Oh, Canada … I’m back!

It’s been a while, but we finally get to go on a family vacation this summer. Our choice of travel was the Great North. No, not the North Pole, but north of the border anyway. 

I’ve been to Canada several times in the past; Quebec City, which even as a young lad, I realized resembled a great old European city. I don’t remember making a fool of myself then. I was young and my parents were in control of things.

I’ve been to Montreal twice, once the first time Denise and I got away after we had our firstborn, Ben. We flew there and the bus shuttle to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was there to pick us up. The driver saw the Jolivet name on our luggage tags and automatically blurted out, “Ou allez vous?” I gazed at him with a dumbfounded look and responded, “Huh?”

“Where ya’ going?” he responded with a tone of irritation. OK, now Dave was in charge.

Visit number two to Montreal was with two buddies of mine. We drove there to go see a hockey game in the cathedral of the National Hockey League, the Montreal Forum, to see Les Canadiens play the Chicago Black Hawks. Les Canadiens are to ice hockey what the New York Yankees are to Major League Baseball, and the Forum de Montreal was the equivalent of Yankee Stadium.

On the way to Montreal, we experienced a violent rain storm in the Berkshires heading into New York state, and we swore we saw a tornado touch down to our left while on the Mass Pike. Once we got to the Forum, we were sitting amongst a packed crowd of Canadian crazies, and one of my friends sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” with great robust and animation. I wanted to crawl beneath my old wooden seat out of fear. Plus the next day was a vote in Quebec Province pitting English-speaking Canadian citizens against the French-speaking. I kept my mouth shut.

I’ve been to Toronto twice as well. The first time included a stay in Niagara Falls, where the magnificent water falls were no inspiration to the toilet in our hotel room. The kids got the biggest charge out of the things I said while waiting for maintenance to correct the situation.

My second trip to Toronto was a visit to the Catholic Press Association’s annual convention. In my spare time, I made a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame. While there, I suffered a kidney stone attack. Consequently the rest of the trip was a real pain. I had to have the stone blasted a month later.

Well right now, I’m writing this column from my hotel room in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, a stop-over for our trip to Halifax for the rest of the week.

While going through customs today, I did it again. I’m with Denise, Emilie and her beau Danny. Just as we were about to drive to the custom’s officer, they changed shifts. There were customs’ agents walking all over the place. We all thought they were either looking at us, or looking for someone. Then everything cleared and we were waved forward by a young woman. She greeted us with “Hello. Bonjour.” Without thinking I immediately responded with a perfectly pronounced “bonjour.” Then I remembered that’s one of the only 10 words I know in French. I feared, as did Emilie, that she would continue to speak in French and find me out as the French fraud I was. She continued in English.

Phew! But I was still nervous. Customs can make one feel like a criminal even though you’re clean as a whistle. She asked for all our passports, and peppered us with questions. She asked what our occupations were and we all answered, and Danny stumbled saying veterinary technician. She didn’t hear him, so of course I decided I would save the day. It took me five tries to say veterinary technician. The patient customs’ officer had to crack a smile at that time. I feel she wasn’t laughing with me.

Plus, when we got to our hotel, we discovered that August 1 is a provincial holiday. In St. Stephen, it is New Brunswick Day. Everything but eateries were closed. No snacks or beverages tonight.

Well, I have four more days to see how I can improve on my history of impressing the nice Canadian people. The way I see it is that I have nowhere to go but up — or up north.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts