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Dear Toronto,

I knew nothing about you before I visited and now I have fallen in love.  You, my dear city, are the City of the Future!  With your amazing public transportation, mix of old and new buildings, incredible diversity and sense of community… oh, and the fact that the locals say, “Toronto is like New York, but designed by the Swiss…”

How true, how very true.

But, the true secret of  Toronto’s awesomess is that it has the world’s biggest underground city.

27 kilometers of underground stuff… restaurants, movie theater, pharmacies, walk ways, tunnels, subways…  Of course, we were beyond excited when we stumbled upon this mysterious phenomena called, “PATH.”  You could live in Toronto and never need a coat, or need to see the light of day.  This city is perfect! (If you’re not a mole person, Toronto has tons of outdoor stuff to do, including a lake that has it’s own weather systems and horizon line…)

Finding the entry point wasn’t easy.  We got stopped by security while trying to get to the basement of a condo.  I read, “All elevators will go to the basement where one can access the PATH.”  Well, that’s not quite true.  We found several elevators and basements with no access.  And we got trapped in a Fitness center for a bit… but we prevailed and finally found the entry point.

Then, we walked our feet off, while exploring all that we could of PATH.  Occaissonally, we would go up to the surface to get a bearing and check the weather and then return to the depths.

It was a delight! Each section may have similar stores, but each section has different decor, architecture and lighting.  And it was quite crowded!  The people at the Toronto Stock Exchange move very quickly!  And in the typical 11:55 – 12:55 lunch time migration pattern.

Eventually, we made it to the Lake and tried to book a trip on the ferry to Toronto Island.  There is a labyrinth maze out there that we wanted to see.  But the boat wasn’t leaving for 2 hours, so we continued to wander.

We did find a brick patterned labyrinth at Trinity Square that was neat… ever since we built a labyrinth from hand carried rocks, we’ve had an interest in them.  They are not easy to build!

Earlier, we wandered through the very groovy Kensington Market, and hung out in Chinatown.  This town is so big that it has more than one Chinatown! Everytime I turned a corner, there was more interesting things to see!  A restaurant that served Chicken Stew Crepes, a walk up window at a McDonalds, Chinese medicine stores…  and we stumbled into an vibrant square covered with advertising and huge tv screens… it will take weeks to explore this place!

And then, when we could walk no more, we went home and had a long talk about politics, transportation, economics, old times and our Toronto adventures.  Then, S headed out into the pouring rain and brought back a feast of fantastic Indian food!  I can’t remember what we ordered but it was delicious, and we got the always tasty Mango Lassis.

  • I could’ve purchased a child’s gas mask, but didn’t think I could get it across the border.
  • Oooh!!  We took a STREET CAR!!  And I kept calling it a tram and a trolley.
  • There is a lot of really great graffitti in Toronto!
  • I saw a sign that advertised for a “Magic Digital Perm.” What couldit mean?

 

Waking up in a casino town isn’t like waking up elsewhere.  The sun comes up a little too early.  How does anyone sleep in a city with Gorillas climbing on buildings?

We drove around Niagara Falls looking for the famous “Niagara Falls Museum.”  Colonel Sydney Barnett founded Canada’s oldest museum.  He was a collector and acquired a number of interesting artifacts, including Wild Bill Hickock’s saddle and Sitting Bull’s moccasins .  His son managed to acquire 9 Egyptian mummies… It turns out that one of his mummies was actually Ramses I!

The museum was a classic “cabinet of curiosity and oddities” type of place, but we couldn’t find it.  So, we quizzed multiple people at multiple information centers, and eventually learned that the Egyptian collection had been sold to private collectors, Ramses I went back to Egypt, and the museum building was now a bird aviary!  So much for that adventure.

Time to move on… I drove to Toronto highly anticipating my first glimpse of the Great Lake Ontario.

What the heck is that?  Is it rain? Is it a cloud?  It was fog.  The Great Lake was obscured by fog!  I couldn’t see anything!   The GPS showed a huge body of water off to the right, so I had to assume that Lake Ontario was really there.

…oh, while driving down the highway, the mast of a ship mysteriously appeared in the fog… right by the road!  It’s an old ship that is stuck in legal limbo, and so it just sits in Jordan Harbour being a surprising sight.

Toronto

“What do you think about the skyline?”  “It’s ok, I guess”  J was underwhelmed.  Then, we drove by the skyline and… what the heck is that?  Oh, it’s the REAL Toronto skyline!  A Skyline that fills the vision.  This city is so big, it has multiple skylines!

We stayed with a friend from high school and her husband, S & S.  They were fantastic hosts!  They completely spoiled us with hand picked Canadian Beer, all dressed chips* (which had a deliciously complex flavour bouquet) and day passes for the bus.  And they fed us croissants that we decadently dipped into hummus, tapennade and baba ghanoush… And then they taught us about Poutine

Poutine

Finally!  We’ve met experts in all matters of Poutine.  I am so glad we waited!  They informed the restaurant that this was, shockingly,  our first Poutine experience, and so the Poutine was made last.  We got the food to go and raced back home in order to eat it while it was still squeaky!  The curd squeak is an essential part of the Poutine experience.

…And it was AWESOME!!  When you read about Poutine, one might think, “What? Why would you add brown gravy to fries... and then add cheese curds?”  It doesn’t make sense until you  try fresh made Poutine!  The flavors mix really well together.  The gravy enhances the fries, and the cheese enhances the whole dish.  It was delicious!

Later, we walked through “Little India” and I was transported back in time, walking along the streets of India with my high school buddy, looking at Saris, vegetable stands and smelling the incredible food!  We picked up some Samosas and were blown away by the largest section of Patak sauces I’ve ever seen!   They are so lucky to live so close to “Little India.”

It is great to have a place to stay, with hosts that even provided us with chocolate squares with the fresh towels!  They totally rock!

  •  Poutine is pronounced something like “Put-zin
  • My spell checker hates the word Poutine.
  • There are a lot of Chocolate stores up here, and Reeses candy is called Reese (singular) candy.
  • We found a tree with numbered leaves.

 

 *That photo of all dressed chips were not the brand we were served.  But it was the only photo of all dressed chips that I had

And I don’t know if I should start this story with the morning fire, the 30,000 photos, or my immigration problems…

The butter was frozen.  And that’s a problem when you’re trying to make toast.  So, after marveling at the incredible conveyer-belt-bread-toaster at the Historic Hotel Utica, a member of our party put the frozen butter on their bread and placed it on the conveyor belt.

It ignited.  It caught on fire.  Smoke began to billow out of the toaster.  The diners next to us began to snicker.  And the fiery toast conveyer-ed itself out of sight, as it continued it’s toasty journey… I’m not sure what Miss Manners would say about this situation.  How do you stop a toast conveyor belt?  There is no large, shiny, red button that says “Emergency Stop.”

Somehow, the fire put itself out and a black piece of toast deposited itself on the plate.  A helpful person, who was standing next to us, said, “You know, people USUALLY put the butter on AFTER the bread is toasted…”

So, that was breakfast.

Afterwards, we wandered around Historic Downtown Utica and looked at stuff.  They have a replica of the cracked Liberty Bell.  Of course, what we really wanted to see was, “What the heck was that guy throwing his plastic bottle at?” 

Well… it was a brick wall.  There was no obvious significance, other than it was a brick wall in a low density area.  And there were some large blocks of granite laying about on the ground.   Maybe he hates rocks?

Later, we drove through beautiful upstate New York.  The Eerie Canal is amazing!

During the drive, and listening to Vivaldi, we watched a Port-O-Potty dance on the precipice of disaster, while driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour.  J composed a lyrical Opera dedicated to the inevitable crash of the Port-O-Potty and the probability of the splashes of effluence ON our windshield!  The darn thing wasn’t on a trailer, or in the back of the pick up truck… it was on a platform that you would normally store a cooler on!!  It was NOT RATED for a hazardous waste transportation scenario!!  After taking a few photos, I safely passed the wobbling outhouse and changed the radio station.  The things one sees on the road can be quite unexpected!

 

 

 Niagara Falls.

It is stupendous.  It is magnificent!  It is worthy of a page full of adjectives and exclamation points.  Photos don’t do it justice!  It is actually 3 waterfalls, rather than just one.  And it is big and loud and truly an amazing experience!  You can see the mist from the Falls from miles away. 

After ogling the Falls, we walked to Goat Island (heh-heh… and laughed at the name), and payed homage to the Nicolai Tesla statue and touched his toes.   But we didn’t sit on him, even though it’s the thing to do.

A plan, a man, a waterfall

After some analysis, J figured out that the best thing Niagara could do is schedule an hourly show of sending something over the falls.  Whether it’s an inflatable boat, or a barrel, or a random piece of flotsam… you just want to watch something fall over the edge of the falls!  And not in a morbid way, just in a “OMG!  Did you SEE that!!” kind of way.  You just want to see what would happen if a barrel went over…

We sat there for awhile, waiting for a tree trunk to get caught by the current and swept over.  But it did not happen, which is why we need an hourly show! 

Walking Talking Stereotypes

While in the mostly deserted International Food Court at the park, we were… enchanted by encountering a pack of pursed lipped, sun glass wearing, popped-collared, orange Americans! 

“Um… was that real or performance art?”  J asked. 

“It is totally performance art!” I replied. 

“Ah… I don’t think so… I think we just saw a walking, talking stereo type!”  He concluded.  They reminded me of caricatures from reality t.v. shows – it was astonishing!

 Yes, they let us BACK into Canada! 

After a wonderful time on the American side of Niagara Falls, it was time to wait in a long line and drive across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada.  Obviously, I blew the behavioral interview by the Customs guy.  He said, “Immigration wants to talk to you.”  Then, they searched the car and did a background check while asking more questions.  I guess crossing into Canada at 3 different points in less than 2 weeks makes one noticable.

But we made it across and checked into the hotel.  The hotel was chosen because of its location next to the Falls.  So, we walked outside and went to take photos of the Falls at night.  Little did we know that Niagara Falls is a CASINO TOWN!!!

And it is a crazy, neon-soaked, lazer-maze, multiple wax museum, loud music, extravaganza!!!

“So, what’s the story on the giant fire ball that ignites every 5 minutes, by the ferris wheel?” I asked the hotel employee.  She said, “I don’t know, I think it’s part of the putt-putt golf course…”

Ha!  Right!  Whatever… and it actually WAS part of the golf course!!  Along with giant dinosaurs and a volcano…  and there was a Crystal Maze, and a million unbelievable sights and sounds!!  … Like the fake tight rope walker, and the animatronic Sphinx… etc.

It was hilarious and unexpected!

And there were hundreds of families with little kids, celebrating Thanksgiving in Canadian Vegas!

Niagara Falls was an amazing fondue pot of cultures.  I heard so many different languages today, that my brain almost exploded!  It was more international than that airport in New York City!!

As you can see, it was quite a busy day. 

Misc. Notes:

  • What is a “Weed & Seed Community?”  Niagara has a neighborhood with this official sign 
  • What is a Special Indian Breakfast?  There are signs for it all over Niagara.
  • Niagara has BLACK squirrels!!  They are very neat, and very distinctive.  
  • Niagara Falls and Niagara are two separate places!
  • On the American side, you EXPERIENCE the Falls.  On the Canadian side, you SEE the Falls!!  Both experiences are needed.
  • I did not gamble, as I will only gamble if I know I’m going to win! :)

Taunton

There are some gorgeous buildings here.  Last night, while searching for food, we were astounded to see jaw-dropping architecture through the haze of pizza restaurants and Chinese food places.  This town really loves pizza and Chinese food.  Anyway, this morning we drove through town, taking photos of buildings, churches and street signs and we ran into a biker rally.

Which normally isn’t a problem, but Taunton has one of Dante’s levels of Hell there called a… traffic/rotary/circle/square thing.  It’s the town’s main square, but it is treated as a traffic circle… even though it’s a square – a square circle!  It is multiple lanes wide and the signage is insufficient.  The traffic just meanders and switches lanes and exits and does a bunch of other stuff, while I’m gripping the steering wheel and mumbling incoherent curses… and trying not to get singled out for a dose of biker justice, as I had no idea what I was doing….

In any case, my impressions of Taunton are:  Way too many serial killer vans, including the one that had 3 foot spray paint on it that said, “Not for sale.”  It has a lovely, lovely lake.  And it has tremendous architecture and ancient roadway signage… seriously.  Some of the traffic lights look like they’re from the 1770’s!  And I heard more Star Wars jokes today than is humanly possible.

We barely survived Taunton and ended up in Newport, Rhode Island.

Newport, Rhode Island

Ah, Newport.  It is an insane town. And once we saw the cruise ship… we knew what we were in for.  And I swear it’s the same darn ship that we ran into at Halifax- another Princess Cruise!  A cruise ship town means a crush of humanity.  And it means grumpy locals.  And it also means that photo opportunities are rare and far between.

To continue our random tour of Viking sites in North America.  We found the “Newport Viking Tower!”  And it was Nordically awesome.  We took a bunch of photos and were disappointed to realize that the statue in the square was not Rochambaux.

Rochambeaux.

I’m going to make a bumper sticker that says, “I brake for Rochambeaux…” 

The history of Rochambeaux is far too complex for me to cover in tonight’s article, needless to say it involves history, bargaining, South Park,  juvenile humor, and kicking people in their twigs & berries. 

Eventually, we did fight the maddening hordes and found the Rochambeaux’s statue and took an obligatory photo.

Our esteemed cultural advisor, who is appalled at the Rochambeaux obsession,  insisted that we visit “The Breakers.”  It is THE place to visit when in Newport.  But we ran into our cruise ship buddies and after spending 20 minutes in line to buy a ticket, we bailed and walked down the side street.  Here we discovered the Atlantic ocean and a tremendous view of The Breakers Mansion.

It is really so lovely here.  The architecture is fantastic!  Everyone seems to have porches, basements and turrets on their homes!

But it is really crowded and FULL of tourists.  And strangely, everyone looks famous. Giant sunglasses, tans & capris are the order of the day.

Eventually, we passed the tour busses and toll roads and headed inland.  It was probably a good thing, as our cultural advisor darkly said, “There is no way you could possibly experience Newport without me!”  And we were inclined to agree.  It was too much… too many people,,, too many mansions… too much ocean, and too much fabulousness!

Inland: The Hotel Utica, Upstate New York

I can hear Judy Garland singing from the mezzanine… or at least I would have been able to inthe day.  I am resting my tootsies at the Historic Utica Hotel.  It is awesome!  It’s the kind of place where the rooms make you feel like you could write the great American novel.

Although, I am torn about my love of old hotels… yes, they have ambiance and yes, a million people have slept on your pillow.

While pondering the awesomeness of this hotel, I said, “I am so enjoying this hotel!  Every time I walk by the window I see historic buildings and… a guy trying to smash something…”

The view from the window showed a very distressed guy throwing something at the side of a building.  He was very persistent, but it seemes like the thing he was throwing was a plastic bottle… which is just not very effective when trying to make a dramatic point!

I woke up in Taunton and fell asleep in Utica!  And saw the Eerie Canal*!  It has been quite a day!

*In honor of Halloween, The Erie Canal is henceforth known as Eerie.

“And I thought the elevator smelled bad on the outside!*” said J as we stepped into the elevator and discovered a mysteriously disgusting event on the floor. 

Today was a disaster. 

It took 5 solid hours to try to find a hotel room.  We called Inns in Innsmouth, Innsburg, Inns Harbour, and Inns-R-Us, but to no avail.

Aparently New England no longer wants our company and scheduled a Jets game, a renaissance fair, hockey game, Oktoberfest and 10,000 other events to occur this weekend.  Which meant that the entire eastern seaboard is booked solid.  Which meant driving and calling, and driving and calling, and driving and calling.

Finally in Taunton, Massachussettes we got the last hotel room.  It was not a slacker victory.  We actually worked unnaturally hard to get this room.  But, we do have the last room in a 1000 miles.  These folks take their Saturdays very seriously!

And it was a long, insufferable day and I’ll write more about it tomorrow, but it is time to enjoy the last room in the state.

*Empire Strikes Back joke

**By now you’ve figured out that I’m a few days behind on my posts.  This post covers Saturday night, yet it’s Monday night.

Should we buy some amazing wine at these ridiculously low prices and bring them back to Texas as gifts?  Of course! 

So, after getting up before the sun rose, we showed up at the airport with our allotted amount and were informed that the bottles would have to be checked with our luggage… except we had no luggage, just carry on bags.  Sigh. 

A quick reshuffling of laptops and camera turned my under 25 kg back pack into liquor-filled luggage to be checked.  So, I said “Good bye” to my bag, half expecting that it would end up on the flight to Miquelon or soaked in broken wine bottles.

Then, I went back into my early morning daze and watched the sun rise majestically over the finally-calm ocean at the airport.

Thirty minutes later.  J says, “So, you got everything of value out of your bag, right?”  I thought for a bit and said, “Well, everything but the $200 of  emergency money in various currencies, in the front pocket of my bag, oh, and the pound of pennies in various currencies….”

Leaving valuables in an unlocked bag at the airport is usually a recipe for disaster, but Air St. Pierre is a class act!  My money was there when we landed in Halifax! 

Lesson learned: cheap liquor can lead to trouble.

The unfortunate Buttered Timmie Bagel incident

Someone bought a buttered bagel from Timmie’s (aka Tim Hortons).  The bagel wasn’t just buttered, it was marinated… nay, stewed in butter.  And it wasn’t all that good.  So, half a bagel was put in the bag and placed somewhere in the back seat.  Days passed and it lay forgotten.  Until one day, it rose up from the dead and released a zombie like smell that required us to clean out the car.

So, when we arrived at the parking lot where the car had rested during our stay in France, the big question was, “Who will smell it first?”  Did a week of Bagel-less-ness make the smell go away?  Or would the car need to go to a car wash/detailing place?  According to the law… technically, as the driver, I am legally responsible for the contents of the car, smells and all.  So, not only did I lose the debate but I got to be the one to sniff the interior.

It smelled cold.  Snow had blanketed the area last night, so everything was cold.  And I was happy to know that the only Timmie’s souvenir I get to keep is a receipt, rather than rotting bagel smell.

Later…

As we drove up to the Nova Scotian Toll booth, I started to sweat a bit.  As you recall, I’m the accidental scofflaw.  Surely, they wouldn’t notice my prior offence… so I pulled up, determined to be cool and calm.  The toll was $4!  I hand the toll booth operator a $5 Canadian bill.  He handed me a pile of change.  I handed it to J.  He counted it.

“No way!  You got your quarter back!” he exlaimed. 

The change I received was 3 Canadian quarters and 1 bicentennial American quarter… it wasn’t my exact Texas quarter, but it was unnerving enough. Is this a common occurrence… to slip foreign currencies as change?  Or did he do it because I have American plates and have a car full of American coins, waiting for toll roads? Anyway,  I am sad to report that I did not receive the flattened souvenir penny as change.

After survivng the rigorous challenges of the toll booth, it was time to eat

So, how do you do to cleanse your palette of a week of fabulous of baguettes, emmentaler and the pain au chocalate  ?

You go to the Circle K and eat at the restaurant. 

Driving through Canada exposed many mysteries; Oak Island, Tidal Bores, and gas stations with restaurants.  We decided to see for ourselves how this unholy union could exist.  And that’s how we found ourselves at the Circle K restaurant.  

I know I shouldn’t have ordered it… but I did.  French onion soup – again… but without the benefit of French authenticity.  I wanted soup and a sandwich, but it wasn’t on the menu.  So, my tired brain told me that French onion soup IS soup with a sandwich IN the soup!  Yay, brain!

My soup tasted like it was made with the Gulf of Mexico.  It was soooo salty… that my tongue panicked!  So, I tried to rehydrate with the hot coffee that I ordered to stay awake, but hot salt soup and hot coffee make a terrible dinner combination!  Obviously, I still don’t know how to order food at Creperie’s (I’ll have a crepe & crepe) or at Circle K restaurants.

Then, I said, “Do you want to take a photo of that?:”  J said, “It’s not Canadian enough.”  I replied, “Uh… a moose and a beaver, sitting in a canoe… with hunting gear, is not Canadian enough!? And why are they in hunting gear?  Shouldn’t they be in fishing gear… they’re in a canoe!  Can you even go hunting from a canoe?  Is Canada so different that they shoot stuff from canoes?  Wouldn’t the recoil from a shotgun…” 

In any case, the display wasn’t Canadian enough, so I took the photo instead. 

 Today, was mostly about flying and driving and trying to figure out where to go next.  Our journey has turned west.

Misc Notes

  •  Good: parents taking a photo of their baby in front of a tree.  Bad: parent putting the baby IN the tree to take a photo.
  • The impeccably styled St. Pierre Stewardess was wearing a casual neckerchief and didn’t look at all like a cowboy!
  • We actually walked on the tarmac!  The plane is so small, we walked down the plane’s stairs and across the tarmac to the airport.
  • Nova Scotia has officially been renamed to Snow-va Scotia!
  • From the plane, I think I saw ancient glacier tracks in the Earth… or tread marks from large alien craft.
  • There are parts of the highway that intersect train tracks… which means you have to slam on your brakes, on the highway, to let the train pass!
  • Nova Scotia air conditioning is when you roll down the window of the car!
  • There was a cemetery with a large sign that said “Schnitzle Haus.” The name of the cemetery, or terrible advertising?
  • Are there sharks in the Bay of Fundy, and therefore the rivers?
  • “Cyber Polly Gone Home”, and the”Snooty Fox” are two restaurants we sadly missed experiencing.
  • We listened to Country songs on the radio… sung in French – Awesome!
  • Rodd Moncton is actually a hotel chain that provides chocolate body rubs… hmmm.  This whole time, I thought it was our fictional deity.

Today is the last day that we will walk the non-cobblestone streets of St. Pierre.  Late today, I discovered the location of 3 of the 4 coffee shops on the island. I finally solved my coffee problem, and I’ll have to come back some day to enjoy this knowledge.

Also, we discovered where the slackers go shopping.  There’s a small grocery store that has baguettes later in the afternoon.  After a morning of photographing, we made it to the store, picked up some stuff and stood in line.  As we watched, each person in front of us asked for a baguette.  Here, they are behind the counter – like a prescription drug!  There were more people in line than baguettes… the supply was dwindling quickly… and we got the last baguette in the store!  Heh-heh.  I imagine the people in line behind us were thinking (in a French accent) … “Ach!  Merde!  How can zee Americains… zee last tourists have taken zee last baguette!  Phooey.”

Lunch was a crepe and a galette.  When I researched a galette, I learned that it was a “savory pancake with savory toppings.”  Sounds delicious.  And it was.  But it is not a pancake it’s actually a buckwheat crepe, stuffed with delicious things.  So, I had a crepe with a crepe for lunch. 

During our afternoon adventures, we learned that the stores here are not what they seem. 

In the search for postcards, we’ve actually been going inside stores.  The store that advertised souvenirs… was actually a gardening store that had a huge selection of ziplocks*, liquor and smokes.  The paper store sells paper and furniture.  The furniture store sells ice cream.  And everyone sells liquor and cigarettes.

Google Cartography

Google Edit Maps software  allows you to name the blank places on a map.  St. Pierre has a few streets that are not named in Google maps.  So, we went out and hunted them down, took photos of the street names, and submitted them to Google. Hours later, the map was updated with the verified information that we gave them!  It was so cool, that it makes one want to go hunting for these incomplete spots on the map.

But instead, I had these thoughts:

“Why do you have sea gull poop on your jacket?”  It was on the underside of my wrist.  So, I thought, “When did I have my arms over my head? Was I shielding my eyes from the sun?  Was I doing semaphore?  Or maybe it was when I was mime wind walking… ?”  and eventually I thought. “Oh yeah, I probably just leaned on something that a sea gull vacated upon.”

The rest of the day was spent preparing for the end of our visit and getting ready for an early departure.  I will miss SPM (St. Pierre et Miquelon), as the scenery was absolutely dazzling!

  • The weather was insane.  Every 15 minutes it went from windy, rain/snow, bitter coldness, to sun shine.
  • Our waiter was French, who lived in Ireland for 30 years, and just started working in St. Pierre.
  • I managed not to mesmerize the pregnant cat that walked across the street.

*Ziplocks.  I love them.  I should’ve been a product developer for ziplocks.  One day, I will write about the awesomeness of ziplocks.

P.S. The internet is way to slow to upload pictures

No update today.  Too much to do and no time to do it.  Talk to you guys tomorrow!

“Don’t make eye contact!”

That is the rule that is repeated to me… repeatedly, whenever I meet an animal in a foreign land.  Before this rule, random animals used to follow me home.  So the horse, whom we had watched escape from his tether, was trotting along behind us.  “Did you make eye contact?” J asked.  I replied, “Probably, but it was an accident!”

So, we were walking back in the rain, from taking a million photos of an incredible stormy beach , and we were reveling in power of the North Atlantic storm, when the horse escaped and began to follow us home.

“What if they think we’re horse rustlers?”  I asked.  “You’re the one that made eye contact…” J replied.  The cars driving by slowed down to stare, as I think we’re the only tourists on the island right now.  And we’re definitely the only tourists with a horse following them!  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the game warden Jean-Paul drove by, as we were walking with a horse that I accidentally rustled with my hypnotic gaze?  That sounds like the beginning of a French comedy.

Eventually the horse found someone’s yard that needed to be grazed and we hustled off, through the rain… though I secretly thought about carrying carrots, so if I see my horse friend again, I can give him a proper treat.

So, earlier today…

The wind was unbelievably strong this morning… and cold… and wet.  As we walked to the supermarket for a morning dose of caffeine, the wind practically blew us uphill the entire way!  The temperature was about 50 F, and the wind felt like it was blowing 50 mph!

Most of  the morning was spent huddled inside, processing photos and reading, while noshing on a baguettes.

Once the wind died down, we walked around the bay to the jetty.  It was like a scene out of every old stormy ocean painting that you can think of.  The lighting was dim and misty.  The waves were monstrous and churned and smashed into the jetty.  Off in the distance, a lone horse stared at the waves, as they crashed into the rocks below.

It was fantastically beautiful and unreal!  Then, it started to actually rain and my poncho is in the hotel room, because it won’t fit in my pocket and I didn’t pack a small daypack (a pox on that stupid 25 kg flying limit)!  So, we left the surreal and  gorgeous landscape and looked for shelter.

After experiencing the crazy winds, crashing wave, strong rains… the sun came out of nowhere!  So, we scheduled a van tour around the island.  It may be the only chance to take photos from the highest point on the island!

Jean Claude confirmed our belief, when he said, “You’re the only tourists here.”  And as the Director of tour van travel, he would know.  We asked him a lot of questions.  I probably sounded like I wanted to know the answers to a quiz in social studies!  What’s the population growth? What is the water treatment plant like?  Do cars use diesel or gasoline? How driveable are the roads in the winter? Where do students go for University? Where do the cars come from? How much does it snow in the winter… and on and on.  This island is such an interesting place, I really want to know more about it!

So, he drove us around from impossibly beautiful overlook, to impossibly beautiful seashore.  Once again, no matter where I looked, there was impossible beauty.  The moss covered, craggy rocks of the hills, the incredible view of the island of Langlade… then you have the waterfall, the streams, the delicate flowers, the many lakes, the sun beams, the mist, the giant waves, people horseback riding in the streets… and the seal frolicking in the water…

Yes, a seal showed up to say hello.  Jean Claude said, “It is very curious!”  I could hardly contain myself! It was soooo exciting to see a seal not at the zoo! And it is a good thing that seal was 200 feet out, because I was definitely looking it in the eye… but I think my animal-follow-me-home vibe is set at 100 feet.  Heh-heh.  I could’ve had a seal companion, following me around St. Pierre!

Misc. Notes

  • St. Pierre has a fresh water lake, within 50 feet of the ocean.  So you can swim in the ocean or the lake, without changing parking spots!
  • This place has everything! Nature hikes, wind surfing, hockey, rugby, soccer, French TV, good cheap French wine…
  • We watched a guy fall down the stairs, because of the wind..
  • There’s an island here that has been turned into a museum… the entire island!
  • The police and Governor are imported from France and stay a few years, before being rotated out.
  • We saw the Cutty Sark House!  A house made of whisky barrel parts, during Prohibition.

P.S. I didn’t have time to mess with the fantastic photos, so for now, you just get to imagine the beauty. :)

 

I missed breakfast by getting up late.  I got up late because I watched a French version of “Family Guy,” which sounds very sophisticated in French!  I could write a whole post about the quality of the voice actors, but I shall spare you… So, back to me getting up late.  Not only did I miss breakfast, but I also missed getting coffee!  So, we sauntered out the door in search of coffee & croissants, and quickly scurried back inside, as it was cold and rainy.  Then, warmly dressed in jackets, we sauntered out the door again.

As we walked along the bay, someone shouted and waved… it was the friendly game warden, Jean-Paul!  We waved and exchanged pleasantries.  He was pulling a boat out of the water, so we made the encounter short.

Time passed and I started to get an “I am not caffeinated at all!” grump.  “Where are the darn bakeries?  And where the heck can I find a cup of coffee!?” I beseeched to our new, fictional deity, “Rod Moncton”… and then I looked at the window of the unmarked building and saw that it was full of baguettes!

Apparently, this town is has a sign shortage, or a really strict policy about signs!

As it was late in the morning, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were no more croissants… most people pick up their pastries early.  And they were out of regular baguettes, so I got a “Brown baguette.”  I will assume it is whole wheat?  Anyway, I did find something better than a croissant… A CHOCOLATE FILLED CHOCLATE ECLAIR!  Oh, how I love eclairs!  But I try to only eat them in France, because they are divine and hard to get!  What a good, hearty breakfast. 

It was so delicious, that I didn’t even notice that it was another 3 hours before I managed to get some coffee at at “the Creperie.”

We wandered the streets taking photos of Cathedrals and colorful houses.  Then, we trudged (it was really steep!) to the highest point on one of the streets to take photos.  It isn’t even the highest point on the island… I haven’t figured out the route yet. 

We walked by the waterfront, got chased by a cat and noticed that the traffic was completely gone.

The traffic patterns here are like the tide.  Everyone rushes to work at 8 am, then they rush home at 12 pm, even the school kids go home for lunch.  The streets are completely empty!  Then, around 1:30, everyone rushes back to work.  It means that there are multiple rush hours that occur in very regular short bursts.

After a lunch of authentic French Onion Soup, we struck off for the Post Office to buy some post cards.  After a 30 minute search of the building, we found a gift shop, hidden on the second floor that had souvenirs.  I amused the clerk because I kept dropping things; the post card, my money, my map, my money again… my hands were really cold.  By the way, it only (!)  cost 0.70 euros to send a post card to Austin, which is close to $1 American… but think of how far it has to travel!

Later, we went back to the Supermarket, ran into Jean-Paul again.  He suggested we learn to make crepes and sell them in Austin… and he compared the crepe to a tortilla…  which I’m not sure if they sell tortillas here or not. 

But they do sell taco shells in the Supermarket!  I am constantly astonished by the availability of products, like taco shells and fruit cups!  The local pizza place has a Chorizo pizza… but it can’t really be chorizo, can it?  And it also has a Mexican Pizza, which has “spicy North African sausage.”  And I found some Kam.  I don’t know why the SP was replaced by a K… but there it is!

Later, we visited the cemetary and noticed that some of the vaults have… portholes or maybe they’re just round windows.  Very unusual!  But I did not look inside, as I’ve been reading too much H.P. Lovecraft!

Then we looked at the WWII monuments, saw horses wandering around some fields below the cemetary.  Obviously, the higher we walk, the more we can see.  When I was at one of the higher points of the island, I could see huge waves smashing into the beaches outside of town.  Other than the 0 degree water temperature and craggy rocks, I think this would be a surfer’s paradise.

So, today we did a ton of walking, taking photos and trying to figure out where everything is.

Misc. Notes

  • There is a place to play Petanque, which is very similar to Boules, which we play all the time.
  • Tomorrow night at the Cultural Center is a “Country Line Dance,” and I’m afraid I don’t actually know how to line dance!
  • There are rodent traps everywhere!  Which could be a could thing (meaning they’re effective), or it could be a bad thing.
  • The streets are so steep, how does anyone drive anywhere in the winter?
  • I think the town should exchange their cars for horses.  It would be really cool… except for the horse poop.

 

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