Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vermont/NH: Day 6 - Québec

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(Map key: Point B - Parc national du Mont-Orford; Point C - Knowlton; Point D - Arbitrary turnaround point; Point E - Haskell Library / Opera House.)

I've been calling this the "Vermont / New Hampshire" trip, even though most of Day 6 was spent in neither Vermont nor New Hampshire.

We hadn't been to Canada in any capacity since we came back from the Alaska trip over two years ago. Our cabin was located only an hour from the border, so...we just had to do it.

If you're curious about what documentation we needed for Marla: while Amber and I need passports, children under 16 crossing the Canadian border by land or sea only need a birth certificate, not a passport. Speaking of which, we had no problems whatsoever entering Canada or re-entering the United States. I mean, they didn't ask me to open the trunk or anything! Like I thought before the trip, having a kid with you might actually make you less suspicious.

First stop: Parc national du Mont-Orford, where we went on a nice hike by a lake.

We almost had the park to ourselves when we got there (9 or 10 in the morning), but there were about ten cars in the parking lot when we got back. Notable: EVERY OTHER CAR in the lot had a Québec license plate. Maybe this is just because of the weather that day, but this part of Québec - the "Eastern Townships" - doesn't seem to attract a lot of American tourists. But I think it's very underrated. It's not as mountainous as Vermont/New Hampshire (the hills taper off as you continue north and west), but it's still nice. Instead, everyone who comes to Québec just goes to Montréal and Québec City, non?

Once we finished with the park - with Marla, one hike per day is plenty - we decided to drive around the Québec countryside and see what we could find. What we found were a few large lakeside mansions (vacation homes for affluent Montrealers?), and the small town of Knowlton.

(I just thought that was an interesting way to denote a four way stop.)

Side note about language. Obviously, most Québécois speak French. I do not, and that bugs me. I took four years of French in high school, but didn't pursue it after that, so I've lost most of it. So, I don't even bother trying to speak French to the natives. And that bugs me, too, because they start out speaking French, and only once they detect the blank look on our faces do they break out the English. I'm sure they're used to it - although maybe not so much in this part of the province, because like I said, not too many Americans seem to come this way. But they didn't seem to mind; being Canadian, they were all very nice*. Still, it makes me feel like a dumb American. (Which I am, I guess. But I want to be better than that!)

(* - While Canadians have a reputation for being very nice people, French Canadians...well, not so much, really. But they were all very nice to us, so I can't speak to that.)

We found several radio stations that only played music in French. I thought that was great! We ate it up. Many of those French-only stations were commercial free, too...or so we thought. Since we don't know French that well, for all we know, that "song" we just listened to could have actually been a commercial for a furniture store. How would we know?

Given how short our stay in Canada was, we didn't bother getting Canadian money or anything. So, it's a good thing the National Park we went to took American money...although they did calculate the exchange rate rather than just take our money as-is. Why? Because as of now (or at least as of our trip), the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar! Good time to be Canadian, eh? (I think the exchange rate was around $1 US = $1.03 CAN during our Alaska trip in 2010.) Well, either way, I hope our waitress in Knowlton didn't mind getting a tip in American currency.

Once we were done inconveniencing the locals with our "English" and "green money", we got back in the car, gave Marla a long car nap (similar to yesterday) along Autoroutes 10 and 55, and headed back south.

So really, we didn't do a whole lot in Québec, I suppose: we spent an hour at a National Park, we drove around for a while, and I ate some poutine. (See separate blog post about the poutine.) Still, it was great to be back in Canada, if only for a few hours. Maybe next time, we'll spend the night in Canada, and I'll get to watch the Weather Network.

But that's not all! After crossing back into Vermont, we stopped at the Haskell Library and Opera House.

We were hoping for a tour of the opera house, but tours had closed for the day by the time we got there (between 3 and 4). Planning fail on my part. So instead, my takeaway from the border town of Derby Line will be this:

That's the Canadian border. Nobody cross, you hear?

I wouldn't be surprised if they had a surveillance camera mounted in the vicinity, but I didn't see one. (Maybe that's the idea?) Either way, it's quite a contrast from, say, the Mexican border. Never been to Mexico, by the way. Closest I've been to Mexico is I-10 in El Paso, from which you can see Mexico, at least. Even that was kind of creepy. And that was before I started watching "Breaking Bad".

Yeah, I think we can wait a little longer before we need to venture into Mexico. It'll be a while before we get tired of Canada. (Provided we Americans can still afford to go there in ten years, that is.)

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