July is passing rather quickly. I'm amazed that it’s already been three weeks since I left the White Mountains for an early arrival at the border with a warm welcome into Canada. There were a few expected queries and a chat with a jovial gent who expected my visit to be the usual week or two. “Do you have family here?”
While I crossed over at 9ish, my expected arrival time in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford was 2pm, so I enjoyed a rest stop along the Trans-Canada Highway. I mention this for a focus on rest – no petrol station, no french fry aroma – simply, a restroom and an enormous tree-filled park where people of all ages were walking, chatting, and picnicking; some with checkered tablecloths neatly placed. I’ve arrived.
The main road into my neighborhood runs along the Riviere Becancour, and I paused to ask a teenage boy if the little park was public. “I don’t speak much English”, is all he had to say. So, here I am in a village of 1100 people in the Arthabaska region of Quebec province, a valley just south of the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City. I chose this location for a number of reasons – a lovely Airbnb, French language immersion, and bike and pedestrian friendliness – yet easy access to a wider region that’s new to me.
Beyond escaping the USA, this trip is serving many purposes: an attempt at speaking French again; experiencing life in a small village in a rural area, then a small city; and finding time to write as I stay in place indoors for much longer periods than usual. In reality, I’m evaluating life options for 2023 as I kick tires for a six-and-six lifestyle of seasonal homesteading with continued world travel.
Alors, qu'est-ce que j'ai fait?
I’ve been living in a loft bedroom in a very peaceful setting with Anna, who is soon to be 76. Her home, “L’ensoleillee” is an ecological house with a gorgeous natural garden and wooded backyard. She also could not be a kinder and more patient person who works hard caring for the space inside and out, serves an astounding breakfast, and has been coaching me along with my Frenglish on a daily basis. It has been a very restful, joyful and productive stay.
Two days after arrival, my friend Scott from PA was here. At this point, I had no idea what was what, but we had long chats (in English), rode bikes, found some local delicacies, and then he moved on with his whirlwind tour of Canada. I then began exploring; first by simply biking along the river with views of the cranberry farms. This route landed me in the village of Notre Dame de Lourdes where I was flooded with childhood memories.
Early on, I fell into a daily pattern of either walking by the river or biking to new locations, studying French, perhaps writing a bit, and slowly discovering places I wanted to explore or return to as time rapidly passes by. I chose to bike to the village of Lemieux in honor of a dear friend, and drove to Princeville for food to discover the Route Verte 1 passing through. This was a great find and I biked to the small city of Victoriaville (population 50k) a few times before visiting by car to enjoy the museums and the Parc Mont Arthabaska.
I’m not sure if my French has improved in the past three weeks but I am moving ahead with daily studying, reading signs, short magazine articles, and menus! I’m also writing more and pondering a new angle for the infamous retreat proposals. Tomorrow, I head just 97km east to Levis, a city of 150,000 along the Saint Lawrence River.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover