Sunday, June 04, 2006

Je parle Québecois

I spent the long Memorial weekend in Québec, half of the time in Montréal and the other half in Québec city. Many things reminded me of Catalonia. Graffiti with independentist slogans painted on some walls, the notorious absence of the Canadian flag even in some public buildings, the seamless mixture of French and English in most public places (similar to the coexistence of Catalan and Spanish in Catalonia).
My perception is that in Montréal more English is spoken than French. When I arrived, I was so excited because I thought I was going to use my French and show off in front of my wife and kids, but the reality is that I mostly used English, since everyone spoke English better than me. The city is a bit disappointing, not much to see and with a waterfront that requires a serious face-lift. I also found prices extremely expensive, not only because we went there without any type of reservations, I always make last minute decisions that I pay dearly, but my impression is that they kind of rip off the tourists.
Québec city is different. I highly recommend to go and visit it. It is the only city in North America (US or Canada) where the colonizers build beautiful permanent structures. The old buildings and alleys are fantastic. You could be in any historical European city. In addition to the wonderful atmosphere, French is spoken throughout, or at least Québecois, the variety of French spoken there that requires quite some additional effort to understand. But I managed. And people were nice to me.
However I started to realize how Americanized my family and I are getting. We missed some of the conveniences that we have in the States, and we even became upset because we did not find any open pharmacy where to buy diapers at midnight. When we finally crossed the border to Vermont and the immigration office told us some nice and funny words, we felt back home.