I’ve finally completed Ontario and entered the beautiful, culturally rich, and historic land of the Francophones. Quite peculiar that I’ve just completed half the provinces while about three quarters complete by kilometres and time. That’s Canada for ya…
A lazy blogging Wednesday transitioned into dinner with Second Cousin Patrick, my third of four Ottawa visitees when I’d initially anticipated just one.
Thursday I decided I must catch a parliament tour before leaving town. Tours open at 9 so I figured I’d go at 8:45 to avoid lengthy lineups. Not early enough apparently – two blocks of sidewalk already invaded by eager tourists! By 10:15 I’d reached the front, meaning it was my turn to decide between English and French. No-brainer, of course I’d choose the Engl-
“The next English tour with available spots is at 1:45. Or you can attend the French one at 10:40.”
“Un pour le Francais, sil vous plait.”
So I got to hear a bunch of French while taking a bunch of pictures! I picked up very little, but did get the important stuff: We toured the House Of Commons, Senate, and library, and no, Mr. Trudeau doesn’t live there.
With speculations on what the guide was describing and no time to waste, I continued to the home of Camilla (aka Grandma Cupcake or Mrs. Nightingale) to eat English scone lunch while speaking English and enjoying her English accent. I felt very English.
I then branched off my root, petalling over the bridge to check out the “Mosaicanada 150” horticulture sculptures in Gatineau, Quebec. While security was garden the entrance, with $0 admission it was beyond dirt cheap. They even had washrooms so I didn’t soil myself before leafing. Given the chance, I wood surely go bark!
Friday I finally crossed into Quebec – for good this time, not just to sap selfies and pine for puns. All along I’d hoped for a Montreal weekend, and with a long day in the saddle my wish was granted.
I got to stay with Uncle’s-Cousin’s-Son Ted, now my most distant relative visited (Maybe some sort of second-cousin-in-law?), along with Roommate Sydney and Girlfriend Birdie.
“Montreal Must-Eats” stats:
Poutine x4: One regular at Poutine Fest, one tater tot at Poutine Fest, one Montreal smoked meat at Poutine Fest, and one regular at Montreal Poutine.
Montreal smoked meat sandwich x3: One at Schwartz’s, one super at Fameux Viande Fumeé et Charcuterie, one super at Lester’s. “Super” just means they load in more meat, increasing difficulty of sandwich conservation and therefore making fork and knife mandatory.
Montreal style bagel sandwich x1: ham and Brie at Hinnawi bros.
Oh, and the non-food aspects of Montreal are pretty neat too. The city isn’t just buzzing, it’s buzzing loudly and constantly. Kind of like the sound on game shows when they get the answer wrong, but in a good way.
I cycled up Mont Royal – no coincidence that it sounds like Montreal, as Jacques Cartier first named the small mountain and eventually the city took its very similar name.
Basked in the architectural beauty of the Basilique Notre-Dame.
Late in the afternoon I noticed a slow leak in my back tire. Pulled over, started pumping, and the tube fully deflated due to a tear in the valve. No problem, I’ll just pop in a new tube and get back on track. I generally carry two spare tubes, but had just used one before Montreal – and discovered then and there that my second was a Schrader valve, not a Presta that my rims require.
29km from the nearest bike shop in Trois-Rivieres. What could I do… Duct tape my tube to ride the 29km?
Better idea, super glue. It actually worked! Still with a slow leak, I rode to the bike shop and only had to re-pump once. It was closed, but I found a grassy spot to pitch my tent a couple blocks away and returned in the morning to pick up a new tube – and two extras, which I triple-checked were also the correct size and type.
A full Tuesday of riding connected me with Friends Of Family Friends Gerry and Caroline, my Levis hosts who met me just before Quebec City to cycle together.
Wednesday was yet another rest day as I explored Quebec City, navigating in and out of its walls and partaking in a Quebec Citadel tour.
Wifi/Wordpress struggles… Quebec City photos may be captioned later.
Since entering Quebec, I’ve taken every chance to practice French, knowing the further I go the less likely I’ll get by with English. Nearly every interaction goes as follows: I open with French. They answer in French. I don’t quite pick up on it and look confused. They switch to English, smiling and appreciative that I still try but assuring me that English is okay too.
This marks the end of a three and a half week stretch packed with visits where I didn’t camp more than one night at a time. I’m bound for Gaspé, indulging in a stretch of coastline many have informed me is very scenic. As the legs keep spinning through French Canada, hopefully I can get more French thoughts spinning through my head!