Friday, June 17, 2011

Visiting NY state

Emma and I went on a little daytrip to the U.S. last weekend. We drove down to Prescott, and crossed the bridge over the St. Lawrence near Ogdensburg. The purpose of the trip was to do some very specific grocery shopping - there are several flavours of Jello fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding mix that are simply not available in Canada. We have chocolate, chocolate fudge, white chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch. In the U.S., they also have pistachio, as well as banana cream, cheesecake and lemon. The last two are new flavours that came out since our time in Boston, but I've been hankering for the pistachio since we moved from the States 9 years ago, and I decided that it was worth making a trip over the border to find some and bring in back.

Emma also had a list of things she wanted, particularly cereal. She's been talking about the American Nesquik cereal for years - she says that, unlike the Canadian version, it will actually turn white milk poured on it to chocolate! She also wanted Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles, so I said we'd see what we could find.

While in Ogdensburg, we went to look at a tall ship that was moored in the harbour, then headed off to the local Price Chopper store. I'm sorry to say that they had banana and cheesecake flavours, but NOT the pistachio or the lemon! I picked up a few of the former, even though the banana is not my favourite flavour, and then looked through the store for other things we can't get in Canada. I found diet Vanilla Coke, so I got a case to bring back, and a few cans of Libby's pumpkin pie filling. We have pumpkin pie filling in Canda, of course, but not this brand.

After the groceries, we went over to Walmart and got some summer clothes - Emma needed new shorts, and I got some skirts and T-shirts. I haven't had new clothes for a very long time, and figured it was time to get something that actually fit me properly.

I must say, Ogdensburg wasn't quite what I expected. I thought it was larger, for one thing, but its population is only 11,000. It also seemed rather rundown. I always have this presumption that the U.S. is bound to be wealthier and better than poor little Canada, but this town looked like it was in a long decline. Houses were ramshackle and unpainted, lots of places were boarded up, particularly old factories and businesses - this must have been going on for a long time, predating the Obama Depression. Now, I didn't see the ENTIRE town, staying mostly on the eastern half, but still, the population wasn't so large that I can suppose that there's a huge, wealthy sector hidden just around the corner. The place looked rather shabby and poor, overall.

I wasn't willing to abandon my pudding quest with the failure in Ogdensburg. I remembered long ago crossing the border at Cornwall, and vaguely recalling that the shopping on the other side of the border was better than where we were, so we decided to head east to Massena and try our luck there. We could come back to Canada over that bridge, and the trip back would be a bit longer, but we had time and Emma would enjoy seeing a little more of the countryside.

Our drive through northern NY state didn't show a much different face from Ogdensburg - the whole area looks a bit rundown. It's surprising, that waterfront property wouldn't be more valuable, but I guess business and employment has really drained away from this part of the state.

We didn't stop to look at Massena, just got a bit lost in it looking for the shopping mall, but it seemed slightly better off than Ogdensburg. Next time, when I'm not struggling with maps and highway signs, we'll look around and get a better idea of the place. We finally found the St. Lawrence Mall, and a big grocery store, where - hallelujah! - we found the pistachio and lemon pudding mixes! I bought about 18 boxes, which, with all the other flavours, should keep me supplied for the better part of a year. I didn't bother buying flavours we can already get at home.

We were flagged for Customs scrutiny when we came back, but on looking over my bills the agent just dismissed me and we weren't charged duty. It was almost all groceries, with a few Walmart clothes - I don't suppose there would have been much to collect in any case.

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