Anniversary Getaway to Quebec

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Eternal Flame Falls in New York

Why should the fire die? Our Mom and Dad kept theirs alive…” These words from my favorite Nickel Creek album kept thrumming in the back of my mind, as Marci and I hiked the trails of an obscure nature preserve in Western New York. Part of the reason those lyrics came to mind was because of all the signs showing a pictogram of a fire and an arrow, pointing us towards a site called “Eternal Flame Falls.”

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Eternal Flame Falls in New York

And that was definitely worth seeing (and singing about, for that matter). I mean, how often does one come across a fire burning within a rocky recess of a waterfall?!? Honestly, though, the bigger part of the reason I kept thinking about those song lyrics begging the question “Why should the fire die?” was because Marci and I were taking this trip to see the eternal flame (within a bigger trip to the visit the area surrounding the Saint Lawrence Seaway) to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years of marriage seems like a pretty big milestone! Yet we’d been on a family trip to Europe at the time of our actual anniversary. So this trip was a sort of belated observance. With just the two of us.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Eternal Flame Falls in New York

After our little hike to see the Eternal Flame Falls, we kept driving north and east. Eventually, we crossed the border from the United States of America into Canada. And after another hour or so of driving, we crossed from the province of Ontario into the province of Quebec. It’s really not all that far away (the place where we stayed was just an 8.5-hour drive from Kent), but it felt like a special destination. Honestly, even more foreign than I expected (I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be more invested in the Francophile language, attitude, and culture than the French — but after having personally experienced both I believe the Quebecois have somehow done it!).

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Historical Fort at Coteau-du-Lac

We stayed in a town called Coteau-du-Lac, and it was a really lovely area. One day, we got to see the site of an old fort that was established in the 1700s to protect this strategic territory along the Saint Lawrence (or Saint Laurent) waterways linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. And it was genuinely fascinating to learn more about the area’s significance through the Algonquin and Iroquois conflicts… the French and Indian War… the Revolutionary War… the War of 1812… and the push for Canadian independence from the British Empire.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Historical Fort at Coteau-du-Lac

We spent longer at the historical site than I expected. Eventually, though, we walked directly from the old fort to a nearby fast-food place called La Frite à Brigitte. The line stretched all the way from the cash register to the back door (which is usually a good sign, if you ask me), and the menu was comprised almost entirely of different variations on Quebec’s most famous snack food: poutine. We each ordered a small bowl of poutine classique (just fries, cheese curds, and gravy), along with one grilled cheese dog and some drinks. And as weird as the dish looks and sounds, it’s really kind of amazing how well that bizarre mash-up of ingredients works together.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Poutine from La Frites de Brigitte

We also got the chance to visit Montreal, during our time in Quebec, which claims to be the second-largest French-speaking city in the world. And we experienced it to be a lovely old city with North American influences, French influences, and English influences. I especially appreciated the large painted murals throughout the city streets and the juxtaposition of the Neo-Gothic design of the Basilique de Notre Dame right up against Art Deco towers from 100 years ago and 21st Century buildings as well.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Montreal

Mostly, though, Montreal was a city: lots of construction, lots of traffic, lots of tourist shops… all kinds of weird-and-interesting people in weird-and-interesting places. Marci and I both seem to have come to the realization that we’re just not city people. It’s kind of amazing that we made it nearly a decade in Amsterdam, considering the fact that we’d gotten our fill of Montreal by about 2PM!

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Montreal

While we were in Montreal, however, we did get lunch at an extraordinary place called Schwartz’s. Their specialty is “Smoked Meat Sandwiches”: an inch-and-a-half of smoked brisket between two pieces of rye bread, with a light layer of yellow mustard. Again, this may not sound like much, but it was amazing (we got ours served with a side of fries and two large pickles). Schwartz’s served a lot of customers, and they served them astonishingly quickly. So we honestly weren’t there for all that long, but that was still probably the highlight of our time in the city.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Montreal

It might sound like we did a lot on our anniversary getaway. Hiking… historical sites… parks… cathedrals… poutine… smoked meat sandwiches… The trip definitely wasn’t devoid of activity. But by a very wide margin, the main focus of our trip to Quebec was rest. We did a lot of sitting, napping, reading books, watching television, and eating easy food. Maybe that’s a sign that we’re slowing down with age. And that may be inevitable.

25th Anniversary Trip to Quebec: Resting at the AirBnB

Part of me feels sad about slowing down. Part of me feels angry that we’re allowing ourselves to shorten our “leashes” and make our world smaller. But I think the biggest part of me is scared to acknowledge the aging process within myself. I told Marci on Friday that my feet have started to get real achy over the last month or two, creaking in protest when I get out of bed in the morning or just sit still in a chair for a while (it felt like a confession, or like revealing a very vulnerable secret). I’m glad that Marci and I had special experiences to mark our 25th wedding anniversary — things that can be represented in photographs and anecdotes — but it definitely wasn’t a pure romp. The slow-down made my emotional experience of our getaway more complicated than I expected.

But isn’t life complicated, anyway?!? Marriage is complicated. Aging is complicated. The human heart is complicated. We know all of this from life experience — including over 25 years of experience in marriage, now. As I reflect on all of this, I feel gratitude for the opportunity to experience all of these complications together with Marci. She’s a good life partner. Not perfect, of course, but very, very good. The last 25 years have been good, and with some luck we’ll have another 25 years of goodness yet to come.

This entry was posted in Culture, Culture Shock, Family, Food, Health, Introspection, Marriage, Middle Age, Photography, Reading, Recreation, Transition, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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