Small Towns, U.S.A

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The grass is always greener on the other side.

I grew up in a fairly large city, with a population of just under 300,000. I now live in Ottawa, which has a population of about 1 million. I’m a city girl. I like the neon lights at night, I enjoy wandering between tall buildings, I love busy skyline and being anonymous in the crowd.

Yet I always wonder what does living in a small town feel like. Do people feel safe and protected? Or is the atmosphere oppressive? Do people take great pleasure in visiting the same stores over and over again? Do they yearn for more diversity, a change in their daily routine?

Every time we go to the U.S, we drive through dozens of small towns. Some have a main street (usually aptly named Main Street) others are just a cluster of houses. The cost of living is usually fairly low and small businesses are busy. There are true gems to be found, authentic bakeries and local restaurants, a nice break from the ubiquitous franchises that seem to be everywhere these days. And don’t you love these classic movie theatres? They are much cheaper than the huge Cineplex that stink of popcorn!

When we went to Lake Placid, we stopped everywhere to get gas, to buy drinks, to have lunch or just to take a break and enjoy the scenery. We were in St Regis Falls, Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake, Canton, Potsdam—the last two towns located close to each other, no wonder some Americans find world geography challenging!

Small towns, U.S.A… another side of the country.

You can see the complete Small Towns, U.S.A set in the USA set on Flickr.

Court Street, Sheriff Office in Canton

Just Too Many Signs!

American Theater, Canton

Career Opportunities in Finger Printing?

Canton Post Office

In God We Trust

Christian Bookstore

Nearby Paul Smiths

Nearby Paul Smiths



Tupper Lake Fair

St Regis Falls

American Pride in Saranac Lake

New York Style Cheesecake

Cream Cheese and Salmon Bagel

Cheap Parking in Potsdam


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Hi Zhu,
    You know that I can always be squatting your back seat each time you prepare pics of your border crossings.
    I am regretting that I saw the Cheesecake… It has always been my favorite and each time I go back, I have to eat it at least once.
    And what French dessert MUST you eat when you come back?
    Paris-Brest? Millefeuille or something else??

    Thanks for sharing!
    Bises 🙂

    • I hope I’m not making you homesick!

      I usually crave the simple stuff, croissants aux amandes, pains au chocolat frais, cake etc. And cheese… and real bread… and these elaborate yogurt we have, like mousse au chocolat. Do you know the Kouign Aman? It’s a dessert from Brittany. Lots of butter, it’s really greasy but I haven’t had one of these in years!

  2. So, I’ve lived in small towns and a big cities. I like both for different reasons. The small town was where I grew up, where a lot of people know me and my folks. If there’s anything I need help with, I always know whom to ask and all that.

    I currently live in a big city though. Been here for like 4 years and I love the anonymity. Nobody cares (almost). Everybody minds their own business. If it came down to choosing between them later on in life, I’d probably choose to live in a small town 🙂

    • Maybe growing up in a small town and working in a big one later on in life is ideal. After all, you grew up surrounded by people you knew in a relatively safe environment, and get to enjoy the big city lights after!

  3. Even though my Dad was a Forest Ranger and we lived way out in the sticks I always knew that I was a city person. I like the woods and all that but I like to live in the cities.

    I don’t think that life is bad in small towns it is just a little confining. Someones confining is somebody else’s cozy maybe.

    • I think you nailed it. Some people like it cozy, others find it confining or even suffocating. I like being out in the country once in a while but I don’t think I could live in a small town.

  4. Like you, I’ve grown up in big cities. Whenever we are in a road trip and encounter small towns like the ones found in NY, I often wonder how life is in these towns. Perhaps the biggest fear I have is this notion that everyone knows everyone, and I guess the anonymity that big cities provide is one thing that attracts me towards larger population centers.

    • I value being anonymous as well. It would be hard for me to be in a town where people all know each other, because it’s never as easy as it sounds.

  5. Hi again, Zhu,

    Backtrack to your answer to my comment. No, I have never eaten Kouign Aman. But, Far aux pruneaux( note to readers: similar to a flan but with plums) yes! I used to make my own at one time 🙂


  6. Je suis une fille de la campagne très paumée, j’y ai grandi, mais je vis depuis 6 ans dans une ville de plus d’un million d’habitants… Et j’adore ça, j’aime ça plus que tout. Je serai incapable de revenir vivre à la campagne… française en tout cas. Car plus le temps passe, plus je trouve les petites villes américaines attirantes (j’ai déjà trouvé celle de mon coeur, Burlington, VT). Elles sont fascinantes. (et tu les dépeints bien 😉

    • Merci 😉

      J’aime bien les petites villes américaines, mais peut-être tout simplement parce qu’elles sont exotiques à mes yeux. J’imagine qu’on peut aussi y retrouver les travers des campagnes françaises… Avais-tu hâte de quitter la campagne?

      • Oui, effectivement, cet exotisme m’attire comme un aimant ! Je trouve l’idée de “communauté” présente dans les petites villes américaines très captivante, et pour le coup vraiment différente de l’ambiance des villages français. Je n’avais pas spécialement hâte de quitter ma campagne, je l’aimais, mais je ne me voyais plus vivre dans un endroit plus petit que Lyon. Et puis j’ai découvert certaines petites villes américaines (… voire très petites, avec 200 habitants) et j’ai vu leur quiétude, l’absence de stress, et je me suis dit pourquoi pas, pour quelques temps, pour sortir un peu de l’anonymat de la grande ville ! Mais bon, comme on dit, l’herbe est toujours plus verte ailleurs ! (et je sais aussi que la “communauté” implique aussi d’autres désagréments…)

        • C’est cette idée de communauté qui me fascine. Ceci dit, j’ai lu beaucoup de romans et vu beaucoup de films sur l’effet pervers qu’elle peut avoir sur les gens dès que quelque chose ne va pas. Et cela ne doit pas être si facile de s’y intégrer…

  7. More great photos! Although I do have to object to the New York style cheesecake. I find it a little dry. But bagels with lox, who can possibly object to that! I really missed them in France.

  8. small towns have this country charm… and it’s generally more peaceful and quiet. big cities have so many distractions – your wallet tend to empty pretty quick! 😛 and one thing i dont like big cities are the traffic jams, esp in Asia.

    • Same here! I don’t think I’d be able to live in a small town, but I enjoy a break in the country once in a while.

      Thank you for visiting!

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