Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quebec, la belle provence and the city

Tales from my family's cross-country road trip

The night before my family was supposed to leave on our epic road trip, I had food poisoning.

It was already bad enough that I was dealing with the unholy trifecta of allergies, asthma, and a cold (possibly pneumonia), but now I was spending the night in the bathroom in the throes of an upset stomach, miserably trying to decide whether I wanted to wake up my mother or my husband. The truth is, nobody wants to be alone while they were sick, but deep down you know, as an adult, there isn’t really much that can be accomplished by complaining to your husband or your mother. Still, I irrationally wanted someone to be miserable with me.  I figured it should be my husband – I suppose that’s what the whole wedding ceremony is about, my parents handing me over to my husband and warning him, “She’s your problem now," – but even when you approach the age of thirty, you never really lose the urge to whine to your mother when you were sick.  But I suppressed that urge. So I spent night alone, unhappy, and altogether way too awake.

By morning I was cranky and still little nauseous, but my whole family piled into the car anyway and hit the road.

We soon arrived in Quebec, where despite all the vast empty spaces the cars still cut us off closely in the most casual way, where the store clerks patiently wait for us to awkwardly mangle their beautiful language while they take pity and respond in English.

My parents, who had never been east of Quebec City in their entire lives, soon discovered that they loved the Quebec countryside.

Quebec City:

My dad has a knack for finding the most random spots in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know what method he uses to find the motels and restaurants we end up at. Despite these out-of-the-way locations, the quality tends to be pretty good.

We checked into a Comfort Inn at Ste-Foie, a place I only know the significance of through the Jean Leloup song:

pour un fille d’Ottawa, grandit a Ste-Foie
avec un pere militair
et un belle-fille que fut sa mere.”

For dinner, my dad found a little restaurant called La Cuisine du Marche in a converted house next to a plaza with a law office in a strip mall across the street. Sometimes these little unremarkable places surprise you. This place's menu offered wagyu beef cheeks, beef tartare, and a pleasant selection of Quebec microbrewery beers. I ordered a duck confit and foie gras poutine – the ultimate Quebec themed meal. I was pleasantly surprised by my dinner, which we ate at 5:30PM, which is what happens sometimes when you travel with your parents.


    After dinner, we wandered into Quebec City proper, wandering around the Plains of Abraham and the Citadel to try to find a bathroom.

The Citadel

the Plains of Abraham

            We walked around the cobblestone lanes and the little shops – the Quebecois think nothing of placing a kids’ toy shop next to an adult sex shop – aware that it’s all so touristy around these parts but it’s still all so lovely.


   I’ve been to Quebec City a couple of times before and each time, I am reminded of the previous visits’ pleasant memories. This time, I was struck by the way the moonlight sparkled in the water of the Saint Lawrence at night. We rarely see it in the Arctic. The sun is always up or the ocean is always frozen.

We ended the evening with some beer from the gas station, one of my favourite things about Quebec, good old gas beer.

 Quebec City's breathtaking evening skyline