Thursday, September 25, 2014

O Canada!

I spent the last three days just over our northern border in a whole other country, one almost exactly like America only different. Being there is like looking into one of those dime-store mirrors that whittle away ten pounds; things are admittedly off, but better. For one thing, Canada already has the health care system in place we've all been whining about and wish we had. Sure you could die waiting for a colonoscopy, but you could also die waiting for a bus, so what's the big deal?

Anyone who has not been to Quebec City should go immediately. It's much closer than France, and in fact, it's close enough: The natives speak French, but unlike the French they love Americans, which is a good thing since there are tourists by the hundreds, especially during leaf-peeping season. During our brief visit a cruise ship docked and disgorged armies of white-haired retirees into the streets. The oldsters were everywhere, having a grand old time, and bringing to mind that wonderful movie, "Cocoon." (If they weren't both dead I'd swear I saw Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy at breakfast one morning.)

There are charming cafes with lace curtains in the windows and ancient, meandering, cobblestone streets bursting with interesting shops and art galleries. Everywhere you look, window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers and dripping with ivy transform the mundane into the memorable. Towering ornate churches and government buildings boasting stunning architecture are neighbors with rows of loaded cannons, reminders of the city's history as a natural fort on a hill. Canadian flags whipping in the winds coming off the St. Lawrence River make it all picture-perfect, so be sure to bring a camera--a real one, not that thing in your phone.

Mostly there is bread to die for. Really. The bread. If you are committed to being gluten free go elsewhere, since you will want it at every meal and you will eat it with abandon, smothered with the best butter you have ever tasted. Despite that, the Canadian citizens are not fatties like back home. We determined that this is because there are no supermarkets anywhere. We spent quite a bit of time trying to find even one and failed. (I am still wondering where the locals buy toilet paper, light bulbs and cat litter.)

There is a lot of fur. They put it on boots and bags, coats and scarves, hats and gloves, blankets and rugs. I assume it comes from dead animals of all kinds, so if you are a card-carrying member of PETA, steer clear. There are lots of moose references, their images plastered on signs warning you to watch out for them or printed on flannel pajamas, wooly socks, key chains, shot glasses, refrigerator magnets, leather wallets, t-shirts, note pads and coffee mugs.

It's all quite festive and woodsy, making you wish it were Christmas already and you were sipping a hot toddy in front of a crackling fire, or at the very least a cup of hot chocolate next to an electric heater. A final word of caution, and in fact, the only one: Never order poutine! You will see it on menus, but trust me--don't even try it. Besides that, go. You'll have a great time, I promise.


  1. Aw! A put-down of Poutine?
    What's bad about it, other than the fact that you put on 8 pounds every time you eat a plateful? :)

    1. Ted: I had high hopes for poutine! Maybe we just had it at the wrong place, or else we made wrong choices....there were all sorts of cheeses and gravy types and flavored toppings, and we didn't know what to pick. I guess I am open to another try, because it sure sounded like it would be good!

  2. Poutine was EVERYWHERE. They even had it at Burger King. :D