vive le quebec!

This post is a doozy! Forty-five photos, so be warned.

Getting out of Dodge – just like in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which, yes, is one of my favorite movies –  sometimes a person needs to just get away. Enough of the mundane, everyday stuff, no matter how exciting it might be at other times. So just like Frances in that movie, when she boards a bus for Rome to get away from the renovations at the villa, I just had to pack some bags, board a train, and get the heck outta here!

I’m a big sook, though, so travelling is always a double-edged sword. I love to get away, but I hate being lonesome. My thoughts are the quick-growing kind – fears take over fast.

Luckily, I can kick fear’s ass. Tell it where to go. And go, myself, anyway.

I spent some great solid hours on the train in my seat, reading back through my notebooks, writing, and then organizing the photos I took over the last couple of months. That felt super good to do. Prepare for the months ahead. Think about content, and the blog’s direction, and what excites me these days.

This is what I love about trains: the movement, the clickety-clack. Bumping from side to side, ever so subtly, all the time, as the train moves forward along the track. I love staring out the window at woods and swamps passing by. I love eating by myself in the dining car, sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio, watching the last hour of sunlight lighting up spruce trees and old, unused telegraph wires. I love that no-one in the dining car knows me, and that the waiter speaks French to me and I can manage to speak some back. And maybe it even sounds natural to him!

I love listening to the waiters as they sing to themselves and chat in the tiny kitchen. I overheard one waiter telling a waitress about how he and his wife watched “We Bought a Zoo”, and how it surprised him by being a good film. “Matt Damon is in it, and you know, I’m used to him in those action movies, killing people, and in this one he’s, you know, he’s chubby and has longer hair.”

I arrived in Charny the next morning at 5:25 am, after a cramped but sufficient sleep in Economy class. Charny is across the river from Ste-Foy and Quebec City, where my family lives. Uncle Mike picked me up and took me to his home.

It was a Sunday, and it turned out to be HOT. Like, 25 degrees hot. My little cousin Mina, who is ten, is a lot like me. We both like traipsing around in the woods, inspecting bugs, and sitting with our feet in the water. We went to a nearby park where she showed me her favorite “beach”. We agreed that the water was very cold! But that it felt nice.

“I like being with you, Leah,” she said in her adorable French accent. (Both she and her brother speak English very well, but there is still a tinge of French to their accents. When I am here, my accent slants that way as well. I can’t help it.)

“I like being with you, too, Mina!” I said. “I like walking in the woods.”

“And I like painting,” she said.

“Me too!” I said.

When I’m travelling, I get overwhelmed with wanting to take pictures of everything. All the little details that I see, and which are all new to me! Like, kids’ drawings, books in French, a soft kitten’s belly. And all the people I get to spend time with, that I am not normally near.

My grandmaman’s houseplants. She loves cactuses.

Some of these pictures were shot out of the window of Grandpapa’s car, as we drove around Quebec City yesterday. He gave me and my aunt Claude a mini-tour, showing us places where he grew up, where he went to school, and where he used to do mischievous things like swim in the Fleuve or ride down a very steep hill on the handlebars of a bicycle.

April 16th is both Aunt Claude’s birthday, and my grandmaman’s birthday. Grandmaman is in the hospital right now, recuperating from a small operation (that went well). Claude wasn’t actually going to be here while I was, but then Grandmaman suddenly had to go into the hospital, so Claude came up from Peterborough.

Aunt Nathalie: “I wasn’t sure what your favorite kind of cake was, Claude, so I went with a classic – hazelnut chocolate.”

Claude: “Oh, that IS my favorite!”

This morning: I don’t know why breakfast feels more decadent in French, even though I could easily eat these same things in Cape Breton (Kraft peanut butter, Nutella, an orange).

The owl painting is by Aunt Nathalie, who does oil paintings. She was kind enough to give me a couple of paintings to take back with me, older ones that were more exercises than finished works. A vase of flowers all in green and white, and a study of vegetables. I’m excited to hang them in my new home this summer.

I have the day to myself today. It feels good; yesterday was hot and I felt sticky, busy, and somewhat stressed. We spent a lot of time driving around on busy highways, and I was worried about my grandmaman.

But today is cooler, and she is doing well, and I am spending time alone. Which, I have realized, is as necessary to me as water or air. I do love people, and I love my family. But time alone is not just a luxury. I need it to rest and straighten out my head.

And Rue Paul just makes me giggle. 🙂

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