Canadian Flag Saves The Day

July is when vacation/travel time starts in earnest and as it also begins with Canada Day this seemed a good story to share with everyone. Thanks to a diary I kept I was later able to write a number of stories about my travels through Europe in 1972. There were many times during those four months that being Canadian got us out of (and occasionally into) trouble. I am sure you all have your own travel stories. This is one of mine.


Florence Italy, October 1972


Ah Canada

I’d like to put the following vignette down to my relative youth and total exhaustion, but neither truly explains why I leapt on to the back of that taxi. But I digress.

My friend and I had only a general idea of where we wanted to go that Summer and Fall of 1972 as we back-packed through Europe. If we liked a town, we stayed. If we didn’t, we climbed aboard the next train. We certainly never booked accommodations anywhere. This often led to some interesting overnight locations but for sheer humour one of the best was in Spain. On our travel days we saw a lot of Europe through a train window and that September day was no different as we made our way from Madrid to Barcelona. A heavy rainfall flooded the tracks and we had to sit for hours waiting for the water to subside enough to let the train through.

We arrived at 7.45 pm, very tired and definitely in need of a shower. After trying unsuccessfully to find a youth hostel or inexpensive pension that we could afford, a woman from Edmonton approached us saying she was staying at the Ritz and was sure she would be able to get us a room. Sue and I looked at each other.

“The Ritz, I don’t think so” I said, stating the obvious. The woman phoned the hotel anyway and they said they had a small room we could rent for $12 a night, about six times what our budget allowed. Even though it was way out of our league financially, it was pushing 8.30 and $12 for a room at the Ritz seemed like a damn good deal.

Our “suite” turned out to be an old boiler closet converted to a single room and one of us had to sleep on the floor. But that is another story. All we knew at the train station was that the room was in a five star hotel.

We pulled up in a taxi and I was so worn out I paid little attention to all the people standing outside in the night air. The day had been quite warm and even the evening wasn’t exactly cool but, to the last, they were all in evening clothes and fur wraps. To say we were out of place in our jeans, dirty running shoes and t-shirts would be the understatement of the century.

There was, unbeknownst to me, a doorman to open taxi trunks and remove luggage. I was completely oblivious to him and the totally disruptive scene our arrival was causing in the midst of jewels and fur.

As we emerged from one side of the taxi, people were already climbing in the other. The driver was making no attempt to climb out and open the trunk for us. My friend was very concerned he was going to leave with our luggage. “No!”, she called out.

Not content with this approach and in defense of our belongings, I leapt up onto the trunk of the vehicle shouting “no” over and over while banging vigorously on the vehicle. I can only imagine what the local throng thought of my undignified leap. I was far too gone from exhaustion to feel the full impact until later that night.

The hotel doorman, with as much civility as he could muster in the situation, and far more than I deserved, gently helped me off the car and opened the trunk expecting to see suitcases. He was momentarily taken aback to see two seedy looking knapsacks. I honestly don’t think he had ever seen any before because when they were deposited into our room they were upside down.

There was only the briefest pause as he composed himself while looking at our knapsacks in the trunk. Then he smiled as his eyes rested on the Canadian flags we had sewn onto them.

“Ah, Canada”, he said warmly. “Nice country”.

Do any of you have travel stories around the Canadian flag or flag of your own country?


  1. Cheryl Harrington
    Jul 1, 2013

    What a great story. I can just picture you leaping onto that taxi – the fierce Canadian!

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jul 1, 2013

      Thanks Cheryl. The mental image I still get when I think of us arriving amidst the jewels and fur is funny enough but when I remember actually leaping onto the back of the taxi I still crack up all these decades later. Happy Canada Day fellow Canadian.

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