Happy Fourth of July from Canada! | Opinion | The Press and Standard

by | July 10, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: July 6, 2016 at 10:50 am

We’re not in the Manitoba wilderness or on the plains of Saskatchewan — just in Victoria, BC, a “shore day” on our Alaskan cruise. It’s a lovely place, at least as much as we can tell from a five-hour excursion.
Popular attractions include the Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. We didn’t actually see any of those places, but I hear they’re popular.
It’s not that we’re uninterested in the local culture. It’s just that — well, one can cover only so much ground in a few hours. Added to that is the fact that my husband, Widdle Baby, and I have totally different travel styles.
As I’ve mentioned before, it starts at ground zero, with packing. I under-pack, figuring I can buy whatever I don’t bring. He over-packs, which would come in handy if we land in a country whose law requires all visitors to change clothes four times daily.
At sea, I like to sleep and read. He’s a social butterfly who’s up and out of the cabin freakishly early (I don’t crack an eyelid before 9 a.m.), and he makes 10 new friends during the midnight buffet.
My idea of a good time on a shore day is seeing how long/far I can hike before the ship leaves. Widdle’s idea of a good time is finding a drink with an umbrella in it. We compromise by finding a great meal — I’m a sucker for brunch — and poking around in places off the beaten path. (If a quirky shop is down a grimy alley with dripping drainpipes and overflowing dumpsters, I’ll find it.)
Victoria was a fun jaunt, but we know full well we didn’t “experience Canada.” That’s like cruise passengers on the Queen Mary 2 docking in London, drinking a cup of tea and saying, “We saw England!”
All of which made me imagine how other travelers, perhaps from abroad, might react to a five-hour shore excursion in America’s ports. If your impression of our country came primarily from pop culture and movies, what questions would you ask?
 Key West: “Hey, where’s Jimmy Buffet? Does that guy look like Ernest Hemingway to you?”
 Maine: “Where does Stephen King live? Do we catch our own lobster? Are the Bushes at home?”
 Alaska: “Where are the sled dogs? Will we see a polar bear? Do y’all eat whale blubber?”
 Seattle: “Why do I smell a fish market? How high is the Space Needle? How can there be a Starbucks every nine feet?”
 New York: “How tall is the Statue of Liberty? Does everyone live in a brownstone? What’s the difference between a bodega and a deli? Will I get mugged in Central Park? Will I see Jay-Z on the subway? Where’s the coffee shop from ‘Friends?’”
 Oregon: “Where are the characters from Twilight?”
 Charleston: “How many versions of shrimp and grits are there? Why are there so many bars? Where is the pineapple fountain? Why is that mule wearing a diaper? Where are the dolphins? Is Juanita Greenberg a real person? How long were slaves sold at the City Market? Why is the Unitarian churchyard so overgrown? What do you mean, there are no bathrooms on the Battery?”
 Galveston: “Does anybody here know Glen Campbell?”
 San Francisco: “Is that Alcatraz? Are those sea lions asleep or dead? Does Tony Bennett perform here often?”

(Julie R. Smith, who travels light but not wisely, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.)

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