OK, I’ll admit it. When it comes to maintaining this blog, I’ve been acting exceedingly and deliberately lazy since my last post.
I guess that’s not all that surprising, as my most recent entry of Dad@Home coincided with the beginning of summer, and a decidedly slower pace for most stay-at-home parents.
One might think that would leave me with more time to write my blog, but to be honest, I find that any downtime simply breeds an unquenchable desire for even more downtime. After a very hectic school year with the kids, rife with all manner of extracurricular stuff like swimming, piano, volleyball, debate, basketball, hockey, soccer and then even more basketball… this Dad@Home needed a break. And by break, I mean a break from everything, including writing.
The last time you heard from me was over five-and-a-half weeks ago, but today finds me very relaxed, sitting on a dock, looking out at beautiful Lake Memphremagog in southern Quebec, and it got me thinking: “maybe it’s time I get off my fat ass and write something”.
So, here it goes… although you’ll have to excuse me if my fat ass remains firmly planted on this deck chair, overlooking picturesque Lake Memphremagog.
We are officially two weeks into our three-week tour of La Belle Province, and I must say, we are loving every minute of Quebec.
We landed in Montreal, but almost immediately made our way to the provincial capital of Quebec City. We stayed in the old city, inside the old walls and yes, it really does feel like the closest thing to Europe we have here in North America. Established in 1608, Quebec is indeed the oldest city on the continent and it is chalk full of tourists come summer time. The cobbled streets are packed with people, and we could definitely hear a lot of English being spoken. One of our tour guides begged us to please venture outside the “safety” of the old walls, or as he calls it, the tourist trap. He wants visitors to see the rest of the city and indeed the entire province, as much of the central touristy area of Quebec City is feeling more and more like a manufactured main street you might find at a Disney resort. But, that being said, it is still very charming and fun to explore.
We knew that staying in old Quebec City would be a safe haven for us English speakers. And, because we were saving Montreal (and it’s rather substantial Anglophone population) until the end of our trip, there would be a very large portion of our vacation where our obvious shortcomings speaking French could potentially become a serious issue.
So, has our lacklustre grasp of the French language been a big deal? Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why. One of our tour guides in Quebec City stressed that all the Québécois people are looking for is a little effort to speak the local language. So, we have all tried to kick off every conversation with a “Bonjour! Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?”
We have found that asking a Quebecer if he or she can speak English (in the most polite way possible) has yielded great results. They usually respond with “a little bit”, and then proceed to display a very solid grasp of the English language. Even when the chasm between the two sides was wide, they would usually find a way to bridge the gap and we have been very grateful for that.
I have to take a few minutes of your time to poke fun at my older brother, Mark. We are traveling with his family for the entire vacation, and he has developed a slightly annoying habit of speaking in a French accent when encountering a Quebecois whose English is less than perfect. For example, instead of simply saying “We are from Calgary, Alberta” in his normal voice, he will sound something like this:
“Weee AAAAAAre from CAL-gah-REEEEE, AAAAL-ber-TAAAAAH!”
Am I exaggerating his accent just a tad? Absolutely, but he refuses to stop, no matter how much I make fun of him. He seems to think people from Quebec will somehow understand English better if they hear it in a familiar French accent. Personally, I think it kinda-sorta comes off like mild mockery, but what do I know? Maybe he’s 100% correct! Nobody we’ve met seems to mind when he does it, so perhaps I’m just making something out of nothing.
Anyhoooo, after leaving the so-called tourist trap of Quebec City, we have tasted fancy jams on the Isle D’Orleans, zip-lined across Montmorency Falls, biked across Isle Aux Codres, dipped our toes into the cold waters of the St. Lawrence near Saint-Irene, went whale watching in Tadoussac, toured a decommissioned submarine in Rimouski, paddled various boats at a lake resort called Domaine Valga, hiked around rocky Bic National Park, visited the very educational Grosse Isle and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site, and finally ended up here… at gorgeous Lake Memphremagog near the Vermont border.
This part of the holiday is what we call “the vacation within the vacation”. After busting a move up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway, we have abandoned our hectic schedule to set up shop for a full week at a spacious lake house with all of the amenities. There are more bedrooms than we actually need, three, count ’em, three showers, a great dock, ample deck chairs, crystal-clear-warm-water, canoes and kayaks, and get this: a dry sauna. That was an unexpected bonus. We’ve been here for three days, and I’ve been feeling very relaxed. So relaxed that I finally decided to get off my twice-aforementioned fat ass and write something.
So, with three more full days of the “vacation within the vacation” to go, I’m looking forward to more sleeping in, more swimming, more booze and plenty more time in that sweet sauna before we hit the road for Montreal and begin the final, hectic leg of our Quebec adventure.
A week from now, we will be back in Calgary. That means a trip back to reality and the sinking realization that we are about three weeks away from the beginning of another crazy school year, complete with all of the kid stuff that comes with it… swimming, piano, volleyball, debate, basketball, hockey, soccer and then even more basketball,
And, oh yeah… I almost forgot. I also get to morph back into the international internet phenomenon known as Dad@Home once again.
It would seem a bloggers work is never done, (unless he’s on vacation.)