Beer Lao or Pad Thai?

By Ombi and Alex - September 23, 2006

As every astute traveller will know, where there's a will, there's a way.......a cheaper way! We were on our way to the bus station in Montreal, to organise a ticket to Quebec City, when a guy came up to us and asked us if we needed help. I should add here that Canadians are an extremely helpful people, who always seem eager to help you out. All it seems to take is a couple of seconds staring at a map (and in my case, as I have no sense of direction, vacantly!) before someone is asking you if you need any help. In this case,it was a guy called Dominic, who tells us that we are close to the bus stop but that there is indeed a cheaper way to get to Quebec City and that is with a company called "Allo Stop", and at a quarter of the price.

What is "Allo Stop"? It is a car share ride company, whereby you are hooked up with a driver who is already going to that destination. We promptly made our way to the office close by, and in a matter of minutes we had paid our $6.00 Canadian registration fee (which lasts you a year), and then we were told that te trip to Quebec City would cost $16.00 each - $6.00 to the company and $10.00 to the driver on arrival at the final destination. Where do we meet. As there are many drivers, leaving at various times across town, a metro station close to the driver's house is chosen. Easy! And as a price comparison, the bus would have cost us around $50.00 Canadian each. Unfortunately, due to priovincial/ state laws, we would not be able to later use this system to go to Toronto!

We arrived in Quebec City on Friday night (15th September). "Allo Stop" has a couple of drop off points, which are easily accessible. Here we would be meeting our friend Dan, who Alex and I met whilst travelling through Laos and Thailand mid last year. For those of you who don't know, we forged a great friendship with Dan. In Laos, the three of us actually visited an orpahanage and gave out some food and toiletries. I have always thought of myself as a "conscientious traveller", but the visit was Dan's idea, as he had also done something similar in Cambodia. It has since made me think how important it is to GIVE to the world as well as TAKE from it.

So, we were picked up by Dan, and his beautiful partner Josee, who we had heard so much about! Now, I say beautiful as she proved to be so, both inside and out! Although it was a short visit, and we left on the Monday morning, both Dan and Josee ensured that we had a brilliant time, and we got to see the city's highlights. Thank you to both of you for making us feel so at home, and for going out of your way to help us to feel and taste French Canada.....

Yes, on the topic of tasting French Canada......the maple butter was exquisite, but it never seemed to make it onto a slice of anything....the spoon which seemed to glide so easily from the recipient to my mouth had me thinking that I had an elevated form of hand to mouth disease! And then there was the "Poutine" at a take away place called Ashton's, which we were told only existed in the state of Quebec....a bowl of chips (or fries as the Canadians and Americans would say), topped with gravy (aka English style actually) and chunks of cheese.......what can I say, caloric fat attack meets Mr. Cholesterol! Apparently, it's unique to the area, so of course we tried it. I must say, although a little heavy (no pun intended) it wasn't too bad!

Our favourite meal, we must admit was the Pad Thai that Dan made us on our last night. Dan had learnt this doing a cooking course in Thailand. That meal rocked Dan! Alex thought it was even better than all those Beer Lao you shared in Laos!!!! And I must say, not only did it taste truly authentic, but it has been my favourite meal since leaving Australia.....of course it helps that I both love Thai food and Pad Thai!

Our experiences in this beautiful city were not only food related, although it may appear so.....we walked through the quaint and cobble-stoned centre,Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec) with rewarding views of the St Lawrence River below, and we also visited the Montmorency Waterfalls, which are actually higher, but obviously not as voluminous, as the Niagara Falls.

Our final word is on how friendly Canadians are, and thus far we have only visited French Canada. And NO, it is NOT true that people are not helpful if you cannot speak French! We have found French Canadians to be unreservedly helpful, polite and eager to help! But hey, it does not go astray to try and speak a little French either! Each and every human loves when another person makes an effort with their language and culture! You receive what you give!

Ombi

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