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Published: August 13th 2006
Bob and I said our goodbyes early and I started the last leg of my trip in Quebec. In Calgary our friends, Susan and John, told me of several places where they had lived and spent time when they were young. I planned my route to take in some of their recommendations.
The countryside surprised me. I expected it to be flatter, with a lot of farms, but it was quite mountainous, although there were few places where rock was showing.
If I could speak French, the town of Magog is a place I would like to spend some time. I would do my normal gawking about, but would listen and talk with the locals to learn more about the place. My quick take was that it is a mature town, with some tourist places, but mostly made up of businesses that are necessary all year round, even when there are no tourists. One end of the town touches a beautiful lake called Lac Memphremagog and I could see lots of people invoved with all sorts of water sports. The businesses and stores in the east side of town were more common place. It seemed that
Lac Brome / Knowlton
Nothing spectacular in this scene, but all those shops held food and goods of pretty good quality - well, I'm pretty sure about the food.
all the women from those stores were out on their front stoop, smoking. I'm not sure if they were on a break or were just waiting for customers. They didn't seem bothered and were talking together, sometimes from stoop to stoop - very sociable. I have a similar image in my head, but I don't know where from, maybe from a Jacques Tati or Pink Panther film, but it looked like a typical scene in a small village in France. It certainly isn't a scene you would see on the prairies or on the west coast.
The Abbaye Saint-Benoit was not just casually mentioned to me, but, rather emphasized as a place that must be visited. They not only came from John and Susan in Calgary, but also from Sylvain and Manon, and Bob. Mind you, those recommendations were not made for any reason of virtue, they were more focussed on ensuring that I had a chance to sample the great cheeses that are made there. I thought they were very well intentioned. I had to go.
The abbey was founded in 1912 and is in a beautiful setting, south of Magog with the Eastern Townships mountains
Town Centre - Brockville
Very much the same as a British town square. This is where most trading would have been done in the early days. They have fixed it up nicely.
surrounding it, and Lake Lac Memphremagog at its feet. The external outline looks like an old monastary. You can see this by looking at it and then squinting your eyes until the details disappear. If you open you eyes wide you will see that it is made of very modern materials, using modern building techniques. I didn't like the feel of the sanctuary very much, even though it looked impressive. If you took away the Catholic statuary and icons you might think you were in a Unitarian Church.
Les would have fun in the store in the basement of the abbey. There were all sorts of what she calls 'Catholic hardware'. She would have choked to see the number of books available on probably any Catholic subject you could think of, but I there was no point looking for one to buy for her because they were all in French.
I looked carefully at their vast selection of cheeses. They had ordinary cheeses and speciality cheeses, mostly French. Blue cheeses are my favourite and I thought carefully about trying some Bleu de Chevre or Roquefort, but I couldn't bring myself to buy a large package of cheese and
One view of the Brockville Waterfront
That is the USA across the St. Lawrence River.
then throw most of it away. My other fear was that I would buy a large package and eat the whole thing. I pulled myself away from the cheese display and slapped my hand as I reached for a litre sized container of their special ice cream. Once outside I took a deep breath, firmly closed the door and walked to my bike. In the very next village, I didn't bother to look at the name, I found the boulangerie and bought two fresh croissants that I inhaled. At least it stopped my hands from shaking.
I rode on to John and Susan's old home town, Lac Brome or Knowlton. It is a bit tourist based, but still looked very liveable. For the first time in Quebec I saw some dual language signs and I heard a lot of English spoken. Bob told me there were a lot of English speakers in this part of the Eastern Townships so I guess I was witnessing that.
I decided this moment needed to be unique, so I found a public phone on the main street and phoned Susan in Calgary. I thought it would be fun to talk to her
Good Real Estate Deal
Here is a house for sale in Brockville. I'm sure it is reasonable - for most millionaires.
while I was looking at the main street of her old home town. We had a good chat and I told her that I struggled to understand why they ever left this part of our country. I'm sure I'll get the full story from them when I get home.
I saw more road cyclists today than I have seen collectively on the trip up to this point. It looks like a great place for that sport and I quietly wished I could have joined them.
After leaving Lac Brome, I got on the autoroute for Montreal, then joined the TransCanada heading for Toronto. Along the way a fellow riding a Honda Valkerie (a BIG motorcycle with a BIG motor) entered from a side road and start driving ahead of me. After a bit he took his hands off the handlebars and proceeded to steer his bike by putting out one arm or the other, into the wind, thus causing his bike to drift in the that direction. I panicked when I saw a car coming towards him from a merging road, but he reacted more vigorously than ever to avoid a collision - he extended on arm as far as he could and his bike changed lanes. He never did grab the handlebars. I still think it was a stupid thing to do, but after a few minutes of watching him I couldn't help but laugh at the scene. I wonder what the car drivers thought of his antics? It would have been a great moment to have a video camera.
I decided to stop in Brockville for the night, home of the first railway tunnel in Canada. I knew you woud be interested. I'm sure my friend Al could have prepared a much better description of the tunnel construction and history than they had displayed. The 'official' display was incomplete and confusing. I must confess, even as a railway buff, what I liked most about the tunnel was how wonderfully cool it was inside. The heat and the humidity continued to be unbearable, especially in my motorcycle clothes.
I had another motel night with neighbours who dictated when I could sleep by when they decided to turn off their too loud television at night and back on in the morning. I think the quality of life in a motel would be improved if no loudspeaker devices were allowed. Using todays technology, it would be pretty simple. Just a thought. I wonder if I'm ahead of my time and someone in the near future will put together a marketable package and make a windfall from it. I hope so.
Odometer at the end of the day: 39300km
Tot: 2.204s; Tpl: 0.025s; cc: 16; qc: 74; dbt: 0.028s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb