wooden comfort room in the snow covered ground in the forest

Cold Cash In Canada: A Family Misadventure

“It’s open.” I said, “Let’s go in!”

We were cold. But not nearly as cold as we had expected to be considering the temperature was -5F with a -45F windchill. As south eastern Pennsylvania residents, we had never been exposed to a cold this intense for such a long period of time. But that’s Quebec in the winter.

We had been hiking around the frozen Montmorency waterfall for about 45 minutes. It was truly beautiful- like something out of a movie.

Back before we crossed the footbridge over the falls, we had looked down over the edge of the trail. Several small groups of Canadians were repelling down the ice covered cliffside, enjoying a picnic in the snow as a reward for their efforts in reaching the bottom. Then there was us, so glad to see a place to get warm, even though we had only walked less than a mile.

“Do you have any money?” Bailey said as we approached the cafe door. She meant Canadian money. She had told us several times before we left the States that we needed to get some Canadian cash, or let our bank know we were out of the US, so they could enable our credit cards to work internationally. For reasons neither my wife or I understood, we didn’t do that. The credit card, surprisingly, had been working just fine anyway, strengthening our inaction.

“Do you have money?”, she asked again.

“No, but we should be good.” I said. “The credit card has been working fine so far.”

“Yeah but not all cards work that way in all places.” Bailey said. “You need cash.”

“It will be fine.” I said.

So we went into the small cafe – and felt immediately awkward.

My wife, Tammy, and I speak almost no French. Our daughters, Bailey and Ally, studied in high school and were at least able to converse with the Canadians for several sentences before their counterparts switched to English for them. Our daughters also had much more recent international travel experiences than Tammy and I. Yet, we had ignored their advice.

The cafe’s vibe was one of a place for local folks. It was mostly empty. There was a young man at the counter and someone else back in the kitchen. We ordered some hot drinks and poutine.

When I got out my credit card to pay, the French-speaking clerk said something I did not quite understand. Bailey got it though, and gave us a look of irritated stress. The cafe accepted only Canadian cash or Canadian bank debit cards. We had neither.

Ally, Tammy and I sat down at a far away table to figure things out. Bailey spoke a few more words with the man at the counter, then came over to join us.

“Dammit!” Bailey said. “I told you guys this was going to happen!”

The clerk had told Bailey that there was an ATM a few blocks away where she could use her credit card to get Canadian cash. Bailey was the only one of us to have enabled her card for use outside US. Already seriously embarrassed, she quickly related this info to us and sped off into the cold in search of the ATM; without her hat, scarf, gloves or phone. She left before we could talk her out of roaming an unfamiliar and lightly populated area in subzero weather in a country where she was not exactly fluent in the language.

But off she went. This stressed the rest of us out more than the financial situation because we didn’t know which way she was headed or where to look for her if she got lost. With no phone, she couldn’t contact anybody if she ran into any trouble.

Fortunately, Bailey understood her French ATM directions well and returned in about 15 minutes with literally cold, hard Canadian cash. We paid our bill, finished our snacks, and snapped this pic right before we left.

Notable moments should be captured on “film”, right?

To me, this pic is a masterpiece. How many emotions are captured in it? What are they? What do you think is going through Bailey’s mind (she’s in the middle)?

Despite this mishap, our mid-winter Quebec trip was one of my favorites. But as far as souvenirs go, this photo is all I need.

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19 thoughts on “Cold Cash In Canada: A Family Misadventure

  1. Bailey’s unspoken words, “are you mongrels!!!! see your lives now.” I knew this would turn out this way !!!!$
    I hope you refunded …..thought you would mention that.

  2. I’m so sorry. Is it okay to tell you this was so much fun??? And you needn’t have pointed out which of your lovely ones in the pic is sweet Bailey. The look on her face? Disdain? Amusement? Contempt? It’s one of the all-time best smirks I’ve ever seen! Love the story – thank you, Todd!

    1. Haha thanks- I agree- the mix of emotions/I told you so/ smugness/embarrassment on Bailey’s face is priceless! Thanks for reading!

  3. Had a similar experience. My ignoramus self and world travelor (been all over the world and know better) made the “ugly American” mistake of thinking US, CA whats the difference…. Sure looks cold, glad you enjoyed yourselves.

    1. Yeah we were disappointed with ourselves that we dipped into our own adventures in “ugly/dumb American”. Thanks for reading!

  4. I’m from Indonesia can’t imagine if I was there. because in our place only have 2 types of weather. rain and heat. I’ve never been to an area where there’s ice even down to -5 degrees. but interesting to know. thank you for sharing.

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