5-19 - Quebec, Canada, Ottawa, & England

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May 19th 2018
Published: May 20th 2018
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Just like yesterday, it was off to a boulangerie for breakfast! Since this was the day of Harry and Meghan's wedding, I ran out to pick up coffee and croissants, and got back just in time for the vows. To be honest, I probably wouldn't have bothered, but my roommate was watching, so I did, too. Right after, we headed down to the lobby to start the day's activities.

We took cabs to the Residence of the Governor General of Canada within the walls of the Citadel. This walled fortress on the St. Lawrence River changed hands between the British and French over the years. It was interesting to hear about the relationship and "pecking order" among the British Queen, the Governor General, the Canadian Prime Minister, and the Senate. It seems a kind of confusing hierarchy, but it works for them!

A few interesting facts:

• The Canadian government owns many art items donated to the country by Canadian artists, and the art moves among government buildings, offices, and official residences around the country. The collection is managed by a national designer (or maybe royal designer??) who decides what art goes where. For example, when a new Governor General or Prime Minister moves into a residence and office, the designer chooses what pieces will be included. While the new officer MAY have a preference for an item, the designer seems to have the final say.
• Each new Governor General has a coat of arms designed for them, if they do not already have one. The coat of arms contains symbols communicating the person's passions and interests. For example, the current Governor General, Julie Payette, was an astronaut and a musician, and those interests are reflected in her Coat of Arms.
• A Canadian's passport is issued by the Queen, shows the citizenship as Canadian, but as subjects of the Queen, their passports remain property of the Queen!

We were at the Citadel at an interesting time. Preparations and practice were underway for reenactments of various battles, notably the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The area inside the Citadel was busy with men and women in 1600-1700's dress, marching to and fro, mustering, and fighting. It was kind of an odd juxtapositioning of the 17th and 18th centuries with automobiles in the parking lots nearby. Though they were still practicing, it seems it will be interesting once the reenactments begin later this summer.

When we left the Citadel, we headed down-hill to enjoy lunch at Les Anciens Canadiens, one of the oldest buildings in Quebec City. The restaurant is known for meat pies; traditional Lac St. Jean Meat Pies are made with wild game (no potatoes!), while the the traditional Quebecois type uses pork and potatoes. Most of us paired up and alternated ordering the two types and then shared between us. Though locals debate which is preferred, and the jury was split in our tour group, but it seemed a slight edge to the wild game type. They also served "sugar pies" for dessert, which one of my companions described as pecan pie without pecans. It was rich and sweet.

After lunch we split up to pursue personal interests. I headed to the Morrin Cultural Center, which was the site of the first jail in the city, later became a college, and finally the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. This library is featured in Louise Penny's novel, Bury Your Dead, which I read just before the trip. In the 1700s, when it was a prison, there was a balcony over the front door facing the square; it had a trap door, and it was where they performed public hangings, to the apparent delight of the neighbors! The prison conditions were deplorable as were those in London. When the British were in control in Quebec, the reforms of John Howard were instituted in Quebec as well. His programs focused on improving the lives of prisoners in many ways, among them segregating prisoners according to crime (murderers no longer co-mingled with shoplifters), improving conditions and food, and initial efforts at rehabilitation. When the prison became too full (cells designed for 1 or 2 prisoners were housing 4 or 5), the prison was closed and the prisoners moved to a larger building. (At the time, the prisoners were transferred to a larger building that eventually became a wing of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec.)

The Morrin Center then became a college funded by a Scotsman, Joseph Morrin, who left the building and funds to create the school. The college was associated with the Presbyterian church and granted degrees in association with McGill in Montreal. It was an option for those who wanted education in English, but some Anglophones (e.g., Irish Catholics) preferred to attend a Catholic school. Because the "pool" of students was so small (they only had 14 students a year), they decided to admit women to the college, and the men and women attended classes together (oh, Horrors!). Initially they offered arts classes like literature and philosophy, but eventually added chemistry, women were instead offered "domestic chemistry!" After the school closed, the building was used by an Anglophone group to maintain the history of Quebec; in Bury Your Dead, it is portrayed to be focusing on the British side of history because they were afraid "their side of history" would be obliterated once the French came back to power. It now houses a beautiful library that is supported by membership (and tours also!).

Something that fascinates me about travel is coming upon surprising things. This qualifies: In the ladies' room, there is a display of period china in a cabinet behind a glass pane. Where else would you see such a thing!?

Upon leaving the Morrin Centre, I stopped into the Chocolate Museum! Again, a surprising thing I had never hear of, but when I did, I knew I had to visit! It was a small store-front kind of place, with a store on the right side and the "museum" on the left. The wall held posters with photos and text showing how cacoa was grown and processed, with a few tools and artifacts. The most interesting thing I saw there was a Chocolate Dress! I wanted to try some of the chocolate myself, so bought a few small pieces to sample.

From there I went to the oldest grocery store in North America. Mr. Moisan bought the building in the late 1880s and it is apparently still owned and run by the same family today. The produce and meat looked wonderful, and the old wooden shelves were high and close together. The store has always been known for procuring the most unusual delicacies of the time.

It had been a long and hot afternoon, and since still had an hour to kill before heading back to the hotel for a narrated tour of sites referenced in Bury Your Dead, I found a spot for a beer at a sidewalk tavern (Chez Murphy) and tapped my feet to a live Irish band (very enthusiastic playing!) and enjoyed the 3 tiny chocolate pieces I bought at the museum! You may not be surprised to learn that chocolate goes GREAT with beer! I also snagged a tiny sample cup of maple syrup flavored popcorn from a vendor on the sidewalk. They put maple syrup in and on everything!

The Louise Penny walk was fascinating, covering about a dozen buildings that she cites in her books, making the novels come alive! We went past the Morrin Centre, so I was glad I had taken time for the tour earlier.

Dinner was at a small restaurant near the hotel, where we had a light dinner and some great sharing of our experiences.


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