Daniel's Travels

France

Vive la France!

I have only been to Canada one time. In early 2006, I started thinking about spring break and found that I had nothing to do. I also saw that I had a few hundred extra dollars. Finally, I decided that it was about time to see Canada or Mexico. Instead of saving my money like a sensible person, I called my sister (who was 16 at the time) and told her that we should go to Canada for spring break (my first spring break of college, Canada for spring break?!?, I know). Luckily, my parents agreed that because my sister was coming along that they would pay for our hotel and some of our food. They also paid for our train tickets from Montréal to Toronto. So, I booked a flight on Air Canada to Montréal and then from Toronto back to San Francisco and waited about a month.

Getting There

The flight to Canada was nice, and Air Canada had pretty good service and clean planes. Check-in for the flight to Canada was faster than any United Domestic check-in I had ever seen. I walked up, handed them my passport, and a few seconds later they put a sticker on my bag and handed me a boarding pass. I had a nice conversation in a mixture of poor French on my part and good English on their part with some Québecois sitting next to me. They gave me some advice on where I could eat in Montréal and told me a little bit about the city. It was dark outside by the time we landed at l'aéroport International Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau de Montréal. As we taxied past rows and rows of AirTransat airplanes parked at their gates, I got out my burgundy passport, I started the flight as an American and landed as a Brit.

 

The plane finally parked at the gate and we all got off and began the slow march through the line to immigration. As we inched closer and closer, I noticed the time. My sister's flight had arrived at least 45 minutes ago, and we were supposed to arrive at about the same time! My flight was late, and her flight was on time. Apparently, the immigration line had also been much shorter for her because a minute or so later, I felt my cell phone start to vibrate. To avoid the horrible glances of Canadian airport officials I quickly switched it off and continued back and forth, back and forth in the endlessly long line.

Entry

Finally, after waiting for at least a half hour, I approached the immigration desk and used my British Passport for the first time. Although, I wouldn't really call it using a passport. She questioned me over and over about my intentions in Canada. As I stood there, the immigration official flipped through my British Passport once, then again, then again, closely inspecting every single very blank page again and again. I knew what she wanted to ask, but she never asked it. I kept replying, "Tourism" and then, "I'm returning in five days" and then, "yes, here's my Air Canada return e-ticket and my hotel confirmation and my VIARail e-ticket and my hotel confirmations in both Montréal and Toronto" It was more documentation than I had ever been asked for and more than I have been asked for since. After all of this, she said, "OK, I want you to go into that office back there and walk up to the counter and go through that immigration line."

 

So, I went behind the main set of "Customs" counters to the more official looking "Immigration Office." Luckily, the office was empty, I guess there hadn't been quite enough confusing dual nationals that day. Of course, the guy at the counter asked me the exact same set of questions, I showed him the same set of documents. He was silent for a whole minute when I finally had enough courage to settle their confusion. They both wondered, but never aloud, why someone was coming from the United States with a blank British Passport, no evidence of them having ever been in the US. I told the agent that I am also a US Citizen, so he asked me,

"You say you have a green card?"

"No, I am a US Citizen!"

He looked at me kind of confused (I don't quite know why, there are tons of dual US/Canadian and Canadian/UK citizens), so I just pulled out my US Passport and handed it to him. He examined it, every page, scanned it into his computer, and then returned it to me. He cautiously stamped my British Passport and then carefully wrote "V——————30 Mars '06" (Giving me only five days in Canada!) underneath the Canadian Immigration stamp. He handed back my passport, and I went on my way. I finally reached my sister at baggage claim, and we went to get a Taxi and left for our hotel. We checked in and immediately left to go have dinner, at 10:30PM, though in Montréal, that was a splendid time for dinner.

The Elusive Canadian Entry Stamp

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