L’Autre Canada

Bienvenue au Canada! Nous sommes heureux de vous acceuillir . . .

Wait! Weren’t you just in Canada, like two weeks ago?

“Yes I was, sir. In fact, a little less than two weeks ago,” is what I told the immigration officer in Montreal. He was cool with that—he just wanted to know if I had any relatives up here.

I don’t—not any blood relatives, at least. Relative relatives though is another story, because America and Québec—we go way back. Back to a time when most of North America was simply “New France” and “Americans” spoke more French than English. These are the cousins I’ve come to visit and the history I aim to explore.

Those who have been traveling with me in the past already know that I am fascinated by the explorers of old. I read their journals, study their old maps, and feel inspired by their journeys. I also love the way that the early explorers traveled—with passion, curiosity, and total uncertainty about what each new day would bring them. They knew how to travel back then, and despite the ease and comforts of travel in this digital age, I still like to model my travels after mankind’s earlier adventures.

Last year, as you may recall, I chased the path of Sir Ernest Shackleton in Antarctica. Then in Australia, I followed Stuart’s trail across the red center, paid homage to Burke & Wills and saw the same ports as Captain James Cook. This spring I landed on some of the world’s remotest islands, first discovered by 16th-century Portuguese explorers, and this summer, I canoed the same routes as the early voyageurs of Ontario.

Today I landed in Québec, ready to explore “la belle province” and to follow the journeys of two great French explorers—namely, Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain. Perhaps you’ll remember them from that one pop quiz you had—malheureusement, those two don’t get much love and attention from high school history teachers.  (At least not in my country.)

Please allow me to refresh your memory:

Way back in 1535, Frenchman Jacques Cartier explored these very shores and called it “The Country of Two Canadas”. The Renaissance cartographer was in fact, referring to a pair of Iroquois settlements on the St. Lawrence—villages that would later grow into the cities of Québec and Montreal. Nearly 500 years later, I find Cartier’s first definition of this country quite à propos, for this is still a country of two Canadas—I have spent half my summer exploring the one and I shall now spend the other half exploring the other.

Québec is that other Canada and it is wonderfully different. As a traveler, I revel in those differences: different language, different food, different history and different people. All of these differences go back to that curious French sailor Jacques Cartier and I look forward to exploring the 500-year-old culture he established along the shores of the St. Lawrence.

Have I been to Quebec before? Yes, a few times—When I was 15 years old, I convinced my parents to drive up here for spring break because I really wanted to hear and speak French.  Surprisingly, I grew up to be a total Francophile, as well as a Québecophile and Canadophile. So much that twenty years later, I found myself begging my editor to send me to Québec. Miraculously, it worked.

Jacques Cartier himself made three voyages Québec. I will only be here for three weeks—most of the month of August. I’ve always thought August the perfect month to be in Québec. It’s also the perfect month not be in Washington, DC because, as they say in Québec—il fait absolument trop chaud.

Not in Québec. It’s nice and cool today—78 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny with a breeze and a very good chance of adventure. I’ll take it.

By the way, all of you faithful, friendly readers out there might want to brush up on your French—because that’s how we’ll be rolling for the next little while.  I may be back in Canada, but this time it’s le Canada and un petit peu different than before. D’accord?

Alright then.  Allons-y!


  1. Patrice Prud'homme
    Québec, Canada
    August 1, 2011, 3:35 pm

    Bienvenue dans la belle province Andrew ! Welcome to the province of Quebec !

    I live in Quebec City and I wish you the a really pleasant experience here.

    Have fun ! Amusez-vous bien !

  2. Monica
    August 1, 2011, 11:08 pm

    i have no French to brush up on, so I may be lost. Looks like it’s going to be another beautiful adventure. I’m really enjoying this! Thanks.

  3. Karen Briggs
    Everett, Ontario
    August 1, 2011, 11:19 pm

    Rest assured, Andrew, that Cartier and Cabot get quite a lot of airtime in 6th grade classrooms here in the Great White North. Mind you that was a loooong time ago for me … but I do recall that Quebec City was founded on the site of the Iroquois village, Stadacona, and that Montreal sits on the site of what was Hochelaga in Cartier’s time.

  4. Kyle
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    August 2, 2011, 7:14 am

    Have a great trip!

    Quebec is pretty awesome, but you should check out what the maritimes have to offer if you get the chance, the history about why Canada is not french starts here in Halifax.


  5. Liliane
    Between Montreal, Qc and Hawkesbury, Ont.
    August 2, 2011, 8:59 am

    I’m a nice mixture of what our province is about. French mother, Anglophone father – Bienvenue au QUÉBEC. Nous te souhaitons de belles vacances. ENJOY!

  6. Ray
    in transit
    August 3, 2011, 9:21 am

    Si vous avez le temps, n’oubliez pas de visiter l’autre “autre Canada:” le côté acadien du Nouveau Brunswick. C’est un coin peu connu mais beau et accueillant. Bon parcours!

  7. John
    Near New Orleans
    August 5, 2011, 2:56 pm

    laissez le bon temp roulez

  8. Don
    August 7, 2011, 12:53 am

    i just cannot wait to migrate to Canada!


  9. Daniel Lapointe
    Quebec city
    August 9, 2011, 6:58 pm

    If you need a guide for Quebec city…
    I’m retired, j’ai travaillé toute ma vie dans le Vieux Québec, je connais assez bien ma ville, je suis né à Québec et je suis un passionné de la photo.
    So ! Just let me know !
    Enjoy !

  10. Bad Goes, Good Comes – Digital Nomad
    September 9, 2011, 7:21 am

    […] “No, I’m not a policeman.” I answered, puzzled. Then I remembered that I had worked out at they gym wearing a T-shirt that said POLICE on the front of it—a random souvenir from Montreal. […]