Sunday, July 30, 2017

Quebec City, Day Seven: Au revoir!

For our last full day in Quebec City we went for another run, this time along the path that we had cycled when we crossed over the St. Lawrence and came back on the other side. We ran a few miles and then had to climb a massive set of stairs to get up into the old city, where we ran along the Grande Allee and subsequent side streets checking out some of the old houses there.
Afterward, we grabbed a coffee at Starbucks (I know, I know) on Rue Cartier and just people watched for a while which was fun.
Went home, cleaned up and went to the Musee de Civilisation Quebec which was comme ci comme ca. The featured exhibit was of Herge, which was the nome de plume of Georges Remi who was the author of "Tin Tin". Maybe my head wasn't really into it, but I didn't find the exhibits that great and I'm glad we weren't there for more than a couple of hours. Nothing really sticks in my head except for the exhibition about brains which was pretty fascinating.
After this we went back and I fell asleep (second day in a row for that!) and then we got up and headed back to the Plains of Abraham to see Bowie Revisited. We brought a little meal of meat and cheese and bread and just chilled in the grass and watched the band for over an hour: they were fantastic and I highly recommend seeing them if they're ever in your area. It was such a perfect night and a great end our to our trip.
I haven't been to too many Canadian cities, but I have to say that Quebec city is my favourite. The people were friendly, the food was great, the sites were fantastic, there was so much to do and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
Can't believe the trip has come to an end.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Quebec City: Day Six

Jacques Cartier, right this way...
Michael dropped the car off this morning. It was raining here a bit today. Then we went for a run for over an hour which was nice because we have a lot of butter, eggs, and crepes to burn off. I can't tell you how amazing the cycling/walking paths are here. It puts every other Canadian city to shame. We could go for hours on non-motorized paths. I freaking love it. Plus we saw frogs (insert French joke here) because most of the paths were along the river.
Afterward we cleaned up and then wandered the city some more, going up Cartier Avenue which was so quintessential French. I loved it. I love this city. This is the closest you can get to Europe without actually going.
We wandered the Plains of Abraham a while (she writes, nonchalantly about a decisive battle between the French and British) and then walked the city walls before coming back and having dinner across the street at Poutineville.
Plains of Abraham
Seriously: Poutineville. I have never had poutine until today and I am not sure I will have it ever again. It is good in small doses, but how much fries, gravy and cheese curds do you want? I had a veggie sandwich with a side salad. Kind of like the time I ordered a fish burger at Nathan's Famous at Coney Island.
Poutine
In addition, the people next to us (or maybe below us) are having a tremendous amount of sex. I don't hear much from him, but she sounds like a small dog being strangled. If it is the people next to us, they are quite young and fit but I can't help but think that she is making these high pitched noises for entertainment's sake? Like, one time when we lived in Kerrisdale, I opened the window and applauded the performance of the woman above me.
Am I wrong? No one makes that much noise unless they've watched a lot of porn and think that's how it's done.
I sound like an old person.
Oh wait: I am an old person.
But basically please just STFU, sil vous plaiz.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quebec City, Day Five: Still with the Hyundai.

Lac-Megantic
Our car was where we parked it in a parkade last night. Yay! It made today's trip possible. Once we were on the road heading to something that Michael couldn't pronounce but said it sounded like the place where the horrible train crash was a few years ago, but it wasn't, I opened the glove box to root around and found the wallet and sunglasses of the last occupant of the vehicle. The sunglasses were nice and there was $130 cash in the wallet. I called Enterprise to explain what I had found and gave them the woman's name and asked them to call her to tell her we had her wallet in case she hadn't cancelled her cards yet. They said that was fine, and we could just drop off the wallet with them, which I wasn't super keen again.
Lac-Megantic
BECAUSE I AM A NICE PERSON I looked up the address of this woman and, hilariously enough, it was about a kilometre from our hotel so I figured instead of dropping the wallet off with the car tomorrow, and the money mysteriously going missing instead of getting back to the owner, that we would swing by her place on the way home and deliver the goods ourselves.
But back to the road trip. Once we stopped fighting and it became clear that I reign supreme as a navigator (okay, my Google Assistant does everything but I take all the credit) I started to realize that the place that we were heading was, in fact, the Lac-Megantic. Michael felt bad because he didn't want it to seem like we were showing up to gawk, so I read more about it, and after the disaster in 2013 that mayor of the town asked tourists not to abandon them because that town was a huge tourist hub.
Notre-Dame-des-Bois
So we went and it was interesting and sad and resilient. It's a nice little community on the lake, and so much of the building is practically brand new. Of the 39 buildings still standing in 2014, all but three had to be demolished because of petroleum contamination. The kick ass juxtaposition was that when we were wandering near the site of the crash, we saw a guy installing a charging station for electric vehicles.
We stopped in at the tourist centre and they gave us a brochure that took us through a couple of kilometres of the city. We saw their church and the public art on display to honor and remember the people that died, and to focus on the strength and togetherness of their community.
After that we went to Sherbrooke. Sherbrooke seemed like it could have been really cool in that it's a very historic town and the building are in great shape, but there were also a lot of empty stores, an actual sex shop where the women were outside on the steps having a break before getting back to the... sex? And a super crazy guy wacked out on meth. We had had higher expectations and thought we might hang around, but then we saw a cat in a park catch and eat a bird and that pretty much sealed it. Given the student population there - and the associated professions that they employ - it likely was quiet and sketchy because school's out, kind of like Athens, Georgia was when we were there a couple of summers ago.
Sherbrooke
Had a quick snack break in Notre-Dame-des-Bois which is in the Appalachians, and is one of the highest towns in Quebec (thanks, Wiki!).
We randomly stopped in Drummondville at Resto La Muse and had a really friendly server and an excellent meal, so that perked things up a bit. And then we walked around a bit and the town really grew on us. Working class, not pretentious, but a lot of nice looking restaurants, a cool park, and nice town square, a jogging group that ran past us as we stuffed our faces, and just a nice mix of people.
Michael forgot his glasses at home (like, North Vancouver home) and has been wearing his prescription sunglasses most of the time. Sad for me, because some clouds rolled in and it was getting dark so I got to drive the remaining 65 kilometres into the city, and also try and find this woman's place which is in the old city which is like driving in facking Brugges or something. But we did it even though traffic was pretty chaotic and there is an incredible amount of work happening on the highways around here. At nine o'clock at night, apparently.
Drummondville
So! There is a road closure leading up to where this woman, Evelyn, lives and it's all convoluted and one way streets so I park the car. We have to hoof it up the 1,001 steps to get up into the old city and we're wandering around, studying the GPS and lo, we find her place. I hear someone talking inside so I think we're in luck. I knock on the door and hear a little dog start barking and then someone trying to shush it. I wait. I knock again, and the door opens. The young woman is on the phone and is holding her dog as the door opens. I felt kind of bad because it was just after 9.30pm and she didn't have a keyhole to look out, so it might have made her anxious. I smile and show her her wallet and her sunglasses and hand them to her. She asked where I found them and I said "In the car. In the rental car you drove" and she said "Ah, thank you" and then shut the door.
Dude. Really? Someone brings you back your wallet with all your cards and ID and cash, and your Ray Bans and you can't maybe call your friend back and and be a bit more effusive? Do I expect too much?
Sacre bleu!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quebec City, Day Four: We are driving a Hyundai?

Right. So we try and find this eco house. No luck. The road dead ends at a bike trail and look at us like dummies without out bikes. What we do notice, however, is that in this town of under 9,000 occupants, there is a huge, sprawling, super modern, super cool complex that we can't really figure out what it is. Like, it's Vancouver level luxe and it's huge and this is a tiny little village over an hour from Quebec City.
We drive around and I'm thinking we've inadvertently stumbled upon some kind of Scientology complex and we're going to be kidnapped or something. We see people strolling around in bathrobes, drinking wine. There are communal gardens. And then a train pulls up next to the complex.
A train.
Why is there a train here?
Anyways, the complex was a hotel. This is the hotel. Look at it and tell me something cult-like isn't going on here.
Who is going here, and why? Baie St. Paul is a beautiful place with great shops and cafes and a low key feel. So is Edgemont in North Vancouver, but they don't have a massive hotel complex with a train that runs directly to it.
After this, still unsure of what is going on, we hop back into the "car" and head back to QC, wanting to stop in at a McD's for coffee on the way back. We do, pulling into one next to the Cyclorama de Jerusalem. The parking lot of McD's is busy, but next to the Cyclorama and the massive church situated next to it are scads and scads of parked cars and tour buses. Getting a coffee is a freaking nightmare and I end up actually leaving because I can't handle the crowd and when I get into the car Michael tells me that it's so busy because everyone is coming to a pilgrimage at the huge church - the Basilica of Sainte-Anne - because she is the patron saint of Quebec and tomorrow there is a feast in her honor.
Of course there is.
Traffic around this area is demented. She is purported to heal the injured and lame, and so apparently people come from around the world with their injured and crippled loved ones, hoping for redemption which the church cashes in on like crazy. Anyways, it's these untoward thoughts that were the reason that I wasn't able to get two medium coffees at McDonald's what with being a heretic and all.
We go to a Tim's further down the highway and that's a sociological experiment unto itself, but finally we have caffeine and sugar (at 9pm at night) and we are back on the highway with Michael having forgot his regular glasses so he is wearing his sunglasses and I am praying (ha) that we simply get back to our skeevy apartment in one piece.
So yeah. The Hyundai ran pretty well.

Quebec City, Day Four: We are driving a Hyundai.

It was freaking hot today as we trudged up the multitude of stairs to the old city to pick up our car at Enterprise. Hot, I tell you.
We are now the proud renters of a Hyundai Accent. It is white. Remember that time that I wanted to rent a high end Lexus for my fortieth and drive the hell out of it up to Whistler? Maybe not. I'm not sure if I ever voiced that to anyone. Anyways, this Accent is a very close second.
Got out of the city and headed over to Ile d'Orleans. What an amazing, beautiful and fantastic place. Just minutes from Quebec City this place is just steeped in history and amazing food and culture and stunning views. Per Wiki "the island was one of the first parts of the province to be colonized by the French and a large percentage of French Canadians can trace ancestry to early residents of the Island. The Island has been described as the "microcosm of traditional Quebec and as the birthplace of francophones in North America".
It was roughly around 65k around the entire island. We stopped at the tourist centre and got a great run down. Popped into Les Fromages for some wonderful cheese and sausage and then continued down the road to the observation tower there which gave us a vantage point of the far east end of the island and the St. Lawrence on either side.
Back in the car we continued on and missed a stunningly beautiful part of the island that reminded me of Europe as we drove through its diminutive streets. Beautiful historically appointed houses along the water, artisan shops, chic cafes, gardens... I regret not stopping. It was like we weren't in Canada anymore. The history, the architecture, the culture, it was just amazing.
And like that we were off the island. We opted to bypass the Montmorency Falls as, from a distance, they weren't as broad or spectacular as Niagra, and the parking lot and all that was involved with it seemed too much work.
Instead we traveled on to Ville de Baie Saint Paul. It was a bit over an hour's drive to get there, but what a wonderful, strange little town. Mostly foot traffic, tons of art galleries and cafes and shops and sort of tucked into a little corner that we literally drove past the first time.
There was a pub we wanted to go to that had a small line up when we first went past, so went went for a walk around the town and when we returned the line up had grown so we ended up eating at a restaurant plagued with flies which is as disconcerting and First World as it sounds.
After dinner we tried to go find this eco house that we had read about, because of course we would. And that's when things got weird.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Quebec City, Day Three: Ow, my ass.

This morning we got up and sauntered over to Cyclo Services to rent a couple of bikes for the day. The service was top notch, friendly, informative and the bikes were comfortable and excellently maintained.
We left from the Old City and traveled east along the St. Lawrence river. It was a flat and windy ride (so windy that I had to buy a cycling jacket from the store before we left - first world problems, right?) along beautifully maintained and very safe bikeways. There were places to stop and take in the view, water stations, public art and a beautiful, heated bathroom along the way.
Crossing over the Quebec Bridge, however, was one of the scarier athletic endeavors I've ever undertaken. The gentleman from whom we rented our bikes said that we could ride it, but the signs would suggest that we walk our bikes. I probably biked about twenty feet on the "path" and immediately jumped off my bike. The "pathway" was the width of a narrow sidewalk, and this was for riders and walkers going both ways. The joins on the path were rusted and not flush, and the girders of the bridge would take your head off if you weren't looking. Additionally, it was so windy I was, at times, afraid that my glasses would be whipped off my freaking face.
Needless to say I made a very brisk walk of a very scary, old and thoroughly unenjoyable bridge. Suck it, Quebec bridge!
On the other said we cycled through the beautiful city of Levis on the other side of the St. Lawrence. It was a very tony area with lots of new, mod houses being built. Traffic was light and there was a little area full of cafes so we popped in for a coffee and a bite at O'Ravito which was recommended to us by Cyclo. Given that we don't speak French and we were somewhat off the beaten path, the gentleman that served us had a great sense of humour and even told us that the Quebec bridge collapsed twice while it was being built which wasn't entirely surprising to hear. It was nice to get out of the wind and get some sustenance.
Back on the bikes we rode past the ferry that we were going to take home, and up a hill where we could see across the St. Lawrence to the Chute Montmorency, which is thirty metres higher than the Niagara Falls, as well as being the tip of the Ile d'Orleans.
We doubled back and took the ten minute ferry from Levis back to the city and bombed around for a while more before dropping the bikes off, cleaning up and going to Billig for some charcuterie and crepes in another great space with delectable food.
To burn off some of our dinner time indulgence, we wandered around the Old City city again, checking down different streets and enjoying the more relaxed evening, post weekend-vibe.
All in all a great day. About 60k on the bikes, another great meal, lots of sight seeing, and a beautiful walk around a beautiful city as the sun was setting.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Quebec City: Day 2

Today we had breakfast in our suite before heading out to check out the old city.
Old Quebec is an UNESCO world heritage site. Taking a bit of a roundabout way to get to the fortified city, we first came across Martello Tower 4, which we couldn't get into, unfortunately.
We wandered into the Chateau Frontenac and around the Citadel, Place Royale, had an ice cream overlooking the Plains of Abraham and then took the funicular back down to see Rue du Petit-Champlain which has been called Canada's most beautiful street. It certainly was one of its most busiest streets.
After meandering up and down the old city and taking in the sites we tried to think of a neat place to go to dinner and ended up getting the last table available for the six o'clock seating at L'affaire est Ketchup. We figured if it was good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it should be good enough for us.
We rarely, if ever, go out for expensive meals and we wanted to try some different food, so for appetizers we ordered a scallop ceviche, and a potato and smoked fish salad. For our main course Michael ordered venison and I ordered lamb shank. I don't think I have ever lamb shank in my life. The ceviche was outstanding, but the potato salad was a bit fishier than I would have liked, though I think that was because they used mackerel which I believe is a fishy fish. The lamb shank fell off the bone when I touched it lightly with my fork. It was laid on some lentils with a few vegetables. Though it was moist and rich, I didn't think it was that flavourful so I was a less impressed with mine than I was with Michael's venison which was very tasty, not gamey at all and cooked perfectly.
For dessert we had "Cheesy Susan" cake with a burnt scotch icing and some rhubarb compote. It was out of this world.
Dinner came to $120 and for drinks we had club soda, tea and coffee. It was a different experience and we were lucky to simply get in as they only seat twenty at a time. The service was great and I would try it again if I came back, but we have got another list of great restaurants to try - and so many of them are actually on our street!
People have been very friendly here, but English is less prevalent than it was when I was in Montreal a few years ago.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be a nice day so we are thinking of renting bikes and riding along the St. Lawrence.

Quebec City: Day 1

Had a fairly effortless, if early, flight from Vancouver to Quebec City with a brief stopover in Toronto. Took an Uber to our hotel (man I love Uber) and are staying in the St. Roch area of Quebec City.
The city was hopping when we arrived as it was the last day that the tall ships were in harbour. There were even fireworks to cap off the night and when we saw today's paper we learned that Bryan Adams had performed a concert here as well. Who knew!
We had a bit of a hard time finding a place to eat because every place was just jammed and so we got the last seat at Restaurant La Piazzetta where Michael had spaghetti and meatballs and I had a roules piazzetta which is one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. It was great.
Our suite has a little kitchenette and we are a block away from a Metro so we loaded up with breakfast food, fruit and snacks.
It wasn't overly hot and our apartment is surprisingly quiet so we had a great sleep after our first few hours in the city.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rilly?

I smile a lot when I am not at work.
Not much going on as of late. Just more of the same: work; eat; sleep; run; repeat. Did make it over to the Island to see my brother and his family this past weekend which was nice. The little guy is growing up fast.
In other news, I went home for lunch today and Michael was there. I was a bit out of sorts because the entire office left for lunch with the exception of myself and my coworker. Indeed, I was still expecting an invite when my boss meandered over and said "Oh. Would you like..." and here I thought she was going to say "to join us for lunch?" but she instead finished with "me to lock the elevator?". I said yeah, sure.
The office manager, who is the nastiest person I have come across in my entire 40 year life span, came by to faux sympathize with me not being asked to lunch. I smiled as I always do and said it wasn't even a thing.
I asked my coworker if he was offended at not being asked to go for lunch and he said that our boss would sometimes ask him to stay behind to answer the phones. First of all: we have voicemail. Secondly: what is the point of answering the phone when there is no one here to take the call? Thirdly: we get like 30 phone calls a day. It's not a big thing.
Anyways, the long and short of it is that Michael says I shouldn't be surprised by this odd behaviour, nor should I take it personally. And he is right. But it's pretty hard not to take it personally when six people fuck off for an arbitrary lunch and you are pointedly excluded.
And that is my story for today.