In the spirit of those intrepid travellers who have gone before them, Catherine Bolsover and Martina Booth brave suspicious immigration officers, over-zealous New York nurses and dodgy Texans to discover just where North America's at in 2007, starting their trip in Toronto, Canada.
Martina: Well - the trip got off to a worrying start. Although at check-in our sturdy-looking statures had blessed us with the oh-so-leg-stretching-pleasing emergency exit seats (this was on the proviso that we aid people off the plane in the event of an accident), and we were surprised on the plane by being offered free meals, I then somewhat spoilt the party atmosphere by chundering upon entering the airport. This, I must confess, is not surprising, given that it also happened when I went to Latvia earlier this year - but that time I was sick all over myself, ON THE PLANE. Actually, when I come to think about it, I was also flying with Catherine then too... of course! She must be to blame.
Catherine: Anyway, to make matters worse, we had minor issues getting into the country as Martina and I obviously look like dodgy characters. Rather than the one passport check of most of the passengers on our flight, we had 3 checks, including a full bag search and private interrogation from airport security who grilled us on all aspects of our trip and demanded papers to prove where we were going. It felt like we were moments from a full strip search and anal probe.
Martina: I guess when the female officer asked if we minded being interviewed together – “I’m just checking that’s OK because of privacy issues, obviously” – it’s hardly reassuring, is it?
Catherine: It was also a scorchio 35 degrees, so we were feeling goooood.
Martina: Anyway, after finally outwitting border control, we wearily went to find our shuttle bus to Toronto. I may have also forgotten to mention that we flew on a budget airline whose airport turned out to be 80km from our destination. Super! After we had sat down for a rather ten minutes or so, on the look out for “a fat man” (a.k.a. the bus driver), we finally spotted him, so Catherine trundled over to see where the bus was. She soon returned with a resigned smirk on the face, and the words "... Erm, he can fit us on the next one." This was made slightly worse by the fact that I'd spotted the man who'd turned out to be the bus driver earlier, but had been too lazy to vocalise my suspicions.
Thus, having missed the first bus due to our interrogation, and not knowing how long it was going to take until the next one arrived, we settled down to a game of Travel Battleships, to which, I concede, Catherine is alarmingly good at.
Catherine: Toronto itself is lovely and the people are ridiculously friendly. We went on a pirate ship tour of the harbour, laughed at some Texans…
Martina: …Who were really very typically American tourists…
Catherine: …And then we went to a baseball game - Toronto Blue Jays v Texas Rangers. I am now a die hard Jays fan, and have a super baseball cap to prove it. It was a really fun game and shows how uncouth our footie matches are. The worst swearing was from the kid next to me, who kept yelling "Texas sucks!". We ate fries and two jumbo cokes just to blend in with the locals.
We also had to stand for the Canadian and American national anthems and tried really hard not to piss ourselves as a rather earnest 17-year-old American Idol wannabe warbled his way through The Star Spangled Banner.
Martina: We also got interviewed for a girl’s ‘college project’. As I told Catherine, all publicity is good publicity, so I’m hoping it’s the start of some new fame wave for me over here in North America.
Catherine: That night we met a local called Chris, who got us a wee bit pissed whilst encouraging us to party hard at the Caribbana festival - a celebration of African and Caribbean culture...
Martina: Chris was very enthusiastic (telling me to how to enjoy my last day in Canada: “Go wild. Be crazy. But stay safe.”) He also had rather unorthodox pronunciation - “Antig-u-ar”. (read “Antigua”). “Bar-bah-dos” (read “Barbados”). “Middles-burger” (“Middlesborough” – don’t ask how we got chatting about this northern English town). He was quite amusing.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Catherine: Next up - Niagara Falls. Like Blackpool had been transplanted and stuck on the side of a National Trust treasure. So, so bizarre. You can't even see the falls when you arrive for a mile of tat - amusement arcades, fast food places, crappy waxwork museums and tacky shops.
Martina: In a word, weird. Actually, I will add more words - tacky, smelly, and really quite remarkable how a natural beauty can be copiously shat upon by an endless line of greedy tourist-seekers.
Catherine: That said, we did enjoy spending money on the arcades, and Martina even challenged a 6 year old boy to a car race on the Sega and kicked his ass.
Martina: Yes. I felt a smidge bad, particularly as his mum was having to guide him on how to use the steering wheel. But a victory is still a victory. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, where it dawned on me, after spending hours wondering why my skirt had been riding up and generally acting like a misbehaving garnment, that I had been wearing my skirt inside out AND back to front for the entire day. What a plonker I am.
words and pictures: Catherine Bolsover and Martina Booth