Poutine and friendly border guards – a day out in Canada

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It’s a strange thing – the fact that Canada is so close and yet, if you don’t have a passport or an enhanced driver’s license, so far away. I’ve been living in metro Detroit for over six years now but, before this past Saturday, I had never made the short trip over to our North American neighbors. There are all sorts of logistical reasons for this involving green cards and new passports, but I won’t bore you with those. Suffice to say that, this weekend, I loaded my wife and son into the car and crossed the bridge with no plan in mind other than to drive and see bits of Canada that you can’t see by looking across the river.

First impressions were good. The Canadian border guard was friendly and welcoming. When I told him that I work for the Metro Times, he did everything but ask me to sign his copy. He waved at my kid. It was nothing like the experience we’d have going the other way later that night, which you could put down to either these two particular individuals, or maybe the United States simply has more to worry about.

Once in Canada and out of Windsor, without the aid of either a map or GPS (by choice), I quickly made a wrong turn and drove for miles in a residential area. Man, the houses are nice. Lots of yard sales too. I thought about stopping, but didn’t. Eventually, I found the road that follows the river, and then happened upon a small town called Amherstburg. It has a nice fort with cannons, and a British pub called the Lord Amherst. We didn’t stay long – just long enough to buy some gelato for my son. But a really friendly guy the street drew a map on a receipt to show us a good road to follow.

We drove through a lot of farming towns that seemed to have very little besides farms and a few houses, which did make for a pleasant road trip. In Leamington, I ate poutine at a diner specializing in “Canadian, Mexican and Mennonite food” and it was OK, although I suspect it wasn’t a great example of the dish.

Back in the car, and more farms and houses, before I found Erie Beach, a very cool, quiet, sandy beach, perfect for the kid to run around on. It was idyllic.

I jumped on the 401 freeway back to Windsor and, later that evening, we ate some good Chinese food before returning to Detroit (through the tunnel this time). The day trip was a lesson – having another country with two-language road signs, different food and all of that, within touching distance is a real gift. Next time, I’ll probably plan it a little better, but I will certainly be taking more advantage of Canada in the future.

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