This second trip to Quebec City confirms that it is my favorite city in North America. There’s just something very great about this place. Maybe it’s the old world architecture combined with North American space, maybe it’s the location on the St. Lawrence River, or maybe it’s that this is a French City and as a result it has a certain je ne sais qua that really appeals to me.
I wrote a rather rambling email recently that sort of sums up my thoughts on this francophile tendency that I seem to have developed.
…Back in Quebec City. Looking forward to getting back to Morocco…I’m sick of traveling, think really I am quite cut out for staying in one place and gardening, just have never been able to stand people having seen more than me of the world…still have a few places I would like to go sometime in the future…
India, Turkey, Vietnam, Japan, Nepal, Brazil, Cambodia….
but mostly am tired of seeing the same old people snapping pictures wherever I go. Quebec City is better than most places though…it’s French and there is a sort of smug condescension that suits me.
The level of disrespect to boomers who are used to being kowtowed to is utterly enjoyable and goes over most of their heads.Not to mention, I notice that Quebecois say Oui much more in their conversations than other north americanos say yes, perhaps these are a positive thinking people who don’t really seem to want to go anywhere else or be anything else but what they are.
The coffee is good, the food is good, jazz flows without apparent self regard and even the weeded out old drunks have a style about them that speaks volumes about their dignity. I believe there has only been one homicide here in the past 5 or 6 years and violent crime is close to nil in general.
Great thrift store, plenty of walking, big beautiful library, and people continue to talk in French to me even when my french is bad, then when I don’t ask them to speak English, they smile and compliment my french…they then speak in English in a friendly way and I continue in my poor French when possible.
Yeah, I like this place. Probably part of the reason I like Morocco too, because of the French influence. I’ve never found the French to be assholes at all, instead, I tend to understand and commiserate with them for the rest of the world being so tasteless and gauche. You gotta love a people that riot in indignation, kill their leaders, and then do it again when the next batch of leaders proves just as useless.
And so it is. Here in Quebec, I haven’t done a lot. My first day I arrived quite early on the train and wandered around the streets until my host Kelie was awake. She is a very sweet girl who I stayed with last time I was here. Her apartment is in the lower town and sits right near a couple of weeded out old bars and has a great view of the big church nearby.
I’m not a souvenir kind of guy usually, but sometimes I find something on the ground that I will pick up and keep. In this case it was a Saint medalion for the first Canadian Born Saint. St. Marguerite D’Youville was a widow who founded an order of nuns called the Grey Nuns, they dedicated their lives to charity and to helping the poor, so in a sense she is the patron saint of the needy and the charitable. A nice charm to add to my traveling bag.
Foundress of the Gray Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, born at Varennes, near Montreal, 15 October, 1701, of Christophe-D. de L. and Renee de Varennes, the sister of Laverendrye, discoverer of the Rocky Mountains; d. 23 December, 1771. After studying two years with the Ursulines at Quebec, she shared, at the age of twelve, in the housework of her widowed mother. She married (1722) M. d’Youville, who treated her with indifference, and eight years later left her a widow with three children and a heavy debt. She was forced to carry on a small trade in order to meet her obligations. The only two of her sons who reached manhood became priests. Out of her own poverty, she helped the needy.
Mother d’Youville conceived an ardent devotion to the Eternal Father, which was to be the keynote of her life. Providence destined her to rescue from debt and ruin the hospital, founded (1694) by M. Charon, ad hitherto managed by a brotherhood bearing his name. This undertaking which was to be the cradle and groundwork of a new religious institute, the Grey Nuns, or Sisters of Charity, was destined to flourish under the wise and zealous direction of Mother d’Youville. When, in 1747, the General Hospital was entrusted to her, she had already, with a few companions living under a provisional rule, begun practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. She opened the hospital to disabled soldiers, the aged of either sex, the insane, the incurable, foundlings, and orphans. When, to save the General Hospital of Quebec, the intendant Bigot, with Bishop Pontbriand’s assent, decided to transfer to the former institution the property of the Montreal Hospital, Mother d’Youville submitted. The intervention of the Sulpician superior, Cousturier, maintained her rights. In 1755, Mgr. Pontbriand confirmed the rule of the institute drawn up by Father Normant. Mother d’Youville assumed the entire debt, 49,000 livres, and to meet the expense of restoring, rebuilding, and harbouring numerous inmates, increased by the admission of epileptics, lepers, and contagious patients excluded from the Hôtel-Dieu, she made clothing for the king’s stores and for the traders of the upper country, which constituted her chiefrevenue. During the Seven Years War so many English soldiers were treated at the hospital, that one of its wards was called “la salle des Anglais”. Mother d’Youville ransomed from the Indians, at a great price, an English prisoner destined to torture, and saved from their fury several fugitives, one of whom, through gratitude, later prevented the bombardment of the fortress-like hospital. Owing to the exorbitant cost of necessaries of life, due to unscrupulous corruption, the hospital was heavily indebted at the time of the conquest. A credit of 100,000 livres, due by the French Government, was redeemed with interest only under Louis XVIII, and the sum applied to the work begun by the foundress. Despite her poverty, Mother d’Youville undertook to rescue all foundlings thrown upon her charity. When, in 1766, the General Hospital was destroyed by fire, fully resigned to her loss, she knelt with her sisters and recited the “Te Deum”. Her institute has spread throughout Canada and even to some of the neighbouring states. The Decree introducing the cause of her beatification, and entitling her to be called Venerable, was signed on 28 April, 1890.
Most of my day was spent in the beautiful Musee de Civilzation. A natural place for an anthropologist to end up I think. They had several interesting exhibits, one on Egyptology, another on the long lasting effects in North America of the 7 years war which it turns out led to the French Expulsion from Nova Scotia, the war of Independence in the states, and most likely to the horrid treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada by the English after the much more enlightened treatment of the indigenous by the French. Full citizenship to genocide including the use of disease ridden blankets by the English. My favorite was a look at creatures from outer space in fact and fiction.
At Kelie’s I caught up on email and online work and then we were joined by a Spanish couch surfer, Adria. Nice guy who has been hiking in the Canadian Rockies for the past couple of months.
We made a simple dinner and then in the morning we all went our seperate ways. I chose to get a haircut, do my laundry, and visit the Musee du Chocolat. A nice stop, small 25-cent machines offered handfulls of a variety of world chocolates and a small window looked in on the chocolate being made.
Later I wandered through the upper city and visited the Maple Syrup shop where I tried the delicious maple ice cream and candies. I was unable to find the Musee du Fur, which is a shop that makes fur coats and hats from start to finish…I did however find this fur shop.
In the evening we made a very nice dinner back at Kelie’s. I made couscous and vegetables, Kelie made an apple crumble, and Adria made bread with cheese and tomato, plus hummus and breadsticks. We drank a sweet wine I’d brought from Nova Scotia called Jost, which complimented the savory vegtables quite nicely.
After dinner we went to a wonderful little pub in the upper city where the Quebec couch surfing community meets every Monday. The pub is the project of Bernard who has been running it for 38 years. The walls are adorned with pictures of Nostradamus and inside the pub there are tons of games. When I asked Bernard about this he said that he believes that when people play games together, they become friends and his goal with his place is to build community. Lots of friends were made as we played the craziest scrabble game ever in French, English, and Spanish plus more than a few words that I’m sure were invented in the confusion.
Then we played pool and the crazy Quebecoise girls started a massage line which amused the locals to no end. It amused me as well.
Bernard remained stoic through it all. I asked him what the craziest thing he has seen in his time there and he told me that there has been too much to recount. He has kept track of the number of people who come through and it is around 4.4 million!I really loved this guy. He started out with an ice cream truck and now, four decades later he has watched the world come through his doors without leaving beautiful Quebec. He wore a hockey jersey that said “Mecca” on it, I don’t know if that is a team or not, but I liked it.
This morning we trekeed over to our new friends from the pub and had delicious crepes. Then I did more walking and observing. I find that my mode of travel is different than most, the way I judge cities different from most. For me, it’s not about discos or tourist attractions, instead it is about walking, watching, listening and feeling a place. And there is just something about this place that feels good to a traveler like me.
Really, this bronze breast has the perfect nipple…unbelievable. I love the bronze titties…and the tan ones too- actually, almost all of them…
(Originally published 29 SEP 2009)