André had some suggestions for my day in the city – a cool cafe for a lazy coffee and an unusual poutine place that does some crazy things with poutine. The mind boggles. The rest of my time I planned to spend walking slowly and indirectly between these two places. Good footwear was advised, as most of the town is hugely steep, so my flip-flops went back in the pannier.
The hostel has a nice world map with flags for guests to write on and stick in the wall:My entire trip is contained in this one photo, past and future. When I glance briefly and easily across the prairies, I get the strangest feeling.
Never miss a chance to publicise your project…
The hostel runs a shuttle service for all guests, and it was free for me as I’d booked my room online. André’s wife drove six of us across the bridge in the minibus, with a good view of the old steel bridge I crossed yesterday evening. The lattice of open metalwork that passes as a road surface is unsettling to ride on as it sort of steers you without asking first. The view is spectacular, but on no account look down at the Fleuve Saint-Laurent flowing beneath you, or you will wobble like a novice and make comedy noises of alarm. I had to stop (again, mum!x)
What a place. Although busy, it’s a weekday so perhaps a touch quieter than it might be. The view of the hill-top Chateau Frontenac from our drop-off got us all ooh-ing and aah-ing:
Every cobbled sidestreet tempts you to explore – I glimpsed the funicular railway and thought I’d give it a go later. After strolling up and down a few more streets, I suddenly realised that I’d come out at the top of the funicular, and saved a couple of dollars in the process:
Up here was a busker doing his thing with “Summertime”. I missed the bit when he got his trumpet out and blammed out an instrumental verse. I’m no doubt alone in not being a fan of this song, probably the only Gershwin song I don’t love. Perhaps I’ve been corrupted by playing it with too many classical sopranos doing it as their “pop” encore. Audiences always love it, and it’s a reliable “aaah!”-producer when you play it. Not that many people “aaah!” in classical concerts, so when they do, take notice.
Although I had André’s suggestion in my back pocket, I did look around a bit. Every time I saw a restaurant I liked the looked of, I was deterred by a quick menu price-check. I think “fine dining” and this trip don’t really go together. I accidentally had a fancy meal in Winnipeg (Rack of Lamb, mmm) because it was the only place open nearby, and I felt out of place in my Lycra and spent a fortune. Two glasses of red cost the same as a night’s camping in Saskatchewan. In Ontario, you could only have stayed half the night.
If you watch someone doing the thing they’re best at, have trained at, do without thinking, it just kind of shows. From a distance, I watched three guys on mountain bikes shoot down a steep hill, closely followed by a huge tour bus. I saw that they were all wearing BMC Pro Cycling Team jerseys, but that’s not so unusual. Then I saw that all three had absolutely superb, shiny, clean and new-looking BMC mountain bikes. And lastly, seeing that the bus was getting too close for comfort, as if as one they swooped left and headed straight back up the hill without effort, pulled up at the cafe I was standing outside, parked up their bikes in perfect formation and grabbed a table. I said Hi and it turned out, surprise surprise, that they were all with the Swiss BMC Pro Mountain Biking team, competing here at the Velerium on Saturday. Not wanting to miss the opportunity I dug out three of my cards and presented them – if you make it to the blog guys, thanks for being so friendly and ready to talk, it really made my day. It was a great pleasure to interrupt your morning off. Best of luck at Mont Sainte-Anne. I got on to the BMC website over lunch, and I’m pretty sure that it was Lukas Flückiger, Lars Forster and Reto Indergand – it’s not a huge team so I didn’t have to sweat it too much over photos. They’ve come over here from Europe, so I guess jet lag is just part of the full package of suffering.
…it was time for a beer and some chicken at the fantastique Chic Shack, followed by a delicious affogato with an espresso tipped straight over, and an extra espresso long on the side:
Every other bar or restaurant in Canada would be showing baseball, day or night, but not the Chic Shack – Ultimate Frisbee:
I got talking to the manager, Mikaël Garneau, and he told me all about the quieter seasons here, when the streets are peaceful and the mood more laid back. We talked cycling too, of course, (I told him about the BMC encounter) and it transpired that he’s a close friend of the first Québécois guy ever to ride the Tour de France, David Veilleux, (with the Europcar team) who also rode in the yellow jersey for three days of the illustrious Critérium du Dauphiné, before giving it all up in his prime to concentrate on being an engineer, and getting his life back too I would guess, after many hard years of racing in Belgium on the way to breaking into the big time. Mikaël was so happy to chat, despite having a very popular and busy joint to run, and made me feel very welcome and glad to have stopped here. Cheers Mikaël!
By the way, now I think of it, do any of the poetry aficionados out there (Stewart, mum?) have anything on the subject of rivers, the mighty variety? Even better, the experience of following one? I know you love a challenge (I can hear you both reaching for the dog-eared compendium – thanks in advance!)
As you travel along the Saint Lawrence, time and again you come across stories of battles and rebellions, criss-crossing the water, and a pattern emerges: “rebel” Canadians, longing for independence from the British, cross to the US side and find no shortage of Americans willing to support their cause against the old enemy and fight side by side with them, only to find that once in Canada there isn’t the local support to win the day. Up near the Plains of Abraham (scene of an earlier battle between the French and the British for control of the city, and one of the highest points in Quebec) is the Citadelle, where the remains of Richard Montgomery and many of his men lie, killed by musket shot attempting to wrestle Canada away from the British in 1775.