Tuesday, July 3, 2018

8 Things I Learned in Québec City

When you don't often get away for a no-kids trip with your spouse, you learn a few things

While vacationing with my husband in Québec City for our 15th anniversary, I learned that there's still no one I'd rather have fun with than Phillip. I also learned these 8 things.

You Climb a Ton of Hills

I had no idea Québec City was so hilly. All over the city, these signs were spraypainted on the sidewalks telling you when you were coming up on a flight of stairs:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

It would've been more efficient to tell us when there WEREN’T stairs. If you aren’t going uphill in Québec City, then you’re going downhill. We climbed so many steps. After a while it just stopped being surprising.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This doesn't look that tall, until you try to find the tiny guy at the bottom and I tell you I was halfway down the stairs when I took this.

Sometimes there were iron railings bolted into the sidewalks to keep people from careening down the hills and into the St. Lawrence river and/or a tourist shop selling wool hats made from Alpacas.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
In winter I'm sure this is totally fine.

French Canadians Are Nice and French is Hard

Everywhere we went, clerks and waiters greeted us with “bonsoir” and when we smiled vapidly and responded “hello,” they didn’t treat us disdainfully or like we were morons (to our faces, anyway.) 

Without skipping a beat they just spoke to us in whatever English they knew. Which, most of the time, was pretty good. Though I did like the lady who told us tours started the next day at “eight and a half in the morning.”

I decided that while I may not be able to understand French, maybe I could at least figure out how to pronounce the things I saw on street signs. I spent a lot of time Googling French pronunciation and it was ridiculously hard to wrap my mind around. 

It didn't help that our GPS had no idea we were in French Canada and just continued pronouncing every street name as if it were English. Even I thought she sounded like an idiot, and that’s saying something.

I’m Capable of Sleeping a Lot

Maybe one day, when the kids are grown Phillip and I will be the couple on vacation who is hitting up the eight-and-a-half A.M. tour, but right now when we get on vacation without the kids all we want to do is sleeeeeeeeep.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This mid-afternoon nap on the Plains of Abraham may seem lazy but it's not; it's a siesta, which is a totally sophisticated thing they do in other countries.

Every night, we were in bed by 10 and thanks to the superior blackout curtains in our hotel room, slept for a solid 8 to 11 hours every night. 

Which made for some groggy and kind of weird days, but we adjusted and started looking less like zombies every day. 

There is a Royal Goat

On a tour of the Citadelle in Old Québec, we learned some interesting things about the military history of Canada and the Royal 22nd Regiment stationed there. Including that they have a royal goat.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This is where it would come in handy to have kids along who'd want to pose in these things.

The goat's name is Batisse. Batisse the First was a gift from the Queen of England, just like Batisse the Second, Third, and Fourth. After the fourth one died, the queen sent over a male and female goat which means there's currently a royal goat family in Canada, and I'm wondering what is even the point of America now.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Batisse in action, since the Changing of the Guard ceremony occurred before our morning wake-up time of 10:30

I Can Eat a Lot of Good Food

Even though I was excited to come home and see the kids, it was difficult to say goodbye to the creperies and boulangeries to which I’d become accustomed. 

(Of course, the menus were in French so regrettably we were reduced to ordering using the point-and-grunt method. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to learn French pronunciation.)

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This is what the light and flaky kiss of an angel looks like.

Check out our last dinner before heading back:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
You can't tell me you wouldn't be at least a little sad leaving this behind.

Even when we stopped for a quick breakfast at Cora on the way out of town in the morning, which is basically the Denny’s of Canada as far as I could tell, the food was pretty darn fancy.

The City Is Filled with Interesting Stuff to Look At

Québec City is relatively small, but there is no shortage of interesting scenery. Some days, all we did was walk around looking at stuff. There were cathedrals:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Does my flying buttress look big in this?

And statues:
#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
"Jean-Pierre, if I've told you once I've told you a hundred times: STAY OUT OF THE STREET!"

And woodworking shops where they make handcrafted wooden gnomes:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I joke but we actually brought home one of these little guys as a thank-you gift for Phillip's mom for watching the kids.

Things are really old there, as evidenced by a banner that (I think) said Québec City is celebrating its 410th birthday, and this tree in a churchyard in Old Québec that had almost completely engulfed a tombstone:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
You can see two more in the background if you look closely.

There were all kinds of unique things to see in the city including tons of unusual graffiti:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

And people who did cool things to their houses:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
You are looking at a garage door painted like a zebra with thousands of metal flowers screwed into the wall above it. Why? I have no idea.

And then just 20 minutes outside the city, there was Jacques-Cartier National Park, where we alternately were eaten by mosquitoes and took in views like these:

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
In the park, we also saw these birds that soared through the air like majestic hawks but made a sound like me trying to yell at my kids with a gigantic swig of water I haven't yet swallowed. I’m curious what kind of birds they were but I'm at a loss for Google search terms.

Church is the Same Everywhere

When I say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same everywhere, I usually mean that I belong to a worldwide church that teaches the same doctrines no matter where you go. But in this case, I mean it literally: Phillip and I bumped into a couple from our home ward, not once but twice, on separate days in different locations!

Then on Sunday, we attended a French-speaking congregation that happened to be just a few blocks from our hotel. It was so close we could have walked there, were it not for our difficulty getting up in the morning.

The only other time I’ve been in a non-English speaking ward was in Aruba, but that time Phillip could translate for me because he knows Spanish and Papiamento. This time, we were left to our own devices. 

The first speaker was a missionary and I could tell he wasn't a native speaker, because his French was clearer. I still didn't understand him, but I could have at least repeated the sounds he was making. I had no idea about the second guy. I also sang some very unconvincing hymns in French (at least the tunes were familiar from home) and Phillip got the easier job of playing piano because he saw that their accompanist was out of town and volunteered to fill in.

Ziplining Over a Waterfall Isn’t as Scary as It Sounds

We weren’t planning on going to Montmorency Falls just 10 minutes outside of Québec City, primarily because we didn’t know it existed, but having learned about it at a Canadian history museum over a place where we got milkshakes one day, we decided to go take a look at it.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The thing is, there's a zipline across the top and Phillip is an adrenaline junkie at heart. I wasn't crazy about the idea, mostly because I get vertigo at the top of the stairs at home, but I saw some 10-year-old girls coming off the zipline so I figured if they can do it, I can do it. And I did it.

#4: There is a royal goat.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

All in all, it was an amazing trip and I really loved going to Québec City. Now my kids say they want to go with us next time. Which we actually might consider, since my daughters are taking French in school and can probably order us crepes with considerably less pointing and grunting.

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AnneMarie said...

WOW! This place just sounds cooler and cooler. You had me at "goat family."

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to Quebec City but have been to Montreal. I was very unprepared for the french speaking natives. I mean I knew it was a french speaking city but, in my ignorance and arrogance, I assumed that meant most folks probably spoke french fluently as their SECOND language. So there was a learning curve for sure. Not that I learned french, rather I learned quickly that I could not assume everyone spoke English because many did not. Beautiful city complete with an underground city of mall like tunnels that connect most of the city so you never have to go outside! This is due to the severe winters. Anyway, loved your comments and highly recommend Montreal in the next 15 years! - Kathy Young

Ann-Marie Ulczynski said...

I’m glad you had such a good time! It looks like a beautiful city. Brian and I have our first solar trip in almost 8 years coming up and I am so looking forward to it, but mostly the SLEEP.

Jenny Evans said...

I thought that both French AND English were official languages in Quebec so I assumed all the signs would have small English translations under them. They did not.

Montreal is on our list! We would love to go there soon.

Jenny Evans said...

Enjoy every minute of it. Put your phones on airplane mode, pull the blackout curtains, and sleep until you simply can't sleep anymore. It's the only way to vacation.