Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Good To Be Home!

It's a truism that the best part of any vacation is returning home to family, friends and be it ever so humble, the delicious familiarity of one's very own bed.
If one is fortunate enough to live in a country such as Canada, travel helps remind us that we live in one of the very best places in the world. That isn't the rube in me talking, it's just a plain fact, as underlined in all those United Nation surveys placing Canada near the top of the list of countries to live in. Alas, but for the weather, our little big corner of the world would truly be a paradise!

I have been gone these last two weeks, sailing the Mediterranean with my lovely wife aboard a massive cruise ship that shlepped us from port to port in a gruelling schedule which included eight ports of call in five countries over twelve days.

While I shall not impose on your kind attention, a painful dose of travel stories and boring vacation photos, I will share those pictures and anecdotes that I believe you may find the least bit interesting. At any rate it will buy me a day or two to catch up on my RSS reading and get back to the fine business of commenting on local issues.

After flying to Barcelona and touring for a day, we boarded our ship and set sail for our first port of call- Nice, France. Little was I to know that it would be the highlight destination of our trip.  We spent the day walking up and down the famous seaside boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais, (named after the English who built it) which runs along  the beach, opposite the storied hotels and casinos of the famous Cote D'Azur town. There is a certain ambiance to the town that is indescribable, suffice to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our day!

I haven't been back there in many years and was thoroughly disappointed to find that the very French custom of topless sunbathing is no longer in vogue. The lack of this distraction caused me to notice (which I hadn't on my previous visit) that the beach consists of nothing more than a huge mass of rocks and pebbles, leading to what must be, a most unpleasant beach experience, unfortunately to be re-lived in much of the destinations we were to visit in Italy and the Greek Isles. Yech!

 As I mentioned, we had already vacationed in the picturesque town years before and had already seen the few sights that there are to see. So we set off to pay tribute to the finest of local shrines, the CHANEL BOUTIQUE on Rue Paradis (where we purchased a very expensive, ahem ...relic.)

Having made a very successful start to fulfilling two of the four basic vacation precepts (touring, sunbathing, gorging and shopping,) we then ambled down the very touristy Rue Massena where I snapped the following photo montage.
It seems that the French are not quite as afraid of English as are our native Quebeckers. Many signs are bilingual and some are completely in English, unapologetically catering to the international clientèle.  It was quite surprising to see signs posted in France which would be illegal in Quebec! My favourite 'pancarte' was a tongue in cheek signboard in front of a cosmetics store that proclaimed that they only tested their products "Sur les Anglais." Tres Drole!
Lo and behold, I found a restaurant called "LE QUEBEC" which proudly announced itself as a "STEAK HOUSE." How deliciously ironic! Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the infamous LOI 101!

A restaurant named "Quality Burger Restaurant" would likely come under a 'Sleep Country Canada' language assault, would it be located in our fair province! Even the tiny town of Villefranche-Santé unabashedly welcomed visitors bilingually.

On our drive back to the port, the taxi driver recounted a most interesting story. He was complaining that he was forced to co-sign for a rental apartment for his ex-wife and daughter, as well as putting up a hefty deposit. It seems that evicting a deadbeat single mother from  an apartment in France is a time consuming and exasperating affair, lasting up to eighteen months, a period wherein where the landlord receives no rent. So apparently, it was explained to us, that it has become the convention of landlords to demand quite a bit of security before renting to the aforementioned dreaded single mom.  Our intrepid driver explained that he himself was embroiled in just such a dispute, related to his personal condo that he had rented out to exactly some such 'undesirable'. When I asked how he could afford to receive no rent for such a protracted period of time, he explained that he had purchased insurance for the eventuality. Incredible!
And we think our rental board is dysfunctional, HA!

We returned to the friendly confines of our cabin aboard the ship, upbeat and hopeful that the rest of the ports of call would be as interesting and exciting as Nice.
Alas it was not to be ......

Tomorrow I shall impose one last time on your patience to recount the rest of our cruise experience and return on Wednesday to the burning issues at hand, so please bear with me.


  1. Hey...not so fast! I noticed the air conditioned place had its English lettering smaller than the French...I suppose because the English words were longer.

    I went to Montreal for a few days last week mostly to go through my 90+-year-old aunt and uncle's belongings as they finally sold their home of 53 years and moved into a (very nice) retirement home in Côte-St-Luc.

    With my life partner, we went into the Homesense store in Decarie Square and, despite being mere blocks from affluent and predominantly English speaking Hampstead, the sales girl who helped us with a purchase couldn't speak English. My partner found that off-putting. She's now spoiled by being served in her mother tongue in Ontario, so to remind her of her change moving to Ontario a year earlier, I made sure we stopped at the 401 border crossing on the way home to take a picture of her walking out of Quebec. Her daughter made it perfectly clear to everybody she visited she'll NEVER return to Quebec. She's learning!

    We stayed at my partner's parents home, in Chomedey. By the by, we took a neighbourhood walk and heard loud music a few blocks away. At one of the schools, the Armenian community was holding a bash, namely a fundraiser for a church they are building just meters away. On the fence were the Armenian flag, a sign describing the festivities with an Armenian guest singer from L.A., and next to that, a Quebec flag, NOT a Canadian flag, of course. THAT put me off!

  2. I wouldn't worry about the Quebec flag at the Armenian event. Armenians know what symbols they have to use to keep the nut cases away. They learnt this while having to deal with the Turks.

  3. Oh please, there are thousand of reason to not visit Québec before naming one store clerk that couldn't speak English!

    As for France, while true that many signs would be illegal here, you should be aware that they also have their own "Louis Préfontaine" if you see what I mean :)

  4. Editor: “it's just a plain fact, as underlined in all those United Nation surveys placing Canada near the top of the list of countries to live in”

    In addition:

    “More than half of people around the world say they would abandon their homelands and move to Canada if they could. Given the choice, 53 per cent of adults in the world's 24 leading economies said they would immigrate to Canada, according to an international survey commissioned by the Historica-Dominion Institute in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Aurea Foundation.”


    This is how desperate the separatists got:

    You will notice that the first photo is not even from the Toronto riots, but from the riots in Greece a few weeks ago. Note the word “Polis” on the shields, and a clearly European landscape in the background.

  5. C'est pas parce que les Français agissent d'une façon qu'il faut faire la même chose ! Le contexte n'est pas le même, mauvaise foi, quand tu nous tiens !!!

  6. @ derteilzeitberliner , I guess you are referring to the Toubon Law.

    It has been amended since then. The use of English in advertising, Education, professional circles is as strong as ever.