Où Est le Magasin de Vin?*

In 1997 Linda and I went on her dream trip to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I had been to them on a trip with my parents in 1961, but hadn't seen many of the places we were to visit on this trip. We started the journey, typically later than I would have liked (see the family story SWMBO Cleans Up), about 1830 and headed east, through northern Indiana, up into Michigan to Port Huron, across to Ontario at Sarnia, and on to the rest area on the 401 near Woodstock before pooping out. We managed a couple of hours of sleep in the car, grabbed a very healthy sunrise breakfast at the Tim Horton's in the rest area, and then pressed on east into the morning past Toronto.

We arrived in Montreal around lunchtime and decided to try one of our favorite adventure meals: a baguette of bread, some cheese and meat, and a bottle of wine. It took a couple of different stores, but then having gathered the ingredients and finding a quiet park, we enjoyed a glorious meal on a pleasant summer's day.

Then we hit the road and traveled to Quebec City, arriving in time to see some sights and to nail down dinner. We found a very nice restaurant just below the Citadel and were treated to a very attentive bilingual wait staff and an enjoyable meal. We then pressed on to Rivierè-du-Loup where we found a motel and settled in for the night.

I read through the AAA guide to Quebec about the next day's drive up the Gaspé Peninsula. The guide mentioned road side stands where fresh baked bread could be procured and we decided to reprise our lunch experience in Montreal. The first order of business would be to buy some wine in the morning.

We started the next day making the short drive to Rimouski, well down the St. Lawrence from Montreal. Deep within Lower Canada, we found it rarer and rarer to encounter anyone speaking English, however Linda assured me that her five years of mandatory French in high school would stand us in good stead. She kept translating the road signs for me and I felt relaxed.

As we pulled into Rimouski it became obvious that we weren't going to stumble across a wine shop as easily as we had in Montreal, so, seeing a card shop, we stopped and went inside. Actually, I was hoping to find a French-English dictionary to help with the gaps in Linda's education—not all of her translations were coming as readily as I had hoped. The card shop worked out nicely as Linda found some cards and I found a dictionary. As she stood in line to pay I reminded her to ask about the wine store.

When our turn came, pleasantries were exchanged, money was paid, and Linda asked in the finest sounding French I thought I'd ever heard, “where is a wine store?” The proprietess answered, Linda thanked her, and we headed for the car. Outside, I asked her what the woman had said, and Linda replied, “I have no idea. There were too many words!”

We both had a good laugh over that, got in the car, and after making a couple of turns to get back to the main road found a supermarket that not only provided the cheese and meat for our lunch later, but had a wine department, so all ended well. Later we did indeed buy a fresh loaf of bread on the road near the very end of the Gaspé, although it was not the baguette I had been anticipating. Nevertheless, between the food, the wine, and the new family story, the experience was very near perfect.

Oh, and the dictionary? It turned out to be a guide book to London written for a French speaker, and all of the phrases were French to English. It didn't do us a bit of good. Oh, we were pathetic.

* Oł est le magasin de vin = “Where is the wine store,” although I have no idea if Linda articulated it just that way.

27 January 2009

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