Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Another day at the office

partly cloudy, temps minus 5

Yesterday was a hoot. And a scream and a shriek. We started out late and decided instead of going to breakfast on rue Saint-Jean we'd wander and see what we could find. It was going to be, I suspected, a quiet day.

If I ever thought I had some psychic powers that suspicion was laid to rest.

First, we found Notre Dame Bascillica...quite hard to miss, really. Massive church in the centre of the old city. The prevailing idea is that Champlain is buried somewhere below it, though it wasn't there at the time of his death. But it was fun to sit there quietly for a few contemplative moments. And remember that just 2 months ago we were doing the same thing at Notre Dame in Paris.

Then we asked a single question. Not about whether God exisits, not about Grace or the afterlife, or even the body of Champlain.

We asked where we could get breakfast. Happily there was a very clear answer to that. The Cafe Buade, across the street. Great old institution. Banquettes, exposed stone wall...a little faded. We had cafe au laits - I had scrambled eggs and bacon and Michael had Pain D'ore (french toast) with bananas and strawberries and syrup.

After breakfast we needed to use the washroom and in searching for them Michael noticed signs to a multi-media show called Quebec Experience...a 3-D show about the history of Quebec City! Honestly, it just dropped into our laps. So off we went...there was no one else there so the owners started up the English show just for us and we sat in the dark theatre with our silly glasses watching this gallop through history. Love 3-D. I actually gasped a few times.

Then we decided to just wander. Off we went...took les escalier casse-cou down to rue Petit Champlain...which is below the cliff and is the very first place the explorers landed...being on the water. The escalier are stairs, long there and long famous for being very steep...casse-cou means 'break-neck'. We found Place Royale - the original settlement...very peaceful, old stone buildings and another church - Notre Dame de Victoires.

then up the famous Funicular to the Dufferin Terrace. The funicular is an external elevator that travels up and down the cliff - taking people from the lower town to the upper. It actually collapsed a few years ago killing some people inside - so that adds a bit of 'frisson' to the event. But fab views.

And then the totally unexpected in a day already unexpected...we were on Dufferin Terrace in front of the Chateau Frontenac - when suddenly we decided to take the ice slide. I'd been on it once, as a child, and have never forgotten the experience. Michael had never been on it.

We got the toboggan (costs 2 dollars each) and climbed up to the top...the stairs are actually just toe-holds cut into the snow. Quite exhausting. Huffing and puffing we made it up. Another spectacular view - apparently. I only had eyes for the slide.

Dear Lord - what were we thinking??? and there was clearly no other way down!!!

So we leapt on the toboggan and the nice young attendent took a picture of us smiling maniacally. I adore this photo - there's Michael holding his brief case - like a businessman who has taken a disasterously wrong turn.
And then we dropped off the face of the earth.


We actually should have known it was terrifying when on the way up two great big men in their 20's went down screaming and weeping.
On really cold days when the ice is especially hard people whizz down the slide at astonishing rates, flying off the end and stopping somewhere in the middle of Britain. This was not a bitterly cold day, but still it felt as though we were flying, or actually, falling.
We used toboggan 35. I would suggest not using that again, if you know what I mean.

But what an unbelieveable experience!!! We adored it...

Now have to run - am already late for breakfast with Jacquie Czernin - lovely host on CBC radio - then meeting Louisa Blair - a local historian. Who knows what today holds...certainly not me!


Jovanna said...


You look about twenty years old in that photo. One day you will have to let all of us in on your secret. Is the Fountain of Youth in Quebec?

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Jovanna,

what a lovely thing to say. My secret, if I have one, is a steady diet of pastries broken only by gulps of terror.

But you are kind. Thank you!

Jo B. said...

Everyday, I can't wait to see what amazing adventure you are having. Today's tops all! It sounds like so much fun especially to this Georgia peach that has never experienced winter fun like you are!!

hilary said...

I laughed out loud. Loved the shot. And the briefcase -- perfect. You may need Michael in your life, Louise, but he definitely needs you in his. The combination? Just a pair of kids. Nutty, nutty kids. Nuttier than the 20 year olds -- who at least have their age as an excuse.....

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at you whizzing off to England. My daughter and her boyfriend went down the slide - and didn't even make it all the way to the end! They stopped at the flat part and had to get out and drag it the rest of the way. We still haven't figured that one out because it was bitterly cold and everyone else was zooming by. My husband and I were not as adventurous as you two.


Bobbie said...

Oh Louise, what a grand photo! Agree with other posters, briefcase is the ultimate great photo quirk, and you do look 20. And both of you look supremely adventurous and happy. :-)

Your trip and descriptive talents have made this old Illinois lady feel excited to be in Quebec-by proxy! :-)

Thanks for sharing--and no, don't share why we should not ride Toboggan #35. :-)


Cece said...

The other day I laughed aloud at the picture of Michael chasing the garbage truck-but this had me in tears. I adore the image of you and Michael, briefcase safely wedged between you, flying off the end-heading for Wales.

Louise Penny Author said...

Thank you everyone! Jo B, Hilary, karen, bobbie and Cece...

Cannot begin to imagine how the ice slide might figure into the Gamache book, but will see! Gary wrote and pointed out something I hadn't noticed...Michael's right hand clutching his leg so hard you'd expect to see blood! And where are his mitts?

What a life - made all the richer for having you along for the ride! Thanks for your glad company.

Louise Penny Author said...

What I realize I didn't mention in the blog is that the huge building you see in the background is the Chateau Frontenac hotel...apparently the most photographed hotel in the world...and I know why. Not only is it quite spectacular, it is also almost impossible to get a photo of Quebec City without having it in the shot.