My friend Judith Cassis and I took an excursion boat out into the mighty St. Lawrence Seaway connecting the inland provinces of Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. The currents in this deep and swift river make it one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. A pleasant excursion on a sunny day, for me at least, was spoiled by a guide decked out in a 16th-century costume offering a loud and unavoidable commentary first in impeccable French and then tortured English. Shut up!
Quebec City is known for its fine restaurants and cuisine. Judith and I made stupid mistakes and as a consequence had some terrible meals. Instead of researching and reserving a time at one of the fine restaurants, we ate when we were hungry and whatever was nearby. We saved up the Musee de Beaux-Arts for the last day when our feet hurt. We decided we didn’t need to ask the way to the Pier, so we ended up walking miles, and then running to catch the excursion boat. Did I mention Quebec City is all hills? Pretty dumb for two smart women, eh?
I expected to have to trot out my rusty French, but almost everyone in the tourist industry speaks English, some of them easy in both languages. They know you’re an English speaker in the first few syllables anyway, and step in to save their language from being butchered. Fierce Francophone wars have been fought here during the days of Separatisme. I suspect the urge to divide off from Canada and form a unique province for French language and culture is still much alive. I’ll be learning more about this.
Quebec City looms over the St. Lawrence River at its narrowest point in the Province of Quebec. From the heights, you can see mile after mile of wooded downtowns and suburbs. Decisive battles took place here on the Plains of Abraham: Sometimes the British/Canadians won, sometimes the French. It’s entirely French now, all public signage and government affairs conducted in French. It’s the only city in North American surrounded by 16th-century fortifications. The Old City, the tourist quarter, that is.
Montreal is known for its hot, urban buzz: Quebec City is the provincial capital and administrative center for the province of Quebec. As a new Canadian, I guess it’s somewhat like Ottawa where I’m now living, Ottawa being the national capital and Toronto the city with the hot urban buzz.
I wish I could sound excited about our weekend. Probably we are ready now to go back to Quebec City, having made all these mistakes. I wish I could import Judith back to see all the things I’ve discovered living in Ottawa.
More about Ottawa later. I’m trying to catch up with myself, having made a transcontinental move last month. I’m struggling with my phone to upload all the photos from our weekend.