We spend two relaxing days inhaling the peace of Lac Bouchette before making our way back to Montreal along the spectacular River Road and the pretty Royal Way. It was the last drive in our georgeous black Dodge Charger, and the last car drive of our trip, so we filled our memory box with long winding roads beside deep forests reflected in pristine lakes, with neat houses and colourful gardens along the majestic Saint Laurent. Quebec is very proud of its landscapes, but we, spoiled with California and New Zealand are starting to find the diverse combinaisons of blue waters and green trees a bit repetitive. Automn and its riotous and firery palet would be the right time to come back here
In Montreal, we were welcomed by Michelle, Darren, Macy and Nikki with whom we spend four fantastic days. Thank you so much guys for all you did for us, we had a ball. I will always remember the kids laughters (4 days playing together day and night and not a single fight, yes, it can be done) and our relaxed evening chats. Maxim and Callum could have happily stayed there for the summer (but we woud have missed them to much).
After the last car drive came the last train drive, where we caught up on homework and watched yet more lakes, more rivers and more forests zoom by, until finally we were back in New York, hot as a pancake in the summer evening, a contrast to the Montreal drizzle.
In two days here, we got to tick the last few items on our must do list. Yesterday we went to the historical 9/11 memorial with an access guarded as fiercely as an airport.
It took an international competition with almost 5000 entries to work out what to do with this site that was opened on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It had to be uplifting, not just emotional, respectful but not revengeful, simple, beautiful and universal. They got it just right. The two footprints of the twin towers stand peacefully among hundreds of trees, transformed into the largest waterfalls in the US and surrounded by the names of nearly 3000 victims from 90 different countries, the youngest as young as two, the oldest at 86.
Among the tourists there were friends and families who came just to take a picture of one name, and trail their fingers on the letters. There are lots of brushed tears in this place. From there, you can see the new towers climbing everyday higher and speaking of a new century where everything changed. As one volubile and helpful local lady told us, real New yorkers do not go to this place, it is still too much for them, after the horror of watching and breathing in total destruction in their cherished city They ignore the place, look the other way and hate to see groups of tourists having their photo taken there, where so much was lost in such a short time.
Today, we walked along the Highline, a disused train track transformed into a garden in 2009. It is one of those typical New York story. This one storey high train line had been used since 1920 to carry dangerous and commercial goods above New York without disrupting the traffic. It fell into disuse as containers took over as a more efficient way of transportation. The birds carried enough seeds for nature to change it into a strange linear green jungle. It was condemned to the wreckers ball until two men saw its potential and lobbied the city of New york to change it into a high garden for all to enjoy. Luckily, since September 2001, the city was very much focused on creating more enjoyable places. It still looks like a jungle, with wild flowers and young, energetic trees, it fits this city perfectly, expecially on a hot humid day like today.
Once the homework done and the boys fed, they stayed in our airconditionned room and I went, alone at last, all the way to Times Square along Broadway and back along Fifth Avenue, absorbing a kaliedoscope of images, cyclists in swimming trunks wizzing through the traffic, their huge chain locks wrapped around their hips, beautiful ladies in maxiskirts walking like boats on waves towards Columbian restaurants spilling warm musics on the street. People in suits sitting in cool, quiet, dark bars with classic quartets, a well dressed french couple arguing passionnatly in front of a red place with Jazz...thousand of people basking in the lights of pure, undiluted capitalism on Times square, undisturbed by loud preachers and crazy prancers, unsung princes of New York... Oh how I will miss this place...I have got to come back here one day soon.
Okay, as it is the last night on this continent, it is time again for the list of seven strange things we discovered about North America that do not feature in most guide books. Feel free to reuse for a Quiz
1. The original colour of Coca Cola, before any additives are added is... green
2. It takes 70 litres of liquid from a maple tree to produce a single litre of maple sirup and Canada produces 90% of the world maple sirup in just one month in spring.
3. In 2011, in the USA, there has been 40,000 accidents due to...toilets
4. In San Franscico, it is illegal to clean your car in a car wash with used underwares
5. The Teddy bear was named after the beloved american president Theodore Roosewelt who had a passion for that animal which he saw as powerful and brave.
6. The crown on the statue of Liberty has seven spikes to represent the seven continents
7. The new One World Tower ( replacing one of the twin towers) will be exactly 1776 metres high to celebrate the year of the US independance.
Tomorrow night, we are flying back to Ireland, for a holiday from our holiday. No more moving from places to places surrounded by strangers, no more fried foods and wobbly spare tyres (Paul is still looking great, how does he do that...), back to a bit of normality and family warmth...Just the break we need before going back for more.