Thursday, May 1, 2008

Of Fertile and Timeless Passions

Listening to the local mourning dove and her haunting call this morning as I ambled to work, I was reminded of Ile d'Orléans, a small island just over the bridge from Quebec City, in the middle of the St. Lawrence river. I came across it purely by accident years ago.

We were looking to book a bed and breakfast in Quebec City, and were doing this online. As the address looked appropriate, it never occured to us that this establishment might not be in the heart of the city itself. After a few wrong turns, we finally found our way to the bridge that links the island to the mainland and were in a suddenly rural environment.

I have discovered a few facts online since that first visit:

The First Nations people called it "Ouindige", an Algonquin word that means "bewitched place", possibly due to the great numbers of fireflies that appear at night.

Ile d'Orléans was first discovered by Europeans when Jacques Cartier came across it in 1535. In 1536 he named it Orléans in honour of the Duke of Orléans, son of the king of France.

The island is quite small, measuring 34 km long and 8 km wide.

In the early 1800s French immigrants from Normandy began to really cultivate it. Some of those early houses still stand, and some from even earlier.

The night we arrived, as I said, was a bit of a surprise. We drove slowly along the single road that hugs the coastline all the way around. The sun was beginning to set. As we drove through the little villages, they seemed quite Nantucketish, quaint and very old. Coming across a rise, there was a small wooden vegetable stand in the growing dusk, lit up by a surround of little white Christmas tree lights. The island is well known for its sweet strawberries and their scent was all around us. We bought a couple of boxes of them and some local maple syrup that had a distinct taste all its own.

When we found the B&B our hosts were wonderful. We were to learn that they were proud grandparents: she like a lovely little doll who spoke no English, he was handsome with a broken nose, due to an early and short-lived boxing career. Amazing what you can find out over breakfast! After settling in we wandered up to the small village and were agog at the charm of it and the sense of peace just 15 minutes away from downtown Quebec City. We purchased some wine at the lone shop of the village and returned to relax after a very long day’s drive. Strawberries and wine.... mmmm.

The next morning as we sat at breakfast and watched the mighty St. Lawrence river flow past us, we heard a mourning dove, and our host held up a hand for us to listen and whispered: "La tourterelle triste". What a lovely name for this lovely bird. I always think of that island when I hear a mourning dove. And I always think of the French name for it that I find just a tad more charming than our own... and of the sweet aria Antonia sings in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman, “Elle a fuit, la tourterelle.”

I was looking online this evening at sites for Ile d'Orléans and I saw that there is a B&B I hadn't noticed before, called Dans les bras de Morphée. As this is a common phrase of mine (in the English) I think this is a sign for me to return... soon!

As for the title of my post, that is the slogan that I assume the local tourist board came up with to promote their magical island. I concur O Tourism Board!


willow said...

What a lovely and relaxing trip! That photo is stunning. Don't you love the soothing coo of the mourning dove? Haunting and nostalgic. Takes me back to my grandmother's house.

Betsy said...

This sounds like a wonderful time and memory! We stayed in a B&B one time up on Lake Michigan. Very lovely. And your bath sounds lovely.....may have to go take one myself! :)

Bachelor said...

Oh my!! What an interesting post... your descriptive writing took me there... just what it was supposed to do. I'm so envious of your language skills. Again, I'm so intrigued with people that are bilingual. French has the most beautiful romantic sounds. Hopefully, this summer I'll be able to catch some fireflies with my grandkids. Thanks for sharing your B&B experience on this bewitching island. I hope you can return soon.

glamah16 said...

I cant wait to explore more of Canada. I think a road trip is calling me and the Mr.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for sharing this. I love B and B's, especially ones off the beaten track. It sounds like a very romantic getaway... Any pictures of this B and B? And, I concur that you may very well be getting a sign to make another pilgrimage there..If not for the relaxation, for some more strawberries and wine:-)...

Eaglewing said...

Really like that picture. Always great to find a gem of a getaway off the beaten track. Sounds like a lovely place. And you can't go wrong with maple syrup either :)

Blog Princess G said...

Willow, I love the mourning dove, for their gentle coo and their beautiful colouring.

Betsy, I've never been to Lake Michigan but hope to remedy that soon. I love the great lakes, we're so lucky to have them! And each one with its distinct characteristics.

Bachelor, I'm not bilingual but I have enough French to get in - and occasionally out - of trouble. Dangit, what I'm trying to say is I have enough French to get well fed and watered and after that, meh - we have sign language.

Coco, you probably already know the wonderful food to be enjoyd in French Canada. And the Quebecois cheese artisans are right up there... wonderful products.

Rebecca, I had some pictures but not on digital, shall see what I can dig up in the TRUNK of prints!

Eagle, it was interesting maple syrup, with almost a smoky flavour. It made me think there must be as many types of maple syrups as there are single malt scotches. Uh oh. I feel another mind-wandering episode coming on. :)