And then on the way up on the first day, we stopped at a mall food court on the other side of the Canadian border.
It was my first genuine French-speaking experience - the mall was not a tourist stop, so people were not catering to English speakers.
I was thrown - I felt uncomfortable, I didn't know what to do or what to say.
I recognized the signs for poutine at the A&W shop.
And that's when I remembered that I was going to try at least one new food on the trip.
I did not have poutine at A&W. (There were a couple of fast food-type places I was hoping to try in Canada, but didn't have the chance. Prime among them was Tim Horton's - I at least wanted to try a coffee there, but no dice. A&W [you know, like the root beer] looks like a kind of Woolworth's, or Friendly's...a burger-in-a-booth-type place. I don't know if there are any of those in the U.S. None around here anyway.)
Wikipedia says poutine is "a typical Canadian dish (originally from Quebec) made with french fries, topped with brown gravy and curd cheese."
'Les Trois Garcons' is kind of a slightly upscale burger place, so I have a feeling their version of poutine is intentionally a little different.
The picture I saw at the A&W had fries slathered in gravy and cheese. As you can see in my picture above, there's some, but not a lot of, gravy in the poutine I had, as well as some cubes of cheese. It's a neater form of what I guess I expected - less sloppy.
It was very good...but I think I'll withhold final judgment on poutine until I have it from a few different places.
As for that mall experience? I had an excellent steak and cheese wrap at some sandwich place. I had to take a leap into my discomfort and communicate with someone who spoke a different language than me...and I was in the minority.
It was a great tone-setter for the trip for me. And it came at the perfect time for me - because a new cultural experience is the perfect thing for someone trying his hand at some new things.