A Look Back to Quebec (Not a Poem)

by Marinka on August 20, 2008

While I am on vacation, eating my weight in oceanic delicacies (wait, does that sound like I just ate Ariel, the beloved Little Mermaid? Because that is so not where I was going with this), glugging beer as though I have been wandering in the desert for the past forty years, I am recycling a travelogue that I wrote last fall, about a romantical weekend getaway that my husband and I took to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Even though I wrote it a almost a year ago, I re-wrote bits of it to make it more blog-o-rific. It’s like I’m some sort of saint or something. Perhaps a Saint Bernard.

Monsieur Marinka and I went on a mini-vacation for Quebec for the weekend. And it was great!

Quebec is absolutely gorgeous and I suspect that the fall is the exactly right time to go. Everything was pretty much perfect, with a few minor exceptions that I will make mountains out of through the art of exaggeration. To minimize boredom, I will avoid mentioning any of the perfect parts because as Tolstoy said, “all happy families are boring and no one wants to read about them.” I may be paraphrasing, but I think he had a strong point. At least as paraphrased by me. And as a further aside, did you know that “Tolstoy” means “fat” in Russian? Shouldn’t his name be translated as well, not just his books? Just an idea that I am throwing out there, totally free of charge. Anyway. Back to Quebec. Or Whatbec, as I like to call it.

First of all, I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under, but I was really shocked by how everyone speaks French all the time and how awkward their English is. Yes, I know that I have a lot of nerve commenting, especially since my French has already been exhausted by the “monsieur” in the first sentence above (and plus I had to use spell check for it!) But still. This is my travelogue, so I get to be snide! Besides, everyone knows that English is great and French is weird. Perhaps that’s another post.

We went to a bookstore and it was very surreal because all the books were in French (duh!) and I kept asking my husband what the titles were. I made a point that this is probably what illiterate people feel like in bookstores, although maybe they don’t spend that much time in bookstores. Or writing and reading blogs. Hey, I bet it’s a real timesaver, this illiteracy gig!

Everyone we encountered was friendly and nice. They were mostly nice to Monsieur in French because, you know, he speaks it. Like the woman checking us in at the hotel told him lengthy things in French, which he translated to me as “the room will be ready shortly”. In truth, I think that she was telling him trip-enhancing things that I was not privy to, and that would deprive me of much deserved joy, but there is a slight chance that I am a touch paranoid. Is that what you think, too? That I am paranoid? Did anyone else mention that?

We went to a fancy-shmancy restaurant that is known for game! I got to tell you, I’m not sure what I expected by “game”, but when the chef brought out an amuse bouche (“an amusement for the mouth”, or as I like to call it “the amusement for the chef to watch your reaction”—catchy, no? I’m thinking of copyrighting it!) that was venison tartare, with dried blueberries, I was making the international gagging sound. I am not an adventurous eater, and asking me to eat raw Bambi is tantamount to declaring war on the United States. And why would Canada want to risk that? WHY?

But I ate it . And I’m trying my best to suppress the memory. It was one of those things that is best enjoyed by swallowing whole, so that the mouth doesn’t make contact with the texture and that the taste buds are not engaged. Really, just close your eyes and think of England.

The waiter spoke English to me and it was mildly to moderately painful for both of us. But also adorable. For example, I ordered an appetizer and he said “there is something that I must tell you right now about the appetizer that you ordered. It is not available, because the gentleman over there is eating it now. But please feel welcome to order other appetizers that people have not yet eaten.” Also, when he was describing the cocktails, I immediately ordered the first one because again, the descriptions—“The essence of chamomile is having a wedding with nectar of the apple from the apple tree, with an introduction of the vodka.” Ahh, he had me at “vodka”. I would have ordered pretty much anything to make him stop talking. It’s an incredibly effective waitering technique, now that I think about it.

Anyway, we also did some historical-cultural things, but in the interests of not boring you to a near-coma state, I’ll spare you the details. It is interesting, though, that it takes me one quarter of the time to go through a museum that it takes my husband. I think it’s because I’m so sophisticated that I “get” culture right away and don’t need to linger in front of each piece for a long time, appreciating it. Besides, the hotel had the E! channel and I was anxious to rush back and find out if that whore Britney got her kids back.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Quart August 20, 2008 at 3:13 am

I think “Whatbec” also counts as French.


Kate August 20, 2008 at 6:28 am

This was great – you should make it a regular feature. I’ve been to Quebec and could relate to the food story. I’m not very adventurous myself (at least not when it comes to meat). I had a similar experience in Iceland (where they eat Puffins – and Horses).

Oh wait! Also in Beijing (I’m really not as much of a world traveler as I’m making this sound – I’ve just been on few cool trips). At a group dinner, I asked the waiter what a specific dish was and he said something that sounded like “Day-Tah-Dah.” I made him repeat it several time and he definitely said day-tah-dah. To me, “Tah Dah!” usually heralds something fantastic – so I gave it a try. Not so much – turns out day-tah-dah meant “dear tendon.” My other advice about food in China: try to avoid things that “jiggle”.


Melissa August 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

You were very brave doing French food at all. There’s a lot of mold and all. Scary.


Vodka Mom August 20, 2008 at 12:29 pm

So, you’ve been frenched….


KJJ August 20, 2008 at 5:33 pm

I was in Quebec City last week. Is it egocentric of me to believe that I inspired this post? You knew about it. You said you had a great time and hoped I would too. I see now that you were probably having sex.

I was not. I was with my mother and a bunch of librarians. We were not having sex.

But I did have a great time although not as much great food as I would’ve liked. Thankfully, I do speak French so I could avoid things like tartare.

I would love to hear more. I’m too lazy to write my own travelogue so it’d be fun to live through yours.



Marinka August 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Quart–Yes, I agree. I am very multi-lingual. Viola.

Kate–it’s hard for me not to see you as a world traveller. Eeww, tendon! (or, if I were to appear more sophisticated, mmm….tendon…)

Melissa–thank you for recognizing my bravery. It’s heroic, isn’t it?

VodkaMom–that sounds obscene. I love it!

KJJ- SEX? we’ve only been married for 10 years, what kind of a whore do you think I am?


MomMega August 20, 2008 at 9:23 pm

We recently ate at a restaurant that offered a whole game platter! I had the filet.


anymommy August 20, 2008 at 11:21 pm

You had me at the Mermaid bit in the first sentence! Your raw deer sounds a lot like an experience I had with octopus in the Pacific. “Cooked” in lemon juice. Let me spell it out for you since the Pacific Islanders thought I was insane: Cooking involves fire. Soaking in lemon juice = marinating, which is only a precursor to cooking.

Whew! I always feel better when I vent in your comments.


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