Day 50: Brownsburg-Chatham to Montreal (85 km)
Once upon a time I studied French. In fact I studied French at school for 6 years. Cycling around Languedoc and Provence the French have understood my mangled requests for un cafe, jus d’orange, pain au chocolat etc. And I have understood them.
Not so in Québéc.
Today after a morning flying along at a silly 25km per hour, I bonked quite badly. So I decided to stop at Tims to pep up my energy levels.
I have done this. I have done this countless times before in Canada. It’s simple: just ask for a coffee and a doughnut. The man at the counter could apparently understand what I was saying but alas I could not, for love, money nor doughnut, figure out what on earth he was saying in reply. I believe our conversation was as follows:
Tim man: Bonjour!
Moi: Bonjour! Je prend une cafe et une doughnut Boston au chocolat, s’il vous plait.
Tim: Vous le voulez comment, madam?
Moi: [blank stare] Ici.
Tim: Vous le prenez ici?
Moi: [encore du blank stare] Noir, merci.
Tim: Vous ne comprenez pas ce que je dis, n’est pas?
Moi: Oui. [handing over $5 note]. Merci.
I really need to figure out this accent because currently I am lost. There are lots of Ukrainians in Canada. The first wave of Ukranians immigrated here in the 1890s and settled in the prairies. Many times I have been sitting in a cafe or at a campsite and overheard a Ukrainian family chatting away. My ears prick at the sound… What are they saying? Even though my Russian is now very rusty and half forgotten I can still make out words and usually understand the topic of conversation. With Québécois I am lost without GPS.
Refuelled by doughnut and coffee I recommenced my journey into Montreal. At the outskirts of the city sprawl I hopped onto the bike path that weaved its way around the quieter suburban streets, through parks, over bridges, under highways and alongside the river. At first I enjoyed the novelty of navigating. But it was hard work to sustain for 30km as I checked my iPad map on the move while swerving to avoid another pothole in the rain.
I read the lines of street names. The city was a book of famous names. Rue de Gandhi, Gauguin, Dion (presumably Celine), Avenue Christophe Columb. And Rue de Brian. Who is Brian? I wonder.
Finally I arrived at the Millers’ house. The Millers are family friends who I haven’t seen in a long 8 years. As soon as I was offered, “beer, orange juice or tea?” I felt immediately at home. It is so lovely to see them again that I will take a few days off the bike to catch up with them.