Pres de La Musee des Beaux-Arts
The train divided countryside planed by corn fields and creweled with coniferous green forests, deciduous trees turning lemon, apricot and russet. Instead of the francophone seatmate I expected, an Aussie engineer who commented on the abundance of water, first the St. Lawrence we crossed over leaving Montreal, then smaller rivers, some ruffling over broad rock-mottled beds. The remainder of the seats on the sold-out train were filled by tourists, many Americans, and at least un petit infant qui a parle en francais. His voice piped above the rumble of rolling metal.
Nous sommes arrive tot! Mais, quel domage. A la gare, while waiting with the other passengers for a taxi, from la ville's apprently thin ranks of them, I discovered that I had left my reading glasses on the train. Kind Frederic, the VIA attendant, encouraged me to wait while someone looked for them. This turned out to be a bonne idee parce que while I waited I tried mon francais on Frederic and he was kind enough to listen and respond. VIA staff must speak both official languages, but even Frederic has trouble understanding Newfoundlanders, he said. Tres sympa about the problems I have comprehending ordinary speech.
Eventuellement, je suis arrive a Av. Laurier, a charming narrow building pres de les plaines d'abraham. My temporary landlady Carleen welcomed me with wine and Quebec cheese and introduced me to the neighbour, a 94 year old former physicist who loves music and immediately offered tickets to both the symphony and the opera.
Il a fait froid et trop vente cet jour, mais c'etait mon premier jour complet! I walked through les plaines, past the Citadelle to vieux Quebec, noticing all along evidence of defence. Cannons point outwards, statues commemorate Generals. Chez Paillard, a Rue St Jean, la fille de service answered me en anglais, though I placed my order en francais. I persisted and la prochaine fille de service m'a repondit en francais, mais c'est apparent a tous that I am anglo. Many tourists in old Quebec, and why not? So few places in North America have buildings as old as these lining narrow cobbled streets. Eventually I work my way down to la gare and the marche at the old port. Feel successful in that I bought fletan, un bon bon, a pimiento et les mais, tous en francais. Aussi, j'ai eu un petit conversation avec le vendeur de le mais. Echappement!
Pendant que j'ai mange ma brioche et bu du the, I read about the various controversies reported dans Le Soleil. Macleans has inflamed the entire province with its cover featuring Bonhomme with a briefcase full of cash, and the headline: The Most Corrupt Province in Canda. Carey Price has lost two games. Can this cowboy from BC be the goalie the Habs need? Basterache, of course, the commission on judicial appointments, which may have been made on the basis of loyalty to the Liberal party more than merit. This commission inspired the Maaclean's article, but using Bonhomme? The symbol of carnaval? One commenetor chez Le Soleil catalogued recent English-lanugage media's negative comments concernant Quebec. If they think we're so bad, he wrote, why do they want us.
The fighting spirit remains. With a history such as the one this city grew from, defensiveness may be genetic.
Les nouvelles en francais, RDI et TVA, en anglais, CBC and Global. Deux sources mais les nouvelles sont presque tout de meme.
The day brightened to full sun, so I took Carleen's suggestion and followed St. Jean Baptiste, stopped at a shop that seemed to have everything, including a tiny, lace-curtained cafe where la fille de service spoke to me en francais because she had little English. We mostly understood one another. When I asked ou se trouve les toilettes, elle m'a dit, cote des pommes, and I found it near the small vegetable and fruit department, entree alongside the apple bin. Back to 60 Laurier for a bit of cheese and bread, but quickly back out, to the 398 stairs leading from les plaines - which are not flat, but roll, smooth and green - to the St. Lawrence. Fishermen with their shirts off, lounging on canvas chairs, drinking beer. On the way back, a troop of young teens using l'escalier for their p.e. class, obviously, challenging one another to see how many times they could go up and down. Tres fort!
Longest walk yet, from Loisirs Montcalm to inquire about tutoring English, to 915 Rene -Levesque, which I thought was a yoga studio, back to Cartier, then to Jean-Baptiste again, looking for a bank that didn't charge a fee for withdrawals. Finally ended up in vieux Quebec, found a bank machine, spoke to deux femmes de France who were almost as much out of their element as me. They share the language, I share the country. But this is another country to me, if one that I don't need a passport to enter. Back to Chez Paillard, which has good prices and decent food, for potage des legumes et un buiscuit trois chocolat. Mmm. Ce fois les filles et les garcons m'ont parle en francais. Improvement or determination? Found the Morrin Centre that Carleen, and also Kaz Connelly recommended. Nice coversation, en anglais, avec Jean Girard, the volunteer at the front desk, a beginning poet. I've lost the address he gave me for the writer's circle. Perhaps I will go back. They do have a beautiful library. Dark wood shelves, filled with bright-spined books, and leading to the mezzanine, a winding staircase of black wrought iron just wide enough for two legs. An anglophone volunteer in the library recommended her little Presbyterian church to me, pointing to it, across les chausees des ecossais. The second time in three days someone mentioned a church to me. Finalement, found my way to the Citadelle, walked through the drizzle along the ramparts to jardin de jeanne d'arc and Av. Laurier. Home, after four hours. I immediately fell asleep.