Is this your family sir?

It’s an odd question to be asked for sure.  It took me aback for a split second.  Thankfully I don’t think I paused long enough to arouse suspicion before I answered as casually as I could, “Of course they’re mine!”

Arriving at the US - Canada border

What seems like a truly odd question to us no doubt belongs on the long list of bizarre questions to ask people as they cross the border from Canada into the US.  The necessity of these questions was reinforced as our customs officer was interrupted by the overly loud voice of a faceless colleague on his giant lapel Motorola Walkie Talkie (US Customs obviously does not shop at the same security outlet as the celebrity bodyguards and their invisible ear pieces).

Lane 8.  Red Land Rover with Canadian plates.  Occupants seem to be heavily medicated.”

A quick check in the rear view mirror confirmed that we were in lane eight, and sure enough about four cars back there was the heavily medicated Land Rover in question.  My only thought now was to get the hell out of there in case “heavily medicated” was code for “car full of arms carrying druggies” and we would get caught in a headline making event at the Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing.  Fortunately for us, our customs officer was evidently excited at the prospect of trouble and perhaps an opportunity to snap on his latex gloves so he upped the pace of our questioning and ended with the classic “Have any of you ever been arrested?”  I thought of my two beautiful children in the back seat and was tempted, for a second, to ask “Are you serious?”, but thoughts of semi-comatose Land Rover drivers flooded into my head once again and simply replied confidently “No.”  We were on our way.

A day trip to the states is about one thing: shopping.  Really there is no other reason to go over the border for such a short time and certainly upstate New York, despite its natural beauty, is not a place you’d call a one day destination spot.  Which brings me to Plattsburgh, our destination city.  I am sure that it has its own unique charm and if I took the time to research its history I would  no doubt find something intriguing such as it was the epicentre of NE U.S. quilt making in the early 1800s, but I didn’t, so I have no clue what its claim to fame is.  The only thing I do know for sure is that it has a Target (pronounced ‘Tar-jay’ to add a certain je ne sais quoi and mystery to it) and this was our primary objective.

I am reminded when visiting these large retail stores of the vast amount of rubbish we, as consumers, are willing to buy.  I look at probably 80% of the merchandise and cringe in mock horror at the tackiness of it, but one persons tacky is another’s high class bauble.  You really cannot blame the store.  It’s purely a supply and demand algorithm that is being followed, as mindless drones scour sell-through reports, and as soon as an item reaches the critical point then a new order is placed.  Stuff that does not sell winds up in the vast discount bins and then presumably in the trash should that fail.

You never know who you'll find at the Champlain Mall

The Champlain Mall is not the greatest.  On a ranking of malls across the country I would probably give it a 4/10, the bulk of that generous score coming from the fact that it does, as mentioned before, have a Target, and we in Canada are deprived of this marvel of modern retail.  Despite the fact that the mall itself is fairly run down and quite ’80s in appearance, there’s just no telling who shops there.  Imagine our surprise, and Emma’s horror, when we saw the largest Canadian export since beaver tails standing outside the local record shop.  I have to say my attitude towards the Biebs has totally changed.  He was actually very quiet and not at all phased when Marie decided that she wanted to plant a smooch right behind his ear.  For such a celeb, I find him to be quite well grounded – great job representing Canada, eh?

No trip to the U.S. is complete for us without doing some groceries.  There is something so ridiculously exciting about stocking up on edible goodies that you can’t get at your local supermarket.  In our case this meant cases, and I mean cases, of Polar Seltzer water, all with natural flavours.  Pirates Booty is another favourite and here’s the kicker: why does the U.S. have so many more flavours of any given brand than is available in Montreal?  We’re an international city, but seemingly unfit for the wide variety of choice that Kashi, as an example, bestows upon humble Plattsburgh.  May be as we are the world’s largest officially bilingual city too many breakfast cereals to choose from would make life too complicated for us?  We, after all, are but humble Canadians.  We don’t ask for much, nor do we get it apparently, but come on purveyors of fine food products from across the border, we can handle the variety.  Bring it on!

Our day trip was a complete success.  We rolled back into the driveway only seven and a half hours after leaving it that morning.  In that time we had visited a foreign country, tasted the fine sandwich fare at Panera Bread, competed and seemingly won at retail wars with the local crowd, done groceries at not just one but two different supermarkets (damn that Fage yogurt) and safely negotiated our return through customs with a casual “We had lunch and bought a few groceries” line.  Home always feels good when you’ve been away, and nothing felt better than eating cereal for dinner in front of the telly.  Well come on, I had a choice of cereals finally.  And I indulged.

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