Mais oui, mes amis
Coffee drinkers sit under the red awnings of La Grande Terrasse on lively Place Jacques-Cartier in old-town Montreal. Street performers toss fire batons and French gossip floats on the breeze, but there’s no posh Parisian diction here.
French-Canadian is slurred and laden with diphthongs, as if spoken with a yawn.
In nearby bistros, relaxed businessmen with rolled-up sleeves tuck into entrecotes rather than Canadian-style steaks. Jaunty red signs point to streets with names such as Saint-Pierre and Notre-Dame.
Visitors get a two-for-one deal in eastern Canada, a holiday destination that hesitates over languages and cultural outlooks. The British changed the balance of power with a decisive battle in Quebec City in 1759, but the French never really went away.
Montreal is the biggest French-speaking city in the world after Paris. English-speaking Ottawa is conjoined with French-speaking Gatineau across its river.
Quebec City disorients Anglophones with French street signs, supermarket goods, and hotel taps marked with a C for chaud, not cold, and therefore burn the unwary.
Quebec City was founded in 1608 by French traders. Pedestrian Rue du Petit-Champlain is North America’s oldest commercial street, though its chief business these days is retailing moose toys and maple syrup.
Vieux-Port cafes are plastered with retro Gauloises cigarette posters and serve frites and mussels with tornup hunks of baguette to soak up the juices. Its upper town, Haute-Ville, has lashings of historic charm.
Rue du Tresor, hung with paintings by street artists, looks uplifted from the Left Bank of Paris. Dufferin Terrace’s ironwork pavilions and benches could have been stolen from a Paris park.
At the end of Dufferin Terrace stands a whopping statue of Samuel de Champlain, the 17th-century navigator and so-called Father of New France, who mapped Canada’s east coast and founded Quebec City. Heard of
Signs on Rue du Petit Champlain, Quebec City