I come from the USA. And while there are many words to describe the people of this great country, it always seems easiest to describe Americans when you are outside of America. Americans exude an unparalleled enthusiasm I have not seen anywhere else I have traveled. Of course, this does not apply to everyone, but there is general excitement that Americans bring to the table. We aren’t ashamed to show our emotions when we see something cool like fireworks, a great performance from a musician, or even just a movie. Americans also do not have a problem showing their enthusiasm in other, more annoying ways like being the loudest drunks at the bar, or simply being nosy. So when we headed to French-Canada, I was interested to see what type of enthusiasm we would encounter.
We got to Quebec City and found a parking lot downtown. Although we were really worried that the parking attendant wouldn’t want the likes of Rhonda in their lot, he gladly said we could stay for 24 hours–for a small fee of course. After an awesome pancake breakfast that Vanessa made we ventured out to see the city on bike. We needed the internet so we headed to a little cafe/restaurant. We probably spent 3 hours at that restaurant and the family that owned the place never once seemed annoyed that we only ordered coffee. They just stuck to what they were doing and let us be.
The next day we headed south towards Montreal, driving along the St. Lawrence River. It was a straight shot, and so at some point we just decided to turn left. The street we ended up on was right next to a park, about 100 feet from the water. We parked and checked out the park. Nobody batted an eye as we exited Rhonda with some beers and headed to a grassy area near the water. After drinking some beers I went and shot hoops while Vanessa watched a local soccer game. It was heaven. We ended up making dinner as a men’s league baseball game was played on the field next to where we were parked. Nobody minded as we took our lawn chairs out and ate our stir-fry while watching the game. There were no weird looks, and nobody asked us what the hell we were doing. The next morning we spent two hours with the generator on so we could vacuum Rhonda and get cleaned up. Again, everyone there let you be. And the people we did meet had such a calm, pleasant demeanor.
Montreal was where you really got a feel for how placid the French-Canadiens were. We parked one mile from downtown and there was an International Fireworks show happening right where we parked. Vanessa, my friend Stu Gotz, and myself were in awe of the fireworks display. We were cheering and being enthusiastic and I swear, we were the only ones making any noise. The show ended and we are sitting there talking about our favorite fireworks and everybody else just turned and left. It was amazing! The French-Canadiens just went on about their merry way. Even as we sat outside Rhonda jamming out with my guitar, and families strolled by, nobody seemed to mind. (The other great part of Montreal is poutines. Basically perfectly cooked french fries smothered in gravy and cheese. We had about 5 pounds worth in 24 hours)
French-Canadiens never seemed to get too up or too down. As Jim Zorn once said, “They stayed medium.” Although I would never want to lose our enthusiastic approach to life there might be something to learn from these nice, placid French-Canadiens. As we were leaving Old Montreal to head back to Rhonda for the next leg of our trip we noticed a shirt hanging in the window of a store. Although we were too dumb to take a picture, the inscription aptly described French-Canada…”Keep calm and eat poutines.”