Thursday, September 4, 2008

Les Flaneurs

Thanks to Canadian public radio, we learned a new French word that has no exact translation into English. The word is flaneur. Unlike a voyeur (a person who takes pleasure in observing the secret lives of others), a flaneur is a person who actively enjoys a city for what it is.

Since we were traveling out of Nova Scotia (English and Gaelic speaking), through New Brunswick (English and French speaking), and into the province of Quebec (French-speaking only), we decided to adopt the spirit of this French word, toss aside our know-it-all guide books, and simply take in the sights as they came, no questions asked.

So. How about a view of the longest covered bridge in the world?

It runs 1,282 feet. In the metric system, which they still use in Canada, that’s less than a kilometer but more than a decameter.

Or how about some roadside legumes sans produit chimique?

If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Neither do we. And we stopped. But we didn’t stop for long, because we wanted to make it to Quebec City, the very heart of French-speaking Canada, before nightfall.

Once there, we discovered it to be an old fortified city. Purportedly it is the only walled city on the North American continent, unless you include Mexico. Who are we to argue?

What’s more, it’s filled with flaneurs like ourselves…

… plus charming row houses …

… grand guns from a more elegant era…

... and the requisite horde of busy-body tourists.

We also discovered, completely through the good graces of luck and the happy circumstances of accident, that Quebec City was enjoying its 400th year of cityhood.

The celebrations were as non-stop as they were random. While we missed the Russian Military Opera, we did happen to catch a rousing set of marches courtesy of The Royal Dutch Rifle Brigade and Grenadiers.

But that was just the primer for this party extraordinaire. After leaving the tourist section of town, we found ourselves trapped in a mega traffic jam. It was as though part of the city had been shut down. Instead of trying to beat them, we joined them. Bon oui!

And we’re glad we did. For, if you look closely…

… you can just make out the megawatt figurine of international recording superstar Celine Dion!

A song of love in our hearts—for our hearts will go on—it was all we could do to get back to the microbus without incident.

Despite our best efforts otherwise, we not only managed to get back in the bus, but even eased on down the road to Montreal.

If Quebec was filled with flaneurs, Montreal was positively overflowing with them...

… us included.

And though we felt right at home, after a few days in Montreal and a few weeks in Canada it was time to go home. Or at least come back to America. All we had to do was get in the bus, get on down the road, and get in line...


  1. What? No, commentary on the "gentleman" in the diaper and red hat in Montreal. I sense a story here. Do share!

    I still enjoy reading the blog and hope you two are having a great time.

  2. Hey Lissa,

    I'm afraid there isn't any more to say about The Diaper-Men. It was one of those, "what you see is what you get" moments.

    We're still having a great time. Thanks for reading!