Enjoying Québec and Québécois


You know you are in Québec when…

Our exit from Ottawa and travel to the area north of Montreal was uneventful. Roads: Good. Traffic: Moderate. Weather: hot and expected to be WAY HOT. Campground: BOOKED in Laurentien Mountain cottage country north of Montreal. Canada Day Festivities: Of course! Friends Joe and Shelly Havas: Apparently still friends and still willing to receive us!

On the latter, one explanation is that Joe UNSUBSCRIBED from our blog last September, so he really was unaware what plague was descending on peaceful Sainte Agathe des Monts.

In fact, we are amazed and very honored that anyone cares about what we are seeing and doing (and yes, bus-fixing when broken!) enough to read our blog.

We discussed this. Joe said, “We must come over to the bus the first evening for drinks so we can find out about where you have been. HOW COME YOU DON’T DO YOUR BLOG ANYMORE?” I said, “Joe, I most certainly DO still write the blog, much to the chagrin of many. But you unsubscribed last year…”

Joe said (with at the very least well-feigned incredulity), “Well, I certainly didn’t mean to!”

Whether he did or not (mean to…he clearly DID), I assured him we would not and do not take it personally, and I would re-up him. And HELL YES, let’s get together!!!! We agreed this would be after supper, allowing Joe to “take care of a few things” around the cottage whilst we settled into the campground.

It occurred to me that “Taking Care of some things” might have meant some amount of cottage-lawn care, so I offered to help. I said that it happens all the time in the States… potentially dangerous, undocumented workers from the enemy-country to the south come north, displace local workers, rape and pillage.  I could and would actually BE that potentially dangerous undocumented southern-worker displacing local labor.  But only for Lawn Care Purposes, and only so Joe could relax and enjoy his Canada-Day.  And of course, sans raping and pillaging. Despite the obvious parallels, Joe ultimately declined.

Very Nice Laurentian Campground

In the meantime, our next door neighbors at the campground, Alan and Michelle and their effervescent (is there any other kind) Black Lab – Boba were drinking Chicago’s Goose Island IPA (which is a fancy import up here) and in a conversational mood.

I should say that Boba was not drinking, but was conversing somewhat; mostly insisting that the slimy football-ish object be tossed repetitively. OK with us…we really miss having a dog! Well, to be clear, I miss having a Dog; Liz rolls her eyes when I say so.

As to the rest of the conversation, it is pretty amazing how Québec folks shift INSTANTLY to English when faced with Americans. The smile never changes, tho.

Joe and Shelly DID stop over after dinner and started the “Catching up” process. This continued in earnest the next day, which was the official Canada Day celebration (July 1). For that day, we went over to their cottage which was about 2 miles away…very bike-able if it weren’t for the two VERY INTIMIDATING HILLS between — The Clown Car was the better part of valor that 95F+ day!

There we had what could have been a totally AMERICAN Independence Day, except it was July 1 not 4. And part of the time was spent discussing politics, political leaders, health care and the impact of the anticipated 10% tariffs on common goods and services that were about to begin in Canada. And none of the time was spent watching or playing baseball.

Summer at the Cottage is the same everywhere!

But other than that, the day was HOT (REALLY hot, actually), the beer was COLD, the lake was somewhere in between and the dress code was swimsuit. Only. All day. The Barbeque was active, there were salads of multiple varieties, the occasional firework and lots of sitting around and chatting.

Just like July 4!

Two of Joe’s kids were at the cottage; There were also grandkids — Joe’s daughter Stephanie (and son-in-law Oliver) were there with their’s. They welcomed and then immediatelly “addressed us” with large squirt guns…I think they REALLY WANTED to unload on these strangers but exhibited remarkable Canadian Manners even at an early age.  For sure, our nieces and nephews would have no such compunction. Their Dad, Oliver, did guide the kids somewhat; suggesting it would not be appropriate to blast away at strangers.  He may no longer think that after spending the day with us!

Deprived of their American Targets, the kids instead said that our car was VERY dirty, and could they wash it for us (with their squirt guns, of course)! One could not seem to manage Liz’s name, so he called her “Lizard.” Which honestly worked just as well as “Liz” for everyone in attendance!

A Teaching Moment

During our time at/in the lake, Liz(ard) made an effort to improve relations, diplomatically, between our nations. It seems the GKs were trying to catch fish, something she knows something about! The chosen implements: Butterfly Nets from the Canadian Equivalent of the Dollar Store.

The fishing was not going well until Liz showed everyone how to use a Raspberry Danish as bait. Well, since we were in Québec, it was actually a Raspberry Croissant, but of course the fish were Québécois also…and very anxious for their afternoon croissant, apparently!

Bringing Home the Catch!

Anyway, the fish catching commenced in earnest. Although initially excited beyond measure, the kids quickly became bored, as kids do. Liz, on the other hand, enjoyed the sport (for hours).

We did some other things during the days we spent in Saint Agathe des Monts. There is a great bike trail on a former Railroad track — “P’tit train du Nord”. It goes all the way from St. Jerome, near Montreal into the Laurentien Mountains – over 200km. A relatively easy and flat ride through spectacular alpine scenery; we rode about 13 miles (it was way too damn hot to do more).

Québecoise Breakfast with Québécois Havas

We visited nearby Mont Tremblant, which Joe had described as a “Mini-Whistler” considering the number of Ski Areas around. There we enjoyed a stroll, and Ice Cream and a bit of excellent live music at an outdoor square…some Rhythm and Blues — I had never heard “Sweet Home Chicago” in French. And, we had traditional Québécois Breakfast – more than once — at “Le Petit Poucet” which was a stone’s throw up the street from the Campground.


There was at least ONE thing we did NOT do… Next to the Campground was a Santa-themed amusement park. Why anyone would choose to do this in July was beyond me. But more than that, from the sign at the entrance I am thinking this was ½ Santa and ½ Chuckie, he of the series of increasingly gory and ridiculous horror movies. Look at the picture and tell me you wouldn’t LOCK YOUR BUS DOORS at night if this were your neighbor!

Stowaway in Steerage

We also discovered that we had a stowaway. Heard some scratching noises in the middle of the night…and discovered “Mighty Mouse” (as liz refers to all such fellow travelers). In itself not so unusual, but the location was. In the liquor closet, he was trapped in a Glenfiddich Scotch carton. I had removed the bottle (I am allowed…according to even Ontario and Pennsylvania liquor laws, a 60-year-old may legally enjoy scotch), and the mouse had fallen into the empty carton. He looked very sad…perhaps because the bottle was not there? Or perhaps because he could not get out? Or, both — because he could not get out he was sad the Scotch was not there?

Take Note: Do not approach Dan’s Scotch, it will NOT end well!

Anyway, we’ll never know, because he escaped the Scotch Carton when he startled me as I extracted it from the Liquor Shelf…and was, for a VERY short while roaming free in the bus. Even Liz thot that funny, as I was chasing it – to no avail – with a broom. Liz placed traps baited with Québecois Cheddar, but I suspect the blue kibble we used (as we always do when we discover stowaways) quickly produced the desired results. 

Either that or it was a COMPLETE COINCIDENCE that a dead mouse was found right next to the bus outside.  

Next, we are off to the east…as far east as one can go in North America. Gaspé, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and NewfoundLAND. Our pronunciation was corrected multiple times…Accent on the LAST SYLLABLE…”LAND.” Our first “Scheduled” destination is Prince Edward Island, but we have 9 days to get there. People at each stop so far in Canada have added information and suggestions such that the 9 days will be well spent and there will be plenty of material for the blog.

Whether Joe stays “Subscribed” or not!

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