Monday, June 26, 2017

a modest celebration

I loved this essay on Canada Day. Especially the idea that I'm more excited about celebrating it than many Canadians.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

seaside spectacle




As I mentioned, federated Canada's sesquicentennial is July 1st. But Montreal turned 375 just last week. And this is the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, which broadcast Montreal's charms to the whole world.

To celebrate, Montreal lit up the Jacques Cartier bridge, scheduled a summer of free entertainment, and mounted Avudo, a multimedia ode to the St Lawrence river.

Tickets are free, but you have to preorder, so I got two. I was walking toward the pier after dinner when a woman asked what was going on. The show only debuted last Sunday so most locals haven't heard of it. I mentioned I had an extra ticket, so she came with me.

Carolina is a tourist from Poland, in Montreal for the first time for a wedding. It was fun to hear about her adventures, which began in Brazil.

We were dazzled.


Avudo tells the story of Montreal, with projections on the pier buildings as well as on a curtain of water.
 It's in French and English, but the main language is visual.
 As when these eyes and faces began to appear projected on a wall of water.
 A child's face
 A gray wolf
Transported to an earlier time
Early settlements
The tradition of maple water
 which continues to this day
 And then in 1734, heartbreakingly consumed by incendie.
 The winter ice festival
 and the snow falling on the river
 Joe Beef tavern
 and digging Lachine Canal by hand to accommodate ever larger ships
 This was a nightclub (?) that had white horses running on conveyor belts.
 Marquees and performances
 to modern-day Montreal.And hockey, inspired by lacrosse.
  Of course it ended with hockey.
No mention of the founding of Canada 150 years ago. Which I found...odd.
Afterward I took a walk, and noticed the faces on the trees beyond the Cirque du Soleil tent.
Lots of them, like ghosts of the harbor. At first you weren't sure if you saw them.
 It was a beautiful night.


More information about Avudo and Montreal's celebration

Thursday, May 25, 2017

milling about

Québécois, the regional French spoken here, has some unique and to my ears quaint vocabulary.  (They also use a lot of hyphens as in Baie–St–Paul.)
What, I wondered, is a fleuve and how is it different from a riviere?

I had time for these important conversations today when I visited the lush public grounds of Moulin Seigneurial and went for a walk in the forest. 

This is the old mill house.
The force of the water and gravity were used to mill flour, and wood. 
Here's the chute, still spilling. The water flows into nearby Lac St Pierre, which is part of the St. Lawrence River.
I headed deep into the forest for a walk, passing fruit tress and maples.
Luscious ferns unfurling by the river side.
But not all the land belongs to the mill. And many signs warn that in this milieu natural, they are not responsible for accidents.
This is what happens if you disregard the signs.
Alas, the path winds westward, and I'm now back in Montreal, at my favorite guesthouse. Here to celebrate Montreal's birthday and help kick off the summer festivals. It was good to walk in the woods. There were no bears.






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

the cheese stands alone

If you know me at all, you know how I love cheese. As a child when my mom played tennis, I walked across the street to the cheese store to ask for tastes. 
I knew the day was off to a good start when Delphine, my hostess from Lyon, served French toast for breakfast. French toast with grilled cheese, caramelized apples, local bacon, and maple syrup.
And Quebec fromage is not just any cheese. Look at this golden gate at Fromagerie DuFour! Delphine assured me their cheese was very good, and when a Frenchwoman recommends cheese, you listen.

I had hoped to take a tour at nearby Laiterie Charlevoix, but they were not yet open for the season, except the store. Still I managed to buy a hunk of Hercules, and more local pate.
Yesterday, on the way back from Saguenay Fjord, I stopped in at St-Fidele and got a big bag of cheese curds. Although they're made from cheddar, they aren't sharp like cheddar. As promised, they squeak when you eat them. (No, really. Which means you laugh when you eat them.) 
I was amused to see cheese curds sold everywhere in small bags, by the cash register, like a pack of gum or a bag of chips would be at home. Most string cheese tastes like rubber by comparison.
Then it was time to hit the road and work my way West. I'm spending the night in Trois-Rivieres (three rivers), which has splendid architecture and a beautifully restored Centre-ville (Downtown). 

 The brick buildings remind me a little of Manhattan or of Vassar, although the tin roofs are a giveaway.
Perhaps because it was sunny, this building feels welcoming rather than foreboding. Everyone was in a very friendly mood.
 
Here's the view from the gazebo at my hotel, looking out on Lac St-Pierre, which is what the becalmed St Lawrence River is called in this area. 
I treated myself to an elegant dinner. In Quebec, they are into courses. This is torchon de foie gras, which is illegal in California. I only felt a little guilty. Served with microgreens, berry compote, and a glass of Quebec wine.
Of course when I turned on the TV, there was a show on about cheese making. If this keeps up, I'm going to need another suitcase.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ballaine

"The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself."

As we boarded, a Spanish-speaking couple asked me if we were getting on the big boat. No, I told them. The tiny raft.
Lured by promises of minke whales, humpbacks, and beautiful belugas, we boarded a tiny zodiac. Most of the trip, we bounced around enormous waves, clinging to the chairs and clutching our cameras. 

The Spanish speaking man had a selfie stick.
Is that a whale? The driver spoke mostly French. I saw a fin I thought was a dolphin.

This was as well as I did. A spout! (Good thing we have whales in California.)


 Grateful for scopolamine.
Finally we turned into Saguenay fjord. As Denis mentioned, it's the only fjord in the Americas. (Or did he say North America?)
The seals were sunbathing and showing off. A selkie!
 
The canyon walls on either side of the gorge are about 1000 feet high.
 
There were clouds hovering inside the fjord.
 And then, just as quickly, sun.


"It is not down in any map; true places never are."
 As close as I got to a whale today. It felt good to take off my XXL construction clothes. The pot of gold is on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.

On the way back, I made a stop at L'Isle aux Coudres, where the ciderie is located. To get there, you drive onto a car ferry (like a moving bridge) and glide across the baie. Like so much of the eastern St. Lawrence, it is exquisite country. A world apart.
"Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?" —Moby-Dick