Saturday, 6 October 2012


I could claim that I'm doing this all post-modernist. Deliberately jumbling the timeline to deconstruct my Canadian experience. In reality, it's just me being chaotic. And starting to write without any sort of plan.

Time for some more personal stuff. I'd best explain the timetable of events a little. I brewed at Beau's on Thursday and the festival started at 4 PM on Friday. Leaving me a little time to myself. "Let's go explore Hawkesbury" I said to myself. What I meant was "Let's find a pub."

A taxi was the only option for getting downtown. That or a rather long walk, partially along roads without pavements. Taxi it was then. Hawkesbury centre seemed a good enough destination. Or rather the Hawkesbury Centre, a small shopping centre on Main Street.

Inside I noticed something. Everything was in French. Mostly with an English translation, but not always. I'd been told Hawkesbury was majority Francophone. I hadn't realised just how much. (Though the taxi dispatcher I heard on the journey down speaking French was a pretty big hint.) Except for one shop: Toys for Boys. It had an odd mix of remote-controlled, warships, sporting equipment and toys. I walked on, then thought: sporting equipment, yes, a chance to get Lexie's present. He wanted an ice hockey jersey. I went back.

I don't quite understand how this happened. I'd picked a jersey (Montreal Canadiens) and walked to the counter to pay. Without even thinking, I spoke to the owner in French. It could have been because he started with "Bonjour". Before I knew what I was doing, there I was chatting away in French. I even understood what he said. Or most of it. How cool was this? Speaking French in Canada. I felt so proud.

One present out of the way, it was time to find a pub. The shopping centre had some café-type eating places. But I wanted a pub where I could sit and drink beer. Best take a look along Main Street. I walked from one end to the other. The only thing that looked even vaguely pub-like, the Boiler Room Bar and Grill was shut. Very shut. There were cobwebs around the door. Brilliant.

I did find a LCBO (Liquor Control board of Ontario) shop. It's the same idea as the Systembolaget in Sweden: state-run alcohol stores. It looked a bit like one of the modern Systembolaget shops inside. I was there for a reason. Andrew had asked me to bring back a bottle of Candian wine. There was loads of it, so I though one from Ontario would be best. I got a Pinot Noir because, well, I love pinot noir. And stuff like Cabernet Sauvignon is so boring. Andrew doesn't care.

I made one final deperate stroll down Main Street, in the vain hope I'd missed a pub. I hadn't. At least I could eat somewhere. I picked Carole's a diner-like restaurant doing breakfast. I can always eat a breakfast. Especially if I haven't already had one that day. Even when I have, it doesn't always stop me ordering another.

The waitress started with "Bonjour" and there I was speaking French again. This was so easy. I could even understand the accent. At the end of my order the waitress asked me something I didn't quite catch. "Yes", I answered. Rather than walk off she repeated the question. The third time, I realised what she'd said was "Do you want white or brown toast?". That made me feel more humble. Though it was interesting that she didn't immediately switch to English when I didn't understand.

While I was waiting for my taxi outside I noticed a sign in the window: "Fully licensed". Damn. I could have had a beer with my eggs and bacon.


Gary Gillman said...

Formidable, M. le touriste! I am always curious how visitors react to the blend of English- and French-Canadian cultures you can find in Canada, even outside Quebec. Being the far eastern sector of Ontario, and despite the separate history of VanKleek Hill and those Loyalist-settled areas, you can still find a kind of semi-Quebec there.

I think the reason she didn't switch was she appreciated you speaking French and felt you would prefer to finish the conversation in that language.

Too bad about not having "une biere pour accompagner le petit dejeuner". That could have been your chance to have a Beau's Lugtread in its usual form. Or probably more typically for the town, a Labatt Dry. (Now there's a beer to mix with dry sherry!). :)


Anonymous said...

The Boiler Room Bar and Grill shut down, due to English owners. They had a lot of nice beers, and a fresh menu, but it was closed in a year.