The Judi and Robin Excellent Adventure ~ 4

Eclipse Day!

Judi was actually up until about 5:00 am working.  When I arose a couple of hours later, she was sound asleep ~ in our Murphy bed!  She said that she’d always wanted to sleep in one so . .  dream come true.

I headed out for a beautiful morning beach walk.  The St. Lawrence River has widened to the point where the northern shore is invisible.  Birds: black-backed gulls, cormorants, and gannets in the distance.  Crab breakfast for gulls.  The pink flowers we would see everywhere.  I made a cairn for Josh.

q matane beachQ matane crabQ matane flowersQ matane cairnQ Matane river

I felt fine until we began loading the car and I reached upward to put now-dry tents back into the roof storage container.  My first hint that I might have done some serious damage with that fall the previous morning.

Lots of driving that day as we proceeded from Matane to Gaspe’.  A delicious lunch at a roadside cafe’, where the chef/niece of owner sent me off with a bag of ice for my invisibly bruised ribs.

Q cafe east of Matane

I had not realized that the eclipse would be partially visible in the peninsula.  When the time came, it seemed a bit hazy, and the river darkened from blue to gray.  Most obvious sign?  The gannets vanished, and the gulls and cormorants moved in toward and to the beach.  Twenty minutes later, they were all airborne again!

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As we drove on, the landscape began to change, and so did our conversation.   Sixty-four years have brought challenges we could not have imagined in our dorms all those years ago.  I think we’ve handled them pretty well.

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We reached the town of Gaspe’ in the early evening, settled into our hotel  ~ home for the next three nights ~ and went out to a restaurant we enjoyed so much that we would return the next evening.

gaspe restauant

By bedtime, I was hurting, but highly motivated for the next day’s gannet trip and promise of sunshine.  I turned down all suggestions of waiting a day, and went to sleep on my back ~ not a good sign!

 

Glass Houses (Book Review Interlude)

[***Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Suicide by Jumping, Drug Addiction***]glass houses

I don’t recall when I started reading the Inspector Gamache mysteries ~ although Amazon says that I purchased the first one three years ago, and a month later had finished four.  Number 13 arrived last week-end, and a couple of days ago I re-read the last 100 pages, much more slowly and deliberately than I had a few nights earlier.  (Louise Penny is a master as describing intense encounters between criminals and their pursuers, and I had flown through the ending the first time around.)

At first, I didn’t care for this book. Louise Penny frequently makes use of sentence fragments in her writing, but in this novel she has reached a new extreme.  I was frequently distracted by the short, broken phrases, and wondered whether they reflected the sad and harsh reality of her own life.  Her beloved husband had died of Alzheimer’s during the writing, something she had discussed in her online newsletter and reflects upon at the end of the book.  But as I continued to read, the sentence structure seemed to become one with the broken world of the Surete’, the court system, and the drug trade whose stories coalesce into this one.

I don’t want to give anything away to either longtime Gamache fans or newbies, so I will make only two points.  First, the plot line does indeed center on the opiate trade, and thus address a contemporary crisis.  It does so in broad strokes, in the exploration of new characters, and in details of the lives of old favorites.  It is possible that, if you have had to deal with drug addiction in your own circles, this book might prove a difficult read.

Second, like nearly everyone else, I want to extol the character development at which Louise Penny is so brilliant.  I have started re-reading the first novel in anticipation of a book club discussion and, while I had forgotten many things, I knew that in Glass Houses I was reading about people who have grown and gained in strength and dignity over a period of several years.

As an aside, many of the books focus on the traumas and tragedies experienced by one or two characters other than Monsieur and Madame Gamache.  In this one, Ruth Zardo, perhaps my least favorite of the Three Pines residents, comes to the fore for a bit, and I fell in love with her.  As is so often the case, it’s the ones who most irritate us who turn out to be most like us in past trauma and lifetime response.  The woman prays for Satan ~ how wonderful is that?

Finally, it is an added pleasure to read these mysteries just after having spent time in Quebec.  (I re-read two others, out of any order, while we were traveling.)   Every time we came across a Surete’ du Quebec sign, I nearly jumper with joy, anticipating that I would encounter Chief Inspector Gamache at the next stop!

 

The Judi and Robin Excellent Adventure ~ 3

Sunday: A day of altered plans.

First there was the Whoop!  Yikes! Thump!

That was me, arms full of sopping wet tent and fly, distracted by conversation, slipping on the slick wooden tent platform and, as far as I can tell from the consequences, hitting my rear several times on the way down and toppling over to slam chest-first into a rock, or maybe more than one rock, on the ground.  A week later, the bruises on my bottom and legs are healing, and I can finally lie, for a bit, on my left side.  I probably do have actually cracked or broken ribs; I have my annual physical in another ten days, so maybe I’ll find out.

But it didn’t seem so bad at first, so off we went, further east along the coast of the St. Lawrence River.  First stop: a small island ~ a short boat ride and a hike on a spot somewhat famous for shipwrecks and for a hermit who dwelt there for forty years.  (I felt fine.)

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q island shipwreckq island hermit

Then, as we would almost every day, we kept driving, and came across small villages in which churches with towering steeples loomed above the sea.  Had we photographed them all, we would still be on Monday!

q church 1

Our conversation continued to focus on Northfield.  Gratitude for what we gained there, despite the frustrations and pain of those years:  The music.  The impossible academic standards.  The sheer physical beauty of the campus.  The regret over the merger of the boys’ and girls’ schools, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but ultimately led to the closure of our campus.  The dismay we felt at the fate of many of the women teachers, who with the merger lost the place they called home.

Meanwhile, Judi was beginning to stress over a work proposal she had promised to submit by Monday evening.  Our plan . . .  my plan, I should say . . . involved a 20-mile drive deep into the forest to a wilderness campsite.  Judi’s involved a desk, a laptop, and a Wi-Fi connection.  I was getting  a little achy, and there was obviously no way that she could enjoy a remote campsite with that project looming overhead, so we reconnoitered, and headed for Matane.

What a fabulous change in plans!  The town of Matane is charming, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at La Fabrique, a microbrewery recommended by our boat guide that morning. Judi was full of compliments for the ways in which the town has arranged its public spaces to facilitate walking and community gathering.

le fabrique

But even better: our hotel, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, which by this point was beginning to look like the ocean.  Very contemporary, inside and out.  Filled with families.  We didn’t visit the restaurant, but I enjoyed the indoor hot tub and pool area while Judi got to work, I didn’t at all mind sinking myself into a hotel bed rather than clambering into a tent, and the view from our balcony was spectacular.  I am a Riotel convert!

q riotel outsideq riotel barq riotel view

 

 

The Judi and Robin Excellent Adventure ~ 2

can flag

Our first full day in Canada was marked by contrasts:

On an early morning walk, I scoped out a bakery (un boulangerie, for Gamache fans!), to which we later returned for crepes that practically melted away.

qc crepes

We spent the morning walking — and carriage riding — to take in the sights and history of Old Quebec.  The Jesuits were here, arriving in French Acadia in 1609 and establishing a seminary near Quebec City in 1636.  If you have read any of the history of the early Jesuits in New France, you know that often it did not go well for them at the hands of the Iroquois and Huron nations, but in the long run things did not go well for the First Nations at the hands of the French and English.

The Ursulines, who arrived in southwest Ohio in 1845 to found my first boarding school, showed up in Quebec in 1639, where they founded the first western institution of higher learning for women in North America.  When I was an eighth grader at the School of the Brown County Ursulines, nuns and girls alike headed to Montreal for the World’s Fair ~ Expo ’67 ~ and then on to Quebec City, where we stayed with the Ursulines.  This trip, there was no time to do more than take a quick look around.  One of many reasons to return ~ to linger all day over Ursuline history!

qc ursulinesqc ursuline chapelqc ursuline academy


As we wandered the streets of Quebec City, Judi, a city planner, remarked repeatedly on the beauty of the flowers which mark nearly every home and public building, whether business or government.  I have thought of her observations many times since and, a couple of days ago when I stopped by my son’s apartment,  I could not help but notice the potential for color in the utilitarian spaces on his street, large apartment buildings lining one side and older homes with porches the other.  Not a garden or window box in sight.  Quebec City is home to narrow streets and adjoining townhouses and apartments, but color greets you at every corner.

QC1QC2QC3

Everywhere, beauty and elegance:

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q fountains

QC govt

And, although Quebec is a deeply Catholic province, the Reformers have been here as well!

qc st andrews

Too late to plan a meet-up, we discovered that the Presbyterian St. Andrew’s, dedicated in 1810 but originating with Scots Highlanders fify years earlier, and pastored by a RevGals colleague, was only a block from our hotel!

The city was for the morning; by midday, we were headed north and east, and in the afternoon made our first stop at a provincial park.  The still-overcast skies did not mar its stark beauty:

q prov parc

And, finally, we reached our destination for the evening, a campground in Riviere-du-Loop!  After a long afternoon of driving, we set up our tents, built a fire, made dinner, cleaned up, and snuggled in for what would be another rainy night.

Q tents

Well, one of us snuggled in.  Judi was not quite ready to abandon her laptop technology!  I,, on the other hand, startled at first to discover that our campsite included Wi-Fi, was happy to burrow myself into my sleeping bag and read from my ipad!

Q judy camping

Not quite the Clarendon, but we were warm and dry ~ although that tent platform would prove to be my undoing . . .

 

 

The Judi and Robin Excellent Adventure ~ 1

As of August 18 . . . So far so good . . .  After an uneventful flight from Cleveland to Boston (except for a minor kerfluffle over luggage), Judi picked me up (after a minor kerfluffle pertaining to my exact location), and off we went, driving through New Hampshire and Vermont to Quebec City!  The drive was, of course, longer than anticipated, but the hours of almost nonstop conversation gave us ample opportunity to remember our Northfield (girls’ boarding school) days, and establish that they were not, for either of us, a time of unadulterated happiness and achievement, not by a long shot.

Judi had come as a freshman from a small town and public school in northern New England, and I, sophomore year, from a small town in Ohio and a previous boarding school life.  She, I think, had a better time of it than I did until nearly the end.  She was involved in music, and Northfield had an outstanding music program, whereas my efforts to engage outside the classroom mostly flopped.  As far as our junior and senior years are concerned, our stories differ, but I can say from my vantage point, as I probably already have, that while academically, musically, and athletically outstanding, Northfield was poorly equipped to deal with the emotional challenges of adolescents living far from home.  Carol Gilligan’s work and emphases on girls’ learning styles were far in the future, and I think that most of our counselors were simply graduates of Seven Sisters colleges — brilliant women, no doubt, but with no training in education or psychology or group dynamics.  And to be fair, it was the late 1960s. I have read that the administration and faculty were in something of a state of shock as they sought to respond to the upheavals of that decade, which reached New England prep school campuses nearly as quickly as they did colleges and universities.  All of those factors no doubt influenced our high school experiences.

Back to our trip: as dusk fell, so did torrents of rain.  Clenched-fist driving for Judi at that point. We were both glad that our first night’s lodging was the elegant, art-deco style Hotel Clarendon in the center of Quebec City and not a wilderness campsite!

clarendon1  clarendon2

Tired, cold, and quickly quite wet, we threw our stuff into the room and ventured out for an excellent dinner at Le Grill Ste-Anne, only a block or two away.  And then we fell asleep quickly, hoping for a glimpse of the city in the morning.

 

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