Day 17: exploring our favourite place

We woke up in time for church! Everyone got dressed and out the door in time to go around the corner to Casse Crêpe Breton for yummy crêpes. Fresh strawberries for the girls and one with ham, egg & cheese, one with raspberries and chocolate for M & J. Délicieux! Then J went to move the truck for parking while the girls walked the five minutes to church. Only M turned the wrong way and was a little lost. Happily, we noticed J after a few minutes and found the church only a minute after that. Unhappily, the church had a sign on the door saying that the congregation was joining with another congregation for worship today. We almost abandoned our Reformed roots and headed off to the Notre Dame in the middle of town when M decided to Google the name of the other church which was printed on the sign. It turned out to be only a few minutes away and didn’t start for another 45 minutes so we headed over.

It turns out that there was a touring performing group called Victory Voices from Ontario and they were presenting their last show of their tour in the service at the Chalmers-Wesley United Church. Good thing because neither of the girls were interested in church otherwise! It was a group of middle/high schoolers doing a modern musical of Moses’ life from birth to the Ten Commandments. E’s interest was high; C kept saying, “Abatah (Avatar)” because Opa showed her a game on his iPhone from the Avatar movie and M has it on her iPod. “Abatah! Eyeee-pot. Me!” She sat watching if for awhile and spent the rest of the service gleefully running up and down the pew or the aisle. Happily the woman behind us what charmed by her and nobody minded her antics. The choir group was enthusiastic, the music was a cross between jazz and blues, and the narration and dialogue was humorous.  After the service we enjoyed refreshments in the church basement.

We headed back to the hotel so C could have a proper nap. J took E swimming – we haven’t been making enough use of the hotel pools that we’ve had access to. Then we had quiet time before going back out. We took the Funiculaire down and wandered around the lower old town. It was every bit as lovely and neat as we remember, perhaps even more so. E eventually fell asleep in the buggy and so we ended up at a restaurant for dinner in relative peace (that happens when one or the other or both are out…) the food was good and we were on the early side of the dinner rush so we left before the restaurant got too busy. E then woke up and we headed back up into the upper town for some wandering and eventually made it outside the old town gates to the Legistative Buildings. It must be the time of year for maintenance for many of the Legislatures we have visited have been covered in scaffolding. The night was mild, full of happy people, lights, horse-drawn carriages, and atmosphere. We had a good time. Back in old town we found  Trattoria de Mike’s for late night chocolate chaud and dessert. Then we went back to our hotel and settled into bed.

It is a funny thing to go back somewhere that one holds in very high regard in one’s mind. The first time we went to Quebec City was in late October of 2004. We were still newlyweds (just over a year married) and travelling on J’s first business trip for a conference that happened in the Frontenac, one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Canada. Because it was just after Thanksgiving and just before the Christmas pre-season the city was nearly deserted giving us the feeling that we had it all to ourselves. Even though many tourist attractions were closed the hospitality we experienced in all that was open was extraordinary and the culinary delights we experienced are still some of the best we’ve ever had. Of course, because we had no children, nor any notion of what having children might mean in our lives, we were able to give attention to each other and the city and the holiday that was complete and undivided. We were wholly absorbed in the beauty, history, and charm of Quebec City.  That trip still stands out in our minds as one of our best travelling experiences.

So it was with high expectations and fond, rose-coloured memories that we arrived in town. We were not only excited to be back in the city we loved but to share it with our beloved daughters. Only too soon did we realize that all of the things that made it such an exceptional experience the first time were different. It was the May Long weekend and the city was packed to the gills; we not only didn’t have the city to ourselves, we were just one family among dozens, one group among hundred, one buggy in a sea of tourists. The weather was not only sunny and beautiful but almost unbearably hot with the sun and heat reflecting off the cobbled roads and old stone buildings. Our dining experiences were not the gastronomic discoveries as they were in the simply because children, as Nigella Lawson put it, have very bad taste; even cultured, well-travelled children such as ours. Fries and burgers it is…

All was not lost though because being the analytical people we are, we came to understand where our snappy moods were coming from. Unfilled expectations can cause many unkind situations and this was the perfect example. So we talked about it and dealt with it. This would not be the perfect holiday in our perfect town. We were parents now. Buggy pushing, bib carrying, diaper changing, child dragging parents. And being a parent changes how one experiences things.  We cannot give undivided attention to each other or to absorbing the culture and history around us. We experience things filtered through our children, who are not excited by the same things as we are. And that’s ok. They remind that world doesn’t exist way up high. It also exists in the four feet of their existence, the same four feet that adults tend to forget about.

  • Melodies: church bells, street performers, Victory Voices choir from Ontario
  • Miles: hoofing it around town
  • Meals: crepes at Casse Crêpe Breton, lunch at church, duck confit at L’Échaudé, apple crisp and raspberry ice cream crepe at trattoria de Mike’s
  • Meltdowns: E-lots and lots. It was not a good day for E.

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