When we arrived in the beautiful town of Trois-Pistoles, Quebec for the second stop on our Kraft Celebration Tour, we had been warned.
"One hundred percent non-English speaking" was the phrase we frequently heard. Imagine the thoughts that were running through our heads as we pondered ordering lunch from a beautiful Quebec waitress who had absolutely no idea what we were saying. We were hoping all the restaurants had pictures on their menus.
Lucky for us it turned out that there were plenty of residents that spoke English, and very well I might add. But the language barrier was likely something that could have been overcome anyway. The town and its residents couldn't have been more welcoming.
The truth is I needed to work on my French anyway and everyone in town gave me the chance. You know the feeling when you travel somewhere where English isn't the first language? You're armed with your local dictionary filled with tourist-appropriate phrases. You've studied and you're feeling confident. Then you attempt to order your first drink ...
...and you're met with a blank stare?
I never felt that way in Trois-Pistoles. In fact, I was repeatedly told that my French was, in fact, "very good". Even though it absolutely is not.
Maybe the reason residents of this charming town along the St.Lawrence are so accomodating to aspiring French speakers is because every summer they host hundreds of aspiring French speakers. Trois-Pistoles is home to the oldest French immersion school in North America. Since 1933 student have arrived in two groups of 300 every summer, staying for five weeks, living with local families and immersing themselves in all things Quebecois. It's the kind of thing I wish I had done growing up. Maybe I can still do it someday.
Several of the students who were smart enough to enroll in the program were in front of our stage for our live broadcast from Trois-Pistoles on Tuesday. It was a good thing too. It's not that TSN wasn't popular in Trois-Pistoles, but our French-language counterpart RDS was there alongside us, and they had an understandable advantage. So the students who had been living in the town for weeks from far-away places like Yellowknife and not-so-far-away places like our first stop, Kingston, were kind enough to hang out and make some noise. Listening to them chat casually en Francais with the locals was pretty cool too.
Trois-Pistoles was our second stop and their $25,000 cheque from Kraft will go to good use. Our broadcast spot was right next to Paul-Emile Dube Baseball Park, a charming 300-seat facility that packs in three times that many people when the local senior baseball team is defending their league championship (which they are this week). The money will go to new lights and new bleachers so all those rear-ends are a little more comfortable squeezing themselves next to each other.
We've already arrived in Fredericton for our next stop on Thursday: Fredericton Junction. After a late-night ride on the Rock of Love Bus we awoke this morning and immediately made our way to Kingswood Golf and Country Club where we hit the links with UNB Varsity Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall as well as a few other members of the UNB staff and a few friends. It was a great time had by all and I probably only lost 29 golf balls. Thursday's show should be entertaining I hope you can tune in.