In 2005, when I had to leave Canada to validate my “landed immigrant” status, I discovered the U.S. border was only a 45-minute drive from Ottawa. Since then, going Alexandria Bay, one of the closest American towns, has become an annual tradition. I now have a Canadian passport and travelling to the U.S. has never been easier. We are expert in border-crossing and have an answer to all the tricky immigration questions: “where are you from?” (Ottawa), “how do you know each other?” (long story, but we are married), “are you carrying firearms?” (no, should we?) etc.

We usually cross the border at Prescott/Ogdensburg. Then we stop at the mall just off the International Bridge. A lot of basic items are slightly cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada—make-up, chocolate, cleaning products, health and beauty products… we fill a small bag and marvel at the tiny differences between the two sides of the Saint Lawrence River—wow, they have fudge cookies!

We monitor America’s economic recovery through Alexandria Bay. The last couple of years we went there, the town had seemed empty and lots of businesses went bankrupt in the main street. This time, we were happy to see a few new small businesses had opened, including a cute little coffee shop, and the place looks busier than before.

Pirate T-shirts
The Star-Spangled Banner
By The Pub
Gift Shop
Main Lobster
So Green!
Growing By The House
Florida Coast Guard License Plate
US Coat of Arms
No Swimming Past This Point
Air Conditioning
Alexandria Bay Water Tower
Perry’s Ice Cream
One Way Church

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  1. barbara June 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Hi Zhu,

    I don’t know why I found the border crossing comical( I guess you did too, if you are writing about it).

    You know that if only took a piddly road border and stupid questions, we would cross it often. Yes, and stock up on cheaper stuff, and I would do everything that my heart desires. But, I need a plane and to cross that big ocean out there.

    That flag is winking back and saying “time to come back” 🙂
    Your photographs bring back a lot of this down home feeling …


    1. Zhu June 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      I wish continents were closer too, I could just jump in France, buy a few things and then go back to Canada where I enjoy living! Damn Atlantic Ocean! 😆

  2. Cynthia June 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I <3 New England !

  3. Yogi June 7, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I’ve noticed where I live that stores seem to be opening up and people seem to have money to spend. The morning drive seems slightly more crowded. Maybe we (US and Canada) are slowly coming back.

    1. Zhu June 7, 2011 at 9:45 am

      The way I “monitor” the economy recovery is certainly not scientific but I’m pretty positive that A. Bay looked more “alive” than the last time we were there.

  4. Jeruen June 7, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Ah, awesome pictures of small town America! When I see these photos, it makes me think that Buffalo is huge! And I love the Perry’s Ice Cream photo, apparently, ice cream is made with a stove!

    1. Zhu June 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

      The “ice cream shop” made me laugh. The stove, the tiny place… 😆 They had the actual store besides though, this is just a case of photographer being silly 😉

  5. Charlotte June 7, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Great post. I love hearing about small towns in the USA. Love the photos, too. Glad you found a silver lining to the border crossing!

    1. Zhu June 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Small towns are fascinating, both in Canada and in the US!

  6. ristinw June 8, 2011 at 3:08 am

    Very moody picture! Love overcast!

    1. Zhu June 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you! Bad weather sometimes adds something to photography.

  7. Rich B June 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    The florida plates are probably snowbirds. They live down in Florida to escape the state taxes and enjoy the sun in winter, and come up north in the summer when it’s too hot down south to cheap northern properties. One of the benefits of living in a depressed area is that old people of (sometimes) limited means like to vacation where you live!
    It’s a really depressed area so it’s really cheap to live there.

    The Kentucky and Alaska plates are GIs from Fort Drum, I can almost guarantee that. Southerners don’t go to upstate NY unless it’s a church trip. They are most certainly soldiers who were recently tranferred. A lot of young GIs keep their cars on their parents insurance (it’s cheaper), even though they’re supposed to get registered in NY.

    1. Zhu June 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you for the explanation, that makes a lot of sense!

      I knew the Florida people were snowbirds, we see a lot of that in Canada. I was really wondering why Alaska would end up in A Bay though!

      1. Priyank June 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm

        Thanks for the explanation too!

        1. Zhu June 19, 2011 at 12:18 am

          Have you been there yet?


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