Vacation from unemployment, part 2

Travel the world in a couple hours, and then buy a t-shirt to prove it. (courtesy of www.nationalgeographic.com

Travel the world in a couple hours, and then buy a t-shirt to prove it. (courtesy of www.nationalgeographic.com)

Wifey and I enjoy flying to fancy, far-off places – like France, Crete and Wyoming – where people dress and speak funny. We also like to tack on road-trips to the end of those long plane rides. For one of my favorite vacations, we flew to Sioux Falls, SD, rented a car and drove across the state and up through Wyoming and Montana to Glacier National Park. Along the way, we spent a cathartic afternoon at Wall Drug, communed with bison and giant stone presidential heads and ran out of gas along the highway halfway through an Indian reservation. Ahh, the memories.

This year’s vacation was a less-adventurous affair than previous vacations. We rented a car and drove from New York City to Montreal, and then on to La Mauricie National Park and then Quebec City. We skipped the airports and airplanes, which hopefully saved us some time and money. We also slacked on the planning, which changed the dynamic of things a bit too. But we managed to explore a little corner of Canada, and have a good time doing it.

The trip had a less than auspicious beginning, thanks to the traffic gods. Escaping from New York City is always an adventure; just ask Kurt Russell and his feathered mane. We hit major traffic leaving the city and then a couple more times along the New York State Thruway. It just takes a little road construction or one tiny accident to make thousands of people late to wherever they’re going. Crossing the border into Canada was also a nightmare. We idled in line for two and a half hours waiting for our two minutes of questioning. Border agents inquired about the nature of our visit, to which wifey responded, “international intrigue and espionage.” Maybe I just imagined her response in my boredom and carbon monoxide-fueled delirium. They followed that up with a question about the food stuffs in our possession. Aside from a half-eaten loaf of sourdough nut bread and an unopened bottle of soda we ventured ten miles off the highway to find, we had nothing. And we definitely didn’t have any of the following banned items…

  • Radar detector
  • Live minnows, leeches, or worms (night crawlers) unless not packed in dirt
  • Dog food
  • Potatoes
  • Firewood
  • Military-style attack rifles
  • Large capacity cartridge magazines (Exceeding 5 rounds for center fire rifles)

…or did we? I’ve smuggled more than my fair share of potatoes and dirt-packed worms across international borders in my day. What should’ve been an eight-hour trip was an eleven-hour schlep.

We rolled into Montreal well after dark – tired, hungry and in dire need of a bathroom – and promptly got lost. Our nerves were wearing thin, but we rallied and found the bed and breakfast. Let the vacationing commence. After checking in, we wandered the streets looking for food. Plateau Mont-Royal – the area where our hotel was – is known for its nightlife. We settled on a fondue restaurant, largely because it was open and not full of loud Canadians. For those unfamiliar, the term “fondue” stands for “a dish of incredibly hot liquid in which small pieces of food are dipped and then used to burn the crap out of the top of one’s mouth.” After a delicious dinner, we returned to our room and passed out.

The next day brought more wandering. The Mile End neighborhood – which might consider a name change to “1.60934 Kilometer End” given Canada’s use of the metric system – is filled with cute little shops. All of them sell antiques or pretty stuff for kitchens. The area is also home to a pretty tasty bagel, disproving wifey’s theory that you can’t get a good bagel outside of the New York area. As Dr. Wiki P. Edia explains it, “in contrast to the New York-style bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven.” The place we went actually makes the bagels right there. Other shops bake them off-site and truck them over. The day ended with a fancy dinner at DNA and a late-evening stroll. Every vacation has one special meal (read delicious and really f***in’ expensive), and this was it.

Embracing our inner tourist, we explored the Biosphere Environment Museum and the old town area on our second day. The Biosphere is, in their words, “…an exclusive venue to better understand major environmental issues, including those related to water, air, climate change, sustainable development and responsible consumption.” It takes the visitor through actual recreations of various environments, complete with living plants and animals. The museum was a lot more interesting and less preachy than I expected it to be. Who doesn’t like penguins and crazy-looking fish? And the screaming kids and doting parents – humans in their environment – only added to the realism. Old town Montreal dates back to the 1600s, when vendors had to churn their own ice cream and knit their own t-shirts to meet tourist demand. Narrow streets and beautiful old buildings remain, as do the ice cream and t-shirt shops. This part of the city was worth a look and a walk along the water, but not much more.

Vacation from unemployment, part 1

Vacation from unemployment, part 3

Vacation from unemployment, part 4

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