Bonjour, mes amis! I'm sorry I have been away for so long--from my own blog and from yours, too. This is the longest blogging break I have ever taken. It wasn't expected, but it was necessary. Summer swept me away this year with weekly visitors at our home in Portland, lots of work, and then, at last, a long-awaited journey to Quebec City avec Monsieur Magpie.
We are lucky here in Maine that Quebec is our neighbor to the Northwest. This means we have a little taste of Europe just a short drive away. Still, it had been many years since either Todd or I had been to Quebec City. In fact, neither of us had been there since we were children. We suspect that perhaps we both visited during the same summer back in the 1970's. Maybe we passed each other on the same street, no? A romantic thought, and one I choose to believe.
This year it just felt right to both of us that we make a pilgrimage there to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary, summer, childhood memories, and life in general. My heritage on my father's side is French Canadian, and Quebec City is the place where my own parents spent their honeymoon 50 years ago this summer, so what better place to visit? And what better time to do it?
When I was a girl, my parents packed us kids into the back of the faux-wood-paneled station wagon, and we headed up to Canada during a heat wave. Back in those days nobody in our part of the world had air conditioning in their cars, so it was a sticky, grumbling trip through logging towns and the low mountains of the Kennebec River watershed. Moose country. Lumber country. The maple-sap and pine-scented world of my roots.
Then we hit Jackman, Maine, the last real town before the Canadian border, and even my eight-year-old self knew we were at the edge of anything familiar. Border towns tend to be edgy in more ways than one, and Jackman didn't disappoint with its diners, roadhouses, and ramshackle motels.
And all these decades later, Jackman feels nearly the same. I won't lie. For me it possesses a slightly ominous air that was only enhanced on this trip by the fact that when I walked over to take photos of the abandoned train station, a young man pulled up next to the station and stared at me from his car. He just sat there in the empty lot, watching me, one finger tapping the steering wheel. I edged as far away from his car as I could as I made my way back to the convenience store where we'd parked, but he never took his eyes off me. It wasn't until I met back up with Todd at our car that the creepy guy finally drove away. This, coupled with the motel in Jackman that doubles as a place for all your taxidermy needs, lent our fifteen minutes there a distinct Hitchcockian flavor.
Once we were on our way, though, our temporary case of the heebee-jeebees disappeared as we sang songs about Jackman to the tune of the Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash song "Jackson," dove back into practicing our French, and tossed around possible plans for our stay in Quebec. Other than our B&B reservations, we had no firm itinerary, for Mr. Magpie and I are avid travelers, but not very good tourists. What I mean is that we bristle at itineraries and pamphlets listing the requisite "attractions," preferring to stumble upon wonderful surprises as we go and to strike up conversations with locals and fellow travelers alike. Quebec, we would discover, is one of the best places in North America to do just that.
Next Installment: Part II, How to Recover Four Years of Forgotten High-School French in Four Days