Sunday, August 13, 2006

Those were the days...

The Quebec trip went well for the most part. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to do any serious photography, but you can see some tourist pictures here.

This was the first time I had traveled with my wife, we’ll call her “Lola”, for over 15 years. Back then she had sworn “never again” but all of that time apparently softened her brain. It didn’t take long for her to fear she would regret it.

Typically, I only do the most minimal planning when I travel. In this case, my “plan” was to get a car in Montreal, drive about halfway to Quebec and find a hotel. Unfortunately, there was a Grand Prix race that weekend about half way between Montreal and Quebec and there was not a hotel room to be found. We ended up sleeping in the car and it was very, very cold.

But things got better quickly. We had ended our quest for a hotel in a small town called Shawinigan which turned out to be a very nice place. After having a nice breakfast of Paté and Brie on fresh baguettes, all of that from IGA no less, and exploring Shawinigan, we drove the rest of the way to Quebec on a very scenic two-lane highway. The aesthetic differences between the French Canadian countryside and here are wide and deep. Almost every house is treated as an art object. Most are painted in bright colors with many small artistic touches. Every little town has a beautiful old church.

We camped for most of the week in the Le Parc Nacional de la Jacque Cartier in a primitive little campground at the end of a rocky dirt road far from the nearest plumbing or electricity. It was paradise. We also took a couple day trips to Quebec and walked around the old city. As tourist places go, it is one of the best I have ever visited. It’s very beautiful in an old-world way. There are great looking French restaurants and sidewalk cafés, lots of art in the streets, museums, interesting shops, and a few street performers.

The only other excitement was a little white-water canoe trip we took. It was the first time Lola had ever canoed. She can’t swim and five minutes after putting the canoe in the water we were going through class III rapids. Unsurprisingly, we tipped over. All our stuff got soaked, we lost an oar and her purse, she was terrified and we were facing four more hours on the river. While she was holding onto the tipped over canoe for dear life and watching her new hat float away, I could see her thinking “never again.” But we found the oar and the purse, it turned out to be a beautiful day and we got through the rest of the rapids.

And then we spent the last night at the Ritz Charlton in Montreal. I had a lot of Marriott points from my previous job so we got it for free. It was a nice hotel, but for the most part people pay for the name. And Montreal was a let-down. It’s a nice city, but it was so much nicer to be out of the city for a week. Everything was so much better in the countryside.

We went the whole week without radio, television or newspapers and a great deal of it with no city or industrial noise. The lack of news was very refreshing. When we turned on the TV in Montreal and heard about the latest terror plots, war news, and administration idiocies it was very depressing. And since I was mostly speaking and thinking in my limited French, I wasn’t able to bother myself much with complex thought. And then hearing nothing but rapids for long stretches left my head blessedly empty of mundane thoughts of the daily grind. Thoughts of the job, the bills, the wars, the idiots floated down those rapids and away. I didn’t catch up with them till Montreal.