Wed. June 27, 2012- New Hampshire to Quebec:
Our hotel did not have a coffee-maker in the room, or free breakfast, and the coffee downstairs was way too expensive so we just left. Except that, as soon as we opened the door we looked down and there was a tray with coffee cups, a canister of coffee and a copy of the morning newspaper! At this point Brent mentioned that there was a light tap at the door around 7am, but he figured it was room-service to the wrong room, so he ignored it. So while he express checked out (instructions were included with the coffee) I chugged a cup of coffee, which was easy because at this point it was lukewarm, for it had been sitting out there close to two hours. I was finally reunited with my purse and wallet! As we drove I saw a turkey couple on the side of the road, the wife did not look happy, it was raining and she looked soggy and miserable. No one likes soggy turkey. We were leaving New Hampshire and all its rain for (hopefully) sunny Quebec. Along the way we finally passed a welcome sign! Not to Quebec, to Vermont (we had to pass through). There were so many moose crossing signs, one every few miles. It was driving me nuts, it made me want to see a moose all the more (albeit over in the forest, not on the road in front of us). We reached the highest elevation of the interstate, a paltry 1856 feet elevation; Bear Mountain in Connecticut has a higher elevation.
I excitedly yelped because I saw something interesting, and Brent got all excited thinking I had seen a moose. He was very disappointed that I had seen a grey heron sitting in a marsh. I had such a good laugh at psyching Brent out so good, only to then be psyched by some tree branches and a giant rock. This only made me want to see a moose all the more. We passed a nifty sign informing us that we were at the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole. And then all of a sudden we were at the border, no signs or anything warning us of it. Every other time there were always tones of signs, as if to last minute discourage you from leaving the country. It was our fastest border crossing time yet, it would have been even faster had I not listed off one by one all the stuff I had bought in the States (soap, shaving cream, a purse… the list just went on), the guard seemed mildly irritated so said Brent. All the signs were now in French, which was just wonderful for our elementary school French educations. In total I would guess that we understood maybe a quarter of it? Even that might be a generous guess, it would have been higher if all the signs just said pamplemousse. We did amuse ourselves quite a bit with trying to understand what was written on signs and what people were saying to us, but in the end we resorted to singing the French song that teaches kids about over, under, in and out. When out in public however, we were forced to reply to bonjour with hello, and sometimes followed by “we are Anglophones”.
We drove through the small (OK, super small) town of Ayre’s Cliff, but there was nothing there to even stop and look at. We did stop however at a roadside rest stop, the scariest one yet. It was a parking lot with a little shack that had two bathrooms in it. I swear, this is where people get murdered in horror movies. Our next stop was in North Hatley, here we actually got out of the car and wandered around a bit, in the rain. It was still raining. Other than the coffee shop and a gazebo on the lake, there was not much to see. Off to our main destination: Sherbrooke for the scenic train ride! As we drove there were signs for a detour however the road was not closed, so we just kept driving and driving and driving for what seemed like forever and then, only then, half an hour after the first detour sign- the road was closed. We had to back track all the way back, to cheer ourselves up we went off on a side road to go over a covered bridge, it was real fun, especially because we had to turn around and go over it again to get back on the main road. Along our detour route there was another detour. I kid you not, our detour had a detour. The traffic lights were very weird, they are horizontal (not vertical as your see everywhere else) and each colour was a different shape as well, plus a very confusing extra yellow arrow.
We parked in a random parking lot that was supposedly near the train station and we took off in a random direction, after about 15 minutes of walking we realized we had to turn back, we were going to get the GPS to get us. Only as we approached the car i saw what looked like a train station in the other direction. Sure enough it was across the street from us. We still had some time to kill however, so we walked around the Lac Du Nations, eventually though the rain was really starting to irritate me so we just went to line-up for the train, the Orford Express. We were the youngest people in line (save for a few kids) and also the only Anglophones. This was no ordinary scenic train ride for it came complete with a three course lunch, bonus that it was really fast service (it had been pre-cooked before the train ride). Unfortunately for me the starter was a salad, which I only got halfway through because quite frankly: I hate salad. For our mains we did not get a choice, but it still worked out well because we each got a different dish. We split the mushroom-stuffed chicken and trout & cod, the chicken was better though. For dessert we also did not get a choice, but we also got two different ones so it again worked out well. Really well in fact, one dessert was a chocolate cake and the other a lemon meringue cake. We were also served tea with our dessert. Not exactly the most ideal drink to have on a mildly shaky train ride, but it would have been worse on the Cog Train when it was going up the steep incline. It was during dessert that I found out that in fact Earl Grey tea is not disgusting as I had previously thought, but in fact rather delightful, my bad. The train ride itself was as promised, really scenic with views of farmland, forests, rivers and lakes. The best view however was a gang of wild turkeys roaming about at the edge of farmland bordered by a forest. Brent did not believe me the first time; I think he was jealous that he did not see them. On the way back he said he saw them, but I am not sure if I believe him.
On the way back we stopped in the town of Magog by the Lake Memphe-something (Lake Memphremagog). There was a tower you could climb up to get a better look of the lake, to watch for Memphe the lake monster. Alas, she was not out, and neither would I, the weather was awful: cold, windy and rainy. On our way back down a French woman started to talk to me and I started saying no… but she misunderstood it as non, as in an answer to her question, but i was trying to say no, I don’t speak French. It was awkward, even more so when Brent stepped in with “oui” the women must’ve thought we were nuts, or just plain rude. Walking back to the train we were attacked by a swarm of bugs and we had to spend a few minutes picking them off each other before boarding the train, I apparently had four of them on my back. For the last part of the train ride there was a woman walking up and down the aisle singing in French, with one or two English phrases such as “I love you” sung in a thick French accent peppered in here and there, it was not the very entertaining, it was just weird. It was still raining when we left the train. Not helping was the fact that upon leaving the parking lot we drove in an entire circle ending up back at the parking lot, all for trying to avoid the traffic-jammed detour. Thankfully I figured out how to make the GPS program an alternate route, and the sun came out! The sky was blue! And somehow, somehow, it was still raining!!!
From the train we had seen a big fancy building atop a hill and we had been guessing what it could be, Brent said it was a retirement home, I guessed a resort. We were both wrong, it was the University of Sherbrooke. Brent waved to another driver for letting us in, I mistook it for a high five attempt and went in for it, only to have it turn into a face-palm incident. We had a good laugh about it though. That night we were staying at the Manor Hovey on Lake Massawippi, so we wandered around and took in the sights before dinner in the Main Dining room. We were treated to a super fancy prix fixe menu, how fancy was it? The whole ordeal took over two hours, that is how fancy. The waiter pulled my chair out for me and put my napkin on my lap, it was very weird and awkward. To go with the complimentary “artisan baked” bread there were three different types of salt to try: a fancy Italian salt, a salt made with Bordeaux (the best one) and a salt made with Hawaiian volcanic ash. Every person who came to our table, we had to explain that we were Anglophones, which sometimes resulted in them leaving and finding someone else who spoke English. The amuse bouche was a haddock mousse with mushroom paper and Seychelles. It was delicious but the mushroom paper proved difficult to eat when it fell off the mouse and onto the serving platter, it would lay flat and stick to it, no amount of scraping at it (loudly I might add) with my fork helped. Up next was the appetizer, Brent had the venison tartare while I had the lobster with lobster roe (we never did figure out what in my dish was the roe) and some other garnishes. Brent won this round, the venison tartare was amazing. For mains we stuck with the meat dishes. There was no unanimous decision however on who won Round 2, I did not like the lamb shoulder (Brent’s) at all. The filet mignon on parmesan risotto was way better. I did however come to the conclusion that I do not in fact like lamb, the only times I ever liked it were when it was drenched in sauce, pretty much the actual flavour of it was covered up. The dessert amuse bouche was outstanding and just plain cute: mini strawberry shortcake topped with whipped cream and a mint leaf, served in a snap-top jam jar that was chilled. It was a good indicator of what was to come for dessert; between the two of us we had a whole smorgasbord of goodies. There was the main dessert in the middle with stuff around it, sesame seed ice cream (tasted like halva) surrounded by banana fritters. The stand-out was the roasted marshmallow from Brent’s dessert. For dessert Brent also had a glass of mead, ordering it however caused some confusion. It must not be very popular because he had to point to it on the wine list. It was well worth the confusion however, it was amazing. Stuffed full of food, we headed back to the room to watch… more America’s Got Talent!!