The sun leans down
to kiss the horizon
before turning off
It started during a long drive home. Golden sunlight reflected gently on a gray cloud more friendly than its deep, stormy companions further east. A touch of azure sky still framed it, holding out against the impending storm.
Then it blazed to life. A hint of red, punchy yellow, a tinge of green and violet. Like a knowing wink, it made me smile.
The garage door opened, and I pulled the car inside. The cat rubbed my legs, hungry for attention and food. After giving him enough of both, I returned to the window, wondering if that little wink of color was still there.
The whole sky had grown golden with the light drizzle and the lowering sun. The splash of color had begun to spread across the sky. I hurried outside, not minding misting. Within seconds, it had encompassed everything above me in one perfectly curved line.
I stood there a moment, in awe. I made it home just in time for this. This beautiful moment.
Then the beauty became extravagance. It mirrored itself, transforming everything into a magnificent array of colors.
The sun sank further, and the spectacle began to fade. Being bathed with that much beauty for too long would be too much for any mortal. But as it faded, I felt revived. A wink from above. A promise remembered.
What happens when you play with radishes while you cut them up? Funny little stories like this.
The life of a radish seems a simple thing. And it is simple for most radishes. They spend their lives growing in the ground, nestled into the moist warm soil. Then one day, soft fingers bury themselves into the dirt beside them and wiggle them back and forth until they come free.
The radishes lay in a basket until they’re brought inside. The light is dazzling. Only the prickly leaves have ever seen anything like it before, but they don’t get to enjoy it long before they are stripped off and thrown away. The rest of the radish is gently scrubbed until the dirt comes off and then set on a wooden counter to dry.
After this, most of them are sliced and thrown into a salad, but not all of them look like the others.
One slice, with mustache and eyes still intact, watches as the others are carefully cut and thrown into the salad. All the while, it thinks of a way to escape. It doesn’t want to be eaten today. It wants to explore the world.
Its distinct features go unnoticed as it’s casually tossed into a bowl filled with other vegetables. The sides of the bowl are too steep to roll out of, so it sits and ponders what to do next.
The bowl is picked up and set on a tray then carried away from the kitchen. It sees a face above and waits anxiously to be noticed, but it seems that no one will notice it. Maybe its dreams of adventure are all for naught.
Suddenly, everything jerks. The bowl goes flying into the air. The little radish watches in amazement as the world whizzes by. With a crash, it falls to the floor. It looks around. Its little mustache and eyes are still intact. The rest of the lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans are laying amongst the broken shards of the bowl. And while no one is looking, the little radish rolls away. It will have its adventures today after all.
As I have mentioned before, I’m a second generation Tolkien fan. When I’m with my mother — the instigator of my interest — we truly are a dangerous pair. We have Hobbit door necklaces and Smaug t-shirts that accompanied the last movie’s release. We’ve written Elvish (yes, real words in Elvish) on our nails. Our most recent acquisition is a bit of an unusual one: a plant.
We happened to be in a home improvement store a few weeks ago. Just a stop on a quick mother-daughter shopping trip. As we strolled through the houseplants, we happened across one that caught our eye.
Its shape is unlike anything else we’ve seen before, which was fascinating in itself. But then we read its name.
This adorable succulent’s name is Gollum.
Needless to say, we snagged one. How could we possibly resist a plant with that name?
Since there were obviously two plants in the one pot, she took one and I took the other. And the irony of two in the same pot was not lost on us. (After all, the original Gollum had two personalities…)
We keep them in our kitchens, where we can keep a close eye on them and where they are far from any rings. After all, who knows what kind of havoc Gollum could begin?
Do you keep any houseplants? Have you found anything with a hilarious name lately?
Whenever we travel, our plans are centered around food and must-see sights. Before setting off, we choose everywhere we want to eat and organize which restaurants to visit based on the locations of museums, historical sites, nature trails, etc.
One of the best things about Quebec City is that great restaurants and things to see are within easy walking distance from one another. The only trouble is that there are so many great restaurants marked in our guide book but only so much time, meals, and money. Oh well. Good excuse to visit again.
While everything is delicious, here are some culinary delights that you have to try.
9. French onion soup
Just as there’s that notable difference between a Hershey’s Kiss and Godiva chocolate, there’s a notable difference between French onion soup in America and in Quebec. More onions, richer cheese, tastier broth… It might seem cliché, but don’t pass it up.
Bonus Tip: Want to wash up before eating? Most of the very small bathrooms are in the basement of the buildings.
This open-faced ham and cheese sandwich would make Julia Child proud. Covered in a thick, cheesy sauce, this ham on toasted bread makes a great late lunch. (Check it out at Cochon Dingue!)
Caribou isn’t a stranger to the menus in Quebec City. A great example is this caribou and bison pâté appetizer at Aux Anciens Canadiens. While I’m not normally a pâté person, it’s surprisingly good!
Bonus Tip: At this fancier restaurant, a meal typically includes a drink, an appetizer, the main course, and a dessert. Most restaurants have this deal, though, if you order one of the specials of the day. (And the specials aren’t the most expensive meals on the menu.) Great bang for your buck!
6. Old fashion hot chocolate
Forget Swiss Miss powder. This hot chocolate is thick, creamy, and not obnoxiously sweet.
Bonus Tip: Most breakfast places include coffee or hot chocolate with a breakfast plate.
5. Meat pie
Self-explanatory but not to be underestimated. The best one we found was at Aux Anciens Canadiens.
4. Café au lait
The Quebecois seem to love their coffee. For an authentic experience, try café au lait (coffee with milk) served the traditional way: in a bowl. This half-coffee, half-steamed milk mixture is a frothy delight. Need a little sugar? No one will look down on you for including a packet or two… or three.
We loved café au lait served this way so much that my mom ordered bowls as soon as we returned home. Can’t wait to drink from them tonight.
3. Bacon covered in crepe batter
Yes, it’s as delightful as it sounds! It’s a breakfast of champions at Buffet de l’Antiquaire.
2. Maple pie
This is a delicacy. It’s very sweet, but with a dollop of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream, it’s perfect. We love it so much that we brought the recipe back to the States with us.
When we decided to visit Quebec City, this instantly hit the top of my list of foods to try. While the combination of fries, cheese, and gravy makes it sound like glorified gravy fries, the description falls short in so many ways. Most restaurants use cheese curds, which melt yet maintain some shape. The potatoes involved aren’t always fries (like the thinly sliced potato wedges used at Chic Shack). And gravy isn’t the only topping. The Quebecois make all sorts of combinations: mushrooms and Parmesan, smoked meat and Swiss cheese, and even chicken with a red wine sauce and shallots. And all of them are amazing.
Bonus Tip: If you visit Chic Shack for its variety of poutine, be sure to grab a salted maple caramel milkshake. You won’t regret it (and the walk back to the hotel should burn off most of the calories… unless you’re staying at le Chateau Frontenac).
Want my quick overview of Quebec City? Click here!
Have you tried any of the foods on this list? Have other Quebec delicacies you would add? Visit any must-try restaurants lately?
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
First, apologies for my silence over the past week. I had the foresight and motivation (thanks to you guys ;) ) to schedule posts ahead of time, but it’s impossible to respond or read others’ posts in advance.
So, why the silence? One word. Vacation. It feels good to unplug sometimes. And it feels even better to visit places that inspire the imagination.
One of those places is the San Gervasio Maya site on the island of Cozumel.
Built nearly 2,000 years ago, these ruins are steeped in tradition and mystery. Unlike most Maya religious sites, its purpose was focused on life and fertility — so human sacrifices weren’t a normal part of the routine.
Towards the center of the complex we visited, there’s a “tree of life.” According to legend, if you’re in need of courage, one hug on the “tree of life” will help.
At the end of the “White Road,” there’s a gateway. Supposedly, these are at all of the different Maya sites. Our guide, a history student at the local university and a man with Maya heritage, said that there are plenty of things that guides like to point out about the gate way, but he focuses his attention not on the gateway itself but on the stone beneath it.
He told us that this stone is actually a map of Cozumel. It’s the right proportions, the reefs around the island are indicated by small stones, and the highest spot on the main corresponds to the highest part of the island (which also happens to be the location of San Gervasio). Is it true? I don’t know, but the Maya were incredibly intelligent, so I wouldn’t put it past them.
While it’s not as impressive as Chichen Itza, it’s a great taste of Maya history on Cozumel tended by friendly people who love their culture.
Have you visited anywhere exciting lately? Have you ever been to a Maya site?