And here we are; after almost 23 months of travel we arrived at our final destination: Quebec!!! Romain’s dream destination, not really mine... I prefer sun to snow!!! But this Canadian province revealed some surprises.
Arrived in Montreal (where snow was already gone), we found William, our friend met in Mozambique over a year and a half ago! We immediately tasted a local specialty: A poutine! What is it? A dish of fries, "cheese curds" and "brown sauce"! It is still not clear? The "cheese curd" is a fresh cheddar cheese (which means it must be eaten immediately, otherwise it loses its flavor and texture), the "brown sauce" is a veal or beef stock based sauce! Well, we won’t call it fine cuisine, but it's good ;-)! We have to say that William took us into THE restaurant that all Quebecers met during our trip had advised us: La banquise!!
In Montreal we also went to visit the Biodome and Botanical Garden. In winter, only the greenhouses were open but in one of them the "Butterflies Go Free" exhibition took us back to childhood: Hundreds of butterflies that flutter around us nothing better to make us feel spring!!! In the Biodome we could see some local animals such as otters and beavers ... and tropical animals in their huge green glass roof house! Unlike a traditional zoo, the animals are "half free" in an ecosystem resembling a real rainforest and they are all mixed! Not bad!!!
On William's advice, we went to drink ice cider. Indeed, the region is full of cider, which, in addition to cider as we know it in France (though different), they make ice cider: Traditionally, apples remained on the tree at the beginning of the winter froze and were picked to make cider (such as late harvest) but this method is less used because the harvest is uncertain. Today the majority of ice cider is made with apple juice left outside in cold weather. The juice frozen, concentrated sugars and ice cider is here! We tasted both methods ... and we love them!
We left Montreal to go more to the north. In Quebec City, capital of the province, we saw snow, lots of snow! Quebec is a fortified city (the only one in North America) and was the capital of New France. The city was founded in 1608 and Jacques Cartier in 1535 was the first to officially discovered Quebec on behalf of the King of France. We really loved this city and its old buildings. This is a human-sized city where history mingles with modernity. We strolled in the park Plains of Abraham, former battlefields where the French were defeated by the British in 1759. At this time of year we mostly saw snow! On an island in front of the city we even thought we were in the South Pole for a while (and we wanted to walk on ice but Romain almost ended in the water ... ice can be full of surprises).
A few kilometers from Quebec was found the Montmorency Falls that exceeds 30 meters Niagara Falls with a height of 83 meters! With the cold it was really nice because the water vapors solidify into ice and make it truly unique fall! Just the scenic stairs were closed (for safety reasons) ... but we still had a great view!
We then tried cross country skiing ... and it was not a success. As we had never done it, we rented "classic" skis, that is to say those that allow only to stay in the tracks ... and it was not great!!! Ahaha, well at least it is a new proof that winter sports are not for me...
... Though there is one we love both: the dogsled. We went in a 2 day experience and we really had a great time! 5 people, 20 dogs, 4 sledges (3 sledges with 4 dogs and one sled with 8 dogs), 2 days, 1 night, 2 drops, 100 hugs, some failures to put the harness and a ton of happiness! The snow was not fresh but our guide took us to trails without track and on a frozen lake ... It was not an easy one but it was beautiful! Jobi, Chipcha, Sedna and Tim were the main dogs of our sleigh (since a person was every time on the same sled as the guide) and you can tell they were strong! Both feet on the brake I could not always stop them! There is a tie: Romain and I both fell once (when we were on the sled with the guide ... because when the sled has to change direction, it is not easy to lean to one side while being balance on one skate!) but no injury is to declare! Sure, we will do it again!
We then went to the region of Lake St. Jean, in the Saguenay region where we made a beautiful encounter: Lise and Michel. So yes Quebecers speak French!! But do they really speak more French than we?? This is certainly what we often hear ... "arrêt" instead of "Stop", "Magasiner" instead of "shopping" ... Yes it's true, our friends across the Atlantic have very French words ... but contrary to what they say, they also use a lot of English words, "it's a joke" to say "c’est une blague", "good game" to say "bon match" (ok "match" should not be either French) or "mes brakes" for "mes freins!" ahaha and we can tell you many more examples like that… Anyway it made us laugh!!!
It is thanks to Lise and Michel’s advice that we went to the zoo of Falardeau. In fact, this is not a conventional zoo (because we prefer to see animals in the wild), it is a refuge that hosts injured animals or animals that belonged to individuals who were mistreated or even animals that belonged to other zoos or companies which want to get rid of them. We were able to observe black bears, moose (a large Canadian deer), lions who had worked for advertisement, a tiger who was in a hybridization center (to try to get mated with a lioness ...) ... and we had the chance to pet babies lions and small tiger. A little surprising you may say; the refuge does not keep young babies born in captivity, they are sold to zoos to earn money ... but before being sold, the babies should be accustomed to human contact in order to facilitate the work of trainers!! To cuddle them help animals to trust humans ... in any case it is the explanation we have been given, hope this is true!!!
We ended our stay by two Quebecers essential things: a traditional meal in a sugar shack and a hockey game.
To celebrate the sugar time (that is to say the period when the sap flows from the trees), sugar maple houses (nicknamed sugar shacks) prepare traditional meals of maple syrup! Ham syrup, greaves (sort of potted meat), crunches ears (fried bacon… super diet ...), omelet, pea soup (chick)... Pancakes with maple syrup, sugar pie… We liked ... in small doses!!! We preferred our 100% Québécois product evening we shared with William and his family with local wines, cheese and cold cuts and a shepherd's pie (Chinese pie) made by his mother, a great Quebecer specialty! Yes the name is misleading but this dish of minced meat, corn and mashed potatoes originated from the early twentieth century: At that time the Chinese workers came to build the Pan-Canadian railway line and ground meat, corn and potatoes were the main ingredients to which they had access ... they have invented and shepherd's Chinese pie: a Quebec specialty!
Finally, we went to see the hockey team of Montreal: Canadians play against the Red Wings from Detroit! The match was as expected: tight, with some (big) fights and a Canadian victory!!!
Our stay in Quebec stops here, with lots of nice encounters, snow, sun and plenty of food and wine discoveries ... but this end also marks the end of our crazy journey of 710 days around the globe! From wild Africa to modern North America via the lagged Asia, lost Oceania, the magnificent South America, our feet have walked the 5 continents. It is an experience that marks us forever. The world is incredible, the people are generous ... Do not forget, it is in our hands to protect these wonders for future generations!!!
Stay connected because we still have a lot of things to tell you, such as our come back to reality, our visit to the School of Mouvaux... and many other things!!! See you soon, and thank you for your loyalty!!!