Val David, 1999

My cousin Yvonne and her husband Ray came over from England for a visit this summer, and stayed with my aunt, Monica, and her husband Roger. I decided to go and join them on the weekend when they as well as my aunt Gwen and uncle Guy were up from Jamaica. My aunt and uncle had built a house in the Laurentians in Quebec, about an hour north of Montreal, and it's become a favourite family gathering place. At some point I'll get a family tree put up here somewhere so you can see just what that entails.

Aug 13

Since a friend had come over to look at my computer the night before, after a late dinner, I skipped going out and got to sleep at a decent hour, but that didn't prevent me from waking up late than I had planned. I finished packing, picked out some CDs and threw them and myself in the car, getting on the road just past 10:30am. I was planning to stop in Montreal on the way past and visit a museum and do a bit of shopping to make up for the things that I'd missed two weeks ago, but by the time I got there, the rain that had followed me all the way from Toronto had me stressed out enough that I decided to just go north and skip the city. Lack of an umbrella also played a part in this decision, since it was coming down hard and I didn't relish driving the last hour soaked to the skin. I'd narrowly escaped being forced off the road by a tanker trailer who cut me off, both of us almost invisible in the spray being kicked up on the 401. The highway traffic signs informed me that highway 40 was packed through the city, so I planned to head north at the 13. After sitting in stopped traffic in the right lane for 20 minutes, I realised that it was backed up from the 13, so I decided to go along the 40 until I hit the Auto-route des Laurentides, highway 15. Unfortunately, the 40 slowed down a few kilometres on. Then the 15 was packed. I had lots of time to change CDs as I sat inching along. I finally gave up just north of the city and stopped near Ste. Therese for dinner at Commensal. Any facility I may once have possessed in speaking French didn't hold up to the long drive. I'd told them I'd be there between 7 and 8, and it was 6 now. Luckily the staff member who approached me spoke English and directed me to the food. It was just what I needed, and I was able to have a small meal to supplement the apples and granola bars I'd been munching on along the way.

The rain stopped while I was eating, and the traffic cleared up, so I made it to the turn off for Val David in about half an hour. The mountains sort of sneak up on you as you drive north, you just suddenly notice that the horizon is bumpy, and your car is labouring up more inclines than usual. The water slide park with it's huge free standing faucet (the pipe that brings the water up visible since the water was turned off for the day), the arcing bridge over the highway, and the huge cross on the hill rolled past me. I found the correct exit, drove past Belle Neige where we'd gone skiing once or twice, but I managed to make a wrong turn and did a u turn in the parking lot of the Santa Claus Village in Val Morin then continued on. Through the small village of Val David and up the hill going out, past the bike path that they've made out of the torn up train tracks, and then along the country road out to their place. I made it up the twisty steep driveway, pulled in front of their garage and sat and shook for a while. I lugged my stuff up the stairs to the front entrance and knocked. I had to wait a while since they turned out to be in the midst of a corn on the cob feast and were covered in corn bits, therefore in no shape to open the door nor hug me hello. Roger wiped off his hands after waving me in and I got my hug finally. I collapsed in an arm chair after saying hello to everyone, and was just in time for dessert, a wonderful blueberry cake that Gwen had baked. We stayed around the dinner table talking for a while, then one by one wandered off to bed. I was in the small room down stairs, next to the garage, and I pulled the window curtains so that I would have a chance of sleeping past dawn.

Aug 14

I woke up to the sound of chairs scraping on the dining floor over head and gave in to the inevitable and got up. Water's rationed a bit since they're on a well system with a smallish reservoir tank, so I headed upstairs to see about breakfast and to secure myself a position in the shower queue. Luckily, I was the last one up and there was enough hot water after the six of them had had theirs to do me well.

Roger, Yvonne, Ray and myself drove into Ste. Agathe to get some wine for the barbeque tomorrow, and corn on the cob for lunch today. I wandered into the pharmacy next to the liquor store to get film for my camera, then found Yvonne and Ray in the check out line at the liquor store. Roger had left us there while he went to get gas in the car. Yvonne wanted a lottery ticket and some post cards, so I led them back to the pharmacy, where I attemped to help her buy a lottery ticket, but as usual, all my facility with French disappeared as soon as I needed to talk to a stranger. I hadn't realised that so many options had been added on simple pick 6 lotteries. She picked out a slew of post cards to send home and paid for them no problem. Roger caught up with us and we walked over to the lake and watched the cruise take off around the bend. One person was sail boarding / wind surfing and a few people were sun-bathing. The lake is a lot bigger than we could see from where we were standing since it curves and dips around the slopes of the valley that it lies in. Roger offered to drive us around the perimeter and we took him up on it. It took us about 20 minutes to make our way around it, then he drove us past the church that he and Monica got married in, and then by the back way to Val David and home.

We had corn for lunch, no surprise, and then Monica took Gwen, Ray, Yvonne and myself into the village for the afternoon. Roger took a look at my car, and managed to fix the rear panels near the wheel well back onto the frame with some wires while we were out. Monica dropped the Brits and myself off at the pottery festival display and she and Gwen went to do more grocery shopping. We wandered around the 1001 pots festival, and there turned out to be over 20 thousand pieces. I was especially caught by some that were styled with ivy leaves forming saucers and vines making the handles of some cups and mugs. The casserole disk was covered with leaves and all were glazed a varied green colour. There were a few pieces of sculpture that were interesting too, along with a shelf full of penguins that I considered liberating one from as a present for a friend. I couldn't find the perfect one, though the touqued and snow ball flinging one was quite cute, so I left them to continue frolicking on their support. Monica and Gwen came back and found us, and bought me a cup and saucer and a mug in the leafy style as early birthday presents. I considered coming back the next day, the last of the festival, to see if I really did want to buy anything myself, but I ended up not making it back.

We drove back to the house, despite our thought of walking, since it was getting a bit late. More corn on the cob was consumed and we spent a relaxing evening talking and reading, making it an early night since we knew we had to leave for Susan's at 10am the next morning.

Aug 15

Monica got me up at just before 9am, I had a quick breakfast and shower and was waiting outside on the steps at quarter to 10. The dishwasher was started so I wandered around the house grounds waiting for everyone to be ready and/or for 10 to roll around. They'd cleared more of their lot since the last time I visited, and despite the fact that the cleared area looks naked, the renewed view from the house was worth it. The flower beds were blooming nicely, but the garden was a bit sparse.

Everyone was finally ready and we stuffed ourselves into two cars, leaving mine so I didn't have to drive. Myself and Ray went with Monica in her car, the rest in Roger's. It took about an hour on the highway to get to La Chine, and Susan and Jean-Guy were waiting for us as we arrived. We went out to their back yard by the pool and sat at their shaded table. Jean-Guy performed the honours with the BBQ, making up shish-kebobs and chicken breasts. We drank lots of iced tea (me and Gwen) and red wine (Ray and Jean-Guy). I found out that my cousin-by-marriage, Susan's son Marc, is living in Toronto and I got his number for future reference. We took a walk around their neighbourhood after lunch, passing by the house that had been bulldozed as part of a divorce dispute, and went into a model house that displayed the charms of the new houses going up on the edge of the hill. The prices were quite good, especially compared to what I could get for the same amount of money in Toronto. Yvonne was floored since housing prices in Bristol are just insanely high. There was one house across from the model that looked almost castle like, complete to a large winged dog gargoyle guarding the steps. They wandered back and I walked back to the house, not used to the concept of strolling any more. We pried Ray from the hospitality that Jean-Guy continued to shower on him, and eventually got everyone back into the cars. We stopped in Val David briefly to get some groceries, and Ray disappeared for a bit, trying to find a washroom as it turned out. We had a small supper of corn and an early night.

Aug 16

I woke up to sounds in the kitchen above me, around 8:30. A quick breakfast and shower, and I slathered myself with sun screen and bug repellent in preparation for our walk up the old ski slope. It's visible from their house as a depression in the mountain side across the valley and I usually climb up there at least once per trip. We walked towards the village first, Roger as our guide, Ray and Yvonne wanting to see the view. We met some rock climbers in the clearing that was supposed to be the basis for a new private school, but that politics had nixed. They had a beautiful husky with them. We continued up on the slope, stopping occasionally to catch our breath when the going got particularly steep. Roger let us use his binoculars to look back at the house, and I could see my car parked in front of the garage. Monica called the cell phone when we were at the top, testing the range, and I asked her to throw my water bottles in the freezer so I'd have cold water on the way home. Going down was almost as hard, as I had to step gingerly to avoid putting too much pressure on my bad knee. We turned along a different path to go and see the rock climbers, and Yvonne and I stripped a bush of wild raspberries on our way. The face they were attempting wasn't that high, but it looked challenging. Last year, apparently, Marc had expressed an interest in trying the face, and one of the climbers lent him gear and let him try. I wasn't feeling quite up to it, despite my previous experience on an indoor wall. We headed back, just in time for lunch. Yes, more corn. :) I packed the car up and headed out after lunch. The drive back was uneventful, clear the whole way. I didn't stop in Montreal on the way back either, since I didn't feel like delaying the trip enough to end up driving in the dark on the last leg. Overall, a nice relaxing weekend, with plans to tour them all around Toronto when they came to visit.
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