Laetitia and her group spent most of the day driving along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River toward Quebec City. After crossing the river, the group visited the old fortifications and the Plains of Abraham, where Wolfe defeated Montcalm in 1759, a decisive battle in the British conquest of North America. The group planned to stay and dine that evening at Chateau Frontenac, one of the grand hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
After making those arrangements, Laetitia walked down the hill through the old town near the hotel. Her grandmother had been there years ago and instructed her to have some of the French-press coffee served in the local restaurants. Times had changed, and Laetitia found that they now served only the auto-drip variety. She wasn’t disappointed—she liked coffee made that way, too—but she had hoped to be able to tell her grandmother about reliving the remembered Québécois experience.
Laetitia went for her happy hour sojourn to a cabaret in old town. She found a perch at one end of the establishment’s long bar and ordered a pastis. She watched the bartender pour a shot of the yellow, anise-flavored liquor into a glass and saw the drink turn cloudy as he added five parts water to it. As she sipped it and watched the crowd, Laetitia noticed that some of the bar patrons were ordering something they called la jaune Russe, which appeared to be pastis cut with vodka instead of water. After a few of those, a woman named Marie-France began dancing a kind of can-can on the bar. When the crowd began to shout “sans pantalons,” (without pants), took her pants off and tossed them into the crowd in the manner of a bride tossing a bouquet. “Maybe it’s a Canadian thing,” Laetitia thought, remembering paparazzi-style photos from the 1970s of Canada’s first lady, Margaret Trudeau, panty-less at a night club. It was getting close to the time to meet her group at the restaurant, so she dashed off a limerick and walked through the old city to the Chateau Frontenac.
When after some drinks, Marie-France
On the bar gave a wild can-can dance.
She made the crowd roar
And cry out for more
But, alas, she’d but one pair of pants.