I do not speak French. At all. I am ashamed to say that I hardly know even the basic French phrases. Beyond “Bonjour!”, I’m at a loss. Oh, and I know “Croissant” but how many conversations involve this word? Not many, I assure you. So, I had “lost tourist” written all over me a few weekends ago when we took a trip up to Quebec City. It didn’t stop me from having an amazing day, though. I just did a lot of smiling, nodding, and giving my best “I’m so very sorry I don’t speak your language” look.
Being in Burlington put us less than an hour from Canada and that was just too tempting. So, I did my research on what documents were needed for Emerson to cross the border and off we went! (FYI: For one’s own children under 16 years of age, a certified birth certificate is the only document needed if traveling to Canada via land. All other persons require a passport. If you are traveling with other people’s children under the age of 16, the rules are different. And, if you are traveling via air, all persons need a passport, including children. Make sure you check out the State Department’s website before traveling!)
We departed for Quebec City once Chris was finished with work on a Friday afternoon. We got to the border and for some reason this always makes me nervous. I find I start lecturing Chris miles before we get there; telling him not to make jokes and to answer their questions seriously. I have all of our paperwork in order and ready to hand over. We get up to the booth, hand our papers over and Chris begins answering questions. He threw in a joke or two…I’ve decided he can’t help it. He doesn’t even realize what he’s doing. I give the agent the “Please excuse my husband’s bad jokes” look. I’ve gotten really good at that one. Thankfully, the border agent tolerated the joking and wished us well on our journey as our 7 week old daughter screamed bloody murder from the back seat.
We proceeded on to Quebec City with no reservations and no clue where we’d stay the night. By 9:00 p.m., after a few stops along the way to eat and feed Emerson, we were about an hour away from the city. (Hmmm…that last sentence is so poorly worded and makes it sound like I’m eating my child. I should remove it but it made me chuckle, so I’m leaving it in. And, no, I’m not eating my child. I’m feeding myself and my child on these stops.) Anyways…we were exhausted by 9pm. Emerson was crying and we needed to stop and try to soothe her to sleep. So, we did what other RVers and truckers were doing. We stopped at a rest area for the night. Is this allowed in Canada? Anyone? Anyone? I suspected to hear a knock on the door through the night from officials asking us to leave but no one did. We slept peacefully (as peacefully as expected with a 7-week old) and continued on our journey the following day.
As you may know, Chris and I approach travel a little differently. I usually like a plan while he prefers spontaneity. I don’t dislike spontaneity — this method has provided many entertaining and wonderful travel memories. But, sometimes (like when traveling with a trailer into a foreign city where parking may be an issue), I like a plan. So, as we got closer to the city I continuously called out, “there’s a campground!” only to be ignored. His thought was that there would be street parking for us and we could just park and walk into the city. I had my “I told you so” speech all prepared for when we could find no parking. I mean, come on! Parking a trailer within walking distance to a popular tourist destination? On a Saturday? In the summer? Not possible! And then I heard, “Look! There’s a parking lot with plenty of spots! And, it’s free!” D’oh! My “I told you so” speech was never delivered. Chris was right. Again. I cannot even begin to tell you how tired I am of him being right.
Quebec City is one of my favorite places. It’s full of culture, life, beautiful parks, fabulous shopping, delicious food, and entertainment. If only I knew French so I could easily converse with Quebec’s lovely people! We spent the afternoon walking the beautiful and crowded city streets. We watched the street performers do their break-dancing, magic acts, hula hooping, and creepy mannequin/statue poses. Seriously, those statue people both intrigue and creep me out. We listened to a great band perform. We had incredible falafel wraps followed by delicious gelato. We sat in one of the many parks, playing with Emerson and people watching. We witnessed not one, not two, not even three, but four wedding parties getting their pictures taken around the city. Finally, we ended our afternoon with some tasty Tim Horton’s coffee (my first ever!) before walking back to the Airstream.
We made our way back to the states that night, crossing into Maine but not before Chris joked around with the border agent. Again. And, once again, the border agent did not laugh. Shocker.
We also learned a valuable lesson that night. When traveling from Quebec City into Maine, always remember to make sure your gas tank is full. Just as we crossed the border, our fuel light came on. It was dark out. We had no cell phone service. We were in the middle of nowhere. And, at one point, we were towing a trailer up hill fearing that the truck would die at that moment. We passed a moose and I’m pretty sure he was laughing at us. Thankfully, we made it to the town of Jackman, Maine on fumes and found a gas station. Phew! We called Jackman home that night and boondocked at a lovely roadside park. It was a fun-filled, exhausting day.