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Sunday, July 25, 2010

East Coast Earthquake - Road Trip!

East Coast Earthquake - The Road Trip

Wow, did I sleep well. Vince's bed has a memory foam mattress - the wine glass one from the ads. I don't think I moved last night! Sabrina got in contact with her friends and we arranged to meet in Laval before heading up towards Quebec City. Seb thought Montreal was really European; his head might explode when we get to Old Quebec!

QC is a 3 hour drive more or less, and with nothing to do, Seb and I fell asleep in the backseat while Sabrina talked to Jean (a really nice guy, but he was not confident with his English). They had all met working for the City of Laval when they were younger, first doing summer day camps, then in places like the arena. The job is excellent for teenagers: full benefits, great wage, no problem getting time off, and, apparently, meeting some great people you will be friends with for years afterward!

Remember how I said the other day that montreal is full of beautiful girls? Let's put this in perspective.

Montreal. Ain't. Got. SHIT. On. Quebec.

We were in the city maybe, MAYBE ten minutes, and seb and I saw some perfect creatures while we were waiting for the others to use the bathroom in Mcdonalds. If nothing else has convinced you prior to this re: visiting the French part of my fine country, please let this be the section that does.
When we had all regrouped, we headed out to see what Quebec had for us. I was getting deja vu all over the place (I had been here twice before, once with school in '95 or so and again with Jules and dad in '97). There was that art in the street that dad bought, there we sat and ate lunch, I even saw the street where we stayed with school in this rundown little hotel. LIkewise later when I saw various sections of the historical section, eg., the Plains of Abraham, it all came flooding back to me and I was able to recant the stories to Seb.
By the way, in the 5 or 6 days i've been here, my French has come flying back to me with a vengeance! I learned French at school for 10 or 11 years, but once I went to university I stopped using it. I was 19 when I stopped studying, and I'm 27 now. That's 8 years of cobwebs being dusted off, and I still can't believe how confident I've become. The general rule is, he further away from Ottawa one gets, the more likely it is that the people will use french as their first language, and therefore less likely to speak to you in English. I was a little apprehensive because when forced to speak my 2nd language, i get stressed, but when speaking naturally (for example, when explaining something to Jean) it sits much easier. When we took the tour of Parliament, it was the last of the day and it turned out to be French (no bilingual tourism here). Sab offered to translate in between the speaking and moving around. Thanks to my knowledge, and the tour guide's "proper" french (no regional accent) I was able to follow along well enough.
After the tour, people were hungry so we took a trip down Grande Allee Est, where most of the trendy places could be found in QC. That is, not quite catering to the tourist with meat pie and period costume, rather, fairly high prices and a cut throat competition with so many restaurants in the same region. Restaurant Aux Vieux Canons had yard glasses so that pretty much sold it for me. (Plus the hostess was gorgeous, so there's that too.) While the food was excellent (I highly recommend the duck pate), it wasn't what I had expected: Seb and I were gonna split a couple of apps, and one said parmesan fondue… What does that suggest to you, a selection of breads and a pot of bubbling cheese mixed with a white wine? How about two squares of breaded and fried Parmesan with some green salad on the side? We got the latte. The server had a point when she said the former would be more expensive, but hey, I'm on holiday, and thus do not look at the price. Whatever. She was a bitch about it, matter of fact during the whole dinner I watched her, and she was lucky to get the %10 we gave her.

We walked along the street to the lower section of the town, the older part, and it was here that really looked old world. Sab had found out about a few things to do, and we had to choose.

The only thing I have to say about Quebec, as a city and as a whole for I include Montreal in this, is that unless you are staying for two full weeks, you will not see it all. Summers in Quebec are limited to about 3 months, so they cram as many events and festivals in as they literally have the space to do so. (Just in the time I was in Montreal, there were 6 going on.) We had a choice of 4 things to do, and they all conflicted with each other in their timing: it was the last night of Cirque du Soleil, which was $55. There was also a free Cirque show happening (I'm not kidding) under the god damn highway, which, being free, wouldn't have been as good, but still, it's Cirque. A free international fireworks competition, and finally LA MOULIN D'IMAGES. This last one was the most intriguing: Quebec has a line of silos that used to be used for cattle meal. They were shut down some years ago, and instead of knocking them down, a company called Ex Machina designed a montage of images to be projected onto the surfaces of the silos. With the one "office building" acting as the main screen and the silos as background… You know what? It's hard to explain. Let's say it was a story of Quebec with no language barrier. That's the easiest.
We ended up going to the free show under the highway (which was still phenomenal; it's been a long time since I found something so harrowing that I literally stopped breathing) then we wandered over to the fields for a great view of the 2nd half of the Moulin. It covers everything - wartime, the Nordiques, the queen's visit, even the 400th birthday of the city in 2008. I would say that it's definitely a must see (happening Friday and Saturday nights all through summer).

We honestly must have walked 10 - 15 km today, (and Jean had already done a 15km run that morning before he met us) and we still had a three hour drive ahead of us. The other car with Marieve (very cute) Pedro (whose english was better than his French) and Jean (a photographer who I will refer to as "John", and supplied us with our QOTD below) had gone on ahead and we arranged to meet them at a Tim Horton's outside of town.
They weren't there when we got there, so Jean called them. John had been driving, and for whatever reason they had gotten lost (there is some controversy over the official story, but I don't know them, I won't take either side). They got there in the end, and Mari took over the driver's seat once we had said goodbye.
One hour later, and we're pulling over again, this time to let Sab drive for Jean felt himself falling asleep at the wheel. For a guy who doesn't wear his seatbelt while driving I applaud his responsibility. We had no problems with getting out at Laval, and subwaying back to Montreal centre, but he offered to drive us all the way home. He had to work at 8:30 the following morning, the poor sonofabitch. Great person, that Jean: though his English was by far the worst of the new friends, he was the only one that really talked to Seb and I.

(Although Marieve did tell me that my French was very good. Bam!)

Sweet, sweet memory foam…

Quote Of the Day: White people always smile in photos (…) Mystery is beautiful.

(I mean really.)

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