Vintage shops, snow and lodges: Canadia!

Today I’m taking a break from my American adventure to pop up to the wild north of Canada. Not just any Canada, French Canada. I begin the trek in Maine, heading up through New Hampshire and the White Mountain National Forest, before crossing the Connecticut River heading up towards the border. The weather took a turn for the snowy along the way:

Snowy New Hampshire White Mountain

I approached the Canadian border with some apprehension: would Canada like me? Would I get mauled by a kangaroo? Do they all wear sombreros? Where did I leave my atlas? Fortunately, it turns out that the Canadian border police (or, as they are called up there, didgeridoos) are really pleasant and friendly. Border patrol man manages to work out that I’m an ex-English student, so lacking in any practical skills and harmless. He welcomed me to Canada and let me go, quietly chuckling at my life prospects.

Almost immediately I notice differences in this northerly place. Their road signs are riddled with spelling errors, I can work out what some of the words are meant to mean, but it looks as if they’ve been done by a drunken dyslexic.

Panneau-ArretIt’s barely even English.

I’m heading to Montreal which is commemorating my visit with the first pretty wet weather I’ve had on this trip, although the poor visibility gives the city a Turner-esque quality. If Turner had grown up somewhere utterly bleak, like Blackpool.

Montreal in the Mist

Although this trip is providing some occasional insights into the American psyche, my brief encounter with Canada has demonstrated to me one key thing: Canadians are weird. We visited Parc du Mont Royal and arrived at Chalet du Mont Royal, a lodge built for… it’s not really obvious. It’s located in a lovely park, in a good spot with a great view of the city. It could make a good tourism centre, a banquet hall, or more or less anything. The Canadians chose “less anything”, more specifically, nothing.

04-thelodge And yes, those are carved squirrels in the rafters.

It’s just an empty hall. It has a gift shop in it, but from what I can work out gift shops just pop up on this continent like mould. Although the main hall proved disappointing, the café might decent, right? I mean, museum restaurants have come a long way in the last decade or so, this place might have—

05-finediningOh.

But if you’re not in the mood from a cold offering from some of the nation’s finest brands, then you can go for the chaud cuisine with the generous offer of not one, but two whole microwaves:

06-finedining2

The main hall was only the beginning of the oddity. Down into the depths of the lodge (well, to the restrooms), the décor changes from “non-existent, yet squirrelly” to – well, I’m not entirely sure how to describe it. Canada has a varied cultural history in the same vein as America, but unlike the US, Canada never entirely severed its ties with UK. The Queen still sneaks her portrait onto their money, for instance. But royal photobombing isn’t the only way in which Canada still wants to be a part of the UK. Which brings me back to why this lodge bothers me: it’s a Doctor Who set.*

07-doctorwho

Just look at that. I think I can even see a Dalek. It goes without saying that there is no point to this corridor. The benches face the metal gates; the gates are padlocked to protect an array of generic IT equipment (as the most complicated thing in the entire lodge was the lights, I’m not entirely sure what the technology was powering, presumably something for the Doctor to discover).

08-doctorwho2This is the room where the Doctor would have to impatiently explain himself to humans who have captured him.

09-compteursThis is the room that houses Canada’s computer.

 But it’s unfair to write Canada off as weird just due to this lodge. I mean, governments across the world spend money building strange and pointless boondoggles, conceived on high-minded notions and no practical use. That is to say, the Millennium Dome really was stupid.

Millennium DomeIt had an entire section dedicated to BT. That’s not a joke. Entire section about the wonder of British Telecom.

My point is that I want to get a taste of actual French Canada. To that end, we visit a well-known local haunt, the vintage store Eva B on boulevard St. Laurent, which—oh hell.

Baby Dolls Yeah, Canada’s weird.

I assume this is what Fox News thinks socialised medicine is. Okay, try and look past the array of hanged baby dolls, that’s the superficial. This store has an incredible range of vintage clothing and second-hand – oh dammit Canada:

FishnetsWho wants to buy used fishnets, Canada? Not the type of citizens you want.

Ignoring that part, there is a section of the room which has a pile of clothes you can sift through, each only $1. If you’re a student or just messy, you’re probably imaging the pile of clothes in your own room and thinking, “so what?”, well, gander at:

Clothes PileThe pile of clothes is there, just ignore the body parts. Christ, it’s like an Ed Gein memorial in here.

It’s taller than the average lunatic Canadian and you have to clamber up onto it and start digging through to find anything: t-shirts, jeans, missing persons.

Jackson

Upon leaving the store, we spot the above statue of Michael Jackson dangling his kid out of the window, but you know, it’s too late, it doesn’t even phase me. This is Canada.

Come Monday morning it’s time to head back, a land where speaking anything other than English will get you frisked, y’know, civilisation.

Getting to Canada, going through the Canadian border patrol, was a warm and pleasant experience. Here’s a quick thought about the experience of going through the American border patrol. I found the whole experience

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam molestie diam ut elit porta molestie adipiscing nisl ullamcorper. Duis et ligula nisi, non lobortis mauris. Sed placerat facilisis orci et ultrices. Nullam consectetur est dignissim tortor sollicitudin laoreet. Sed eleifend, eros quis faucibus suscipit, lacus massa euismod libero, vitae tempor urna purus nec libero. Ut luctus, justo nec hendrerit aliquam, purus massa consequat augue, vel posuere augue leo sodales mauris. Nullam imperdiet porttitor pulvinar. Duis a arcu turpis, ac tincidunt quam. Quisque eget lectus nunc, eget laoreet lorem.

Nunc eget dui quis urna auctor viverra. Fusce sed accumsan lectus. Quisque at velit ornare orci feugiat sagittis. Duis eget orci purus. Mauris in mauris in metus commodo ornare. Proin rutrum, lectus a mattis pharetra, diam felis euismod dui, eget malesuada eros ante eget tortor. Duis pellentesque congue laoreet. Nullam feugiat metus nec ligula condimentum ac vulputate nibh ultrices. Pellentesque at risus sit amet risus vulputate cursus sit amet a velit. Duis pellentesque, mi in pellentesque vestibulum, purus justo rutrum odio, sed convallis risus magna ac purus. Nulla quis ante eu nibh lobortis pellentesque eu et mauris.

balls replaced by scorpions.

Anyway, my next stop is Cleveland, which I’m told has been called the Greatest City on Earth. Presumably when compared to all the cities at the end of Independence Day. Please prepare yourself for the adventure by watching this tourism video.

*Yes, I know it’s French Canada, shut up.

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