Mais oui, mes amis

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION CANADA - BRIAN JOHN­STON

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

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