For some reason, vacationing
The small blue-collar town of Drummondville Quebec Canada lies in the shadows, halfway between the cosmopolitan cities of Montreal and Quebec City. So by suggesting that someone was really from that hick town, it implies that they are a "poser” and lack any level of sophistication.
In early November 1991, (in the pre-Internet days), my wife Sue and I set out on a spur of the minute vacation to Quebec Canada. Our goal in this predominately French-speaking province was a brief stop in Montreal with the bulk of our stay in Quebec City, (my blog from November 29, 2010 called, “JE PARLE FRANCAIS…NOT!!!!” addressed a different aspect of that trip).
I sold Sue on Quebec City because it’s not only romantic but also has the feel of being in France. I based my authority on having visited both places, (France 1968 and Quebec City 1976).
We left south Jersey on a glorious 70° (F) morning. Many hours later on the New York State Throughway, (Interstate 87), snow covered cars came from the opposite direction. By the time we passed Glens Falls, it was bitter cold and windy. We advanced into a higher elevation and noticed at the same time, a sprinkle of towns with French names as well as a dusting of snow. In the blink of an eye, the pretty falling fakes had morphed into heavy snow. Soon, all the traffic slowed down and merged into the right lane. We were crawling at 20MPH when I noticed an apropos exit sign for the tiny berg of New Russia.
The worst of the weather was over when we passed through Canadian customs. On the Quebec side, we experienced cultural shock because they use the metric system, military time and most signs are bi-lingual, (English and French).
On the foreign highway, even with my pocket abacus, I could not convert their per liter gas prices to the good ole American way. In Montreal, the digital clock on top of a bank told us that we arrived at twenty o’clock. We parked in the business district and shivered as we tip-toed around slushy snow banks and icy patches. Stupidly, in winter coats, no gloves and sneakers, we weren’t bundled-up properly for -11º (C).
We had a nice dinner in the backroom of a bar, (I had a Montreal steak). Later, we found a motel. The next day, we froze our asses off touring the city. We gravitated to Vieux Montreal, (the Greenwich Village-like old town section of the city). We had lunch in a quiet cafè, (onion soup and Caesar salad), visited historic cathedrals and browsed in quaint shops.
It pissed me off that Sue was swept off her feet when I asked a French-accented tourist guide Richard (Ree-shard), for directions. I tried to tuck away my Brooklyn accent but I couldn't compete with the ever-suave, Ree-shard.
On that same street, we were the only customers in a souvenir store. Sue asked the cashier a question in English. The girl said in pigeon-French, “I don’t speak French.” Sue picked up on the fact that this poor girl spoke neither French nor English. I thought Sue was clever as she communicated in Spanish.
For dinner, we found a fancy seafood restaurant, Le Ancora d’Ouro, (the Golden Anchor). It was a week night, so damned cold and off-season so it wasn’t shocking that the main dining room was empty, except for a table of two young couples sitting behind me. They were chasing whiskey shots with Molson beer and having a good old time. Sue whispered, “Now they’re making out big time and are all over each other.”
I couldn’t resist and glanced back. One guy was fondling his dark-haired date’s breasts under her cable-knit sweater while the blond in the sleeveless dress was massaging her boyfriend’s groin. Sue kept up a detailed blow-by-blow narration until the giggling blond stood up. Sue guessed that in French, she wanted the brunette to come to the ladies room with her but was turned down. The blond staggered away.
Despite being inebriated, the three remaining lovers spoke quickly and came to some sort of an agreement. The odd man came around the table. He was welcomed by the brunette as the two men double-teamed her. The new guy pulled her sweater up. I saw her bare back as he suckled her breasts. At the same time, she was in permanent lip-lock with her boyfriend as he checked her oil.
A few minutes later, at the far end of the room, the waiter, busboy and bartender converged to enjoy the ménage. The mood changed when the giggly blond bounced off walls as she unevenly walked between the voyeurs and back into the dining room. The drama started when she spontaneously sobered-up upon focusing on the three Musketeers. She screamed. Her boyfriend got up to explain. Sue and I guessed that he was suggesting a foursome but she shunted him aside. The brunette rose, flattened her hiked-up skirt and advanced towards her objecting friend. We didn’t need a translator to figure out that the girl in the sleeveless dress was cursing her out. The brunette tried a rebuttal but got slapped. In smacking the girl with the cable-knit sweater, the blond revealed to Sue and I, a forest of hair in her armpit.
I whispered to Sue, “I guess it’s, ‘No-Shave November.’” She said, “Nah. Legs, pits it don’t matter, the French are like that all the time.” The girl grabbed her coat and seemed to be demanding that her beau leave with her…he refused. Later, when the three of them left, they were still groping each other.
In the morning, Sue and I set out for three-hour drive to Quebec City. On the highway, we stopped at a rest stop in the town of Drummondville. While waiting at the lunch counter, Sue rubbed her hand on my sprouting facial stubble and smiled, “Ah, vacation means no-shave November for you too, I like this Don Johnson look.”
Maybe that was my cue to make-out with Sue and pull her sweater up…but I didn’t. But during the next ten minutes, the last warm embers of afterglow from the previous night’s exposure to French romantic culture died. That’s when we realized that the staff was ignoring us.
I'm guessing even in Drummondville, arrogant
We might have been kept waiting for hours except a Good Samaritan (customer) came by with menus and translated, called for service and put in our order. Whether we were on the Quebec version of, “CANDID CAMERA” or not we’ll never know. But Fi-Fi and the other bitches proved to us that they’re reputation for being rude and aloof to English-speaking people was true. To be on the safe side, we examined our meal for spit before we ate it.
Quebec City is truly beautiful. It’s old world charm had to be explored before we checked into our bed and breakfast.
|FOUNDED IN 1608, QUEBEC CITY IS ONE OF THE OLDEST CITIES IN NORTH AMERICA. SURROUNDED BY RAMPARTS, THE OLD QUEBEC SECTION IS THE ONLY WALLED-IN CITY IN ALL OF CANADA OR THE USA. (above) THE ATMOSPHERE IS SIMILAR TO BEING IN FRANCE.|
Quebec City is so much more charming than the big city (Montreal). But I must report that all the signs are in French and the locals, even businessmen, are nasty to English-speaking customers, (Sue's cutie-pie Ree-shard would have been a breath of fresh air).
The afternoons were extremely cold. The streets had much more residual snow than Montreal. Sue and I slipped and slid on icy pavement as I took her to places I was familiar with from my 1976 visit. While checking-out an outdoor, a starving artists colony, we noticed les assholes shoveling snow, willy-nilly off three-story rooftops. The heavy splatter could be dangerous...even fatal to unwitting passersby, so I'm guessing the
|OVERLOOKING THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY, THE HOTEL FRONTENAC IS THE FOCAL POINT OF THE CITY. THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS INCLUDES IT AS THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED HOTEL ON THE PLANET, (OUR BED AND BREAKFAST WAS TWO BLOCKS AWAY).|
On the first day, we were both wearing sneakers and our feet felt frost bitten. We drove to the more modern, residental part of town, to a mall. Their Macy's-like store is called, the Bay. Hard to believe but true, in the lady's shoe department, those snooty bastards shrugged in ignorance...thus getting across the point that they have no English-speaking associates. Like desperate idiots, Sue and I had to go back into the mall concourse and enlist help (and it wasn't easy) to broker her purchase of leather boots, (back home we found out the
We took the scenic route back from the mall and found Le Colisee where the Quebec Nordiques of the NHL played their home games. In the gift shop, an enthusiastic English-speaking clerk helped me pick out some chintz, (since then, the franchise moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche).
On the way back to our B and B, we discovered an upscale row of gourmet restaurants as well as Dagobert's (Day-go-bear's) a cutting edge discotheque, (we returned that night and enjoyed a fine dinner opposite the disco. Afterwards, we came across the street to dance and party).
Outside the gate to Old Town, we passed the municipal complex. We saw a mob of angry protesters who wanted the province of Quebec to secede from Canada and become its own country, (the hardcore
One night after dinner, we were surprised to find an outdoor rink teeming with ice skaters. We had hot chocolate and appreciated their fun. We also learned that because it's so friggin' cold up there that an annual Winter Carnival is held to promote civic pride and get people out of their house, (later, it was hinted to me that by having something to look forward to, the Carnival reduces the suicide attempt rate...)
Even during the first week of November, we found evidence, across from the rink, of participants already gearing up for the big event.
|(STOCK PHOTO OF AN AWARD WINNING ICE CASTLE) VERY "COOL," WE SAW TWO COMPETITORS ALREADY WORKING ON MUCH SMALLER ICE SCULPTURES.|
On the long trip home to New Jersey, Sue voiced her boredom several times. We were still in Vermont when I perked-up and said, "Hey, did you know that in three hours..." She got excited and said, "Yeah, what happens in three hours?" I teased, "In three hours, we'll be halfway home." She didn't appreciate my humor and pinched by cheek. To get back at me she said, "I hope this isn't your version of no-shave November because your beard is coming in gray...and you look like an old man."
|THE LAST TIME I HAD A FULL BEARD WAS AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE (APRIL 1977)|
For a week, I had survived being insulted by the
|MY ANDREW CAN FORGET THE DON JOHNSON LOOK. IN THIS PICTURE, HE MIGHT HAVE ALREADY SHAVED THAT MORNING. IF HE LETS IT GO, HE'LL LOOK LIKE RIP VAN WINKLE BY ELECTION DAY, (TOMORROW).|
We had a great time in Quebec City and I recommend it to friends all the time. That praise is usually coupled with a red caution flag concerning the *Frogs. But now, I can just refer everyone to this and my, "JE PARLE FRANCOIS...NOT!!!" blogs and use them as snippy attitude warning labels.
*Jeez, now that I think about it, I do call them Frogs all the time. And I feel justified! C'est la vie, mon ami.