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A professional writer's private thoughts

Archive for Canada

A few of Dad’s pics

Which are much better than mine! All images credit William Etling, 2011.






Last Run in Quebec

My best runs in Quebec were in North Hatley, but an urban run in Quebec along the St. Charles was a nice way to end the trip.

The Quebecois are blessed with beautiful riding and jogging trails, but I didn’t see too many  people out enjoying them on an early Monday morning.

This is actually where Cartier, the first explorer of New France, met up with his Native American counterparts for the first time.


Now its a haven for public art and a celebration of local natural beauty.

That includes Super Dog.

I loved running here.. got the feeling that despite the weather, this could be a very nice place to live and exercise.


Domaine Gelinas

On the last day of our trip, we were headed back to Montreal to fly home and needed to kill some time. Seeing a sign for a winery 16 kilometers off the freeway, we took a screaming tire last minute turn and headed that way.

20 minutes later, we arrived at a beautiful country vineyard, Domaine & Vins Gelinas (www.domainegelinas.com), with a charming log-cabin style tasting room. Alas, the venue appeared to be closed until Wednesday, and it was midday Monday.

But as we were about to drive away, the proprietor’s wife came running down the driveway to stop us. In broken English, she asked us to wait, so she could summon her husband from the vineyard to pour us some wine. Sure enough, he came down the road on a riding mower, smiling and seemingly glad to have a break from edging the fall growth creeping along his otherwise picturesque property.

It took about 90 seconds from Serge Gelinas’ assertion that “my English is not so good” to his revelation that he dreams to visit the Central Coast’s wine region and our realization that his English was much, much better than our French will ever be!

The charming winemaker told us the story of how it was his grandfather’s dream to grow grapes on their mid-Quebec farm, a place that spends up to half the year under snowfall. Neighbors laughed. “That will never work,” they scoffed. But Serge took his grandfather’s dream seriously and with the assistance of the viticulture program at the University of Minnesota, which advises many Canadian winemakers, he made it happen. Today, the property is a thriving winery and Serge and his wife France sell 25,000 bottles of wine each year.

We loved the chance to taste for free, a bygone tradition on the Central Coast, and to our great surprise, the four wines they poured us from 2010 were exceptional. For $15 a bottle, we would have gladly taken home a case each of their Cavalier du Versant – the Barrique de Chene Canadien was close to a buttery Chardonnay, the Non Boise closer to a sweet Viognier. Pesky custom regulations!

Serge insisted on giving us a tour of the property, where he has a helipad to welcome guests flying 20 minutes from Montreal. He doesn’t bother to sell his wines in the state-owned liquor stores – they take all the profit, he explained, and leave him with a return of just $3 a bottle.

He’s promised to come visit the Santa Ynez Valley in March 2012, so we’ll be sure to give him a warm local welcome .. hopefully he can bring a few more bottles to share with us and friends. In the meantime, if you ever get to Quebec, go visit Serge and France. They’ll welcome you with open arms.

Serge is showing my parents documentation from the state of Quebec about how he has one of the oldest fossilized rocks in the world on his property. The fossil, which was found in northern Quebec, formed 2 billion years old and features unique blue-green algae fossils (Stromatolites)  that have only been found in four other locations worldwide. (This info is from a report from the Quebec geology department that he shared with us.)

The helipad is to the left of the tasting room.

Serge and France.

Random, Cool, Quebec

Our last walk around on our last day here. Tomorrow we drive back to Montreal taking the other side of the St. Lawrence. Tuesday we fly home.



Yes, that’s a jar full of Barbie heads. Jar of Barbie Heads would be a great name for a rock band.

Cycling the St. Lawrence

Heading east from the Old City, we ended up along a network of picturesque bike paths, walking trails and parks. Less touristy, revealing that a lot of people live in condos here. Families, couples, joggers were out for a Sunday morning jaunt.







Ile d’Orleans

One of the most useful pieces of historical info I’ve gleaned on this little trip is where the name for New Orleans comes from (Louisiana is on the very short list of U.S. states I have never been to, so I really hope to go there soon).

When the French were fighting the British back in the 18th century, the British defeated them for control of Quebec. So the French settlers who were living on the especially beautiful Ile d’Orleans said “screw it, we’re out of here” and headed south, ending up in Louisiana, where they fished and made beignets and had much warmer weather and pretty much lived happily ever after until Hurricane Katrina. Or something like that. (Note to UCSB history department: please don’t ask for my degree back. This is a personal blog.)

But Ile d’Orleans remains the most pastoral little island you could ever come up with. We drove all the way around it and saw all the picturesque little villages, and picture perfect homes. There are a few wineries, tons of apple orchards, and a few cheese making shops.

I didn’t take enough pictures here so I apologize for that. The few that I did take are below. Not my best, but this island is really truly special so definitely visit there if you ever get the chance. A lot of people go out there to cycle but it didn’t look like good riding to me – no shoulders on the roads and tons of cars driving around on one of the busiest fall weekends for apple picking.

MontMorency Falls

Just before the bridge over to Ille de Orleans is MontMorency Falls, a truly impressive waterfall that can be accessed over a bridge, if you are willing to climb a very big staircase first.

There's also a tram that will take you to the top, but trams are for lazy people. Or, as my mom said, "I only take trams in Switzerland."


If you have read Game of Thrones, then you know about the staircase leading up the Wall. That's what these stairs are like.


Unfortunately we did not run into Jon Snow.


But we did see a marmot at the top!


Once you get up the 465 stairs there's a short walk over to the bridge across the falls itself.


Water is awfully placid right before it takes a huge dive.



From a little viewing station on the opposite side of the bridge.




Definitely a worthwhile trek. We saw a few crazy locals even running the stairs for a workout.

Le Marche du Vieux Port

(The Market at the Old Port.) Daily Farmer’s Market. Amazing produce.

Quebec: Round Three

Quebec at night