Saturday, 24 January 2009

Look up, look way up

clear, blue skies, windy, bitter cold - temps minus 25

Went out for breakfast this morning - stepped outside (wearing long underwear!) and the sidewalk had disappeared. the homes are built right to the narrow sidewalks, and overnight there was enough snow and wind that the sidewalks have become unpassable. We had to walk in the streets.

On rue St Jean - one block up there are bistro's, cafes, bookstores, clothing stores. Fabulous. But again, we had to walk on the road not because the sidewalks had disappeared under snow but because snow was being shoveled off the metal roofs - onto the sidewalks. We looked up and tied to ropes were men, hacking away at the ice and snow...and every now and then we heard a great, muffled thud as it came down.

God this city is splendid.

We chose not a great place for breakfast - but we wandered a bit after and found a wonderful bakery that also serves breakfasts, so we thought we'd go there in future for a simple cafe and croissant.

Now we're home - I'm still pretty tired, and it's so cold, that we've decided to light the fireplace, have a shower, get into PJ's and curl up on the sofa reading all day. Tomorrow we hope to find the big outdoor skating rink, a bigger grocery store - but mostly we want to walk over to the Plains of Abraham - or Champs-de-Bataille (battlefield) - where the English defeated the French in 1759. It has never been forgiven or forgotten. A strange, haunting place. The English scaled the cliffs from the St Lawrence river (a tactic the French never expected) and they fought a terrible, bloody battle...both generals dying in the process.

It has remained more or less unchanged ever since...though many years ago permission was granted for the lovely Musee des Beaux Arts du Quebec to the built there.

I can see Gamache and his Shepherd, Henri (who will be with him on this visit) walking the quiet, snowy paths through the battleground.


Bobbie said...

Oh Louise, thank you SOOO much for sharing with us, this time in Quebec--what a terrific place you are in...other than the stairs up and down to the bathroom, ha....just think of it as exercise that is so good for you! :-)

What a mental picture, them shoving ice and snow down to the narrow sidewalks with muffled thuds, and you walking in the streets because of that. Another 'wow' moment for sure.

And the battlefield...your words say it so well. It is strangely haunting to be where something like that happened...terrible, bloody battle, and somehow you feel, all these years later, the courage and the death and the fighting and the life and urgency and horrible sounds etc.,...and not just mentally but physically haunting--you do get 'goosebumps'. A very solemn moment, walking that earth. I have not been to this one you speak about, but have been to a couple others here in United States. And my son and daughter last year went to Normandy...and came away saying they will never be the same. Ok, 'nuff solemnity....

Enjoy your wonderful cozy warm day reading and resting and feeling good. What a splendid place to be, this city.

And yes, I can see Gamache and Henri walking those quiet snowy paths...and other things in this city you are talking about! What a great book it will be! :-)


Cece said...

Battlefields seem to hold forever that emotion from their particular crashing moments in time-we live between Gettysburg and Valley Forge, and have visited both places often. Gettysburg, even when filled with tourists on a bright sunny day, is a most solemn, overwhelming site. There is a feeling of intense sorrow there. Though no battle was fought at Valley Forge, the winter spent in camp by the colonial army was so harsh-it is easy to imagine that their suffering has left a mark there as well.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Bobbie,

How beautifully put - and what sensitive children you've raised. One of the great blessings of being here and researching this book is learning more and more about the history of Quebec. Funny, I didn't learn it first time around. or perhaps I was in a different space. but this time I feel it. Maybe I have to, in order to write this book. Another wonderful by-product of writing.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Cece,

I agree with you about harsh winters. We wear state-of-the-art winter clothing and still we weep as we run from cafe to bistro to museum to home. Can't begin to imagine the despair of living in a camp through a winter.