promises to spend a lot more time in the land of the Maple Leaf this year. "I'm going to be coming back to Canada quite a bit, actually," she promises.

In addition to occasional visits to her Northern Ontario cottage, she'll return to be inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto on June 25, and has tentative plans to start her world tour in Hamilton on Sept. 23. She's also hoping to squeeze in her first official visit to Timmins' Shania Twain Centre, a museum in tribute to her. When she does, Shania looks forward to getting reacquainted with Timmins.

"I love my hometown!" exclaims Shania, who now lives with husband Robert John "Mutt" Lange and their nearly 2-year-old son, Eja, in Le chateau de Sully, a luxurious 100-room Swiss castle in Tour-de-Peilz in Switzerland. "I grew up there, and have a lot of great memories from Timmins. I'm really happy that they're enjoying the Shania Twain 'thing,' for whatever it's worth. I've been happy that they've been taking advantage of that."

But Shania won't stay in Canada forever. Jaunts to Australia, Japan and other parts of Asia are planned, and she'll be performing a show at London's Hyde Park on July 12, which will likely be taped for an upcoming TV special. There's also a scheduled Aug. 1 appearance on the Today show.

One thing Shania won't do is follow the lead of fellow Canadian Céline Dion, who has set up shop in Las Vegas for a long-running show. "It's a great idea, but I think I'm much too much of a gypsy for that," she laughs. "I need to move around. I don't think I can handle being committed to any one place for so long.

"I like traveling, I like change. I don't think I could root myself for that length of time."

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