|Can You Have a Good Time in a Country that Speaks a Different Language?
Copyright 2017 by Eileen Sateriale
Family Vacation, August 2001, Quebec City, Canada
years earlier our family had visited English-speaking Canada and now
we were curious about French speaking Canada. We had our girls, ages
twelve and fifteen help us plan the trip. I had taken French in
school many years ago and my high class took a trip to Quebec City. Too
many years had passed since the last time I’d been and was
anxious to return.
of us left our home in Maryland and went through New Jersey to New
York. We checked into small hotel in upstate New York near the Erie
Canal. We could have made it a one-day trip but my husband decided
that making it a two-day trip allowed for sight seeing.
day we arrived in Quebec City. Getting to the hotel was an event. The
roads were not as well marked as those in the United States and
with map reading and the help convenience store employees and
managers we eventually found our way. However, once we got to the
hotel, our tedious adventure was quickly forgotten.
Manoir Victoria was elegant and spacious. It was a hotel from the
first half of the twentieth century with bellhops and very attentive
service. Different from the find it yourself econ o-class hotels. Our
bellhop led us to our room with all our baggage stacked on cart. He
told us that our car would be stored in the parking garage and
that we would have to contact the staff and they would retrieve it. He
told us that there were several tours of the city that left from
the lobby of the hotel and he answered our questions. From the
window we could see the windy, cobble stone streets. To us they
looked like a scene from the French countryside.
couldn't get enough of the walled city. We ate dinner as a foursome
and I helped Ken and the girls through the French menu but after
dinner, I had Maura, the fifteen-year-old, and Ken went off with
Carla, who was twelve. Maura loved the boutiques and all the
merchandising. I told her she could have one souvenir but she hadn’t
made up her mind as to what she wanted. We went an outdoor
festival, right in the park of the old city and man did some tricks
with three dogs. The song in the background was "Who Let the
Dogs Out?" After hearing that song, I now knew the significance
of it. The little dog jumped on the big dog's back and everyone
cheered. The dogs stood up on all fours. All the spectators thought
it was pretty cute. When the show was done, Maura and I decided to
walk back to the hotel and look for Dad and Carla.
find Dad and Carla so we ventured down to the old city. There were
singers singing hymns on the steps of an old church and a harp player
playing his songs nearby. The singers were dressed in medieval
costumes. The harp player had a folding table set up so that anyone
interested could buy his CD. We kept walking and saw some weavers
and jugglers. They were fascinating. We were getting tired from the
festivities so we decided to walk up the hill to the hotel.
way we saw a mural on Quebec City painted at the turn of the
millennium. It had all the seasons and the cultural activities on
it. Being a hockey fan, I liked the hockey player in the
foreground. Hockey is so Canada.
some teepees and some people dressed in Old World costumes. They
were dressed for the Quebec heritage days. The only thing in the
United States close to it was the Mardi Gras celebration in New
Orleans without the drunkenness. I took a few pictures of some
interesting characters. The sun was setting so I promised Maura we
would come back tomorrow. On the way back we saw the Chateau
Frontenac which one of my daughter's friends had stayed in last year.
morning it was raining so we decided to take a bus tour. The tour
left form the lobby of the hotel like the bellhop told us. The
knowledgeable guide told us about all the history of the area. We
saw the Plains of Abraham and the St. Lawrence River. There were a
lot of skirmishes with the British but after years of fighting the
French became victorious. From the Plains, we saw the famous
boardwalk. The bus driver let us out for a half hour to traverse
the boardwalk. We took pictures and admired the St. Lawrence River.
day, we took a one-hour tour of Parliament. The Quebec legislature
is unicameral meaning that they have a House of Representatives but
not a Senate. They abolished the Senate after gaining independence
from England in the 1960's. Some people asked about Quebec seceding
from the rest of Canada and our tour guide told was that she didn't
know. The legislature would decide when the time was right. She
did mention that woman's suffrage did not come to Quebec until 1940,
about twenty years after the United States.
remembered when I took the tour of Parliament with my high school
class in 1972. At that time the tour guide mentioned that the
province of Quebec was thinking of seceding from the rest of Canada. I
think that secession keeps the province in the limelight. I
suppose when I bring my grandchildren on the tour, they’ll be
saying the same thing!
tour of Parliament, we walked to the Grande Allee, a city street
lined with restaurants like the Champs Elysse in Paris. There were
many expensive restaurants but the Burger King and Subway were the
most crowded. We settled on ice cream at a stand between two
buildings. It felt very continental eating ice cream under the
umbrellas while the cars sped by.
that day there were more heritage celebrations. It was hosted by the
Quebec Government and completely free. The theme was "Je me
souveins" meaning "I remember." This the time of year
when all Quebecois are reminded of their heritage.
church in the center of town, Notre Dame Basilica of Quebec in Old
Quebec, had a showing of "Act of Faith" a light show that
recapped 500 years of history from the Indian settlements to the 21st
century. "Act of Faith" retraces the history of the
Basilica and tells the story of the faith of the pilgrims and the
church builders. The "Act of Faith" show was put on during
tourist season from May through October. After the showing we were
allowed to tour the building and look at the ornate architecture.
were neatly maintained and the people working in them showed an
enormous amount of pride in their businesses. Most knew English but
with a few, including the man who ran the laundromat, we had to use
broken French and sign language. The non-English speaking laundry
man convinced us that he could do a very professional job with our
clothes. I admit that I was very pleased that our dirty clothes were
washed while we toured the city. We sent our fifteen-year-old
daughter into a drug store to buy shampoo. She had a year of high
school Latin and realized the pitfalls of going into a foreign
country not knowing the language. However, she did manage to buy
what she needed. My girls love shopping and they went into a small
boutique and bought tee-shirts that had “Quebec” on them.
were wonderful restaurants in Quebec. We went to several that had
authentic French cooking. There was a small crepe restaurant that
allowed us to pick our own ingredients. The girls had fun designing
and eating their own crepes. The last night the four of us went
into the hotel restaurant. There were singers to entertain the
diners. They sang in French and English. Ken and I had
Chateaubriand for two. The girls ordered off the menu since the
items were listed in French and English.
day we had to leave. It felt funny getting into our car after three
days of walking. We had breakfast in the countryside and meandered
back to our home in the states. On the way back we stopped at the
duty free shop on the border. This gave us a chance to exchange our
money and we got some good deals on expensive perfume, candy and
Canadian whiskey. These items were the souvenirs of our lovely trip.
was made in the pre-September 11 days. I believe security is tighter
is this day and age. I would go back there in a minute in spite of
the hassles. I think Quebec City is a wonderful place to spend a
vacation. We all learned a lot being there during “Heritage
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Storylist and biography
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