Bonjour, Bienvenue au Québec! (Hello, Welcome to Quebec!)
The French Provence of Canada embodied the spirit of hospitality and the moment we crossed over into the eastern Provence of Quebec, we felt right at home. Yes, all of the street signs were in French, and we don’t know French, but there were welcome signs everywhere and all along the way, the people met us with smiles, even the construction worker on the highway waved us through with enthusiasm. And, the efforts the locals made to meet us where we were at, openly sharing the richness of their culture, food, family, and the delight of community, really made our trip through the area a fantastic memory we hope to revisit again someday.
Our host family, Vann & Chantal and their awesome children welcomed us to their tiny hometown of Saint-Séverin, where we would park for a week, and enjoy life through their local eyes.
Our first night in town, we drove up the road to Saint-Frédéric, for a “Tent.” Local life in the summer means all the little towns in the area create a rotating tent that rolls through a different town every weekend. It includes a fundraising night of festivities, a beer garden and a rock band, usually a cover band, to come and play music. The night that we went a Bon Jovi tribute band took the stage, and let me tell you, they looked and sounded just like Bon Jovi. Craig got a bit of loving that night for his epic mustache. Dudes were enviously staring at him all night, and one bloke actually came up to him and began to enthusiastically reach out to pull his mustache, stating “j’aime ton pinch.” Which translated I love your mustache. We were all a little taken aback by the fella’s forwardness but it was flattering.
The next night we performed in Vann and Chantal’s barn for a good handful of their friends and neighbors. The barn was a fantastic venue, with twinkle lights, candles and a great sound system. They had a potluck style dinner and performed two sets of Hollands songs but continued sharing music in the round well into the wee hours of the night.
Sunday morning we roused for mass at the local parish just a block from the house. It was lovely to be so close. The service was all in French but we had enough experience with the format to be able to follow along. Our favorite part though was the beauty of the cathedral. Although just a small town of 250, the cathedral was grand. Actually every single little town we drove through had an iconic cathedral in the heart of the city center. After church Chantal took us an hour drive up to Quebec City, where she toured us around the famous walled city. It was awesome having a french translator to help us get a lay of the ground. However, everyone was quite friendly and happy to speak to us in English as needed.
Monday the warmer weather drew us to a local secret watering hole. We enjoyed cooling off in the little stream, walking rocks and especially loved the challenge of swimming upstream against the waterfall current. It was relaxing and lead to an evening dinner, and later while the fella’s played a rousing game of poker in the barn, the rest of us sat around a fire and talked well into the night about all the important things of life, like why are we here, who is God and why do bad things happen to good people.
We spent a few more lazy days with our host family, doing laundry, getting groceries, sharing meals and story. Chantal cared for my health by offering to share her gift of Chiropractic with me. Her office was lovely but more than that, her gentle and healing spirit straightened me right out.
On our last day with them, we took a stroll down the road to a local garden owned by an eccentric millionaire. We wandered around the gardens and enjoyed the fresh air and kind companionship.
It wasn’t easy to say good-bye when it was time, as these kinfolk in the Northwoods and rolling hills of Quebec had become family.
And, even now as I write this a few weeks later, we all pine to get back. Specially Craig, who decided although Australian of Scottish decent, that he must somehow be French because he felt so at home.
So I don’t doubt that someday, we’ll roll back through!