My favorite thing about traveling? Serendipity. The moment that you just start driving without a plan and stumble onto something wonderful. Specifically in America, driving around looking at the beautiful scenery and the houses that you’ve only seen in film settings, is something I love to do; and more often than not, you will find a nice local place to eat that tourists don’t know about. My mother and I discovered North Hero by accident, a small place in the state of Vermont.
Back in August, my mother dropped me off in Montréal, where I am doing a 6-months internship at Big Brothers Big Sisters. My mum stayed with me for two weeks to discover the city and its surroundings. The boarder to the USA is only a 45-minutes drive from Montréal, so we decided to go for ‘lunch’ there. We both still had our ESTA’s from our trip to New York earlier that year, so we did not think that would be a problem. When we arrived at the boarder however, and told the Border Patrol agent that we just wanted to eat something in America, he looked at us like we had absolutely lost our minds.
It was a very small boarder which literally consisted of one small house, in which a man was sitting behind a desk all by himself. Since we are not used to boarders in Europe, we were quite intimidated by the officer and the interior of the room. The walls were decorated with American flags, posters with the names of soldiers that had passed away during the wars and pictures of the ‘most wanted’ people in the country. The officer was wearing his official uniform including his weapon and looked at us with an icy stare. I would swear that he was not allowed to smile at us. It’s probably in his job description to look angry… He was so confused about the fact that we were only going to go to America for two hours or so, that I asked him jokingly whether he could recommend us a nice restaurant, to lighten up the mood. He did not reply and asked me to make a a fingerprint of my thumb. Then he asked my mum; ‘Do you have family across the border’, my mum said no, ‘Do you know where you want to have lunch’, my mum said no, ‘Do you know which state you are going to go to?’ and once again, my mum said no… Probably his protocol did not instruct him on what to do in this case, so he let it slip. Once we were done with all the official stuff, he actually loosened up a little and smilingly told us that he’d advise us to go to Vermont. Which is literally a 5 minute drive through the state of New York. Thus, on that one afternoon, we actually went to two different states in America.
The change between Canada and the USA was noticeable straight away. It might have been a special day, or the people right across the boarder just really wanted to make sure everyone knew they were now in the USA and not in Canada anymore, but every house… and I mean literally every house, had the American flag hanging outside. Sometimes, even two or three flags per home. It was a little absurd to be honest, but my mum and I were just really thrilled and excited to be there.
We drove to North Hero, which seemed to have the one and only restaurant of the entire area. Driving to North Hero was beautiful, as you pass by the most breathtaking lakes. The restaurant was set ‘on’ the water. It was a real quiet little paradise. My mum and I felt so happy at that moment that we spontaneously decided to have lobster for lunch.
About a month later, my brother came to visit me in Montréal. My brother, boyfriend and myself decided to go back to North Hero together. They had heard my stories and were curious to see whether this place was actually as wonderful as I described it. One of the first things we came across when we passed the border, was a real gun-store. Of course, the men wanted to check this out so we went inside. There was a middle-aged woman working inside the store all by herself. It was quite an interesting experience because she showed us all her guns and told us about it in an enthusiastic way. One of the things she told us is that there are no gun-laws in Vermont whatsoever. Everyone can literally carry a gun at any time in his back pocket. We were quite flabbergasted by this and we all felt rather unsafe during the rest of our time in Vermont. The idea that anyone at any point could flip out and draw his gun… At some point we were driving and needed to make a u-turn, so we had to use someone’s driveway to do it. At that point we were very aware of being on someone’s property… who knows what could have happened ; )
Anyway, the woman herself was very convinced that it’s a great thing that there are no gun laws in Vermont. She even told us that the reason that there is more crime in New York than in Vermont, is because they do have gun laws in New York… I think she is thereby ignoring many other factors, but we didn’t want to frustrate her by starting a discussion, with all those guns around… She also showed us one of her massive rifles which she said is a good one to use when ‘practicing with your children’. No comment.
We had a nice afternoon in our little paradise in North Hero and even went for a dive in the water. If you are ever planning to go, I’d advise you to take the route past Lacolle as you won’t have any waiting time at the border!