Monday, November 28, 2011

A Canadian Thanksgiving

The Frenchies love Canada!

We just had ourselves a very merry [Canadian] Thanksgiving... 

Last Thursday, while many friends and neighbors were busy preparing for Turkey day, this family headed North, crossed the border, and landed in Vancouver B.C. for the long weekend.

The French don't celebrate Thanksgiving... or do they? 

Over the years, we have been invited by generous friends who have introduced us to this great American tradition: Sharing a delicious meal, laughter and stories, with loved ones. Feeling grateful for the good things and the good people in our lives. It seems everyone in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving!

Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want (1943)
Mickey, Minnie and their friends
The Simpson family
[A very] Modern Family

This got me thinking: Whatever the origins of Thanksgiving may have been (giving thanks for a plentiful harvest,) the meaning of that very special Holiday seems to have evolved over time, and if that meaning is the one I just described, then the French celebrate Thanksgiving too. In fact, while I was growing up in France, Thanksgiving was simply called "dimanche" (Sunday.) Every weekend, without fail, several generations would gather around a large table for lunch. There was scrumptious food; there was lively conversation and laughter; there were heartfelt toasts honoring hosts and special guests. Who says the French "don't do Thanksgiving?!"

Giving thanks the French way...
Le Déjeuner des Canotiers (the Boating Party) - P. A. Renoir (1881) 

If the French give thanks on a regular basis, isn't it logical, then, that our family should be tempted to take off and make the most of the long Thanksgiving weekend? This is not France, after all, and time off is like [American] turkeys in November: an endangered species!

So, once again, our family turned down several generous invitations and left town. Personally, I was looking forward to a break. It has been a hectic fall, and you may remember morale was low just a few days ago when we received an impromptu visit by les Bad Men.

Vancouver B.C., our old friend, was waiting.

What's not to like in that gem of a city? It is scenic and cosmopolitan, surrounded by water and mountains. The urban vibe is very much alive, but nature is just a few minutes away. I don't think anyone could take a bad picture of that spectacular city! It also earns a high score in my book for being eminently walkable, and for its excellent public transportation system. Over the years, we have visited often, and have come to love the Canadians' hospitality and laid-back style. 

A [young] boy in the [big] city
Vancouver: The Old and the New
Canada Trust Building reflecting the Vancouver Hotel
In Vancouver, the sea and the mountains are never far away

As far as I can tell, British Columbia only has one drawback: Its weather. Its long, wet winters. That is one thing at least, Seattle and Vancouver have in common. 

Better be ready for Vancouver weather come November!

This is clearly not a California or Florida store window!

Undeterred by the weather, this family enjoyed a très French celebration on Thanksgiving day. We had dinner reservations chez Jules, our favorite bistro in town, in the old Gastown neighborhood. Great food. Great atmosphere. Fair prices. We did not miss the traditional turkey, opting instead for more Gallic fare...

Junior enjoyed two servings of les escargots! 
The famed Gastown steam clock is nearby
There were sun breaks too, and on Friday, we woke up to a beautiful, crisp fall day. Lucky us: Vancouver offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities. A local favorite, Capilano suspension bridge, was just a short drive away. Built in 1889 and 230 ft. tall, the wobbly old bridge is flanked by majestic evergreens as it stands above Capilano river. There is also a Treetop Adventure, (a true Northwest nature walk,) and the brand-new Cliffwalk, a thrilling journey on a suspended walkway, 300ft above the ground. 

Capilano Suspension bridge
Not for the faint of heart!
On the brand-new Cliffwalk

Fighting Northwest Giants!

We did not meet many "Banana Slugs" on the way: They knew about 
our encounter with les escargots the night before!

Driving back into town, we decided to stop at another local favorite for lunch: Granville island. The Granville Island market is the big draw in the neighborhood, but there is so much more to experience. Fun, eclectic boutiques; restaurants; and let's not forget boats, a lot of boats. During our first visits to Vancouver, many years ago, we always stayed at the Granville Island Hotel and spent hours exploring the area. Junior's favorite place was the Toy Market (you can guess why.) 

And voilà the perfect transition to the end of my story. Boats. And the people who love them.

When Le Husband and I first moved to Seattle, back in the 1990s, we met a young couple from West Vancouver. Like us, they lived away from home. Like us, they were child-less in Seattle. Like us, they owned a great dog. Like us, they spent their weekends boating. The pets and their humans became instant friends, and for several years, shared many adventures, on land or on the water.

Finn and Shadow a.k.a. "Salt and Pepper"
People, boats and dogs: Those were the days!

An unusually elegant breakfast in La Conner, WA (Tulip Country)

Brave girls swimming in the Puget Sound!

Fishing buddies

Long walks...

Happy July 4th!

Exploring small towns in the Puget Sound area...
(Roche Harbor, San Juan island)

Then the children came. Our friends moved back to Vancouver. But we stayed in touch;  visiting now and then; spending the occasional vacation together. The boats, and our wonderful "salty dogs" are long gone. On Saturday evening, reunited once again in Vancouver, we toasted them all. We always do. And that, my friends, is our tradition, not just for Thanksgiving, but year round. 

A bientôt.

West Vancouver, BC (summer 2011)


  1. sounds like a lovely thangsgiving, family friends food...what could be better!!

  2. Dearest Véronique,

    Lovely Thanksgiving you've had! For reading some more about the American Thanksgiving, please do see my post:

    Yes, the Sundays in France you describe sound so familiar to me as well. After 'High Mass' my Dad and all his siblings would go to Grandother's home and had some jolly time together. That was a very nice tradition.
    Our adopted daughter Liz is born in British Columbia in Prince Rupert. We did find her birth mother there in June 1996 while Pieter was lecturing at the North American Mushroom Congress in Vancouver. Special memories!
    By the way, Liz is coming this Saturday to spend some time with us. She lives in Rotterdam.
    Love to you and glad you had a fabulous time in Vancouver! We did stay at the very hotel Vancouver where you were and that's also where we met Liz's Mom...


  3. Beautiful, beautiful photos - of the city, the scenery, and family and friends. You definitely deserved a long weekend away from all the stress, and it looks like you had a wonderful time. Glad to see you had a fabulous French/Canadian/American Thanksgiving weekend! Take care, Katelyn xo

  4. Having lived most of my life in Vancouver, including being born in one of the suburbs, I too enjoy it. I find it interesting to read other peoples' thoughts and experiences on our city...Vancouver has become quite well know for the varied and wonderful cuisine that can be found here...and I can not believe I have never been to chez Jules...thanks for sharing! I will definitely be recommending we go there the next dinner out with our best friends

    Have you traveled outside the lower mainland to the Fraser Valley, or the vineyards in the Okanagan?

  5. Bravo pour tes belles photos et tes commentaires. En ce qui concerne les fêtes, je déplore que pour des raisons évidentes commerciales, on les met à toutes les sauces, dans tous les pays. C'est comme la cuisine, chaque pays doit perpétrer ses traditions, et c'est ce qui fait le charme de les découvrir.
    Bon début de semaine, Véronique!

  6. BONSOIR je viens de te voir chez Richard donc je passe aussi te rendre visite
    Ces photos sont superbes de la joie des sourires et pour moi c'est le principal
    A bientôt

  7. OUI OUI à bientôt chez toi c'est certain
    Merci aussi de ton passage et bonne soirée

  8. These are such lovely photos and I know I would love Chez Jules! The more I see of Canada, the more I intend to visit one day (it's on my must-see list!)

  9. These photos of Vancouver are stunning. I have always longed to visit that area because I keep hearing wonderful things about it from people I know. It is on my list of the top ten places I want to visit, actually. :)

  10. Ha, je sors de Twilight(mon péché mignon) et je me retrouve dans cette ambiance pluvieuse et grise qui m'attire tant! quel delice! je t'envie ce sejour à Vancouver (sauf la partie pont suspendu, ça , je te le laisse! Ü)une jolie histoire que celle de cette amitié, avec toujours un petit brin de nostalgie dans tes ecrits..Quant à Tahnksgiving..Oui, nous avions nos longs dimanches;ça se perd un peu , je pense, mais ça revient vite des qu'une famille se retrouve, en fait.. on adore ça! :o)
    encore un tres joli et riche post, plein de belles histoires qui donnent à reflechir! Je te souhaite une bonne semaine!

  11. Une belle et agréable promenade dans votre blog... Gros bisous

  12. What a fantastic weekend and such happy images.... I would love to see Vancouver... one day... xv

  13. Vancouver - after your presentation - appears even more attractive. What a good time you've had with your friends!

  14. Lovely shots of Vancouver a city I have visited and like you growing up for me Sunday was always a huge thanksgiving dinner too....greetings from paris

  15. Thank you once again for a peek into your life. Interesting and excellent post and the photos are wonderful, especially the darling children when they were little shavers.

  16. Looks like a fabulous trip. Glad you had a good visit.

  17. I got lost 1/3 down...
    This is A LOT of posts in one to digest, but I'm glad you're back celebrating life after the catastrophe.
    At first I imagined you were holding a gun next to the Bear Mountie...
    Happy Canadian TG Veronique!!

  18. VERONIQUE!!!!!!

    Chère amie, merci pour tes mots de tendresse et ta visite aujourd'hui! La photo dont tu parles dans mon billet, ça c'est une photo des petits français qui regardaient le quoi...le theatre de guignol??? J'ADORE LEURS YEUX et leur regard....ahh, le theatre et la vie; je crois que Shakespeare a bien dit, "All the world is a stage."

    Tes photos de Canada sont supers! Dans mon école, nous avons des internes de France qui font des voyages pendant les vacances d'hiver. On va au Canada mais la ville la plus célèbre c'est NEW YORK!

    Je t'embrasse mon amie française! Anita

  19. An epic voyage through time and space, as only you, Veronique, know how to do... I think my favorite is the slug crossing... can imagine gooey silvery trails across the path. In my sidebar in the list of fun blogs there is a link to a blog named "The Adventure of Mr Slug and frieds"... I'm sure they would love this sign. But Mrs Slug hasn't posted or commented for a while, so I don't know where those fine slugs have slid and slipped off two. Be well Vero...

  20. Thank you for stopping by and leaving comments this week, les amis. As always, French Girl has enjoyed hearing from you! This has been a busy week and Thanksgiving seems so far away already... No rest for the Brave: The Christmas count down has started. Time to get things ready! Come back soon, ya' hear? -- Veronique

  21. Hi!! :)
    I really like your blog, I follow you :D
    ... maybe if you have time, you could visit my blog too, and if you like it, follow me back ;)


Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle