Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When you embark on any journey, you think you have an idea of how things will go. We often plan the landmarks and route.  We want things to be tidy, ordered and when we want them.  Life and travel rarely roll this way.

We had no idea what we were getting into, both in our wedding vows or our expedition across Canada. We had maps for both, but adjusted as necessary. We stopped more frequently for hot water and bathroom breaks...we adjusted to each other's sleep and eating habits. There were times I felt completely spent and I am more certain he did as well. Sick babies, four little ones, endless driving and juggling, pressing on past Portage La Prairie for 3 more hours onto Lester Beach...pushing on to Sudbury hungry, thirsty and depleted, agonizing over big decisions that threatened the life of our youngest, empty nest for almost a week and back to a fuller house...

We had no idea what we were getting into...but I wouldn't change a thing - and I would not want to have known, for fear and over-planning might have weakened the muscles I built at staying the course when things were hard...I might have carried too much equipment and tired sooner, or I might have opted not to start.

Marriage parallels a journey...or in our case, a Canadian Epic Adventure, 'eh!
Traveling through New York state was surreal for me. It was not unlike much of rural Canada. Roads snaking through small towns with diners and farm equipment dealers. We did hear a really thick New Jersey accent emanating from a hair-slicked back gentleman in an older cadillac with his bouffant touting companion powdering her nose (who does that anymore??) and attempting to apply lipstick on the ferry jaunt to Essex. We wanted to record his voice as it sounded out of a movie.

We press on and now head north to Niagara Falls.

Nothing could have prepared me for Niagara. Well...actually - perhaps pictures of the city could have - because when we arrive at Clifton Hill parking lot the kitch began with the dinosaurs and putting green and continued through streets of Las Vegas like attractions. I had only ever seen the falls themselves in photos. They are breathtaking, spectacular and a wonder to behold. I had no idea they were part of the theme-park. The juxtaposition could not have been more apparent.

The mist rising on the rushing cascade...the immeasurable beauty of nature in sight and sound was magnificent. Built around this wonder are spectacles so wacky and absurd, like an amusement park, I am unsettled.

The discordance disturbs me. We sure know how to wreck a place. As if the falls themselves needed something else to lure tourists. Meanwhile Norman is enjoying this to the max. He loves the cheese and tucks into tourist shops and magic stores. Although bloated in the cheese, I should clarify the falls are the highlight for him too and the boat ride around them is perfect.

We stayed in Niagara on the Lake...very touristy and with just the right amount of trendy gluten-free bakeries, bistros and organic markets to entice the tap of the debit and visa cards.

The town itself is bustling with people and although we are minutes away from one of the most amazing wonders I have ever seen, most seem preoccupied with finding the right t-shirt or taking a selfie with the horse-drawn carriage or the manicured hanging baskets in the background.

We experience our second rain-storm on the way from the falls on our last night and I am grateful that we have not needed rain-gear after Calgary.

No more words needed. This is tucked in my heart and the last picture of the most amazing journey.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Vermont and New York!!!

Like many marriages, you plan things out loosely and often you are rerouted. We divert our trip south and are in Burlington, Vermont where we are conspicuous as "not from around here" without the ubiquitous attire of white sneakers, polo shirts and khaki shorts. I am used to blending in to my surroundings and I feel slight discomfort at confused looks.

The city itself is sublime with old buildings and icons the foreground for Lake Champlain. The city is old and quaint and preppy, akin to the people.

There is no lingering here as the next day we are bound for Lake Placid and beyond. We leave early for the ferry to Essex, New York and cross the lake to another quaint village with essing tarmac and magnificent views. The state shares it name with such a big city, but there is no hint of crowding or hurrying through the villages and hamlets.

We are now in Amish country and rural way of life is evident from the country stores and vendors selling tomatoes and flowers on the roads.

Lake Placid is our 4th Olympic City - and has actually twice hosted the games. You can see the ski jumps looming from around a bend and then you happen upon the city. There is little to see so we press on and find those roads that transfix and energize.

We hole up the night at a roadside motel that is clean, quaint and has great linens. We have been travelling for several weeks now and I am succumbing to the heat. Our meal is something microwaved, fruit and pretzels

We are now anticipating Niagara Falls in its glory.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Quebec still

I am in love with Montreal and its modern art and ideas tucked into old world style. Churches abound - though religion is not apparent. Police appear subversive in their khaki pants instead of uniforms. It is their statement to the city as they are forced to work without a contract.

The mix of many cultures become a fusion of language that is unique and restaurants and bistros attempt to capitalize on this.

As we press on to Quebec City, I have left my heart in Montreal. I feel I met a long-lost relative that others had disparaged and yet the whole time they were the cool uncle that gets you into venues at the nod of a head and  everyone reveres. I am ashamed that I had let others' opinion shape mine of this city.

Quebec City was more like the aunt. The historian of the family with the old walled city holding charm of yesteryear with the re-branding of 2016. It is the cradle of French civiliation in North America and continues to remind the rest of Canada of its heritage.

Shops luring tourists sit in the midst of the oldest home in the city. The plaque says 1659 and it now a restaurant.  Some streets are narrow and the outside walls house the Frontenac Hotel and canons. The courtyard provides a spectacular view of the city and enemy targets.

We poke around in shops, but the sites for us are the old alleys and cobblestone walks,. Though cars are permitted, there are signs indicating two wheels with motors are not. In typical Norman fashion he pretends to ignore these, but eventually relents at the thought of having the bike towed. We walk the streets where "o Canada" was penned (or so says a brass sign on an old brick front).

We read of days of trade, sickness and politics. We venture outside the walls to a grocer that is the oldest in North America, Epicier JA Moisan (1871) and we both are enamored with the wooden display shelves and old world feel.  We pay homage at a graveyard that housed many thousand though has only 313 markers in place. I  never saw someone reach much past 50. It is worth my time to consider these builders of my freedom.

Our lodging is in a 3-story walk-up in a working class neighbourhood and we walk to trendy gentrified areas with ubiquitous cafes, bistros and bong stores. We wander, taking in the sites and sounds and churches. I am not surprised to find a soccer field with its own chapel in the corner. I would have been the week before, but Quebec and Catholics in particular show their stuff here.

Quebec is marvelous and has uncovered prejudice and judgement that were not my own to carry. I am indebted at having lightened that load.