There's nothing like going to a foreign country to make you appreciate your own.
There's the language stumbling block. You have to deal with the "You spoiled Americans" attitude. The funny money where what looks like spare change is actually two-dollar coins. And where ice water is just a meaningless phrase.
Welcome to Canada!
Mike and I had been there nearly 23 years ago for our honeymoon. We flew up then. This time, we drove. And there's nothing like knowing if "ouest" mean east or west, or if "conduisez prudemment" means anything to add to the driving excitement.
Cara, the straight A French student, was a little help. And by that, I mean "almost no help." She claims Canadian French is different than French French. She can trick me with that because the only French I know is "Sacre bleu!" (which means "a sack of bleu cheese," and is shouted by appreciative hockey fans who then launch the stuff onto the ice during games.)
It would have been nice to know how to say, "It's hotter than hell in here; why don't you have air conditioning??" But I think the sheen of sweat that perpetually covered my face said it for me. Quebec has a European sensibility in that its people think A.C. is not for them. Just because it's 96 degrees and humid as a muck swamp is no reason to expect air conditioning. It's summer! Just open the windows. And sweat. You spoiled Americans.
Us: "Well, can we have ice water?"
Waitress: "Of course."
After 5 minutes, receive glasses of ice-less water.
Us: "Can we get ice for the water?"
Waitress, shrugging one shoulder: "Eet melts."
I sound like I didn't enjoy the trip. And despite all the "getting lost" and "breaking up fights" and "hemorrhaging boatloads of money" going to Quebec was really great. And not just because there was a summer festival going on with street performers everywhere, and live bands like Arcade Fire, Rush and the Black Eyed Peas playing every night, their music floating over the whole city. Not just because I got to experience firsts, like eating rabbit pie. Not just because we crossed a footbridge high above the Canyon Ste. Anne waterfall and I didn't have a heart attack.
It was great not just because there's history at every turn. Not just because they speak English when they realize you can't speak French.
Quebec was great because of all the memories it brought back. No not honeymoon memories. Of growing up without air conditioning... or crushed ice in our water.