New Thing #107: Quebec City

Welcome_To_QuebecI told you last week that I was going to Canada. Quebec City, to be precise.

I had a great time, and I'm coming back with a ton of New Things to tell you about.

I suspected going in that I was going to enjoy myself, mostly because here's something you probably didn't know about me:

I have loved Quebec from afar for quite some time.

In 1995, the Rangers played the Nordiques in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. I don't know why I remember this so clearly...maybe because it was the follow-up to their Stanley Cup championship and I was watching closely to see if they could win back-to-back titles.

I attended one of the games at Madison Square Garden, and watched the other games in New York and Quebec on the MSG Network. And when the Rangers were in Quebec, as they bumped back in from commercial, MSG would show beauty shots of Quebec.

They were the single most impressive beauty shots of any city I've ever seen on any sporting event.

That sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not.

So one of my goals on this trip was to see if Quebec in reality lived up to the beautiful city I had built it up to be in my mind for 18 years.

I'm here to tell you it did.

Quebec_Street_ShotNone of my pictures quite captured the exact image I had in my head from those MSG telecasts in '95, but all of my pictures convey the beauty of that city.

The cobblestone streets, the old-fashioned shops and storefronts...I felt like I was walking through a Disney cartoon town. ('Beauty and the Beast', if we're being specific.)

So the beauty of the city alone helped it live up to my expectations. But then there was its history - there are elements of Quebec's history (and its relationship with England) that dovetail nicely with the Boston history that I love so much. (Though I admit even after three days of learning about Quebec's history I don't know that I have a great handle on it.)

I also enjoyed (and this was really unexpected) having the chance to learn a little bit of a new language. First of all: I kind of felt like a dolt in Quebec, where so many people are fluent in both French and English, needing to make them speak my language because I didn't know theirs. But, to my credit, I tried.

See, I took Spanish my whole life. I went on this trip to help chaperone...but I don't know a word of French. What I discovered, though, was that immersion is amazing...I worked really hard to listen to conversations and use context to figure out what was going on around me. I got OK after three days at picking up here and there what people were saying, and I could read things like street signs or menus...but I was helpless when it came to speaking French. I can not get the pronunciations or the inflections. It was an important learning experience for me as a teacher about how the brain processes information. (My most fun immersion experience was back in the hotel Sunday night, with the Canadian broadcast of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game. I spent most of my time reading the crawl in French rather than listening to the announcers, but picked up that a home run was a 'complet circuit' [I might have that backwards], abbreviated 'cc' in the box score. And I interpreted that Johnny Cueto was placed on the disabled list [la liste des blesses] with a shoulder [epaule] injury.)

I did a lot. I don't know how much I'm going to write about - I could have two weeks' worth of New Things to share...maybe I'll spread them out, maybe I'll write about them for a couple of weeks straight...I'm not sure yet. But I will share them all.

They're not exactly New Things I sought out on my own. They sort of happened to me because of the trip's itinerary. But they were New Things nonetheless, and I enjoyed them all.

Nordiques_GlassThe last thing I bought there was a souvenir for me. (Don't worry, I took care of my family first.) It was a mason jar glass, which I thought was perfect because I was in Canada, after all. (At least, I think a mason jar glass is appropriate to Canada.) And it was decorated with the logo of the Quebec Nordiques, which I saw in almost every shop throughout the trip. When I did, I knew I had to get something with that logo, because that's the reason I knew anything about Quebec in the first place.

The biggest endorsement I have for Quebec is that I can't wait to go back. I want to visit with my family. And between now and then maybe I'll get myself a French-English dictionary and start practicing saying a few of those words.