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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in quebec
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Quebec (French: Québec) is a province of Canada, the largest in size and second to Ontario in population. Predominately French-speaking (French being the official language), Quebec is located in the east of Canada and is situated east of Ontario; to the west of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; finally, to the south of the territory of Nunavut. The capital of Quebec is Quebec City, its largest city Montreal.
As Canada is officially bilingual, most official documents, signs, and tourist information will be in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak correct English, especially in Montreal. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it.
The official language of Quebec, however, is French -- or, more specifically, Quebecois French. Isolated from France for centuries, and unaffected by that country's 19th-century language standardization, Quebec has developed its own dialect of French. The continental variety -- called "international French" or français international here -- is well-understood, and something closely approximating it is spoken by broadcasters and many businesspeople. While Quebecers understand European French, European tourists may feel lost until they grow accustomed to the local accent(s).
There are a few main differences between Quebecois French and French-from-France. One is that in Quebec it's relatively common to tutoyer (use the familiar tu second-person pronoun) for all and sundry, regardless of age or status (though there are common exceptions to this in the workplace and the classroom). In asking questions, one uses inversion (Aurais-tu du sirop?) more often than Est-ce que, and sometimes just inflection (Tu aurais du sirop?). Finally, there are a number of vocabulary words that differ, particularly in very informal contexts (for example, un char for a car, rather than une voiture), and some common expressions (C'est beau for "OK" or "fine"). Overall, however, pronunciation marks the most significant difference between Quebec and European French.
Probably the most puzzling difference in Quebec's French is that one will often sacrer (blaspheme) rather than using scatological or sexual curse words. Terms like baptême (baptism) or viarge (deformation of vierge, i.e. virgin) have become slangy and taboo over the centuries in this once fervently Catholic culture. Hostie de tabarnac! ("communion wafer of the tabernacle!") or just tabarnak! is one of the most obscene things to say, and more polite versions like tabarnouche or tabarniche are equivalent to "darn" or "fudge!"
Although sacre may seem funny, be assured that Quebeckers do take it seriously. Don't sacre any time you don't really mean it!
See also: French phrasebook
To tour Quebec extensively, a car is essential. Note that most signage is French-only and that road conditions are notoriously poor by North American standards. Drivers also have a well-deserved reputation for aggressiveness and impatience: when driving on a multi-lane road, keep to the right unless you have every intention of being the fastest thing on the road. Passing on the right and driving across solid lines, though permitted elsewhere in Canada, are not tolerated in Quebec and will earn you a fine. Also note that speed limits are, as elsewhere in Canada, posted in metric. Major highways usually have a posted minimum as well as a maximum. Traffic often flows about 25% faster than the maximum.
VIA Rail offers train service along the St. Lawrence river, up the Saguenay and in the Gaspé Peninsula. http://www.viarail.ca
Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards, though showing the signs of funding cuts in recent years.
Maple syrup (French: sirop d'érable) is the sticky, drippy giant on Quebec's culinary landscape. Boiled down from sap of the maple tree in sugar shacks (cabanes à sucre) around the province, it's got a more tangy flavor than the corn-based pancake syrup you may be used to. Different types of candies are obtained by pushing the boiling process further and are popular gifts during springtime. Also don't miss taffy-on-the-snow (tire sur neige).
In Quebec, the syrup is used for more than just pancakes, though. You can find it as a glaze for pork and beef, mixed in with baked beans (fèves au lard), or in desserts like pouding chômeur ("welfare cake") or tarte au sucre (sugar pie). It's also made into loose sugar and candies. Syrup is on sale practically anywhere you want to go, but if you really want to take some home, stop into a farmer's market or a grocery store rather than a tourist shop. You can get the same high-quality syrup as at the souvenir stand for about half the price.
No visit to Quebec is complete without at least one plate of poutine. This unique dish is a plate of French fries, drowned in gravy, and topped with chewy curds of white cheddar. There are variations on the theme -- adding chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato and beef sauce (poutine italienne). Poutine can be found in practically any fast-food chain restaurant in Quebec, but higher-quality fare can be found at more specialized poutine shops.
Befitting the province's sub-arctic climate, Quebecois cuisine favors rich, hot foods with more calories than you want to know about. Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean for instance is a deep-dish pie, typically from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, made of various meats (usually beef and pork, often including game, cut into small cubes) and diced potatoes, baked together in a flakey pastry shell. It's comfort food for a Quebecois -- just like Maman used to make.
Beer and a so-so selection of wine are available at most grocery stores and depanneurs (corner markets), but by law distilled spirits are only available at provincial stores called the SAQ (http://www.saq.qc.ca/) (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"). The SAQ also has a higher-quality selection of wine, mostly European, Australian, or South American-- there's a peculiar blind spot for California vintages. Although closing time in bars is 3AM, most SAQs close between 6 and 8PM, and sales of other alcohol are banned after 11PM.
Quebec is blessed with some of the finest beers on the North American continent. As in the rest of Canada, they are higher-proof than in the US; alcohol content starts around 5-6% but 8-12% is not unusual. Americans should check labels and drink cautiously to gauge their own tolerance. Beers by Unibroue and many other microbrewery are excellent; Boreal, Belle Gueule and Cheval Blanc are all comparable to good craft brews elsewhere and are worth a try.
Although as a Canadian province Quebec sees much less gun violence than south of the border, there are still personal and property crimes that should be avoided. Take standard precautions in and out of cities.
Despite warnings to the contrary, anti-anglophone violence is exceedingly rare. It's mostly perpetrated by barroom bullies looking for a fight who'd otherwise pick on you about your weight, your shoes, or your hair color. If you have even marginal people skills (hint: walk away) you shouldn't have much problem.
More dangerous, however, is the severe weather in Quebec. The Saint Laurent valley has some of the most extreme variations in weather of any inhabited place on the planet -- going from up to 40C in the summer to -40C, and lower, in the winter. In summer, make sure to have cool, comfortable clothes, drink lots of water, rest frequently and avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.
In winter, be very careful to cover all parts of your body before venturing outside. Fingers and ears can get frostbitten in minutes in a Quebec winter. Thermal underwear, gloves, hats, scarves, wool socks and sturdy boots are a must. Think twice about bringing or renting a car in winter if you're not used to driving in heavy snow conditions. Keep a supply of food, water, and blankets in the car, as well as an emergency road kit.
In Quebec, language is identity. Be extremely careful when talking about language, and don't assume that anyone you speak to prefers English to French (or vice versa!). Remember that anglophone (English-speaker) and francophone (French-speaker) are loaded terms in this province; the "third" option, allophone ("others", including Africans, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Italians, and Portuguese) is also a "code word" with some racist overtones. Many francophones view any decline of the French language as an eradication of their culture and heritage; even a joking "Why can't you all learn English?" sounds a lot like "Why don't you all just die?"
Although some Quebeckers are proudly Canadian, more than a few feel antagonised by "English Canada" and may not respond well to anglophones regardless of their descent. Do not become flustered if you are unable to find someone who speaks English right away. It is highly likely that the people to whom you are speaking do understand you, but lack the confidence and command of the language needed to answer you in your language of choice. Insisting on the use of English is likely to ruffle some feathers. It is better to make an effort to speak in French, even if it is only a few words.
The issue of separation -- or, as some Quebecois call it, sovereignty -- is an extremely complicated and emotional issue that is almost sure to cause hard feelings if you bring it up. Also, note that even residents who aren't souverainistes seriously speak of Quebec as a pays (country) with national parks, national assembly, and national capital. To further complicate matters, there are innocuous local translations for the word "national(e)" that do not contemplate a sovereign nation-state. The discussion of Quebecois politics is therefore best left to Quebecois.
Quebec is not (quite) Canada. Although it's technically true, you'll see few maple leaf flags, and the media doesn't emphasize connections with the ROC ("Rest of Canada"). Some Quebeckers consider the display of the Canadian flag to be an inflammatory symbol of "Canadian oppression". Phrases like here in Canada or as a Canadian may make your conversational partner ill at ease.
Note also that Quebec is not France. Jokes about French stereotypes (Jerry Lewis, poor hygiene, eating frogs' legs) will bring puzzled stares, or at best show that you have no idea which continent you're on. And comparing Quebecois culture and language unfavorably to France's is probably not a path to go down, either. Although Quebec and France have many ties, the Quebecois typically regard themselves as a distinct culture quite separate from the country that "abandoned" them three centuries ago. The cultures are so divergent that, in extreme cases, Quebecois and Francais speaking French to one another will not be mutually intelligible due to linguistic differences. Most French movies and television shows are dubbed into the Quebecois dialect for local consumption.
Finally, as with most of Canada (whoops!), Quebec is not the United States. People north of the border will bristle at the suggestion that the two countries are "practically the same".