Sunday, 25 January 2009

Finding the Lit and His, and the light

sunny, windy, cold, temps minus 15

Feels almost summery compared to yesterday. Of course, today we got smart. Went out to the bakery (boulangerie) on rue St-Jean for breakfast and knew we'd be out walking for a little while, so we put our snow pants, ski mitts and mad bomber hats on...along with huge down coats.

We looked like cartoon characters...fortunately so did everyone else.

There's a particular sound that goes with wearing snow pants - a sliding sort of sound as leg rubs against leg. But I didn't care if I looked like a maniac, I was warm.

had a fabulous day. Breafast was a great bowl of cafe au lait and the biggest croissant I've ever seen...flakey and buttery. Then we (I) decided I should find the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec City. It's long been a hub of the small but vital Anglo community here. That and the adjoining church - which I couldn't remember.

Almost threw up yesterday when I did a google search on the Lit and His Society. As you know, I'm in Quebec City to research an upcoming book. Most of the action will centre on this very old Lit and His society and the church next door...and for plot purposes it needs to be within the walls of the old city. But the google map put it way outside the walls.

I was gutted. There went my entire planning and plot. Fortunately Michael swooped to the rescue, made a cup of tea and did more research and discovered the map was wrong. In fact, not only was the Lit and His inside the walls, it's about two blocks from our rented home!

So after breakfast we zipped up and went in search. Arriving at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in time for Sunday Service.

It's a glorious church. The walls are plaster and painted cream and robin's egg blue. The wooden box pews are in a graceful semi-circle, mirrored by the balcony above. There are huge stained glass windows all with variations on a rose theme or a nautical theme. Bright and cheery. the space is open. It was like sitting and breathing in light.

Not a crucifix in sight.

I believe it's the most beautiful church I've ever been in. It's 250 years old. I'd lived for 2 years in Quebec City - many years ago - and never visited. What a shame.

The sermon was lovely too. It was on the themes of Hope, Joy and Peace. And the minister quoted CS Lewis - Surprised by Joy. Which figured quite large in my first book, STILL LIFE.

After the service we went back to the church hall for coffee with the parishioners. It was an intimate and familiar and welcoming group. From there Michael and I stepped next door to the Literary and Historical Society library. A hidden gem - and it will be perfect for my needs.

After that we decided to walk over to the Chateau Frontenac - a massive old hotel (apparently the most photographed hotel in the world) - and walked along the Dufferine Terrace to watch the families eat maple syrup poured on snow and hardened into a sort of toffee...and tobogan down an ice slide.

by then our faces were frozen so we scooted inside the Chateau and made straight for the famous Bar St-Laurent. A paneled, circular bar with two large open fireplaces, overlooking the St. Lawrence river. We ate French Onion soup and watched the teams practice for the upcoming canoe races over the semi-frozen river.

and now, 6 hours after setting out, we're home. A fire in the grate, tea and pastries in front of us, hot water bottles filled.


A couple of small things to add...tomorrow I'm going to start of week of blogging on the St. Martin's Minotaur site, Moments in Crime. Join me if you can...though the blogs will be similar (probably identical) to the ones I'll be posting here...but thought I should tell you about it.

And, I had an email from a self-published writer asking what I knew about Google Booksearch, and whether it might be something she - as a self-published writer - should consider.

I wrote back to admit I knew absolutely nothing about it, except there was some copywright infringement issue recently...but that I would ask you. If you know anything that might help this woman, please write a comment, or email me from the website.

Thanks so much! Hope you're enjoying your visit to Quebec. I sure am!


Lesa said...

Oh, I'm totally enthralled with this visit to Quebec. What a beautiful city!

And, thank heavens for Michael. He saved what could have been a depressing morning until you found out the truth.

I still think you found a pretty special man.

frouch said...

Dear Louise,

If I understand what you wrote, for the next week I'll be able to read you twice? Life is sooooooooooo beautiful sometimes.

Enjoy your visit in Quebec and take care,


Bobbie said...

Louise (and Michael too), what a post! What a day! Isn't it wonderful when a 'team' works so well together. :-)

Your description of the church...ahhhh....what wondour. The colors, the windows, the light. And then the themes of the sermon..and to use Surprised by Joy. What a moment-and not just because of your first WONDERFUL book, but from another post of yours, these are great personal words for

And the Literary and Historical Society, being a gem, another wow moment, for you as an author, and for both of you, since Michael worked it for you so well! :-)

The Chateau Frontenac and maple syrup on snow (I ate snow ice cream made by my folks when a child..but the maply toffee stuff sounds better!), and families tobogganing...and then the beautiful Bar St-Laurant, then home and warm and as you said, JOYOUS!

Thanks for sharing this day with us, Louise...will be remembered. I don't know how to go to the other website, but I promise you I'm going to figure it out...and watch for you there, even if same as here, that's fine.

Thanks again, Louise. Quebec is truly glorious, from your words here to us...a great visit!


humble.pie said...

what say the lit hists about the concordat that concluded the battle of the plains of abraham ... conventional mythology recites that after the deaths of wolfe & montcalm, it was drawn up & signed in Gaelic by their seconds-in-command who were highland scots on both sides.

aye tis a bonny tale. many fierce highlanders had sailed to fight with the french at quebec because they remembered the '46 at culloden moor, when bonnie prince charlie was defeated & the scottish cause went down for centuries. it was the Auld Alliance in new france, the scots and the french uniting against their common enemy the english.

meanwhile the 78th fraser highlanders fought loyally with the british at louisbourg, then sailed up the st-lawrence under general wolfe in the summer of 1759 to lay siege to and seize quebec.

so there were highlanders and gaels aplenty on both sides. but were you looking in this cranny of history. how say the experts.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Lesa,

You are quite right...indeed I suspect we both married wonderful men. and been kicking myself for not mentioning to you during our dinner last week about your giving blood on Martin Luther King day. What a meaningful, beautiful, thing to do.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Louise -

Oh, I do love your comments! Yup, double your pleasure...though it is pretty much the same post...though - actually - we've sent Tara at St. Martin's a few pictures of me in QC she can put up - since we don't know how.

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi Bobbie,

Es - imagine hearing him talk about Surprised by Joy. You so clearly appreciate what I was feeling. How lovely. And I'm so glad you're enjoying the visit.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hum,

So thrilled to have you back - haven't heard from you in a while I was afraid you'd dropped off the face of the earth and we'd have to go looking for you. We would, you know.

Had not heard that story of the Gaels, but have an appointment Thursday at 10 to meet the director of the Lit and His society, get a tour, hear all the stories (official and unofficial) - can hardly wait! Will ask him about it. And report back.

humble.pie said...

och, tis going to be a bonny book. quebec city in winter sparkles under your pen. i didn't think it was possible, but i do believe carnival in quebec par louise will be even more dazzling than cambridge vue par louise.

re the battle concordance, i did look a few things up before i posted. it seems there could be questions about who wrote the original document, and whether this has survived, and where it is now. below is a link to the first official copy of the accord and we can see that it's signed by de Ramezay for the french and by admiral saunders and general townshend for the british. nae a scotsman has appended his wee marque.

however. to get really pedantic. please note that this official version was printed in london some years after new france fell to the british in 1759. it's not the original version. my own working theory is that there must have been a scribe who scribbled the original articles of capitulation by hand during the 3 or 4 days that passed between the momentous battle and the signing of the accord. and perhaps this scribe was a highlander. it's theoretically possible but to me it seems totally unlikely that he wrote in Gaelic. certainly someone was able, at the time of creation of the document or not long afterwards, to render fluent versions in both english and french.

to turn from the specific to the general, there is no doubt but that a large number of scotsmen arrived in new france, to fight both with the french against the english and also with the english as the 78th fraser regiment.

after the fall of quebec in 1759 and montreal in 1760, nearly all these highlanders stayed on in what became a british colony. they married local french girls. because of the auld alliance - the historic amity between the scots and the french - they melted easily into the dominant french culture, bequeathing their scottish surnames to long lines of descendents who grew up never hearing a word of english.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hum,

I so appreciate the link, the theories, the insight and the humour. I just love history, and imagining - as you clearly do too.

It is fun in Quebec to be speaking with someone with the name of Alistair McGregor who speaks absolutely no English. Happened with the Irish too. Long and very rich history of Irish settlement in Quebec City and Montreal. they shared a common view of the English - and a common Catholic religion.

Isn't history fascinating? And cannot tell you what a delight it is to be able to touch on some of it for book 6...tentatively now titled, BURY YOUR DEAD.