Ahh, Paris… on the St Lawrence


Here’s the thing about Quebec City: for us in northern New York, it’s an ideal distance (and affordable enough) for a real, tourist-y getaway. That means we can go for no other reason than going. Which also allows being alone or with that one person we’d like to orbit.

In this kind of traveling, there are no obligations. No one to meet. If there was a schedule, it evaporates. Leaving… what?

Just you, in a stony small town that has lots of corners, each with street signs only in French. (We weren’t in the city 30 minutes before my wife said, “I’m back in Paris.”)


Le Vendome Restaurant (the sign is in the shape of an old carriage – note the couple kissing through the rear window and the farmer in the driver’s seat) photo: J. Brown

On Rue d'Auteuil (the red awning is just above our hotel's front door) photo: J. Brown

On Rue d’Auteuil (the red awning is just above our hotel’s front door) photo: J. Brown

Turn right. Or go left. It doesn’t matter. There are no wrong decisions. You can’t get lost. There aren’t any “bad” neighborhoods to wander into. You can go in any direction, anywhere, and you can still reach what so many travelers long for: not a place, but something like freedom.

Walking around the Old Town, we became unmoored from the concerns of daily life. The big stuff, the little details, all gone. The only part of us that remained was our own whim. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I doubt I’ve been this agreeable since I was an infant. And sleeping soundly.) Our cares (momentarily) gone, we had crossed over into the most pleasant kind of void.

Is this how people from New York (or other cities) feel about time in the Adirondacks? I could see that. Put a boat in the water or step into some backcountry skis and it’s pretty easy to shed everything but a smile.

But I can’t go full Cheshire Cat in the Adirondacks. It’s home. I care about it. And it’s not that I don’t care about Quebec City, it’s just that it’s a man-made place. What crumbles there can be restored. But the health of our home (our collective home, that is) requires some balance. Some protections, too, for livelihoods as well as the ecology they depend on. But all this takes hard work. Some of the hardest is listening to all those voices and trying to find consensus.

And maybe they have to do this in Quebec, too, but they do it in another language that’s really pretty and (for me, at least) happily incomprehensible. So, again, it’s a perfect getaway. And we can take the train.

And when it was all over, we rolled back into Cornwall station, relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, we were able to realize one of the best parts of traveling: seeing home with new eyes.


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2 Comments on “Ahh, Paris… on the St Lawrence”

  1. Bob Falesch says:

    You tagged this with two categories: canada and travel. I can see that, but they don’t really guide one to anticipate the essence (perhaps no tags can) of this lovely little article. Maybe part one was more conventionally travelogue-ish, but I’m glad you ended it this way.

    +1 for an evocation of freedom and some personal reflections on the value of opening oneself up to discovery.

  2. Jonathan Brown says:

    Thanks Bob-

    It really was (as you say) a discovery, even if it was of the inward variety. But I really like those.


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