Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Bit of Beauty Leaves Us…

Elizabeth Taylor was, by almost anyone’s standards, one of the most beautiful women of all time.  Her appeal exemplified class and her look, while sultry and beyond compare in many ways, was unique and truly amazing.  Unlike most amazingly beautiful women (example is one of my faves, Marilyn), Liz had talent.  Most extremely gorgeous women either lacked talent or lost themselves in the vices of their era.  Liz somehow managed to overcome and continued, until her death, to be an icon of feminine beauty.  

Liz was someone I admired.  She had a self-proclaimed obsession for living with passion and I think most of us forget to maintain passion in our day-to-day lives.  Some people find it ironic (or perhaps shallow?) that I feel we should mourn the passing of such an icon.  People say we are a shallow society who places too much on appearances.  But you know what?  We – all of us – help form that society and I don’t regret my ability to appreciate the beauty that she had (just as I don’t regret my ability to find beauty in virtually everything and everyone I see).   I will forever look at Liz and marvel (and wish I could replicate) the beauty that she so gracefully took the burden of every day.  

…and yes.  That kind of beauty would be a wonderful yet horrible burden to carry every day.  

Best of hope to you Liz, on wherever you may now be.  You add class and wonder to the cast you are now with.   I will forever be enamored by you.
Elizabeth Taylor 02.27.1932 - 03.23.2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


We did something that other Tennesseans (and many 'normal' people) would think is crazy: we opted to visit Vieux-Quebec the first week of March... when the weather is harsh and REALLY cold.  Why? FTHOI!  Funkdubie had never seen "real snow" or experienced "real cold" (nor had had been north of Ohio) and it was my intention to introduce him in harsh yet beautiful fashion.

(There is a link to more photos at the bottom of this post.)

Winter in Quebec is a magical season... they don't call it the "Great White North" for nothing. But Quebec offers something otherwise unseen in North America: the only fortified city and a bit of Europe nestled into our continent.  The main reason I wanted to go was for the obvious: History buried in SNOW.  I miss snow... I miss the cold.  If you know how to dress for it, visiting cold places (or living in them) isn't nearly as bad as many may think.  While I had originally kicked around London, I thought I'd go to Vieux-Quebec first because it's a one-of-a-kind on my continent.

Day 1:
Our first day on our trip was unexpectedly delayed by 10 hours in Detroit's scenic (not so much) DSW Airport. We flew from CHA to DSW and immediately boarded our flight to YQB.  After about 10-minutes on the plane, the pilot informed us that, due to snow and wind in Quebec, we would be unable to land so our flight was being cancelled.  Not delayed; cancelled.  I secretly think they cancelled it and booked all 8 of us on the way later flight just because there were only 8 of us flying in.  Our day at DSW was dull at best and our 2nd most expensive day of the trip.  Why?  The only way to combat boredom and retain morale came in the pale amber liquid we like to call BEER... at $8 a glass.  The only thing good I can say about the Detroit Metro Airport is that it's clean, large, and has a cool hall of tranquility (I'm not sure what it's REALLY called, but I've dubbed it this and linked to a video I took on my phone while going through).

Finally we board our flight and after 2 more hours in the air, we're finally in Quebec City, Quebec.  We breeze through customs, grab our luggage, and snag a taxi to the hotel.

We spent our trip at the Hotel Louisbourg which is part of the Acadia 'chain' here.  The Louisbourg and Acadia are situated right between what is known as upper and lower town and central to many great sights.  Quaint and cute (and warm!), it was a good place to stay.  The only thing I can say, however, is to bring ear plugs if it's the winter season.  The stone walls and large windows don't do much to block street noise (which isn't from noisy and boisterous tourists, but rather from the large snow removal equipment!).

We knew it was going to be cold, so after we got checked in, we layered up and started to walk the streets looking for something to eat.  We discovered quickly that Vieux-Quebec rolls in the rugs early and closes everything.  We were very lucky that St. Patrick's Pub found themselves with a few more patrons than usual and opted to remain open.  So at 2230 (or 10:30 as we would call it) we had nachos with salsa and some amazing St. Patrick's home brand: St. Patrick's Blanche (i.e. wheat).  The weather?  About -23-degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill.

Day 2:
We ate a french breakfast every day at LeFleu Sacre which was next to our hotel.  Some of the fare was the usual: scrambled eggs and cereal while other things (baked beans or crepes, for example) were more traditional for French fare.  My intent today was to travel and see St. Anne's Basilica and Parc de Chute Montmerency (the waterfall at Montmerency Park).  These were also the furthest destinations I had wanted to visit.  I know there was likely a tour, but we also know I hate working on anyone's schedule or waiting for anything... so we opted for le taxi.  For the record, le taxi was SUPER expensive... it was a $120(CAN) round trip... but worth it.  St. Anne's was freaking amazing and the fact that it was built in the 1600's is enough to blow anyone's mind.  Luckily I could get a great view of Chute Montmerency on the way, so I didn't bother to stop.  It was only -1 Fahrenheit so playing outside near falling water (it appears the center of the falls rarely freezes all the way solid) wasn't on my list of things to do.

After our trip to St. Anne's we walked about 7 blocks into the city to a local pub called Le Sacrelige.  A local folk band, Le Rouvielle, was playing and while I couldn't understand a word of what they said, I had a wonderful time listening to them.  The music was good, the atmosphere friendly, and the beer tasty and inexpensive.  Finally our stomachs took over and it was time to wander and eat.  Our selection was St. Alexanders which was pretty well spoken of in reviews (as an establishment and also as a historic site).  The food was amazing but this was the one place where our waitress seemed offended that we were English-speaking.  We tried, at all times, to 'make up' for our lack of French and ask politely if the person could speak English.  When they couldn't, we would always find a fun and friendly way to improvise... when they could, with the exception of St. Alexander's, they were always happy to oblige.  Our waitress wasn't mean about it, really... more like sarcastic with an aire of "if I had to learn to speak English, you should have had to learn to speak French".  But, whatever.  On the way back to the hotel, Funkdubie wanted some more beer and I was craving cafe (coffee) and I spied a hockey game through a window of a pub.  We ended up at D'Orsay English Pub and met a fun local named Steve who tried very hard to talk to me about hockey... bless him. :)  At this point, I'd say it is fair to admit that Funkdubie's new favorite beer is St. Ambroise Stout.

Day 3:

We opted for D'Orsay for lunch because Steve had bragged on the food, which did end up being amazing.  The service during the day left much to be desired compared to the service we had just had the night prior.  Funkdubie was having some minor knee aches, so we walked to a store and bought some French loaf bread, a bag of Doritos, and 2 bottles of Don De Dieu. We spend the rest of the day relaxing and watching TV.

Day 4: 
I woke up to amazing amounts of snow!  I had to get out in it, so we walked to the Citadel, walked around Plains De Abraham and around the fortifications of the city.  We ate at St. Patrick's where I tried something new: Smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers on a bagel.  We were GOING to do a pub crawl, which we were GOING to start at Sacrilige... but... well, I'm a lightweight and after 2 pitchers (shared) at St. Patrick's we made it halfway to Sacrilege and I was ready for death.  Sorry, Funkdubie... I'm a lightweight.

Day 5:
On the 5th day I was suffering from cabin fever while Funk was suffering from over-walkabout.  I wanted to go cross-country skiing but Funk had other ideas, so we stayed local and ate at (can't remember) for lunch and D'Orsay for dinner. Funk had a huge bowl of muscles while I enjoyed steak-n-frites with homemade mayo.  The French have something with this dipping fries in mayo... amazing stuff that assisted in my 7-pound weight gain (LOL).  We ended the night at our favorite: St. Patricks.

Day 6:
We were supposed to catch a flight at 6:30... but the same weather I loved on the ground wasn't going to let us leave.  So after about 5-6 hours of delays, we finally took off and made it home in the evening.  I miss it already.

I recommend the St. Patrick's Pub completely.  A good selection of local beers and a good atmosphere.  I also recommend Le Sacrelige on Rue St. Jean in the 500 (I think) block.  The place is crammed with locals, has a killer beer selection, and the joy of live entertainment.   Regardless how you get there, make the trek to St. Anne's Basillica... it was the coolest.  I liked it better than St. Patrick's in NYC.  Make SURE you eat some frites with homemade mayonnaise.  

On a side note, I recommend Icebreakers thermal gear in 200 or more weight (get it in the States before you go).  One layer under jeans and a layer under a sweater and coat kept me toasty and dry.  Also, bring ear plugs if it's winter as the massive plows and snow blowers start roaming the roads around 4 a.m. and are VERY loud.

If you don't know any French, I recommend learning the very basic French words:  Do you speak English?  Please. Thank You.  Yes.  No.  Those words are enough to get by.

Lastly, forget about currency exchange and just use your credit card.  There are so many non-official 'currency exchanges' that you're bound to lose money if you go that route (especially right now when the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar).

Want to see a few more photos?

Au revoir.