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The Idle American
"Oh, Canada!..."
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 • Posted July 17, 2013

If “getting there is half the fun,” our recent Canada/New England cruise from Quebec City to Boston defies the long-held belief that two halves make a whole. With multiple highlights on board equaling or surpassing the “getting there,” there were several “halves!”

It was a “storybook” adventure, book-ended by two of North America’s most historic cities. Weather was near-perfect—daily temperatures in the low 70’s—and the scenery, spectacular.

The four stops on Holland America’s week-long cruise on the mid-sized Veendam offered enticing ports. So, any thought of skipping even one was quickly dismissed….

    *****

To fully enjoy any vacation, one needs to shift into neutral—a gear I strive for routinely. (Some people find it easier to find reverse gear on a stick-shift car than neutral in leisure time.)

We’ve yet to cruise without experiencing unanticipated delights. This time, a fellow cruiser’s question—“Reckon they’ll dance the ‘Hucklebuck’?”—should have been a tip-off.

Upon boarding with some 1,400 other guests, we learned this was one of six Holland America cruises featuring “Dancing with the Stars at Sea.” The popular TV show’s personalities were on board to entertain, teach and visit. Then, the “Hucklebuck” question made sense—remember the 1960’s song? Chubby Checker claimed those who couldn’t do it “might be out of luck.”….

    *****

Vacationers choosing this cruise are awash in choices—even before Veendam boarding. Both Quebec City and Boston are steeped in history. However, the recommendation is to spend extra days in QC, since most Americans aren’t aware of its history, charm, beauty and marvelous blending of old and new.

England prevailed in the Battle of 1759, but French influence remains strongest. Sounds of the beautiful French language sweeten the air. (Their written words have bunches of extra letters—such as “eaux,” which is pronounced simply “o.” A Canadian woman called her dog “Fido,” uh, “Phydeaux.”)

Indeed, Galinda, the “good witch” in Broadway’s Wicked, might be confounded there. She asked her prof, “Why you can’t just teach us history instead of always harping on the past?”…

    *****

Quebec City, now 405 years old, is an “all season” favorite, appropriately called North America’s most European city.

All was pristine; we found nothing in need of paint during our four-day visit. We understand, too, why winter sports enthusiasts pray for snow to come early and stay late in this winter wonderland.

Montmorency Falls beckons. Raging from a drop-off 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, it provided lighting to Quebec City’s historic Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel when hydroelectricity was harnessed 100 years ago. The hotel, imposed against an azure Canadian sky, is within yelling distance of the Veendam when the vessel is in port….

    *****

On board, we were as active—or vegetative—as we chose. Often, we wound up in the ship’s impressive library, sometimes awake.

With the Stars’ presence, many legs were shaken and “light fantastics” tripped. (Truth to tell, some “heavy fantastics” danced, too.)

About 200 vacationers chose this cruise because the stars were on board. Some, though—like me—admitted limitations. I’d finish second in a dance contest against a person with two left feet….

    *****

Of great intrigue were ports of call up the St. Lawrence River into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and finally the Atlantic Ocean. We treasured time at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

We were never disappointed; flowers were everywhere; yards, well-groomed. “We’d spend our last two bucks on gasoline for the mower,” one resident said.

In Sydney, Nova Scotia, the world’s largest illuminated “fiddle”—10 tons and 42 feet tall—was an “eye-catcher” Yep, they called it a “fiddle”—like we do in these parts, where “if you’re gonna have a hit in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.” (Bagpipes are big there, too. However, a man of Scottish descent claimed the Irish gave the Scots bagpipes as a practical joke!)…

    *****

Before boarding a plane in Boston, we toured that historic city, where facts memorized decades ago came alive.

Back home, we hear Canada calling, and we intend to return, perhaps next time enjoying vivid fall foliage from the Veendam’s deck.

If fanciers of polka, jive, samba, waltz or even the “Hucklebuck” choose the deck, we’ll move to the side….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. (Cruise info at hollandamerica.com.)

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