Getting in Touch with My French Side (or A Weekend in Quebec City)

July 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm (Life, Photography) (, , , , , , , , , )

Last Friday, I was stepping out of a taxi — one of the few taxis I’ve ever been in — and into the heart of French culture in North America. I suppose sometimes I’m too easily enamored with anywhere that’s foreign, but it’s hard not to be with somewhere as charming as Quebec City. My family and I had come to explore the old part of the city over a long weekend. And, honestly, there’s so much that I want to share that it’ll definitely require another blog post. (And that post will mostly be dedicated to food — namely poutine — and must-see places.)

Our little hotel sits between the St. Lawrence River and the fortifications that still surround most of old Quebec City. Winding hallways lead to beautiful rooms that combined a sleek, modern style with stone walls built by the French in the 1700′s. And, as icing on the cake, there is even a small kitchen with a cook top (which came in handy every evening).

Looking out the window of our hotel room

Looking out the window of our hotel room

Cafés, shops, and hotels are nestled together throughout the old part of the city. Most cafés are small — a cluster of tables outside and as many as can fit inside — and sometimes it’s hard to know where one ends and the next begins, but all of the ones we tried were filled with friendly people and incredible food.

View from a cafe right next to le Chateau Frontenac. (It really can be seen from anywhere!)

View from a cafe right next to le Chateau Frontenac. (It really can be seen from anywhere!)

From our hotel, we walked everywhere. It’s easy to do since the area is only a few miles, though there’s plenty of walking uphill and on rough cobblestones. But none of us minded since there’s something new to see around every corner and the cobblestones are charming (even if you trip on them once or twice, like me).

The narrow streets are lined with beautiful, old buildings

The narrow streets are lined with beautiful, old buildings

There are three major historical sites: la Citadelle, le Chateau Frontenac, and Parliament. Each of them are old (though most of their structures are from Quebec’s time under British control — the only exception are two buildings in la Citadelle) and have quite a history behind them. More on that later, though. But one of them is hard for any visitor to miss: le Chateau Frontenac — the huge hotel atop the hill — is visible from everywhere in the city. For that reason alone, we have countless pictures of it.

Le Chateau Frontenac (from one angle)

Le Chateau Frontenac (from one angle)

Among its many claims to fame, this hotel was a meeting place for Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and W.L. MacKenzie King (the Canadian prime minister) during WWII.

A plaque on the side of le Chateau Frontenac commemorating Churchill and Roosevelt's meetings during WWII

A plaque on the side of le Chateau Frontenac commemorating Churchill and Roosevelt’s meetings during WWII

My favorite part, though: speaking and listening to French. After two years of it in college, I haven’t kept up with it nearly as much as I should have, but I was impressed by how much I remembered (even though some of the Québecois vocabulary is a little different from proper France French). Most of the signage and people are bilingual, but there’s something wonderful about overhearing conversations or reading plaques in another language and understanding the gist. It certainly rekindled my love of the language. Needless to say, I plan on adding reading French into my weekly routines.

There’s also something special about immersion in a culture that’s part of your heritage. My French Heugonaut ancestors came to America in the 1700′s for religious freedom. They lived on the frontier, were killed in raids, and fought in the Revolutionary War. Since Quebec City is the heart of French culture on this continent, it’s a little piece of that part of my heritage.

Have you visited a place related to your heritage? Have you been to Quebec before?

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The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part X)

July 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm (Literature, Nerdiness) (, , , , , , , , )

Chapter 12 is short. While I could combine it with the next chapter, there are two reasons that I’ve chosen not to: 1, Chapter 13 is all about Fëanor and his arrival in Middle-earth which is a very different topic, and 2, I just returned from a trip less than 12 hours ago so I’m running on very little sleep. More on that later, but let’s say our weekend adventure to Quebec was incredible… until the airport in Philadelphia, PA and US Airways left us stranded for almost a day and a half…

Now that the Sun and Moon have made their first appearances, it’s time for Middle-earth’s newest addition.

Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)
Part III (Chapters 3-4)
Part IV (Chapters 5-6)
Part V (Chapter 7)
Part VI (Chapter 8)
Part VII (Chapter 9)
Part VIII (Chapter 10)
Part IX (Chapter 11)

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 12

The first time that the Sun — Anar, led by Arien — made its appearance in the last chapter, Morgoth was mortified. He and his servants hid in their dark holes in Angband until it sunk below the horizon again. And the Elves remember this as a bittersweet time because it marks the end of their height in Middle-earth.

But the Elves and Morgoth aren’t the only ones who witness the Sun this day. The other moment the Valar has been waiting for has finally arrived. The Secondborn of Ilúvatar — Men — have finally awoken.

Though many names are given to them — Atani (Second People), Hildor (Followers), Firimar (Mortals), etc. — we’ll just call them Men, like Tolkien’s other works do.

As an interesting side note, The Silmarillion frequently mentions that mortality in Middle-earth is, in fact, a gift from Ilúvatar. I can certainly see why it might not seem that way and how others could consider the Elves’ immortality to be the greater gift. But think of how your life might change if you knew that you would live forever in this world. (Not counting an afterlife, which is a different matter.) How willing would you be to take risks? Try new things? Go places you want to visit? After all, you can do any of it any time. And perhaps that’s part of the reason that there’s been no real sense of time in The Silmarillion so far. Yes, we know that it’s been quite a while since the Valar first came to Middle-earth and since part of the Elves went to Valinor, but there’s no clear reckoning of how many years. Since this work is an account of the Elves, their perception of time is likely very different from that of Men, who only have a limited time in Middle-earth. But back to the chapter…

Slowly, the Men begin migrating Westward. And as they do, Ulmo (water-loving Vala) tries to speak to them through streams and rivers, like he did with the Elves. But Men don’t hear the messages in a way that they understand. Yes, there’s something about water and it stirs something in their hearts, but they can’t quite put their finger on it. All they know is that they love water.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Valar remain hidden in Valinor, and this is the way that it will stay. Only Ulmo still traverses the gap between Valinor and Middle-earth and relays messages concerning what is happening. And now that Fëanor is in Middle-earth, there will be a great deal to report.

Next week, Fëanor seeks revenge, Fingolfin and his posse arrive in Middle-earth, and it’s all-out war with Morgoth.

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The Sewing Bug Strikes Back!

July 11, 2014 at 9:09 am (À la Mode, Craftiness) (, , )

A few weeks back, I had a much-needed date with my sewing machine to give some new life to one of my favorite old t-shirts. (You can see it here!) Since I enjoyed it so much, I decided to have some more fun.

And the two became one...

And the two become one…

I started off with two shirts that just don’t work for me on their own. The stripped shirt’s neckline is just too high for my body type. (At least, I think so.) And the lace shirt is beautiful but it doesn’t breathe. At all. Which makes it miserable to wear even in the winter.

Two great shirts that just don't work so well on their own...

Two great shirts that just don’t work so well on their own…

But I figured that they would make the perfect shirt when combined. While I would have loved to use the lace sleeves, that’s the most suffocating part of the shirt, so instead, I opted to use the stripped shirt’s sleeves. That’ll make more sense in a minute…

So, first, I cut the shirts straight across just below the arm holes.

WP_001180 WP_001179

Then I cut the sleeves off of the lace shirt (much to my chagrin because they’re beautiful).

With those gone, it was time to pin the top part of the lace shirt to the bottom part of the stripped shirt.

Always make sure that right sides are together!

Always make sure that right sides are together! And leave at least a pressure foot’s width of seam allowance!

After I sewed them, I made sure that the seam laid nicely.

Here’s what it looked like at this point:

From the front...

From the front…

... and the back

… and the back

Cute and certainly a finished product, but I wanted to make it look a little more sophisticated, so I added the stripped shirt’s sleeves back onto the existing armholes.

The key is to start at the side seams at the bottom of the sleeve and pin towards the top. Make sure it lays flat the whole way.

The key is to start at the side seams at the bottom of the sleeve and pin towards the top. Make sure it lays flat the whole way.

Once I sewed them on (right sides together and very gently), the shirt was ready!

DSC_2379 (Medium)

Finally done!

And just like that, the lace that I liked from the one shirt makes the stripped shirt more flattering. And less suffocating. What will become of the lace sleeves and the rest of the lace shirt? Only time will tell…

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