Canada the best vacation destination
Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton
‘A change is as good as a rest’. The old adage carries much truth. A short getaway during the summer months can be just what the doctor ordered. Whether you choose a local day trip, or a few days in or out of province, the benefits can be outstanding.
In July, my better half took me on a five-day trip to Quebec City. It was an experience not to be missed. We felt as if we were transported to some European town, without the hassle of passports or overseas flights. The people were welcoming, friendly, and helpful. Our attempts to order meals in French were greatly appreciated, but all of the employees were equally fluent in both official languages, a claim that we could not make about ourselves.
A daily highlight was sitting in a café, at a table by the open window (no screens) watching the people and bicycles passing by. The horses clip-clopping on cobbled streets pulling calèches (open carriages) full of happy tourists added to the old European charm.
The place is steeped in Canadian history. Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain were the first Europeans to discover the narrowing of the St. Lawrence River where Quebec City now stands. A tour of the Plains of Abraham, where the great Battle of 1759 was fought, helped us to visualize what really happened during the line battle between the English and French troops, led by Generals Wolfe and Montcalm. Both generals perished as a result of the battle and the English claimed victory.
The Citadel is an active military base situated on Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond), Quebec City’s highest point. It has an obvious vantage point for anyone who might be looking down the St. Lawrence for approaching enemy ships, as the French did during the 17th and 18th centuries. Possession of the city was tossed back and forth between the French and English several times during those years, ending up in the hands of the British Empire. Quebec City truly is the birthplace of this great country of Canada.
Today, a French-speaking regiment occupies the Citadel. This is none other than the famous Vingt-Deux (nicknamed Van Doos by their Anglophone comrades during WWI). They are the 22nd Regiment of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This group may speak French, but they dress in the red coats of the British, complete with the tall bearskin hats you would see at Buckingham Palace. The Vingt-Deux were originally formed as the 22nd French Canadian Infantry Battalion and went to France in WWI as part of the 5th Canadian Brigade. They have fought in every war since and are currently serving in Afghanistan.
Each morning at 10 a.m., they perform the changing of the guard, complete with their mascot, a white goat descended from a goat gifted by Queen Victoria. Following this ceremony the soldiers return to their combat uniforms to go about the business of being a Canadian soldier. They are proud to be in a position to protect and serve our country. The tour guide explained to us the importance of keeping alive the French language and culture of the 22nd Regiment. It is their very essence, and it makes them stand out as the unique group they are today. The motto on their coat of arms is “Je me souviens” (I remember).
The inhabitants of Quebec are proud to be Canadian but wish to maintain their individuality of language and culture. The Quebec experience commands a great deal of respect and admiration, from both an historical and human perspective.
It can be said that if you understand your history, you may have a better chance of knowing where you are going. Our excursion to La Belle Province has certainly helped us to understand better how our country came to be. You really don’t have to leave it to be both enriched and entertained.