Travelogue: Fifth Day II - Concord to Ottawa
Rosie, Beeotch, Dancing Queen, Peeps
After saying goodbye to St. Paul's, we drove north and stopped at Franconia Notch in the area that features the symbol of New Hampshire: "Old Man of the Mountain." It was nicknamed by Daniel Webster, who wrote that God carved a man out of stone in the hard granites. It was basically a pile of rocks that hung off the side of the mountain and formed the rough likeness of a man's profile. The face fell off a week or so earlier, so there were plenty of references to this natural rock formation, but only the forehead remained. The area was packed with tourists -- we'll bet that the absent feature, having just made the news, was more popular now than when it was there.
Drove through Vermont, stopped for a bathroom break along the Connecticut River. We'd bought fruit at one of the big New England supermarkets in Concord, so were able to enjoy it here as a snack picnic. It's the height of summer and the donut peaches were sweet, soft, and luscious -- nothing else is needed with this fruit.
We reached Quebec and stopped for gas in Granby. It was a bit of a shock because it was totally "francophone" meaning nothing was in English -- not even signs for grades of gasoline! The road signs were in "French Canadian" (meaning your school French may not be all that effective here), and many of the people didn't speak English at all. This included the store attendants, who you'd think would benefit from English speaking customers being right on the border of Quebec and the US. Even the brands of snack foods were purely French Canadian. Some were translations of American brands, but many seemed unique to Quebec.
An interesting note -- Quebec never ratified the Canadian constitution, so in a sense, they are not part of Canada. This is reflected in the way they refer to their country: "Quebec and Canada." Not even Texans are that delusional!
We drove through Montreal, which someone commented feels an awful lot like London. We didn't stop to see, since none of us really spoke French Canadian. Besides, it was just before rush hour, and we were trying to stay ahead of it. The rush hour here is vaguely European in feel, something to miss if you're used to American traffic stops.
Ottawa was two hours west of Montreal, but what a difference! Not only do people in Ontario speak English, but the trees are different. The climate or soil must change radically because the trees were suddenly short and stunted looking and there were more evergreens.
A word about the Canadian highway system: there is a continuous east-west strip of road, but it's not funded by any one government or financial body. So what's called the "Queensway" is stitched together from road to road, and quality and services of each varies greatly. The Queensway from Montreal to Ottawa seems almost country-like, and you'd never guess it is the main thoroughfare that connects two major cities. Suddenly you're in Ottawa with concrete highways more like you'd expect in a large city.
After stopping at the hotel in the downtown area, we had to take a walk to Bank Street and used an ATM on the appropriately named street to get ourselves some play money. Canadian currency is more like European or Antipodean money in that it's brightly colored, of different sizes for different denominations, and features Queen Elizabeth's portrait. The one dollar coin is nicknamed "loonies" for the "loon" or goose on the back of the coin. A two-dollar coin, therefore, is logically and whimsically referred to as a "two-nee." Aren't Canadians cute?
We took our funny-money (which is worth 1/3 less than the same American denomination) to Yesterday's, a sort of retro-pseudo family style diner. One of us pointed out it's a rather dowdy version of TGI Friday's, but the food wasn't bad at all. They served the famous poutine -- we discuss this treat elsewhere, but have to mention that there are very few distinctive Canadian dishes in existence. Many are just derivations from French or English peasant food, or imported from south of the border (meaning the US, not Mexico). The ones that come to mind are: tortine (a pidgeon pie originally, but now made with pork), poutine, and steamés -- a steamed hot dog in the bun. We did not eat any steamés -- trust us, because when it goes cold, you can see the filler ...
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