Bonjour Canada!

10 Jul

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Today, after a two day drive, we finally get to hop on the bikes!  A trip to Canada to tackle Le P’tit Train du Nord has been something we’ve daydreamed about for a long time.  And it’s finally here! The P’tit train du Nord (the little train of the North) is a converted rails to trails, 200 kilometers long (124 miles).  It is rated as one of the best bicycle trails in North America. The old railway bed that the trail was built upon, was closed in the late 1980’s.  The trail is relatively flat, which is quite impressive considering that it winds its way through the Laurentian Mountains, but more on the trail later…

We left home a little before 4:00 am and made it all the way to Hamilton, Ontario, crossing the border in Detroit.  The border crossing was easy.  It only took about twenty minutes to move ahead in the car lane until it was our turn to speak to the officer.  We passed him our passports, he asked where we were from and why we were coming to Canada.  We answered satisfactorily and he barely made eye contact with us before clearing us to pass.  We were warned by one of the workers at the Michigan welcome center that the crossing back into the US will not be as easy.  She said, we’ve had some trouble in the US, Canada has not…

Our first night was spent in Hamilton, Ontario.  We checked in to our B and B and the innkeeper made reservations for our dinner while we unloaded our bags and stored our bikes in the walk-in basement.  Hamilton is on the Niagara escarpment and is home to 100 waterfalls!  We were able to enjoy one of them. The restaurant where we ate dinner was a converted historic mill built right beside a large stream with a tall waterfall running right along side it.  The mill was a beautiful ivy covered building, reminiscent of  one you might see in England.

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We enjoyed a delicious breakfast the next morning, prepared by the innkeeper,  and we were ready to go. We left Hamilton, drove through Toronto then Ottawa, and finally left the main highway for a little two-lane country road that brought us to tonight’s destination.

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We are staying in a B and B called Auberge Le Sainte-Boheme.  We had no trouble whatsoever while we were in Ontario.  In fact, when we crossed the border, the first thing we saw was a McDonald’s and a Dollar Tree.  All of the road signs were in English and French.  You would have a hard time knowing you were out of the US based on the businesses in the area. But when we crossed into Quebec, it was a different story.  All the road signs are in French and very few of the businesses have English wording. We have not become very adept at converting kilometers per hour to miles per hour, but Jimmy is getting quicker.

Lunch was a welcome break from the driving when we found a place beside the river and were able to be seated outdoors.  The temperature is a delightful 75 degrees with no humidity! We noticed poutine on the menu, and had to order this Canadian staple! Poutine consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy.  It was actually delicious.  Not a combination I would have thought of, but it worked!

Back on the road for more driving after lunch, then we finally arrived.  We pulled into the B and B, got out of the car and found the entrance to the inn.  The entry way opened into a small dining room where several people were enjoying the evening meal.

The server looked in our direction, acknowledged us, then said something very rapidly in French as she walked our way.  She stopped in front of me and said another rapid French phrase that seemed to end in a question.  I froze like a deer in the headlights.  All of my French words and phrases were gone!  And at that moment, it seemed everyone in the restaurant, paused, mid-bite, with food on their forks to listen to the exchange that was to follow.  Jimmy (always to my rescue) stepped up beside me and boldly said, “Hello, we are here to check in”.  (He didn’t even try one French word!) The hostess  said something else very rapidly in French, then turned and walked away.  She came back with the owner (we learned later).  He came straight to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Do you speak French?”  I shook my head no, with a very sorry look on my face. He said, “Well I do not speak English, so we have a problem.”  (Bear in mind, this was all spoken in English, lol) He then cracked a big smile, and in broken English, welcomed us and took us upstairs to show us our room.  At that point, those in the dining room were able to resume their meal.

We were given a cozy little room with a tiny balcony overlooking the front of the property and a postage stamp sized bathroom but there is something so charming about this place!  It’s an old farmhouse built in the early 1900’s.  Michel, the owner, told us to come down for dinner whenever we were ready.

When we went down for dinner, the lady that had greeted us, and by now knew we didn’t know a lick of French, pointed to a table for two, indicating that we should sit there. She came out with the menus (which were completely in French) spoke some French words to us and left.  I used the Google translate app on my phone and we tried our best to decipher each menu item.  This took quite a bit of time.  She came back, tried to talk to us in French again, realized it was futile and left, saying the word “chef “as she went. I knew that word, so there was hope!

A young man in a chef’s uniform came out to the table and said, “I understand we have a little translation problem”.  I smiled and said, “we have a big translation problem”.  He smiled and said, “No, we will call it a little problem.”  He then started at the top of the menu, pronounced every menu item in French, then in near perfect English, explained in great detail, what each meant, even going as far as to tell us how they would prepare it in the kitchen.  He took a great deal of time with us and it made our meal that much more enjoyable having been fully informed of everything we were about to eat.

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The menu offering on weekends is a multi-course meal, so when the waitress returned to take our order, she looked at me to go first.  Since the chef had pronounced everything in French, then explained what it meant in English, I decided the courteous thing to do was to at least take a stab at the French pronunciations .  I wanted her to know that I respected the French language, so as I pointed to each course on the menu, I did my very best at pronouncing as I went.  I’ll be honest, she seemed to have a bit of trouble understanding me.  She even chuckled and corrected me more than once.  How much easier could I make it?  I was pointing directly at the words I was pronouncing?  Jimmy on the other hand, didn’t even put forth much effort at all.  He didn’t point to any words.  His menu choices sounded like this, “Caesar” (that means he wants the Caesar salad), “Hot” (that means he wants the soup that is hot, not the cold one I ordered when she corrected my pronunciation of  froide, which does not rhyme with Sigmund Freud, it means cold and is pronounced “fwah”. ) When he got to the entree choice, he simply said “Pork”.  Nothing French sounding about that, yet she smiled and nodded approvingly, and appeared to appreciate someone who didn’t, try to fake it.  To me, he was beginning to sound like Briscoe Darling on the Andy Griffith Show, when he was eating dinner and was letting Aunt Bea know they were running low on food, Meat!, Taters!. Good grief!  The last choice he had to make was dessert.  We had the choice of Creme Brûlée, Citron (lemon) tart, or fruit.  He says, “Pie” and bingo, she smiles and says Merci.  By golly, she brought him the tart when he ordered pie!

It was a delicious meal, and after we were all done, the English speaking chef came back out and we enjoyed talking to him for quite some time. He told us he had worked at the inn for 15 years, having first been a plumber, then an electrician!  But he loves what he’s doing now, and it shows in the quality of the food.  It was a good day, and we are looking forward to the next.  Au Revoir! (Good bye!)

 

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6 Responses to “Bonjour Canada!”

  1. Marcela July 10, 2017 at 8:17 am #

    Wow! I loved your pics and post. I went to Toronto with my wife a couple of years ago, and we loved it. It felt like being in the US because everybody spoke English. If we decide to go to the area you visited, I will do my best to brush up on my French, which to be quite honest consists of one of two words.

  2. Dusty July 10, 2017 at 8:51 am #

    God Bless you for taking the time to write this!! I feel as tho I was right there with you. Praying for a continuing safe trip and looking foforward to your next post. PS Niagara on the Lake is one of my most favorite places!!

  3. Sarah July 10, 2017 at 9:13 am #

    This gave me quite a laugh. I can picture you and dad now 😂 keep trying with the French! ;)

    • Deb July 10, 2017 at 9:24 am #

      Oh believe me, I will! Not sure about dad!

  4. lisa July 11, 2017 at 8:19 am #

    I see Jimmy is rocking his Cloverton shirt! Oh, the places it has gone. This was such a fun read. Remind me to tell you about fwah when you get home.

    • Deb July 11, 2017 at 9:05 am #

      Will do!

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