23 September 2012

quebec in pictures

Place Royale on an early morning run: It got that name when they installed the bust of Louis XIV there. It apparently wasn't enough for him to have Versailles and to be called the Sun King; he also needed this square—considered the cradle of French civilization in North America—to be named after him.

Samuel de Champlain saying to Quebec, "I totally discovered you and claimed you for France. Why is Queen Elizabeth on your money now?"

He's probably also, from his perch on that plinth, thinking: What, the governor's house I built back in 1620 on this ground high above the St-Lawrence River wasn't good enough for you? You had to build the Chateau Frontenac, a fancy hotel, here instead?

Un bol de cafe au lait, s'il vous plait: Coffee in a bowl. I'm going to start offering this to people when they come over for coffee: Would you like an espresso, a Waffle House mug, or this bowl from Ikea?

In France, you can have cafe au lait in a bowl with breakfast—the better for dunking your bread and jam in, you see. But here in Quebec, I discovered you can get it any time, even with lunch, and they won't look at you funny. Bonus points for Quebec.

The only fortified city left in North America: Quebec has also left its cannons out and pointed in various directions. They are ready, should anyone ever try to take them back from the British.

Unless it's themselves: there is a separatist movement here in Quebec, much like how some people in Texas would like to secede from the United States. I'd say if the Quebecois want to be their own country, they can all just hole up in the fortified city, drinking their bowls of cafe au lait, and putting those cannons to good use.

Problem with my plan and why I'm not in charge of countries: The cannons don't work any more, there are no longer doors on any of the gates into the city, and even though the French had the high position and the fortifications, the British still beat them on the Plains of Abraham in 1759.

I would most definitely go to church there, assuming it's an Anglican church, which is a big assumption here in what was once the seat of a Catholic diocese that stretched all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Actually, there is an Anglican church in Quebec—Holy Trinity. It was the first Anglican church built outside of the British Isles, and did you know that it has a section set aside specifically for members of the British Royal Family? No one else can ever sit there, which makes it even more exclusive than the Royal Box at Wimbledon.

Un autre bol de cafe au lait: This one at brunch at Le Clocher Penche in the St-Roch neighborhood. I'm reading the book The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik, and should you ever want to really enjoy eating alone {as I often have to do on work trips like this one}, bring that book.

You can read about the glorious social history of the restaurant and the recipe, all while eating. It will make you appreciate where you are, not feel like the odd (wo)man out in a restaurant of people enjoying conversation and each other.

Later, when you're back with people and you don't have to eat alone, you can dazzle them with trivia about what the French Revolution has to do with the restaurant.

Le Sang des Saints: My meal at Le Clocher Penche, and fyi, that translates to "the blood of the saints." It was boudin noir, a poached egg, pears, and caramelized red onions served over naan with a balsamic reduction. If I purposely forget that "boudin noir" is blood sausage and if I purposely forget how it's made, I love it so much. It makes being forgetful worth it.

The most photographed hotel in the world: That's what they say about the Chateau Frontenac, so I thought I'd add another picture to the count.

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