Milo went to Quebec

2014-11-12 12:39

 No - there is no deeper meaning behind this, but after reading about NUMSA's problems, Malema's problems (will they ever STOP), Steve Hofmeyer making the spotlight again (oh boy) and Oscars daily life in prison (please - no more articles on that...) and that Dewani bloke, I though I could tell you about my last holiday to cheer you up:

MILO WENT TO QUEBEC, CANADA, summer of 2014

So we packed out bags, snacks for the road and hiking gear and all fitted nicely into our car. And then came Milo’s bedding and toys – and I had to leave half my hiking gear behind.

Milo is the Worlds’ third most spoiled Jack Russell and the world’s 7th biggest dog tourist. He has been illegally smuggled into more Game Parks in South Africa in his younger days than Mexicans crossing the US border on foot per week. He has the personality of Gene Hackman and lives the same comfortable lifestyle as Kim Kardashian. Which means he bites me on weekends if I dare move his bed or toys.

Milo has been in more accidents than Steve Macqueen, had more lovers than Casanova in his younger (and a bit in his older-) days and makes friends with the whole neighborhood, expect for our one neighbor’s overly loving what-you-may-call it giant mix breed (horse and dog we think - they built him a stable), whom he always chases down the lawn in total anger and disgust. The poor horse-dog than leaps across the small stream that separates our lots and runs crying to our......vet, his owner.

Driving through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is a pleasure – beautiful wilderness and lakes and no taxis and angry Afrikaner children pushing you off the highway at hundred-and-whatever kilometers per hour.

Nova Scotia is one of the most under-marketed places on earth.   It is beautiful ‘New England’ (technically it is an extension of the latter) throughout the year with great summers, the most spectacular autumns and snowy winters. Go to Mexico for early Spring though….

With over 30 000 lakes, loads of rivers full of fish and great coastline and hiking trails, it is an absolute outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise. That on top of the great history of this Region, mostly just about the English and French arguing over land and food like they have done for the last one thousand years to date, it makes for a great place to visit.

England and France have always hated one another, as if that small strip of sea separated the Gods of Greece from the Gods of Italy in ancient times. Fierce fighting ensued for hundreds of years, many lost their lives in total stupid wars and the cultural and linguistical differences brought about by the narrow strip of sea, is unmatched in the entire world.  Despite being allies in two world wars, they still despise one another to this day.

So anyway, Milo in his usual style is fast asleep, stretched out over twice the space required in the back, Marion already wants to stop for breakfast and I am the diligent driver just 5km/h over the speed limit like a good Canadian.

Summers in Canada are actually hot, so I wear a T-shirt while Marion wears a jersey, a warm jacket and a scarf while we fight whether the air-conditioner should be on freeze or on ‘burn in hell’.

We stop for coffee, a Tim Horton’s donut (Canadian breakfast) and Milo to pee on the only fancy car in the parking lot. Just enough on the left front wheel to leave a nice yellow mark for the disgusted owner to give me a good stare down while I snack on my donut like a good traffic cop. Oh what the hell.

Hitting New Brunswick traffic decreases and nature increases – this really is the missing link in advertising New England. New Brunswick is largely un-spoilt (ok – there are a few Americans that own properties here…) and has a small population while the countryside is teeming with wildlife.

New Brunswick is famed for trying to make the Guinness Book of Records with the biggest of anything in the World to put their small towns on the map (Crayfish, Salmon, Axe – you name it, they have built it!) and a whole lot of other things built / constructed to get you to come into their towns and……..…buy nothing.

See – the shops are mostly closed as the owners are ‘out for ten minutes’ according to the various signboards. Where they really are no one knows – some died, some emigrated, most are in Florida for the 4-6 months winter, some went home and forgot (being 102 and all…) and some just aint’ planning on coming back this afternoon. But it’s still fun to see.

The road through New Brunswick and into Quebec takes us along the Worlds’ longest unprotected border of USA/Canada. For a short period of time after World War One the US though the British Empire may try to again built up the Empire and try and cross the US northern States (true story) and the over-zealous Republicans placed some troops along the border for a year or two.

After one year of staring at raccoons and beavers and not sighting one invading Canadian (a few drunks would sometimes fall over the border and sleep it off in both countries – legs still in Canada), they withdrew in the night under the disguise of some military exercise. Still today the Canadians (who barely invade anything expect of course Hans Island) don’t even really know about this US fear.

Let’s get further off track here a bit – Hans Island is an ugly piece of rock sitting in the middle of winter-hell between Labrador and Greenland in the cold North Atlantic. It is an area that no one ever visits (unless they have a PHD in seal breeding or microscopic animals crapping in ice), because there is nothing to do and there only ever so slightly may be a spit of oil around. Enough to fill up a Toyota Corolla 1600. Now the world’s two most peaceful nations, Denmark and Canada, are still arguing over this useless piece of rock.

If this was Iran/Iraq, they would probably have bombed each over into major recession (or major recovery, if the US was involved) leaving one million people dead. Being peaceful however, they merely have a fistfight between students every seven years or so in some lively pub in London (followed by the shake of hands and lots of make-up beers), or every four years or so one or two scientist replace the others’ flag (neatly first folding it up and storing it nicely) with their own country flag on the island. And then it makes the headlines of…..the cartoonists.

Anyway - The border between the US and Canada is probably the funniest border in the World. Books have been written about it and movies made about it, but it comes down to towns and actually HOUSES cut in two.

So still today you can literally make dinner in the US and walk over to the lounge and enjoy it in Canada. No joke. Google it.

You pay taxes and are deemed a citizen of the country where your front-door is, so during past recessions or big changes in tax legislation, people would undertake hastily made renovations to switch front-doors between the US and Canada and vice versa.

Today it’s a bit more complicated, but you can still cross the border into the US by crossing a footpath and writing your name and passport details in an ‘Honesty Book’. These days however Uncle Sam watches you with cameras from somewhere and the SWAT teams will drop from helicopters if you don’t look really, really European or Canadian.

So finally we left the Western World and entered ‘New France’ as Quebec used to be called along with some other former French colonial areas.

You see in the past Europeans travelled the World with a compass, a wooden boat and lots of rats to accompany them (including real rats) and then would land on some island or continent and meet the locals who were curious about these milk-skinned people wearing just the funniest clothes (only recently again accomplished by Elton John).

After tea and biscuits, they would plant a flag in the New World, pray to God and claim the land for ‘King and Country’ and off they went to Europe while the locals waved them goodbye with some bewildered expression on their faces. The real rats often stayed behind to get away from the smell of the crew.

One week later the local chief would drape the flag around his waist and declares the European clothing as ‘odd-looking but comfortable’ and life goes on as usual while unbeknown to them they, their lands and all their cattle now somehow belonged to France / England / Spain. Like Magic. You have to read it to believe it.

Quebec, like all of Canada, is beautiful. Stopping at a shop for snacks, I diligently first addressed the girl behind the till in fluent Afrikaans who just now claimed only to know French, and suddenly she had the better of English as well. Much easier and a great tip when touring any French spot in the World….

Quebec is at 1 667 441 km2 the largest of the Canadian provinces and three times larger than France. Although most of it is Tundra and uninhabited, the south is well populated with the cities of Quebec and Montreal being the mainstay of the French in North America.

It’s a fantastic place to visit – like visiting Europe in Canada with a bit more space. Well – a lot more space. Great food, old culture and great people. Old Quebec City is one of the most visited cities in North-America and either the oldest or second oldest city on the continent, depending whether you want to believe the people of St. John, Newfoundland. But then Newfoundland claims to have the oldest of everything – oldest European civilization, oldest fish, oldest Moose, oldest mosquito and oldest mountains or whatever.

Also you have to point out to the people of Newfoundland that they actually live on an island, but then, just like the residents living on Cape Breton ‘Island’, they think THEY are on the ‘continent’ and North America is ‘The Island’, as they sincerely and honestly refer to it.

Back to French Canada: The French in Canada still think they are independent from everyone and in general tax collectors don’t come here from other province for fear of being shot. The French, Quebecan and Canadian flags are up everywhere with the odd Skull and Bones in some of the smaller harbours.

People are generally friendly, unless you want to come work in their province. Then you are vermin and the lowest life form on earth, worthy of either a slow and painful death or being send back to a worse place than where you came from. Like North Dakota.

All along the St Lawrence River you have the most beautiful farmland, meadows and quaint little villages. It leaves you doubling your road trip time wanting to stop everywhere to take in the beautiful vistas and surrounding areas.

Marion has her nose in her Kindle, Milo is now even more stretched out at the back like an Arab in a private yet and I am behind the wheel, trying to understand how a speed limit on a highway can be as low as 90km per hour. How I miss Africa, where a few Dollars guarantees you unlimited speed on most freeways. Just kidding….

Canada is amazingly green, clean and amazingly beautiful, especially off the beaten track. So that’s what I do – trying to catch glimpse of a Moose (yet to see one in the Wild), I turn off the ridicules 6 lane highway with its tortoise-like maximum speed limit and ask Marion to help me see my first Moose ever.

As if commanded by God himself, all the Moose in Canada step away from the main roads as soon as I turn on them – even while I am still a hundred miles away. It’s a game of tease and torture that has now become an obsession of mine – just to see one damn Moose in the ‘Wild’. Even at the Zoos they always stand behind the only tree in their encampment when I stop by. And you though animals were all cute and cuddly, right? Bastards.

The scenery more than makes up for it – greenery, mountains, rivers, valleys, you name it. And going inland there are just no people – like when Adam peaked around on that 6th day. I always wondered what he must have thought. And why he decided a pig must now be called a pig. I mean really - who makes up this stuff? I mean he just sat there naked and said: ‘Pig’, ‘horse’, ‘mosquito’ and ‘Calponia Harrisonfordi’ (it’s a spider – really. O just Google it).

Seeing no Moose (big surprise), although I could swear I heard one laughing behind a tree when we stopped by a river, we continued on to Quebec City. We did however see a red fox, a few white-tailed deer and a stray cat plus lots of old people chopping wood (at least – that’s what I hoped they are chopping).

Old people chopping wood is a common occurrence when driving anywhere more than 250km out of the major cities in Canada. Lots of them are referred to as ‘rednecks’ and a lot of their children look the same – with less or more fingers than five per hand, but seldom five. Some of them I think played in one of those ‘Wrong Turn’ movies – and not as the heroes.

Arriving in Quebec City feeling tired I challenge the GPS to a game of ‘recalculating’ and half an hour later I find our hotel down a road that I could have sworn the GPS kept from me for 25 out of the 30 minutes. It’s a women’s voice. Told you so….

Staying at a pet friendly hotel in the Old City of Quebec and overlooking the fortifications that once protected the French against the Queen, I could swear we are in medieval Europe. We are in awe of the beauty of the architecture and the retention of French culture and European styled cobble stone streets that makes up this old city and the mix of colours and tourists flocking the streets.

Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. The ramparts surrounding Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec) are the only fortified city walls remaining in the Americas north of Mexico, and were declared a WorldHeritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 as the 'Historic District of Old Québec'.

Even Milo loves it as he makes use of his over-active bladder to keep on embarrassing me wherever we walk. He even gets bark to at a real live French Poodle (and suddenly he is acting more like a three year old and not the reluctant 13 year old I normally drag around on a lease) and gets to pee against the only Ferreira we saw on this whole trip. I don’t even apologize anymore……

The restaurants are amazing and red wine, a family favorite, flows in the streets in the evening. Milo eats my steak while I chew on the bone like a good dog owner.  Marion always orders two plates when she is hungry and leaves me one and a half of that, so I don’t mind.

The bright lights shining on the Saint Lawrence in the evening, the cobbled stone streets with the dimmed lights leads to believe in romance again, although I suspect my only romance will be to take Milo out for a pee at two in the morning, since everyone is tired. And don’t think it’s just a pee – he smells all the trees, the flowers and lampposts before finally settling on peeing against the hotel front door in front of some late drunk guests – who don’t mind.

Following a visit to all the historic sites in the City, we spent a few days in the Laurentine Mountains of Quebec, a beautiful mountainous area where the French go ski, hunt and hide the English’ bodies.

Again all the Moose (apparently there is a ‘lot and I am guaranteed to see one’), seemingly agreed to disappear for these few days like my one sister sometimes did when we had to wash dishes as children. So apart from ‘fresh tracks’ and some smaller animals, we have to settle for beautiful scenery and road-side coffee.

After a few days, we head back and spent a few more days on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. Again a beautiful setting with great hiking trails and mosquitos the size of my hands. But Milo loves it and I love the outdoors. I wear enough mosquito repellant to scare all the Bears into early hibernation, yet there is always the odd one to zoom in between my toes or just behind my ear. Afterwards it dies of gluttony, but the damage is done. They LOVE me.

The hiking trails around here are beautiful with a lot of original old forest remaining. Seeing and hearing no bears, we do see a lot of birdlife and of course the impressive Miramichi River –famed for salmon fishing.

After two days of fun and mosquito bites, we head back home and I again diligently complete Milo’s Tripadvisor travel sheet. What a lucky dog..…and what a great trip!

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