Monday, July 29, 2013

You're on your own for five days in Quebec City... go!

Wednesday morning: as your partner in crime heads to the airport, you head down to la Marche du Vieux Port and admire all the lovely local produce.

why, hello, strawberries from Ile D'Orleans
(not pictured: strawberries)

Stop by Place de Gare for lunch...

it's actually a train/bus depot

... and wander through the fortresses in Vieux-Quebec and along la Promenade Gouverneurs for great views...

... of the city 

... and the St. Lawrence River 

Have your view interrupted for a moment by three boys in blue ponchos who stand silently right in front of you waiting for your reaction - mine was, "oh boy, and so the weird French artist immersion begins". Which I said out loud. They laughed.

Meander down the boardwalk and catch more weird French street artists at work, then through the cobblestone paths of Old Quebec.  

louder than...

Have dinner at the hostel and chat with the nice young tourists who are on brief excursions; watch as they marvel at the thought of a 90+ day Canadian road trip, let alone a year+ on the road.

Thursday: breakfast at the hostel (Cheerios + peanut butter = magic!), then a tour of la Citadelle where you stare obsessively at the royal goat during the changing of the guards.

he's no Nubian goat

Also listen to the stories told by the guide and wonder if you actually learned any of this history in school.  

Back through Old Quebec where you happen upon a free music show at Cathedral Holy Trinity.

world's largest stringed instrument 

After lunch and a rest at the hostel, visit the maple museum and and Erico's chocolate museum.


finally putting five years of French to use

Recover from your sugar rush by heading up Saint Jean, window shopping in the markets, and stopping in St John Baptiste cathedral where services are underway.

but what a lovely church!)  

Head south through the fairly new Jardin de Saint-Roch and sit for a while, enjoying the garden and impromptu electric guitar player covering Hendrix.  

flower power

Discover the local Mountain Equipment Coop in up-and-coming St Roch, which looks remarkably like REI; also discover that you can't buy anything without a membership.  Get friendly advice from their staff for another camping store nearby (Latulippe), decide to make that tomorrow's adventure, take the long way back to the hostel and rest up for day three.

Friday: head to Latulippe in St Roch and happen upon an odd religious park which needs more research (as the signs were all in French and there was nothing about grapefruits).  

Slayer doesn't love you
this I  know

After Latulippe (butane purchased at last! we've been out since Waterton Lakes!), wander through St Roch's ethnic markets and colorful streets.  

many murals were sanctioned by the city and painted by youth

Detour to the cemetery at the hospital, a nice tribute to soldiers of the Plains of Abraham and Sainte-Foy, then make your way to la Parc de l'Amerique-Latin.

hola, Simon Bolivar 

After lunch head up Saint Anne and people-watch, then hit Petit Champlain for more windowshopping.  Call it a day.

Saturday: back through Place d'Armes for more people-watching (yes, I did a lot of this - mostly because I had time, but also because it was FASCINATING to see what people found fascinating enough to photograph), then east to Villa Bagatelle, stopping at a used book sale in a church to rummage and purchase The Happiness Hypothesis (en englais... er, en anglais).  Get lost trying to find the museum and wander through St Patrick's cemetery.

a much nicer place of eternal rest than the hospital cemetery

At Villa Bagatelle (which you walked right past several times), enjoy the strikingly different exhibits of Roland Giguère and Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau, poets instrumental to the Canadian literary movement who also painted, and appreciate the lovely hospitality of the museum host after some recent less-than-pleasant French Quebecian encounters.

Make your way to le Parc du Bois-de-Coulogne, a setting renowned for its beauty and tranquility.

I have eaten lunch in worse places

Finally succumb to 50 miles of walking and a heck of a sinus infection, take a power nap, then hit the port (along with everyone else in the city not attending the Celine Dion concert) for more freaky French art at the free Cirque du Soleil show.  

still don't get it
but at least I stayed awake this time

Stop by the Bunge to watch a few minutes of the light show tribute to Norman McLaren, make a mental note to research this fellow, then sleep for 12 hours.

Sunday: wonder what to do.  Skip the $18 Musee de Beaux Artes even though you want to see the Alfred Pellan collection - there are many more museums in your future, after all, pace yourself - and head back to the Marche du Vieux Port for strawberries, then to Saint Anne for maple gelato, and sit for a while to enjoy your bounty.  

lunch of champions

As the crazy wind picks up again, hit the hostel for an afternoon tea and then wander until you come across the Festival des journees d'Afrique, where a Bob Marley cover band briefly unites locals and tourists from all over the world.

one love

Endure the wind a bit longer to check out the city at night...

mostly looks like the city by day

Finally, at 11pm, attempt to sleep while the 60 year old lady in the bottom bunk whacks the bed frame for an hour as she rearranges her suitcase a hundred times.  (This is the same woman who, earlier in the evening, sternly told me to "mind her coat" - which had been thrown on MY bed.  And the same woman whose alarm went off for 20 minutes at 5am this morning before she rummaged through her bag to turn it off.  And the same woman who sat in the kitchen for an hour this morning looking at photos on her iPad - time she could've spent REARRANGING HER SUITCASE instead of doing it last night.  Good times, good times.)

Quebec City, it's been fun!  But I am ready to reunite with my partner in crime and get back to nature for three weeks.  Gaspe Peninsula and Forillion Provincial Park, we're coming for ya!

au revoir!

Belated Friday five: Montreal in 36 hours.

Five ways to enjoy Montreal in 36 hours, in no particular order:
  • Stay at a funky little Air B&B in an artsy borough on the east side.  Like Uncle Erwin, our host Stephanie was really nice and helpful.
parting tea gift from Mlle Stephanie

Unlike at Uncle Erwin's, though, Stephanie's room was centrally located to east side attractions...

like the home of the 1976 summer Olympics

... and the city is small enough that it didn't really matter much, anyway.  (Bonus: the room wasn't in a dark, damp basement and we had a real kitchen where we could cook, and two balconies where we could eat meals.)
  • Have fun exploring (both east and west) by foot and by their vast network of underground subways.  The east side is a bit artsy...
"our" street 

where the trees have no names, but talk to you

 ... the west side has a downtown historic/financial-district-ish area and a small Chinatown, Latin Quarter and Little Italy (we mostly found restaurants in these boroughs, but the intermixed row homes and quirky little shops were interesting).

street aht

overhead aht
seriously, naps in city parks might 
become our new afternoon routine
  • Skip the $30 botanic gardens (unless you have time and cash - it looked pretty amazing) but wander around the outside and stop by the "scratch and sniff" walkway.  Designed for the visually impaired but open to everyone, this free exhibit lets you see, touch, and smell various herbs, spices, and flowers as they grow.  We left with aromas of verbena, curry, sage, and mint on our fingers - and growling in our stomachs. 
 anti-"no touching!"

  •  Have lunch in legendary Parc du Mont Royal, then walk up a bazillion stairs (okay, 256) to Kondiaronk Lookout and enjoy the panoramic view.  (Don't forget to thank The Universe for stopping the rain that threatened your only day in Montreal.)

 avec vue
But the real unsolicited advice is this: figure out how to spend at least three more days in Montreal.  Patrick's pre-arranged flight from Quebec City to Portland for his best friend's wedding meant we arrived Monday afternoon and left early Wednesday morning.  So we will add Montreal to the ever-growing list of places to visit again on our way back to Portland... whenever that is... and move right along.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Belated Friday five: helping to harvest the earth.

Five highlights from our two-week stay at Earth's Harvest Farm, in no particular order:
  • Heavy machinery! In addition to operating table saws, chop saws, circular saws, jigsaws and electric screwdrivers... 
we learned how to drive the mule... 

... which is awesome in muddy terrain 

Patrick helped with the auger 

one day was a rototill-o-rama 

and jen still hates leafblowers 
  • Baby chicks! The next crop of meat birds arrived a few days into our stay and one of our daily chores was to make sure they had food and water. We watched them grow... 
from tiny peeps that fell asleep standing up 

to toddlers that stomped over each other to get to the grain 

  • Dragonflies! 
But first an aside - grass-fed chickens and turkeys are raised on this farm using a technique similar to the Yolkswagons we experienced on Gabriola Island. Large wooden pens contain the birds; the pens are moved lengthwise down the field and the birds eat the grass and fertilize the pasture during their 24(ish) hour stay on that piece of land. Eventually you get a bird-mowed pasture that grows strikingly lush and green the next season.

no artificial ingredients 

and another aside - grass-fed chicken is the best thing we have EVER tasted 

Anyway, we took turns getting up at 6am to help move the pens and feed the chickens each morning; some mornings our farmer host was busy so we both went on our own. As we would drive through the field, the morning haze would start to lift and dragonflies would swoop in and out of the mule, as if guiding our way. It was such a peaceful way to start the day.

We also saw dozens of bright blue dragonflies on our day-off canoe trip down the Rideau River.

crayola doesn't have a color for this 

  • Thunderstorms! We broke our trend of leaving tornadoes and floods in our wake and instead, brought on three straight days of heavy afternoon thunderstorms - close, booming thunder and forks of lightning that you just don't get in Portland. And buckets of rain! One day almost 5" fell in just an hour. 
the sky was amazing 

the mud puddles were also amazing 
(our host, farmer Luke) 

  • And speaking of hosts - our hosts! Luke and Liza were incredibly generous, friendly, and funny, and their children were really sweet. 
Patrick's new girlfriend 

great garden, really great peeps

We learned so much about farming, pasture grazing and raising organic animals from Luke during our short stay (we can't wait to try that cow trick someday). He's a wealth of information and a great teacher. We appreciated that he trusted us to care for his crops and his flocks, and he seemed to appreciate our efforts even when the end result was a sagging tomato trestle or a limping turkey who got too close to the edge of the pen when it was moved (that turkey is JUST FINE now - although Patrick's aching knee afterward suggests that Luke should keep an eye out for possible turkey voodoo activity).

Earth's Harvest was our last WWOOF gig in Canada, and we couldn't have ended on a higher note. Excluded for numeric reasons but equally as awesome as the five highlights above:

a backyard evening concert 
(the first stop on a series of organic farm concerts by Matthew McCully
who interviewed us for his documentary) 

lunching at The Branch 
(owned by former Millennium chef Bruce Enloe,
who chatted with us for a bit and treated us to a lovely porter) 

and all the wonderful...  

... farm-fresh ... 

... food we enjoyed during our stay 

It seems that Canadian hospitality knows no provincial bounds; we continue to scratch our heads about what we have done to deserve such kindness and how we can possibly repay everyone who has taken such great care of us on this trip (or at the very least, pay it forward).

Now we're off to explore Montreal and Quebec City, where we'll try not to get overwhelmed with the masses of humanity, noise and consumption. A day of botanic gardens might be in our future...