Sunday, August 3, 2014

New France

Sometimes I get a hankering for Europe, it feels like too long since we last crossed the vast sea to Italy; that urge to surround yourself with old, to be sucked into a culture that just engulfs you at every turn and just suivre le courant. Plus it feels as though our friends have been taunting us this summer, as numerous amounts of them have spent their spring and summers abroad this year; they have been instantiating my desire to return, a yearning I haven’t been able to let go of and so what does one do when they are already on the road trip of a lifetime and can’t quite make it happen? Well you head to Quebec for a long weekend.
View of Montreal from Mont Royal
Quebec is a French paradise without having to leave the soil of North America, from the language, food and architecture, something we haven’t been able to surround ourselves with since leaving New Orleans. Now don’t be mistaken, New Orleans and Quebec are nothing alike, both vastly different; Quebec is refinement at its finest, while New Orleans is its rowdy sister, both exuding a culture and experience each their own.

Habitat 67 in Montreal
It has been ages since I was last in France and needless to say what little French was still my head I had to pull from the archives of the brain in order to retrieve what little remained so not to look too ignorant while in Quebec. Other than catch phrases and basic language skills, I relied mostly on a phrase that worked wonders for me the last time in Paris, “'Desole, je ne pas parler le francais. Mais, tu parle l'anglais.”  It works, I promise! Although I found we really didn't need it in Quebec, French Canadians are so quick to switch once they see you are processing what they are saying, they don’t make you struggle a bit to comprehend, they just automatically adjust, which was very refreshing.
Ethel Enjoying the Grass
We checked into the Omni, in Montreal, just down the hill from Mont Royal and were ready to explore and experience all that this city had to offer. We started of course with what was in sight, so up the hill we climbed to take in the cityscape and get a general layout of the land. Once down from our trek and checking with the concierge about our dining options which had to include Miss Ethel, we noticed the Jazz Festival was in full bloom. Since it was outdoors at a local park we thought we would join in; the concierge confirming it was at a dog friendly park, but once we arrived at the gates we were shot down with “no pets”, which meant Ethel got her way, as she was ready for bed. Tom and I were a little disappointed since we were looking forward to popping a squat on the grass and taking in some smooth tunes.
Down by the Tracks in Old Montreal
Looking back, not being allowed access to the concert was probably a good thing, since we were up with the sun and off to Quebec City to explore for the day, a bit of a drive, but so worth it. Quebec City really is like jumping into France: the scenery, the sounds, the architecture and the food, ah heaven! We spent the day strolling the streets taking in everything we possibly could, trying to relish as much of this city as we could in one day. Getting lost in the neighborhood streets, sitting for a glass of wine and just soaking up the little moments that I miss most about Europe, plus people watching the tourists is a pastime favorite. Even Ethel had fun, Quebec City was by far the most pet friendly city we experienced during our month stay in Canada, chilling with us in the caf├ęs, even she seemed to be swept away by the easy going atmosphere, or just picking up on Tom and I’s relaxed vibe.




Before heading back to Montreal we made a quick pit stop at Montmorency Falls for a bit of a nature hike mixed with a mild shower from the falls, waking us up from our food coma in order to make the drive back. The falls gorgeous, the stairway daunting and all worth the expenditure of energy in order to get those endorphin's flowing again.

Staircase Leading Down to Bottom of Falls
We had one more day in Montreal before heading back to Toronto, so we took to Mont Royal again, walking around to the cemetery and over to the Saint Joseph Oratory. My pictures of this place do not even do it justice; the basilica’s copper dome is the highest point in Montreal, and the second largest in the world, only Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome being larger. Getting up to the doors of the main entrance is no small test, one must climb more than 280 stairs, or as we witnessed, some faithful members can choose to take the separate staircase of 99 steps by climbing on their knees, stopping to pray on each step.
St. Joseph Oratory

Before hitting the road, we stopped in Old Montreal for a cappuccino, perusing the streets and stopping by the Notre-Dame Basilica to listen to the bells as they rang for their Sunday afternoon service. Feeling nostalgic and not quite ready to hit the road back to Toronto, we turned towards the river, stopping for gelato, and taking everything else we could possible commit to memory, relishing the moments and thinking about how fortunate we are to be on this journey. 

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