They say the best way to experience a city is through the eyes of its citizens. That being the truth or not, I had the terrific good fortune to have experienced Montreal through Chantal’s eyes. Actually, back it up a minute: first and foremost, I have the terrific good fortune to call Chantal my friend. She and I met because of a shared concentrated hobby (deep, abiding admiration for Barenaked Ladies), and here I found myself a few years hence, visiting her hometown.
Chantal and her daughter, Emily, scooped us up Saturday morning, showed us all the things tourists want to see, but perhaps don’t due to their distance from centre-ville (that’s French for downtown, see how multi-lingual I am now?). Intrepid driver she, Chantal braved highway and road construction that abounded at every turn. Every. Turn. You guys, I live in a winter climate. Snow removal damages concrete and asphalt, I understand that, so I’m not unaccustomed to summer road construction, but Montreal?? They own, and I mean OWN, messed up construction traffic.
We hiked to the top of Mont Royal to see the cross, a tourist spot which also apparently is a hot spot for public group sex. I swear I am not making that up. Read here if you don’t believe me. Fortunately, we didn’t have to suffer bearing witness to this, and instead witnessed stunning views sweeping over the city in a verdant park.
I began this post thinking I’d detail the natural beauty and history of Montreal and Quebec City. But the last game of my kid’s baseball season is looming, and I’m feeling emotional and thankful, so I’m focused on thankfulness. I hope Chantal and Emily know how much we appreciated their time and local expertise, and most of all how we appreciated their company. I don’t think I can thank them enough with words, so I’m hoping they can read my heartbeats. Merci beaucoup and much love! xoxo
The Queen of Quebec
A deep, sincere merci beaucoup is due to the dear lady who walked us all the way from the Gare du Palais in Quebec City to our hotel. All the way. Up a hill. In the driving rain. Did I mention the hill was steep and Mother Nature welcomed us with a monsoon? Exiting the VIA Rail station in Quebec City, we encountered something of a downpour. *ahem* We stopped to ask assistance from one of the few pedestrians we encountered. I’m one weak-ass polyglot, and when she or anyone greeted me with “bonjour” or “bon soir” my default was “hola” or “buenos dias.” So embarrassing. Anyway, I attempted speaking to her in the very broken Spanish in my command, because I’m an idiot!, which was less useful than the little English in her command. Apparently I can only second language in first-year college Spanish. English was more effective, but she couldn’t quite direct us to our hotel with words. We offered a weak merci, and changed direction. Before we even got to the corner, she sped to catch us, then said something like, “I show you.”
And she did. She accompanied us–saturated, lost, oh-so-obviously-tourists the kilometer or so to our hotel. I can only imagine how pathetic and tired we must have appeared to her that she made it her job to deposit us at the Hotel Palace Royal. We got near, and we thought we recognized the hotel from photos. I said (OK, I tried to say) words to the effect of “we can take it from here,” but she insisted. I felt in that moment like she was a mama wildebeest and we were the wildebeest babies she was bound to deliver across the river. She was determined to get us there, like it was her sworn duty. She marched (and y’all, this was not a leisurely stroll, no, she was hauling!) us to the literal front door, bid us adieu, and tears of intense gratitude stung my eyes.
A thousand thanks would feel inadequate. I didn’t feel desperate exactly, though I surely wasn’t confident I’d locate and check in to our hotel in any sort of timely manner. This lady, whom I’ve dubbed The Queen of Quebec demonstrated unbelievable kindness. We made her day more difficult, surely more uncomfortably wet, yet she did something good for strangers just because. I really hope karma takes good care of my queen.
At this moment, I’m sitting atop my bed in a Crystal Lake, IL hotel. Tomorrow is my son’s final baseball game of the season. We’re here for the Summer International Classic, a tournament fielding teams from Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, and the US. It’s been almost exactly a year since my son joined this team. In this time, he’s improved as a ball player, earned a few more Ws than Ls, had a great time with his teammates, and I’ve been made welcome into the Criollos baseball family.
My son was the only non-Latino or Hispanic child on the team, and you know what? He didn’t even realize it because you know why? He was becoming an improved ballplayer, winning a bunch of games, and having a great time with his teammates. There is nothing so pure as kids playing a game they love.
There were moments I didn’t understand what was being said and I know I missed more than a couple jokes over the year, but there is no one I’d rather have spent summer with than my baseball family. The coaches and my baseball moms are worth more than these piddly thanks I’m able to write.
I’m going to cry tomorrow, I know I am. I’m tearing up already just thinking about what’s going to go down at around 10:30 tomorrow morning. Muchas gracias por todo, Criollos family. Thank you. Merci beaucoup.