Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Journey Back to Quebec: Part I, Go on Up to Jackman

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


  1. Wonderful post, Gigi...I like you think that the best part of traveling are not the list of "must do's" but instead the wandering the streets to get the local flavor and the wonderful people that you meet either locals or fellow travelers! I hope one day to get to Quebec City! Warm hugs and smiles, dear friend! xxoo :)

  2. I hope you aren't ending every sentence with "eh?". Though maybe a bit of our Canadian charm had you adding it to a few sentences just for fun. So happy to hear you enjoyed Quebec and loved the creepy motel story (or was it a hotel?). No wonder I like you so much, we are both from French Canadian descent. In my reincarnated life I like to believe I started in France and then made my way to Canada. In fact I am sure of it-lol! Lovely, lovely to have you back, you were missed. Much love XXO

  3. How wonderful to have a great adventure for your anniversary celebration. I look forward to hearing about Quebec. It isn't a place I had thought of going, but who knows maybe I will change my mind. Love the train station.

  4. What a wonderful nostalgic trip it must have been for you both Gigi......and, a bit creepy too !! I couldn't get over the taxidermy sign !!
    I love your first photograph and it could have been taken in rural France, couldn't it ?
    Am looking forward to more tales of your travels and the suprises that you encountered. XXXX

  5. Oh, it was such fun to take this trip with you, Gigi... I can't wait for the next installment! As ever, you have a way of having us feel like we're right there. Quebec...ah, a little taste of Europe Stateside--love that! ;o) You top photo just thrills. But must say that taxidermist cum motel is VERY creepy... eeekkk...I don't think I could stay there--LOL! Just keep driving... haha... Can't wait to hear about more fun & surprises. Glad you've been having such a wonderful summer, my friend. :o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

  6. Dearest Gigi,

    So glad you both got to visit our most favorite and romantic city. No wonder it was your parents' destination for their honeymoon!
    The oldest North American restaurant is located there and we marveled at the Château Fronenac where we stayed on August 13-16 before leaving for Montréal. Look forward to your follow-up!

    Love to you,


  7. Gigi- so glad to hear that you enjoyed your trip to Quebec City. It was the first place my husband took me for a vacation. It holds a special place in my heart. Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

    Jackman doesn't look like a spot where I'd want to have car trouble!!!

  8. Jackman - sounds like many a small town I've been through in Nevada and California.Does add to the adverture. And welcome back.

  9. Hey Gigi, great post! such good reasons for that trip and the images are fantastic!

  10. Every year Mr O and I say to each other that we should visit Quebec and Montreal and Toronto...I have never been to any of them and dearly want to. Love your story of Jackman:) Effrayant non?

  11. i can't wait to read part ll. i love reading your blog.

  12. I love your Hitchcockian moment. I'm eager to hear about the rest. You and Todd travel very much like Jeffrey and I. There was a moment on our honeymoon when I knew with an absolute certainty that I had married the perfect man. We were heading to the mountains (Jeffrey's great love beside me.) and I saw a town that was on the National Historic Register; the whole town. When I exclaimed over it, her took the exit and happily spent the entire day exploring it with me. You gotta love a man like that.

    May you and Todd have many more adventures - Hitchcokian, or not.

  13. I love your description of Jackman. It reminds me of a town I once knew in which the local tanning salon was in the rear of the town's only gas station. Beautiful post!


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