Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kickin' it in Quebec

I spent a lot of time during my trip to Ottawa going back and forth across the river that divides Ontario from Quebec, something that I imagine is routine for many of the city's residents. I was fascinated by the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences between the two provinces.

One of the most striking is the change of the dominant language to French. It's easy to forget about this coming from the west coast of the U.S. My first day at the office I went to grab lunch at a Gatineau mall food court. I went for all-American: A & W. As was the case everywhere I went in Canada, the restaurant staff greeted me kindly. "Bonjour," the clerk welcomed, "____ _____ __ ___ ______ __?"

I held up three fingers, "I'll have a number three," I slowly articulated.

"Do you want fries or onion rings with that?" she replied in perfect English. It was like the first days in my foreign-speaking mission, but with a safety net. I loved it.

There are five main bridges in Ottawa, and I think I got to go over at least four. This one, the Pont Alexandra, is right across from Parliament and is great for walking. I was startled by the width of the river. It took me somewhere from 10 to 15 minutes to get across.

The Quebecois city across the river from Ottawa is called Gatineau. It's made up of several neighborhoods. The one you hit when you cross Pont Alexandra is called Hull. It contains a few sprawling federal office complexes, built by the Canadian government to distribute jobs to the Quebec side of the river.

You can tell you're in Quebec because the stop lights become horizontal and they have all kinds of options. The lights actually have two reds, I guess to tell you that you really need to stop (Californians take note). Then there's yellow, green, blinking green (!), sideways green arrow, straight green arrow, etc.

I have French Canadian ancestors who lived a few hours east of Ottawa and I felt a great pull to the Quebec side of the river. Although work committments prevented me from making the trip out to their exact homeland, I did get to see a portion of Parc de la Gatineau, a massive forested recreation area north of the Ottawa metro area. This is Lac Pink. Guess how you say that in English.

This trail to a waterfall reminded me of scenes from Mormon history in upstate New York. I imagine the forested Quebec landscape is similar to that near the Sacred Grove.

No one was on this waterfall trail and the excursion was very quiet and peaceful with clean, clear air. Just what a Southlander needs once in a while...

1 comment:

Josh said...

Quebec looks like a beautiful place. I have a mission companion from Quebec who was always trying to get me to come visit. No wonder there is so much pride in the country.