Qui qui, Bonjour Quebec, Canada

Entering Quebec, Canada is more than just crossing the border into another country – its a different culture and ATTITUDE! Example: we found this reasonably priced Canadian cafe chain called Tim Hortons, which retails drinkable coffee (hard to find in the US) and edible food. We were introduced to Tim by our friends from DC on our way to Toronto so we pretty much knew what to order, but when we walked into the restaurant all menus were in French and staff were unable (or unwilling) to speak English to take our orders… So CB applied his high school French and we didn't starve but were VERY worried about the next meal. Later that night after checking into the hotel which had an awesome "aqua-pad", we found out that folks in Quebec City are predominantly francophone, with only 3% of the population having English as first language and – check this out – only 30% of 'Quebectonians' are able to speak some English… That fact blew us away, considering that Canada has TWO official languages, and then where can you go travel and work with French these days? France, New Caledonia and some countries in Africa? Makes you think…

The city of Quebec itself was lovely! Quebec City centre is simply stunning. If there is a place you MUST visit in Canada it is Quebec City. You don't feel like you are in North America anymore. CB summed it up well "it was if the French came here for a holiday 400 years ago and never left". Everything is written in French of course but the whole look, vibe and feel of the city is French. It was found in the 17th Century so it had many old buildings and the historic city centre is registered as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city was heavily fortified so had lots of cool stuff like cannons, fortifications and a citadel on top of the hill overlooking the scene. We totally loved wandering around and exploring the side roads of this little gem, despite the franco-mania. We also made it to the island on the Saint Lawrence river – it was as if we stepped into the French countryside with farms, rolling hills, little towns complete with a church, houses painted with red accents, hanging pot plants…DB couldn't stop devouring the yummy chocolate croissants and skipping around the flower gardens in full bloom.

As much as we would have love to stay, we had to keep on going, but there was still Montreal on our route to knock-off before leaving Canada behind to go back to the USA. Just a few km out of Quebec City things dramatically changed – restaurants now had bilingual menus in English/French and people didn't get offended if you continued in English after a friendly 'Bonjour'… Montreal has quite a vivid night life and plenty of opportunity for shopping, which we dived into. We also trialed this new TripAdvisor CityGuide app, which provides you with all the info, maps and reviews for a particular city… however, finding the 'Underground City' was a little more challenging than anticipated – after following the GPS for a few blocks DB was willing to give up, but once we figured that the mystical place is not at a single venue, but spreads across the entire CBD like a kraken (DB note: I think CB means a giant squid but i am not sure why it is being referenced here) and can be entered from any subway station. We quickly found an entrance and wandered around some spooky sub-terrain walkways with plenty of art and deserted stretches… The other recommendation we followed was a particular suburb known for its restaurants and bistros – so we took the subway to get there and check it out. Again, after just a few blocks of walking DB was willing to throw the towel because it was lacking the desired visual stimulation (DB note: hold on, we walked out of the station into a construction site and then after 10 mins of walking amongst mothers taking their kids for a walk we were in inner city SUBURBIA! Plus i wanted to go shopping). It turned out we walked in the wrong direction for a wee while, but armed with Android and iPhone we navigated quickly into the more interesting parts and found a bakery that made fresh bagels and a delicious little cafe where we tried half the pastries on offer…boy do the French know how to make a mean-as pastry!

Crossing the border back into the States was interesting to say the least since we took one of the less frequented check-point with only one customs officer… Once again, waiving 2 black New Zealand passports in front of her nose triggered the usual smile, but when it came to CBs bike which is still registered in NZ the mood quickly changed into confusion, since this was obviously not covered in her induction manual. So she wondered off into the main compound with our passports and registration papers and didn't come back for a good 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, the queue behind us was building with people desperate to continue their journey into the USA… But it all worked out in the end and Team Berg was back in the USA!

We hurried on to the Finger Lakes district to our hotel and first night back in the US after a week in French-Canada.


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