Canada Trip Day 7: Lost in Translation

Ok, let me just say that I’m most definitely NOT one of those people who goes to a foreign country and expects them to speak English. That said, while my Spanish serves me pretty well in California, in all of my travels abroad, except for Costa Rica and that incident in the Italian emergency room back in 2009, it’s been my English that’s been far more useful. For the most part, it’s been the, er, lingua franca (and yes, I’m aware of the origins of that term) wherever I’ve been.

Lingua franca. Oh the irony.

So while my Spanish is good, and while I can decently understand Italian and muddle my way through the basics, and while I even managed to pick up some Hungarian and Serbo-Croatian in my travels in those regions, my French is limited to hello, thank you, and a couple of cuss words.

I did sit down and make the small effort to learn how to ask for things, as well as the first few numbers and some other phrases. And when it’s come to reading signs and stuff, my Spanish/Italian have helped me for the most part figure things out.

But the pronunciation in large part escapes me, and understanding spoken French is just kind of a lost cause. If I actually made a concerted effort and, say, took a couple of French classes, I know I’d be in better shape. But when it comes to pronunciation, reading only gets you so far, ya know?

So anyway. Where am I going with this? Yesterday we left Montreal on our way to Quebec City, and on the way, we stopped at a cheese factory where Ysabelle (one of the friends we stayed with in Toronto) had recommended we try the cheese curds.

They have a restaurant, so I ordered, or thought I did, fries with cheese curds.

I did NOT order poutine. That was a separate menu, and Ysabelle had recommended another poutine place that she said has the best poutine in Canada, so we figured we’d just try cheese curds at this place and actual poutine at the other place.

Now, for those of you who don’t know what poutine is (as I didn’t before this trip), it’s french fries with fresh cheese curds, gravy, and who knows what else on top of it. I’m not a gravy fan (never have been) but I like cheese, and I’m adventurous, so I figured I’d give it a try.

So yeah, I ordered fries with cheese curds.

We got this.


So I took it from the counter (it was a busy walk-up wind0w) and I was like, “Oh, huh. This looks like I thought poutine looked like. I didn’t order poutine.” [Checked the receipt] “Nope, it says “moyenne avec fromage. Ok then.” And the price was the same as a medium fries with cheese curds.

So I took my fork and started poking, digging for the fries.

Only there weren’t any.

That entire thing was a container of gravy with cheese curds.

The three of us tried to eat it. Well, we did eat some of it. We enjoyed the cheese, and the squeakiness of it.

But… it was just too much, and way too much gravy.

I KNOW I didn’t order the poutine. There was an entire separate menu for poutine, and the prices were different than what I’d paid.

Clearly we got the incorrect order somehow (even though our receipt was on our tray.) And I was too embarrassed (and the line was too long… but mostly I was too embarrassed) to go back and try to figure out how to explain that we got the wrong thing.


Obligatory mealtime shot.


So, after spending $7 and 15 minutes trying to eat the cheese and gravy, we gave up, got a scoop of ice cream, and left. We never did make it to the poutine place Yzzie recommended. We felt bad, but after the cheese curds and gravy, the last thing any of us wanted to look at was more cheese curds and gravy.


ANYWAY. That may go down as one of the more hilarious things that I think happened this trip.

Part of yesterday was spent with this as my view:

That would be the boys in the front seat and me in the back seat of our rented Nissan Altima. Which, for what it’s worth, has the turning radius of the average World War II aircraft carrier. I’m crossing it off of my list of cars to someday purchase.


I realize it’s a lousy picture, but I was in the back seat at the time. That would be a Confederate flag painted on the back of a pickup truck. In Quebec. AWESOME.


So it turns out, entirely by accident, we happened to show up the exact weekend of the last two days of the Festival d’été de Québec, an 11-day, 15-stage music festival that draws 1.5 million people. The festival is held in the historic area right outside the city wall. Guess where we were staying? Right INSIDE the city wall. Guess which day of the festival was the biggest? Yesterday.

We ended up parking over 2 kilometers from our hotel. That was the best we could do. It was THAT crazy. But, since I thrive on crazy, I found it pretty freaking awesome… even though we did end up walking to our hotel, walking back to the car, grabbing our stuff, and taking the bus back (which still entailed a fair amount of walking, since the bus stops outside the city wall.)


Quebec City is the oldest walled city in North America outside of Mexico, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come here — I figured it’d be a lot closer to what I saw in Europe, and I was right. It’s AMAZING. Anyway, this is one of the entrances to the city–it’s about a block and a half up the street from our hotel. :-)


View from our room. Sorry about the window screen. :-)


After quick showers, we headed out to wander the old city to see what there is to see. Even the guys thought it was amazing, and me… well, I was pretty darn enthralled with the whole place.


Toward the bottom of our street, looking up toward our hotel (actually a bed and breakfast.)


Down the hill a little farther, toward the boardwalk overlooking the waterfront. Old Quebec City is divided into two parts — Haute Ville (upper town, where we were staying — still within the city wall) and Basse Ville (lower town — the REALLY old part of the city. The boardwalk is the edge of Haute Ville.


St. Lawrence River, looking north. This is pretty much where the St. Lawrence River widens into an estuary and becomes tidal.


Parliament Building at night.

Parliament Building at night.


Saw this on a t-shirt, laughed. :-)



One Response Subscribe to comments

  1. No-one

    Great pics

    Mar 18, 2013 @ 6:59 pm