Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gravy And Peas

Travel time! Wendy and I are headed north. We’re going to take the Agawa Canyon Tour, a half-day train ride into the forests north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Hopefully, the fall foliage will be in bloom. We’ve been to Canada many times.

I’m a little worried about crossing the border. Last time, I almost didn’t make it. The boys and I were taking a shortcut through Canada to New Hampshire where we were going to climb Mt. Washington. But I wrongly thought our driver’s licenses would be sufficient identification to cross the border to Windsor from Detroit. We were roundly hassled and almost turned around by the thin, bespectacled woman border guard. All this for taking a shortcut to the White Mountains? My guess is if we were headed to a Windsor casino to spend our life savings, we would have had an easy pass. So my wife and I are making sure we bring our birth certificates with us. Watch, now they’ll insist on passports.

Ordinarily, Canadians seem a friendly lot. We recall the time we took the boys to Toronto during their high school spring break. There, we stopped at a restaurant where some elderly woman asked if we were "on a holiday." Not familiar with the term then (it means vacation in the British culture), we thought her suspicious as to why our boys were not in school. So we explained we were from Michigan, whereupon she told us about this Toronto shopping venue with great bargains in toilet paper, bread and other sundries. We listened politely, but we didn’t drive five hours to shop for groceries.

Anyway, later on we did stop at a Toronto area grocery store for a few snack items for the trip home. Whom do we run into there, but the same lady we met in the restaurant! As she recognized us, her eyes widened and she said, "Oh no, not here!" I believe it was at this same store, we told the check-out clerk we were from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She said she had relatives that lived around Detroit and asked if we knew them. We politely said, "No" and wondered whether she knew that there were easily a million people living in southeast Michigan.

Cultural adventures in Ontario are nothing compared to what can happen in French-speaking Quebec. On that trip to Mt. Washington, the boys and I stopped at a small town bistro about fifty miles north of the U.S. border. With his one year of high school French, Scott knew enough to ask our waitress if she spoke English. "Oh, boy," she said, the last time she put two English words together on her own. After that, it was "Drinks?", "Finished?" or "Okay?" One time she had to enlist the help of another guest to help phrase a question. Then she asked, "Do you require anything else?" Good thing we didn’t.

The menu was entirely in French. And I’m thinking, "We’re fifty miles from America. Don’t you ever get visitors here?" Ironically, the whole time we were at this restaurant, American oldies played in the background. As far as the entrees went, I knew le poissons was fish, from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid, but what kind of fish I would be getting I couldn’t translate. Rather than taking a chance I might be ordering squid a la orange, I settled on spaghetti which is the same in French as it is in English. Scott helped my nephew order a chicken sandwich and his brother Greg to order a cheeseburger. When the burger and sandwich arrived, they both came swimming in gravy and peas.

The boys clamored to see Scott’s grade in high school French. To be fair, I don't think Scott knew enough French to be able to order the gravy and peas to be served on the side, even if he could translate gravy and peas. Yet, Greg and his cousin were hungry enough to finish their dinner. Afterwards, I asked Greg how he liked his burger. "It was good, except for the gravy and peas," he said.


Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I don't get the point. Doesn't EVERYBODY put gravy and peas on their burgers? Maybe that's only a no-no in Michigan.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

The French are very passionate about their language. In France, they even have a government agency that produces the "correct" way to speak and write. For instance, they have a problem with email, since that's so "American."

Hope you have a great trip.

7:15 AM  
Blogger schnoodlepooh said...

I took French in school, but can't think of the words for gravy and peas. Maybe they have no words for those items, so you just have to eat them because you can't deny them!

10:59 AM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

Sauce au jus et pois, s'il vous plait.

On great that 3 point Wolverine lead must feel! Say Dave, the Spartans didn't choke today against the Fighting Illini, oui?

Regarding next Saturday: See ya - wouldn't wanna be ya! Do you ever send bail money in advance?

4:59 PM  
Blogger WordWhiz said...

I've been to Canada a few times on vacation. This was a funny post! Have fun!!

7:07 PM  
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12:33 AM  
Blogger The Complimenting Commenter said...

That is a great set of stories. I enjoy travel stories and yours are fantabulous. Hope your new trip goes well. Great job.

8:12 PM  
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