A land where soft drinks come in 591ml bottles

Trip Start Mar 31, 2009
Trip End Oct 13, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Thursday, July 9, 2009


Well here I am again giving you something to read whilst at work.

Last time I was in Halifax and it was Canada Day. I discovered that Canada is younger than New Zealand. Quebec city was established in 1608 - I know, I know, very young relative to Europe and Asia, but still bloody old to us New Zealanders- (Halifax was only established in 1749) but the confederation of Canada (and even then it was only Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New Canada which became Ontario and Quebec) didn't happen until 1 July 1867.

Anyway, that night a few of us went to a free rock concert featuring local musician Joel Plaskett. I had never heard of him before but he is very popular in Eastern Canada and he was good. After he had finished at 10pm the fireworks started and we got a ferry back to town and went to a bar to watch another band play, they are called Bop Ensemble and were staying at the hostel too, and they are very good. It was nice to be somewhere where the locals celebrate their national day (as opposed to NZ where it is just another day off for most, and a day of protest for others). In the province of Quebec however, Canada Day is widely ignored, and in fact it is "moving day" for a lot of people. The leases on apartments all expire on June 30 so on July 1 people move apartments.

Anyway, the next day I got the train to Moncton, New Brunswick (Moncton should be spelt Monckton after a British General during the war with France, but it was mis-spelt on one piece of paperwork and that was that).  I told a few people staying at the hostel that I was looking at hiring a car to visit the Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy and managed to find 4 people (all of them Canadian - I have met so many Canadians in the hostels, I now have people to catch up with in Edmonton and Vancouver, and am staying with one in Montreal) to share the day and cost with me (ended up costing just $35 each including entry to the park compared to $155 each with a local tour company). The Bay of Fundy has the world's largest tides, up to 16 metres (53 feet), depending on the phase of the moon and how close the moon is to the Earth, etc. They reckon 100 billion tonnes of water flow in and out of the bay during each cycle - more than all the world's rivers. So we headed down to the Hopewell Rocks to see high tide at 9.45am and stayed around to see low tide at about 4.10pm. It was 'only' an 11.1 metre tide that day. Two of the girls (from Edmonton, Alberta - I bumped into them again in Quebec) with me had to be back in Moncton in time to catch a 5.30 bus so we didn't see the tide at its lowest but it was low enough to see a dramatic difference and to walk around the "ocean floor" where just a few hours earlier we would have been under several metres of water. We got a bit dirty due to walking through ankle-deep mud and clambering over rocks but it was great fun, despite indifferent weather and getting rained on.

I spent the next two days in Moncton doing not much. I didn't really think about the fact that the train to Quebec left late afternoon so could have just done 2 nights, but it did give me a couple of days to rest and recover from all the late nights I have been having, and I managed to re-read all 4 parts of the "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" trilogy. So I got the train to Quebec on Sunday evening and arrived in Quebec first thing Monday morning. The weather was good and the forecast for the next couple of days wasn't, so I spent the day wandering around the old city - probably the most photogenic city I have ever been in. I really like it here. I found a place where they show a free 20 minute movie about the "360 Days that changed History" - basically about the British defeating the French outside the city in 1759. This is the only walled city in North America, the walls are impressive and well looked after. The streets are narrow and still made of cobblestones in places. The Provincial Parliament building (referred to locally as the National Parliament - the two girls I met at Moncton did a guided walking tour here and they tell me the guide referred to Quebec as 'our country' and the rest of Canada as 'your country'. They reckon it wasn't malicious, it is just how they see things) is very impressive, as is the Chateau Frontenac - a 116 year old hotel with 618 rooms. They even do guided tours of the hotel, the only hotel I have heard of doing that.  It was in this hotel that the D-Day invasion of Normandy was planned.

The people are friendly and mostly happy to speak English (which is very helpful when your French is as bad and limited as mine). The old buildings are great to look at and the whole place has a nice atmosphere about it. And it is safe, according to Wikitravel.com between November 1st 2006 and July 14th 2008 there were no murders in Quebec - not bad for a city of over 700,000 people. It must be said though that this is not a city to be paraplegic in. There are lots of steep hills and stairs - very difficult in a wheelchair.

Some Quebecois (people who live in the Province of Quebec) want the province to secede from Canada, but I have been amazed how many Canadian flags I have seen here. In Montreal I saw two, and they were both at the Railway Station - a government building. But I have seen several here, along with the provincial flag and the city flag. I find the idea of a largish segment of a nation's population wanting to secede a bit odd, it is not like they are oppressed or repressed in any way. It would be a bit like the South Island ceding from New Zealand (and yes, I am sure a few South Islanders would find that an appealing idea). I did suggest to some Canadians from other provinces I have met that perhaps next time they have a referendum in Quebec on the whole separatist issue the rest of Canada should have one as well: "do we want Quebec to be part of Canada?". The result could be interesting.

On Wednesday night a few of us from the hostel (including the girls from Edmonton who I went to the Hopewell Rocks with) wandered a few minutes down the road and joined a few thousand other people under the motorways (think Spaghetti Junction in Auckland) where Cirque du Soleil were putting on a free show. This was awesome, basically lots of acrobats, aerial artists, and other talented people doing all sorts of amazing stunts with great music and lighting.

Today, Thursday, I wandered through the park which was the battlefield - really nice. Tonight we went and watched the free light and sound show down at the old port - brilliant! The pictures were projected onto a very large building on the harbour and we watched it from over a piece of water. The show was designed for the building and was basically a journey through history with an emphasis on Quebec. The Quebec Summer Festival kicked off tonight also. One of the performance areas is just around the corner from the hostel and a few of us caught the tail end of a performance by a Latin-American band. We saw it for free, but if we had taken one step to our right we would have entered the official area and would have needed a ticket. To be fair though, a ticket for the whole month, which gets you entry to all events, is only $45 (Canadian). That is over 300 performers, including the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Sting, Kiss, Jeff Beck, The Proclaimers (!?) and Placido Domingo. I should also mention here that the Montreal Jazz Fest has just finished and most of the events were free - including Stevie Wonder. I have to wonder why Auckland, with a population double that of Quebec, can't put on events like this.

Quebec has a real buzz to it at the moment, on the way back from the show we had to walk through crowds of people.  Great place to be right now. I have discovered that I have mis-timed my trip slightly though, the Indy Cars are in Toronto this weekend, and Scott Dixon is leading the championship. I will be in New York state this weekend and the Indy Cars will be in Edmonton two weeks later - I won't be due to there being too much to see and do between Montreal and Edmonton. Oh well, whaddya do?

Ok, so tomorrow I am off to Montreal - should be fun. I am going to be staying with a girl from Montreal who I met on Cape Breton Island, she is house-sitting what she says is a $2million house. And her and her friends are heading to upstate New York to spend Saturday night in a cottage by a lake, and I am invited - talk about landing on your feet, can't wait. It will be interesting to see if i get another 6 months visa when I cross back into Canada on Sunday, should do. I will keep you posted.

Bye for now


ps, yes, Pepsi, Coke, 7-up, etc come in bottles of varying sizes but one of them is 591ml, not 600ml, but 591ml. I think it is because that is very slightly more than 20 US fluid ounces so I guess they can use the same bottles in both countries, still it seems a bit pedantic.

Speaking of pedantic, I forgot this bit last time

Song of the day : Hello, It's Me by Lou Reed and John Cale

Distance Travelled 21776k's by plane
7029k's by train
3020k's by road
211 nautical miles
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