It’s official: I’m going on a pilgrimage to Quebec.
I’ve been wanting to visit Montreal and the old city for several years, but my plans were thwarted time and again. Over Christmas Eve dinner, my family was discussing the new year. I mentioned my dream. (Note: This year’s threat to vacation travel? Looming layoffs at the Young Human Factory.)
My parents responded with enthusiasm. They had gone to Montreal and Old Quebec years ago. They visited St. Anne de Beauprés after my father’s cancer surgery. Dad, hardly a religious man at the time, told us that the moment he stepped inside the basilica, he felt something coursing through him. My mother recounted the walks up and down the streets in the old walled city, the view atop the highest hill very beautiful. Both of them reminisced about cheap meals – sharing a sandwich outdoors, having fondue in a café.
And the kindness of the people – that’s a fond memory of their trip, too. Neither of my parents speak French, so my father used his usual people skills and my mother attempted to translate the street signs – quebecois being a French-kissing-cousin to Spanish – in addition to her usual navigator duties. (The fact that their trip was originally only to Montreal speaks volumes about those skills!)
One hears stories of French-Canadians being rude to English speakers. My parents never experienced it. In Montreal they stopped for a bite and a beer in a pub, and by the end of the meal, the owner himself offered to show them the sights on his day off. (Alas! They were leaving the next morning. What stories they might have had!)
Needless to say, they encouraged my bachelor brother and me to go. Mr. Bachelor was clearly not interested.
The following weekend, I had returned to La Casa de Tontería (The House of Nonsense to anglophiles). The first thing I read in the parish bulletin was the announcement about a pilgrimage this summer. Six days, five nights in Quebec – including lodging and 11 meals – only $555.
That afternoon I called the contact, then rang my childhood friend Tone. We are going to Quebec.
She put her vacation request in for August; she even started asking co-workers to take shifts. We are going to Quebec.
I dusted off the French-for-speakers-of-nonsense CDs and located the stash of Canadian money. Egads! A lot of it is PENNIES. But we are going to Quebec!
Stay tuned for further developments.