I remember rolling into la Vieille-Capitale for the first time for my friends’ wedding. Passing over Le Pont and the majestic St Lawrence, I felt a shift, I felt like I was going home. Over the weekend I visited different spots with my friends’ family and friends who gave me a glimpse of the Québécois lifestyle and culture. It felt as though I had a peek of my future from a crystal ball.
At the time I was working in a frou-frou banquet hall in Ancaster where the typical wedding cost at least ten thousand dollars, with all the frills of princess dresses, velvet seat covers and fancy flower filled center pieces. My friends (who are more than capable of pulling off breath-takingly sophisticated events, as they did in Lake Louise and currently do in hotels in Quebec) had organised a simple, warm celebration of love and solidarity. Their wedding was the embodiment of an idea that is wide spread in Quebec, but was quite radical in Ontario at the time: la simplicité volontaire, a concept that unabashedly seduced me.
Quebec knows who it is, where it has been and where it is going, a stark contrast to the ever-changing face of Southern Ontario. Looking at the Laruentides it was easy to imagine the landscape before European colonisation radically changed the region. Walking around the Old Port and Vieux-Québec, it was easy to imagine the daily life of the first French settlers. Most of all, I had an idea of what my ancestors must have seen while passing through Quebec on their way down the Fleuve from Europe, so many years ago. This gave me a feeling of immediate intimacy; already I had a personal history in this unfamiliar place.
When I went home, I couldn’t shake the spell that Quebec City had cast. I was a nomad, everything I owned could fit in my car, but Quebec had bewitched me. I felt like the notorious playboy who, love-struck, was finally ready to settle down. Not speaking much French, I moved here the first chance I got because clearly this was where my future lay.
I would be lying to say that my experience has been a cake walk. Learning French is a continual process that has not ceased since my arrival. It is easy to slip into the English trap, but not seizing every opportunity to practice French is harmful in the long run. Also, Quebecois are welcoming, but only to a certain point. Making friends and meeting new people can be a challenge when it seems like social circles are closed.
Life in Quebec can be tough. In some of my most discouraged moments I have seriously considered leaving. But in the end, I know that the benefits of living in here far outweigh the disadvantages. For every time I have felt disheartened there are at least three times I have felt inspired.
People often ask me if I moved to Quebec for love. I usually say yes, not the love of a man, but a love of the city. Like any relationship, there are rough spots, but true love is rare and once you’ve had a taste of its magic and romance, you’d be a fool to let it go.
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