Sunday, February 06, 2011

Canadian Adventure, Part 4: Crossing the Border

The next morning, I woke up early, got a free coffee and pastry from the hotel lobby, and headed north, with only nineteen American miles to go!

I took lots of pictures documenting my last miles in America. I stopped at a rest area to get some self portraits, as there was no passenger to take real action shots. (So that picture above was taken under safe circumstances. I was only pretending to drive.) Here's one example:

If we were to go by this picture alone, we would conclude I was in fact miserable at the prospect of driving mysel to Canada.

Almost there! A bilingual sign! Quelque chose bilingue!

The sign says, "Last US Exit" and "Dernière Sortie EU."

Is it the same red Prius that accompanied me on I-87 two days previous?

Je suis arrivée! Autoroute 15 picks up where I-87 ends at the US/Canada border.

When I rolled down my window to speak to the border guard, I felt a little trepidation. Would I have to speak French? Although I'd driven to Canada before, this time I was alone.

"Bonjour, good morning!" a friendly voice proclaimed. She was all sunshine and warmth and springtime blossoms in the cold, flat, brittle brown winter morning. I handed her my passport and, when prompted, told her I was going to Montréal to sightsee, specifically to see the botanical garden and insectarium and maybe some museums and shopping.

"Occupation?" she inquired. I told her horticultural education, and for whom I worked.

"Oh! So that's why you want to see the botanical garden!" she said through her huge smile. She told me to enjoy my trip and wished me a nice day. With that, I was through the border crossing and in Canada!

To be honest, I dreamed of going to Québec since my first junior high French class. I dreamed of seeing a place where people spoke the same language as my grandparents, a place with a culture similar to theirs but much closer than their homeland and, perhaps more importantly, without an ocean in the way. I dreamed of practicing my French here.

Look! The radio is in French!

Most of the landscape between New York state and Montréal looked like this. Actually, this picture of stark winter beauty isn't telling the truth. The landscape on either side of Autoroute 15 was actually not pretty at all. It was flat, barren, and lifeless, with few towns and with occasional rundown convenience stores cropping up alone and conspicuous in the flat land, like trees along I-80 in Nebraska. It was a little depressing, but it didn't crush the high spirits I brought with me to Canada. It wasn't long before I was in Montréal, and in Montréal very different scenery awaited me.

More later!

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