Tuesday, April 20, 2010

blogtrotting french canadian style

I'm not sure where I first heard about the blogtrotting blog... either at BORED Mommy or Loulou's Views, I think. Either way, I signed up to join the tour.

Then completely forgot about it.


But Carabee showed me mercy and gave me another week to work on my post. Thanks, Cara!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Peter and I moved our family out here ("out here" being out east from Calgary to the capital region), almost two years ago. We landed in Ottawa having never stepped foot in the city before and spent the first 5 weeks living in a hotel downtown. 

(IN A HOTEL. With two little kids. And severe morning sickness. It was AWESOME.)

In truth, it wasn't all bad. Ottawa has one of the prettiest downtowns we've ever seen (and we've been all over Europe and South America... we've seen our share!) and it just so happens that we arrived right before the Canadian Tulip Festival held every year in our nation's capital. For those not familiar with this festival, the history is that in the fall of 1945, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presents Ottawa with 100,000 tulip  bulbs as a gift for the safe haven that members of Holland's royal family received during the Second World War, and in recognition of the role Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands. In fact, I think the princess gave birth to a baby while here and the Canadian government declared the hospital room as belonging to Holland so that the baby could be born "on Dutch soil". And now, every year, there's a HUGE festival around the time the tulips are in bloom.

I wrote a post about our visit to the tulips last year (with loads of pictures), but here are some pictures from that first year in Ottawa,

I was pregnant here! My face isn't normally round! 
(at least I don't think it is...)

Hey! Get that kid out of those perfectly manicured beds!

After our five weeks trapped in a hotel, we moved into our first home. We were home owners! Early on, we'd made the decision to look for housing across the river from Ottawa, in Gatineau. This area has kind of a St Paul/Minneapolis thing going on. On one side of the river is Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, and on the other is Gatineau, in the province of Quebec. So two cities, two provinces AND TWO DIFFERENT OFFICIAL LANGUAGES both sharing the same metropolitan area.

(Okay, that's not exactly accurate since French and English are the official languages of all of Canada, but you know what I mean.)

Our decision to buy in Gatineau was heavily based on the cost of living over here, but also on our desire to really immerse ourselves in French. I took French all through school, but Peter was had just begun a year of intensive language study, and we really wanted our boys to be surrounded by the language as much as possible.

The move out here was far, but we really weren't prepared for the culture shock we experienced when we moved to Quebec. It's the same country after all! But besides the obvious difference in language, here are some other noteworthy differences:
  • Beer and wine are sold EVERYWHERE. Coming from Calgary, Alberta, and before that Regina, Saskatchewan, where all alcohol is only sold in specific heavily regulated stores, this took some getting used to. We just weren't accustomed to seeing beer sold at gas stations and grocery stores!
  • Beer and wine ARE CHEAP. This took less getting used to.
  • There aren't always turn arrows at intersections, the green light flashes to let you know it's okay to turn. Maybe this is common in other cities, but we'd never seen that.
  • People in Gatineau haven't gotten the public service announcement that SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOU. Seriously, it's awful. Still, two years later, I'm shocked to see how many people smoke here. And with their kids! In the car! In the winter with one window open just a crack! C'est √©pouvantable. 
  • There are big, beautiful, ornate churches all throughout the city... and they're all empty. The history of the Catholic church here in Quebec is a sad one. In the 60's there occurred what is known as The Quiet Revolution, where everyone pretty much just turned their backs on the church. After years of manipulation and oppression and control, people had had enough. So now all the lovely, hundreds of years old buildings are crumbling because no one will pay for their repair.
  • People in Gatineau speak their own kind of French. When we first moved out here and I heard people speaking, I doubted whether or not I really knew the language at all! There's slang and then there's GATINEAU SLANG.
  • Sitting on one's front porch/balcony/deck is a pastime that is not taken lightly. Serious amounts of time are dedicated to this activity and its perfection.
  • The Quebecois -even though Quebec is part of Canada- refer to it as "the nation of Quebec".
  • In Quebec, they do things differently. From little things like registering and licensing your vehicle, to the fact that women in Quebec continue to use their maiden names even after they're married, they do things completely opposite the rest of Canada. Out of principle.
  • The stories you hear about poutine ARE TRUE. People eat it all the time, any time, any where. I thought it was just a stereotype but, nope, it's not. 
The Ottawa/Gatineau area is also FULL of amazing museums, parks a plenty, beautiful historic homes, amazing architecture, festivals seemingly every other week and history everywhere you look. The French-English/Quebec-Ottawa dynamic adds the interest and the charm of this city/cities.

We certainly didn't know, even three years ago, that this is where we'd end up, but we're super happy here. We have amazing friends, a wonderful church family, and TWO great cities to explore whenever we get the itch.

If you want to read some other posts about fun we've had in/around the city, here are some good ones:
  • our superawesomefun time at the Sugar Bush last month

So thanks for visiting and enjoy the rest of the trip!

If you're still looking for more to read (because I'm THAT engaging) the following series still gets TONS of traffic from Google. If you have a young boy who likes Star Wars and Lego (whaaat? a young boys WHO LIKES STAR WARS AND LEGO?? that's redundant, right?) this may be of particular interest to you...

How to plan a Star Wars party in five excruciatingly painstakingly detailed steps:
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  1. One of these days I absolutely must get up there. I have heard and read so much about the area. Of course, my now 15 years old classroom French would probably do me no good.

    I'm intrigued by the Poutine. I found a recipe for it the other day that I was thinking about trying. I've never had it before though, only heard of it. I'd probably ruin it. I'll save my first experience for when I visit!

    Thanks for being a part of BlogTrotting! Great post!

  2. Those tulips are absolutely amazing.

    And I'm nauseated just hearing about you having to live in a hotel for five weeks with two little boys and pregnant, to boot. Oh my word.

    Great blogtrotting post!

  3. Thanks for sharing about Quebec! One goal for me is to visit the other side of this fabulous country. The furthest I've ever made it is Manitoba so I want to get to the official Eastern part of Canada someday.

    I would be so lost in Quebec though. My pathetic high school French would not get me far :op

  4. Wonderful post. You sum up so well why I love this city so much. We moved here about a year and a half ago from the commuting rat-race of Toronto and I am still in awe of how much Ottawa and area has to offer. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Not sure if my last comment published or not but I LOVED the tour and really need to get my butt to Canada. I learned a lot about life in Quebec from your post and loved all your photographs, especially the tulip ones.

    Also, your face does not look round at all.

  6. What a fun post!! We just celebrated our Tulip festival here in Washington State, but we do not have such a rich tradition to go along with it.
    I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to visit Quebec so it is fun to see it through your eyes.
    My brother is a Priest who is sometimes in Quebec. He does not have a church, but he is sent there to work sometimes.


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