Chamber Made Column
Chamber Made Column, March 10, 2018
Oh, Canada, You Are As Welcoming As The Kingdom
I would like to, first, apologize for disappearing so long from this space. Truthfully, February held too many firsts for me, following the death of my husband last year at that time, and I just didn’t have the want to write, despite my profound love of the written word. As I enter this next season of my life, without my best friend at my side, I have realized I must step out of my comfort zone and seek new experiences and memories.
It was with this desire that I packed up my car and drove to Montreal a couple weekends ago, my main objective to not only drop off tourism brochures at a travel center business but to also spend time with the owner of this agency and his wife. Over the years, this family has become very dear to me. The gentleman in question, Manny Witt, drove through a damn-near blizzard the day of my husband’s funeral to attend the service, stretching a two-hour drive into five. Now, that’s a good friend.
From the time I eased into the Canadian border crossing, I felt welcome. After a few cursory questions and review of my paperwork, she asked whether I possessed a litany of weapons in my vehicle, to which I answered, “Nope, I’m boring,” a regrettable response at first glance. She actually laughed, however, and welcomed me to Canada. How nice… but more on border crossings later.
As I drove the two hours to one of the world’s largest French-speaking cities, passing Tim Hortons along the way, I felt the most relaxed I had in months. There was one stretch about 30 minutes outside Montreal that I looked over at a massive cornfield and saw what I thought, at a distance, were 50 or 60 turkeys. On closer examination, they turned out to be deer and I felt incredibly blessed for having witnessed such a grand sight, my fellow drivers zipping by, none the wiser.
Old Montreal is my haunt of choice, and as I slipped into my usual hotel under a soft blanket of snow, I felt I had been transformed to another time, two-hundred-year old stone buildings at every turn. I did learn, quickly, on my long ride up the elevator that some topics were off bounds to our northern neighbors, as there would be no gloating from this sports-loving American fan on the women’s hard-fought hockey win against Canada for the Olympic gold medal. Yes, we could talk “about the sad state of politics in the States,” but talk hockey and that was serious business.
A trip to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, was magnificent, with Parliament Hill being one of the most beautiful man-made sites I have ever seen. The architecture was spectacular. A trip down the hill to Ottawa’s market was lovely, indeed, with more than one Canadian welcoming me to their country along the way. Each time, I felt as if I was being served warm scones and hot tea. The whole country and its people are so damn cute, but I knew that it was time to go home. There was a frisky German Shepherd waiting to greet and maul me at our door.
So back to the border crossing reference, a markedly different welcome than from the Canadians. I was selected by my fellow American border officer for a “random inspection,” which means they were about to search every inch of my car and luggage and ask me a host of absurd questions. Luckily, however, the U.S. border, is not the Northeast Kingdom, and I once again felt that sense of welcome as I drove back into my beloved region.
(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber.)