Celebrating the Soul of French America

Celebrating the Soul of French America

Fêtes de la Nouvelle France / New France Festival (August 4th – 8th, 2011)

One thing has remained constant in the heritage of Quebec City: It has always been the heart and soul of French North America.

Zoe D’Amato visits Old Quebec and travels back in time to the 18th century where thousands of people roam the cobbled streets dressed in period costume, enjoying the food and entertainment on offer.

She meets a small army of characters: from musicians, singers, dancers, street performers, storytellers and costumed pioneers – to a parade of 16ft. papier maché giants of historical characters: Captaine Vaillant, Monsieur de Taillon and Nicolas dit Noble Coeur.

From all over Quebec, Acadia, Canada, and Louisiana (the Cajuns), people of French heritage return to be immersed in French history and culture.

Zoe D'Amato at Fêtes de la Nouvelle France, Quebec

Zoe D’Amato at Fêtes de la Nouvelle France, Quebec

Cod Kissing, Rum Swigging

Cod Kissing, Rum Swigging

Yay! The very lucky Zoe D’Amato gets to kiss a cod (dead one) and swig the local rum…

Cod kissing  “Screech In” Ceremony is a traditional seafaring way of welcoming outsiders to Newfoundland Island. It’s also the best possible way of going native, that is if you weren’t born there. If you survive the ceremony (and live to tell the tale) you earn the title of “Honorary Newfoundlander”.

So how did it all begin? One theory goes like this… the Americans set up a military base on Newfoundland Island during WW2. At that time West Indies Demerara Rum was very popular with the locals. It was brought in, bottled, and sold in an unlabelled bottles. One night, an American serviceman was out drinking with some locals and – eager to try this potent local tipple – he took a shot of the rum. Mamma miaaa!!! His heart almost stopped beating…!

When he was able to breathe again, the American let rip a loud noise (from his mouth) that was later described as a blood curdling “screech”. The name stuck and the rest is history 🙂

So that’s the story of how Zoe became a true Newfoundlander. But, she’s from Nova Scotia. Does that count?

The Titanic Staircase

The Titanic Staircase

Yesterday our Eastern Canada crew visited Ryan Mansion in St. John’s, Newfoundland Island. This historic home was built by James Ryan during the period between 1909 and 1911 – which is around the same time as the Titanic. Ryan was probably the wealthiest man in Newfoundland and no expense was spared during the construction of his opulent abode. Italian tiles, finely carved mantles, crystal and bevelled glass from Waterford were all imported from the Old World.

Among these treasures, was  a finely crafted staircase carved from English white oak which was custom crafted by the same crafts people that fitted the Grand Staircase of The Titanic. As Titanic was celebrated to be the most luxurious liner of all time, Ryan Mansion (or “The House”) was lauded as the most extravagant home in the history of St. Johns.

Today Ryan Mansion is an exclusive, boutique hotel which offers themed “Titanic Getaways” and “Titanic Dinners” with sumptuous fare served on replica Titanic tableware. Recent illustrious guests include Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Enough to give you a bit of a sinking feeling…?

Zoe D'Amato, The Ryan Mansion

Zoe D’Amato, The Ryan Mansion