Quebec City and the Ghosts of my Parents

story and photos by Rachel Dickinson

A week before what would have been my parents sixtieth wedding anniversary I found myself heading to Quebec City and the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac, the very hotel my parents stayed in on their honeymoon. I believed, at the time, that this was strictly coincidental, for I had no desire to recreate the beginning of a failed marriage, but a part of me also strongly suspected that there was no such thing as pure coincidence.

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The Night Train to Gaspe

words + photos by Rachel Dickinson

In September I took a trip to Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. And although I was really looking forward to seeing where the St. Lawrence River leaves the confines of its banks and flows into the ocean, one of the biggest draws for me was the night train from Montreal to Gaspe. Trains have always held a fascination for me, drawing on some part deep inside that really wants to live in the 19th century (although I’m not so much of a sentimentalist that I don’t know that 19th century train travel also involved lots of soot and hard seats).

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Up, Up and Away: Lessons Learned in the Clouds

by Stacey Marcus

The genesis of the idea was as sweet and breezy as the day we drove up from Boston to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu by way of Burlington, Vermont. My husband, Mitch, had always dreamed of floating in the clouds on a hot air balloon and serendipitously stumbled across  the International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu  near Montreal. An extended weekend in Canada seemed a great idea for an end of the summer family trip.

We were invited to ride in the VIP specialty balloons and excitedly anticipated floating in the clouds and seeing the world from an aerial perspective. As we drove into Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, we saw the colorful balloons dot the skies, a rainbow of colors and sea of shapes  delighting spectators lining highways and fields.

As we stood in the VIP section watching 150 balloons travel to the heavens, we were introduced to our pilots who explained that the specialty balloon protocol. After all the balloons were launched, they would evaluate whether our balloons could travel to the sky as the weather conditions were not ideal for the specialty balloons and time was running out. A spontaneous surge of stress spilled onto the field as we awaited the pilots decision.

The long-awaited ride to the sky quickly went south as time ticked by, the balloons sat on the ground, one daughter went to the ladies room and the other began to spiral. Out of nowhere the pilots announced we were leaving and everyone sprang into action. Emily and I went up in one bee-shaped balloon and Mitch and Rachel tumbled into the other.

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French Camp Failure

by Jules Older

As Effin and I left Vermont for French Immersion Camp in Quebec, I felt scared.

I had reason for fear. I nearly flunked French in high school. I did flunk Latin, got a D in German, just squeaked by Spanish. I kept switching languages in the forlorn hope I'd find one I was good at. I never did.

So why was I voluntarily leaving for seven days of French immersion in La Belle Province? Two reasons.

The most pressing: I edit Canada’s biggest ski magazine, a Quebec-based venture, where every one of my colleagues is bilingual. And while they generously switch to English whenever I'm there, I'm tired of being the only single-language idiot in the room.

The second reason is a fond hope I've clung to since my less-than-stellar experience in high school French/Latin/German/ Spanish. I've always said that the problem wasn’t me; oh, no, the problem was the way language is taught. I claimed (and almost believed) that if I were thrown into an environment where, say, French is spoken—as opposed to parsed, declined, memorized and chopped into small bits—I'd soon be speaking it like a native.

So. Alors. It’s crunch time for my dignity and my theorizing. On to Quebec!

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