Some of the other assistants moved out at the end of May, some went travelling, some flew home. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet and was excited to welcome some friends from the UK to my new home, and here are all the reasons I’m glad I parted with another month’s rent in June even long after my salary had stopped coming in (cry).
1. Having friends visit made me re-appreciate everything about my home
I had two friends visit over three weeks in June, with a 3-day overlap in Montreal. It was so nice being able to show them around without having to factor in all of the travel complications that came with winter; it was a relief to know that we could spend time just sitting outside in nice places. A theme of “bodies of water and trees” seemed to emerge from all of my suggestions for things to do, but it just seemed like the right thing to do given the temperature and the abundant surrounding natural beauty. We sunbathed at Lac Mégantic, walked to the foot of Chutes de la Chaudière, had a narrow miss with a bear in Parc National de la Jacques Cartier, drove the breathtaking Route du Fjord du Saguenay, popped to Maine for the afternoon, tried out Acroyoga at the Vieux-Port de Montréal, ate probably too many bagels and were kindly invited to a pool party by some friends I’d made at the Soirée Anglaise. My friends were also good-spirited enough to accompany me to some cultural events they probably found quite bizarre when I suggested them, such as a line-dancing festival at the oldest covered bridge in Quebec, and a torch-lit walk to celebrate the summer solstice. I’m not sure it’s quite how either of them imagined I’d spent the year, but everyone needs to be shown how to have a good time in Beauce!
2. The public piano came back!
It had been a long time coming, but the piano was finally back by the river in Saint-Georges. There was a welcome back ceremony and weekly concerts, including a collaborative showcase with La Cabane à Swing and the local choir, Echo Beauceron.
3. I carried on dancing
Speaking of swing, I thought I’d danced my last number at Down by the Riverside as the next classes weren’t supposed to start up again until September, but the Cabane decided to put on an accelerated “Swing 2” summer course at Café l’Aléa so as to prepare their dancers for “Swing 3” in autumn. It was fantastic to still be able to go along with a new mix of people and learn even more material, and even have a few more social dances. When they heard I was leaving, they made me do a “Swing Jam”, where you have to dance in the middle of a circle with as many different partners as possible before the end of the song, which was fun but exhausting!
4. I saw my other home from a Quebecois perspective
I took one of my friends, who is now living in London, to the “Ici Londres!” exhibition at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City. We had a guided tour of our capital city, which came to life on the floor thanks to a London map carpet and a Thames projection with moving boats. It was interesting to listen to how the Quebecois think we Brits always have tea three times a day and to hear the two-stage translation from Gherkin to pickle to cornichon!
5. I zipwired over Montmorency Falls
Again, had a friend not been here for a limited time only, I would probably not have allowed myself to be talked into this, but she convinced me to spend a very reasonable 26$ on what turned out to be one of the adrenaline highlights of the year! It was so much fun and we were impressed with how easy it was to acquire the video footage; all my friend had to do was download a free app and keep the phone in her bag during the zipwire, and by the time we’d removed our harnesses our perfect souvenir was all ready to go.
6. There were plenty more wonderful evenings to be had with old and new friends
Our friend Marie-Eve had been saying for ages that she had a great scone recipe, and our friend Badri had been wanting us to make curry for a while, so we eventually decided to combine this into a slightly unconventional event and just had the loveliest time in Badri’s beautiful flat in Lévis with its iconic view of Quebec City, eating great food and talking for hours about how interesting other languages and cultures are. It’s amazing how a shared interest in cultural exchange can bring people together like this. We hope that Marie-Eve and Badri will get on a plane together soon and come and visit all of their UK friends!
7. My contract at school may have been over, but the staff were still partying
Even after my surprise leaving do in May, the staff were all keen for me to come to the end-of-year party at the end of June at a chalet belonging to one of the teachers. We had great fun competing in the staff olympiades, enjoying a dinner of méchoui (barbecued lamb) and serenading Isabelle, who was leaving the school for a promotion at the commission scolaire and in doing so was causing many tears as the staff just didn’t want to let her go. After dinner, we all sat around a fire and had a sing-song, accompanied by Isabelle’s husband and the music teacher on guitar. Their favourite was “Salut les amoureux” by Joe Dassin, which will always make me think of that night and the sad-but-in-a-nice-way farewells that went with it.
8. I wasn’t quite ready to part ways with my car
Aside from the fact I didn’t exactly have potential buyers flooding my inbox, I was grateful to have held onto my car for another month so that he could accompany me on my final few Beauce adventures. It wasn’t always the smoothest ride, but he was a legendary part of this Quebec experience for me and I couldn’t picture having had any other car. As the license plates in Quebec are assigned to the driver and not the car, I still have his plate as a physical reminder of the 23,400km (exactly) that we spent together. I hope he’s making another hockey mom happy!
9. I got to spend a glorious last week in my home with my best friend
The last week in Saint-Georges certainly wasn’t the easiest, with difficult goodbyes left right and centre, imminent issues regarding certain logistics of my plans for the summer, and having to sort practical things like closing my bank account and selling the car (which finally happened at the last possible minute, after a week of being laughed out of garages and insulted by Kijiji customers, cry). Despite all of the uncertainty, I am certain that I wouldn’t have made any of it work out without my best friend, who sat patiently by my side all week, said all the right things, vacuum packed my heavy clothes into my suitcase and always knew when to appear at my door with an iced cappuccino. We punctuated the leaving blues by organising nice farewell meetups with our local friends, trial-running his new tent in my back garden and ticking off the last few things on our Beauce bucketlist. This involved a really lovely hike up Mont Morne laden with camping and cooking equipment among other things (I’d packed the essentials such as Alsacien wine and blankets) and enjoying the sunset before scrambling around on our hands and knees in the dark for at least an hour trying to make a fire with hardly any lighter fluid and some damp kindling. We (he) eventually made a fire big enough to cook our dinner on, and it was the most perfect last night together we could have had. Of all the people I was fortunate enough to cross paths with this year, Dan was the one who made it all as special as it could have possibly been.